Sunday, 9 April 2017

Home Education; stuck at home with Mum all day?

How can your kids learn to be confident if they are stuck at home all day? They need to be in school mixing to grow up normal... This is what I was told, what I heard so many times when my kids were little. This is a real fear of people who hear of home education but haven't tried it.  I felt looked down on by my friends who were school mum's, they just assumed that being at home all day was bad for my kids, that they would grow up with out friends or an ability to function without Mum. Often a real fear of relatives of home educated kids is that they will be deprived as they are stuck at home and educated by their mother, how can that be good?

I am going to explain why the above fears are unfounded, using an analogy (yes this is a boot in a sink).


Take a look at this photo above. Let's assume you have never seen a boot before and all you had seen was the sole like this one. What can you tell, as far as you know is this item is limited and it's hard to see how it could be of any use to anyone. If you were then told it was for wearing on the feet, it's hard to tell how it would be that useful except the sole seems like it would protect the bottom of your feet, but how can this sole support your feet or how can the sole possibly be attached to your feet, it seems very limited and if you were asked if you wanted this boot to climb a mountain in you, you would probably say no. This is because you are only seeing it from one dimension, to really know how it works and whether it was for you, you would need to experience it in all its dimensions and try it on to see if it's a good fit. This is why people have so many fears of home education before they have actually experienced it. They just see the one dimension, they see a kid at home with its mother and this looks dull, limited and how can it be a good thing?

I want to try give you a glimpse of the other dimensions of HE. Firstly yes kids are at home some of the time, but the biggest difference new home educators discover is that being at home to study can have big advantages. All the stress of rushing out of the door to school on time suddenly vanishes, pack lunches, trying to find clean clothes, sudden panics when home work is incomplete or a permission slip needs filling in and you are already late! An HE morning in our house when my lads were young consisted of a cooked breakfast every morning, whilst cooking the boys might watch a bit of TV with Dad before he went to work. We discussed what we had planned for the day, which usually involved discussions about which day of the week it was, what the weather was like, and were we meeting up with friends that day. Over breakfast we talked of politics, philosophy, adventure, the latest news or which games were the best. The point is we were never in a hurry, we had time to talk, share, discuss, all before we did any formal study or any activities. I personally believe these sort of meal time discussions have as much power to inspire and teach as the formal learning later. This blog post is an example of one such morning. Another big advantage of not 
rushing out to school in the morning is you can wear what you like! My eldest gave a talk recently to new and potential home educators, his opening line was "We always wore a uniform for school every day, we wore the same every day, it was a handy uniform you can sleep and work in it, it was practical and comfy, pyjamas" This is a almost true, as my youngest was more likely to be wearing fancy dress costume, from Thunderbirds, policeman, army uniform, what ever he decided to be that day! 

I feel the impression of quiet dull study sat around a table with Mum, who's educational qualifications may be questionable, is really such a one dimension view of what really happens in HE homes. Here is a blog of a HE friend, this shows a snap shot of fun packed days of learning in an HE home, have a dig through her blog of a real insight in to HE possibilities. The question of the qualifications of Mum to teach the kids seems a valid concern, but again is such a one dimensional view. Learning whilst young happens through more than just formal learning, which alone can be achieved with workbooks from Poundland, but learning truely happens in every moment in many ways. A friend of mine always had a calendar in her toilet, when her kids were at that stage when they were still needed help in the toilet, she would talk to them about the days, months and years on the calendar, her kids learnt the months of the year not in a class room, but on the toilet. People have asked me, but how can you teach things like maths if you are no good at it? Well there is so many online programs that teach maths in a fun way, with testing that shows progress, using these you actually don't need an amazing grasp of maths, but you will be surprised how you actually learn along side your kids and your own ability grows with them.

I think the biggest fallcy about HE is the 'stuck at home' image. This is so incorrect its funny. The main issue when you are home educating is spending enough time at home. We went from one fun group activity to the next, from art classes, sports groups, drama, nature walks, pond dipping, sciences classes, swimming lessons, archery lessons etc etc etc. The main limit is time, money, your own sanity and possibly the need to get some housework done!

Looking back on my lads younger years I see a rich colourful fabric of activity, discussions, fun, study and laughter, that has supported their growing up years, which has seen my lads grow in to confident adventurous young men with a self belief that they can climb what ever mountain they choose to tackle.