Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why we home educate

I'm not one for regrets, life is too precious and we only get one shot. I believe you make the best decisions you can with the information and resources available to you at that time. Nearly half of my life has been spent being a mother, if you ask my mother she will tell you my whole childhood was spent preparing to be a mummy. When I had my first son, nearly fourteen years ago, I was not aware of any other path other than school. He started nursery at three and a half, just a few months before I had my third child and second daughter. He loved nursery, he had a small group of close friends and was/is such a friendly, kind, polite boy. By the time Piper arrived at nursery a year or so after Bailey she was very familiar with it and they with her. She has always been very shy and quite a thinker, but was extremely popular at nursery and school, girls used to flock around her, I think its because she was very easy going and laid back. Cordelia was the same when she started nursery, all the staff knew her from her siblings and she has a very charming character so its quite impossible not to love her! There were things I wasn't happy with in regards to school, obviously I missed them all terribly but I wasn't happy with how cold some of the teachers were, the SATS I just thought were a total waste of time, bullying (although my children were never really bullied), all the homework and the fact my children went in school happy and smiley and often came out tired and not being able to remember what they had been doing all day long. I think this seemed worse for the girls; Piper was a real shadow of herself in that she came home quite withdrawn and tired and would just want to sit in front of the tv sucking her thumb, it wasn't until nearly bed time she would come round and want to play. She often had really bad mood swings that would last a few weeks and it was like all of this negative energy coming from her, it was pretty hard to deal with at times. Especially when you have a child that is so laid back most of the time. She was in the G & T group at school, I had no idea what this meant when a teaching assistant told me, but apparently its short for Gifted and Talented. I remember how horrified I was at the thought someone was labelling my 5 year old daughter, and what did that mean for my younger two children coming through the school system? Piper told me about a year after we began home educating that she used to spend ages with her arm up asking for help, but that because she was on the "clever" table (yes this exists too) no one had time. When Cordelia began school her teacher, who had also known Bailey and Piper, quite simply adored her, so much in fact that she kept her in her class when she moved up to Year 1. I liked the teacher a lot but was quite appalled one parent's evening to find that my 5 year old daughter was helping toilet train a boy in her class with special needs. I mean, even now after nearly 5 years I'm still quite speechless about that. I'm not sure what she expected me to say to that-should I be pleased that my youngest daughter was toilet training another child? I don't think so. When Bailey moved across to the Junior school, which was at the other side of the playground, he had a really tough time. Before Year 3 he had always happily gone into school, he enjoyed it there, had friends and was always very academic. But something changed my very happy, cheerful little boy into a depressed seven year old. He used to run out of school after me crying, once he ran across a road to reach me. He didn't know why he didn't want to go, he wasn't being bullied, he had lots of friends. I spoke to his teachers and they had no clue why this was happening, this went on for 4-6 months. Every morning would be the same, I was an emotional wreck, he was depressed at home and talked about death a lot. He had not had anyone close to him die, this came out of nowhere. When I think about that now I have to fight back tears, I wish I had known about HE then and saved us both a lot of heartache and grief. By the time Ruben began at nursery I was feeling quite disillusioned  about the whole situation. He didn't enjoy nursery and found the children quite mean and it was very "clicky". In October 2007, I was reading a newspaper at my mother in laws,  when I saw an article about a dad who had taken his younger daughter out of school to home educate. It sounded wonderful. Hubby read it first and brought it to my attention, I think in that instant we both knew this was for us. The six of us had always been very close, I think that's because the children are close in ages and we had always spent a lot of time with our children taking them places, talking to them, spending lots of quality time together. It was rare that the children slept out at grandparents or things like that because both sets of parents worked, and they were also still quite young as grandparents go and had busy social lives of their own! We were never bothered much about having nights out or "time off" the children. I'm not judging those that do either, we were just happy to be together. By December 2007 the children were de-registered at school, I initially kept Ruben at nursery at first as he had just made friends and was happy to go but it didn't last very long. The stares in the playground were pretty horrific and it was like I had grown two heads! One day out of the blue as Ruben was putting on his shoes for nursery he said quite simply "I want to stay and do school at home with the other kids" this still makes me laugh. Its lovely that he has never been to school, I wish the others hadn't but I think its made them realise how lucky they are to be home educated. Bailey for one would never want to set foot in school again. I'm fortunate that my hubby works hard so we can manage on one wage whilst being able to spend so much time with our children. For me, this is my career. I can't think of anything I would rather be doing at all. I love the freedom the children have to decide what things interest them, what they feel like doing, how happy they are, how much pleasure I get from listening to them play. I love how confident they are in themselves, how happily they tell anyone who asks why they are not in school that they are home educated and how wonderful it is, I love the interesting and varied people we have met along the way, the fantastic friendships we all have now because of it and I know that for us we could never go back through the school gates. On a day-to-day basis, I would say we have our own routines of what we want to do. Home educating can be as busy or as simple as you allow it. Sometimes we join in lots of activities and home ed trips with other home educating families, other times we do things on our own. You have to find what works best for you. You could do several things a day 5/7 days a week if you wanted! For us I've found it best to read the children, if we do lots of groups and visits it can get a bit too much like school and that's just not for us any more. We maybe needed that more at first when we were finding our feet with HE life but I'm confident enough to go off by myself with the children now and we can do our own thing. We have a wide group of friends now from all over and we have plenty of play dates/park trips and occasional visits. We have a group on Fridays close by that is the pinnacle of Ruben's week, the girls have singing choir on Monday afternoons, which they love, the singing teacher is a lovely home educating mum too. Bailey has made some fab HE friends and he goes off to the cinema and meets up with them. Its a very wonderful lifestyle.  When the children talk of their own future children, none of them say anything about "school" being involved, its always home education. I think that speaks for itself.

This post was written as part of The Home Education Blogging Carnival. I hope this is helpful to you MotherScuffer x Click the link below to find out more
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The Home Education Blogging Carnival

11 comments:

  1. 5 year olds toilet training other children is outrageous Zoe! What were they thinking. At least you have discovered the wonderful life of HE now!

    My N often talks about her children and HEing them. You're so very right: it is lovely to see them all so happy (nearly) all the time! xx

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    1. I know Lisa! I had put it to the back of my mind until I wrote this piece Lisa! Yes, better late than never!

      That's so lovely that we are already inspiring the next generation too, will look forward to helping out lots with my own grandchildren then! xx

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  2. Lovely post and we're all glad you guys are home-edding :)
    I think I'd still be enraged about Cordelia toilet training another child too - sadly well behaved and intelligent children too easily become 'teacher's helper' as if it's an honour rather than a burden!
    So good to see someone voicing that home-ed is their career too, have had lots of people ask 'but what about your career?' since we started home-ed and I can't see why it's such a leap to understand that as a home-ed parent you don't lose a career, you change it.

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    1. Thank you Bella! I'm glad too-especially now we have you guys as friends!
      I agree, Cordelia has always been very responsible and pro active so it doesn't surprise me that the teacher picked up on it. I honestly think she thought it was something to boast about and couldn't understand the look of horror and shock on my face!
      I totally agree, I don't think any other career would suit be better than this one and I will be more than proud for my children to know that my career has meant them having the freedom to enjoy their childhood. See you tomorrow x

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  3. What a fabulous, well written piece. It's sometimes heart breaking to hear the stories of how people came to home ed and yet extremely heart warming to read that through all the heart ache and tears there is a happy ending. x

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    1. Thank you Higglepea! Your right it is heartbreaking, ours wasn't all that bad really, the children still keep in touch with some friends from school. I think its amazing when you come out of school and home educate how far removed you come from it all. I know that I would really, really struggle if any of the children wanted to go back to school. It does happen though so I feel I may have to be prepared for it. I home we will be HE forever though x

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  4. Great piece Zoe - I read it yesterday on the tablet in bed but have come to the mothership PC so I can leave a comment.

    I think schooling parents are forced to "normalise" much of what happens to their children everyday otherwise they would freak out - A bit like commuting on the tube - it is only when you stop doing it and look back you realise how dangerous and crazy it is for human beings to squash themselves into a giant tin of sardines under the ground but when the proverbial "Everyone else" is doing it then it seems more "normal" somehow.

    In my five years running the local home ed group I heard some truly awful stories about children hospitalized through bullying and so in. In the end it just wore me down and it does make it very hard not to come over as anti-school.

    There is so much of the institutional to navigate before you can even think about learning styles and so on.

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    1. Thank you very much Katie! Its always a real boost to have comments left behind, even though it can sometimes take me ages to reply!
      I think you are so right about the "normalising", now I look back and its like a really bad dream/nightmare. Sometimes its really hard to make a stand and do something different, which for us was HE. I didn't know anyone who had been home educated or anyone who was home educating. Now I still can't believe how many people home educate, its become so normal for us that I sometimes forget how amazing what we are doing actually is! Which is why its is so good to write it all down on here, when your so busy all day its so easy to only see a small picture of a situation and its only when you step back that you think WOW-This is pretty amazing and extremely special!
      I agree its hard not to become anti-school too, especially as I still have friends who have children in school. But I think parenting is like that anyway-different horses for different courses so they say! I hope at least most of the time I can be diplomatic about it all!

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  5. Hi, I loved reading this post. I found myself crying for Bailey and his bad school experience.... and then laughing at Ruben's remark about staying home and doing school with the other kids. Good luck, your children sound lovely.

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  6. Hi Jennie, thank you for taking the time to read our blog and for leaving a comment. It was a sad time but thankfully everyone is very happy now x

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  7. hi Zoe- * waves* only just found your blog and busy reading past posts.This was a great piece,sounds like your family are really enjoying the 'journey'. I love to read how people came to Home Educate. Different reasons for different people but we all have our children's interest at the centre of our decision xx

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