Some conversation over the weekend has sparked some thoughts; this is not a reply or a justification but i felt that 10 years in and on the cusp of sending in a school application at the specific request of my daughter, was a good time to write down the things that that conversation crystallised for me.
Here are some things i believe about home educating and about schooling; they are personal to me, i don’t wish to inflict them on anyone else, nor do they intend to criticise any other choices. This is what i believe is right for my family. I say again, this is not a reply, or a justification, it is the helpful crystallisation of those thoughts.
*I believe passionately in home educating. It hasn’t behaved, in this house, quite as i thought it would but i am 100% convinced by the results and by the 4 highly individual, highly entertaining, exceptionally normal children that it is producing.
*I do believe home ed both goes in hand with, and initiates, a certain type of parenting here. We have always been honest and open with our kids, we’ve always offered them choices, we’ve always told them how we feel, but made clear that unless we foresee damage, we’ll support choice. We can’t entirely remove how our feelings might affect their choices from the equation, but we do try to avoid emotional pressure.
*I do believe both our style of parenting an HE are a long game; the skills have not occurred in a linear fashion, nor have our children been forced into anything. We’ve listened to requests, listened to feelings, encouraged skills, allowed for variation. When people have liked a playgroup or nursery they’ve gone, if they’ve passionately hated something, they’ve been removed. The one mistake of this type i ever made was trying to keep Amelie in nursery when she was clearly telling me she did not wish to be there. It was the one time, beyond the “she’ll settle as soon as you leave” line i believed about Fran and Maddy in very young nursery classes and the “co-sleeping ends in needy children”, that i have listened to social pressure over instinct. In 10 years and 4 kids (28 ‘years’ of parenting) that i feel i made a very real error of judgement on those occasions; when i have listened to my children and myself, we seem to have got it right.
*I really believe that constant listening, questioning, waiting for the next move on their part and quiet support results in children who make their feelings known and their needs known at the right time. I don’t believe in forcing anyone’s hand any more than i believe in walking away from them crying. I will always help them over hurdles they need helping over, whether it is speaking up for them or just encouraging them, but a leg up a climbing wall that looks like fun is not the same as pushing someone off a drop slide that looks frightening. I’ve seen the results of not being able to tell the difference and i believe than knowing your children well and listening to word and body language is the only way ot get it right.
*I absolutely did not home educate because i had a rubbish time at school. I DID have a boring, tedious and often painful time at school, where my skills and assets were not recognised and i feel the environment harmed me. I’m a bigger person than inflicting my insecurities on my kids and given none of them seem to be much like me, i think we’ve done a good job of teaching them self-confidence.
*I home educate partly because of specific needs of some of my children.
*I home educate because i believe there is a better place to be than a classroom when you are young. Pretty much anywhere else.
*I home educate to offer freedom, space, opportunity and something unique that they can always say about themselves. I evaluate constantly, endlessly and extremely self-critically and i question, all the time, whether we are still meeting needs. Most of all, i home educate so that my children feel unique and feel in control of their own destiny and so that they learn, from the age of 0 upwards, that there is always choice and always another option.
*It is an uncomfortable truth that i also home educate because i passionately believe that schools are often shallow, meaningless, time wasting, small minded, tiresome and dull places to be, because the news is full of dumbing down and failure in the education system, because i rarely meet a teacher with anything good to say about them and because i think the lack of depth and imagination in a curriculum that is identical across the country is pitiful and cannot possibly be good for the future and diversity of this country.
*I don’t believe that any of my children will have an enhanced quality of life if i send them to school. If they choose to go to school, i don’t think that my feelings are a good enough reason to stop them. I believe that i have done a good enough job of instilling questioning brains and individual thought in my children that should they choose to go to school, they’ll either make it work for them, or have the sense to leave.
*I home educate because i am much more afraid of the consequences of someone else failing them than i am of me failing them.
*I am the parent i am because i have chosen to trust a process, one i would like to watch evolve over 18 years but recognise i may not get to do so and because i have chosen to be my own person and then take the consequences of it. I am the parent i am and a home educator because i love being with my children, because my family unit feels like a community where we all have an equal say and because it is exceptionally pleasant to have 5 other people in the house who i treat, and who treat me, as humans who have a say. Within reason this home is run by consensus and agreement and i am phenomenally proud of that. Much of what happens here has to do with an intrinsic “breathing” of the organism we are and often choices, decisions and emotional needs are worked out slowly by dint of us simply living and interacting together on a daily basis. I think it has only occurred to me this weekend how hard that might be to comprehend from the outside.
*I do NOT want my daughter to go to senior school, i am not happy about it. I am choosing to trust that this is part of the process, because how *I* feel is *MY* process, not hers. I trust and feel entirely happy with, the fact that she has vacillated endlessly about primary school, never getting to a conclusion and never (for reasons i cannot explain) prompting us to say “right, lets do it then” and yet when a form arrives and she says “i want to send it in” we both immediately said “that’s fine, we agree you should”. For the record, that reply has absolutely NOTHING to do with us feeling less able to do a senior school education and everything to do with it just seeming ‘right’. We’ve offered, again, the option to start primary school immediately and she doesn’t want to. It is that fact, beyond all other things, that makes me feel that the process, the life plan, the style of parenting and the way we have brought her up, is working absolutely as we planned.
*No matter what, i will never, ever interfere with what we have worked so hard on here in order to set anyone else’s mind at rest. I had a brief flicker of thinking it might be easier to do that before i remembered i’m 34 with 4 happy, healthy children who i am the parent of; no one can possibly understand our children better than we can. Someone once told me i should try being a lesbian once just so i knew whether i was or not. It was clearly ridiculous to suggest it and i don’t see why my kids need to spend time in school is like so they know if they are happy to be home educated any more than every school child’s parents should home educate them for a couple of weeks so that child can make a choice too.
Please go back and read the first 2 paragraphs before being upset by or cross with my thoughts 😉