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Home education has long been seen as an almost quirky alternative to sending our kids to mainstream education, but in recent years it has been gaining in popularity.  The recent rise in internet-based learning groups, social networking and support means that home education is now being seen as a real, viable alternative to school-based learning.  But how do home educators go about teaching their children, and are there real benefits to doing it?

Supporters of home-based learning are well aware that the amount of attention a single child gets in the classroom cannot equal that of the home-educated child.  It stands to reason – in a class of 20 (or more) children, that one teacher can only focus singularly on any given child for up to 3 minutes per hour.  This argument certainly seems viable – at home, our children can have our undivided attention for a far larger percentage of the time.  But what of group-based learning and workshops which are proven, effective educating tools?  Well, this is where home education groups come into the equation.  Most moms teaching their children at home make a great effort to meet up with other home educating families in order to fulful this group-working need.

Internet groups have arisen over the last few years too, which enable bigger online groups to congregate and work together.  The widespread use of tools such as Skype make for cheap yet effective conferencing solutions – your kids can chat virtually face to face with other kids working on similar subjects, brainstorming and helping each other with their learning.  With e-learning sites and education material stores available at the click of a button, obtaining teaching materials has never been easier.  The digital age has brought with it, massive benefits for home-educators.

So, with access to other learners, support and teaching materials in the bag, how do we actually go about home educating our children?  Well, there is no one particular way to do it – some parents opt for a rigid ‘home school’ set up, where class begins and ends at certain times with set lesson plans, following a formal-ish curriculum.  Other parents adopt a much more child-led approach – seeing everyday life as ‘education’ and looking for learning possibilities in everything they see or come across as the day goes on.  For example, one day may involve a shopping trip to another town – this trip could therefore involve obvious subjects like Geography and History – but also Art could be incorporated  (sitting down to paint the town square for example), English (reading some local literature or writing a story based in the town) – even Maths (calculate time taken to travel around town).  This kind of ‘free range’ learning can be adapted for all ages and abilities.  The parent and child work together, looking for learning opportunities and acting on them as and when they come up.  Typically the parent would then debrief back at home with some more traditional bookwork.

Even parents who prefer the structure and expertise of the school environment could benefit greatly from picking up and using ideas and tools borrowed from the home educator.

Today’s guest article is written by Sarah O’Reilly on behalf of Sopris Learning who develop learning resources for children & schools. They offer many tools & resources including a writing curriculum & a reading curriculum.

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