by Lauren Heaton (The Heaton Family)
Home Educating, as it’s more commonly referred to in the UK, has been on the rise for quite some time now. In part due to the pandemic forcing many into the experience, but actually, it was on the rise long before. Here is our story about our journey and our lives home schooling in the UK.
‘What made you decide to do that?’
This is our second most asked question whenever we mention that we home educate our 4 children. If you’re a home educator you already know what the first most asked question is, and if you don’t then I’ll come to that later, haha!
For us, it started out as a joke. Our oldest daughter was 5. She had been to playgroup, nursery, reception and started Year 1. She started to really struggle with the increase in academic learning, and less play based activities once she started Year 1, and we could see her getting downer and downer about it.
Also, she was, at only 5 years old, already being subjected to bullying and mockery around what she chose to wear, and what her hair looked like on any given day. There were friend fall outs over things that were far too old for them… at 5 years old!
We saw our happy, smiley girl disappearing before our eyes.
Add to that, put quite simply, we missed her. SO much. It felt wrong that we were missing so much of her day/week/month/life while she was in school.
She was miserable. We were miserable.
‘So how did you make the decision?’
In an almost serendipitous moment, around the time that Nola’s misery was increasing, I came across a blog post by someone who was homeschooling in the US.
I can identify now that the style of educating they used was very Montessori/Waldorf, which was full of children learning how to help around the home on their level, whatever their age, but also rich in experiencing nature, art and creativity.
This blog post changed my life.
The author wrote of slow, purposeful mornings spent sipping coffee, whilst sharing books and poetry with her young child. The child would help with age-appropriate, simple tasks around the home. They would do learning through nature. They would paint, play music, bake and enjoy each other as they went on.
I can’t quite describe just how much this post touched something within me and lit a fire that has not extinguished in the 7 years that I’ve now been home educating my children.
Not Home Schooling, Life Learning.
I jumped into research about the reality of home education in the UK and was surprised to find an entire government page dedicated to it. At the time I was amazed it was even a legal thing over here!
We jumped, and it’s the best decision we ever made as a family.
Something that I feel very strongly about, and you’ll find this within the home educating community, is separating ourselves from the term home ‘schooling’.
This is because, people seem to be under the impression that you simply have to complete ‘school’ at home, which is the most inaccurate perception of home education I could think of.
I prefer the description Life Learning. Or Life Living. A Whole Education. Because what we are giving our children is a rounded and realistic education of both academia and the real world, but also real communication, life skills, passion and JOY.
‘But what about socialisation?’
If you’re a home educator, you knew this was coming, right?
The number 1 most asked question we receive. Without a doubt.
So then, what about socialisation?
Not only do our children socialise, but they also socialise day in and day out. They socialise with people of all ages, of all genders, from all walks of life. They socialise with adults. They have to meet new people, and communicate comfortably with new people regularly.
They are at classes, meets, days out and experiences daily.
Not only do they socialise, I’d go as far as to say that their socialisation is above and beyond what children are able to achieve whilst in school (I’m talking inside of school. I realise other kids still also socialise elsewhere than school when not in school time.)
‘What does a normal day look like for you?’
Most days are different. I kind of love that about it.
Some mornings are slow and purposeful, like the blog post. On those days where we go slowly, we paint, we read and create, I’ll often think back to that blog post and how perfect that sounded to me, and I’ll smile. The joy fills me from my fingers to my toes.
But also, we have days where we wake, we rush through breakfast. We will pack lunches and a picnic, and we will head out because the kids have forest school.
They’ll spend hours in the forest learning to light fires, cook on the fire. To identify owl pellets and dissect them. To make things from bark. They’ll build dens and drink hot chocolates, and they’ll start to become familiar with the changing of the seasons, and how each season is full of a richness of its own.
Other days they’ll do Steiner/Waldorf style art lessons, which all follow nature through the seasons also, and theme artwork around it.
Some days they have rock climbing, water sports, bushcraft, performing arts, martial arts, park meets, day trips and so much more.
We’ve travelled as a family to Paris, throughout Italy and to Iceland. Instead of learning about history, volcanoes and glaciers in books, they experienced it all in front of their eyes. They skimmed stones in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the pools of Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland.
They’ve swam in geothermal lagoons, and seen Geysers blow right in front of where they’re standing.
They learned to make pizzas and gelato from scratch with an Italian chef in Rome and painted Carnival masks in Venice.
They have learned to plant seeds and care for them in order to produce fruit and vegetables to eat, and they’ve watched chickens lay eggs, that have developed into chicks, that have grown into chickens that lay eggs.
As a family, we have had the richest experiences and chances to be constantly learning together since we started our home education journey. My husband and I are constantly absorbing more and more as the children are learning too!
‘Do you do academic work?’
This is different for every home educating family, but for us personally, we have chosen to teach our children Maths, English and Science based on the national curriculum, so that they will be able to take their GCSE’s when the time comes.
For us, this is important. But for home education in general, it’s not a requirement and you don’t HAVE to follow the national curriculum.
We don’t have any problem following it, and we love to do sit down workbook type stuff with our children every now and again. But what we don’t do is shove some into every single day. There is no need for that for us.
We were told by multiple advisors that 1 hour of 1-1 time with your child is what they would receive in a full day at school, so the amount of work your child can get through when learning at home can be so much more, and we have often ended up finishing the national curriculum year work for our children halfway into the year.
We are so lucky that home education has been the most incredible experience for us. We have met hundreds of the most wonderful people, from all walks of life.
I feel that it is so misunderstood, and I really want to change that. But what I also want to add is that I don’t think schools are awful places. Each child and each family is completely different, and whilst our family thrives this way, I realise that many children thrive at school.
This here is our journey, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
Lauren is a Home Educating mum of 4, who lives in Derbyshire. She is a blogger, photographer and content creator who loves to constantly take up new hobbies whilst drinking copious amounts of coffee and buying more books than she has time to read. You can find her over at The Heaton Family blog, her Instagram page or drop her an email at email@example.com.
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