Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Half A Year Of Home Education: How We're Getting On....

It's now been half a year since we took my eldest son Tyne out of school.

This week there's been a lot of parents on my social media timeline sharing school reports and photos of their children on the 1st day of the school year alongside the last day of the year...and I decided to join in by sharing my photo of Tyne on his first day of school, alongside one of him taken last week.

I remember that heartbroken face from the first image clearly - it was the face I saw every single day for the entire 3 months he spent at school. And it's the one I always think of whenever people ask me why I decided to remove him.

The decision to choose home education wasn't one we reached lightly, and I'll be honest...when we first found ourselves embarking on our Home Education journey (Gotta love a "journey"!) we were all a little apprehensive, and a lot unsure.

When people asked if this was a long term thing, I always replied "Oh I'm not sure really, I think we'll just see how it goes..."

Well now, we have 6 months of home ed experience under our belts.

And as the rest of the school-going families are preparing to break-up for the summer holidays, with Tyne's old classmates preparing to leave Reception behind and head to Year 1 in September...I finally feel like we know enough to be able to say for sure that Home Ed isn't a stop gap for us...this is the education we've chosen for our children, and we're sticking with it.

So for those who are curious about how Tyne has taken to home ed, how we've found it as parents and more specifically, how I have found it as the one taking on the lion's share of the "educator" role?

Well, grab a coffee and let me tell you all about it!

Our Routine

It's taken us probably the entire 6 months to even come close to finding a routine that works for everyone.

I won't lie and make out that this has been a straight forward path to hasn't been. There is a lot going in our home, it's not a perfectly calm space that creates an ideal learning environment and I certainly do not have an abundance of time to dedicate to home education either.

I'm a mother of 3 children - there are two toddlers living here who have absolutely zero regard for "Quiet time" and who don't like to be left out of anything that is happening. They are always here, there is no nursery or childminder in our lives right now (We're weighing up the pros and cons of one or the other going forward, but right now...the 3 boys are always at home).

I also work full time hours (and then some!) from home, and I'm the sole earner in our family right now meaning the pressure is on and there is ALWAYS a to-do list as long as my arm of tasks to be done.

So finding the time to set aside and dedicate not only to actually doing Home ed work with Tyne, but to planning what we'll do, finding resources to use, and budgeting for supplies is tricky.

It's a constant juggling act and some days I feel as though we're on top of it and it's all going well, whereas other days it feels like all of the balls come crashing down at once and nothing is going well.

In all honesty, I think it'll always be that way. I don't think I'll ever feel as though I have the balance "right" 100% of the time.

Right now, we tend to alternate between Written work days and "App days" - so Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are Written work days where Tyne will use workbooks or resources I've printed to do more traditional learning on subjects like phonics, handwriting, spelling, and maths. On these days he will also do some reading practise. I keep a Reading Diary much like one that school children would have, and we tend to stick to the same book for a week so we read each one around 3 times - I find this helps him to really get to grips with the words we're learning within it. As of right now, we've read 15 books over the last 6 months.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have "App days" where instead of sitting at the table and doing written work - he'll use a selection of Apps that help him to learn. The ones we currently use are Reading Eggs, Mathseeds and Marco Polo World School - and he really enjoys all of them! I also like that not only is he learning about the subjects at hand from them, but he's also learning computer skills which I personally believe are just as important in this day and age as writing skills are....let's face it, he's probably going to spend more of his time typing than writing by hand in his life!

We don't do any formal learning at weekends, but of course there is always learning taking place for any child and we have a lot of educational days out and watch a lot of informative television shows so there are always beneficial conversations taking place.

As for timings, right now we tend to do around 1 hour of formal learning per day. A lot of people may think this isn't enough but when you break down the amount of time a child spends doing actual "learning" in school (removing all of the time spent in assemblies, playtimes, lunch breaks, going to the bathroom, washing hands, etc) it really doesn't work out all that different believe it or not...and a home educated child's hour of learning is one to one, so there's no time "wasted" with daydreaming or not understanding a's an hours solid learning.

Personally I don't feel that Tyne is ready for much more than that just yet and I do think that schools in the UK start formal learning too soon, so we'll be keeping his formal learning around the 1 hour per day time frame for now.

As well as the core subjects that we focus on (maths and english), we also do some science and some arts & crafts on a Friday too as well as things like cooking activities (which he loves!), music appreciation, geography and culture, and other random things.

And then there's Tyne's favourite subject - History! This usually comes into play with our "Topics" - Every few weeks, Tyne gets to choose a topic of interest for us to cover and learn about.

We'll read and learn about the topic he chooses, do some science and arts activities around it, and I'll use it as a general theme in our core subjects too (using print outs that are in line with the topic for our maths sessions, etc) - we also usually do a wall display around our Topic and try to have a day out or two that's in line with it too.

Tyne has total freedom to choose any topic he wants right now, and he usually chooses one related to history - over the course of the last 6 months our topics have been:  Ancient Egypt, World War 2, Dinosaurs, People Who Help Us/Emergency Services, and we're just starting a topic on Space.

Traditional Written Work Or Unschooling?

Question any home educating parent on their approach and philosophies around how home education should look, and you'll get a different answer from each one. There is no right or wrong way to home educate...some parents prefer to take a more structured approach to home learning and re-create a school type environment at home, some choose to follow the national curriculum, some choose not to undertake any formal learning at all and simply allow the child to experience the world around them and learn from it in a natural way - this is basically what is known as "Unschooling".

It's a common misconception that Unschooling is a lazy approach that's bound to end in failure, some of the most intelligent and highly educated people I know have chosen the Unschooling approach for their children and they are doing marvellously.

It's simply a case of whatever works for you and your child.

Personally, we probably fall somewhere between the two. It doesn't suit my personality to completely unschool as I'm the kind of person who needs to follow a plan and see written results in front of me, so I feel the need to have some formal learning as part of our journey - but I also don't stick to it 100% of the time and I'm happy to have 1 or 2 week total breaks from learning. We've done this pretty often throughout the last 6 months - there have been weeks at a time when Tyne hasn't put pen to paper, but he always picks straight up where he left off and I'm continually surprised by his level of knowledge about the world. I have no concerns about his education so I guess this approach is working fine for us right now!


This is without a doubt the area that most people focus on when it comes to home education. It's always the sticking point in conversations..."He's home educated? But how will he learn how to socialise?!"

And I totally understand why, believe me it was my main concern when we started out too.

But's now the area of least concern for us!

There is a big home educating community where we live in Devon, there are groups and activities happening every single day in our area...infact there is so much happening that our only problem is finding time to fit in and afford all of the things we want to do!

There are science clubs, lego STEM workshops, yoga clubs, music lessons, language groups, trampolining clubs, forest name it, I could probably find you a home ed group for it!

When we first started, I was quite over keen to find friends for Tyne and we definitely overdid it with the social groups - we went along to 2 or 3 every week for a while, and it was exhausting even for me...let alone for Tyne!

But through doing that, we ruled out the ones that weren't quite the right fit for us and we found some that were ideal for our needs.

Now we have one regular social group that we attend weekly, and we even run our own monthly social group too - on top of that Tyne also goes to home ed archery classes and (none home-ed) Tae Kwon Do classes, so he gets to mix and mingle with plenty of children every week.

We plan for him to add in theatre classes and forest school from September onwards, and he's been asking about going to swimming lessons and piano lessons too.

As it stands right now, Tyne has formed really nice friendships with two particular little boys from our home ed groups and he's becoming more familiar with a few other children too.

As well as groups, we also go on some lovely field trips with the local home ed groups too - so far we've been on group field trips to the local fire station, Kents Cavern, The battery museum and the Theatre.

And last week we even had a Sports Day for the local Home Ed believe me, they're really not missing out on anything that school children do socially!

Our Struggles

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that we do have certain struggles with home education. Nothing is ever perfect, and home education is no exception.

The main thing I personally struggle with is time - I felt pretty time poor before started home educating, so now the struggle is even more intense and it can become very stressful at times just trying to fit everything between working from home full time, managing the household and the children, and home ed too. Particularly when it comes to keeping up with social groups.

There are also the niggles you get when you start to compare where your child is at learning-wise to what school-educated children are doing...this is a huge mistake and not something you should ever do because the two are just not comparable at all, and one child's weakness is another child's strength no matter what...but it's difficult at times to remember not to compare.

And then there is the lack of any break...again, probably not something that the home educating Earth Mamas might admit to (or maybe they genuinely don't feel this way and I'm just not as good a mother, who knows!)...but I do sometimes struggle not to feel slightly jealous of the school mums who get to send their child in to school at 9 am each day and not see them again until 3.30! Right now I can't help but laugh to myself when I see all the mums posting on Facebook wondering how they'll cope for the next 6 weeks of the school holidays having to entertain their children and juggle their jobs and the children every day...because if you choose home ed, that is a juggle you face every day!

The thing with home ed is, your children are ALWAYS with you. And if, like us, you don't live near family or have babysitters on hand - there is no time away from your children, EVER. And personally, I find that difficult sometimes.

But not all of the time. Infact most of the time, I wouldn't change it and I feel honestly grateful for the fact that I get to spend more of my childrens fleeting childhoods with them than most people. Whenever I see those annoying Facebook Memes about how there are "only 18 summers with our children"...I can't help but feel a bit smug and as though I've somehow beaten the system, because summers are not the only quality time I get with mine..I get them every single day, all day...and I AM grateful about that, even on the tough days.

All In All...

Home Education, like anything else, has it's ups and its downs.

But I'm really pleased with how far we've come over this 6 months. Our little boy is far happier and more confident than he was in January, he's not having nightmares anymore, he's sleeping much better, he's figuring out what his own interests are and expanding on them all of the time, he's learning and surprising me with what he's capable of, he's making friends and growing in confidence....really, I couldn't ask for more!

And now I can confidently say that, unless Tyne or his brothers ever say otherwise, this is not a temporary stop gap for us....we have chosen Home Education for all of our children, and we'll be sticking with it.

Unless any of them specifically ask to...they will never step foot inside a school.

Because that's how we want it!

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