People say to me sometimes ‘I’d like to home educate but cannot find the courage to do something so unusual and out of mainstream’.
My answer: You usually get to the point where you feel so strongly there’s no choice; you’re moved to do it, usually by strong gut feelings and principles – they’re worth listening to.
But if you’re considering home education and are looking some rational ways to make the leap here are some tips:
- Research. Find out as much as you can about it. Home schooling approaches vary as much as parenting approaches so it’s a good idea to look at a variety of sites. There are formal ones giving information and statistics and there are home educating family blogs that give a mass of ideas, approaches and activities which build up a picture of how it works. Having information and understanding is the first step to removing collywobbles! (Start with the ‘Home education blogs and helpful websites’ page above)
- Community. One of the biggest fears about home schooling is the thought of stepping away from the mainstream community and feeling isolated and ostracised. What many parents don’t realise that there is a huge community of non-school-users which is growing even as we speak. And I’m talking thousands and thousands. Once you tap into that via the web (Facebook, Yahoo Groups, etc) you will have a sense of community. I was thrilled to discover that there was this whole community of others who thought like I did, as if there was a parallel universe operating successfully all the time I’d been unaware of it. Communities give support.
- Support. We all need support in some form or another and most have it from family and close friends. However, home schooling scares many which makes them less than supportive at times. If you don’t have support from your loved ones then look for it in other places. Through the groups, friends, online, or community of people who think like you. We had very doubtful family members to start with. But once they saw our kids blooming and achieving they were more supportive of our approach. Home schooling FB groups are great for instant support.
- Discussion. It is essential to talk about it. The best people to do that with are your supportive community. Talking can bring perspective to irrational fears. But don’t discuss them with people who have no comprehension or understanding of home education. They will try and lay their own ignorant fears on you, and it is ignorance that distorts rational thinking.
- Practise. We can imagine all sorts of worse scenarios that diminish our courage. Best not to do this. Instead, stop thinking, take action and be practical. Practise, do, act, on all of the above suggestions rather than wallowing in distorted thinking. Action provides the antidote to irrational thoughts and builds confidence.
- Be reassured that any decision you make is not for life. That’s the beauty of home educating; whatever is not working you can change. That hardly ever happens in school! Whether you decide not to send your child to school from the beginning or remove them from school later, you can always make different decisions if need be. We’ve known parents home school throughout their child’s life. We’ve known parents who’ve home schooled just through primary, parents who have home schooled for one term, children who have gone into school at sixth form. It all worked!
- Confidence. Be confident in your decision. It’s worked for thousands. It can work for you.
One final thought about the courage to home educate; it’s no difference from the courage to risk school.
Home schooling doesn’t suit every family or every child. School doesn’t either. There is no one answer to every child’s needs. But I reckon you’ve got as good a chance of fulfilling them with an individual approach as with the institutional approach of schooling. Take courage!