I have been thinking a lot about homeschooling lately. This has been for several reasons, partly because I worry about the school system, partly because I worry about my child's personality being suitable for school (he is clever but also easily frustrated) and partly because I had a bad time in school myself. I have read many wonderful and inspiring articles about home educating in Juno Magazine and also on my favourite blog, Beautiful Tribe. But what I really needed was to have all the facts, good and bad, in one place and from someone who had already seen their children through home education in one piece. This is where Ross Mountney's book Learning Without School came in.
At about 200 pages, this book isn't exactly a tome and yet it covers everything that you could possibly want to know about home educating; why it is a good idea (and why it isn't), how to get started and how to overcome problems along the way. I was especially curious about how home education works in terms of the local education authority (are they a help or a hindrance?) and how home educated children are taught, especially older children. What happens when it come to exams?
It turns out that the home education journey is perfectly legal (as long as you let the local education authority know how you are doing) and there are ample resources for teaching, not just in the home but in the community. Ross recommends finding opportunities for learning locally, such as through museums, libraries and even professionals who would be willing to give work shops. Home education groups such as Education Otherwise also provide trips to places of interest and fun lessons that the kids can do every week (ice skating, anyone?).
The book is brilliantly written, inspiring but not sugar coating. If there is a downside Ross will tell you about it. But luckily, she will also tell you get around it, sometimes giving tips from her own journey in home schooling her children. She covers just about every home educating pitfall I can think of, from motivating children to learn and coping with day to day life as a home schooling family, to dealing with lapses in your own confidence and what to do if you are having a bad day. You very much get the feeling that she has been there and done that, and has come out of it all the wiser. She covers the most common concerns in detail and give useful pointers to organisations who can give more information if needed, such as local council and home education organisations. You feel that whatever happens, Ross will be there to guide you.
My favourite chapter was that on the national curriculum and timetables, which doesn't sound too exciting, but Ross shows how it can be. Learning does not, as she says, have to be structured and timetabled and there does not even have to be a curriculum if you don't wish to use one. Learning can be spontaneous and most importantly, fun. This is the big appeal of this book (and alternative education) for me - making education fun again and centred on the needs of the individual child. I love that Ross reiterates this throughout the book - education happens when a child is happy, not in an environment where they are miserable. And every child is an individual who needs to have their education tailored to their needs at a given time.
Although I haven't made any decisions about my child's education yet (and I have a while to go yet), I feel very positive about it after reading this book. Education has lost it's sense of fun, but this book shows that there is hope. I will be looking into this subject more and will also be researching alternative education methods and schools. I'm hoping to do some reviews of the books I want to read over the coming months, topics include Forest Schools and the Finnish Education system (and what it can each us.) I highly recommend this book, it showed me that we really never stop learning, even after we have left the classroom behind.
You can find out more about Ross Mountney at her website: https://rossmountney.wordpress.com/