Last week we didn’t get much done. I had so many ideas swimming around in my head that I overwhelmed myself with them and I decided that if our home education journey was to be a success then we needed a plan going forward. So I decided to return to bullet journaling. It’s a hobby I previously had and enjoyed and I hope that I will use it going forward now I have a real purpose for it. Bullet journaling is basically a DIY journal with no limits whatsoever. You can have anything in it that helps you, just unleash your creative side! Some popular pages in a bullet journal are weekly/monthly spreads, to do lists, mood trackers, exercise trackers and so much more.
I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Slim which is an A4 journal and perfect for what I need it for. I previously had the same but in A5 instead.
My journal is obviously a work in progress but will be used to show our home education plan to officials, it will be used to organise ourselves and every aspect of our busy lives. It is a source of self-motivation.
I chose a double page monthly layout for my main plans, as you can see we don’t have a particularly busy November planned so far although it’s not complete. This style offers me plenty of room to add in plans for our family of 6. The little dragon in the bottom was added at the insistence of my daughter who was desperate for me to try draw one! I feel he ruins the page in one respect but then when I see him I think of her so he actually makes me smile :).
This is my plan for this week, in no particular order. The beauty of home education is there is no set timetable, if he wants to look at energy today that’s fine, if he doesn’t that’s also ok, as long as he does it this week. Monday we did some work on algebra, and the history of Christmas with History.com. His life revolves around coding so it’s a bit of a given that he’ll do that daily.
I found a great Christmas stocking pattern and tutorial at Bags of Love which we have printed off. The material is on order and we’ll make a start soon. The objectives for this will be to see that he can read and follow the pattern, use a number of different stitches (perhaps not on the sticking but certainly some practise pieces first), safely use a sewing machine, complete the stocking, and finally write up about the project.
We have lots of sources and resources for the other subjects, books, websites and materials. Home education doesn’t have to cost much, in fact many of ours were free or very cheap second hand!
Well what a week it has been! It has been a bumpy start and not the best first week, I had an interview to prepare for, dad was on days all week, the boys broke my brand new laptop screen and I’ve had horrendous pain from what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder, but nevertheless we have started.
I was sort of expecting a phone call from High School this week to see if they could work with us to encourage the boy to stay in school rather than take him out, and help with suggestions to help him want to be there. I got absolutely nothing. Not even an email. No acknowledgement at all. This to me shows how much they care about him attending their school. I feel like it was a relief to them that we took him out. I’ve never really complained about support before from them but this has made me wonder if we should probably have done this sooner!? Could this attitude have been picked up by him earlier and he just hasn’t realised? Is this why he would not go? I’ll never know but I will forever wonder, and when the time comes for him to (hopefully) return to mainstream education I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable sending him back there!
We have started slowly, investigating helpful websites that we can use, resources available, and I’ve been reading up on the curriculum which should be getting delivered to a child of his age. We’ve also rejoined the library.
He’s 12 and would be in Year 8, exceptionally clever with an amazing ability to learn and retain information when a subject is delivered to him in a way which grabs his attention, or even just if it’s something that interests him. He’s pretty closed minded unfortunately when it comes to learning, he doesn’t understand why he should have to learn geography and history for example, his interests lie purely in computing. I want him to realise that everything about our lives relates back to history and the world around us. I want to teach him to experience a taster of everything so he can see that it’s all a part of our bigger picture, and I don’t want him to be bored of it. I also think it’s important that he has some input into what he learns about! I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with his primary school but I do feel that he hasn’t learnt to love learning and that is a tragedy! This is most important to me.
So with all that in mind we have registered on Khan Academy, he’s currently working his way, slowly, through Algebra and coding. It’s a brilliant website, a non-profit organisation with the aims of delivering world class education for free to anyone, anywhere! I mean how amazing is that! We haven’t done much of it but what we have looked at is brilliant! We’ve got a number of workbooks and a bonus for me is I also work in a school so I also have access to Twinkl for supplies.
We used to read lots when he was little, his reading books after school and we would read a story before bed, every single night. It’s precious time and very very important. As he’s got older and been introduced to technology however his love for reading has ebbed away. Rather than jump straight into an English course we are trying to encourage a love of books again. It’s taken two visits to the library before one caught his eye and he’s still to start it, but he will I’m sure. He has a very strong vocabulary, often choosing words that you might expect to hear from someone very highly educated. He always uses them in the correct context and it amazes me that someone who has fallen out of love with learning can pick up and use language like that!
He’s always been interested in science, we’ve seen a number of websites offering science experiment kits containing everything you need to do them at home. This was an area I worried about as I thought, and school also reinforced previously, that he would never have the same hands-on science experience that he could get at school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve seen a number of places that offer scientific workshops to children who are home educated too. Whilst I probably won’t be able to make these with him his dad almost definitely will due to his 4 on 4 off working shift pattern.
I am currently looking into the sports opportunities for him. He hated PE and his high school agreed it was best not to push it in Y7, and dropped it from his timetable. However they insisted he do something in Y8 and he often got in trouble for not having his kit or for not joining in. They kindly offered for him to go to the gym instead which he was keen on, but unfortunately as we couldn’t get him to school that never materialised. As he’s not very active at all it’s going to be a priority of ours. He loves swimming and he also loves ice skating, although he doesn’t have a natural ability for it, so these are two potential areas we’ll look to utilise. Once he turns 14 we can register him at our local gym but that’s a way off yet.
We were told he wouldn’t get the same social opportunities if we took him out of school. I agree, he won’t be forced to sit in classes full of people he doesn’t really know or like, and he won’t walk around on his own anymore amongst hundreds of other children. Instead he’ll take advantage of the social opportunities that come from everyday life. Speaking to people he doesn’t know. He’ll join groups of other home educated children and make new friendships. We’re still in contact with friends he’s had for years who do go to his school but who he didn’t share lessons with, and they are wonderful families who won’t stop inviting us to events just because we’ve chosen a different path. I have no doubts that this will help his social skills in the long term.
We still have a million other things to think about but I believe whilst we haven’t done much in our first week, we’ve made a bloody good start! So far his sister (Y7) hasn’t played the “it’s not fair” card. It would simply be too much to get my head around home edding two, but I can honestly say that in the future if I still feel as positive as I do now it wouldn’t be out of the question to consider taking her out as an option too!
Our next big job is to begin to write our education philosophy for the education welfare dept as they’ll be writing to ask for it soon. I’ll be using this blog to catalogue the work we do – the exciting and the boring.
If you’d asked me ten years ago about my opinions on school-refusal
I’d have been quite frank and said it was something done by feral kids as a
result of poor parenting. Nowadays however I find myself in this very position,
I am the parent of a school refuser. I’m not the sort of parent I pictured 10 years
ago, I gave up work to stay home and raise my children, we were fortunate
enough to be able to give them what they needed and wanted, they had holidays and
technology but most importantly they had my time. School refusal wouldn’t have happened to
parents like us in my mind 10 years ago. I guess I was narrow-minded, I had no
experience of raising children who were old enough to really refuse school, I
thought of school refusal as a bad homes issue. It isn’t, not by any means, and
I’ve seen lots of parents in a similar position who are blamed and persecuted
for their kids not being okay at school.
Looking back our son never loved school. We would often drag
him in upset and leave him crying because we’re almost conditioned to believe
that school is the only way for kids to succeed in life so we push them to go,
and for most kids they do love it, and that’s great. Once at
school it’s the teacher’s job to keep them there and try settle them down for a
day of learning and socialising. They don’t do this out of malice, but I do believe
it sets in motion a chain of negative experiences – upset, feeling out of
control and restraint for example that eventually causes the child to become
disengaged from the education system.
Our son was diagnosed with Aspergers in school, it was clear
from nursery that he was very different from his peers, choosing to sit with
his back to people than join in, watching the class circles from the other side
of the classroom, and generally having a really hard time. I knew nothing at
all about the Autism spectrum when it was first suggested to us by his school,
we were already struggling to cope with the problems he had at home and every
healthcare professional he saw must have been able to see he was Autistic but chose
to do nothing about it, it really was scarily obvious when I look back. School
we felt was our respite from him. It gave us 6 hours to recharge our batteries
and be able to leave the house without constant meltdowns. We could go shopping
and not have to leave because the sight of the stores toilet doors caused him
to lose the plot completely.
He would come home every day and his emotions would be
everywhere, he would stim, he would play with water and flood our house, he would
be angry and he didn’t sleep. I guess looking back they were all warning signs
that he wasn’t coping with the demands of school life. We needed the break
whilst he was at school though to help deal with the emotions when he got back.
It was a vicious cycle and at that point home-education was most definitely not
an option for us.
We got a lot of support from primary, by year 2 they had
applied for a statement of special educational needs. He was granted 30.75
hours just in time for him going into year 3 and from then until the end of his
time there he had 1:1 all day every day with the same person. They put in place
social skills groups, friendship groups and other interventions to help him succeed.
He was always encouraged to try things outside his comfort zone such as swimming
lessons and even a 2 night school trip. He really blossomed and had many
friends, but he still hated going to school. His refusal looked behavioural, he
would kick, punch and bite as I tried to drag him up the drive, it got worse with
the arrival of his baby brother in 2015.
The time came for him to go to high school. This was a very
difficult time for us as we weren’t convinced this was the right school for
him, but we live on the coast and there isn’t another high school for 11 miles.
He wanted to go with his friends and we felt he deserved to give it a try. We
tried to iron out any issues before he started, make sure everything would be
perfect and in place by the time he started. They were aware of his refusal
issues with school but we were reassured that
they understood and could help. Quickly he began to refuse, he missed
his second week completely and he was put on a reduced time-table. This was
great and only meant to be supportive, but he takes things very literally, so
when school said “Monday you only need to come in and do the one lesson, more
if you want” in his head that meant “Monday do one lesson then leave”. That was
fine and we worked with it and soon got him back to going, now and again. They
put things in place so if he felt he couldn’t be in class he could go elsewhere.
I felt positive that they really wanted to help.
Not even 6 months in we were informed that the ‘Parent Support Advisor’ in school had took it upon herself to refer us to the educational welfare department. Now I could understand if I wasn’t in school every week trying to find a solution, if I wasn’t dragging him in only for them to mark him as not there because none of us could get him to go past the reception area. The woman had never so much as spoken to us. We were now on the path for prosecution if things didn’t improve. I honestly felt betrayed. We sat in numerous meetings with overpaid EWO’s (Education Welfare Officers) who were being paid a decent amount of money to sit and tell us what we already knew. Their favourite phrase was “you could be prosecuted”. As if their constant reminder was somehow going to be the answer to our years of problems. We listened to them quoting false laws to us, telling us how we should punish our sons refusal by giving him nothing until he decided school was for him (we tried, it doesn’t work). They admitted there was nothing they could offer to help, but yet we were expected to be “working with them” to resolve his attendance issues. I can see why some parents struggle with their own mental health issues when forced into a corner like this. Some parents have to leave their jobs over it. I work in school myself (his old primary) and the fear of prosecution weighed heavily on me. I know only too well how capable he is and I want only the best for him. Unfortunately as of now, part way through year 8, his attendance is currently sat at 67%. I’m waiting for the inevitable letter reminding us of our responsibilities as his parents and demanding we go and explain ourselves at more pointless meetings. I am looking into the chances of having EOTAS named on his EHC Plan rather than his current school because it just isn’t working, but realistically we’re going to end up de-registering and taking responsibility for educating him ourselves, I just know it. I actually like the idea of home-educating him, but I don’t want to feel pushed into it.
I am thankful we have an education system, free to all, and I have one child who has gone all the way through, one in her first year of high school and one in reception year. Its become clear though that it is not the right system for everyone. This high school just cannot meet our needs for our son, but the only alternative is special school which he is not severe enough to go to. There are no options for children in the middle. The system needs reworking to become a fairer system for all, we need schools for everyone because mainstream simply does not suit every child. We’re lucky to be in a position to provide him with education at home, not everybody forced to take the same route is as lucky as us. It would not be the easy option for us to take, but I honestly don’t know where else we can go.