Making a decision to do something that is different or outside the mainstream can feel very isolating. In those early days when you have yet to make contact with likeminded folks, when you need the most support as you wonder whether this path you are taking is the right one, it can be a lonely journey. In a week or so's time the children in my part of the world go back to school for the start of a new school year. Once again my children will not be doing that, their peers are starting the last year of primary school (Alice) and beginning the first year of lessons/learning towards exams in the summer of 2021 (Cameron).
I was educated in the school system, a very different system to the one that is around now (it was pre the National Curriculum) and one of the big changes that I have made over the years we have home educated, is rethinking my ideas about how we learn. Through our weekly rhythm we build the structure of our learning and over the years we have gone from no structure* at all, to some, lots and back again, for now we are in a much more fluid unstructured phase with learning driven by the children and their interests and me holding it together and facilitating where necessary. To trust that your children will learn by them being in charge of their learning is a leap of faith and one that society struggles with, sadly there is a large element of society that seems to believe that learning only takes place in the classroom with a teacher. I wonder how much you have learnt since you left compulsory education and where that journey has taken you? I am willing to bet you have been really motivated, learnt lots of new skills, and it has made you the person that you are today. Most importantly though, you have been in charge of the direction it has taken.
It makes me really sad that so many children today see learning as a negative, something that is imposed on them by others and that only takes place within the four walls of a classroom. I remember taking a friend of Camerons out on a walk with us one afternoon in term time (their school was closed for emergency maintenance), whilst we were out we were observing and learning all the time. The friend commented 'oh, I didn't realise that this was a field trip, I thought we were going for a walk'. Learning for us is woven right through our lives, we don't make a distinction between learning and life, we don't have 'holidays' from learning, we also don't and have never replicated school at home.
As I enter my eleventh year of home education I do so with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful course our life has taken on this journey, but I would be lying if I said it has all been plain sailing. It took me a long time to realise that we need and thrive on having a shape to our week through a rhythm, it is the beating heart of our lives. It took me a long time to realise that that rhythm would and needed to evolve as the children grew and their needs changed. I would get frustrated that it was beating perfectly and then something would come along that meant it needed to change. That frustration was a waste of energy, energy that I should have been focusing on working out the changes to make it beat smoothly again. We have had a number of changes over the past few months, a group coming to end after five years, friends moving away, friends leaving home ed to start school. Some of the groups we attend stop for the summer so our rhythm is always different for that period, come September when they start again I still don't know how it is going to beat, plans are being made but have yet to be finalised. Not so long ago this would have really bothered me, now I am going with the flow trusting that all will be well, what will be will be.
The photo at the top of this post is of a drawing by Cameron. He has always loved to draw and I could fill all the walls in our house with his drawings. Lately he has wanted to improved this skills and we found great book on the library shelves which he loved so much I bought him his own copy, he is slowly working his way through the tutorials. He has expressed an interest in a career in design and we are now working towards him achieving that goal starting with the Arts Award, this picture is part of his portfolio.