Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. ~ Fred Rogers
Today’s homeschool chat brings you Adele Jarrett-Kerr- a homeschooling mama of three (8, 5 and 3) , who lives in Cornwall together with her husband. She’s a writer and breastfeeding counsellor who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. She blogs at Beautiful Tribe about big, beautiful ideas that have the power to connect people. You can follow her homeschooling journey on Instagram.
1. Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
Hi! I’m Adele. I live in Cornwall in the UK with my husband Laurence and our three children who are eight, five and three. I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. I’m a writer and volunteer breastfeeding counsellor and Laurence is graphic designer and organic vegetable farmer. Our flexible work allows us to share our children’s home education.
2. What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children?
We started talking about home education when I was pregnant with our first baby. I’d met various people who were home educated when I was growing up and the idea appealed to me as a way of giving the family more time together and allowing our child to have more freedom to pursue her interests. We’ve just come to the end of our fourth year home educating and have acquired many more reasons since.
3. What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
This seems to change every time I’m asked this question. This past year we’ve been going through a huge shift in terms of our paid work and how Laurence and I balance life between us. So things have been pretty unstructured as a result. There isn’t really a typical homeschool day. When it’s smooth and slow, we start the day with some read alouds and make a list of what we want to get up to then dive into that and go out later to meet up with friends. Some days we’ve gone out from the morning, stayed out and maybe done some reading later on or listened to podcasts in the car. In busy weeks, whatever windows have found us home, we’ve tried fit in projects in around whatever else is going on. The summer term always looks a bit more chaotic anyway but I can always see on reflection that the kids are learning. I think having access to an interested adult on a micro ratio basis is a hugely valuable thing.
4. What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc )
On paper, I probably take a classical semi-structured approach in terms of what I offer to my children. I want them to have the opportunity to be exposed to certain works and ideas over the years. That said, I don’t insist that they take up what I offer and I ask for their input on what we should do together. So while I don’t claim to be an unschooler (I don’t feel like I’ve personally delved enough to any philosophy to claim a label), consensual learning is a really important tenet of our home education.
5. What do you love the most about home schooling ?
Oh goodness, there are so many things I love about home education, it’s really hard to pick one. I think the thing I love most is the gift of time. I love seeing my children get absorbed in something they’re working on, whether that’s composing a piece of music or junk modelling or creating stories in the garden. And I love that we have the time to spend the day on the beach with friends if it’s sunny or have a home day if we feel peopled out. Recently we’ve had two family birthdays, both on school days and it’s brilliant that all the siblings can be together to celebrate special days like that. It’s mostly an unhurried life though I do have to be careful to guard our time because even home educators can easily overfill life.
6.What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
I honestly don’t think I teach anything. I do read through things with my children but the intention is to facilitate and, for me, that’s a necessary distinction. I’d say my favourite subjects to facilitate are history and creative writing because those are my own points of interest and my kids pick up on that. I’m probably least interested in maths myself but my kids love it so I hold space for them to work and play with it. I enjoy seeing them enjoy figuring things out.
7. What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children?
Organisation is a constant challenge for me so I often struggle to plan our days and weeks well enough that we have time for things the kids want to do, whether that’s sewing or baking or playing a game together. It’s easy to reach the end of another week and say that we’d meant to do that thing but didn’t get around to it. Not having enough time to myself used to be the challenge but that’s improved a lot since Laurence and I started sharing time with the kids. I also sometimes find it stressful having to organise social meet ups but this really depends on where I am in menstrual cycle. There are a few days a month where I feel both like we don’t have any friends and like I can’t face going to any groups! 😀
8. How do you deal with unsupportive family, relatives and friends ?
At this point in time, our family and friends are fortunately supportive of what we do or at least respect our right as decision makers even when they don’t agree with home education. When I meet people who are uncomfortable with the idea, I either find a way to move the conversation along to another topic or I try to respond curiosity: “That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Why do you say that?” Generally I find, when people who know you well are unsupportive of your choices, it may take time for them to see the value in what you’re doing. It’s probably also better (for your own sake!) to tell yourself that their negativity is coming from a place of love and concern and exercise healthy boundaries as needed. What a difficult position to be in – offer yourself compassion in that!
9. Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
Well, my eldest will be thirteen by then. I used to think she’d go to secondary school but she’s not keen at the idea currently and my kids would have to really want to go for me to want to send them, I think. The further we go on this journey and the more I learn about the school system, the more I value their freedom and self-direction as vital for their future. At the same time, I don’t know what the next five years hold. Things could change radically for us and maybe the kids would need to go to school. As far as I can see, they’ll be home but I’m always aware we need to hold the future lightly.
Get to know other home educators and courageously reach out and build a community for yourself and your family. Talk to more experienced families about how it works socially, psychologically, practically and financially. Don’t worry about your approach looking like anyone else’s and don’t feel that you need to own anything specific to be able to do this. Read lots about it – cast aside anything that doesn’t feel like right for your family or ask yourself why you feel challenged by it. Listen to podcasts or audio books or TED talks if any of those are a better fit for your life right now. And take your time. You can even take it year by year. You don’t have to make a forever decision right now. You don’t even have to jump into a specific way of doing things.