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Learn Free Conference Q&A

Last week, I did a talk on planning and review at the Learn Free conference (replays are still available if you sign up in the next few days!). Afterwards there was a Zoom Q&A which unfortunately didn’t get recorded. So this is my best attempt at writing up what we covered for those who missed it. Anyone who was there and remembers other comments, please do add them!

  • The benefits of planning. We liked having systems for lots of reasons, mostly that it helped us to feel more confident and settled, and less drifty, about the day ahead.
  • And flexibility was key. Everyone was prepared to alter the plans as needed.
  • Flexing according to the weather was popular – particularly in areas where sunny days are usually rare (like my Welsh mountainside!), most of us were happy to take some time off or spend more of it outside when the weather was good. Being able to move the plan around really helped here.
  • So did not putting too much on the plan in the first place. 4-day weeks, afternoons off, flexible breaks, and planned time for day trips (we have had a monthly family Day of Adventure) all helped make the most of our time in flexible ways.
  • Margin and realism was flagged up by many. In some seasons, it really does take two hours to get out of the house, and accepting that and working with it rather than fighting it makes life less stressful.
  • Different children liked different approaches, even within the same family. Some liked to have everything mapped out for the day. Some needed a parent sat alongside for moral support to do anything much. Some preferred a daily list but to choose what they did when. Some wanted a weekly list.
  • Spiral notebooks with daily assignments were working really well for one family.
  • We talked a little about making reports for the Local Authority, for those who needed to (many families who had always home educated did not have LA contact). Generally, I recommended that you kept this separate from your own planning and review (although your own reviews can be really helpful in input to a LA report). You need to be able to be open and not feel judged while you are considering things, so you feel able to be realistic about challenges and concerns as well as the positives. Also, you’re probably going to go into a lot more detail than the LA is really interested in. From their point of view, they want to know that you have thought about the education you’re providing, you have some way of knowing that progress is being made, and that your child has support and socialisation opportunities. So, you want to be able to show this in as simple a way as possible. Drawing examples of a few ways that you’ve seen progress or supported learning from over the last year can be helpful, but you don’t need to go into everything that you’ve done. Similarly, showing in broad strokes that you have an idea for how things will go next year (and ‘we will follow our child’s interests and help them find opportunities to learn in the best way for them’ may be as detailed as you can get) is useful, but detailed plans probably are not – not least because you want to allow yourself plenty of room for flexibility as your child and circumstances change.
  • You can provide this to the LA in any way that you choose. Some ask for questionnaires or home visits and that may be the simplest way to check the boxes and move on for everyone, but at present neither are required by law and you can simply write them a letter if you prefer. I would recommend starting with less information (mostly to save everyone time!) along the lines above – I’ve thought about this, they’re making progress, we are supported and see people – and adding something along the lines of ‘if you have any specific concerns that x may not be receiving a suitable education, please contact me so I can address them’.

Finally, if you do have any follow-up questions (either from watching the talk or reading on the blog), do ask in the comments below or contact me directly. There’s also a Facebook group (for conference attendees only) so you can tag me there too.

Right, time to watch some more replays… 

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