My Home Education Experience by Beth Levicki - Guest Blog Post

Over the next few weeks I will be publishing a series of guest blog posts written by people, from all walks of life,  who were home educated. With my eldest, DD15, having started college this September, I thought it would be nice to hear what other young people, who were Home Educated, have gone on to do.

The questions I put forward to them were - How did you find being Home Educated? Where has it taken you and what are you doing now? and What are your plans for the future?

Today I have a lovely post to share with you from Beth, who was Home Educated.

When my mother found out about home education, my brother and I were in primary school and we weren’t very happy. It was September 2001 and I was 5-years-old, my brother 8-years old. I don’t remember how I felt when my mother took us out of school but I remember that my brother used to cry before going to school and would cry when the day was over. Of my school experience, at that age, I only remember being afraid of one of my teachers, Mrs Robertson.

At such a young age, kids don’t want to be in school. They want to be exploring and figuring out things for themselves. For my brother, this was definitely true. He never was interested in academia and to this day has more street smarts than I could ever hope to have. So my mother decided to home educate us and we became the only home educating family in the tiny village we lived in.

For me, I couldn’t decide between home education and being in school. I was in and out of school for a while until my mother said I had to choose. I liked being at school with the friends I had, but I was disinterested in doing school work to a certain level. For example, I remember being confused at why the teachers insisted I join up the letters when writing - it did not make sense to me. Therefore, I eventually chose home education. After my younger brother tried school (and very quickly decided he hated it), my mother chose to home educate my younger siblings too and my sister didn’t consider the schooling system until later in her life.

Growing up home educated, kids in the schooling system would ask me the same questions:

*But why don’t you go to school?
* Is your mum a teacher?
* Does someone come to your house and teach you?
* How do you make friends?
* Do you just watch TV all day?

I never really knew how to answer them as for me, being home educated had just become a normal thing in my life. I would tell them I didn’t go to school because I didn’t like school, which I guess to them felt like a cop-out because they didn’t like school either but they still “had to go”.

My mum was not a teacher and a teacher never came to our house. My mum was our sort-of guide in our education. She wanted us to learn the basics of maths and English and important historical events, but aside from that, we were free to explore subjects we were interested in and my mum would find resources online or in books to help us learn about them. For example, I was interested in the different types of butterflies while my younger brother loved learning about the world wars.

Often, because I preferred home edueducation to school so much, I’d admittedly try and make the school kids jealous. I’d tell them I’d still have to wake up in the morning, but I’d get to do work in my pyjamas while eating biscuits for breakfast!

But while home education was personally the best way for me to learn, it was isolating to grow up in a very small village as a shy girl who didn’t go to school.

My brothers had no issues making friends. They could just go to the park with a football and strike up a game with the other local kids and that was enough for them. They have always been better with people than I have. But for me, I didn’t have many friends growing up. I think this was partly just due to who I am as a person, and I think it was also partly due to being home educated, though I don’t blame that at all and wouldn’t change my educational upbringing.

I had many opportunities to make friends just like any other child. I was part of the Scout organisation from a young age up until my early teens, and I was part of a local drama group from ages 8 to 16 and had a wonderful time there that really help build my confidence. My mum also found local home educating groups to attend where my siblings and I could meet other home educated children. I was also part of a couple of girls’ football teams. I wasn’t deprived of meeting new people and peers, and my siblings definitely found it easier to connect with people.

When I reached 11-years-old, I decided I wanted to try secondary school just to see whether or not I liked it and my mother, always supportive of me making my own life choices, agreed that I could go back to school. I lasted 7 weeks before returning to home education.

I found that secondary school was much more intimidating than primary school. Children were more rowdy, especially on the bus to school, and the teachers scared me. For instance, a memory that has stuck for over a decade was when one day I was told off for not knowing how to play volleyball.

On top of that, I had no interest in the subjects I had to learn such as geography, textiles, RE, etc. I remember in my first ever maths class, we were all given a maths test (the subject I liked the least) and it gave me major anxiety to think that I was doing terribly while other students looked like they knew all of the answers. Being forced to learn all of these subjects to the same level as everyone didn’t make sense to me and on more than one occasion made me very upset. Not everyone is the same level as everyone else in every subject.

I did make a few friends, but that wasn’t enough to make me want to stay in school, so I returned to home education and was a lot happier for it. It was clear after those 7 weeks that the schooling system and I didn’t mix.

Home education for my family wasn’t just sitting at the table learning what adverbs were or remembering which wives Henry VIII beheaded, though. Very often we would take trips to different places across the country, sometimes to reinforce what we had been learning about at home, but sometimes just for fun. Because what I think a lot of people still don’t realise is that whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, you’re always learning. We would go to the local woods or take a day trip to London or see a re-enactment of a battle or go camping during a meteorite shower. I had some wonderful adventures with my family during my home education years, but the best part is that we still go on these adventures. As my mother put it, home education became less something we did and more something we were.

Eventually, because I thought it would open more doors for me in the future, my mum and I decided I should get some GCSEs and IGCSEs under my belt. In every exam, I was classed as an external candidate and we had to pay a fee to the college I would take them at. I completed my first IGCSE, which was Biology, at age 14 and passed with a D. However, to potentially make life easier on me later on (in case I was required to have all GCSEs grade C and above whether I’d want to attend college or get a job, etc.), I decided to re-take it a year later along with a Psychology GCSE and achieved a C and a B respectively. A year later I took History, English Literature, and English Language and achieved a D, C, and A* respectively and was very pleased with my results.

At this point in my life, I was 18 and quite unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. This was a time where I was very grateful that I was home educated as I didn’t feel the pressure from a school to choose my next steps within a certain time period. Home education gave me the freedom to naturally decide what I wanted to do, and what I eventually decided I wanted to do was to study in America. So my mother and I worked backwards and figured I’d need to go to university, therefore I needed A-levels. I decided to apply to college instead of doing them at home as it would be easier for my family and me. I reluctantly studied towards a required maths GCSE and thankfully passed with a C.

In September 2014, I officially left home education after 13 years and returned to the schooling system. It was a scary time at first, but I found that college was a lot more focused around independent learning which I had been putting into practice up until that point, so I was well versed and found the transition of work load somewhat easy. I had no idea what I wanted to study at university so, as always, I chose A-levels that sounded interesting to me which ended up being English Lit/Lang, Media, and Film. I had always been a lover of film and was afraid that studying it would ruin movies for me forever; however I in fact gained a whole new appreciation for film as an art form and decided to pursue that to degree-level.

It took a while and a lot of courage but I eventually made a group of friends at college I could be myself around (including my best friend whom I still love to bits).
I enjoyed my time at college while still feeling like I was a part of the home education lifestyle my younger siblings were still experiencing.

When I started writing my personal statement to apply for university, I showcased the fact I had been home educated as a unique advantage over most mainstream students as I hadn’t been spoon-fed the knowledge I had learned over the years. I got into my first choice of university at the University of Kent studying Film and it has been the biggest growing experience of my life.

I am now 22 and currently in my third year studying abroad in the USA at Indiana University and am having the time of my life. It’s strange to actually be where I planned I’d be four years ago, but very satisfying at the same time.

Next September I shall be entering my final year of university which terrifies me. I’m not too sure what I’d like to do next. Perhaps a postgraduate course or maybe I’ll begin pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. Many things to think about, but what home education and my mum have taught me is that I have time to think and that important life choices should not be forced. Not everyone is ready at the same time to make big decisions (I definitely wasn’t!).

Unlike my sister and myself, my brothers decided not to pursue academic qualifications in favour of getting a job and figuring out life in their own way. Home education allowed them to enter the working world in a way they felt comfortable and both are now doing better than they ever did trying to figure out where to correctly put a comma!

Home education worked for my family, but other children and families may very well benefit better from being in the schooling system. It depends from lifestyle to lifestyle. However, I do wish that home education was more widely known. I’ve heard of so many stories about children with anxiety or children who don’t mix well with school who I believe could benefit so much from being home educated. But I understand that parents may work full time or feel that they wouldn’t be able to help their kids well-enough at home.

While I don’t know what I’d like to do with my future, I’m excited to see what interests me next and where it takes me. I’m happy to answer any questions about my home education experience! My email address is so feel free to drop me an email.

Happy learning!

~Beth Levicki


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