How not to homeschool or how to homeschool starts with a change in the name. Homeschool, as I have found it so far is used more in the States. Most of us seasoned home educating UK based parents refer to it as home education. It might sound like petty semantics but we live in a world where we understand the importance of language. We see how damaging patriarchal, heteronormative, racist language negatively impacts on the lives of others. Semantics matter!
School is a construct, education is an abstract concept that can occur in many ways and many environments. It may sound like a small thing but it is a big shift in thinking.
I referred to ‘most of us seasoned home educators’. Yes I am a home educating mother who also works from home full time too. I rarely talk about it here on the blog as it is not the main focus of what the site is about and in all honesty it is nice to have areas of my life that are still mine, today I am making an exception. Believe me when I say that I and multitudes of other home ad families are also currently freaking out about this. This is not how we operate, it is as un natural for us as it is for you. Home may well be in the title of what we do but we are rarely at home. We have classes and workshops, group visits the same way a school would. We arrange social meets. We normally have, on an average week; French, music, drama, a social, forest school, swimming, a museum or gallery visit. Being confined and away from friends is causing strange feelings in us and our children too.
Your relationship and their well-being are paramount.
Firstly do not beat yourself up it is really hard to make sure that our language and actions are not rubbing off on our children in these times, we have never been here before in living memory. Also remember for weeks now they have been out in the world with playground whispers and who knows what fears and anxieties they may have. Their routine is disrupted and they may not have the vocabulary to fully articulate what they are feeling about that and the world events – many adults cannot articulate exactly how we feel about this. So you are absolutely doing the right to let them have down time. The most important thing you need to do is maintain healthy family relationships. Try and facilitate as much normality and socialisation into their day as possible and if that means online collective gaming or facetime or some other cool thing that young people know about that I don’t then let that happen.
Not everyone starts home education from the outset the way I did many families de-register their children for a variety of multi-faceted reasons. Those children by and large go through a period of de-schooling. It is normal for them to pull away from educational activity in the first couple of weeks. Breathe, relax, they will not end up in an academic gutter because of this.
Remember learning ALWAYS happens homeschool or not.
Every school will be different and each child will be at a different stage of their academic career but before writing this I spoke to 8 different teachers from 8 different schools who all told me that the ‘work’ they sent home was to help parents, to give parents something not to stress them. With this in mind if your child is resisting the given worksheets/work assigned do not allow your relationships to break down over this.
Remember for years you were their primary educator. In that time they learned; language acquisition, fine and gross motor skills, interpersonal relationships and how to manage them, game theory, basic maths and literacy, story development through role play. So much of your day can be learning but, and here is the most crucial lesson re-frame that.
Language is key when encouraging natural learning
Our language is so important here, refrain from calling things work, practise, education or learning. For children who are resisting those are not fun and engaging words. Instead of lets do some writing practice say; wouldn’t it be cool to make a pretend newspaper right now making up silly stories about wht is happening in our home. We could have a funny headline about who spilt the milk today. Straight away you have writing, art, language, creative writin ppossibly I.T. “Oooh because we are cooped up let’s make travel plans for after this is over”, and without realising it you are looking at a geography lesson, weather patterns – when the best time to go is, other cultures and customs, currencies. You may see an historical link to explore. Allow yourselves to go down a research rabbit hole. Do we have the ingredients in to re-create some of those local dishes.
Your home is not about to have an Ofsted inspection.
Schools and teachers are under an immense amount of pressure to quantify what has been done in a school day, that is the pressure that many hate, not the kids, it is the system that puts pressure on teaching staff. It is also the reason many teachers home educate their own children. They know the constant paperwork and assesments is what is ruining learning and they will understand if you do not have lots of written work from your children. Repeat after me; I do not need to have written evidence of what is being learned.
Much of the evidence I keep as a home ed parent is pictorial and my own notes and that is only there for my own peace of mind. So with that in mind you can incorporate learning subversively. Ask them to help you with cooking, get them to read the recipe out. Talk about nutritional choices and get them to look at what you have in and ask can you help mummy plan meals that will keep us healthy. If your child is kicking against didactic teaching look for things you can learn together.
Discussion is a key part of home education.
Say you are taking advantage of the many art and craft tutorial that are available online at the moment. Take part with them. Talk about weaving/knitting/watercolour/block printing within a context. There are so many historical, cultural, even political issues around these art forms. Chat about them, if they ask something you don’t have an answer to, look it up together. These discussions can come from anywhere. When watching Dumbo we got into a chat about animal rights in the circus, the history of travelling circuses in America and blaxploitation in TV and film.
If you and your children function better with a little routine, we do then projects are your friend. I can talk in brief about our Moon/space project. We looked at historical names of new moons, and invented our own. Looked at moon poetry and stories and then made our own. We did the same for music – we went a little rogue and listened to Space Oddity – Bowie. We ended up looking at the cultural significance of the moon. We then looked at art. We made our own paintings, we looked at leaflets and the language and graphics used and then we made ones for the moon. Then we made them for other planets. We made phases of the moon clay. We looked at traditional weather superstitions and links to the moon. The moon and links to breeding cycles in animals. This is a non-exhaustive list and we are nowhere near done. This is how I manage to work. We look at things together and then the day is littered with self-directed tasks. Even younger ones can paint and draw and make posters.
If you want to find a list of great online resources check out this post. Keep an eye on social media as more and more are popping up daily.
All of this is great advice but as I said at the beginning, and it is worth repeating here again. Your relationship with your children is the most important thing to maintain right now. You are all cooped up, tensions will be running high have lots of down time, all of you, as much as you can manage.