“Her eczema has all cleared up. She’s been plagued by it for years but there’s no longer any sign of it now that she’s not going to school” he said.
This dad had stopped me in the lane he was so excited to tell me. He’d leaned out of the truck window to flag me down.
“And both the children have been so happy – and busy,” he went on. “They’re like different children. We can hardly believe it!”
I have heard the tale so often. About children who’ve had minor conditions and illnesses and health challenges, even behavioural issues, which remarkably disappeared once the children had been out of school for a while. It’s a tale often told among the home educating community.
It was the same for us. Our eldest, who suffered endless infections to the point of needing anti-biotics during her few years at school, hardly seemed to get any during our yeas of home educating. Despite the fact that our children were still in almost daily contact with mainstream groups through regular mainstream activities, clubs and classes that other children attended and as such exposed to all the usual germs.
Our home educating contemporaries remarked upon the same thing happening with their children. One child who was regularly hospitalised and missing school, to the point where the parent was being suspected of being the cause, ceased to have her condition once she came out of school to be home educated.
One of the most marked differences which parents reported was in their children’s behaviour. Tantrums, anger, migraines, bed-wetting, melt-downs over little things, disruption, withdrawal, lack of motivation, dwindling mental health, – all manner of issues – seemed to settle once the children no longer had the stress of being in school in their lives.
There is an argument that children will have to suffer stress later in life so they should get used to it in school. But it’s a poor argument for the simple reason that later life is nothing like school. Nowhere are the circumstances of school replicated, where you have absolutely no choice or autonomy in managing the stressful situations we find ourselves in. Unlike youngsters in a school scenario where they’re just expected to shut up and suck it up, regardless of whether it’s disrespectful or even harmful or not. Later in life we have a voice – and a choice, even though those choices may be extremely challenging or limited. And I think it is the voice-less helplessness that children feel in school, which gets to them, never mind the noise, crowds, threat and hubbub which many find overwhelming.
When schooling affects children’s wellbeing it affects their potential and their learning opportunities. Happiness is as important to their education as health is – the two are intertwined. (Read this article here on why happiness is important for education).
School should come with a health warning. Or better still it should be organised so it isn’t a health hazard at all! Because facts need to be faced – some children are just Not Fine in School or this organisation wouldn’t exist.
And we should not be treating this as if it doesn’t matter, as many parents and politicians would treat it. As the politics says; every child has the right to an education. It follows then that every child should have the opportunity of good health, as the two are intertwined, and if the government are providing institutions which cause the opposite by their pressured policies and structures, both on kids and teachers, then the politicians are denying the children that right. No question.
If you’re a home educator, let us know if your child’s health was affected by school and if home educating changed it.
Meanwhile, the dad above continued to regale me of their happy home educating adventures so far and I was delighted to listen. Another set of kids who no longer have to suffer for their education.
I always love to hear these stories, they make me so happy. I have not personally experienced this as my children have never been to school. My eldest is now at college and has just started his second year of being there. He did not have a single day off college ill last year and picked up no viruses or COVID despite being around many people all day.
My children have not been to the doctors in years and years they are happy and healthy.
That’s really great to hear, thank you so much for taking the time to comment here.
I have been thinking about this a lot, interestingly, from the reverse perspective. My husband and I have an almost 4-year-old son who has never been in childcare or left with a sitter. We have a strong bond (my husband works from home full time and also spends a lot of time with him each day). He has a good relationship with his nana, who visits, or whom we visit, and the same with his aunt. We see his grandad less often, about 3 or 4 times a year. He has been attending a forest school session once a week, but the group is large (with parents included) and he is socially anxious in a big group situation, very shy generally, and also very strong willed and refuses to gather and sit in the “circle” at the start, middle and end. The same happened with gymnastics classes (but he loved the free-flow unstructured part) and we have since dropped both and he now he attends a very small 4 hour forest school session a week for home educated kids (with 3 other boys. Parents tend to stay). We also take him to playgrounds and he occasionally plays with other children, and to an indoor trampoline park (he likes the ride on cars but isn’t so interested in trampolining!). While in my heart, leaving him in a big class setting might be quite stressful for him, at this age he can be very demanding, and wants me to constantly watch him play all day and I wonder if keeping him at home might lead to him losing all independence or at least desire to be social, which can have a positive effect on confidence and mood? Every day he says he doesn’t want to go out and would stay at home all week if he could! We go out 3 mornings during the week, on average and have 1 or 2 days at home for unstructured play (with family visiting ad-hoc).
He still refuses to use the toilet, despite regular and gentle nudging and encouragement and trying different approaches, from potty to toilet seat, modelling toileting, making it accessible etc. We always said that being at home meant he could take things at his own pace, but I do worry that for some children, perhaps they need more, even if they are not asking for it? It might not have to look like school 5 days a week, but where we live (a village about 1.5 hour SE of London) the home ed community is small. I have tried FB groups to connect with other families and after some playground meet-ups, we formed a friendship with a family with two children, but their circumstances have since changed and the 4 year old is going to school. I don’t want him to be in a rigid system with no autonomy and 25 other kids, but I also don’t want him to continually rely on me for being his play partner all day every day, with not many social options available to us, and he is so comfortable and authentic around us that he has little desire to want to do things for himself. Am I genuinely helping by letting him go at his own pace, or getting in the way? I often think about what he might gain from having relationships outside out our nuclear family.
The 4 hour weekly forest school session in a little village in Sussex (I am prepared to drive!) is wonderful for him, but there are only 2 other families and he tends to only play with the 4 year old. It’s certainly been an interesting journey. I’ve read books about home education (including yours!) for a couple of years and was convinced that this was the better approach for him overall, as it’s flexible and suits his temperament, which is highly sensitive, with a lot of shyness around adults and larger groups. He can be quite oppositional generally too. I do think about how parenting an intense child and having to constantly re-assert boundaries can really ware you down emotionally, and you start to think – well I have a child who wakes up in the night wanting to come into our bed every night, who wants a lot of attention, who gets easily frustrated having to dress himself, refuses to wear a coat etc etc and I wonder if I am doing him a disservice in some way? For the first time last night, I thought about the possibility of him going to school at age 5, and perhaps us having a better relationship in that we would make any free time quality time. I am so tired by the end of the week that my husband takes our son out on saturday’s, leaving just sunday for family time together. It’s so hard to know what is best! I am going to try and home ed for 1 year when he turns 5 (I know a lot can change) and then review.
Anyway, sorry for the ramble. It was nice to be able to share what’s been on my mind, so thank you for reading, if you are this far in! 🙂 Always inspired by our posts, which are thought provoking for me too!
Best wishes Louise
Hi Louise, I was so interested to read your comment, not rambling at all, I’m sure others will identify with what you’re saying.
I’ve never felt that allowing children who are socially anxious to find their way in their own time and preferred way is detrimental to them overall. We are all different and mature in different time frames. My youngest was very shy and didn’t like crowds, groups or loud crowded places like shopping centres or restaurants or masses of chat and I wondered if that would ever change, but knew that she suffered terribly in school because of it. We never forced social situations on her although attended some for the benefit of our eldest and let her join in, or not, as she chose. She matured into the most socially competent of us all, I think, and has great personality and a warm and welcoming approach to all the strangers she meets through her work that often is remarked upon. And I hear this from other HE parents who had similar children.
The thing is, you would never know whether school or HE would make it better or worse, would you? And the only way forward I feel is to do what feels intuitively right for your family at the time. Review constantly and make any adjustments necessary. No decision is set in concrete just as no child remains the same but grows and changes constantly.
I understand that you become immensely tired, we all do, and that’s why it’s so important to look after yourself and get breaks. It’s a tough thing you do, but it’s a wonderful thing you do too, just being a conscientious parent, never mind a HE one!
Wishing you all the best and feel free to ramble any time. I think all shared rambles here will help others too. X