If you haven’t read the Part One of ‘Our First Year of Home Education’, you can find it here.
Over on Instagram I introduce us as semi-unschoolers. That’s as close a description as I can get right now to what we do.
Whilst I’ve done my research on unschooling, reading books and listening to podcasts, neither Andy nor myself are comfortable with completely unschooling the girls. I know that stems from our own perceptions of school and education. I know it’s because I’ve spent most of my life in the school system and I still have work to do on myself.
So we feel like we’ve hit a comfortable compromise that true unschoolers probably wouldn’t agree with. I’m not planning lessons, but in the mornings I am providing the girls with an invitation to play or to learn. Sometimes they’re interested, sometimes they’re not. I’m spending more time observing them and listening to them to come up with activities that will engage them, or answer questions they currently have, or will plug a knowledge gap that will help them. In short, I’m trying to be more responsive.
Then, after lunch, the rest of the day is their own. They can choose what they’d like to and if they need me to facilitate then I will. So it’s not unschooling in its truest sense, but it’s working for us right now.
Our Home Education Community
If you home educate, you know that the main thing everyone feels the need to bring up is socialising. Of course, children do so much socialising in the traditional school setting, don’t they?! (I’m even rolling my eyes as I type that).
The girls have maintained friendships with three children they used to go to school with. Two of those children are sisters, exactly their ages, and we’re friends with their parents.
We wanted to start to get to know some other home educated children, so my starting point for that was Facebook. I joined a few groups and found out about things we could go to. So now we have two social groups, a forest school, and an art class. We’re going to drop one of the social groups as it’s too big and noisy for us, and we’re going to try a rock climbing group at the girls’ request in September.
We met a mum and two of her children at one of our groups and started to build up a friendship which was lovely. Her daughter is the same age as E (and also used to go to school) so they’re gotten along really well. We’ve had them all over to play and been swimming with them, and I know I could chat to their mum about anything that’s worrying me! So it’s been trial and error but, prior to COVID, it did start to feel as if we were beginning to build up our own community of home educators.
What Would We Change?
The biggest thing I would change is that I would never have sent my girls to school in the first place! I’ve loved having them at home and learning things with them. Being there as they discover new skills or helping them through something they’re struggling with. I loved being a teacher, but nothing has been as rewarding as home educating my own children.
I definitely wouldn’t have put all the time into planning as I did and that would have taken a weight off me. But, we do what we know and as a teacher I knew how to plan! Going with the flow more has definitely been right for us.
Another thing I’d change is how we felt telling friends and family members about our decision to home educate. I almost felt embarrassed and that people would judge us. They may well have done, but I know now that it really doesn’t matter.