The Early Years: How did it all start
To begin the day, a group of mothers with a variety of experiences shared their suggestions for starting out with home education and ‘how to do the early years.” They shared that weekly discernment, seeing what the Church taught about education, seeing the difference between national curriculum and a more holistic approach to education, meeting other families and groups were factors that helped them consider home education. They saw it as training children in the way they should go, not just educating with books and learnt a lot from Charlotte Mason and Montessori methods. The disparity between the Church’s teaching and the reality of a Catholic school was also a factor.
One mother thought it would be hard work. After reading, and having a summer baby thought she would try it for a year. They noticed that home educators have good relationships with their parents they think a lot, have good relationships, are not dead from the head up and have a lot going on. She packed up a few workbooks and did stuff together. It was very organic at the beginning and not more formal until about 7. They did not follow a curriculum but talked a lot and had a relaxed environment, learning without pressure. In the early stages there was no reading. With home education, you are free to do what we feel fits our own children.
Another mother mentioned having 4 children and a busy life. The toddlers wanted to join the older children and she welcomed it. She said sometimes you had to give up, at other times start at 10am and be flexible. She said you are not a school, you don’t need a school timetable and with little ones you need to be flexible. You don’t need a 3 year plan as things change monthly. There is no secret solution with what to do with toddlers. There was a temptation to think that everyone is doing it better than I am. It was not necessary to focus them at academics. Under 7 it was not necessary to sit them down at a table. With covering the basics, reading was the most important thing. One learnt reading at 5, another child took an additional 2 years to learn. Learning reading with confidence is useful.
A morning routine can be useful which can bring a rhythm to the day. Mass, poetry, applied music, literature, Bible story, song and cover. This can include gratitude, science with a walk in the park, and being led by what they like. Going with personality is also useful, trying to force a child to read did not help. Often today children don’t have time to reflect, they don’t have time to themselves to digest and they could think about things deeper. Silence is crucial as it is the language of God. It is good to not be too busy and reflect on what it is necessary to do.
Antonia Tully: Our Children and Screen Culture
Antonia Tully works for SPUC and runs the safe at school initiative. This started as parents were increasingly contacting her with concerns with what is happening at school.
Screens are not bad in themselves as they are used for communication and even online schooling. The Children’s commissioner recently wrote a report called “Growing up digital.” The report said that the internet can be a force for good but it was irresponsible to let children roam ill prepared on the internet. Children should not be left alone in a disorganised environment that was not built for children. It also noted how children were groomed and bullied on the internet. 3-4 year olds were exposed to small screens on average 8 hours per week and teenagers spent 1/3 of their leisure time on screens. Most of this was critically unsupervised. Parents cannot ignore the issue of the internet and should have eyes wide open, even in the best regulated household. Every family finds its own strategy to take issue and there are no magic bullets or prescriptive answers. Sometimes it is good to delay access to screens as long as possible. In the speaker’s home there is no broadcast TV and they did not have videos for quite some time.
What age should you give a child a mobile phone? Sometimes there have been attacks associated with mobile phones. Giving a phone late meant they might be the only one in the class without one. Some apps today are for 0-3 year olds. They are called “Digital natives.” Internet use can be dealt with by a child by child basis. Computer games were a massive battle for teenage boys. They were intellectually very bright but could not think what to do. There was a time wasting aspect to computer games, with time as a gift from God, we can’t waste time but should think about the spiritual development of our children. Appreciation is a gift from God. Sometimes the internet can be a barrier between my children and God. The internet is potent with ideas, places and spaces which we have no control over. Some families have no culture of conversation and sitting down to the family meal. The nature of having children is that if we don’t fill the vacuum in their lives, the internet will. A virtual world and playing harmless games shouldn’t replace human virtues and playing with other children in the real world.
An epidemic of online bullying has developed. Many have lost all sense of common courtesy. On a screen you can just do what you want and click “send” and not think about consequences. The immature teenage brain in a high octane situation means teenagers do not think about consequences and often do not know what they are doing. Sexting is also a problem. Teenagers take longer to grow up with internet use because they are watching life, not living life. We learn by doing things: we be kind by being kind. The internet can keep young people childish, not childlike like Jesus called us to be. Some experts say that children should be resilient by sometimes this means hardening them so that nothing will impact them. It is good to keep children sensitive with hearts and minds. The sacrament of confession helps them to understand themselves better and keeps them spiritually alive.
Various trends have seen a systematic, repeated undermining of parents as a sinister development. Parents have been told they are on a losing battle in the balance of power towards their children, shifting issues from the parents to the state. The Children and Social Care Act made relationships education compulsory. This has sapped parents from being more involved and eats away at the duty and responsibility parents have towards their children. Relationships education is so troubling because it is an intrusion of the state into family life and represents the state takeover of the family. Parents today have to run a gauntlet of anti-parent policies. We want the reverse: buildup strong families, more compelling for our children about what’s out there so that children come to us, not the internet if possible when issues arise. We can protect our children with moderation and order.
With mobile phones there is sometimes a culture of FOMO: fear of missing out. Some say leisure changes as a concept with the internet and the ability to relate to people in real time. Sometimes screens can cause grumpy and aggressive behaviour in children. With home education phones are not so necessary. Internet use in rooms never a good idea and some families have no internet above ground level. The internet can encourage ‘limitless’ use, losing total sense of time. Screens can interrupt sleep and people can have folded shoulders being on screens so often. One child was told, “You’re not of any value if you don’t have a phone and you are a nobody and a social outcast.”
Post 14 and all that
Alison and Peter Kahn shared on GCSEs
5 GCSEs was a minimum for them. There was considerable freedom with home education. Maths, English, Science and humanity was a good mix. There was scope to follow a child’s interest, or lack of interest in topics. Books could be selected specifically for English literature. Home Education allowed to talk through issues and not follow assumptions like population control in the curriculum of geography textbooks. An integrated approach works well. The cultural setting of the UK is shifting and we have to engage with the culture at one stage or another. With GCSEs it is good to know if coursework is included, as international GCSEs at one point no coursework was involved. You need to find an examination centre. The website: HEexamswiki should help: http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/HE_Exams_Wiki
Dedication is needed from parents to keep up with developments. Practice papers are a default way to prepare for an exam – 3 practice papers was a good number to prepare. If someone has an accident, special allowances can be made by examiners. Getting to the exam centre can be a challenge if far away. Post exam it is also possible to remark paper.
With home education, one has the ability to be dedicated to other areas of life, such as sailing and other adventures. The freedom that home education brings is the ability to personalise as you know the pupils so well. There are wonderful opportunities to bond with other families.
Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) Curriculum and the Classical high school diploma by Helen Harold
15 families are signed up for the MODG curriculum in the UK. Some families have mentioned it is harder to follow Seton or Kolbe courses. There is considerable variation and flexibility with US high schools. The classical approach affects what and how you learn. It not the number of facts but what they do with the facts which is important. A classical education gives the ability to think and acquire the art of learning. It is a different way to think and to learn. In grades 3-5 observation, memory and recall is important. In grades 6-9 (11-15 years), arguments, writing and conversation are more important. The capacity for acquiring information is important. The big plus of MODG is helping getting children to heaven, striving after virtue. Students make acquintance with what is good, true, beautiful and the curriculum you can study saints and study sacred art. When we aspire to good, we need all the help we can get.
The downside of classical education is it can be hard teaching in way that is not familiar. It takes a lot of time and effort, it is a steep learning curve, e.g. learning grammar, most haven’t had a classical curriculum. It teaches how to learn and how to think.
With MODG costs $1000 annually, plus books. A consultant is called 3 times a year to plan the child’s year. There is the option of online courses. A high school diploma is a 4 year program. There is precise description of what to do. There are 2 semesters a year. 4 examples of children’s work are submitted. This can get you into university. You need more than a high school diploma for university. It is wonderful to commit to the virtue of learning.
A Home educated graduate answers your nitty gritty questions
I was told “You are too normal to be a homeschooler.” There was plenty of opportunities for socialisation with orchestra etc. Gets on well with siblings. Home education gave confidence and resilience.
What people would like to do in the future
Talk on classical education
Cater for different groups: interested / practicing / post children
Different approaches – Charlotte Mason, Montessori
Father’s home education role
Resources / Movement / Teenagers
Practical / Theory / Philosophy
Home education Friendly Priest
Finding out who is around you- CRUCIAL
Socialibility – CRUCIAL
Where’s the support – CRUCIAL
Keep in touch with each other
Guild of Catholic Home Educators – St John Bosco
Finding information / not wanting to be found
Book: Sarah Mckenzie: Teaching from Rest: http://amzn.to/2xOoX9D
Website: Catholic Curriculum on a Shoestring: http://catholiccurriculumonashoestring.weebly.com/