Saturday 8 February 2014

Our Home Education Approach (age 7)

I have been intending to write a few posts about how we home educate for a while, to share with others how we do our thang. I also want to keep a record of our approach for my own reference - especially now we have another wee peep who I may be home-educating in the future.

So I'm sharing our family's approach as it currently stands, with a 7YO and a teeny baby in the house.

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Small has never attended nursery or school, we always intended to home-educate, we have taken this decision seriously and have always let Small know there is an alternative if she wants it.

When Small was younger we had a very relaxed approach. Most days consisted of play, chatting, and doing things together (baking, housework, reading, drawing, etc)

However as we approached the milestone of her 7th birthday, and with a baby on the way I realised that it was time for us to find a more structured approach to home-education. I researched a few options, most of which seemed to involve huge investment either financially or otherwise, and I worried about getting involved with a structured method only to dump it later on and have to go through another difficult period of readjustment. An American home-schooling friend introduced me to the Charlotte Mason approach, the method that she uses with her children and it looked like this would suit us too.

We don't follow the exact curriculum but Ambleside Online is my starting point for curriculum guidance and we roughly follow their book list. However it is highly scripture led and as atheists we forgo that side of it or replace it with subjects I find appropriate.

A small selection of our living books - No Twaddle!

The main reason I like Charlotte Mason method is the idea behind it that we are training our children for life, not to pass exams, not to prepare them for work, and not just giving them 'busy work' to fill their time. It is semi-structured, based around principles rather than a hard-and-fast lesson plan.

There is a 'no twaddle' principle which I love. The books we read have structure and point to them, they are usually classics they are referred to as 'living books'. The arts and crafts we do have structure and point to them too , we learn to knit, sew and to paint for practicality, relaxation and enjoyment - just like adults would. 
Children are people and should be respected as such. I don't dumb anything down, I do explain things in language Small will understand and ensure she has understood by occasionally getting her to relay lessons to grandparents or Dad at the end of the day.

Our school week is 5 or 6 days a week, usually, but not always Monday-Friday and we stop for holidays when it suits us (eg. 6 weeks off for new baby, no October break)

A section of our timeline
Every day starts immediately after breakfast at the kitchen table (with a baby in the house, the timing of this is highly flexible but usually 9am - 10am) We begin with a page from 'My Spelling Workbook' this is Followed by SPMG textbook maths - these are both used in Scottish primary schools as I want to stick close to the Scottish state school curriculum (though Small is a book behind in spelling and two books ahead in Maths)
Most days we follow this with reading, poetry, foreign language and storytime - but maths and spelling are the bare minimum before lunch.

After this daily work we have a timetable of weekly subjects:
Famous Lives 
Nature Studies 
Film Studies

We don't currently do copy-work (a basic of Charlotte Mason's method), this is because Small's copy-work was absolutely pristine, but her reading was dreadful and for 6 months no amount of copy-work was helping it, the spelling workbook has really helped though, so we will be sticking with it instead for a while. We will return to copywork in the future to help with handwriting, grammar, composition and spelling.

There are a few subjects waiting on the sidelines to come in when the time is right and I have the right materials or lesson plan and Small has the right comprehension. These include photography, music, composer study, computing and science.

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We are often asked how we structure our home-education and I must say that we had very little structure up to the age of 7, it was mostly learning through play. I don't agree with making very small children sit at a desk for hours a day and I must say that holding off until her 7th birthday worked for us.


  1. Great post Ann! So glad you were able to fit CM to your life. It was such a blessing for us to finally find something that works so well for all of us. LOVE your timeline by the way!

  2. Thanks Rebecca,

    I must do a separate post about the timeline someday - everyone that comes to the house stops to look at it.

    Ann x

  3. Having the classics is good, but don't forget it's fun to just read, even if it is "twaddle":

    1. Indeed Joel, don't worry, we do have a diverse range of 'rainbow fairy' and 'Everything's Rosie' books too (courtesy of the grandparents) and she is always free to pick what she likes from the library.
      But for storytime or anything we are reading together I carefully pick the best I can find. They are not all necessarily classics, just well written.

    2. This is going to sound like one of those "my granny smoked hi-tar cigarettes and drank a bottle of gin a day her whole life and lived to 103"-type anecdotes, but my mum used to have a subscription with the paper shop for all the weekly comics (Beano, Dandy etc) for me; not because they were particularly well written or worthy but because I liked them!

      p.s. I don't think they use SPMG anymore - the 5-14 curriculum replaced it in the mid-90s, which has in turn been replaced quite recently by the "Curriculum for Excellence":

      Somewhat paradoxically, that might fit better with your semi-structured approach - I don't think its anywhere near as prescriptive as what it replaced, which is why some teachers weren't too happy about it - means they have to use imagination :-)


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