I have been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks but something has been stopping me and it was because I hadn’t fully made the decision and hadn’t felt confident enough in it. After always thinking I would and really wanting to home educate my eldest son, we have now made the decision that from September, he will be starting reception at a local village school to try flexi-schooling from Monday- Wednesday each week.
Even writing that is still a bit difficult, I have had to let go of my ideals a bit. Since Jude was about 18 months I have started meeting home ed groups and I would say most of my friends with kids I meet up with now are home educating, so it hasn’t been an easy choice. The parents I know who home educate are so free-spirited, kind and creative and the children I know who are home educated are lovely, well socialised little people, who can often talk with adults just as well as they can children and always have a love of learning. My son is definitely that way, in fact he would include some of his best friends as adults who are friends of ours and has lots of friends both home educated and who have started school. His learning never stops. It currently focuses a lot around football though, playing footy (learning teamwork), playing footy cards (learning numbers and words), footy on the tablet (learning the tactics), designing footy kits (creativity), baking footy cakes etc etc. We always follow his lead with his interests and meet up with his friends as much as possible and it has always worked really well, he’s really bright and mostly happy, but there are a few things that make home edding difficult in our current situation and I just couldn’t stop thinking about them. These are:
- We live right next door to a school – Yep like literally over the wall and it’s the one his cousins (who he totally loves) attends. I tried to not make this a problem but one day after a week where we had all been poorly and hadn’t done much all week, we walked past the school yard on the way back from the park and Jude’s cousins and a local friend came to the fence to talk to us. I looked at my little man with his football in his hand (which he had been playing with just me in the park), looking longingly at the other boys playing football in the yard and I felt sad for him. That is the day I rang the school (not next door but a lovely village one 10 mins away) to ask about flexi schooling.
- My littlest is at the annoying stage – Well not too much to me as I think he is cute, but for Jude when every toy, lego, train track, drawing etc you get out your little brother climbs up and wrecks it, it must be pretty annoying. I have tried so many tactics, but apart from being there with them every second of everyday, which I can’t, I have just had to accept that they just clash at the moment. We have so many tears and anger from Jude as he just gets so frustrated with Felix. And poor Felix just wants to play, but gets shouted at all the time.
- He loves being with older boys and men – I guess this is a natural progression at a certain age for most boys, but I have noticed more and more this year when going to the home ed group that Jude just gravitates towards the older boys and dads there. He has always been like that at playgroups if dads have been there and he loves being with his older boy cousins who are 8 and 11. He also always wants to go and help my husband out in the family hotel downstairs, which unfortunately isn’t always an option.
- We currently live in a flat – This is brilliant in some ways as it is in with my husbands job of running his families hotel business, so we have no outgoings and get to live in a stunning place in the world where people come on holiday. We also have a swimming pool and lovely gardens on site, so I don’t like to complain. The problem, I guess, in terms of having kids around all day, is we don’t have direct access to a garden as our flat is right in the top of the hotel and we need to go all the way through the hotel to get outside. We are out a lot as we are very outdoorsy and live next to a park, but I feel it’s not the same as just being able to let my boys just roam about in the garden by themselves whenever they please. They just can’t do that and it has become a problem here as if we are in the house and I need to get on with things the screens come out for Jude, and to often for my liking.
- We live rurally – This isn’t a really big deal as my home ed group is only 10 mins drive away at an amazing National Trust building overlooking Lake Windermere. It’s just brilliant, but the only problem is all the people who go there are so spread out from around the South Lakes, that on the days the group isn’t on we have to travel quite far to meet up with people. Although there are a lot of home ‘edders in Cumbria, it is really rural so you just have to travel. I feel it would be really nice for him to have some friends local to Ambleside where we live.
So with these things really playing on my mind, but then all the great things I have read about and experienced with home ed fighting against these thoughts I thought ‘oh sod it I am just going to ring the school’. So I rang the little outdoorsy village school we had visited earlier in the year and had heard so many good things about and ended up on the phone to the headmistress for about an hour. She was straight away very understanding and open to flexi schooling and I instantly felt at ease and thought why don’t we just try it out, no harm can be done.
That was about 5 weeks ago and since then I have been a rollar coaster of emotions and mind changing and all sorts! Jude went in to try the pre-school (which is only on Monday afternoons) and for the first few sessions I stayed with him. I know exactly what he’s like and I don’t blame him, but he likes to suss things out and get to know people before he joins in so that’s what we did. At first he didn’t want to leave my side, but the more we went, the more he just went off on his own to play with the others. I always try to stand back and let him get on with things himself, so I did the same at school and off he went.
We kept talking about it at home that I couldn’t keep staying and it’s for him to get used to school and he kept saying he didn’t want to go without me, although he did really enjoy it.
This is when I freaked out and thought I can’t do it, I am not going to break his trust and leave him there if he’s not happy, especially when I would really like to home educate. I started reading home ed blogs and books all over again and talking to everyone about it. I was so unsure what to do and started reading even more about unschooling. I love the concept of unschooling as it is so child led and that got me thinking that I need to stop thinking too much about it and just think what might make Jude happy right now. After agonising about it all so much and finding it hard to let go of my ideals of living in the country with land where my boys could just roam around and be completely child led or for us to travel the world and worldschool them both I just had to face facts. A good friend of mine then said to me on a phonecall one day “Hatti we all have all these ideals for our children but we actually have to think what is actually happening right now and if it isn’t working then you need to find out what will”. This made me think yep, things aren’t really working how they are, so why not give school a try. Sometimes you just need someone else to say something simple and it makes you step back and make a decision.
We then decided to give it until the end of term and then at least we would have the summer to decide and he would have a place in school if we wanted him to go. I gave up worrying and just handed the situation over to the universe and said if he’s meant to go then things will go well, if not then we are meant to educate at home. He then went in the next day for half a day and a full day that week and absolutely loved it. Apparently he only asked for us once on the first afternoon but then when they told him we’d be collecting him at home time, he happily went off playing again. When we arrived to collect him, both times he has wanted to stay and has asked to go back again, so to me that is a massive sign he is happy and by sending him to school in September I am following my child’s lead.
Even though we have found a lovely school, set in the Langdale valley with 35 children, mixed year small classes, a forest school, a family feel AND they have agreed and are supportive of flexi-schooling, I feel very blessed, but I still have my reservations about school from being there the past few weeks. I still think it’s a shame that children are expected to go 5 days a week, that they pretty much have to spend a lot of their time doing what other people are telling them they should do, I don’t like some of the ways the teachers can be controlling and I really dislike school uniforms for little kids, BUT seeing how happy it has made my little boy I think, for now, it is definitely worth a shot.
The thing is I guess I have always been wary of the way that young children are taught formal things such as reading, writing and maths before they are ready and wanted to keep Jude out to follow unstructured play for as long as possible. But with him this doesn’t really apply as he has shown an interest in numbers since he was 3 and now loves learning times tables. He is also writing and well on the way to reading so I think being the way he is, the curriculum in school may not bother him too much, he will probably enjoy it.
I guess the past few weeks has shown me that each child has a unique personality and each family has a unique situation and as much as possible, you have to tailor your situation to meet the needs of everyone and sometimes it’s ok to let go of your ideals a bit!
So, from September, 2 (going up to 3) days a week Jude will be in school, hopefully having fun with some local kids and the other 4 days we will go to our home ed group and have days out like we do now. Best of both worlds I’m hoping and I am actually quite excited about this new little adventure. If it works then great and if it doesn’t, we will just take him out and make home education work as planned. Tears will definitely be shed on the first day though, but I don’t think they will be from Jude!
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