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Is home education for us? Or are there any schools out there that would suit us?

(42 Posts)
FiveLittlePeas Fri 19-Dec-14 10:35:32

Let me tell you a bit about us:
We live in Spain, but my DH is British, so we are planning to relocate to England in the mid-term (about 1,5 years from now). My kids go to what we feel is a great school (state): very little homework, no books, working on projecs and also there are several open workshops -art, language, maths, science, gym, etc. all presented through games, etc. - every afternoon and they can choose freely where to go, although at the end of the month they are expected to have visited every workshop at least once. They get marks only at the end of the year every two years (meanwhile, they get detailed reports every term) and they are marked mostly regarding their individual progress towards the objective standard the State sets.
WARNING: NOT EVERY SCHOOL IN SPAIN or even in Barcelona IS LIKE THIS, but we were lucky to get this particular one just round the corner. My kids are very happy, they never miss school and they love every minute, their teachers and classmates. My DD1 is very bright and excels in most things; my DS is bright in his own particular way, he's a late developer and he does not yet read or write but he is working steadily towards it, while learning all that there is to know about reptiles and dinosaurs. He's also a born artist.

The downside? The whole thing is done 90% in Catalan language (Barcelona city), which is not a language we speak as a family (my language is Spanish, DH's English -obviously- and the kids are trilingual, with Catalan by far the weakest). My DD1 is 10 so she'll finish primary next year, DS is 7, he's in 2nd grade here, and the little one will only begin next year at 3 y of age (kindergarden, just playing until they're 6, but in the same school).
So, after all this, when we think about moving to Britain and look at schools... we (*mostly I*) are terrified by the system: all those tests, all the homework, uniforms (least of all, but they have never worn one!), catchment areas, teachers called Mrs X or Mr Y (they call their teachers by their first name), more tests, GCSE, A levels...aaaarrrgggghhhh it is really that terrifying or it is just more or less the same with a different "look"?

Does anyone know of a school like the one I've described above? Remotely like it? (state, I mean, we are by no means well off).
I've been looking for a while but I have not found anything, so I have thought "wait a minute! You can home educate in UK!!" And everything began looking nicer. Would that be the solution for us or should I keep looking for a school like ours in England? (Pref. Herts or Cambs).

FiveLittlePeas Fri 19-Dec-14 10:37:51

Another downside (in my opinion, although the kids are used to it) is that the school day is very long: 9-12.30 and 3-4.30. Most kids have their lunch at school, but mine come home because I work from home and we are really close to the school.

SunnyBaudelaire Fri 19-Dec-14 10:39:20

honestly their school sounds lovely are you sure you want to move to the UK where the teachers are forced to waste their time checking on chlldren's sock colour and the only important factor is league tables?
Home ed is a hell of a commitment.

GoldfishSpy Fri 19-Dec-14 10:39:32

I don't think you will find a school like that in England.

I think schools here would be concerned, rightly or wrongly, about your DS not reading or writing yet. They are also much more structured than you describe.

But there is a vibrant Home Ed community. From what you describe, that might be a better fit.

FiveLittlePeas Fri 19-Dec-14 10:45:38

Well, obviously, moving would be more of a work-related decision, schools are a necessity (or not) but not the main reason for it. I can see that HE is a major commitment, and since my kids are social and happy at school, I would send them to a school that would suit them. My son has language problems, he only started speaking inteligibly at about 4, so everything has been delayed as a result. He is not "officially" a SEN child, but he receives support at the school. He speaks normally now and is very interested in reading and writing (he sits and works on it spontaneously when he's back from school, his teacher is delighted at his motivation level, not that he was always like this, but they waited for him while gently nudging him and now he's blossoming).

Saracen Fri 19-Dec-14 22:59:41

Some people (even some people who home educate) say that home education is a big commitment. But I don't find it so, and many of my friends share that view.

If you mean "must be prepared to do it for a long time" - no, not really. There is nothing to stop you trying it and then sending your kids to school if it doesn't seem like the right choice.

If you mean "takes a lot of time and effort" - not necessarily. There are different ways to do it, some of which just involve mainly living daily life and letting the kids learn through that. And it tends to get easier as they get older and more self-sufficient. Some families do have circumstances which make home education harder.

Home education doesn't have to be forever, and it doesn't have to be hard.

KittieCat Fri 19-Dec-14 23:09:56

Sounds similar to a Steiner school...

apotatoprintinapeartree Fri 19-Dec-14 23:13:02

I totally agree with Saracen and to add that to our family it has brought freedom.
There is only one school that fits our dds needs, it is the only school she wants to attend.
It is very competitive though, and she will be just as happy continuing with H.ed if it doesn't work out.
Its not a forever form of education, if you don't want it to be.
Children can learn what they want at their own pace and not have the constraints of a system, building, etc.....
Depending on the area, in this country there are some very good H.ed groups and you don't need to attend a school to join groups, clubs and societies.

meandjulio Fri 19-Dec-14 23:13:52

Hmm. If your children were 14-plus, I'd suggest you had a look at a studio school (Studio Schools Trust here) which seems to be more what you are looking for, and there are some in Hertfordshire at least.

At your childrens' ages, what about having a look at the schools in the West Herts Community Free Schools website?

Hakluyt Fri 19-Dec-14 23:24:42

Wow- I am amazed at you finding a school like that in Barcelona- it is the exact opposite of my niece and nephew's experience! They found coming to school in England a shock because it was so lax and unacademic- they had been used to books and testing and exams. They did hate the uniform, though!

FiveLittlePeas Sat 20-Dec-14 05:32:37

Thanks for all your replies!
meandjulio I will take a look at those schools, but are those private or state? (I guess the websites will tell me that!), I'm not sure I understand what free schools are...
Hakluit, yes, as I said, this is by no means standard in Barcelona. There are a few new state schools (my DD1's class will be the first to finish 6th grade next year) that are trying a new take on education, since Spain is not what you'd call a "leading country" in terms of education. Many parents are not happy with this system, and there are always kids being pulled out when they get a chance to go to other, more traditional schools.
I have considered home education before, when my DD1 was getting to the age of 6, when compulsory schooling begins, and she had to leave her (private) nursery where she could play all day. Then we discovered this school, which has since then changed a lot towards a more unstructured, free sort of education. We are delighted with this, but to be honest, this is the single thing keeping us in BCN, since everything else is less than ideal (apart from the beach only a few blocks away).
So, the idea of home education is tremendously appealing to ME, but I'm not so sure my kids will be equally interested in the long run, especially the eldest... who is a social creature if there ever was one! But as you say, it does not have to be forever. I'm convinced this is the best we can do at least initially, not just chucking them in the first school we find just so they are "at school", but doing at least one year of HE while we research our options. And I'm certainly NOT sending my baby to Reception... in my eyes, it seems unnaturally early to start primary school!

FiveLittlePeas Sat 20-Dec-14 05:38:44

I'm reading the Free Schools website that meandjulio suggested... I really don't undestand the point of uniforms being so important (and I did wear uniform to school several decades ago!).
Sorry, just ranting! It's 6.30 here and I'm up early to work!

CastlesInTheSand Sat 20-Dec-14 06:04:09

I think you want summerhill in Suffolk.

Which is private. But very cheap for private. And HE will also cost......

CastlesInTheSand Sat 20-Dec-14 06:04:56

FiveLittlePeas Sat 20-Dec-14 08:51:31

Thanks Castles.
Yes, I've read a lot about Summerhill a few years ago. I don't agree with many things - the main one being that it is a boarding school, and I would not send my children away to be schooled, democratically or otherwise.

EauLittleRougeofBethlehem Sat 20-Dec-14 09:03:58

DD1 has never been to school so I don't know much about local ones, but there are absolutely thriving HE communities in Herts and Cambs so if you do go down that route you will have no trouble finding friends, groups and activities. If you're on Facebook there are several county groups.

HE doesn't really cost that much, a lot of places now offer a HE discount so that you pay a similar rate to schools and you can get a lot of stuff from the internet and public libraries.

Saracen Sat 20-Dec-14 09:51:53

Depending where you decide to live, HE can be perfect for a sociable child. My older dd was absolutely the most social creature I have ever known: from infancy she wasn't too interested in toys; it was nonstop human interaction she wanted during her every waking moment. This was one of the reasons I decided to home educate her. I think she would have caused considerable disruption at school, trying to do all schoolwork collaboratively, enticing the other kids under the tables to play at being monsters, trying to engage the teacher in conversation, dancing around and singing. To surround her with other children and then tell her to refrain from playing with them for most of the day would be like setting a plate of chocolate biscuits in front of me all day while asking me to eat them only during breaktimes: a form of torture!

Through home education, she was able to have plenty of long continuous playdates, which led to a different quality of play compared with half an hour here and there. I remember once when she was seven, when she and a friend spent an entire day outfitting their ship ready to go to South America and discover a gold mine. (I don't think they ever did set sail!) There were sleepovers which lasted for days. In theory, schoolchildren can do that sort of thing sometimes, but their time is often spoken for, increasingly so as they get older and the homework load multiplies. She also liked being able to choose her friends more widely, especially with respect to age and gender. Now my dd is 15. In the last month she has been to an 11 year old boy's Minecraft party, a girl's formal 16th birthday party, and an adult works do. Because she doesn't spend the majority of her time in large groups of people who are exactly her age, she has access to a wider social circle in which she can experience different kinds of relationships. This mirrors psychologist Peter Gray's findings in a survey of young adults who had been home educated: he says “they really treasured the fact that they had friends who were older or younger, including adults. They felt this was a more normal kind of socializing experience than just being with other people your age.”

AuntieStella Sat 20-Dec-14 09:57:05

Finding a play-based curriculum until age 5 ought to be straightforward as that is the backbone of EYFS which runs to the end of reception.

After that, you will not find what you are looking for in the state sector. Though free schools (indeed any academy school) can depart from the national curriculum, in practice they do not move very far from it.

Steiner schools are actually very rigid about what children learn and the order and method by which they learn it. I do not think they would suit you.

I think your choices are HE or private sector, Summerhill does occasionally accept day pupils if you live very close, and as your DD wil, be secondary age by the time she returns then she may well be ready for the child-centred true autonomy it offers.

UniS Sat 20-Dec-14 09:59:44

There are one or two Steiner Waldorf state funded schools about which may suit you. But decide for yourself if you like what they offer and expect.
Exeter has one.
Also in Devon is the Sands school in ashburton, a fee paying day school with an alternative attitude. And the Totnes progressive school.

favouritewasteoftime Sat 20-Dec-14 10:04:44

There are Steiner schools in Kings Langley and in Cambridge. As a previous poster mentioned, the ethos sounds very similar to what your children are experiencing now. They are private schools but fees are around 1/3 of the price of most fee-paying options. Would that be a good option if home ed doesn't work out?

Hakluyt Sat 20-Dec-14 11:09:19

Do a lot of research before deciding to join Steiner. A lot.

Angelface5 Sat 20-Dec-14 11:47:32

You should listen to Saracen she gives great info and is so positive,she helped me a lot when I was looking at HE for my ds.
I don't think you will find a school in England like you describe,I would move to have a school like your dc are attending.
Good luck with your search for a school. If you do decide to HE it sounds like your dc will do fantastic.

Angelface5 Sat 20-Dec-14 11:49:47

And like everyone said HE doesn't have to be forever. So you can move do the HE and still look for schools until one fits in with you,

FiveLittlePeas Sat 20-Dec-14 15:26:21

Angelface5, you are right regarding Saracen, I've been reading this topic for a few weeks and I've noticed her and a few other people who always give sound advise.
And, yes, I agree that the Steiner philosophy can be very rigid; one of my friends used to send her son to the local Waldorf/Steiner school so I've heard (and read, too) quite a bit about it. I don't think it would suit us. My kids went to a Summerhill-style sort of nursery (actually, more in line with Rebeca Wild's philosophy) and although I don't believe in starting "teaching" things too early brings any real advantages in life, I don't believe that stopping children from learning does them any faovurs either. My children wre not the kind that learn to read and write by themselves at the age of three, but my youngest may well be that kind (or not). No, Steiner is not what I'm looking for, I'm afraid.
If I win the lottery (if I ever buy a ticket!!) I think I'll open a free school with the philosophy of our current school. I may even steal a teacher or two, hehehe!
I am quite convinced. We'll HE. My husband agrees. I'm almost anxious to start right away!
Now we'll go to England on Monday for Christmas; my BiL is a secondary school teacher and we have had a few slight education-related disagreements before. Oh, this will be fun! (especially after a few beers!).
Wish me luck!

ChristmasInsanity Sat 20-Dec-14 15:29:14

If I had a school like that round the corner I don't think I could move away! I'm hating the school system and wishing I could home study!

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