September 2017 saw my little boy start high school. Within the first few weeks of him being there, I could see the passion for learning, which he had only months before at primary, start to fade away. Little comments were made about not being creative enough, not learning anything new because there were always SATS like tests at the end of every half term, that he felt pushed out and bullied. Worst of all, the attempts I made with the school to rectify these issues fell on deaf ears.
After a very traumatic first term, Nathan did fall down a hole into depression as he was very worried about me being ill as I had been in and out of hospital a lot, and with puberty, hormones, uncertainty of what was going on, he became very ill. We had a number of doctors and hospital appointments, and slowly he started to make improvements. School however had played a major role in his anxiety so I made the bold move to home school him.
Now, this was not something I had jumped blindly into. I had taken time to consult with other home educators in the area, especially those who have children of the same age and the same issues. I read countless websites about exams, curriculum and developing your own learning schedule. I fell in love with the idea of teaching my son real life skills along side academic studies. That I could use my work and my blog to help him with understanding, not only, the English language, but early development of computer studies and website design.
The decision was met with some negativity but most parents who I spoke to about the decision said it was brave and how they wish the had the free time to dedicate themselves to their children in that way. Instead they still struggle to do last minute homework on a Sunday evening without tears. In the last academic year, approximately 48000 children between the ages of 4 and 16 are thought to be home educated, with a good 4000 of them in the Lancashire area. Reports in the media try and make it look like the parents that are taking this method are ones who’s children have narrowly avoided expultion. This is so very far from the truth. The majority of parents who home school are well educated, their children may have been failed by the school system because of bullying or mental health issues, who do not believe the constant need for SATS style tests (also known as the monster in the classroom) and who believe we should educate our children in a way that lets kids be kids.
At the moment we are undergoing the process which is known as “deschooling”. Breaking the embedded norms that school work is structured, timetabled, and only done on certain days, between certain hours. This process is advised to take one month for every year of full time schooling that your child has been through, so for Nathan, this would be seven months – not including pre-school which he started at 6 months old. I did not really fancy seven months of doing nothing, so we have already started to develop some of our own learning styles and develop new skill sets.
Already, one term in, and I can see a big change in my son’s attitude towards learning. He is finding that spark and passion he once had and gaining the confidence to try new things. He is still very much like his father with his love of maths based subjects. He finds studying maths and science the most enjoyable and is rattling through the key stage three curriculum – he loves it so much he wants to take his exams early. Music is another topic he loves, from singing and learning about his chest voice and head voice, breathing practices for vocal training, to making his own beat loops with using maths as the ground work, he adores what he does now.
We have lots of activities planned which we will be getting into more over the next few months. From website design and using a blog to record his learning journey, to cooking, travel, art, sign language and more. I have had great fun creating and designing our own learning goals and allowing Nathan to have an input into how and what he would like to learn. With home schooling you do not have to follow the standard curriculum, though some thought into subjects is required if you wish your child to take GCSEs (with course work element) or IGCSEs (100% exam only, no course work). The main benefit of home schooling that we are finding is, in a classroom environment Nathan may have one timetabled slot on a certain lesson per week, for example geography and learning about volcanoes, each week the first 10 minutes are spent recapping what was covered the previous week, 25 minutes is spent on the lesson, but pitched to the lowest performing member of the class, the last 5 minutes are spent frantically packing up and forgetting to write down homework. Repeat this for 4 weeks then recap all of what was taught because on week six there will be a test. The total contact time for one subject of actual teaching is under two hours and even then, the students have not actually learned and absorbed that much about volcanos, but enough that they will pass the mid term test. Ask them about it six months down the line and most will not recall 20% of what was taught.
Where as with home schooling we can focus on that one topic for as long as we need, I can pitch the teaching to Nathan’s own level and because we have the one to one teaching method, I can easily see how engaged he is with the topic. Getting bored? Switch it up, take a break, or even take a trip to see a real dormant volcano – way more memorable than a class room. Not only does his understanding of academic subjects improve with a one to one teaching method, but his understanding of the world around him and cultural society has grown.
One aspect that I have been asked about is the social interaction element as Nathan is not socialising with his peers. With a number of home education groups that have organised meet ups, seeing friends and also chatting to a close not group of friends he has had since primary via online gaming chats, his social life does not suffer and is probably better than it was before.
Do you home school? Is it something that you have considered? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Love, hugs and homework