Home Education – answers to common concerns

There are increasing numbers of families now choosing to home educate. I’m not surprised; schooling is becoming so deeply sullied by politics it’s losing sight of the children. Home educating is a great way of rectifying that.

I notice from the home education forums that the same concerns pop up again and again. So I rummaged around in my archives to help answer them.

Here are five common threads:

1)      You’re afraid you wouldn’t know what to do learning wise.

2)      You think you couldn’t teach them because kids need qualified teachers to learn anything.

3)      You worry your kids will have no friends and be isolated.

4)      You don’t know how you’d cope with the kids at home all the time.

5)      You worry about the future.

Looking at those individually, here are some answers that may put your mind at rest.

1)      Learning wise you easily find out what to do. Information and support is readily available.There are home school networks to tap into, both through forums and groups meets.You can find answers to just about anything online. Walk into any bookshop and there are masses of workbooks which support the National Curriculum, but children learn all the time from daily life activities. There are also distance learning organisations which have complete, tutor supported courses which can take a learner right through to an exam if you wish. Where once it was just the domain of schools, the internet makes learning available to all.

2)      Very few people know this but qualified teachers don’t know all there is to know. They look it up too. Some of them are also poor at teaching what they know even though they’re qualified. Children don’t necessarily need qualified people to learn with. They need caring, supportive, encouraging people. And as many of us have experienced, not every teacher could be described as that. So you may do better at helping your child learn than their teacher does. And in our information rich society, your role is more to encourage your child to learn, enable their learning, than it is to ‘teach’ facts. Anyone can find out facts. Not everyone can inspire. Not even many ‘qualified’ teachers! And as schools are increasingly turning to ‘independent learning’ where children are using tablets and laptops in class there is less and less teacher interaction anyway.

3)      The friends issue? We met many home educating families. There wasn’t an isolated or friendless child among them. Forums, websites, social networking, have expanded the home educating community. Schools do not have monopoly on friendships; they’re not necessarily the best place to form them either. Or build social skills. Children learn social skills from a high proportion of adults in an un-threatening climate. And no one need home school in isolation. We had so much interaction with others, both social and educational, that we sometimes had to stay at home just to get some work done!

4)      Just because the kids are at home full time doesn’t mean you never get a minute without them. You manage it so you respect each others’ space. You time swap with others. You build in separate working times. You get out the house loads. (More education goes on out the house than in it, despite the myth you’re tied to the house!) And when you take away the conflict school sometimes causes you’ll grow a different relationship with your children. Despite myths surrounding home education, it tends to make them more independent and more able to occupy themselves without attention.

5)      And finally; the future. Don’t you worry about their future in school? Everything always changes so rapidly. Nothing is guaranteed even when the children are in school. Opting to home educate doesn’t mean you do it for life. The best way to take care of the future is to make each day a good day with the children and all those days pieced together will make a good learning life. A good learning life will enable the children to enjoy education and make it part of their lives forever. As it should be. Education is for life, not just for schools. Home educating makes it even more so.

28 thoughts on “Home Education – answers to common concerns

  1. Hi, To Karina
    ( I hope Ross you are ok with us using your site to connect with like-minded people)
    Karina thank you for your support. how can I contact you? Would you like to give me your email address? If that’s ok?xxx

  2. Going back to Lisa, I completely agree with what Ross and Melanie said but to add my 2 pennies worth…

    I think that therapist is mirror imaging her issues on to you, she feels she wouldn’t cope so she believes you can’t. We can do anything we want if we out our minds to it, don’t listen to negative people like that x

  3. Hello Ross, have read your book, which was a godsend. My partner was not in favour of home ed at the point we were choosing a primary school for our son. He was Montessori at preschool. We deferred, then u-turned over the summer hols. He’s a summer born. The school is an ‘Ofsted Outstanding,’ and his experience has been positive it would seem. However, as a parent, I feel as though I have had to do some ‘separating emotionally’ in order to ‘toughen up’ for the transition. After 6 months of school runs, and juggling his tiredness at home with the needs of his younger brother aged 2, I now find myself totally at a dead end. My partner is now in favour of home schooling, but now that my son seems to have ‘found a sense of belonging’ there, and sees his place as school every day, I am now lacking the confidence to pull him out and start to home school. In essence, I am hoping to ‘get back’ to the point we were at after a lovely long summer holiday, and regretting my choice to put him in. It should have been a continuation of my attachment parenting, and now I am afraid to take him away from what we have started for him. He is displaying some awful behaviour at home. Grumpiness, tiredness, prone to tears, poor sleep patterns, ferocious independence. It all seems to have made him mature too quickly. He seems to have a good relationship with his teacher, and is slowly increasing his social interactions. I do believe that had we continued to keep him at home another year, I wouldn’t be feeling so wobbly. I would have stuck to my intuition and kept the ‘mummy flow.’ I have surfaced from that and started to think about my own needs as a woman coming out of the ‘baby years’ and into a new phase, but it all feels so wrong and colourless. I wish I felt positive about his school start, but I know its all been too soon, no matter how ‘good’ the school is, and no matter what a ‘happy’ place it is purported and perceived to be. I have 6 years of secondary teaching experience, and at one point was SO motivated to do home schooling, my heart re-opened and experienced joy and excitement at the prospect. Now, I feel stuck. I constantly question my decision to keep him there, or to home school. He is part time, and can continue like this until the summer, though I know in my heart, he will not cope with back to back full days. The balance would tip right over. Am at a crossroads. It feels like I cannot rely on my instinct anymore, and if I pull him out over February half term, I fear regretting the decision, as I am sure that he will be asking about his school and showing angry feelings towards me for doing so. How do I explain to a 4 year old what home schooling is, what we will be doing? It all seemed so simple last year , and phasing him into school has been an enormously exhausting hurdle for us all. Do I keep plugging away, cushioning it and setting boundaries for new behaviours in the home, or do I take him out of school and have him almost 24/7? Such a tough call. I was wondering if you could help, as I don’t think we can keep this uncertainty up for much longer. We have one toe in the home ed community and another in the school life. Its as though I need someone to help me do an audit on my life to help make the decision.

    • Goodness Lisa, I do so feel for you and that’s a very difficult situation to give an answer to as there are so many elements. I can completely understand where you are coming from as a mum – we have these heart wrenches all the way through our mumhood – I even get them with mine now too! But we cope and change and move on. And that’s a point with your son – I think things will become clearer as time goes on a bit because with kids nothing ever stays the same for long. As you say, over half term or Easter, you may find that you can naturally return to your HE. I think it’s very important that you trust your intuition – mums are usually right. And intuition is not emotion necessarily, it is intelligent signals coming from our psyche which are telling us something. You have to be strong and brave in your decisions whatever they are because that’s what communicates the rightness of it to your son – wavering can make them insecure and result in some of the behaviour described. So if you’re going to stick to school now, be clear and positive about it – review at Easter. If you’re going to HE, be committed to that too, declare to your son you think it’s best and find other friends and groups to interact him into. HE Facebook groups are great for that – have you joined any? Many parents found that once they’d made the adjustments to HE their children’s behaviour settled enormously! Whatever you decide remember that all mums have doubts and uncertainties – and they all get passed! 🙂 Meanwhile find yourself some confidence in you! (FB again is good for support)- you know best – you’re his mum after all! I bet you’ve done a great job till now – take courage! 🙂

      • Wise words Ross, thanks so much for being so spot on. I DO need to regain confidence in my mothering. Truth is, I have been in attendance at therapy sessions since last August, culminating in a couples’ therapy scenario this coming Thursday. We need Aaron to stay in school to cover our childcare requirements for Thursdays to facilitate this long awaited and much needed healing time. The final decision to place him in school was largely in part, a need for me to ‘clear the path’ for our couples’ therapy to start, and for my relationship with my husband to breathe. It was a choice made with everyone in the family in mind, but now, it seems am trying to juggle so much emotionally, have lost sight of the intuitive. The therapist would throw ideas into the mix such as ‘the focus on HE is replacing the need to focus on our marriage,’ and ‘I am continuing to co-sleep and breast feed my youngest as a replacement for intimacy with my husband…’. I DO seem to have felt that ‘opening it all out’ to the wider world ( i.e. my youngest in preschool, my eldest at school ), was the way forward in light of the therapists’ advice. I have seemingly gone down the ‘unconditional love’ path with my children down to a lack of nurturing and intimacy with my partner. In her words ‘the couple relationship is the single most important factor in the life of a child.’ I feel the the pressure to present my kids with a solid marriage where i have unconditional feelings of love and intimacy with my husband and vice versa, as well as place my ideals and educational philosophies for my children on the back burner. I nearly pulled Aaron out of school in January with the de-registration letter all ready, but what pulled me back again was a host of other people’s comments; people whose opinion i value but of course, ultimately the decision is down to me. I am lacking confidence because I have a gaping hole of lack of intimacy in my marriage. I frequently ask myself if I am leaning towards HE in order to fill some void in my own life and questioning my self confidence. It was all so clear before I placed him into school because I had my mothering instinct fully intact. Its difficult ferrying children to different places on lack of proper sleep, and then bringing them together again during the day and making it all work for everyone. You ARE SO RIGHT when you say that my children will feed off of my uncertainty, and this has definitely been the case since January when my partner decided that HE would be a good idea. I’ve grabbed it with both hands, looked at it, facebooked myself silly trying to link up with others and ‘suss out’ the support network. We’ve been attending weekly HE events as well as popping into playgroups we used to attend on days where I think he needs a ‘decompression day’ and that coincides with a doctor’s appointment, I’ve lost sleep over this and feel lacking in confidence that I am not robust and emotionally together enough to take on the demands of my son home all day long. I doubt I can do him justice in this way. Am hoping for some strength to pull me through. XX

      • Hi Lisa, you sound like you’re taking this all on your shoulders and it’s all your fault! Marriage, relationships, intimacy, parenting are (or should be) shared issues. And adjusting a marriage to accommodate children is NO SMALL matter!! We all have blips. It takes TIME! And examination – talk and communication! But that shouldn’t all be on your shoulders. I doubt very much that your desire to HE is to do with a void in your own life – but others do like to trot that out among other accusations! (did you see that last post?). You can ignore what others come out with!! Listen to your gut feelings not necessarily others! What you need perhaps is to stop doubting and start TRUSTING your ability as a woman, never mind other labels! Mumhood is extremely challenging (you’ll see how and find help in my Mumhood book). It requires enormous personal sacrifice and adjustment. So support yourself through this rather than find fault. Take care of yourself and your relationships will take care of themselves. Relax! Allow some flow and stop forcing things to happen. Sometimes decisions can’t be made for a while, but they evolve naturally. Have faith! x

    • Ross, yes, I did read the last post from you in answer to your question. The therapist I sought out does tend to hold some strong views, and to be honest, have had mixed results with her sessions. She revealed that she sent her only child to private school from age 5 due to him being mixed race, and the local catchment school being near a council estate, she felt it best to protect him from it, yet to me, when I floated the idea of HE in her sessions, she was adamant that ‘I wouldn’t be able to do it with a 2 year old,’ and that she ‘had no doubt I couldn’t cater for his curriculum needs given my professional training,’ but that ‘I should leave him where he was, and not think about it when he was there in the day.’ I have also been advised, ‘that I have to deal with his upset and any imbalance within the home as the couple relationship is the most important thing.’ She told me she couldn’t breastfeed when I enquired. I know this is utter poppycock that people ‘can’t’ physically. Its all tied into maternal anxiety and lack of proper support with which I totally sympathise, but it does ring alarm bells for me, as she did keep saying how ‘good she was with babies,’ as though to eek out any feelings of resentment I had regards perceptions of my own success. I feel that until anyone has been in a breastfed family and experienced the dynamic it creates, they can’t really comment with any degree of accuracy, especially those with only one child. Its completely different, no matter how experienced and qualified in couples’ therapy someone is! Neither does it make them a parenting expert. She quotes facts about child development to back up her claims, and the intuitive process seems to go largely untapped. Bottle fed families can have a more scheduled and shared approach without so much emphasis on the mother doing most of the childcare and feeding. I have as a consequence, aside from all the wonderful nurturing and bonding experiences, with 2 premature boys, gotten into a sleep deprived vicious circle with it all, largely down to a lack of solidarity with my partner, and his approaches to parenting and supporting my mothering role. Its been a complete push / pull, attack / defend from both sides. Mine, to defend my right to mother in the way my instincts allow. My therapist also questions the notion of ‘gut’ feeling. She advises not to trust it, as it can be wrong and is purely a reflection of how we react to circumstances that challenge us, based on how we ourselves were parented, i.e. nurtured or not. I made the decision long ago to only trust those who have breastfed and attachment parented whenever I need to get advice or guidance on early parenting issues. She’s very direct, and to be fair, knows her couples’ therapy work very well; doubtful regards her one to one stuff, as it tends to have a very strong couples’ relationship bias. I have stuck to it though, purely for the sake of consistency, and my childcare arrangements and partner’s flexible working hours have been bolted onto the regularity of it. So here we are on the cusp of couples’ work. I am not sure what I expect to happen from it, but the prospect of potential separation or divorce combined with starting HE doesn’t appeal!

      I have waffled on far too long now, and totally respect and appreciate the time you have taken to read and reply. I don’t expect another reply, its been great just letting off a bit of steam to gather my thoughts. It may help others out there reading this thread, you never know! Will check your book out. x

      • Just a quick response – this person is totally wrong in her judgement of HE families there are PLENTY who HE successfully with lots of kids of all ages, some single mums among them! 🙂 And another therapist might advocate the power of gut feeling! So who knows what’s right …. YOU do! x Take care. And thanks for posting…I’m sure it will help others. In fact I might see if anyone in the groups has anything to add…. 🙂

      • Oh gosh, Lisa! I’ve followed Ross for quite a while now and am an HE mama to two little ones. I also have had therapy, in part for marital issues and have a friend who is in therapy and wanting to follow more attachment principles. She wrote me excitedly telling me that her therapist was in total support of her decision to HE and is working closely with her to help. I would be wary of any therapist that comes across as so challenging and confrontational as it’s an indication that she is emotionally invested and triggered by your desire to AP. I hope I’m not too forward but really felt for you reading this today and wanted to support your instincts about your therapist and wondered if you would be able to access a therapist who would be able to support your decision to AP and possibly HE? No need to answer here but just putting it out there as one who’s been in a similar place. As for HE, I agree completely with Ross! Most people in mainstream society will not be able to fathom it but her resistance is based on myth and quite honestly what sounds like pretty coercive therapy practice :-/ Hugs for your situation and I am wishing you well with your decision making.

      • Thanks Ross and Melanie. I know you are both right in your perceptions of my situation with therapist, and its so lovely to hear that you too have been through some of the same issues with your partner / AP / HE. I thought this woman, being quite ‘holistic’ and doing ‘energy work’ would be more sympathetic to the ethos. She sits on the fence, and I think feels that too many people these days gravitate towards being too child-centred and being allowed to form a wedge between the couple. She’s been married twice. She is Finnish, and very systematic in her approach.She has been tremendously helpful and spot on over many things, and certainly doesn’t collude with her clients like some do. I have stuck with her, because I think she will give my partner a run for his money. He is very logically minded, and talks a good talk. He’s the typical ‘good guy’ in all of this. She’ll be hard on us both, but more than anything, he needs lots of de-weeding, and I can’t do this alone! She’ll be great for the job as far he’s concerned. I have considered doing some hypnotherapy after this, and sticking to more nurturing, holistic based therapies for just me. This therapy I speak of with the relationship counsellor, really has been a project I feel I just need to get to the end of. She’s hard-hitting, but at least is making me question myself and identity as a mother. Its not until someone confronts you with your innermost struggles that you have to face up to them and heal for yourself and either stick two fingers up and walk away, or smile wryly and carry on calmly. Am looking forward to these sessions ending! Have learned lots on the journey!! I would be interested in knowing where you are based Melanie. I did try and find someone more AP centred. We are in Worthing, so not far from Brighton where lots of alternative practitioners are based, but with 2 kids, its hard to make the journey at set times. I was recommended this lady through a homeopath, who was also a recommendation from a trusted friend. Anyway, any ideas re ‘AP-type counsellors would be wonderful, as phone work could also be one way of doing this. I could do with some coaching to be honest! xx

      • Lisa, there are so many things that I would like to say to you that I don’t even know where to start! I have two little ones and breastfed both till they were 18 months old and we still co-sleep with them and did lots of baby wearing when they were little so I can understand how someone from outside could see that your marital relationship has taken a second place, and that might be the case but rightly so, you both decided to have your babies and they depend heavily on us only for a very short amount of time. I think you were starting to see the end of the tunnel, as in having your babies not relying heavily on you and maybe by considering HE you feel you are somehow going back? We have just decided to HE our sons too (4 and 2 year olds) and I can only see that our life is going to get better as they get older.

        From what you have said I can certainly see that there are issues with your husband that need to be resolved but I think the way your therapist is treating you is appalling. A good therapist should help you to confront your inner fears and to help you to get to know yourself better (all should be about YOU) and it seems to me that she is passing judgement on you and trying to force her own ideas onto yourself, I mean why is she even telling you about her sending her child to private school and not being able to breastfeed? you are the one in therapy not her! I would change therapist or stop seeing her as soon as possible! I have always had an interest in psychology and it is the first time I have read about a therapist giving out her opinions and telling her story and talking about herself.

        I hope you can find yourself soon. This too shall pass 🙂

      • Yolanda, thank you so much for writing on this topic. I think that what you say regards coming to the end of the intensive baby years is very interesting, and that yes, part of me has been questioning the appropriateness of HE in light of the ‘promise’ of more me time. Someone with my background ( as I keep being told by my therapist ), would have difficulty ‘letting go,’ – I think she is a little behind with the times, and shouldn’t be quoting so many examples from her own life. My husband agrees that at times she can’t help herself. She mentioned her sons’ schooling off the back of the thoughts I provided on my son’s age at just 4, and being expected to enter mainstream education. Being Finnish, she talked about the Scandinavian model, and that her son was 5 when he started school. She was in agreement with me about the school starting age in this country being too young, and the ‘letting go’ process, as well as school being where the child ‘learns about the baddies out there.’ That said, if this is where children are supposed to learn about the baddies in wider life, then why did she choose to protect her son by placing him into private education from age 5? Both schools ( primary and secondary ), were out of her local community, requiring a drive, as well as only enabling her child to socialise and connect with wealthy and predominantly white upper middle classes. To my mind, mainstream education represented risk of unhappiness for her child, as well as drawing a link between the council estate down the road and the types of children her son would be socialised with as ‘unsavoury racist’ types; this in itself quite a large assumption based on fear. If experiencing the baddies is what children apparently ‘need’ to be exposed to, then why didn’t she enter her own child, then a whole year older than mine, and therefore more robust and able to cope emotionally, into a mainstream community school? These were her choices, and I don’t vocalise my judgments to her about this, yet, I feel, I am a sitting duck for hers. I think you are right in that she is emotionally invested in the counselling process; something that I read about as being ‘counter-transference?’ The reason she revealed her choice of feeding her baby to me, was that I asked. I asked because I wanted to know how empathetic she was towards my choices to AP and long term breastfeed. I wanted to know this, because I had spent most of my early first time mothering experiences trying to defend my choices to others, and felt as though I was on the cusp of having to do so with her. I needed to be open about my mothering. She supports feeding and sees it as nurturing and healthy stuff, but of course, if you’ve never done it, you don’t really know what its like. x

  4. Hey Ross, weird as this may sound, your post has actually helped me ‘centre’ my thoughts. Gordon’s going through the difficult process of job-hunting, not finding anything that’s available in what he spent 2 years learning at college (animal care), and getting to the point of trying out for anything and amassing the rejections, I sometimes find myself wondering if I did the right thing with HE. I KNOW I did, and wouldn’t change any of it, but I hate that I still get wobbly moments *sigh* Anyway, thanks for the post, much appreciated 😀 xx

    • Aw! Glad to have helped. I’m sure you did the right thing too and the rejections are just as much a part of school children’s lives anyway! Some of the kids my daughter went to college with after HE are still job hunting two years later and they went down the conventional school path! No guarantees anywhere! The best thing we can do is to keep our hope and keep on trying, reassessing, trying something different, keep faith. Sure he’ll get there! x

  5. Hi, thank you for this article that makes one feel reassured….I was wondering Ross if you would like to share your opinion regarding my issue; well I am considering HE my children, but we are polish speaking family. I am wondering if I will do more harm than help to my children trying to HE them. My son is 4 years old and he goes to pre-school, but he just doesn’t want to stay on his own in there so I stay with him. I enrolled him to pre-school so he can learn english, I am not planning to send him to school though. Will he be able to learn correct english? Or will I need to find a tutor who will teach him english? I was considering sending him for one year after he finishes pre-school to Rudolf Steiner school, where he would be in nursery until age of 6. What’s your view? I would really appreciate if you could respond?x

    • I think you’re going to have to go with your gut feelings on this one! But I don’t think home educating would do more harm than good as long as you’re answering your child’s needs, both personal and to fit into the British working world and culture! As for what’s ‘correct’ English – what’s your definition of correct?! What is important I think is that he can communicate primarily through conversation, then in written form (both informal – text for example – and formal if you want to do qualifications), but there are all sorts of approaches to him learning that – experience being the best! I think as long as you are interacting with a balance of people, and your child is thriving, developing, and progressing, that is the main concern, and whatever decision you make can remain open to change as your child’s need changes. Hope that helps!

  6. As a mum of four I know what I hate about mainstream education and have enough experience of schools to know that I don’t want my youngest to go anywhere near one, at least while she is primary age. It’s a huge leap of faith though, to suddenly do everything differently and i have to say i am somewhat terrified of making a hash of my youngest child’s education. In one blog entry you have addressed my main concerns and for that i thank you. I was having a wobbly day and now feel much more like my usual chilled self.

    • Thank you for that Helen, so glad it helped. We all have wobbly days but do remember that would be exactly the same if your child was in school! I’m sure you won’t make a hash of your child’s education because you are thinking about it, assessing and reviewing all the time. Besides – there’s no guarantee that school wouldn’t make a hash of it either!

  7. I love the insights you give into home ed. It is something I really considered. however, I do need just give a mention to the excellent state infant school at the end of our road where our kids go. I am heavily involved in the school and I think a good school can keep the politics out of the lives of the children. As a school governor, I hope to play a part in keeping it that way.
    Saying that, I think your five comments are valid. I wish I could have a few lives running in parallel – I didn’t regret (so far) our decision to state educate, but I would Also like to have seen how life turned out if we chose the home ed route.

    • Thank you so much Abby for leaving your insightful comment. It’s always good to hear of schools working well – it proves what they all could aspire to! And it would be lovely if others could accept the value of HE approaches, like you have, and use them in school then we could really run lives more parallel as you say. Like the idea of flexi schooling, which works in principle but not in schools who want such desperate control – but that’s because of the politics again! I’m so pleased you left your story. x

      • Hi :
        To Anna :I’m Polish born and I home ed my 3 children 12,9,2-eldest ,17 in 6th form..there is many options to make sure kids learn language -tutoring ,groups,books -don’t worry I’m sure you can find your way around .You welcome to contact me if you need any help or just a chat:)powodzenia-karina al-mohsin

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