Structure vs no structure

What awful words to use, structure reminds me so much of school, and the purpose of home-educating is that the children do not go to school but learn in a broad and wide variety – such as life.

However to be brutally honest here, it was destroying me. We’ve spent nearly 9 months trying to work out what suits us as a family best, and even now I know it will take another 9 months to find out if it works and tweak it daily as necessary. My children have been in School, they are used to a routine and following instructions. We have de-schooled and I think we are in a fairly happy place. Yet there was something missing. Behaviour was becoming hard to manage and I was beginning to wobble, I told them if they did not respect me or listen to me, I would need to consider them returning to School.

So we set up reward charts (I hate these – but it’s not all about me) and a list of things they must do before they can go on their tablets (another story). We have decided to start GCSE’s with Maths being first so the eldest two children will be working towards that. My eldest daughter will be starting Art Awards. The younger two will concentrate on reading and maths.

So yesterday, we did some food groups work (random), some negative numbers (GCSE), letter formation, placing instructions into order, read theory and electrical circuits, and it worked. We read in the afternoon and baking took place late evening.

I need to look into planning more, and how to manage this without becoming so structured that there is no time for anything else. But we will give this a try as I do not want them to lose the skills they have from School.

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The Multifaceted World

I watched a video for the first time with Sir Ken Robinson (that guy needs to become Prime Minister), he was speaking at a TED conference and he said “We don’t know what the World will be like in 5 years time.”

Now he was in a room full of creative and intelligent people and they all agreed. So as I am now home-educating four very different children with very different skill sets and with very different learning styles, it has left me wondering how best to approach the future for them.

I went to University aged 30+, and I wasn’t alone. So why the pressure for GCSE’s at age 16. Who truly knows what they want to be at the age of 14? My life goals shifted massively between 14 and 37 years old. I don’t think GCSE’s will exist when my youngest would be old enough in school years, however they will more than likely still be here in 4 years. So do we start planning for them to sit their GCSE’s in 4 years, or concentrate on other skills, that will probably give them a head start in the real world. I came across a photo the other day that really has stuck in my mind. The photo was in an article on the World Economic Forum 

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These were the skills they said needed in the 21st Century. So my question to myself is how doe GCSE’s prepare children and adults for this? I can see it somewhat in No 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. Yet after that, I can’t see how they translate in useful skills for our children.

I spend a lot of time researching different approaches, looking at the variety of online sources for children with regards to academic needs. I speaks to a lot of home educators to see how they do it. I know that what they choose may not fit my children, however there is such a wealth of knowledge out there it must be accessible. How do I know what works best if I do not give it  a try. I think it will still take us a few months (maybe a lot of months to work out what works for each child.. So I am not giving up. I see what they are learning ad its not all academic skills. And do I feel guilty, yes some days I do, I keep thinking we are not doing enough? However, these are my wobbles not my children’s. They will learn, children seem to have an innate desire to learn if you let them and give them the tools to do so. We will get there but Rome was not built in a day.

Having the wobbles…..

I suppose it was inevitable that some point on our path one of us would have the wobbles. I imagine it is to do with meeting new families. There is a mixture of those that have been to school and those that have not. Then you begin to think… do we do enough ‘academics’, do we do too much? Do we do enough sports or social activities or do we do too much?

Where is the balance? And what should the balance be? All any of us want is for our children to be happy, safe and secure (I hope). Then people argue that by home-educating are we sheltering our children from real-life. Yet is school real-life? School is a peer-based segregated environment. I know no office whereby the floors are arranged as 18-25 years, 26- 35 year olds. Where you allowed to maybe see your best friend for 20 minutes at lunch because they are on a different floor. This may be abit tongue in cheek, but real-life is not the education in school. However the real life aspect comes from the bullying that can occur, the peer pressure to smoke and drink, I know not every child will go down that route, however you can be assured that in a school environment they are exposed to that on prehaps a daily basis. I’m not saying that it also does not occur in home-educating families as I’m sure it does too. I know that people who know me, know I love a tangent, so I’ll get back on track.

The balance, surely if a child is happy and they want to learn, then the learning will take place in whichever form the child is happy and comfortable to do so. Again those that know me, know my love for the Leuven Scale and that deep level learning takes place when there are high levels of well-being and involvement. This is so true in Early Years however I feel that all ages can benefit from that philosophy.

Since we moved a month ago, I have thrown ourselves in to the home-educating social scene here! We are incredibly busy however we seem to have found ourselves a little group, hopefully our ‘village’ and for that I will be grateful. I wanted to concentrate on the children’s social and well-being rather than the academic side. If they are not happy I cannot teach them, they will not learn. So for now we start introducing things slowly and enjoying making friends. The academics will start to come when they are happy and things are settled. They are learning every day, just not in the conventional sense that we are led to believe in. (Nor the Government if you look at how much they now want to invest into free schools – but that’s a rant for another day).

The whys and the why nots?

There are many different reasons why people home educate and many do not. It’s difficult to put an exact number on the amount of families that home educate in the UK. I was surprised by how much is on offer to us. There is a huge community and people tirelessly give up their own time to find discounts on websites and arrange trips out to many wonderful places.

So back to my point the reasons why and why not….

  1. Many, many people do not realise that home education is a perfectly legal way to educate your child in the UK. It is not compulsory for them to attend a school, the legal requirement is that they must receive a suitable education. How that education is provided is down to you.
  2. Finances, once you take responsiblity for your child’s education, then all the financial cost is on you. Some local authorities provide various degrees of support such as 5 GCSE’s but most offer no support.
  3. Exams, they are not necessarily necessary. It’s up to you whether you decide to take that route or not. You can play to your child’s strengths here, also remember you have to pay for them too and find a centre that will take private candidates.
  4. Socialisation, the lack of it or maybe too much. People always seem to think if children are not in school then they won’t have the option to socialise. I’m not sure how sitting in a class with children all the same age as you is socialising? Anybody know any job where you are segregated by age? Home educated children socialise with a huge number of people of varying ages.
  5. Fear, people judge you, think you are crazy and that you are failing your children. That they won’t have the opportunities that children in school have. No they won’t, to be honest they’ll probably have more. You are the best and only person to truly know your children and what works best for them. Some children will never thrive in a formal environment other children will flourish. Home allows you to provide what works best for your child, also you can spend as much time as you need on each subject to ensure your child fully understands what they need too.

I am not anti-school, I have however come to see the faults in our education system. It has never changed or adapted to our ever differing society that is needed for our children to function in the future. Home education is not for everyone, however people need to know that is at least an option.

 

Social Media, the perils

I’ve been on the wrong side of some of the home educating posts a few times over the last few weeks. With varying arguments occurring on these sites, it’s easy to see why people leave and why people stay far away.

Some of these groups are almost venomous in their responses and there can be a pack mentality. Now a lot of people are anti government and loathe any involvement from a email that ends in gov.uk. Yet sometimes the powers to be have to become involved for whatever reason. Now I keep this separate Facebook page for two reasons. One, so I don’t bore everyone with the daily exploits of my family and two as a record if anyone questions my educating, which I’m sure will arrive at some point.

Now with regards to that, I don’t have to show anybody anything that we do, they have no right to enter my home or see my children. Unless they think I am not providing a suitable education. I do not have to follow a time table or a curriculum. Now this must send shivers up the spine of most people as we become so familiar with our education system that we can’t believe that there is another option. We are lucky in the UK because in some countries it is illegal to home educate your children. In Wales it is a currently a waiting game with new guidelines allegedly due any moment now. We don’t know what effect they will have on the home educating community and with us moving there shortly, I know that I am waiting with some trepidation.

I would like to come away from Social Media, however I know it is pretty much impossible in this day and age, plus how would I know what amazing opportunities there are for my children, what fantastic apps or website there are or how to cook a turkey in time for Christmas? I just find it so hard to stay away and also to remain there, its a double edged sword and something still of a novelty. I would say its only the last 8 years that it has become a staple of my life. I’ve always said that Facebook is both the best and worst thing ever invented. I think part of my new years resolutions will involve social media and technology and I don’t think I’ll be the only one.

 

 

 

Educational Philosophy

When your child is at school, do you give much thought to the educational philosophy that your child is working towards? I’m reading Ross Mountney’s “A funny kind of education” and this is a question that she asked a private school mum. I have to say that I have never really given it much thought until the last week or so. 

I need an educational philosophy, I need one because 

a) I want one, it’ll help shape the children’s journey

b) The LA’s when they decide to get in touch may require one

So what do I want for my children, how do I want their journey to be?

I would like them to be confident, happy and articulate learners, I want them to problem solve and question. I want them to look at the world around them in awe and respect. I want them to enjoy learning, and have a passion and spark in what captures their interests. I want them to be well-read and somewhat cultured with at least a tiny knowledge of the classics and masterpieces from around the world. I want them to be compassionate and show empathy. I want them to be loved and know they are loved, and be able to love in return. I want them to be kind and be able to show kindness and have no barriers to friendship. 

It doesn’t look much when written down, however I think most parents could say they want the same for their children. The thing is we don’t sit down and look at it. I have to take this philosophy and weave it into our everyday lives. I need to make it ours. 

The choice to home educate

If you asked me 6 weeks ago my reasons for home educating, I would have replied with “my children will need to go to 3 different schools” I physically and mentally did not want to go through this. Our lives up to now had always been abit crazy due to my business, but now I wanted some stability for my children. 

Now it’s because I’m seeing a change in my children, for the best. They are showing interests in things they never would have 6 months ago. They are playing together and exploring. They are asking questions and looking for solutions. They want to learn what they are interested in. 

I keep hearing stories from friends about what their children have to do in school. I know how my children would struggle with what they are being asked to do (well told to do). I also can’t actually see the benefits of what is being asked for them. I don’t understand the reasoning behind except for data purposes. Does it actually make this children into happy, well-rounded children? 

School doesn’t make children happy, why would we not want our children to be happy? I’m not a “hippy” but happiness means a lot to me and I think it is very much undervalued by our society. My children will still take IGCSE’s and gain qualifications. However they will do the ones that interest them, ones they have a passion in! We all know that when we have an interest and a passion we cannot fail to learn. 

Lost Photos

I’m devastated that the photo’s I uploaded to my computer last week are missing. They are not even in the recently deleted bin! However thanks to Facebook most of them are on there. Yet I need to ensure this doesn’t happen again. There are two main reasons for this

1) memories – however we need to sometimes take less photos and just pay attention more

2) in case it is required by the Local Authority.

We’ve been deregistered now since the end of the Summer Term 2016. To date I have had no contact from any of the 3 LA’s that could have contacted me. Now some home educators welcome that, whilst I’m little concerned. We as a family appear to be in the minority of those that home school for reasons other bullying, disillusion with the system or additional needs. Those families will quite often have a negative view and fear of the authorities. On one hand I can understand that and could potential feel the same. However  having worked in Child Protection (many moons ago) there are a lot of children out there that could be under the radar. I also appreciate that children in school are also under the radar at times, there are numerous serious case reviews out there.

Yet if I don’t have any contact with the LA how do I know if there are any options out there for my children? For example I heard today of one LA that funds 5 GCSE’s. Now thats something I would want to know about. Having to fund 4 children through 5 GCSE’s is going to have a cost implication. What I would like from our LA’s is access to resources and information. However the internet is awash with it, my head has been swimming with ideas this week!

Each family has it own reasons for home educating and the level of involvement they would like – however should regulations be brought in for those families? Maybe something to ponder on for another post.

16 days and counting….


The countdown in our household is on. A visual timetable of the big life changing event that we are waiting for, with a mixture of emotions ranging form extreme happiness and gentle anxiety. I won’t deny that I am frightened with the journey that lays ahead for us. Am I doing the right thing? Will I be the right person? How we will finish this alive? 

I’m hoping that the most I can teach my children is well a few GCSE’s and then happiness. I’m hoping that with happiness they will become good learners. They will experience the joy when all the bits click into place.  As an educator in early years, I firmly believe in the principles from Dr Ferre Laevers, the well-being and involvement scales (Leuven Scales). Thus children being in the zone of proximinal learning because they are happy!  

This blog is prehaps to help with my sanity on the journey and help other like minded people not to be scared to take the leap of faith.  

Hello

Hi Everyone,

Thought it was time to actually start blogging properly now. My little family has been home-educating now since the beginning of September. We are still finding our feet and there has been a few wobbles along the way and no doubt more to come. It’s been a fairly easier transition than I thought. Albeit we are doing limited “structured” work due to an impending move back home to Wales. So my plans for her at the moment include lots of adventures in London and sparking the children’s interests. This then hopefully will form the basis of our educating when we move.

I really think I need to change the name from homeschooling to home educating? Wonder how I do that?