Home Schooling

I’ve been planing to write a post on this subject for a while. But somehow I’ve never quite gotten around to it. The last couple of weeks though, I’ve had quite a lot of questions regarding our family homeschooling – so I thought it was about time I actually wrote this!!

Homeschooling wasn’t something that we had always planned on. In fact, Lola went to Nursery half-days between ages 3 & 4. During that time, we were having to think about which school she would go on to, and the more we thought about the whole system, the more we didn’t want to go down that route. We weren’t overly happy with the ‘system’ or some of the things that our children would be exposed to. We also wanted to offer them the chance to just be children. To spend all day playing, to learn through play, to relax and not have pressure put on them at such a young age. Having a {almost} four year old of my own made me realise just how little they still are at that point. We are big fans of children being home until they are at least 7 years old.
We did a lot of research before we made the decision. I spent hours on line trawling through home-schooling websites, personal blogs, anything that would give me a little insight! It wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but I do think it was the best decision for our family.
We’ve now officially been home-schooling for 4 years. We are lucky here in the UK that home-schooling allowed, and we don’t have any restrictions on how we home-school. We don’t have to follow any particular curriculum, or conform to any standards, or under go any assessments. For the first couple of years we were unschoolers – we didn’t sit down and do lessons – it wasn’t ‘school at home’. The kiddos learn so much just through observing and participating in real life. They helped me bake – fantastic for learning maths skills, plus changes in matter {solids, liquids & gases} as well as being an essential life skill. We played games, read a million books, made puzzles, painted and danced and laughed our way through days.
My eldest daughter is now 8, and our manner of home-schooling has changed slowly over the years. Part of the brilliance of home-schooling is being able to adapt life to fit each individual as well as the family as a whole. While my middle daughter is an excellent self-starter, the eldest prefers to be given tasks to do. She is an avid reader, she loves to read history books and her knowledge already surpasses mine! Now we do sit down and do some ‘formal’ work most days, family life here seems to run a little smoother if we have a daily action plan and some official learning time. Still, I’d say that most of their learning is still organic and isn’t taught.
I know a lot of people have asked about our daily routine, how I manage to fit everything in and what sort of things we do.
We still don’t follow a specific curriculum, but I pick and choose what I need from several different sources. I spend an hour or so on a Sunday sorting out the girls work for the following week, organising what we’ll be doing each day, making sure that any books we need are handy, any worksheets are printed out. I have a simple chart that I print out each week, a column for each day and a row for each child {just the bigger two right now!}. This is filled in with what each of them needs to do that day, and is pinned up on the bureau so they can easily see for themselves what they need to be doing. This method means that I know what we have to get done that week, I know that all the resources I need are on hand and we can just get on in a morning and tick that day’s work off :)
In a typical week we’ll have one or two sessions of Maths, one or two sessions of English, a morning spent doing science activities, several sessions on Studyladder {a on line Maths and Literacy Programme aimed at Primary and Junior High School ages} a morning focused on project work – the project we’re working on right now is Oceans – last week the girls made this ocean diorama :)
We usually spend the mornings sitting doing this work – I can sit alongside to help out and catch up on a few emails or write blog posts etc at the same time. Miss Baya usually likes to do her work too – lots of colouring sheets and dot-to-dots ;) She is actually picking things up incredibly quickly because she sits in on her big sisters work :)
Afternoons are filled with free play, crafting, baking, reading, etc – I can do my work whilst the girls are busying themselves. I often set up art-y activities for them, putting different items out on the table, giving them ideas to inspire and see what they come up with. These times are so precious – my girls love to craft along side me, watching and learning as I’m painting, making clothes or jewellery. SO often they want to help out. More often than not I find one of them doing extra ‘work’ – they dont’ see it as something that they have to do – but as something that is fun to do. And that is so important – we spend our lives in school being told what we need to know, often simply to pass a test, and this takes all the joy out of learning. But in truth, learning isn’t something that should stop the minute we leave school – it is lifelong – we can never know everything.
We are pretty lucky where we live that there is a thriving home-schooling network. We attend several social meets, as well as art workshops, science workshops and many other great opportunities. The elder girls both attend Brownie/Rainbow groups and Lola goes to a book club at the local library as well. I know that one thing that seems to concern people is the whole socialisation issue. I had someone ask me earlier this year if the girls mind not having any friends!!!! She seemed to be under the impression that we spent all day, every day in the house and never saw another soul. The girls both have lots of friends, home schooled and not, and enjoy active social life’s {far better than mine!}
We wanted our kiddos to learn the things that interested them, to find a love for learning new things and to thrive and be who they want to be. We are incredibly lucky to be able to go down this path. We have made sacrifices to be able to do this – my income is incredibly small, we don’t have a car, we don’t take lots of holidays, we buy secondhand. But it is totally worth it. Home-schooling is not for everyone – it is not always an option, and it doesn’t suit every family or even every child within a family. We are not against any of ours trying school if they ever wish to. As long as they are happy then that is all that matters.
Useful sites, resources, etc.
If you’re new to the concept of home-schooling or looking to find out more, some useful sites are:
* Education Otherwise {UK}
* Homeschooling{USA}
*Great ideas on working out your home school schedule

Some sites that we use for worksheets, lesson ideas, etc.
* Studyladder – an on line Maths and English programme (they also have some geography/music/language/art activities too) my kiddos LOVE this site – it’s laid out in school years, with a tonne of educational games to do. They are always asking to go on here :)

*Lesson Pathways  – an American site, so for us, some of the content is not applicable (ie. history) but this site offers a free K-5 curriculum. It has some fantastic ideas and resources on their – we use it tonnes for science, history and geography work

*Home School Maths – great free printable maths worksheets

* Muddle Puddle – some great resources, printables and worksheets.

*Activity Village – a wealth of ideas, printables, worksheets, activities, etc

*A-Z Worksheets – more great worksheets

*Owl and Mouse – free games, software and educational activities


* The Lyons Den – educational resources mainly aimed at Kindergarten level


These are just a few of the hundreds out there – trail and error has shown that these are the ones we use mostly. The Lesson Pathways site is one of my very favourites – I use it weekly to plan our science and project work – it links to so many other great sites, full of everything you need to teach your kiddos :)

I’d love to hear your experiences of home-schooling, and sites that you can recommend or any questions that you have

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5 Comments

  1. pixiepolly
    November 29, 2011 / 20:24

    Great post, Polly!  I had no idea you homeschooled your kids.  I was actually homeschooled through high school, along with my seven siblings.  I love it that now you have the option of doing online high school from home through regular academies + this makes it so much easier to go to the college of your choice once graduating.  My favorite thing about the experience was that it allowed me to work at my own rate.

  2. pixiepolly
    November 29, 2011 / 20:55

    I love homeschooling! For all the reasons listed in that cartoon and so much more.

  3. pixiepolly
    November 30, 2011 / 16:49

    Thank you for posting this!

  4. pixiepolly
    December 4, 2011 / 21:27

    Thank so much for writing this Polly. I am thinking my Phoebe sounds a bit like your Lola. She is often asking “What’s next?” and “What can I do?” so I am thinking she needs me to give her more guidance and suggestions than I had thought would be necessary. I am fequently dreaming up ideas for crafts and games and things but now feel i need to be a bit more organised so i am not always putting myself on the spot. Thank you x

  5. pixiepolly
    December 4, 2011 / 21:50

    I’ve had to get my head around this, I think I had visions of everyone just getting on with their own thing… it wasn’t working out and life was getting very stressful! Since I’ve started planning a little and giving her specific tasks things are begining to get much easier :)

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