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Increasingly, I see that home educating is so much more than ‘equipping children for life’. We all begin somewhere, and this is a good starting point, but if that is all that happens, then we only scratch the surface of something so important.

We began educating our children at home in January 1993, and it was supposed to be a short term solution to an immediate problem, namely the fact that I did not have transport to get my three-year-old daughter to nursery school. That was almost 17 years ago, and I am so glad we made that choice and for the direction in which that choice led us. Home education has turned out to be much more than a way of schooling; it is a way of life, a family building and enhancing opportunity, and a key to self-knowledge and growth.

We started with a programme called Babies Bible Class and a second-hand Letterland teacher’s guide. Using these two, I developed a series of unit studies which we pursued with interest and enthusiasm. This alone was considered very radical. In the far off days when home education was still illegal for over 7’s, no-one dared deviate from the National Curriculum. In fact, no-one even thought it was possible to do so. How could you teach without a prescribed scheme of work? But I felt, right from the beginning, that the curriculum should fit the child, not the other way around.

As the years went by, and more children were added into our family, we continued our eclectic mix of unit studies. I developed the units around specific interests of the children at any given time, and where possible, followed these up with outings, movies or books about the subject. The children were bright, eager, and willing. I have many special memories of these years.

Initially we had a lot of fun, but as time went on, schoolwork gradually became a battle, especially with my second daughter. She was one of those self-directed thinkers, a child who wanted to know what the point was of any given activity, and who was not interested in doing tasks just for the sake of doing them. Increasingly, our schoolwork took up long and unpleasant hours, filled with strife and disappointment. We lost the joy in the learning, and I felt like the fire breathing dragon.

I’m a researcher and a problem-solver by nature, so I began to ask questions about our educational approach and methodology. At this time I came into contact with Martie Du Plessis, an educational consultant who was particularly interested in helping the people in home educating families to identify and understand their particular learning styles, and to consider the ways in which they interacted with one another. A session spent with Martie was very enlightening, as we began to realise the obvious — that people, in their uniqueness, both gather and organise information in different ways. Thus a child who seemed oppositional and difficult and downright disobedient quite possibly just had a different learning style to the parent.

In 2000, I read all six of Charlotte Mason’s insightful books. Her last book ‘Towards a Philosophy of Education’ gave me a lot to think about. It was directly because of her influence that we introduced a strong literature focus as the foundation for our learning. We had always enjoyed reading to the children. Craig and I both love books, but now we recognised that reading books was more than the activity. It was how one obtained food for the mind.

In 2001, we bought our first pre-packaged curriculum ‘Year 1’ of Sonlight’s excellent literature based programme. We loved the books. However, we quickly dispensed with the curriculum guide, preferring to read the books at our own pace. There was only one problem — we finished reading the whole year’s books within a few months! I found myself motivating why we needed a larger educational budget. Step by step our own individualised educational approach was developing.

All of the discoveries I was making about education now crystallised into one key word — respect. I recognised that many educational approaches were inherently disrespectful to learners. They presumed too much, elevated teachers to a status that was not real, discounted previous knowledge and wisdom on the part of the learner. Many methodologies erupted from an erroneous notion that the learner was an empty vessel waiting to be filled up by the all wise educator. But Charlotte Mason believed that the learner was not ‘less’ than the teacher.

Increasingly I became uneasy with a prescriptive, teacher directed approach to my children’s education. Although I had designed a curriculum that was sensitive to my children’s interests, it was still a curriculum chosen by me. Like the adults around me, I had been led to believe that the children would not learn unless I made them learn. But Charlotte Mason said that learning was to humans what swimming was to fish — something they did naturally, unconsciously, and all the time.

Looking back, our home education has been a wonderful journey. Two of my children are now beyond compulsory education. I found that our educational philosophy evolved, and our methodology changed accordingly from year to year, and as the children developed. I tried out things that didn’t work, and found things that did. This process, of course, continues.

ВОПРОС 1 The narrator began educating her children at home because she
1) felt home education was a key to self-knowledge and growth.
2) didn’t want her daughter to be educated with other children.
3) had a short-term problem at work.
4) could not get her daughter to nursery school.

ВОПРОС 2 The narrator was sure that
1) it is impossible deviate from the National Curriculum.
2) the National Curriculum should meet the child’s needs.
3) she should develop a series of unit studies according to the National Curriculum.
4) she could not teach without a prescribed scheme of work.

ВОПРОС 3 The narrator had problems educating her second daughter because
1) she didn’t want to study.
2) she didn’t like doing tasks.
3) of her independent way of thinking.
4) their schoolwork took up long hours.

ВОПРОС 4 After a session spent with Martie Du Plessis the narrator understood
1) that people can have different learning styles.
2) that her second daughter was disobedient.
3) her own learning style.
4) the way she interacted with her children.

ВОПРОС 5 Literature became the foundation for the children’s education
1) because they had always enjoyed reading.
2) due to the influence of Charlotte Mason’s books.
3) because the narrator and her husband both loved books.
4) as books contained food for thought.

ВОПРОС 6 The narrator dispensed with the curriculum guide because
1) the children read books faster than they were supposed to.
2) the children read books more slowly than they were supposed to.
3) they had a small educational budget.
4) the curriculum guide was boring.

ВОПРОС 7 The narrator initially believed that
1) the learner was an empty vessel waiting to be filled up.
2) children learn unconsciously all the time.
3) the children would not learn without her motivating them.
4) the learner was not ‘less’ than the teacher.

ВОПРОС 1: – 4
ВОПРОС 2: – 2
ВОПРОС 3: – 3
ВОПРОС 4: – 1
ВОПРОС 5: – 2
ВОПРОС 6: – 1
ВОПРОС 7: – 3