What does Home Ed Life Look Like?

So there isn’t really a simple answer to this because home ed life looks different for every family that does it. That’s because there are no rules about what you must teach your child and it can be tailored to suit every child’s individual needs. So while I can’t tell you what it will look like for you, I can tell you what it looks like for us. In fact I can tell you about the two different ways it has looked for us because we had a fairly significant change of direction, from a very structured approach to a more child led approach.

A note on language: In 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.

Our Early Plans for Homeschooling

When we first deregistered, it was intended as a temporary measure. We were on the waiting list for two local schools and assumed at some point he would get a place. We didn’t want him to be behind when he returned to school, so we went with a structured approach.

I did lots of research on what subjects were studied and went on the websites of the two schools we were interested in. I wasn’t too worried about subjects like Humanities or Technology, as I know they don’t really build on previous learning. Our focus was on Maths, English and Science as I felt he would struggle to catch up with these if he had missed out on concepts being introduced.

We signed up for Conquermaths for maths and a Key Stage 3 video science course. I identified what he would be missing if he was in school and we used that to identify what topics to cover with Connquermaths and the Science videos.

I felt more confident tackling English a bit more independently because of my Library background and having studied it to A-Level. I researched the books usually read at Key Stage 3 and then found lesson plans on TES Resources to give us some structure.

How Home Ed Life Looked for us with a Structured Approach

Anyone who knows me knows I love organising and so we started off with a structured style of homeschool, including full colour coded timetable.

There were daily slots for Maths, 3 or 4 slots a week for English and Science and a weekly project work slot where he could choose a subject that interested him and then create a PowerPoint presentation on it. 

I enrolled him in an online handwriting course because his illegible handwriting had been causing him to anxiety at school and scheduled daily handwriting practice.

I arranged for him to go back to Scouts for some socialising and we agreed he would start some more out of the house activities in a few months. I also scheduled him a daily walk and daily reading.

You can rad more about our early plans in this post I wrote at the time about starting homeschooling with a 12 year old.

When I was done I looked proudly at my work of art. I was excited to get started and see him progress. 

In order to write this I looked back at this early timetable and it seems laughable now. I had in fact met my own child and yet it seems I was unable to realise that this really wasn’t suitable for him. I away loved the idea of being home educated and I think what I had done was created my own dream timetable. 

How we got on with Structured Home Ed Life 

At the end of the first week a friend sent me a text asking how it was going. I replied:

“Pretty badly but I expected that, I’m sure it will get better”.

Spoiler alert, it did in fact get better, but it took a while.

After the first few weeks I could see that he hated the work. He had to be coached and cajoled into everything. After a while, when we were doing any formal work he would just say “I don’t know” to everything. It was incredibly frustrating. Initially I felt angry but eventually I realised that when he reached that point, he really didn’t know. His brain had simply shut down. Even simply questions like “Shall we try another question or take a break” would be met with “I don’t know”.

Initially, the daily walks and reading worked well but eventually he became resistant to even these things. The project work started off strong but he gradually lost interest and was just doing the bare minimum. He persevered with the handwriting course but hated every minute of it.

As time went on we gradually dropped some stuff but knowing he might go back to school, I didn’t feel we could let go of everything.

How things Started to Change

I was in lots of Home Education Facebook groups and was aware of the concept of deschooling. I actually loved the idea of removing all of the school expectations and children rediscovering their joy of learning.  Unfortunately it didn’t seem possible for us when we needed to keep up ready for a return to school. Some version of “School at home” felt like our only option but that meant we were missing out on so many of the benefits of homeschooling.

However, as time went on, a return to school started to look less and less likely. Terms ended and started again and we still weren’t offered a place. And all along, I was reading more about unschooling, on blogs, in Facebook groups and in books, and all along, I was falling more in love with the idea. Instead of feeling disappointed that we hadn’t been offered a school place, I felt relieved. 

Eventually, I realised I couldn’t carry on making us both miserable, keeping up with work in preparation for a school place that might never materialise and that I wasn’t sure we wanted anyway. Despite the struggles of “School at Home”, he was still pretty ambivalent about going back and I was getting less keen by the day.

About 6 weeks before the summer holidays, I decided it was time to deschool.

Deschooling

Explaining deschooling to him was interesting. I think he thought it was some kind of trick to start with and that I would spring school work on him at some point. After a few weeks he relaxed. A few weeks after that, he got bored. I let him be bored for a few weeks and then, before the summer holidays started (relevant for us because his sister is still at school) we discussed how things might look going forward. I wouldn’t say that the deschooling process (or school detox, as he calls it) was complete at that point, but I could see he needed a bit more structure, and frankly I did too.

What Child Led Home Ed Life Looks like for us

By that time he was doing a weekly Forest School and attending a Home Ed football group and he was keen to carry on with them. He was also going the my Mum’s once a week and doing things like cooking, sewing, gardening and family history, that was a definite keep too. 

He also wanted to continue reading a book together but without the lesson plans I had been using to structure the discussion. I was most surprised when he said he wanted to do some maths, not once, but twice a week, only he didn’t want to use Conquermaths anymore (which was disappointing because I think it’s great).

We left it there at that point because a return to school still wasn’t out of the question in September so it seemed pointless to make more detailed plans.

As September got nearer and no school place was offered he mentioned feeling like he wasn’t preparing for his future. It turned out that his best friend was starting GCSE work when he went back to school and it had made him feel behind. 

We discussed the fact that there is really no behind but I took on board his interest in preparing for the future and mentioned a cookery course we had talked about previously. He said he’d like to explore it further. After some research he decided was keen to do it and we signed him up.

So while I no longer have a detailed timetable showing how we will spend every minute of the day, we do now have a rhythm instead that we are both happy with.

On Mondays, we go for a bike ride to the park and then he does some running drills (while I have a rest!). Then we work on the cookery course and I do the food shopping.

On Tuesday we do a quick maths lesson where I learn the material and then teach him. We are making a slow start on what he needs to cover if he wants to sit the GCSE. After that he has his football group and then we usually do some reading in the afternoon.

On Wednesday he spends the day with my Mum, usually sewing, doing family history or gardening.

On Thursdays he goes to Forest School where, as far as I can tell, he hangs out with his friends, chops wood, hunts for deer and builds fires.

On Fridays we do another bike ride, some maths and then work on the cookery course some more.

Amongst all of this we usually have some kind of TV show we are watching, usually a reality docuseries type of thing.

I’m not sure I’d call us unschoolers. The main reason for this is because I think we would need years of deschooling for him to rediscover a love of learning following his school experience. I would say we are child led now as there is nothing in our week that he hasn’t chosen and that has made for a much happier life for us both.

You might also like our post about homeschooling FAQs.

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