In part 9 of our ‘home educator’s journey’ series, Anna discusses how the flexibility of home education shapes her approach to a typical week.
There are many ways that home educating families work and it can take time to find a pattern that suits your family. Some families have an unstructured approach and children learn by following their interests, others are more structured following one of the many curriculums that are available and others, like us, have a semi-structured approach which takes a bit of both approaches.
There is a whole range of groups available for a variety of interests and organised visits to places of interest. In our first year we took the time to explore all of the groups or events that interested us. We were exhausted by the end of the year and had to make decisions about which activities we wanted to continue. This changed over the year as new activities were discovered and older ones abandoned. We have experienced ice skating lessons, theatre trips, farm workshops, sports groups, museum visits and film festivals.
Now in our third year we feel that we have a pattern that suits us. We generally sit together and carry out structured work in the mornings as that is when we all work best. The younger children usually complete maths and English work daily and then we have topic work on the go that we fit around our groups and visits. At the same time Lucy will be working on her GCSE courses.
When I was class teaching I was an advocate of hands on and experiential learning and this definitely reflects in our home education work. We plan lots of visits and days out to complement and build on the work we are doing. We find that the children learn so much more in this way and they make links between things they have seen before. This helps deepen their understanding of a topic.
Now we have a rough timetable for each week although this can be flexible if there is an event we would particularly like to go to. We have fortnightly French lessons in a small group with a great teacher who uses games and songs to help develop language skills. Later that day we attend a social group which may have board games, arts and crafts or just a park meet up. We also have one day where we attend a variety of classes with other home educating families. The children all do different activities on this day – football, multisports, drama and lego club. This is also a great chance for the adults to have time to socialise and share ideas while the children are busy. We often stay on after classes and play at the park with friends. We have one day where we attend a multi-sports session at the local gym. This gives the children a chance to play team games and learn sports skills. To support her GCSE studies Lucy has often joined other teens who are studying the same subjects and has worked in small groups on particular topics. Talking with others about her learning has been a key way of ensuring she understands the material she has studied.
We have two days a week without scheduled activities. We use these to go out and about and visit places. Sometimes we go to museums that we know link with work we are doing or have organised days out with other families. There is such a range of resources and learning opportunities that we always find something exciting to do. Some of our favourite trips have been The Wonderlab at the Science Museum, The Crystal exhibition – learning about sustainability – and the home education days at Sacrewell farm where we have had a range of farm experiences from bread making to trimming sheep’s hooves. We are also very guilty of sometimes doing too much and needing to take a break from being out and about all the time. We have learnt that it is OK to take a break when we need it and occasionally spend time at home watching documentaries or films, playing board games, or reading. The real joy of home education is the flexibility and fluidity – it can change each week or over time to fit the needs of your family.
Read the previous blogs in the series “Selecting our course provider“, “Getting started”, “Home educating through GCSEs”, “Booking exams”, “Studying GCSE Sociology” (plus “Studying GCSE Sociology – Tutor response”), Using learn@nec and Tutor Support, GCSE revision at home, and Studying GCSE Maths.