Friday, 23 May 2014

Home Education - Pros and Cons

I'm sitting, watching The Wright Stuff discussing Home Education and it got me thinking that I should write up the pros and cons of doing it for our little family now that we've been doing it for 9 months.


  1. We have found home educating to be a much gentler way of learning. Although we started out with timetables and a curriculum, we have found our natural equilibrium and learn much more autonomously now. This means that we learn as we go along, which in turn means that we learn things at precisely the moment they are relevant to Thomas. 
  2. I try to facilitate Thomas's curiosity. He asks all sorts of things, all the time. I love it and I try very hard to go with whatever he's interested in. I had a bit of an epiphany moment about this when we went to Rome. We were in Pompeii and I was eulogising about the sewage systems and heating they had created, but Thomas just looked at Vesuvius and wanted to know about the volcano. I suddenly asked myself why I was trying to teach him about what interested me when there was something that was clearly interesting my son. 
  3. No streaming. Thomas had stopped reading at school and constantly told me he was stupid. Much of this was down to the streaming in school and bullying. I gave Thomas his pen licence when he came out of school and I gave him a certificate that put him into the top group for maths too. Suddenly, he was excited and his confidence grew from that moment. (When he left school, Thomas's reading age was 5-6 years - not much higher than when I sent him to school in the first place. He can now happily and confidently read Roald Dahl books and the like. He's only been out of school for 9 months.)
  4. There are some fantastic FREE resources. Khan Academy is brilliant and places like English Heritage offer free entry to home educating families.
  5. I can ensure my son is equipped for modern life. School was obsessed with handwriting, but did little more than a hat-tip to computing. The world our children will grow up in is so different to the one we grew up in, and school doesn't seem to have kept up with developments. Our kids will grow up in a very digital world and one where a lot of people work from home and for themselves. I want to encourage my son to be able to think out-of-the-box, and to be creative. I want him to be able to program because I think that this will be the most useful, transferable skill he can have. I don't want him to be a worker drone - unless he chooses to be.
  6. We have no set homework. I see my friends posting with alarming regularity about how homework is causing arguments and stress. We have none of that.
  7. We have also rid ourselves of the other major stress of the school day - getting to school on time. I know Thomas has had exactly the right amount of sleep and I don't find myself screeching at him to get ready. We can even sit together and have a lovely, calm breakfast.
  8. Our learning trips (and fun trips) are done when the other kids are in school, so there aren't crowds. And, we can take advantage of everything being cheaper outside of the school holidays.
  9. Caring and sharing. There is no 'competitive mum' nonsense going on. Parents are very supportive of each other and they share resources and ideas in a way that I have never seen before.
  10. My son has a far better social life now that he ever did at school. On Monday, he went to a Home Ed meet at Bushy Park with a load of other children. On Wednesday one of those children came here to play. Yesterday, Thursday, we looked after a pre-school child and had another home school child to play. Then they were joined by two schooled children. Today, we're off to the park to meet a little boy who has just left Thomas's infant school. Thomas plays happily with children of all sorts of ages and has shown himself to be very kind towards younger children.
Most importantly for me: I get to spend quality time with my son and I am learning about him. I see what makes him laugh and what interests him and feel very privileged to spend this time with him.

  1. I have to juggle work and teaching my son, which can be very tough, but I have figured this out I think and I have lots of support with this.
  2. I honestly can't think of anything else.

I'm not suggesting that Home Education is right for everyone, but then nor is school. For us, it's working fantastically well. I wish I'd known years ago that it was possible to remove a child from school.

The Wright Stuff asked if it was arrogant to take your child out of school and to assume you could do a teacher's job. I'm afraid that my experience of teachers has been that they have been woefully inexperienced - none of Thomas's teachers had children and I don't think any at his infant school had more than two year's teaching experience. I looked at the state of the letters sent home and cringed at the dreadful grammar and spelling. All of the things the children were taught seemed to be downloaded from somewhere. This term the children in Thomas's old class are learning about a village in India - it's the same village they learned about two years ago. The world's an enormous place. Why are they learning about the same village again? The answer is that it's a downloaded pack.

I certainly don't think teaching him at primary school age will be a problem, and I suspect I could manage to teach him at GCSE level too. Actually, I don't really teach him anyway, I help him learn and discover.

Before people complain that I'm doing down the teachers, I really don't mean to. It's the system that stinks. Teachers have been emasculated and are thrown to the wolves with very little on-the-job training. Schools are all about cramming in as many children as possible and ticking boxes for Ofsted. It's not about a journey of learning. Well, it hasn't been in my experience anyway. I know there are some excellent teachers out there, but Thomas was never taught by them.

I'm very pleased with how things are going. I want Thomas to look back on his childhood and remember the fun he had. I want him to feel cherished. And, I want him to know that there's a huge world out there that's his for the taking.

I watch my son playing. I see him being happy. I know he's safe (emotionally and physically, which he definitely hadn't been at his infant school), and I witness him learning at one hell of a rate. My son has gone from being a child who experienced emotional distress disorder at his infant school to being a happy,carefree boy who is growing in confidence every day. I feel that I have given him back his childhood.

Here is The Wright Stuff's piece on Home Ed. It starts just after the fourth ad break.

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