Tag Archive | home schooling

An experienced Home Educator shares her story

I had the great pleasure recently of re-meeting a friend I hadn’t seen for ages, who is still home educating her family of six. Of course, that’s what we talked about! I asked her if she’d be willing to share her wealth of experience – and confidence – here for us all to learn from. Here’s her insightful story in her own words:

I have six children and none of them has ever been to school.

Mum (left) and Rosie all grown up and soon off to Uni

In the beginning, I didn’t really think about school and was horrified at how quickly the subject of school came up after my eldest, Rosie, was born. I’d heard about home education (I think it was a magazine article in the dentist’s surgery) but I presumed that it must only be for children with special needs.  When I learnt that ANY child could be home educated, it was a total light-bulb moment.

My husband was against it from the start, even though he could see our little girl thriving and learning. He had, as a lot of people do, a belief that school ‘makes’ you, toughens you up, shows you how to fend for yourself blah de blah.  I sucked up as much information about home education as I could for him to read and he wouldn’t. So in the end I put my foot down and said that if he wanted Rosie to go to school, he would have to fill out all the forms, buy the uniform and take her there each day himself.  It was a dirty tactic, but I was convinced that home education would be perfect for her and a few years later, my husband agreed with me!

Like most little children, she was an absolute sponge for learning and our small house filled up with books and resources from charity shops and car boot sales as well as boxes and boxes of art and craft equipment. I bought a bulk box of 100 exercise books (around fourteen years and five more children later, we still haven’t used up all those exercise books!!) as well as lots of other expensive educational equipment.  Some of it was pointless – the anatomical model where you could remove the plastic heart, lungs etc and fit them back into the body for example – once the body parts had been taken out, put back in again, that was that and the body parts were soon lost.  This was all in the bad old days when I was feeling anxious at this beginner stage of home education and surrounding myself with the same equipment that schools had made me feel safer.

I drew up a timetable, but it fell apart after a few days. One thing I learnt through experience was that even when I had prolonged periods of time where formal education went out the window (like the births of Rosie’s brothers and sisters), the children kept learning.  Just because I wasn’t there to open up a workbook or get the maths cubes out, they didn’t fall behind or stop learning.  When formal education resumed, they were always up to speed, which I found very heartening and which gave me confidence.  Our style of education has relaxed a lot over the years. Sometimes we get workbooks out, mostly we don’t.  Nowadays, workbooks fill in the bits that haven’t been learnt in some other, more hands on way, which I’m happy about.

The pressure to socialise your child when you start to home educate is MASSIVE and if you’re a very shy person (as I was back then), the idea of meeting strangers is terrifying.  I stuck my name down on the contact lists of HEAS and EO and I was contacted by a few home educators who I dutifully invited to our house and went to groups.

I think the children liked the home ed groups better than I did, but that was ok because we weren’t there for me, I was just there to tick a big, important box marked ‘Socialisation’.

The trouble with home ed groups is that there is no such thing as a typical home educator, so there were inevitable disagreements!  The groups contained people who were very confidently home educating as part of their alternative lifestyle, people whose child had been in and out of school, people who were home educating for religious reasons or because they couldn’t find a school they liked. Some worked well, some didn’t. We have not been to a home ed group for about six years now

My two older sons started going to Scouts about four yeas ago and absolutely love it.  It was a bit hard for them in the beginning, there were children who picked on them a bit and others who were envious that they didn’t have to go to school, but once the novelty wore off, they made friends very easily and really enjoy it.  My second daughter began Brownies and endured a whole nine months without anyone talking to her.  Her Brownie leader suggested that home education was to blame which was very annoying.  I switched her to Cub Scouts where she has never looked back and gets on with everyone and her little sister followed suit by becoming a Beaver Scout.  Joining Scouts has been the turning point in their lives and has given them so much more than socialisation.  They have gone abroad, been on many camps, stood up to read in front of large crowds and a load more that I didn’t have the social confidence to do when I was their age.  Children do not have to go to school to be socialised or to fit into social situations.

Home education’s greatest advantages are not being bound to term times, a more relaxed pace of life, and I can tailor their learning to suit their own abilities.  Rosie, for example, was very unconfident at maths and went through a stage where just the sight of me holding a maths workbook made her shut down and give up.  So I took the pressure off, gave her a break from maths and when we resumed, she used workbooks suited for a child a couple of years younger and she found that she could do the maths and her confidence grew.  Within a year she was back using workbooks set at her own age again, she just needed that confidence boost and I don’t think she would have got that chance at school.

I didn’t have any set goals when I started home education.  I just concentrated on tailoring their education to their needs, interests and abilities.  I always told people that I would only carry on home educating so long as the children were happy and thriving; if I felt that I couldn’t do it anymore, or that school would be the better option, of course I would do the best thing for them.  Happily though, they have never wanted to go to school and each LEA inspector that has come to visit has been very satisfied and told us to carry on!  I did want the children to take GCSEs, because I wanted them to see how they measured up against their peers.  I wanted them to have the camaraderie of suffering coursework, exam pressures etc that the other children they met had and also to see that just because they hadn’t been to school, they were taking the same exams as everyone else, facing the same questions as their friends and could see where all their hard work had led to. Seeing my daughter pass iGCSE maths (which I failed miserably) gave me a huge confidence boost.  Post sixteen; it’s all up to them.  Both my eldest children have slipped very easily into college without any problems and Rosie is now headed for university while her brother is on his second year learning carpentry and joinery.  They love college life and I love stepping back and watching them do it for themselves now.

What advice would I give to someone just starting out or considering home education?

Get rid of those fixed ideas of what is the best method of education!  People get hung up on the details of how education should be delivered and lecture each other.  But this is your child, you have put yourself in the driving seat and you will test ride all the routes till you find the one with the least potholes and is best for you. These may not be other people’s experiences, but you will know when your child is learning.  You don’t have to learn everything to be able to teach your child either.  You don’t have to be a fountain of knowledge because you are the facilitator – the person who shows the child where to get the information so the child can learn.  That way, your child learns how to find it for itself, which is a good foundation for a future life of independence.

If you’re still unhappy about school but worrying about home education, just give it a try.  School will always be there and you will never know what home education is like from just reading about it.  Nothing is forever, literally nothing.  We got confused and my son ended up on the wrong college course, so we changed mid-term.  He now has two sets of friends from each course and he is very happy.  Home education is like that, you try something and it doesn’t work, so you think about it and find something that does work and along the way, you learn patience and confidence.  If it turns out that home education isn’t working for you, well at least that’s better than not knowing and torturing your days thinking; ‘what if?’

Home education chops and changes and what you do with one child isn’t what you end up doing with another and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. I don’t need to have all the answers right now because I will learn as I go, just like I did with all my other children; that’s the beauty of home education.

Talking about home education and how it could work for you

Just in case you haven’t seen it, and whilst I’m having a little break, you might like to pop across to YouTube and listen to me talk about home education and how you can make it work for you! It talks about the usual issues; socialising, how the children learn, how to go about it.

It’s called ‘Home Education – Can I really do it?’ And shows how you possibly can:

 

And there are several books on the My Books page which you also might find helpful, for both beginners and those who’ve been going longer term and just need a bit of a boost!

My work is here to support parents and children for whom school doesn’t work too well and show how there are other valid ways to educate, so peruse, use it and share it as much as you like! The more it’s out there the more awareness will be raised of the fact that children do not have to suffer for an education; if they’re suffering with the school way – there are alternatives!

 

Important message!

No one wants to read long blogs right now. I’m not that keen on writing them whilst everyone’s holidaying. So have created another way of leaving you with an important message:

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Feel free to pass it on!

It’s today!

It’s available TODAY: the new story for the little ones, so they get to read of a child who’s home educated just like them.

I remember all the books we read to ours were always about schooled children – I decided to do something about that. Hence the lovable little rogue ‘Harry’ was born in ‘Who’s Not In School?’. He’s out on his another adventure now – find him exclusively at the publisher; Bird’s Nest Books

Illustrations by James Robinson

Illustration by James Robinson

I also remember clearly what it was like to home educate. I look back on those days as treasured memories of delight and happiness.

Funny how memory eradicates the tricky bits! Because of course there were tricky bits and that’s what started me writing about home schooling. To bring comfort and reassurance, guidance and encouragement to those who wanted to have a go but lacked a bit of courage, and to those who’ve been doing it a while but need that little support during the long haul.

And I now realise that’s what my writing’s always been about – reassurance and personal support – so check my books out if that’s what you need right now. You’ll find them on the ‘My Books’ page; they’ll offer you comfort and kindness whilst I go AWOL occasionally during the summer.

Hard to believe there are all these now.

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How did that happen and where did the time go?

That’s what you’ll all be saying about your home education one day!

Short of ‘Good Ideas’?

My blogs might slow down for a bit over summer, but if you’re short of ideas dip into Michael Rosen’s book. DSC06116

This man has surely got to be a home educator at heart!

His book ‘Good Ideas – How to be your child’s (and your own) best teacher’ illustrates beautifully an approach to learning home educators already use; just being engaged with your kids.

And it shows how all parents can teach their kids and get involved with education simply by being an engaged, attentive, observational and a curious parent. A good article on what he says about that here. It’s more about parenting than teaching, how the two are intertwined, how the world is full of the best curriculum you’ll ever have, and how interacting with the children whilst you show it to them will help them learn and will build essential life skills that go beyond the academic, to application in the real world.

It’s a fabulous resource. A readable book. And a reminder how to be curious yourself so that your child will be and how this is a precursor to learning.

When you’re too tired to think up anything else, dip into Michael’s book, and you’ll be inspired and regenerated.

Living life is learning about life and Michael illustrates how easily this can happen.

Your support is immensely valued…

It’s a tough business selling books. Since it’s only those who reach the dizzy heights of hundreds of thousands of sales who hit the press many people don’t know this and think it’s a lucrative doddle. Ask any of the less famous writers just jotting away and they’ll agree; it isn’t!

I also know it’s tough financially for many home educating families who make that choice at the sacrifice of an income and consequently have a more frugal existence. We do of course reap other rewards by doing so, but I know buying books is a luxury.

So the publisher of my latest two is doing her best to keep the prices as low as she can and offer discount, despite the financial challenges a small Indie publisher faces.

Jane, at Bird’s nest Books, a home educator herself so she knows what it’s like, is also a champion of less well known minority groups trying to do things differently. Despite it being unlikely that these books will reach the numbers of the more mainstream earners mentioned above Jane still hopes to “publish fiction and non-fiction titles for adults and children, particularly (but not exclusively) books which are aimed at or feature traditionally underrepresented groups and communities”, as it says on their site. I’m honoured to be part of that. We do need to put bread on the table but money isn’t the only consideration.

So, however you give it, your support is always immensely valued.

If you belong to a home educating or parent group you can club together and get a £2 discount on five copies of the ‘Home Education Notebook’ and share it among you. And if you pre-order the new children’s book ‘The Wrong Adventure’ you can also get a discount at the checkout using this code RMTWA. So head over to their shop.

And both the publisher and I would be eternally grateful if you’d share this around your groups and Facebook as much as you can and help us spread the word.

Let’s get the minority voices heard.

A peep inside the new children's book out on Aug 8th. Pre-order with the code for a discount

A peep inside the new children’s book out on Aug 8th. Pre-order with the code above for a discount. Illustrations by James Robinson

 

The Wrong Adventure!

I’m delighted to tell you that Harry’s off on another adventure.

Illustrations by James Robinson

Illustrations by James Robinson

If you haven’t already met him he’s the adventurous little homeschooler in ‘Who’s Not In School? who wants to learn about everything.

But his adventures in trying to do so often lead him into trouble as his curious investigations – particularly into the more interesting things that belong to older siblings – end up annoying people. So Harry decides to go off on an adventure on his own where he can’t annoy anybody.

See how he does this in ‘The Wrong Adventure’ which will be out at the beginning of August. It’s illustrated by James Robinson, a home educated young man himself with incredible talent.

If you pop across to Bird’s Nest Books to pre-order your copy you can receive a discount. Enter this code RMTWA at the checkout and your copy will only be £7.50 instead of the usual price of £8.99

It’s the perfect story to read outside with your youngsters this summer.