30 Days Wild, day 22: Last Wednesday saw the day of the big home ed picnic local to us. The picnics are occuring across the country this summer in response to the negative media coverage of Home education recently as a result of Nicky Morgans attack and ignorant claims that home educated children are being abused and / radicalised away from the watchful eyes of society. There were some highly publicised cases and serious case reviews regarding children who had been removed from the education system which were unfortunately used to strengthen her claims despite the knowledge that these children were far from invisible, they had been failed by the professionals whose job it was to check and ensure their welfare, not because they were recorded as being home educated.
Anyway, these picnics were planned to get Home educators out there, being seen, a bit of positive publicity as well as a much loved and enjoyed social gathering (despite apparently not being socialised we do actually thoroughly enjoy just getting together to have fun. Shocking right?!)
On Wednesday the weather did not look all that promising, the sky was grey, the forecast was storms and we hit a number of showers on the way over. So much so that I almost didnt go. I posted onto the facebook event to ask who was about and who was planning on going and got a couple of messages back which spurred me on. I was totally disorganised and so had to go to Tesco to stock up on meal deals for our picnic in a hurry and then make my way over. I wasnt sure of where I was going, we had been to south lakes before, we go regularly as it is where the children have their kayaking lessons but news of a field and a hill behind the lake left me feeling confused. I followed the directions, past the cafe, and past the toilets and on to the field……. I looked up the hill and saw a crowd of families! That must be them!! I dont know exactly how many people came along, but the hill and the woodland was full of the happy voices of children, toddlers to teens. There was football, bubbles, den building, games of tag. Adults took turns in doing cafe trips to keep up the supply of hot drinks, older children roamed around enjoying the space with their friends and in the woods a group of children of all ages worked together to build a large and impressive den.
There was a lady there with her son who had literally only deregistered him effective at 9:30 that morning, I did not get to speak to her but I saw her post on the facebook page after the event and was touched at how warmly she was greeted and how at ease she felt. She informed us that it had been a tough time and that she was thankful for the picnic and being able to meet people and that her partner had not been sure about home education until he saw her face when she walked through the door upon getting home and he is now behind her 100%. This story made me smile, it is important to have family and loved ones behind your decision, it makes the whole experience so much more relaxed and enjoyable. I do also know of a lady whose family cant seem to except what she is doing and she is feeling under constant pressure regarding when to put her children back into school, she doesnt want to, she has no intention to because she knows that this is the right path for herself and her children, but she would feel happier if she didnt have to fight that corner so often. So the social meets, the adventures, the picnics, the playing, they are great for the children but they are not just for the children. Home education is growing so rapidly, people are deregistering their children every day for so many different reasons and these social drop in meets are a fantastic source of information, support and informal get togethers for the parents as well.
Sometimes as parents we also need that connection, the adult chat with people who can relate to us. Who can understand why we dont want to make our children learn about a specific subject, who can understand the moments of fear and worry that they arent doing enough and arent learning anything, people who have been there, come through the other side and can offer the reassurance and the reminders of why we do this, how it works, how our children learn on those days when we have forgotten all of our own deschooling. Then in return at another event down the line we can be there for that friend when they hit that slump and are feeling concerned. You see, that happens. Its no more common whether you are home educating or in mainstream education, as parents sometimes we get that worry about our children future and are they learning enough are they working hard enough?
I have a friend whose children are in mainstream school and I know that as their mother she has concerns. She worries that her son is not applying himself as best he could, she worries that her children may not achieve the grades that they *need* to enable them to study for the careers that they want. It can be tricky as a home ed parent to hear those worries without them rubbing off as it is human nature. I know that children learn when they are ready and that a child in school may spend two years being forced to learn a subject and struggle with it and look to be failing or they may do exceptionally well and thoroughly enjoy a subject, a home ed child may have zero interest in a subject and never pick a book up until one day a random conversation, or a movie, or a book, will spark their interest, a passion, and they focus on learning everything that they can and six months later they will sit and pass an exam. I know that if my child is not interested in practising Maths (for example) at this point in the summer then no amount of pressure is going to help anything go into their head, so I may as well step back and allow them to do what they are interested in and know that when the time comes, when one of them wants to know something, they have access to the resources that they need to learn it. I have seen parents worry about their childrens reading and writing, feeling uncomfortable and doubtful about how their children will learn while being totally unschooled, then learn they do. Success stories and proud mama posts on social media, showing photos of work, videos of loud reading with the captions “totally unschooled” “self motivated” and “proud parent moment” are shared to inspire, motivate and reassure other parents. Our children. ALL children, are inherently designed and built to learn. They are natural learners, explorers and experimenters. I know this, most home ed parents I know know this, but sometimes, we all need a friend to remind us of this.