Since September, the number of people questioning our motives and reasoning behind home education has risen. This is of course because Sophia would have been starting reception this year and obviously hasn’t. I still struggle to have a concise soundbite answer and often end up rambling whilst the other person looks confused, concerned or just loses interest!
All I can definitively say is that right now, right here, it works for us. I guess I struggle with a short answer because I’m often talking to parents of children who are in school and I don’t want my answer to appear like I’m attacking their choice or the UK schooling system. As it is, I’m not sure the current system works as well as it could. But I’m not so pig headed as to think I have the solution. I believe children start too young, that class sizes are too large, that the curriculum is so broad and inclusive that it is hard for detailed study or specialisms to be investigated more deeply when a child’s passion is caught, that it is impossible for one method of teaching to be effective for 30 odd children. But, I have no idea how this could be fixed on a large scale. Teachers are limited by time, funding, challenging behaviour and a minefield of bureaucracy. I completely admire and salute them for their continuing commitment to their students. But in light of those observations, if I am in a position to potentially do better for my children, then why not?
I know that I am very privileged in us being able to sacrifice the second wage in order to stay at home (although we are by no means well off and operate on a pretty strict budget). And I completely understand that not every parent feels like they could home educate their children, or even that they want to. But it’s the right decision for us and every so often (and increasingly so now we seem to have found that ever elusive rhythm), I have a day that totally cements that feeling of ‘rightness’.
Today was one of those days. After a not horribly early start to the day, we got on with our ‘school’ for the day. We read our allotted books and worked on the poem Sophia is memorising. She then practised reading with one of the much loved Biff, Chip and Kipper series. We moved on to violin practice before my friend and her two daughters arrived to join us in our craft activity of the week-making beeswax candles. The older girls however got distracted with the idea of making a hammock and then a house out of cardboard boxes and were kept well occupied until lunchtime doing so. After lunch, we made the candles, an activity all four kids enjoyed. Then the big two went back to building and the younger two got deeply immersed in some playdough. After they left, we read some stories and Sophia and Isaac did some colouring and puzzles together whilst I made dinner.
It was a gentle, productive and most importantly, enjoyable day. That is not to say it was perfect, Isaac and Sophia had some small squabbles (I’ve just paused now to referee one such incident that has resulted in a screaming big girl). But it was really good. And whilst we can all have such lovely days, socialising and learning together as a family, I’m loathe to change that.
We have a pretty great weekly routine sorted now which works for us as well. Mondays and Tuesdays we tend to stay close to home and focus on our ‘schoolwork’. Sophia is currently regularly practising reading and writing and working her way through various KS1 science and maths workbooks, augmented by interactive games online and discussions/practical demonstrations with me. We also do a lot of craft activities and they often join me in the kitchen for baking or to help with dinner. On these days we try to pop out to get some fresh air, either to visit the park or local library, run some errands or do a nature walk. Fortnightly on Wednesdays the Christian Home Ed group meets and we try to go as often as we can (transport permitting). On Thursdays we go to Hedge (Home Education Group Exeter) where there are themed activities and lots of people to socialise with. We rush back for Sophia to go to her dance class before a late dinner and bed. The week finishes for us with the Exeter Forest School home ed group on Friday mornings and a quiet afternoon to rest and tie up any loose ends from the week.
I love that we’ve finally found a rhythm that works for us; it’s just the right balance of structured learning vs socialising, time at home vs time out, planned activities vs spontaneous play. I’m aware that it might not stay like this forever, circumstances and needs are inevitably going to evolve and grow. But right now, right here….it works for us.