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'I'm home educating my children to save on school fees'

Louisa Barnieh and family
For families living overseas, home education can be an alternative to formal schooling. One family explains why they decided to teach their children at home.

Louisa Barnieh and her husband Herbie live in Qatar with their two children, Micaiah James (MJ), seven, and Michaela Rose, three. Louisa told us what it's like to home educate a child while living in an ex-pat community.

'The schools here are ridiculously expensive'

'We’ve lived in Doha, Qatar, for four years and before that, we lived in Bahrain. We moved here for Herbie's work: he's a civil engineer working on the 2020 World Cup infrastructure. The Middle East is the place my kids call home.

'MJ should be in Year 3. He used to go to a British-curriculum private school, but I found that the majority of the schools where we live now are first and foremost businesses. They are ridiculously expensive, especially those with a British curriculum. When we made up our minds to move back home to UK next year, I left my job as a hotel account manager to home educate the kids and save money on school fees.

'Naturally, we were anxious about taking MJ out of school, but the transition wasn’t too bad as we've always done work together at the weekends. In the beginning, I copied the school timetable, and I think that helped, too.

'Home education packages make things easier'

'A typical day here starts with me waking up extra-early to have some me-time and get myself ready. Our school day then starts at 8am and finishes at 1.50pm. We follow the English National Curriculum, and I bought a home education package from Wolsey Hall Oxford (a home education college), which is excellent and has made home education easier. It wasn’t easy finding inclusive home education packages that follow the English curriculum; there are plenty for the US, but my husband insisted on a UK curriculum, so I'm glad we were able to find such a good one. We also use Collins Literacy material and other online resources.

'While MJ is doing his work independently, I get a chance to do some phonics and number work with Michaela. We work using a timetable to cover literacy, maths and science. When it’s time for art, I usually incorporate something the kids can do at the same time.

'We can create our own curriculum'

'The main benefit of home education is that our children get one-to one attention with their learning, and I have more time with them. I like the fact we can create our own curriculum by adding in other things besides the core subjects. In our case, we have devotion time, learn about Black history, play with LEGO and look at what's in the news: we go online to CBBC's Newsround, and MJ writes his account of what he's watched and reads it to his dad when he gets home.

'The downside is that the kids are missing out on the social aspect of school, although we make tons of time for playdates in the afternoon and at the weekend. I was going to join a local home education group, but once we got settled into our own routine, I decided to just continue as we are. I’ve also had thoughts about home education blogging.

'Home education doesn't leave much time for me to be alone or rest, but my husband has assured me that once we're back home in UK and have the children settled into their new schools, it'll be dates nights all-round. We shall see!'

MJ says: 'I like homeschool because I get to be with my mum and some of the lessons we do are super-fun.'

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