How To Homeschool
This is a phrase every home educator has typed into Google at some point, and if they say they haven’t, then they’re lying to you. Whether you’re completely new to it all, or you’ve been home educating for years, it’s perfectly normal to have a wobble and wonder if you actually know what the hell you’re doing.
It’s hard. Home education is really hard. It takes you right to the brink of insanity and then something amazing will happen and you will see exactly why it is all worthwhile. It isn’t the easy option and is definitely not for the faint hearted. Some people know before they’ve even had children that those future babies will be home educated, some don’t think about it until their children are around 2/3 years old, and for some, they have no option because the school system has failed their child(ren). But ultimately, we are all trying to find the best way for our children to have an education and most importantly, be happy. We all have our doubts just like any other parent, we spend a great deal of time wondering if we’ve made the right decision and if what we are doing is worth the effort and the hassle, but with this it is, it really really is.
The second thing you’ll quickly learn is in the UK it’s called home education, not home schooling. Home schooling is mainly an American term, in America their laws are different, they vary in each state and in most states they still have to follow a curriculum and sit examinations. Therefore replicating ‘school at home’.
In the UK we are not legally obliged to follow any curriculum or for our children to sit any form of tests or exams. Our children’s education is our full legal responsibility, not our local authority’s, and not the governments. We are however obliged to ensure our children are provided with a suitable education. A suitable education is defined in the UK law as an education that is suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special needs he or she may have.
Now I know what you’re thinking, is that it? No more tests, no curriculum. How do we know what to teach them? Who tells us what to do?
There are so many ways to home educate and each family does things differently – but that’s what is so beautiful about it. You can literally give your child a tailored education completely around them and their interests. We are so lucky.
Some families choose to follow a curriculum as if their child was still in school; they have ‘term time’ and holidays. Other families are semi structured and use workbooks or online subscription programs. Some families do none of that and follow something called autonomous learning, where the parent follows the child’s interests and expands on that to varying levels.
It is ultimately up to you what you choose to do and what suits your family. A lot of people say they rush out to buy every workbook they can find and create timetables of their week, only to find it is all completely unnecessary. Home education is a calm process, which is what is so beautiful about it; everything can be done at yours and your child’s speed.
One of your main concerns will probably be GCSE’s . These can still be done regardless of whether or not your child attends school. Currently your child can attend some colleges from age 14 part time and study for the exams there, alternatively us parents can pay privately for our children to do them at certain schools as an external candidate.
However its also worth bearing in mind that some colleges and universities don’t require GCSE’s and depending on your child’s chosen career path, they might not be necessary at all.
Deschooling – if you’ve joined the home education facebook groups then this a term you will see a lot. It’s a process, an important one. Deschooling is basically unlearning everything we know about learning. Makes sense? Nope! The majority of children who come out of school are disengaged, unenthusiastic, bored and think that learning is dull. That’s what school teaches us it is!
Deschooling is recommended for one month for every year your child attended school, sometimes longer could be needed.
Right okay...how do I deschool?
You do nothing. Don’t force them to sit and do workbooks, don’t suggest museum vists, don’t try to teach anything. (Unless of course they want too!) Don’t be school at home. Get to know your child, even if you think you know everything about them, get to know them again. What’s their favourite hobby? If they say they don’t have one, try different crafts or sports together. Laugh together. Maybe cook together, watch funny films. Take a walk through the park or town. Ask them what they’d like to do. Really engage with your child. This process is often harder for the parent then the child. Especially if you have gone through the school system yourself! But I promise you, persevere and it’s so worth it.
There’s so many ways to educate our children ourselves, the internet is amazing.
So, we’ve deschooled, what now? It depends what your child’s interests are. My 8 year old loves making films, she spends hours recording, scripting and editing. But before we got to this point, she realised she needed to learn to read. So she did. Her having her own goal and reason for wanting to read really encouraged her and she picked it up really quickly. She loves baking, but needed to learn to read the cookery books and she needed her maths to measure the ingredients, science to figure out we made the cake. Plus the maths and English to write the shopping list, bike ride to the shops (PE) and then the maths adding up the cost of the ingredients. That’s home education! Added to that is also the life skills of learning how to bake, how to shop for what we need, buy things, manners, the list is endless.
Those who follow the more structured path will maybe do workbooks in a morning and then go out in the afternoons or vice versa. Everyone is different!
Winging it, that’s a term you need to embrace fully. Even the most structured home educators will have days when all caution is thrown to the wind and they head to the beach instead.
I would definitely recommend joining your local Facebook groups for meet ups and social activities, if you can’t find any the join the national ones and ask in there. There will be someone who knows your closest group.
Our local community is amazing, we have horse riding, rock climbing, trampolining, gymnastics, dance classes, rugby, football, forest schools, soft play, as well as regular beach and park meets. It’s wonderful getting to know other families and so reassuring to know there is other people out doing the same thing!
It will be the best decision you ever make.