Why We Homeschool Our Children
We took our children out of school the first time at the worst moment in my life possible; just before my mother died.
We took them out at the end of the Christmas term in 2013. They were only at home for 2 terms before I realised that I needed to send them back so I could grieve in peace and heal properly, in order to be a whole and present mother for them. We sent them back after the Easter holidays.
At first the relief of having my days back to myself out-weighed the negatives of dealing with the school and the problems of them being back there.
By the following year, we had bought our first property (a 2 bed townhouse) and our lives had shifted in a way that had unsettled us a lot. Paul and I were not doing very well in our marriage with the stress of buying our first place and dealing with the money issues, and the children were becoming increasingly unhappy at school again. We also got our first ever pet, our dog Kiwi. It was a lot at one time.
But my kids were so very unhappy that the stress of dealing with the morning tears and tantrums, as well as the afternoon struggles of moody, tired children who’d had bad days became more difficult even than I remembered homeschooling to be. Every morning my daughter would cling to me, and Leon would only go in with his little friend Grace.
Every morning walking them to school felt like walking lambs to slaughter. I know that sounds extreme, but honestly, it’s the only thing I could imagine to be on par with how I felt; especially knowing that I could keep them home instead. But I also knew that I am not what I would call an ideal candidate for a home educator; and we were renovating the flat as well which meant our home was not really an ideal environment at the time (not to mention how small it was!)
We considered every conceivable alternative to homeschooling, including to visit a Steiner school in Brighton (even though we knew we couldn’t afford it), before we realised that our only real options were to leave them in school and face the nightmare of that, or take them out again and try to make it work properly this time. And still we didn’t do anything.
Then one day in June 2015 I went to watch my little girl do an assembly with her class. She performed her part beautifully and confidently, but at the end when the kids came to say goodbye to their parents before going back to class for the rest of the day, she clung to me like there was nothing on Earth she wouldn’t rather face than going back to that classroom.
God it chokes me up just thinking about it even now. Her teacher (whom I’d never gotten on with) pried Leela from my arms, and I watched my 5-year-old little girl stuffing down her tears and forcing herself to be brave and march back to class in a line like a prisoner. It literally ripped me in half. I ran all the way home sobbing my eyes out. I still can’t quite forgive myself for not just taking her home there and then.
But when I got home and calmed down, I knew. I would never make her do that ever again. I picked her up that afternoon and handed in her letter of deregistration at the same time and she stayed home with me after that. It was the best decision I ever made. I also gave in the boys’ dereg letters but they had to finish the summer term because I couldn’t manage all three at home straight away. I had to get stuff organised and I had to sort the flat out so that I had room to do activities with them.
Fortunately, where we lived then we were backed onto woods that were very easy to access and provided an outdoor classroom that was perfect over the summer. We didn’t do very much in the way of “book learning” but they nevertheless learned a lot. Leela knew what an oak sapling was and could identify it at the age of 5, long before she could read the word "sapling". You can’t stop kids from learning, no matter what their environment.
When we moved again in the beginning of 2016 we didn’t realise just how much of a challenge our landscape would be (a flat tongue of land sticking out into the ocean with the River Medway estuary on one side and the Thames estuary on the other – yes, it’s stinks here sometimes, quite literally). But we needed a bigger space, and our choice was either moving out of the woodsy area we were in to get it, or stay there and compromise with a tiny living space.
“But WHY homeschool in the first place?” You may be wondering…
We, as citizens of Earth, have beliefs about life and our future that have slowly evolved to encompass the idea and desire for a world of more freedom in every sense. But breaking out of the limitations of the lack-mindset that was formed in our early years by the system we grew up in, has made it very difficult for us to even allow that desire to take root, let alone believe in it as a potential reality. We didn’t want our children growing up with such a narrow view of the possibilities for their lives, especially knowing just how intelligent and creative and adventurous they are.
We know our kids and we know that with the right nurturing we can support their innate abilities and help them flourish into the kind of adults that help shape a better future. I even created a whole video series on it, which I’ll link up once I’ve got in on Teachable.
I really believe our world is perfect as it is, flaws and wars and all, because all of the negativity is fuelling the massive desire for peace and harmony all over the planet. We all have a choice whether to be a part of the problem or of the solution. We can worry ourselves into an early grave (literally) and waste our precious knowledge, gifts and experiences we were meant to share; OR… we can let it be what it is, knowing it is serving its purpose, and focus on being the kind of person who lives for the solution, who shares what we’ve learned freely to those who’ll take it in.
Either way, we are all contributing to the energy that is moving on the planet, whether we realise it or not, whether we believe it or not. It’s like gravity - you don’t need to know about it for it to affect you. You didn't need a lesson in gravity when you were born otherwise you’d float off into space, it had its way with you no matter what you knew or believed. Same for the energies that we are only just coming into conscious recognition of.
I want my children to see firsthand that I focus my time and attention on creating a love-based world for myself and my family, and how that positively impacts all those around me, not to mention how happy it makes me feel. One day they may even read through this blog and understand more fully what I don’t speak so much, as try very hard to show.
When we were considering homeschooling we found a website that gave us lots of information about how to go about it, and included in the suggestions was the concept of creating and Ed Phil - and Educational Philosophy - for our family to help us nail down why we want to school our children from home. Click here to read ours, which will give you a strong sense of what we aim to achieve as homeschooling parents. Sometimes we feel like we’re on the right track, sometimes not. It’s a journey not unlike being on the open ocean - you have to constantly course-correct as the tides of life shift you hither and yon.
If you are considering homeschooling, and I’m going to assume you are at least thinking about it, just know that it’s equally as hard in some ways, as it is much easier than dealing with the education system and the negative spiral that stems from that. We are making it work, that’s saying a lot. It’s not always easy and we are far from the best home educators out there, but our kids are growing up steadily; slowly in some ways, faster in others. All round we believe that they are benefiting more than not.
There are a few things we’ve really struggled with, most notably:
We left behind the environment they were born into, so the familiar places and faces were no longer available. Top that with not needing to leave the house and go somewhere that would force sociability - ie a new school - and you have the perfect recipe for being isolated.
I reached out on the homeschooling network for this area and after a few visits to a local group, we decided it really wasn’t for us. The people were lovely, but most of the children were not in school because they had behavioural issues or learning difficulties, unlike ours who were home simply because…
Our kids didn’t really enjoy the group, there were too many “taboo” foods around, and it really was a glorified mother and toddler group. A wonderful woman ran a crafts activity each week, but aside from that, there was nothing educational going on, which was what we expected would be happening at a “homeschooling” group.
Long story short, while we liked the people the group didn’t work for us. And there seemed nothing else around that did measure up to our expectations (that isn’t intended to be as snooty as it sounds, honest!) and so instead we focused on sociability within our circle of friends and family.
My friend Sue took her older kids out of school towards the end of 2016 which improved things a lot for us (not to mention how it benefitted them, even though it’s been tough for Sue), and we’ve since started doing “Earth School” classes together which are a lot of fun, for both us and the kids! More on that soon.
I also have a wonderful friend, Ros, whose three kids are pretty much the same age as mine, and we are both craft-addicts, so it was a match made in heaven. We learned to crochet together the second time we ever got together ha ha! But their weekly activities list is long and we don’t get to see them nearly as much as we’d like. But thanks to Ros and her connections we are finding and starting to go to more educational activities locally that we just had no way of knowing about (without frequenting facebook, that is, which I do NOT do - again, more about that another time!)
So yes, sociability is a big issue when it comes to homeschooling. At least it is for us with a rather small friends and family circle, and living so far out of the way. Our circle would be much bigger if I wasn’t from so far away I guess, but I know that there is no such thing as a problem - only a challenge. Sometimes I am up for the challenge, sometimes I just let them play minecraft online...
Motivation to do schoolwork
Holy Moly this is a big one for us! As previously mentioned, we are not ideal candidates for homeschooling, mainly because we have so many of our own projects and ideas that ensuring the kids do something educational each day (while they are using every trick up their sleeve to get out of it - you know how persuasive they can be!) is not easy.
And although we struggle with it, and have been very intermittent with their “schooling” we have managed to get Leon and Leela just about reading at the time of writing, despite Leon’s heavy reluctance to do so. We are aware of our schort-comings and are always brainstorming ways to work around them.
For instance, as a way to get them doing something every day in the run up to halloween, I created a halloween advent calendar for them, which did double-duty in that I didn’t have to think about that day’s activity, just to prepare for it, and they were eager to see what was in the tube so I almost never got out of doing it! It was so successful that I’m busy creating a reusable system we can use every month to pre-plan as many activities as possible. I’ll be linking to that here as soon I’ve got it sorted.
The main thing, I keep telling myself, is that my children are healthy (not sitting at desks most of the day or eating crappy school dinners), they are happy and vibrant (not the miserable, lethargic and zombie-like shells they were before) and they are actually getting to experience a real childhood. How many people can say that about their childhoods? Certainly not me, and neither can my husband, which is why we were determined that no matter what the “inconvenience” to us, our children would be allowed to be children, as much as humanly possible.
Book learning is important to some degree, but learning about life, and nature and what they do and don’t prefer is much more important in reality. Learning how to cook healthy meals and look after their physical bodies, be steady emotionally and manage stress healthily, knowing how to take care of the environment around them so their children and the generations to come can enjoy it as much, if not more so, than they, and above all, doing the things that make them deeply happy and fulfilled, these are the things matter.
After all, isn’t that what you’ve been spending your whole adult life trying to learn? What do you actually use from school in your everyday life, besides reading, writing and basic maths? We make far too much of “education” in the institutionalised sense, and far too little of basic life skills that lead to a love of personal growth and strong character, which in turn create adults that are always learning and providing real benefit to the global community.
Too much screen time
Oh man, this one is hard for us too. As previously stated, we have so many of our own projects and passions that it’s very very easy for us to give in to their pleas for game-time or TV. But when it all boils down to it, here’s what I’ve discovered:
Not letting them have any screen time before lunch makes for much easier to manage, happier kids who naturally get creative because they get bored (imagine that…)
Educational games after lunch (which includes minecraft - though only in creative mode, or in survival with the peaceful setting) stimulates their ideas and creativity that leads to interesting role-play games later in the afternoon.
Avoiding screens after dinner makes them much easier to get off to sleep (amazing, I know…) it also encourages them to think of games that are quieter in nature, and has led them to discover a love for card games, especially “Go fish” and “Uno”. Wait until I teach them “Shithead” hee hee hee…
Are we religious about keeping it this way? Nope. I try to be, but when Paul is home, the routine we have without him goes out the window and I have to be the bad guy on the mornings he goes back to work, and get it back in place. But it’s all about balance and it’s always worth the little bit of effort to get up before them and ensure I’m ready when they get up. You can read about my morning routine (when I manage it) by clicking on the post linked to below.
Ultimately, when Dad’s home, they know things are more lenient and fun, which is fine and well, but when Dad goes back to work, order is restored. I think they like that dynamic, and it’s just what works best for us. I tried for years to establish a strict routine, but we could never make it stick because it just goes against the ebb-and-flow of our day-to-day lives as it is with my husband’s shifts.
So, that’s why we started homeschooling and what we’ve dealt with, in essence. But as for why we continue to homeschool, well that’s simple. Maybe not in actuality, but basically I look at my kids now compared to how they were 2 years ago, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind.
I have bad days; days when I truly believe with every fibre of my being that they need to be back in school because I’m not cut out for this, because they need to get out more, make more friends, because I just need a break. But those days are few and far between and are always the result of poor self-care on my part, which includes not managing my mindset very well. They aren’t pleasant when they happen, but I have the support of a wonderful, devoted husband and father, as well as the motivation of my kids’ happiness and the avoidance of the nightmare that is the education system to get me back on track pretty swiftly.
Is homeschooling for everyone? Absolutely not. It’s not for most people in this day and age. It’s not even for every child - some truly thrive in an academic environment. But for us, it’s just right.
What about you? Would you consider it? Weigh in with your comments below!
Lots of love,
Tam x x