Decided to home educate? 5 things to do right now.

Deciding to home educate your children can be exciting and wildly terrifying all at the same time. You may have spent a long time thinking about home education and having made this momentous decision, now you just want to get on with it.

Here are my top five things to get you started right now.

  1. Deregistration letter.

If your child is not yet school age or they do not currently have a school place then you don’t have to inform anyone of your decision to home educate. As parents we are legally responsible for ensuring that our children receive a suitable education “either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” (Education Act 1996) To find out more about the law, see our useful links page.

If your child is registered at a school then you will need to have their name removed from the school register. It is important that you do this in writing. For a useful template that provides the appropriate legal wording, visit this page and scroll down to ‘confirmation letters’ near the bottom.

  1. Make contact with other home educating families.

Hopefully you will have had the opportunity to make contact with other home educators during your initial research. You may be fortunate and already have friends that home educate. This can be really useful, but it can also be a wise move to meet a range of people with different experiences and knowledge – the way that one family do things may be very different from the way your family operates or the way that you would like to do things.

Taking a step out into what is often the relatively unknown for most of us can feel scary and lonely at first. You may not know anyone for whom home education has been a part of their life. You may not know anyone else who has ever considered home education, or even realises that it is a legal option. But the home education community is a growing one.

You can find local, national and international home education groups on yahoo groups and Facebook. Useful search terms include home education and home schooling, of course, but you can also add your town, region, country, educational approaches you are interested in, or other particular circumstances (maybe you have teens or twins, or you are a single parent household). Consider the types of groups that might be helpful for you and get searching.

To get you started you can also take a look at our useful links page where we have put together a list of websites that provide information on local groups. Start making contact with other home educators and you will soon begin to realise that there is a whole other world out there waiting to welcome you.

3. Attend some local events.

Find some local meet- ups organised by the home education community in your area and go along. Wherever you live, it is likely that there will be a home education group not too far away. If you live in a rural area, consider joining groups in the nearest towns and cities. They are likely to have more regular meet-ups and a greater number of members, and if you go along to an event you may find others who have travelled in from a similar area to you.

There may also be national events, like conferences and camps that can be fun to attend. These can also be a good source of finding out what might be happening more locally to you – more experienced home educators will often be able to point you in the direction of families they know in your area or tell you about groups and resources they have found helpful.

4.  Look for the joy.

Making the choice to home educate is a momentous decision. Allow plenty of time and space for you and your children to process this huge change in your lives. If your child has been at school then they are likely to need some time to adjust to this new chapter in your lives. This period of adjustment is often described as ‘deschooling’. It is generally thought that deschooling can take at least one month for every year that a person has been involved in the school system – this may not be very long for children but for adults who may have been to college or university or been employed in the education system, and then had children who attended school, the time begins to add up.

Deschooling provides an opportunity for everyone in the family to reflect on the reasons you have chosen home education and consider what their priorities are moving forward. If you left school because of difficulties or stressful circumstances, like bullying, then it is important to allow time for healing and for individuals and relationships to recover from any negative experiences. Even when time at school has been largely positive it is still important to make space to reflect on how learning at home can be very different to school.

You now have the opportunity and privilege of spending lots more time with your children. This time is precious and valuable, make the most of it. Give yourselves permission to relax and have fun. Enjoy your time together and focus on nurturing relationships and learning more about yourselves and each other. Consider what you love to do as a family and make space for more of that in your lives.  Spend an afternoon with your children drawing up some joy lists – this can literally just be a list of the things that bring you joy but you can also have lots of fun with this and make it a really creative and decorative project.

Concentrate on how you can make life more sparkly and joyful. Take some time to think about what your children love to do and bring more of that into their lives. Become a tourist in your local area and take the opportunity to visit places you have always wanted to go to but never seemed to get around to.

Hopefully you will have taken plenty of time on steps 2 and 3 and you will have discovered that there are as many different ways of home educating as there are families.  Depending on your point of view this can seem like an exciting opportunity to consider an infinite array of possibilities or it can feel really daunting and paralysing. Remember this is a learning process for you and your children. Take it slowly and carefully, look for the aspects of other people’s approaches you love and test these out. Focus on building your relationships, having a good time and learning more about what home education can look like.  You do not have to have everything figured out straight away.

5. Relax and trust.

Now I know what you’re thinking, this is all well and good but when are we going to get down to the actual educating bit. Please don’t under-estimate the importance of making links with others – not only will be they be a useful resource for all things learning, both for your children and, perhaps even more importantly, for yourself. But they will also be a source of inspiration, support and friendship through the good times and the times when things take a more challenging turn. There are bound to be difficult moments and having a supportive network to turn to, can really help to navigate those tricky times.

Deschooling is widely recognised as an important step in the transition from school to home education. Allowing sufficient time and space for this process to play out thoroughly can be hugely beneficial for children and parents and strengthen those existing bonds of love and trust. Skip those earlier steps at your peril!

So, the day to day reality of home education? Where do you start and what must you do? There really is no definitive answer to these questions. What works for you and your family may be vastly different to what works for others (again, why it is so important to meet other home educators!). You may actually have very clear ideas about the path you wish to follow or you may feel totally daunted and overwhelmed, there just seems so much to think about, it might seem impossible to know where to start.

Whatever the age of your children, I urge you, please don’t panic, and don’t feel the need to rush into anything too soon. I know that for some parents with teens, it may feel like the clock is ticking, ‘they have to get x, y and z done and we’re running out of time’. It can be difficult to get to grips with but the reality is that once you leave the school system and its prescriptive regime, then so too can you ditch the arbitrary time frames it imposes. There is no requirement to take exams by a certain point, to go to university at 18 or indeed at all. There is no one magic age at which it is best for all children to learn to count, or to read, or to write, or to swim, or play guitar or tie their shoelaces. You and your children now have the wonderful opportunity to dictate your own schedule, make up your own timescales, dream big and focus on what you want to do not what you believe is expected of you or that you must do.

It is perfectly possible for young people who are home educated to take exams whenever they are ready, before or after that magic number of 16. As a home educating family you will have responsibility for the organisation and cost of exams but there is a lot of information, advice and support available for young people and their parents who choose this route and many do so extremely successfully.

Young people may study independently, in local study groups or access online support. To ease the financial burden, there are increasing opportunities for young people to attend further education colleges from the age of 14, there are a small number of local authorities who provide some financial assistance with exams and evening classes may be a relatively inexpensive option in your area.

BUT, and really this should be a big big but, there is no need to rush. There are opportunities to take exams in January, June and November depending on the exam board and qualification. Passing exams at the ages of 16 and 18 has become such a massive focus in schools, dare I say to it to the detriment of so many more important areas of education and learning that it may feel like they are compulsory and necessary to a teen’s very survival. This is most certainly not the case. There are so many paths that young people might decide to follow once they learn more about the possibilities. There are many options and much more flexibility than many initially realise.

It can be really beneficial to concentrate for now on building those supportive and nurturing relationships, relax into this new found reality and trust that as you learn more about the wonderful world of home education the path ahead will gradually become clearer. It can be so tempting to rush ahead, purchase curriculums and lots of equipment, book exam centres and try to fill up your children’s free time with ‘educational’ activities. If you are able to fully embrace the deschooling process and allow yourself and your family time to follow your joy you will begin to see possibilities and opportunities for learning all around you.

During this time you can begin to collect and collate ideas about how to move forward with your family’s unique journey on the home education path. It is reasonable to expect that most of us will need to return to steps 2 to 5 on a repeating loop throughout our home education journey, this is all part of the process. For now, lovely people, get the kettle on, follow that joy and please, try to relax.

In future posts we will talk more about some common approaches and styles of home education and how you can start writing an educational philosophy that sets out your beliefs and intentions around supporting your children’s learning.

Let us know in the comments if you have any specific questions or concerns about home education, we would love to hear from you.

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Thinking about home education?

Once upon a time… we found ourselves contemplating the idea of home education.

For our family it was the first step of an amazing journey. With the benefit of hindsight, there really was no turning back for us. Home education had presented itself as an actual, real-life, legal and practical possibility and life would never be quite the same again.

At the time, things felt less clear. We began searching in earnest for anything we could find out about the subject and pondered long and hard about whether this ‘home ed’ lark really was such a great idea.

There are lots of fantastic resources out there with huge amounts of information; it can be difficult to know what to read first. Misconceptions about how home education has to be organised and what it will mean for your family are common.

So, to help sort out the facts from the fiction and to save you some leg-work (or keyboard-tapping), here is a short list of some of the best places to start finding out more about home education.

For a good overview of UK law and useful answers to the most frequently asked questions about home education, check out –

http://www.home-education.org.uk/faq-carers.htm

http://www.free-range-education.org.uk/FAQ.html

Both of these sites have useful templates for de-registration letters. If your child is registered at a school and you decide to home educate, you must inform the school that you wish your child to be removed from the register. These templates provide the legal wording that you’ll need.

https://rossmountney.wordpress.com/about-home-education/ also tackles some of those frequently asked questions and shares her insights around developing an educational philosophy.

http://edyourself.org/articles/FAQ.php Fiona’s site has extensive information on the legal issues surrounding home education and some interesting information about the numbers of children known to be home educated in different council areas.

Be aware that council staff across the country will have varying levels of knowledge and experience of home education and may adopt slightly different approaches when engaging with families. It is worth taking some time to read any policy documents issued by your local council; these should be easily accessible by visiting the website of the County Council where you live and searching ‘home education’.

If you are unsure of the website address or cannot locate any information about home education in your area, visit https://www.gov.uk/home-schooling-information-council and enter your postcode to be taken to the relevant page on your local council website.

Some council web pages and policy documents imply that there is a requirement to register with them in order to be allowed to home educate, this is not the case. If your child is not registered at a school then you don’t need to inform anyone of your decision. As a parent you have responsibility in law for your child’s education. But remember, if they are enrolled at a school, you must let that school, not the council, know that you would like to have your child’s name removed from the school register.

There are two charitable organisations that provide advice and support to families who are currently, or considering, home educating –

https://www.heas.org.uk/

https://www.educationotherwise.org/

Both of these organisations have free information and advice on their sites and membership options available, for a modest fee.

Finally, and most importantly, make contact with your local home education group. The families that I met, even before my children left school, were so lovely, welcoming and helpful. They generously gave up their time to chat on the telephone and over email, sharing their experiences and wisdom and acting as a sounding board as I processed all this new information. I was totally blown away by the parents and children, their kindness and their patience were immense (you know who you are, lovely people, and I am forever grateful!).

Make this a priority. Link up with home educating families, even if only online. They can be an invaluable source of advice, reassurance and friendship. Try an internet search for home education groups in your local town, area and region, there may be more than one that is geographically appropriate. Don’t forget the many national and international groups that will also provide great support and information. Many of these can be found on Yahoo Groups and, of course, there is always Facebook.

If you would like to share any other resources you have found helpful, or have any questions, please leave a comment down below. Wishing you well in your research and in your week.

 

 

 

Ask the home-ed heads : What are you reading at the moment?

Please note that the links on this page lead to Goodreads, not a retail site. We will not receive any financial reward if you click through, just some joy at having stirred your curiosity.

I love a good book recommendation and am always keen to hear what other people are reading. Let’s hope that’s the same for you because today I would like to share what we are currently reading. This could be a long one as no one in this family seems able to read just one book at a time!

mumlovesearlgrey –

Not that far into this yet, but enjoying it so far. I’m a big fan of maps and all things geographical, so am fascinated to learn more about how the physical has shaped the political.

Lovely short chapters brimming with wisdom on all things home-ed, beautiful! I just love her blog too.

Interesting, enjoyable and refreshing – explores how children that are home educated learn to read.

Aside from my slight unease at the word ‘teach’ in the title, I’ve found this to be an enchanting, yet unusual, introduction to Shakespeare’s work. The book identifies and explains key speeches within a number of plays and offers useful pointers on how to memorise them, intriguing stuff.

 

Plumblepie  –

We love reading these ‘Fact Cat’ books together and are working our way through all the series. We have enjoyed many of the science and history ones so far and are particularly looking forward to the habitats, animals and geography ones next.

I picked this one out at random, from the many Mr. Men books beside her pillow. She is happily working her way through this series too. She loves having them read to her by anyone and everyone in the family, but especially Dad – it’s a bit of a tradition – he read them to her big sisters and brother, and now it’s her turn.

Yet another one that is part of a series we are working our way through. The subtitle reads ‘A magical journey through five Monet masterpieces’. Lovely.

 

Pteroturtle –

A beautiful book we are reading together, whenever we can, snuggled up on the sofa, often with the plumblepie too.

Number 13 in the series. Pteroturtle loves this bear.

An audiobook – the entire series are on a permanent loop in this boy’s room, such joy!

 

artybaker –

Reading this one for a group read and a read-a-thon on Goodreads, along with sophofbread. I hear them chatting about this lots round the house at the moment.

One of her favourite books, she is currently annotating a copy and enjoying it one more time.

She’s a real Bate fan.

A classic Chinese science-fiction apparently, in audiobook format.

 

sophofbread –

Reading along with a group on Goodreads and artybaker too. This is a re-read and she tells me that she is enjoying it even more than the first time.

Studying this one for a course.

In audiobook format. I love this book and am looking forward to hearing her views on it.

We are buddy reading this one, a re-read for me and first time for sophofbread. The story of an extraordinary life told by the man himself – inspiring!

Another buddy read with me. Some interesting parts describing local wildlife and geology, some tedious parts and some shockingly outrageous parts so far!

 

Thanks for reading. Wishing you a wonderful week where you have lots of time to enjoy a good book. We would love to know what you’re reading at the moment, let us know in the comments below.

Learning, not teaching.

We have no pupils here.  Just three lovely young people and one particularly little person (who, of course, is also lovely).

But I just adore this quote and feel it sums up our approach to home education nicely.

Often when out and about during school hours a friendly stranger will ask, ‘No school today?’. When we explain that we home educate, sometimes they will ask the children if I teach them. This used to prompt a quizzical look from one or other of them but now they are used to it. Their response to the question varies.

Often it’s framed as more of a rhetorical question anyway, ‘Oh so your mum teaches you’, in which case they may just smile and nod or shrug their shoulders with a ‘Sort of’ type reply. Some days with some people they might be happy to enter in to a longer conversation explaining that we learn together in many different ways.

Some people may have a vision of me, standing up at the chalkboard we have in our dining-room, each morning starting class and offering long explanations of complicated maths concepts. In fact that does happen – the use of the chalkboard for explaining maths, that is, not the starting class bit! But only if someone requests it, and even then it’s actually more likely to be sophofbread that will take that role, she loves to cement her own learning by explaining it to the rest of us and there is usually someone willing to listen.

The truth is that home education, for us, is much more about facilitating learning than about teaching. We all learn so much from each other in so many ways, each and every day.

We love working on projects together, reading together, playing together and regaling each other with all the latest information about whatever is our current passion (apologies to our dear ArtyB, we know our enthusiasm for ‘Po Go’ can be a little wearing at times -SOB and MLEG x).  

My role is, not to teach, but to support my children with learning.

As Einstein so beautifully put it, providing the conditions in which they can learn.

Ensuring that their physical needs are met, they feel safe and secure in their home and have the resources and opportunities to explore the world in many different ways.

Offering them support and guidance to explore existing passions and strewing their paths with possibilities, options and chances for new and interesting directions of learning to open up.

Of course, I do love to share the benefit of my own experience and knowledge when it seems relevant (don’t we all?) but never with the assumption that it has more significance than that of their own.

The learning journey is a personal one for all of us and we can never really be sure of what someone else has learnt. Home education offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy that journey together.

 

 

Taking exams as a private candidate? Last date to enter for summer exams fast approaching.

Please note that the following information relates specifically to the UK.

Private candidates wishing to take GCSE, iGCSE or A’Level exams this summer need to get their exam entries in quick. The date set by the exam boards for entries, without incurring ‘late fees’, is the 21st February 2017. Exam centres need to get paperwork and payments to the exam boards on or before this date. This means that centres will require entry forms and payment from candidates even earlier.

Individual exam centres set their own dates by which they need to receive entries – these will vary but are likely to be two or three weeks earlier than the date set by the exam boards (i.e. very soon).

So if you want to take any exams this summer and haven’t got around to entering yet then make sure you get in touch with your chosen exam centre. Check when they need payment and get that paperwork filled out fast. Late entries will incur additional charges, or ‘late fees’. As we get closer to exam time there will be a further increase in the cost of entries. ‘Very late fees’ come into force on the 17th April for CiE and the 21st April for other boards.

It may still be possible to enter for the summer exams as late as a week before the timetable begins. But be warned not all exam boards accept very late entries and the cost of ‘extremely late fees’ can be as much as three times the standard fee.

Are you taking exams this year? Do you have any questions about exams and home education?

Leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you.

 

Home-made thank you cards

Home-made cards are so lovely. They offer an opportunity to express our creativity and personalise the cards we send out to family and friends. We had a great time making our Christmas cards in 2016 but unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a post out in time to share them with you all. My plan is to be much better organised this year and start making our next lot much earlier on, I will keep you updated on the success of that plan later in the year!

So with all the Christmas celebrations well and truly over, the tree taken down (we like to do that early on around here!) and the boxes back up in the loft, our thoughts turn to sending out thank you cards. The possibilities are endless, from simple drawing or painting, potato-printing or collages right through to elaborate 3-D creations, a touch of applique (so keen to try this one out!) or maybe some calligraphy or quilling.

Pteroturtle got a head-start this season and designed his while the rest of us were still making Christmas cards. Last year’s Christmas card from Pteroturtle consisted of a very cute snowman designed in Paint on the computer. This year, for his thank you cards, he has gone a similar route and chosen to design a Christmas tree in Minecraft, complete with sparkly lights – very festive.

xmas-16-noah-mc-tree-collection-triangular

Moving away from Christmas themes, Plumblepie and I have been making some sweet little Hama Bead creations to adorn her thank you cards. Such a lovely way to spend some quality time together, keeping our hands busy but our thoughts and conversations free to wander far and wide.

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Just got to get them all written and sent now!

Over the last few years we have all been stretching our crafty muscles and I look forward to sharing more glimpses of what we have been creating over the year ahead.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2017, enjoy x

 

Organising and presenting projects..

Sometimes we can all use a little inspiration, here are a few ideas on organising and presenting projects –

  • A-Zs – create an alphabetic reference diving deep into any particular topic. Or use individual letters to focus the mind and broaden the horizons. Plumblepie loves learning about letters at the moment and this provides a great focus for strewing. See some examples of what we got up to when we spent some time learning about the letter P.
  • Timelines – find out about the history of the universe, focus in on specific historical periods, the history of inventions or famous explorers, follow one individual’s timeline and find out what else was happening in the world at the same time.
  • 6 Questions – focus your research and discover what, where, when, who, why and how, have a look at an example here.
  • 5 senses – explore through the five senses, what could you look at, touch, listen to, smell and eat that would give you a real flavour of your topic!
  • Create a quiz – devise an interesting quiz for someone else and learn loads in the process.
  • Write a poem, or a book, or a blog-post – pick a medium to share the information you have discovered and whichever form you choose can lead your research in many different ways.
  • Use first person narratives – put yourself in the shoes of those you are researching and gain new insights as you tell the story from their perspective.
  • Produce a video, or a podcast – make these just for fun or share your creations with the world.
  • Design a poster or a leaflet – informative, entertaining, beautiful, to share or not to share, so many possibilities.
  • Create a mind map, or a flowchart, or some infographics – from the planning to the presentation stage there are so many design options to choose from.
  • Try lapbooks, scrapbooks and notebooking – so many ways to present information in visually appealing ways, lots of cutting and sticking and folding, what’s not to love?
  • Create a photographic display – choose a topic to investigate or design a random challenge to encourage exploration through the medium of photography.
  • Collages – could be a one page version of a scrapbook or lapbook, or an artistic way to display those photographs, or perhaps you fancy creating a vision or dream board.
  • Checklists – there are so many ’50 fun things..’ lists out there for inspiration, create your own ‘to-do’ lists with 10, 20, 50 or 100 cool things to try, collate 10 (or 100) facts about a subject you love, or have a look at these checklists for some more inspiration.

We use the word project very loosely, whatever we love can be a project and we love pursuing our passions. Any of these ideas could be used in a more structured or relaxed context. We would love to hear how you have used any of the items in this list, or hear more of your ideas on how to organise and present projects.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.