'We chose home education because the kids were unhappy at school'
All children go through the occasional rough patch at school, but what happens when their primary-school experience is making them miserable? Janice Broomfield, mum to Bethany, 11, Christian, nine, and Carla, five, explains why she decided to home educate her children when they ran into problems at school.
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'They were having panic attacks about school'
'I started home educating Bethany, Christian and Carla two terms ago after the school system failed them. All three have sensory processing disorders and Asperger syndrome. None of them understood their schoolwork, so they fell behind and then became frustrated. They had no friends and spent their time at school alone, which caused lots of tears and nightmares, with worries about what each next day would bring.
'When it got to the point where our children were having panic attacks and feeling severely anxious about school, my husband Chris and I asked them whether they would like to learn at home. They were keen to try, so we started to home educate.
'Lots of teaching can be done as a family'
'We've discovered our children learn best with visual cues, especially if I'm teaching them something new. I print and laminate visual aids such as fraction pieces to put together. We use story cubes to help their imagination, and I print worksheets the night before, which are stored in a tray ready for the next day. Each child has their own folder for their completed work and they each have a clipboard to take on our days out.
'We have a system where, for example, I will teach Bethany something new in maths whilst Christian and Carla continue doing work they are comfortable with whilst being supported by Chris, who gives them any little reminders they might need. Once Bethany is able to continue independently, I move on to Christian and start him with something new, then I move to Carla, then back to Bethany and so on.
'However, lots of teaching can be done as a family. When we visited the ruins of Beeston Castle in Cheshire as part of our history project, Bethany researched on her computer and then wrote about it. Christian did something similar but not as in-depth, and had quiz sheets about castles. Carla used worksheets where she would match up parts of the castle with their correct names and drew her own castle and designed a flag to go on top of it. Then all three children got together with a massive pile of Lego and built their own castle together, which encouraged teamwork and communication.
'We do most of our science projects this way, too. Together, we've made an erupting lemon volcano, non-Newtonian fluid and puffy 3D paint. We’ve hatched our own live tadpole shrimps, and watched our caterpillars turn into butterflies. We’re currently successfully growing a variety of fruit and veg.
'Our goal is to help them excel in what they love'
'One of the great things about home education is that nothing can hold our children back. Even though she's only 11, Bethany is completing GSCE-level English reading and writing at home and has an amazing talent for the piano, which is excellent therapy for her. Christian is computer coding and Carla recently put a circuit together without instructions. When we first started home educating, Carla couldn’t recite the alphabet, and now she can write and read. She has progressed a lot quicker than at school – we started from scratch with phonics, taking things slowly at her pace.
'Although both my husband and I home educate, it doesn’t have to be expensive once you get into the habit of asking for discounts. We love being able to visit places during school hours when hardly anybody is about. We’ve never socialised so much, and our children are slowly beginning to feel comfortable amongst others in a more natural way.
'Bethany, Christian and Carla are different children now. They’ve responded to learning at home in a very positive way, smiling, laughing and playing with each other. It allows Chris and I to give them personal support in a way we know they will understand. For the first time, they're asking me to give them more work.
'Our goal is to help our children excel in the things they love, support them in the areas they struggle with, encourage them to believe in themselves, to never give up on their dreams and to teach them the skills they need to prepare them for the world.'
Bethany says: 'I love home education. It’s shown me that learning can be really fun and different. I attend Aintree School Of Music once a week where I’m learning to play piano, and I want to be a famous musician when I’m older.'
Christian says: 'I love computer coding. I can do lots of coding at home now, and when I grow up, I’m going to code for the Government.'
Carla says: 'I love learning at home. I want to work really hard so when I grow up I can buy my own house and be an inventor.'