So…back to school?!!

10 Sep

I came back from camping this week to find my facebook stream filled with photos of H’s friends in their school uniforms, all off to school for the first time.  It really hadn’t dawned on me properly that she is now ‘officially’ home educated. With E, it was a huge decision, that we discussed at length, had to write scary, grown-up letters to  the school and LEA about.  We had her last day at school.  With H, although we had discussed whether she should go to school or not, ages ago now, when the registration letters first starting coming through last year, there was never a defined line where home education began. It was/is just all part of our day-to-day lives. She is, and always has been, home educated.

So the term has started.  Better get to work!

To celebrate the fact that we didn’t have to go back to school this week, we booked a camping trip with some friends, and had a fantastic few days away: swimming, playing and chilling out.

While we were away, BBC Radio Gloucestershire broadcast an interview they recorded the week before with me at our house.  A lovely lady called Rhiannon Fitz-Gerald arrived on our doorstep with a funky looking microphone, and herded me into the kitchen away from the noise, and asked me lots of questions about Home Education. She came from a lovely, balanced viewpoint, basing questions both on what she knew listeners would be interested in knowing i.e. is it legal? Do you worry about socialisation? You know the kinda thing! But she also asked more informed questions prompted by an email conversation I had had with her, when she first approached me about doing the interview.

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for getting back to me! Let me properly introduce myself and explain now that there’s no limit on how much I can type! I work to the Mid Morning programme on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I came across your blog recently and found it really interesting reading about how you took your daughter out of school in favour of home education and then the fact you’ve been blogging about it over the past couple of years! I thought our listeners would be really intrigued by this and interested to hear about why you chose to do this and what it’s been like homes educating your daughter as well as hearing about it from her perspective.

If you’re interested in doing an interview with us, I thought it might be interesting to come and record a piece at your home and sort of record a bit of you with your daughter etc and get some nice atmosphere of you teaching her at home etc. How would that sound? It’s the perfect time in many ways because it’s the school holidays but I wonder if it’s the same for those being home educated?!?!

Let me know your thoughts,

Many thanks,

The bit about recording the nice atmosphere of me teaching my daughter at home, set my alarm bells ringing! So I thought about it all for a while then replied:

Hi Rhiannon,

Sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to you.  I think what you are suggesting sounds great, unfortunately I think you’ll be a little disappointed!  I don’t actually ‘teach’ my daughter, you will rarely find us seated at a table surrounded by workbooks.  We learn through playing, experiencing life, trying out ideas we’ve read about or seen in a book or tv.  If we have a question about something and don’t know the answer we look it up either in a book at home, going to the library or through Google.  I have 3 children at home all day, so my attention is split between my 2 daughters aged 7 and 4, and also my 2 yr old son.  Sometimes they play nicely together, but more often than not, they are all trying to 3 different things!  Our house is generally a very messy chaos, so I try and spend a lot of time out of it!
Most days we squeeze in some maths, literacy, science and history, but we don’t call them as such, and we don’t always do all of them.  We mainly aim to have fun, and learning just seems to happen on the way.  We follow a mostly autonomous educational philosophy, which means we support our children’s learning in any we can, but we don’t force them to learn anything, as we find they learn everything we want them to when they are ready.  I have a 7 yr old who has only just started learning to read because she is finally interested in doing so, and is ready.  I also have a 4 yr old (would technically be ready to start school in september, but isn’t), who in the last couple of weeks has gone from not ever holding a pencil, to figuring out how to and can now write the names of everyone in her family, and is well on the way to knowing every letter in the alphabet, and is really good at maths and numbers.
Today for example, my eldest daughter has set up and filled up a paddling pool in the garden, found everyone’s swimming costumes and got herself and 2 little ones changed and splashing 😉 She has built a bubble blowing robot with her dad, that she got for her birthday, then helped him rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen!  She has made a costume for her teddy from material I had in the cupboard and designed a ‘little red riding hood’ outfit for it too. She’s been to feed our neighbour’s cats, and posted a letter in the post box for me on her own. She took her dad and brother to the park, and helped me tidy the kitchen so she could do some painting. My 4 yr old daughter has done some painting, made a cake to surprise everyone while they were at the park, iced and decorated it. She’s played in the paddling pool and on the trampoline, and has played with her lego, and lined all the lego men up in a line, and has watch Tangled on DVD.  She has made me a card with her name and mine on, and she has drawn lots of pictures. The toddler has done drawing, followed his sisters, made a mess and made lots of noise!  So yes, while many other children are on holiday, our children don’t get a holiday as such, we make the most of all the opportunities for learning as they arise, whether that is term time or not, weekday or weekend.
I’ll have a chat to the kids about being interviewed.  My eldest tends to tell everyone that the reason she is home educated is because she didn’t like school dinners!  And when asked what she’s done today, mainly says ‘umm…nothing’!  She’s not very talkative unless she feels very relaxed and unthreatened.
I, on the other hand, as I’ve just demonstrated, am happy to talk about HE an awful lot.  I find the whole subject fascinating, particularly as no 2 families home educate the same way.  Every child is different, and so is every family.  Some do ‘school’ at home, some do a small amount of structured learning during their average week, but not every day.
Anyway, don’t know if any of that made any sense, but hopefully gives an overview of our home ed life,

She seemed happy with this, and we did an interview with just me, and she had my email in hardcopy, covered in highlighter pen and scribbles!  Then we went through to the room full of children and she recorded E doing some impromptu reading from one of our ORT books (I think we only own 2), and she was far too good at it, so definitely needs to go up a reading band or two.  B had created a pot to make volcanoes with, and E had decorated it to look like a giant flower, then Rhiannon recorded us putting all the ingredients in: bicarb of soda, vinegar, and washing up liquid, and E’s fab commentary of what happened next.  L then demanded I drew Harry Potter all over our whiteboard, and H hid in the kitchen, refusing to come out. I knew that around 20 minutes of interview and play/noise had been recorded, but was to be whittled down to around 5 minutes, so I wasn’t sure what would actually come out of it.

I listened to the broadcast interview while sitting on a bench in the playpark at our campsite, where we managed to get a wifi signal, but it was had to hear properly. I’ve now, nearly a week later, managed to sit down and listen to it, and the phone interview with another home educator we know well straight afterwards, and I hope it helps someone who was listening, whether to inform those who’ve never really heard of home ed, or to help someone who had been looking for an alternative to the school system, for whatever reason that may have been.

So all that took us to Thursday. Then tired, and in camping-recovery, we set off on Friday to Over Farm and an ‘educational visit’.  The term always fills me with dread, as we’ve been to so many at different venues, some fab, some we’ve vowed to avoid in future! This trip however was fantastic. It started with us all perched on hay bales, and given an introduction, then we set off to have a look at some farm machinery, and their giant piles of onions! We weaved our way round to look at all their crops: runner beans, beetroot, carrots, pumpkins, courgettes, and got to pick an example of each to put in our bag to take home.  We had a trek through their crop of asparagus that had been left to go to seed, and got to run our hands through their lovely featheriness! Then got lost in the runner bean jungle. We we were let loose in their chicken enclosure, and got to touch the newly laid eggs in the nest boxes. We met their ostriches, and said collective ‘ahhhhs’ at the one ostrich chick being dutifully guarded by its dad, while the mum continued the vigil on her nest. We had lunch while perched on sawn-off tree trunks, then had a question and answer session with the farmer. Then the best bit, we all piled into the trailer, and were pulled by a tractor down to the animals, and were given a bag of food each, and were let loose on the goats, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, donkey, pony and cows. E and H absolutely loved it, learned loads, got to share the day with lots of their friends and will have some great memories of the day 🙂

Today, we went to the wedding of two friends of B, which was a good trial run for my brother’s wedding in a couple of weeks.  The kids were pretty good considering there were several tedious bits, but H sat down next to me at lunch, and decided to doodle on the place name-things.  She practised writing her surname, then the name of her guinea pig ‘Little Whistle’.  Turned out she could write ‘little’ without any help, and could write ‘whistle’ just by me saying the name of each letter. She does scare me sometimes!!

The wedding couple had put together a kids box full of craft things: stickers, glue, plasticine, holographic card, scissors, lots of fun! So we hardly saw E!

I think that’s enough for this week, Sunday is definitely cancelled, I’m just too exhausted!


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2 responses to “So…back to school?!!

  1. Carlotta

    September 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Fab interview! Thanks so much for doing it, along with all the prep work.

  2. Schools Out

    September 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks Carlotta 🙂 It was actually more fun/interesting than I thought it might be, considering I didn’t really prepare for it at all!


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