Home education in the headlines, and on the radio

There were a number of negative headlines around home education (or homeschooling as some parts of the media will insist on calling it) following a counter terrorism speech by a senior police officer in which he mentioned the possibility of homeschooling (yes, I know) being a possible contributory factor in the rise of extremism/ home grown terrorists.

He talked about a whole bunch of other stuff too, but I guess it just fit to criticise home education at the start of a new school year, so that was what the headlines focussed on. I saw the headlines, groaned a little, and moved on. I’m kind of weary of the negative uninformed attacks from people who can’t be bothered to do any research.

This evening thoigh, the phone rang. I was out in the garden office* trying to plan a series of articles and Big brought it out to me, saying Sandra from LBC. Would I be happy to go on line with Iain Dale this evening?

I’m not a huge fan of LBC. But I will stand up for home education whenever and wherever, so yup, I’m in.

Turns out since our last chat Iain has warmed somewhat to the idea of home education. He still has qualms, niggles, areas of concern, but he’s coming round. Which is nice. So instead of discussing terrorism, which he dismissed as a ridiculous concern, we talked about isolation, parental expertise, resources.

The thing is that home education isn’t like it was even a decade ago when we first started. Back then there weren’t very many meetups – so we set one up. We were spread around the country so we built a virtual village and had camps a couple of times a year. We told each other about cool resources, collaborated on group buys to get decent prices and made do. And it worked. Our children came out of it fine.

Nowadays even quite small towns often have a choice of meetups each week. Local colleges have wised up to a new market and are offering part time GCSE courses or vocational qualifications. (Hence Small starting maths and English next week, yay, I don’t have to find an exam centre!) Companies have noticed we exist and have started building resource packages for us, and there are so many educational apps, websites, tutor centres etc etc.

One thing Iain said that I didn’t pick up on at the time was that he didn’t feel he had the expertise to teach a 7 year old. Which if you ask me is rather a sad indictment of the education system as is. I’m not dealing with classroom management issues. I don’t have to keep abreast of the latest educational fad/must do/ absolutely can’t. Instead I can develop an understanding of my children and their interests and facilitate their learning. I can help my 7 year old learn to code when she’s interested in doing that. Craft with my 5 year old or build Lego. Find a Japanese class for the 14 year old (and boy did I earn brownie points for that one!) Teaching one 7 year old doesn’t require me to be that much more advanced than she is, and if she asks me something I don’t know, then I can teach her how to look it up. 

The other point I didn’t get around to mention is that there is a strong and supportive home education community both locally and nationally. Today I went to a meet with a group of other parents – the children played, the parents chatted. Locally there’s been a lot of negotiation with a college over potential pre GCSE offerings, and I kept up with that even though it isn’t relevant to us just now. Home education is very much a community activity, and we help each other out.

Our children aren’t isolated, far from it. Are there things they are missing out on? Probably. Just the same as not all kids in every school get the same opportunities as each other or my children. That’s the reality of life, you can’t fit everything in. Not every child can be a world class athlete, and a creative musician, and a linguist, and a scientist. You have to make choices, that’s just how it works.

I’m generally happy to take questions on home education, so if there’s anything you’d like to follow up on, please drop me a comment in the box. Looking forward to hearing from you.
*shed. Yes, it’s a shed.

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  1. “he didn’t feel he had the expertise to teach a 7 year old”
    Blimey, I’d say the younger they are, the easier it is! And also no different to just…you know…parenting them.
    I hadn’t seen this terrorism stuff, (but then I’m on a self-inflicted news blackout so that’ll be why) it makes me roll my eyes and wonder what home edders will get the blame for next.
    I didn’t get time to blog for Tuesday, but I’ve a mostly written post almost ready to go for Wednesday.

    • Am similarly avoidant on news at the moment, but this was in a load of home ed groups. We are the root cause of everything you know!

      Yup, exactly that on parenting. When you get to A level physics or something I can see getting panicked, but the basic stuff is well, basic?

  2. “he didn’t feel he had the expertise to teach a 7 year old”
    i have never understood this. I’ve heard all sorts of variations on this and can only conclude the people who say it have never been in a school (as an adult) and think some kind of esoteric magic goes on?! I helped out in Saurus school a bit, it was one of the things that helped convinced me I absolutely could do as good a job myself if not better.

    • I think part of it may be with all the gubbins about SATs and children not learning to read and that sort of thing – so people start thinking of it all as dreadfully complicated, when really it’s the system that *makes* it complicated. Or something like that.

  3. Firebird2110 says:

    “he didn’t feel he had the expertise to teach a 7 year old” that one always gets me. I can understand being concerned about GCSEs but a 7 year old? What do people imagine they’re learning that any literate adult couldn’t manage?

    The Japanese class, is that online or a local sit down with a tutor thing?

    • Exactly. But see my reply to mamacrow too.

      The Japanese class is a beginners conversational group at a local museum/art gallery place. So should be ideal to fill in the gaps given he’s been teaching himself at home for a couple of years, but hasn’t had the chance to speak/ listen.

      • Firebird2110 says:

        Ah, dd is just starting. Listening isn’t going to be the problem, she’s an Anime nut and watches almost all of it in Japanese with subs 🙂 Looked at local Adult Ed classes and there is a Japanese course so if she sticks at it we should be OK.

  4. How do you manage the balance between letting children following their own interests and, if yours are anything like mine, their interests changing every few months? If you go with the change does that mean they learn a surface level amount of everything, but nothing in depth? How do you deal with the needing to learn to stay focused on/deliver on something that doesn’t interest you (as a life skill)?
    Any tips appreciated!

    • Hm, a lot to unpack there!

      First of all, if a child has a real interest in something, a few months exploring it at home will go much deeper than the surface level they get on topics at school in a similar time. You also often find that they cycle back a while later and come at it again – it’s as if the information/ skill needs to settle for a while and then get topped up. I’ve also observed that it’s really rare anything is wasted, all the interests add to each other. Also, the whole rhythm of learning/ interests/ exploration outside a school system works differently, because it’s internally motivated instead of external.

      Life skills bring their own motivation usually, or I’d hazard a guess they aren’t actually life skills. What often happens is we learn/ get taught something that someone says we are going to need down the line, but we ourselves can’t see any point in just now. Which means we learn it badly. Whereas when you actually need a skill, you tend to acquire it pretty quickly. Or at least that’s been my experience, both as an individual, and as a home ed parent so far.

  5. I think it’s wonderful that you’re standing up for something you believe in and are passionate about. What an amazing opportunity to discuss publicly.

    • I’ve done a few of this type of thing now – always a bit nerve wracking, but yes, I’ll take any opportunity to stand up for home education!

  6. Great stuff Jax. Keeping speaking up. You make sense.

  7. “he didn’t feel he had the expertise to teach a 7 year old”
    Although we didn’t go down the home education route (mostly for reasons to do with my mental health), I do think it’s a sad reflection of society’s concept of “education” that anyone could feel they can’t teach a 7 year old. Despite having ended up with my son (now 11) at boarding school I still feel that I’m involved in his education in the broadest sense – museum, art gallery, zoo etc trips are all educational. As an example, going through customs at Adelaide airport in July we were questioned by one of the roving inspectors after he had heard me explaining about Australia’s import restrictions on food and plant items using the example of honey and Kangaroo Island bees which don’t have the veroa mite – all part of a broader approach to education.

    • I think it’s to do with this idea that there’s a *right* way to teach things like reading/writing. And that’s not a new idea, it’s expounded in that Petie Schole book I use at Kentwell and that was written in 1576. Somewhere along the line we’ve equated school and right, even though it’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that there can’t be one right way because all children are different.

      Your son is one of the least schooly children I know, and that’s entirely down to your continuing involvement and dedication 🙂 he really is getting the very best of both worlds.

  8. When I was in school all I wanted out of it was to get out of it, but when I got sick and started being taught at home with a tutor, at first all I wanted to do was go back to school. weird how things like that happen, isn’t it? But, I stuck at home schooling for a while and ended up loving it! I think it’s amazing how you can learn so much from your own home/wherever you’re comfortable.

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