Tag Archive | homeschool

Children are made readers…

Well, I think it’s generally good news on the easing of Lockdown. I was terrified the politicians would go crazy for popularity, open everything up too quickly and we’d be back to square one with rising infections in a month!

It’s still hard to imagine that normality of meeting friends without standing back from them, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses, going to pubs and cafes, libraries, museums and other such venues for inspiration and stimulation.

I don’t miss shopping – it’s not what I’d normally choose to do as a pastime, but there is one aside to that; I miss bookshops. I’ve never had the cash to randomly buy books, but I love to look at them and after much deliberation would invest on occasion.

The kids used to love going into bookshops too. And could spend hours in libraries, staggering out with the maximum they could borrow in one go.

The aesthetic of books will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of digital versions and all you can access online.

I remember being in one bookshop a few years ago when I came across a sign in the children’s department, with the most exquisite sentiment. It read:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  

I know it was a promotional statement but it is in part true. All those hours reading to your child has enormous benefits towards them building reading skills for themselves, they see/hear you reading, they hear intonation and expression, pauses and clauses, meaning and understanding of the fact these symbols on a page turn into stories. They begin to recognise word shapes and want to decipher them for themselves.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time. Such a simple thing, which has such complex benefits.

It’s easy to be feel daunted by the hype and mystery surrounding learning to read, for parents to believe they’re not capable of helping their child to learn to read. That children need reading schemes and flash cards and complicated phonic strategies culminating in tests common in schools, or their children won’t learn to read properly.

That’s not true.

Children can and do learn to read completely informally as this brilliant book by Harriet Pattison explains; ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ (see a blog about it here). In it the author actually argues against formal instruction – well worth a read.

Parents are totally able to ignite their children’s delight and curiosity about reading and it’s simple enough to encourage it to continue, building the necessary skills along the way. You don’t need teaching skills necessarily. You just need to give the time and attention to enjoying books and print and signs, in fact anything reading related, together.

(Here’s a little story about our child’s difficulty with reading during our Home Ed years – and what happened)

So keep the thought in mind; children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools. And roll on the day we can get back in bookshops and libraries!

Meanwhile the book above is available here as well as Amazon.

School-at-home, home schooling, home education – what’s in a label?

Whilst schools have been closed and everyone’s children learning at home during lockdown the term ‘home schooling’ has been commonly used to describe all children’s learning out of school.

But those who were ‘home schooling’ before ‘school-at-home’ came into being know that it is not the same thing. And most experienced home educating families prefer the title ‘home educating’ anyway.

But why are we getting up tight about labels?

The main reasons school-at-home, and home schooling or home education which parents were already doing, are different is that school-at-home parents have been thrust into it without choice, but generally with some guidance and practical lessons from schools.

With home schooling or home education, which families were already practising prior to lockdown, parents take full responsibility for their children’s education and deregister themselves from any school and consequently any support from them.

Many experienced home educating families prefer not to use the term home schooling because of the connotations of the words ‘schooling’ and ‘educating’.

Their use of the term ‘home education’ is based on the definition of education in its broadest sense as in bringing out, or developing of potential, rather than the drilling of facts and skills into the young as it has become through schooling. There is a very interesting article ‘What Is Education’ on the Infed.org site which gives a definition of education as ‘the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning’ which is how many home educating families interpret it and which you can’t help but feel is lacking in many school approaches.

Most definitions of schooling mean educating in school, which is why most experienced home educators like to shy away from using the term ‘schooling’. It suggests a training or drilling of children that can disregard their needs and learning preferences and is often the reason parents step away from mainstream school. Schooling tends to have the agenda of the school at its heart, rather than the needs of the individual.

Home educators generally see the education of their children as a much broader more balanced undertaking and use approaches in line with that, which put the interests, preferences and needs of the child at its heart.

So the difference in the terms is important to them.

However, ‘home education’ it’s more of a mouthful! And ‘home schooling’ has become the most popular term, especially in the media, used to refer to those families whose children do not go to school but do their learning independently of them. But it is not to be confused with school-at-home which no doubt will end.

As parents progress with home schooling, taking advantage of the choices and flexibility it offers, and see how children learn and become educated almost by themselves through the many diverse and varied approaches available, they begin to appreciate these subtle differences.

There are other labels and philosophies attached to home educating, like De-schooling and Un-schooling and World-schooling, which parents also use.

De-schooling usually refers to the time and process of recovery needed for those children who’ve been in school and switch to home educating. It takes a while for children and parents to adjust to learning in different ways, to release any damaging effects of school and get used to new routines, approaches and choices open to them.

Un-schooling is similar, except that it doesn’t necessarily refer to recovery from school, more an approach to learning and educating that doesn’t rely on familiar habits and traditions we associate with a school style approach to learning many of us have ingrained within us. As the saying goes; we can take the child (and ourselves) out of school but it’s more difficult to take the schooling out of us! (Excellent book on the subject which I blogged about recently here).

World-schooling generally refers to parents who facilitate their children’s learning out in the real world, often through travelling, away from the school world, or those who have alternative lifestyles different from the mainstream. They see the world outside of school as a way of making their educational provision.

But labels aside, what’s more important than what it’s called, is what parents do as home educators/home schoolers. That they are guided by the needs of their child within the context of them taking their place in the world, by finding approaches that work for their circumstances and that all are happy with it.

Many understand all the above as the same thing anyway – and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter to the kids what we call it. It’s what we do that counts. And there’s a huge diversity and flexibility in what you can do to make home educating a success!

Tips for parents doing school at home

“So how do we do school at home?” I’ve been asked since the Corona virus has closed the schools and home educators are being turned to for advice. That’s a change! It’s more often we’re turned away from as a bunch of weirdos as has happened in the past.

What most parents are not aware of, since they probably have little understanding or even awareness of home education up until this point, is that most home educating families don’t do ‘school at home’. Home educating is a completely different approach that I won’t go into now but you’ll get the gist of if you search this site (particularly if you look at the About Home Education Page and scroll down to the philosophy there).

So rather than a long winded explanation here’s a few tips to implement right now:

Personal explorations are just as educative
  • understand the concept of time differently. In a school day works much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home allow for that to happen and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.
  • Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.
  • Use this time to engage them with other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills.
  • You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trust, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities.
  • There’s also the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc. But there are many intriguing sites not directly associated with education that are equally valuable to explore as well as watching historical documentaries.
  • Home educating families generally bring balance to their days by making sure they pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company, screen based or written and the practical, which helps keep interest fresh and alive.
  • Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to problem solve!
  • You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s as well as overall well being. Google will provide some ideas.

But I would say most of all don’t do ‘school at home’ just enjoy your kids whilst you have the time… it’s all educative! More on that next time!