First published in Education Otherwise newsletter, Summer 2012
I would like to share with you our first step down the exciting yet challenging road of home education. My first tentative footstep landed after a number of well-meaning but revealing enquiries by friends, family and acquaintances. My son is not yet two, yet I have been asked more times than I can remember whether and/or when he is going to day-nursery or pre-school.
Following my instinct
Feeling this pressure to conform caused me to seriously consider my son’s future. Packing him off to nursery at such a tender age just didn’t feel right. Having already made the decision to be a stay-at-home Mum, to full-term breastfeed, to bed-share, baby-wear, etc, many practices already against the grain, making the decision to home educate my son came easily, but far from lightly. Following my mothering instinct has helped me build a content life for my family, one where my son is securely attached and is discovering who he is. To break this flow by sending him to nursery is not something I feel I can do.
A whole new world
Questioning the practice of early years day-care and education opened up a whole new world to me, that of home education. Reading an article in the ‘Green Parent’ natural parenting magazine, I came across an article by a single mother who home educated her daughter; it planted a seed in my mind, which has since started to germinate. Researching this vast subject led me down exciting new roads, discovering a large online community and a library full of alternative education books, including ‘Free Range Education’ (editor Terry Dowty), ‘How Children Lear (John Halt), and ‘Too Much too Soon: Early Learning and the Erosion of Childhood’ (Richard House)’. I also learnt about the legal standing of home education in the UK, complex but indicating that home education is a real possibility for any parent who takes this responsibility seriously.
Joining the UK charity ‘Education Otherwise’ and various local online home education forums has put me in touch with parents who are already home educating. I know realise I am far from alone. Attending a local meeting further inspired me, helping to cement my decision by speaking to likeminded parents who were further down this path. I found the group very welcoming, open and helpful. They answered my seemingly endless list of questions and admired my toddler, who sat throughout the meeting content on my lap. In this space I saw parents who were strong and determined, committed to providing the best for their children, fully aware of the weight of their responsibility. I could also feel an undertone of criticism towards the formal educational establishment, a warning to be careful in a world I had once wholly accepted. In this physical and virtual community I feel supported and guided to start out on this exhilarating new stage of my life.
Sensitive to others
Deciding my son is not going to nursery or even to school, at least not for the first few years, has been unsettling and shocking for some of my family and friends to come to terms with. Their reservations are to be respected and explored, their concerns simply an indication they care about Ewan and want the best for him and for me. It is also stepping further out of the box, out of ‘normal’ behaviour. Yet it is a decision I now feel confident enough to start discussing. I am also conscious in going against the norm that I may be interpreted by others as making a statement that the schooled population is somehow wrong or beneath me. Whilst this is far from true, I am aware of how carefully I must tread in this sensitive area, without offending anyone along the way.
Responsibility for our children
School has its place in our society and is the right place for many children. However, it is not the best place for my son. I have made the decision to keep my son’s education within my own and my family’s hands, not hand the bulk of this responsibility onto the state. When I gave birth to my son I took on the responsibility of nurturing and educating him from day one. Home educating is simply an extension of this, continuing what we are already doing in handing to Ewan our culture, through imitation and observation. It is broadening his experiences in a natural way, leading him out into the world slowly with hands held until he wants to loosen them.
Facing the uphill challenges
This is an exciting path with no end in sight. Yet it is plagued with challenges, society’s objections, my son’s needs and desires, financial concerns, judgemental attitudes, wanting to please my family and friends, the human desire to fit in; the list goes on. Yet I know deep down it is the right path, an extension of how I already care for Ewan, a gentle unfurling of the continuum attachment style of parenting we already practice. I have the strength and the conviction to step further onto this path knowing I am one of the right people to facilitate Ewan’s learning, that I can fight this cause with the right support and knowledge behind me.
The journey of a lifetime starts now!
When this seed is in full flower and we are further down this path, I shall share with you again how the home education journey is going. Now, right at its start, I cannot wait to share each of Ewan’s small triumphs, tiny firsts, all of his footsteps, his eagerness and unquenchable desire to learn. It is a journey of a lifetime and one I shall continue to share with the outside world.