Chai Chat!..........with Kelly
When and why did you decide to Home Educate?
We're latecomers to the world of Home Education, having begun our home ed journey just 12 months ago - though we all wish we'd taken the leap sooner! Our reasons for choosing this path are myriad but the deciding factors are easily summed up; For Brendan it was about having his views and principles respected, and also escaping an environment where there was a distinct lack of discipline for violent and bullying children. For Maddy it was the curriculum and the way in which it was taught, which she felt was often biased and one-directional; particularly history and religious education. For Pete and I, home education was a necessity in order to follow our dreams of spending a year or three living an alternative, nomadic lifestyle. When we first looked at home education as an option, we imagined that once we'd finished travelling and set up our own off-grid plot that the children would return to a school, but we now hope with every fibre of our being that they choose to remain Home Educated!
What kind of approach do you take?
We take the Eclectic approach, allowing the interests of the children to lead our direction and execution of teaching and/or learning. We expect the children to dedicate at least 30 minutes each to maths, English and French; and everything else (STEM, geography, history, art, music etc) is covered with an hour of topic based work - totaling 2.5hrs. The children choose their own topics and how and when they will learn any given subject, provided they meet their 2.5 hour daily target. The reality of this is that they often spend much more than their allotted 2.5 hours learning, having been inspired to follow up on an interesting fact or craft something related to their topic. Then there is of course the passive learning throughout the day, which has been especially interesting, fun and abundant since we began travelling.
Where do the children do most of their work? and do they distract each other?
Because of our lifestyle, the children learn anywhere and everywhere! When we're on the road they might delve into the 'ed bag' during a rest stop or begin a discussion/game/quiz while we're on the move, and/or wait until we're camped and set up a space to work. When we're volunteering and spend a while in one place we do try to provide a designated work space for them, but they often just use these as a place to find resources which they then take outside/to a barn/by a river to actually do the work. More often than not the children will work together which, despite the small age gap (23 months) and therefore difference in learning levels, works really well and leads to more collaboration than distraction.
What is your favourite thing about Home Education?
I love so many things about home education; the flexibility, the quality time together, the freedom; but my favorite thing about home education is that it allows both of my children to learn in the manner which suits them. For me that really is invaluable, and having seen the progress that each of them has made since leaving the school system I can honestly say that they are both achieving so much more, and are mastering skills that were previously only touched upon.
What do you find most difficult and why?
The most difficult thing for me is the uncertainty that comes with our flexible approach to learning. I know that it's right for the children, I know that they're achieving and I know that they will continue to achieve; but I am at heart a planner, and the urge to list and plan and prepare is sometimes overwhelming! However, I have resisted, and I will continue to do so because though this approach can be stressful for me at times it is undoubtedly the right approach for the children.
How do you react to people asking about socialisation, do your children easily socialise and work well with others?
When we first began home educating I felt the need to defend that choice, especially the socialisation aspect. After a few months though I began to relax and look at this regular questioning as an opportunity to dispel the myth of lonely, isolated children and show people that home education can be just as sociable as school - if not more so. My children have always been sociable and worked well others, but now they really engage in a way that they didn't before. I think this is mainly because through home ed groups, clubs, 'extra curricular' activities and travel, they have the opportunity to mix with a broader variety of people and create bonds with other children out of choice rather than necessity.
Have family supported your decision?
We have been incredibly lucky to receive tremendous support from the vast majority of our family and friends, and that support has grown as they have seen how happy the children are and how well their education is progressing. Those that are less enthusiastic about the decision haven't been overly vocal about their misgivings and so any negative impact has been minimal, and I have faith that a little more time will see those people just as happy for us as our avid supporters.
How do you incorporate Physical Education into your Home Ed days?
We travel with bicycles and trailers! In addition to this, all of our volunteer stops are in rural areas with rivers for swimming and fields for running free, with the majority of the work being varied outdoor labour which the children really enjoy helping with. We also meet up with other families which often includes games and sports so they get the opportunity to play as part of a team as well as a pair and individually.
What's a typical Home Ed day like?
Joyful! Beyond that our days are so varied that there really is no typical day!
Do you spend a lot of money on resources?
We spend very little; utilising the abundant free resources online, libraries, and visiting the many amazing free places on offer. We find most of our books in charity shops and buy things like science kits and other STEM resources discounted on amazon. The majority of our Home Ed expenses are arts and crafts materials, and this cost is kept reasonably low by checking pound shops, The Works and even supermarkets for good deals.
How do you make time for yourself?
I take it where I can get it - while the children are working independently, engrossed in a documentary, or working on something with Dad. I also have 30 minutes of meditation time set aside each day, when the children will either do some quiet reading or take their own mindfulness time.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their Home Ed journey?
Deschool, deschool, deschool! I was so wary of starting our Home Ed journey with no tangible learning but it really did help us all to find our rhythm and settle in. Also, to believe in yourself. It's horribly easy to feel inadequate when you're faced with such huge responsibility, but it's OK to not know everything - you can learn together, and it's awesome!
You can follow our journey at https://lovelearnwander.wordpress.com and on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/lovelearnwanderblog/. For our photo story check out our Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mkellylm/