Do Your Own Thing

By Sue Wight

As you move into the home education world, you’ll have people ask what type of home educator you are. There will be those who make the question sound like some kind of test. Feel free to ignore any such pressure.

There are many different ways to home educate but none is the ‘one true way’. You may not be familiar with the terminology yet, in which case the article A Matter of Style may be useful. However, be aware that people disagree about the definitions of each style. Two people identifying as unschoolers, for example, may educate in very different ways and may not consider each other ‘unschoolers’ or one may say the other is a ‘radical unschooler’.

You needn’t stress about where the border lies between each style.

Regardless of the terms used, it’s important to recognise that families are different, and their needs are different. While one family’s method may be right for them, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s right for you. By all means ask questions and listen to advice: it can be really useful but sift through it for what fits with your family and your lifestyle.

You’ve chosen something different to the mainstream schooling system. You are now free to think of education in new ways. Here is your chance to revel in that freedom.

  • What do YOU think is important for your children to learn?
  • What would they like to learn?
  • How do they learn?
  • When do they learn best?
  • What opportunities for learning do you have available at home and abroad?
  • If school didn’t exist, how would children be inculcated into the knowledge they need for adulthood?

These are the questions to consider in designing your own particular brand of education at home.

Remember that home education is tailor-made rather than one-size-fits-all. Sure, you might start with someone else’s pattern, but feel free to modify — trim off the bits that don’t fit, let the seams out where necessary, and decorate in your own style. As you gain confidence, you may decide to throw away their pattern altogether, and design your own home education. Alternatively, you may find the pattern fits perfectly. Either way is perfectly fine.

The important thing is to find what works for you and your children. This is an ongoing process. How you home educate this time next year may differ significantly from how you start out. Your children will have changed and developed over the year. Don’t stress about choosing the perfect style, instead, do what feels right for now. Don’t be afraid to reassess and evolve — you don’t have to settle for an ill-fitting style or one you’ve outgrown. To this end, budget carefully. It would be a shame to blow all your home education money on a resource that doesn’t suit you. Where possible, see if you can examine or borrow resources before you buy, and our website article Home Education on a Budget may help with some free and cheap ideas.

It doesn’t matter what style you choose, there will be home educators who make you feel like you are doing it ‘all wrong’. Always remember that they are not educating your children.

Name a home education method, and it has its purists — those who believe that only they and a select few are true adherents. From them you’ll hear things like:

  • “That’s not really Steiner.”
  • “You’re not a real unschooler unless…”
  • “I’m not one of these casual types, I’m a proper homeschooler.”

It’s great that they are happy with what they’re doing, but you are not obliged to replicate it nor conform to their view. They aren’t the expert on your children, so aren’t qualified to judge your home education. You are.

Purists can get you down if they constantly set a bar that you don’t meet. Who cares about their bar! You will set your own.

In the end, the names we give to home education styles are imperfect labels to try to describe what we do, they shouldn’t define us.

You chose to home educate for a reason, you now have the power to design an education that fits your children.

Do your own thing.

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