Saturday, 4 February 2017

"What do you do all day?"

I was asked this recently when discussing our life with a friend. This was a friend who doesn't quite "get" home education. And who can blame them? I didn't get it either before we started it. Not really. I was interested in it, and I was jealous of the people who did it. No ties to school runs and expensive half term holidays. Time to enjoy their children before they grew up and flew the nest. But I didn't really understand what it involved.

Since we've started home educating, I've realised that there are generally two types of people who don't "get" HE. The first type are the ones who think our children sit at home all day not doing anything constructive and don't see anyone else in the outside world ("but how will they learn how to socialise??" and the second type are the ones who think the children are chained to the dining table spending 6hrs a day writing in exercise books while I stand in front of them "teaching".

Well, maybe there are those extremes in the HE world, but I am yet to meet anyone who's home ed looks like that. Our reality is this:

I have three children aged 4 1/2, 11 and 14.

My 14yr old has decided on the subjects she'd like to take at GCSE level and has always been a bit of a book-work type of person and so she is quite happy working through ks3 text books. In September we will buy the correct text books for the exams she would like to sit. These will be English IGCSE, Maths GCSE, Geography IGCSE, History GCSE and Biology IGCSE. We'll buy the text books and those along with past papers and various online resources and you tube videos she'll hopefully feel prepared enough to sit the exams in 2019. A lot of home educators don't do them all at once. Often they take one or two each year over, maybe, 3 yrs so that there is much less work and pressure to get the work done. However, my daughter is more of a "let's get it all out of the way all at once" type of person - possibly a bit like her mother!! So she's opted to do all 5 at once - but take 2yrs to study for them. She also does 2 sessions a week working alongside a football coach, coaching children aged between 4 and 11 which is what she loves most of all. Although she doesn't see it "education" she also comes along with the rest of us for trips out which I am sure she learns more from than she realises! (See below!)

My 11yr old is much less workbook-y. He learns best by hands on or documentaries. He uses a maths programme called conquermaths which he's really enjoying (considering maths was always his worst subject at school) alongside Prodigy Maths which is a game based mental maths type game. Again, he'll do this voluntarily without protest which is a huge plus in my eyes!  He is a natural writer and although we do use CGP books for English, he also supplements this with his own story writing. Science we cover in various forms such as Mystery Science which is an online lesson with hands on experiments to complete as well as some written work. We also watch endless documentaries which cover a huge variety of topics relating to science, geography and history. He's also just become interested in hiking and so we go for regular walks locally in the countryside and he'll soon be the one reading the OS maps instead of me. What better way to learn geography skills than getting out there and having weekly (or more than weekly) field trips. These trips often involve stopping off at historic places of interest whether it be old churches, English Heritage castles or just for some stone skimming on the beach!  Talking of beaches, in the warmer months he has his swimming lessons here (when I say lessons, I mean he spends hours having fun in the water but over the summer managed to really improve his strength in swimming) but in the cooler weather we go to the local pool which has discounted HE swimming sessions. Also at the beach we do lots of exploring of the shoreline or rockpools and enjoy identifying things we have found along the way.

My son is a keen photographer and artist and so he often will be seen taking endless photographs of the scenery we've come across or the items he has found and then sketching them once he gets home.

On top of this, he has extra curricular groups/lessons that he attends - drama, parkour and football.

My 4yr old would have started school last September if we had sent him, although he is not legal school starting age until September this year. His education is mainly play based. We do have our routines such as bedtime stories every night and a reading programme called pippoplearning most days. He also chooses to go on Teach your monster to read as and when he wants (often a couple of times a week) and has also recently got interested in minecraft. But mainly he plays. He plays with small world toys such as trains and tracks, cars and his road mat, mini people or character figures, construction toys such as lego, zoobs, wooden blocks and wood and nails! He's also following in his brother's footsteps and is very into drawing at the moment which I am encouraging no end as the more he draws, the more he develops his hand muscles ready for writing. He has written a few things when he's asked to copy something but right now I'm not pushing the writing as he loves drawing so much and feel this is enough at age 4 to develop the correct muscles. He watches tv and you tube - he's so interested in things and how they work that he'll do anything in his power to find out the answers to his questions. As I type this he is watching "Britain's Secret Seas" a bbc documentary which he is absolutely glued to right now, but also watches various cbeebies programmes - the ones with "real" information being his favourite such as "Do you know", "I can cook" and "Octonauts". There's also a programme called "Magic School Bus" on Netflix which at first seems like an annoying Scooby Doo style retro cartoon. However, on closer inspection, it has a huge amount of scienctific teaching that goes on there - some things both myself and my 11yr old didn't even know ourselves so often we find ourselves all watching it as a family. You tube favourites also include "Come Outside" with the lovely Pippin and Auntie Mabel.

On top of all of the above, he also obviously joins us in our walks and explorations, swimming and football. He also does his own two dance classes and gymnastics. All of which he adores. We also meet up with friends at least once or twice a week for play dates either outside or in play centres. He mixes with other children most days and so do my older children either through groups or going out with friends and so I can honestly say Home Ed children really don't miss out socially. In fact, in my own children's point of view, they have a more active social life than most school children who have to sit next to whoever they're told to rather than a friend of choice.

At the weekend we do normal family things once their dad is home - zoo trips, country walks, chores such as shopping and DIY.

Would I change my life? Never. It is the best thing we've ever done!! xx

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