Back to school – staying home

Home schooling is not easy, as many parents are discovering during this crisis. That does not mean it can not be done and done well.

In the 80s I spent two years working in Oman as night editor of the state-owned daily newspaper.

Th Oman Obsrver as it looks today. When I did the layouts over 30 years ago we did not use all caps headings

After a few months my wife and children joined me but it was not long before we realised it was not the best place for a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old girl to be.

My daughters went back to Prestatyn to stay with my brother and his family and attend the local secondary while my son, aged seven, stayed with us in Oman and began home schooling.

Simple maths problems were easy to supply and for English a teacher back home had given us material to get us through a couple of years.

That left geography and history. The latter wasn’t too hard as Marion and I had a good working knowledge of both and for the former we started with a large scale world map pinned up on the apartment wall.

It began with giving him a place to find on the map. After two weeks he was finding towns or countries within 60 seconds.

By the time we returned to North Wales he was ahead of his peers in almost every subject. I was not that hot with Welsh but his maths and command of the English language was great.

My own home schooling was not quite so free and easy.

In September 1965 my first major problem surfaced. I missed my friends.

I know Roger and I, along with a couple of others, Dennis Randall and Peter Horton, had knocked about together all summer.

The difference on the first day of the autumn term was that I was sitting down at home with a stack of books and lesson booklets and they were together in a classroom.

Ater a while I began to take a break and meet Roger and others after school at a local coffee bar in town Le Nautique.

Le Nautique – a great place to meet for a coffee and to play favourite hits on the juke box and even catch a live gig.

The difference to learning in school as to learning at home was that without the school discipline I had to discipline myself.

Later in life I found that this was a bonus especially as a journalist when setting a deadline and sticking to it was vital. If deadlines weren’t met and presses didn’t roll on time the story didn’t get to the people.

A few years later when I was on a journalism block release course a lecturer (teacher not journalist) said: “Robin needs deadlines and if they are not set then he sets his own, which is not always a good thing.”

She was right and she was wrong.

At work my personal deadlines meant I always completed my work to fit in with the overall deadline.

In life itself I often set unnecessary deadlines as to when to set off to get somewhere, allowing for problems en route. This has meant that at times I arrived for appointments half an hour beforehand. At least I wasn’t late.

Back to home school.

My first delivery of schooling material arrived about a fortnight before the September start which meant I did have time to go through it and work out my own timetable.

For history and geography it was fairly easy to plan because pieces of work had to be returned at set dates and, especially with history, there was a chronological order of study.

Englsh was a different matter. Did I read Lord of the Flies in one straight run and then refer back to it as necessary or should I read it alongside the course insructions?

That was easy – I read it on the day I got it, for pleasure, then read it twice more before home school began. Once because I enjoyed it and the second time just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

Occasionally I slipped and instead of working I would let my mind wander.

In school this would have meant a sharp reprimand or even a well-flung piece of chalk.

In my lounge/classroom I had to snap out of it and get back on track because I wanted to, not because someone was making me do it.

It soon dawned on me that my problem was grammar school rigid authority. The school’s problem was that the more they clamped down on me the more I rebelled.

It doesn’t make either setup right or wrong but it was a lesson that helped me over the next 55 years and continues to help me to this day.

That’s the school bell ending the lesson. Or is it just the old black telephone ringing away?

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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