What? - Why? - How? -The Law - Contacts - Education Links - Networking - Books - Montessori - Montessori Projects - Five In A Row - Charlotte Mason - Lap Books - Hama Beads - Recipes


School is not compulsory! It is a slogan but it is true - parents have a legal responsibility to ensure that their children receive an education suitable to their 'age, aptitude and ability', this need not be in school. Many children in the UK are now educated at home (or rather out of the home since it is an unfortunate stereotype that HE kids are chained to the kitchen table) by their parents.


The reasons why families decide to home educate are as varied as the families themselves. We made the decision to HE C when she was one, the local state schools were awful and I didn't want to have to work full time in order to afford to send her to an independent school that was little better than mediocre. I have never doubted our ability to enable C to have an broad, rich and individualised education, after all we have the whole world at our disposal not just a classroom! More importantly HE allows C to be an active participant in HER education. An interesting article about the pros & cons of home 'schooling' http://www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,58-28625-0-1,00.html, and another http://www.madrone.com/Home-ed/hs11.htm.


However suits your family - it is much easier to list how you don't have to HE. You DO NOT HAVE TO (i) be a teacher or have any particular qualifications (ii) follow a curriculum, national or otherwise (iii) have a time table or follow the school year (iv) stay indoors between 9 and 3 on week days in term times (v) do SATS (vi) ask for permission (the law is different in Scotland see http://www.schoolhouse.org.uk/). I have written a little about what we do below, but every family is different. Home education blogs and mailing lists are great sources inspiration. The beauty of HE is that you/your children can find your own way & cherry pick what suits best from a huge variety of sources.

The Law in the UK:

Under the 1996 Education Act (Section 7) parents have the right to educate their children at home rather than school: education rather than school is compulsary. More more information please see http://www.home-ed.co.uk/legalinfo.html. If your child has never been registered in a school you do not need to inform anybody to HE legally, just carry on as you are. If your child is registered at a school they must be deregistered before you can HE them (for more on the deregistration procedure http://www.home-education.org.uk/legal-dereg.htm).












... and many more!

Google tip - search "home education" to find UK sites or "home schooling" to find the huge number of US and Canadian sites.

Education Links:

Some of my favourites - no particular order, just an idea of what is out there.
























HE can be isolating for parents - even if people aren't openly hostile & critical (it seems that atitudes are improving), they can be defensive or think you're a complete nutter! You will find that everyone (especially the childless) will have an opinion on your lifestyle, parenting & educational choices (rarely informed of course) - any problem you may have will be immediately solved by putting your kids in school. Mailing lists are an absolute life saver for the HE parent, they offer support, ideas, inspiration, legal & practical advice, somewhere to moan about bad days & cheer about good ones. They provide a safe place where HE isn't the root of all problems. Real life support is equally important (emailing lists put many people in contact IRL), many areas have terrific HE networks. In our area we could join at least one HE group every day (e.g. sport, art & craft, science, trips, educational (!), play groups & general socialising). Joining a national organsisation like Education Otherwise (http://www.education-otherwise.org/) can be useful but IMO mailing lists are more helpful; many areas have local mailing lists of events & groups.


There are so many books about & for HEs (although relatively few from the UK) here are some that I like and found useful or thought provoking.

One-to-one: A Practical Guide to Learning at home age 0-11 - Gareth Lewis

Homeschooling: The Early Years - Linda Dobson

Teach Your Own - John Holt

Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for under 5's - David Gettman

How Children Learn - John Holt

Montessori Play and Learn: A Practical Guide for parents and Children - Lesley Britton

Teaching Montessori in the Home - Pre-school years - Elazbeth Hainstock

Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days - Nancy Lande

Educating Children at Home - Alan Thomas

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home - Jessie Wise, Susan Wise Bauer

A Charlotte Mason education - Catherine Levison

Home Learning Year by Year - Rebecca Rupp

Family Matters - David Gutterson

Free Range Education - Terri Dowty


Montessori educational philosophy is based on the work of Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor who worked with learning disabled children in the slums of Rome at the turn of the last century. Her work is still hugely influential today, and in a small way I try to follow some of her philosophy at home with C. What attracted me to Montessori is her belief in education from birth, the importance of the early years and a deep respect for children and their learning. In Montessori the materials and environment are extremely important, but to enable the child rather than dictate to them. The functionality of the Montessori environment allows children to learn with freedom and independence. In the early years learning is facilitated by development of the senses and exercises are divided into (i) practical life (ii) sensorial (iii) language development (iv) arithmetic development and (v) science, nature and geography (culture).

Books - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Elizabeth Hainstock 'Teaching Montessori in the home - the preschool years' ISBN 0-452-27909-7 and David Gettman 'Basic Montessori - Learning activities for under-fives' ISBN 1-85109-234-X

Links - http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/%7Ecfsjy/mts/_link.htm, http://www.moteaco.com/albums.html, http://www.montessoriworld.org/default.htm, http://www.muddlepuddle.co.uk/MOntessori/Montessori%20Links.htm

Materials - http://www.montessori-n-such.com/, http://www.artfuldodgers.co.uk/, http://www.bruinsmontessori.com/home.htm, http://www.bambini-montessori.com/our_products.htm,

Montessori Projects:

Montessori materials, while being beautiful, are extremely expensive, so I thought I'd have a go at making my own. Current projects are the moveable alphabet, pink tower and constructive triangles. I am in two minds about making or buying a land/water globe.

Useful links - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/montessorimakers/, http://www.montessorimaterials.org/, http://www.in-printforchildren.com/, http://www.gummylump.com/front/f_category.php?id=17, http://www.stegoedu.com/, http://www.montessoriworld.org/default.htm

Dressing frames - I used planed 18x28mm batton (left over from putting up shelves) and 7.5mm diameter dowl (left over from making roman blinds - I think slighlty thicker dowl would've worked better) to build the frames (I made seven). I used an old pair of jeans for the zip frame and old shirts for the button frames (large and small). I also made were popper, bow, velcro, and buckle frames with oddments of fabric I had (I used this list as a guide Montessoi World) I may make a hook & eye frame later. I will do some sort of shoe lacing frame but probably on card rather than material.

Sandpaper letters & numbers - very easy to do - took a couple of evenings. I printed off an upper case & lower case alphabet I found on Montessori Materials (in a sans serif font similar to Arial rounded), cut them out (using small embroidery scissors) then mounted them on fine sandpaper. Before I started I checked with C that the sandpaper wasn't too rough for her, some parents have had this problem and substituted felt or even glitter glue for the sandpaper. To mount the letters I used standard PVA glue to coat each sheet of sandpaper before I stuck the letters on face down. I then cut each sandpaper letter out and stuck them on pieces of thick cardboard about 10cms square using blue card for the vowels and pink for the consonants. I also make a set of numbers 1-10 in the same way, but mounted these on green card. Stego also have a template (slightly larger) http://www.stegoedu.com/viewprod.asp?PID=77&cat=&search=&cseg=31. Need to find a nice box to put them in now :)

In progress


Five In A Row (FIAR):

Five In A Row (http://www.fiveinarow.com/) is a collection of unit studies based on classic and beautifully illustrated children's books. There are four volumes of the main curriculum aimed at children aged 4-8 years (although I think even older children can benefit from many of the books used) and a 'Before' FIAR volume aimed at children aged 2-4. These stories have rapidly become greatly loved and our favourites include: The Story About Ping, Madeline, The Rag Coat, Grandfather's Journey, Very Last First Time, Miss Rumphius, The Duchess Bakes a Cake, The Raft and many more. Although this is an American product the books are set all over the world and the themes highly applicable to everyone. The units include social sciences (e.g. history, geography, culture), art, science, applied maths, and language arts (although this isn't a reading programme).

Charlotte Mason:

The Charlotte Mason (CM) educational philosophy was one of the first that we came across when we started investigating HE - it immediately appealed to us. Mason was an English educator in the 1800's her ideas were radical at the time since she believed the education of children was more than simply filling them with facts. Children to her were intelligent, inquiring & independent beings who deserved intellectual nourishment. There is an attention to detail and beauty in CM that I find hugely attractive. Children are not to be dummed-down or patronised, their interests are valid and should be encouraged.

Links - http://amblesideonline.homestead.com/ - free CM style curriculum, http://www.muddlepuddle.co.uk/Misc/MY%20CM.htm - an experience of CM schooling, http://www.christianity.com/cmason/- a guide to CM education, http://homepage.bushnell.net/~peanuts/faq1.html, http://www.digis.net/~gardnerp/, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CharlotteMason-UK/, http://www.muddlepuddle.co.uk/Misc/Charlotte%20mason.htm

Lap Books:

I use lap books as a simple way of presenting or recording information - C really likes them, but I do find them time consuming to produce. I am not an expert and produce only simple ones (they can be make as simple or complex as you want). I don't use flattened out folders but A1 sheets of cardboard cut to A2 size then folded to A3 (!). As C gets older she has more input in what goes into them and how it is presented (she helps me with the glueing already). You can put anything in a lap book :).

Links -http://www.papalongleg.com/Pages/OurownLapbooks.htm, http://www.tobinslab.com/ProductPage.asp?CategoryID=25000, http://www.freyelements.com/zike.jsp, http://www.bydonovan.com/templates.html (mini book templates), http://www.dinah.com/, http://www.geocities.com/gibsevengang/lapbooks.html, http://www.canby.com/hockmanchupp/portfolder1.html, http://ryanfamily.freeyellow.com/DZ.html, http://highland.hitcho.com.au/shutterbooks.htm

Animal Babies - born or hatched? Vocabulary words and counting.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - counting, days of the week, food vocabulary, butterfly life cycle puzzle.

Colours & rainbows - colour mixing, rainbows, naming colours. I used laminated Stego colour cards in the pouch & some mini books.

Hama Beads:

A home education obsession! Amazingly engrossing - it is quite incredible to see a 3 year old sit still for an hour while using these. Apart from being fun, great for concentration, fine motor control, planning, following direction, colour recognition & patterns, counting, creativity etc etc.

Links - http://www.muddlepuddle.co.uk/Hama/hama.htm, http://www.beadmerrily.com get them here!

Maxi Beads

Midi Beads

Mini Beads

We started using these when C was 2 and a half - first doing random patterns, then following the patterns (from about 3 years old).

C is starting to use these now (at 3 and a bit), has the widest range of boards, kits, patterns etc. Most suitable for all ages :)

Very, very small (a complete PITA if you drop them), from 10 years, but requires a lot of patience!


Salt dough (self-hardening or cook at 150°C) - 375ml salt, 1l flour, 373ml water. Mix dry ingredients then gradually add water until mixture forms a dough then knead for a couple of minutes. You can add food colouring if desired.

'Play dough' (non-hardening) - 500ml flour, 250ml salt, 5ml cream of tartar, 25ml cooking oil, 5ml food colouring, 500ml water. Mix all ingrediants in a saucepan, cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until dough leaves the side of pan. Remove form pan & allow to cool, knead for a few minutes.