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.