Since the publication of the feature I wrote explaining why I decided to homeschool one of my daughters, I have been asked a number of times about various aspects of homeschooling; What do you do each day? What about exams? How does your child socialise? Do you ever get time to yourself? How do you juggle working from home with teaching your child? Amongst many others. So, I thought it may be useful to write a series of succinct posts that address these questions and a few others, in the hope that they may inspire, intrigue or interest some of you who may be considering an alternative to mainstream education for your child…
I should say however, that we are relatively new to homeschooling – this week (May 15th) marks one year since our journey began. My daughter is now 14 and so we/I am only really familiar with homeschooling a teen (I am also an ex-secondary school teacher) and so cannot comment on homeschooling children of primary school age. I have however spent many months researching alternative forms of education, spoken to many home educators and their children (some who have homeschooled for many years and others who are new to it, like us) and I am active in a number of online homeschool support groups (which are an invaluable source of information).
As I write this article in May 2018, we are 12 months in, and my daughter is a happy, positive, thriving individual. We are so glad we made the (very difficult) decision to remove her from mainstream education. I also currently have a daughter in Year 6 (last year of primary) and my eldest daughter is weeks away from completing a two year College course. I am not anti mainstream education (although there are many things about it that rattle my cage) but I am passionate about finding a learning environment that is suitable for each individual child.
So, I thought perhaps the best way to start this series, before we get into the nitty gritty, is to give you a breakdown of a typical day for my homeschooled daughter.
A typical day
Tilly gets up and dressed. She usually organises her own breakfast whilst I take her younger sister to school. The idea is that she is up fed and watered and ready to go by 9am when I return from the school run, whereby we have a quick chat (and a cup of tea) about plans for the day.
9am – 11am
As I work from home during this time, Tilly and I usually set a task that she can be working on the night before, so she knows what she is getting up to. We do have a timetable, but we tend to see these hours as ‘independent learning time’. Fortunately, Tilly is an able, motivated child and so this type of learning is feasible, this may not be the case in other circumstances (I am also very grateful for this as it allows me time to work – hello reality!). Here is a list of the types of things Tilly does during her independent learning time:
Calligraphy – Tilly is loving sharing her calligraphy work on Instagram at @matildascalligraphy. Here she is below, enjoying the new ink that she got for her birthday.
Baking – I am rubbish at this, so it is me who learns from Tilly!
Reading and answering practice questions (BBC Bitesize is good for this) on the English text that we are studying. Currently reading Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ – we’ve just finished Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which she really enjoyed. We intend for Tilly to sit a number of GCSE exams over the next two years – I will let you know our plans for this and how to find suitable centres that take external candidates (not as easy as it may seem!) in a future post.
Completing Maths based tasks (Tilly sees a Maths tutor once a week for 2 hours and is set work to complete at home – this takes the pressure off me a little and has also alleviated her fear of this subject).
Watching a documentary that we discuss afterwards – science, crime, discrimination etc. This is one of my fave things to do as Tilly gets so much out of the discussion and always presents such good arguments and asks so many questions – she keeps me on my toes!
Choice – Sometimes Tilly expresses an interest in a particular area and we just go with it. Last week she was keen to write a fictional story and so she used her independent time to do just that. Today we are clearing our garden and adding some potted plants/flowers, so Tilly has spent the morning researching what is available at our local garden centre and what would work best in our garden space, before we head out to purchase them.
Life Skills – One of the biggest issues to get over as a home educator is not to feel like you need to entertain your child with skilfully crafted learning sessions every moment of every day. There is much to be said about allowing your child to learn how to use the washing machine, hoover up, walk the dogs, take the bins out, change the bed sheets, budgeting for shopping etc. Tilly is much more capable at all of these everyday tasks because we have had the time to do them. They are real and important aspects of life.
We try to have a tea break around this time and Tilly can tell/show me what she’s been doing with her independent time in the morning (see above). We then usually walk our dogs before lunch, which in itself is another good opportunity to discuss nature, take photographs etc
Go for a swim at our local leisure centre
Return home and have lunch.
1pm – 3pm
We usually focus on English Literature/Language and/or Maths. We follow the awarding body Edexcel (Pearson) for specific reasons which I will discuss in a future post. Having downloaded the scheme of work from their website, we use this as a guide alongside the appropriate text books which we purchased online. This is working well as we can get so much done working one-to-one.
As I head out to collect Rowan from school, we usually see 3pm as the end of our ‘school’ day. Although Tilly will often help make tea as she enjoys experimenting with recipes – I work from home 4pm-6pm, so having a helper at ‘teatime’ is invaluable to me. On Sundays Tilly volunteers at our local Animal shelter ( I will cover volunteering opportunities in a future post), but generally our week days look a lot like the above.
(Tilly (R) skating with her sister Rowan – they LOVE to skate!)
Over the coming weeks I will take a closer look at the following aspects of homeschooling; deschooling, volunteering, examinations (and what subjects to teach), socialising, exercise and top tips (learning opportunities) and a post by Tilly regarding homeschooling from the child’s perspective.
If you have any questions or want to offer any advice, it will all be warmly received…thank you!