Nin is now approaching 10 and would be Yr5 and Ted is 7 and would be Yr3. Both R and Erk are out of ‘compulsory education age’ with Erk currently studying A Levels in Birmingham. Anna is 1, so isn’t classed as being ‘officially’ home-educated – although in truth home education is just a continuation of what you, as a parent, does from birth (or, indeed, before) which is care for your child and want to support them to learn and develop in the best way for them. For the purposes of this post, therefore, we shall mostly be talking about Nin and Ted because they are considered to be ‘of school age’.
I’ll be honest and say that I have no idea what would be expected from them (Nin and Ted) in school for the ages that they are, we move along at our own pace (well, ok, Nin, Anna and I move along at our own pace, Ted tends to get chivvied along quite a bit…)
As I’ve said before, I’ve tried a little bit of all sorts of things over the years, from very structured and organised to unplanned and child-led (autonomous) to child-led structure and various variations between and around about. I think a little bit of structure is a good thing, however, I also believe that children need plenty of time and space to explore and discover for themselves as well. As such our days have steadily morphed into the following:
English: One child will do approximately 20 minutes of English practice on Reading Eggs/Reading Eggspress (depending on which child) whilst the other child will have one-on-one with me in English, which may, or may not include reading, narration, etc.
From bitter experience the separation of them from each other at this point is to prevent Nin ‘taking over’ (which Ted would very happily let her do so he can sit back and have a doze…) or them bickering (because no matter what some people may try and tell you, home-educated children bicker and fight too).That said, we also do do some English and Maths activities together: we’ve shaken our times tables with maracas and bells, jump-roped number bonds and played Yachtzy on the floor (although a tray or something helps, throwing dice on a carpet isn’t the best idea).
There was also a time when I would’ve avoided all computer programmes, apps and the like. I have a retained fondness for Steiner Education, but whilst Nin thrived and loved it, Ted dug his heels like like the proverbial ass and would not budge, it just wasn’t causing that spark in his eye and I had to rethink. I’d never subscribed to a paid educational site before Reading Eggs (for many years I was rather sceptical) but I have to say that he loves it and would spend hours on it if I didn’t step in for Nin to have her turn (he will often ask to have another go later in the day). I also, originally thought that 10 minutes each would be enough (that they might be finished with it after that time), but both children really enjoy it and asked for the time to be extended and sometimes we need to be a bit flexible if one is in the middle of something when the 20 minutes is up.I also try to read to (for) them from a chapter book every day. The most recent book we’ve finished is “Farmer Boy” Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Of course maths and english are also integral parts of pretty much everything else we do, whether ‘organised’ or not, and are constantly being practiced as part of day-to-day life!
Daily ‘formal’ english and maths are pretty much all that I absolutely insist on (except on days where we’re heading out in the morning for something).
At some point during the week, at some point in the day:
Listed in no particular order.
French: Usually in the mornings after maths and/or English: very basic simple stuff, but hoping to step it up a gear from this week). We use DuoLingo and Babbel, alongside more traditional practice (songs, stories, etc). I’d still like to learn Arabic but, as before, time is the issue as I’m having to brush up on basic French.
Recorder: which I have to admit I’m rather lax on, even though Ted has actively asked to learn – yes I can be a bit of a bad home ed mummy, but I just have to be in the right *space* to do recorder with them and teaching recorder with an active 1 year old in the same room can be challenging to say the least…
Sometimes there appears to be a belief that home-educating parents have some magical reserve of patience that other parents don’t have – if this is the case, no-one’s let me in on the location of that reserve, because there are times that I could do with it. The fact that this comment comes after mentioning recorder lessons is not a coincidence…
Music: in general, rather than specifically recorder practice is an ‘as and when’ occurrence. Every-so-often I feel enthused and will put on some classical music (most recently would be “Carnival of the Animals” Saint-Saens as an example). Nin has a habit of morphing any digital radio station into ‘Absolute 80s’ – I’m not sure whether to be happy or slightly scared by this…
History: I aim for twice a week ‘formally’ although if something crops up that’s relevant on top of this, I’m not one to ignore an opportunity. This ‘academic year’ we’re moving on to the Normans from a ‘formal’ point of view (as I have a *thing* for covering things chronologically), but will also cover various periods of history as and when they present themselves. From an entertainment point of view you could do far worse than watch Horrible Histories – various available on their YouTube channel. There’s also a good History Home Ed group on Facebook. I’ve various Pinterest boards devoted to history (it would be a bit daft to list them all here, but do pop over and have a look).
Geography: most of the geography we’ve covered, so far, has been incidental. As a part of History, we’ve looked at maps of the Roman Empire at its height and how it changed towards the time when Rome withdrew from Britannia. As a part of Nature Study we’ve talked about different habitats and noted features of the landscape when we’ve been out walking. When visiting the coast we’ve discussed features that the children have come across, e.g. coastal erosion. I would expect that this subject will continue to be incidental to other subjects for a while yet unless a particular question arises.
Art & Craft: Again, as and when it presents itself. I don’t specifically plan ‘activities’ as such, rather I’ll respond to requests to make something, or, every so often we’ll have a trawl through Pinterest for ideas on something we might like to make. The various festivals of the year are another inspiration, of course!
Natural Science: we go out walking every day when possible, exploring the local area and further afield. As part of this we take lots of photos and try to identify what we find (these can be found under the “Explore” label). The children have their own Nature Journals and they record things that they find that interest them in these (although admittedly rather sporadically).
They may go on the same walks, but their journals are very different. Nin’s is populated with fungi, a frog, leaf rubbings and poetry. Ted’s is filled with pencil and crayon drawings of beetles and spiders (not strictly ones that he has found because there’s a Goliath beetle, a resident of Africa, amongst others in it – but this is what interests him!) We may try to identify flowers; go on a scavenger hunt for leaves or fruit/seed pods; see what birds we can spot; note landscape changing with the seasons and much more – there’s always something new to learn when you get outside.
We are currently renovating the garden here, pulling up pavers to plant vegetables and keep chickens. There is a wealth of science-based subjects to be explored here and much of the science that Nin and Ted learn about is based on their own surroundings, the environment they live in.
We sometimes discuss and explore other aspects of science in response to questions (e.g: why steam comes out of a boiling kettle) but I’m not planning (at present) to do anything that resembles a ‘science lesson’ because I prefer to focus on what the children observe around them and support them in learning more as and when the opportunity arises.
Sports/Exercise: Well, my children don’t need much encouragement to be active, but in addition to their usual level of play activity, Nin attends two classes of multi-skilled martial arts, one for jujitsu and one for sports sword. She also attends a sparring class. Ted attends Beavers. Both children have bikes and we live walking distance from a playing field with playgrounds and there’s plenty of countryside to go tramping through. I’m hoping, this year, to add regular swimming, though, as I feel that they need to have some regular practice in this (and, indeed, Ted really could do with more in the way of actual swimming lessons).
I’ve probably forgotten something and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Various skills are practised as a natural part of the above, e.g. learning about weights is far more engaging and relevant when you’re baking a cake (as are ratios); writing happens as a natural part of everything else we do, although Nin is currently experimenting with her ‘handwriting style’ and this is certainly more ‘contrived’ (in that she will purposefully sit practising handwriting, as opposed to writing simply to make a note of something she saw in her Nature Journal), but it keeps her amused for ages!
Discussion and narration can take place anywhere – breakfast or lunch is a good time and, if you’re my children, any time when I’d prefer to be doing something else (and yes, this includes when I’m on the loo and in the bath *sigh*)
It helps if you can keep your eyes open for opportunities, every day occurrences that can open up doors for observation and discussion. One day we went out for a walk and I’d planned a scavenger hunt for autumn leaves and fruits – I’d even printed off lovely sheets and everything 😉 – and this went well for all of about 5 minutes until we noticed all the different fungi in the fields and woods and ended up off on a tangent, seeing how many different ones we could find and take a photo of. Sometimes you can make a plan but something else comes along instead and it helps if you can see these something-elses as opportunities rather than hindrances (after all, the autumn leaves were still there the next day and the day after that).
So, although I feel comfortable with a certain level of ‘structuredness’ with regards to home-ed here, I find it is useful to be flexible in going off on a tangent if presented with a question or opportunity.
Another very important part of what we do here is the children learning to take responsibility for their own education, both from an academic and a personal (lifeskills) point of view. The ability to dress oneself, keeps oneself clean, know how to wash clothes, cook, garden, manage a budget, etc, are all necessary parts of learning and very useful to skills to have – what point is there to understanding who discovered electricity if one doesn’t also understand how to change a plug?
Home education can be a very organic thing and, in my experience, doesn’t necessary happen in the way that you might first expect it to. It can be a very steep learning curve, not so much for the children, but for their parents and/or adults involved in the children’s life.
So If They’re Not In a Class With Other Children, What About Socialisation?
A common misconception about home education is that children are isolated from their peers. In my experience this is the exception rather than the norm for home educating families. Nin and Ted have various friends, both home educated and schooled, and also attend one of the local home education groups as well as occasional events, plus the five various martial arts classes Nin attends and Beavers for Ted (including camps). In my opinion what my children experience is quality of socialisation over quantity – lots of children in a school environment does not a good social experience make if you are horribly bullied and isolated by your peers (the experience of one of my eldest two). We have the opportunity to choose who we see regularly and whilst I won’t say that everything is always rosy at any meet-ups, because we’re all human (and home educators are comprised of as just as wide a cross section of society and just because we all home educate, it doesn’t mean we have anything else in common) we are not compelled to attend and can go elsewhere if we choose. That choice is a wonderful thing!
To see a little more of what we do, visit the Learn label 🙂
I’ve written a synopsis of what I do here with my children at the moment, but if I was to return and write again in a few years time my approach might be very different. I have no way of knowing whether it will be, or not, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
If you’d like to find out more about home-education, the statistics, legalities, etc, I recommend: Ed Yourself a website that offers free, impartial advice to ALL. You do not have to be a member of any organisation, be registered with any group (or the local authority) or carry around any form of proof that you are a home-educator or a member of an organisation or registered with the local authority.
If you have any questions about home education do please ask and I’ll do my best to answer them :0)
(Part of Jax at Live Otherwise’s Not Back to School Carnival)