What is it like to start up such a group?

When we first set up Happy Learners we had no goal or ‘agenda’ apart from setting up some sessions for the boys with other home educated children and then just watch and go with ‘what comes’ as long as the children were happy and healthy.  We continued from term to the next and over time Happy Learners just evolved into this happy, creative, fun and exciting home-educated group of children.

It has been wonderful to watch this happen and continue to see it evolve.

What advise would you give others about setting up a group like Happy Learners? 

Hhhmmmm, one just has to be passionate about what they are doing (like in anything) and believe in it.  Just as important (if not more) is the great relationship with the home ed friendly facilitators. At the end of it all, it is the facilitators that make it happen due to their relationship with the children and ability to engage with children in a nurturing, fun, relevant and engaging way.

Would you say it is easy once you have the right facilitators and a venue in place? 

The first year was a challenge as I was rather naïve as far as home education, so we had a few challenges but time is ‘teacher’ and now it is so much easier. But yes the key is the facilitators. We have a great venue, which provides not only a wonderful view of the beautiful River Thames but plenty of space for the children to enjoy and ‘spread out’ in.

How have your children benefited from Happy Learners? 

It is one of their favourite times of the week. They are so inspired by their sessions at Happy Learners that they spill out into the rest of the week and we just continue on from there.  They also feel part of a community and for some children it is important to feel safe amongst a group of peers as well as be inspired by them.  One of the main benefits of Happy Learners is the bond that the children have developed with such inspiring, caring, fun and respectful facilitators. The children trust and respect the facilitators and hopefully the children will grow with the facilitators…through their various stages in their growth and development.

What do you mean spill out into the rest of the week? 

Well for example, when my younger one began looking at animal habitations at Happy Learners he wanted to go out and investigate more in Richmond Park and in our garden and go to a wild life centre.  My older one has been so inspired by the Arts award sessions and generally loves challenges that he ended up drawing every night (well about 4-5 nights out of the 7)  for a whole ‘year’ due to the inspiration that came from Christy our art facilitator. He can sit and draw for 3-4 hrs! This was unheard of previously as he hated art at school.  So he would do this in the week and try and bring in as much art as possible into all his learning (very much his learning style). He also now loves History, which he also did not like at school. We bring art into everything we do from Maths through to Science.

Do you have a time-table that you follow and/or a curriculum? 

No, it does not work that way for us.  We use the internet, books, games, our local facilities such as the library, local book store, art shop, museums in London and out side, workshops etc as part of their learning journey. There is so much on as far as one off workshops or day trips for home educated children that we could be out everyday.

Do your children socialize with others?

This is a question which seems to have quite a few non-home educators ‘worried’. There is an image that home-educated children are sitting at a desk at home from 9am-3pm (school times chosen)…but this is far from the truth. My boys socialize with other children every day of the week apart from Mondays which tends to be our pyjama day. They ‘socialise’ with children from all age ranges from fellow home educated children to non home educated children. They socialise with adults too. They go ice skating, in door climbing, forest school, kayaking, canoe-ing, cycling with other home educators during a week day. It is rare to find us sitting at a desk at home doing ‘home education’. We do plenty of art in a mathematical way or ‘sciencey’ way or just plain art way…. ☺ which is usually at our dinning room table or living room floor!

What about their GCSEs or preparing them for University?

We will cross that bridge when it comes, but currently the older group at Happy Learners have asked for more sessions so they can eventually start looking at College entrance and/or GCSEs. Again we are sure that as the kids grow and develop this will all be considered….but the goal is that they all have a love for learning, enjoy each others company and know what they want, so when it comes to College entrance or Sixth Form or a ‘job’  etc, they have a solid love for what they want to do. Some home educated children are known to do GCSEs within 3-6 months and put it down to the fact that they are driven by what they want to do. So if they want to go into filming, they will look into what they are required to ‘have’ for filming and it is the passion that drives them.

Thames Side, Kingston upon Thames , KT1 1PX

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