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The Home Education Experience

By Lauren Heaton from The Heaton Family Blog

The kettle boils as my children happily draw and colour in the background. My husband sorts breakfast, while I sip my coffee, and try to come to life (cue a Dolly Parton song playing in my head). This is how the majority of our days begin, and I’m not ignorant to how privileged we are that this is our life.

We start our days slowly, and intentionally. There’s rarely a rush. This simple act of nothing to rush for, creates a much calmer and collected start to the day, that I am always grateful for.

Some days we do our ‘structured’ learning in the mornings. Structured referring to the maths, English and science that follows the national curriculum, however, we started far more structured 6 years ago, and have gradually learned through experience that the best, and most incredible absorption of information happens through allowing your children to lead, and following their interests! Because really, when you think about it, what do you remember from school? Do you remember the parts you really didn’t enjoy and need, or do you remember those projects that really captured your interest and imagination? I always remember projects on ancient Egypt, the Tudor’s, methods of art, and stories, and funnily enough now history, reading and creativity are 3 of my biggest passions in life.

So our mornings sometimes feature a little structure, but if the children aren’t in the mindset, it is as the quote goes ‘like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it eating’ ~ Barbara Lamping, so we leave it, or we find more exciting ways to involve the topic at hand.

How do you trust that your children can learn what they need in life, without the strict structured work?

Think of it like this… You can put a maths workbook in front of a child, and try and force numbers, measurements and equations down their throat in a completely non-relevant way. They may not be academically minded, and they may shut down and feel like they’re not achieving…But what if instead, your child told you they enjoyed learning about the solar system?! They’re already going to be 100% more mentally ready for any learning in relation to this because it’s an interest.

So, you find some books, movies, documentaries, resources about the solar system, and within all of this information, what do you learn? You learn numbers and distance when talking about the size of planets, the measurements of the distance between planets. The comparison of sizes between us, countries, continents, the earth, the planets, the universe…Even if you want to take it to the simplest equations like counting, number recognition, you can do all this with a space theme if that’s what your child is passionate about.

Continuing on with this space theme, you could then make models with scaled-down versions of the planets, which would require maths, art, science…If you wanted to add in more maths AND cooking, why not make solar system cakes. That way you can add in learning to weigh, add weights together, scale. Cake decoration…Make a ‘moon cake’ or a ‘rocket cake’. Make an entire ‘space’ themed meal! Why not?! And English! Instead of making them think they’re stuck in workbook land, take them out of it and get some books based on your solar system project. There are TONS of age-appropriate books on space! Some fiction and some none. Make fun, active games based on space. Create messy play. Print off space-themed Playdough mats…

And you can do this with pretty much ANY passion or interest your child has.

This is how home education is less ‘learning at home’ and more ‘whole learning’.It’s using the basis of academia, but finding a way that works best for the individual child.

Instead of ‘school at home’ it’s facilitating your child’s learning, and helping them discover how they learn best.

We follow them through their days, watching as they find what lights a fire within. What sets their soul on a journey? What makes them crave information?

So often we are asked how we do it? How do we manage? Are we teachers? Are we qualified? Don’t we worry?

I used to. When I first started I worried constantly whether we were doing enough.

The truth is, the more you watch, the more you see how much your children fly when you take a step back as they find their interests, and then the more you start to trust the method of letting go…

It isn’t natural for humans not to learn anything at all… Gradually we are able to learn a whole variety of skills as we need and want them…

So it makes sense that as we take a step back from the ‘shoulds and musts’ of structured learning and academia, our children naturally find what drives them to learn in their own way.

We are just along for the ride (and also the sourcing of the most random bits and bobs to facilitate the ride! Ha!).

Our days and our lives are rich with travel (geography, history, culture, RE, social justice, politics, food, languages, science etc); nature (the most hands-on science, geography, geology, communication, culture); staying active through walking, hiking, rock climbing, trampolining, swimming, gymnastics, dancing, performing arts, yoga and more; creativity (art, crafting, crochet, felting, messy play, nature crafts, candle making, watercolours and more); reading; friends; family and a whole load of joy…

Don’t get me wrong, of course, there are tough moments, many of them! But it’s our job to also teach children that the whole range of human emotions are completely valid and necessary.It’s more important to us to also teach them emotional resilience and growth mindset than it is maths, English and science…I want there to be tough moments because tough moments are vast throughout this thing called life, but I want it to be me that is also there to teach them that rough moments are as vital for growth as the great moments. That we all lose it sometimes, and that sorry is a much something that parents/adults should say as it is for children.

I want to teach my children that adults are humans too and that making mistakes is not only okay, but encouraged.

Home education to me is just whole learning.It isn’t purely academia. It isn’t purely letters and numbers, full stops and question marks…

It’s what happens 24 hours, 7 days a week.It’s what happens from when you open your eyes to when you fall asleep, and even in between.

It’s learning to understand. It’s learning to communicate. It’s learning to fall and fail and that being something beautiful! It’s learning that the world is more than 4 walls. It’s learning that there are experiences that are completely different to your own because you are privileged in many ways. It’s learning that you have to seek out the experiences of as many people, and as many communities as possible in order to get an accurate representation of the world, instead of relying on what’s taught within the system set up to help only the white and able-bodied amongst us.

It’s learning and unlearning.

It’s academics, social justice, culture, language, emotional experience, experience in general, life skills, passion, creativity, socialisation, understanding, re-evaluating, questioning EVERYTHING, wondering who values from what you read and see… it’s learning, unlearning, relearning, listening, speaking, questioning, loving, failing.

It’s life.

Home educating. It’s a parents way of facilitating a fully whole learning experience, a fully whole life.

So we take the questions, we take the judgments, and we don’t mind. We know there are assumptions,

But there is nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life that is more astoundingly incredible than the experience of watching these wonderful, small humans of mine really discover who they are and what makes them tick, over and over…

Lauren Heaton

Blog, Instagram, YouTube

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