Homeschooling and online learning are growing in popularity all over the world as a direct result of the technological revolution and the amount of raw education information available via the internet. Dr. Kat Patrick understands the potential benefits of alternative education and she has founded a company called “Dreaming Spires Home Learning” which serves to help educate teens who learn best outside the traditional school model.
Dr. Kat Patrick is both the CEO of Dreaming Spires Home Learning and the tutor for all the literature classes. Kat grew up in Texas but now lives in England where she homeschools four children, competes at dog shows with her English Toy Terrier, and teaches online courses to homeschooled students all over the world. As well as holding a PhD in English, Kat has taught at university in the US and at secondary schools to A-level in the UK; she is also an examiner for the Cambridge International Exams board.
Kat is presently completing a Certificate in Christian Studies from St John’s College in Nottingham that she has been working on for ages, so she knows that keeping motivated with a distance-learning course can be hard! Despite her bust schedule, Kat found time to speak with the Examiner about her company:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How did you initially get interested in homeschooling and/or online learning?
Dr. Kat Patrick (K.P.): I originally started homeschooling when my eldest was about to turn 4. She is late-summer born, and in the UK, was due to start school only 5 weeks after her birthday. I thought it was far too young, so withdrew her from Montessori nursery and started homeschooling after Easter in 2004. The more I did it, plus the more children I added to the mix, the more I realised that it’s a great, organic way of bringing up your children. As for the online courses I now teach, that again was related to my eldest child. She was turning 12 and didn’t have any homeschooled friends in the local area who wanted to start working at a higher level with literature. I was just getting interested in the Ambleside Online reading list for Year 7 (Middle Ages literature), and met someone on-line (who was from Texas) who wanted her daughter to study from the syllabus, too. We worked together to get a group going online, and as they say, the rest is history.
M.M.: Why did you choose the name “Dreaming Spires Home Learning”?
K.P.: I chose the name because I live near Oxford in England, and its nickname is the City of the Dreaming Spires. I wanted to capture that sense of excellence and academic attainment, while firmly grounding it in the home-education movement.
M.M.: What kinds of subject tutorials do you offer?
K.P.: I teach four eras of English literature: Middle Ages, Renaissance, British Novels, and American Literature. It easily forms a 4-year high school course for US students, but because I use a unique tiered approach to each course, students as young as 12 can take them, too. So, whether someone is after high school credits, or a firm foundation for UK exams, or a jumping-off point for more motivational studies, or just a peer group to socialize with, Dreaming Spires Home Learning can fulfill that need. In addition to literature courses, we offer two sections of art history: sculpture and painting, and starting next year, we’re adding Classical Civilisation. I’m really excited about the two ladies who teach these courses as we used to homeschool together in a co-op, so I know they are excellent teachers, and what’s more, specialists in their fields.
M.M.: Your website states that you are actively looking to expand your subjects. What topics are you hoping to include and what are the requirements for tutorial makers?
K.P.: I am speaking to someone right now about teaching history; she’s rather an exciting person who is currently teaching a different subject online, but her first love is history. She used to work at the Tower of London, and just that fact got me thinking. I’m also trying to convince a very special lady to join me for teaching Physics, and without luck, I’ve been trying to entice the Friendly Chemistry people to adapt their programme to the online environment and come excite some children about the subject that they love. The bottom line is that all these people are experts, both in their fields and in having homeschooling experience. I think people with that experience can think outside the box more, and fit into the vision of the company.
M.M.: To date, how many people publish content on your website?
K.P.: Just me!
M.M.: Where do you hope Dreaming Spires Home Learning will be ten years from now?
K.P.: In ten years, I will be finishing up my homeschooling journey with my youngest child. Whether I continue in such a full-on capacity after that, I don’t know. Maybe it will be time to pass on the mantle, or maybe I’ll be such a diversified CEO that I can handle the admin and social media while others do the teaching for me! Maybe I’ll retire and write the next Great American Novel. One can dream, yeah?
M.M.: So far, what has been the most rewarding part of working on the website? How many subscribers or readers do you have?
K.P.: I find it really challenging to gear the two websites to their American and British audiences: parents of these countries want different outcomes for the same course. Fortunately, I’m able to deliver both their desires because I’m British/American and have been both educated in both countries and taught in both. As for subscribers/readers, it’s terrible to say that I don’t know. I wish more people knew about the great series I’m running on the website about transitioning teens to homeschool high school, but most of my social media outlets are on FB, and many won’t let me link to a business page. They claim it’s like spam, but give another homeschool mom a break, eh??? SUCH FRUSTRATION!!!!
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a homeschooling parent?
K.P.: I’m a bit radical here, because I think every parent with kids in school is a homeschooling parent. It’s just that most parents delegate the planning of it to schools and then pick up the brunt of the homework duties: all the crap and none of the fun! I could write reams and reams about the benefits of homeschooling, but if you’re a Christian family especially, I just have one word: R C Sproul’s “When You Rise Up”. Oh … that’s seven words, but to me, he’s the last word on why Christians SHOULD homeschool. I also highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s book called “Educating the Wholehearted Child” as well as the Charlotte Mason methodology. It’s this liberal arts method that underpins all the Dreaming Spires courses, and is characterised by great books and big ideas.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
K.P.: I’m really excited about an ebook that’s coming out in October, which is a new edition of Anne Malcolmson’s “A Taste of Chaucer.” The author died a few years ago and nobody has been publishing her book for several years now, even though it’s absolutely the best way to read Chaucer if you’ve got middle school students. I use it in my Middle Ages course, and think very highly of both its contents and its accessibility. Earlier this year, I tracked down the author’s family, and they’ve given me permission to print it for Kindle, so this woman’s awesome contribution to Chaucer studies can be widely available once again. My daughter is formatting it, gathering illustrations, and publishing it as part of her UK Arts Award, so it has been a great experience for her, too. For further information, see here.
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To learn more about Dr. Kat Patrick’s courses and read her blog series about homeschooling teens, visit the Dreaming Spires Home Learning websites (US and UK versions), Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. She can also be followed on Twitter via the tag #dreaminspiresHL.