There are an awful lot of reasons for this, across the HE Community and in our family. The reason we home educate now is not the reason we started to do so.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent to the moment ones is this:-
It is my duty in law to ensure my children are provided with an education that is suitable to their age, aptitude and ability. Education, one which will fit them for life in their community but will not necessarily exclude them from operating in another community, is compulsory. School, however, is NOT compulsory.
I can CHOOSE, as their parent, as the person responsible for ensuring they get the education that the law demands for them, to DELEGATE that education to a school. Or i can choose not to. That is how the law stands; the wording is not that school is compulsory but if i want to i can ask not to send them and try to do it myself, it is quite the reverse. Education is my responsibility and i have to provide it in a way that personally equips my child for life.
So if i send them to a failing school and the school fails them and they do not get an education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability that equips them for life, it is MY fault. That is what the law says.
Given that, given the BBC News pages can give you a raft of examples of failing schools, failing curricula, failing initiatives, disenchanted children and children with 10 A*s who still struggle to display basic literacy and numeracy skills, i choose to take this responsibility upon myself. Because i figure i probably can’t do worse.
The latest government buzzwords illustrate the basic legal premise of education perfectly well; they want more flexibility and freedom for personalised learning in schools and they want layers of certificates and courses that allow children to develop skills relevant to them. But what defeats them (and i am certainly defeated by trying to work out how to do it!) is the idea of delivering personalised education to 30 children at a time.
In my house there are 4 children with different ages, aptitudes and abilities (not 30!) and the advantage of having a ‘teacher’ – i prefer the idea of facilitator – who knows them well in a manner which encompasses all elements of their life and personality. I know when they are on top form, off colour, worried, excited, motivated, de-motivated, needing reassurance, needing to run, confused, impassioned etc Every single day, their goals and experiences are tailored to them personally.
We go slowly when things are hard, fast when things are easy. Each of them is doing their own subjects, their own level, using their own style. If it sounds hard, i can assure you that i have simply got to a place where i can do that with them through practise and perseverance and experience of their whole selves. And the same is equally true of their own understanding of themselves and each other. They have time to listen to themselves, develop methods and mechanisms and learn about learning. Which actually, except for reading, writing and basic maths (which are keys to everything else) is all you really need.
Want to learn. Like to learn. Learn to learn.
We enjoy being together. It is an absolute, utter insult to me to be accused of being odd because i choose to spend quality time with my children. Where on earth has that non-nonsensical notion come from? The times i’ve heard “they need space” or “you need to let go” and yet, oddly enough, i see little evidence of my children being reliant on me or me on them. What i see is children with a strong sense of a safe jumping off place, a place to explore from and a place to come back to when the exploration is over, for good or bad.
Last term Fran chose to go to school, safe in the knowledge she would be welcomed home again – she enjoyed it but found it a waste of her time and so chose to return to HE, not because she didn’t cope with school (she did, brilliantly!) but because she was mature enough to evaluate it and make a decision on the impact for good or bad it made on the other things she loves to do. Just today she came in to tell me she has applied to be on a CBBC show that means being in CBBCs care for 1-7 weeks in January to March. She didn’t ask my permission (although she knows if she was offered it, it would then require us to agree) but came in to say that she’d applied because it seemed like an amazing opportunity and too good to miss and that although she would have to miss a ballet show and it might be hard to be away from home, those are decisions she can make when it arises. All sensible and thoughtful things for an 11 year old to do – and brave, for a kid who is ‘not out in the real world’ by going to school.
We home educate because it gives us the chance to meet all sorts of people, go to all sorts of places, be together, be apart, explore, learn in a personalised way and learn in a way that equips the individuals they are for the individual life they will lead.
We home educate because they all need something different; Fran needs short bursts of focused activity and is happy to use formal text books for that, so long as it is backed up with lots of visits and reading and programmes/websites to fill in the blanks and bring it to life. Maddy learns methodically and in a self motivated way, approaching topics side on and reading, playing and drawing her way around them. Amelie doesn’t appear to do much at all that i recognise as formal learning – yet is is easily the brightest and most precocious of them all, learned to read on her own, can do pretty much anything anyone ever asks of her and only ever needs one explanation. And Josie is emerging as a thoughtful, deeply internally motivated child with a passion for detail and thoughtful play that comes from what she sees, hears and goes to.
My children are all extremely different; they rarely get to something in the same way (vast differences in becoming readers is a excellent case in point!) and have very different approaches to life. I couldn’t even say they know many of the same things, because they are all too busy being about their own thing each day. They talk to each other and often what one has learned is transmitted to the others in the form of a game they play together.
All of that is a very far cry from the reason we began HEing, which was simply to protect Fran from the onslaught of school which she was so completely unready for, being only just 4 and still largely non-verbal. I never expected to become so passionate about being individual, having tried too hard to be one of the crowd and not stand out while i was at school. The celebration of difference and being oneself is something i never anticipated.
There is one last thing which is, beyond almost everything, the best reason for HEing that i have now. It is being demonstrated downstairs as i type. And that is the fleeting jewel that is childhood. My girls (aged from 11-4) who have all done some reading, some maths, some music, some history and something else today (12pm now) are all playing PlayMobil together. They are enjoying, on the patio and through the doors into the dining room, a fresh and sunny day in the company of their sisters. They are engaged, happy, full of joy and love and stretching out every last moment of the childhood which is eroded away so quickly for so many youngsters now. It will be gone soon for Fran, teenagehood will tug away at her, but for this moment, work done and an afternoon out about to happen, they are just enjoying being kids.
I couldn’t bear for them to be sat, dressed the same as everyone else, learning something someone else decided was important, inside on a sunny day, away from each other and from me, unable to suddenly decide to go and sit with their rabbits or come in and read a book about something which caught their interest. i don’t want them to be dulled down to become the next generation of clones in a poorly performing inner city school, living by rules which often make no sense and are designed to control crowds.
I want them to be themselves, thinking for themselves, expressing individuality, knowing they are supported, safe, strong, comfortable and enjoying life. And if you can have at least as good an education doing that from home, but still with plenty of time and energy for playing and laughing and being with your family, with endless energy and time for enjoying all experiences and friends on offer through evening clubs with no home work to worry about, why on earth wouldn’t you?