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by Emma Kendall

Before I begin, I must impress on the reader that I write only from my own family's perspective, and do not speak for any other Home-Educating (HE), or Educating otherwise, family, as not any one family does it in the same way.

Here is a slice of our average week which will hopefully give you some insight into our philosophy.

Starting at the weekend, my partner and I work on Farmers markets for an organic baker. These markets are communities in their own right and both are held in lovely surroundings. One in a local museumís grounds, the other in a school playground(!) Other traders also regularly bring their children who either help on the stall or play... they are the Saturday market gang.

These market days we include as part of their education. Molly (10) enjoys serving the customers, practising her maths and she has fantastic customer service skills. She is looking forward to becoming a Bread Fairy (running her own stall) once she is old enough. I have just recently trained and recruited two marvellously competent and enthusiastic 14-year-old ladies from the HE community.

My son Bo (7) enjoys donning the rubber gloves at the market, helping to arrange and label the loaves. He especially enjoys the officialdom of the stock sheet marking. However, he doesn't enjoy the customer relations, or welcome the fact that they all think him very cute... which he is...You see, beneath his adorable, small freckled features there is an administrator, who wishes to be taken very seriously. Because of the philosophies I have been exposed to in community life, I strive to remember to allow the children to be themselves and not let my social conditioning inform my behaviour towards them. For example, if Bo chooses not to engage with somebody, like a customer, I no longer try to change that for fear that the adult might think him rude. I simply smile at the customer and am pleasant myself.
"You can't make your kids do anything. All you can do is make them wish they had. And then, they will make you wish you hadn't made them wish they had." (Marshall B. Rosenberg)

I guess it's really only been the last few years that I am managing to not pressure my children based on the expectations of others. Of course, we have boundaries, for us it's to try to be kind and respectful to others. But asking a child to do something they really do not want to do, to the point of anxiety I mean, I am managing to no longer feel pressured to enforce.

Another good example of this is the way Molly holds her pen. Molly didn't begin her formal classes till she wanted to at age 9, though we would attend social and exploration classes/groups several times a week. It appears that 9 is when she was ready. English is taught by Iris, a magnificent tutor who has been teaching some 20 odd years in a well reputed local high school prior to teaching HE. Molly is an artist, and this is what she mainly spends her time doing, drawing, playing piano (self-taught) and writing stories and songs. Now Molly had never wanted to hold her pen 'correctly' when we first began to write ABC, as she had learnt to draw first, her own way. I would intermittently encourage her to try the other way, but was always met with a firm "No". Come the 2nd week of teaching Molly, Iris came to me with her concerns, explaining she was worried Molly may not be a fast and efficient enough writer to keep up during exams. I explained I was happy for her to encourage Molly to hold the pen differently. I was very curious to see how it would all pan out. Handwriting homework appeared, not compulsory, Molly briefly attempted and didnít complete. Two weeks later Molly learnt how to make a feather quill, I cannot recall why, self-led I believe. She used this handcrafted Page 10 News from the mews Issue 21 HOME Education BY Emma KENDALL pen to write for a couple of weeks for all her studies, and she was holding it the 'proper' way. As soon as I mentioned that she was holding the quill conventionally, she never used it again and returned to her preferred unusual technique.

Molly continues to thrive in her English lessons and I regularly receive an excited report from Iris on Molly's capability, especially story writing, and she continues to hold her pen in her extraordinary fashion.

So back to our week. Mondays are at home usually, catching up with the chores and homework for Tuesday.

Tuesdays at 9.30 we arrive in a beautiful green forest and hillside at the scout ground group that has been running for approx. 22 years.

The lessons available for children ages 6-16 are English taught by the wonderful teacher I have already mentioned, Iris. She has been teaching and supporting HE teens through their GCSE's (Lit. & Lan.) since the group began. The other classes available are Maths and Science. The classes never have more than 8 students and are organised by ability not age. Maths and English have their own classroom but Tom, the wonderful scientist (former chemist) engages in all sorts of experiments and kinaesthetic explorations within the main hall with parents on the other side chatting, knitting, working with babies/toddlers babbling and playing around. Sometimes I manage to stop chatting with the others and sit quietly observing the pleasant hustle and bustle of this room. Looking over to see Molly fully immersed in Science doing something brilliant, her roller skates still on beneath the desk.

Bo began his classes age 6, a very inquisitive and self-led learner. He mostly spends his free time at home researching historic figures, monsters and making mini biographies with pictures. But mostly Bo needs to run, jump, climb trees and fight with his friends. This is what most of the children his age need.
"In our culture today, parents and other adults over protect children from possible dangers in play. We seriously underestimate children's ability to take care of themselves and make good judgements. In this respect, we differ not just from hunter-gatherer cultures, but from all traditional cultures which children played freely. Our underestimation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy-by depriving children of freedom, we deprive them of the opportunities they need to learn how to take control of their own behaviour and emotions." (Peter Gray, 'Free we learn')

Previously on Wednesdays the children were attending animation and coding classes that reached a natural conclusion. We have since joined a HE swimming class, and we have a good after-swim with our friends. After lunch Molly and her friend come home with me for focused maths study, and Bo goes home with the other family for some serious play study.

Thursdays are kept free for play dates and trips. Last week a HE parent organised a trip to a Roman amphitheatre in Guildhall and the Museum of London. The session was led by an archaeologist, who really enjoyed the time with us all and it's good to witness the good impression made by our happy, inquisitive kids. A perspective I'm sure Merlyn would concur with. (Ed: Most certainly, the best Iíve seen!)
Fridays the children meet their friends at a play project in a local adventure playground; an eclectic group of kids and parents, with climbing, campfires and arts and crafts. This group prompts me to write about the diversity of our community... Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Mindfulness; vegan, carnivores, vegetarians, gluten-free, sugar-free and some with major food intolerances that could not be cared for in the school; (Ed: High five!) men, women, same sex marriages, grandparents and au pairs; bike riders, roller bladers and car drivers; Spanish, Italian, British all-sorts, French, New Zealand, Maori, Mongolian, Chinese, Irish and Turkish and more.

This diversity I wish to shout from the highest mountain...
"Come, come everybody see what we are doing, see us and our children growing and learning and playing together, every week!"

It IS possible to live together, integrate together. Of course, there are challenges, all the time, but that's how we grow and develop, together.

Another point I would like to reiterate is how this journey is MY education too, and how lucky I am to be around my family and community so much. This life choice is how Lee and I believe we can best contribute to this most wondrous planet, by raising compassionate, freethinking, happy individuals at a time when the world needs us most.

This first article on Home Education I dedicate to my oldest son Harvey 24, whose experiences in and out of various schools really has informed our family choices. That is another story, watch this space...

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