TBH, that is a bit of a tricky one. it should be straightforward shouldn’t it, a long list of reasons that give us a cast iron case for home-educating. Hmmm. We have never sent our children to school, so surely we must be v philosophically sound on this issue. I guess the reason i haven’t done a post like this before is that actually, our home education has been more of a flow, a progression with time.
When SB, our eldest, was 3.5 we started contemplating the schooling options for her. She was blissfully happy in a wonderful nursery with a 1:8 ratio and fab staff for 2 days a week. i guess, initially, we wanted to consider something that would be as good as that environment, and both of us went off into our different search modes to consider. we both had fairly instantly not considered the state primaries as being far too big [in our area enormous] and with dreadful ratios. We felt SB, as a gentler child would possibly drown in that environment. i don’t know that we were right, just, well, protective.
Reading around, we felt that organised schooling started too young, she would be just a wee thing to be dumped into this learning machine. being me, i found what i still think is a totally fabulous private school near where we lived. v small ratios, seems great. Expensive though, and we now knew that we were going to have second child, and then that we were going to make a great upheaval and move areas. And chris – always the more off the beaten path one of us, and a great member of a number of parenting forums suggested that he would like to home educate. uh hummmm?? so i think about it, and read about it, and think, well, ok then, not so different to what we are doing now. i join the groups and muddlepuddle.
initially we thought perhaps just while we move and get settled, perhaps until 7, lets not make things definite. look here, and I have a list of resources we were happy with at the time. But I think the greatest commitment to home education from me [chris much more of a convert] was meeting other home educators, and for this i have to really thank merry and her creation, muddlepuddle. Seeing how the already established and comfortable with it home educators did things – and reading their blogs [thanks partic to sarah, parent 1, jax, jan and merry - and the babs at the time!] helped me find confidence in it as a choice. home educating at the age of 3-6 is not scary, it is just an extension of what went before, and is an easy time to do things, a testing of the water. After all, in scandinavia, formal education starts at 7, doesn’t it?
home educating beyond 6 is when you feel that you do have a belief that this will work for your child. i was a type A personality [i am on sabbatical!], achieving and continuing to achieve. i am the working mum here, and i still admit to struggling with the private school vs home ed, and the we can do it better than we are issues. But what i don’t struggle with is the idea that we are doing it better than the state schools. And if they are the standard that is ‘the bar’ then this is really no standard. education in this country is dysfunctional, even in the good schools, and this is driven by regulatory hoops rather than joy of teaching, or individual learning. Even when i went to primary and middle school, i sat in a corner doing self directed learning [and tbh i mostly cheated] because i was ahead of the class. i was bored, got sent to an educational psychologist and paediatrician who both, thankfully, declared that i was bored – such that i was allowed to self direct rather than go back to learning the alphabet. i was then different, so not a good social animal etc… this may have coloured my school perception, but…
So at 5, compulsory age to receive an education, i had a mission statement – i couldn’t bring myself to call it an educational philosophy, as it is really just some mindmapping. but this is the important bit of it
I think full formal education starts too soon. this first period is about learning learning skills, and getting the information – so reading is something we will build on! making the world an exciting and interesting place to live in and imparting the knowledge without being overly concerned to the most part on how long it is retained! Some skills are built on – namely literacy, language, numeracy and practical things such as art, music and sports. Others will come and go.The key thing is to view the tapestry, not count the stitches. The basic warp and weft will be forming.
In this, we are likely to be child led rather than completely autonomous. I see it panning out that there are activities we try and accomplish on a regular basis, be this daily, weekly, fortnightly or what seems reasonable . The actual minutiae will not be programmed, and will be child interest led. Although I have rough idea of what we may get through as such in the next 2 years, it isn’t ‘must do or else’, and often I skip bits : more a guide to where i see us being. SB has a wide ranging thirst at the moment, and so it seems unreasonable to fix her attention on something she truly deems boring when there are many other things to catch her spark.
Play activities are equally vital if not more so at this stage – as when else in the future are you given the chance to have free play without some pangs of guilt? Lets get rid of the guilt, so that is something that is part of the balance. many of the toys can be seen to have all sorts of possible educational benefits, as I think there is very little ‘play’ that doesn’t have some learning potential – from rehearsing life scenarios, honing imagination, fine motor control, etc etc.
And that is where we have continued to work from. Our next mission statement, at 7, also started with this statement. i am slightly nervous about approaching our next one at 9 though!!
So that is why we home educate. Why do we continue to home educate? i guess because though i might sometimes waver about home vs private education, i never am worried about the state version, and also, because I have never heard Chris worry about it. He is the SAHD and main educator, so i have to have some faith!
home education has brought with it some distinct advantages, that knock the socks off all else really.
1. we have a large age gap [4 years] and home education has given them a huge opportunity to love, care for and support each other, which would have been unlikely if SB had been attending school from before BB was 1.
2. we have been able to mix and match resources to find the things that SB has been really happy using, and then enjoyed learning from – such as the singapore maths, which really works her way, and then explode the code, where she learnt to read without trying in synthetic phonics.
3. we can do what she finds interesting at the level she finds interesting for the time she is interested in it. such a simple thing really, but what a huge difference it makes for educating.
4. the things she doesn’t like, but there is need to learn – writing and spelling – we make also no effort to be age referenced. we do tiny amounts, so that there is incremental improvement, but not being peer referenced means that she isn’t ‘bad at it’ – must make a difference to confidence.
5. it is fun for the whole family.
there are lots of other pros, but they are often more of the same.
what are the cons?
1. financial – this is a biggie, we lose an income. even if both girls went to a private school, if chris was working we would be better off financially.
2. emotional support – actually i feel this isn’t a problem for us, we have local friends, imaginary internet friends, and blogging and trying to meet up provides an outlet for angst and worry. But it could be an issue. The only answer is to get out there and meet people. Home ed is pretty rainbow, and there will be a mixture of people at all groups, someone will be able to help. for us, probably emotional support is more of a pro.
3. government interference with the freedom to home educate. the Badman report is a con [in both ways!] stigmatising us as probable abusers of our children, failing to take their education and futures seriously, and needing the state to watch us closely. i don’t think so Badman and Balls. i take full responsibility, with my husband, for helping to give our children the tools to achieve whatever their goals turn out to be.
what are the not-cons
1. socialisation not an issue. local HE groups, local after school groups, playdates etc etc. prob area dependent, but we live in a sparsely populated area, and yes, we have to get in a car, but not a problem.
2. national curriculum – particularly not a con, because we ignore it and the sats totally
3. knowing where your child is in relation to peers. a particular not con, and more of a pro. i really am not interested, they are 4 and 8. i will find out as and when they do real exams!
SO, there it is, my quick precis on home educating for us. i might not have done quite what jax intended, it sort of splurged out of my fingers! I reserve the right to edit later!!