Reasons for Home Education â€“ 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. 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 although she is beginning to settle down and equally knows when she needs a few minutes skipping or jumping first. Frances likes to be able to â€œdo easilyâ€ anything she attempts and her natural â€œlearning styleâ€ 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 â€œlearning experiencesâ€ 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
We consider our educational approach to be child led and our definition of that is as follows.
Firstly we follow up any interests she has regardless of whether they would normally be covered in the â€œschool year groupâ€ she is currently matched to. If she expresses interest and asks to know more we tell her. This extends to current events, topics, crafts or skills. She has access to television, Internet (supervised), books, cd-roms, games and a wide variety of family and friend orientated adults all of whom are prepared to give her time in the way that we do.
Secondly, our child led approach extends to the right we give Frances to pace her own learning. We make considerable effort to expose her to new ideas, experiences, topics and literature and to expand her horizons. However we recognise that she will let us know if she is not ready for a particular book or topic yet and under those (rare) circumstances, we come back and try again at a later date. The same applies to skills; Frances has been a relatively late reader and writer, mainly we feel because it has taken her a very long time to competently master sounds of speech affected by her cleft. Rather than create stress by forcing the issue we have simply worked around the skills, using activities that strengthen fine motor skills, pens skills, and letter and simple word recognition, as well enjoying good books together in a positive fashion.
We aim to consistently offer new opportunities for learning and at times the â€œright approachâ€ is fairly formal; sometimes it is project based, at other times Frances enjoys down time and evaluation time and we have found that even when nothing new â€œappearsâ€ to be being learned, her other skills and abilities have always improved when she comes back ready for more. Currently we are using a Charlotte Mason reading â€œcurriculumâ€ which gives us a loose structure of good quality, appropriate literature to read with her each week. In short, we follow no rigid â€œschool timeâ€ pattern but go with the flow. Most recently this has meant quite a structured and busy summer of learning, during the â€œschool holidaysâ€ but might now mean that she relaxes into another form of learning for the autumn.
Educational Report for Frances Raymond â€“ Age 6 â€“ 2004
As per the legal guidelines, I have chosen to provide you with information of Francesâ€™ education in terms of an Educational Report. I have included brief descriptions with photos of projects we have enjoyed this year. I am prepared to be visited at home to discuss the report further if you wish, however I am not currently prepared to have any of my daughters present at the meeting until such time as I feel a positive, long term and beneficial relationship has grown between the EWO and myself.
In terms of â€œtime spentâ€ on Francesâ€™ education, this is difficult to quantify. We do not â€œstopâ€ 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. We go on a lot of social visits plus we take day trips out on a regular basis to enjoy local or national attractions.
Frances uses the house and the world as her learning environment â€“ 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. If I donâ€™t know the answer to something, one child or other will usually say, â€œyour computer will know!!!â€
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 very much enjoys 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.
Reading and Writing
Frances had a good basic grasp of some words well before she was 4. We have several reading schemes in the house and a wealth of books â€“ she looks at these with us or alone. Recently she seems to have finally become ready for reading and is working through a phonic reading scheme called â€œBob Booksâ€ which she loves. We back up these books by writing out sentences and most of all, making our own word searches with new words from the books. Frances is now very excited by reading and practises alone, tries new books and reads the world around her. I feel our trust in allowing her to find her pace has been rewarded as she is now highly motivated to improve her skills. She seems to see great benefit now in obtaining the skill and is thrilled by her new abilities.
Frances was a reluctant writer, which seemed to follow naturally on from having been until recently a reluctant drawer/colourer. As her reading skills have improved she has become much more inclined to write and her letter/numeral formation has improved greatly. She writes simply but with increasing skill and is very motivated to improve what she can do. The suddenness of her skill gaining in this area has been breath-taking and I feel sure that within a short space of time now, she will be completely competent. Currently, as well as enjoying making cards, pictures and invitations for us, she is enjoying using workbooks for letter and word practise. We are happy to encourage this while she enjoys and wants them but do not anticipate it will necessarily be a long-term strategy for her.
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 Over the last year Frances has become very maths able and competently manages the skills in KS1 or age 6-7 workbooks, which she uses as puzzle books. She can add and subtract horizontally without error, knows her 2, 10 and 5 times table, tells the time with reasonable accuracy, can use simple fractions like Â½, Â¼ or â…“, enjoys simple money sums and plays with tessellations and shapes. Although our summer has involved quite a lot of workbooks, she has mostly used these as â€œgames to playâ€ and rather than learning new things from them, has just enjoyed filling time by completing pages. Most of the skills have been learned through very hands on activities or simply using the skills in every day life. She regularly plays shops with her sisters using real money, plays times table games on walks or in the car and experiments with the mathematical materials we have at home. Other favourites are still a host of computer games where she happily plays games aimed at 6, 7 and 8 year olds with minimum help.
It has almost seemed that Literacy and Numeracy have been the summers â€œinterest topicâ€ during which time she has entertained herself with the skills, undoubtedly improving and using them in a more conventional sense but with an excitement and self motivation that has been thrilling to watch and support.
Most science work is currently of the kitchen and nature study type. The children bake and cook regularly, garden and we have rabbits who require care which the children take part in. The Wildlife Trust, which has a series of â€œbadgesâ€ children can work towards, also provides a series of interest topics in its mail outs, which we enjoy. We enjoy regular trips out and this summer we have enjoyed pressing flowers and leaves.
A notable project this year has been sea life, where we looked at all sorts of sea mammals and animals. Frances was particularly interested in dolphins and killer whales and we spent a lot of time exploring life cycles, diets and habitats. Finding Nemo inevitably provoked an interest in coral reefs and we enjoyed that immensely. A great resource was the BBC Blue Planet, which she watched avidly.
Another project involved investigating the properties of plant life. We grew cress, watched coloured water be drawn into the veins of white flowers and experimented with growing peas with light and water, just water and no light or water. I encouraged Fran to conclude for herself why the different environments affected the peas. We also grew an avocado from a seed and found out where they grow naturally.
Over the next few weeks I have a plan to cover 12 subjects as â€œSaturday Scienceâ€ to give her and her sister an introduction to some of the topics that we have covered verbally. These will include human body, magnets, recycling and more.
History is very much Francesâ€™ passion. She has an insatiable interest in the past and really enjoys discovering more about the people and places of history. This year she has explored the Romans while on holiday in Scotland and followed it up with more reading and project work at home and the history of Britain through a 1910 narrative history for children called Our Island Story. We revisited the Tudors following a trip to Windsor Castle, explored our family tree, and have read a series of stories based on the famous myths of Rome and Greece. Fran loves to place peoples into history and we have plans for a timeline to be made over the winter.
History is the basis for my autumn and winter plans and I have a series of â€œliving booksâ€ to read with the children and do associated project work to whatever level it intrigues them. The books cover Medieval Castle life, Pompeii, the lives of several artists, Marco Polo, Joan of Arc and some Native and contemporary American history. In addition I have a book called â€œStory of the Worldâ€ to begin with them which covers the various cultures and regions of the world in a simple story format, with activities.
It is important to stress however that this may be used completely differently to how I currently expect, depending on what catches their interest at the time. It may well be that those plans get postponed or prolonged considerably.
We have World and UK maps up in the house and make considerable effort to find the places we read about or see on the news. This year we have very much enjoyed an extended look at volcanoes (helped by my geologist brother who brought real lava to look at and photos of himself standing in volcanoes!) and also Africa where we explored the types of habitat, the animals and the life styles of people who live there. We very much enjoyed reading books on both topics â€“ Hill of Fire about the creation of a new, Mexican volcano from a hole in a field and Marriage of the Rain Goddess, about the faiths of the African Tribes. We have also had appropriate trips to Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and the Suffolk Wildlife Park, which focuses on African animals
Religious, Moral and Personal Development
This year we have concentrated on expanding our understanding of the faiths of the world as well as continuing to try to answer Francesâ€™ increasing curiosity about God and Religion. While nominally C of E we believe our children should understand and accept people of most faiths so we try to strike a balance between equipping her with the knowledge of her own Christian culture and giving her insights into other religions. At this time we do this by reading simple narrative Bible stories to her and encouraging her to â€œtell them backâ€ to us but also reading a variety of stories from other faiths, including looking at festivals at relevant times. This summer we have very much enjoyed books called Tales from the Ark, A Calendar of Festivals, and The Lady of Ten Thousand Names among others. We are also enjoying Aesopâ€™s Fables, the Just So stories and Parables from Faith and Nature. A brief look at Roman gods and religious practices provided an interesting contrast to all these explorations.
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. Currently we are concentrating on copying instructions to make a cartoon or simple drawing and exploring different mediums. Frances has an uncle who is an artist who is happy to spend time drawing with her and a family friend has agreed to come and do â€œart sessionsâ€ at home with all three girls.
In addition we have started to spend some time on art appreciation and have a set of books on different artists to explore over the foreseeable future. These include large prints of famous works, life stories, factual books and stories that use either works of art as their basis or artists as the main character. Ideally we will use these books to explore some different art techniques and historical periods.
In addition to that Frances has begun to enjoy simple sewing, collage, jewellery making and modelling with dough and clay.
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 a childrenâ€™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 typist for sometime, uses upper/lower cases easily and has a good understanding of computer keys and mouse functions.