Elijah's experience of home education
Elijah (5) struggled at pre-school so his parents decided to take a different path and home educate him.
Rachael was at the end of her tether after picking her son Elijah up from pre-school and finding his hearing aid batteries had run out again. Unfortunately none of the staff seemed to have noticed.
This was just one of the problems Rachael had faced after sending Elijah, who is moderately deaf and has worn hearing aids since six weeks old, to a mainstream pre-school. “He was being excluded from some of the activities as staff said he wasn’t following instructions but I hadn’t had this problem outside of pre-school,” Rachael says. “After some discussion I went to observe and found that some of the staff weren’t following the deaf awareness training they’d received, such as getting his attention before speaking and sitting him in a position that he could lip-read. Then when Elijah got his radio aid, the staff all had training but they weren’t using it correctly.”
Until this point Rachael hadn’t been phased by Elijah’s deafness. She admits it was ‘a bit of a shock’ when he was diagnosed as deaf at just five days old at his newborn hearing screening. But after attending one of our newly diagnosed weekends and joining her local deaf toddler group, she met other families and began to feel confident in her son’s abilities.
But after her bad experience with pre-school, Rachael worried about spending all of Elijah’s education having to fight for his rights so she and husband Dan decided to investigate a different route. “I hadn’t really thought about home educating to be honest but I didn’t want the struggle I’d had with the pre-school throughout his education,” Rachael explains.
"He gets excited about learning."
Rachael got in touch with her local home education groups, which she found through a search on Facebook. To Rachael’s surprise, there were over 75 other families home educating in her area. Although none of the children she has met are deaf, they all had their own unique reasons for choosing home education, including special educational needs such as autism, lack of school places and bullying.
Now she has been home educating Elijah since September, when he would have gone to school. “We do about three hours’ structured work a day that’s split into three one-hour chunks,” Rachael says. “We have a more formal setup of home educating; other families I’ve met have different home educating strategies and the children are all learning and thriving. It’s what works best for both the child and parents.
“There’s so much out there on the internet to help. You can download the national curriculum online and I went on the Book People’s website and bought some fantastic books and work sheets. I also have a Twinkl subscription; they give a discount to home educators, and you can print off worksheets and lesson plans there.”
Another benefit of home educating for Rachael is that she can teach Elijah British Sign Language (BSL) as part of his formal education. “I did a family sign course for 10 weeks with Elijah when he was younger and then I bought some DVDs and books,” Rachael explains. “Elijah is great at speaking and at the moment we’re learning very basic BSL but as he gets older I’ll focus on it more and pay for him to do the exams. That will set him up for life.”
"I didn’t want the struggle I’d had with the pre-school throughout his education."
Elijah regularly mixes with other home educated children through the Facebook groups Rachael joined. With them he attends gymnastics, swimming and Forest School every week. They also still attend their local deaf group and believe it’s important he mixes with deaf children too. With all this in place Elijah is thriving. “He loves sitting down and doing activities; he loves to learn and is like a little sponge. He’s a pleasure to teach,” Rachael says.
Another positive for Rachael is that she can teach Elijah at his own pace. “One of the good things about home education is I can whizz away with his maths whereas we can take more time with phonics,” she explains.
The only problem the family have encountered with home educating so far is that there is no financial funding available. “The radio aid he had in preschool would have been continued if we’d gone into education,” Rachael explains. “I had to fundraise to get a radio aid for Elijah as they cost a lot of money but we couldn’t live without it, for safety out and about as well as the educational and social benefits.”
Now Rachael has said she’ll continue home educating Elijah and will do the same with her daughter Jess (2), who is hearing. “I’ve seen so many benefits – being able to work to their strengths and still being able to develop other skills at the same time,” Rachael says. “Elijah’s gaining confidence and he gets excited about learning because he can hear what I’m teaching him.”
Rachael’s advice for parents thinking about home educating is to join the Home Education UK Facebook group. “There are so many parents who have reached this point from all walks of life that can answer your questions and concerns as we will have had most of them ourselves,” Rachael says. “You don’t need to be a qualified teacher to home educate. There’s so much support from other parents, social and sport groups and so many resources online or through your local library. It can cost as little or as much as you make it.”