Firstly, thank you for a chance to share our home education story with you. I’m Katie – mum to three cheeky children. Our family is made up of Mum (me), Dad (Liam), Zip (8), Bear (3) and Pop (1). Ohh and Whisky our German Shepherd. We have chosen to learn together at home.
How long have you home educated and why did you decide to do so?
We haven’t always been home educators. Like many other families, Zip began nursery when he was three and continued moving up through each year group. We made the decision to remove Zip from mainstream school in July 2015 when he was near the end of Year 1. It is one of the best decisions we have ever made. There were a number of reasons we chose to deregister him but the biggest reasons are because of our feelings towards the school and the system. We were having trouble with the school towards the end and I feel we were seen as ‘the problem family’.
Zip has autism. That particular year his class had no permanent teacher for the whole school year. Each day Zip didn’t know who would be teaching him for the day. A supply teacher would be brought in each day which we all found very frustrating. None of the teachers were made aware of Zips diagnosis nor the support he requires and he was punished on more than one occasion over things such as ‘wandering’ and ‘fidgeting’. As a strict rule follower, this really affected him.
I went to meet with one of the supply teachers for parents evening and left in utter shock. I had expected to walk in to the usual “he’s so pleasant to teach” and “he’s achieved so much” but she didn’t really have anything good to say. Instead, I was met with disgust for his ‘poor handwriting’ and told that I needed to do more with him at home. She demanded I made him practice for one hour every day, including weekends.
I had to ask her if she was being serious!
Like 30 hours a week in school, 5 ½ hours of homework (on average) plus extra-curricular activities isn’t more than enough for a 6-year-old? Now I was expected to force him to do another 7 hours each week? When would he play?
I walked home that day very disappointed.
Not in Zip, but in the school. I had been fighting to get him a little extra support for quite some time yet nothing had ever materialised. No amount of meetings, plans or agreements seemed to change anything. On top of this, his attendance was very low, our punctuality was even lower, the staff were unsupportive and at times very unprofessional. I was worried about Zip. I was worried about his education and I was worried about the school.
This was the moment I learned about home education. I didn’t even know it was legal or a thing! I had always been quite a hands-on parent in terms of their education. Why hadn’t I heard of this before? I researched like a mad woman – literally spending all day reading, searching and asking questions. The following month we sent the deregistration letter and haven’t looked back since.
How would you describe your home ed style? What is your typical week, if you have one?
We’re patchwork home educators.
I have never researched the labels placed on home education properly, so I’m not sure where we would fit. I consider us ‘patchwork home educators’. We take whatever we need, from wherever we find it, whenever we need it.
Technically, we are only home educating one child as Zip is the only one of compulsory school age. He works best when he’s plugged into a computer so we do a lot of computer-based ‘work’ such as researching, YouTube, writing and coding. I have some expectations for maths and English and I plan some work each week with a goal in mind but I don’t set it for a particular day or time.
Zip is very involved with his education and we do the planning together, especially for what he considers ‘the boring bits’ such as handwriting and most other non-computer work. This prevents any power struggles and I noticed he was much more willing to complete a task if he had direct involvement with the planning. We also complete projects, go for nature walks, go to local meets, record YouTube videos, blog together, have LOADS of discussions and incorporate a lot of practical life activities into our days.
It’s not only the kids learning at home though, but us adults too. Watching our kids learn so naturally inspired us both to follow our dreams. We decided to further our own education at home and the kids now see us learning, exploring, practising, trying, failing and succeeding each day. After all, learning is a life-long experience and is not limited to our childhood.
What was your home ed highlight last week?
Last week I started a STEM group at my house.
Our town has a very small home education community in comparison to many other towns and cities, therefore there isn’t a huge amount going on unless you can travel to the next town. A few of us have been organising meets and activities which has been working really well. Zip loves everything STEM, so I decided to start a little fortnightly STEM group at my house. Nothing huge or spectacular, but a little get together to investigate different STEM concepts together. I was so nervous! I’m not the most social person myself so this is something I never thought I’d do but it went well and seems like something the kids will continue to enjoy.
We also had our weekly local meet up which was lovely. We had been ill for quite a while so it was nice to get outside in the fresh air and see the kids having fun with their friends again.
What are your favourite things about home ed?
With home education, we can adapt the difficulty to suit him.
I love home education! I love everything about it. The freedom, the lazy mornings, the late night discussions, the people, the connections. But most of all I love the flexibility that home education brings.
Zip is very academic and if he was at school he would be considered high-achieving in some areas, but far behind in others. With home education, we can adapt the difficulty to suit him. For example, he really struggles with fine motor work so often joins in with activities I prepare for Bear. These activities are aimed at preschool children so if he was in a class full of other 8-year-olds he wouldn’t be working on improving this skill, despite his need to. On the other hand, he grasps scientific concepts really easily so we could spend a day discussing a topic which usually wouldn’t be introduced until the GCSE stage. This flexibility is by far my favourite thing about home education.
What do you find most difficult?
I confess, there are times where I find home education really, really difficult.
There are 7 years between the oldest child and youngest so finding activities which will occupy them all at the same time can be really challenging. Whilst its true that some days I feel like I’m spreading myself very thin, I look back on our journey so far and wouldn’t change it for the world. Not even for a minutes peace.
What advice would you give to other home educators?
If I could offer just one piece of advice to other home educators, especially newbies, it would be to join as many Facebook groups as possible. Search for your local group to see what activities they have to offer. Join the groups in the surrounding areas, the national groups, the worldwide groups. All of them. I have found these places to be the best place for support, guidance and socials. We wouldn’t have met any other home educators without it.
Also, speak to other home educators, especially the more experienced ones. You’ll find many of them on the groups but lots of them have blogs too. I’ve learned so much from their experiences. They have been there, done that and wore the t-shirt. In the words of Albert Einstein “The only source of knowledge is experience”.
Thank you for reading our home education story. If you would like to see more of what we do then please do come over and say hi to us on our social medias or on our family blog (links below). Here you will see posts from both Zip and I and see more about what we get up to.