Thinking about homeschooling

I can’t remember when we first started talking about home education. It was probably before Talitha was even conceived. Since then, we’ve gone round and round talking about the merits of alternative education while maintaining a wait-and-see approach.

After all, she’s only just trying out her consonant sounds. She’s not running off and getting hooked on phonics next week.

I realise that this topic is provocative for some, though I don’t really get why. On a couple of occasions people have actually taken offence when I’ve casually mentioned that we’re thinking about homeschooling. I’m discussing our decision for our child, not attempting to pick the foundations of society apart.

Let me say now that our decision will not be rooted in distrust in the British education system or mainstream schooling in general.

Laurence often jokes that I’ll choose to do something simply because it’s the opposite of what the majority is doing. I promise this has no part to play in this or most of my decisions.

OK, I may tend a tiny bit towards the alternative generally but I’d like to think that’s open-mindedness. I’m not looking necessarily for the “different” way, only for what’s best for us.

This discussion has a lot more to do with all the opportunities home educating affords: one-to-one attention, learning outside the lines, a truly individualised approach, strong family attachment and I could go on.

It’s a conversation we’re likely to continue over the next few years. I’m not making any decisions yet. By the time she’s three or five or whatever, I may realise that I just can’t hack it.

Maybe because I’m not organised enough or driven enough. I’d like to think that won’t be the case though. I won’t know for sure that it’s the right fit for us until we get going.

I don’t want to resort to sending her to school as a form of childcare. The decision needs to be a lot more positive than that. Yet it may be the decision we end up making.

At the same time as hanging back and waiting to see, I’m getting ready to start working again and am setting goals for the next few years (by the way, if anyone’s looking for copy, do get in touch).

Obviously, attempting home education radically affects how I proceed. It’ll probably require long-term freelance work, focused on flexibility. I could also be looking at picking up some work that allows me to take her with me. As yet, I don’t know what that will look like.

For now, I’m doing lots of research, gathering ideas of what I’d like to do with Talitha and trying to become more organised generally.

If you home educate your children, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I need to consider before taking it on.

If you thought about it and rejected it or have stopped doing it, your perspective would be quite welcome as well.

Otherwise, let’s get some dialogue going on alternative forms of education, regardless of what you’ve chosen for your kids.


21 Comments

  1. MsXpat
    November 14, 2011 / 8:37 am

    I could be wrong but I think home schooling has not taken off the way it is in the USA. I have a cousin who home schools her lil girls in the USA. One is about 7 and the other is about 5 thereabouts. She finds it meets her family requirements and the girls are surpassing other kids their age. Personally, I’d be nervous to do it myself, my math is horrible, lol but I think any mom who feels this is what’s best for her family she should be given support.

    • November 14, 2011 / 10:32 am

      I’d worry about maths too. But I can handle basic maths. I don’t have the confidence to try secondary school maths but that’s thinking WAY into the future and if we do homeschool we might not be doing it by then anyway.

  2. Hannah
    November 14, 2011 / 9:44 am

    Interesting thoughts. I was home schooled for 5 of my 7 primary school years and there were definite pros and cons. I loved that with home schooling (which we only did while abroad, not in the UK) the “school times” were arranged to fit our whole family routines and there was flexibility around holidays etc. I also loved the small class numbers (myself and 3 siblings at the largest). However, this was also a con – having to be around siblings almost all the time and not really having many friends that were not family friends was hard. My academic progress was much quicker while being home schooled, but only in areas that my Mum either excelled in or particularly enjoyed (maths and science), despite using a correspondance course that covered a variety of subjects. Hence I have never become capable at any team sports or subjects such as history and art. The thing I loved about mainstream school was having my own friends, who were my own age. I guess that the thing I disliked most was that having been home schooled I felt I was being held back in areas that I was already way ahead of the rest of the class. However, I do feel that a good school would have been able to address this issue by setting seperate work in areas where it was required.

    On balance I have decided that our children will go to a mainstream school, but I am looking forward to the education they will receive from me before that time (as a parent we are constantly teaching our children) and during that time, where I will be able to add to their school learning and concentrate on developing them. Also, as a christian I do feel that I have a responsibility to nurture them spiritually, which will obviously take place outside of school times.

    Sorry for very long post! You will come to the right desicion for yourselves and Talitha, and there’s no hurry to make it. 

    • November 14, 2011 / 10:30 am

      Thanks for sharing, Hannah! It’s great hearing from someone who’s been homeschooled. I can definitely see what you mean with those pros and cons. You’ve given me more to think about. And, of course, we can take our time as we continue to think about it. 

      We’d be making an effort to get together with other homeschooling families and to put her in lessons, clubs, etc outside of the home and she’d be in touch with kids at church…I don’t know if that might begin to address the social side you mention was a difficulty for you?

      I’d be more concerned about what you said about your Mum’s own areas of accomplishment. For me, I’d have to learn science and maths all over again because they were never areas of particular interest for me as a child whereas I’d veer towards the areas you feel you missed out a bit on…history and the arts! This is definitely something for us to think about carefully! Thanks for bringing it up.

  3. November 14, 2011 / 2:26 pm

    Whatever works best for your family – we couldn’t do it, I can’t do my job in a way that would fit around home schooling but I can see the benefits to everyone of trying it, especially at primary age (I do think there are social skills that school teaches too that are difficult to replicate at home)

    Probably time to get off this fence…

    • November 14, 2011 / 3:17 pm

      We definitely need to make sure I can work around her because we can’t afford for me  not to work. As for socialisation, I can see what you mean. If I’m totally honest with myself, I may be slightly influenced by the fact that I just did not get on with the social aspect of school for various reasons. I made my friends elsewhere. Of course, I can’t let my own experience dictate what we decide for Talitha but it would be silly to pretend that it doesn’t come into it a bit.

  4. Jess
    November 14, 2011 / 8:36 pm

    I am hoping to homeschool.  I think if I lived somewhere like Finland where early years education is play based then I may not have given home schooling a second thought.  4 or even 5 years old is way too young to start formal education imo.  I detest the bums on seats attitude and curriculum target driven approaches that most of our schools are forced to focus on.

    Montessori, Steiner and forest schools interest me but there are none in my area and even if there were we couldn’t afford it.  I want my daughter to learn at her own pace the things she chooses to learn, in the way she chooses to learn it and not that which is forced upon her. 

    She is 2.5 right now and if she tells me when she reaches school age that she wants to go to school then that’s fine by me and she can remain as long as she is happy.  I guess I will be playing it by ear when the time comes.

    If you haven’t already, check out Alfie Kohn and John Holt, they are great.  Also, John Taylor Gatto’s book dumbing us down and Veronika Robinson and her kids have written a book about their unschooling life which I haven’t read but have heard good things about and should give a good insight.  x

    • November 14, 2011 / 9:43 pm

      Thanks for the heads up about resources. Yes, I’m really interested in Montessori, etc. I echo a lot of your views here, actually. And like you, I’m going to just play it by ear.

  5. November 14, 2011 / 9:26 pm

    I’m married to a state secondary school teacher and the daughter of two newly retired state secondary school teachers, so it’s fair to say I have a pretty good “inside knowledge” of state education in this country. We haven’t discussed the whole education thing yet (our daughter’s only 16 months!) but it’s incredibly likely she’ll go to a state school, hopefully the nearest to where ever we are living at the time she starts school.

    That said, the childminder I chose for my daughter is a homeschooler. She taught her son until he was of secondary school age and her daughter is still at home with her now. She was a nanny until she became a mum, she then took up childminding, because she could do it at home and have her children there too. She is absolutely wonderful – and her kids are too. She made the decision to homeschool because it was what was best for her children. And then when her son decided he wanted to go to school at the age of 12, that’s what he did. I completely agree with doing what is right for your child. For some this will be homeschooling, for others it won’t.

    For me, as a child aged five or eight or whatever, homeschooling would have been my idea of hell. I loved going to school, learning alongside a class of other children and being in an environment that was socially stimulating as well as academically so. But I realise this wasn’t the case for all children. This wasn’t so much the case at secondary school, but looking back, I learned a lot of skills and had all sorts of life experiences which equipped me later on for university etc, which I wouldn’t have had if I’d have been at home.

    As with anything to do with life, parenting etc, I think it should be a decision made around the child and the family. For some it works, for others it doesn’t.

    And sorry for the essay!

    • November 14, 2011 / 9:49 pm

      No, thanks for the essay! It’s great to hear your views! I think, as I told Muddling, my own school experiences do come a bit to bear here. I absolutely hated school. I learned a lot more independently than I did in school and socially did not get on with it at all. On the other hand, I loved university, probably because it was independent learning and cast a wider net socially. Who knows but that Talitha might love all of it and it might suit her. We’ll see.

      Thanks also for mentioning about the childminder. That’s pretty cool.

  6. November 15, 2011 / 3:14 pm

    I could never home school 🙂  Firstly because I work and secondly – I just couldn’t do it!  My little one goes to a small Montessori nursery for 3 half days and my oldest goes to a small private boys’ school. Both are happy and excited to go every day. There’s never been a “I don’t want to go to school” day in our household.

    • November 15, 2011 / 8:52 pm

      Brilliant. Great that you have a set up that works for your family. To be honest, I don’t yet know if I can do it! Just thinking at the moment.

  7. November 19, 2011 / 10:46 pm

    We’re doing the same. At first the husband wasn’t keen but he’s pretty much ‘on my side’ now. For us it would be unschooling rather than homeschooling but whatever you wanna call it it would be her, at home. And there might be ‘teaching’ from me or not. Who knows. She’s only 15 months.

    We’re doing this for her and because we have not much trust in the education system. Yes, there are exceptionally good schools and teachers but they’re rare and hard to find. We’re not gonna move for a school.

    The stories we hear about 4 or 5 year olds who are being kept at home for a day so they can catch up on sleep, the load of homework and other ridiculous stories from family shine a bad light on school.

    But, we’ll have a few years to decide and if she wanted to school then we won’t stop her.

    Nev

    • November 23, 2011 / 9:39 am

      Sounds like a good plan. I really don’t know that much about unschooling though. I vaguely know what it means but don’t quite get how it works.

      • November 23, 2011 / 9:46 pm

        Well, all you do is you give the child the space and the tools to learn, explore and discover. Say your babe is interested in Vikings. In homeschooling you’d probably structure how they’d learn about vikings, try and find worksheets, sit down and do specific things. In unschooling you’d provide the material but nothing else. You might arrange to go to a museum, find a book or two for them to read, watch a film or browse the web. And if they’re no longer interested they play because children learn through play. Also, any maths or language is being learned through ‘doing’ so shopping, counting the items in the trolley, how much stuff costs etc is learning maths and if we’re honest, all most of us need. 😉

        Nev

        • November 23, 2011 / 9:49 pm

          That sounds really interesting! Actually, a lot of that was what I had in mind but didn’t know it had a name. 

          • November 24, 2011 / 11:19 am

            🙂 You could always do both…actually, you can do whatever the heck you like 😀 or whatever suits your babe.

            Nev

  8. samera
    November 22, 2011 / 5:13 pm

    haha I’m probably one of those people who took offence to you ever mentioning homeschooling! Which is ironic considering that it’s definitely an option on the table for us- sort of. We have a plan with a few other families to do some sort of community home schooling. that way the kids still get to learn with others outside of their family, and the homeschooling is shared between a few people so it’s not as time demanding on one or two people. It’s a nice middle- way option I thought, what do you think?

    • November 23, 2011 / 9:38 am

      I remember you talking about it before. That definitely falls into what I meant as “alternative education”. If we do homeschool we’d be hoping to get together with other families doing it too. I think the key for me is not to be too curriculum-driven and to make sure they’re interacting with kids of varying ages. I like your plan though. Too bad we live so far apart.

      Also, I’m pretty sure you didn’t take offence when I mentioned it but you did warn me that kids who don’t watch TV are weird. Singing a different tune yet?

      • Samera
        December 8, 2011 / 5:16 pm

        haha! my husband has changed my tune considerably. A man with absolutely no popular culture references to speak of (e.g the other day I mentioned something about Beyonce and he had no idea who she was) and yet is all the more interesting for it. tv is banned in our house 😉

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