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The Best Thing I Did for My Children Was to Take Them Out of School

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I home-schooled my two children for 13 years. Home education was the best thing ever for us.

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A Free-Range Education In the UK

As parents become more disillusioned with the education system, more are deregistering their children from school. Homeschooling, or home education, to give it the correct term in the UK, is growing rapidly.

“According to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, 75,668 children were being educated at home in October 2020 – an increase of 38 per cent on the previous year (ADCS, 2020).”

Home education is still far less common than in other parts of the world. Many parents think it’s illegal to take a child out of school. They don’t realise that home education is the default option, not the other way round.

Thinking we were going to sell up and travel, we took our son out of Primary school when he was six years old. It was a really unusual choice back then in 2004. Our daughter was only three, so she never went to school at all. We never fulfilled our dream to travel, but we carried on with the homeschooling journey anyway.

My biggest challenge, as the parent with responsibility for their education, was learning to not teach. It took a while to understand that it wasn’t my job to fill their heads with facts. I was brought up ‘in the system’. During the time when knowledge came from books and needed to be stored in my head.

I started my son with daily workbooks for English language, and devised nature lessons for our walks. We played shops to help with maths, and I’d get them to jump around on rainy days, so they got some PE. It was fun, and I thought I was doing a good job. However, only 5/10. It turned out I could do a lot better.

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Just Spell It Out

It took a while before the penny dropped. My daughter was the one who made me question my homeschooling methods. She was typing on her computer and asked me how to spell a word. I began to sound out the word to get her to work it out for herself. She gave me a withering look and said, “Just spell the word, please.” So, somewhat taken aback, I spelled the word. I realised she never asked me to spell the same word twice. My attempts at manipulating her into learning how to spell an unknown word were futile. I made sure not to do that again. When she asked, I spelt it.

I noticed that both kids appeared to be learning without any input from me. When they wanted to know something, they would ask or go look it up. My son was interested in science and cars. He built endless Lego models. He drew cars and was clever at switching the point of view and drawing the same vehicle from different angles. He read the first Harry Potter book when he was seven.

It dawned on me that my kids were sponges for information. They were capable of making discoveries for themselves. They didn’t need me to decide for them. So I stopped ‘teaching’, sat back and let them direct their own education. It was a revelation. I began to understand that children are programmed to learn. That they start their journey at birth and, as long as the love of learning isn’t driven out, they will continue. For life.

My daughter would not let me teach her to read but taught herself from Leapfrog games. She never had a grammar lesson in her life. Yet, she was able to use punctuation correctly without being able to explain why. It was instinctive. At 11, she took a 70 question English assessment and got them all correct. My son, at 14, got 69 right. They both did better than the others in the group, who ranged from 13 - 18.

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I Didn’t Need to Worry About Homeschooling; It Was Happening by Itself

We used to attend a local home-ed group every week. They managed to get some council grants and arranged various courses for the kids.

One of them was a week-long woodland management course in the most beautiful setting near a beach. The children learned traditional skills and how to use power tools. At 13, my son loved every moment of it.

We found more day courses for him throughout the summer. The following year, he decided to volunteer for the Welsh Wildlife Trust. The other volunteers were retirees. A couple were engineers, and one had travelled the world to visit the Seven Wonders. They took my boy under their collective wings and taught him how to maintain paths, ponds, woodland, wildlife habitats and, all the while, sharing their life experiences.

When he was 15, all this helped get him into college to complete an HND (Higher National Dip.). Now he’s almost 23 and teaching woodland management and conservation at that same college. And he still goes back to volunteer with the Wildlife Trust when able.

When she was 10, my daughter discovered Taylor Swift and fell in love with music. She taught herself guitar and wrote her own songs. And she followed her brother into college at the age of 15.

Both children were accepted based on their interviews. Neither had any of the required GCSEs. My girl applied for a Level One course but was taken into Level Two Music at enrolment. Two weeks after starting, she was moved to Level Three. Her contemporaries were A-Level students, 18 and above.

She has completed a Foundation degree in music production. And now is taking a gap year to complete a paid internship for a London-based record company (she was recommended to the company by her tutor). She may or may not go on to finish her full degree next year.

Neither of my two youngest children is exceptionally gifted or even above average. Neither has followed the traditional route of acquiring GCSEs and A-Levels. Yet, their love of learning shone through to impress their tutors and bring them opportunities. I don’t think either would have done so well in school, particularly my spirited and rebellious daughter.

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My Homeschooling Experience Taught Me:

  • To trust. My children learned what they needed to know when they needed to know it. And continue to do so.
  • There are alternate routes: it’s possible in the UK to acquire a good education without the stress of formal exams at an early age.
  • To enjoy the process. There’s nothing better than your child presenting you with their latest discovery.
  • To let go and let be. Children, given a chance, can’t help but absorb information.

Note: In the US, our method of homeschooling is called 'unschooling'.

© 2021 Bev G

Comments

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 29, 2021:

Thank you, Doris. Not sure if I can claim to be a wonderful mother - we had our moments and our meltdowns. But, yes, my children mixed with people of all ages, not just those in their age groups. I encouraged them to talk to 'old' people because they could learn so much from all that experience.

I'd love to go back and do it all again. x

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 28, 2021:

Sounds like you were a wonderful mother. My son's wife homeschooled their two children in Texas, U.S.A. They put my granddaughter in a private school one time, but for some reason the teacher didn't like her. That lasted six weeks, and she was back home. At 16, she wrote the most beautiful and mature poem. I don't know where that came from because I'm not a poet, and I don't think her mother is either. I was afraid that the kids wouldn't get enough exposure to the world, but sequestering them was the very reason their mother homeschooled them. However, my granddaughter, now 30, has a very sophisticated view of the world today, much to her parents' chagrin. My grandson, not so much. They are both surprisingly prepared, and they are very hard workers. I've changed my outlook on homeschooling, and I'm proud of their mother for doing such a good job with them. I believe you have the right to be proud of your beautiful intelligent children, too.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 27, 2021:

Thanks, Peggy. I have to admit to having many 'crises of confidence'. Sometimes I wondered if we'd made the right decision. Often I panicked and made them do actual maths!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 27, 2021:

What an eye-opener for many who may read this article of yours. Your children are fortunate that you allowed them to flourish as they obviously did when they were youngsters, and continue to do as adults. Before the pandemic, we met one young man who is being home schooled by his parents. He is as intelligent and well-rounded as any adult we know, and it was fun conversing with him. The normal way of schooling does not fit every child's needs or interests.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 27, 2021:

Hey Denise... I was a bit like that with my girl - she was a terror! And I am glad I persevered too even though I considered adoption once or twice :D

And you homeschooled four. Wow. Well good for you, you've obviously done a sterling job. Congratulations.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 27, 2021:

I absolutely agree with this. Children do learn best at their own pace and when they are allowed to pursue their own direction. I took my children out of public school in 1988 and I'm glad I did. They were all having serious problems with different things and I wasn't even sure I liked my kids enough to have them home all day, every day. But I made the commitment and now I'm glad I did. My son has a Master's degree in Theology and pastors and church in Southern California. The oldest daughter is an RN, nursing in the Midwest. The middle girl has passed the Bar and is an Assistant District Attorney in Merced County. The youngest girl has a degree in art and has worked doing animated figures in video games.

Blessings,

Denise

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 27, 2021:

Oh, mess is part of the process :D You can see my daughter making a mess... and that was just a small one.

I think they mostly appreciate it, but then, they didn't really know anything else.

Thanks for reading, Misbah. You are appreciated. xx

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 27, 2021:

Ah! So, now I understand why you are so skilled at guiding newcomers. Bev, I genuinely appreciate your efforts. It's difficult for me to imagine my brother at home all the time. I can just imagine the mess he would be making everywhere. It requires a great deal of care and attention. You really did an excellent job. I hope your children appreciate your efforts and be grateful to you as you have helped them grow in a very positive atmosphere and have encouraged them to learn and think outside the box. I enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings and Love as always!!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 27, 2021:

Interesting reading. Thanks.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 27, 2021:

Yes, I always wondered that too, Jan. School curricula, by their very nature, are broad and shallow. Whereas children will naturally delve in as deep as they want to, given the opportunity. Broad is not necessarily good.

Thank you for reading.

Jan Stepan from Sweden on September 27, 2021:

This was very educational to read. I started to wonder during reading where I myself would have been right now if the school would not be there. How much time I would have to go after my passions and how open-minded I most likely would be. I always felt and still feel that school blocks growth and development. The education system we currently have is sadly way too conservative to satisfy the needs of real growth.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 27, 2021:

Thank you, Dora. I hope they are, but we'll never truly know. xx

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 27, 2021:

Thanks for sharing your homeschooling experience. You learned some valuable lessons which I'm glad to learn from you. You're a wise mother and teacher, and I'm sure that your children are better off because of the choices you made in their interest.

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