Fellow home edders – do you find yourselves being asked this question as frequently as we do?
The decision to home educate our eldest was rooted in our early experiences of parenthood. I had gone back to work when he was very young and, although I loved my job, I loved being at home with him more. It seemed very counterintuitive to me that while I was teaching other people’s children, my then toddler was spending time with other adults learning and I wanted to be part of the process with him instead. The decision was also philosophical; we were increasingly interested in alternative models of education and believed wholeheartedly in the value of play in the early years in particular, and felt that home education would enable us to provide an enriching and playful environment for our son. Ultimately, we had originally intended to send him to school when he was around seven.
Well, now he’s seven, and we have no intention of sending him to school. I’m not “anti-school” – I have worked in wonderful educational environments with highly skilled, caring and imaginative colleagues and know that for many families it can work very well – but, at the moment, there isn’t really anything school can offer which we can’t source or arrange ourselves and we would be loath to give up our freedom. There are so many affordable options for resources and groups, both educational and social (sometimes impossible to distinguish between the two), and such a great community with the potential for support and collaboration, that school would have to be frankly pretty amazing in order to beat that. We also have a toddler now and I’m enjoying parenting him without worrying about the need to get him “school ready”, knowing that we can just go at his pace.
I read an interesting article the other day about how choosing to take a path which is not the socially dominant norm can result in a huge amount of bias, and a resulting need to defend one’s decision. If you give up eating meat, people ask you where you will get your protein from. No one ever asks meat eaters if they’re worried they’re not eating enough vegetables. Similarly, if you home educate, you are asked why, how long you plan to do it for, aren’t you worried about socialisation, and so on, whereas one is unlikely to ask a school-educating family why they chose their particular school, if they’re concerned about the class sizes or if they have seen the most recent OFSTED report.
Although if close friends and family ask continuously it can feel a little wearing and disheartening, strangers and new friends are also absolutely fascinated and often have no idea how popular it is. I met someone the other day who said, “I expect you probably all get together and form a little group and take it in turns to teach each other’s children”. I explained that this was known as a co-op and yes, many people do enjoy these but actually you don’t need to “teach” and there are over 300 home educators in one local town alone so we make use of lots of different groups. Some older people, from nurses to teachers, observe wistfully that they wish they had thought of it when theirs were young and parents of children who are struggling at school may go away and seriously consider it as a possibility.
So, as much the questions can be a little grating sometimes, I am also delighted to answer them, because if I hadn’t met a home educator many years ago and asked her lots of (probably very irritating) questions I might never have understood that it was a possibility and never had the courage to take the leap.
How do you tackle the questions?