I’ve not much mentioned Home Education on this blog, mostly because it’s not really the purpose of this particular blog which was set up to chart our travelling adventure in 2011 and subsequent new life here on Rum in 2012. Home Education in our family is rather like having a nose, going to sleep each night, being called Goddard – it’s just what we do and who we are rather than something we think too much about really. Once upon a time it was a conscious decision as an alternative to school, these days although I constantly evaluate and consider the direction things take and can ably fit Dragon and Star’s lives into tidy little tick boxes if required to demonstrate their being in receipt of an education it has long since stopped being something I think about termly, yearly or even very much at all.
The intention of this post is to update where a previous Home Education blog of ours left off and to answer a couple of more specific comments about what we do and how we do it. As I’ve said before we are not anti-school and certainly don’t congratulate ourselves that we have discovered the one true path. In the same way as our whole current lifestyle would not suit everyone I am utterly sure that the way we parent and educate would not either. However based on all the current evidence – health, happiness and wellbeing of the four of us I am pretty confident that we have found the right path for us.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times that there are as many ways to Home Educate as there are families home educating. Some people follow curriculums, use tutors, refer to workbooks, work towards qualifications. Others focus strongly on certain areas such as literacy, numeracy, languages, musical instruments, sports if their children have a particular passion or talent for that. Some people Home Educate due to specific needs of their child – maybe a learning disability which requires them to learn at their own pace, use special materials or support or resources. Some families have strong religious beliefs which mean their learning takes a particular slant different to what mainstream education would provide. Some children have been damaged by the school system – bullied, excluded, otherwise phobic of the whole environment.
I know of families where school simply would not fit into their lifestyle – they travel, work weekends but are around in the weekdays, spend time visiting so many interesting places and attending different workshops that to send their children to school in favour of their rich and varied lifestyle would be to deny them the very best childhood and educational experience possible rather than to deliver it.
Then there are the more alternative folk, those who challenge and question the reasoning behind formal education, which is actually a fairly new concept, one that doesn’t really work properly and fulfil all of it’s own aims and missions. Should a system that works towards gaining qualifications have an end result where not everyone achieves that? For a lot of people home educating in an unstructured, flexible, child interest and passion led manner what happens is schooling as we know it in terms of education becomes irrelevant. Our children are not schooled they are educated, education is, according to wikipedia:
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people sustain from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g. instruction in schools.
As an adult I know I never stop learning – what I know today at 38 is less than I will know next year at 39, more than I knew last year at 37 yet totally different to what Dragon knows at 11, Star knows at 9 and Ady knows at 48. My motivations for learning remain constant now that learning is of my own free will and not because I am ’caused’ to recieve it. I learn because I am interested, because something is relevant or necessary to me. I learn both deliberately and accidentally due to what I set out to do and what happens to me along the way. I learn best when I feel supported, encouraged, safe, able. I learn different things in different ways – some best through instruction – listening to others who already possess knowledge and are able to impart it to me in a way which makes sense to me. I learn through reading books or researching on the internet – finding a style in which I am able to comprehend something and apply it to my own needs. I learn well through doing, by getting stuck in, by experimenting, making mistakes along the way and reassessing and picking up expertise as I go.
The way we home educate is an extension of all of the above. We encourage, support and provide opportunities for Dragon and Star to find their way. We don’t limit or prioritise one skill above another. Play is as important as reading, sowing seeds as vital as mathematics. A knowledge of who sang ‘Love me do’ as relevant as identifying Beethoven, creating a plasticine work of art of their own as worthy of applause as knowing Van Gogh’s greatest art works. Learning is everywhere, every day and never stops.
Dragon has learnt to read and write employing a vast array of resources and skills. Snuggled up with me looking at towering piles of books since babyhood, a burning desire to create his own stories and commit them to paper. Needing to know the instructions on a DS game, wanting to write out a label to sell his produce ( D& S used to sell lavender sprigs over the garden wall to passers by when they were tiny. These days they collect treasures off the beaches and create little works of art to sell to tourists – an entrepreneurial spirit has long been present in both of them despite my ranting about consumerism and refusal to dish out pocket money!).
Star has learnt to identify countless birds and animals from books, DS games, wildlife documentaries and spending time outside with binoculars, camera and spotter books.
We are currently not working towards qualifications but at some future point if the children decide they would like to do so then we will continue to support them in that. Their current intention is to travel the world together in a sailing boat (an ambition that was born when we read a Michael Morpurgo book while travelling the UK in a campervan), both adore Rum and intend making their way back here at some point, both feel keen to leave and explore the wider world before settling down anywhere.
Day to day Dragon and Star spend their time with us building our new lives. They are engaged at every step of the way with rearing the livestock, planning what happens next, getting involved in the community and collecting new skills. They are both working on a series of projects of their own creation – Dragon is spending time with a member of the community learning about creating games, casting models and designing sets of rules. He is writing and illustrating two different stories and working on various craft projects for selling to tourists. Star is busy with a self set challeng to draw a different animal every day, monitoring wildlife on weekly boat trips and daily visits down to the river. This last week has seen her get involved in soap making, baking and spending time in the local shop. Both are involved in training our dog and learning alongside us about alternative energy, green building, croft planning and design. We have recently been discussing our next livestock projects and deciding the long term fate of two chicks that hatched last week – whether they should join our flock, be fattened for the table and what impact on blood lines keeping them might have.
As time goes by I would anticipate their projects and interests flourishing ever more and encouraging them further to explore what hopes and dreams they have for their own adulthood and what steps they need to take towards realising them. This could well mean college or university, apprenticeships or training courses, helping them create business plans and work out the necessary resources and finance.
I think the way Home Education works for us in our family is that all four of us continue to learn alongside each other all the time. Sometimes we are learning from each other, often from other people, even more often just from life itself.