Michelle has been home educating her son Will for seven years. As well as continuing with Will’s home education they work together running a website to engage young people with literature and make it accessible to all; http://loonyliterature.com
I thought it would be great to have stories of home education from both a parent and child point of view and asked them if they’d like to write them. Here’s what they had to say…
When I agreed to write this piece on home education with Will, I wanted to write something which would be useful to other home educators who were either new to it or not far into their home educating experience. I decided for my part to look at two issues. Initially, what was the important revelation which made me realise how imperative it was that I home educated Will and secondly, the biggest obstacle in home education.
Firstly, I will describe the moment when I had the revelation that home education was the only way forward for us. Will was in his third year of infant school and the amount of energy I had to put in to help him with reading, writing and maths was draining me. The longer he spent at school, the less inclined he was to learn.
It was parents’ evening and I went along hoping that the teacher would give some wonderful advice or say something that would give a glimpse of light. He said “well, the main thing is that he’s happy.” I have to tell you that the teacher sitting before me was a great guy and a truly good teacher; in fact, he was, in my opinion, the best at the school. As he said that, it was as if I had been slapped around the face with a wet fish and hit over the head with a hammer at the same time. Apart from the fact that Will was truly unhappy and his teacher had not even noticed it because he was such a quiet, polite boy – it struck me at that moment that NO-ONE was ever going to care about my son’s education even a smidgeon as much as I do. If Mr X was so blind to my little, shy son what were the teachers who weren’t that good going to be like? So if ever you doubt yourself or your methods, take a moment to chant the mantra – “no-one will ever care as much about my child’s education as much as I do.”
On reflection, the biggest obstacle for me during our home educating time has been my ability to worry about it. I have lain in bed so many nights, years ago, thinking we should do more maths, English, geography, sport, cooking etc… When we do lots of the aforementioned subjects, then I worry that we aren’t speaking foreign languages and doing scientific experiments. I have worried that we don’t go on enough trips, when we have been on a lot of trips, I have worried that we are not staying in enough and writing. In other words, whatever we were doing, I would be worrying about what we were not doing.
Slowly, over time, I realised that it is true that children are like sponges and when they are happy, they do learn. I did not need to do all that worrying, Will is an intelligent, self-motivated young man who knows exactly what he wants out of life. So his teacher, all those years ago, was partly right but would have become horribly wrong if I’d have left Will where he was
I’ve always felt that home education and life are very similar. HE teaches you that you have choices, as you do in life. In the school system you don’t, to an extent, have choices. You do as you are told and do something that quite often the person teaching you does not give a fig about. Of course this isn’t the case in all schools and it is not the case with all teachers; I’m just giving you my experience.
For me, home education has opened many more avenues than school ever would. For example, after going to school for some time I had become uninterested in reading and writing. Now, after several years of being home educated, I’ve been asked to review audio stories by companies before they are released to the general public and next year a Doctor Who essay I wrote is being published in a Who themed charity book. I could never have done that if I had endured the school system for longer than I had. Indeed, thanks to the power of the internet and confidence built up by home education I know the editor of Doctor Who Magazine quite well, several writers from the show and actors who have appeared in the show. Thanks to being home educated I have done much better in exams to do with acting than I would have done if I was still in the school system.
Apart from confidence building, HE has helped me learn (which, really, is the point of it!) much more than I would have done if I was still in school. Through home education I have been able to learn a lot more about art, science, literature, history and a million other subjects. I also think that being home educated gives you a closer bond to the person who is educating you, in my case, my mum. I think that if something can give you a closer bond to a person, builds your confidence and helps you learn a lot, then it must be a good thing.
I am able to work well with others, in the real world, as some may call it. I have many friends who I would not have had if my confidence had not been built up by home education. I will be honest that the school system made me shy and maybe even not wanting to have friends. Of course, this has changed and I feel much, much happier. I go to a regular drama class and have made many nice friends, of all different ages, there. We do regular performances and compete in national competitions. When we do this, we have to perform in working theatres in front of lots of people we do not know. I don’t think that I would have had the confidence to do this if I was still in the school system. I suppose you could say that that is the life changing power of home education.