Alice Griffin is a writer and home educator living a wandering life with her little family. She also home educates and we’ve met her before when I invited her to tell us about her home educating life. (Read her articles here and here where she also writes about the value in play). This time she’s talking about her now teenager, how life has moved on, and reflecting on the life that others told her should be different!
I think you’ll find it reassuring! Over to Alice:
“Can I make you something to eat, darling,” I call out to my 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, as she gets on with a project in her room. “Um, yeah, I guess I’m hungry” she replies and quickly I jump into action. “Don’t worry! I’ll make you a snack! Shall I make those little finger sandwiches you like? Or perhaps a fruit salad?” The truth is, I would make a three-tier cake complete with fancy icing and sparklers if she wanted it… but I hold back. It’s just so rare these days that I am able to do anything for her.
When she was a baby they said I needed to put her down otherwise she would never leave my side. As she grew they said we should send her to nursery or she wouldn’t be able to socialise. By the time my daughter reached five, they said school was where she would learn about the real world and that she wouldn’t have a friendship group if we kept her home, which would be cruel. And when we said we didn’t want to introduce technology until she was at least 10, they said that was cruel, too.
I can hear the voices even now, telling me what was right and proper, but luckily MY voice was louder and so—along with my husband—we stuck to our gut and decided to follow our instincts.
Now, as Isabella asserts her growing independence and runs ahead instead of begging to be carried and I ask if she will please remember to hold my hand just sometimes… Or as she busily natters with her wide-ranging friendship group on-line, making plans for when we move on from Coronavirus… Or when she runs off to do her farm job each morning and then returns to sit down with my husband and I and inform us (!) of what projects she’s planning to work on this week… I remember. I remember what they said.
SO, what I say is this: Hold your baby close for as long as you possibly can. Breathe in their scent and retain that memory tightly in your mind. Never ever complain when they reach for your hand. Play, read, explore… and trust that a love of learning will naturally grow from this rich exposure to the world. And if you have something deep within that tells you to parent in a certain way, be it technology-free or with technology, living on the road or in one place, maybe home education, TRUST yourself. Trust that you know your family best; that you know your child.
Choosing Home Education hasn’t always seemed the easiest route. There are times where I have been consumed with worries—about whether we’re doing enough or providing the right opportunities. There have been periods of overwhelm and self-doubt; moments when dropping her at the school gate each morning into the hands of professionals, appeared infinitely easier. But I know now that all these feelings are okay, because I have discovered that it doesn’t matter if you home-educate or send your kids to school—it’s parenting that presents challenges. And I wouldn’t change our decision, not for the world.
All that hugging and holding hands, all that playing together outside—picking flowers and examining trees—all that baking cakes and painting with fingers and feet and all that time we didn’t go near technology… It didn’t have any ill effect. Isabella is no different to any other teenager in her desire to grow in independence, hang out with friends and follow her own dreams. And I am no different to any other parent of a teen, by her side encouraging her to fly free.
So, if you’re at the beginning of the journey and the voices around you are shouting loud, take heart and stay strong. Enjoy these early years; enjoy your babies. Because before you know it, you’re left with empty arms and every time they step back into them, each time they reach for your hand and you’re able to do something for them—finger sandwiches, fruit salad or lavish cakes—it feels like gold.