What does home education mean to us?
We’ve been home educating for a little over 2 years now. When we started I had an idea of what home education would be like in our family. I had the National Curriculum saved to my computer, topics planned, resources found, worksheets printed …. and that lasted all of about a fortnight. This was not home education, this was trying to replicate school – and we had left the school system behind because we didn’t like it. So why were we trying to stick to it now?
So we changed things. We tried picking a topic that Bean was interested in and researching it but we came up against the same obstacles. He was picking a topic because he had to, not because he had a burning desire to find out about it. He wasn’t interested in writing things down, because he could remember them and didn’t see the point in writing just to satisfy someone else’s need.
So we changed again. We tried our own version of unschooling, with no formal learning. Bean loved it, but it made myself and Stonelaughter twitchy and it changed the dynamic of our family, not for the better, in our case.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with any of these ways of home educating, because there isn’t. They just weren’t right for us – and that’s the beauty of home education; you don’t have to choose a “one size fits all” solution. That’s what school education is providing by and large. And that’s not dissing teachers. They do a very hard job, often in difficult circumstances (I know, because I was one!). But even the best teacher in the world can’t clone themselves so that every child gets one-to-one attention. It’s the nature of trying to educate 30 or so individuals at the same time. So in home education, you can choose what’s right for you and your family, and that is likely to depend to some extent on why you chose to home educate in the first place.
For us, a big part of our decision was disillusionment with our education system, with the constant testing and the desire of the government to churn out obedient robots. So replicating school at home was never going to work for us.
And now we have arrived at a place that seems to work for us. Bean is Minecraft obsessed. He loves all things Minecraft, including watching videos of other people playing it. But he’s not content to just play and watch, he wants to make his own videos, get his own followers, carve out his own place in Minecraft society. And so that’s what he’s doing. We showed him how to set up a YouTube account. We set him off researching and he found the software he needed, discovered how to create a video, edit it, add a soundtrack, upload his finished video. And he loves doing it.
And so this is where we are. We ask him to do an hour and a half of Maths a week, but it’s down to him when he does it. We agreed with him that he would make one video a week. On top of that he attends our Home Education group every Tuesday and goes to Street Dance classes every Saturday. Beyond that, his time is his own, apart from the chores he has to do as part of our family. And this is working for us. We have fewer battles, he has a great attitude (most of the time) and he’s learning. He’s not necessarily learning about the Kings and Queens of England or tectonic plates, but he is learning the things that interest him, the things he needs to know to pursue his hobby (and what he currently wants to do as a career). When something else catches his attention, he looks into it. He’s happy to take part in workshops that will help him learn other skills. And it works for us.
And since we started home educating Bean, Plum has reached the age of compulsory education. We didn’t apply for a school place for her, because we knew that we weren’t going down that route again. Home education looks different for her. She’s only just turned five. She loves learning to read, so we do reading practice (with Reading Eggs) whenever she requests it. We are lucky that we have been able to repurpose my old laptop to give her an account so she can use Reading Eggs on her own. She likes playing the games on there too and we’re happy for her to do that because she learns a lot about using a computer. She likes Maths too, although she asks to do that less often. Most of her time is spent playing, as it should be at five years old. She also goes to our weekly home education group and she has dance classes – one weekly session during which she learns ballet, tap and pop dance. She wants to start on acrodance too.
PK is three now. He learns through play, of course. He picks up a lot from the other two. At his age, Plum was avidly using Reading Eggs. PK isn’t interested in the slightest, except to watch the song videos on there.
So this is what home education looks like to us. There are trips to parks, forests, place of interest, friends and more to fit in there too. But it doesn’t look anything like school, and we are happy with that.