Thinking Of Home Education?

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Thinking Of Home Education?

When I first had my youngest son I had never considered home education. I thought to do it you had to be rich or have some sort of formal training.

It was something that had not even entered my mind, as far as I knew your child had to start nursery, then they had to start school.

That was that.

My son changed all that.

He took that thinking and smashed it apart.

My son started nursery and I realised he was different to his peers. I’d never really noticed before as all my children are neurologically different, though we didn’t know that back then.

If you have grown up with your children always being quirky and unique you know no other way of being.

My youngest however was a little more quirky then his siblings. He did alright in nursery, it was suggested to me by someone that he may be autistic, I knew nothing of autism and looked into it.

Every bit of literature I ordered I devoured. This was my boy! He fit nearly every tick list there was, the flapping, lining up and spinning of wheels. The dislike of change in routine and his insistence of going a certain route to destinations all fit.

He was diagnosed autistic within the year.

It was not until he started reception that things went rapidly down hill. He became self injurious, miserable and his speech regressed.

When he had night terrors and meltdowns everyday due to anxiety I was told “ Well he’s fine here!”.

IMG_7956The SENCO was dismissive of any fears or ideas I raised and rubbish end my suggestions of reward charts, sand timers to aid transitions and questioned his compression vest that he used to calm and regulate himself. She went as far as to say he should not travel to school in his major buggy as it made him ‘stand out’ from his peers.

He had by then been diagnosed with Dyspraxia a condition that affects balance and co ordination. He was given the buggy by the wheelchair service and has since been given a wheelchair.

It was by chance I found out he was being bullied and I refused to send him back until I had seen the headteacher. He was dismissive of the fact my son had been repeatedly attacked, had things shoved up his nose ( polystyrene beads, he sneezed that’s how I found out all this was happening) and advised me that he “ Should have told someone”.

There was no understanding or regret, he had been given no 1.1 support.

I was told that if I did not bring my son back to school I would be taken to court.  I replied that he definitely should take me as I would love to tell the court what had been going on in his school. He suggested I deregister my son and home educate him, so  I did.

Waking up the next morning I wrote a letter deregistering my boy and advising the school to remove his name from the school roll, that he would be educated otherwise.

My son went through one year of unschooling, waking up terrified he would have to return to school. We had meltdowns as he was full of resentment fully believing I had known he was being bullied.

To him I took him there, I must have known. My sons verbal, but didn’t know to communicate what was happening as to him that’s what school was.

He was fully toilet trained during the day when he started reception, he was in there IMG_7942three months. That three months rendered a regression until recently, nearly three years later.

He is now a happy, confident little boy. He had subsequent diagnosis’s and has learning delays as well as other conditions which we work with at his pace.

My daring is now learning to write his name independently, is very good at counting money, can count to 100 and his letter recognition is coming along brilliantly.

He loves to help with cooking, he enjoys stories and works on his reading eggs tutorial mostly independently.

It’s incredible how much your child is already learning at home that you aren’t aware of.

Cooking is maths mixed with chemistry, shopping and paying for items is life skill training and budgeting.

Stories and writing is literacy, a play on the radio is drama.

Playing with Lego and pin boards is fine manipulation, visual tracking and strategising.

He also loves to draw and I have attached some of his pictures for your pleasure, they are happy and colourful just like him.

My son loves photography, small world play and trips to the woods. He loves museums and enjoys his National Autistic Society Saturday club. Music therapy group lends another opportunity to socialise with peers.

He loves to make collages from leaves and other materials and sensory play now enriches our days. I will be home educating his younger sister as well.

There’s a misconception that a home schooled child is a lonely child, that’s rarely the case. There are clubs, home ed meets and various activities.

You just have to look for them.

IMG_7925One thing I must point out is that it’s the legal responsibility of the parent to educate the child. Many parents hand they’re child over to the educational system to do this not realising they do not have to.

A school has a responsibility to ensure pupils are attending school as they are held accountable for pupil absence to the local authority.

If you’re child is having a hard time getting into school in the mornings or is school refusing completely then you can face court summons and threats from the attendance officers.

Schools now demand a letter or a photo copy of prescription for absence.

They are you’re children yet you have to justify to the school why they were not in for a day?

I asked other home educators they’re experiences and how they came to the decision, and they were more then happy to share they’re stories.

First is Cathy Withnell:

“ After starting mainstream secondary school, my daughter was made a lot of empty promises. After way too long suffering bullying, inadequate support and incorrect education for her ability, we finally stumbled upon the word ‘home education’.

I spent hours online researching the laws, I joined two Facebook groups, realised how frickin easy it was to de-reg, then dived in headfirst, well there was no where else to go, we had been pushed to the precipice already and I was frantic to save my daughter from falling, maybe even jumping off the edge.

IMG_7894Three years of home edding later, and we have a changed person. And all for the better, the meltdowns are maybe just 10. % of what they were at school, actually the social side DID fall away, but guess what, it was just what my daughter needed, no more peer pressure, no more head games with little groups of bitchy hormone ravaged kids.

So for us, we looked at autonomous education, I was giving her as much time as she needed, and being prompted to encourage her own interests, with boosts of joining some awesome groups, and plenty of outside energy release which has always been vital.

I saw speech improving as her confidence returned, I saw self esteem almost visually start to course into her pale, hurt body. My daughter is no body’s fool, and she can tell you how much she hated what happened at her school, but she is still not ready to share this in public, this pain runs too deep.

But I get whispers, shared horrors of her time in class, the desperate need to cling on to just one friend, to keep the bullies from tearing her apart. I am privileged to hear stories of the failings of support teachers, and the lies which were told, like I said, she is not stupid, she saw how they failed her, and that also has been hard, to trust where trust should be the given truth, yet never was there at all, just lies, ticks in boxes, keep the funding rolling in, and paste in the smiles of your child’s face in the SENCO report, what crap. What did home education do for us? It saved us, that’s what”.

Alison Eiffe:

“ We have always unschooled our boys aged 10 and 13, both dx ASD. When Emil (older son) was 3 he was already on the dx pathway in London, and was an anxious, sickly child. He was traumatised when left with strangers and we knew he would not cope at nursery or school.


It was then we moved to Bristol for hubby’s work, which meant we could put off the school application process. We arrived in Bristol and connected to the home ed community, and never looked back. We fell into unschooling as it suited Emil’s needs/nature. Lucian (younger son) did about 4 sessions of nursery when he was 3, but hated it. He has also been unschooled ever since”.

Sharon Binns:

We’ve been homeschooling Felix 9  and Ella 7 for 2 years. They are both aspie, Felix also has ADHD and is gifted and Ella has selective mutism and high anxiety.

Felix was at school until the end of first term in year 2. He struggled with concentration, emotional regulation and was a target for bullies throughout his time there. At the end of year 1 we had a meeting with his current teacher, his teacher for the following year, the SSO and his psychologist to put in place a plan for the coming year. It was all very nice on paper and full of lovely words, but it was never followed.  

All the calming tools weren’t offered, the breaks weren’t offered, even though we told the teacher that he would never ask, he would need to be given them. He was a constant target for bullies, who thought it was fun to do the little things that would never get them into trouble, but would wear someone down.

And they did, he was so anxious about going, every single day. he was refused the higher level work because  he didn’t finish his yr two work. He couldn’t finish it because they didn’t deal with what caused his inability to concentrate.

IMG_7876The final straw was the day be told me his teacher sat him on the floor in the class and had a go at him for 3 minutes about how he needs to take responsibility for his own learning. He was out of the school by the end of that week.

Ella lasted 6 weeks at school. We already knew it was likely we’d homeschool her too, but we wanted to give her the opportunity to try.  That’s when the selective mutism started. And the meltdowns everyday at home. And the school refusal. So we talked her teacher and the principal, which was as productive as we expected, then pulled her out a week later.

Since homeschooling: Within a couple of months Felix went from being forced to stay on low level readers because he didn’t pause long enough at the end if a sentence, to reading The Hobbit. Followed by Lord of the rings.

Ella refused to even try to read when we started home schooling so we left it. She taught herself to read by playing Minecraft and in 6 months could read at yr 1 level.  We realised that for them the unschooling approach is what they need, free to follow what interests them and learn by doing instead of bookwork. In our first year we went to so many different homeschool meet-ups and events and various science clubs etc. It helped their social anxiety enormously.

They’ll never be gregarious but Ella’s SM has significantly diminished and their confidence has soared. What unschooling has given them is confidence in themselves, in their own abilities, and they are supported in exploring their interests rather than being told what is important to learn”.

Kirstein Mann:

“ Homeschooling

It took me a year to feel confident enough to take AJ out of school. It was just what IMG_7895everyone did..go to school. I thought they knew what was best for my child. AJ is pretty smart and I was concerned I couldn’t help him achieve what he was capable of.

Over that year I watched a happy confident boy come home from school having back to back meltdowns. He would never tell me anything was wrong at school. The school told me there were no issues with him. He never questioned the rules at school and just went through the motions.

When I got to the point I couldn’t watch him suffer anymore I wrote the letter and took him out. From that day, well from the moment I told him I was doing it, his whole demeanour changed. I saw his shoulders literally relax. It was then I heard about everything he struggled with.

So now he’s homeschooled. I was going to give him time to adjust and  leave him to relax but he wasn’t up for that. He wanted some structure at home with his learning. I made some rules and I’ve tweaked them along the way. Most days we start around 9am.

Sometimes even on the weekend.

I print out English and maths worksheets from a website I’m signed up to. I also have workbooks that we use. Everyday he does some English and maths. I think these are the only thing he needs to learn in depth at his age. He does a little of both everyday.  Other subjects we do for fun. History, science, geography etc….

I’m lucky in that he is interested in knowing a lot and loves to find out as much as he can for himself.

We’ve only been at it for about 3 weeks and in that time I believe he has done more work than he ever did at school.

We have lots of days out at museums in particular. He likes exploring in the woods and finding things to look at under his microscope. Basically the world is his oyster and he learns (within reason) what he wants to.

I was wrong to be worried about the change from school to home. Just seeing him relax is reward enough”.

Lucy Ridley:

“ My exquisite little Aspie boy could not cope with school and to cut a long story short, his head finally broke (I tried and tried to make school listen but they didn’t get it) when he was 8 years old. He almost made it to the bottom of the school drive by about midday that day, then turned on his heels and RAN. I knew at that moment I’d broken my promise to him the day he was born – when he looked so TERRIFIED, like what the hell was he doing HERE? I looked him in the eye and PROMISED him that it was OK, I would look after him.

But the day he ran away from school, I don’t know how he ever forgave me for failing him so badly, and I am so grateful that he did. My sweet, sweet boy. I spoke to his teacher, of course, and the first thing she said to me was “oh, I suppose he’s too big now for you to have just carried him in?”. Oh my god. Why did I ever trust her to look after him in the first place?? So for the next 2 years, I home educated him while taking our LA to task (an extraordinarily stressful experience, but we won our Tribunal in the end). Home educating my precious boy was probably the most life affirming experience of my entire life. At first, I was a crazy mixture of feeling both scared and liberated. I didn’t know if I was good enough, if I could fully meet his needs.

He is extraordinarily intelligent in ways that I am not; I was frightened of failing him. But as it turned out, my skill was in recognising first of all that he needed a whole load of time to recover from his school experience (he was later diagnosed with PTSD because of it). We spent most of the first 6 months just playing, cuddling, going on fantastic adventure walks.

Money was tight as I could now only work a few hours a week and neither my husband nor I earned big bucks anyway. I’d save up to make sure we had enough money for the bus fare to get to forest club once a month (a home ed community meet up), so we both had some social contact in the outside world! Gradually, both of our confidence grew – I learned that it was actually quite a bonus me knowing nothing about the subjects that interested him most (quantum physics and the like), because I could only teach him how to do his own research.

IMG_7881We learned together and he blew my mind every day. The things I could help him with were the things which he struggled with most – interactions with other people. Out of the school environment, he could take as much time as he needed to observe social situations (usually from the top of a tree) and there was no pressure for him to hurry, he could join in when he was ready and it was OK. Better than OK, actually, because doing things at his own pace with me by his side when he needed me worked a treat.

He had been an avid reader up until he’d been put off reading at school, by being made to read books he wasn’t interested in. About 3 months into our home ed experience, I started casually leaving books (that I knew he’d be interested in) lying around the house. Curiosity got the better of him and before long he begun reading again.

In another 3 or 4 months, he was back to sneakily reading books in his bed by torch light. Hoorah! I would say to anyone facing the fear of the unknown when considering (or having it thrust upon them) the home ed journey… RELAX, unschool yourself. You do not have to do it the way you were taught.

Trust your instinct, and find the right home ed groups for you and your child (there are some nutters out there, inevitably, but there are also many wonderful home educators who aren’t so in-your-face, are non-judgemental, supportive and incredibly easy to be around).

Enjoy time with your child, throw out the rule book that was never going to work for your family and be free. It’s not just your child that will grow, in fact it is probably more YOU that will. Well, that’s my experience anyway. Just one word of caution to anyone home educating whilst battling for an appropriate provision for their child [my son now has a truly awesome placement at a fabulous Steiner-based school]… the hell they put you through is so worth it for your child, but the emptiness you’re left with and the loss of identity takes some adjusting to. I couldn’t find another job for ages (having taken so much time out to look after my son) which was soul destroying, I felt worthless, hopeless and lost for quite some time (but it was OK because my son was happy). Another year on, I’m happy again – I’ve got a badly paid care job but it is extremely fulfilling and I feel like me again”.

Daren Cummings:

“ My wife and I (mostly her) unschooled our for children.  Our oldest started kindergarten in public school, she came home one day upset with a note from the teacher saying she wasn’t allowed to bring “advanced reading material” to school as it would make the other children feel “stupid”…..  All because she was an advanced reader and was working on the book ” Little Women” during recess.  We asked f for advanced classes and they refused so we pulled her and started unschooling her (although the term wasn’t out yet).  Her 3 siblings have only ever seen the inside of a p public s school when they have gone as a guest with a friend.  

I now have a 23 yr old daughter who is a self taught professional photographer and  owns her own photography and web design business.  She is struggling to grow her businesses so she is also holding down a 40hr a week job until she can support herself on her own.

I have a 21 yr old daughter who is an excellent mother of a 9 mo old girl.  She has been married 2 years, she struggles partly because her husband has medical issues and IMG_7878cannot work but she is working and they are getting thru.

I have a 19yr old son who is a hard worker and knows what he wants and where he wants to go.  He’s a free thinker, very open minded and creative.

I have a 16yr old daughter who is a fabulous artist.  She is also very free thinking and open minded, and very vocal.  She is an anti-bullying activist, LGTB , accepts people for who they are and understands nobody is perfect.

Over all, the main similarity they all have is they know who they are because they were allowed to be themselves and they were taught life lessons in ways they would understand at a pace they were comfortable with.  They weren’t “moulded into good citizens”, they were taught how to understand and accept themselves the rest comes naturally.  None are perfect, but all are confident.

What public school is missing in my opinion is the ability to teach life.  Public schooled children are educated in a way that all they absorb is how to survive, we need to remember to teach how to live and compassion and understanding will become the norm.

One other note.  One of the biggest reasons we decided to homeschooling, which ended up turning into unschooling rather quick, was for the stability.  My wife grew up moving around a lot so she changed schools almost yearly, my parents tried to figure me out and tried several different public and private schools including a home study correspondence but they both worked so I didn’t get the one-on-one I needed.  

We knew we would probably move around a bit, so it made sense and since I made enough my wife could stay home and be there for the kids, while we were “poor” at times, my kids grew up rich.  I know that isn’t something everyone can do, but to do as much as possible with that type of situation as the goal is achievable often”.

Sara Challinger:

“ I don’t like the culture of bullying that exists in schools today. I also feel a lot of the curriculum is irrelevant to the children, taught in an uninteresting way and is therefore uninspiring.

I also feel that schools do not as a general rule support our children to learn in a manner or speed that suits them. It is a one size fits all system but our children are unique individuals.

What do we do all day?  We watch a lot of documentaries together and talk about them. We do life skills – food shopping, cooking etc. We try to meet up with other home  edders as my work schedule and the others schedules permit.

For the next few weeks we are learning about space as we registered with UNSA (Unlimited Space Agency) to do the Astro Science Challenge.

I don’t know if Tabatha has remembered anything we have done so far on the challenge and won’t until she tells me some random fact in a few months! But I have learnt lots from it so far, such as iPads won’t open the files for the challenge, and how to print off my iPad. It’s all positive!”.

Kerry Timberell:

“ I was lucky when I homeschooled Jack from age 13. He’d already started 3 days a week at a local falconry centre. School was horrendous, Jack was excluded on numerous occasions & finally had a managed move (it was that or fully expelled ) to another high school.

Jack was in his element at a school with worse behaviour than his previous school, started truanting & fighting.

So that was it. I phoned the school, said I’d be home educating Jack from now. Then rang the Local Education Department. Got all the advice off the internet. Jack had a one hour maths tuition, from a local tutor, who also set homework. He’d read anything on falconry & birds of prey. Loved Kez the book & film. So English was taught through that. He stayed at the falconry centre, who appreciated him.

It was the best thing I’ve done for Jack. We were even visited by the LEA who saw his (high standard Maths work ) & he showed his English books ( birds of prey etc) & she went away impressed & we weren’t bothered again.

He went on to do a roofing apprenticeship with a city college & has been in full time work since”.

Dominique Burnett:

“ Homeschool has been wonderful for my three kiddos on the spectrum.

We are able to go at their pace. Through free online resources we’ve been able to come up with great lesson plans and utilise Youtube for educational videos from math to science.

We’ve been able to meet all of my children’s needs which are unique to each child. In a comfortable environment, they are able to thrive in their learning. My oldest suffered from severe asthma and since we’ve begun homeschooling two years ago, his asthma is almost controlled now.

We use “Sensory Snacks” before each lesson begins and take a 20-30 minute break in between.  The bonding, security, and free learning that comes from homeschooling has been invaluable for our family. My children struggle at times but this is never an issue as they are in the safety of our home, where they are free to do as they need to regulate, calm, and relax”.

Pamela Bell:

“ I have chosen to homeschool for a few reasons. The first reason being that my kids were not thriving in a traditional school setting. Their grades were not the best and quite frankly the teachers and faculty at the schools were not equipped to handle my awesome  autie children.

They even called the police on my 4 year old son for having a meltdown. The other reason i chose to homeschool was because of the lack of supervision among the children at school. My children were bullied and made fun of for their differences. I have only been homeschooling for a short time now but in the short time I have I have seen dramatic improvement in my children’s willingness to learn as well as their self confidence.

For anyone that is contemplating homeschooling I would try it. I was scared at first being that I am an autie as well, I didn’t know if I could do it. But all of us as a family are learning and embarking on this journey together, which is the best feeling in the world!”

Dawn Murray:

“ For a long time, school had been a constant concern, a creator of anxiety and a continuous stressor for our family. We had frequent meetings with the school, in which the school would make promises, which would never come to pass. Harris was continuously distressed, to the point that just thinking about school was causing horrendous anxiety which impacted on every aspect of family life.

It took us a long time to decide whether home education would suit our family. I am severely disabled so it was going to fall mainly onto my husband to teach our son.

We sat together and wrote a list of positive reasons for home schooling and negative reasons. We did the same for school, that was enlightening, the pages for positive reasons for Home education were several pages long. We had half of a page for the positive reasons for staying at school. The negative points to staying at school were so long that my wrist ached afterwards. We read the results and made our minds up there and then.

When we made the decision to home educate our son, we had no idea that we would be changing the family dynamic completely. Within weeks our son went from rocking in a corner, non verbal, non communicative with anyone who visited our home. To a happy, smiling boy, who was asking to go out, and was desperate to show everyone that visited our home what he had been doing at home. Our sons social worker noticed a massive change, our boy was proudly showing off his work to her. As well as telling her all about the home ed meets he had been to, and the projects he had chosen to study.

We chose to have a period of de schooling over the summer holidays. Our son had a lot of negative energy linked to things that had happened at school, that he had to work through. There are still aspects that he gets distressed with, and we will continue to work on this.

We have a very autonomous style to our teaching. A mix of traditional schooling, with a more experience led style. My husband takes Harris on lots of field trips, to castles, museums, parks, beaches etc. They also have life skill practice together. Harris will practice shopping, working out how much things cost, how to ask a shop assistant for your order of fish/ meat. They go to the hairdressers, opticians, dentists and Harris is learning to communicate with others for a purpose when out, as well as practising vital social communication skills. We have noticed an enormous improvement in Harris’s social interaction skills!

I work with Harris for a couple of hours every afternoon. We do maths, reading, writing, logic, history and numerous other disciplines when covering topics. Harris loves it, we use a Singapore maths, maths no problem programme which has a multi sensory approach, Harris has gone from saying he is rubbish at maths to absolutely loving it! The difference is remarkable.

We are enjoying home educating so much, that we have just removed our 6 year old neurotypical daughter from school too. My biggest regret is waiting so long! Our son is happier, calmer, learning so much more and actually developing useful life skills which he can carry with him throughout life”.

I hope we have gone some way to allay your fears. Here in the U.K. You do not have to follow the Curriculum, online tutorials like Reading Eggs and Khan Academy are brilliant and sites like Twinkle have plenty of free fun worksheets to print off.

Please know you are not alone. Check out Facebook for home ed groups for support and libraries often have clubs and story mornings.

Most of all, breathe.

No more waking up to tears and going to sleep worrying.

It’s a new beginning, enjoy!

 

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