Why We Home Educate

The first question that most people ask me when I explain that we home educate is usually ‘What do you do to make sure that they see other children to play with?’ but the first question fellow home educators ask is always ‘Why did you choose to home educate?’ I used to find this a hard one to answer but in writing my first article ever for HEAS I unearthed the real, instinctive reasons why I rejected the system when it came to the education of my children and it has helped a lot since to understand my motives and to become firmer in my convictions.

For this article I interviewed several home educating parents to ask what had led them to their decision and how they felt it had improved their lives. It was an interesting insight into the huge variation of reasons why we might choose to home educate but by no means covers all the responses that are typical. Perhaps you may be able to identify with one or more of the experiences below?

Mandy and Howard: ‘We decided to remove our two boys from school because we were not sure that the environment that they were spending so many hours in there was having a positive influence on who they were. We were sure that our children would indeed be influenced. Children are like little sponges and soak up so much from their peers and the adults who are a part of their lives, and we wanted to take responsibility for who we allowed to be such important people to them.

‘We didn’t feel we would be able to manage with just one income, so I looked about and undertook some training so that I could do some work from home’, explains Mandy. ‘ I care for the boys four days a week but I get up early enough to work for an hour before they are up and about and then we were fortunate enough that Howard was able to re-schedule his working week so that he can be at home with them on Fridays and I have the chance to work all day. He takes them out swimming and to the library and they usually pay a visit somewhere too – a local place of interest or museum maybe. This means they are out of the house and I have some peace and quiet!’

‘The boys have been very happy with their home education so far and both claim to enjoy it more than they did school. We have reorganised the house so that we have a dedicated learning space for them but we make sure that it is not a classroom but their own space to use as they wish and that all the activities – chemistry sets, electronic circuits, microscope, craft materials, books etc are all to hand for them.

‘We are convinced that we made the right decision too and are very proud of our polite, helpful and happy boys!’

David and Jo: ‘Our children go to school part time, two days a week and are at home for three days. We were unsure about taking the whole responsibility away from the school where they were but felt that they weren’t thriving while they were at school full-time. Our younger child, May, was particularly withdrawn and I was finding it harder and harder to uncover why she seemed sad. I felt so helpless when she explained that she didn’t feel that she had enough time with me any more and that she just hated the time she had to spend away from home.

‘We finally had to act when our son, who is eight now, started to suffer with allergies that caused an asthmatic reaction. As we investigated it seemed that a lot of the triggers for his illness were at the school and that it really was making him ill. We took him out of school at once and he improved dramatically but although we did tentatively start lessons at home, he didn’t seem very happy with that either and we worried that he was lonely. We spoke to the school about trying to get his asthma under control and they offered to help all they could so he started back part time after some weeks, which he really enjoyed. Of course, May thought that was a great idea and so she joined him with the flexi schooling too.

‘We have to stick to the national curriculum because they are still registered as pupils of that school and they are expected to be studying the same things as their peers. I keep in close contact with the school, mostly via email, so that we can ensure we cover the topics thoroughly and that the children get the same knowledge as they would were they in school. We do get through the material much more quickly though and so we find there is time during each week for extra trips and activities and going to our local HE meet ups too.

‘Given the choice I think I would like to be the sort of person who could home educate full time but I just feel happier knowing that ultimately the school still has the responsibility for the children’s  learning and that they will be ready for exams and other challenges at the time when they need to take them and I don’t have to worry about that. My son’s health is now very good and May is much less withdrawn too, so I feel like the solution we found really works for us.’

Angela: ‘I am a single mum with three children. When the eldest was supposed to be going to school I just felt that she was too young. I had read that in some other countries the age for starting school was much older than five. I felt that I would like to wait until it seemed right to send her, when she seemed ready, but that day never arrived! They are now thirteen, eleven and eight and very happy being home educated. They have a lot of friends and we are so busy with trips out and projects at home and reading and crafting and the bushcraft group that we started, that we don’t have time to think about school.

‘I suppose you could say that I was an instinctive home educator but I haven’t always found it easy. I worried a lot about how I would manage their varying needs with their different ages. Being on my own I was afraid that they would be disadvantaged somehow and I think I overcompensated by trying to do too much. I ended up overwhelmed and that had a knock-on effect so that the children felt stressed too and it took a good friend to encourage me to slow down, simplify and try to just stick to what we all enjoyed doing. It was easy really as they are all very happy outdoors. We found that concentrating on the natural world – and revolving all our learning around it – grounded us and reduced the stress. Now we all have the same project to work on but they do it at their own level. That way I can help each of them achieve the learning they are looking for without pressuring them or leaving anyone behind. Trips are easier to organise too and we usually find other families who are interested in the activities we plan to do so they have plenty of company with friends to work with.

‘I will never regret my decision to home educate and I really feel that I am closer to my children than I could ever be if they were away from me for so many hours a day. I also know them as individuals and get time to work with them singly which, being on my own, would be hard if we had less time together.’

Whether any of the accounts above resonated with you or if your situation is entirely unique and your reasons are ones yet to be told, I would highly recommend spending some time gathering your thoughts upon the subject of why you have chosen to home educate. Personally, I found that I grew in strength and conviction once I had worked out my own motivation for selecting the slightly less-travelled road of home education. I began to enjoy explaining my reasons why and held my head up confidently as opposed to mumbling through my vague ideas, hoping no one noticed. The local authority inspectors who visited us changed quite dramatically from ones who seemed to spend the whole time suggesting which local schools might be suitable for my girls, to ones who enjoyed looking at the children’s work and who encouraged me with the plans and ideas I had. Only I don’t think it was actually them who changed.

© Melanie Crocker-Hulse

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