Two weeks ago I told you guys that we had decided to home educate. I have some more news: this morning I took the kids back into school. It’s OK, I won’t be offended if you laugh. I’ve laughed too – if I didn’t, I’d cry FFS!
Why? Well first I will tell you what worked. The kids were fine, they loved it. Not sure how they would be after months or years, but certainly in this honeymoon period, they enjoyed home education. They’re no angels but I can honestly say they were a pleasure most of the time. They loved the freedom, the lazy mornings with no time pressure, picnics at Chatsworth with lovely friends, loads of outdoor time. We actually were in the process of ‘deschooling’ where you do no structured work and settle into home education for a month or two – but we still did a lot of reading, cooking, seeing friends. Much of the time it was really fun. So why did we quit?
It was about me. I couldn’t do it! I enjoyed the first week, but then I felt anxious and depressed. I was letting day to day things slip and get on top of me for lack of time. I was worried about deadlines – even for fun things like the online book club I run. After a very tough second week, for the overall good of my family, I realised that home education wouldn’t make me happy. I think it would separate me more from my partner, who works full-time in a job a long commute away with an office to run. It would be my sacrifice, and it won’t bring me fulfillment. And I am key to this family. If I am not happy, nothing else works. I knew in advance it would require a huge sacrifice from me, but I don’t think you can really get it until you wear the shoes.
I’m not a chilled, roll with it type of person. I was worried constantly about what we would do week to week, if they would feel like outsiders – I worried about everything. I suffer from anxiety and mood ‘issues’ (as yet un-diagnosed, I just manage it myself) and during the past 2 weeks (3 if you count half-term) these have got worse. I couldn’t sleep. I felt resentment towards Adam, thinking “he gets to have a life and I am giving everything I have to the kids”. I realised it’s actually OK to want something for myself. And I think it will be better for the kids, long-term. I also don’t want my issues to become a drag for the kids. I don’t want them to see my crying all the time. Or really struggling. And sometimes that’s what happens. And it’s not their fault. I want them to have their own space and time to flourish – away from me. Then come back to me when I have had time to replenish.
Socially – for the kids – I found home education tough. There are a lot more, proportionately, kids with behavioural or similar issues. Plenty haven’t, of course, but more than in mainstream schools have. Arthur is a really sensitive lad and has had a few run ins with kids over the past few weeks – one in particular at a forest school where he was really upset. I feel, if this had happened at school, it would’ve been handled better. I know they are safe at school. The teachers are professionals and, though nothing is perfect, they are trained to deal with ‘incidents’. Socially I feel my kids are better off in school as they are part of a big family. It also takes the pressure off me to worry about socialising them – as it happens naturally at school. I was constantly in the car, driving for over an hour a day, sometimes two, in an effort to get out and do stuff. It was exhausting.
I feel like we are back in the embrace of the school community. Along with the church, the shop, the pub – it’s a big part of living in a village and I don’t want the kids, or us, to be outside of that hub. This morning everyone asked what I was doing there – and everyone was lovely and really welcomed us back. Yes I did feel like a massive tit, but that’s OK too!
Of course, we still have the issues surrounding school: too much classroom time, a too hard curriculum that has been brought forward a year, more testing… yes school isn’t perfect, but I love our particular primary school. We are very lucky – there are 50 lovely kids, friendly parents, fabulous teachers and a supportive head that knows each child well. (She welcomed us back with open arms, by the way.) I feel that we could work with school to overcome any issues Art and Bea have, and that overall, they are better off being enveloped by a team of people rather than just me being in charge.
I still completely understand why people home educate. It can be a wonderful way of life when it fits. I feel sad that it didn’t work out, but also relieved that we realised so quickly it wasn’t for us. And now I feel so appreciative of school. I feel like before I was down on a few elements, and now I am thankful for everything they do. You know what they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
And now I won’t wonder what if… We tried it, it didn’t work. But I am seeing it like this: we don’t make mistakes; we reassess, we refocus, we try again… We’re just doing the best we can.