Introduction- This blog post is part of a series called #100waystohomeeducate. We are conducting a blog hop across the pages of many different families to show just how rich and diverse home education is, and how personal and unique it is to each individual family.
To read the full series, please visit Jax at liveotherwise. Yesterday’s lovely post on an Unschooling approach, was featured on Paper and String’s blog. For tomorrow’s blog post, please visit the lovely Tammie over at Aspire Chaos to Calm.
But for today, here is our story.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a mother. As she sat holding her newborn child, she had a vision of the type of man she would like to raise. As she started to work out how to best achieve that, she decided that the only way forward for her little family was home education.
The land was Australia, I was the woman, and we have never looked back.
Home education has become a way of life for us now. My eldest turns 23 on the 16th of February, which means we have been home educating a very
long time. That little baby, has since grown into a man, who has been to and graduated from university with a first. He is currently building a free-lance career in shout casting. So we know this off the beaten track journey of ours (and countless others around the world) works.
Our journey started in a country where registration and monitoring was expected. You applied to the Board of Studies for the right to be able to home educate. A BoS inspector, would come to your home, access your curriculum, your work samples, the records you kept, the state of your resources, the light and air coming into the room you largely home educate in, have a chat to your kids and give you a big fat tick of approval (or not). Depending on how big and fat that tick was, would determine how long you had approval to home educate for. Our first visit earned us the right to not be inspected for 2 years. Top marks.
Others weren’t always so lucky. They might need to have the inspector back every 3, 6 or 12 months, depending on how the inspector viewed what they were doing.
Because we started our home educating life in a country that was more formal about its expectations of parents, we began educating more formally. A large part of this was due to the fact that my husband was really unfamiliar with the concept of home education, and wanted some guarantees that the kids would be ok. So we started out doing Maths, English and Science with various American home school curriculum and the rest we did hands on experiential learning for. I wouldn’t say we were school at home in our approach though, as we were too busy with all kinds of groups and activities to be at home around the kitchen table all day everyday. We tended more to pull out the book work on the days we were at home, rather than scheduling them in. We were eclectic, we had a little bit of everything happening for us.
As the years went by we decided not to register and go ‘under ground’ as it was called. By the time our second registration period came around I was asked to mail in our curriculum (no one came to check on the kids- remembering this was supposed to be about safe guarding). I mailed it off and decided that, this really was the farce I thought it was, and never did it again.
In 2008 we moved to the UK because we wanted to give our kids a taste of living overseas. We wanted to travel and England seemed a great base to do that from. Being born here meant that I had an English passport and that all my children are also
eligible for one. Hubby was able to take the British Citizen test and was granted permanent leave to remain. We came for a year to 2 years and almost 9 years later, we are still here.
Eventually the 3 eldest all grew and went off to college or school at around 15/16, which left me at home with the two youngest boys. After much debate with my husband I decided we were going to finally do home education my way. We were going to be autonomous. The compulsory curriculum went and we took an interest base approach to learning.
When my 4th decided to try school in year 8, I found myself at home with one child during the day. My goodness what a change that was. I’d gone from home educating 5, to one.
But we started to flounder a little having so much time, and freedom. So after speaking to some other friends who were also autonomous we decided to borrow their structure.
I love the idea of autonomous learning, but I also found that Joey liked to know that something was expected of him he seemed a bit lost without this. So I introduced the concept of;
Do 5 things.
It really is just as the name suggests. On the days we are home all day, Joey has to complete 5 things of his choosing. This allows him the freedom to learn about things he is interested in, while having some structure and expectation to his day.
If we are out, then the activities that we are doing outside of the house count towards the 5 things so he may only need to do 2-3 (or less) depending on the depth and breadth of our days learning.
I am always really surprised to find that he chooses tangible and measurable learning. That despite his freedom to learn anything and everything, he still logs into IXL Maths/English, he still pulls out his cursive hand writing sheets, does reading, Mystery Science or other what I would call more traditional learning pursuits. I suspect he is a child that likes structure and it brings him some comfort to know what he is doing.
I think that was a big part of why we were floundering earlier on. Too much freedom, left him feeling overwhelmed by choice and not knowing where to start. I suspect this will change over the next couple of years as he hits puberty, and has more definite ideas of what he likes and dislikes.
I think this has been an important lesson for me as facilitator of his learning. Some children (and I had a couple) really thrive on being able to choose what they learn. They could spend hours each day in creative pursuits, making crafts, filming and editing videos, writing mock newspaper articles, dressing up, playing imaginative role-playing games, crafting, painting, sewing, making dens, reading and listening to a glut of books. Joey hasn’t really been like that. Maybe it is because he is the youngest of 5 and there is a 6 year gap between him and his next sibling (so never had the sibling pack to join in with), or maybe it is because his default is things that are known and measurable to him, I have never quite figured out. But in lots of regards it has been like having an only child.
While at home he still tends to choose more structured activities, he certainly feels that he has a say in the activities we do outside of the home and this is probably where I see him assert his preferences more.
This was a discussion we had about it last week as a result of a workshop I booked him into at MMU in Manchester. So he certainly feels he has a say.
I have never been a believer in a one size fits all approach to learning when it comes to home education. And it is different across every home. But as I have learnt it can also be very different within each home as well. It was a big thing for me to lay aside my dream of autonomous learning the way I always had always imagined it, because my child needed structure.
We needed to make the philosophy work for us, rather than being a slave to the philosophy.
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If you would like to read other stories about how other families approach home education, please, please do check out the blog hop that this post is a part of.