In 2007, I contacted our Local Education Authority to make myself officially known as a home educator. We had been home educating since 1994, but hadn't been known to the LA. The person who dealt with home educators at the time was self employed and was contracted by the authority to liaise with parents who chose elective home education. I had met her at a couple of meetings with other home educators and the other LEA she worked at. She was quite nice, although the LA still dictated what her letters could say. They didn't seem to like her honesty, or her understanding of the law. Since I had met her a few times, and I had come to the conclusion that if I wanted to work actively with my LA, I decided it would be good to do it from the point of view of somebody who was "known" to be actively providing an education otherwise than at school. So I notified the home ed contact that I was officially informing her of our situation, and invited her to our house for a meeting. It was a friendly visit, although after a couple of hours of my energetic kids, she seemed pleased to leave. :-)
The next couple of years, we sent in reports. I thought it might be helpful for people who are new to home education to see them. The last one isn't a report so much as a statement, and I don't recommend people communicate in such a tone. I have been working with the LA on and off, I was a volunteer for Education Otherwise for 12 years including several years as a Trustee and a couple of years as the Chair as well as working with the Government Policy group, liaising with Government departments about legislation and guidance. I am known to be home educating, and am known to be a bit strident, so I think I may be able to get away with this - but not everybody could. I hope the other ones give you an idea of what some reports look like.
Educational provision for R, C and M.
Our educational philosophy and style remain largely unchanged. The children follow their own interests, with some guidance and facilitation being provided by ourselves and others. They are all literate and numerate and enjoy being active learners.
M age 8
M's main occupation at the moment is reading. She appears to be devouring her older sister's collection of Jacqueline Wilson books. She does read several other authors, including Roald Dahl and Francesca Simon (Horrid Henry books) as well as regularly attending the library to choose others. Her reading also encompasses several books about the human body, which has been enhanced by a visit to the Body Worlds exhibition at the MOSI Manchester.
She has also developed an interest in Elizabethan (and Tudor) England, having watched her older siblings concentrating on History. She has had several books from the library on the history of this era. We have used a Tudor resource pack and time line, Horrible Histories DVDs, as well as books on Henry VIII, his wives and children, visiting Little Moreton Hall, and talking with friends who do Tudor re-creation.
The interest in this time period has extended to literature. Apparently, Shakespeare is M's favourite writer. She has had several Shakespeare stories from the library, as well as a simplified dramatic version of the story of The Taming Of The Shrew which was practised by M, C, and myself. We have also watched some recorded BBC schools programs on the Globe theatre, and contemporary Elizabethan production, as well as Baz Luhrmann's film of Romeo and Juliet.
M likes to 'play schools' which usually means she will do a report on a certain topic. She will read books, look at websites, and watch programs such as our collection of Horrible Histories DVDs, about her chosen subject. Recently, these have included Kitty Hawk and the beginning of aviation, and Christopher Columbus.
She has shown a brief interest in textiles. This has included making clothes for her peg dolls, and curtains for her doll house, and helping me to sew together a blanket I had crocheted.
M is very physically active, taking part in trampoline classes, swimming lessons, cycling and roller blading with her friends, and basically climbing over anything that happens to be in front of her.
C age 11
C has also picked up on his sister's interests in Shakespeare with taking part in The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet, and some of the stories from the library. His main historical interest has been the slightly earlier period of Medieval history. He and R have started referring to the CGP KS3 History book, which begins with medieval monarchs. We use the book to suggest topics for us, and then follow through more thoroughly on those that interest us most. We do this by choosing other relevant material from the library, including a fantastic book, Kings and Queens, by Tony Robinson. We have also read aloud the diary of a medieval boy, Tobias the page.
We have been picking out random famous historical figures to learn about as well. His most recent choice was Mary Seacole. He read a few websites about her, and wrote a page long report. His writing is coming along nicely.
C has been concentrating on Maths, Manners, Music, Animation and Geography most recently. We have started doing some simple algebra when the mood takes us. I also have regular discussion with C regarding what it means to be polite, civic minded, gentlemanly, and having a sense of personal responsibility. He often helps people in shops, with carrying their shopping, or holding the door open which makes him feel good about himself. He likes to be useful, and has started running errands for other members of the family, adding to his sense of independence.
We have started using a Geography text, Oxford's Complete Geography, as well as The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, to study the planet. C has a particular interest in plate tectonics and volcanoes. We have had several books on earthquakes and volcanoes from the library and have watched the 4 Learning video on Disasters. Great fun was had after the recent earthquake looking up info on the British Geological Survey website.
C is now taking violin lessons, and learning the rudiments of tin whistle, guitar and keyboard in his own time with instruments we have in the house. He is saving up his money to buy a drum kit, as he had to quit his drum lessons because we had nothing on which to practise. He also enjoys the family choir that we attend monthly. He experiences music on a daily basis, listening, singing, writing his own songs, practising, and just figuring things out. He impressed his violin teacher by figuring out the notes to Au Claire du La Lune on his own.
His interest in fantasy continues. He listens to Tony Robinson's stories of Odysseus regularly, as well as The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Both are interesting stories which often use complicated language, irony, sarcasm and other literary techniques that compliment the literary references they contain as well. I consider them a highly entertaining resource. The story of Odysseus also led C to create his own Top Trumps deck of mythical creatures. The creatures used were an eclectic mix of Greek and Roman mythology and Harry Potter.
C enjoyed taking part in the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch.
He continues to be active, although he has recently ceased his swimming lessons. He swims in his own time now, as well as trampolining weekly, going for nature walks, and visiting the park with friends.
R age 13
R is getting to the age where she is thinking about what she wants to do when she is 16. This, of course, is fired by talking to her elder sister, who is now at Loreto college. We have started more formal instruction in English Language and Biology, as R is considering doing the IGCSE in these subjects, probably through Little Arthur Independent School. We are currently trying to find a place where she could take those IGCSE exams, as centres which accept private candidates are not common. I am currently talking to Manchester Grammar School about the possibility of home educated pupils being allowed to use their school, but that is all up in the air at the moment.
She has been doing the same history as C, following the CGP KS 3 book, but choosing to delve deeper into those subjects of particular interest. She too has been learning a lot about the Tudors, as we have some friends who do Kentwell re-creations. We continue to do Anglo-Saxon and Viking re-enactments as a family but are looking into doing Kentwell ourselves next year.
R takes part in the literature group organized by myself for local teens. Last term we concentrated on the Salem Witch trials, reading A Break With Charity, by Anne Rinaldi as well as Arthur Miller's The Crucible. We also had two classes on looking at sources contemporary to the witch trials, as well as looking at sources contemporary to Arthur Miller, the activities of the House UnAmerican Activities committee and the cold war to put it in perspective. We were also able to relate the demonisation of communists with that of Muslims in some current representations. We watched the film of The Crucible, for which Miller wrote the screenplay, and then watched Good Night and Good Luck about the Media and McCarthy. We were also lucky enough to be able to attend the performance of The Crucible at the Bolton Octagon.
This term we have been reading books relating to race and racism. R and her friends have read books and poetry by Benjamin Zephaniah, and Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. We have looked at the Jim Crow laws, and are preparing to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and going further back to short stories of the post American Civil War era by Kate Chopin. As you can see, discussions in our Literature group often become historical, political, and sociological, as well as literary.
R has preformed at the Lowry in the summer school production of the Phoenix, and is already planning ahead for next summer. She has also taken part in an education day at the Royal Exchange, which was followed by attendance to the play The Conversation.
Many of her activities and interests are as follows:
She has an ongoing interest in Manga, including books, animé, and art.
She helped to build the nativity at the Manchester Cathedral this past Christmas with a local artist.
She designs and customizes her jeans; sews and makes bags.
She is taking voice lessons.
She makes sushi.
She continues exploring traditional subjects, for example by reading distance learning courses we have on Maths, or Sociology and Geography textbooks, in order to decide which of these she will choose to study more formally.
She is also very physically active, training many times a week for trampoline competitions, playing tennis, swimming, cycling, horse riding, ice skating and just about anything she can find!
Many of the activities we take part in apply to all of the children. There has been a family interest in animation lately. All three have done multiple animation workshops with HEDGE (Home Education Drama Group Experience.) They are currently working on a project with the same artist that R did the Manchester Cathedral nativity with. This project has led to a great interest, and all three are making their own animations using Pivot software, Windows Movie Maker, and digital cameras.
The theatre has also played a large part in the children's lives recently as HEDGE, based at the Lowry, had a £10,000 grant from the lottery. This was used to put on productions in November of last year at the Sale Waterside Arts Centre. M and C were Snake and Fox respectively in The Gruffalo, while R was the Hot Dog Seller and helped with costumes and direction for the older children's version of Dude, We're Like Human. M and R also took part in workshops at The Lowry, while all three of the children attended a workshop day at the Royal Exchange Theatre (mentioned above.)
They are all active with Brownies, Scouts or Guides, and have regular meetings with friends.
They all take part, or have taken part, in the following:
Banky Meadows project with Chasing Rainbows and the Mersey Valley Warden Service
Astronomy, using the telescope, identifying constellations. We managed to see the Milky Way and track some satellites when we were in Cumbria over the summer.
Playing word games and developing vocabulary, (one favourite is to choose a word from the Thesaurus, while everybody else tries to guess what the synonyms and antonyms are)
Watching Life in Cold Blood
Trip to Bradford to the National Media Museum
Trip to Malvern Hills and a walk to the Iron Age hill fort at British Camp
Doll making, peg dolls and rag dolls
Planting days with the resident's association
Sailing and canoeing
Constructing dens and wigwams
Indoor play with construction toys and maths manipulative
Logic and strategy games for mathematical thinking
Chemistry set use and kitchen experiments
Microscope use (we have a laboratory standard microscope)
Creating and deciphering codes
Anglo Saxon, Viking and Norman recreations with Regia Anglorum
Baking and cooking
If you have actually read this far, do let me know!
Nutrition (on going discussion in our house)
Trip to Body Worlds Exhibition
Trips to art galleries and museums
Visits to National Trust properties, such as Dunham Massey and Little Moreton Hall
The resources we have at our disposal are too many to list. They include telescope, microscopes, binoculars, books, textiles, sewing machine, computers, cameras, bunsen burner, books, educational CD roms, libraries, magazines, nature reserves, books, friends, DVDs, videos, educational TV programs, and more books.
Basically, our educational provision for our children continues as it has done for the past 14 years, which was when our eldest reached compulsory education age. It is impossible to record everything that we do, every conversation that we have, but this report should give an insight into the opportunities available to our children. We continue to be active in their lives, helping them to learn, to reach their own goals, and become prepared for life in our society.
The next report we sent in was a photo diary. There was a different person doing the contact job and I never met her. The report was several pages of photos of the kids doing things, with a sentence or two of explanation and a paragraph or two about our educational philosophy. I absolutely love going back to read and look at the reports now that the kids are so much older!
It was then a couple of years before we heard from them. I got a letter from RN, yet another person doing the job and sent the following letter. His response was fine, and indeed we have been in touch about providing contact details for Madcow on the LA website.
Subject: Elective home education provision
Date: 17 December 2011 15:47
Dear R N
Thank you for your undated letter requesting information about the education provision for C and M.
I would like to take a minute to point out a few things.
Firstly, the LA has no duty to monitor education otherwise than at school as you write in your letter. Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act clearly states that it is parents who have a legal duty to educate their children. Your legal duty is to act should it appear that education is not taking place as stated in Section 437(1) of the same Act.
Secondly, my name is J R, not B. This has been the case in all previous communication with the LA. Please make sure your records are correct.
Thirdly, I am confused about your reference to "annual contact." It has been over two years since our previous official contact with Helen Shaw. I had been expecting a letter in August of 2010. While "annual contact" is the standard in some LAs, there is no statute requiring it.
Since my previous report, I am aware that the city council again launched an anti-truancy advertising campaign which misrepresented the law, saying that children had to be in school. Billboards and radio advertisements lied to parents and the general public while my complaints were ignored by local councillors. Anne Jones has since reassured me that this will not happen again. I remain hopeful, in spite of the fact that she had given home educators that same reassurance after the anti-truancy campaign before that.
I have also heard of multiple stories of LA personnel knocking on home educator's doors without prior arrangement. These have not all been from your department, but include the school's admissions team and Connexions. I was one who answered the door to a person with whom I had had no prior contact from Connexions, and was momentarily nonplussed to hear that this person had my son's personal details. I have no complaint to make about his behaviour, as he was perfectly nice, but I do object to a system which passes on my children's personal details as a matter of course, and sends people around to check up on me.
As to your request for information regarding my children's education. You should have 3 years worth of reports from our family. Our educational philosophies have not changed. We continue to provide our children with as many opportunities as we can. I have one daughter at university, and another at college who is applying to universities. My son, C, is currently applying to music college. He is of compulsory education age for another 6 months. M is starting at High School in January. We are treating this as a permanent arrangement, although she will still have the option to return to home education should she choose to do so. I have been home educating officially since 1995, providing my children with an education and opportunities much superior to those on offer in state schools. At this time, I again refer you to legislation which states it is your duty to act should you have concerns that an education is not taking place. If you have any such concerns, taking into account my history and the previous reports of which you should be aware, please do not hesitate to get in touch again.
In the mean time, I have no need for further contact from the LA regarding our family's situation.