Long before I had children I always like the idea of home educating, but like many, I though I had to do school at home. So when R came along, all full of energy and mischief I began to doubt my ability to teach her. In reality though, before she even began school I had already taught her to walk, talk, use cutlery, write her name and much more. Over the years I often thought about home education but it was never much more than a fleeting thought or a casual mention of how lovely it might be.
Then in 2014 I started noticing how unhappy the children were. We had to fight to get E to school, often dragging him screaming. R would often complain of tummy pain before school or be in tears because something at school was upsetting her. I starting looking into home education more closely, joining Facebook groups, troweling through website after website.
What I learned changed our lives. I didn’t have to follow the National Curriculum or use workbooks, and we wouldn’t have to sit around the kitchen table for hours everyday doing Maths or English. In fact we could learn just as we had before we had started school, through life. In January 2016 I wrote the the Head teacher of the children’s school and informed her that the children would no longer be attending and instead would be educated at home.
I had planned on using a semi-structured method of educating the children. A little of the basics and a lot of fun but first we decided to take some time to de-school. Get school out of our system, mine included, and learn about each other, our interests and learn to relax again. Almost immediately the children began arguing less, sleeping better, eating better and laughing more. We were altogether a happier household.
As we de-schooled I started seeing how much the children were learning through play, YouTube, books, spending time with friends and family and by visiting places that interested them. Through a visit to Beaulieu R discovered her love of history and has spent a lot of time since with her head in a historical book and has recently joined a local Youth Archaeology club. She enjoys playing Minecraft in Ancient Greece and watching period dramas. Through her interest she is learning to socialise, read, write, do art, maths, science, and geography as well as the obvious history.
After seeing just how much they learn in a completely unschooled way we have decided to continue this way of learning and even expand it into other areas of our life too. We have spent a lot of time in the kitchen together learning about food, what is good for you, what is not so great, where food comes from and how to grow it. I have slowly begun letting the children have more control over what and when they eat. Allowing them to make choices about their own diets and needs. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their choices, children are amazingly in tune with what their bodies need and how much. The majority of the time the stop eating when they are full, and although I encourage them eat whats on their plates as I don’t like waste, I don’t force them to clear their plates. We do have a family meal in the evening around the table where we can learn good manners, talk about day and discuss our interests. We all get a choice of the meals on the menu for the week and unlike what some may expect the children don’t choose chips everyday.
The way we learn work in this house isn’t about me teaching the children what I think they need to know, but about helping them to learn and teach themselves through what interests them. Once they know where they can find what they need to know they can continue to learn all through their lives, become self motivated learners, think for themselves and enjoy consuming knowledge and expanding their minds.
This relaxed way of life suits us well but I understand it may not be the right way for everyone. Its also quite possible that as the children grow and their needs change our style of educating may also change but isn’t that the great benefit of home educating? Being able to follow your child’s needs and adapt and change to suit them.