Home Educating Thirteenth Week

We’re now in our 13th week home educating and I haven’t written a blog post since the 6th week! I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t document the last 7 weeks, they’ve been full of ups and downs, trying out new learning techniques, establishing routines and managing my work load. It’s safe to say there have been a few wobbles too, ‘Can I do this?’, ‘What am I doing?’, ”Have I made the right decision?!’  I’ve been advised by more established home educating parents that these wobbles are normal and get easier as time goes on so I’m trying to keep that in mind…

In terms of T’s learning journey, we had another breakthrough with Maths. T liked Maths in school, (up until Y3, when his confidence started waning) he’s been working on a Y4 maths curriculum book almost daily since February, but kept avoiding doing fractions. I decided to try out Prodigy Maths, an online game, and to cut a long story short, some fraction based questions came up and  T (after a few attempts) was able to understand them and answer them correctly, which made him very happy! I’m not sure if prodigy maths do this purposefully (they probably do), but the  questions are asked using audio and lots of visuals, and I believe this is completely suits T’s learning style – a learning style I’m still learning about…

We’ve also discovered OutSchool, a wonderful website full of online classes, from art classes to virtual field trips. T chose to do one about Electricity, led by a super knowledgeable Engineer and home ed Dad of 10) based in America. I wasn’t home when he took the class, but by all accounts, T was fully engaged for the entire hour, and was joining in asking questions. He was very talkative about it when I got home, and is looking forward to signing up to more classes.  We have also implemented library visits to our weekly routine to help T focus on and work / topics without the distractions of home…the big one being our dog & DanTDM!

Overall T is much happier and a lot more content. He is enjoying his weekly climbing sessions, has advanced to the next stage in swimming and is looking forward to starting a forest school 1 day per week after the Easter holidays.  In the meantime we’re embracing my time off work and spending lots more time outdoors . This week we have been kite flying in Lytham, and walking up Rivington Pike (see instagram) and we have lots more planned for the next week!

Until then!

Explaining Home Education to Children

Today a friend and I took four children out for the day. One was T, the other was my friend’s child and the other two were our other friends’ children. All of the children went to school together, until I de-registered T in December 2018.  They have known each other through school since they were 3 years old.

One of the children asked me “Why is T homeschooled?” my reply was staggered, I wanted to say because T wasn’t at all happy, and that school (not just their school but any school!) is not right for him, but I refrained and simply said “Because I am able to home school”, T interrupted “No its because I wanted to be homeschooled” to which the asking child replied “Aw I wish I could be homeschooled, I absolutely hate school”. T and the child then proceeded to have a full-on conversation about school and how bad it is!

I then interrupted and asked the child if there was anything good that he could think of about school, his reply was “Lunchtime, but that’s not enough”. It reminded me of the endless conversations that I would have with T trying to get him to see the positive side of school, asking him to try to learn to enjoy it, when really deep down I knew that him just saying that he hated school was enough, but at the time I felt powerless as I wasn’t in the position to do anything about it! I know ‘hating school’ is a common thing said at some point in most children’s lives and in the past I would have just said “Oh well school is school” without much thought. But now I’m on the other side, I feel like a fraud saying such things as I know there is an alternative, well for us anyway!

I know children are going to be curious about T’s journey but I also do not want T’s schooled friends to feel down about their parents not choosing to home educate, it’s an entirely personal decision and not everyone wants to do it, or would ever want to entertain it, but how do I explain this to an 8 year old?!

Home Educating Fourth Week

Fourth Week Home Educating

Struggling for content to write in this post. Not because of an unwillingness to document and share, more so because the week has been very quiet and chilled out (apart from our exciting site visit!)

T’s task chart has been wonderfully helpful, to both him and me. He knows what he is doing each day, and completes each task with no trouble. As said previously these tasks are not massive tasks, just daily things that he needs to do (chosen by him so that I don’t have to keep asking him!) including cleaning teeth (self care),  feeding the animals (caring for others) and 10 minutes maths work out (keeping brain switched on). Once he has done all of his tasks he is free to do as he pleases, and if it’s after 3pm he is allowed some screen time.

The limit on screen time has been imposed after noticing that if he went on a screen (to watch Youtube or play Minecraft) in the morning, he would end up being on the screen for longer. Many will say that this is part of deschooling, however after watching this happen for a few days, I decided to step in and regain control of it. I read somewhere that kids becoming bored often leads to greater creative play, this is so true in T’s case, since moving the screen time until after 3pm, he has engaged in more imaginative play (after his tasks), just like he did in the first week home educating!

There is also something else that I’ve noticed in him (apart from the crazy dancing, singing, shouting random words as described here), he is so much calmer, he is not having any tantrums, and I’ve not seen any tears for AGES. The other night I asked him “Have you noticed that you’ve not had any tantrums – especially at bed time?!” and he smiled and said “Yes, I used to feel so sad about going to school, I didn’t want to go to bed because I’d have to wake up and go again!”

Seeing his little face smiling, reflecting on what was, and looking at what is now, absolutely warmed my heart and gave me even more reassurance that this lifestyle is the right one for him.

We’re off on a little 4 night break tomorrow (taking advantage of term time cheap deals!) so looking forward to what week 5 brings!

Home Educating – “He’s learning all the time”

Someone asked me the other day “Do you set times for schooling?” my reply was “No, as I believe he’s learning all the time”.

Today we went on a site visit for an art project I’m working on (we were looking at tunnels!) – he’s really excited about it, and even helped me decide on which bit of the tunnel to utilise! It also inspired lots of questions from him about the history of the tunnel, and what it and the beautiful building it is under used to be (an old railway station / line).

Tunnel in Manchester from Home Educating Manchester blog

He would never have had the opportunity to accompany me on anything like this in the past so counting my blessings that now he can and looking forward to seeing what it inspires in him.

Day 11 – Home Educating Writing the Educational Philosophy

Yesterday I received a letter from the Education Caseworker at our Local Authority requesting that I make contact regarding T’s education.

I had heard of Education Philosophies but up until last night had no idea how to write one. I took to twitter for help (to no avail – oops!) and then to the local Home Educating group on Facebook who came back with lots of useful advice / links to info to help me figure out what to write!

Once I got into it, I was really enjoying writing it. It was good to get my aims, objectives and thoughts down on ‘paper’ and made me even more excited about our journey! Below is a copy of it – I have no idea if its what they need and I may have missed bits out (!?!), but its what my philosophies are and someone else might find it useful to read!

Note: Some of the text I used is from templates available on https://www.theschoolrun.com/writing-an-educational-philosophy

Educational Philosophy

Parent Name –

Child’s Name –

Date of birth –

18th January 2019

Educational Aim:

To provide T with an opportunity based, flexible, child centred learning education, with access to a range of activities and resources to assist and facilitate his learning and educational journey.

Educational Delivery:

As my approach to T’s education is largely opportunity based, child centred and flexible, it is not possible to submit a timetable, or to specify in advance the activities we will be undertaking (other than the weekly swimming, drumming & cubs activities under Social Opportunities as per below). On the whole I aim to facilitate learning through T’s interests rather than to contrive situations in order to reach pre‐determined outcomes. However I am always on the look-out for any gap that may arise and will make any necessary adjustments to ensure that such gaps are filled.

T is a very curious, creative and practical child, that enjoys learning and discovering, with an interest in a variety of topics. As outlined above his learning journey will be led primarily by the topics that he is interested (at any given time) to instil and ensure a continued love of learning, desire for knowledge and overall confidence in himself. T is always encouraged to communicate and take part in discussions regarding his likes, dislikes, his learning and his future, and encouraged to use his own initiative and make his own judgements to aid his overall educational journey, development, self awareness and confidence as a person.

T is learning all of the time therefore I strive to provide a fertile learning environment at all hours of the day. This includes unlimited access to craft / art / stationary materials, a laptop, age appropriate fiction and non-fiction literature, board games (including scrabble / monopoly / chess – games that he loves) and KS2 maths and literacy books (10 minute workouts that he currently enjoys completing). In addition to the home learning environment, we have weekly opportunities to access outdoor learning environments of interest such as museums, libraries and art galleries.

Currently his main interests are focussed on making items, these are items made of wood, household materials, recycling discarded toys, lego and he enjoys digitally making videos and doing all the necessary things involved in the process of video making such as filming, editing and adding music / narrative. He also enjoys making music and has his own drum kit and plays in a band via XXXXXXXXXXX.

Other interests include geography and nature. We spend a lot of time outdoors on walks and he has recently built a den in the meadows near our home, a place that we visit every other day to play, communicate ideas / interests and discuss animals, plants, tree’s and birds. He also enjoys geography and enjoys using his world map and globe at home, crucial items that enable him to explore and learn about the world. (This has led him to identify places that he has visited, write down places that he would like to visit, explore journey times and identify languages spoken in these countries.)

A recent example of his self directed learning includes creating bookcase out of cardboard to house some of his books. He measured each piece to ensure that it fit the amount of books he wanted it to hold using his maths and logic skills. He then decided that needed some extra materials to complete his project. This involved researching the correct materials on the internet, looking at prices, writing them down, adding them up and working out the total cost to a budget – thus covering subjects such as maths and literacy. Another example is driven by his curiosity for animals. He researched animals on the internet, downloaded images and created a PowerPoint presentation based on these animals, detailing their characteristics, what they eat / their habitat / life span / where they can be found etc thus covering computer skills, literacy and comprehension. These types of self directed projects are crucial to his learning and development as an individual and compliment my educational aims.

Social opportunities:

In terms of socialisation, T attends swimming, drumming and cub scouts on a weekly basis with other children, and we spend a lot of time at the weekends with friends and family at home and/or their homes and on days out at large parks such as XXXXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXXX. During the summer we often to go on camping trips with other families with children of similar ages. In addition to this I have joined various helpful / supportive home education groups on social media, and have made lots of friendly connections to ensure that T has the opportunity to form friendships with other home educated children and participate in the range of additional home education activities offered in our local area.

Home Educating – What We Learned Today

Today was our first official Home Education meet up, The Greeks’ Takeover at Manchester Art Gallery an activity open to both schools and home ed groups. The company was great, and it was wonderful (for me mostly) to meet and talk to other ‘established’ home ed parents.

The morning consisted of a very traditional ‘school trip ‘ set up, a lovely knowledgeable story teller guided us through the gallery, providing an interactive tour. I was enjoying it! However around 30 minutes into the 2 hour session I realised that T was not. I put this down to settling in to new surroundings with new people so encouraged him to sit with the other children and to try and join in when asked. He sat with the other children, however they were very engrossed in the workshop with most of them participating, so there was no communication between him and the other children. Seeing his discomfort I sat by him and asked him what was wrong, his reply was “This is too much like school” and then it clicked with me – this is not what to do when deschooling! So soon after we left session (with much understanding from the more experienced parents!) and reflected over an apple juice and cake in the gallery cafe. Even though he’s always shown interest in Greek stories / mythology (the main reason I booked him on) he felt as though he was being taught and not learning of his own accord, he even stated “It smells like school”.

So the unexpected lesson we (I) learned today is a better understanding of the importance of focusing on deschooling, and to concentrate on playing & child led learning rather than taking him to places where he feels as though he’s being taught until the whole school thing is out of his system! .

Before we left one of the other parents suggested a play date on Thursday, this will be a great opportunity for him to connect with other children and form new home ed friendships in a non learning environment, so very much looking forward to that!

First Official Week Home Educating

Its been our first week of no school runs. I actually used to enjoy the walk to school, what I didn’t enjoy was the alarm at 7.30am, and the mad rush out of the door!

This week has been focused on ‘deschooling‘ i.e. treating every day as if it were a Saturday. We didn’t really do much on Monday, he spent most of the day making a book case for the second hand Minecraft books that he bought using pocket money savings from Ebay, and googling for Duct tape (the best quality at the least cost!) and he later attended his drumming session when I went to work. On Tuesday, we decided to walk the dog to the meadows, 10 minutes from our house to do a little exploring. We would usually take her to the dog friendly field, but as this was an exploring / non rushed day, we went to a different part of the meadows. While there T decided he wanted to explore the wooded area, somewhere that we’d never visited before. Once we got there he quickly decided that we build a Den, so we got to work collecting logs and large fallen branches, and soon his den was forming nicely!

Wednesday morning he accompanied me on a couple of errands, and in the afternoon we drove over to see my Sister who lives about 30 minutes away by car. It was great to hear him talking to her about home educating and discussing the things that he’s interested in and wants to learn about. At the moment he is purely focused on making things!

Thursday he spent the morning playing with his cars. I was completely shocked at this…I hadn’t seen those cars for around a year! It was lovely to hear him engaged in imaginative play, something that I’d not witnessed in a long time. I worked that afternoon / evening and he went to cubs with friends so he had lots of fun!

Friday we revisited the den, once there he decided that he wanted to go further in to the woods, so we did. After about 15 minutes of exploring, the dog had found something. T quickly ran after her, and as I approached he was shouting “Wooah, look at this, treasure!” We soon realised that he had found a jewellery box, with lots of costume jewellery (in his mind it was pure gold!) After his initial excitement had calmed he decided that he would bring it home, clean it up and take it to the Police station as it was obviously stolen. It was a joy to see him explore and find something special, and do something good about it. As he said, “I would never have been able to find this treasure if I was in school!” – I very much agree!

Saturday (today) he wanted to revisit the den, this time armed with gardening gloves, tape, a pen and glue (?!) he was amazed that everything was still in its place, and wanted to explore to find some metal objects to add to his den. Oh and also revisit the jewellery box scene. We did and he found more jewellery! On returning home he spent over an hour on the kitchen floor cleaning / sorting the items and talking about the ‘crime scene’ and declared that he is going to write a story about his & our dogs discoveries. We later played scrabble for the first time and T WON (the adults were actually trying too…!) and now he’s looking up the ‘fastest dog breeds’ on Youtube. So all in all its been a great week!

Home Educating – Things He Is Doing That I’m Noticing

“Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don’t always know what it is.”

John Holt

Whilst this is all new to us, the fear of the unknown and him not going back to school seems to have faded fast. I’m now experiencing wonderful feelings of excitement and eagerness, its a great feeling, a mixture of relief and clarity.

While I’ve been relishing in these feelings I’ve been observing him. We’ve been hanging around the house most of the day, he’s been playing with our dog, playing minecraft, he’s made himself and his Dad lunch and washed up after himself, now he’s watching youtube clips.

In addition to this I’ve been smiling inside watching and hearing him…

  1. Roaming around the house with no top on
  2. Loudly singing ‘barbie girl’ (Ugh!) at random intervals
  3. Doing crazy random dances at random intervals
  4. Giggling at Youtube Vids

Noticing these little simple things further validates my decision. I know they’re only small things (and it is usually how he is on the weekends!) but its sad to think of him in the past having these same urges during the week at school and not being able to release them, when all he’s doing is being himself & growing! I’m not going to fall into the trap of feeling guilty for sending him to school in the first place (Just mentioning that proved I nearly did!), I’m going to concentrate on feeling glad that I took him out when I did and embrace the fact that from now on I can witness him being himself EVERY DAY!

Home Educating – How Did We Get Here?

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Washington Thurman

I started looking into home educating in 2017 after realising that my then 7-year-old son T wasn’t happy in school. He began refusing to go (but was still going), and on a few occasions, he came out of school upset and crying. Overall he was becoming less confident, and talking about himself negatively saying such things as ‘I’m rubbish at everything”, “My writing is so bad”, “No one likes me” etc He was also continuously questioning me asking WHY he had to go to school in the first place and what was the point of it…(a question that I couldn’t answer!) Like any parent I wanted to get to the bottom of the problem and to try and help him to have a good schooling experience. I spoke positively about his school, discussing ways in which he could feel better about it, and techniques that he could use to avoid isolation at playtime (this was a major problem for him), but none of this helped. I identified that his dislike wasn’t due to any bullying (him bullying or him being bullied) and spoke with his teacher who advised that she was shocked that he was so unhappy as she had no concerns about him and that he was getting on OK academically…

So Why Doesn’t He Like School?

Like the majority of children,  T is a very curious child that questions everything. This curiosity was completely nurtured in EYS, however, once he hit KS1, this curiosity was being rapidly dismissed, which was damaging his self-esteem. He was upset about no longer being able to play in the classroom, having to be silent and not feeling comfortable speaking up / asking questions. I believe that his only saving grace confidence wise has been taking part in out of school activities, such as swimming, music, art and cubs, enabling him to refill his cup after being completely emptied at school.

After a year of educating myself about home educating and a lot of deliberating (Can I do this? Is it the right thing for him? Will I damage him? Will I have time to work?) – I have decided that this is the best route for him. I can no longer sit back knowing that he is going to school every day having his curious young spirit chipped away bit by bit for the sake of reaching KS2 Maths and Literacy targets. I don’t want him to lose his love of learning (which is already waning) just because the traditional school learning environment is not right for him and for him to know and believe that he can do anything that he puts his mind to.

It’s a big change and is somewhat daunting but I’m confident that in the long run, it will be worth it. I’m sending a de-registration letter to the school this week and as I’m writing this the nerves are kicking in…

Let The Home Educating Adventure Begin!