It’s been a long time since I pulled my elder child out of school. The boys are teenagers now and I’m really happy with how everything has turned out. This, I think, is the first post I ever wrote. Why do we homeschool? This blog was meant to be a homeschool blog not a travel blog, but things changed. Now we own one of the biggest travel sites in the world, but you can see in this post that I’d only just come across the term “worldschooling”.
Why do we Homeschool?
Our Road To Homeschooling
Even before I had children, or was anywhere close to being in a situation where it would be wise to have children, I had this vague idea that home schooling them would be good.
But then the years went by, those children became a reality and I, like most other parents, did what was expected of me and handed over my first-born to the education machine to be moulded as the government saw fit.
There were lots of tears, mine. He was only 4 and in no way ready for school, but they told me that he should start.
Well, to cut a long story short, after 2 and a bit years in school it became very clear that school just wasn’t for D. He wasn’t learning anything, his use of English had deteriorated and he was experiencing bullying. It was making us terribly stressed and unhappy.
So I took him home, where he belongs, to be educated by me along with his younger brother, Boo.
First Days Of Learning At Home
I had no idea what I was doing to start with.
When first starting homeschooling many try to to replicate school at home. It’s not a good idea, you are Mum, not teacher, they are at home, not in school.
I tried various online learning sites for maths and English but nobody was very happy with them after the initial novelty had worn off. They look like a quick fix, in my experience they’re not, although some have great success with them.
I continued to read with my son daily and amazing things started to happen. He went from barely being able to read and hating it with a passion, to actually enjoying books. He discovered Roald Dahl.
At first I read aloud then he read aloud, a paragraph each. By the end of The Very Hungry Crocodile he was reading solo, in his head. He demolished just about every book Dahl has ever written before moving on to the Harry Potters. This all happened incredibly quickly. He was 7.
It was a combination of giving him interesting books and the time and freedom to read for pleasure. He has often told me how people tried to force him to do things in school. He hated it, and the boring readers he was made to read.
Now, over 12 months later, I have a voracious and enthusiastic reader on my hands.
After much trial and error, we seem to have fallen into a semi-unschooling sort of approach. I like to think of it as lifelong learning. I’m certainly a lifelong learner, I hope my kids are, too.
Home schooling and unschooling come in many shapes and forms, I think there are as many varieties as there are homeschooling parents and we all change and evolve our methods over time.
It’s different things to different people.
For me our homeschooling means not forcing or pushing anything. I don’t get the books out and insist they do x number of pages every day and I reject standard school structure.
We are not learning to pass particular tests at particular times.
I try to get the children interested in things, show them films and books and science experiments. I take them to places of interest, zoos, museums, rain-forests, the beach and try to inspire them to want to learn .
I talk and talk and talk about what they are seeing and what’s going on, a constant commentary on the world around them. In this way learning happens without the need to put it on paper. If something comes up that fascinates them we can explore that topic in-depth until they tire of it, be it dinosaurs or Doctor Who.
It is one on one education, perfectly tailored to each individual child. That’s something even the best schools can never achieve. D is interested in science, so we do tend to keep a notebook of experiments and scientific ideas which would probably be recognized as more like conventional school procedure, but he only does it if he is happy to do so. I don’t want to turn him off learning.
In the last few days I’ve come across a new term, “worldschooling“. Now doesn’t that sound great! I think that’s where we will end up in a year or so, once we start really travelling again.
Everybody Panics Sometimes
Every now and again I have a crisis of confidence and resort to the maths books, but the boys amaze me, despite weeks or months of doing what most people would consider nothing, the improvements are there. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and writing improve through reading. Maths improves through counting money and scoring games. It is truly incredible how this works.
After all, they are so young, their brains and bodies are developing and maturing, concepts become so much easier to grasp with a little more time for physical development.
I am convinced that junior school is mostly a waste of time and strung out over so many years just to keep kids under control and their parents in the workforce. With some proactive parental input, school is totally unnecessary. If you have a quick look at the curriculum you’ll see what I mean.
Does that sound crazy to you? School is important isn’t it? Surely the government knows best when it comes to education. Does it?
Advantages of Homeschooling
So there you have some of the academic advantages. There are many more bonuses. We are a family, we have time, to be creative, for each other, to do things together. Taking the daily, weekly and termly structure of school out of my life has done wonderful things for my stress levels and given me and the boys the freedom to pursue whatever it is we want to do .
I get to see the boys growing and changing from a ringside seat, not just on weekends and holidays. They spend more time with their family, immediate and far away.
It is the most fulfilling, absorbing and interesting job I have ever had and I learn so much alongside them.
We write our curriculum, we focus on subjects because they are of interest to us, not because the government thinks we should. Our curriculum is government approved every year and rubber stamped.
The boys have their own ideas about what they should be learning, this has changed over time but the lists usually include animals, arachnids, food, dinosaurs, electronic things, chemistry and cars.
There is so much that is taught in primary school that just doesn’t need to be taught, it is absorbed through normal living, by all children, not just the homeschoolers. All they need is just a little exposure to the world and conversation.
I should add that the whole thing is not totally unstructured, I spend a lot of time looking at curricula from all over the world, collating ideas and educating myself about the succession of learning. I actually do have a plan, a loose structure to ensure I don’t leave any gaps. I guide them along a very rough path but side trips are always welcome and we have all the time in the world to get to our common destination.
I was a scientist, I have 20 years work experience in the field, it does come in handy, but is by no means essential, anybody can do this. A surprising number of teachers, dissatisfied with the education system, opt to quit work and educate their own children at home.
Just for the record, I don’t do this for religious reasons, that’s a common picture painted by the ill-informed media. This job is not a cop-out, taking responsibility for your own child’s education involves a lot of paperwork.
What about socialisation?
This question comes up all the time and I really can’t see why.
They socialise, a lot, all the time. I’d have to tie them to the chairs to stop them playing out with the other kids on the street.
To most people this is what socialisation means, hanging out with other kids. That’s actually not quite right, it’s more to do with learning to be part of a community and accepting that community’s values ie. being like everybody else.
Well, I’d like them to think for themselves thanks, and not blindly follow what all the other kids are doing.
They meet and hang out with people of all ages, in many jobs, from many countries, I think that gives a more balanced view of the world than forced association with a room full of similar aged children from one small town.
So, are you still wondering, why do we homeschool?
We homeschoolers tread a very difficult path. Talking about our decision always seems to irritate someone. It is never our intention to irritate, offend or pass judgement.
We often just keep quiet about the whole thing in public as many people take our choice, to take responsibility for our children’s education, as a direct criticism of their choice to use the school system.
It’s not, we fully understand that not everyone could or should or would do this. That is, after all, why schools were set up, some children, but only some, were getting no education at all.
But, if people ask, and they often do, we will talk, with boundless enthusiasm, about what a wonderful way of life this is. Please don’t think we are criticising your lifestyle choices or passing judgement on your school, that is not the case.
So, have I answered your question? Why do we home school? Do you think I’ve got a point , or that I’m an eccentric, a nutter or maybe a hippy earthmother? Trust me, I’m normal. Most homeschoolers are. Thank you for reading about our world, leave us a comment, good or bad, I’m more than happy to answer any questions.