Billy Arthur Walden is an excellent example of how home education gives young people an opportunity to take charge of their own education and achieve excellent results simply by pursuing their own interests and passions.
Billy’s mum, Jayne, officially removed him from school at age 12, although he had already missed so much school before that, that he considers himself to have been home educated from age 11.
Jayne did not really follow a plan, but allowed Billy to learn subjects he chose, at his own pace. Watching Horrible Histories, for instance, might lead to learning about the World Wars. The family did a lot of travelling, and so Billy had the opportunity to learn about interesting sites and places, such as Hadrian’s Wall. Most importantly, Billy got to pursue his passion for carpentry and mechanics, spending as much time as he wanted on his projects. Jayne was able to persuade Billy of the advantages of learning his less-favourite subjects of Maths and English by explaining their importance and advantages, and with that understanding, he found he could tackle them – and even started to enjoy maths!
Besides taking Maths and English exams, Billy has also completed and received qualifications in Carpentry, Bricklaying and Plumbing.
Billy credits having the freedom to learn, his way, for developing a love for the work he does, and not regarding it as a chore. Pursuing his own interests meant that learning could happen at any time, and progress rapidly, without worrying about schedules or timetables. This led to him becoming the youngest person (age 15) to complete a full camper-van conversion with no assistance. It was furnished to the highest standard and the quality of workmanship was so outstanding and unique it impressed George Clarke of Channel 4’s ”Amazing Spaces” so much that it was featured on the programme. George called Billy ‘a talented but humble craftsman’ and stated that Billy’s work ‘took his breath away’. At 16 years old, Billy went on to prove the quality of his carpentry skills by winning the SkillBuild award, the largest multi-trade competition in the UK. He has also won the Institute of Carpenters Craft competition.
At 17 years old he fully rebuilt a 1965 narrow boat by himself which was also shown as an ‘A’ build on Channel 4’s “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces” and Billy became not only the youngest project manager on the programme, but also the first to have two builds featured. Billy is currently filming a new programme which he hopes will be out next year.
At the time of writing, Billy is building a barn from scratch. He is teaching himself stonework which he has never done before for the purpose of this build. He plans for the whole of the build to consist of recycled, vintage, and reclaimed items from the stonework to the washing machine.
With regards to being educated at home, Billy is thankful for the freedom and security it gave him to do what he wanted to do, without pressure, or being forced to follow a set of rules. “I was allowed to be a child for longer, and enjoy my childhood, rather than being dictated to and indoctrinated…forced to take certain exam subjects at a certain time and told I had to behave in a certain way”.
Billy feels that one of the problems with schools is that if you stand up for what you believe, you are deemed a “troublemaker” because you don’t follow “the system”. After leaving school, his mental health improved dramatically, and he felt a huge sense of relief.
Billy’s success can largely be attributed to being home educated, as it allowed him time and freedom to develop his talents and skills. The family have encountered negativity and judgment from others regarding their choices and lifestyle, but they do not allow themselves to be affected by this. The wisdom of his mum in recognising that the school environment was harmful to him has been vindicated by his achievements.
Billy’s younger sister, Matilda is now also being home educated.
You can find out more from Billy’s website.