The topic of whether it matters whether we call what we do “home education” or “homeschool” keeps coming up, and I keep seeing people say that it doesn’t matter at all, it’s all the same thing.
In fact I believe it does matter because technically and legally, the clause which enables us in law to educate at home is the phrase “education at school or otherwise“.
By definition, home education is not school.
Local governmental authorities usually refer to what we do as “Elective Home Education”.
I do understand why the term “homeschool” has become popular – firstly American homeschool is much larger and more visible than British home education, and so even governmental bodies use the term (either misunderstanding the difference and legal significance, or purposely trying to muddy the waters, for their own nefarious purposes. I couldn’t say which).
Secondly, whereas years ago the majority of British home educators did so primarily for philosophical reasons and never tried school, I think I would be right in saying that now, the majority come to home education after trying school.
I do feel though that, once a term is so well established in the vernacular, it would be like holding back the tide to try and stop its encroachment, and if we haven’t already seen the term homeschool/ homeschooling used in legal settings in the UK, we may soon.
The danger with such a term, I think, is that it could be used to insist upon a certain type of education which includes formal, school-like book work at desks in a fixed location.
Such a course could be disastrous and would mean the end of home education as we know it and the end of freedom in education, effectively outlawing unschooling or free-range parenting.
Hopefully I am unnecessarily catastrophising, imagining the worst case scenario. But it does seem to me to be a very slippery slope.
I thought I would share my basic plans. This is our initial timetable (the times are flexible, just a guideline, and to be honest, the lessons end up being much shorter than the hour I’ve allowed):
The first session is “Morning Time” which includes all of the subjects on the top line, a little each day, but those listed will be our “focus” subjects to make sure none get left out. The Times seem to have got cut out of the photograph, but that should be 9:00 am.
Then Maths and English every day at 10:00 am, followed by history, geography or science at around 11:00 am. Wednesday has always been our traditional science day with experiments and a nature walk, whatever the weather, and then French or art/ design which will alternate at around 12:00, and lastly an outdoor activity in the afternoon including some spaces for different options (like beach!). In between are breaks and lunch, obviously.
The timetable is sketched out in my Bullet Journal – I can’t really do pretty and creative planning, but I’m enjoying using it for notes.
Then, for my day-to-day weekly notes are in an Erin Condren teacher planner (you may know that I am a planner addict, and Erin Condren is one of my favourites which I have used a few years in a row):
I have made a bit of a mess of this page, and I don’t use the rows per day (I might cover them up with stickers at some point), it is just a list of subjects to cover over the course of a week, and I have an insert listing the order of the day.
It may change, it may not work, but one of the advantages of home education is that you can respond very quickly and re-work your plans if needs be.
What are your plans this year? Are you a planner addict, or do you enjoy “pretty planning”? What do you use?
Welcome to September! Another month, another term, another year! Somehow I seem to be starting my 18th year of home education!
This year I’m teaching (or is it facilitating? I still haven’t worked that out!) Baba Zonee (B.Z.) who is now 13 and Pony-rider who is now 16.
Pony-rider wasn’t expecting to be at home this year – she was assured by two separate schools that she was welcome on a catch-up GCSE year leading into sixth form and A Levels, and both schools subsequently turned around and realised that the funding wouldn’t be there so neither would the places be. That has left us with a quandary – what to do?
There are other colleges, but that would mean travel in the wrong direction (or at least the opposite direction to her dad and brother – it would mean I have a 2 hour round trip every morning and afternoon, with carschooling B.Z. – certainly not my favourite option), or we could start studying GCSEs from home and sit as external students. That is probably what we will need to do, but we weren’t expecting to have to do this. It seems that we can’t do the subjects that Pony-rider wanted to do from home, and I feel completely unprepared.
We’re also just beginning to gear up for yet another house move – our 5th (or 7th if you count the three months we lived in emergency accommodation after being flooded out of our rental property – actually the emergency place was 10 times nicer than the place we were renting but that’s an aside) and hopefully our final move!
I can’t wait to be finally settled but I have a niggling feeling that it will be too late for our home education. We have had more than 5 years of almost constant disruption, chronic ill health and stress. I’d like to be able to say that I’m now an expert at home educating through crises and chronic stress but in fact I think it’s more a case of just barely surviving by the skin of my teeth.
Next time I’ll share some of the resources we’re using, and some of the things we plan to study this year (just as soon as we’ve worked it out for ourselves). 🙂
What are you doing this year? Are you new to home education or are you a seasoned veteran?
Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.
Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.
Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.
Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.
Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…
This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.
In our more than 15 years of home education, we have moved through various seasons of more and less formal learning. We never quite qualified as bona fide unschoolers (although I was quite attracted to radical unschooling as a philosophy) but nor did we fully qualify as traditional homeschoolers, since we often had very relaxed periods and largely went with the flow depending on the children’s interests, but with formal book-learning available as a foundation.
This post, originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, details the ebb and flow of projects-based learning in this flexible framework.
“If anyone asks, we use Sonlight curriculum, which is an American, literature-based curriculum. Originally designed for American ex-pats and missionaries, with a ‘big world’ focus. In practice, we often go off at tangents to study areas of interest which capture the children’s imagination, or to cover UK history, or (more often than not) because I’ve been snared by other literature selections (Ambleside Online, Tanglewood, Winter Promise, to name but a few) and can’t resist adding to our library.
Sonlight grade 5 which I’m using with Dragon-tamer is entitled “Eastern Hemisphere” or “Non-Western Cultures”, and as part of our Sonlight studies, we’ve looked at the Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, North and South Korea and China.
The way I deal with this cross-curricular study which,, being aimed at grade 5 and designed to be suitable primarily for ages 11 or so+, is to break it up into areas of study (easy with Sonlight 5 as it is already neatly divided into countries, but I’ve done it with the lower grades too) and do projects, themes or ‘unit studies’ so that all the children can get involved to whatever degree they’re interested. In addition to reading Sonlight’s literature selections, we take out additional books from the library, we make maps, sometimes 3D models, dress up in national costumes, cook and eat traditional foods, sometimes write little books or make lapbooks and other incidental activities.
Some of these projects have been really popular, especially with the younger children; notably, Australia and New Zealand. Dragon-Tamer was particularly interested in Japan (and scared me for a while talking about wanting to learn Japanese!) Others I have really struggled to get any interest going. Hence, I realise, Sonlight 5 (designed as a one-year curriculum) has now taken us 2 years, and we are only on week 18 (out of 36 – a US school year)! I have been talking for months about finishing up on our China project and moving on to the next projects, but for some reason we’ve all really dragged our feet. We still haven’t finished all the Sonlight books on China (though at the beginning we took extra books out from the library). Right now we’re reading a biography of Eric Liddell – Olympic champion and missionary to China. All the books have been fine and good and we’ve enjoyed them, but somehow I don’t think I can face another book about China! Should we skip the rest, save them for later, or take a(nother) break from Sonlight?
When a friend suggested doing a project on Rivers (which, actually I had wanted to do for years but for some reason had never got round to) I jumped at the chance! I have spent most of my free moments over the last weekend brainstorming and planning how we might cover a Rivers Project. We have one of England’s longest rivers running close by, my maps are prepared, and I’m keen for any plan of study that will take us on a trip to the sea! Ah, but now Pony-rider has announced that she actually wants to do a project on South America, please, so it looks as though the river we’ll be looking at is the Amazon. Okay, back to the drawing board…”
And so we proceeded to develop a new project of our own on South America that created memories that still resonate with us all even today.
It is possible to purchase a pre-packaged, prepared unit study that has joined all the dots and made all the connections between the subjects for you. But we found that this kind of fluid way of learning suited us well, and when you see the ‘dots’ and make the ‘connections’ for yourself, the information is that much more deeply learned and remembered.
After muddling through for just over a year with most of our books still in storage and without any significant social contact, Motor-biker decided at the beginning of April to try school.
It took a while for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, but once the ball was rolling everything seemed to happen very fast.
We had a tour of the school on the Thursday and then filled in the forms to officially apply for a place. On the Monday we were informed by the County Council that the place was ours and so he started on Wednesday morning.
We agreed that, given that the transition from home to secondary school is such a massive one, it could be overwhelming to jump in at the deep end and so he would start gradually. One lesson the first day, two on the second and so on.
Tomorrow is due to be his first full day.
So far it has been a mixture of enjoyment, overwhelmed exhaustion and frustration. (I will elaborate on the reasons for his frustrations later.)
For those of us left at home, there is also a mixture of feelings of joy and sadness – joy because I am happy for him to do what he wants to do (and he is such a sociable character, I think he will be in his element), sadness because my home education journey is coming to an end before I expected it to and with that I am experiencing feelings of disappointment and a niggling sense of failure.
It is nonsense of course – motherhood inevitably includes a sense of guilt but I know that actually I have done my best and we have had an incredibly difficult set of circumstances that have been and continue to be outside of my control.
Baba Zonee has decided to stay at home. He is a different character from his brother and doesn’t feel ready for school.
Pony-rider has turned 16 and is still at home mainly because she can’t decide what she wants, and Dragon-tamer is still at home struggling with mental and physical ill health after his breakdown which school caused.
I’m not worried that Motor-biker will have the same experience at school that Dragon-tamer did – again, they are very different characters.
Whereas Dragon-tamer found the education useful and the social contact difficult and frustrating, Motor-biker is likely to have the opposite experience, and I am prepared (and fully expecting judging from his reactions to the lessons so far) to need to supplement the education at home.
So perhaps not much will change in a way except for the timetable, and Baba Zonee will benefit I’m sure from having one-to-one attention for a change (not to mention a bit of peace and quiet! Motor-biker’s other nickname is Tigger due to his irrepressibly boisterous and bouncy nature!)
I couldn’t help noticing that this massive change of season for us occurred on the occasion of the Full Moon at Passover and Orthodox Easter (also counted as Beltane for those who celebrate on the full moon rather than on May 1st according to the calendar). That confluence of Christian, Jewish and Pagan dates felt auspicious to me in a way. Perhaps it’s just me being fanciful, but perhaps that’s just me! 🙂
I feel a little as though I, like Dorothy, have been caught up in a whirling, mad tornado (again) and deposited in a new land – charmed and bewitched, and I’m a little bit lost and unsure. Unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar landmarks. I will triumph eventually, but we may have a strange journey ahead.
I am thinking happy thoughts and taking deep breaths, and trying to adjust to the idea without going crazy.
We made the fatal error of saying to Pony-rider “what would you like to do for your birthday – you can do anything you like!” Now that I think about it, I realise that we got off lightly. She could have asked for a trip in the Virgin Space Shuttle!
Instead, she asked for:
1 trip to Grandma’s,
1 trip to a Farm,
1 trip to Toys ‘r’ Us,
1 Swimming Lesson,
1 slice of Swiss Cheese
1 Ice-cream Cone and
1 Slice of Salami
(just checking to see you’re actually paying attention).
So instead of a birth-day, we ended up having a treat every single day for an entire week: Monday was a trip to a farm and a swimming lesson. (More about the Farm later).
Tuesday was a trip to Grandma’s (actually we had to go Monday evening because she particularly wanted to wake up at Grandma’s on her birthday – we obliged.)
Wednesday was a trip to a favourite local place which provides an outdoor play-area positioned conveniently close to picnic tables where mums can chat over coffee (a treat for me too!);
Thursday was playgroup, followed by the girliest girly birthday-party imaginable (it was so great – maybe more about the Party later too!).
Friday was play at an indoor play-centre (while the mums had coffee) followed by lunch at the unspeakable McD’s, and in the evening a surprise visit from some friends from out of town who took us to Pizza Hut!
And finally, on Saturday we shared the birthday cake with her best friend (who couldn’t make the party due to not actually being a girl).
On Sunday, I laid in bed with a headache, neck-ache, back-ache, leg-ache, etc., the result, I think, of party-stress and way too much icing, coffee, chocolate, cake, McD and Pizza Hut. I did eat one nice green leaf, and after that I felt much better. 😉
Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog.
We started the day with Latin: Dragon-tamer orally going through the noun tables and verb paradigms we have learnt so far, and reviewing vocabulary, and finally doing a simple translation exercise that involved placing the correct words in sentences. He did quite well considering we only do it occasionally. Pony-rider listens in too.
As we are fairly relaxed and unschooly, I never insist we do these or any other lessons. My goal in introducing Latin, and other languages, is to give the kids a flavour of the language so if they decide they want to take it up seriously, they can.
We all listened to a children’s classical CD (Bernstein Favourites: Children’s Classics), and Dragon-Tamer dictated a couple of music reviews which I typed up and posted on to our local home-ed reading group website.
We thought that, in the afternoon, we would just ‘pop in’ to the local museum, or gallery, but when I checked their opening hours, I discovered that both are closed: the Gallery for two weeks while they change exhibits, and the Museum for the whole winter (except for education groups of 20 or more children… so possible to organise for a later date but no good for today).
Disappointed, we discussed other alternatives for the afternoon, but nobody could agree, and since Motor-biker was poorly with a slight temperature, we opted for a quiet afternoon in, watching nature programmes and schools maths programmes recorded earlier.
Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog.
When I started home educating, the internet was fairly new, and so at the time (1999) the main source of networking between home educators was ‘e-groups’ which eventually got taken over by Yahoo groups.
I know that almost everybody now has migrated over to Facebook, but although I am obviously there (and Ohana Home Education has a presence there), I’m not a big fan and don’t particularly like entrusting photos or files to them, and so while lots of yahoo groups now stand empty or quiet, I have decided to revive one of my groups as a handy place to store files and links that may be of use to home educators.
The group is, surprisingly enough, is called Ohana Home Education and you can find it here: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OhanaHE/info
There are already lots of files and links there. Mainly they are related to lapbooking, unit studies, home economics and some religious topics (mainly relating to Messianic Judaism, celebrating the festivals, cooking etc.), but I hope in future to add resources and worksheets on all other topics, and anybody is free to contribute.
It is not particularly meant to be a discussion/ support group, although if it does get used that way it would also be OK. But there are of course lots of other places online (especially, inevitably, on Facebook) for that sort of thing. One of these days I will get round to making a list of the most helpful groups.
So please do go on over and take a look, and if you would like to join to contribute/ make use of what is there, please do make sure to confirm when you apply that you are a home educator. Feel free to suggest as well the topics that you would like to see there.
I know that, when I was first home educating, I very much appreciated the resources that other home educators had made available for free, so it is all good to make sure that there are free resources still available for a new generation of home educators.