The Arnold Family’s Experience of Homeschooling
Our family moved to Ethiopia in 1992 – myself, husband and our son Philip, then aged 20 months. We lived in Addis Ababa, the capital city, which has several English speaking schools. However in 1994 my husband got a new job working in a small town called Arba Minch, which was a 10-hour drive from the capital and didn’t have an English speaking school.
Before we accepted the job we had to give some thought to the schooling issue, as Philip was now four years old and coming up to the age to start Reception. Upon investigating homeschooling we were recommended WES. I came to the conclusion that although there would be disadvantages for Philip because of not attending a “real” school in that he would miss out socially, he would gain academically from the one-to-one tuition. Upon starting using the WES materials I was very impressed with both the quality of the materials and the tutorial back-up service. Even though I am a qualified primary school teacher I would not have contemplated going down the homeschool route without either of these. When one is living in a remote place it is great to have excellent quality books etc selected for you and sent out to you. Having a friendly tutor also meant that I had someone who I could ask advice from and have external accountability to. This was not only for my sake but so that Philip didn’t just feel he was having to do the work for me but that the tutor was keeping an eye on him too.
Where we were living was on the campus of a university. Shortly after we arrived, three other western families came who were also homeschooling. When school was finished for the day, the children used to all rush out to play together, tunnelling through the hedges into each other’s gardens. Soon we felt like a homeschooling community. Although we each stuck to our own country’s programmes for school, we did PE together. It wasn’t long before I came to the conclusion that homeschool was not just equal to “real” school, but certainly superior.
After our return to England in 1998, we were not sure which way to go regarding education for Philip (by now in Year 4). He went to our local primary school for a two-week trial. He settled in well academically and socially. At the end of the fortnight he said that he still wanted to be homeschooled as the primary school didn’t have time to do any of the fun stuff like history. We continued homeschooling him until the end of Year 6, and also our other two children Thomas and Lydia. This also meant that there was minimal transition for them during a house move from Birmingham to Lincoln in 2000. After our return to Britain, although there were no other homeschooling families which we knew, it meant that we were able to access activities for the children such as Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, swimming lessons, tennis, dancing classes – in fact any kind of activity that was good for their social skills and which could provide skills that I was not able to.
Philip started Secondary school at a large comprehensive school just north of Lincoln in 2001. He settled in very quickly and was academically ahead of his peers, coming top of his year in Maths. He made friends easily as he was already used to mixing with other children. He started at Loughborough University in September 2008, studying Automotive Engineering. Cars have always been his passion. When he was young he never drew pictures of houses, trees and people – it was always cars or machines. He is now extremely happy following his dream.
As for me, now that our youngest child Lydia has finished Year 6 in homeschool and has just started Secondary school, I am now on a Return to Teaching course. I am able to write about my fourteen years in homeschooling on job application forms. I personally have learnt a lot during my time homeschooling and feel it has enriched our family. I would not hesitate to make the same decisions again.