My eldest child has additional needs, with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. He found school very difficult, he found everything very difficult. When our family made the move South, from the midlands to the South West, O was seven and he struggled a great deal to settle into a new school. He did not yet have his diagnosis at this stage.
What followed was five long years of being repeatedly failed and let down by our Local Authority. He spent more time at home on exclusion than at school, this was the result of the lack of appropriate support, or even a basic attempt to understand his difficulties. I was trying to complete a degree at University at this time, training to become a midwife.
The upshot was, between the ages of seven and twelve, the vast majority of O’s learning occurred at home. I unofficially Home Educated him through his endless exclusions.
He is now settled in a very small ‘mainstream’ independent school that understands and supports him. He is happy and has chosen to be there to complete his GCSEs. I had to fight the Local Authority every single step of the way, and to get the school fees paid through his statement (fees which are significantly lower than the alternatives that the LA were suggesting!).
As a result of my experiences with O, I was not in the dark about the option to Home Educate, nor was I shy to make that choice if I felt it was right for my child(ren).
E had always adored school, he loved learning, asked questions all the time, and skipped to school daily waving hello to all the local villagers along his way. It was the right place for him to be.
Until we moved house, and E had to change schools. Within two terms I had made the decision to deregister E from his new school, a school that has broken him. He no longer looked forward to school. He no longer asks questions about everything. He started to dread school and had very much lost his love of learning.
E’s home education journey began in September 2013. The deregistration letter was handed in on the last day of the summer term, and the the summer holidays were what E needed for deschooling (getting the mindset of school out of the child, and parent). We are now beginning the second term in our third year of home ed.
E’s Home Ed Journey
Having researched ‘proper’ home ed (as opposed to the unofficial, off the cuff, no choice left, home ed I had done with O in the past) I knew there were as many ways to approach it as there are children experiencing it. On of the key positive points is that home education allows flexibility to fit around each and every child’s needs and preferences.
E is a reader. In the early days I got caught up in the ‘buy lots of workbooks and sit and do them for a couple of hours a day’. This cost me a lot of money, time and sanity. E hates workbooks. Absolutely detests them! I quickly learnt that E prefers to learn by reading. So I shifted the approach to a loose, very flexible, timetable and trying to cover as much as possible through reading, rather than workbooks.
In the early days heels were dug in and a distaste for a timetable expressed. So we discussed what might help and agreed a work basket for each week, with a clear written list of what work ought to be completed for that week. He trialed this, with the intention to have finished the list by the Sunday when he went to bed, giving a full week. He quickly decided to go back to the timetable!
We follow a loose timetable, and loose term times as well. The main reason for this is having one child in school.
I have a flexible approach to lots of things, our home ed timetable is no exception. It is a laminated sheet of paper with boxes for each ‘lesson’. Then there are subjects (also laminated) which blue tack on to the timetable, and can be moved around. The day starts at 10am and finishes at 3pm. There are two 1 hour session before lunch and one 2 hour session afterwards.
If we have something else to do, or don’t feel like doing something right then, it’s simply missed or moved to another time. Full flexibility to allow for the freedoms and joys of home education (as well as the bumps in the road of life). We often ‘ignore’ the after lunch sessions 😉
How Our HE has Morphed
So, we’re a third of the way through our third year. Things changed a lot in our first year, as we tried things out and settled into a way of doing things that worked for us. Whilst remaining mostly stable after that initial settling in period, things still change as we discover new ways of working, new interests, or E decides he doesn’t like the way we’re tackling something.
Home education is a fluid and flexible journey, as fluid and flexible as you need or want it to be. That is the beauty of it!