Was homeschooling the right decision? I know a lot of parents/grandparents worry about this, and its only right that lots of questions need to be answered before you begin. When you start to home-school you are taking on a huge commitment. There is a lot to take into consideration.
Some of the questions you might ask yourself are -
>Do I know enough to be able to teach?
>What about exams?
>How do I know if he/she is making progress?
>How will they socialise?
I was lucky. Before having to take early retirement, I was a primary school teacher for over 20 years. But that didn't stop me wondering about some of those questions.
I searched the internet to find out all I could about children's experiences learning at home. There was so much information out there and so many different, and sometimes opposite points of view, especially when it came to teaching styles. But, what I did take away from the many different groups was the fact that these people felt it was often the only choice they had for the happiness and well-being of their children.
I asked my son if he thought it would be a good idea to teach Tiny (my grandson) at home. He agreed almost before I had even finished the sentence. Tiny was taken out of school in Feb, 1998 before his eighth birthday. He was in Year 3 at the time, and already falling further and further behind.
After taking advice from lots of different people on the internet, I decided that we would have a few weeks of just settling in and adjusting to being home.
But that didn't happen.
Tiny was so excited about starting his 'New School', that he wanted to go out and buy supplies at once.
He already felt empowered and was more than happy to chose the colours for his new workbooks.
We talked about what he would like to learn about first. We both talked about a topic on plants. He said he could use his new camera to take lots of pictures.
He then wanted to know what we would be learning each day, so I said we could make a timetable together. We set about writing out different topics on bits of card - Literacy, Numeracy - Science - Picnic - Trips - Painting - etc.
See blog post about Creating their own timetable.
While putting a basic weekly timetable together, I gently encouraged him to include Literacy and Numeracy each day, but the rest of the choices were his.
He then said he wanted to do a topic about Punch and Judy. He was very surprised when I said we could do that as well and include it in a seaside topic.
Over the first few days I started to assess his learning. I knew he was behind in his work, but I was shocked to see just how far behind he was.
Tiny has cerebral palsy and a lot of other issues to contend with. He struggled, and still does, with fine motor skills, and finds it very difficult to write.
He was at reception level for both Literacy and Numeracy. He could read quite well, but everything else was really poor. He had no confidence in himself at all and would get upset he he was pushed too fast and too far.
Our first week looked like this:
Monday: Self Care - choosing his own clothes and getting himself washed and dressed (PHSCE). Trip to shops (Communication and Language). Word search about Punch and Judy (Literacy). Internet research - finding pictures of plants. printed some out and stuck them in his new Science book (ICT, Fine Motor Skills). Searching the internet for Punch and Judy Videos (ICT)
Tuesday: Self Care - choosing clothes and getting dressed (PHSCE). Maths assessment Yr 1 adding and subtracting (Numeracy). Handwriting (Literacy). Trip to garden centre - talking about plants and taking photos (Communication, ICT, Science). Cooking - making his own sandwiches and talking about healthy choices (Science). Drawing plants in Art book (Art). Maths computer game (Numeracy). Ball games- throwing soft balls in a bucket to score points and keeping a tally chart (Numeracy, PE)
Self Care (PHSCE). Writing shopping list for thing he needed to make for supper (Literacy including handwriting practice). Trip to garden centre to buy pots, beans and flower seeds and taking more photos (Science, ICT). Trip to supermarket to buy items from shopping list. (Communication and language and reading). Cooking - making supper for everyone/sausage rolls and beans (listening to instructions, fine and gross motor skills, Numeracy). Maths games on computer (ICT, Numeracy)
Thursday: Self Care (PHSCE). Number games with Numicon (Numeracy). Writing two sentences in Science book (Handwriting and Science). Planting beans and talking about what they need to grow - taking photos to add to Science book and PowerPoint (Science, ICT, Communication and Language). Starting PowerPoint about plants (Science and ICT). Trip to library to get non'fiction books about plants (Reading, Science). He also received his seed catalogue in the post today. He was very excited to order his flower seeds. (Reading). Finding story of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' on internet - www.bbcschoolsradio.co.uk (ICT) Maths game on computer (ICT).
Friday: Self Care (PHSCE). Handwriting practise (Literacy). Making a shopping list for cream slices and going to the shops (Literacy, Communication and language) Talked about plants and their roots. (Science). Discussed getting a small plastic greenhouse and talked about not spending any more that fifty pound. Look them up on computer and ordered one. (ICT, Communication, Numeracy). Cooking cream slices (Fine motor skills, communication, Numeracy). He reminded me about his topic on Punch and Judy so we did some research on the computer. Watch some YouTube on Punch and Judy. (ICT).
Saturday: The greenhouse arrived. Was not able to put it up because of the weather. Gave us a chance to talk about seasons. We will do more work on this at a later time.
Sunday: A very busy day today. The weather was dry, so Tiny was able to help his dad put up the greenhouse and to clear an area of the garden to make room for it. That gave us a chance to talk about the difference between flowers we buy and weeds.
This all seems like a lot of work for the first week, but his concentration span was very short. Everything had to be done in little burst.
All of the work we did do in the first week gave me plenty of opportunities to assess his abilities.
He is a very bright child in many ways, but it is obvious looking at the books sent home from the school, that most of the work in them has been done by a classroom assistant. Working as a teacher for over twenty years, I do know that sometimes it is easier to give the information to the child so that they can just copy it out. And I do understand that when you have a child with special needs and such a low concentration span, getting any work on paper is a bonus.
I knew that this was not going to be an easy journey, but now I had a starting point.
It wasn't long into the first year that I suspected that Tiny had dyscalculia and dyspraxia, along with Autism and ADHD. I asked my son to point this out to his paediatrician his next appointment. They said that these things come under the umbrella of his cerebral palsy. I wasn't happy about hearing this response, but I knew what I was now going to have to do to help.
Over the last two years we have refined our days more and more. We now work on a semi-structured day. We use the National Curriculum for our targets (old habits die hard) and we do lots of topics.
He still fills out his weekly timetable over the weekend. He always puts too much on it.
We now work on a four day week - with the extra day for 'catch up' or going out.
He works each morning for about 30 to 40 minutes on Literacy and the same for Numeracy. The rest of the day we follow his timetable. (there has been a vast improvement in his concentration.
Although he is beginning to work more independently on some task, he still does need lots of encouragement and prompting.
We do a lot of topic work and we use a mind-map to start. (see mind-mapping a topic)
We do a lot of cooking and making and doing (see cooking with kids)
He has grown in confidence so much and still has a very active social life with Cubs, Horse riding and catching up with cousins and friends at the weekends.
We have talked and laughed and told each other jokes as his communication skills have grown and grown.
We have had a great Science fortnight a while back which he thoroughly enjoyed (must repeat that soon) (See Science Fortnight)
We have made so many lap-books and Tiny has even made a YouTube video show others how to make their own lap book.
We go away for a few weeks a year when other children are at school. This is less stressful for him, and cheaper for me.
He would be in Year 5 now if he was still in a main-stream school. But I really do not think he would be able to cope. I do believe that without one to one support he would have stagnated in his learning.
He has made slow but steady improvement in Numeracy going from Reception age to now beginning to tackle Year 3 work.
His reading and comprehension is getting better all the time and he is working at about Year 4 in that.
His handwriting is still poor, and I think it will stay that way for a while yet, but his other literacy skill like spelling and composing are at a year 2 level.
His ICT skills are fantastic, at least year 5 level, if not higher.
And he is learning.
Not every day has been easy for him, or myself. But it was the best thing we could have done for him.
I am now looking forward to our third year and new and exciting learning.