When people asked why I wanted to home educate our daughter, I always had an
answer ready. Just before Isabelle would have started school, we had sold
our house we were renting, and had no idea where our next home would be.
It seemed utterly wrong to have her start at a local primary school, only to
uproot her a few months later. So that's why, I would tell people, I was
going to home educate.
People accepted that readily enough but really, although that was all
true, it was hardly the main reason. Isabelle had never been in any form of
nursery or day care she was a quiet child who was made uncomfortable by
too many strange people and noisy groups. I was lucky enough to work for
myself, with flexible hours, so it had seemed natural to me to look after
her myself. I wasn't a believer in 'early academics' I thought four was
too young to start school. I felt that the natural thing to do was for me to
carry on looking after her as I had since she was born - I didn't see that
the arrival of a significant September needed to interfere with what we were
doing. I didn't tell anyone about all these additional reasons for my
decision. But September came and went, and Isabelle stayed at home.
I still preferred, though, to let people think that it was the uncertainty
over where we would be living which was dictating my actions. It carried
with it a lack of permanence an unspoken implication that once we were
settled again, Isabelle would start school. Friends and relatives all seemed
to assume just that, which saved me the endless questioning so many families
face about socialisation, teaching methods, and so on.
After a few months, we did move, into an area with two nice primary schools
nearby, and an air of expectation grew amongst people our friends. Now,
surely, Isabelle would be off to school and we could return to being a
normal, conventional family. But by now I had more confidence in my
decision. Isabelle was thriving she had time to play the endless,
imaginative games she loved, and wrote stories all the time, featuring a
cast of her favourite toys, all beautifully illustrated. If the weather was
fine we could abandon any 'work' we were doing and go on nature walks most
importantly, she had the freedom to be a child. I wasn't going to give that
up just because there was a school around the corner, however good it might
be. So we kept going.
But now, of course, the questions started in earnest. How long did I plan
to do this for? What about exams? (this when she was six!). And what about
socialisation? This last was the one that could pierce my armour. We joined
a local home educators group which had a monthly sports session that
Isabelle loved, and tried to go to as many other events as we could but
the fact that we now lived in a village and I didn't drive did make some
things logistically too difficult to get to. Although I was happy with
Isabelle's progress in her work, I was losing confidence in myself. The
one-off events we went to were great, but I was worried that we weren't part
of a community Isabelle enjoyed seeing the other children but she (and I!)
was rather too shy to form friendships in the little time there was at the
events we went to. Neither of us was out-going enough in that sort of
situation to find it easy to 'make friends'.
When Isabelle was seven, I was almost ready to give up. I still believed in
home education, but I had begun to believe it wasn't for us. I had always
said I would review things at seven perhaps it was time to admit that the
only place a child could forge strong friendships was in a school. I was
also missing adult interaction I wanted the sort of conversations you
might have with other parents at the school gates; about ideas to get
children to enjoy maths, about books that they were enjoying that your child
might like. I felt isolated, and I was afraid that Isabelle, however well
she was doing academically, would soon start to feel isolated too. I started
to think I had made a huge mistake, and I started to plan for a start to
'proper' school education.
But Isabelle's now eight, and we're still home educating. Isabelle didn't go
to school, and I have confidence again that I'm doing the best thing I can
for her. Because I found out, quite by chance (at an event I nearly didn't
go to, because I didn't think I would know anybody!) that there were regular
events running where Isabelle and I were able gradually to form a circle of
friends. We were able to find the sense of community we were missing,
because now we see other people regularly, both in learning situations and
in pure 'running about in the park' situations too! From being at home far
too much, we have moved to having a full diary and a group of people we look
forward to seeing. Quite simply, we feel supported by being part of a group
in a way we never did before and we have our confidence back.
I still sometimes get frustrated by questions about how we will manage
GCSEs. I still grind my teeth when a well-meaning shop assistant asks
Isabelle why she isn't in school, should we venture to the shops in school
hours. But I don't endlessly question what I'm doing any more. I don't worry
that Isabelle doesn't have enough contact with other children and if I
want to ask another parent about maths, or get a recommendation for a new
book, I know it won't be long before I see someone who'll help me out!
If you would like to chat to Christine, drop me a line at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch.