The principles & practice of home education: intvw with a parent on how she & her sons improvise their learning

Below are just a few excerpts from a lengthy interview I did with a friend of mine, whose teenage sons have been educated at home. Home education includes a range of approaches, and Annie places herself at one end of the spectrum. Quite a few thought-provoking perspectives (at least that’s how it seemed to me).

Clipped from

Home rules: Annie Weekes on how and why home education works

Annie Weekes in The Bishop, East Dulwich
How do you manage to act like a normal human being in the world? Well, we live there, and we probably see more of it than most schoolchildren

DJ: What scope is there to do group learning projects?

AW: There are classes they could go to at a local learning centre on some Mondays and Wednesdays. But if my kids wanted to have lessons, I might as well send them to school.

DJ: I can feel myself backing myself into a corner here, but there’s an argument that you learn things by doing a group project, like how to worth together — though I’d be the first to admit we didn’t actually do very many at my school.

AW: But didn’t you used to hate those group exercises? They were my idea of hell, being bundled together with people you didn’t like trying to work how to do things that you didn’t want to do…

DJ: Isn’t there scope in home education for you to overcome that and let a group of kids define their own group goals?

AW: Yes, I suppose there is. In a way it does happen, in that one of my boys has made films with other people. But that’s completely off their own bat. Both animated and live action shorts. He and two of his mates make a film and edit it. They make the props and find the costumes.

Educationally that’s a tricky or contentious area, because a lot depends on someone stating explicitly their idea of what’s worthwhile and educational. Many might say, “Oh, yeah, but they’re only making a film — lots of people could just do that — why aren’t they doing a real project?” Loads of parents have a very narrow definition of what’s educational and what’s not. Even with babies, if they’re picking up stones and putting them down, they’ll whisk those away and replace them with specially-designed toys.

Straight-down-the-line curriculum delivery is the most common kind of home education. There aren’t enough of us doing anything different to influence other people.
There would be a lot fewer people home educating here if kids were not taken into formal schooling until they’re six or seven

DJ: For you personally, to be at home, with your kids, there must be things you gain from that, and probably other drawbacks? It can’t all be fun!?

AW: The only thing that isn’t fun is that you’re never off duty. There have been times obviously where I’ve gone through a little of a panic, and think, Oh, I must do some workbooks for a while. It’s a nightmare, though. You have to sit there every day trying to work out what you’re going to do the next day, how you’re going to make it interesting. So it used to be, about once a year, the kids would go, “Oh no, she’s got that bee in her bonnet again.” We’ll do it for about three weeks, and then it’ll be abandoned. I’d go back to it a year later, look at the book, and go, That’s funny because they learnt everything that’s in the book without me doing anything about it! So what would have been the point?

How much is what children attain in school worth anything anyway? The question about attainment assumes that everyone at school does very well, which is not true
The kids don’t see the difference between learning and not learning any more than most adults do.
People object that adults are happy to pick things up this way, while children need to be forced to. Why? What’s this magic thing that happens when childhood ends?
As soon as people see that this kind of learning works, they want some way to control it. The whole point of it is that you can’t control it.
It was tolerated while it was just people like me home educating, with a few funny ideas, but unlikely to do any real harm. Now the internet is making home education accessible to everybody, and that’s triggering a clampdown.



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