Ok, so I’m feeling that it might be a good time to write something about the good things that have come to our family, and in particular our children, through home education.
1. The opportunity to get to know babies/toddlers/children/teens and adults and spend time in mixed groups of all ages. In our home ed community in this town, my kids know other adults they can turn to for help and support. They can watch older kids and teens and learn by example. I am often struck by the kindly intervention of teens when little ones are in trouble. It is rather lovely to see a boy of thirteen or fourteen pick up a toddler and return him to his mum or dad. Leo likes to talk about the babies he will have and how he will care for them – prompted by seeing the care of babies and toddlers in the home ed community. Pearl can be at a home ed gathering without one of us and I know there are caring adults there who will look out for her.
2. Time for the children to really indulge the things they love. We have a lot of group and social commitments but there is still plenty of ‘spare’ time, in which the children are happily occupied and productive. P is currently really into making mobiles of different kinds – designing, costing, buying and making. L is still a drawing and writing machine. When I got in from work tonight he presented me with a new book he’d written. This one was produced on the pc – typed (pretty speedily now) and illustrated with a mixture of images found on the internet and his own drawings scanned in. Does it need saying that these autonomous activities are crammed with learning? I’m not standing over them saying, “now it’s time for maths/art/ict/literacy”. They are learning in the same way they did as little children playing with a posting box or finger paints – driven by curiosity and creative urges. They work on these things to their own satisfaction and they have high standards.
3. The opportunity to afford trips and holidays at cheaper times of the year. Trips like our recent one to York (which we took at the cheapest time of year possible!) are great opportunities to broaden the children’s horizons. Our children get to go to museums without clipboards. This might sound a bit silly and a bit smug but it really matters in our family. We always feel a bit sad for the kids on school trips who race through, snatching up answers for their worksheets, with no time to just stop and stare. I will never forget the school children aboard little boats in the Isles of Scilly. Every day they had a sheet to note down the name of the boat, the weather, their destination – and so on. I was mesmerised by the light and the sun on the water and our children were always on the lookout for seals or puffins. We saw both. Our children just love to get out in the world and see things. We do a lot of that.
4. The fact that our children can choose from a range of educational opportunities day to day, month to month and year to year. Sometimes they will enjoy a one-off event at a museum, park or theatre. Sometimes they commit to a short course of sessions in something. P is currently loving a ten week course with the Sussex Wildlife Trust, making fires, whittling a butter knife and creating fairy worlds in the tree stumps and moss. Sometimes they commit to something for months or years. Their band is going strong in its third year. But they can change anything they want to change. They are reflective and serious about the things they do. They learn to deal with the waxing and waning of enthusiasm and differentiate between a tough moment to be worked through and an ending of interest and commitment. I wish I’d got more experience of that when I was young.
This is just a few of the positives. I could go on all night but I’m tired now. In this moment of some stress for home edders in this country, let’s try to share some of the good stuff at the heart of what we do. Let’s point out to anyone from the dcsf who might drop by, what it is that’s so good that we are all prepared to defend it so vociferously.
(And, if that didn’t convince them, here’s a moment from yesterday... L was dismayed to find that I was leaving for work as he really wanted to do some maths with me. This morning he made sure he asked me nice and early so he wouldn’t miss his chance again. How many eight year olds in school come running to their teacher waving a maths book and asking to work on it with the teacher’s support? How many school teachers would be able to make a cup of tea and spend a happy half hour giving one to one support to such a child?)