Those of you who’ve read my books will know it’s while since our family ‘graduated’ from home education. Those little girls you may have met in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, and featured in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook to Encourage and Inspire’, are now in their twenties. I can hardly believe it!
But I still write to support the home educating community because I remember how valuable it was to talk to others who had grown through home education and were leading a grown up life – as mine now do. It’s reassuring to hear of homeschool youngsters who are working and independent and intelligent and social and all the other things we worry about when we start out! So I’m very happy to contribute to Nicola’s blog and continue that support.
We turned to home education because our two were just not thriving in school and that soon reflected in their health. Plus the fact I’d worked in classrooms and felt that much of what went on wasn’t that great! So we thought we’d give it a try. We never looked back and never regretted that decision.
We used a variety of approaches; namely whatever worked at the time. We didn’t feel the need to stick to one approach – you do what works for your kids. Sometimes this was formal. Mostly it became spontaneous and incidental –we grew into it. We connected with others, went places, the kids did all the usual evening activities mainstream kids do, we followed our interests and learned out of the home as much as in it. We incorporated physical activity almost daily, as part of our general health and well being approach, along with understanding what to eat for the best (not saying we always managed it!), an important part of biology and science as was studying the world around them.
We focussed on their needs, seeing education as much as personal development as academic. As they matured they began to understand, through endless discussions about it, what they might want to do in the future and how to get where they wanted to go, for themselves. Home educating, which is after all a very independent way of learning, makes independent adults, not the reverse as some people would suggest.
We didn’t use any specific curriculum or timetable as such but we encouraged developmental skills such as goal setting, planning, achieving, reviewing, motivation, observation of the mainstream world and how to fit into it, connecting with people, and skills associated with respect both given and received. Eventually the youngsters took on their own development pathways and continue to do so.
And this perhaps is one of the absolutely fabulous things about home educating. It develops a ‘learn it/do it yourself’ mentality which promotes independence rather than subservience, which sometimes is the result of schooling. Another wonderful by product for us was the feeling of togetherness. Learning was something we were involved in together as a family – a team effort - and not something that was segregated by schooling. That strong bond of support that we have for one another, along with respect, still exists in our relationships now they are adults.
There were difficult days – obviously, when perhaps we were at loggerheads. (I describe one or two incidents in my books – it’s funny looking back at it now!). But I see it this way; there are difficult days with all aspects of parenting, working, living. How we manage to negotiate them is a valuable skill to learn. We encouraged respect of each others’ need for personal space, of our differences, the need for compromise and tolerance at times. All a necessary part of family life, home educating or not!
The richness of family life, I believe, is to do with the quality of relationships, not how much money you have to spend. And this is equally true of education. You don’t need a lot to have a valid education. You don’t need a lot of money to have a loving family life. The best resource a child can have is an inspiring adult and stimulating experiences. If children are loved, nurtured, encouraged to see and engage with the world around them and find the part they can play in it, they will see the value of learning for themselves, and become proactive learners. Proactive learners will go on developing whatever age they are, whenever they need to.
Education is as much about self-development as anything academic. It’s helpful to try and see it in that broader sense when you start out – it extends your approach away from result-getting which is so inhibiting. Education is not merely a set of results, but a holistic, personal, self-growth, part of which may well be academic, but which should be rounded enough to give youngsters the life skills to set them up for all that will follow.
If you keep that in mind whilst you make your home ed decisions, you won’t go far wrong!
For the complete story of our home educating life, full of tips, trials and giggles read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. For a handbook to help you when you start out see ‘Learning Without School Home Education’. And to help you through the wobbles there’s ‘A Home Education Notebook...’ Details on my site; where you’ll also find details of my two children’s books for those home ed littlies!
This little video might be helpful too;
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