Adventures big and small in family life and home education

Month: May 2023

Reasons to use a Morning Basket

As I prepared to home educate, one of the ideas I came across was the Morning Basket. I have to say, I was a little skeptical. Everyone sits together, sharing books on a range of subjects, poetry and perhaps games to start the educational day. I wanted routines and schedules that worked in the home, not an invitation to sit around chatting for an hour every morning. I watched videos which proclaimed this an important educational tool, but I suppose my mindset was still rather ‘schooled,’ – wasn’t this the ‘dead-time’ I’d been scared of creeping in to my classroom? As I reflected on that, I recognised that one of the reasons I wanted the children to experience life outside school was for the joy, growth and peace that comes from the so-called ‘dead time.’ So I gave Morning Basket a try. It has become a lovely part of our home ed life and I’d like to share the reasons why it works for us.

It Marks the Start of the Educational Day

The transition from Harrased-Morning-Routine-Mum to Calm-Patient-Home-Ed-Mum can be a bit rough for me. And if its rough for me, it has to be rough for the children too! Morning Basket is a chance for us all to take a deep breath, relax and get ready for a shift in tempo as we move into learning for the day. It has proven itself to be the perfect transition for us.

Begin with Connection

We usually start Morning Basket with a game. It’s been a lovely way to promote connection.

In recent years in the state school I worked in, we began greeting each child individually at the classroom door every morning. We could say hello, wave, fist bump or hug, whatever was comfortable for the child. The idea behind this was that a connection between child and adult was made first, before any tasks were set or work expected. Morning Basket serves the same purpose at home for us. First thing in the morning, our house, like most family homes, is filled with the rush of getting ready for the day – eating, washing, dressing, feeding pets and getting some house tasks done. The children are as busy as the grown ups (even if they need reminders – see the Harassed-Mum mentioned above!). But we know that once the chores are past with, we will sit down together and connect over good books and games.

There are some days that I have to ask the children just to get on with their main tasks of the day and skip Morning Basket. I notice a difference in how co-operative and ‘ready to learn’ the children are on those days. They still get on with their tasks, but it isn’t quite as smooth and it’s more likely they will complain and push back. I believe this is because we skipped the connection and went straight to the demands of learning, so it is a situation I try to avoid.

Include those Easy to Miss Extras

I know from my experience as a teacher that it it can often be the fun things that are bumped off the timetable in the pressure to ensure the written academic work is completed. I have found that if I start the day with the extras, they won’t be missed out.

Like many educators, I am keen for my children to do a substantial literacy and maths task every day. The way we tackle this for my children aged 9 and 10 is often through textbooks, workbooks or an extended piece of writing. I feel these literacy and numeracy tasks are important and as such, they are built in to our routine. However, there are other tasks that are important to me and my children – topic learning, languages and health or simply enjoying a good book together. A Morning Basket is a great way to include those extra things that make education more complete and engaging.

I also appreciate our Morning Basket time as a time for the children to listen to me reading. Now they are getting older their evening activities and clubs are later and often there isn’t time to sit together and read before bed. Morning Basket offers us time to connect over a story every day.

Morning Baskets help to Create a Cosy Atmosphere

The children enjoy helping make the tea and light the candles.

As I prepared to home educate, I journaled as a way of trying to make sense of my reasons and set out aims for our family if we were to home educate. One of things I wrote down that I’d like for my children is for them to be able to learn in comfort. I don’t want to give the impression that every moment is cosy and magical while the children are learning, but I do think a few touches can create a happy and relaxed atmosphere that sets up a calm working day.

I will share more details of how I set up our Morning Baskets in a later post, but ‘add-ons’ to our Morning Basket time include: cosy blankets, an open fire, tea and candles. The cat usually joins us too. (Strangely, the cat only ever wants to sit on my knee when I’m reading aloud!) These don’t all happen every time; sometimes its just the blankets, other times just a cup of tea. In nice weather we abandon all of those things and take it into the garden. It is a relaxing but structured and purposeful start to the day.

As I mentioned, I will give more details of the content of our Morning Basket in a later post. Please let me know in the comments if you use a Morning Basket and why you were drawn to doing so. I know it is much more common in the US and I wonder how other UK home edders find Morning Baskets.

How to Start Home Educating – how we did it

We started home educating in January 2022, following several months of agonising over the decision, which I wrote about here. Before we got to that point, I had done a great deal of thinking and planning. The process I went through might not be right for you, but I find it helpful to hear the experiences of others so I shall share our journey to starting home ed here. I discuss the legalities in Scotland, how we broached it with the children and initial research and resources. Everyone’s home education set up looks different and everyone’s reasons and approaches are different too. I’m certainly not telling anyone what to do, this is simply how things worked for us. I hope its useful to you!


The legal right to home educate in Scotland is conferred in the Education (Scotland) Act 1990, which states that it is a parent’s responsibility to ensure that every school aged child receives an education that is “suitable to his age, ability and aptitude.” This can be done in school or “by other means.” This Act also states that if a child already attends a state school, the parent must seek consent from the local authority to withdraw their child from the school roll in order to home educate. The Act states that consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. This letter is sent to the Quality Improvement Officer (QIO) for your child’s school – the school should be able to provide you with this name and a means of contact. This is not a member of staff at the school but is someone who oversees several schools in the area.

I did the above and also spoke to the head teacher at the children’s school. There is no requirement to do so, but I did so in the interests of openness and sustaining a good relationship – I still worked in the school at the time and, had the children not enjoyed home education, then I would have re-enrolled them. A search online will give some good examples of letters to send to the QIO, and should also contain a brief outline of how you intend to provide an education for your child. I stated what I intended to do for literacy, numeracy and mathematics, topic work, music, art and French. I believe that I did also cover how I intended to provide opportunities for socialisation through clubs and classes. There is no need to include your reasons for deciding to home educate, unless you wish to do so. I did not.

A response should be received, i.e. consent given, within 6 weeks of the QIO receiving your letter. It took slightly longer for us as I submitted it at the end of November, I think the response time was thrown off by the Christmas holidays. In their reply, the QIO stated they were happy with my plans and only asked that I confirm with the children’s current school that we would re-enroll if we found that home education did not suit us, which essentially I had already done.

Telling the children

If you’ve read my previous post, you will know that my children were happy in school and we began home educating because my husband and I thought it might offer us a better experience (which, so far, it has!). Once we had decided, and before we told the school, I broached it individually with each child. They are close and get on well together and I wanted to give them space to react in their own way without being swayed by each other. I also felt it was important for me to present a confident plan to the children, although I was feeling anything but at that time! For children who are already in school, home educating is a huge step, and I did not think it was fair to share a loose plan or ask questions of the children, as that might feel disconcerting and even a bit out of control. So when I spoke to them, I didn’t ask “Would you like to do school at home?” Instead, I said, “Daddy and I have decided that we will home school. We’ll do it up until summer and if you decide you’d like to go back to school after summer that’s what we’ll do.” I then laid out some of the advantages and exciting things I thought we’d be able to do, and much to my relief, the children were pleased and excited. As it turned out, they have remained happy with the decision and are still not back in school over a year later.

Research how to make home education work for you

Julia Bogart’s inspiring and useful book, ‘The Brave Learner.’

When I decided to home educate, my first port of call was YouTube. I watched hours of videos by home educating parents, days in the life style videos, curriculum reviews and resource organisation and recommendations. If the sound of this appeals to you, I would say go ahead and search YouTube. This approach suited my introverted personality – I didn’t need to speak to anyone and could privately mull over what I was discovering while I made a plan. I particularly enjoy The Waldock Way and Rooted in Rest. Be aware though, that most of this type of content is created in the USA – it can be tricky finding British content and I have never found any Scottish creators.

With hindsight, I would say the best starting point, if you do not know anyone in ‘real life’ to ask, is Facebook. At the time I withdrew my children I was not on Facebook and never had been, so I was reluctant to try that. Once the children had left school, it became evident that if I wanted my children to connect to other local home educated children, and if I wanted to connect to other home ed parents, I would need to get set up on Facebook and join local groups. I realise now that had I done that while I was weighing up the pros and cons of home education and trying to figure out how I would make it work, I could have asked on the local home ed Facebook page and I would have received helpful, informative answers from lots of local families. I see others seeking advice on meet ups, working, juggling younger children amongst other things. I would imagine it is the same in many areas, so I would recommend trying Facebook first.

In the run up to withdrawing the children, I read a brilliant book, The Brave Learner by Julia Bogart, again an American source. The Brave Learner is hopeful and inspiring, conveying the power of allowing your child to be who they are and figure out their own path, while scaffolding them with an education at home. It does not shy away from the potential pitfalls and difficulties, such as the insecurities and expectations of the home educating parent. It was thought provoking and a good tool for reflecting on my decision.


A wee selection of the Usborne and DK Books we have enjoyed.

I’m not going to go into curriculum choices or particular textbooks or schemes here as, to be honest, as a state school teacher for 16 years before home educating, I purchased the textbooks the children and I were already familiar with using in local schools, so I’m not sure how interesting or useful that would be to others.

Somewhere online I heard about Exploring Nature with Children, a beautiful week by week nature curriculum. It gives an aspect of nature to examine each week, such as ponds, nesting birds and autumn leaves, accompanied by suggested reading, a poem and a piece of art on the theme. I would be lying if I said we do this every week, but it is a great resource for pulling out before a nature walk to direct the children’s attention to something to investigate further at a particular point in the year.

Other resources I would recommend are books, books and more books! Usborne books are a good bet for finding topic related information for a good age range. They also do books on aspects of maths and different types of writing and literacy work. Initially, I hit Amazon hard and added lots of lovely books to our already extensive home library. I later learned that our local authority will lend topic boxes to home educators. These topic boxes are archive box size and filled with roughly 15-25 books on a given topic, and can be requested for particular class levels. Some boxes even contain non-book resources, like games or replica historical items. It is well worth checking whether your local library service offers anything similar. This is certainly kinder to the purse and the environment than filling an Amazon trolley!

In terms of stationery, I made sure we had a good stock of:

  • Plain pencils
  • Rubbers
  • Colouring pencils
  • Sharpeners
  • Prit-Stick glue sticks (I find other brands don’t work so well)
  • Plain A4 paper
  • Jotters (I think this might be a Scottish word?! – plain workbooks?) – lined for literacy and squared for maths
  • Rulers
  • Mini whiteboards and pens
  • Clipboards

I already had quite an extensive craft cupboard, being a bit of a hoarder and given the fact that teachers often have to purchase and keep a stock of their own arts and craft materials. Things that might be useful at some point, but are certainly not necessary, are clay, pastel chalks, PVA glue, poster paint, glitter, watercolour paints, charcoals and basic sewing materials. Another nice addition to a craft store might be some sensory materials such as shaving foam, waterbeads, play sand or dyed uncooked rice.

This was what I wanted to have, but really pencils, rubbers and paper are the only things you might really need, particularly straight away. Other things can be added gradually as you progress and new interests or topics arise.

I hope this has been a useful starting point for you if you are considering home education. This is only the route I took when navigating the start of home education – it will look different for everyone. If you’d like to let me know in the comments how you began or are planning to begin home education, I would love to hear about it.

Reasons to Home Educate – how we came to home education

Our first morning of official home education.

Until the end of 2021, I was a primary school teacher and my two older children, then aged 9 and 7, attended the same school at which I taught. In many ways it was an ideal situation. I could walk to school with them sometimes. I got sneak peaks of what they were up to in class and in the playground. On my break time, their teacher might share the odd sweet story of something they had said or done that day. I knew the staff, school routines and procedures as a parent and as a teacher. I didn’t have to juggle two sets of sports days or Christmas concerts – a true gift at those busy times in December and summer! Despite all of this, at the end of 2021, I handed in my notice and submitted a letter to our local authority seeking consent to withdraw both my children from school. So how did we reach that point?

At the time, my reasons for even considering home education worried me a lot. Was this a reaction to the stress I was experiencing in my work due to covid? Was I subconsciously looking for an excuse to leave my job and had landed on pulling my children from school as the solution? Did I just miss my children, having spent so much time in a little family bubble during lockdown? Was I having a (slightly!) early mid-life crisis?! I felt it was important to consider all of these possibilities and I spent months agonising on whether home education was the right decision for us. Finally, I could no longer ignore my reasons in favour and I had to give home education a try. Below I share my four main reasons for beginning to home educate. They are sad, hopeful and maybe even misguided, but I am grateful for them all, as these reasons have brought us on a wonderful journey.

The pressure on the education system is mounting.

As we returned to school post covid lockdown, the number of children in schools requiring extra support, both academically and behaviourally, had understandably grown. I observed that, as a teacher, I had less time to stretch and support those children who got along just fine and certainly very little time for those children lucky enough to be naturally gifted in a particular academic area. Virtually all my efforts were focused on supporting and regulating those children with academic and behavioural needs. As it should be – of course my efforts must go to where the need is greatest. But the pool of need had grown and sadly, the available support is being cut.

I want to be very clear that I am not against inclusion – inclusion is a wonderful ideal and should be the aim of all just education systems. Inclusion benefits all the children in a school community; I have been lucky enough to see inclusion work as it should and when it does so, it is powerful and beneficial for all learners in that environment. But inclusion needs to be properly financed to give enough staff and resources to properly support learners with additional needs. This in turn allows for true inclusion – where learners with additional needs are not just supported to access a system which was not designed for them, but instead a system is created which is designed to suit all learners.

The ripples from the lack of support for those individuals who need it most radiate outwards, most deeply affecting those at the centre and eventually affecting all those in the environment. This began before covid, but covid has increased the pressure. Support is being cut, or diverted to those at crisis point, whilst others struggle. This is not the fault of individual schools or even councils, this problem starts at the top. I decided my children did not need to be affected by the lack of value placed on education by the government – they could be better supported and challenged at home.

Home education offers us the freedom to follow interests and learn out in the real world.

Childhood is too precious to waste.

During the pandemic, one of my greatest feelings of sadness for my children was around lost time – so many months without family and friend visits, sleepovers with grandparents, day trips, events, clubs and holidays. Online meet ups and virtual trips didn’t cut it for us. Like most parents, I never imagined a period like that in the lives of my children. As normality returned to a certain extent and we went back to school, I turned a much more critical eye on the system as a whole. I became frustrated by the time wasted in a classroom, as the children registered, chose lunches, washed their hands (again!), lined up to go outside, lined up to come inside and waited as tasks were explained to others. In school, time is wasted purely through the logistical constraints of one adult moving twenty to thirty children through a school day. This is not a criticism, but purely a fact of the situation. Before covid I had unquestioningly accepted this for my children, but after, I was frustrated by further wasted time – childhood goes too fast and their’s was slipping away before my eyes.

At a deeper level, I realised that I wanted my children to be experiencing the world and all it has to offer while they still had the freedom of childhood. I realised that I did not want them to be confined to school. At the time I withdrew them, covid restriction were still such that they could not go on trips or have visitors in the building. Without school, we could visit people and places, attend events as we chose and take opportunities that came our way. I decided I could offer them more of the world if we lived without the restrictions of school life.

A trip to the Highland Show. The perfect stage for home education.

I know what they should be learning.

As I realised and accepted the above, more threads in the fabric of my opinion on education began to unravel. During covid, I had had another surprising revelation – society needs school. This might be obvious to others, but for me, when the world shut down, I was pretty frustrated with the reported reactions of some parents who could not bear the thought of looking after their own children for weeks on end. As the pandemic progressed, I have to say I changed my mind – society needs schools so parents can work. It accounts for the way the education system is designed and how it emerged during the industrial revolution. The education system has evolved in the way it has, not as a response to what is the best way to educate a child, but what is best for society. But if that is the case, is school actually what works best for my family? Society needs schools, but did we? I only worked two days a week at the time and, as I was a teacher, I knew what they should be learning. I didn’t need to send them to school to cover the curriculum, we could do it at home in half the time with double the freedom.

Now that I have been home educating for a little while, I know that parents successfully home educate without being a teacher beforehand. Based on reactions and comments from family, friends and even curious members of the public, it does alleviate the concerns of others that I am a ‘real’ teacher. Furthermore, it is an easy way for me to deflect potential criticism, as I can say, “Yes, I’m home educating them, I was a primary school teacher for sixteen years.” But the real reason I’m including it here now is that I know that had I not been a trained and qualified teacher, I would not have had the courage to withdraw my children from school to home educate them. And for that reason alone, I am grateful that I was a teacher beforehand.

Eliza teaching Dexter how to sew a chiton on her sewing machine during our topic on Ancient Greece.

My children are interested in so many things!

My final reason is maybe the most important, as when I thought about home educating, this is the reason that gave me butterflies in my stomach. Maybe I was a little biased, but I was genuinely pleased and impressed with how much my children wanted to learn. They love nature and Greek mythology and devoured non fiction books, documentaries and podcasts on their favourite subjects. They can pepper conversations with facts they learned off their own bat. At the time they left the school system, they wanted to set up their own business, which I hope to share more about in a future post. They spend time building with Lego and trying out new crafts. Wouldn’t it be a gift to their childhood if they had enough time to do all these things fully? I imagined what we could do together and what the children could learn about the world and themselves, and I couldn’t help but feel excited. I believe it is a beautiful thing to give your children time to find what they love and investigate it as fully as they wish.

So there you have it – the reasons I abandoned my seemingly ideal situation and took the plunge into home education. If you’d like to share your reasons for home educating in the comments, I would love to hear them. If you are here seeking validation or encouragement as you consider home educating, I hope you found something for you. Let me know if my thoughts resonate with you, or perhaps you have other pulls to the path of home education you would like to share.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the privilege involved in our decision to home educate. We have family support that allows me to work, which lessens the financial impact of home educating. We were very fortunate that my children were happy at school and that we were not withdrawing them due to difficult circumstances such as lack of appropriate support or mental health issues. For some families, home educating is not possible and for others, it is not a choice but a necessity with little alternative. We are grateful for our situation.