Tag Archives: what is home education?

Home Education – the long and short view.

Some time ago a parent on a list I am part was asking the usual questions about whether she should consider home educating her child. One area that she was particularly concerned about was how and whether her children would sit exams, GCSEs and A’levels in particular. It turned out as the conversation went on that the oldest child was around 4 yrs old. It made the question difficult to answer. A lot can happen between now and then and in the world of exams and accreditation a lot can happen very quickly. Nevertheless this parent wanted some kind of long term plan to be sure that she was doing the right thing.

Most home educating families have a “nothing in stone” approach. Things change, families face all sorts of events, and tragedies that will mean rethinking how and even when learning takes place.

Some of us have faced the very real possibility that our children might HAVE to go to school because we might be either not there at all or so incapacitated that we couldn’t HE any longer. There are also parents who face the battle of serious mental illness which, might leave them able to home educate for years but a relapse might put them in hospital for a long time.

We educate with an eye to what they might face should they have to go to school. I don’t think that means many of us follow the National Curriculum, but we do make sure our children are getting the very best education we can possibly provide for them, so that they have a good head start, should they even end up under the NC.

I suppose the other thing about being ill, or facing the possibility of death or serious disablement is that as Christian mothers we know we are supposed to be doing all we can to get ourselves and our children through those pearly gates. if we don’t do our very best at the role God has given us, we’ll have some answerin’ to do.

The question is, does the fact that we faced/face aspects of life that perhaps some other home educating families don’t or haven’t yet, effect or even determine the way we home educate now?

In some ways I think the answer is yes. One area I have considered is that I want my children to form a habit of self-discipline over their learning so that should they need to, they can continue with someone else who might not be able to put the time and effort in as a mother does. Umm, it’s something we are working on. But seeing Alex and Iona do it, I know it’s possible. Just keep at it, one day at a time.



Not every Home Education day (week, month…) is a good one.

Let’s face it, sometimes being a home educating mum feels like pounding at a hard nut and not cracking it.

I confess that the last couple of weeks have been truly hard and I reached the end of my tether yesterday and decided I had no choice but to send Ronan to school and concentrate on the girls. Part of this may be having the flu (or something like it) and trying to keep on top of everything while being yukky, hot and cold and generally erchgh. (If that isn’t a word, it is now. Neologisms r us).

I had planned, with planning sheets and everything, that Ronan would be a bit more inependant in his learning this year. This was mainly based on trying to fit more and more work with Heleyna into the day, and I must admit, I wanted more time for me. Ahem. I didn’t really consider too closely whether it would work or not. Lesson learned!

At the end of a difficult week, a couple of my children are on probation. If next week begins in the same way, they are grounded. So, I dismissed them for the day and they went off to bake and peel acorns ready for leaching the tannin. I put the radio on and set about clearing up and checking the workbooks, wondering what on earth I was going to do, to keep the HE boat afloat.

I was listening to Dr. Ray Guarendi,(Sept 27th or 28th) and suddenly a mother phoned in who was thinking of sending her recalcitrant ten-year old to school because she just wasn’t getting anywhere with him. Dr. Ray gave her some ideas and even gave a rendition of how her day had been. It was MY DAY (well fortnight) as well!! She laughed and I had to too. After giving some final thoughts, including the very good one that leaving the lad to get on with it, and if his day dreaming and groaning means he has to work through tea time and loose free time then so be it. He finished with the words, “Don’t let a ten year old decide for you whether you can homeschool or not.”

So, I am ready – and less fluey which helps a lot – and on Monday, the work will be laid out and I will not bother about how long it takes. I will stop what is happening for joint work, and then outstanding work must be done.

There’s acorn flour to make too. We didn’t get as much tannin out as I expected, which makes me suspicious there’s still an awful lot in there. So more leaching is ahead. Then we’ll make a little soda bread bun or something similar – not to eat too much of it. English oak is not as safe as American oak apparently. But in times of famine it has served English people well.

It wont hurt the children to understand how bad things can be when there’s no food to eat. They have done without some stuff, when we’ve been skint – but have never starved or done without a meal.

Or is cooking acorns really hippy????

UPDATE- I’m going to have a go with Kalei’s little “organise your learning” set.

Home Education the not-so-gentle beat yourself up art of learning.

I hate September. I think I have hated September ever since I started to home educate and what’s worse it’s my own silly fault that I hate September.

There are plenty of articles out there that explain how not to home educate, and what might lead to burn out, misery and abject failure, but I have managed to avoid most of those pitfalls and dug a new one, all of my own.

It’s the beat-myself-up approach. It’s based on a very silly version of keeping up with the Joneses. I look at all the events available, all the places we could go and all the stuff I could be taking the children to, and see all those home educating families going out and doing them all, and realise that we have neither the budget nor my health to allow it to happen. And then I start thinking I am letting the children down and I’m doing it all wrong and they are stereotype home educated children, sitting at the table with workbooks. It’s the stuff of home ed nightmares.

Just as I start the battle of beat-myself-up we get under way and I had forgotten some of the problems we faced at the end of last term and hit them again as we restart. I am also faced with new challenges as Heleyna does not learn the way the other two did and they didn’t learn like each other. I’m having to learn to be as flexible as Elastigirl. And like Mrs Incredible I have children with completely different talents and stumbling blocks.

Ronan is my classical cum Charlotte Mason child, while Avila is more Mason to Montessori and Heleyna is very hands on in a Montessori way.

September lurched along as we rearranged the daily rhythm of the family to take the lessons on board. We rearranged the rooms to make space for books, flashcard games and who knows what else.

Beavers Cubs and Ballet are under way again and we spent Wednesday at the MAC park with loads of home educating families for the “Not Back To School” picnic. It was a great day and the children played, talked and gathered a humongous amount of conkers. One lad suggested he might make conker stew! Hopefully his mum will curb that experiment.

A friend’s fiance was really kind and took us home before going back for his own family.

Tonight three of my 6 are off to Scout camp for the weekend.

So in actual fact they are going places, meeting up with friends and doing stuff. It’s just that there are so many events to choose from and so many of the mums I know go to loads of them, that I started to think I was doing it all wrong. There is a sort of pride in HE circles among the mums who are never at home and I fell for it, thinking that because we are at home a lot, that I was failing the children.

I have talked with a  HE friend and got my head in better order. My children don’t need to be doing every single home ed event. They are doing enough and having a tight budget and being limited in mobility and health is not a real problem. They are happy and learning and that’s what matters.

It’s interesting though. I would never even think of looking at the neighbours cars or clothes or expensive stuff and wish I could have that. While I have had kitchen envy occasionally and do have powered wheelchair envy (that’s truly sad isn’t it lol) it’s the area of what I would spend time and money on over education that gets me in the silly place. It’s also very annoying that something so small can immediately tip me back to the pit of “I’ll never get it right.” I suppose I never will get it perfectly right, but I know (on a sane day) that I am giving the children the best I can with all the graces at my disposal.

Are Home Educating parents selfish? Phil Gayle from the BBC wonders!

It has been noted that in Oxfordshire and a couple of other places around England that the numbers of home educated children has risen by over 50%. This rise has caught the attention of the local BBC in Oxford who put out this video in which they briefly look at one family and talk to one “expert”. The mother of seven is home educating her oldest son after his move into secondary school proved pretty awful. She intends to HE her other children through secondary ed but is happy with their primary school.  She calls home education “the poor man’s private education,” – which is an interesting view. It is more and more recognised that  private schools offer a far superior education to state run schools, strangled by the National Curriculum.  I came across a few nurses over the years working double shifts and other jobs to pay for a child to go to private school. I think home ed is easier than doing that.

The “expert” is a professor at the University of Buckinghamshire. He was introduced with the words that “experts” believed that the rise in numbers may be due more to improved paper work than more children being removed from school. It’s funny how whenever anything rises- such as autism rates, Ritalin prescriptions or depression in children, someone always suggests it’s about the paperwork – and no one ever produces the evidence for the theory. Whatever the reason, the numbers have increased significantly and it leaves me wondering how many more non-registered families are out there. Most of the HE families we go around with are not registered at all.

So what did the “expert” have to say?

Educating children at home is a very important
freedom, but it is something that really needs to be embarked upon with great
care. It is a tremendous commitment. It may well be that your son or daughter
are not lost in a big impersonal school system, but there are great advantages
to going to school. One of them is that you can see what other children are
capable of. It’s also true that you miss out a lot on the social interaction.
So you may have been protected from bullying but you may not have learned how
to handle it.

I note the “with great care” bit. Does anyone ever tell parents that sending their children to school is an important freedom but should be embarked upon with great care?  After all, schools can leave your children depressed, self harming, alcoholic, illiterate and incapable of holding down a job or making decisions.

He admits that a child can be lost in the “big impersonal system” which surely is a very bad thing indeed, but insists that schools offer great advantages. And these advantages (over home education) are?  Er..that bit was vague and weird.

You can see what other children are capable of in school, he says. Home educated children can see this too, any time they like and they can see it in children of different ages and with different problems to overcome. You see, unlike school children, home educated children get to mix with all sorts of people, because they are not segregated from children on age and ability. Because of this they not only learn what others are capable of academically, but more importantly, in life skills and virtue.

His assertion that home educated children miss out on a lot of social interaction is simply untrue. They certainly have less negative social interaction than school children, but that is a good thing.

The final sentence is yet more evidence that those in positions of power and the “experts” of this country have no respect for children as persons. No one I have ever met who was bullied in school has learned how to deal with it better in adult life. Just the opposite in fact. But then if this “expert” was pushed around, hit, kicked, spat at, half strangled, threatened, mugged, urinated on and robbed he would call the police and demand the perpetrators were arrested. But when it happens to a child in school, either nothing is done or the victim is the one punished. I really do want to know how being systematically abused at school prepares anyone for a healthy adult life. There is no evidence to say it does and plenty of evidence to say it does nothing of the sort.

There was also a radio programme covering the same piece of news but interviewing a different parent. The radio host asked on more than one occasion whether homeschooling wasn’t a selfish thing for parents to do.

There was a call from a home educated student in which she eloquently explained why HE is so good.

Despite both the mother and student talking about the exams they or their children have/can sit and of course doing Open University courses, the question over how home educated children can gain qualifications was asked again. And despite the clear message about how children learn together the work “isolation” was still used to describe HE.

Before I answer question about how selfish we are, I want to look at what the other host on the radio show came up with. She said that taking children out of school undermined the school system. She said of the school system “What’s the point of it, if people aren’t using it?” (Oh what a lovely question.) She went on “Its something we pay our taxes for. It’s something I’m immensely proud of.”  But she doesn’t say why she’s so proud of it – what does it genuinely offer as a system? What about all those children the system is failing? What about the shocking drop in literacy levels and the complaints from employers about the uselessness of GCSEs? What about the fact that Universities have had to put compulsory essay writing modules into their first year courses because even students with straight As at A’level can’t write an essay? I could list more, but get my drift.

Then Phil Gayle the host went on to repeat the “is it selfish?” question and also wondered how wealthy we all must be. You would have to be wealthy he thought.

The woman thought we got help. She doesn’t know a thing about HE obviously.

So to answer Gayle and others, no, those of us who spend our time and adjust our tight budgets to home educate our children are not selfish. We want our children to grow up whole, happy and well educated. We want them to be able to live independent lives able to make good decisions and think for themselves. We want them to have the freedom to make those choices, rather than find themselves shoved into a rut created by someone else. And we are obviously massivley counter-culteral because we believe that our children are persons and have an inherant dignity to be treated respectfully.

Our children get a wider, deeper and stronger education than schools can offer. While home education may not be the best answer for all children or all families it certainly is the best answer for very many. And while some children do well in school very many indeed do very badly indeed and an even bigger number of children get a mediocre education from a one-size-fits-all system.

As for the finances we save up, we do without so that the children can have what they need. We share resources, food, curriculum, time and talents. How often do we have to repeat all this before some journalist somewhere gets it? *sigh*

Home education – some questions answered.

Some people ask questions about home education – what it is and how it works etc. I have to say though, that in my experience the vast majority of “questions” are simply assumptions worded in rhetorical form.

Dearest Gwen answers some of the questions. Her irritation over the question of her “socialisation” and being thought of as some kind of Billy-no-mates is shared by her mother.

Perhaps Alex’s increasing portfolio may assuage some who believe a child can learn nothing of use while home educated. (Although those who think that way have a bizarre antipathy to art in my experience). My favourite piece at the moment is the mug.

Home Education; Language Arts – beginners

I am beginning to realise that there is an order for children to learn the language arts. Not just an order for their learning, but the whole process of acquiring, learning and using language has an order. For me this is a new discovery, but if I dig just a little into the history of education, especially the model set up in the schools of medieval Europe, I see, they already knew there was an order, and in fact they understood this from pre-Christian Classical times.

The Liberal Arts of classical days consisted of the Trivium and Quadrivium. The Trivium is grammar, logic and rhetoric and it was taught in that order. Alongside this the  Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

So how do I ensure my children have the language skills they need for all their learning and to work through life? The classical approach is to start with a Grammar stage.

Language in children begins before birth. Research shows that the language centres of a girl’s brain are already active well before birth. She is hearing her mother’s voice and tone and reacting to that. Boys language centres respond slightly later. Before the age of two children are not “learning” language, they are acquiring it. Research has clearly shown that the only way a child can acquire language is through interaction with his or her parents and family, especially the mother. Research showed that the silly way we mums talk to our babies, named Motherease by the linguists, actually helps the child acquire language. The constant touch and play and close face to face contact is all part of the process.

Conversely it has been shown that passive observation, such as with a TV, radio or even in a large group with no contact with the speaker – does not help a child’s language development at all. 

One of my Sign Language tutors told us about her baby. She and her husband are profoundly deaf and have no spoken language. Their son was born hearing, so they decided to buy a radio and have it on by his cot. One day her brother, who was  hearing, came to see his nephew and asked her what was the strange noise coming from the nursery. It turned out she hadn’t tuned the radio in, so it was just fuzzing. Even so, when her brother tuned it in properly, her son did not learn English. He learned BSL because that’s what his parents used with him. He began to pick up some spoken English from hearing family members, but he had to learn English when he went to school. His acquired language was BSL.

I have known a few hearing people whose first language is BSL because they were born to Deaf families.

Essentially, if children are going to have the tools for early language arts, they need to have been with their mother to acquire the language. From the age of two onwards they begin the process of learning. Through interaction with older children and adults they begin to correct miscues and mispronouciation and build their spoken vocabulary.

Oral and aural skills are important for children to be able to learn. Reading stories together, looking at pictures together and talking about what we see are all ways to help a child, listen and speak well. This seems to have been much better understood in the  late 19th and early 20 century as language arts books have a lot of discussion excercises in them for the elementary levels. The other thing I notice about these books is the higher level of language expected of the children than I am used to from modern English school books.

Grammar is important for children to learn the rules of language use and to lay the foundation for the future rhetoric stage, when a pricise understanding of how language works should mean the ability to clearly put forward an idea or arguement, both verbally and in writing.

I wish I had learned these things in school. As it happens I am having to learn with the children and a little ahead of them, just to keep up with it all. Fortunately we have Latin and Greek which works like the morter among the English bricks, so that, not only their vocabulary can grow, but their basic understanding of how language works.

The tradition Classical education provuded children with a very sound and broard language base to learn from. This is not about literacy. In fact the more I learn about how children use, build and structure language, the more I realise the “Literacy hour” every day in school is pointless. If the children cannot speak, they cannot write (as teachers are noticing).

Charlotte Mason’s writing assumes that children will spend the first seven years with their mother and family. She is appalled by the German idea that children should go to school much younger, pointing out that even in Sparta, boys were left with their mothers until the age of seven.

By the time children went to her PNEU schools, she expected children to be able to recite, speak and read at a fairly high level. She was not aiming at a certain section of society- this was the way children were supposed to learn.

We are getting something wrong these days aren’t we?

Home Education; Socialisation.

Like just about all home educators we have been asked the socialisation question over and over by various people in various ways. To be honest, in the beginning I think it’s a fair question. I remember wondering how I would handle various aspects of socialisation and social skills in my children outside of school – that is, me having to it, not someone else.  🙂

I have less sympathy with those who keep asking the question in a myriad of formats, despite all the clear answers they receive both verbally and through..well…socialising with the home educating family.

This article  is interesting in that it is one more piece of evidence on the massive pile that shows homeschooled children in America are outstripping their schooled peers in all walks of life. Is it the same for home educated children in the UK? I have no idea; although I do know from  what research has been done here that home educated children do better or as well as schooled children academically. It seems that the sheer size of the homeschooling community in America is helping to produce more reliable evidence on outcomes, and those outcomes are good.

In her article Mrs Armstrong makes three very important points (imho); the first is at the end of her article when she reminds (Catholic) home educators that the whole process is sandwiched and founded on a proper prayer life. I concur that prayer is vitally important. It is the battery top up – the powerhouse, that enables us to keep going every day. It is the way we know which way to move in education and then it automatically leads to the second very important point she makes – that we want our children to grow with a formed conscience and good morals. This works best where peer pressure is limited, and where adults with questionable morals do not have free reign over our children’s time.

The finalimportant  point Mrs Armstrong makes, is about how homeschooled children are comforable in their own skin. They are not bothered about what “the culture” says they should be bothered about.They don’t get hung up over the latest trainers, ipod or how they are supposed to look, talk or behave. I am not saying this is true of all homeschooled children. I am quite sure there will be those who spend so much time being “socialised” that they do absorb the culture; but I have to say, I haven’t met many. Nearly all the children we have contact with are just happy in their own skin, and are therefore comfortable around a mixed group of people.

Having said that I have met a few home educated children at the beginning of their life in HE who are in a terrible state. Distressed parents insist that this mute, unable to make eye contact, frightened child is not the child they sent to school. Having been so badly socialised in school, the parents are faced with re-teaching their child to be with other people, and re-teach them how to learn. It can be a tough process- but from what I have heard and seen, it is one that generally works.