Our needs as a family have changed over the years. It has been 4 and a half years since we went those registration letters in for the older children. Little N was just 2 months old!
My 9 and 12 yr olds have now grown into 14 and 17 yr olds, little N is 4, he would have started school himself in September! And they have a little brother M who is rapidly approaching 2! So the family dynamics are totally different to when we started.
Its so hard not to compare with other children, to look at your own children progress alongside others in mainstream education. It goes against everything I know and feel deep down. I know that all children are unique individuals! I know that age is just a number and that standardized tests go completely against the grain, and yet here I am. I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that the children are following their own paths and doing well, even if the path is not a conventional one.
You see, A made the decision not to sit any further IGCSEs, and I supported that as it was her decision. She is now learning to drive, studying for a SEN diploma from home and working on her silver Arts Award. Qualification wise she doesn’t have the list of GCSEs that others her age may have, but the anxiety that crippled her has improved hugely! She has other qualifications and work experience which have built a great CV, and in time she will be successful at interview as she learns and develops those skills as well. She can travel independently, she recently made her own way to Oxford Street during the rush hour commute to attend an event that she secured tickets for. She is able to make her away across the county to visit her friends and get home and she is earning her money for these trips by baby sitting her younger brothers allowing me to do some extra work. Whilst it would be easy to focus purely on qualifications, her ability to navigate public transport and to get from A to B without having the anxiety attacks that she used to have are by far a greater and more beneficial achievement. Because you can study as and when you need to at any age!
She recently spoke to me and told me “I honestly don’t think I would still be alive if you hadn’t taken me out of school, I would be just another statistic. Don’t ever doubt yourself mum!” …. She’s right, there’s so many figures, young people’s mental health, suicide rates etc. The damage is long lasting and in too many cases completely irreversible. Why, in so many cases, is importance placed on grades over mental health and emotional wellbeing?
And so I find myself looking at N. Plenty of friends children his age are now heading off to school each day. Children Ms age will be heading off to preschool soon enough! Again, the proud parent posts that you can’t help but compare too. Children writing small notes and proudly scrawling their names in greetings cards……. while I look on and can’t help but think, N barely picks up a pencil! He still uses fist grip and is only just getting some letter formation……. aarrrgggg!!!!
BUT HANG ON!!! He is only just getting some letter formation!? He is 4, plenty of other countries don’t start formal schooling until 7 and yet their children are not behind ours in the educational league tables. And N with NO formal schooling is STILL learning letter formation!! That’s him learning completely freely, in his own time, no pressure, just enjoying it and it is coming too him!!
We were stuck in traffic outside a takeaway place and he sat in his car seat and said ” mummy you can get us some pizza while we wait!” … there wasn’t a pizza picture, he had recognised the word! He had read it.
This child runs around and plays with children of all ages, he is happy and confident. If he is cross he lets us know, he embraces his negative emotions as well as the positive one’s. He sleeps when he needs too, eats when he is hungry and goes to the toilet without having to ask. He is not woken up, told what to wear and sent off to learn for several hours at a time. I don’t have to rely on someone else keeping me up to date with his progress. This child can follow directions, he builds Lego, colours in fantastically, can climb, bake, build….. he can make sandwiches, toast and even tea now independently. He can point out where different countries are around the world and he can tell his grandad all about blood sugar, germs and why our bodies form scabs!
Can they all do / know things that this time last year they didn’t? Yes absolutely! So I need to stop the fleeting comparisons with peers in mainstream school. Because all we really want for our children is for them to be happy and for them to make progress however that progress is made right?
Education and happiness are not destinations! They are journeys, without endings and as unique as the individual choosing the route. Regardless of whether you follow the main roads or veer off the beaten track, enjoy the ride.