Monday, 21 February 2011

Home Education FAQs

Many people ask me what I do with my girls at home all day. There really is no simple answer, so I guess that means I have to, as usual, give the long drawn out version.

We start each day with academic lessons, and L has a longer 'school day' or lesson time than M does simply because she's much older (nearly eight years older) and is at a different point.

How did we get started in the field of home education?

Back in November of 2009 I became very disgusted digruntled disillusioned with the current school system.

Home education or home schooling is something that I had thought long and hard about ever since L was a baby, and it took me nearly 11 years to get around to officially doing it.

I felt that the way the schools teach things was not adequate, it might help a child pass exams but surely there is more to getting an education than passing exams, isn't there?

I also saw some gaps in the teaching, which also meant gaps in learning, so I decided to take her out of school for what was going to be six months and in order to get her up to a higher standard for secondary school.

After one term at home, she decided that she preferred home schooling, or home education and so we continued and gave up her place at the secondary school.

My Local Authority put M in a school that was a 15 minute drive away from my home, which I thought was ridiculous when there are five schools within walking distance of my home. I decided not to bother putting her in school either, and that ended up being a good practical decision because it would have meant too much driving, as we were down to one car due to car troubles. (Drive M to school, DH to work, back home again, then collect M from school, then back home again, then collect DH from work, no thanks!)

So there you are, in March 2010, I declined two places at two schools for my children, and that meant I took on the full responsibility of their education and did not delegate it to someone else.

So what do we do all day? As I said, we have our lessons first thing in the morning, and quite often have completed our lessons before my DH goes to work. M does her lessons slightly later in the day because she gets up slightly later in the day.

My afternoons are spent working (sometimes) and the girls pretty much do their own thing, whether that is reading, watching a film or computer work. Sometimes we go to home educator gatherings and socialise (yes gasp, shock, horror! We socialise!!!)

Each girl gets one on one time with me which I think is invaluable, there is no waiting for help on a problem that they are stuck on, and some things are covered together, such as art study, composer study, folk song study etc. Those are topics that we can cover together.

What do you use? Do you have to use a set curriculum? Does the Government give you any money? Do they tell you what to do?

The Government has no say in the education that I provide to my children, and in fact they do not provide any financial support either. Currently as the law in the England stands, I do not have to teach any set curriculum, follow a time table, observe school term dates/timetables and I don't have to use the National Curriculum.

Well, I don't but at the same time, I do feel the need to, even though it's not a legal requirement. How so? Isn't that a contradiction of terms? It is and it isn't. At the moment in England, there are two categories of home schoolers or home educators, the 'knowns' and the 'unknowns'.

The knowns are people like myself who have taken their children out of school, and the school told the Local Authority about us, or they voluntarily declared themselves as home educators to the Local Authority. Of course the other ways that people become known are through GPs, A&E incidents, nosey concerned neighbours and so on.

The unknowns are people who are not on the Local Authority's system/books/database for whatever reason. That could be because their child/children have never been to school, they moved from one town to another and didn't declare themselves (currently there is no legal requirement to inform the Local Authority that you are home educating).

Why do I feel the need to follow the National Curriculum if there is no requirement to do so? Simply because the National Curriculum is a set of subjects with learning outcomes or targets. I am a busy person because not only do I teach my children, I work from home and am trying to start a business. I don't have time to fight with the Local Authority over suitability of education. Yes, I agree that may seem like a cop out.

I can hear the 'unknowns' right now screaming at me 'But you are making it difficult for us! You do this and then the Local Authority expect us to do it too!' I may be happy to send a report, but I am NOT happy to have a home visit! Other people are happy to have a home visit and give the Local Authority absolutely nothing! I do this because it gives me peace of mind.

So what do I do all day? Enjoy the fact that my girls and I can do things together, we set our own hours and 'terms' and holidays, and best of all, the quality of the education that they are receiving is second to none.

What about the social? My standard answer that stops everyone from asking quesstions is: I can teach my children to burp, fart, spit and swear just as well as anyone else, if not better! The next sound I hear is their jaw hitting the floor. I do love shock value, I must confess. Seriously though, socially my children have clubs/programmes/lessons that they do where they are 'with children their own age' (for the record I have never been in that situation again - I am usually the youngest person at anything I go to, well, now that I'm getting older, I'm one of the youngest but there is never anyone my age.)

What's your style then? That's the name of this blog so what is your style?

My style is Charlotte Mason with strong Steiner overtones and a bit eclectic because I use other resources that are not necessarily Steiner or CM.

Do my children like the education they are getting? Yes. L tells me she doesn't want to change anything. She also says that she does more in the comparatively short time (compared to a school day) at home than she did in the school day. M is keen to do 'lessons' or 'preschool' at home and then next September she'll do 'big school' at home like her sister does.

We are all different and we all have different views. There are as many ways to home educate as there are families who home educate.

Am I wrong for doing things the way I do? Some might think so, and that's fine, I'm not interested in a competition or a debate.

Am I right for doing things the way that I do? In my opinion I am and in the opinions of my children I am doing things the right way for them, and we are the ones who must live with the consequences of our choices and actions.