Learning

Home education : Our story in 14 Star Wars Quotes

What better way to tell our home education story than with Star Wars quotes. And almost on May 4th too 🙂

Oh my. Space travel sounds rather perilous. I can assure you they will never get me on one of those dreadful Star Ships.

C3P0. Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace

Sensing a great disturbance in the force, the first time I heard about home education I was stunned, rocked to the core.

Ten years ago, I was a school governor at two schools, one my children didn’t even attend. Classroom helper, PTA committee member, willing volunteer. As a family we were deeply entrenched in the local school community.

But then we discovered home education.

In what kind of homeschoolers are we? I credit Sarah Parent and her wonderful podcast, Humans Being for introducing us to home ed. She certainly brought the idea of unschooling into our lives and I’m ever grateful for that 🙂

But it was a few months earlier, in a friend’s garden, that the first bombshell hit. Dropped casually in the conversation, the news that some friends of hers were planning to take their children out of school and try home education.

Totally. Blown. Away. Children didn’t have to go to school? Oh my. I was shocked and confused. Unsure what to think.

Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.

Yoda. Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back   

Despite everything I’d read and learnt about respectful parenting, home education was not on my radar. I couldn’t process this new information, not yet.

At the time I was working as a college lecturer. Like I said firmly entrenched. Not just in our local school community, in the formal education system as a whole. 

Part way through the academic year I was given a class of 16 and 17 year olds. They were not a happy bunch.

I learnt two powerful lessons from teacher training… 

  1. The best way to get permanent pen off the board is with dry erase markers, and 
  2. Don’t blame the students when there’s a problem in your classroom, look at your own actions and methods

And I needed them both 🙂 These students were angry and unhappy and they weren’t afraid to say so, to my face and on the board. I needed help and fast. So, as you do, I went searching the internet.  

In a dark place we find ourselves… and a little more knowledge lights our way.

Yoda. Star Wars Episode III : Revenge of the Sith

Now we all know searching the internet can be a risky business, who knows what you’ll find. While I was looking for lesson plans, the internet had other ideas. My search results included a link to Sarah’s podcast, I had to check it out and was captivated from the very first listen.

At the same time I was reading Alfie Kohn’s book, ‘Beyond Discipline. From compliance to community : A provocative challenge to the field of classroom management’. Together Sarah and Alfie helped me see those students in a whole new light.

Wars not make one great. 

Yoda. Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back.

There was a war raging in my classroom. A war against mobile phones and we weren’t winning. The more I thought about our zero tolerance policy, the more unhelpful it seemed. 

This was adult education after all, and my students had adult responsibilities. Genuine reasons for wanting their phones close by. They had children, jobs and family members who relied on them. They weren’t just scrolling whatever social media platform was hip at the time, although there was plenty of that going on too. 

And did I mention they were angry? Feeling let down by the school system, let down by the college and let down by society. Dissatisfied, disempowered and some, downright despairing of life in general. Their phones gave them power, and connection. And they weren’t about to let that go for a second, never mind a two hour seminar.

To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.

Yoda. Star Wars : The Clone Wars. Lair Of Grievous.

My students were looking for ways to feel powerful. Flouting rules, being rude, aggressive and unco-operative, these were easy moves, especially in my classroom. Not much of a disciplinarian, I’m more into consent than control. But our classroom was a mess, short on respect, trust and kindness. And it had to change.

I’d made a rookie mistake. Feeling under immense pressure not to let them ‘fall behind’, spouting the party line without much thought and unaware of the tough crowd I was facing, I’d neglected some basic tasks. We needed to go back to the beginning and set the tone for our time together.

Heavily influenced by what I was learning about freedom and responsibility, I invited the students to tell me what they wanted. To share their ideas on how we could move forward, to meet their needs and the requirements of the course.

My policy on mobile phones changed. And gradually so did the atmosphere in class. It wasn’t all perfectly calm, sunshine and roses from that moment on. But the students and I got through the year, most gaining the qualifications they needed and all enjoying our time together much more than seemed possible at the start 🙂 

Truly wonderful the mind of a child is

Yoda. Star Wars Episode II : Attack of the Clones

I was quickly making my way through Sarah’s podcast. Listening and re-listening over and over. My 11 year old daughter heard part of an episode. Never a great fan of school, she was drawn to the idea of learning at home straight away. And she wanted to find out more.

We looked at the law and found a home education policy on our local authority website. Of course we discovered you don’t have to go to school. It’s not compulsory, at least not at the moment, not in the UK.

And at the time this post is published, you can’t attend school even if you want to, unless you’re the child of a key worker or deemed vulnerable. UK schools are closed to the vast majority of children, along with many others all over the world as part of the preventative measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.

But back then Covid-19 was a long time ago far in the future, in a galaxy far, far away. My daughter was intent on learning all she could about home education. And I was beginning to get it…

Crazy thing is, it’s true. The Force. the Jedi – all of it. It’s all true.

Han Solo. Star Wars Episode VII : The Force Awakens.

The truth hit me. This was a genuine possibility. Home education, and particularly the principles of unschooling made so much sense. My heart was all in. But my head took some time to catch up.

Despite two of our three children pretty much hating school from the moment they went, we’d never seen it as an option. Not once had we considered it just one of many services available in our community. Like the library, that we could choose to use, or not.

Always with you it cannot be done

Yoda. Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back

We were fixated on the negatives.

Even though we were drawn to the ideas of unschooling. More and more they influenced our parenting.

And regardless of our daughter’s epic research and the compelling vision she presented of how life could be without school.

We couldn’t imagine our lives without it.

The popular belief isn’t always the correct one.

Opening. Star Wars : The Clone Wars. Season 6. Orders.

We clung desperately to the idea that school might get better for our children. That it wouldn’t be so bad in the long run. Yet at the same time I was beginning to think more about learning. More specifically, what I wanted my children to learn most. To remember, forever.

Aside from the obvious – a deep sense of being loved, appreciated and accepted. I wanted my children to know they could always say no. With hindsight, it’s easy to see where this is heading 🙂

I introduced this idea to my then 11, 9 and 4 year old children at a family picnic. And it led to some pretty interesting conversations, you can imagine. We talked about how it feels when people said no to us and what the possible consequences of saying no might be in different situations.

I wanted them to feel able to say no. And to own that freedom responsibly. But even though we’d never had such an explicit conversation on the subject before, this wasn’t really a new idea for my children.

They were well-used to saying no, and not just because they’re a naturally feisty bunch, but because choice, freedom and trust were already important elements of our family culture. Although not when it came to school, it seems. And maybe it helped that as parents we were trying to say yes more 🙂

Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Obi-Wan Kenobi. Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back.

Our three children kept going to school and my daughter and I carried on researching home education.

Hanging out in online home ed groups I was learning more about this new world. We were discovering a whole new point of view.

I met local home ed mums. Read books and blogs. Listened to more podcasts.

Always remember, your focus determines your reality.

Qui-Gon Jinn. Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace.

We spent a long time considering the possible downsides of home education. And we were sick of it.

There was so much to be excited about. So many ways we could see home education might benefit our children.

And our eldest daughter, she was utterly convinced this was the path for her.

Our focus shifted…

I have a good feeling about this.

Han Solo. Solo : A Star Wars Story

We decided to give it a go. She would finish her last year at primary school and then we would try home education. Our younger two would carry on at school, and we’d see how it went.

My 9 year old daughter had chosen her new school shoes, lunchbox and bag. She didn’t mind school and was set on returning in September. But over the summer visiting local home ed groups and learning more about how this could work on a daily basis, she began to doubt her decision.

She opted to stay home too. That left our five year old son. We spoke to him about the decisions his sisters had made and he was delighted at the thought of not returning to school. The stage was set.

We’re gonna do this

Poe Dameron. Star Wars Episode VII : The Force Awakens.

On the first day of term we delivered the letters to school requesting all three children be removed from the register. Then we went out for pizza. It was our daughters 12th birthday and we were officially home educating 🙂

You must unlearn what you have learned

Yoda. Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back.

Here we were, at the start of our new lives. And with so much deschooling to be done. More on that in another post.

But for now, if you would like to learn more about starting your own home ed journey, check out these posts –

Thinking of home educating?

Decided to home educate? 5 steps to get you on your way.

Unexpectedly homeschooling? Resources and reassurance to get you started and keep you going

New to home education : Your first week.

Supporting natural learning : A step by step guide.

9 Home education routines that brighten up our days.

And if you’re already home-edding, I’d love to know your story 🙂

3 Comments

  1. Hayley, what a creative way of describing your journey! Love this:).

    Just a question … as a Canadian I’m not sure what a “school governor” means? Does it mean being on a school board of directors?

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks Erin, glad you liked it. School governor’s a voluntary position, acting as ‘a source of support and challenge to heads’, ‘setting clear vision and targets for schools’, agreeing policies, budgets that kind of thing. A world away now 🙂

  2. Ah,.. yes, definitely a world away! 🙂

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