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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Time: the best thing about home-education.

“If we experienced life through the eyes of a child, everything would be magical and extraordinary. Let our curiosity, adventure and wonder of life never end.” (Akiane Kramarik)

I left the school system to pursue my education elsewhere at the age of 11. I’m now 18 and so incredibly grateful to my parents for giving this home-education thing a try! I have gotten so much from being able to explore the world at my own pace with the people I choose to spend time with doing things we want to do. What do I value most about home-education and what it has given me? The short answer is ‘time’. The long answer is this blog post…

Picture, for a moment, a toddler or young child. Their minds are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating everything that is happening around them 24/7 even while they sleep. They are constantly learning, exploring, discovering and questioning. Almost everything is exciting to a 3 year old, hence the constant barrage of ‘Why?’ questions. The curiosity of a newly born human is incredible to experience. I am lucky enough to have 3 awesome younger siblings and many incredible cousins who are constantly reminding me (mostly un-intentionally!) the joy in right now. In the family I have long been known as ‘the baby whisperer’ and it’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I love spending time with babies and toddlers. They see the world so differently to us and it’s incredible to witness that.

“You’re never going to feel bad about your whole life if you loved people and you were curious.” (Hank Green)

Home-education has given me time to talk with my friends and family for hours, without the stress of being late for my next class. To discuss, debate, argue and laugh. Our conversations range from Pokemon to Politics to Minecraft to Philosophy and everything in between.

“Therasa May said the other day ‘What we need now is certainty!’ We don’t. We never need certainty. Knowledge is not certainty.” (Simon Critchley)

Home-education has given me time to think. To be a curious 3 year old again (that sounds weird haha). To find the infinite beauty in nature, to discover people that I look up to and want to learn from, to work out why I feel sad and what I can do to feel better, to think about the consequences of my actions, to process why I didn’t like what that person said to me yesterday, to discover things I love, to connect with the people around me, to chill out, to work hard, to spend all day on one project, to stop doing things I don’t like, to try new things, to value being and not just doing.

In the last seven years I have discovered so much about myself and the world around me. It’s hard, in our society, to take a step back and breathe. To question everything. To practice true, heart-breaking, overwhelming empathy and compassion. To learn about and consider the opposite opinion to your own and not feel anger and hatred but interest, consideration and respect. What could be more powerful than raising children who do just that?

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” (William Martin)

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

My Top Five Productivity Tips!

Hi again! Artybaker here, and there’s something you should know about me. I’m kind of obsessed with productivity. OK… maybe get rid of the ‘kind of’ and replace it with ‘totally’. I’ve always got many projects on the go which I am very passionate about, and when I set myself goals for them, I really want to complete those goals. Since the beginning of the school year though I’ve been studying for some GCSEs I’m taking this May and I’ve had to prioritize that over my other projects. For the first few months, it was a struggle, but I’ve found ways to fit everything in and still enjoy life over the past few months. I’m really grateful for these exams, regardless of how well I do, because not only have I learnt a ton about the subjects, but it’s taught me a lot about how I work and what ways of working are best for me.

So, today I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learnt about being productive. There are many different interpretations of the word but I see it as getting the work done that I want to get done within a certain time frame. And ‘work’ can really be anything from writing an essay to playing a videogame. Also, these tips are obviously just stuff that works for me in my situation right now – productivity is about working with your own strengths and limits, so I’m not saying these tips will work for everyone or are foolproof or anything.

So, enough rambling, my first tip is Write Stuff Down. This is literally a life-saver – I’ve learned the hard way that when there’s something you need to remember, you may think there’s no way you’d forget it, but trust me, more often than not you probably will. I find it’s much easier to sort through my thoughts when they’re down on paper (or a computer screen) in front of me. It’s really not that difficult to write yourself a little note (not too little, though, or you might see your one-word note and wonder what the hell that’s supposed to mean – this has happened to me too!) and it’s often just the act of writing it down that makes you remember. Either way, I love making lists so I write all sorts of stuff down on a daily basis and it really helps me.

Next up is Get the Shorter Things Done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a long list of jobs in front of you. A good policy for this is to make that list shorter! This certainly isn’t always what you should be doing but if you prioritise the long-term or recurring jobs, you’re not really crossing anything off your list and you won’t feel accomplished. But, if you put the one-off jobs first then they’re done and out of the way and, in my experience, it feels like I have more breathing room.

This next one I feel is very important, and something all of us are guilty of ignoring when feeling overwhelmed by the stuff we have to do. Set Yourself Doable Goals. Productivity is about motivation, and making yourself reach for something you know you can’t accomplish only makes you feel disappointed in yourself. It’s also about, as I said earlier, knowing your own limits. Sure, setting goals and pushing yourself can be great but I for one don’t work that great under pressure, and if I know I can’t do something, why should I try very hard? For me the best way to do this is spreading jobs over multiple days or weeks (monthly goals are pretty cool), so you can do less on some days and more on others, and if you didn’t have time to get to something, don’t beat yourself up because you still have tomorrow. 😉

On a related subject, my next tip is to Know Your Schedule and Work With it. Obviously there’s the obvious time restraints of work, appointments, sleeping and mealtimes etc., but what I’m really talking about is the times when you’re most motivated. Using myself as an example, one of the biggest things I’ve learnt in preparation for these exams is that I’m most productive in the morning. The earlier I start, the more I’ll do. So, I’ve started waking up at 6:30 most days (don’t worry, you don’t have to do this; I’m a morning person!), then going straight to my desk to start working – before I even get dressed or have breakfast or anything. That way I can have most of my GCSE work done within a couple of hours, and have the whole day left to do other things (only after devouring a tasty breakfast though, of course).

So yeah, work out when you work best – maybe you like to get up early, like me, or you do little things here and there throughout the day, or you might like to work in the dead of night! Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, my advice is to stick to it and hopefully you’ll really get into the swing of things. Don’t be too rigid about it though – I have plenty of days where I ask myself why I’m getting up at such an inhumane time and go back to sleep for another two and a half hours.

That kind of leads onto my final tip. Give up. I know this sounds kind of strange, but it’s again about knowing your limits. There’s a lot of advice and motivation material all over the place about never giving up and pushing through the tough times, so that for a long time I felt really bad giving up on anything. However, I’ve learnt that sometimes, it can be healthy to give up. This advice comes in most useful to me on a smaller scale – not giving up on a whole project, but giving up working on it at that moment in time. If you’re tired or bored and you think you’d be able to focus more later, or tomorrow, feel free to set it aside, and as Shakespeare says…

No profit grows where is no pleasure taken.

– William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew.

And that’s all my tips! For me, feeling like I’ve been productive is great for my day-to-day happiness, so I hope these tips might prove helpful to you too! 🙂

(P.S. I seem have an obsession with lists… my next post will be something different, I promise!)

Some myths about home education – follow up…

As promised I have now added some links that we have found useful in explaining the law about home education. Anyone interested in finding out more should also check the website of the County Council in which they live and there is usually a section explaining the local policy around home ed.

There are many other websites we love and we’ll get around to adding these to our links page as soon as we can. As a way of preserving my favourite ‘bookmarks’ I hope to do some posts in the near future listing the best websites we have found for different topics of interest to us.

But for now, have a lovely week…