To be honest I am too old and too set in my ways to care too much what people think of me (beyond having the social conscience to try to avoid deliberately upsetting anyone obviously). But sometimes someone says something, usually meant as a complement, that is at odds as how I see myself. I think this blog is mostly to blame, I try and cover the bad times as well as good but it is difficult to do that when you’re trying to be very mindful of people close to you (inc the boys) reading this.
Anyway I think these are some of the misconceptions that I hear others suggest;
1. I have some idea what I’m doing with the whole home ed thing in general.
I really, really don’t!
What I do have are:
a) Years of experience of things that don’t work, it’s over 10 years since we made decision to go down home ed path. Doesn’t mean I don’t still mess things up and make mistakes, sometimes inevitably but annoyingly repeating past ones. But I have got experience to draw on and do my best to learn from mistakes.
b) Experience of school setting as an adult. I did 18 months as a trainee teacher. I detest the National Curriculum with a passion. I have no doubt that simply not following the NC is a benefit.
c) Bit of knowledge of what is involved in teaching. This isn’t meant to be teacher bashing at all btw. When I went into primary teaching I needed two D’s at A’level, that is it. That was for a really well respected course too, I know people who needed less. As far as knowledge goes, teachers have to ‘learn’ the topics they are covering the same way we as home educators do. Over time they may build up a fair amount of knowledge if they are delivering the same topic year after year. However, schools like to move teachers about the school regularly and you know the government and it’s NC changes! Teachers are always having to learn same as HEers do. Most of my 18 months was learning about paperwork and classroom management, perhaps a bit about the current vogue in learning strategies (which is no doubt very outdated by now). Very little is applicable to home ed. Teaching is a hard job and I have a lot of respect for teachers, I don’t think for one moment I could walk into a classroom and manage to teach 30 children at once. I don’t have to though HE is very different and even the most experienced teacher has no experience with my child.
d) Experience of seeing my previously HE child (and the trial run 😉 ) go into school never having bothered with the NC and cope fine, actually better than fine. Having a child in school has not enhanced my respect for the education provided by state education at all!
What I suppose they give me is a bit of confidence to ride out the wobbles. Even if the confidence is not so much that I’m doing a good job but that I can’t be doing a worse job than the alternative.
2. That I have some idea of what I’m doing day to day.
Unless we have arrangements with someone or an appointment then every day is left to unfold.
Yes I like us to do an hour of maths and English regularly but even that is open for negotiation most days. We’ve fallen in to habits of when we do it but that is what it is habits that work for us. Nothing set in stone.
Every day this week I’ve lain in bed in the morning and thought through what we’d do that day only for the day to go nowhere like that. Tuesday in particular plans seem to change by the second.
In the summer with time on my hands I like to plan. But the plan is only ever an ideas list with lots of days/weeks off pencilled in to take account of the huge number of days we can’t be bothered/have a better offer. I find if we’ve got the right resource we just plod along every day turning the page together to find out what comes next.
Project wise they either grab him and they carry themselves or they don’t, sometimes we ditch an idea completely. We probably only do 2/3 of stuff I plan but we do lots of stuff I don’t. I plan so I have something to draw on to prevent the boredom. That is my dread, that is when I would doubt HE, if I had a bored child. I’d love to leave them to it but tbh mine have never been great at entertaining themselves without a screen (and don’t react well to unlimited screen time – believe me I tried) so having stuff to draw on and stuff that moves on from previous stuff is good to fill the gaps. Plus I love researching and brainstorming ideas even if they are never used, keeps me happy.
3. That I ‘teach’.
No I can’t imagine anything more painful and forced than delivering lesson to my own son in a one to one set up. Some of the resources we use do have lesson plans down to the level of scripts, makes me cringe and shudder. I skim read and we pick out main activity/idea.
I suggest activities, and sometimes even guide him through. I ask questions and listen to the answer. I talk to him about what I know and encourage him to share his knowledge. It isn’t unusual for him to know more about something than me. I do lots and lots of research in order to provide him with resources that are right and engage him. I then help if/when required, join in if something is more fun with 2 and leave him be when not. Sometimes I’m wrong with the resources, often I’m right for a time but anything can become routine and boring eventually and he will grow and change.
I don’t see it as my role to teach, I see it as my role to provide resources and experiences that engage him in learning.
4. That I control what he learns.
Of course I don’t. I don’t think it is possible to. A child will only learn when they’re engaged.
Being rather trite and jargonistic, I see us as partners in learning. As an adult I do feel I have more of a sense of external factors and the ‘bigger picture’. Although the older they get the more aware they become, Sam has discovered for himself how important a role maths plays in things he’s interested in taking further. We did have a discussion about the value of English, less convinced but he can see my point :). Everything else is very much shaped by Sam both at the paper planning stage (always ask what he wants to do, discuss project choices) and at the nitty gritty business end.
I do make suggestions and we negotiate as otherwise we’d never do anything new (with out experience of something they can’t be interested in it) and he’s developed many new interests under prodding. Some things fall flat. One of the most important things I’ve had to learn as a HEer is not to flog a dead horse.
I am clear with him that I have a legal duty to provide him with an education and therefore some effort from him to engage is needed for home ed to remain an option. Not in a ‘if you don’t work I’ll send you to school’ way but in a ‘this is what needs to happen lets work together to make it happen in a way that makes us both happy’ sort of way. I think I’d be failing him if he didn’t have a decent grasp of maths and English so therefore I put huge amounts of effort into making sure I keep him engaged by varying approaches, reassessing resources and generally trying to make things fun. My other criteria is that he engages in hobbies, interests, considers new ideas, thinks about the world and has some variety in the way he spends his time. I’m very happy to be adaptable about what and how he learns and hands off here if he’s self-motivated.
5. That I’m very social.
Online I probably am. Face to face I’m very socially awkward, all kinds of anxieties and neuroses. I’m probably more so with people I’ve met a couple of times and even people I know well. With strangers I have an act to play and that is easy. I think it gives impression I’m moody and judgemental … which is only true some of the time 😉
6. That I’m some sort of well organised super-mum balancing it all
Ha, ha, ha, ha
My children have an appalling diet, I try but fail. Weekends usually end up everyone sorting themselves out for most of the day. I am rubbish at keeping up with basic appointments like dentist, optician; everything is always done at the last minute or several months late. My house is never as clean and tidy as I’d like. Rarely on top of work and admin, always something left undone. May look reasonably calm and serene on the surface but paddling away just as hard as everyone else underneath. Insomnia is very helpful in presenting an organised façade, amazing what can be achieved at 2 am, but really don’t recommend it.
I think I’m probably an odd mix as home eders go, I’m not religious or in any other way noticeably ‘alternative’. I’m probably closer in mindset to an unschooler than a lesson planning NC follower but I suspect come across as a bit anti unschooling, which is a pity as I know a number of people who unschool very well and make me feel quite envious.