I am Katherine. Iain and I home educate our two girls – T(10) and E(13) (and ourselves).
How long have you home educated for and what made you do it?
We had decided that E, our eldest wouldn’t be going to school by the time school admission forms came around, and have been involved in the online and local home ed community since she was four, and her sister T was a few months old. That is now ten years ago.
We had three main reasons for choosing home education:
E was not ready to spend the day away from me. She wasn’t ready to separate having just turned four. She is also very chatty and we didn’t want her to have to tone that down to have to fit into a classroom.
I am an info-junkie by nature so when it came to thinking about about education I read up and talked to friends about the various options. It just so happened that a work friend was the daughter of education academics, and another had gone to Summerhill (a very different kind of school) – so I discovered autonomous education. A.S. Neill’s idea that the aim of education is to be happy and interested in life, and that children need freedom to find their interests struck a chord with us.
A couple of my friends from baby groups had already decided to home educate and it seemed to be a natural progression for us.
Briefly describe your home Ed style. Do you have a typical week and if so what does it look like?
We are autonomous, or unschooling.
That applies to me and Iain too, not just the children! We aim to meet everyone’s needs and interests. We each do our own thing, or do things in pairs, or as a family, in a very fluid way. We are a techie family and we take full advantage of the opportunities for fun and learning provided by gaming, Youtube and other techie things!
So our youngest gets lots of opportunities to play, and do her own thing. Time to play online with friends, and run around the park, interrupted with bursts of watching her favourite TV shows and creating and making wonderful things.
Our eldest is now 13 and doing some structured learning most days. She is studying for Psychology GCSE, and developing her study skills.
Iain is catching up on some gaming, and playing the guitar. I can often be found satisfying my info-junkie needs by going off on my own tangents when topics come up, and running a Big History group.
We have a core group of friends we see one day a week. And in the summer the girls kayak once a week.
The other things vary from week to week. The girls go to a couple of tutor lead groups for drama and creative writing. Monthly youth group, and soft play. Then a couple of small groups with more structure where we share topics.
What was your highlight of home ed last week?
We are having a few unusually quiet weeks at the moment. Lots of time at home, each doing our own thing. Lots of photography for a daily challenge, gaming, and enjoying the warmer weather.
The highlight has been board games evening.
One thing I hadn’t expected about home educating was that it has given us a whole new extended family. Because my girls and I are making friends with whole families rather than individual people. So Tuesday evening we went round to a friend’s house. Most of the children disappear to play, and the rest of us play board and card games. Iain works full-time so it is always nice to do things with home ed friends that include him.
Another highlight has been the day E spent baking and decorating a cake in the shape of our rabbit for a friend’s birthday, and then the house full of people chatting, and playing, and eating the cake.
What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?
There are so many favourite things – I can’t narrow it down to one!
Definitely the social side, as you can tell from the last week’s highlights.
Apart from that – it is the freedom we each get to follow our own interests, and live and learn in a less stressful way. I love how each of us develops in our own unique way – that we can get involved in something, whether in short all consuming bursts, or over years of exploration. The girls really value the freedom they have to be self-directed, and independent.
It is fascinating how disparate things, and going off at tangents can years later turn out to be an in depth exploration of something we parents hadn’t seen at the time, but for each child was the obvious line of inquiry.
What do you find most difficult and why?
I find this a really difficult question to answer. Since our girls have never been to school we don’t have that to compare it with. The hardest parts are often just parenting, rather than related to home educating. Things like continuous tidying and laundry.
At points it is easy to become caught up in concerns about a child’s ability, or progress. Is this normal? Is my child doing OK? But then again every parent has these concerns, and we have the freedom to find ways through this that aren’t bound up in the school model.
What advice would you give to other home educators?
I’ve found it vital to get a good support system – one that values home education.
Make friends with other home educators online and in your local area. Make sure that you include yourself, and supporting your needs as well as your children. We have had a huge amount of support from other home educating families, and a big part of that has been that the parents are my friends too.
It can really help to talk to home educators whose children are older – their experiences can be a great source of knowledge and support. Finding out about a range of different approaches and experiences gave us the ability to try different things if something isn’t working, and the confidence to see that things are working but not in the way we assumed they would.