Home education didn’t work out for us

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Shelley
    March 6, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    All I can say is “winner, winner, chicken dinner!!”. You’ve gained so much more perspective of your kids and the way they learn and totally learned more about yourself in the process! A really nice time out to re group and focus on the most important thing – family and its needs!! More mums should do this!! You rock!!

    • Bridie
      March 6, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      I agree completely Shelley couldn’t have said it better ???

  2. Virginia Dodds
    March 6, 2017 / 7:47 pm

    I admire you for giving home ed a go, and even more for accepting that it is not the right thing for your family and going back to school, rather than struggling on; that must have been hard when it’s all been out there in public. I sympathise with your original motivation -I’ve also struggled with the pace and targets that come with the system, BUT like you I am an over thinker with a guilt complex and I need the respite I get when they are at school! I spend enough time at the weekends and holidays worrying that they are stimulated and having fun, all day every day would finish me off. It sounds like you’ve got a great school and it will still be a joint effort; you’re clearly committed to keeping them happy in education and will be involved in every aspect. AND no more wondering whether to home school! A win win xx

  3. Sue lawson
    March 6, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    Well done Rachel for being brave enough to try and brave enough to rethink when it didn’t work for you. At least you won’t have regrets over not giving it s go. I was full of admiration for you when I saw your plans but I think we underestimate all the other things mums have to do. It sounds like you,be a good school you can work with for the individual needs of your children. Great effort! Sue X

  4. March 7, 2017 / 10:00 am

    I’m so proud of you for giving it a go! Ultimately, the reasons you haven given are the reason I accepted our school place with Alice (though Im still negotiation a flexi-school time table with the head teacher!). To be honest, in regards to all the testing and homework, I’m just not interested! I tell Alice to do her best, but I’ve told her teacher that I couldn’t care less what her test results say. And we only do the homework if she wants to do it. Family time ALWAYS comes first at home for us. She has 6 hours a day in school, I don’t feel the need to bring it home too!! Good luck with everything! xx

  5. Faye
    May 27, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    Nice to hear of another person giving homeschooling a try. I have been homeschooling mum to our daughter for 9 years (13 years old this year!) and in all that time there has certainly been ups and downs in terms of how I cope with the ins and outs of the process.
    Initially we were thrown into homeschooling when we decided that there were no great schools around our area, so felt our only option was to give homeschooling a try.
    To say it felt ‘daughting’ was an understatement at the time, I’m not a professional teacher, no qualifications ‘ what am I doing’ was the biggest thing on my mind.
    Looking back over the years, I see that primary school level was the ‘easy’ part in terms of teaching, now into her third year of secondary education at times I still feel like ‘can I still do this for her’.
    I could write on and on about my personal insecurities to ‘whether I’m good enough to do this ‘ but it’s only when you look at how far your child has come do you realise ‘yeah, I’m not doing everything wrong’
    Homeschooling is not for every family, I’m a stay at home mum and my partner works, it helps that as a couple we are both committed to this way of educating our daughter, I may be the one who does the ground work with her day to day but without his determination and belief in me to do this I don’t think I would be strong to continue each year.
    Well done for knowing your personal limits, not all aspects of homeschooling are ‘ideal’ but maybe it might be something you reconsider as your children get older and more independent,
    Good luck for the future x

    • Faye
      May 27, 2017 / 2:08 pm

      Just read over my comment, I meant ‘daunting ‘ still not perfect after all these years!

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