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  • Writer's pictureKate

Home education time!

We've been getting a few questions about home education from people - so thought it would be a good idea to put a quick post together about how we've approached home education over the past decade.

Home education is a LOT more efficient than school.

If you're studying something at home, there's no way to pretend that you're working while gazing out the window and any work you're doing is pretty much going to be at the right level- and if it's either too easy or too hard, there's the option to change to do something more appropriate. If you have a parent teaching a child 1:1 it's tuition, not class teaching. They're not the same. This means that not only can you get a "day" of class teaching done in a couple of hours, it also means that home education will be very, very tiring if you try to do 5 hour long lessons per day- don't try and do 9-3.30 academic days at home!

Students don't need constant attention.

5 hours of 1:30 time means each student only gets a maximum of a few minutes' attention per day at school.

Kids- get used to trying to think through problems by yourselves (see the post on Khan Academy for hints if you're finding self-study difficult):

Parents, don't feel guilty about leaving kids to get on with it by themselves: Obviously preschoolers need a fair bit of supervision to stay safe, but by secondary, most stuff shouldn't need extra support most of the time. Except for the times when they're really stuck.

Parents don't need to know the answers.

As a parent you're not supposed to be a subject expert: You never knew the details of the dinosaurs your 3-year-old asked about before Googling, right? So you don't need to remember Pythagorean Theorum to be a help to your GCSE level kid studying maths. You need to be able to be calm, look at the problem, and help someone who's got in a dither to find resources that will help. You have the whole Internet to help you. Somebody on YouTube or BBC Bitesize or at some subject-specific website or forum (depending on the student's age, for using forums) is going to have exactly the information your stuck student needs.

First, help them to think of useful search terms (kids are mostly awful at Googling until trained). Then, once they've had a good go at working things out by themselves, have a go at looking with them or getting them to explain to you what they've worked out.

If you're all still really stuck, just move on to something else- you don't have to keep bashing your heads on one particularly problematic wall- even school lessons time out and people move on, whether or not they've understood the previous lesson!

Work out your priorities- together!

What do you really want to get out of education?

We have a few basic rules, set around what we've decided are the really necessary things that need to be studies pretty much every termtime weekday. They'll probably be a bit different for every family- ours are below- but they only started to apply at above age about 8- below that, only the sections after this one really apply!

However much some of us hate writing, we all recognise that a GCSE in English is necessary for most further study and jobs, so those in the family capable of doing this do need to do writing (or typing) tasks which involve proper sentences and paragraphs every day. That can be anything from writing a story, a diary, working through a History workbook or anything- but what is needed depends on the current level of the student.

Those in the family who have additional needs incompatible with writing to that level focus more on key skills and sequencing tasks.

For maths we use Khan Academy for either about half an hour or 1-2 exercises per day- the only rule is there has to be a bit of a challenge involved in the maths being done. Again, it's geared child-by-child.

For languages we're currently using Duolingo- watch out if setting up using the mobile app as some versions use lives and will lock you out once you've got a few answers slightly wrong. The desktop version (and other randomly allocated app versions) don't have lives so you can practice as long as you like- which makes a lot more sense!

Then some of the kids do music practice as well.

All that takes up to about lunch time- we also make sure that at least an hour of exercise-outside-type-stuff happens each day (though obviously that could be difficult at the moment for many people- we're lucky to have a garden), then the rule is that learning-type-stuff needs to happen until at least 3pm. That can be cooking, crafting, programming using apps like Scratch, making stopmotion videos... pretty much anything except TV and computer gaming- unless there's a really good explanation for why the gaming fits the "education" criterion!

But saying that we have these rules for most days...

Be flexible

It's not school. You can change things around. If it's a lovely day, or you want to do a project that's going to take a whole day- or a week- flat out, do it. A big sewing project, or website idea, or gardening concept will teach you loads in loads of different areas. Use the Internet to help you do the job well- and don't worry about "missing" the basic academic stuff you'd usually be doing. It won't vanish, and getting a broad education is about more than plugging away at maths and English.

Younger children really don't need loads of "studying" time: If you have access to fun stuff (and if you're reading this article, you do) you can just get going with something interesting and let them do loads of playing. Hopefully some reading will come into it at some point, but other than that, they don't seem to fall behind on the academics as long as they're busy and doing things to challenge themselves- whether that's practicing cartwheels or watching hugely age inappropriate videos on quantum mechanics.

And... give yourselves the space to enjoy it!

This is really an expansion of the point above. If you're usually in school, right now you have the space and time to try lots of things you might have thought looked interesting in the past but not had time for. Have a think about what you might enjoy. Maybe there are loads of different things you're keen on looking into, or maybe there's just one thing you'd like to study in loads of detail and get really good at. While getting hold of resources at the moment might be hard, there's a lot of stuff out there that needs nothing more than you're using to read this article. So go for it!

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