I popped over to Rachel’s home education blog (here) recently and felt such empathy for her wobbles!
We all get them – I did too – even though when writing about home education I always try and herald the positive.
However, it’s not entirely accurate to consider wobbles a down side of home education, because wobbles are a down side of any educational route, school or otherwise. And if the kids were in school there’d be just as many concerns. Actually – there were – as ours went a while.
And wobbles are in fact a down side of parenting, for, whatever style you adopt, whatever sort of person you are, anxieties about the children are ever present. Wobbles are a natural part of family life and not exclusive to home education. The up side is; it’s because we care. We’re caring parents and caring parents worry.
However, we have to keep that in perspective and one of the techniques I used regularly and one that many parents are bad at is self-care. We have to look after ourselves to home educate (and parent) long term. (This post explains)
The other thing that sometimes worries us about home educating longer term is that you can feel as the children get older it gets more serious and that ‘time is running out’.
I’ve put that in inverted commas to identify the fact that it’s not true. Time is not running out. You can take as long as you like (or the kids like) with their education. They don’t have to be finished, polished, qualified by the time they’re 16. It’s not law. There are variations that work just as well. And the whole point of home education is that you do whatever suits the needs of your child.
Inevitably we compare our kids with those in schools. And that always gives us wobblitus! Best to forget what schools are doing and stick to your principles to educate to suit your child’s needs, rather than the system’s needs.
And as for serious; thinking back to when the children were little I imagine that you took quite a lightweight, inspirational, almost playful approach to their learning life. Well, just because the children are teens does not mean it has to be any different. Whatever you do as part of their education can still be done with a light touch.
Children’s education in schools, between the ages of 14 and 16 suddenly becomes a heavy slog of GCSEs with little other inspiration. If left up to the school, the more GCSEs they can pile on a youngster the better they tell us it is. It’s not! They do this not for the good of the child, but for the good of the stats of the school – I heard that from a head. Large numbers of GCSE qualifications has nothing to do with the personal educational development of a child, unless it’s their choice.
The educational development of children between the ages of 13-16 can feel like a plateau. This is what both myself and friends who were HEing at the time felt like. It is already a physiological difficult time for them; their neural pathways are changing which up-skittles their personalities, their thought processes, their sleep patterns, as well as their bodies. What a terrible time for them to be doing exams anyway. (Some useful info here)
It’s also a time they begin to challenge their dependency – sometimes in less than pleasant ways for us. We have much to tolerate. But understanding that they mostly can’t help it, and maintaining as much mutual respect as possible, will help.
So it’s a tricky time whether parenting or educating. The youngsters do literally lose their way a bit, unless they’re incredibly lucky to have found a course they’re passionate about. Otherwise they can become extremely unmotivated sofa-sloths who want to do little other than game.
Parents I knew tried various strategies to push them on past this inertia, usually in the form of continued dialogue about what they might do, why they might do it, what they’d like to do, what’s good to do both personally and health wise. And what they might need educationally in order to progress. As well as suggesting stimulating activities other than gaming! Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.
But I’d like to reassure you that all those gaming, sofa loving sloths have gone on to do something. Some did GCSEs at home, over a space of several years, some post 16. Some went to FE colleges when they discovered courses they might like or to do qualifications there. None I know did more than the statutory Uni entrance requirement of 5 or 6 yet, despite competing against others with ten or more, still were interviewed, awarded places, or jobs. They all found a way forward.
On the Home Education UK Facebook group (you have to ask to join this one) there is an inspirational document about autonomously home educated youngsters who are grown up and what they’re doing now which is reassuring reading.
It is very much a question of trust.
Kids want to get out into the adult world, with adult possessions and have a crack at gaining the adult income that goes with it. I’d guess that you’ve educated yours to the degree of intelligence that, with your guidance, will help them find ways to do that.
Educating teens is the same as parenting teens – education being very much influenced by parenting whether they’re in school or not. It requires tolerance, empathy, compromise, confidence (you had the confidence to HE, after all), and trust.
Trust in yourself as a parent.
Trust in them as intelligent young people who will go for what they need when they need it, whatever form it takes, despite the odd plateau.
So wobble not!
Look after yourself. Be patient. Personal development doesn’t happen to order. Education is life long. It’s never too late and we don’t have to do it like sheep! That’s what you home educated for in the first place, wasn’t it?
(You might like to look out for my new book especially to help both new and longer term home educators with the wobbly bits – coming later this year. Pop over to the publisher’s website and sign up for their newsletter, so you’ll get first news of when it’s available).