Wednesday, 15 September 2010

NOT Back To School

Yesterday, Mags and I attended a special event on Southampton Common. It was the 'NOT Back To School Picnic'.

The annual get together is held by the local home schooling support group. They're a friendly bunch, very welcoming and enthusiastic about teaching children at home.

Before we sat down to sandwiches and soft drinks, our daughter and Speckly Woo (three year old granddaughter) joined parents and children for a nature walk, in the company of a local expert. Not only did Speckly Woo return with her pockets stuffed with various leaves and berries, she also had a head full of information that was keen to share with us.

Southampton Common

After the picnic, the children played games and the grown ups chatted. Speckly Woo was very much at home with her new friends, ranging in age, from four to twelve. She was quickly taken under the wing of a ten year old girl and played happily until it was time for us all to leave.

The decision to try this route with our granddaughter's education has not been taken lightly. Their parents want the girls to grow and learn in a less formal way that allows them to develop as individuals and, we support them totally in that.

Another view of the Common

We are all prepared for those inevitable questions. On the back of the picnic flyer, three of the more likely ones have been addressed:

Is it legal?

Yes it is - in English law, parents are responsible for providing their children with an education 'in school or otherwise'.

What about socialisation?

Many children who leave school for home education find that their social life and social skills develop better and more naturally than when they spent a large part of each day sitting in a room with 29 other people of the same age. Home educated children mix with a wider variety of ages wherever they go. Many areas have groups where children meet and play, as well as getting together at each other's houses and going on trips together. Home educated children can also join such groups as Scouts, Guides, Brownies, sports clubs, drama clubs, etc.

Dont you have to be a teacher?

No you don't. Teachers need training to educate a large group of children in a particular way. If a child at home asks a question and the parent doesn't know the answer, the parent can show the child not just what the answer is but how to develop the skills need to find it him/herself - using reference material or the internet, for example.

From conversations I've had with some educationalists, there is a private consensus that home schooling is a fine way for children to learn. We'll see how it goes. These are early days but, the signs are very positive. For more information, Education Otherwise, a registered charity, is a good place to start.


  1. I've known some very amazing children who were home-schooled. There's a lot to be said for it.

  2. As a public school teacher, retired, I wouldn't blame any American parents of keeping their kids home for schooling. The parents need to have the integrity to be sure that they really are getting an education, but most of them who choose this route are and those children excel in most cases.

  3. An interesting post - I know of two girls that when aged six were so very different in both their education and social skills. The one who went to a formal school was socially inept and was kept back a year as she wasn't up the academic level for her age; the other one who is being home schooled was very outgoing and social and was in advanced academically. After meeting both of these two little girls I really started thinking about what was best for the children themselves although I know that I can't make a judgement based on just two children. With the whole family support your grandchildren can't help but be winners.
    PS I love your granddaughter's name.

  4. I'm not so sure I would have been a good home-school teacher to my kids. I'm such a softie. They could have talked me out of anything!

    The trees along the common are so beautiful.

  5. I think home schooling is a great option, if I were a more patient woman, I'd consider it. Homeschooled children do really well, I've had friends who've homeschooled, their children are grown now... i think it fosters curiosity and independence of thought - I'm full of admiration for your grandaughters parents!

  6. Homeschooling is an excellent choice. I wish I were brave enough to take on schooling my five grandchildren.

  7. Vicki and Larry - It's interesting to get a perspective from former teachers. We're all feeling very upbeat about it, right now.

    Marilyn - I do believe that there are benefits to be had. The children at the picnic appeared to have a well rounded outlook and were confident in their natural roles within the group.

    willow - The key is to allow children to learn and develop at their own pace, and that can feel strange. I think we have to maintain faith in our children and a less formal approach to developing their potential.

    Words A Day - Thank you for these encouraging words. They mean a lot.

    Southwest Arkie - It's perhaps, not so much about being brave but, having faith in our abilities to teach and guide. After all, who teaches our children for the first years of their lives? Us.

  8. Schools are efficient in terms of division of labour, but it ends there.
    Kids in school spend a lot of time waiting. Moving quickly from task to task and so cramming more of the official curriculum into every hour, allows more time for creativity. That is just one of the ways home schooling can be a better alternative.

    However there are aspects of classroom education that are difficult to replace at home. If you are iterested in pursuing this as a dialogue, e-mail me.

  9. Homeschooling is definitely a viable alternate to traditional schooling. In the United States, homeschooled kids frequently win the spelling bees and other academic contests. Because home schooling has such a low ratio of students to teacher (in most families!) you don't waste time teaching things the students already know. It is possibly to use instructional time much more efficiently. On the other hand, some parents don't have the discipline to do what it takes to make sure the child is learning consistently. Those parents shouldn't homeschool.

  10. What a refreshing post! It is so great to hear a grandfather support his daughter and her family in homeschooling.

    We also homeschooled and most people don't really know what to say or how to support you. Keep it up! You're doing great.


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  12. I am a home schooling mother who can testify to the fact that homeschooling is a viable option. :) I've got it good here in the US though...two of my children go to a "public-charter" school 2 days per wk for socialization and other stuff..., the other 3 days are my responsibility. I also have 3 younger ones at home, so it's nice that the older ones can get away from under mommy's wing, but not too far away...

  13. Sarah - It's great to hear about your experience of home schooling. There are currently around 150,000 children being home schooled in the UK. It's estimated that this will increase by 3% this year, as parents seek viable options to a failing education system.

    We have a wonderful support group in the area but, a little state contribution towards resources wouldn't go amiss. Glad you dropped by.


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