child led or structured?

As we are about to start out on our HE journey I wondered if anyone had any advice for someone freaking out now that its 'real'. We are going for a more scheduled approach as thats what I believe to be best for our family. I will be mixing it up a bit and going to museums and having a certain degree of freedom. We started with some small bits of the basics yesterday and today and I had some issues with helping my son with his maths,which I am crap at.What do you do in this kind of situation? It has put me on a bit of a downer and making me worry. Any words of wisdom or just plain encouragement would be greatly appreciated!!! thank you


Hi Caz,

Don't worry too much. Just let your son help you with day to day Maths. You know, ask him to weigh and measure and calculate how much you're going to have to pay. Perhaps give him the money and ask him to check the change. All the things we have to do with Maths every day, not those useless extras that the school throws at children.

Relax and be with your son doing ordinary stuff. You'll be fine.
Children learn whatever you do or don't do, and, if they want to know more, they question you or other people.



How old is your son and what sort of maths were you tackling?

Problem solving and learning together are all part and parcel of home ed, so don't panic when you get stuck with something (we all get stuck sometimes), just find out how to solve it using the internet or the tongue in your head to ask someone more au fait with the subject. You will find most people very willing to help.

My eldest did advanced maths, which was way beyond me, but there was always someone to ask how to tackle a particular stumbling block and I learned a lot myself in the process. I even discovered that trigonometry actually had a point, something which had eluded me during the six years of tedium I spent in my secondary school maths classes.

When it came to IT, I really struggled to keep up with my son who started messing about with computers at the age of seven and had left all of us well behind by the time he was eight. All he needed was for us to provide the resources and he always had a list of needs and wants (books, software, hardware) to help further his knowledge. When he was about 10, he found himself an online mentor (a professor at Atlanta University) who encouraged him to pursue his interest in network security and hacking. He is now doing it for a living part time while completing his degree.

What I'm trying to say is that you don't need to know more than your child about every subject; rather your role is to provide the necessary resources and enlist some help if you need it from other people, including friends, family and members of the wider community who are usually more than willing to share their knowledge, skills and expertise with someone who is interested in learning.

Try not to panic, think of the process as more about 'facilitating' rather than 'teaching' as in school, shout on the forums if you get stuck with a particular problem, and most importantly, enjoy the ride! :hug:

Elaine Kirk

Super Moderator
And don't forget we are never too old to learn. I have learnt so much through learning alongside daughter when she has taken an interest in a subject of which I knew little.
Thanks everyone! I was helping him with multiplication and struggling to explain it as he was taught a different way to me. It doesnt help matters that there's 3 other little people at the table all asking for my attention! Think its just 2nd day nerves! One thing my husband said was if he really needs the answer as an adult he can use a calculator! This is true but if he later on decides to sit GCSE maths then he will need to know how to work things out! Think I just need to chill a bit1 THanks everyone for your swift replies.x ps he is 11 and has cystic fibrosis, which is why we took him out of school, due to the lack of support. thanks again.x
Hi! One thing I've noticed is that many new home edders (particularly if their child was at school for a while) panic and try to impose a structure similar to school, through fear of 'falling behind'. I know I did! And I still panic at the beginning of every school term! There's nothing wrong with taking time out from formal lessons. Let him hang round with you, get him to help you with budgeting, planning the decorating of his room, weighing ingredients and so on. When you look back you'll surprise yourself with how much he's picked up without being taught a thing!

Hmm, maybe I should take my own advice, eh? :)
One idea is to have a period of deschooling.
So you put aside some time to just be and play, rather than focusing on education.
This can help everyone get used to being together, and it also helps give you some experience of child-led approach before you move on to more structured work. That way you are better able to pick your own balance of child-led and parent-led.

Another thing to remenber is how little concentrated learning time an individual child gets in school - take away breaks, settling down in class, teacher's attention divided between 30 pupils.

It can also be useful to to keep a diary for yourself - listing what you have done. And maybe list it's academic outcomes. So cookery - measuring, division, chemistry etc.
Over a period of time you can then see what you are doing together spontaneously and then see if you think areas need to be more adult-led or whether you are actually covering the material anyway without being aware of it.
It can also give you an idea of what your child actually already knows and what gaps there are.

Maths is an interesting area - there is some evidence to suggest that children's mental maths can be way ahead of written maths. That although a child may be able to do a sum in his head as soon as it becomes a written question it becomes much harder.


You're not alone!

I too had a panic the first week that I should follow school structure and was failing, however my son started asking questions that means we are much more child led as I run with his interests first then go back to text books again for prompting. I realise that in a school setting his questions would probably have gone unanswered. Great advice from the experienced home eds, Thanks. Karen


We set my two a chapter of a science book to read and about four questions to answer on the first day of home schooling. My youngest, about nine at the time, looked up at me and said, "I didn't come out of school just to answer questions."

That brought me out of my school of thought and ever after we have been autonomous home educators (and that includes me as well).



Thanks for the question, Caz. It only bugs me when I give in to that schooled impulse to seek affirmation of my own whatever...worth? success? sadly I still often confuse the two!! (I got a lot of certificates at school: not the best way to teach someone how to value their self-worth)

Now we please ourselves. If we feel that we've achieved something, we decide how we'd like to celebrate it. Sometimes we celebrate what seems to be the smallest thing, and the biggies go by almost unnoticed.

I've started looking at areas that we could cover, especially in terms of a chosen curriculum, and then set out to find ways to incorporate individual interests. For instance: the boys love Buzz, so we travel to loads of different planets, in our galaxy and in other universes (discovered by our imaginary space probe and Wall-E)...this isn't study at all, this is discovery. Our learning experience is all play, even listening to a story is dramatic; we all play different parts. They learn all the time, and it helps when I stop to remind myself that they are their own best teachers. I often discover that they've remembered and understood things that I mentioned with absolutely no intention to educate, things said in passing, bits of information gathered along the way.
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Interesting point, Banshee. The thing is that, when we receive certificates etc. from 'outside', I think it damages the intrinsic motivation that we have.

I watched two children (my great niece and nephew) build a castle, forts and nearly a whole town on a nearby beach yesterday. No one offered them a medal or commented other than generally on their constructions, yet their faces were aglow with the light of achievement.

Those children didn't need the outside world's approval of what they had created, they were happy in the creation and didn't need an acknowledgement from outside 'authority'. How often we take away from people's achievements...



Well-known member
Like mentioned before at first you do panic and think 'oh my god I need structure' but you will settle into your own way of doing things together.
To outsiders it probably looks like we do very little, but both of my kids have a great appettite for knowledge, we have lots of conversations about stuff. It could be something they have heard or read and ask about it, one question can trigger off a couple of hours internet researching! Kids soak up knowledge like sponges and just everyday living will provide them with lots of it.

I signed mine up to Mathletics to help them with maths. it has proved to be hit and they think it's fun. If you use the code HOMEED2010 you get a years subscription for £10.
Thanks everyone! what would I do without you all. I think one of the things I have picked up on know is de-schooling. I believe we should try de-schooling as we do need to get use to being togrther all the time. I am sure I am not the only one with 4 children being HE'd but it does make it tricky when I try and share myself between them. Anyway, as usual, a great response from you all and I am very grateful.:grouphug:


Thanks everyone! what would I do without you all. I think one of the things I have picked up on know is de-schooling. I believe we should try de-schooling as we do need to get use to being togrther all the time. I am sure I am not the only one with 4 children being HE'd but it does make it tricky when I try and share myself between them. Anyway, as usual, a great response from you all and I am very grateful.:grouphug:
Just imagine what it is like with 26 extra children!!! Think conveyor belt....manufacturing....

I have three, and although we started out doing the same stuff, they have started developing their own interests. Granted, it is very hard trying to get plates spinning with all three, but when I analysed the situation,I realised I was trying to conform to a school-type deadline, and was getting frustrated by the lack of time I had.

It may be a fortnight (*cough* to a month :biggrin1: ) between recorder lessons, but when I do have a session with my youngest, I pull my guitar out and we have a jam session for a while. She then goes off and practices on her own.

One is making a dress from a pattern. I know they can be put together in a week, but it's taking far, far longer.

The third is making a bird table and that's taking ages too!
It is not the hours; it’s the minutes that count

In a school scenario a child may get less than ten minutes a week of interaction with the so called teacher.

In a typical school scenario 'if' a child asks a question then a functional response is invoked. It is the function of the teacher to answer quickly and move on with the pre-determined, syllabus-driven ‘lesson’ for all.

“If the child asks a question”: many do not. They may lack the verbal ability, the self assurance or not risk the possibility of looking dumb in the face of peer-group pressure.

Home educated children ask more questions; why, because they get answers and most often more than just answers. Questions develop into conversations, explore the how and why and what-ifs. There is no imperative for slick answers to get back to a class syllabus.

Home Educated questions become engaging, motivational and stimulating dialogues, frequently exploring far beyond the realms of the seemingly simple query. They open a mind-to-mind gateway from student to facilitator. The question can become a running touchstone over days or weeks, a path of exploration from the materialism of the answer to the philosophy of why. A path that may stimulate a lifelong interest or light-up a passion.

It’s the minutes that count.


This forum works in much the same way with the diverse and interesting responses to questions. Try asking a teacher and see how well thought-out the response is (not)

Teachers don’t have time for afterthoughts or the ability to change the curriculum to run with a single interest point. Home Education facilitators do it naturally. (good slogan for a tee-shirt)
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Absolutely, Spartacus. It's called purposive conversation sometimes. Dr. Alan Thomas writes about it and says that it's one of the most effective types of learning there is.

You (as a home educating parent) are a veritable mine of information so your children will 'dig' you!

Yes, deschooling is so necessary. Don't forget any child who has been in school has been resident in an institution that degrades and denigrates them as individuals. It's hard to just emerge from all that without needing a breather.

Thanks all. Diane, do you have any advice on de-schooling and how it works for you? Or anyone else for that matter!I would really love some tips on how you went about it. Changing the subject- today 3 out of my four decided they wanted to do 'work'! Its sunday and I decided we would have weekends off but it just shows you that children learn when they want to!There is no time that that just do it, it comes naturally. I think I might need several examples of these revelations before it really sinks in!! Also, today we watched CBBC's Deadly 60 which we all adore- this led to many questions, some of the answers I knew and some my 8yr old did and we googled the rest. I am kind of thinking that we are heading in an ok direction with you guys helping us along the way!!1 thanks again all, I really mean it.x:becky:
I am not Spartacus and I am not a manj

Sending children to school is like caging a wild animal. Taking it away from its natural place. Everyone hates the way that wild animals are trained in circus to perform tricks. Why send children to school?! Exams are just tricks. It is my brain and I want to keep it.Yes you really should not turn it like its sending them to school. Sending them to school will help them to not learn as well as they can when they are home educated.
Spartacus is really my dady.
He is Patrick and I am Ayaka. I have my own email too. I can do many things like this. In 3 months I will get to six . but i like being five for ever. Its my favourite number and I am already tall enough