Maths, what do we really need to know?

What do we need and why would we learn it? That is a question that I am debating with myself a lot recently.

I have reached the wonderful age of 32, I have no Maths GCSE though I did sit and pass a learn direct adult numeracy test when I was 20yrs old. I have worked through the open university and achieved a Bsc Hons degree in health and social care. I have Cert HE in Working with young people and families, Diabetes care, Mental health and Working together for children. I have worked my way up to senior support worker supporting young adults with Learning difficulties and mental health to live independently and supporting young people to learn life skills in a supported housing project. I am now a self employed, home educating mama of soon to be four children. So why do I sometimes look at my older children’s maths work and feel baffled?

I understand for those working towards their GCSE/ IGCSE then there will be certain things that need to be covered, but if we are not currently working with that end goal in mind why is there so much pressure to cover things that both my husband (an IT manager) and I look at and struggle to think up any given scenario when such knowledge would be required or applied?

The question first arose when my 12 yr old son and I were looking at long multiplication in his work book. Ok, we have this mastered and he is really rather good. Multiplication is a handy skill to have, one day he may find himself without a calculator and it is kind of one of those core things that will probably come up any number of times in his future…… But then came the long multiplication with decimal points. I found myself looking online to teach myself this skill so that I would be better able to support his learning of it. Thats a wonderful thing right there about home education though, I dont have to know it all or be a teacher, there is nothing stopping me working and learning alongside the children. But anyway, I sat and figured it out, and then went through it with him and was quite chuffed at our progress until the question arose; ” Have you EVER needed this?” and the honest answer was no. I have had access to calculators and have managed all my financial matters including self assessment forms, spread sheets etc without requiring this skill. So why did I stress over it? Why did I not just say “oh dont worry son, we can return to that *IF* we ever need to”  ?

We have since come up against a page regarding “powers of”. Simplifying and calculating sums with the power of which frankly confused all of us. This is what caused my husband to even speak out “I cant think of one example of when this might ever really be needed” so why teach it? Why are our children put under pressure to learn this when as adults none of us have a clue because we dont need to know it!

Needless to say that this is a page we will be skipping to enjoy some time in the park in the sunshine with friends instead.







Are social, academic, physical and emotional needs being met? In a word, Yes!

I dont get it at all. Anyone who is interested, who wants to know, can do a huge amount of reading and research into home ed. The information is literally there at your finger tips! Perhaps in previous decades it wasnt, and so it may have been far easier to have concerns and opinions about that all important socialisation, perhaps in previous decades without the ease of internet access pulling communities together it may have actually been more of an issue, but now? Well if you are able to access social media enough to write posts commenting on the social, emotional and intellectual abilities of home ed children, if you “care” enough to go to the effort of commenting on a post regarding these topics on social media, then you are sure enough capable enough of doing a little bit of research in the matter first!

Firstly, what makes people think that socialisation happens at school? Seriously, in all the years that my daughter was at school, and when I was at school for that matter, the teachers constantly complained about chatter. At one point a teacher did actually tell my daughter that she was at school to learn and not to socialise!? Spending 6 hours a day in a group of children your own age who you have no say in is not socialisation, it is forced association. I have visited schools where the play grounds are sectioned off per year group or where break times are staggered so children get no opportunity to mix with those of other ages, when naturally children would learn from older children. What do children gain from spending all their time with those of the same age? What are they learning from their peers in this situation?

I have sat and watched my 2 year old observe the bigger boys on the gymnastics equipment. He has learnt to climb on, jump off and do a forward roll on the crash mat. I know that he did not learn that by attending groups full of children his own age who walk around snatching toys from each other and wanting their parents company all the time. I know this because I have also attended those groups, and there was not much for him to learn there that he was unable to gain from groups with a wide mixed age range. I know them my 2 year old has the confidence to walk across the adventure playground on his own and join the 5,6,7 year old playing on the trampoline, and I know that with these children all being home educated they will be ok with him joining them. They will automatically adjust what they are doing to make it safe for him to join them.

When my 12 yr old was playing a game of IT and he banged his head and fell over, the other children did not laugh at him, they did not make fun of his tears and they did not carry on the game without him. Some stayed with him, others came to fetch me. One was happy to run to first aid to request a cold compress, all were concerned. When he came indoors for some quiet time the rest did not carry on regardless with only one friend allowed to accompany him as would have happened at school, they were all able to come inside, spend some time with him doing quieter activities until he felt up to running and continuing their game. As young people they were allowed to make the choice about how they would best look after their friend and make him feel better. How is that not socialisation?

When we have weeks when it is nearly impossible to pin down a free day to get things done at home? When even when you are at home your children are doing work alongside others via facetime etc ?  When you know that your children are mixing with people literally all ages and backgrounds and gaining such valuable life and work experience it is so frustrating to read once again that someone believe that home education does not provide what they need.

Academically, children are able to learn at their own pace what they are interested in, in a way that works for them. I suppose to many outsiders looking in this may appear to be “not alot”… but I know many children who have never been to school, who have never been formally taught who are brilliant readers. Children learn, they are naturally curious and inquisitive. Home education nurtures that. It is amazing how much a child can pick up through 1-1 conversation that they are engaged and interested in. Of course if more formal academic work is what you are after that isnt off limits to home educated children either. Many groups run workshops, hire tutors and the children can even sit exams if they wish to!… at no set fixed age either, the regular school rules do not apply. So some home educated young people will be sitting their GCSEs while school aged peers will be working on their yr 9 SATs. A large number of home educated young people secure university placements and go on to be very successful in their chosen areas. Being home educated does not stand in their way of achieving higher qualifications. It is safe to say that home education can and in most cases does provide fully for a child’s academic needs.

Bare in mind that there are a huge number of unemployed, uneducated adults around who did attend mainstream school, the success rate of the education system is not exactly 100% in itself, and those doubting their ability to provide a suitable standard of education for their own children, did they not attend a mainstream school which has left them feeling this way? Those people who post online with their negative, unfounded and incorrect views and “opinions”, I am willing to bet they attended a mainstream education which has also left them incapable of researching before they speak.

Physical needs, emotional needs? I have seen comments that mainstream school addresses and meets these needs in ways that home education cant. I must admit, at this point I found it all rather laughable. When you have witnessed the way that school has sucked the spirit and drive out of a young child, when you see your son adamant that he cant do something he once loved because teachers had told him he wasnt good enough at it…… Once you have spent time as a family trying to repair some of the damage and negative associations, the anxiety, caused by the school environment you really begin to question how much do schools really address and meet the emotional and physical needs of the hundreds of children who attend? When each child is so unique, with their own personality, strengths, weaknesses and needs?  I have watched many a school sports day, and have seen children sitting on the grass in the sun, unshaded, getting up to run a race and then sit back down again with no stretching or warming up. I have heard and been amongst mothers complaining of this!  I have attended school meetings requesting referrals for counselling for a child who has resorted to self harming as a direct result of bullying, only to be informed of how long the waiting list for this school provided service is. I have spoken to many parents and met many children who have experienced a similar lack of support, whose children have been failed again and again either due to bullying, or lack of provision for SEN, or generally just not being the teachers star pupil.

My children have learnt to ski, to ice skate, to climb…… they swim well, they have plenty of time to run around with friends. They learn to cook healthy and tasty family meals, they learn life skills around the house including maintenance, decorating and car care as well as general laundry, hoovering, clearing out a filter etc…. Their physical needs are more than catered for.

Its beyond sad, its tragic, that despite this, despite how much the education system and all its flaws has been spread across the media, despite the fact that it is perfectly simple to do a spot of research into worldwide education league tables and see for oneself how poorly our country really is achieving, there are still people who take to social media, or who see fit to comment on a families personal choice to home educate and outright say (not even imply) that the children will fail to grow up and do well. It is sickening in my opinion that actually there are home educated children out there, who have been told themselves by family members that if their mums dont send them to school they wont be able to get a job and will be homeless when they grow up?! What sort of mainstream school attendance teaches someone that THAT is an ok and appropriate thing to say to a child under any circumstances? Are there no unemployed and homeless people on the streets who attended mainstream school as children? Go out and spend some time chatting to them and find out!

I am proud, I am satisfied that my children are growing up and learning well. They are happy and healthy and open minded and accept people are different. They respect other peoples views and beliefs even if they do not share them, and are able to have some brilliant and thought provoking “adult” conversations (in between crazy games of IT, football and computer games.)



Spring into Spring

February has passed, we are into March. Preparations for a new arrival are well under way with the realisation that actually the new addition to the family could very possibly arrive this month. I am trying to get some rest between the busy trips and schedule that comes with home education in the spring.

We have experienced days out to Duxford IWM, HMS Belfast and London sealife. We have made cakes, watched films and documentaries and continue to enjoy the Further back in time for dinner series. We discovered which allowed us to view live webcams dotted around south African reserves and we enjoyed spotting Elephants, Wilderbeast, Crocodiles and Hippos. We have been having fun attending our social meets at adventure playgrounds and the older children have been attending a teen home ed group run by youth connexions where they completed AQA unit award in alcohol awareness. They also started climbing as part of the NICAS again.

Small has started looking at letters and numbers as he has began to show an interest in these. He also enjoyed mixing cake mix, helping to make pancake batter and playing with his kinetic sand. He is now completely out of nappies, no nappies for about 5 weeks now and is doing brilliantly, even managing to get through a whole day out in London with no accidents.

We celebrated pancake day / shrove Tuesday and did some research into why we eat pancakes and what shrove Tuesday is all about. It also led us to discover what determines when Easter is.

J continues to work on practising his drawing and A is working on several online courses including exploring cancer medicines, living with disabilities, Spanish and Shakespeare. So a wide variety! Both completed a 6 week photography course and enjoyed it so I have contacted another photographer and will be moving forward with more photography and further lessons in film, editing and photography. Both older children will also be taking a course of ice skating lessons starting this month. I look forward to watching their progress in these areas.