Home Educators, we're always very happy to hear from you. In answer to your latest questions: We take 4-14 year olds here, (someone thought 9-11, and we did start 2 years ago with a tighter age range, but we became so popular that we gradually expanded it, giving great thought to differentiating the activities offered). As an experienced teacher I quite understand that some of you might have concerns about the activities stretching your older children, so I'll explain how we make it work. We don't plan specific activities until the children are booked in - that way we have an idea of where to pitch it. We have specialists who deliver to different age ranges - for example, I am a Primary trained teacher who worked in Secondary schools for 8 years teaching Humanities and Science. So I will plan suitably engaging activities for the older children while I have staff who are Early years professionals who I bring in should we have the younger age children on site. In terms of specifics, it is difficult to tell you exactly what we do because our themes and activities change every day/week - for example, we had Science days at Easter when we experimented with eggs, water and ice, talking about capacity, liquids and solids, gravity, forces, and much more - interspersed with time around the camp fire, cooking and down time playing with the parachute. We have had 'Apple day' where we went to our neighbour's (Lord Coleridge's) orchard and picked apples, brought them back and used them for a whole range of activities such as apple pies, apple target practice with our own hand made woodland catapults, we photographed and drew them, dissected them, printed with them, researched how best to grow an apple tree and planted the seeds, we fed the windfalls to Ruby our pet piggy. We recently had 'tree day' where we observed and drew trees, we had a local artist who offered tuition in sketching and the children produced some awesome pictures. We did bark rubbings, lay underneath and gazed up at the canopies and wrote poetry, shook the bugs out onto a sheet, then identified and researched them. We measured them, estimated the height then calculated it using a mathematical method, We discussed and explained methods for gauging the age of the trees and even touched on the science of carbon dating with some eager and inspired older children. Finally we created a 12 ft sculpture in the garden made of wood and filled with leaves.
We have 3 separate walled areas to our gardens, and it is entirely possible to have 2 or 3 different groups working on something appropriately pitched in entirely different areas. But when we come together, it is delightful to see how the children interact and what pleasure they get from being with children much older or younger than themselves. It is so much better than the forced and what I feel is inappropriate PSHE that happens in schools. It is natural, enchanting bonding, developing the ability to consider others and their differing needs. Cherishing a link with like minded people. Breaking the barriers of the strict age driven groupings of state schooling. The children love this time too. My children are 15 and 13. They fully participate in all our days in the holidays. They think they are 'helping' but actually they are getting a fabulous education, great grounding for the future, and an experience that just isn't available at school.
Now, I will share some insights with you about our costings. I run this as a business, but also as an opportunity to share our knowledge and experience, and most importantly, the beautiful gardens with other young people, after seeing the impact that being here has had on our own children. We are not a great money making venture such as the other big (brilliant, I am sure) outfits. Our ethos is 'small is beautiful'. We cater for parents who wish their children to be with a small group, and to get a lot of adult attention and have their individual needs catered for. In order to stay true to that ethos we need to strictly limit the numbers.This is great for the parents and children, but with staff costs to pay and with overheads which don't reduce if numbers reduce, it means we have to carefully cost it in order to make it worthwhile to run. We receive no support, funding, or anything that some settings do, because however much we love doing what we do, we are a business, and that's how grant providers see us. I teach, and anything I do during term time has to go some way towards replacing a days wages! In order to run this during term time we have to modify our insurance, and this increases our overheads a lot. We regularly provide children with things to take home or eat that they have designed/made/baked etc and all resources are provided by us. We offer different rates depending on how many sessions you book, and whether it is an advance booking for a half term. We have an amazing discount for you if you can join up with a few like minded families and book 10 children in for half a term in advance for full days. It represents £10 off per day! It brings us to a pretty unbeatable £3.33 per hour. For what they get out of the day this is unbelievably good value. It is a reward to you for making a commitment to us as we step out with this new Home Ed venture. Do get in touch if you do not belong to an HE group and would like putting in contact with other like minded people. Jules :)