Bookbug for All: Supporting Home Educated Children in Shetland

The Shetland Home Education group is relatively new; it has only been on the go since 2016. Despite this it has quickly swelled in numbers with around nine families and their children regularly meeting up. There are more families home educating in Shetland but they do not all come along to the meetings, something we are hoping to change in the future!

The group was started to enable families to meet up, share resources, meet other families, and receive support - enabling those thinking about home education to find out more. Although there is a Local Authority representative and contact for this, many home educating families prefer not to have input from them. Children in the group range in age from 3 years to 14 years old, some of the children have been in school before and some have never been to school.

We have used two locations for our meet ups. One is in the centre of Lerwick and the other is in the North Mainland in Brae. Both venues work really well as there are quiet, cosy areas for story telling and large spaces to play lycra games. The centre in Brae also has beautiful outdoor access to a walled garden with trees, a beach and wide lawns, great for outdoor Bookbug on a dry day.

Karen Malone and Bookbug Puppets
Although Shetland Library hold regular Bookbug sessions in Lerwick, I decided to offer home educating families Bookbug sessions during our meet ups. Activities during our meet ups are aimed at a wide age and ability range but there was a gap in our provision for preschool and lower primary aged children. Bookbug filled this beautifully! Not only did it appeal to those younger children, it also allowed older children to interact with the younger ones.

All of the children love joining in the sessions and it is wonderful to see older children helping the younger children and role modelling singing, actions and how to play the lycra games. As there are small numbers at the meet ups it allows me to work very closely with the children. They especially enjoy seeing the puppets coming out of the bag and shouting out what rhymes they represent.

Being a home educating parent myself, I find I can talk to the other parents about reading and book sharing in a natural way

Being a home educating parent myself, I find I can talk to the other parents about reading and book sharing in a natural way. The parents are very much involved in their children’s learning as they have chosen to educate them at home, so being able to use Bookbug and Scottish Book Trust resources is a great way to help them with sourcing great books; I also bring along a box of books from my library each meet up!

Having the Bookbug Song and Rhyme Library at my fingertips is wonderful! I no longer get stuck in a rut singing the same old songs, I now have a huge repertoire that I can share with the parents; I am always being asked for the words to songs that the children go home singing.

I was also able to check that the parents had received their Bookbug packs - one family hadn’t so I told them that they could pop into the library and get them there. They were delighted as they didn’t realise that they were entitled to these packs as their children were not at school.

I have had wonderful feedback from these sessions and they are now a core activity during our meet ups.

All P1-aged children in Scotland are entitled to a Bookbug P1 Family Bag - if your child is home educated and hasn't received their bag, please get in touch with your local P1 Contact to find out how to get hold of one.

Karen Malone

Karen Malone is a School Library Assistant and Bookbug Session Leader. She delivers Bookbug sessions to home educated families in Shetland along with sessions at a local care home, Disability Shetland North Isles, a local toddler group and two Primary Schools. Karen also home educates her own son.