Our family consists of me (Mahala), hubby (Stonelaughter) and our three children – Bean (9), Plum (4) and PK (2). Our home ed journey began around 16 months ago when we took Bean out of school.
Home educating was something I had always considered, somewhat distantly, even before Bean came along. I was a secondary school teacher and was not convinced the environments I was teaching in were environments I’d want to put my children in every day. When it came time to apply for a place for Bean, we struggled to find a school we liked but couldn’t see how we could make home ed work financially and so kept looking at schools. Eventually we found one we were happy with, though it was a pain to get to and involved 100 miles a week in school runs.
He did well at school but there were niggles from the start. We only got to see him when he was tired and grumpy after a day at school and his teachers got the best part of his day. No matter how dedicated a teacher is, there’s still only one of them to a classful of children. We felt he was being held back in certain areas. We weren’t keen on the overtly Christian input from his non-faith school (though we have nothing against Christianity, we follow a different faith). We had major concerns about the education system as a whole. Testing, assessments, hoops to jump through.
Our concerns continued to grow and the niggles piled up. I gave up teaching due to ill-health and then we had two more children and I was staying at home with them. Suddenly home ed looked possible, though scary. I always thought it was ironic that I had no problem being Head of Department in a school of 2600 children, but was scared witless about being in sole charge of my own children’s education! We took the plunge shortly after Bean began year 3 and have been finding our own path ever since.
Plum began nursery shortly afterwards and although we signed her up for five sessions a week, in reality we found that we often had other things on and so she went less and less. After three terms, we took her out to home educate her full-time too. We’ve already decided that PK won’t go to nursery.
Our approach has changed a lot over the last 16 months. As a former teacher, it took me longer to get school out of my system than the rest of the family. I had visions of us sitting down to study sessions for a couple of hours each day, but it didn’t work out that way. We were in danger of something my teacher training tutor warned us against – “Death by Worksheets” – and I knew that this was not the way for us. We’ve ended up somewhere I didn’t think we would be – in an unstructured, autonomous kind of education, where I don’t control things – quite a scary place to be when you’re used to planning lessons to within an inch of their life in case someone decides to assess you!
What I’m enjoying is seeing that my children are learning and “making progress” quite naturally, because given their freedom, it’s very hard to stop children from learning. Bean loves maths, although he doesn’t always like to sit and work on maths; he works maths into almost everything he does and he questions things constantly. He loves to watch documentaries and learns lots from these. When it comes to these, he has a photographic memory and so remembers things without ever writing them down (something which caused endless problems at school – he couldn’t see the need to write things down for the sake of the teacher!)
He follows his interests, though his attention span can be frustratingly short at times, but I’m trying to just go with that, and follow his lead. I can see he’s learning all kinds of things, and I’m happy.
Plum has taught herself to write. We’ve been learning to read, at her behest, since shortly before she was 3, and as far as I was concerned, she could read twenty or so basic words and we haven’t been rushing things. Of course, she had other ideas, and surprised me by reading the road signs last week!
PK likes to join in with the activities we go to, or wander around exploring. He picks up lots of things just by being around such a variety of children and is learning on the go. All we need to do for him at the moment is let him get on with it!
Home education is giving our family so many opportunities to learn new skills, make new friends, explore our interests, spend time together and just …. be a family.