A friend of a friend recently asked some questions about home education. Several of these questions are those that interested me before I started to home educate and that other people have also asked me so, with permission, I have copied my answers here.
1. What were the most important reasons you decided to home school?
We started to home educate because we were concerned that the children were being taught from a secular humanist viewpoint; not a Christian worldview and not from a neutral position. I have written more about our decision here.
2. What syllabus/curriculum(s) do you use/have you used? Would you recommend them?
We are eclectic Christian home educators so we use a mixture of curriculum.Something that works well for one family may not work well for another. I guess that you are interested in curriculum for younger children so won't bore you with IGCSE choices.
We loved Five in a Row which is a literature based curriculum for young children. Basically, a picture book is read each day for five days and activities done from this. The books tend to be some of the best US children's books but there is a UK home educator who writes similar studies on UK books. She writes at Branch Out World.
We read aloud extensively: Five in a Row books, picture books, chapter books (when they are ready) and poetry.
We currently use Dancing Bears for phonics which is parent friendly and easy to use but like many phonics programmes not especially exciting.
Initially, we do a fair amount of maths around everyday situations. Having a family of eight and frequent visitors leads to many simple addition and subtraction sums. We also use board games such as some of those from Orchard Games and Sum Swamp. The latter has sometimes been played daily. I now use the materials from Centre in Maths Innovation for my six year old but we have also used Mousematics (part of Mothers' Companion which can be obtained from Conquest books).
We have used many other resources over the years and for different ages. We have some Bible memory work going most of the time and work on learning hymns that we sing in church, alongside a reading from the Bible or a Christian book.
Our younger children do a fair amount of art. We have found the Usborne First Book of Art to have helpful ideas and there are loads of art ideas on the internet. We also try to make sure that they have exercise most days. This might be running in the park, using a scooter or bike or having swimming lessons.
3. Have you ever had any concerns your kids aren’t “socialised” enough and how have you dealt with ensuring they are? How do you deal with negative comments from parents/friends about homeschool (you’re depriving your kids etc)?
Having had children in school and children at home, it seems, to me, that they tend to have the same number of friends. What I mean is that when children are in school they tend not to be friends with the whole class but with a smaller number. I do think that the children need opportunities to be with other children but that the artificial school year becomes less important. My home educated children have friends of various different ages.
I don't really worry about socialisation but I do try to ensure that the children see plenty of other people. What does this look like in practice?
Yesterday: the children went to church and Sunday School. We go to a big church so they have plenty of friends there.
Today: One child had a science tutorial with a couple of other children. The younger children had lunch and a time outside with another home educating family and later in the afternoon went to their swimming lesson.
Tomorrow: We are due to have a child to play in the afternoon.
The rest of the week continues in a similar vein but I won't bore you with details.
Opposition is a real issue especially at the beginning. We made a decision that we would explain once to the naysayers but wouldn't try to convince them beyond that. Ultimately, we weren't going to convince them and wanted to be able to continue to have a relationship with them. There are stories around about such people coming round to thinking that home education is the best thing since sliced bread. This won't necessarily happen.
4. Are you a part of any home-schooling network (formal or informal) and are they helpful?
We go to a couple of Christian home education groups. Yes, it is helpful to meet with other families. The children need to know that other people home educate too and it is useful, as a mother, to talk to others who are sympathetic to the decision to home educate and know what it is like to be in the trenches. It can be as useful to meet with other families informally.
There are also some helpful on-line groups particularly, the Yahoo group Deut6v7 and the Facebook group, Christian Home Educators UK.
5. Can you give an estimate of how much home educating costs you annually per child?
This is a surprisingly difficult question. We definitely spend most on our 14 year old who has several tutors for IGCSE work.
Another complicating factor is that our home education expenses include items such as swimming lessons and piano lessons. It is likely that we would pay for these if our children were in school. I also tend to throw in books that I buy the children, again, we purchased books for our children who were in school. It isn't always easy to know where formal home education ends and life begins.
Probably the biggest expense, for us, was that I stopped paid employment.
At the beginning, my husband was setting up his business and we made the decision that we would prioritise spending on home education above having a family holiday. Thankfully, in recent years, we have been able to have both.
6. How do you cope with home-schooling multiple children (different age groups, looking after babies etc)?
This has become easier as time has gone on. When we started home education, we had an eight year old, a two year old and a three month old baby. I found that I needed to plan activities for the two year old but initially, the baby slept as we worked. As the baby grew into a very active toddler, we had probably the most challenging time. I have tended to begin the day, after Bible reading and prayer, with reading to the youngest. When I had a one year old, three year old and nine year old, I would read to the little ones first while the nine year old got on with some independent work. The three year old tended to play but the one year old needed a fair amount of occupation. Having a list of activities, toys for the little ones in the same room and doors that the littlest couldn't open helped.
7. How do you manage everything else inside and outside the home that needs to get done in the week (household chores, cooking, running errands etc)?
Probably, for us, some of the greatest challenges are around taking Grandma to medical appointments. As far as possible, I try to make these for the holidays or after we have finished working for the day. My husband works from home so I can sometimes leave the children while I take Grandma. If they have to be left in work time then I try to leave something easy to do, perhaps an on-line educational activity. There were times, when they were younger, when they had to come. I tended to take bags of books and read aloud.
Everything else, hmm, my house isn't best tidy or clean. I try to have a load of washing ready to go on the line first thing in the morning and put another load on. Cooking happens because we have to eat! The children like to cook with me.
When we first started home education, I thought that we would have an hour for lunch, like in school. I hadn't remembered that school teachers aren't the cook and clearing up lady and don't have to feed and change the baby. For several years, we had a quiet reading time after lunch which worked well and probably should be reinstituted.
I try to run as few errands as possible. We shop on line as much as we can and try to do the rest on Saturdays or at the end of the afternoon.
8. Does anyone else have any input with home schooling your kids (dad/tutors/part-time schooling)? If so, to what extent?
My 14 year old has several tutors. Most of these come from our church. This has meant that we have been able to have choices around, for example, books studied in English literature. The younger two have swimming lessons. One has piano and art lessons.
9. Do you ever get any me-time?! Have you at any point felt out of your depth? Have you any regrets?
It depends what you mean by me-time.
Yes, I do sometimes feel out of my depth-not really academically although there are things that I can't teach (swimming/sign language). Often, my patience is tested. Yes, I regret not being more patient when the children struggle to understand something that seems easy to me. Sometimes working out why something is difficult to a child can make me feel out of my depth.
Taking a child out of school was also a difficult step for all of us. Home education has been much easier for the children who have never been to school.
The text My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor9v12 has kept me going on many occasions.
10. What are the top 3 best things (for you) about educating from home?
-Being able to talk to the children about the Lord.
-Seeing a child learn to read particularly, when this hasn't been an easy process.
You may also like to look at my page on UK Home Education Resources.