“Woooo! Its half term!” I cried, as I crawled towards the end of Friday afternoon and closer to wine ‘o’ clock. We’ve made it half way through our second term, one more bit to go and I can just be ‘mum’ for 6 weeks of summer holidays.
For those of you who don’t know, in January of this year I began home educating my eldest son (9). We came to this decision after A LOT of soul searching, extensive questioning of my own beliefs in terms of what childhood should be, what teaching should be, what learning looks like and above all to ensure that my son was as happy as he could be. Unhappy children do not learn.
School was becoming increasingly difficult and stressful for all of us. He suffered with horrific anxiety (I don’t know where he gets that from!) and considerable distress even at the thought of going to school, so you can imagine that the actual going to school was no walk in the park. He was deeply unhappy, a ghost of his former self and I couldn’t bear to see him like that. So there was my decision, right there.
Since leaving school he has been diagnosed some learning difficulties and we are pursuing some other issues and concerns. He has become significantly happier and people now often comment on how happy he is.
Being a home schooling parent is not a decision I took lightly. When you have not only your child’s health, well being, survival and all of those other ‘parent jobs’ to fulfil, holding your child’s entire education in your hands as well, is extremely daunting.
One of the hardest personal battles I faced, and I think many parents who take this option face, is the fear of judgement by others. For some reason, home education has a huge stigma attached to it. There is a belief that school is clearly the best place for ALL children. ALL children can only learn in one way and their attainment in their year 6 SATs maps out how successful they will be in their future lives.
I could get all shouty and political at any point during this blog, and I apologise now if I do. Education is my absolute passion. It’s in my blood and I have studied it and worked in this field for over 20 years. (I know I don’t look old enough. **Just don’t look too closely eh!**) So when people start questioning me about what education is and how I am educating my children I can sometimes go on…and on…
I can tell you right now, that the ‘education’ that is currently dished out in our state system is not as broad or child centred as it should be. Children are missing out on key subjects in favour of pushing up SATs scores and moving up league tables, teachers are exhausted and leaving the profession in their droves and funding has been cut so much that children who really, really need extra help and support will not get it. It makes me extremely sad and angry.
Anyway, I digress. I have come to the conclusion that, as a home schooling parent, I have become a source of some interest to lots of people. I get asked questions in the street (often) about what I am doing. I don’t think that everyone is being judgemental (though some are), but generally I think people are genuinely curious. So I’m going to answer some of my most frequently asked questions for you. The conversation usually starts with “Is it school holidays again?”
“No”, I reply…”I’m a home schooler…” Cue one or more of the following questions:
- How does he socialise? This is a big one that I hear all the time. The home education community is growing by the day. There are now so many home schoolers in my area alone, that there are online groups (of hundreds of families) where events and activities are arranged every week so that the children can meet up, play and do amazing activities that they would not be doing in a school. We also regularly see all of his friends (and their mums) from school. I am extremely grateful for this little group of friends. They have never judged me for my decision and they always invite my son to parties and social events. Thank you ladies, it really means a lot to me.
- This is a temporary thing until you can find another school, right? – I’m not sure how long I will be doing this for. It could be a few years, it could be right up to A-levels. As the political landscape changes and as I develop more of a sense of what my son needs from his education we will make those decisions together.
- Why are you in a shop when he should be learning? Because we need to eat. I’m also doing a maths lesson all the way round the supermarket where he is learning in context, adding things up, working out change and weighing things on scales.
- Do you follow the National curriculum? No. I have a working knowledge of the National Curriculum, so I know roughly what is happening in his year group, but I tend to follow my own curriculum and mainly follow his lead and interests.
- Is it easier having him at home? No. It would be easier having him in a child centred, supportive education system, that met his needs and cared about his well-being as well as his academic performance. However, that doesn’t exist at the moment.
- Will you home educate the other two? It has not been my intention to home educate any of my children, but it seems to be my only option at the moment. My middle child was due to start school this September. She is still 3 years old, and not 4 until July. She is not ready for full time school and so I will be teaching her from September too. Yes, I have visited schools for her and yes I have debated this point with head teachers.
- Do you dislike school? Absolutely not. I have regular contact with my son’s former school. They have been extremely helpful and supportive and I know I could pop in there and have a cup of tea and a chat whenever I need to. I dislike what has happened to our education system over recent years and I’m desperate for some big changes for the benefit of all children and teachers.
There are days when home educating is amazing. We are free to do whatever we want to do and go wherever we want to go. The beaches are empty, the zoos are quiet and the museums are always open and usually free. These are some photos from our “amazing days”.
We love science!
We are always outside.
History: Our Dig for Victory Garden is growing nicely!
We are lucky to have the freedom to do things as soon as we want to. This Banksy appeared one weekend and we were able to see it the following Monday.
Maths with Smarties… why are there so few yellow Smarties?
There are also some days when home educating is tough. Days when I have no motivation. Days when he has no motivation. Days when I just want a break from it all. However, I know that my son is ultimately happy and I know that no classroom could ever provide him with the tailored learning he gets from me. So for now I’ll carry on doing my best.
If you would like to see more of what we do I run The Do Try This at Home School, where I share lots of ideas for things to try at home with your own children. I also offer creative taught lessons for children and families in Kent. Here are all my links! Pop over and have a look.