Home education was something I had always thought about even before I was pregnant with Tulip. From the age of 3-10 I was educated at Montessori schools in America. This method of learning gave me the freedom to follow my interests and really love learning. When I moved to England at the age of 13 I had a wildly different school experience. I went to a typical British all girls secondary school. The culture shock was more than I expected. I had to wear a uniform with strict rules. I got told off for using a pencil to write, something I had always done at my schools in America. This was absolutely baffling to me, I didn’t see why it mattered. I had to refer to all my teachers by Mr or Mrs/Miss something. A lot of my teachers in America I had called by their first names. I had to say “yes sir” and “yes miss”. Far more formal than I was used to. A lot of the teaching seemed to be geared towards us passing an exam and not actual interests me may have. I felt lost in what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea what to do after I finished my GCSEs. I had no passion for anything. I ended up doing a selection of random A-levels, then a foundation degree and then a degree at university. None of which I had passion for. I felt I was just aimlessly bumbling along on the path I was “supposed to” go on.
I remember very fondly my time at my Montessori schools and how excited I was to learn new things and how I could get stuck in to one particular thing for days or weeks if that was what really interested me. That feeling is what I want for my children and not the feeling of being lost and having no passion. Up until Tulip was about a year old I went back and forth about whether I thought I wanted to home educate her or send her to school. But the more I thought about it the more I started to lean towards home education. I feel children start formal school far too young in this country and I don’t like the way behaviour is handled in the schools I’ve seen. A lot of the things seem to go against how I aim to parent. When I raised these concerns with people, they would say things like “well what do you want them to do, they’ve got 30 children in their class, it would be hard to treat them any differently” and “parents are the biggest influence, you can still do things how you want at home and school won’t have that big an impact”. To the first question I’d say “I really don’t know, there just seems like there should be able to be a gentler and more respectful alternative”. I do feel my Montessori schools had that gentler alternative. And to the second statement I kept thinking, that may be true but they are at school an awful lot of hours in the week. On a weekday most parents don’t see their children for as many hours a day as their teachers do. And if school doesn’t have that big of an impact on them, then what’s the point? Children spend a lot of time at school and it is meant to be helping to shape the adults they become and how they contribute to society. I’m not trying to put down parents who have no choice but to send their children to school, if they want to they CAN be the biggest influence in their children’s lives. I know not all parents want to or are able to home educate. But if I have the desire and the means to home educate my children then why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand why people try to put me off and think my children will be disadvantaged if I don’t send them to school.
If I home educate then my children’s learning will be so specifically tailored to them. They will be able to follow their interests and passions and learn in the real world. Tulip is coming up to 2 years old now so I still have 3 years until she is of compulsory school age but I am trying to get things set up now so I am fully prepared when the time comes. I started a facebook group for people in my area with pre-school age children who are planning to or thinking about home educating. One thing people say when you say you are going to home ed is that your child will miss out on the social side of things at school. Like they think HE means just me and my child at home and she won’t be interacting with any other people. How ridiculous! As things are now she sees other people almost every day (we do have the occasional day where we’re home all day just the two of us but there’s nothing wrong with that). Her life is very social, she sees lots of other children as well as adults and gets all the socialisation she needs. Why would this change just because she doesn’t go to school. One thing I do like about school is that they have a group of peers who they will grow up with and go through school with. But there is no reason I can’t recreate this with HE. That is why I started my facebook group. As well as to plan outings and meet ups where the children can learn through doing instead of just sitting at a desk. I like the idea of getting to do something completely different every day and go to different places. No I don’t know everything but we can learn together! If my child shows an interest in something we can research it together and go places or talk to people who know more so we can learn more.
I am so excited about our home education journey and am hoping it will also bring me back some of that passion for learning that I lost. Now that Tulip is getting to the age where people will be telling me she should be going to pre-school or nursery etc I’m excited to be doing our own thing. She’s very good at colours and shapes and is even starting to learn some letters. My husband and I have taught her that through play and following her interests. And we plan to carry on that way.
Photo from a forest school playgroup we are involved in.