Home schoolers seeking relief; are there "alternative&qu
ot; schools in London?
My family and I are about to relocate to London from the US. Until now, my partner and I have home-schooled our daughter, who is turning 7 this summer. We have deep reservations about schooling, but we don't feel able any longer to sustain the home educating. Ideally, we seek to put our daughter in a school that somehow resembles our home-schooling approach as much as possible, or at least would not be not driven by a standardized curricular regimen and the mandate to teach for test results, with an emphasis on creativity and exploring questions. Are there any sort of "alternative" state primary schools in London? If so, please supply details!
I always think if I wasn't home educating our DC I'd consider a Montessori school. They always seem so stimulating and respectful of children - well people in general actually. My DD was in a Montessori pre-school for a bit and loved it but also really enjoys home ed now.
I did consider Waldorf too but got put off by the all the Anthroposophy stuff.
Do you -- or does anybody -- know of any "free school" initiatives where home-educating parents in London are collaborating to get their kids together for part of the week? I have the impression -- perhaps mistaken -- that the UK has state-funded "alternative" and rather small-scale schools of this sort, but how does one find them?
Sadly I think you are mistaken with regard to the state funded bit.
Here in New Zealand they have "democratic" schools which tick enough boxes for the state to finance them but are in effect very alternative. Fantastic.
I only wish the govt would do the same in England. The only democratic school I know of is in Devon and is about 2000 pounds a term. Not very democratic!
Free schools are new; I don't know whether any of them have actually got off the ground yet or how you'd find them. I would have expected all the people who are putting together free school proposals to want to get together to swap tips on the process and to publicise their plans cooperatively, but as far as I know there is as yet no one-stop shop to help you find them.
"We have deep reservations about schooling, but we don't feel able any longer to sustain the home educating."
So you are looking into the more alternative schools. Have you also explored whether there are things you could do which would help you to sustain home education - possibly you will find things different in London anyway?
Do you want to say what it is about home ed that is starting to be a problem for your family? Perhaps a different approach would make it more viable, including for example doing some classes at a home ed centre if you want more people to have an input into your daughter's education, or using a childminder or childcare swap if you and she need more time apart...
It's as simple as my partner carrying too much of the burden of home educating and not having enough time for other pursuits, while we depend on my salary as the only income. It's not really a problem intrinsic to the home schooling dynamic so much as general exhaustion, and my partner's desire for several hours a day of uninterrupted time. Somehow, my efforts in the late afternoons/ evenings don't ever translate into a comparable period of free time for my partner.
OK, then perhaps some form of childcare might provide what you all need, giving your daughter the opportunity to just play, with no academic focus, and you and your partner could carry on home educating when she's not in childcare.
Forgive me for speculating on your financial situation - reading between the lines I am guessing you are not totally awash in money (you asked about state schools rather than private) but are managing (you are making ends meet on one salary). I don't know whether you are eligible for benefits here; if so, that might reduce the cost quite considerably because you can apply the childcare element of Tax Credits to childcare costs with a qualifying childcare provider.
I used to work part-time while sending my older daughter to a childminder. We used home educating CMs so she would have big kids to play with in the day. But you could use a non-HE childminder and either accept that your dd will just have the company of the CM and toddlers during the day (some big kids enjoy the company of younger ones), or else use a CM in the afternoons while she is looking after other older kids after school, say 3:30-6. There are also "after-school clubs", childcare based usually at schools covering similar hours, with art, craft, outdoor play and games. Though based at schools they are generally run by external providers and would accept children not attending the school.
During the many week-long breaks in the school year there's often the chance to try out sports, drama, dance etc intensively for a week at a time. Alternatively, I don't know how you feel about your dd being subjected to religious evangelism, but some churches run free or nearly-free playschemes in the school holidays with the aim of sharing their beliefs with kids. My daughter was always quite curious about religion and so I was glad for her to be able to learn a bit about Christianity with no effort on my part, plus they did singing, drama, games and cookery.
There are a few home ed centres like the Otherwise Club, which I think is in North London, and where I think you may be able to drop your daughter off for sessions.
If paid childcare isn't affordable at the moment then perhaps your partner might get a job to bring in enough extra money to cover the cost of childcare. Working isn't a total break, but it's different from being with your child 24/7. Or if you find some other HE families nearby then perhaps swapping childcare could be a good arrangement. I used to have my friends' three children one day a week and they took my girls one day, for example. It suited the kids very well because they loved playing together and going to a different house with different toys/food/adults on offer. I was nervous at first about having five kids in my tiny house, thinking it would be chaos, but they were remarkably calm, probably because they were used to each other. The visitors kept my kids occupied far better than I expected: even the days when I was hosting represented something of a break for me. Admittedly I much preferred the child-free days!
This probably reads as if I spent a large part of my older daughter's childhood trying to escape from her!! Most of my home educating friends seem less focused on getting quite so much time away from their kids. As someone who prefers her own company much of the time, I admit that I found it hard at times to spend so much time with an only child who was quite intense and definitely did not want to play by herself. It's all far easier now she is older and does occupy herself with a book, computer or art materials for hours at a time, goes off shopping or to friends' houses or the library on the bus by herself, and likes to go to numerous after-school activities. Her little sister, seven years younger, has always been an easy-going contented child who is happy to potter around playing with toys without constant input from me.
Hope that gives some food for thought.
Thanks, indeed, saracen for all these thoughtful tips and insights.
I am trying to set up a centre which gives secondary education to children with high functioning autism and children who have been bullied. Maybe our school isn't suitable for your child but we are trying to transfer home teaching into a 'school' environment which is perhaps more up your street?
There are 'home' schools that are formed by parents that home ed. A lovely place called 'heros' in berkshire is a centre which offers part time and perm places. Try googling them!
Glad to see you again, MarjorieW! How are things?
I have read your posts and would like to wish you luck on your move to London and tell you about the school my children go to which is very similar to a home school environment;it is in Kingston upon thames, surrey; please feel free to look it up http://www.educaresmallschool.org.uk/ my children are very happy there and are thriving both emotionally and academically.
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