15 May 2020

'We've been home schooling for five years'

Darren McMorran, former teacher, UEA Outreach Officer and father of three, has been home schooling for five years. He shares his family's story.

Darren and his family

We considered home school for our three children from an early age. We felt inspired by other home schooling families and liked the idea of stepping out of the ‘rat race’. Initially sending our children to school was fine, but we did experience some issues, and often our children didn’t want to return to school after holidays. So we began questioning traditional schooling and started thinking about how we could teach them through creativity, self-expression and play, and by avoiding school rules and sitting in classrooms. And, eventually, we decided to go for it!

For my family, home schooling was a life choice. It will not suit all families – and there are downsides. It can be intense and hard work, and our household income has been halved. But the upsides are plentiful. Everyone feels a greater sense of independence, self-fulfilment, wellbeing and happiness. And we have lots of shared family stories to tell.

Our home schooling approach is adaptable. During lockdown we’ve raised money for the NHS by running 5km, made protective face masks and played live music on our drive during the weekly applause for key workers. We’ve also explored our local area and found learning opportunities within a couple of miles of our house we never knew existed. 

Reflecting on our home schooling experiences, my children are very candid. When I asked Rufus, who’s 10 years old, he said: ‘Home schooling means freedom and time to learn about the things that interest me. I also like spending more time with my family.’ Florence, fifteen, said: ‘I get the sleep and rest I need to concentrate. I take breaks when I need to which helps me process ideas and facts.’ And Roddy, thirteen, added: ‘Home schooling gives more time to practise personal skills and interests. I choose to devote more time to playing guitar and composing songs.’

I hope many families throughout the UK have found home schooling a positive experience, even though it was forced upon them at short notice. From our shared experiences, I hope we can make improvements to the way we learn and live in the future. Most families will have discovered more about their local communities, become more resourceful and lived more sustainably. That must be a positive thing as we move out of lockdown.

Ideally I would like every family to have the choice to home school their children. Perhaps with more help and incentives from government this could be a reality for more parents. Maybe when our government finds the reduction in millions of daily school journeys during lockdown has massively helped air pollution targets they may conclude investing in home schooling is worthwhile. They may even feel that funding home schooling is one solution to reducing large class sizes in schools. 

Are these lockdown lessons we can all learn from? I hope all our home schooling experiences will inspire positive change.