Answering questions on home education.

It has been nearly five years since I began home educating my children and the reasons seem almost irrelevant at this point. The child who was being so badly bullied in school is now a young man with a great talent doing well in college, work and with his portfolio of art. He is no longer the closed off miserable 14 yr old who could barely read when I first got him home.

I am now home educating children aged 15, 6 and 4 as well as bringing up their 2 year old sister. Unless something dreadful happens these younger children will never attend school.

My 15 year old daughter is autonomously educated, something that Graham Badman thinks is a form of education worthy of eradication. She plans her own learning and organisers her own day around her learning and the skills she wishes to hone.  I offer some guidance and help her with resources as any mother would when their child is trying to achieve something. She completed her IGCSE maths when she was 14 and got a B.  After discussion it was agreed she need not sit other gcse exams unless there is a real need to. She turns 16 in Jan and will be starting Open University courses in Feb. She wants to write for a living and certainly has a way with words, but she is aware of the difficulties in that market and has back up skills for earning a living.

But is she socialised? She is relaxed in the company of adults, children and her peers. She chats with the mums at our home ed group meetings and plays with the babies; she teaches some sessions with the group and is considered “professional” by a couple of the children. Her friends come over and she goes out with them and to Explorer Scouts. Having two older brothers she is able to hold her own with their friends too.

And the others? Well to be honest my 2 yr old is not yet socialised-but then find me one who is. The three younger children do have friends and see lots of other people of various ages. Our house is the home ed hub at the moment (although occasionally we think about getting a hall or somewhere) and there’s plenty of group lessons, play and outings.

But aren’t they hidden? Apart from being known by the fellow home ed families, the children are well  known to the neighbours and local shop owners. They are also well known at our parish church and Beavers and Scouts. When my 15 yr old wasn’t too well recently I took her to the GP and while we were there I sat quietly while she explained her symptoms and answered his questions. He was obviously surprised that a 15 year old could do this and commented on it two or three times while we were there.

Surely you need to be a teacher; no one knows all the subjects? There is a great deal my daughter has been learning that I knew nothing about when she started. Let’s take The Franklin Expedition for a start. When she wanted to learn about it neither of us knew much-now she knows a whole lot and I have learned quite a bit alongside her and from her. Her science modules and projects have been done as a joint learning excercise. One thing I would never do is teach her something false just to look like I know something. I will never forget my son being given erroneous information in science by a teacher who refused to listen to the correct answer.

At home we have access to some excellent internet resources, other parents who are often experts in their field and the library. With all this how can we all help but learn?

The younger ones are all under 7 so there isn’t much I can’t manage with them. I do have DVDs for Math (because that is something I am not much good at and Mr Steve Demme is) and I am grateful for Mr Linney for providing lessons and pronunciation for both Latin and Spanish. I am fluent in Sign Language and so teach a group of children.

What about real life? You can only get that by going to school. This gets said a lot. I can’t quite see why school equals ‘real life’ and being part of a family, local community and broader home educating community with different approaches to life and with responsibility for your learning and behaviour within those communities is ‘unreal life’. It seems to me that real life is about having the life skills necessary to live, to have self-respect and respect and care for others whatever their age or ability. If my experience of schooled children is anything to go by, schools don’t teach this at all. Sadly far too many schooled children can’t speak to anyone not exactly the same age as them at all. My dd has pointed out the appalling habit of texting friends to say they are coming to the door, to avoid having a parent answer the bell! I don’t see how an institutional set up like a school ever teaches ‘real life’.

Yeah, well maybe you do it okay, but what about those others? These ‘others’ are the ones Badman and his mates have been unable to unearth. Have I ever met families who I personally think are making a mess of home education? I have come across a family who struggled with it to a huge extent especially when a baby arrived and mum wasn’t that well. The children are now in school because, while this may surprise some people, parents do tend to know when to do that. Another family I knew were just pretty unpleasant people and yes I think that effected the education. What can I say? Home educators are human just like the rest.  I have come across other families whose approach to home education is one I wouldn’t have been happy with, but I still thought the children were doing better than most schooled children of comparable age. We are not closing down schools because so many children end up illiterate and bullied- there is no evidence that home education harms children at all and a great deal that shows home education works very well indeed.

It isn’t fair that your children might do better than mine. In an equal society they should be forced to have the same (low) standards as our children. Apparently this really is an attitude from some parents. Fortunately I haven’t come across it. I’m not sure how I would answer it. I can’t think of anything polite to say anyway. All I can say is, if you really think like this then give up your time and give it to your children so they too have a better standard of education.

You can’t teach science though can you? Actually I don’t think I ‘teach’ very much of anything. We learn together and if I happen to know extra then I’ll pass it on. However I would rather the children learned to learn, to do their own research, than having me just spout information at them.

Science is just as easy to learn as any other hands on subject. Most experiments get done in the kitchen or the garden. You need a kitchen full of white vinegar, salt, sugar, oil, red cabbage, potatoes, lemons and bicarb and you’ll need some wires and a  9 volt battery. For other stuff you’ll need to buy a little science kit. Shop around and you can pick one up for £20 or so. My daughter’s school friends complained when they saw her science work because she was able to do so many experiments compared to them.

The only aspect of science I might find difficult at home would be A’level chemistry because there are assessed lab works involved-other than that; it’s a breeze.

Homeschooled children miss out on music and drama though don’t they? Not in my experience they don’t. There is plenty of music to be learned easily at home and those of us who can play instruments share that with other families. Getting in tutors for instruments is a cost problem but music, singing and getting to grips with composers is free. Drama is often done in the group and children join drama groups in their area, as well as dance and other things.  In fact, from what my children got in school, most home ed children have better music, art and drama access than school children.

You are doing your children a disservice by making them different. (LOL I saw this written on the Guardian comments a couple of days ago!!) As I mentioned earlier my children are learning self-respect and respect for others. There is nothing shameful about being a little different. In fact the ability to be different seems to me to be a definite advantage.

Children need to get away from their parents. You are too close to your children if you keep them with you. All the evidence is that children need strong attachment to their parents and where this is missing children feel afraid, angry, lonely and miserable. Take a look at the research. Independence is learned properly through training from the family. As children grow they learn to do more and more for themselves and take on more decisions. At home they get to decide their learning and learn to work with others of all ages including adults.  There are plenty of home educated young people out there, including my own older ones, who are capable, autonomous and responsible -like adults should be.  My son’s employer comments how unusual this is in a young man of his age (18). Why is that?

Finally, I have a right and duty to the education of my children and I will ensure they get the best education possible.  For us that means home education.

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5 responses to “Answering questions on home education.

  1. Great post, I just get cross when I hear these silly things, good to have someone explain it calmly.

  2. Great and useful post – thanks! 🙂

  3. Excellent summary, lovely read. Thank you!

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