Sometimes people wonder what home education looks like, what do we actually do?
I heard a story recently from a home educating parent who took her small son to the dentist. Knowing that he was home educated, the dentist exclaimed, "Ah - you're the little boy who stays at home!" The child looked at him incredulously, and declared, "I don't stay at home. I go everywhere!"
I don't really like the name "home education" because it implies that we just stay at home, keeping our children in a box, separate and protected from the world outside. Nothing could be further from the reality.
I had another conversation recently in which someone assumed I would be sending my eldest son to secondary school, "Because of course he would benefit from the wider experience." Such comments show a complete misunderstanding of home education, and what we are trying to do.
You see, from our perspective, the classroom is the box, separate and protected from the world outside. And instead of "home education", we would prefer terms like, "world education", "community education", "life education."
This week has been a busy week. So what have we been doing?
On Monday, the boys had their weekly Chinese lesson with their teacher, a native speaker who comes and teaches them Mandarin, with games and songs and great hilarity. Then we had some friends round for lunch, and 5 boys aged between 11 and 3 playing Robinson Crusoe in the front room. Later, my eldest son went for his afternoon with his grandparents, with whom he studies history and reads literature. Sons 2 and 3 and I worked on our Leonardo project, making picture frames from foil pie tins, and gathering pictures for collage life masks.
On Tuesday, we met up with a group of home educating families at a local farm, where we looked at the animals and talked to the farmer about how she makes her living. In the afternoon, we took part in a crafting workshop and made festive wreaths.
When we got home, my husband took the three older boys swimming.
On Wednesday, my second son's friend came with us to a workshop at a small, local museum where we learned about Georgian life through interactive activities with the staff. In the afternoon, it was my third son's turn to go to his grandparents, where he did some artwork, history, literature. His older brothers played Lego with their friends.
On Thursday, the older boys couldn't get to school for their regular flexi day due to flooding, so sons 2 and 3 and I went on the train into our nearest city where we saw James and the Giant Peach, which son no 3 has recently enjoyed reading, at the theatre. It was fantastic, and so clever to see how these wonderful Roald Dahl stories are brought to the stage!
Afterwards we had noodles for lunch in China town at the boys' request. Their eldest brother spent the time at home helping his grandparents take care of the baby, and teaching them Origami!
Today was Friday, and I am tired out! We seem also to have picked up a bug and were all rather under the weather. Son no 2 went off to his grandparents this morning after playing his guitar for us all. He brought home some delicious pies he had made, as well as his usual history and literature readings. His brothers watched a David Attenborough documentary this morning and generally had a bit of a rest. I was out to lunch, and have also been busy this week working on setting up our new Barefoot book-selling business, which the boys have been involved in too. We are excited to have got our new website up and functional! Friday evenings are always busy with the boys out at scouts and karate.
Amidst everything else, I forgot to mention the boys' Kumon maths and English work, which they complete every day. We have decided to give the older two a break from the English programme for the time being as they are reading more independently nowadays, and we do quite a lot of literature work with them in other ways. However, they are continuing with the maths programme, and son no 3 continues to do both subjects. He is becoming a really independent learner and has this week completed his work before I have even surfaced in the morning!
So, another busy week draws to a close ... Maybe you'd agree that "home education" isn't really an adequate description for all that we do.