Tag Archives: homeschooling

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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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?

Phonics Fun

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Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.

Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.

Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.

Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.

Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…

 

This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.

Balancing Curriculum with Interests

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In our more than 15 years of home education, we have moved through various seasons of more and less formal learning. We never quite qualified as bona fide unschoolers (although I was quite attracted to radical unschooling as a philosophy) but nor did we fully qualify as traditional homeschoolers, since we often had very relaxed periods and largely went with the flow depending on the children’s interests, but with formal book-learning available as a foundation.

This post, originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, details the ebb and flow of projects-based learning in this flexible framework.

“If anyone asks, we use Sonlight curriculum, which is an American, literature-based curriculum. Originally designed for American ex-pats and missionaries, with a ‘big world’ focus. In practice, we often go off at tangents to study areas of interest which capture the children’s imagination, or to cover UK history, or (more often than not) because I’ve been snared by other literature selections (Ambleside Online, Tanglewood, Winter Promise, to name but a few) and can’t resist adding to our library.

Sonlight grade 5 which I’m using with Dragon-tamer is entitled “Eastern Hemisphere” or “Non-Western Cultures”, and as part of our Sonlight studies, we’ve looked at the Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, North and South Korea and China.

The way I deal with this cross-curricular study which,, being aimed at grade 5 and designed to be suitable primarily for ages 11 or so+, is to break it up into areas of study (easy with Sonlight 5 as it is already neatly divided into countries, but I’ve done it with the lower grades too) and do projects, themes or ‘unit studies’ so that all the children can get involved to whatever degree they’re interested. In addition to reading Sonlight’s literature selections, we take out additional books from the library, we make maps, sometimes 3D models, dress up in national costumes, cook and eat traditional foods, sometimes write little books or make lapbooks and other incidental activities.

Some of these projects have been really popular, especially with the younger children; notably, Australia and New Zealand. Dragon-Tamer was particularly interested in Japan (and scared me for a while talking about wanting to learn Japanese!) Others I have really struggled to get any interest going. Hence, I realise, Sonlight 5 (designed as a one-year curriculum) has now taken us 2 years, and we are only on week 18 (out of 36 – a US school year)! I have been talking for months about finishing up on our China project and moving on to the next projects, but for some reason we’ve all really dragged our feet. We still haven’t finished all the Sonlight books on China (though at the beginning we took extra books out from the library). Right now we’re reading a biography of Eric Liddell – Olympic champion and missionary to China. All the books have been fine and good and we’ve enjoyed them, but somehow I don’t think I can face another book about China! Should we skip the rest, save them for later, or take a(nother) break from Sonlight?

When a friend suggested doing a project on Rivers (which, actually I had wanted to do for years but for some reason had never got round to) I jumped at the chance! I have spent most of my free moments over the last weekend brainstorming and planning how we might cover a Rivers Project. We have one of England’s longest rivers running close by, my maps are prepared, and I’m keen for any plan of study that will take us on a trip to the sea! Ah, but now Pony-rider has announced that she actually wants to do a project on South America, please, so it looks as though the river we’ll be looking at is the Amazon. Okay, back to the drawing board…”

And so we proceeded to develop a new project of our own on South America that created memories that still resonate with us all even today.

It is possible to purchase a pre-packaged, prepared unit study that has joined all the dots and made all the connections between the subjects for you. But we found that this kind of fluid way of learning suited us well, and when you see the ‘dots’ and make the ‘connections’ for yourself, the information is that much more deeply learned and remembered.

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Change of Seasons

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After muddling through for just over a year with most of our books still in storage and without any significant social contact, Motor-biker decided at the beginning of April to try school.

It took a while for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, but once the ball was rolling everything seemed to happen very fast.

We had a tour of the school on the Thursday and then filled in the forms to officially apply for a place. On the Monday we were informed by the County Council that the place was ours and so he started on Wednesday morning.

We agreed that, given that the transition from home to secondary school is such a massive one, it could be overwhelming to jump in at the deep end and so he would start gradually. One lesson the first day, two on the second and so on.

Tomorrow is due to be his first full day.

So far it has been a mixture of enjoyment, overwhelmed exhaustion and frustration. (I will elaborate on the reasons for his frustrations later.)

For those of us left at home, there is also a mixture of feelings of joy and sadness – joy because I am happy for him to do what he wants to do (and he is such a sociable character, I think he will be in his element), sadness because my home education journey is coming to an end before I expected it to and with that I am experiencing feelings of disappointment and a niggling sense of failure.

It is nonsense of course – motherhood inevitably includes a sense of guilt but I know that actually I have done my best and we have had an incredibly difficult set of circumstances that have been and continue to be outside of my control.

Baba Zonee has decided to stay at home. He is a different character from his brother and doesn’t feel ready for school.

Pony-rider has turned 16 and is still at home mainly because she can’t decide what she wants, and Dragon-tamer is still at home struggling with mental and physical ill health after his breakdown which school caused.

I’m not worried that Motor-biker will have the same experience at school that Dragon-tamer did – again, they are very different characters.

Whereas Dragon-tamer found the education useful and the social contact difficult and frustrating, Motor-biker is likely to have the opposite experience, and I am prepared (and fully expecting judging from his reactions to the lessons so far) to need to supplement the education at home.

So perhaps not much will change in a way except for the timetable, and Baba Zonee will benefit I’m sure from having one-to-one attention for a change (not to mention a bit of peace and quiet! Motor-biker’s other nickname is Tigger due to his irrepressibly boisterous and bouncy nature!)

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I couldn’t help noticing that this massive change of season for us occurred on the occasion of the Full Moon at Passover and Orthodox Easter (also counted as Beltane for those who celebrate on the full moon rather than on May 1st according to the calendar). That confluence of Christian, Jewish and Pagan dates felt auspicious to me in a way. Perhaps it’s just me being fanciful, but perhaps that’s just me! 🙂

I feel a little as though I, like Dorothy, have been caught up in a whirling, mad tornado (again) and deposited in a new land – charmed and bewitched, and I’m a little bit lost and unsure. Unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar landmarks. I will triumph eventually, but we may have a strange journey ahead.

I am thinking happy thoughts and taking deep breaths, and trying to adjust to the idea without going crazy.

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The Very Hungry Princess

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Birthday week

We made the fatal error of saying to Pony-rider “what would you like to do for your birthday – you can do anything you like!” Now that I think about it, I realise that we got off lightly. She could have asked for a trip in the Virgin Space Shuttle!

Instead, she asked for:

1 trip to Grandma’s,
1 trip to a Farm,
1 trip to Toys ‘r’ Us,
1 Swimming Lesson,
1 Party,
1 slice of Swiss Cheese
1 Ice-cream Cone and
1 Slice of Salami
(just checking to see you’re actually paying attention).

So instead of a birth-day, we ended up having a treat every single day for an entire week: Monday was a trip to a farm and a swimming lesson. (More about the Farm later).

Tuesday was a trip to Grandma’s (actually we had to go Monday evening because she particularly wanted to wake up at Grandma’s on her birthday – we obliged.)

Wednesday was a trip to a favourite local place which provides an outdoor play-area positioned conveniently close to picnic tables where mums can chat over coffee (a treat for me too!);

Thursday was playgroup, followed by the girliest girly birthday-party imaginable (it was so great – maybe more about the Party later too!).

Friday was play at an indoor play-centre (while the mums had coffee) followed by lunch at the unspeakable McD’s, and in the evening a surprise visit from some friends from out of town who took us to Pizza Hut!

And finally, on Saturday we shared the birthday cake with her best friend (who couldn’t make the party due to not actually being a girl).

On Sunday, I laid in bed with a headache, neck-ache, back-ache, leg-ache, etc., the result, I think, of party-stress and way too much icing, coffee, chocolate, cake, McD and Pizza Hut. I did eat one nice green leaf, and after that I felt much better. 😉

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Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog.

High Culture: Closed for the Winter

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We started the day with Latin: Dragon-tamer orally going through the noun tables and verb paradigms we have learnt so far, and reviewing vocabulary, and finally doing a simple translation exercise that involved placing the correct words in sentences. He did quite well considering we only do it occasionally. Pony-rider listens in too.

As we are fairly relaxed and unschooly, I never insist we do these or any other lessons. My goal in introducing Latin, and other languages, is to give the kids a flavour of the language so if they decide they want to take it up seriously, they can.

We all listened to a children’s classical CD (Bernstein Favourites: Children’s Classics), and Dragon-Tamer dictated a couple of music reviews which I typed up and posted on to our local home-ed reading group website.

We thought that, in the afternoon, we would just ‘pop in’ to the local museum, or gallery, but when I checked their opening hours, I discovered that both are closed: the Gallery for two weeks while they change exhibits, and the Museum for the whole winter (except for education groups of 20 or more children… so possible to organise for a later date but no good for today).

Disappointed, we discussed other alternatives for the afternoon, but nobody could agree, and since Motor-biker was poorly with a slight temperature, we opted for a quiet afternoon in, watching nature programmes and schools maths programmes recorded earlier.

Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog.

Ohana Home Education Yahoo Group

When I started home educating, the internet was fairly new, and so at the time (1999) the main source of networking between home educators was ‘e-groups’ which eventually got taken over by Yahoo groups.

I know that almost everybody now has migrated over to Facebook, but although I am obviously there (and Ohana Home Education has a presence there), I’m not a big fan and don’t particularly like entrusting photos or files to them, and so while lots of yahoo groups now stand empty or quiet, I have decided to revive one of my groups as a handy place to store files and links that may be of use to home educators.

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The group is, surprisingly enough, is called Ohana Home Education and you can find it here: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OhanaHE/info

There are already lots of files and links there. Mainly they are related to lapbooking, unit studies, home economics and some religious topics (mainly relating to Messianic Judaism, celebrating the festivals, cooking etc.), but I hope in future to add resources and worksheets on all other topics, and anybody is free to contribute.

It is not particularly meant to be a discussion/ support group, although if it does get used that way it would also be OK. But there are of course lots of other places online (especially, inevitably, on Facebook) for that sort of thing. One of these days I will get round to making a list of the most helpful groups.

So please do go on over and take a look, and if you would like to join to contribute/ make use of what is there, please do make sure to confirm when you apply that you are a home educator. Feel free to suggest as well the topics that you would like to see there.

I know that, when I was first home educating, I very much appreciated the resources that other home educators had made available for free, so it is all good to make sure that there are free resources still available for a new generation of home educators.

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!

A Man Alone

An old enemy of Odo’s, Ibudan – a notorious smuggler with a mercenary attitude, no friend of the Cardassians, but no true friend of his fellow Bajorans either – appears to have been murdered, and everything seems to point to Odo as the murderer. Only Odo, misunderstood and standing alone as a Shapeshifter, different from everyone around him, can prove his innocence.

“You don’t know me. You have no reason to believe that I wouldn’t kill Ibudan if it suited my fancy. So don’t tell me there isn’t some doubt inside of you, some question about whether or not I murdered the man.” – Odo to Sisko

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We’re also re-introduced to Keiko and Molly O’Brien, Quark’s brother Rom and his son Nog in this episode.

I immediately identify with Odo in this episode – a man cut off from his own people, unable to find his tribe, only awkwardly fitting in with his surroundings.

Of course I have never been accused of murder, never been framed for murder (although I have been accused of things I didn’t do, on more than one occasion). But for some reason I have always been a loner. Not on purpose, not at all. but somehow I always seem to be at variance with those I find myself in company with. As a child, I always seemed to be on the fringe, the outskirts of the cool crowd. As a teenager, I found the geeky group, but that only lasted until the end of school. As soon as I moved into the world of work, I was back on the outskirts again.

To be fair, I’m not sure that my geekiness is to blame. But I am awkward and gauche. I even considered at one time that I would make the perfect, archetypal (although female) vicar. I could just see myself in a parish, slightly confused, slightly out-of-touch and distracted. 🙂

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[Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: Murder at the Vicarage]

I see myself as well in Keiko as she is arguing with Miles about being brought to the middle of nowhere, feeling that she has no sense of purpose, that her expertise is being wasted, If only it were as simple as opening a school on the station. Of course, in a sense, I did just that when we were back in Federation Territory, homeschooling my kids from 1999. But now here at the Wormhole, my youngest is 12 and I’m right at the end of the life of the station school. Jadzia and Quark are even considering going into state school for the last year or two, Dr Bashir having gone in to sixth form to complete his GCSEs a couple of years ago.

I’m in my 40s now, but I still haven’t quite figured out what I want to do with my life. I bummed around as a secretary in London until I had children (a very well paid secretary though, I remember – I was getting £14 per hour 20 years ago) and since then I have been bumming around at home, teaching them. It’s been fun, but hard, and without reward other than satisfaction.

So now I’m poor, and although not without ambition, it’s a bit of a challenge to start a career from scratch in your 40s, especially when you don’t really know what you want to do. Policing? Botany? Starship Captaincy? Actually, I’m interested in everything, which made me perfect for teaching homeschool. Do I have to pick one?