I wrote a short post 6 years ago about why we chose to home educate but I have been thinking a lot about it lately and since we have now started our ninth year of home educating I thought I would expand on the original post and add in some extra thoughts.
We always thought our kids would attend schools but after my first one was born we ended up spending ages in and out of medical rooms, having tests done, arguing with medical people, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. It was a tough start but a start that changed the kind of parent I thought I would be. I stopped caring about what everyone expected and was focused on what was best for our daughter. So when it came time for us to put her into school, I didn’t. I listened to my gut which told me she would not thrive and we started our home education journey. And then when it came time for my youngest to start he was adamant that he was not going to miss out on home education so he joined us (although in all fairness he was already joining in).
Our reason for saying our kids would not thrive in the school system is not to do with individual schools or teachers. I know there are lots of good schools out there and lots of dedicated teachers. I know that. Both our kids were diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and are on the Spectrum. When they were both younger their SPD was intense, really intense. They needed long bounce back periods (bounce back is what we call the time they needed to decompress after an outing or sensory input). They needed time to calm down and we felt we needed time to focus on the SPD and help them cope with it (SPD is not something that is cured and it is not something that kids outgrow but with help the kids do start to manage it better). So we felt the school environment was just not the right fit for us.
Now years later I 100% think we did the right thing. Both the kids have never attended school and both kids are doing exceptionally well.
Those first few years of home education were the hardest. I had moments when I really struggled and had massive doubts about what we had done. But looking back most of the hard times were down to the sensory side of our lives and even though we had some really tough moments to get through, the kids were in their home, surrounded by love.
I have never been one to say “we follow the Waldorf approach or Charlotte Mason etc etc”. We just did what was right for our kids and over the years the way we have educated them as evolved and changed as they themselves have grown up and changed. We probably have always have a semi-structured approach. But having said that for the first few years I did not stick to school curriculum. We did phonics but we did phonics at our pace and we were always behind the schools, our reading and writing was slow to begin with, mainly because I did not rush them and we made a conscious decision to spend time working on the sensory side of their lives. So for the first 2 years we would have been behind the schools and there were moments of panic (natural to worry) but my gut kept telling me the kids are processing at their speed and rushing them is just going to cause problems later. And then everything clicked and both of them become amazing readers and just flew ahead of their age range. I still strongly support the idea that we should not rush the kids through the basics. Let them take their time, every child develops at their right speed.
My oldest has now started Year 8 and is doing a lot of structured work, she is already thinking about which GCSE’s she wants to write. She is still adamant she wants to home educate and as a result she actually works really hard, without any complaints.
My youngest has just started Year 5 and we are more semi-structured with him with lots of interest driven projects.
Now to answer a few questions.
Would I do this all over again? Yes 100% yes.
Do you need to be qualified to home educate? The only qualification is your kids. I have a degree and honours from University, my husband has 3 degrees but they do not help us educate the kids. We learn with the kids. We read and research topics together and we both often utter the words “I have no idea, let’s find out together.” And I want to stress just because you know a topic/subject well does not mean you can explain it well.
Would I recommend home education? I think it depends upon the family. There needs to be a desire to learn and the parents who are facilitating it need to have the right attitude. They need to understand that they are going to have to learn just as much as the kids. I really do mean this. If you are happy to go on a learning journey with your kids than YES go for it, you will love it.
It is not easy. So you need to want to do it.
What tips do I have? Get out the house, you need to get out the house. Make sure everyone owns wellies and rain jackets.
Pick your battles. You will get people telling you what they think, some good and some bad. You don’t always need to argue with every person you meet about the merits of home education. It can get exhausting, so pick those arguments.
Find someone who also home educates, someone you can talk to. The conversations you have with other home educating families are very different to the ones you have with school going families. It helps to have people to talk to who are in the same boat.
Am I going to home educate other kids (I have had this quite a bit)? NO. I have two kids and I will home educate those two kids. If other kids had to come here it would NOT be home education it would be tutoring and I do not want to be a tutor.
What do I think about countries outlawing home education? I think that is very sad. There are lots of kids like mine who will really benefit from home education and trying to fit everyone into the same box never works. My husband and I are so convinced that it is the right fit that we would relocate if it was outlawed in the country that we reside in.
What are our plans? At this stage neither of our kids are interested in school. Both will write GCSE’s and yes my daughter has already said she wants to do the prep work for the exams from home.
I hope that answers a few questions.