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Do your days include sit down study work?

Newsletter · Oct 5, 2021


It’s Tuesday morning here in New Zealand, and my day began with what is fast becoming a familiar, comforting little routine – brewing a pot of coffee, and sitting down to read more of the beautiful Life Without School Podcast reviews that have been rolling in.

At first, I was surprised by how many of you were saying you were brought to tears by the stories I’ve been sharing. But the more of those sorts of messages I read, the more I realised it’s not at all surprising. School is a fast moving, one-way highway. If you’re able to keep up, everything will seem normal and fine. But if you can’t…you’ll feel like the whole world is leaving you behind. Like no matter what you do you can’t ever seem to get up to the right speed in the right lane.

There are a lot more broken down cars littering the sides of that highway than I ever imagined, and while that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place…it’s a powerful feeling knowing there are a bunch of us looking around at each other saying “Hey, should we climb the barrier and walk over that rolling green hill instead?”

One of your questions this week is the perfect chance to really illustrate what I mean by this:

Your Questions & Answers

Do you do sit down study work or are you completely child led and flexible? I’m trying to find the right balance for us. Everyone I speak to does home education completely differently.

This hits on the heart of all those teary reviews I’ve been reading – you’ll find so many different variations in approaches, because when you home educate the kind of road you choose to walk is up to you. It’s incredibly liberating.

There is no one right way to home educate, that’s the beauty of it, and more often than not you won’t find your balance and flow until you’ve tried – and blended together – a few different approaches. You need to find what works for you and your children, something that allows you to ebb and flow with your family’s energy and interests.

In our home, in our family, we do very little desk work. My eldest (14) is a writer and illustrator, so he does, but it doesn’t look like typical classroom study time. It looks like productive, passionate life work.

Our second (11) spends almost no time doing sit down study work, unless you call his piano a desk. In which case…he does hours of it. He also does a lot of cooking and baking (kitchen time is his second biggest interest), and then the rest of his days are made up of his version of play. Riding his bike, practicing karate, listening to music, tinkering with something mechanical…

Our third (6) is currently a full-time film-maker. She’s investing hours every day right now into iMovie on an iPad, crafting story lines, acting them out, and editing them into little movies. You might find her painting or drawing at a table, or out on her bike or the trampoline, but only for as long as it takes for inspiration to strike for her next film.

Our fourth (2) likes doing all of the above – especially if she can mix the painting, baking and piano activities together.

My point is that I believe study time at a desk is only useful and relevant if…it’s useful and relevant. Does your child need the things you’re asking them to learn right now? Are they engaged and interested because it serves a purpose for them? Or can whatever it is come later, when it has a direct line of meaning to something they want to learn more about, or go deeper into?

Most of the sit-down work we believe our children need is only important if you want to keep your accelerator pedal planted to the floor out on that highway someone else built. If you climb off it, you get to decide what’s important and what isn’t.

Thank you for reading, and again – please keep sending me your feedback on the podcast. I’m reading every single message and review.

(and shedding plenty of those tears with you)

Talk soon,

Issy Butson, aka Stark Raving Dad. Author of The Grandparent's Guide to Home Schooling

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