'My son's learning is tailor-made for him'

The Brett family
Mum-of-four Kate Brett, from the Isle of Wight, explains why she decided to home educate her visually impaired son, Jacob.
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Kate Brett started to home educate her son Jacob nine months ago. Jacob is severely sight impaired but had been in a mainstream primary school.

'I thought home education would be a battle, but lots of us are doing it'

'Although Jacob went to a fantastic school with brilliant teachers, it was always a battle to get the support he needed. Everyone was trying their hardest, but it wasn’t a special school and there were 30 other kids in the class all needing to share the teacher's attention. Jacob has been severely sight impaired from birth, and he uses Braille, computers and other equipment to learn. He was spending most of his time trying to complete the task rather than taking in the information.

'When the school started talking about SATs, it was the final straw and we took Jacob out at the beginning of Year 5. I thought home education would be a battle, but then I realised many families do it on the Isle of Wight. I asked lots of questions, went to meet-ups and gatherings and then took the plunge.

'I can give him the space and time he needs'

'There are so many positives to home educating. Instead of wedging a square peg into a round hole, we have created a square hole for Jacob. I know him better than anyone else and I am now able to give him the time and space he needs. I’ve been able to create a tailor-made package for him, and learning is more relaxed. If he doesn’t understand something, we can take longer and he thrives on that.

'At school, Jacob was constantly comparing himself to others, and got upset about things like not being able to kick a ball. Now he has the confidence to do the best he can. His attitude to life has completely changed: he's focused on what he can do in the future, not what he can’t do at school.

'Jacob’s natural instinct to learn has also evolved. I refer to the National Curriculum to see what topics other children are learning about, but instead of sitting and learning about what happens at a farm, we visit one. That’s how he learns best.

'Home education has developed into a whole family experience. We incorporate a lot of learning into day-to-day living – so instead of learning fractions on paper, we divide pizza and cake. When we go shopping Jacob adds up the food bill, deals with the money and works out the best deals.

'We're going to home educate our other two children, too'

'I quickly realised that missing out on social contact wasn't going to be a concern. Quite the opposite; there are so many meet-ups that some days, we look forward to staying at home. Being with your child all day every day can be tiring, but it's manageable with good support from your partner or family. And we really enjoy our time because it isn’t limited. Before, Jacob would get home from school and it would be homework, then bath and bed with lots of arguments and upsets.

'Our eldest daughter, Charlotte, is 14 and doing her GCSEs at school, but Jacob’s brother, Thomas, was due to start school in September but we’ve decided to home educate him too. And Alexander, who is two, will eventually be home educated too. Home education is a life-changing plunge, but it's amazing to see what you can achieve.'

Jacob says: 'At school, I didn’t like sitting in the corner with my computer on my own. I’ve liked learning about the Romans the best so far. We went to visit a Roman villa. Going to groups is really good, because now I have loads of friends of different ages, not just the same age as me.'