One of the things that people were often concerned or surprised about when we said we were taking this trip was to do with education. “What are you going to do about the girls’ schooling?” or “you can’t just take them out of school like that, can you?!” were questions we were asked many times. In England, all you have to do to remove your children from the school system is to write to the headteacher of the school they attend and ask that they be removed from the school roll. You then take over responsibility for their education, but you don’t have to follow any specific curriculum and there are no rules about how you have to provide this education.
What the law says…
The Education Act 1996 states that:
“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient, full time education, suitable;
to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
to any special needs he may have, either by regular school attendance or otherwise.”
‘Full time education’ is not further defined in the act, nor is ‘efficient’ or ‘suitable’, although in 1981 a judgement was made at Worcester Crown Court that described ‘efficient’ as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve” and ‘suitable’ as one that “prepares children for life in a modern civilised society and will enable them to reach their full potential”. All very woolly, I think you’ll agree. To be honest, we were both surprised that the law isn’t more specific on this. According to the Government website, the council in which you live “can make an ‘informal enquiry’ to check your child is getting a suitable education at home” but from our understanding there is nothing in law that requires you to respond to such an enquiry. The only redress the council has if they believe you are not educating your child sufficiently is to serve you with a school attendance order to make you send your child to school.
Before we made the decision we had obviously read up about some of the different ways that people choose to educate their children outside of the school system – homeschooling, home education, world-schooling, un-schooling and road-schooling are just some of the terms that have been coined to describe these. Each one has a different style or approach, ranging from sitting down having formal ‘lessons’ and a structured day just like at school at one end of the scale to having no structure at all and letting the child’s interests and curiosity be the impetus for learning at the other end. We have chosen something in the middle.
We have done some school work over the summer, but to be honest we have mostly had a long holiday and there have been good reasons for this. Firstly we were all exhausted when we set off – from the pressures of selling our house, then moving out and putting everything in storage as well as getting ready for the trip – and we all needed a break. We were also staying on busy, noisy campsites with lots of children and it didn’t seem fair to make our two sit down and do school work when there were so many others running about having fun. Thirdly, it was extremely hot and we hadn’t yet acclimatised, so we needed to spend quite a bit of time in the pool to keep cool (anyway, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it!!!)
Back to school
But, as the French children and the girls’ friends back home returned to school in September, we have stepped up the amount of time we are spending on school work. We are trying to find a balance between making sure they cover what they need to during the year and not making it so that all we do is formal education. This trip is also about the experiences we are having together as a family and if we do nothing but sit on a campsite and do school work, we might as well be back at home in the UK! We are concentrating our efforts on English and maths, with things like history and geography mostly coming from the places we are visiting. French language skills are also coming along simply by being here and speaking it and hearing it spoken.
We have referenced the National Curriculum for England (www.gov.uk) to see where the girls need to be at each stage and their old primary school have helped with some resources. We have also got an excellent set of books by the education publisher CGP (www.cgpbooks.co.uk). These have study guides for each key stage and subject, along with targeted question books and ‘Practice and Learn’ books that allow you to test your child to see whether they have actually understood what they have learnt. We are finding these to be very thorough. They are also written in a fun way and include quirky little drawings that often make the girls laugh as we are working through them. Most important to us are the books for English and maths, but we also have some for science, history etc.
Also have interactive resources like the Home Education Software produced by Daydream Education (www.daydreameducation.co.uk). This piece of software has loads of information as well as fun quizzes and worksheets that also test their understanding of what they have learnt . And with a lot of the work we are covering, it isn’t just about them understanding it but also remembering what they have learnt. Almost every day therefore starts with a recap of what we did the day (and week) before. When we have wifi (not as often, and not as reliable or as fast as we would like!) there are also plenty of online resources such as The Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) and apps like Duolingo (www.duolingo.com).
It is obviously early days, but at the moment Andy is doing the maths teaching and I am doing English. When we can we have some silent reading time after lunch and we are sharing a book together as a family in the evenings. Some days we are relocating and the day is spent packing up, in the car, setting up again and exploring the new campsite. We have got very good at this and everyone pitches in to get all the jobs done, but we obviously don’t get much school work done on these days. Then there are days when we are out and about visiting medieval cities or giant sand dunes or whatever and we don’t get any formal ‘lessons’ done on these days either. But, these days do still involve plenty of learning – for example there is nothing like climbing up a giant sand dune and feeling the direction and strength of the wind on its different sides to help you understand how it is formed and why it is the shape it is!
Our experience so far has been very positive. The girls have been very good about sitting down and getting work done and they have a genuine interest in learning. Like us, they are very conscious that they don’t want to fall behind their peers and we have all started get an idea of how much time we need to devote to the task. Andy and I are enjoying both the challenges and rewards of teaching our children and spending so much time with them. And we think they are happy with their new teachers too!
What about you? Has anyone else ever home-schooled their children? Or do you do extra work with your children outside of school? What has been your experience of being the teacher? We would love to hear your comments, so please leave us a reply below. Thank you!