I think we have been very fortunate over the years in the the positive responses we have received to the fact that we home educate. We get asked fairly often, in a friendly sort of way, the usual “No school today then girls?” kind of questions, and generally speaking most people come back with “ooooo I wish I could have done that” or “well I don’t blame you” or “good for you!” or “we thought about doing that once”. Only once have I been engaged in conversation about it that tended towards the negative, and that was someone’s tiddly uncle at a family wedding, so we wont worry too much about that one heh?
But I do get a asked A LOT of questions – so I thought, well, if people ask me this when I’m out and about, perhaps I should answer them here…..so here goes:
Are you allowed to do that?
Yes, I get asked this often and YES – it’s legal. The 1996 Education Act states, under section 7 that it is the “duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age….[to] cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—a: to his age, ability and aptitude, and b: to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
Home Education falls under the “or otherwise”.
You can find out more about the legal ins-and-outs here.
Actually it’s worth pointing out here that you OPT IN to state education, not out of it. Home education is the “default” unless you as a parent/guardian choose to register your child for school. No letter comes winging it’s way through your letterbox reminding/ordering you to apply for a school place (trust me – I have not registered children three times now!), if you don’t register your child, you wont automatically be given a place in a school. You OPT IN. You only opt out if your child has been registered and you are taking them out of school.
Do you follow a curriculum/the National Curriculum?
Well it depends on the subject. With English and maths, yes we do – both girls work through work-schemes at their pace, at their level, and we follow their interests and passions within this, expanding and elaborating on topics as we see fit and as we are inspired. With other subjects, no, not so much. These we study through project based learning, the girls decide together upon the projects and areas they want to study and we study them until we feel ready to move on.
How many hours a day do you spend doing lessons?
The 1996 Education act stipulates that a child of compulsory school age needs to receive a full time education. However this term has never been legally defined. I would argue that that our education happens at all times, in all kinds of ways, during all waking hours. How do you measure this and set it in a nice neat little figure?
Do you have term times and holidays?
Hmmmmm, we sort of do. We have distinct periods when we focus on certain projects and we do plan projects based roughly around 3 “terms” a year, but this is very flexible and changes all the time. For my own sanity I do like to have periods of time when we have breaks – when we don’t actively plan activities and we go even further with the flow. People often joke “ah home ed – well EVERY DAY is a holiday!” Ha ha! – um – NO! The home ed parent is constantly “working” (if you like to see it that way?), the children are constantly learning, forever getting inspired by things, their curiosity is never ceasing, and you are constantly trying to respond to and facilitate this boundless enthusiasm for knowledge.
What about homework?
Hah! No – I don’t “set homework”. We’re learning. All the time. At home. Simply that.
What about socialising?
Well here I might have a little rant 😉
Whoever it was that thought that throwing 30 people of the same age into a room together is a normal and natural form of “socialising” needs their head examining. Pit them against eachother in a competitive battle for attention and grades and you’ve got a veritable maelstrom – call that socialising??? How many adults “socialise” for 6 hours a day with 29 other people of the same age? We don’t do we, because it’s not much fun, and not very natural. It’s more socialisation – a kind of enforced institutionalisation of socialising that goes on in schools, not actual, meaningful socialising. I would argue that you don’t teach children to socialise this way, but just to cope – by becoming ‘tough’, keeping their heads down, becoming a clown, becoming a bully -coping in whatever way they can. Imagine being stuck with people you don’t like all day every day and expected to get on with it. Yes, I know the argument – that this happens in the “real world” and the workplace, which is competitive, cut-throat, nasty, brutal, dog-eat-dog, and they’ve got to toughen up (otherwise they won’t turn good little workers who toe the line, shut up, do what they’re told, ask no questions, and help build the economy) but there are two things to point out here. Firstly, isn’t this a sad state of affairs? What sort of a world have we created? How much of the nastiness in the “real world” and the workplace is born out the brutally competitive socialisation that occurs at school? Secondly, even in the workplace adults have more rights and powers to sort problems out (and hopefully the maturity!) than children do at school. Bullying is rife, nasty and increasingly pervasive, reaching across the boundaries of schools now and into life at home via children’s constant access to technology.
You see, as an adult you are allowed to know your limits and set your own boundaries. You can say “I’m not good with big groups of people” or “I can’t focus when there is lots of noise” or “I don’t like parties” or “I don’t like speaking in front of lots of people” – and you can live your life accordingly. But with children we have a “one size fits all approach” and if you’re a square peg, well you’re jolly well going to have to fit yourself into that round hole. There is very little respect in our education system for the individual. Especially those sensitive types among us who need peace, quiet, and their own space at times, away from the relentless socialisation that school provides.
All my girls are very sociable but very much in their own ways. Bod7 is more gregarious – makes friends easily and is very chatty. Bod10 is more cautious socially. She has a few special friends and takes a bit longer to get to know others. Bod3 just kind of mucks in for a bit, then dips out for a bit, like any 3 year old would. In home ed we get plenty of opportunities to socialise – on our terms and with a wide range of people, across a broad spectrum of ages and stages. This is key… You notice when home edders get together that the dynamics of the group are very different to what you might see at school. Big kids play with little kids, big kids help out little kids, little kids play with big kids and go to them if they need something. One group merges into another group, which then re-groups and becomes three. There’s a kind of free-flow of friendship, not based necessarily around ages and stages but around interests and creativity.
What’s also interesting about home ed kids is that they aren’t afraid of or cautious around adults. They’ll chatter away quite happily to any adult, because they don’t see adults as figures of authority, but as champions, who are genuinely interested in them, who they are, and what they have to say. They are not being judged or graded, there is no competitive edge to the interaction.
There’s probably more to be said on this matter…but that’s enough for now 😉
What about the future?
I’ll let that take care of itself 😛
I try not to cross bridges until we come to them, I want to go with the flow. Bod10 is already talking about GCSEs and A’Levels, and whether she does these via a school or a college or at home, well, she’ll work out what suits her best nearer the time. Bod7 is way too little to be thinking about all that. She’s already got all her careers mapped out (keep a farm first thing, teach riding in the morning, then write books over lunch, then teach sailing in the afternoon, and be an astronomer at night). We’re keen to respond sensitively to our children’s individual needs and paths, and thinking too much about the future would be prohibitive to this.
You must be very busy?
Yes, life is full-on and I love it. I can’t imagine living any other way. It’s hard at times juggling three different set of needs all day every day, plus a puppy, but it’s easier than dealing with the fall-out after school.
You must be a teacher/very disciplined/patient?
No I’m not a teacher (although I won’t lie that my SLT training hasn’t come in handy at times) and no, I’m not very disciplined (I tend to fly by the seat of my funky little pants) and no, I’m not very patient, although I’m always striving to be more so (Bod7 has no compunction over reminding me loudly and often that I’m not patient – she’s a great leveler). I just love my kids and love to be with them and I passionately believe in what we’re doing. Together.
You are very brave!
Personally I think it’s braver to put your child through the system!