Home Education Subjects

by L.
(Dorset, UK)

I have contacted you twice now regarding home education and I STILL have not plucked up the courage to take my kids out of school.

This week my kids are on half term and I thought I might do a trial week of home education. I haven't got a clue which method I want to use.

How did you decide the home education subjects you wanted your children to learn? I thought I might use work books for maths and English but some of the content I find really boring and not relevant to everday situations, so I expect the kids will feel the same way. I just don't understand why we need to learn some of the stuff in these books and most of the workbooks are of similar material.

What do you do about maths and english? How do you pick the bits you think are important? What will the Local Authorites think if I chose to do very basic maths and English?


Glad you are still hanging in there! That is an excellent question. I am not sure I can really answer it as it is something I have struggled with myself (but I will have a go!)

What you are basically asking is whether children should be taught boring or irrelevant material just because it has become an 'expected' part of a 'curriculum'. Who can really say what one person should learn, or choose which pieces of knowledge are 'more important' to know than others. This really is the whole crux of autonomous education.

Autonomous educators believe that no-one has the right to force knowledge on another person - but that by leaving the child to explore the things they are interested in, they will develop a rounded knowledge that is relevant to them.

School-based education takes the opposite approach that certain knowledge must be 'taught' and then decides which knowledge is important. I think that I, and lots of homeschoolers, fall somewhere inbetween.

I do not decide the home education subjects my children are to learn, because I think this would make the subject 'artificial' to them. And I don't do workbooks (unless the children want to do them) for the same reason. But I do want them to experience and learn as much as possible - which is where the sorts of projects on my site come in. I do encourage them to do the projects, but I don't make them (mostly!). It they aren't interested and engaged then I haven't chosen the right project, and I try again. This is also why I talk about strewing a lot on the site - I see it as a way to catch their interest in something new.

Of course I worry that they may not 'cover the basics'. But when you work like this you see that it is hard to divide knowledge into subjects. What starts out as a discussion on dinosaurs for example, may end up covering history, archeology, creationism, geography, size and weight, diet etc.

My daughters brief interest in quilting taught her lots of maths. My sons current obsession with airfix has led to a huge learning of aircraft history and the history of war.

I know this isn't helping you much! To answer your questions :

  1. I don't do anything about English at all - I expect they will pick up what they need through reading, writing stories, listening to (high quality) audiobooks and talking. If they need to learn how to write an essay later then we will look at it then.

  2. I do a little maths (usually a worksheet or two) now and again when I get worried about my approach. But they do learn an enormous amount from day to day stuff (like calculating how much paint they needed to decorate their rooms, or how much commision they have to pay ebay!).

  3. How do I pick the home education subjects I think are important? I don't really. I encourage the children to follow their interests, provide access to interesting stuff, encourage them, talk to them and take them out and about. THOSE bits are the important ones - not something I might randomly choose for them. I just try to expand what they choose as much as possible.

  4. What will the LEA think? It depends on your LEA - some are more encouraging of this approach than others. And you will see that you can take what your children have learnt and put it into 'school-speak'. I talk about that a bit in this deschooling question. It isn't that you haven't been learning - only that you were learning in a different way.

  5. What would I do if I were you (yes, I know you didn't ask that directly!!) I would forget about the workbooks. I would pick an area the children were interested in and expand that - maybe do some lapbooking on it or go on a field trip. Read a classic story together that you think they will enjoy (audiobooks in the car are great). Pick an art or craft activity you have been wanting to try and give that a go (by yourself if you have to!). Teach them a solitaire game, make an animation.

Use the half-term week to expand your definition of learning and see what interesting ways you can all learn new things without using workbooks or sitting down at a table to 'work'.

Does that help? You have to find your own way really. But don't be afraid to go against the school model and work on the home education subjects that interest you all.


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Comments for Home Education Subjects

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by: Anonymous

I think the way you approach homeschooling should have your child's future in mind.

I homeschool my oldest son differently than I homeschool my oldest daughter. I make sure my son will have the knowledge he needs to enter independent living situations and the work force. He has expressed no interest in going on to college. My son also learns best from experiences rather than the traditional textbook learning.

As for my daughter, we go by what is "expected" for her to know so that she will be able to pass the college entrance exam. We do throw in life experiences as well, but she is a traditional learner and there is nothing wrong with that. She is comfortable with it.

As far as skipping subjects because the child finds no interest in it...I think that is dangerous. You may just need to find a new way to present the subjects to him/her so that they find an interest in it. Strewing is an awesome idea. You could also introduce it through their favorite subjects.

For example, my daughter loves to write. She wrote her first novel a few months ago. Her first book was a fictional story about a family with a history mental illness who covered up a crime. She learned to research things about our legal system and about mental conditions. Now she probably would have been hesitant if I asked her "Do you want to do a report on these subjects".

I also feel math is important. If you would have asked me that as a Freshman when I was thrown into Algebra, I would have said it was terrible and a waste of time. But once I learned to master it, it became my favorite subject and I gained confidence from that. What a shame that would have been if I had the choice to learn it or not. We are a SAXON math homeschooling family:)

by: Lori D.

Honestly if I could change anything in my homeschool by doing it over again I wish I would of stayed away from "grade levels" and "subjects" that is dividing up what we are learning into "boxes".

Anyways having said that to answer your question what I would do - since you are just giving it a go.... is I would spend time evaluating where they are at in those subjects. For example in Maths - what "basics" do you feel they are missing - can they add quickly in their head, can they make change, can they figure out at the grocery store if they buy that fruit at a certain cost per weight how much will that cost them. Etc. What I think you'll find is there is one area where you'll identify that they are lacking - that is where I would start - help them with that - find something that will help them with that - for basic math facts it's usually just some manipulative time or drill time that they need - make it fun and rewarding!

English is simple - read to them - pick a story that you will all enjoy and spend some time reading aloud - again you'll pick up areas that they may be lacking in....after your read ask them to tell you about the story - how's their comprehension - if they are writers, after narrating give them a simple assignment "what do you think will happen next" for e.g. Again in writing you may notice that they are having issues with spelling or grammar or even the stamina to write - choose one thing and help them with that.

Having said that if you find they are on track for the basis - pick a really fun subject - ask them what they would like to learn about - and just do a unit study - that is take a subject - go to the library - pick up a bunch of books - and challenge them to learn as much as they can - you could add some interesting stuff from the internet if you like - if they can't agree on a subject together - they could each choose one.

Lastly don't be surprised if they are "resistant" especially if you make it look and feel like school - try and make this experiment what you really wish/feel learning was/should be like - not duplicating what isn't working at home.

And as far as the authorities - honestly the chances of them "checking on you" are slim - but do know what the law is and you really need to find a local support group either physically or online that i.e. know the laws and can help you with determining what is required and what is not - most of us think they would want more than what we need to give them - in canada here we are required 2 visits a year - one at the beginning to share what we are going to do (perhaps) and one at the end of the year to show what we've done - and it doesn't have to "look like school" to qualify.

Follow YOUR instincts ....

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