Reasons for Home Education – The Child
We decided to home educate Frances when she was very young. Frances was born with a cleft lip and palate and had almost no intelligible speech at 3 years old. In addition she was very nervous and was reduced to complete silence if she became aware that an adult could not understand her. Frances is young for her year and would have been only just 4 when her reception year started. At this time, a large and noisy classroom would have been disastrous for her and her hearing was severely affected by glue ear and she was exceptionally defensive about her speech difficulties. Playgroup, with its identical Foundation Stage curriculum provided an excellent grounding for her in a caring and well staffed environment , while leaving plenty of time in every week for her to be with us, following interests of a more stretching nature, socialising and enjoying playing and being with her family.
Frances is an exceptionally active child. It is hard for her to be still even for a short period through the day so that even story telling involves a lot of bouncing. I do not consider her to be particularly unusual in this way, but we have discovered that she learns best in the afternoons and evenings after she has had time to run off energy. I feel sure that her level of energy would be hard to accommodate successfully in a normal classroom setting. Frances likes to be able to “do easily” anything she attempts and her natural “learning style” is to try something, take a step back and then, after a period of evaluation, come back to it and do it easily. She is immensely focused when she wants to achieve something and will often voluntarily sit at an activity for several hours and on successive days. Forced “learning experiences” however, are not so successful; she is well aware if she is being manipulated towards a certain goal. She has a very enquiring mind and a level of interest that will question anything, ask intelligent questions and remember what she has been told, or what she has found out.
Our Educational Philosophy
As our approach to Frances’ education is largely opportunity based, child centred and flexible, it is not possible to submit a timetable, or to specify in advance the activities we will be undertaking. She is given plenty of time to explore her own interests and we make considerable effort to ensure that she has practice at essential elements of learning. We strive to keep a balance between child centred and directed learning. We listen constantly to what Frances says and asks and try to provide full learning opportunities within her interests. We believe very strongly that Frances is naturally inclined to learn and that she can be trusted to do so. However we are always on the look out for any gap that may arise and we make the necessary adjustments to ensure that such gaps are filled. Where a topic become popular, we strive to use it to access a variety of “subjects” and opportunities so that a broad educational value is achieved. Discussion plays a great part in our approach.
She has full access to books, cd-roms, music, television and radio and we will always discuss anything that she takes an interest in. We feel that there is great benefit in most activities and we look for ways to improve skills she will need in life in a more imaginative way than simply forcing her to do something she does not feel ready for. Most importantly we want Frances to have a love of learning and investigating and feel that those skills and the desire to learn deserve careful protection and encouragement. We pride ourselves in giving Frances the opportunity to “learn to learn” and feel that essentially that is more important than the individual topics we cover, however interesting they are in themselves.
Since deciding to Home Educate three years ago, we have taken our decision very seriously. I have equated myself with the Charlotte Mason approach (the system under which my own Junior School was run), the Montessori approach and the National Curriculum. It is our opinion that Frances experiences an education considerably broader than the latter, but we do ensure that her skills broadly match those of her school peers. We have no intention of following the NC in any terms other than to ensure she has an ability level with her school year, and so far she seems to be doing that with ease. At a last check, Frances had an understanding of or beyond most of the mathematical concepts expected of a child at the end of year one and her literacy skills were on a par with those expected of a child of her age.
Educational Report for Frances – Age 5 – 2003-2004
As per the legal guidelines set out in the leaflet you have sent me, I have chosen to provide you with information of Frances’ education in terms of an Educational Report. As an example, I have included a description with pictures of a recent and very far-reaching project we have enjoyed on Henry VIII and the Tudors. I am supplying this as an alternative to the form you provided, as it is not applicable to our style of Home Education.
In terms of “time spent” on Frances’ education, this is difficult to quantify. We do not “stop” for holidays and half terms, and much of our education is in the form of discussions in the car, in the shops, during days out, on summer holidays etc. However, we do have a period of 2-3 hours per day, 4 times a week in term time when one younger sister is in nursery and the other is having a nap – this time is set aside solely for anything Frances would like to do; this may take the form of project work, craft, computer time, work on maths, reading, nature study etc On other occasions it is simply a time of household peace when she enjoys playing time without interruption from younger siblings. She has a bedroom to herself and spends considerable time in the evenings looking at books of her choice, completing artwork, practising writing and playing.
In terms of an “area set aside for teaching,” this implies a “school at home” environment, which we do not have. However every room has books, pens and paper, toys, maths manipulatives, craft stuff, computers and space to work, to a greater or lesser degree. Frances uses the house and the world as her learning environment – it is not necessary to contrive one. We have a great number of cd roms (far in excess of the nursery classroom her sister is in!) books that would furnish a small library, various reading and maths schemes and a considerable amount of conventional classroom equipment like maths rods, base ten sets etc. We have broadband Internet access and the children all have the opportunity to help me find the answers to questions they ask as well as playing Internet hosted games on educational and fun sites.
Frances has an active social life and plays regularly with both Home Educated and Schooled friends. We attend two HE groups as and when the topics interest us, Frances is part of an Ice Skating team and has many friends there, we attend HE camps regularly and we visit friends across the country for several days at a time. She has recently joined Rainbow Guides and may take Ballet/dancing up again in the near future. With two younger sisters, Frances does not want for company and is generally a very sociable child. It was significant to note at a recent wedding, that she was indistinguishable in behaviour and confidence from any school child and played happily in a group of hitherto unknown children all day.
Reading and Writing
Frances had a good basic grasp of some words well before she was 4. Over the last year she has mainly consolidated this knowledge, adding words from her daily life into the mix and using computer games, magazines and favourite television programmes to assist her. Recently she has acquired a strong understanding of phonic sounding and is becoming much more confident at letter blends and word construction. We have several reading schemes in the house and a wealth of books – she looks at these with us or alone. Her preferred method of reading practise is currently a set of computer games called “Reader Rabbit”. She will often request one of these and will sit for lengthy periods, working on word games and phonics. One method we have found works very well is to make up matching cards and games using words. We have a “library” system, where Frances chooses one special book and we concentrate on its content as a focus for the week. Frances picks words she likes and we use them for games, spellings, recognition etc.
Frances is a reluctant writer, which seems to follow naturally on from having been until recently a reluctant drawer/colourer. We have worked hard on helping her with a pencil grip and fine motor skills, using bead patterns, threading and sewing and she has improved considerably. She has started to draw with confidence and enjoyment and asks for words to copy. We encourage her confidence by helping her to create pretend “parties” where she writes the invitations, giving her printed sheets with names of favourite characters and letting her make cards and letters for family members. Recently Frances asked for the names of all her favourite Queens to copy; I complied and left her to it and on my return found that she had struggled with the formation of one letter and had had the presence of mind to find a workbook that could show her how to form it. I felt this showed a real understanding of her own ability as well as how to go about finding information she wanted herself.
Our approach to maths is to allow our children to explore the way numbers and shapes work. We have plenty of Montessori style manipulatives in the house which the children use at their leisure for odds and evens work, volume work, tens and hundreds work etc Recently Frances mastered counting from 1-100 and it was interesting that while she found those numbers she had learned by rote at playgroup hard to visualise and use constructively, she got to grips very quickly the higher numbers that we learned by physically working with a base ten set and number cards. Frances has a sound grip of “swapping up” groups of units to tens, adding and subtracting and is beginning to work with multiplication tables. She enjoys using her abacus and number rods as well as a variety of games on boards or on the computer. In addition we have huge numbers of workbooks which we can use as puzzle books, Miquon and Singapore maths schemes and a computer syllabus called Eduss maths which Frances enjoys working on periodically.
Most science work is currently of the kitchen and nature study type. The children bake and cook regularly, we grew an extensive collection of vegetables and herbs over the summer and we have rabbits who require care which the children take part in. Most recently we have joined The Wildlife Trust, which has a series of “badges” children can work towards. The first one Frances has chosen to do requires 3 pieces of artwork inspired by nature. Frances took our digital camera out into our garden, made a record of “Our garden in Autumn” chose which pictures she was pleased with and retook those she was not and took them to be developed. She is now working on a creative display with these. We have had extensive discussion on why leaves die, why the seasons change, why clouds are sometime white or grey, wind and climate, types of trees and plants, why plants need flowers, why insects need plants and the difference between air and gases (sparked by opening a bottle of fizzy water!)
An interest in healthy eating recently provoked a range of discussions on different foods, a good look through our cupboards, a shopping trip, several Internet games based on food groups, some food group identification using clipart photos on the web and a serious look at our own diet. We are currently investigating a series of science kits from The Young Scientist Club, which we may use next year to widen our science exploration. In the meantime, sets of “Geomags” have provided mathematical shape exploration and an interest in types and properties of metal and magnets.
History and Geography
Most of this year has been taken up with an extended interest in Henry VIII and the Tudors (see attached example of work) and variously we have spent time looking at flags of the world, using maps, discussing travel, discussing the issues involved in the musical Miss Saigon and getting involved in a postcards from round the world project with other HE children. We have World, UK and constellation maps available on the walls at all times as well as a picture timeline and plenty of books on all sorts of subjects. As I am a book rep for two children’s book suppliers, these change frequently!
Religious, Moral and Personal Development
Earlier in the year, Frances developed an interest in her conscience, mainly from the film Pinocchio. We have had lots of discussion based on this and Frances’ perception of what is “good” or “right” and it has lead naturally on to a discussion of God and a Christian way of living. Her interest in Henry VIII has involved several trips to Peterborough Cathedral to visit Catherine of Aragon’s tomb and so we have had the opportunity to examine some religious imagery and buildings as well as discussing the finer points of death and burial. Additionally, this interest has provoked several conversations about Catholicism, Protestantism and the reformation, which take some doing with a 5 year old! Churches have been a focus of natural interest and Frances has grappled with the idea of faith in something we cannot see or know exists and its relevance to her conscience. Most recently she chose a book of bible stories as a library book and we have spent time working through them, discussing the stories and their relevance to her life. I have tried to employ the idea of narration with the bible stories and am interested to see that Frances is retaining a solid concept of these stories. She is currently interested in Old Testament and Moses in particular, and we have some worked planned on Egypt, babies in baskets, Princesses and wet nursing, amongst other things. We also found some bible story sticker and puzzle books in the local supermarket and are looking forward to using them with our bible.
We have a wide range of art materials in the house and they change frequently. Fran has full access to paper, pens, scissors and glue at all times and enjoys painting, junk modelling, sewing, Hama beads, collage and photography. Frances has an interest currently in how shapes make pictures so we have been working on drawing using basic shapes and filling in detail.
In addition we have started to spend some time on art appreciation, in particular we have looked at Holbein’s portraits and line drawings (as well as other Tudor portraiture) and spent some time using Dover publication books on costume through the ages. Part of Frances’ interest in costume involved using scrap fabrics to create a Tudor outfit, complete with all the layers it involved and full volume of material. Frances then played for the afternoon in her costume and was amazed by the weight and difficulty Tudor children were expected to cope with. As a further project, we have bought material and a pattern and as going to investigate dressmaking and make a medieval dress.
Frances ice-skates twice a week and has done for 3 years. She has coaching with the head coach there and is expected to work hard, for allotted periods of time and conform to normal coaching standards i.e. accepting criticism and striving to improve her skating. She is good friends with many of Mrs Lock’s young skating team was the youngest solo performer in this years Ice Gala. She is currently Grade 3 standard and spends each Saturday morning in a conventional class group with 10-20 other children. Additionally the children swim regularly, have climbing frames in the garden and visit soft play areas and parks frequently.
Frances is competent with the computer and has a wide range of games and software available to her. She uses the computer every day and chooses her own cd-roms as applicable to her interest. In addition we run as children’s email list, monitored by parents and only available to children whose parents know each other. They are able to send group emails and discuss topics. Frances currently requires help to read and type the messages but is very excited by them and puts huge effort into composing her own emails. She has been a competent one fingered typist for sometime, uses upper/lower cases easily and has a good understanding of computer keys and mouse functions.
Frances loves to dance and pretend and has ample opportunity to do so with friends and sisters. In addition she and her sisters have developed a real interest in Spanish language, via their favourite TV programme Dora the Explorer. To bolster this enthusiasm we have purchased Usborne Spanish language books and cds and have been practising sentences and vocabulary in the car as well as using simple sentences around the house.