There is much variety in how parents home educate. At one end of the spectrum there is home education that closely mirrors a regular school curriculum. At the other end are forms of home education that more closely resemble experience-oriented or development-oriented education, or natural learning. And then there are the many in-between variations and combinations of home education methods, such as project-based learning, literature studies, e-learning, internships and many more. Just as there are many different kinds of schools with varying learning methods and materials, there are also many different ways of home educating.
Preparation is key
Parents who choose to home educate spend considerable time thoroughly investigating all the options before they start on their home educating journey. They select methods that best match their family and the learning styles of their children. There is much literature on this subject, from scientific research and books on specific home education methods to blogs by experienced home educators.
Home educators also help each other through various national and international forums and Facebook groups that are dedicated to different home education methods and materials. Local mailing lists are used to organise gatherings where new home educators can learn from experienced home educators.
Home education in practice
The daily life of home educating families varies greatly from family to family and from day to day. Some families have a designated school-room; others work at the kitchen table. Some have strict day schedules, while others are more flexible in their planning in order to be better able to respond to their children’s interests and questions. Some days are spent visiting museums or workshops, or working together with other home educated children on projects, or preparing for a musical, or practicing the art of presentation. Other days are primarily spent at home, reading a good book, working on a project, completing lessons from a textbook or playing educational games.
Materials can be found in many places
‘Where do you get the materials from?’ is an often heard question. The learning methods for various subjects can be purchased per school year. There is a lot of material available in English, and more and more Dutch educational publishers are also selling their methods to home educators. There are schools and educational institutions that sell second-hand workbooks, textbooks and teacher manuals, and home educators share second-hand materials among themselves.
Home educators also like to make use of libraries, museums, internet, education fairs, educational centres and the many materials that school-teachers exchange with each other online. In addition, they also buy materials from hobby stores, bookstores, online stores for educational games or simply at HEMA, which is the ideal place to purchase an abacus, a notebook, some drawing paper, or letter stamps.
The costs of these materials can vary greatly. Some families have more money to spend than others. Home educators are very creative in finding economical ways of acquiring materials and methods. For example, materials can be borrowed from the toy library, books can be exchanged with other home educators and Montessori materials can be home-made. In addition, home educators often join forces and purchase materials together at a reduced price.
How home educated children and their parents spend their time
In practice, home educated children only need a few hours a day to cover the same material as school-going children. The remaining time can be spent on expanding or deepening their knowledge. This faster pace is a result of one-on-one learning, which means that the parent only needs to explain what the child does not yet understand. This prevents unnecessary repetition. In addition, children do not need to spend time commuting to and from school, changing classrooms, or waiting for other children. Overall, home education is a very effective form of education.
For the parents, home education means that someone has to be there for the children. Parents often choose to have one parent who is employed full-time and one who is home educating, or both parents have part-time jobs and both home educate part-time. Some families make use of after-school daycare facilities for a few hours a week, or they hire a baby-sitter.
Contact with others
Parents involve many people in creating an optimal home education environment for their children. They make use of the knowledge and experience of their family and friends, as well as other home educators and professionals. This results in frequent workshops for home educated children; weekly excursions and gatherings are organised throughout the country and parents contact each other if they have questions. Some gatherings and excursions are organised only once, while others are offered on a regular basis by ‘’home-learners’’ groups and home education cooperatives.
Secondary education and diplomas
Children can also be home educated throughout secondary education. In practice, home educated children are often able to begin at a younger age than most to obtain certificates by completing state examinations for given subjects. There are many ways of preparing children for these examinations. For example, by purchasing learning methods and working through them, by making use of distance learning, or by following additional lessons or examination training. A new option, which many home educating families are embracing, are online lectures at various universities via, for instance, Coursera.
Hopefully this information will have given you some idea of what home education is like. And if you happen to meet some home educators, do not hesitate to ask them how they do it. Home educators are often passionate about the subject and they will be glad to tell you more!