Starting Homeschooling with a 12 Year Old

A quick note to say that this was the first post I wrote about home education on my other blog back when we first started, a lot has changed since then and you can read about our current home ed life here.

When we decided to homeschool our 12 year old, we didn’t really know what we were doing. Both he and I had our doubts because of our (terrible) experience of homeschooling during lockdown. However, everything I had read had convinced me that electively home educating was very different to completing work set by school at home. That gave us hope we could make it work and we could even see there might be some benefits to homeschooling. We sent off our school deregistration letter and got started. Here’s how we got on in our first half term.

Goals for Homeschooling our 12 Year Old

Before we started, boy child and I agreed together what the goals would be for his home education. I felt this was important to make sure we were on the same page and wouldn’t be pulling in different directions (me towards maths equations and him towards FIFA).

We came up with the following:

  • Keep up with the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for English, Maths and Science – This is essentially to smooth any future return to school and lay the groundwork for GCSEs in these subjects.
  • Improve Handwriting – The legibility of his handwriting had been making him self conscious in school so we wanted to take the opportunity to dedicate some time to improving it
  • Explore topics of interest – We decided that outside of maths, English and Science we would focus on Boy Child’s interests rather than the National Curriculum
  • Increase confidence and self esteem – These have taken a bit of beating in the school system.
  • Improve fitness – Boy child is keen to include exercise in his daily routine to improve his fitness (and thank god doesn’t require my input)

A note on language:┬áIn my posts, I refer to “homeschooling”. In the UK, the correct term for educating your child at home is “home Educating”, with homeschooling referring to a child doing work at home that has been set by school. I use the the term homeschooling in my posts because many people who are new to home educating will use the term homeschooling when searching online and I want to make sure they can find the information.

Learning Agreement

Before we committed to home educating we created some guidelines that we would need Boy Child to agree to for it to work. We needed to make sure he understood the reality of what home education would look like for us and that he wouldn’t be spending everyday on the Playstation! 

  • Engage in the learning activities we do for English, Maths and Science
  • Attend activities to keep up social contact
  • Go for a daily walk to replace to fresh air and exercise from the walk to school
  • Some learning will be done independently 
  • No playstation between 8.30 and 3.30 and phone only during breaks
  • Help with the housework as I will have less time available to do it, plus it’s a life skill!
  • We treat each other with respect

We also made sure that he understood that all schools in our area have a waiting list for his year group (year 8). If he decided he wanted to return to school immediately, he would have to go to whatever school the Local Authority found for him.

While GCSEs aren’t for a few years yet, we also talked about the practicalities of doing them while home educated. In particular, we discussed the fact that some subjects that he would probably have chosen in school, like Food Technology and Design Technology, wouldn’t be options. We explored alternatives that he could consider.

Exploring our Options

I was very keen to make homeschooling as enjoyable and effective as possible. To get us started, we explored some of the different ways that we can learn. Having been in the school system for 8 years, it was useful to open up his ideas about the ways learning happen. We came up with the following:

  • Reading – Articles, books, free online resources, following instructions
  • Listening – Audiobooks, Podcasts, radio shows
  • Watching – Online videos, documentaries, reality docuseries, the news, theatre
  • Talking – Asking questions, having a debate, explaining things
  • Doing – Learning “on the Job”, practice, trial and error
  • Online – Researching, completing an online course, watching videos

To follow up from this, we had a go at a learning styles questionnaire. Boy Child scored highly as a hands on learner which came as no great surprise to me. The learning styles questionnaires don’t cover it specifically but I also suspected that “Conversational Learning” would work well for him. So far that’s been true. While some 12 year old boys might not be keen to talk, mine is not keen to stop!

Covering Maths, Science and English

We’re starting homeschooling during KS3 and have decided to keep up with the National Curriculum for core subjects. Here’s how we are tackling each of our “core” subjects while homeschooling.

Maths

For Maths and Science, we started out using The Oak National Academy resources. They are essentially videos to watch with some activities to do within them. The Maths wasn’t too bad but he found the Science really boring. Essentially, there was too much listening for him and not enough doing.

I did a few free trials for online maths programmes that were discounted for Black Friday and settled on Conquermaths. It consists on a short video explainer (5 minutes or less) and then questions to answer using the keyboard to enter them. The combination of the video being very short and getting instant feedback on his answers has worked well for boy child. 

Science

Boy Child got on well with Science in school so I was keen not to put him off it at home. We’re trying a mixture of things at the moment including a video course with shorter videos and links to practical experiments, live online classes and a MEL Science subscription. The jury is still out on what will work best.

English

As a librarian I felt fairly confident covering English, the Literature side anyway. I chose “Brothers in the Land” by Robert Swindells for us to read. We both love post apocalyptic stuff and it has also led to some bonus learning about the Cold War.

I decided to buy a lesson plan for the book from the TES website. We have gone through it while reading the book which has worked really well. We have focussed on “Conversational learning” and discussed the points in the lesson plan rather than doing a lot of writing which we cover through daily handwriting practice.

To plug a few holes in grammar we also have a CGP English workbook that he is going through. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world but then grammar never is.

Other Subjects

We chose to cover other topics in a variety of different ways. Boy Child is very keen on cooking and also making Cocktails. He has been regularly creating his own drink combinations. He developed one specific mocktail for all of the family to have on Christmas Day. An excellent choice when you need to stay sober enough to cook lunch for ten.

We are lucky that my Mum lives close by and has been willing to support us starting home education. Boy Child has spent one afternoon a week there. They have done cooking, family history and sewing. They took a trip to a local Cold War bunker to tie in with out English reading, although they both found the place frankly terrifying!

We have discovered that Boy Child likes reality TV and so we have been watching the BBC docuseries “Turn Back Time”. We’ve had some interesting discussions about what life was like in the different time periods. 

He has also been watching some of Chanel 4’s “Educating…” series. I feel it has helped him see situations that happen in school from a range of view points.

Boy Child also developed his research skills by choosing a country (he went for Serbia) and researching it. He used what he found out to create a powerpoint and presented his information to the family at the end of term. 

Boy Child has shown amazing dedication to improving his fitness. He is up at 7.30 every morning to do an hours workout before we start learning. I use the time too keep up to date with current affairs (scroll social media while trying to wake up).

Socialising a Home Educated 12 Year Old

Socialisation is a horrible word and sounds like what you do with puppies but we certainly recognise the importance of spending time with people outside of the family. There seem to be less home education groups for kids over 12 but there are still plenty of ways they can socialise.

We’re lucky that boy child still has a few good friends from Primary school who he spends time with, both online and in real life. He has also returned to Scouting and joined a basketball club.

Next Term

So that’s what homeschooling a 12 year has looked like for us in the first half term. In the next term we have a few new things planned. Boy Child will be trying out a local forest school. It will offer another way to spend time with people outside of the family as well as giving me some more time to work. 

We’re also making arrangements for him to spend some time with his Grandad who is an excellent carpenter and can help him explore his interest in design technology.

If you’re considering homeschooling, you might also be interested in this post about the disadvantages of homeschooling.

Picture of laptop and study books, text reads "How we started home education with a 12 year old"

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