From overpriced courses and tutors to maths problems Stephen Hawking would struggle with, home educating is not for the faint of heart. Journey with me through just some of the major mistakes I’ve made.
I’ve been home educating my teenage daughter for a little over four months this time around. It follows a year’s break where we tried school following our disastrous first attempt at home education.
So far, it has been…adventurous. I mean, we are both still alive, and neither of the dogs has packed their bags yet, so that’s a good thing. That doesn’t mean I have made any mistakes though, quite the contrary. I have many loads.
It’s not school; stop trying to make it school
You think it’s hard to get a teenager up for school? Try getting them out of their room and downstairs to the home office.
The first mistake I made last time around was trying to recreate school at home, complete with a start time, timetable and timed lessons. It was a terrible plan that resulted in tears, mainly mine.
Recreating school at home doesn’t work unless your child thrives on order and timings.
If they do, then great. My daughter likes to know what is coming up during the week but doesn’t like the restrictions of having every moment planned.
We have a weekly timetable. I fill in things that we need to do, the clubs we attend and when we have agreed to do something with other home educators. The rest of the week, we fill in as we go along. I’ll suggest tasks to cover areas we need to work on, and we will decide between us the best way forward.
It doesn’t have to be desk-based
Planning everything around the office space and the desk was a big mistake for a teen that finds it hard to sit still for any period. I didn’t realise how hard she found sitting still until we stepped back and tried different approaches.
Ann Leach reminded me in the comments of my previous article about the importance of deschooling. Take time out to unpack the school experience, work out why it wasn’t working and find ways that work for the child and the parent.
If your child learns best by doing, then planning a whole day stuck at a desk in front of endless rows of maths questions will not work. Finding a recipe for a complex dish that involves weighing, measuring, adjusting amounts to suit the number of people eating etc., will work better.
If cooking isn’t their thing, then deschooling will allow you to find out what their thing is; it might be woodwork, board games, Dungeons and Dragons, slime making or knitting. The possibilities are endless, and you can work practical maths into all of them.
Don’t rush to sign up for everything
There are many pitfalls to home education, and most involve thinking you need to sign up for anything and everything aimed at your child’s age group.
Not only does this leave you dazed and confused as your try to navigate your cramped diary, but it can also leave you severely out of pocket. As you delve deeper into home education, you soon realise that time and money are at a premium.
I worried that I would not be able to provide the level of maths and science that my daughter needed, so I signed up for tutors. This was a costly mistake. In my daughter’s head, she would be treated as if in school, so we automatically had to overcome school refusal. Then there was the cost. Tutors, especially excellent tutors, do not come cheap.
Whether you need tutors, or some form of support will depend on your child, their learning needs and where they want their learning to take them. My daughter wants to be a veterinarian, so maths and science are essential. However, I found an online learning resource that will support her now and plenty of books, programs, and kits to help with the science until she has regained her confidence.
One of the best resources I’ve found is a monthly subscription box from KiwiCo. It isn’t cheap, but they provide you with everything you need to complete a project, and the ones we have had so far have been engaging and age/stage appropriate.
My other best investment was in her Dungeons and Dragons group. Tabletop roleplay games provide so many learning opportunities. My daughter covers maths, English, communication, problem-solving, team working, art, and science in any given week. Her confidence and self-esteem have grown beyond belief, and she has developed a tight-knit group of friends, so her social skills are also blossoming.
You can find out more about DnD and how it can support home education or any education in another of my articles. Yes, I am connected to the company. I love their work so much that I now do their admin and help run their social media.
You don’t have to do it alone
One of the many mistakes that home educators often make is to think that they need to do everything themselves or pay for professional support.
Jump on social media, find other local home educators and home ed groups. You will be surprised how many parents have the skills, talents and experience you lack. Look at different groups they offer and how they work, and then see what you can offer in return for their skills and time.
It is worth remembering that no two families home educate the same. Find out more about their approach and ethos before you throw yourself body and soul into a home ed group. Ensure that their ideas at least loosely align with yours where it matters the most to you.
As parents, we want the best for our children, but sometimes in our haste to achieve that, we make things harder for ourselves and them than we need to.
Choosing to home educate is not something you should rush into, especially if it follows on from a difficult period at school. The key things to remember are:
• Take your time and do your research
• Talk to your child and figure it out together
• Find out how they learn best
• Remember your sanity is essential (self-care means you too)
• You don’t have to do it all
• There is more than one way to do home educating right
Thanks for reading. If you are considering home education, I hope this has helped. If you are interested in reading more about our journey, please leave me a comment and some clicks.
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