Home educating – Feeling the fear and choosing it anyway

Laurence and I started talking about homeschooling (that was the term we used at the time and we still use both terms now) before Talitha was born. I may not have even been pregnant with her yet. I’m not sure.

I remember I brought it up while we were having a stroll around Clifton Village, where we used to live, and he was pretty scandalised.

I grew up knowing families who homeschooled and disliking school myself. He went to boarding school and, on balance, found the experience positive. Fast forward and our first baby is four next week. She would have been starting school this September, except we didn’t apply.

It was no big conflict for either of us. Laurence is probably even more settled on the idea than I. It’s genuinely a mutual decision and certainly the right one for this year.

We’ve decided to keep ourselves open to whatever may come in the coming years. Home education seems like the route for us, given the information and having done the soul searching (I’ll get into our reasons more in another post or this one will be insanely long), but that doesn’t mean that things can’t change, that the discussion is now closed until they’re eighteen.

In a way, that’s relieved some of the fear I’ve had about stepping into the lesser known. I don’t have to make the choice now for forever and ever, amen. We can just try things and see how we go. School will still be there if ever we need to make a change.

What’s interesting to me is that many of the things I’m worried about probably aren’t what others expect to be on my mind. Academics don’t worry me. Talitha, like most children, is naturally hungry to learn. She’s a sponge for asking and observing how things work. She alarms and delights me on an hourly basis.

And even if she weren’t doing any of that, I’m confident that having a parent help guide her exploration and a wealth of time to pursue her passions beats getting lost in a class of however many children, stuck in a system that may or may not suit or interest her.

I’m also not worried about socialisation, not here in Bristol. We already know so many home educating families and there is more going on than there is time to do it all.

No, the things that concern me have to do with me – not her. I worry about missing out on a career, about putting too much pressure on Laurence to work and about the state of our finances. I already yearn to work more and feel frustrated that I don’t have the time or energy to do it.

But home educating is also something I really want to do so it’s not a case of martyring myself. It’s a much more complicated struggle than that. I feel fear and guilt in equal measure over not working and wanting to work. We put so much pressure on ourselves, don’t we?

And with that, I worry that I don’t have the patience to spend that much time with my children. Part of me feels horrendous admitting that but if another parent said it, I’d tell them that it’s normal. Life with kiddos is tough. So I’ll extend to myself the same grace.

That said, I think it’s also hard only getting snatches of time with your children and if flexischooling were a more readily available option, we might well consider it.

Another thing I feel nervous about is being SO responsible for my children’s social life. Talitha is at an age where she longs to be with other children so much of the time. I’m sociable but shy so I find it draining having to go out and see people every day, especially if it involves meeting new people.

I got really worked up about this the other day but then she went through a series of days where she absolutely didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone and asked to stay home with me and Ophelia and “make things”. I guess, she needs a balance too. So, I can probably lay off being propelled forward by fear and guilt every time I’m filling in the calendar.

The point is that taking this path, this year at least, gives her the freedom to choose how and when to meet people, to interact on her terms.

Since home educating is something we are doing together, we are learning to take each other’s needs into consideration. Mine don’t just disappear because I made a choice a little less ordinary.

Why We’ve Homeschooled for the Last Six Years – ft Polly of This Enchanted Pixie

On the blog today we’re enjoying the company of a mama I’ve been getting to know over the past few months. Polly, who blogs at This Enchanted Pixie, comes across as genuine, confident and full of life and love, both on her blog and in person. I’m so pleased that she’s sharing her reasons for home educating her daughters, especially since we plan to do the same.

Hello! I’m happy to be here, sharing a little of Adele’s space today! I’m Polly, I’m a thirty something mama to three girls and wife to one bearded man living in North Wales. We homeschool our three daughters and I thought I’d share a little of that with you today.

We have been a homeschooling family for 6 and a half years. After so long, it feels so normal to us, I forget that to others it is entirely foreign. I wonder sometimes why people ask if there is no school today when the girls and I are out in the middle of the day. Mid-way into our eldest’s nursery year, I came across an article about homeschooling, something in it struck home with me and I started to read more and more. I met a homeschooling family who lived around the corner from me and went to my very first home school group.

In the beginning, I felt as though homeschooling meant ‘school at home’. I spent hours researching curriculum’s, came up with complicated time-tables, and got stressed when we couldn’t stick to them. It didn’t take too long for all of that to go out of the window. Now, I’d describe myself as a relaxed homeschooling mama, perhaps not 100% unschoolers but mostly. Unschooling is a type of homeschooling, a lifestyle of learning. It doesn’t involve workbooks and set lessons {unless that is what the child wants}. The focus is on the child learning what it loves.

Mary Griffith, author of ‘The Unschooling Handbook’ defined unschooling as this: “{it} means learning what one wants, when one wants, in the way one wants, for one’s own reasons. Choice and control reside with the learner. She may find outside help in the form of parents, mentors, books or formal lessons, but she is the one making the decisions about how best to proceed. Unschooling is trusting that your children are at least as clever and capable as you are yourself.”

For example, Lola loves history, has done for the past six years since she learnt to read. She’s read every book she can get her hands on, and knows far more than I do on British History {once she seemed shocked that I didn’t know the middle names of every monarch!!}. For us, it means following the girls interests and providing opportunities.

Currently we’re doing a project on the body, taking a trip around the world while reading ‘Around the world in 80 days and studying various ancient civilisations as we work through the history of people. It means trips to museums, afternoons watching documentaries, long discussions while we’re cooking dinner. It means allowing them to lead the way, to know what they need, to trust them.

The one question that always seems to come up when talking about home schooling is the age old socialisation one. I had someone once asked me if the girls minded not having any friends :/ Contrary to what she must have thought, and to the name ‘HOMEschooling’ we don’t spend all day every day at home and never see another soul. We attend several homeschool groups, the girls attend art clubs, history groups, rainbows/brownies/guides and Lola is a volunteer at our local museum. Add into that meet ups with other homeschool families and play-dates and it’s a wonder we are ever home at all!

Socialisation is defined as ‘the adoption of the behaviour patterns of the surrounding culture; “the socialization of children to the norms of their culture”. Frankly, we didn’t want our children to simply learn to conform – we want them to think outside the box, think freely and for themselves. School doesn’t teach children about the real world – this article says it all perfectly.

Homeschooling works great for our family, we are lucky to be able to spend time with the children while they are young. It is not an easy option, being together 24/7 can be hard going – I also run a business from home, my husband is currently re-training and working a part time job and we have no family near by to help out. So life is full on. There is very little ‘time off’ and I have to juggle a zillion things each day.

Yet I wouldn’t change a thing, it is a way of life that I love and is ultimately rewarding. I would highly recommend you watching this video, by Astra Taylor who was herself unschooled, this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson and read this post by Sandra Dodd.

Connect with Polly by following @pixie_polly on Twitter and liking her Facebook Page. She’s also just launched an eco-friendly bath and body products business called Cariadon, well worth checking out before I buy it all.

Thinking about homeschooling

I can’t remember when we first started talking about home education. It was probably before Talitha was even conceived. Since then, we’ve gone round and round talking about the merits of alternative education while maintaining a wait-and-see approach.

After all, she’s only just trying out her consonant sounds. She’s not running off and getting hooked on phonics next week.

I realise that this topic is provocative for some, though I don’t really get why. On a couple of occasions people have actually taken offence when I’ve casually mentioned that we’re thinking about homeschooling. I’m discussing our decision for our child, not attempting to pick the foundations of society apart.

Let me say now that our decision will not be rooted in distrust in the British education system or mainstream schooling in general.

Laurence often jokes that I’ll choose to do something simply because it’s the opposite of what the majority is doing. I promise this has no part to play in this or most of my decisions.

OK, I may tend a tiny bit towards the alternative generally but I’d like to think that’s open-mindedness. I’m not looking necessarily for the “different” way, only for what’s best for us.
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