On Friday, I had the lovely experience of sitting with some home educators I don’t get to see very often, and others I had met for the first time. As the conversation went on, and people got to know a little more about each other, I was asked the question, ‘What advice would you give new home educators.’
For me the answer to that question is somewhat two-fold, as the community in the UK has changed in the time we have been home educating here.
When we first moved here in 2008, there were far more people who like us, had chosen home education from the onset. Their kids had never been to school, because they had developed a philosophy of education, that was fundamentally based on the belief that there was another way, or a better way for their family. Their motivations, where one of discovery, and promise, because they believed in the journey ahead. Quite often we refer to these families as philosophical home educators. They made a choice to home educate based on a belief about education.
The second group, the growing group are those that are either choosing to home educate, or having it thrust upon them, because some schools are failing their children. And often they are being failed in utterly heartbreaking and tragic ways.
It is harder to give advice to this group, as sometimes they don’t really want to be home educating. They would rather their children be in school, and they are feeling quite backed into the home education corner. They are angry, and rightly so! They trusted someone with their children and that someone, has failed them. I’d be bloody angry too. I often feel my eyes well with tears as I read or hear their stories. They can be just awful.
Some heal in time, and they find new places back in new schools, and life goes on for them.
Others though go on to, fall in love with the journey. Their time of hurt and anguish turns into one of hope and promise as they see joy return to their kids. They go from being forced to home educate to really enjoying the journey and wishing they had known about it from the start. They turn into philosophical home educators without even realising it.
So having a moment’s pause in the conversation, I did think of two pieces of advice I would give. They can apply to either group really, but it depends where you are in the journey as to which applies to you better.
To the philosophical home educators –
Whether you have come to the party from the start or have evolved into the philosophical butterfly it doesn’t really matter. To you I would say, trust the journey.
So much of my energy in the early years was spent on worry that I was failing my kids. Society likes to paint a picture that we are, and sometimes it can be really, really hard to block out that voice.
I have learnt some vital truths as a parent. Every parent whether they send their kids to school, or home educates, fails their kids somewhere along the line. That is just a given of parenting and life in general. There are no perfect parents, and no perfect route. Every choice has consequences both good or bad. Our aim is to always end up with the ‘good’ being the dominate trait on the balance of life. But we will make mistakes.
All we can do, everyday is to try to make the best decisions we can for the day ahead. And if we stuff it up, we make a better choice tomorrow.
But the journey goes on, and trust needs to be placed in it. Believe in yourself, believe that you are a good parent making good choices, and make those choices. Read, listen, speak to others, glean wisdom, trust your own wisdom, and listen to your instincts.
If something isn’t working, change it, if something needs tweaking, tweak it. But trust the journey.
To those who have come to home education through being failed –
If you have arrived in the world of home education from a place of hurt or anger at a failed school, my advice, overwhelmingly would be, to spend time healing your kids, healing your family and healing your relationships. Forget about the book work for a while, and concentrate on healing. Just do life. Spend time baking, walking, swimming, playing games, learning skills around the house, trying a new craft or sport together, cuddle up reading stories, colouring in, painting a picture, watching a movie, volunteering. Anything that helps to rebuild trust and well-being back into your family is a good thing.
Our aim as parents overwhelmingly is to raise happy and healthy children, to see them become contributing members of society and for them to find contentment and fulfilment in life. And the truth of that matter is that sometimes you don’t find that in school books.
While I am a firm believer in education, I am also a firm believer in raising children holistically, and that means making sure they’re looked after mind, body, soul and spirit. And sometimes you just need to concentrate on the first things first.
A child who is hurt may find it very hard to concentrate on education right now, although, others may also want to bury themselves in it, and that is ok too. Take time to listen to the heart beat of your family and what it needs most, right at that moment, and don’t be afraid to do it.
I suppose it is another way of saying, trust the journey. But you may have more on your plate right now to contend with, than just education. You may have all kinds of emotional and physical issues that will demand your time and your loving attention.
You have my utmost empathy, it can’t have been easy being forced to make a decision you may not have been ready for. You’ve started your home education journey on a much different footing than someone who chose to do so from a philosophical view-point. You have so much going on right now. Not only are you contending with the education of your child/ren, you may be sorting out work, battling with family, as well as also needing to carve out time to heal your family and your child. Go easy on yourself, be patient with yourself, forgive yourself if you need too, and look after you too.
I would love to send you a virtual hug!
However you find yourself home educating, I hope that it turns into a wonderful journey, one that is rich and rewarding. And one that you will look back on with the kind of fondness that I look back on the mad, chaotic days of home educating 5 children and sharing life together.