It was my daughter’s idea to be home-educated after many years of unhappy times at school due to other children’s behaviour. We planned to home-educate her, and keep our other two children in school. Deregistering from senior school was easy and straight forward. A simple letter to say she would no longer attend is all it takes.
We bought so many home-education supplies; books, stationery, games and workbooks. We planned days out and hunted around for home-ed groups to join. We loved having our daughter at home with us and seeing the change in her compared to how junior and secondary school had broken her positivity and outlook on life.
A year passed, and we decided that, because home-ed was going so well, we would take our younger two children out of school as well. Academically, it wasn’t as easy as just having one child at home, but with some adjustments and negotiations, we slowly got into a flow. But after about two years, things started to dwindle. The kids weren’t feeling the vibe, and neither was I at times. They were becoming bored and irritated. It was hard to find new ways to keep things fresh and fun. I was always so worried about how the Local Education Authority (L.E.A) was going to mark us. Yearly visits from the council and are marked suitable, needs support, or unsuitable to continue home educating. The latter prompts a back to school order. I was always worried that I wasn’t doing enough to impress the L.E.A or get a ‘satisfactory’ mark, which in turn put pressure on the kids to get through a certain amount of work.
Hobby Based Learning
After much torment of what to do for the best, I decided to switch up the system. It was a brave move, but with three year’s experience under my belt and three marks of satisfactory from the council, I felt confident to make changes without being condemned by the L.E.A. I decided that we would only cover essential academics, English and maths, then encourage more hobby-based learning and life skills. It worked much better. Even though I got the usual moans and groans with the academics, it was easier to deal with than trying to get through five or six subjects and teaching different age ranges.
At this point, we also decided that we were going to be a ‘Roam-schooling’ family, which is travelling around and learning about the world first hand. We paid off all our debt and jumped straight back into debt to buy a big enough car for the five of us and our dog to travel around. The first place we went to was Wales and had a lovely time there. We were so excited about where we would go next and even joined the National Trust for places to visit. Then, about three months later, disaster struck. Our financial income crumbled and we had to sell the car to get back out of debt and stay afloat. It was over. I was so upset that we had to break promises of the adventures we were going to have, all the new things we would see and do together and the memories we would make for years to come.
The financial crisis we were in didn’t just mean we couldn’t travel it meant no clubs or days out like we had been doing previously. It affected our home-ed structure terribly. The kids were unmotivated and stressed out with our situation. On top of financial worry, I also had multiple health issues I was trying to get diagnosed and treated. We were all miserable, so I had a decision to make. Carry on with this torrid cycle of negativity or drag us out of this stale situation and shake things up. There was only one choice. Change!
I researched different types of home education styles. I decided that we would try Autonomous Learning which consists of no academics and all responsibility of learning is down to the child. It’s controversial, but at this point, I was willing to try anything that would catapult us into the land of happy.
It worked. All stress was off. The kids felt like they had the chance to breathe and have fun again. No early morning rises and sitting around the table, no schedules or worksheets to print out and work to mark. The only thing I did keep going was life skills, which I think is fair enough. I even decided to decline home visits from the council but compromised by sending emails to them about our progress and new ethos on education. This new structure passed as satisfactory so I didn’t even need to worry about getting a back to ‘school order’. I was decompressing. We were all starting to enjoy life again, even with our financial difficulties.
A year later, our eldest daughter, 15 years old at this point, applied to start an education programme (the same as college but not in a college setting) and she is doing so well. She is looking at a career in travel and tourism. We have started some academics with our younger two children, now at secondary school age, with a laid back approach, using only workbooks and no time structure. Autonomous was good, but our children lacked self-motivation for unguided learning. It seems to be much more successful than anything we have tried before. I used to spend hours every week researching and printing off worksheets for different age ranges and abilities. Now, I set them an amount of work to get through each week which they do in their own time. I don’t care when they do it or how long it takes them, as long as it gets done or they at least attempt it.
It has not been easy, that is for sure, but I wouldn’t change a thing because even though there were some trying times, we have been able to see our children grow every day. We became closer as a family, we learnt about each other again, and we experienced life together all week every week. We didn’t have to be content with only seeing our children during the ‘after school flop’ and at weekends. We were lucky that we were able to do this, not all families have the opportunity even if they want to. I hope to see a change in home education regulation with less pressure on families from the L.E.A and more funding to help home educating families visit places of interest for educational purposes. Maybe these changing time we are currently living in will make those ideas a reality.
Sarah Tribiani is a home educating mother of three. Follow her Home Ed journey on her blog.