There’s a big change in family life when the schools break for summer. So does it change a home schooling family’s life in the same way?
It does in some ways; in other ways life just goes on the same.
One of the advantages when you home educate is you don’t have term restrictions. You can go away whenever suits. You can use facilities like parks and swimming pools in the quiet of term time rather than in the crowded holidays. And you don’t have to limit your learning to terms, timetables or similar restrictions we associate with conventional schooling.
Life and learning can became indiscriminate from one another after a year or two because they are so naturally intermingled.
This is very much the case for parents who educate autonomously through the activities their children are engaged in at the time. There are no specific ‘learning’ times, separated from ‘non-learning’ times, in the way there are in school. Their children learn organically from whatever they’re doing, the parents using opportunities as they arise to increase their children’s knowledge, skills and experiences.
But even parents who educate at home in the more directed way like in school, who may make these distinctions between focused study and free time, often still take the opportunity for flexibility when they want to.
The huge advantage of this flexibility is that, apart from going out in term time when it’s quieter and cheaper, you can base the child’s directed learning around the times they learn best. Because learning doesn’t have to happen between 9 and 3pm.
For example, teens focus best later in the day; some schools are recognising this and starting their school day later. Young children learn best in short concentrated bursts. Equally, if they’re very engaged and interested in something, you can keep going as long as they like. Also, learning something one-to-one takes a much shorter time at home than it would in school with all the distractions and one teacher to thirty pupils, so the children have much more time for their own pursuits and interests. Home educators can use routines that suit them best.
This flexibility also lends itself to the new flexible working hours in employment, giving parents further opportunity to home educate around their working commitments.
The greatest inflexibility lies in the fact that our thinking is so conditioned by that structured, timetabled model of education we rarely examine the advantages of a different approach. Just like we’re recognising the advantages of flexible working arrangements for families, there are also advantages to being flexible with our children’s learning and education and trusting that a flexible approach can work just as well.
Whilst we were home educating we took this flexible approach to our children’s education. We were aware of term times because the children’s friends were available during the day for getting together and we generally planned our other outings before schools broke. But learning wise, there were rarely activities or approaches we used that the children so disliked they were desperate to ‘break up’ from them. Our educative life just went on very much as normal.
So, although we all need a break from being endlessly busy or working hard at times, our approach worked so well it always came as a surprise when we were asked ‘Are you breaking up for summer?’
Was it really that time already? Time passes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself!