Do you still have work to do or do you have plenty of free time? We chatted with our MD Clare Fuller who has been homeschooling for nine years, as well as creating and building Hamilton Grace.
When we first started homeschooling our boys were six and seven years old. My eldest had been going to school for three years and my youngest for two.
I will always be eternally grateful for those years as they both learned the basics of reading, writing and maths, giving us a great foundation. The reason we decided to homeschool is for another day, for now I thought it might be helpful to share our failures, our successes and what advice would the older me, give the younger me.
What were your top two failures?
1. Jumping in too soon
I was excited to be homeschooling our boys and I wanted to just get on with it and keep them on target. I joined several homeschooling groups, listened to many homeschooling mums and tried everything they suggested. I didn’t start with a period of de-schooling to understand their learning style and for us to find OUR way that would fit around OUR schedules. We did eventually, but oh how I wish I had done it straightaway.
2. Trying to be like others
I spent the first few months trying different curriculums and activities that were right for one family but so wrong thing for ours. I kept comparing our situation and what we were doing to others and feeling like such a failure. It held us back and stopped us from finding our own enjoyable rhythm that fitted with our schedule, learning styles and things we enjoy.
If we had started with de-schooling this would have saved a lot of tears. It is so important to remember that you and your family are unique and not like other families and therefore what works for one family may not work for yours. I know many mums who are blessed and able to be at home full time with their children. This has never been the case for me. I know families who love reading, for my boys it’s like pulling teeth unless they have a reason for it. However, they enjoy maths, business studies and music.
What were (are) the successes?
By (eventually) giving my boys (now 13 & 15) the freedom to choose their topics alongside the compulsory English, Maths and Science and teaching them that they hold their future in their own hands, we have finally found what works for us. Yes, it has taken that long!
They study their academic subjects in the morning whilst I work, then after lunch they do their more creative subjects. Sam really ejoys his drums and is very committed to becoming the best drummer he can be. He loves drumming to rock songs, as well as playing drums in the church band and he is now learning bass guitar. Ben is a very keen piano player, loving the classical music and is now joining his brother in learning the drums.
Another benefit of homeschooling is that they don’t have to study so many subjects at once and they can sit their iGCSE’s early if they are ready. Sam already has his iGCSE maths and was due to take his Physics and English this June whilst studying for Business and History for 2021. Ben will be starting his iGCSE studies shortly.
What advice would the older you, give the younger you?
- Be kind to yourself and your children and give yourselves time to adapt to the new situation.
- If possible, spend some time de-schooling. Enjoy being together, finding out how your child loves to learn and then find ways to learn together that are fun. If your children are due to take their GCSE’s this June hopefully your school has given guidance. For us Sam is sitting mock papers each week and we go over anything that he is struggling with.
- Look to others for ideas but find your own way that suits your family. The ‘comparing’ game is not fun and it will only hold you back and hinder learning and fun.
- Be adaptable, there is no perfect way. Keep trying, you will find what works for your family and even then, you will still find times when you need to change and mix things up. Trust me, you will never reach perfect, I know I haven’t.
- Sometimes less is more. Don’t try to fill the typical school day with school. When you consider all the times that children are away from their desk (breaks, moving between classrooms, sport) you probably only need to do an hour or so of desk work for the little ones up to four hours for teenagers. Leave time for activities like music, cooking, reading, arts & crafts and more. And don’t forget some quiet time. It’s important when you are all together so much.
- Trust that your children will want to learn and that as they grow, they will become more focused and responsible. There were times I wondered if this would ever happen with my boys, but it did and it’s showing in their hearts and their grades.
- Pay attention to what your children’s behaviour and emotions are telling you. It’s hard to explain how we feel as adults. Children may need some support in realising what is bothering them and how to communicate it. Knowing they are being heard and understood is important for their mind, body and soul.
- If you’ve had a bad day, talk it through and let everyone voice their emotions, say sorry and then let it go. Tomorrow is another day.
- Minimise screen time. My boys are much more active and creative if we set screen time limits even at 13 and 15. I know it’s tempting to put on the TV or games when you have work or other things to do. But let them be bored and see what they can create for themselves to do. Their creative minds and hearts will be thankful. And their confidence will blossom.
- Give your children responsibilities (we call them contributions) in the home. In whatever we do, we try to mimic real life scenarios where possible. So, we all have our own tasks that we need to do to contribute to the running of the home. No one is paid pocket money or anything for their allocated task (that doesn’t happen in real life). However, if I want someone to do one of my jobs, I pay them. It maybe in cash but it could also be that I do something for them or something else that is agreeable by both parties. They may also choose to just do it for me.
MD, Hamilton Grace
Clare wrote this blog during the Covid-19 lockdown when many were discovering the challenge of homeschooling for the first time. She says we’re all learning and she still has tough days when she wonders if she’s doing the right thing. She just reminds herself to take each day and each moment at a time, and let love, patience and grace be at the centre.