Parent Voice 8

Melissa – Home Schooling Mum

Melissa is from the US and has three children, aged two, seven and nine, who have never been to school.

She says their approach to home education is eclectic as they’ve taken inspiration from various ideologies of education, such as Charlotte Mason, Waldorf Steiner, Montessori, ‘world schooling’ and ‘game schooling’.

Why did you decide to home educate?

Originally, I wanted to home educate because I’m a trained teacher and, while I wanted to be home with my kids as they grew, I really missed teaching.

However, as I have been home educating, my reasons have changed. I treasure the ability to let my kids learn at their own pace and according to their interests – they are never ‘behind’ or ‘ahead’.

We love to travel to see new things and explore new places. Home educating allows us to do so whenever it works for us, not when the schools allow us family time. We have more time together as a family because schooling takes up less time, so clubs and teams take up less time.

We can also incorporate non-traditional learning like handcrafts, religion (I know that’s allowed in the UK, but not in the US, plus I’m not Church of England), horseback riding, ice skating, etc.

What does home education look like for you and your family?

I believe in doing what works best for each child for each subject at whatever time, whether that’s letting my child run the study, to providing worksheets or workbooks if they prefer.

Our set ‘school’ hours are from 9am-12pm, but we’re learning all the time, especially if we’re traveling. My ideal schedule would be:

Morning time:

Body movement (kid yoga, dancing to geography songs, whole body skip counting or spelling), cultural learning (artist, composer, character, hymns, folksongs), memory work.

Snack time:

I read aloud from our current novel.

Reading:

20 minutes reading anything of your choice, sometimes I assign a book or give several to choose from.

Math:

Sometimes they work on their own, sometimes one on one with me.

Looping:

Do 1-4 subjects from our loop (History, Writing, Geography, Science, Copywork, Art, Spelling, Writing, Science, then back to the beginning).

Lunch:

While eating, we often listen to a podcast about science, music, literature, or ethics.

Can you explain what ‘World Schooling’ and ‘Game Schooling’ are and how this works for you?

World Schooling

In very basic terms, ‘world schooling’ is taking advantage of the world around you to teach your children. It can be as simple as visiting nearby museums and historical sites. For many people, including us, it means traveling.

We have the amazing opportunity to be in England for two years, so while we’re here we’re exposing our children to as much of Europe as we can. At home, we have been studying European geography, history, and culture. We then go to countries and actually try their food, visit their historical sites, listen to their music. We’ve walked through a historic Swedish village, made prints in Albrecht Dürer’s house, and eaten Portuguese custard tarts in the shop they were invented in.

Game Schooling

‘Game schooling’ is something anyone can do and my kids love it. It’s simply using games to teach or reinforce teaching. For example, my son is learning addition and subtraction. I want him to have lots of practice so that he can have quick recall. Now, I could drill it into him with flashcards and endless worksheets, but he would either get bored with the monotony or start to dread math time. Instead, I have several games that use addition/subtraction.

My son willingly and eagerly wants to play games for school. He has fun and I make sure he gets lots of practice. We have games that teach geography, animals, plants, critical thinking, history, and more. I try to choose two or three games a week.

In your opinion what are the main challenges of our current school system?

I can’t speak too much about the British system, having never been involved in it personally. As for the US system:

  • Not enough money to pay for quality teachers or keep quality teachers.
  • Too many students per teacher means lack of individualization.
  • Some schools push too much, too early, in the name of competition and high ratings. Others don’t push enough; they teach to the lowest level and many kids are bored.
  • Schools tend to decide on a methodology and the teachers and children must bow to that instead of tailoring methods to the children. There is no flexibility, it’s very assembly line.

What are state schools doing well?

Again, I can’t say about the UK. In the US, I think it’s amazing that all children are guaranteed a place in the local public school. I also think that the public schools are a valid option for those who cannot educate at home. Lots of experience getting along with lots of different kinds of people; variety of teachers with variety of backgrounds and perspectives and specializations; cover lots of different topics by specialists; advanced placement options with college credit; conformity got for some careers.

What changes would you need to see within state
education before you considered school as an option for your family?

I honestly don’t think that the system would be able to accommodate my preferences, traveling on our own schedule, on a large scale. It’s possible that some democratic schools could, but I don’t know.

Are there any misconceptions about home education that you would like to challenge?

  1. That home-schooled kids are weird and don’t know how to interact with others or deal with challenges.

I think home schooled kids are as ordinary as kids in public school. There is a difference, though, because most home-schooled children do not have to deal with the intense peer pressure to be like everyone else.

My kids watch regular television programs, play with the same kinds of toys, and goof off with others. They have friends to play with and have the usually spats that friends do.

One added advantage is that my children interact with adults and children of varying ages more regularly and do feel more comfortable talking with a wide variety of people.

  • That home-school families are religious fanatics trying to shelter their children from the real world.

I think that there are some families that home-school for the above reasons, but I think it’s more an exception than a rule. We are a religious family, but we do not home educate because of our religion. I have met many families that home educate and none of them are reclusive fanatics.

  • That you must have a background in education to teach your children.

I do have a background in education. I taught public school in the US for six years. However, I know you don’t have to, to be a successful home educator. My friend was a licensed beautician. She home educated her first son from kindergarten through graduation. He took the end of school exams for the US, the SAT and ACT, and got fabulous scores and got scholarships to just about any university he wanted. If you’re willing to put in the time and work to learn what and how to teach your children, you’re going to be fine. And if you’re not, there are curriculums that will tell you until you can figure it out.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I would just encourage parents that want to home educate to do so. You don’t have to be a specially trained teacher. You do need to be committed and do your own research and be willing to spend the time reading, planning, and teaching. You just have to stay a little bit ahead of your child and if you can’t, find someone who can help fill those gaps.

And, always keep learning yourself. Show your kids that after they leave school, they don’t stop learning. It’s a lifelong pursuit.