East Dorset Home Ed families
By Claire Price
Why are over a hundred Bournemouth families teaching their children at home? BBC Dorset investigates the growing trend for home schooling among families here in the county - and discovers that they're hardly at home at all.
It could almost be a class trip. A dozen children are running around Moors Valley Country Park, burning off their excess energy after lessons. But this is a school trip with a difference - these children don’t go to school at all.
June Wilson-Billing is a mother of four children, who she educates at home. She started to think about home schooling after her eldest daughter India was refused a place at primary school. Rather than defer a year, or send her to a different school, she decided to teach her at home.
That was the start of a love affair with home schooling. Now all four of her children are taught at home, although June thinks that’s a misnomer: “Home schooling isn’t at home at all. It’s educating in the community. We meet up with other families, go to museums, parks, the shops. I teach my kids life skills that are going to be far more useful than what they might learn in school.”
June’s 11-year-old daughter Trinity agrees: “I prefer being at home. My best subject is art as I love drawing.” That’s the benefit of home education, according to June – children can explore their own talents without being forced into a school timetable.
June’s sister-in-law Hattie Wilson teaches all five of children at home. “This week we’ve been looking at dinosaurs. It’s amazing how a topic like dinosaurs can cover all sorts of subjects from Biology to English and Maths. The other day, we made a human timeline in the garden, with each of the children standing at a different period in history. They loved it – the more practical the learning is, the more they get from it.”
Another mother at the park is Joy Bison. She started teaching her sons after the eldest, 12-year-old Gordon, started getting bullied at school. “I was surprised to hear that he wasn’t happy at school as he always seemed to have lots of friends, and was involved in different activities like orchestra. But when I asked him if he wanted to be taught at home, he was really enthusiastic.”
But do the children have enough opportunity to interact with other kids if they’re taught at home? When I ask the question, Hattie just laughs. “Just look around the park,” she says. “And tell me that my kids aren’t sociable. You can’t stop children from playing with other children – they just will.”
“There are plenty of after-school clubs, meetings with other home ed families and summer camps for them to make friends,” adds June. “There are probably over a hundred home ed families just in the Bournemouth area so the argument that we’re just at home, on our own, doesn’t work anymore.”
June’s friends, though, aren’t totally convinced. “The most common reaction is ‘you must be mad’ followed by ‘I don’t know how you know enough.’ But that’s not the point – you’re not supposed to know everything. You learn together as a family.”
“My kids are always asking questions – why does it snow, why does it melt, why does it fall sideways?” says Hattie. “If I don’t know the answer we go home and look it up on the internet. That way we get a much more rounded education too as parents.”
last updated: 04/04/2008 at 11:00
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