I’m not a sailor so I don’t know why I’m using this analogy! Except my brother is and having listened to stories of his sailing adventures with his family, both local and world wide, I suddenly see how pertinent the cliché about plain sailing is to home education. And parenting come to that.
Whilst raising awareness of home education I obviously want to champion the wonderful advantages, the exciting diversity of the approach, the successful way in which children can learn without school and what a delightful way it is to raise and educate children.
But despite that wonder and delight for the most part, it wouldn’t be true to maintain it is plain sailing all the time; there are some rough waters to negotiate.
This is a little about those:
Sometimes the going is choppy. The sea of family life gets whipped up with concerns and conflicts that, like a windy day in a boat, need negotiating in a different way. Home education doesn’t always proceed in a unwavering, pre-determined journey on smooth water. And that’s okay, because choppy seas do calm down when the wind drops. Steer as best you can through the choppy times and don’t worry or blame yourself for them. Expect choppy at times – nothing is always smoothly perfect.
So you won’t always be proceeding in a straight line through your child’s education. Like zigzagging a sail boat to make the best of the wind you have to do the same with home education. Children don’t develop in straight lines. Neither will they learn and progress in straight lines. Sometimes you will need to go about things in a different way to achieve. If one approach isn’t working, try another. If it’s just not working at all that day, drop anchor and wait for a better learning climate when emotions have subsided.
Neither does education progress at the same speed or gradient like on charts professionals try and make us believe. Sometimes it surges forward, the children are motivated and fired up like they’ve got wind in their sails. Other times they’re completely becalmed and plateau for a while. That’s okay. School kids are the same. Be patient – they’ll pick up again. (Read this blog for comfort).
You don’t get to know how to home educate just from books. Like sailing a boat or driving a car no amount of theory will make you good at it before you start because doing it is what will make it work well for you. To observe and learn from others is enormously valuable, but it is through your own home education practices (and mistakes) that you will begin to see what works for your child, for you as a parent, in your household, with your routines. Everyone is different, every child is different, just as my brother tells me each boat handles differently. You have to live it to get the hang of it.
There will be days you feel you’re sinking. This is normal for everyone. They say that you’re not a true sailor until you’ve got wet. Actually, it’s not getting wet that matters, it’s how you learn and become a better sailor for it. The same is true with home educating. Bad days are normal. After all, teachers in schools have bad days and poor teaching is the result. We are all human. We all have to overcome bad days. Even if you’re having a bad day and you can’t give any more to your children, they can amuse themselves and they will be learning something. You’ll bob up to the surface again. And how you deal with your bad days will be teaching your children how to deal with theirs – such a valuable life skill. (A post for those sinking days)
Once you’ve got going you’ll be able to change direction. As with a boat which you cannot turn it if it’s not moving, once you’re into your home education process you will be able to see where and when to make changes, go in another direction, or try something new. So don’t dabble on the edge, get stuck into your home education and see where it takes you. You’ll find your direction better as you do it and see what works. This direction will change regularly as you progress and as your children develop and mature.
So home education is definitely not all plain sailing. But the comforting thing is; no family life is whatever route you choose.
However, most of the time it is a wonderfully exhilarating and inspiring experience, possibly made all the more exciting by those choppy days!