Home Educating Survival Guide Part 1

When my eldest son was three, I was told by the local Education Authority that I would have to either move or home-educate as they were not going to help with his education if we stayed farming our island home. Our farm was our livelihood so I had no choice but to attempt to teach him and my other two sons when they arrived at school age. It was a very steep learning curve in an age where there was no internet to help me. As so many families have been thrown in to home educating during the pandemic I wanted to pass on some tips that I have learnt along the way. 

When I was told that I would have to home educate my children I was in despair. I had no idea how to do it or even what to teach them. I was sure that with no training in teaching I could not hope to educate them for everything they might want to do in life. In short I was convinced that I would fail. In the event, with help and perseverance, we survived the experience, and succeeded, which proves one thing- anyone can do it!

However, it does take a lot of effort and a huge amount of energy, and there will be days when you want to go away and scream, but hang on in there, because it is worth it.

I taught the boys from 9-1pm, and we stopped for 30 minutes mid morning for a drink and playtime. Sometimes it was very hard to get motivated on a cold morning and I would often set them work to do and then dash to the kettle for a quick coffee! The school space was a table in the sitting room; sometimes I sat beside them to help with reading or maths, sometimes I was elsewhere in the room ready to help if necessary, and sometimes we were investigating things together. I found that it was best always to be focussed on the schooling and not to get distracted by other household tasks, because the minute my attention wandered, so did theirs. When they were older I would use the time to plan lessons or mark work they had done, but I still stayed around.

I had three boys at very different stages which caused a lot of problems. When Rory was 14, I was teaching him 13 different subjects and only a few of those could I teach to Owen as well, let alone to Hamish who was only six. The only subject I ever tried to do with all three was art; none of them were really keen to do anything other than muck about with paint, so I would take them outside on good days. However hard I tried to get them to draw other things, Rory only painted boats or ‘planes or tractors, and Owen only drew birds or animals! If your child is similar, then encourage them to paint or draw with different colour ranges or with different materials; we made a collage from fabric pieces of old clothes cut up, an igloo from squares of polystyrene sent as packing in a box, and fired our own crude pots from clay.

Rory and Owen making pots from our clay

I had a timetable for every day so that all subjects were covered, as inevitably some are more fun or easier to teach than others; but there was always one practical subject in which we could let off steam a bit. Whether its art or cooking or keeping fit, make sure that they help to clear up just as they would at school- remember that you are not the parent until the school time ends and try and think yourself into behaving as their teacher would.  

It’s tough at times, but keep laughing as often as you can – and be firm!

Home-educating Survival Guide Part 2