When I learned from a friend that home education is not only legal but actually very straightforward and free from regulation in the UK, and not even particularly unusual, my vague, back-of-the-mind yearnings to do life differently solidified into “we can do this, if we choose it.” So Jeff and I read a lot, thought, and talked to others and each other, and decided we would indeed choose home education, at least for the “first few years”, and see how it goes.
Freya would have started reception this week so we have now officially stepped onto that other path! I thought I’d mark this time by capturing my current thoughts about why the heck we are doing this and how we think we might do it.
Things I am looking forward to about home education:
One of the things I love the most about teaching art to teenagers is watching them learn; helping them journey from not being able to do something to being able to do it, and seeing their joy in the process. I know how special and incredible that is, and I want to witness that magic in my own children, day after day.
Enjoying our freedom to make our own choices as a family. Jeff has a degree of flexibility with running his own company and I have cut my hours teaching art. I want to be free from the time-based constraints like schools runs and term time vs holidays but also in a much more significant way, I want Freya to be free from the curricula, tests and other expectations that are decided on a school or governmental level. I’m excited about paying close attention to my children, knowing them and responding to their current interests and drives. I believe the best learning can happen this way and also the most enjoyment of life.
All the different kinds of people Freya and Hannah will get to spend time with:
- Both sets of grandparents have looked after Freya for a day every week since my first return to work, and also her little sister following my second return. They all add so much to the children’s lives and it matters an awful lot to all of us to be able to carry on like this.
- The girls will be able to spend a good amount of time together. Recently it has been a real joy watching them at one of our home ed hang outs – Freya playing much of the time with her similar-aged friends and Hannah pottering about on her own but frequently checking in with her sister and the others. Indeed some of the other kids have inadvertently been modelling to Freya how to be kind, sweet and patient with Hannah, something she has been struggling with a bit lately!
- Because the kids aren’t at school, they’ll have lots more opportunities to spend time with a wide range of other awesome adults too, like my friends or Jeff’s work colleagues.
I want to enable as many opportunities as possible for being outdoors. I’m actually not very good at being outdoors myself (except in lovely weather – so this summer has been brilliant for all of us!) so as autumn and winter approach it will be a big challenge for me. I imagine that finding ways to be outdoors with other people will be a big part of making it happen.
If I’m honest, there are things about the school experience that I’m glad my daughter will be free of over the next few years. From reading around it seems there is evidence that a focus on formal learning in the earlier years can have a detrimental impact on children’s learning skills, such as their intrinsic motivation. I feel particularly uncomfortable about the formal teaching of reading in reception.
As it happens Freya has learned to read already with minimal intervention – I was trying to think of what we’d ‘done’ and I think it amounted to watching Alphablocks on CBeebies (which is based on phonics), playing Endless Alphabet and Endless Wordplay on the iPad (which are not properly based on phonics) and just tons and tons of reading, together and on her own. Freya has always loved books and reading, and I guess has invested a lot of her own energy and time into being able to do it for herself! I’m still in awe of the learning process – her ability obviously grew over time but the final jump from recognising lots of words to genuine fluency seemed to come out of nowhere. This massively encourages me in my belief that kids just learn – and they especially learn the things they are motivated to learn.
So what do we intend to DO?
When I picture the year ahead, a year in which Freya if at school would be in reception and in which Hannah will grow from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half ish, I imagine it will look like…
lots of playing! With friends, parents, each other, with grandparents, on their own.
visits to interesting places – we did a lot of visiting London locations over the summer as Freya loves it there and it was definitely Summer Holiday Busy. I’m glad we can go on school days. We’re planning a trip to the planetarium soon as Freya is really into space.
lots of reading
Freya continuing with ballet on Saturdays. I hope to organise swimming lessons for her at some point soonish.
joining up with home ed families and other friends to do more specific activities or learn specific skills
the grandparents having their own styles of home educating on the days they have the kids, whigh we’re pretty much cool with. My parents-in-law want to feel that they are “doing something” and have already started a log book with worksheets and things. We just insist that there is no forcing, that Freya will only do these activities if she’s enjoying them, and I’m fairly sure the grandparents get that!
inevitably, using some workbooks ourselves, as Freya has already enjoyed doing some maths books sporadically over the last year (it’s one of the things she asks for when we get a rare half an hour together if Hannah is napping at home). I think she might even enjoy a gentle curriculum (and I’d enjoy ready-made resources – see below!) so I’ll slowly investigate options.
me preparing ‘invitations to play’. Rightly or wrongly, my biggest anxiety is about not providing enough “stuff” for Freya. It helps me to see home edding friends who are more than relaxed about not setting up much in particular, but there’s a part of me that would dearly love to set up invitations like messy playtimes or Montessori-style activities on little trays ready on a shelf to be picked up if the children want to. I’ve been in a personal mire of sleep deprivation and poor mental health that means I’ve been ‘surviving’ during the daytime, slumping in the evenings and taking little creative action. I long and pray to move into a time of being more capable of creativity.
What about structure?
If I’m honest, I rather enjoy structure and yet we hardly have any at the moment. We have sort-of rhythms for the weekdays that I spend with the children, like a relaxed breakfast with books, certain groups we tend to go to, getting home 3-4ish, the kids then getting on each other’s nerves until dinner time…! I’d like to do certain activities more habitually but I haven’t managed to get anything to stick yet. Jeff has recently started doing a journal with Freya at bedtime and it has been AMAZING. She is super enthusiastic about it and in a matter of days has been writing and drawing in it. It really makes a huge difference to have one-to-one time with her. It’s so difficult with two children but it is something I want to prioritise and work out how to do in the coming weeks.
Right, I’ve written far too much not succinctly enough so I’ll just end by saying yes, I do worry about Freya missing out on opportunities that school can offer – which she will. I can’t offer everything that school does. But I am 100% certain that the way we will live not-at-school will be a wonderful, exciting, fun adventure full to the brim with learning and love.
Linking up with Beautiful Tribe, Enchanted Pixie and Along Came Cherry for This Homeschooling Life.