What is it like to home educate?

We have collected a few stories, but of course every home educating family is different – and home education can even look quite different for different children in the same family, or over time. You will find many more stories and the parents themselves on our Facebook Group, where you can ask them questions directly.

Sinead – Co. Armagh

We have always home educated our three children, they have never been to nursery or school. We came across home education when my niece struggled with secondary school. With the lack of integrated options in our area and the racism my nieces and nephews faced in school we thought to trial home education for a year. Our experience of education personally was quite regimented, my husband spent most of his pathway to becoming a doctor in boarding schools, so home education for us was quite a peculiar concept. However, we are now nearly ten years into our home education journey and we have never looked back. We take a semi-structured approach, both child led and structured. My children have thrived both academically and socially. My youngest child taught herself to read age 3 and all three of them are now working around 2 years above their age bracket with absolutely no pressure, just opportunities. There is no negativity associated with learning, they love a good maths workbook or a challenging code. Learning for them is enjoyable and fun, they enjoy a range of educational programs, tutoring, fun educational trips, exploring the forest or just a pj and movie day when we feel the need for a reset. We can travel when we want and have the cinema or park to ourselves if we fancy. They devour books and they love everything STEM but most important of all they feel heard. We are quite structured in our approach but if they take an interest in a topic we drop everything to fuel that interest. They are super sporty and spend at least 3 days of the week out at various home education events including skiing, gymnastics, ice skating, art class, science class and more. They love to meet up with their home Ed friends and spend hours playing. We have all met friends for life, home education for us has been a journey for the whole family. I have been inspired by my children’s passion for learning to go back and follow the career path I always wanted. Home education isn’t given the platform it deserves and more people should be aware that this is a valid education option. Our community is thriving, long may that continue.

Sarah – North Coast

My three kids have been home educated from the start, and we have always primarily followed our children’s interests. You could call our style child-led, autonomous or unschooling. We’ve found that when the time is right they learn something amazingly fast, if you’re there and ready to support them.

They have all always played a lot of computer games and watched a lot of youTube – which (combined with home ed meet ups, classes, interesting experiences and lots of conversation) has given them an amazingly broad base of knowledge.

We found that when they got a bit older (around age 13-15) their interests became more specific and at that point they wanted to pursue particular passions. This led my two older children to look at GCSEs as a means to access further education courses. Neither of them had any trouble in transitioning from an entirely child-led (unschooling) education to formal study, or with jumping in to GCSE level work. I put that down to their self-motivation, their pleasure in learning and the background knowledge that unschooling gave them across the spectrum of academic subjects.

My eldest got excellent GCSE results in a pandemic year (though in fewer subjects than initially planned because of the chaos) and has gone on to college to study music (level 3 BTEC, which is equivalent to three A Levels). My middle child is working on Maths and Computer Science GCSEs this year and will probably take a couple next year before considering college or other routes towards working as a programmer. They are autistic and dyslexic and I think home education has been a particular help for them. My youngest is still only 11, so they are taking things gently and exploring widely – they enjoy gymnastics, computer games, drawing and anime – and I have the confidence now to be relaxed about them finding their path in their own time.

Michele, Co. Armagh 

I enjoyed my time with my children during their early years then sent them off to school the same as everyone else I knew at that time, it didn’t feel ‘right’ to me however I had given them a great start so pushed my worries aside. Six years since sending my eldest to school, and I finally gave in to my second child’s desperate pleas to home educate. Six years on and I still feel guilty for sending them to school as home education is far better for us all as a family.

Since starting home education my children have had more time to follow interests and to become valuable members of our family and the community enjoying St. John ambulance, holistic horse-care at a local stables, blacksmithing at a local venue, cycling, running for charities, dog grooming at home, art sessions at a local gallery, photography,  dog walking, amongst other things. They are much happier which has made my husband and I happier.

Roisin, North Belfast

I came across HE at a time my son wasn’t happy, was becoming ill. Curing the symptoms led me to the root of things, school itself. However, my cousins and I were taught to value school so for me to consider deregistering my son was a huge break with my tradition.

I had visions of HE being filled with workbooks, curriculum, day trips and more. But this vision was MY vision and not what my son needed. The first 6 months we deschooled, allowing my son to move from the culture of formal school to that of HE. What unfolded was the need for an autonomous approach to learning. While my son decides what, how and when he wants to learn I remain the learning facilitator. I ‘strew’ ideas, opportunities, things of interest across his viewpoint. He can choose any of these and follow them through. I’m there for questions, discussions, support. I do not dictate.

He is now happy, healthy and driven. He is a gifted digital artist and has taught himself through watching youtube tutorials and putting learning into practice. He has designed youtube intro vids for friends. I look forward to what unfolds in his future. 

Nicola, Moira

I never knew home education was an option, I didn’t even know it it was legal. I didn’t know anyone who did it, or even why anyone would bother when there’s so many schools about. That changed when after struggling through four years of primary school with my oldest daughter. You see she was a happy,bright confident and fun little girl but was a June birthday and had to start primary one after just turning four. As her mom I knew she wasn’t ready for P1 and spoke to the principle and was told that she had to start then and it was illegal to hold her back.

So off she set to school aged four years and two months, her first week she was so frightened.every time the left the classroom to go somewhere she would cling to the teacher, then in the gym hall or where ever she was she would put her fingers in her mouth and make herself sick. This was very stressful for all concerned. She struggled with reading, so while her peers were progressing enjoying learning new words she began to guess words copy others and avoid learning activities.

In P2 she kept rubbing her ears saying she couldn’t hear, we got her hearing tested at the doctors – nothing wrong. She continued to struggle with reading and her academic confidence grew less, she learnt to copy others work and ask others for answers. In P3 a different symptom, in P4 another one…

She still wasn’t able to read and constantly told me about her friends achievements and how “stupid””she was. I went to the school three or four times a year and asked about holding her back,or getting her tested for dyslexia. The principle said she  probably did have dyslexia but they never test for it until much later.

You can imagine my frustration seeing my beautiful girl loosing her confidence daily and feeling like no one was helping. I just dreaded her going to high school and ending up in the special needs class believing she was, in her words, “stupid”. I just kept thinking can this change?
Then while talking my friend said that her daughter always wanted to be “home schooled” but it just wasn’t an option for them ,as I said I didn’t know you could!

She told me her friends friend home educated her children In the village I live in and passed me her number. I did nothing about it for a while just trying to persevere with tearful home works etc hoping something would click. Then on the last month of P4 she gave me her school report (every subject D-) she never asked what she got and she just walked away from her friends while they talked about theirs’. The next morning she crawled into my room crying at 5:30 am saying she couldn’t go to school as she couldn’t walk (she was supposed to be visiting her next years teachers class room).

That was it, the final straw! I just couldn’t sit and watch her worrying feeling more and more insecure, and despite my fears of being unintelligent myself enough I decided to remove her and her two siblings from school. I was so scared of messing up. I telephoned the girl in my village and I think interrogated her for hours (poor girl she was very patient). Then I went online and spent days researching and slowly began my home ed adventure!

And what a ride!!! I can’t actually  believe what a relief it has been removing ourselves from what was to us such a negative environment where we both felt like failures. They just all just seem to be soaking learning up,I might even become relatively intelligent my self by the time they grow up! I mean a year ago I couldn’t get her to even listen to a story it was like she was allergic to learning.  But guess what? 9 months into home educating and she has read 8 novels! What a change.

She learning biology (at her request), zoology, as my son age 5 is into sea creatures, we’re researching our family tree, and having fun interviewing people in our family with video cameras. They take regular trips to the planetarium to do stargazing and last week she was sitting on a blanket in the garden reading a space book, by her self, for fun!! They followed the ‘Great British Bake Off’ and now after seeing how they had to use vegetables for baking they want to spend a day as war family- eating what they ate, dressing how they dressed etc… They even told me they wanted to go to the park and imagine what it would be like to spend the night there during an air raid (like granny did).

She has been moved to the first team in her swimming club squad, joined a running club and I have to say we all are having a ball!!! Work always finishes before school is out which they all think is great, all my children are playing together in a way I could only have dreamed of and we never have to rush out in the morning. I have to say now, I wonder what everyone is doing running around like crazy people trying to fit into a schooling system that can never fit all children equally. My only regret about home education is that I didn’t do it sooner!

We’d love to hear your story too – please contact us!

Stories will be added and edited at our discretion.