Friday, 21 September 2012


One of the advantages of doing a day in school every week or two is access to free extra-curricular activities from which home schooled children are usually excluded. My two eldest boys are doing two days of Bikeability this week. With my third son at his grandparents, it is just the baby and I at home. How quiet it is!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Raising Successful Children

Raising Successful Children

One of the most common misconceptions about home education is fuelled by the name "HOME education". I think people imagine me keeping my children at home all the time, some perhaps believing that I am sheltering them from contact with "the real world" beyond the front door.
I would like to change the name "home education" to "world education" or "community education" or just "education beyond the classroom". I would like to turn this misconception around, because one of the reasons I choose not to send my children to school is to give them a bigger vision of the world than the classroom allows. One could ask whether the classroom might be the sheltered place which hinders our children from maturing into responsible adults able to safely and confidently navigate "the real world"? Discuss.

Play is the highest form of research

The importance of Play and Learning in the daily lives of our children...

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning … They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.” ~ Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

“It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.” ~ Tina Bruce (Professor, London Metropolitan University)

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce (author)

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein

Our Education System

"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." (Albert Einstein)

A Judith Kerr Retrospective

From The Tiger Who Came to Tea to Mog and Pink Rabbit: A Judith Kerr Retrospective at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Musical Tendencies

Yesterday, the boys and I went to a different group I have discovered for home educators locally. It was well attended, with plenty of boys, which was a plus, and it was also well organised. The children had the opportunity to join in with a french session, a music session, a story time, and with parachute games outside. There was also a round robin of science activities laid out on tables in the hall - all on a 'sound' theme. These engaged my 6 year old particularly, and my 9 year old enjoyed the music sessions and liked the way the morning was organised. My eldest was less enthused. It is so hard to find something to suit everyone.

Apart from the music session, which was adult led, one small room was set aside for musical exploration, with a whole range of interesting and unusual percussion instruments laid out for the children to play with. My second son was in his element, and when I went in to see what he was up to, he was playing with a set of bells, which he carefully arranged according to pitch and started to compose tunes with. He was so absorbed by this activity, I was thrilled to watch him, and it made me think about how different children are and how they can display giftedness in a particular area. He also enjoyed tapping out rhythms on a small Indian style 'dohl' drum, and has since expressed an interest in acquiring one similar to practise with.

It has left me wondering how we encourage and develop his musical talent ...

Saturday, 8 September 2012


This week, with the start of the new school year, I finally managed to make contact with the Head Teacher of the school I mentioned in my previous post "The Rise of Flexi Schooling". This tiny village school has opened its doors to home schooled children and flexi schoolers in a bid to boost student numbers. I found the school surprisingly welcoming, open and flexible. After a tour of the 3 classes and lovely outdoor spaces, the Head said the boys could attend as little as 1 day in 10 to be considered flexi schoolers and would, in addition, be able to join in extra curricular and enrichment activities which are normally not accessible to home educators.

In order to accommodate home educated children, and to make it workable for families and for the teachers, the school has set one day of the school week as a topic day. This day stands apart from the rest of the week's activities and curriculum and will be organised as a round robin of cross-curricular tasks based on a half-termly topic in each classroom.

Our visit to the school was so brief and positive that I was rather swept along with it and found myself agreeing to give two days a week a go without having much chance to think about it. At home, with reflection, I felt that would be too much and would impinge on what we are doing at home and our desire to instil an independent work ethos with the boys. One day a week, though, or one day in each fortnight, might be a good thing providing opportunity for the boys to work with others, as well as a break for me. Since our new baby is proving to be quite a handful, this would be welcome.

So, without much time or opportunity to think and worry about it, we found ourselves pulling up to school one day last week ready to go. Our third son had never been to school before. 2 out of the 3 boys were quite excited. They were whisked into their classrooms and I was soon settled in the staff room with the baby and a cup of tea. I confess I was feeling really anxious about the whole thing, but everyone was very friendly and the boys seemed to settle in alright and get on with it, so after break I left them to it, kicking a football around in the playground.

I was so disappointed when I picked them up and all 3 told me it was really bad. I felt like someone had popped the balloon of hope I had inflated in my mind at the possibility. However, as we talked it over, they revealed that it wasn't so bad at all and might indeed be worth a try. Unschooled son said he liked the children and the teacher and had made a friend. He didn't like the lunch and he was disappointed that they didn't do more fun stuff! It was encouraging to hear that all 3 boys had found the level of work manageable and I had positive comments from their teachers about their work.

My eldest son could see the advantages, but "School is school, Mum," he said. Given the choice between a day a week there, though, and a home education group which this term is lacking any similar aged boys, he would choose the school. My second son, who is the most sensitive and likely to get anxious, was the least keen but, even he, on reflection, is willing to give it a go.

In the days since, it has been nice to see links made between what had been done at school and what we are doing at home. For example, we have been reading Roald Dahl in preparation for Roald Dahl Day next week, and the school is doing the same. So my third son and I have enjoyed reading "The Enormous Crocodile", "Esio Trot" and "The Twits" along that theme. My eldest son has been preparing a Chinese activity for his class at the teacher's suggestion, as the children are learning some mandarin - one of their teachers being taught by the same lady as teaches our boys! So that is a nice link and makes my eldest son feel he has something to contribute, which he always likes.

It is early days, and we have some weeks to trial it before anything is formalised, but I like the idea of school being one resource to utilise amongst others, of maintaining our autonomy whilst being able to access opportunities offered through school and of being part of a learning community. If it works, it is a glimpse of my idealistic vision of school as an open community learning hub. Can we build a bridge between the ideal and the reality? Well, let's see ....

11 Plus

My eldest son is 10 and would just have started in Year 6 if he was in school. A few months ago, he decided he would have a go at the 11+ exam which is still on offer in our area to children seeking grammar school entrance. We put his name down and the day of the exam finally rolled around.
I couldn't believe the length of the queue when we arrived at the school for the exam - Hundreds of boys with their nervous looking parents. Our son said he was doing the exam "just for fun" and the challenge and experience in itself will have done him good.
It is hard not to be impressed by the grammar school with its sports grounds and science labs sparkling invitingly in the morning sunshine. I look around at the anxious mothers and fathers who are placing so much hope in their son's performance, and I wonder how our little guy will get on.
I have known since he arrived in the world - just as I do with our new baby - that this boy is bright. For 10 years, I have watched him play and learn and grow, and I do not need an 11+ or an SAT result to tell me that he is clever. He loves maths and seems to 'see' numbers in a way I have never been able to. Reading and writing have come later,and he is still far stronger orally than he is able to get across on paper. But his vocabulary is broad and intelligent. How will he get on?
During our brief visit to the school some months ago we were told not to coach for the test, and as I am vehemently opposed to the 'teaching to test' which SATs tests have pushed schools towards, I was happy to follow the advice, trusting that the test will draw out the brightest children. I guess, on the day, you either perform or you don't, but I am mighty glad all my hope is not invested in the result.
As the day drew nearer, I began to doubt, and wondered whether we should have pushed harder, started preparing earlier ...? He ran through a few practice papers this week, and my husband attempted to fill in a few gaps in his mathematical knowledge which he has yet to cover in Kumon. How were we to know if it was enough?
What our son has, and I believe home education has helped him with, is a great ability to problem solve ... to look at a question and to apply all his knowledge in trying to solve it. He doesn't look for a method or try to remember a formula, but he puts his mind to finding the answer. Perhaps this will bode in his favour?
He ran in through the gate with an enthusiasm and a willingness I was proud of and, as we had advised him, he gave it his best shot. As I waited outside with the crowd of hopeful Mums and Dads, I found myself wondering what we would do if he passed? I am not 100% sure I would want him to go to school - even this impressive looking grammar school. But I found I was not 100% sure that I wouldn't want him to go either. After all, there are opportunities there for a bright young man, different opportunities to those we can offer at home. I guess we will cross that bridge if we come to it. For now it is enough that he set himself the challenge and had a go!