Why Do We Homeschool? [Q&A Part 4]

So here we are at the end of this series on “Why Do We Homeschool?” and this one answers some of the BIG QUESTIONS as well as some that didn’t seem to fit elsewhere.

  

How much involvement do outside bodies (local council/government/etc) need to have? Do you have inspections or have to report to anyone?

In the UK, every borough has differing levels of involvement and attitudes towards homeschooling. It very much depends on which government is in power at the time and whether they are pro or anti home education. Outside bodies don’t NEED to have any involvement but there are often calls to change this as there have been some awful cases of neglect reported in recent years. They are the result of poor parenting rather than choice to home school and so we are still free to educate our children as we see fit without inspections or reports, at least for now. A majority of questions were surrounding this hot topic!

What if your kid wants to learn something that is outside your sphere of knowledge? How do you teach subjects that you don’t know/aren’t good at/never studied yourself? How does it work when they are older and when teaching gets more complex or challenging? How will you teach your teenagers their GCSE’s in all those subjects so that they can excel? In secondary school they have specialist teachers for each subject. How do you train yourself to be a specialist in each subject? At what point do you acknowledge your limitations (unless of course you are one of those people who are good at every subject) and get a personal tutor at home to teach them or at what point, if any, would you send them to secondary school? Do they still take exams or another form of assessment?

LM: Good questions! Every homeschool parent and child has to work these ones out. Of course we cannot provide a fully comprehensive all round scope of education by ourselves, so we’ve tentatively said, as long as employers can see that they can read and write, we’ll help them all to get maths and english GCSE, and maybe a science one as their core subjects.
It’s totally possible to teach GCSEs from home, particularly if you covered the subject as a child yourself. There is no shortage of material such as free resources, past papers, and study guides. It just takes some swotting up in a subject before you teach as a parent. Sometimes a few of us homeschoolers club together to give our children small group tuition. 

Where they’re interested in something out of your depth you pray for God to provide opportunities/experiences/tuition and normally He does. PM: Our job is to make sure our children are educated, not that we do 100% of the tuition ourselves. LM: When I panic and think #ohmygoshamifailingmychildren I remember that Jesus never took one GCSE but completely changed the world, He never did drama class or extra courses in psychology or political science but had to completely rely on His Father for what He needed. Will they still reach their full potential? I still believe so, just not taking the usual route and timescale you’d expect. PM: The typical route of GSCE, A-Levels,Degree = “High Paying Job For Life”is a myth. There are often other routes to achieve your end goals, so investigate them! Consider how much of your education you use on a day to day basis
LM: Also, taking less subjects means their time can be more tailored to what the children actually enjoy and have an inclination towards. At the moment mine are hard at work studying Snapchat, Instagram and ooVoo! Keeping in touch with their friends is all-important right now while we’re 3000 miles away.

For children/parents who feel they must finish school with 9-11 GCSE’s they can always be enrolled in Secondary school from around year 9-10. I think that’s the most common option. We’re hoping our eldest will go to the local college that now accepts 15 year olds to take a few important GCSEs. Also looking at apprenticeships and work experience this year as no-one is really sure what they want to excel in yet.

Sorry for the ramble, but I hope this makes some sense.

    
What happens when they get to Uni age? Or can you homeschool to degree level? What are the older kids thinking about university? What would they like to study?

LM: You can home educate to whatever level you like if you love your subject and can make the time. In the UK the legal obligation is from 5-16 so we have one more year to go with our oldest…just 6 more to go, by the grace of God!

PM: One would like to study painting and drawing and acting, one doesn’t know if they want to go to university, but might do an apprenticeship or something as they are aware that isn’t the only route to success, and one has no idea at all!

Thanks for waiting a bit longer for this weeks post. And thanks again for asking such great questions and reading until the end of the series. For easy access, here are the links for Part 1, Part 2Part 3 and the bonus blog, Part 5

The next few posts will probably be on the challenges of technology ūüėź.

As always please share and ask any more questions in the comments.

Until next week

Phil


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If You’re Reading This, It Posted!

Now this is where I’m supposed to unveil the final installment of the “Why Do We Homeschool” series with a flourish of red cape like a Caribbean Matador [insert pic of matador here] Ole!!

Instead, if I’m lucky, you can have pic of a local goat.

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Because today, the Internet is being stubborn. Like a goat
ūüźź.

Hopefully it returns to running on¬† full steam tomorrow. As soon as it does, I’ll post the last bit.

In the meantime, why not follow me on Instagram, where there are no goat pictures!

See you soon
Phil

Why Do We Homeschool? [Q&A Part 3]

We’ve reached the 3rd part of the “Why Do We Homeschool?” series [check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already].

Big shout out to my lovely wife and co-writer Lisa who answered most of these questions on Facebook already so this didn’t take too long to put together.¬† Spongebob and Mr Krabs swimming in money…is this what we do?

How do you get paid for it?

LM: There are no tax breaks for homeschoolers, I’m afraid. You would’ve thought you could be recompensed, as your children aren’t using your local education authority budget, but I think it’s better this way anyway; at least in the UK by law (at the moment) you still get to provide education for your child pretty much how you like without government interference. I guess it would be ‘He who pays the piper’ and all that…

PM: So there are some things that would be free that you have to pay for (like books) and some things that you no longer need to pay for (like uniform). The good thing is you can take advantage of off-peak activity deals and holidays during term time! Image “Left Out” by Charamelody, used under CC BY, licensed under Creative Commons BY

What do you do about interaction with other children? How do you respond to comments like “children who are home educated lack social skills”?

LM: Interaction is most people’s main concern for homeschooled children, but you know what? Kids are kids…they always end up getting together somehow! They’ve got old school mates, a ton of church mates, some of whom they’ve grown up with from birth, they’ve got athletics and gymnastics mates, and also home educated friends of all ages, (I think the homeschool lot are more mature because they interact with lots of different age groups, and the majority of home ed kids we know are Christians or from that background, so the behaviour is usually better – home educated children are often around adults more than just their immediate peer age group). And of course, they’ve got each other – their own 6 siblings, so they can learn how to cope with bullying, being left out, rejection and teasing one another – important life and work principles . I know very few homeschooled children who are poor at interacting, unless there are special needs or extenuating circumstances.imageAre you part of any home groups? Do the children get to do P.E. or other activities?

LM: We are and either as a family or through our local home Ed group there have been lots of educational and fun activities over the years. Actually we miss out on loads of stuff as there’s always something going on but we’ve done museums, theme parks, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court Palace, boat trips, zoos, theatres, you name it! Then there’s trips with church, family days out and holidays like everybody else, I guess.

PM: There are so many activities going on around us but you wouldn’t know unless you were looking. The list is endless. Some areas have more going on than others but you’re free to attend activities wherever you like.

LM: It’s amazing what opportunities the Lord has opened up where we don’t have the resources ourselves. They’ve played hockey in a fellow homeschooler’s mini-field, then there are church picnics when someone always organises an impromptu rounders match, or shooting some hoops at the park with local neighbourhood kids, they have regular swimming group classes, weekly kick-abouts with volunteer trainers from a local Premier League football club, twice weekly athletics for our older boys, who’ve excelled to run for their borough, and my older daughter loves her gymnastics classes.

Next week is Part 4 of this series which will be the last part so please ask any last minute questions you may have in the comments section, or tweet @philmayers.

Why Do We Homeschool? [Q&A Part 2]

The first post in this series looked at¬†the question¬†“Why Do We Homeschool? [Part 1]“.

Now¬†to crack on with answering some of the brilliant questions our friends have¬†asked via social media…

How different is school to homeschool? Do you have a uniform, lunch boxes? What does a typical day of homeschooling practically look like? How much time do they spend learning a day?

Every homeschool runs differently to meet the needs of each individual family. Some have uniforms and lunch boxes (we don’t), others work in their pyjamas. I would describe our approach as laid back, flexible and eclectic. So while a school typically runs from 9:00-15:00 Monday to Friday, the beginning and end of our day¬†can vary. Also we¬†sometimes work through school holidays or take time out during normal term time to go on outings or holidays, like the one we’re on now.

Schooling takes many forms including practical aspects¬†like chores and character building alongside academic work. We have a “buddy” system where our older kids help the younger ones get ready ¬†and spend some time helping them with activities or teaching them before starting their¬†academic work. Most mornings¬†the younger ones spend some time with Dad before I start work, while the older ones usually work with Mum or on their own. We normally cover core subjects every day; Maths, English and Science interspersed with Geography, History, Arts and Literature during the week. We’re normally finished by 16:00¬†at which point they have free time, extra curricular activities and help with dinner. Later on we also discuss our day, current affairs and faith whilst together at the dinner table.

How do you split your time between the different age groups?

Daily timetables, planners and rotas are essential to our well-being! We plan things from the¬†subjects they’re doing, to what meals we’re eating for the month. These days I prefer to plan¬†more and improvise less. ¬†We use a mixture of shared digital calendars (thanks Google) and laminated printouts all over the house.

We teach using a mixture of self-led learning, group learning and one-on-one teaching, which sometimes includes tutors. Each child has different needs and levels of ability, so knowing their strengths and weaknesses as well as gauging what they need to know at each age is key.

Does/Doesn’t it ever get boring? What do you find challenging?

Not for us…maybe for them! For us there’s a lot of researching, planning and re-discovering the love of learning for subjects that we didn’t always have when we were at school. There are times of repetition sometimes to solidify a topic, or if someone isn’t getting something but that can also lead to creative moments of explaining things in a different way. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when someone has their “Eureka” moment. The challenging parts are less to do with the teaching itself than character, but we’re happy to spend more time on things when needed, pause when necessary, or move on and come back to things at a later date. As adults, we’re a¬†part of the learning process too.

How do you decide the curriculum? Where do you get your resources from?

Our children range from age 1 to 14. We pick and mix our curriculums (I know purists will want to me use curricula but this is not an academic thesis ūüėä) using things such as CGP, Letts, National Curriculum, material that¬†other home¬†educators¬†sell or give away,¬†free and paid resources available on the Internet¬†as well as things¬†we are inspired to create and present to the children. We’ve also used tutors for a few short seasons.

We’ve covered about 10 questions there and there’s still more to come [Edit: Part 3 is here]so if yours hasn’t been answered yet, it should come up in the next post or two. We’ll be covering things like exams, outside bodies, level of education, social skills, interaction and more.

Thanks again for commenting and sharing. These posts have proved to be very popular!

Why Do We Homeschool? [Part 1]

It’s finally here! I’ve been planning to write this blog series for the last 3 years (most of the time was spent procrastinating¬†working on other projects, so don’t expect 3 years worth of material). It’s also the first time I’m officially introducing Mrs Mayers, so when I write ‘we’ or ‘our’, you know who I’m talking about. ūüėä

We also want to say a big thanks to our Twitter and Facebook friends who have asked us a stack of questions relating to home education, and patiently waited for us to blog about it.

So where to start?

Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start).


In our family, there’s a song for everything!

Our main reasons for homeschooling were wanting our 3 children (at the time) to be closer to us and to each other, and live a holistic life not one where their faith was compartmentalised into a few hours on a Sunday. They were in school already and it was striking to see how they were able to spend the best part of their waking day listening to their teachers, following instructions and being model children, but were the complete opposite at home!

We had some good friends that home schooled before us, and just knowing them dropped a seed in our minds which began to sprout as we grew more unhappy with the education system (especially the organised Mafia/PTA racket. Do you have one of those at your kid’s school? Always extorting money from you?). I also remember the school was keen to place negative labels on the kids like ‘fidgety’ and ‘poor reading skills’ even at the age of 5 or younger.

This journey took a couple of years where my wife was initially more keen than I was but after a while, I came around to the idea and initiated Deregistration Day in 2009. 

Picture chosen for dramatic effect. The actual letter was word processed.

I wrote the letter to the headteacher of the school withdrawing them from the end of that term rather than disrupt things and pull them out immediately.¬†It was the first time they’d ever had to de-register someone from their school before, but was a very straightforward process.

And that was that! We were free. Ready to embark on a new and exciting journey into the unknown world of home education after the summer break. But what should that look like?

I’ll continue the story next week Monday [edit: Part 2 is here] and begin to answer your questions so keep ’em coming. Also please share with your network or anyone that you think might be interested.

3 Things I’m Grateful For

¬†Life is very different in St Kitts. Now if I was organised, I would have 16 things to be grateful for in 2016, but because I’m not (yet), I’m just going to do 3 (aka 3 Things I Take For Granted in the UK).
1. Running water (which is sometimes hot).

There are a couple of different reasons this one makes the list. Over here, the water sometimes goes off at night and the pressure is variable anyway, which affects whether or not the hot water kicks in! Not every home here has a water supply so standpipes are a regular sight here too.

2. An Internet connection

As someone who uses the Internet every now and then ūüėä I’m truly grateful that I can keep up to date with what’s going on in the world and keep in touch with friends. A couple of noticeable differences though. The Internet is SLOW. Currently 2Mbps (but moving up to 6Mbps soon) compared to the 50Mbps I’m used to at home. But hey, give me warm weather and slow internet over cold weather and fast internet any day.

3. Electricity

We had our first power cut recently. No electricity means no wifi, or charging devices, or using a microwave, or having lights. It’s another one of those things that are “just there” ready for you to use whenever you want, so when it’s not there, you really do feel it.

So if you have hot and cold running water, an Internet connection and electricity, recognise that you are blessed!

What are you grateful for?

Oh, and here’s one of my favourite tunes. Grateful (Fanatix Remix) by Dennis Ferrer & Kenny Bobien.

 

Living off the Land

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One of the things that is noticeably different about living in St Kitts is the abundance of food that either grows nearby, or can be supplied by a neighbour (often they just bring things round for you).

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So far we’ve had breadfruit, bananas, coconuts, pumpkin, starfruit, breadnuts, yam, oranges, peas and watermelon all for free!

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Some veg still has dirt on it, or is shaped strangely, but organic is much more tasty. Coconut water fresh from the coconut is much nicer than anything I’ve bought from the shops.

To be continued…