Look at the Birds of the Air - both side
IMG_20200529_153750.jpg

Basics

 

 

 

The First Basic: Love

This might seem obvious, but I might as well state it: we want the foundation of our family life including our home education to be love!

We want the kids to feel saturated in love. Loving words, loving actions, loving attention. The first thing we do in the morning is attempt to give each child a cuddle, preferably altogether in bed. Night time snuggles are filled with love and words of affirmation. 

We want our marriage to show love and respect that we can be proud for them to copy. We aim for the way we speak to our children is worthy of copying too (sometimes a challenge for Mummy!)​

Ideally, we'd like the children to witness Mummy and Daddy's love spill out to the World around us. If it is possible in our jobs, in acts of kindness in the way we treat our friends, family and those who are different to us, we are happy!

Work out your Relationship

Every home educating family has a different parent-child dynamic. It's worth spending some time working this out before leaping into home education. How does everyone show each other respect? What are your boundaries going to be? What are everyone's responsibilities? Who is in charge of learning direction - everyone as a group? Parents? Children? Parent-led with significant child input?

Why is academic and skill-learning going to happen in the home? Because children want to learn something and have spontaneously asked? Because parents have shared the importance of skills for future life? Because of an infectious love of knowledge? 

Things You Might Have Missed From School

School is a convenient place for governments to administer all sorts of child services. Here are a few to help check if you have any gaps:

  • Eye tests

  • Ear tests

  • Vaccinations

  • Cycle testing

  • Anti-racism training (with a little research, you can do better than the schools, especially as you will have the time to do a racially inclusive history or go deeper into a foreign language if you choose to)

  • Mental health

  • English as a second language for those who are not native English speakers

  • Ofsted (you are going to have to monitor your own learning provision. The home education environment is very defensive and therefore not super-open to being honestly self-reflective)

  • Exercise and time outdoors (I give myself a goal of three hours outside a day which really helps us prioritise getting outside!)

  • Swimming lessons (many home educators use subsidised home ed classes)

  • School trips (yours will be better quality as your kids will have more freedom to explore and more adult support when asking questions)

  • Team sports and ball skills

  • Group project work

  • Drama (half term and summer groups are a great resource)

  • Choir or group music making (we use church for this)

  • Public speaking (again, church has been a useful place for us to let our kids speak on a microphone in front of a crowd)

It hasn't been hard for me to tick these things off, there are plenty of opportunities once you know where you need to look.

Physical Learning Environment

After some trial and error, here's what we're looking for in a good home education set up:

  • One main learning and living room. The kids quickly learn the skills they need not to be distracted by each other. The benefits are that we spend a lot of time bonding as a family, we learn more from each other, discussions can spring up from each other's work and if we are speaking in a foreign language the others benefit a little too.

  • A decent-sized table with comfortable chairs for the children to work together​. Especially important if you need a safe-zone from a baby (until they climb the table!). Table will get stained, cover it if you care about this.

  • Potential distractions removed from the room, or removed from the house. We have no iPad, TV or electronic toys except for the ones that make realistic bird song.

  • Educational materials that you'll need easily accessible. If there's a toddler on the prowl, materials need to be at the height that only the relevant siblings can get them. This will save you so much stress.

  • Materials that you want the children to access themselves, e.g. stationary, science equipment, paper, relevant books, are easy to reach and visible. Materials that you don't want to be accessed without your supervision are in another room and/or out of sight.

  • Loads of books on display, if you can find a way to accomplish this. Charity book shops often get rich/well-stocked families donating their entire book stock of one age range as their kids grow older, you can pick up some incredible stuff.

  • A soft chair or sofa for snuggle reading.

  • We like to have an open piano in our main room. It really encourages them to want to play.​

Family Expectations and Habits

These are some of our family expectations and habits. We feel comfortable with them and they work for us. What will you choose? How will you choose them?

  •  We got the idea of aiming for a parenting style of high love combined with high expectations from a book called Brain Rules For Baby. It's basically quite a high-effort way of parenting, but we're enjoying it so far. 

  • We expect the kids to helps with some real jobs.

  • We praise kindness, helpfulness, encouragement of peers, effort and perseverance rather than achievement. We have a family breakdown of growth mindset which says, "you only become as good as the number of good quality mistakes you have made". In our family, a good quality mistake has 4 parts:

    1. Make an honest mistake (not on purpose or through having a sulk, but a mistake you made while you were trying)​

    2. Notice your mistake

    3. Work at trying to rectify your mistake

    4. Repeat that same action again but well

  • When we discuss possible ideas for their future lives, we plant seeds of how they might use what they have to help other people.

  • Healthy eating, veg boxes, minimum 5-a-day fruit and veg, limiting processed food, salt and sugar etc. Meat and fish limited to weekends and special occasions. (I'm vegan, but haven't forced it on the kids).

  • Very limited screen use, no TV. 

There are a huge range of different home education styles. What do you think will work for you?

An Evolving Timetable

 

Our timetable has been in constant flux based on the needs of our children. When our first child was 2, this was our timetable:

  • Wake up, feed and cuddle

  • Go downstairs and look at the beautiful activity that Mummy and Daddy had prepared the night before on the coffee table (a daily feat never managed for any of her later siblings).

  • Breakfast

  • Walk Daddy to the station

  • Some combination of social activities, playdates, outside time, nature play, lunch and naps. Outside aim - at least 3 hours a day

  • Dinner

  • Hygiene

  • Read an English book, Chinese book and Christian book

  • Sing lots of songs

  • Breastfeed to sleep

Our subsequent children have been much more rushed as we cave in to squeezing more and more things into our timetable. (Argh!) 

 

The basic pattern for us now is schoolwork in the morning (5 subjects) and outdoor play/socialisation in the afternoons:

MORNING BASICS TICK-LIST: Achieved any time between 07:00-1:00

  • 6:30/7:00 - children pile into bed, waking co-sleeping baby.

  • Morning family cuddles in the big bed. Essential for reminding each child they are loved and not just my student.

  • Teeth

  • Wash

  • Clothes

  • Breakfast

THE FIVE "THINGS": Finished BEFORE 1:00. 

(See subject pages if you're interested in subject content)

  1. Maths​

  2. English​

  3. "World" (Science, Computing, History, Geography, R.E., Current Affairs, etc.)​

  4. Chinese

  5. Piano

OUTSIDE: Any time

  • Aim - 3 hours a day outside.

  • Aim - at least once a week in nature e.g. woods.

Can be walking to something, playing, exploring, studying in the garden, picnic lunch, an outdoor playdate etc. We live by a river, so we spend a lot of our summer here catching fish and floating umbrellas.

SOCIALISATION: Any time after "The Five Things"

  • Aim - at least 2 hours uninterrupted, unguided free play with kids from another family. We like to try and do this outside where possible because it makes the outside aim easier to achieve and it's fun.

CLUBS: Afternoon

  • We squeeze in various clubs around the afternoon.

BEDTIME ROUTINE: End of the day

  • Dinner

  • Family God Time

  • Eldest - personal God Time and personal reading

  • Parents reading to kids (based on book listening level of Child No. 2)

  • Teeth, bath, clothes, bed.

A weekly tick-list:

Some things aren't in our daily timetable but I still want to include:

MAGICAL FREE TIME!

  • Aim - one afternoon a week completely free for trips or unplanned time. 

  • Weekends completely free except for church

  • We observe school holidays, even if the dates might not be synchronised.

I find that the kids get good at what they do every day. On the other hand, they process information quickest when they are in free, child-led, joyous exploration. In our structured time, we lay our foundations, in our free time we get our Eureka moments.

SPORT:

  • Enough swimming for each child to be progressing. 

  • At least 2 other sports skills a week. 

CREATIVE:

I usually don't schedule gardening, cooking, crafts and computing because the children ask for these enough that they happen naturally. Crafts tend to appear in different subjects (our History curriculum in particular has loads of amazing craft and cooking activities) or in different groups. For example our Chinese teacher is fantastic at sitting and doing a complicated craft that the children love only using Chinese for communication. I try and make sure they have opportunities over the months to perform in and see productions, live events and go on trips to a wide variety of places. My husband has started doing Python with the kids some mornings to give me a lie-in.

KINDNESS:

As well as general social skills with other adults and children, I try and make space for the children to exercise kindness. Our latest addition has been to join a veg box donation scheme, where the kids can help me pack boxes with fresh vegetables from allotments and leftovers from supermarkets etc to give to food bank referral families. They get to join me in the car.

 

Other silly things we've tried have been walking together as we wheel an old lady to church, writing letters about climate change, taking part in School Strikes for Fridays, encouraging them to help with chores around the house and trying to facilitate as much as possible when they have any ideas of kind actions.

Costs of My Timetable

Below are the real costs of my timetable. I try to book lessons where more than one of my kids can participate at once. I tend to overfill my timetable.

Chinese afternoon and social
Chinese Zoom, 30 minutes
HE Tennis Club, 1 hour
Sewing private tutor, 1 hour
French, private tutor
Big Social
Local Hub
Dance, 1 hour
HE Swimming
Trips, camps and half-term activities
Books and Materials
£0 (Piano or English skills swap)
£11 per week (3 kids)
£14 per week (2 kids)
£10 per week (3 kids)
£18 per week (3 kids)
£0
£7 per week (3 kids)
£7.50 per week (1 kid)
£3.40 per week (2 kids)
£80 per month
£300 per year

My gut feeling is that we'd be doing at least half of our activities after school anyway because I'm the kind of Mum who always tries to squeeze too much in.

If I was forced to design a timetable for under £5 a week it might include:

  • Library afternoon

  • Skills swap

  • One or more free regular socials outdoors (these to effort to build and maintain if you need to do your own organising)

  • Nature walk, perhaps with other HE families

  • A cheap, local, regular club with a good number of families attending. OR a paid club that teaches something that I am incapable of teaching. I'd probably opt for swimming.

  • Charity involvement

  • Church groups

HOME EDUCATION SAVINGS

Holidays and Trips:

Off-peak holidays and Home Education discounts on trips are amazing.

Clothes:

No school uniform! Turning up to socials in hand-me-down clothes is completely fine. In fact, if it's a hand-me-down from an older friend, it's a bond-creating status symbol. Let's face it, in the HE community, wearing pretty much anything is acceptable.

The Best Mum Tutors:

There are loads of amazing free-lancing tutors who are only available when their kids are in school. There are also lots of Mums around with incredible talents who are happy to have a go at teaching for a low rate or skills swap during school hours. Two of my current tutors are using my kids as guinea pigs to feel their way into more teaching.