The Home Ed Wobble

If any home-edders are having a wobble this month, don’t despair.  A quick glance at social media will remind you that you are doing the right thing.  Everywhere I look at the moment, I see posts by concerned parents who just instinctively feel that their 6 year olds shouldn’t be taking phonics tests or key stage 1 SATS.  I read articles about the ridiculous content of test papers and the stress put upon children and teachers across the country.  It is madness.

I have wobbles, not major ones but wobbles nonetheless.  I have days when I find myself nagging my 6 year old to do more, because his friends at school will be doing so much work and he must not fall behind.  These days are thankfully rare and I know this is because I am so schooled myself, it is taking a long time to shake my understanding of education.  Both children can read and write, both are confident mathematicians, both are interested in science and the world around them, they love history and music and art and dance and theatre and WHAT MORE COULD I WANT?????

So, on the wobble days it is good to focus on what your children are missing out on by not being in school.  They are missing out on a narrow curriculum, endless pressure to progress and achieve, age inappropriate targets and high stakes testing at the end of each key stage.  That is what they are missing out on.

It is very important to step back and look at the overall picture.  Are the children happier?  Healthier?  More engaged, inquisitive, independent, sociable?  If the home educated kids I know are anything to go by, then the answer will be yes.

So even when the SATS aren’t around to remind us, we have to know we have done the right thing.  Embrace the wobbles, it just shows how much you care.

 

 

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Win

Today was a winning day.

I had one last Tuesday too.  What is that about?  I’m hoping to have more winning days, more regularly and now we have a slow-cooker, this seems more likely.

I consider myself a winner when the kids have been educated, entertained, socialised and exercised – when the pets are clean and fed, the washing basket is near empty and the house is in good order -when the niggling jobs have been tackled and there is something awesome smelling in the slow cooker.  This is very exciting for me.

What have I become?

I’m going to get a tattoo for balance.

Inspirational pizza

Think not what you can teach your child, but what your child can teach you.

I feel like I am becoming more intelligent.  Is that even possible?  Is intelligence an inherent thing, and knowledge is the thing I am gaining.  Look, see? I am even questioning myself and expanding my mind in my quest for a deeper understanding.

If home education is having the same impact on my children as it is on me, then we are on a winner here.   I am way more interested in everything, I am absorbing more information in order to pass it on, I am questioning everything and viewing life through the eyes of children.  As a result, each and every day is packed full of fun and learning and enquiry.  I genuinely feel as if I am getting more out of life and days are not slipping by unappreciated.  I hope the kids feel the same.

Their minds are amazing. There are countless examples of this, every single day. Sometimes in very small ways.  I thought I was being a thoughtful model Mum when I gave them heart shaped pizza bases to build on.  They took the toppings and arranged them into faces….nothing particularly unusual there…..but then they sprinkled on a herb beard.  A herb beard.  Genius.

Of course, there are bigger achievements on a daily basis.  Like when my 6 year old pointed out that an ‘adverb’ is like an ‘adjective verb’….because it describes the doing word.  Oh yeah.  Very good.  Gold star.

I might appear easily impressed but, as I said, I am seeing the joy in simple things now. Thanks home education, you ever surprising and brilliant way of life.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

And my answers.

 

  1. But what about a social life?  Won’t they miss their friends?

Well, I am the first to admit this was something I had wondered myself before we actually started home-educating, but they are not locked in a cupboard under the stairs – they are home educated.  Perhaps the word ‘home’ needs to be replaced with something that does not suggest they are in the house at all times.  They belong to a fab group, we meet regularly and they play.  They also have plenty of play-dates with friends who are not home-educated and they interact with people of all ages from all walks of life and not the same children 5 days a week. I personally feel that they are much better off now than when they were in school in terms of variety.

2.  So do you have to follow a curriculum?

No.  That is one of the reasons we jumped ship in the first place.  I have copies of the National Curriculum and I have picked out the things I think will help them to progress and discarded the age inappropriate nonsense for the time being. I don’t have to, but it helps me to formulate a plan of sorts.  We have the ‘recommended’ Maths, Science and English workbooks and we work through these together.  Other than that, we choose a topic and we learn as much as we can through the internet, books, day trips and programmes.  They enter creative writing competitions, as it gives them a reason to write and we play and explore together and with friends.  It is a joy to see progress with my own eyes.  I used to collect them at the end of a school day and ask what they had done, only for them to reply ‘nothing’, every single time.  Once we step back from what we know of education, and look at the curriculum through children’s eyes, then we see how irrelevant most of it is to their lives.  It is a way of measuring them against each other, I suppose.

3.  What about exams?

Well, personally I think they will take them when the time comes but we shall see.  They certainly won’t be concerning themselves with SATS tests and I don’t feel they are missing out, as a result. If they are still home-educated when GCSE’s become an option , then I would recommend they study the subjects that interest them.  I resented being forced to choose subjects that were not remotely useful or interesting to me and surprise, surprise – the results showed my attitude to the subjects. Our school careers advisors could not think outside of the teeny tiny box they had created, and it was only when I left college that I realised just how many qualifications were available to me.  Research is key….there is a world of opportunity out there.

4.  How do you teach them?  Are you qualified?

Well, I am a qualified teacher but in performing arts, which helps in a very small way.  But no, I am not a qualified classroom teacher and neither do I need to be.  When I had my first baby, nobody asked if I knew how to feed her, or if I had a certificate in nappy changing and sleep studies.  As she grew, people did not inquire as to my suitability to the role of speech educator, or walking facilitator.  When we taught her to ride a bike, nobody asked for our licence.   As parents, we teach our children everyday.  We guide them when they need to use their manners or help when they show an interest in cooking, or shopping, or when they need help making sense of an emotional situation.  Why, then, are we not fit to continue nurturing and assisting them as they gather knowledge and develop their literacy and numeracy.  One home-educator I know was asked if he would get a tutor for his 6 year son.  His reply? “When I can no longer teach him what he wants to learn, I will. So maybe when he studies for a doctorate”.

I have taught, and providing you are a step or two ahead of your pupils, you will be fine. Once you are out of your depth, there is always the internet.  This is, in no way, a judgement on teachers.  I LOVED the teachers at my children’s school and if they were free to teach what they wanted and create the environment they wanted to create, then we would be back like a shot.  Until then…..the kids are stuck with me.

 

 

 

Follow The Leader

I am noticing huge changes in the kids since we started our home ed journey but I’m the one who needs the most work.

To be completely honest, any bumps in the road are for me to iron out.  I still need de-schooling.  I am well and truly schooled and I am just a wannabe hippie.  I will get there but it is taking me a while to really, fully embrace this new lifestyle.  There is a whole heap of adjustment to go through and I need to tap into my inner child.

The difference in the mental health and well being of the kids is unreal.  They are so much more relaxed, confident, sociable and willing to try new things.  One of the major changes I noticed recently, has been in their ability to entertain themselves.

After school and weekends used to find me standing by the toy cupboard, listing their options. Many times, I would have to set up and oversee activities and I genuinely believed modern children were losing their imagination.  They were so used to being timetabled and shepherded at school, they were expecting the same to happen at home.

Not now.  Now they seem to know what they need and want to be doing….and then they do it.  They will quietly slope off and play with action figures for ages, they will select puzzle books, cards and board games, they will get outside and trampoline, ride their bikes or set up ‘shops’. They just seem much more capable of imaginative play.

The changes in their behaviour and mental well being have been so positive and yet, here I am worrying that we need to be doing more ‘school type’ things. I need to take their lead much more.  From now on, I will look at them for inspiration because, unlike the education system, they know exactly what kids need.

 

 

 

It Takes Two

‘Raising a child was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.  Then I had two.’

Having more than one child does take things to a whole new level.  I am not taking anything away from parents of one child – that is also hard but f**k me, more than one kids brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘challenging’. People have asked if we plan to have more than 2, and I laugh.  I laugh in their stupid faces.  Do I look like I want another kid?  I haven’t had a haircut in 8 months, my husband and I have not had a proper conversation since 2012, I can’t remember the last time the washing machine was not on, there are so many demands from so many people and they ask me if I want to add to my load?!

Our kids are lovely.  They are so funny, clever, kind and brilliant but they are kids, and kids FIGHT.  There are at least 3 outbursts a day. Screams and shouts and squabbles and punch ups and it drives me INSANE.  Now, I did read an article about how natural and important to their development this is and how vital it is to allow these arguments to take place as they fight for their place in the world.  I think it was a study conducted by a childless tw*t.

I had been doing everything I could, since the start of these squabbles, to stop them.  It is like trying to plug a leak with a tea strainer. They are naturally inclined to knock seven shades of poop out of each other, in fact they thrive on it but I did not want it in our home!

When they were in school, they were way worse.  It was constant – I would lose count.  They were, no doubt, on their best behaviour all day and then when they got out and into the car, they would go off like firecrackers. That would then continue until bedtime, pretty much. They could kick off about anything, you name it.  However, this has improved dramatically since we took school out of the equation.  More so for ‘Thing 1’.  She has shifted from being very emotional, needy, clingy and whiny to being reasonable, outgoing, diplomatic and far less angry. She is very often the one to settle disputes.  ‘Thing 2’, however, is still young.  He is prone to kicking off  BUT his outbursts are way less frequent and they used to be off the rage scale, whereas now I would say he can manage a level 4 at best. He gets snotty about the usual stuff, having to share his toys with his sister, being accidentally run over by her bike – that kind of thing.  He likes a good loud cry every so often – who doesn’t? – but the difference in their attitude towards each other since home educating, is huge.

I would say they appreciate each other more now.  They play together and really look out for each other when it matters.  Of course they squabble but it is less frequent and less fierce.  I do think home education has taken the heat out of all relationships in this house. I always say we ain’t ‘The Waltons’ but then I watched a clip of it the other day for the first time in years – those kids were always fighting. It’s not what I remember at all.  I am sure the same will be said in this family somewhere down the line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me Time, Schmee Time.

So, we had made the decision to home educate (easy for us because the kids were seriously losing their marbles), we had handed in the de-registration letter and legged it into the night (fun and frightening all at the same time) and then reality kicked in.

I had spent about 18 months ranting about the education system and how it was failing our kids.  I would witter on about this subject to just about anyone who would listen.  I even tried to draw the teachers at the school into the conversation.  I could tell they wanted to say more but they were very professional.  They have to toe the line even if they know it is all a load of bollocks.  Excusez mon francais but you know…..

Anyway, once we handed in the letter I was quite shocked.  Nothing happened.  The school weren’t phoning or asking for our reasons, neighbours weren’t questioning why the kids were at home in term time, family didn’t kick up a fuss.  There was no fanfare or confetti.  I was quite ready to deal with the fall-out but it never came.  So there we were with two kids who did not have to attend school but needed educating.  Fantastic, job done.

The biggest shock to the system, however, was having the kids under my feet ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  Remember, we had been through an emotional time with them, they were falling apart and we did what we needed to do to make them mentally well again.  Any parent who cares for their child would do the same thing but with that comes sacrifice.

When you home educate young ones (and I am sure parents of older home educated children will experience the same thing) you make sacrifices.  For me, I gave up time alone.  I used to drop them off to school, come home, make beds, do the washing, vaccum and clean and then settle down to work.  I would have 6 peaceful hours to get everything done before collecting them from school.  This was the set up for 5 days of the week!

As it stands, I have not been on my own for 5 months, unless you count driving to work.  It is relentless.  So my first piece of advice for any potential home educators is to prepare for that.  You might be caught up in the emotion of the decision but do consider your own sanity.  Kids are bloody hard work.  School gives you the time to do things for yourself, work, earn money, have a life outside of your children.  Home education takes that away, at least to begin with.

So this is where the blog comes in.  I come across at least one person a day who is considering home education. It is a fast growing community and if this blog can help anyone make the decision and move forward with their journey, then that is fantastic.  If it can inspire any current home educators to continue then even better but if it keeps me sane when I feel as if I am losing my mind, then it has served its purpose.  Everyone needs an outlet and a connection with the world when they feel like their daily grind is getting them down – that is why Facebook is so successful.  So this will be my little outlet.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture but to begin with, the period of adjustment was tricky (for all of us). After a few months it improved drastically but as my husband works 6 days a week, I naturally find it all a bit much sometimes.

So, potential home -edders; brace yourselves.  It is a bumpy road but one I am CONVINCED it is worth taking, even it has taken 3 weeks for me to get around to removing my chipped toe polish.  Sigh.