Welcome back to Homeschooling Families. This is the latest in my series of posts featuring homeschooling families from around the world, showcasing the diversity of styles and lives of people who choose to educate their children at home.
Today I am sharing my interview with Luke Strickland from Home ed Matters.
We’re the Stricklands from the West Midlands. We’re a family of four – our daughter is nearly 6 and our son is 3 ½ . We also have two cats, a guinea pig and a lonely fish, although we recently raised a guide dog puppy called Viking. We produce an award winning podcast called Home Ed Matters in which we share highlights of our home education journey.
What made you decide to homeschool?
I don’t think we were massively aware that it was an option until about a year before our daughter was due to go to school, then in a short space of time we met some people who were home educating and began to think more about it. We spent nine months or so researching it, meeting people who did it and generally absorbing as much information about it as we could, whilst in parallel visiting schools and going through the application process for a school place.
In the end, even though we gained a place at the top local school, we decided to offer this place up and take the plunge to home educate. We wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re anti-school, although we do feel that the tendency towards mass production and over focus on targets and bureaucracy in the school system is making it harder for teachers to really teach. For us we felt that home education fitted really well with our lifestyle, and also meant that we could tailor schooling to each of our children, enabling us to harness their natural enthusiasm and creativity.
Do you use a curriculum?
We don’t use a set curriculum, although we have friends that do. We do however follow a Charlotte Mason approach in general. So this looks like short focused sessions, plenty of time outside, lots of connection with nature, using living books to look at all different topics, and a focus on art, music and literature. We do follow an online curricula in numeracy (the maths enhancement programme by University of Plymouth) as a basis in this area, although we supplement it with other approaches – for instance we use Speilgaben as a very hands on way to reinforce our learning. For language learning we really like the BBC’s Muzzy course.
We’re open to changing how we do things in future depending on how well our kids engage – I think that’s one benefit of the Charlotte Mason approach, it’s not rigid, and a benefit of home ed in general that you can tailor it so much to the individual child.
What does an average day look like for your family?
No two days are the same, but we do have a rhythm that we try to follow. Our kids are up early so we’ll start our learning straight after breakfast. Often we’ll have completed what we’ve planned by mid morning – literacy, numeracy, maybe an artist or composer study, or an experiment of some kind. Either before or after lunch we have a quiet time where the kids play separately in their rooms doing imaginative play or reading – this is a really important element to our routine, allowing them time to process their learning and emotions.
In the afternoon we may go to a group of some kind, or visit somewhere , or go for a nature walk. We resist the temptation to pack too much into each day, preferring to spend quality focus on a few things instead.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced on your homeschooling journey?
I think the biggest challenge was going public in the first place – we found that many people had preconceptions about what home education was, or had ingrained beliefs about the superiority of the schooling system. Once we got over that though, things were much better, and I think as our friends and family have seen what we’ve been doing their attitudes and opinions have changed. The biggest ongoing challenge is picking the right things to focus on – in many ways there’s almost too much choice out there in terms of resources, groups and activities – so we work hard to prioritise what’s right for us in each season and focussing on that. In practice this means saying no to offers of new groups and activities etc.
What has been the best thing about your decision to homeschool?
There are so many benefits it’s hard to single one out. Seeing our kids blossom in their love of learning is a huge plus, and I think it’s drawn us closer together as a family. We’ve met loads of interesting people who we’d never have met otherwise, and we’ve avoided some of the negative behaviours, influences and side-effects from school attendance. We could probably fill a huge list with all the benefits though!
What advice would you give to a family considering homeschooling their children?
Firstly speak to other people that are doing it, get to know other families in your area – there are so many groups around. Listen to people’s stories and approaches but don’t feel pressured into following any specific path – take courage to do it in the way that’s right for your family. Secondly, don’t overdo it – pick some key groups, activities and areas you want to focus on and prioritise those. Thirdly – don’t hold back!