When my eldest son was three, I was told by the local Education Authority that I would have to either move or home-educate as they were not going to help with his education if we stayed farming our island home. As so many families have been thrown in to home educating during the pandemic I wanted to pass on some tips that I have learnt along the way.
The thought of the end of the holidays and having to get the boys back to work again was always tough. I see that Kate and William have got round this by not having holidays at all!
The only way that I could cope was to have the lessons completely planned the night before. I tried to use the holiday to make an overall plan of the topics to cover in the term, but no plan ever went smoothly and inevitably we went off track. Sometimes that was good as it meant that we had got really interested in a topic and had explored it further, but sometimes it was because I was just failing to get the lesson across and we were all frustrated. Looking back I can see that we often learnt more from the lessons that went wrong than from the ones that I thought went well. Failure is the best teacher. I am reminded of this all the time with my knitting designs. It’s often three stitches forward and two back as I try out different variations.
The summer term was always tough because there was so much happening outside the window to distract. But this can also be a starting point for investigation or description, often prompted by the arrival of a jet overhead or a migrant bird. We made newspapers made up of articles and pictures and adverts, even poems. I can imagine that if we were in school now we would be making a Covid-19 edition; how crazy has the world become, and what a tragic but horribly fascinating situation we are in. Writing about anything is a good way to tackle worries. A paper format can be used to describe the situation, but also to consider possible solutions. Maybe your children will use their imagination to think of the way the world will be changed both in bad and good ways after it is over. Last year when the boys were home we read an edition of a newspaper that I had kept from school and it was a lovely insight into the best of those days. Hilarious too!
I found that the children really welcomed being treated as equals and I think that it is important to face up to all our fears as a team discussing the problems and worries that we are coping with together. One of the differences between being a home educator and a teacher is that you can be more of a facilitator and less of an imparter of facts. After all, we are learning all our lives in whatever we do, and teaching your children is a huge learning curve on many levels for you as well as your children. The biggest lesson for us all currently is how to cope in a world which has literally changed overnight, and even very small children, given a chance to express themselves will have good input into your family strategy. We always had the best discussions over the meals that we cooked and ate together. Make the most of this time to talk!