Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Once again I've not updated for ages, but I wrote this today for a website that is being created and I thought I'd share it here as I really enjoyed writing it.

Five things I’ve learned since starting to Home Educate

I’ve been home educating since October 2011. I have 4 children at school, two of compulsory school age (CSA) , one who would be going to Reception but wouldn’t be CSA for another year and a toddler. My life is pretty hectic and people often question why I do what I do. For the first year, I’m not sure I answered this query very well. I would say things like, “I get cheaper holidays” and “my son was really unhappy at school”. Both good reasons, but not really why I chose to home educate or why I continue to do so. I think I’m conscious of the fact that not everyone wants to know the REAL reason that I home educate, but I’m going to put it out there anyway.

I home educate because I feel it’s the best thing for my children and our family right now

There, I said it. I just FEEL that it’s what’s best for us and we love it. We love the freedom it brings. We love the variety of opportunities, we love being together (most of the time!)

However, along the way I’ve learned some really important things and I wanted to share those here.

·         Education doesn’t have to happen in a classroom

Education takes place in the most unlikely of places. One morning before breakfast, we watched a documentary on YouTube about the gold rush. It happened because the older children play Minecraft and wanted to know about mining. We have learned most of the times tables in the car. The children have learned to read by reading Harry Potter and Beast Quest. Don’t get me wrong, Biff and Chip has it’s place but not for long I have found. We’ve learned about tides through sitting on the beach and watching it come in and out. We’ve learned about time through studying the works of Brunel. I can’t even cover a tenth of what we’ve learned and yet virtually none of it has taken place whilst sitting around a table.

·         Wobbles can be great

I’m going to go out on a limb now and gurantee that 99% of home educating parents have at some point woken up in a cold sweat screaming “WHAT AM I DOING??” It’s ok though. I do it less frequently than I did at the start, but I still wobble. What those wobbles often lead to, is the production of some workbook or another that I have bought along the way. I insist that my children sit down and complete page 4 & 5 of said workbook. I then realise that even though it is ‘age appropriate’ and we have never actually sat down at a table to learn about the thing on pages 4 & 5, that somehow, my children have learned it anyway through living life. And there it is, wobble over, I’m in fact doing a great job and we can all get back to peaceful living. It happens often enough that the children just humour me for a day or two, but not often enough that we have ever got past page 10 in any workbook!


·         I amaze myself at what I Know – and what I don’t

I am remembering all sorts of things that I learned when I was younger. I’m also remembering many more things that I have learned since being an adult. I’m also realising how much I don’t know, but how none of that really matters too much. We learn together so often. I have also been taught plenty by my children who seem so often to know more than me!

So, how do I get around the problem of being asked something that I don’t know? Well, with two other adults in the house there’s a high chance that someone else might know. There’s Google, YouTube, Wiki, Facebook, a bookshelf full of books. The other day my 9 year olds asks, “Why did we end up fighting during WW1?” I’ve always known that a prince was shot and then we were at war with Germany but I don’t believe I’d ever fully understood why. So, out came a history book and the RISK! board and we managed to recreate the series of events that let to the wold being at war. It was fascinating and so much more exciting than I remember it being in school.

I’m always happy to use others to help teach my children too. Museums, home ed groups, old men at the beach. I’m pretty happy for almost anyone to teach my children when it’s appropriate to do so. Somehow, we muddle through and occasionally we have to admit defeat and accept that we just to know the answer – for now.

·         Standardised testing is not a marker of how much someone knows

Standardised testing is one of my pet peeves. It shows nothing of any importance, particularly when carried out on 5/6/7 year olds. It is not an indication of how much a child knows, or even how good a teacher is. It’s a way of showing parents that their children are progressing and that school is an expensive but cost effective use of public money. One of the problems I had with school, was that like a lot of parents, I would eagerly anticipate parent’s evening. I wanted to be shown work they had done, be told that they were doing what was ‘expected’. I’ve learned since home educating, that I simply don’t have a need for anyone else to judge my child and tell me how they’re doing.  I now have the enormous privilege of witnessing first hand all those little eureka moments. Of being there to capture the random questions and run with them. Of being with a child while they learn to read. It is the most beautiful part of home educating and is pretty much my sole reason for continuing.

·         Freedom is the key

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom from persecution and freedom of education are all privileges that we take for granted yet seldom really think about too deeply. Within the freedom of education also comes some additional freedoms not afforded to those who attend state schools. Freedom to travel at a reduced cost, freedom to have a huge variety of learning experiences, freedom to learn moral values that are right for us, freedom to interact with anyone we choose, freedom to lie in, or get up early, freedom to learn what is interesting right then and there freedom to read books that are considered too old or too young, freedom to focus on nothing and everything.

Freedom is the key that unlocks the door to home education and all its privileges. It’s the key that enables us to take back the responsibility that we are given the moment our babies draw their first breaths. It’s the key to a whole new exciting world of discovery and adventure!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St Brievels castle

Just over a month ago we had the most amazing opportunity to go and stay in a castle with 50+ home educated children (and parents). I write the word amazing, but that doesn't do it justice.

Never have I been with a group of such diversity and felt so completely at ease. Every family was different. Some were structured, some radical unschoolers. Some were single parent families, some were singe child families, others were larger families. There were teenagers and 2 year olds dressing up in medieval clothes and playing board games together. All the children were completely inclusive of each other and within just a few short minutes, the children had left their parents and were not seen again until we left 2 days later. There were no arguments, no nastiness, no "go away you're only 2 and we're 6". It was truly a pleasure to spend time with those wonderful families. I really hope I get to do it again one day!

Autonomous Home Education

I never thought at the beginning that I would become an autonomous home educator. I always thought that structure would be vital. I even wrote a post about it a year or so ago. I felt then that I was drowning in autonomy. I think, looking back, that I was just missing the point. We learn amazing things through living. There's a link here to an autonomous educational philosophy which makes some interesting reading if you're not sure what I'm talking about.

I wrote a comment this week in response to a question on one of the Facebook groups I belong to. I bought I'd share that same comment with you as it pretty much sums up our days.

'This morning, my autonomously HE son (6) who has never been 'taught' to read or write, wrote a lovely letter to his little brother on a paper aeroplane. All the spelling was correct and the handwriting was beautiful. My older son (8) who was in school and came out hating anything to do with learning anything at all, came down the stairs having read a chapter from Murderous Maths, with a wonderful drawing of a septagon drawn inside a circle. Then he went outside and built himself a catapult using some bits of old wood. He measured it all, drew a diagram and labelled it all, then built it. He then tested different items to see how far they travelled etc. We then found some worms which led to discussion about habitats and what worms eat and the fact that soil on our carrots it in fact worm poo!

We have 7 days a week just like this. It's hard to trust that so much freedom can lead to so much learning, and like I say, it took me about a year to relax into it. I don't intend for it to change much as they get older, and I'm hoping (trusting) that their own desire to study for formal exams etc will win out. I'm already starting to see such a difference in the way they learn from when they were in school.'

Autonomous education isn't about letting children just sit around doing nothing. It's about providing and grasping every available learning opportunity every day. It's exhausting, exhaustive and completely engaging. It's about sharing learning moments together. This morning over breakfast I was telling George 1 about an article I had read in the readers digest about how the Romans told the time. It's about reading stories at bedtime about WW2 and recognising that they're not just bedtime stories. It's about recognising that any writing they do is handwriting practise, even if it's not in a workbook or copying out poems. It's about that moment when your child who vowed never to write another word ever, asks you to do a daily spelling test for him and seeing him get every word right, first time, without hours of failing practise.

It's about TRUST. Trust in your child, trust in yourself and trust in the world.

It's about LOVE. Love of your child, love of learning, love of the world.

It's about JOY. Joy in your child, joy in learning, joy in the world.

Monday, 25 February 2013


Recently we've been on a voyage. It started as a book club, set up by a fellow home educator. We drew ships, planned our voyage and read a lot of books. We made up some unusual undersea creatures and learned about evolution. We've been on quite a voyage if I'm honest.

We also read Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo which I would heartily recommend reading. The book led us to learning about Japan, samurai's and playing Risk!

Today we got a box from the schools resource library which contains a collection of Japanese artefacts and books. George 1 had fun trotting round in wooden shoes - Geta - with special socks and a Kimono. The Geta are slightly raised off the ground to protect their feet from the wet and mud during the monsoon and typhoon Seasons. George 3 has also had a go at shuffling around on them.

We've learned, (from George 1 who saw it on a TV show) that the square buildings in Japan are not only decorative, but also built to be very strong against the thousand earthquakes they experience each year.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to one person or group of people.
Grant a privilege or privileges to: "English inheritance law privileged the eldest son".
noun. prerogative - privelege - charter - franchise - right
verb. privelege

I've thought a lot about this word since I started home educating. It's a word I use often to describe my number 1 joy about the lifestyle choice I've made but I think its more than that. It's about the privilege of being a mother and a wife.

A privilege is a right that one person or group of people have. When I was born, I was born a female. A very privileged situation. I was born with the right to grow up and become a mother. When I got married, I had the privilege of sharing my life from then on with a man who has the privilege of standing on my right hand and becoming my support and guide and love. When I fell pregnant, I had the privilege of giving birth to my son. It was a right reserved only for me. No one else could ever give birth to my son.

Since that day, it has been my privilege and mine alone (DadaSmu has his own rights and I'm in no way trying to diminish those) to help him to grow. To teach him correct principles, to help him learn to walk and talk, feed himself, get dressed, become toilet trained etc etc.

At no point did I ever want to give up that privilege to see him grow and develop. I sent him to school because I didn't understand fully that I didn't have to, but one of the hardest things for me was not being able to witness those little eureka moments, those first steps in learning to read, being able to count in 2s and 5s, learning to swim during school swimming lessons etc.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is have the privilege - the RIGHT - to be a part of those experiences. To see all my children grow and develop. I have had the privelege of witnessing George 2 learn to read. It has been a truly humbling experience and quite remarkable in it's nature. I have loved every frustrating moment of it. I've witnessed George 1 go from refusing to pick up a pencil when he left school because writing was so hated, to asking for spelling tests so that he can write stories based on his dream journal that he's keeping by his bed.

All parents, whether their children are in school or not have the privilege to be a part of another person's life in such a unique way. But I feel that the privileges I have as a home ed parent, outweigh anything that I felt while they were in school.

Monday, 14 January 2013


It's been a long time again since I posted. I'm hoping its because I've just been too busy!

2013 has started off well - once we got over a 16 day combined cold/flu. We are back into the swing of learning again after our Christmas break. George 1 in particular has developed a deep love for learning anything and everything and his reading has led him to all sorts of discoveries. He is a true autonomous learner and loves discovering the world. George 2 is more of a structured child. He prefers at this stage to be taught and know what's coming up and I've tried to accommodate him. They've started a number of groups this year as well which are very exciting. Tennis, forest school, German and Music lessons are all popular and provide variety to out HE lives.

Today we have been learning about the body and we've even made a life sized skeleton. It's been fascinating to draw the organs and really look at how they work. They may not be beautifully to scale or perfectly drawn, but we had fun. The boys have also been listening to my abdomen and have heard my heartbeat and stomach gurglings. They were apply to imagine being unborn abides for a moment.