(About Tom)





Home School, our way.

Home Education in the UK 2003-2018 was/is a rare paperwork free zone. If you never start school you don't have to register, there are no regulations or requirements. There is very little research into how to do it. Which kind of means you have to make it up, you have to be creative, it is almost by definition an artwork.

Every family does it differently, depending on the child's nature, parental preference/abilities, family resources and the nature of the local community. What follows is  our home school path, maybe its useful to know how it might be done, or be useful to people for cherry picking ideas. 

We home schooled 2 sons. We started because our older son hated Year 1 at primary school. He didn't like wearing a uniform, he didn't like having to sit still for hours, he didn't like the way teachers talked to him, he couldn't take a toy with him, he didn't like the gold stars they kept trying to stick on him, and he didn't like being forced to call what he knew was orange 'red', or turquoise 'green'. Forcing children to call any colour vaguely red, red, and then move on, is teaching visual laziness - teaching children not to look. So we decided to home school, and began trying to work out how to do it.

It's obvious that school is not fit for purpose. It was invented at the beginning of the industrial revolution for the creation of an industrial society. In this post industrial era schools are preparing kids for jobs and a society that does not exist, while destroying kids initiative and creativity which will be key to life in the emerging new world order trying to cope with robots and AI. The questions for parents are, can they do a worse job at educating their children than schools, and can they make time?

At first we tried teaching curriculumy type information, but it felt uncomfortable so we gave it up. Instead we looked at what the kids wanted to do and enabled it to happen. When they showed an interest in rock climbing I learnt how to belay, if they wanted to do animation I worked out the camera, computer and software systems, learnt how to use them, did a quick demo and left them to get on with it. If they looked lost we'd look at what they had done and then help them imagine what they might like to do next.

I liked the idea of them experiencing different learning routes - trial and error, searching the internet, watching docs on TV, watching demonstrations, going to clubs/workshops to experience group learning. I think its called 'autonomous learning'. The idea is that a child learns quicker and better if they are interested in something, than if they don't like it or the way it is taught. They learn to find out what they want and how to do it, they get used to doing what they want.

From about the age of 7 I showed them how to use Photoshop and animation programs, I wanted them to use computers as tools before they got used to them as toys. If they started playing video games I assumed that meant reality was boring them and put a bit of extra effort into helping them think of things they'd like to do. It was good that we could get them to use grown up tools as soon as they were ready - the internet, bodging tools, sharp knives, welders, paint and cartridge paper, because getting satisfying results out of 'kids' materials is really hard. A professional illustrater is going to have a hard time painting a picture with redicolor paint on printer paper using a cheap brush, it is almost impossible.  

Around age 13, they'd learnt everything from me they were interested in so I began to feel a bit redundent. Kids clubs were too basic and they were only reluctantly accepted into adult workshops if I was there to mind them. But a few (expensive) adult workshops in things like green woodwork or ceramics went a long way. They discovered that a lot of experts and graduates put films online explaining the hows and whys of making stuff. By the time they were 14 I was asking them to help me with my work. They picked up things like virtual 3D modelling, games design, virtual reality world making, and after effects, effortlessly online, so everything kind of worked out OK in that learning went on beyond my ability to 'teach', all the best films, virtual models and AR on this www. are made by the kids.

They both wanted to go to the local art college at 16 to do 6th form level 3 diplomas, to be in roomfuls of people making creative stuff. These courses say you need 4 GCSEs, but after interview they said 'don't worry, you'll just need to get your GCSEs in Maths and English Language retake classes while here in order to get your diploma'. I've heard this from other people as well, home schooled kids are popular at many colleges and universities, so they try find ways round the exam hurdles. If you never took a GCSE, you never failed it! They both got distinctions, seemed to get along OK with other students, and had a nice time.

Our older son did weekly online maths sessions for a year, we asked the recently graduated mathematician to do any maths that interested him and our son. I think they did computer algorithymy stuff. The result was that he enjoyed maths and when he did do GCSE at college he A'd it first time. He did struggle with the English GCSE but eventually passed it. His writing seems fine now.

Our younger son wanted to take his English and Maths GCSEs before starting college so as not to have to do re-takes at college. So I had to look at the English curriculum. The information is laid out in a way which is visually really hard to read, while the texts you have to read/assess are 100 year old classics - clunky, with small point size, no line spaces between indented long paragraphs. The morality described in them is weird - child beatings, hunting and empire. I was irritated he felt he had to study it. I told him I wouldn't bother, but he didn't listen to me.

For me it's been great fun - its having a second chance to learn lots of stuff, and it fed directly into my work. Having to focus on child learning meant I devised painting and animation workshops that I then taught at schools and art clubs. It has improved my own painting. To teach a workshop in action painting or grid enlargement you have to think hard about what is really important, how it works or why it doesn't. Following the kid's interest in green woodwork meant that I had to learn it myself - you can't give a 9 year old a drawknife (8inch razor shape blade) without knowing how its used.

To usefully enable or suggest direction to the kids, I had to work out what they were finding of interest, so I had to try and look at everything again through their eyes, and ways of looking my partner had introduced them to. A pond was not just a pond to casually walk passed, it had frogs, newts dragon fly larvae and was rammed full of drama. A tree wasn't something I might cut down for firewood or looked nice, it was a potential climbing frame, leaf galls to make ink out of, or home of strange looking insects. It was a great eye re-opening experience, but temporary, now the kids are gone trees are starting to look a lot like chairs or firewood again.

I loved bed time stories. Children's literature is so much better now than in the '70s, such smooth reads with brilliant storylines, Phillip Reeve, Michele Paver, Philip Ridley and loads more. I am so glad I got 10 years of reading in.

Schools are paid between �6000-�8000/year/pupil. If home school families were paid that, I'm guessing everyone could afford to home school. What helped us afford to do it was because as part time workers we got working family tax credits. I always saw them as my home education payment. The tax payer still got a bargain because we didn't get as much child/tax credits as schools would have been paid.

If you've read this far you're probably interested in home schooling your kids. Ours is probably extreme art school home ed. I've come across other families specialising in everything from maths to music with similar results. Some families seem to follow school curriculums and do it very well. Good luck and enjoy.

If however you are researching in order to devise and introduce legislation to this paperwork free zone, get another job. Obviously governments try to impose order and paperwork, but I really don't think they have the staff or brain power anymore. The ignorant legislation they present every 5 years  or so inevitably outrages and unites the entire home ed community, which is an achievement because it includes religious fundamentalists, autonomous educationalists, famlies that follow school curriculums, excluded school kids with special needs, and of course the royal family. Till now regulation attempts have been thwarted because people united are quite hard to defeat.

I haven't attempted precise carbon footprint accounting, but I assume the environmental impact of keeping our house heated, lit, and resourced during 'school' hours is a fraction of what it costs to run a child's share of a school and associated infrastructure. Of all my DIY/experimental environmental enterprises/artworks, the cost analysis, social benefit, and eco gains of home school have been the most effective. It has been cheaper for society than the industrial alternative, a smaller carbon footprint, unmissable fun, and a better result. You can check out this claim by taking a look at the work my kids have put online -