Its been an interesting time here and I pause for reflection, not on any particular matter but life as a whole. We were focusing on exams, on college applications, on the 30 days wild challenge. Pre occupied with smalls hospital check ups and friends birthdays and trying to get some order in our garden. We had events going on to the extent that I had t make the choice to cancel some things just so that I would have the time to be at home and catch up on housework and laundry. This, I have come to realise, is a home ed summer. There is so much going on!
We are approaching two years now, my children were deregistered in July 2014, and we have looked forward the whole way. It began as a temporary solution to an extreme situation but very quickly became a way of life that we were immensely happy and satisfied with and we haven’t looked back. I was asked recently if J would be going to school to “try” secondary school and I actually didn’t even need to pause for consideration before giving my answer.
There are several issues that just have come up and have me pondering things, not in a sense that what we are doing is wrong, because I am 100% confident that we are on the right path for us as a family, but more to do with why, given all the goings on, the headlines and the bullying and assaults within mainstream school, alongside the success of home education, is it still widely considered such an “alternative” or “scary” option, not normal and in need of hostility and discrimination? Is it really so wrong for a family to take the path to education that suits them for various individual reasons?
Firstly I want to address the ongoing battle I am having with the local college with regards to my teenage daughter. After signposting them in the correct direction regarding funding and detailing the process and rules regarding funding for home ed teens to attend college, and giving them the contact details of our local Elective Home Education Adviser I received a decision from them that they were not going to be accepting applications from home educated young people this year. This is due to the funding changes implemented in Sept 2013 which means that home ed young people receive college funding from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and that the college apply for this funding with an Individual Learning Record (ILR) for the young person. This also makes it possible for home educated young people to attend college on the full time courses alongside older students. It would appear that our local college doesn’t want to find its self in a position where they are being expected to accept home ed teens onto its full time courses and so are unwilling to apply for the funding for my daughter to do one of the part time head start courses. The thing that I have found most disappointing in all of this process has been the knowledge that funding has been this way since 2013 and the college were unaware of the process. Why are educational bodies not up to date with funding? And why would they have such an issue with having home ed teens on their courses? Generally if a home educated young person is applying to attend college it will be because it is their choice to attend, that they have an interest in the subject and have probably acquired a larger amount of knowledge, experience and skills in that area than their school aged peers as they have been more self motivated and free to explore their interests in more depth. Take it from the top universities and their approach to accepting home ed applications! I will continue to fight this in the hopes that even if it does not benefit my daughter in time it will help to pave the way for others in the future.
Secondly I want to address the thoughts of other people. Yes I know the saying “what people think of you is their problem not yours” and generally I wholeheartedly agree with that. I also realise that someone expressing a “concern” or a belief that if a child is left to make their own choices about what to do day to day with no instruction from adults that the result will be a generation of lazy, dumb individuals who cant do anything except play computer games says more about their experience with their children than anything else. But it can still be pretty soul destroying to see children referred to in this manner by parents who wake their children up, make them get washed dressed and in to set organised clothes to match all the people that it has been decided by someone else that they will be spending their day with. To go and spend 6 hours a day with people who are dressed the same and are the same age but that they have not chosen to spend time with. Working on subjects, many of which they have no interest in, that they wont remember the following day, and on the occasion when something does really spark their interest they are only allowed to look at it for a short time anyway. Then after their 6 hour day their after school activities are still pre planned with set reading times, home work, spellings etc that need to be done. All this, 6 hours and more a day, 5 days a week. So tell me, why is it so bad to allow these children free time during those school holidays? let them play their computer games should they wish, let them watch tv and movies for a day. A key part of our deschooling involved letting the children do what they wanted until they were “bored” of that, general advice for deschooling was a month per year that they had been in school, and was just as important for me as it was for them. Actually once they got it out of their system they very very rarely actually get “bored”. They are experts at self motivation and self directed learning. Of course sometimes we do have a day when J will sit in his room and play his xbox, and A will sit and watch crappy tv while faffing about on snapchat. But actually I have those days when I stay in pjs and get a blanket on the sofa and watch movies, or when I achieve nothing more productive than checking facebook and meeting a friend for tea and cake. As an adult that its fine, I dont consider myself lazy for having a “day off”. I dont need someone looking over me telling me what I need to do to make sure it gets done *ok granted, my husband may argue that* Children are not a totally different species to us, sure sometimes they may need general guidance around the importance of dental care and personal hygiene, as parents that is our job, but generally why do they need every minute of every day being accounted for to prevent them growing into a generation of lazy slobs? Why is there this concern amongst families whose children attend mainstream education?
As part of the home ed community I have met so many children and young people. All have their own interests and goals. I have met families who use structure and who seem to be incredibly busy most of the time, through to those who radically unschool and are totally child led and all sorts in between! The key thing that all of these youngsters have in common is that NONE of them are what I would describe as lazy! Get them together at the social meets and just get chatting with them and they are great. They know their stuff about where their passions are and they know so much about day to day life and skills they need for living! I can watch them playing with boys, girls, older and younger with no worries, no concerns, no bullying and no arguing. They learn from each other, and help others to learn from them. I have watched a group with ages ranging from 7 up to 14 (not including my own 2 year old who was also joining in and following the bigger ones around) in a hands on area of a museum doing various activities, explaining to each other what they need to do on each area, why some parts weren’t working, and what other bits did. None of them were directed in this, as parents we stood back and let them get on with satisfying their own curiosities until they had enough, then we took them outside to play “it”.
I have heard the argument about school preparing them for adult life and if they arent used to having to dress in a certain way, or be somewhere at a certain time, or get on with people in a certain way they wont be able to cope in the adult world. Well, in all of my adult life I have never been restricted to spending my time with people just my own age. In fact for as long as I can remember I have always mixed with people older than me, in both my personal and professional life. When at work, yes I have had to wear uniforms or dress smartly and be on time, my lack of school attendance did not disadvantage me in these areas. I have had to behave in a civil and professional manner with colleagues, some I really have not liked. But you know what? I have been able to excuse myself, get a cup of tea, leave the room for a breath of fresh air or just outright tell them to get away from me at times. I have not had to sit and be tormented for 6 hours of my working day being unable to do anything about it. If I have approached a manager complaining about the way I was treated by another member of staff I know that I would never have been advised to “stay away from them” or to not “give them cause to annoy you”. Advice that was given the children in school. I know that if a colleague got me in a headlock and punched me in the face in front of witnesses they would suffer major repercussions for doing so. Ultimately if I hated a job, if it made me really uncomfortable, affected my mental health and my self esteem, then I could leave. I would be free to make that decision and hand in my notice. Find another job that suited me better.And not once, in my adult life have I had to raise my hand and ask publicly for permission to go to the toilet!! So no, school did not prepare me for adult life! Yet I believe that home education is 100% preparing my children for adult life, by allowing them to enjoy and learn from their childhood!