These last few months, after taking the children out of school have been a wonderful education in itself. Our three children are each two years apart and have similar and very different interests. What to do first?
I had been doing so much research in the last year, that my head and heart were overflowing with ideas. In the first couple of days, we got out to enjoy a talk about tea and coffee and where it came from and went to a wonderful Home Education Creative Group in Sussex to learn some brilliant new board games with new families. My children were shy at first and my son struggled to feel comfortable in this new space, although it's something he'd been asking us to do for months. It was undoubtedly a big change, but not one we were afraid of making for them. Having now been there a few times, my children love this group and opportunity to learn in a gentle, yet stimulating environment.
The difference in the children in the first couple of weeks was phenomenal to see. The stress disappeared almost instantly and the feeling of realising you could actually take time to get up slowly and play, research, learn through things and experiences around you, was only the beginning.
As a parent, new to a different style of learning, it's been very interesting. The more people I have spoken to, the more I have been told 'slow things down, unschool, don't rush them.' The tendency is to continue the level of bombardment of ideas and things to do to keep the children engaged as much as possible. To look at the curriculum, to put study books in front of them to keep them motivated and challenged; in short, to continue in a similar vein to the education they have been receiving at school, so they don't lose momentum in learning.
But Home Education, the home education I am offering my three, is not about emulating a school education. Home Education is not school. It's an alternative way of learning. It's about allowing the children to learn about themselves, to know themselves, to know their likes and dislikes, to follow their hearts; to be mindful and kind. It's about allowing them to discover the world for themselves, to question without hesitation every single thing about it. To explore the abundance of knowledge that lies at their fingertips at their own pace in a way that suits them. Every single child in this world is unique and it's only through researching an alternative to the school education system, that I've realised just how important it is to recognise this.
We have tried books around the curriculum and the children have been bored, so we have watched documentaries, adored Horrible Histories, live lessons with the BBC and other online groups, visited friends, visited groups, the library, read loads, watched DVDs, learned with friends, visited the Tim Peake Exhibition in Chichester, journeyed to country parks, played on swings, bounced on trampolines, seen an Anglo-Saxon exhibition in Oxford, painted pottery, visited a living rainforest, visited the Science Centre in Winchester, spent endless time walking the woofer in the woods and making dens .... this week, we are visiting the Royal Naval Submarine Museum in Portsmouth. Education does not have to start and finish behind a desk. That's what we are all learning.
When stepping away from the social norm, it's been amazing how much support we have had - even some teachers we have spoken to are in admiration for our decision, with some offering free resources, should we need them. It's also been hard to hear some of the concerns from others, who simply don't understand our rationale behind the decision. It's not for everyone and most of the negative comments or questions come from those who do not fully understand what home education actually is and that's ok.
My hope for our children is that through this journey together as a family, they will grow in confidence, harness their passions, find their creative spirit and run with it. I hope they will trust in their instincts, know and show kindness to every person they meet, to every creature, to the environment. I hope they will enjoy learning through play and feel the sense of freedom around them, without unnecessary stress or pressure.
If they have the desire or when they are ready to go back into the system, it is there for them. In the meantime, we are fully supported by this wonderful home education community we have now connected with and will enjoy every minute of this path and all its quirks and experiences.