Tag Archives: home ed

Responsible Homeschooling

I had an unsettling conversation this week with a young woman, a survivor of fundamentalist evangelical religion, who was homeschooled in the US, against her will, in such a way as to severely hamper her life chances due both to the paucity of the education, and the fact that – as anti-government fundamentalists – her parents had failed to obtain any documentation for her, including even birth certificate or social security number.

The discussion thread where this exchange took place was eventually shut down as it turned a little bit nasty, with all the homeschool parents defending their decision and defending homeschooling generally as superior to public (state) schooling, and all the damaged homeschool children shouting that the parents had no right to comment on the children’s stories.

I’ll admit that it did bring out the defensive in me. I remember, years ago, fighting battles to protect the rights of home educating parents in the UK against a government that was claiming it needed extra powers due to the risk of home education being used as a cover for abuse generally or child marriage specifically.

We won that last round of the battle, by showing that firstly the government and local authorities already have perfectly sufficient powers to act to protect children, and secondly that the allegation of home education being used to cover up child marriage was nonsense, since that particular abuse was being visited upon schooled children who were simply being taken abroad during the summer holidays.

Here is the thing though. I have no doubt that children are being abused under the cover of home education by religious fundamentalists in the UK even though the law is sufficient to prevent physical abuse, and here is why.

The kind of abuse that is most likely is neither viewed as abuse nor legally defined as abuse. The abuse is forcing children to be schooled in a way to which they do not consent.

Legally, children do not need to consent to education, either at home or at school. I’m sure that it’s clear that many if not most children who go to state school do not consent to it, and many would choose not to if they had a choice. But they do not have a choice.

School does not suit every child, and it is crucially important to have a legal alternative to school. Equally, home education does not suit every child and it is vitally important that parents do not force children to stay at home if they want to go to school.

I absolutely support responsible home education (although defining what constitutes ‘responsible’ warrants further discussion, as the option for unschooling or education which does not need to traditional qualifications needs to be taken into consideration), and I absolutely do not support any kind of home education which employs coercion or keeps children at home against their will.

It is important that we take these stories of homeschooled children seriously, and that we taken them on board when considering what kind, if any, regulation should be in place, whilst at the same time being aware that most parents protect the best interests of their children, and government regulation is often a very blunt instrument that can do more harm than good.

What is the best way to ensure children are safe? It is a continuing discussion. But I suspect that encouraging integration is helpful. One of the allegations made against us was that our children were “hidden”, but again we showed the claim to be false – we are out and about and in the world far more than schooled children.

One of the homeschooling mothers in the discussion mentioned that the state of Ohio has an open policy which enables homeschooled children to access all kinds of classes and resources through the schools. Sadly, the way things are set up in this country means that unless a child is registered at a school (and therefore under the school’s authority), we cannot access anything at all, despite the fact that we pay our taxes to fund schools in exactly the same way as other parents do.

Flexi-schooling is a rarely available compromise which requires the parents to register their children at school, but which allows them leave to attend part-time or intermittently. Sadly it is rare because it is not a right in law, but is up to the discretion of the head of the individual school. Some parents, additionally, are reluctant to register their children since it effectively means giving up authority.

Ultimately, it seems to me that the biggest problem lies in government viewing parents as the enemy (and obviously fundamentalist parents view the government as the enemy). It would be far more helpful if we were able to work together to make resources available for the benefit of all children – both those who thrive at school, and those who do not.

 

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Archive Post: Schome and Funny Things they Say

Ten years ago, we were involved with a group called Schome, a department of the Open University who were (and undoubtedly still are) researching alternative models of education. For that reason, they were terribly interested in home educators at the time, and invited us to share how and what we were learning.

My blog, or ‘bliki’ as it was called as it was on a wiki website, is here:

http://www.schome.ac.uk/wiki/User:Lillbjorne/bliki_2006

I found a little note in my archives called “Funny things they say” which recorded my eldest’s reaction to the PDA which Schome lent us in exchange for a review:

“Well, I think it’s a marvellous piece of technology, if only we could get it to work” (Dragon-tamer)

Truly, it wasn’t terribly successful, and you may remember that I have written about technology in education before. Certainly, all my attempts to encourage my children to use educational technologies and social media were met with less than enthusiasm.

As a proponent of non-coercive education, I think this is the crucial thing: if they’re curious and they find the technology useful, they will use it and benefit from it. But if we make them use it when they have no curiosity or innate desire to make use of it, they will not get the full benefit but may find such tools burdensome and not freeing. The same, of course, is true of books and reading and indeed any subject.

Half Term catch-up

I don’t usually stop and start in line with school terms, but since I have one child in school now, it made sense to take a break while Motorbiker was at home, and also since we moved house!
We made a really good start to the year, and got into a pretty good groove, but moving house is a big, unsettling business and I haven’t even decided where we will do our studies in the new house yet. I hope we can get settled quickly and start again.

Last term, we made a great deal of use of memory work (which I hadn’t planned, particularly, it just evolved as we went along).

I used a Happy Planner teacher planner that I wasn’t making use of, so I took the weekly calender pages out and punched the papers we’re using and slotted them into the current month. At the end of the month, anything we’ve successfully learned gets left behind the old month and new stuff, or things we’re still learning is put in the new month. That way it becomes a record of accomplishment as well. You could just as easily use a ring binder, but I quite like the disc bound system.

In case anybody is interested, I thought I would start to share what we’ve been learning and what we’ve been memorising so far (I had originally planned to do this all in one post but it got way too long and dense and, dare I say, a little bit boring! So I will break it up into several posts):

English:

  • General language arts and grammar: We finished Galore Park’s So You Want to Learn Junior English Book 2 and started Book 3
  • Spelling: This was one of the things that led us into memory work, as dyslexia was making learning spellings, even of the simplest words, just not happen. We have used various spelling lists (and I think when I get my books out of storage, I’ve got a good one on spelling patterns) but the lists are less important than the method – one list of ten words per week, and they’re written in Baba Zonee’s Memory Book. On day 1, BZ traces over the words, and we speak the words aloud, paying attention to phonics (consonant blends and particularly phonics blends). Day 2: repeat Day 1 and add copying out the words. Day 3: repeat Days 1 and 2 and add writing them out from dictation. Depending on how well the words are written from dictation, we may repeat on Days 4 and 5 but usually, we’re getting good results on Day 3. That’s a vast improvement on the results we had previously with reading, covering and writing dictated spellings as per the Jolly Phonics/ Jolly Grammar books. (The word lists are useful though.)
  • Other Copywork and Dictation: we’re using the selections in the back of Heart of Dakota’s ‘Bigger’ program – short sentences with basic words. We noticed that we got far better results spelling-wise if he wrote the dictation on the same day as the copywork. With even a day between (and looking/ reading at the passages first) the spellings were all over the place.
  • Poetry: also using the Heart of Dakota ‘Bigger’ poetry selections. Just reading and enjoying the poems – not requiring any analysis or any other associated work, just purely for pleasure.
  • Shakespeare: We read and/ listened to story versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, including Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, and then I discovered the wonderful book ‘How to Teach your Children Shakespeare‘ by Ken Ludwig, and so we decided to start learning short passages as recommended in the book. The passages are on the website in written and audio form, but don’t skip the book, it’s lovely.
  • Reading: BZ is reading Usborne’s ‘Starting Point science: Earth and Space‘ (which I originally read to him as part of Sonlight curriculum grade 2/C) and there’s a pile more in that same series for him to read next.

Maths:

We are using Parragon’s Gold Start Maths 7-9 as revision for Key Stage 1 and to make sure we didn’t miss anything (we used Singapore Maths primarily and, although I think it’s generally a rather good curriculum, it doesn’t follow the same scheme as the UK National Curriculum, so I’m just covering all the bases.) We have all sorts of resources for Maths, but I’m not sure what we will use once we have finished Parragon.

Bible:

We have been listening to David Suchet reading the NIV via Bible Gateway, and listening to Daily Morning Prayer with The Trinity Mission, although in the end we decided it was too much Bible readings and I changed to reading the prayers minus the readings. That means that we’re not following the set liturgical readings, but it happened to be going through Job which I felt was a bit too dour and not terribly helpful or conducive to JOY which is a priority! (That might sound shallow, but I just don’t think BZ is ready for Job!) We may go back to Trinity Mission prayers when they move on from Job.

We have also been memorising: the Books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, the names of the Disciples (which we finished in September), and Psalm 34. My plan is to start learning Psalm 23 when we get back to it.

What did you do this past term/ half-term? What memory passages have you enjoyed learning?

 

Basic plans Autumn 2016

I thought I would share my basic plans. This is our initial timetable (the times are flexible, just a guideline, and to be honest, the lessons end up being much shorter than the hour I’ve allowed):

The first session is “Morning Time” which includes all of the subjects on the top line, a little each day, but those listed will be our “focus” subjects to make sure none get left out. The Times seem to have got cut out of the photograph, but that should be 9:00 am.

Then Maths and English every day at 10:00 am, followed by history, geography or science at around 11:00 am. Wednesday has always been our traditional science day with experiments and a nature walk, whatever the weather, and then French or art/ design which will alternate at around 12:00, and lastly an outdoor activity in the afternoon including some spaces for different options (like beach!). In between are breaks and lunch, obviously.

The timetable is sketched out in my Bullet Journal – I can’t really do pretty and creative planning, but I’m enjoying using it for notes.

Then, for my day-to-day weekly notes are in an Erin Condren teacher planner  (you may know that I am a planner addict, and Erin Condren is one of my favourites which I have used a few years in a row):

I have made a bit of a mess of this page, and I don’t use the rows per day (I might cover them up with stickers at some point), it is just a list of subjects to cover over the course of a week, and I have an insert listing the order of the day.

It may change, it may not work, but one of the advantages of home education is that you can respond very quickly and re-work your plans if needs be.

What are your plans this year? Are you a planner addict, or do you enjoy “pretty planning”? What do you use?

Happy new year!

Welcome to September! Another month, another term, another year! Somehow I seem to be starting my 18th year of home education! 

This year I’m teaching (or is it facilitating? I still haven’t worked that out!) Baba Zonee (B.Z.) who is now 13 and Pony-rider who is now 16.
Pony-rider wasn’t expecting to be at home this year – she was assured by two separate schools that she was welcome on a catch-up GCSE year leading into sixth form and A Levels, and both schools subsequently turned around and realised that the funding wouldn’t be there so neither would the places be. That has left us with a quandary – what to do?

There are other colleges, but that would mean travel in the wrong direction (or at least the opposite direction to her dad and brother – it would mean I have a 2 hour round trip every morning and afternoon, with carschooling B.Z. – certainly not my favourite option),  or we could start studying GCSEs from home and sit as external students. That is probably what we will need to do, but we weren’t expecting to have to do this. It seems that we can’t do the subjects that Pony-rider wanted to do from home, and I feel completely unprepared.

We’re also just beginning to gear up for yet another house move – our 5th (or 7th if you count the three months we lived in emergency accommodation after being flooded out of our rental property – actually the emergency place was 10 times nicer than the place we were renting but that’s an aside) and hopefully our final move!

I can’t wait to be finally settled but I have a niggling feeling that it will be too late for our home education. We have had more than 5 years of almost constant disruption, chronic ill health and stress. I’d like to be able to say that I’m now an expert at home educating through crises and chronic stress but in fact I think it’s more a case of just barely surviving by the skin of my teeth.

Next time I’ll share some of the resources we’re using, and some of the things we plan to study this year (just as soon as we’ve worked it out for ourselves). 🙂

What are you doing this year? Are you new to home education or are you a seasoned veteran?

Birthday Fun

starwars7

We have a birthday coming up this week, and we’re heading out to a second showing of Star Wars as one of the birthday treats. It’s always a challenge to organise presents and parties for birthdays so close to Christmas, and it’s difficult to make them memorable, as they’re normally quiet, family affairs.

When birthdays fall during the ‘school’ week, though, it is nice as home educators to have the freedom to take time off from academics to go on outings, or just to chill out for the day.

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I thought I would share this birthday memory from the Svengelska Hemskolan archive:

We’ve been gearing up for a birthday this week, so we have managed only to get very little formal ‘schooly’ work done. On Tuesday we received a CD of stories and nursery rhymes from a toddler-group we used to go to (produced and recorded by the group and the Library service), which proved to be really popular. It reminded me that we used to sit down everyday and have music-time with nursery rhymes and action songs, but we haven’t done it for a long while.

On Wednesday, the birthday boy got to choose all our activities, so we ended up watching “The Blue Planet” on DVD (one of his presents) most of the morning, and in the afternoon we went for a walk in Salcey Forest with a group of friends. The children particularly enjoyed running and jumping along the tree-top ‘Elephant’ walk and jumping in muddy puddles! (Mummy was slightly less enthusiastic!)

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More recently, I have tried to re-introduce music time or circle time as part of our ‘Morning Time‘ (see Cindy Rollins’ lovely Ordo Amoris blog for details.) But right now all our music books (we love the books from A & C Black such as ‘Okki-Toki-Unga’ and ‘The Jolly Herring’ amongst others) are all in storage so I’m not sure what shape our music time will take from now on. Dragon-tamer has discovered that he loves the Beatles, so we may learn some of their songs to sing, just for fun. I remember learning ‘Yellow Submarine’ at school myself. Thank goodness for the internet! I don’t know how we ever coped without it!

2015 in review

Thank-you to all my readers and followers for staying with us in 2015. I know I haven’t been terribly consistent, and it probably doesn’t look very professional because I rarely manage to include photos, but in my defence, we have had a very disrupted year and, really, this blog has never been some kind of business project – there are no affiliate links or whatever (although we do have an Amazon A-Store, which I will try and update with useful books and resources).

What this blog is about really is just a bit of fun to keep a record of what we do for our own enjoyment, and hopefully to help other home educators find their own paths along the way.

Depending on how this year goes for us, I have lots of plans and ideas to include here – more book reviews, more field trip/ outing reports, and lots more. (If there’s anything you would particularly like to see here, just sing out!)

So I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive new year 2016 and look forward to reading your blogs and interacting with the home education community both the UK and further afield.

WordPress prepared a report, which I thought I would share, as it is pretty!

Click here to see the complete report.

Have a great year!

How Did We Get Here?

I don’t know what happened to November! The last few months seem to have been a blur – less of frenetic activity, and more of illness and confusion. As often happens in a big family, we all take it in turns to get sick, so we can have back-to-back colds and bugs for weeks on end.

Dragon-tamer and Pony-rider dropped out of their course, as it didn’t seem to be leading anywhere and it was eating up their whole week with no obvious benefit. That seemed to be the right decision, but neither of them have any ideas or plans about what to do next.

Meanwhile, Motor-biker and Baba-zonee have started joining in with our local home ed sports group, and may join in with more if they carry on home educating, but we have been talking and wondering about the possibility – in view of their severe dyslexia – of either going in to school, or flexi-schooling. I feel as though I am out of my depth and can’t help them much further.

We haven’t been on many outings otherwise because I haven’t been well enough to drive, but we do seem to have been out to endless hospital appointments (with Daddy driving), doing a tour of hospitals around Barnstaple, Holsworthy, Exeter and Truro lately! Not really my idea of fun, and not really terribly educational!

Although we have been plodding along in our various curriculum books, we don’t seem to have made much progress, or felt like we have learned much. The most educational thing we have enjoyed during the Autumn term is Stephen Fry’s documentary series Planet Word on language.

We have three weeks left now before Christmas, and I think we will just gently plod on, but then we’ll take a break to think about what we want to do next year.

We have inherited a couple of old black and white border collie sheepdogs from my mother-in-law, so our next adventure is to get used to having dogs again. Hopefully we will be able to take them onto the beaches and out in the countryside which will be educational in itself.

Stuff we’re using

1teddyrow

October isn’t over but since I never know when I will have enough energy to get on the laptop, I thought I would write an update now.

There are lots of things we’re struggling with at the moment, lots of things we would like to do but haven’t been able. So instead of dwelling on the negative, I’ll let you know what we have done, and what we are currently enjoying.

In English, we’re currently going through Galore Park’s “So You Want to Learn Junior English” Book 2. We don’t bother with writing as it slows the boys down, we just go through it orally. Sometimes, when there’s a point of grammar that they need to see, I’ll write it up on the whiteboard. We’re also using Jolly Grammar books 1 and 2 for spelling (the grammar worksheets are variable. I like that they’re photocopiable, but we only bother copying the good ones.)

For literature, we’ve been listening to The Railway Children by E. Nesbit and read by Virginia Leishman, which we downloaded from Audible. I decided to join as a member and pay monthly as it works out quite a good deal. This particular book would have cost quite a bit more as an individual purchase.

For History, we have been enjoying the Librivox reading of Our Island Story. I have already read this book twice to the children over the years, and it is a family favourite. Having somebody else read it aloud is obviously really helpful in our situation. We finished the Middle Ages with another film, just for fun: “Les Visiteurs” which is a French comedy about a noble and his servant who are mistakenly thrown forwards in time by a wizard. Very silly but lots of fun. At the moment we’re going through the reign of Elizabeth I.

For Geography, all we are managing at the moment is a daily page from “You Too Can Change the World”  by Spragget and Johnstone which is a children’s version of Operation World (there is also another version for older children, Window on the World). Each page gives a basic introduction to a country or ethnic group and lists points for prayer. One country that has captured the children’s imagination is North Korea, so we may look more deeply at some point. I do also have an old KS3 Geography series by Collins educational consisting of 3 books (United Kingdom, Europe and The World) but haven’t started that yet. When we do, I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

We went out once with the new HE Teens group to the cinema to see the Martian. I’m not sure to what extent that can be counted as educational! (Again, when I’m more well we might follow it up with some real science!) But everyone enjoyed it and I’m hoping that eventually the group will become a bit more active. Being so isolated makes it difficult to connect with other teens.

We have dabbled a bit with Shakespeare over the last year – usually I read the story in one of the story books for younger children, then again in something more complex like Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and then rather than struggling through the text, we find a good film version before going any more deeply, and then only if it’s enjoyable – the last thing I want to do is put them off. So this term we are looking at Henry V and we watched Kenneth Brannagh’s version with a star-studded cast including a very young Christian Bale!

For Science, we’re still going through Apologia’s Botany, minus most of the experiments. We may go through the experiments another time when I’m more well, as a fun way of revision.

That’s pretty much it. Field trips at the moment are reduced to one trip to the library every week plus their evening activities which, at the moment, consist of Drama, Scouts, Bellringing and Local Radio.

Over to You:

What are you doing this month? How do you manage illness and disability with home education?

Autumn Plans 2015

Just a quick update and a moan!

Our summer has flown by and been filled with a week at Creation Fest (which involved lots of music, skating, and eating doughnuts!) A week with my mum and brother, showing them round north Cornwall, and finally a week in Watford with a few trips and get togethers with friends and looking after my sister-in-law’s pets while she was away.

This is the last week of our summer holiday, and we’re planning to start back with lessons next week, but I am very frustrated right now! I had planned to start Sonlight levels D and 100 but most of our books are still in storage after moving at this point, and realistically I may not have access to them until later on in the year, so it’s back to the drawing board for now.

I do have Heart of Dakota’s World Geography level for Pony-rider, so we can start that (I had originally intended to intersperse that reading with her other studies rather than as a stand-alone programme), and for the boys? Not sure yet. I don’t think we can do any kind of organised study but we can read the books we do have, and maybe do some projects relating to their interests until the Sonlight books are available.

Pony-rider and Dragon-tamer, additionally, are both planning to do vocational courses this year with the local college, but I don’t know the details of those yet.

My goals for September are these:

• More regular exercise, and get out more – every day, if only for 5 minutes or in the garden if possible.
• Make an effort to get some appropriate social interaction, whether that be with the local group, the new Cornwall Teens group or other activities. (I don’t like driving far, I’m a bit of a homebody, but unfortunately that is just a reality of home ed in a rural area.)
• Earlier to bed, earlier to rise, and
• More regular meal times together, if possible, together with healthier eating choices. I think this will help with monitoring Motor-Biker’s blood sugar levels as well.
• Make more use of our annual season tickets to Eden Project!

Specifically academic goals:

• Concentrate on improving the boys’ handwriting which has degenerated recently
• Explore options for handicrafts and activities which don’t require reading and writing. (A photography club has been mentioned as a possible option.)
• Aim to read 4+ literature books together this month.
• Carry on with current course books for History / Geography and Science. (Science has definitely got neglected this last term, so I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.)
• Start new resources for Maths, with more emphasis on discussion and understanding than written work.
• They’re all wanting to do different languages now, so I’m not sure how that will work as they’re not very independent learners and like a lot of hand-holding. We have plenty of resources, they’d just need to do the work.
• And finally, for me – I need to get more organised with stationery and record-keeping – most of the last couple of years’ work has just got lost in amongst the house-moving chaos.

What are your plans for the new school year?