Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A typical day with two girls aged 6 and 1

The following is an excerpt from a home educating family's weblog:

somewhat late, and I didn't get started with the camera quite at the
begining, but hey ho, that is probably what my typical day is!
Obviously, this wasn't entirely a typical day, as it was bank hols and
both parents at home. Full photos on flickr.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Little Nanny!

Started with SB and BB playing with the happy street at
too early o clock, and then by the eime I got up, SB had moved onto
Sindy's and BB was rarring about. I fed her and she
settled down to playing with the bricks.

So, 10:00 and SB starts with explode the
- 4 pages. SHe's quite good at doing this mostly on her
own. I did need to remind her that there is a double l at the end of
words such as sell and spell etc. Also, it took a while to convince her
that there was a st sound and how it was made.

IMG 3835 IMG 3837

So that was 10 mintues - I happen to know because thats when she
decided to play nursery with BB, who was being the baby
in the baby room. BB took it all in good part, and I do like seeing SB
playing games specifically with BB, rather than just moaning when BB
ruins things.

IMG 3838

11 -ish, and we did some maths. SB chose to do some
from the miquon book - something that I find more
dificult, as I have to sit there with the instructors guide to work out
what we are supposed to be doing. mostly counting and adding, as we do
it so rarely she is on 'easy' pages.

IMG 3839

12-ish BB had an early lunch and fell asleep. Chris
and SB looked at rocks
and minerals
with enchanted learning, moving on to
the cretaceous period - and quite a bit of discussion on
extinction and then to continental drift
on the 'puter. SB then looked at the new webland.I went
out and did a spot of gardening, coming in for lunch -
by which time BB had woken up and had a second lunch!

IMG 3840

14:00 I read to BB, and SB did lots of dot to
- going up to 50, and then looked at a thomas the tank
book. She then disappeared to her bedroom to play some more with

IMG 3841 IMG 3845 IMG 3843

15:30 We all got ready and went out to the
and stayed there until nearly 17:00. SB
loves the park, and clambered happily about. BB did lots of climbing
practice - antother Know No Fear daughter! So we took lots of pictures
of BB, as its the first time she has had all this fun. Although heart in
my mouth, was proud of her climbing skills!

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IMG 3887 IMG 3879

when we got back, SB played with the ballerina candleholders and various
kinder egg bits for a while. TBH, I have no idea what we did then! BB
drew on herself.

18:00 ish teatime -in which SB was trying to
remember all the countries she had heard of - second one was indonesia!,
then tidyup and pyjamas on 19:00 we watched the
on DVD and the 20:00 bedtime stories and
finally sleep!


A typical day - girls aged 6 and 2

The following is an excerpt from a home educating family's weblog:

Actually, in many respects it was. We forgot about it to start with
[fairly typical!] BB woke up way to early [fairly typical] Chris
eventually went down with her leaving me to have a lie in [fairly
typical for the weekend!] An brought me breakfast in bed of croissants -
not at all typical! Bored now with saying the typical bits!

Errr, its amazing how much you can forget. Have got flic
uploading wildly. Honestly Chris P, I put up too many photos even
for me, but its much quicker than sorting them out! One day I will, I

playing who's who

Anyway, at sometime after 11 we started taking photos, and not at all
sure what went on before that, as that was with Chris whilst I was
reading the paper! But when I was surfaced enough to remember we were
taking photos and also to interact, we played who's
. BB insists on playing, so not exactly to
the rules, but enjoyed! BB and I then spent some time hammering baby
toys and playing with the rainbow blocks to make lots of noise, and then
constructing brio and making the trains chug around
[always a baby train and a mummy train with BB!]. We also did a bit of
looking after and watering the plants in the conservatory.

IMG_5821 IMG_5810
I had suggested to SB that she might do some education
city as we have paid for it and she hasn't done any for ages and ages.
SHe fancied webland, so whilst chris got the next edition downloaded, I
read a story from the barefoot book of mothers and daughters
- the persephone and demeter story which SB knows well, having
had a mad love affair with greek myths and legends. SB then spent HOURS
on webland! Not very interesting to photo! We had also missed april's
edition, so she did all of May followed by all of April. BB also did
some poisson rouge. In a moment of pure inspiration I
have put a hand sticker on the left click of all our mice! She now knows
which bit to click - hooray! Also getting more controlled with the mouse
movt. Does have her mother's patience though. wiggling it wildly when it
didn't go where she wanted.



Had lunch and SB returned to do some more webland. I was bored with
this, and checked the mail - hooray her new sports sunglasses arrived.
[should stay on as she twizzles about on swings and cycles]. The low
start of ebay price was completely overmade up by postage - 6 times the
cost!!! i did factor that in though.


BB desperate to do some painting, and SB wanted to make
a princess hat, so combined the 2 activities. At least
half our paints were put into pots though - gradually getting SB to take
responsibility for setting out and tidying away crafts. hmm She did sort
of set out, I totally tidied! Anyway, she and BB painted the hats, and
then carried on with further painting. SB did a particularly beautifully
coloured handprint. Eventually they declared themselves painted out, and
a quick hose down and they went outside to play.

IMG_5848 IMG_5852

SB and BB scootered/triked about for a bit, but SB hurt
her poorly
, so I re-dressed it, and she read a book about
food through the ages with intermittent waily patches.
I made them some popcorn to eat. BB played Bob the
, moving dirt around the garden, and generally enjoyed
rampaging about, playing hide and seek etc.

IMG_5862 IMG_5865

IMG_5887 quiet moment

SB got fed up reading the book, and wanted to make the egyptian
s we have made in the past from the 120 history
book. it was sold to BB as a snail cake - the word
cake enticing her in from the garden to join in! SO we added mess onto
mess in the kitchen, and all enjoyed making the egyptian sweet bread. BB
and SB enjoyed competitive flour and butter rubbing, so there was a fair
bit of loss!!

IMG_5901 make light work

Daddy had been to the shops btw as we were all out of food. He returned
as the egyptian breads were put in the oven, and didn't blanch too much
at the appearance of the kitchen. BB being up for over 12 hours was
swept off to a bath, and SB has been outside again while I have done
this and put flickrs onto the uploader. We do plant to perhaps sellotape
the hats up before bed, and SB has promised a violin
of frere jaques - she will moan when she has to do it
after tea, but it has been the only non-negotiable thing to do today! SO
since we have done all the autonomy, its time to do the violin! I will
obviously be adding photos after the girls gone to bed!

follow up! Well, I had set that up, but chris rebooted 'puter
without checking whether I was doing anything! SB did the violin with
enthusiasm - and very pleased that a nearly recognisable tune coming!
read britannia, and she read a young usborne
book [and is in fact still reading it]. Joining up the
hats will need to wait till tomorrow, as will eating the egyptian

A New Ancient Egyptian sweet bread!


A typical HE day with two girls aged 7 and 3

The following is an excerpt from a home educating family's weblog:

I am going to nominate today as the home-ed day in photos meme [please
see previous in sidebar!], and will hopefully get the photos up! it is
atypical, because i was at home, because i bailed out of a group today
and declared duvet, and rainbows was cancelled. maybe chris will do one
as well! thing is, i prob need the photos to remember what we did

8:00 they were both up with chris, so they prob watched
something! had breakfast

9:00 I'm up! BB is doing alphabetting
[using alphabet stencils to write the letters] SB is colouring
a rainbows picture, and then looking at the difference
between the roman alphabet and ours. i read some
dinodoor books with BB, we all do family members in
IMG_6876 IMG_6870 IMG_6867

10:00 getting dressed and cleaning teeth. i look round
at house and decided to spend the day in the garden! [ in fact t-bird
gave me the idea with her tent-ed] SB makes a great go at
putting up mini-tent [with BB being not too unhelpful,
and even nearly helping on occasion!] . I shew them my bag of selected
options [not exclusive, they could have gone and got somethig else], and
both started with colouring. BB with crayons in a bible
book [bought by chris's parents] and SB in pencil on nice paper. She
drew the garden first, and then started drawing my portrait.BB did some
before the code.

IMG_6885 IMG_6902 IMG_6892
11:00 sees us discussing the weather in
french - well, learning some of the weather words and
popping them into saying it is hot and sunny. we read part of a book
about food chains, and then had a fruit break. SB chose
the ladybird book about the spanish armada [no I'm
arder!] for me to read to her. BB liked the guns, and then went off to
play in the garden. [I am concerned about her!]

IMG_6921 IMG_6907

12:00 sees SB doing singapore maths 2B
[halfway through] and BB and i looking at the extremely greedy
eating all the fat balls, and deciding to have a go
at making our own. with a break for a who has the silliest face
. SB finishes her maths and does it with us.

IMG_6925 IMG_6929 IMG_6931

13:00 mostly lunchtime. SB made lunch
whilst i put lard [yuk what a truly awful smell, but the birds have
never eaten them when made with veggie fat] over our nut, fruit, seed
and mealworm mix. SB made peanut butter sarnies for BB, avocado
sandwiches for me [using same knife, so slightly unusual!] and cheese
for her [fresh knife!] and we watched some nina and the
. About now i thought, ooh, we have done alot today,
lets make it our photoblog day! luckily i always take a lot of photo
when i am at home to prove i was there. BB did some fab
geomags - she wanted to make a square [cube]

14:00 BB did a short violin practice -
mostly just enjoying making noise. chris and BB went off to get some
pallets from the orchard down the road to use to make an ad hoc empty
compost bin [we have filled all of ours] . SB was going to do violin,
but took rather a long time getting organised about it! we did do a
violin practice too.

IMG_6953 IMG_6947

15:00 has us back out in the garden.
BB in the sandpit and SB drawing with fabric pens on a
white t-shirt. both then did lots of playing in
sandpit, with water, on slide etc. chris made compost
bin, i played hide and seek, and took some flower photos.

16:00 children happily playing, SB did some pot
watering and had an icecream. i potted up the yard long
and put into greenhouse [oops, forgot to say that in the
garden blog - must put that right!]

17:00 no more photos. both girls in desperate need of
a bath!! after that some tidying up in the garden by me, whilst they
watched pingu. a recap on french words we have looked
at today.
18:30 judo for SB, i read bob the
builder books to BB, we had tea and I put BB to bed.

19:30 SB home and fed, a short look at zoo
tycoon for DS
and then also to bed [by chris] whilst i potted
up toms and cucurbits.

21:00 with the binging of the church bells, the tv
switched on and we watch the apprentice and blog. the
end of atypical home ed day. with thanks to katy for being understanding
of me need to duvet, as we should have been doing science and latin in
the morning, which we do all really enjoy. i just needed some home time.


Home educating a gifted child

Our son was always slightly different to his peers in development and interests. Whilst at the crawling stage he would be busy playing with pram wheels and a pudding basin and his visitors sat with their teddies. He always found the toddler groups a nightmare and often screamed. I was told to persevere, but inwardly felt he just didn’t’ want to be there. At nursery he became so unhappy that he stopped singing, something he had always done, and eventually stopped talking. It took several months and a number of Thomas trains to coax him back to talking and singing.

From nursery/prep school traumas we moved onto reception at a local state school where I would have to go out to buy books to put into the library so he could bring something suitable home. He was an able reader at this time and made no progress in that year, coming top of the class. After several discussions and initial promises to accommodate him, it became clear that no help was on offer. In fact the only help came from the children, who at the end of the year, still had no grasp of the alphabet! Moving on, we tried a further three schools over the years until he was finally removed by us after Year 5.

In each school, be it state or private, his differences were not identified, and he was bullied and mis-understood instead. I was labelled an over-protective mummy, but he was so miserable at school and happy at home. Every summer holiday was a nightmare where he constantly asked ‘how many days until school?’. At school he struggled to cope with noises, lights and the buzz of classroom life. He felt isolated and friendless, unable to fit into their system.

One area of interest that kept him going was music. From the age of 6 he took up piano, followed by cello, then singing and viola and music theory. To date, he has achieved Grad 8 singing and Grade 5 viola with distinction, and is preparing for Grade 7 piano, Grade 6 cello, and Grade 6 theory. We have had some patient teachers over the years and some that perhaps couldn’t cope!

As with all his academic subjects, he fires off questions relentlessly, and has an uncanny knack of discovering a weakness a teacher my have in their subject. He has to verbalise everything he is learning, it is his way of reinforcing what he has learnt. Worksheets are just a frustrating repetition of what he already knows.

By the end of Year 5 the Head finally agreed that maybe there ‘was something going on there’ and we saw and Educational Psychologist who assessed that he was very bright and had Asperger’s Syndrome. This came at the time he also had a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrom (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME), which the Educational Psychologist could not agree with at all. We felt very let down at the joint meeting with her and the Head, and gave our notice to remove him from the school after persevering for a further term. At this time our son one day said that life was not worth living, and this broke my heart. Some of the incidents that occurred in school are perhaps best not mentioned; abuse is not too strong a word.

I spent that summer holiday researching home education, and we took the step to register him with the then LEA on the first day of the new school year. That was three years ago, and I wish that I had had the confidence to never have sent him to school and kept him at home to find out how he learnt best.

From the start, there was a joint sense of relief, no more screaming at the start of term; or tears in the morning; no more uneaten lunches because he was too stressed to eat; no more bullying. My husband now goes to work without having the pantomime of getting him into the car on time to dash into the city, to double back to his own work through heavy traffic. Because of his CFS my son is usually unresponsive or tired until 10 o’clock, or sometimes later, so we start working when he is ready.

Over the three years at home we have tried and discarded various forms of learning. The way our son learns is quite different to school methods where there is a lot of repetition and reinforcing. When we commenced home education he would have been finishing KS2 if at school, so I picked up from there and came up against a brick wall. My son wanted nothing to do with this material, he was bored, so we moved onto KS3 for Maths, and other subjects. In time after the tutors we were using had left, we hit the road for IGCSEs. We have gone down the route of tutors from a reputable agency, which has caused us grief; we have tried the famous CGP workbooks and written on perhaps three pages. We have also tried their study books, which were deemed unhelpful by my son.

Correspondence courses and on-line school have all been tried with varying degrees of success. Audiocassettes for language got a big thumbs down because there is no visual element to the presentation, he favoured the BBC Learning First Steps courses followed by their Ma France and a German course from a news site in Germany.

We have found that he learns best when he is relaxed, and mostly from just reading the textbook. Generally, he retains about 85% of the material in this way; the rest is covered when we revise. He dislikes writing out exercises so we discuss most subjects, but he does have to do some maths on paper (under protest). He now reads some subjects for himself, usually kneeling on the sofa, arms draped over my footstool with the textbook on the floor. He enjoys learning from well-structured CD ROMs that are interactive, when he was smaller he loved the Jump Ahead software followed by the Learning Ladder series, for maths we used the maths2x1 for KS3 and 4. This was topped up with an IGCSE text and CD ROM in preparation for the exam this May. All in all my son’s learning experience has been an experience for us too. I wouldn’t like to say how much we have spent on aborted courses and textbooks.

In three years he has progressed from KS2 (almost) to IGCSE and beyond, he has just sat IGCSE Maths and Chemistry at 13. He still struggles with times tables and has no grasp of the size of numbers, but really enjoys Differential Calculus, and can’t wait to get to grips with Complex Numbers. This from a child who struggled with KS2. Peculiarly, his real strength lies in the literary field; he has a desire to be a writer.

We have a hospital Consultant’s letter requesting his Access requirements, which has helped enormously with his coping with the exams. He is allowed a break halfway through to ‘chill’ and also 25% extra time to help with the slowness of writing, along with a keyboard for essay-based exams, since writing in volume is too painful to his joints.

We anticipate that he will sit a few exams at a time to spread the stress/workload. One big advantage of being at home is that we get to decide which subjects he sits and when. On the downside it is a big headache for most home educating families to find a local exam centre that will let candidates sit their particular exam subjects and exam boards.

We are trying to avoid specialising him too early, we want him to have a broad-based education, and be free to choose later. We hope he takes around 13 IGCSE/GCSEs, sitting a few at a time. He needs time to recover from his health problems, time to catch up on his emotional development and time to decide what he really wants to do.

A common comment aimed at home educators in general (and we have had our fill of it) is the big question of socialisation. Our son has some friends not many, but that is partly due to being on the 99.7 percentile and thinking on a different level so much of the time, and other children find him hard work. HE is great with small children, very caring and kind, and happily engages with adults and will hold forth on the political situation if allowed. He does sing in a local small choir, which has taken a while for him to cope with.

We have seen him maturing with his social skills over the last three years, and with the help of some acting lesions when he is well, we expect that he will be fine in the end. A retired vicar suggest acting skills as he, like our son, had Asperger’s Syndrome and had to learn how to portray himself as a caring person although he already was inside.

For us it is always difficult gauging the right balance of time spent with friends and time resting. With his CFS life is quite unpredictable, he can suddenly have frail spells with no warning, only to pick up and seem almost well again. Coupling this with the stress he suffers going out, mixing in a crowd or just visiting a friend, it is almost impossible to gauge how much is too much. It’s always the days after a visit that show how well he has coped.

My one big ‘if only’ is if only I had had the confidence to stand my ground when he was small and follow my instincts to keep him at home, then we would have spared him a lot of pain and trauma. As it is, we have learnt from our experiences. He hopes to get to Oxford, although he is unsure which Degree to go for – will it be English Literature, or Latin, or History, or maybe Music, or maybe even Maths?

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What is unschooling?

To me, autonomous education or unschooling is all about learning together with my son.

To unschool him would means to allow him to be himself. To allow him to be the master of his life. Many a times I wished and itched to step in and rein in his obsession; but I've learnt that to impose any restrictions on my son would mean him rebelling against it. So my philosophy is why create a battle when we can resolve this amiacably? Not that I am being a bad parent by allowing him to do whatever he wants, but instead I am being a good parent by allowing him to learn how to make good decisions, by making bad decisions. DS know should he need an opinion, he can seek counsel with me. By allowing him all the space he wants, he will soon get to the bottom of whatever he is obsess with, and will move onto newer pastures. By not focusing on controlling DS, I am free to concentrate on what I want to do, and get on with it. And DS will learn to moderate himself if he wants to aligned himself to my routine.

All of the above have made my child believe nothing is too small, too big, too silly, too serious, too difficult, too impossible to explore and everything can be discussed.

Now that all mental barrier to learning is remove, it is my job then to bridge any handicap that my child presents, mentally or physically. If he cannot spell, I will spell for him. If he cannot draw, I will draw for him. If he doesn't want to write, I will scribe for him. If he cannot stop for food, I will feed him.

The objective is to help him reach his goal and accomplish that he will, despite any mental handicaps place there, either by himself or society.

Example:-My son will read any book from a very early age, despite the fact some of the books he picked is too mature and deep for him. But nevertheless, it never stopped him from picking up a very thick and heavy book to take home. Because he knows I WILL help him carry this book home, and I WILL read this book to him. Hence, he knows, no book is too difficult and too heavy to access into.
Nowadays, he'll read anything on his own. His reading level is of a 15 or 16 years old. Infact he is reading books meant for teenagers.

Our unschooling means to dis-regard all the conventional thinking and follow our own instinct. Only by unschooling, can we feel free enough to break away from all those chains imposed onto us, and finally see sense in learning about living and life, in it's natural order.

Which is why we believe in learning thru play instead of workbooks. My son's life is all about Lego, ps2, psp, nintendo DS and his laptop. Because for now, this is what his interest is all about. It is thru these magnificent inventions that my son finds his preferred learning method. It is thru these mediums, many lessons has been spawned.

For instance, the most recent one is about mental maths and spellings. Me and Hubby and DS is competing against each other on the Nintendo DS Brain Training game. I have to say tho DS is consistently in 3rd place, don't forget, he is competing on a software based on an adult's capabilities. So the fact that he can complete all his trials, from mental maths to spellings to memory games, means he is really really good, for an 8 yr old. Infact some parts of the trials especially the memory bits, he's come up 1st!!

This Brain Training Game has also gave him a reason to practise his writing for it is his bad handwriting that is letting him down.

We went to Scotland recently and had the opportunity to sit in the planetarium. It was magnificent and DS was surprisingly well informed. He pointed out and named the various constellation, an evidence of learning just by playing on his Jumpstart pc educational game.

What else...? Urrgh...at this stage of our 2nd year unschooling, with my full confidence knowing my child is learning all the time, has made it hard for me to cite evidence of learning. This is because I am no longer keeping track and looking for evidence of learning in order to convince and comfort myself. But it does seems like, whatever is the "favourite game or interest" of the moment, there is where evidence of learning can be seen.

So for now, his focus is on the Ninetendo DS Brain Training game(because the winner gets the money pot), Xmas, continue adding onto his Lego City which seems to have dominate the living room floor, and playing his Nintendo DS Transformer WiFi.

Unschooling (other than breast feeding) was the best parenting decision we ever make for our son, and ourselves. It allowed us the freedom from any constraints, and endless opportunity to allow our child to grow and become the confident, happy, wise, kind, gentle, considerate and articulate young boy he is today. No words can describe how proud me and hubby is of DS's accomplishment, so far; and we are relax and confident knowing that he will grow up to be a happy and confident young man, in his own right.

What about college and uni, incase you're asking. Well, if University is what he wants, then he'll have to back track and do college, won't he? If he wants university that badly, he WILL willingly do college, without any co-ercion and pain.

Happiness and Hugs to AllSharonBugs, unschooling 8 yrs old DragonBugshttp://mamagecko.blogspot.com/

Homeschooling an only child

We decided to pull the plug and homeschool our child when he was so unhappy and started talking about death, sometime into his 1st term in Year 1. I have to say then, tho I was very aware of my rights to educated him different, and that homeschooling is legal and permitted, i wasn't very sure where and how to start, other than to hand in that de-registration letter and to ask for formal acknowledgement from the headmistress.

I was also aware and prepared for the in-evitable enquiry from the LEA's. We were lucky in a sense that me and my kid is of foreign passport, hence we were able to justify that the LEA's involvement will not be able to support, but possibly obstruct his education. For we could not see how the LEA is able monitor suitability and efficiency of a foreign curriculum and syllabus that will be taught in duo language, English and Malay. It was our intention to part educate our son according to my homeland's syllabus and language, in preparation for our eventual return to my homeland.

So really, the fact that he'll be an only child didn't even register as a problem. I supposed me and hubby already resolved the "only child" question a long time ago when we have decided we will only have 1 kid. To us, the philosophy "less man, more share" applies. With only one kid, we can afford to provide the best of everything from attention and focus to financial matters. So really, "homeschooling only one" is not that different from our philosophy of having only one kid.

When we decided to homeschool DS, we were aware of the fact that we will be financially supporting his education on our own, which made us very glad that we only have 1 kid. From museums visits to homeschooling events and gatherings, movies to books to science kits, we're only paying for one, and not two or three. We are very electronic medium-based learning, so I am glad that I am only paying for 1 child's interest, from pc games to online community games to video games.

On our daily lives, I'm glad I am only homeschooling DS, for I only need to accomdate him, and no one else. We go wherever and whenever we want. I didn't have to play mediator between 2 or 3 children to find common grounds to make everyone happy. Every so often, I read of families with 2 or 3 kids, struggling to find common interest that will make everyone happy. In any homeschooling event, I can focus on helping my child with his chosen activity without having to be worry about the other child. We will stay for as long as we want and leave whenever we want.
Socialising? Well, if your child is the type that thrives on friends and social interaction, there is tons of homeschooling events, from drama to sports to science clubs to reading clubs to join in. And you don't even have to worry about which child does what, or pacifying the other child who hates drama classes but gets dragged along anyway because one of the child loves acting. When you have only one child, you can pick and choose to attend the one's that your child is interested in. My child don't like any structured or sit down events, so I was able to happily skipped alot of these without any guilt of the other child missing out.

My child started out being happy on his own. He had such a difficult time during his schooling years that he actually enjoyed the space and freedom of being left to his own devices. He opt to stay at home alot in the beginning, which was easily accomodated. We went to a few homeschooling gatherings but all he wanted to do was play on his own. He wasn't interested to join in playing with other children. After a few months, he just plainly told me he found the gatherings boring and would rather stay at home doing his own things. Because he was the only child, again it was easy to decide to do just that. During this time, we went out only when he felt like it. We went to places that he decided on, from swimming to movies to museums to bowling or which friend to call upon to visit.

One and a half years later, he's decided that he's had enough of being alone and now needed company, so he requested that we started attending regular homeschooling gatherings near us. Again, when and which gathering to attend is according to his preferance. Because he is the only child, I am aware that if he needs interaction with other kids, we'll have to go seeking it. Not all existing homeschooling groups appeals to my kid. So, if we want more our kind of social events than what's available, we created it, at the places he likes. Hence the occasional playdates in the park, at the local funhouse or even at our house. I'm not good at long term, regular events. I tend to organise "one off" events. We like outdoor, lots of space for high energy running and climbing, "doing what boys should be doing" sort of activities. There weren't many so we organised our own and listed our open-invitation on the local list. We always do end up having a lovely happy day full of fun and interactions with many other families. And because my child is the only child, he is very privilege to have loads of toys. Hence a playdate at our house is always convenient and exciting because he had so many toys to share with everyone. Homeschooling your only child allows you to accomodate your child's education according to his/ her interest, pace and development, and derive the best out of your current circumstances.

Lastly but not least, I have to say my child is diagnosed with Asperger. I strongly believed homeschooling DS alone has provided me the flexibility to accomodate him on all levels comfortably. It allows me plenty of time to focus on how best to facilitate his learning without having to split resources or worry about another child. And the luxury to drop it, chop it or change it, at the drop of a hat, if it doesn't work. Without having to consider the 2nd or 3rd child's needs. So to me, homeschooling an only child in the 21st century is no longer an issue. The invention of the internet has played a huge role in making homeschooling a viable and possible path, no matter where you are. It has provided huge support to many homeschooling families, and connected all of us homeschoolers to each other, at all times of the day. And this is no different to our children, especially our only child. With the invention of telephone and internet, our only child can now be as socially active as they want to be. My kid uses the telephone alot to speak to his friend. He also communicates alot with his online friends over the internet. With the common practise of possessing a family car, we're no longer alone and isolated, for social events can be easily accessible. Even without a car, the availability of public transport can help make it happen.

SharonBugs, happily and successfully unschooling 8 yrs old DS. http://mamagecko.blogspot.com/

Monday, 24 November 2008

A semi structured approach to home education

We had never intended to home educate. In fact, it had never even occurred to us. We sort of fell into it as a last resort.

Our girls (now 14 and 12) were in an independent, fee-paying, girls only school until March 2007.

We withdrew them because of educational and welfare issues that we were unable to resolve with the school. As we looked at our options, the closest independent school was miles away and the local state schools have a very poor record. So I started to research home education and, to be honest, very nearly didn’t do it at all.

It was only when I chatted to someone who told me his daughter was taking some GCSEs that summer that I personally felt more comforted.

Coming from the background we did, I think we had always intended to do something in way of GCSEs or equivalent with a view to potentially opening the doors into further and higher education.

We started out with quite a formal time-table, which soon gave way to a more flexible “semi-structured approach.”

We started working with English, Maths and Science Workbooks for the appropriate age group, which was very useful to see what they had covered in school and where there were some pretty gaping holes in basic knowledge, especially for the younger daughter and her Maths!

This was accompanied by using online resources such as BBC Bitesize http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/revision/ .

I knew we were in no great rush and that we had time to find our feet and to settle into our own routine.

I found some research that had been done on students studying for GCSE subjects and found that each subject consists of approximately 100 hours of study. If they studied one subject for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week they could be up to the standard of passing an exam in 5-6 weeks if they chose to!

I then found a wonderful forum for Home Educating families who are considering GCSEs and alternatives. It was a real god-send to me because I was beginning to think we were the only family who were considering taking exams.

That moved us away from GCSEs to IGCSEs, which are the international version and seem to be a better preparation for A-Level than GCSE, as well as being recognised and liked by most Universities. Additionally there is no coursework.

When the girls left school it was the first time they had really had the time for external activities and they joined Stagecoach (a group for singing, dancing and drama), joined a Pop Music school where one child plays the electric guitar and the other plays the drums, started horse riding and other activities.

Stagecoach has been fantastic for both children and especially for the older one, who has decided she wants to pursue Drama and acting as a career.

Fortunately we had continued with Speech and Drama lessons from leaving school and continue to work towards the LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) exams. These carry considerable weight in the acting world, as well as contributing towards UCAS points for University.

From that passion, she has found somewhere she would like to go to study at 16 years old and that has given us a clear path to follow. She has been told that she needs 6 GCSEs or equivalent, including Maths and English.

We are working towards IGCSEs with both children, including Maths, English, ICT, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and our older daughter is also studying German.

We are doing this in a mixture of ways. Some subjects, we work at home from books and online resources; we have a tutor for the Speech and Drama; and we are part of a group for the Science, which has been organised by some of the home educating parents we know who have a degree in the subjects and can teach them.

When we started, we adopted a project based approach. We picked our favourite subject- chocolate- and used that to teach across every subject including Maths, Science, ICT, Geography, History and culminating in the obligatory field trip to Cadbury World in Birmingham!

With the younger daughter, she is in the Girl Guides and we have spent most of her first year of home education doing numerous badges because she has responded much better to a more project based approach than to the formal approach, that her older sister seemed quite comfortable with.

Completing the Guide badges has provided her with a huge set of very useful tools, including researching, organising and presenting material in numerous different mediums and setting goals and sticking with them to completion.

The younger daughter is a keen writer and photographer (something we really only discovered when they finished school). She has written 3 full-length books for girls, which we are in the process of self- publishing for her.

Within the first few weeks we had got her photography website up and running, which she built herself, with some help from me. We are working on selling her photographs and creating a business for her out of her writing and photography. You can see her website at www.pawingphotographs.com

For the first year, we did not socialise with other home-educating families at all. I had spoken to a couple of group leaders and felt that most groups seemed to consist of either very young children or people who were taking the totally autonomous route to education. I felt like a fish out of water.

It was only when I met someone in the Home Ed GCSE forum, who was talking about an IGCSE drama group, that we went and started to meet other families who thought in the same way as we did. This led onto the group with the Science IGCSE.

For us it has been very important to help the girls find things they are passionate about, as well as allowing them to try different things and discard the ones they don’t like.

As I know how fast they are absorbing the subjects that we are covering, it also gives us the luxury of being able to go out for the day or for the girls to spend the whole day in bed if they seem particularly tired.

For our family, this has worked best with a “semi-structured” approach, as it gives us a sense of direction. It is a constantly evolving process.

I have written about our journey on my blog http://www.goldstonacademyfortheinsane.com

Amanda Goldston