The first months and years of homeschooling typically involve a lot of deschooling for your kids and yourself. Here's what it looked like for Caroline.
By Caroline Silver
My epiphany in the woods | Sept 2011
Our four-year-old was pouring her usual wonder on the world as she inspected some dead leaves. Her questions led to a conversation about compost, the seasons and the sun. I paused for a moment... if everything was so intrinsically connected, why was school separating the universe into boxes and shutting kids indoors?
I did a tonne of research to find the answers and I wasn’t impressed.
A year later… we decided to send her to school anyway.
Why? We thought she might thrive despite our doubts.
After nearly three years in school, she told me how unhappy and bored she was that school was wasting her time.
So when everyone else went back to join the new academic year, she didn’t. Instead, we rocked up to a Home Education “Not-back-to-school-picnic” in a beautiful Park with about 50 other families. I didn’t know anyone. It was a perfect introduction.
The first few days and weeks
We started our days with me answering Isabel’s questions. It was such a delight. A spark of a particular curiosity would catapult her out of bed and off to make, write, draw or research something. I also kept a world learning picture book by the bed to introduce new topics if need be.
As she was so fired by her own curiosity, I treated Maths and Literacy as the only things in need of focused time.
I would do 20 minutes of Maths and then we took turns to read to each other, followed by some spelling games. The rest of the day she explored through books, DVDs or the Internet on the topics that most interested her – Space, Tsunamis, Hurricanes and inventions!
I based our weekly “schedule” around socialising at a couple of local midweek groups. Other days were a mix of spontaneous Museum or Gallery trips and Home Ed organised events. She refused to go to anything that had a formal learning environment.
The next few months
These were the same except for a few adjustments. I realised that even 20 mins Maths a day was not necessary. She loved numbers anyway so I waited for her to ask me questions or I used supermarket trips and cooking as my main vehicle. Maths is the art of measuring things, right?
She wrote tonnes of stories because she was inspired by books and movies and I learnt not to correct spelling as it was soul destroying for her to have her creations criticised. I just made a note of what kept cropping up and made spelling games for another time.
I also dropped asking her to read to me as she would read out messages or signs perfectly because she was learning this through everything else she was doing.
I always sat with her when watching the TV or DVDs because of all the questions she would have about the content. I used the Pause button a lot. Great learning time!
We travelled to a variety of countries. Holidays were just an extension of our everyday life of learning by now.
The end of our first year | Sept 2015
We had a very successful first visit from the Local Authority Education officer. We had covered masses of life knowledge in a year.
I started to become more focused on good parenting skills as a means to a successful Home education and by using Pam Laricchia's weekly podcast and the online conference run by HappilyFamily.com I was and continue to be reassured when I have wobbles about, “Are we doing OK?”
A typical day | Nearly two years in
My role now is still to be available to answer questions but has evolved more into being engaged with and interested in her work and to carry on providing new vistas of learning at appropriate intervals.
On a typical day, Isabel still wakes up naturally and busies herself or comes to me for a chat and a cuddle. She is now nearly 10.
She’s almost completely self-reliant, using YouTube to research tutorials. Her favourite activity is coding, making stop-go animation movies and inventing cartoons. She is reading and spelling all the time to enable her own progression. At bedtime I still read to her to keep her love of new books alive and then she writes in her diary App and Spell-check helps her spelling. She drafts new game ideas on paper ready for the next day or reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Prompted by whatever questions she has, we also chat about anything and everything. Last night it was Alzheimer’s and Donald Trump.
These typical days are mixed with play-dates with a handful of good friends and peppered with outings like a recent one to see “The Lion King”. After the show, we caught the Thames River boat home so we’d see all the London landmarks. As usual, she had loads of questions…”Why was Simba going to be the next King? Who decided who would be the first King of England?” And on passing the Houses of Parliament… “What does the government do if the Queen is in charge?” And so on….
Which reminds me, a day’s outing to find a Geocache at the British Library started a discussion about “Mad King George III” because we discovered that his entire collection of 82,000 books was there.
Learning is truly everywhere!
Caroline was born in the lush green countryside near Oxford. She became a mum in her forties and lives in London now and homeschools her daughter. She's had many jobs - Tax Specialist (Ugh!), Fitness Trainer (Yay!), Architectural Designer (Finding myself at last) and now Artist (Yes!).