Monday 21 November 2016

Starting to Home Educate an older child

This is the last post in my series about starting home education and in many ways, it is the most difficult to write.

These are the links to the other posts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 4

A friend posted this comment, after my last post, about starting home education and this certainly fits with my experience. 

Starting home ed at the beginning is like paddling into the sea, a little bit at a time, laughing at the waves, playing in the sand. Taking a child (esp over 11) out of school is like jumping off a cliff. You may end up in the same part of the sea, over time but it is sooo much harder to jump off that cliff than it is to drift into the sea.

I have only taken one child out of school, towards the end of year four. I have no personal experience of taking a child out of secondary school nor of taking a child out of school because of bullying or health issues. This  post will deal with exams but not with bullying or health issues.

Initial issues
When taking a child out of a state school in the UK, the parent has to inform the school who will inform the local authority that the child is being home educated. This means that at some fairly early stage in your home education journey, there is likely to be contact from the local education authority adviser. It is important to answer their letters but also to be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Fiona Nicholson has information about this on her site Ed Yourself.

Deschooling. This is the concept of avoiding formal education after a child has left school. I have heard people suggest that this time is for a month for each year that the child has been in school. Of course, this isn't something that can be subjected to a randomised controlled trial! We didn't deschool: I was too worried about my child falling behind their peers; was worried about the local authority and about never being able to get into a pattern of home educating.

Would I do the same again? Yes and no! Yes, I think that I would have put in an early structure around morning time, English and maths but in retrospect, it would have been better to have had more time to go on trips and explore interests. Being over anxious didn't help and we would have had a happier first year, if I had been more relaxed. It is very easy to say this in retrospect!

Spending time to deschool may be more important when a child has faced difficulties in school or is unwell.

 Leaving school usually means not seeing schooled friends so often. Some school friends may drop off whereas others may remain. It may be difficult to make home educated friends. Home educated children often have established friendships and it may be difficult to break into this. Having a three pronged approach may help:
1. Keeping up  with old school friends.
2. Keeping up with other old friends, for example, at church.
3. Making an effort to make friends with other home educated children both in groups but probably more usefully, by arranging to see them at home. 

 These aren't too much of an issue when taking younger children out of school but for older children, the Home education exam group is invaluable, both for advice and support. 

 It takes a while to work out which resources and approach to use. Several home educators showed me the resources that they used and this was particularly helpful. Do read round and beware of spending vast sums of money! The initial resources may not work for you. Even amongst families who home educate for the same reasons, one woman's meat may be the other's poison! Just because your friend loves Sonlight or Apologia or Galore Park doesn't mean that it will work for your family!

Particularly, beware of resources designed for schools. In the UK, we talk about home education not home schooling for a reason. Educating at home isn't running a little school. Some school resources work well but others just don't.

It isn't necessary to follow the National Curriculum although when taking exams it is necessary to follow the exam board's curriculum. It is wise to look at the National Curriculum, from time to time, particularly for maths and if you are looking toward exams.

It isn't necessary to teach everything yourself. There are plenty of options for different subjects

  • online learning,for example Skype lessons for languages, groups with meet on line, distance learning with emailed assignments, self paced on line courses and more
  • group learning-this may involve a parent teaching either informally or via a structure such as Classical Conversations or parents joining to pay for a tutor.
  • individual tutor

Home education isn't mainstream and it is important to have support. I think this is the case for all home educators but particularly for those who have just taken children out of school. The reasons for this are manifold:

  • advice
  • emotional support
  • friends in the same situation
  • chance to look at books and other resources
  • professional development-yes, being a home educator is a profession!
Support comes in various guises
  • spouse. 
  • local home educators 
  • national email and Facebook groups.
  • national and international blogs and websites.
Ultimately, as a Christian, I need God's strength start and carry on home education. There will be challenges along the way but He gives strength and will give us wisdom when we ask.

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Joshua 1 v9

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
James 1 verse 5

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