You’re probably asking yourself “Are there really 20 reasons to home educate?” and my answer to you is no, there are more! Home Education was on my radar since I was a teen, I was determined to home educate my future children.
Unfortunately, life didn’t turn out as I expected. Being a single parent I felt forced to put W into primary school which was a disaster. I pulled him out after one term to Home Educate. What followed was: two terms of home education; one academic year in a Moroccan Maternelle (nursery, for the French); one academic year of flexischooling (2 days at a co-op, 3 days at home). The plan is that in September they will start attending a French/Arabic bilingual school nearby. Home education is definitely on the cards for the future. I want to travel more, but Covid19 has highlighted the importance of putting down roots and having a family home. So I’m working on that first. That way if there’s another global pandemic we have a base to come to from our travels.
I wouldn’t claim to be a spokesperson for Home Education, there are more qualified/experienced people out there. But until our education system is given the shake up it sorely needs, I’m an advocate. So without further ado here are MY top 20 reasons to Home Educate (and 5 reasons not to).
20 Reasons to Home Educate
Your child’s learning will be tailored to them.
Flexible daily routine – no more early mornings & rushed breakfasts.
Your child will make friends from different age groups.
There are many ways to facilitate learning.
Your child may be happier and more confident.
If your child has any diagnoses, you can better cater to their needs.
Your child can enjoy self-paced learning.
Family time is a part of everyday life and no longer a luxury.
You can take as may breaks as you need.
Time to focus on any learning areas that require extra support.
You may learn something yourself.
Education isn’t limited, the world is your classroom.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are lots of free resources.
Some SEND children can be better supported to learn at home .
Learning takes place in the ‘real-world’.
Delve deeper into subjects with no bell telling you when to stop.
Your child can follow their interests.
Children can take charge of their own learning.
Learning can take place whenever and wherever you want.
You can take learning outdoors.
5 Reasons NOT to Home Educate
If your child’s school tells you to. This is call off-rolling.
If you just want to recreate school at home and think you know everything.
Your children don’t want to be home educated, then don’t do it.
If you don’t enjoy spending long periods of time with your child(ren).
If you’re a Home Educator, is there anything you would add or take away from my lists?
Disclaimer: Homeeducation refers to the term used in the UK. Homeschooling is a term used worldwide. If you do not reside in England & Wales check local laws. Home Education is illegal in some countries. Always seek advice and information before taking any action.
Parenting a sensitive child is no easy feat, trust me. I have one. B (5) is the kindest, sweetest child and I often ask everyday what I did to deserve a child as amazing as him. He will often write me little notes, or bring me gifts from the garden. Always looking out for W (7) and striving to be as helpful as possible when the situation arises.
BUT he cries. He cries A LOT. He cried from the moment he was born and he hasn’t really stopped. Okay, a slight exaggeration but he would cry as a toddler when he didn’t want to walk and I ‘fixed’ it. B is now 5 and today alone he has cried about 8 times, over what I feel are small, easily solvable situations, and I am yet to ‘fix the problem’. He doesn’t know why he cries, I don’t know why he cries. He just does and it can be frustrating, which is why I have put together the 7 strategies I employ for parenting a sensitive child.
1. Keep Calm
Have you ever heard of the phrase “adding fuel to the fire”? My parenting approach is to NOT do that. I’m maybe successful 97% of the time, I’m only human, but it works. Shouting at a child who is crying or upset, is not going to help the situation at all. In fact, research shows that shouting at a child can raise their stress levels and cause changes in their brain structure. These sorts of changes can lead to mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood. Read more here.
By being calm and lowering the temperature of the situation, I find that it can be resolved a lot more quickly, easily and calmly. That’s a win in my book!
2. Work Together
This depends on the situation/child, but as an educator and a parent I’ve noticed that children cry when something goes ‘wrong’. This is an opportunity to work with them, showing them how to fix the problem or clean up the mess. Or provide a learning experience on the logical consequences of crying. I would near more hands to count the number of times B has missed out on an activity/experience due to crying. Where I have maybe had to remove him from the room/session in an attempt to calm him down. Only for him to realise that he’s missed out and the crying to start all over again! He is still grasping the idea that the harsh reality that the world will keep on turning, and it won’t stop just because he is crying. It is also an opportunity to…
3. Provide Reassurance
In my experience, sensitive children are anxious children. They can be the sweetest, kindest child you ever meet and yet extremely anxious about anything and everything. B is a complete perfectionist, he wants everything to be exact, following the rules and if it’s not…the frustration unleashes (mainly onto his brother). Providing a child with reassurance and building their confidence is key for any parent, but it is imperative for sensitive children. The older B gets, the quicker he is finding his voice (several weeks vs. several months) and so this is my bit of reassurance for you: it won’t last forever.
4. Explore Emotions
Help your child learn all about the different emotions we can have. As a home educator we actually made it into a mini-project. We watched Pixar’s Inside Out, wrote film reviews and played an interesting version of musical statues. We explored emotions in a fun educational way, so that the children can recognise the emotions they are feeling themselves and also recognise them in others.
I also use our magnetic mood board, that allows a child to change the expression of the character to match theirs and then we talk about it.
5. Talk Together
This is a chance to talk about the WHY and the HOW, with your child. Note I stress the ‘with’. You need to talk together, to find out what works for them. NOT what works for your.
WHY are they upset/angry/anxious/distressed etc.?
HOW could they communicate that differently in the future?
Crying because they can’t reach a favourite toy, ask what they think they could do instead? Perhaps ask an adult for help. Maybe delve deeper into why they didn’t ask an adult for help, or why they didn’t feel able to ask an adult for help. Do they need a confidence boost? Did they actually attempt to ask for help, but you were distracted/busy and dismissed them? This is also an opportunity for you to work out how you could do better for your child.
6. Be Proactive
You should know your child by now, you know what triggers them. For example, I know that B LOVES to sing. But if anybody asked him to sing, or looked at him while he was singing, he would start to cry. He really, really hates the feeling of having a spotlight on him. Knowing this, I would be doing him a disservice if I didn’t notify his teachers beforehand. It would be unfair on him to feel singled out, and it would be unfair on his teachers and peers to have to ‘deal’ with his tears in an avoidable situation.
7. Give Space
My goal has always been to raise independent, autonomous children and that sometimes means allowing them to be in control of the situation. They can talk to me when they’re ready, instead of being forced into a conversation when they are still emotionally vulnerable. By giving them space it also means they can contribute more meaningfully to a conversation as they have been given the time to work out their feelings and what’s triggering them.
Yesterday, I made a pun with B’s name and he cried. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me as he was sad and needed some space. A few moments later he asked for a cuddle, he still didn’t want to talk but he needed comfort. When he was ready, he explained that he didn’t like his name being made fun of or changed. I apologised, because I believe in modelling behaviour and treating children as unique individuals with thoughts and feelings. The issue was resolved as he was able to take the time to reflect before confidently expressing himself.
These are all strategies for parenting a sensitive child. You may find articles on discipline, punishment or control (the parent/adult having control over the child). However, I personally believe that when a baby or child is crying they are trying to communicate something. Instead of punishing or silencing the child, we should encourage them to work through the feelings. Help them to recognise their emotions and express themselves confidently. However, if you have concerns that there may be something else going on with your child, then you should contact your doctor.
Respectability politics – “the set of beliefs holding that conformity to socially acceptable or mainstream standards of appearance and behavior will protect a member of a marginalized or minority group from prejudices and systemic injustices.” – dictionary.com
‘Respectability politics’ the ultimate form of gaslighting or the lies we tell ourselves. If only we behaved ‘better’, looked ‘better’, spoke ‘better’ then we wouldn’t be subjected to racism and injustices. It can rule the lives for people of African descent and negatively influence our parenting experience.
When I first saw the image above, it resonated so deeply. While I may not be mothering black children, I am a person of African descent. I am never made more aware of the colour of my skin than when I am parenting my children. From the way I dress them, to their behaviour and the world around them.
In 2017, W started attending a state primary school. The majority of the pupils came from South East London’s Afro-Caribbean community. The staff did not. There was a startling lack of diversity, and an unwillingness to acknowledge Black History Month. When I removed him to be home educated at the start of the second term, I gifted books with diverse characters to the school library.
When W was on the ASD diagnosis pathway, most of the doctors I met referred to the statistics of being a boy from a single-parent, black ethnic minority family. I am hypersensitive to the fact that any slip up would not be looked upon as favourably as their peers from white British families. I often hear myself telling the boys that “I don’t want anybody talking to me about your behaviour.”. And nobody does. Oftentimes friends will compliment on how well-behaved and polite the boys are. Gushing with enthusiasm as to what a pleasure they are to be around and they press me for details. What’s my secret?
Neurosis and paranoia.
And these extend beyond parenting, these concerns influenced my naming choices before they were even born.
What’s in a name?
I love the boys names and I wouldn’t change them for the world. They completely fit their personalities and I have no regrets. However, I was conscious of the negative impact a typically BAME name could have on their future. I had to take the potential consequences into account when naming them, before I even knew what they looked like. W has a deliberately unisex name for this reason, and B’s could easily be the name of a child from a white middle-class ‘crunchy’ family.
I’m reminded of the episode in Black-ish when Dre argues to name the baby DeVante and he says to Bo “The only reason we’re not naming our son DeVante is so people won’t know right away that he’s black. I hate the fact that when something is black, the world sees it as bad.”.
I don’t know if I will ever have more children. But as the world is starting to wake up, I am determined to reclaim my heritage and my history for myself and my children. Given the opportunity, would I opt for a ‘black name’? I honestly don’t know. While I have shunned every opportunity to conform to society’s standard of ‘acceptable’ – namely in the education of my children and the parenting methods employed (hello attachment, autonomous supportive, gentle parenting!) – I seem to be unable to shake the shackles of respectability politics.
When somebody tells you they spent their holidays in Europe, you usually ask them which country. If somebody tells you they spent their holidays in Africa, it usually ends there. Our focus for Weeks 3 & 4 was on Africa, the continent as well as our family’s personal history as People of African Descent (PoADs).
Did you know that Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries? Of course you did, but not everybody realises that the countries in Africa have their own language, culture and history. A lot like Europe.
The focus for Week 3 was learning all about the continents of the world, focusing on various facts about Africa herself. As we are currently in a North African country at the moment, our environment lends itself as a handy resource on our doorstep. We have friends from other countries in Africa and while I have dreams of visiting Ethiopia one day, the children would like to visit Egypt and Ghana. Drawing on our existing knowledge, we are able to appreciate and understand that each country in Africa is unique. Coupled with online resources, we were able to touch on Black History within the continent before The Transatlantic Slave Trade.
English: Read the poem Civil Lies by Benjamin Zephaniah. What is Mr. Africa trying to say? Maths: Imagine you Mansa Musa I of Mali. What will you buy with your gold? What were the types of currency used during those times? Can you create your own currency? Science: Pretend you’re an Ancient Egyptian embalmer, mummify some fruit. Humanities/ICT: Learn how to use Google to answer questions about the history and geography of Africa. Pick one country to focus on – what is the capital city, what language(s) do the people speak, what does the flag look like etc.?
During Black History Month we also take the opportunity to look at our own personal history as People of African Descent (PoADs). In particular the journey my grandmother (pictured below) took from Jamaica to England in the 1950s. We still have the suitcase that she used for her journey, and while she passed away many years ago. I try to share as many memories as I can of her and what she did to allow us all to be here today.
It’s October, which means it’s Black History Month in the UK. Because we are a multiracial family with Jamaican roots, located in North Africa, black history influences our daily lives and conversations. However, we also believe that Black History Month is a great opportunity to provide an education that stretches beyond the current narrative: black history began with The Slave Trade and ended with The Civil Rights Movement.
Our first week of Black History Month focuses on prominent figures and segregation. These people were prominent in Black History from both the UK and the US.
Mary Seacole: Homemade Playdough
Mary Seacole, born in Jamaica in 1805. She helped care for and comfort wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. But she wasn’t recognised for many years, until her statue was built in London in 2016.
Inspired by Mary Seacole’s use of natural remedies, you can make your own herbal playdough! Research the different remedies she used and how they were prepared, as well as what illnesses they were used to treat. We use this homemade playdough recipe for our natural herbal playdough sensory activity.
John Edmonstone: Lego Taxidermy
John Edmonstone, a former slave born in Guyana, South America. After he was freed, he moved to Scotland. He worked for the National Museum and taught taxidermy to students at the University of Edinburgh, his most famous student being Charles Darwin. There is plaque dedicated to him in Lothian Street, but nobody knows when he was born, when he died or where he is buried. His existence is only known because Darwin wrote about him in his diaries.
Actual taxidermy is a bit too gruesome for my liking, so we opted for Lego Taxidermy. Choose an animal you love and try to recreate it using Lego. While this may not be an exact science, it does give you a newfound appreciation for taxidermists having to preserve a lifelike quality in their subjects.
Rosa Parks: Literacy Activities
Rosa Parks is famous for refusing to give her seat to a white passenger as per the segregation laws at the time. Her arrest prompted the Montegomry bus boycott and eventually lead to the desegregation of the bus system. She was nicknamed the First Lady of Civil Rights.
We read all about Rosa Parks’ life and then they both had a literacy exercise depending on their age/ability. I made my own resources, but you can find PDFs available for purchase on educational resource sites. B (4): Story sequencing – B was given picture cards with an accompany sentence of Rosa Parks’ story. He was tasked to place each card in the correct order. This activity helps children realise there is a logical sequence of events in stories (and life). You can read more about it here. W (6): Anchor chart – W tasked with placing statements and phrases cards about Rosa Parks under three headings (was, had, wanted). W also had blank cards to write his own ideas. I use this activity to encourage the development of comprehension skills. You can read more about it here.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams: Heart Science
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams born in Pennsylvania, USA in 1856. He performed the first successful open heart surgery in 1893. He also opened the first medical facility to have an interracial staff, and a training school for black nurses.
We took this opportunity for some health heart science (and maths). We measured our pulse rate while at rest and after various exercises. The children decided to extend the activity because they wanted to find out what other activities could affect their heart rate. They made their own charts and W wrote a few observational sentences about the changes to their heart rates.
Film of the Week: Hairspray
Our film for this week is Hairspray. This film helps children visualise the concept of segregation. It allows for discussion, without being too serious or scary for young children. As always, I recommend watching for yourself and judging if it is suitable for your child(ren).