Like most home edders I get the usual reactions from strangers who ask why the children aren’t in school. “We home educate,” I say and one of the set questions that comes back is ,”Are you a teacher?” And I always answer “No,” because strictly speaking I am not a teacher. I never did a PGCE or achieved QTS, so I’m not a teacher. However, just between you and me, I must confess I did teach.
I worked in a primary school Reception to year 1 (that’s pre-k to K for American equivalency). I was taken on to support one child for five mornings a week, but in fact had 8 children with quite significant “special needs” each morning, leaving them with no extra support in the afternoons.
I taught teens who had been expelled from school, or had been in YOIs or prison; many of whom had genuinely been missing education, some since primary school. At the same college I taught adults and supported adults who were deaf, blind, lacking limbs etc.
I also taught at the University.
So, yes, I’ve done a bit of teaching and so I am sure some people will believe that’s the experience I rely on when home educating the children. Well, it isn’t. In fact it has been more of a hindrance than a help as we set out to home ed. I had to unlearn quite a bit.
The first lesson I had to learn was school standards are meaningless. The huge temptation to wonder if my children were at the “standard” or “level” of other children their age became rather silly when I realised that each child was a mix of “average” and advanced or behind, depending on the subject and that they studied so much stuff that wasn’t part of school life that they couldn’t be measured against the school standard. It’s not easy to let go of these deeply rooted ideas about what constitutes a standard of education, but honestly, it needs to be done.
You may object. “Surely,” you might say, ”Refusing to bear in mine standards and targets, can lead to allowing the children to slide into ignorance and never learn anything.”
I suppose it’s possible that someone would decide to home educate and then simply not bother to do so. But that’s not me. There may be occasions where home ed families are keeping up with the Joneses on grade books and whatever, but most of us are using so many different curricula, methods and resources that it isn’t possible, and that’s before you add in the gifted and SEN kids that are part of the groups.
I have had to learn that it’s no good trying to make a child fit a method, I need to make the method fit the child. This is how I’ve ended up with such an eclectic approach to educating the children. Each child is different and each child is, as Charlotte Mason reminds us, born a person. As soon as you respect the personhood of your child, you ditch all the extraneous things that treat your child as a cog. It’s not as easy as you might think. I’d spent a long time learning to teach to the crowd and stick to the formula. Now I had to work alongside, rather than teach at a person and quite often learn from them.
I love the way the children will go off and learn something completely independently and then come and tell me about it later. I love that their learning is so mixed, and I especially love that they are not embarrassed to be enthusiastic about what they learn.
There are times when I think we aren’t getting very far and they give the impression they aren’t learning anything. But just as I am thinking, “It’s all a waste of time, they aren’t learning anything!” one of them will come out with something I was sure s/he hadn’t remembered or understood.
Of course that’s the other confession; I so still sometimes think home education is about filling my children with knowledge about stuff, when in fact, home education is about teaching my children how to learn, so they can learn for the rest of their lives.
So many ways to learn, like this very funny Three Little Pigs with some Classical pronunciation Latin words…enjoy.