Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Interview -- Who I am , Why I home-ed, How I home-ed, etc.

I was recently interviewed on FB for a home-edder's blog about homeschooling, especially to encourage newbies. I thought it might be worth reproducing here.

Who am I? I was born in Texas, but now live near Oxfordshire. I have a PhD in literature, a PGCE in secondary education (English), and formerly taught in private girls' schools in Oxford. Now, I homeschool my four kids who range from 7 to 14, examine for Cambridge International at iGCSE and A-level, and run my own online tutorial business for homeschooled students throughout the world (called Dreaming Spires Home Learning: links below).

Blown away in the Orkneys

Why did I start homeschooling?
My interest in homeschooling started when my eldest was about 3 1/2 -- she was a late-summer baby, and Oxfordshire changed its entry policy to start children in the YEAR they turned 5 instead of the TERM they turned 5, so she was due to start when she had just turned 4. Being American, where children start in the September AFTER they turn 6, I found this unacceptable. I was even more spurred on by three things: the book called Better Late than Early by Raymond S Moore which argues that children aren't ready for school in a variety of aspects from eyesight to emotional maturity; the fact that our local school was being very anti-Christian at the time, and I have a strong desire to promote a trust and respect for God in our day-to-day lives, plus my daughter was a very intense child and often bullied even at the sweet Montessori nursery where she went -- my belief was this personality was given to her by God, and I didn't want an institution to bully her out of her natural personality; and finally, from the practical viewpoint, I didn't see the point of my being paid to teach other people's children, and paying for my own to be taught by someone else -- I could just cut out the middleman!

What top tip would I give newbies? 

  • If your children are under 6, take a leaf out of Life Child in the Woods or other natural childhood books -- they really, really, really need to have a lot of physical activity to develop their inner ear, and if this doesn't get developed when a child is young, it will never fully develop. Same with things like literacy and numeracy and spatial skills -- there is a time in the brain when these will develop, and it's rarely before 6. Eyesight, too, isn't developed enough for reading a lot till after 8. Three of my kids now wear glasses, and I wish I'd not rushed things when they were younger. 
  • If your children are between 6 and 12, I'd say that taking things slowly at first, establishing a nice routine for living and learning in the mornings (a la Charlotte Mason, which is the method I like), and make sure, above all, that you finish "table work" academics by lunchtime, freeing a child to explore the parts of life and hobbies that inspire them. They need to be left alone to be bored; otherwise, they will never learn to motivate themselves. They also need to be left alone to learn that things don't work in life like a microwave does -- planting a garden or building a tree house or whatever, these things take time, and include a lot of trial and error. 
  • Finally, if your children are older than 12 and you're in the UK particularly, please don't rush into taking exams. The British exam system is so limiting and narrow, and the point of education is to be inspired, broad, and connected, not to mention, children need to know how to learn for themselves.

Is there such thing as a typical day? Our routine is to do chores in the morning before 10, then sit in our school room until about 1 pm. This happens three days a week, as one day, my youngest has private swimming lessons so my older ones work on their homework for the online literature and/or art appreciation courses they do, and another day, we meet with a family for watching videos about the Bible or biblical issues, and we're studying art this year together. On our other three days, we start with Bible, then read a selection of books about chemistry, biography, history, natural history, geography, and literature. While I read, they usually paint or draw or play Lego, then they narrate back to me what was read so they can solidify the story and what they learned from it. 

My school room

My students
Once the reading is done, the children separate to work on their maths and copywork. If I can snatch some time in the afternoon, I might sit down with someone and read a book to them that only they want to hear. My 9-year-old, for example, really enjoys the book about the Titanic called A Night to Remember. My 7-year-old likes A Pocketful of Goobers, about George Washington Carver and the invention of peanut butter. My 14-year-old enjoys all things Brother Andrew who founded Open Doors, and my 11-year-old follows me around the house to read his weekly assignments from the online literature class: it's tough reading, like Spenser's Faerie Queene, so I totally understand, and really admire this year that he's decided he wants to get an A in the course, even though it's a course designed more for 14-year-olds.

What's the best and worst thing about HE? There are so many positive things about HE, but the best to me is relationships -- we really get to know each other, we have to learn to get along, we have to realise that our actions have a knock-on effect on the family (whether it's something like breaking a dish or failing to do one's chores), we can't just swap our siblings and parents but have to sort out difficulties, we have to take turns and share and work out what's the difference between equal and identical. This doesn’t mean my kids have no friends: far from it. We could have an outing every day or visits morning and afternoon if we wanted to, but my kids are competitive swimmers and mostly out every evening, so we try to stay home for those three days of study, and preferably, without distractions. Other positive things are taking holidays when prices are lower, traveling to see family in America for a month or more at a time, leaving the books behind if the weather is particularly gorgeous, taking the time to eat healthy, un-rushed lunches.

To sum up -- TIME!

Texas Baseball in June - holiday freedom

 The worst thing? Honestly, I can't find a down-side. Sure, there are issues one must face like a messy house or higher food/electricity bills or setting aside time for appointments like hair cuts or even just prayer time, but it's only a season of life, and these things can be worked around, planned for, accepted. I remember when my eldest turned 9 and I realised I'd had her for half the time that she would probably be living at home -- I had seen her every day of those 9 years, and I still thought: "Oh, my gosh! We're halfway through already!!!" (BTW, my daughter said, "Oh, no!!!! I have to live my life all over again before I can drive!!" It's all about perspective, isn't it!!!!) So for all the annoying little bits here and there, I will know that I gave it my all, and spent as much time with my precious kids as I could while I still had them at home.  It goes sooooo fast in the grand scheme of things.

Something to link to, or promote?

Boyschooling is my personal blog about my family's homeschooling journey, and especially about homeschooling boys. I also have a blog for the online tutorials I run for homeschooling teens: or the US-based version at My online classes are designed for homeschooled students from age 12 and up, and whether US, UK, NZ, or wherever, I try to make them relevant to your aims like exams or college entrance, but more than that, I aim to teach the kids how to have a relationship with books that will last a lifetime. 

I also offer Easter “crammer courses” for the UK national exams:  iGCSE English Language (CIE board) at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Whatcha thinkin'? Don't be shy if you've got something to say!