Are you old enough to remember the opening credits of the film Trainspotting? Irvine Welsh’s words standing larger than life and twice as ugly? Choose Life and all that? Well, you know what? Here I am. Choosing. Choosing home education, to be precise.
I never thought we’d be the ones making this decision. I’m a teacher, and before I had my daughter, and later my son, I’d worked with infant aged children for the best part of a decade and more. When I was still childless, I couldn’t really imagine anything but seeing them enter the school system, and watching them thrive. I never doubted that they would be anything but assessed well, and have their learning interests met, and their needs catered for. And there is still no reason for me not to assume that all those things would happen. They do. In good and outstanding early years classrooms. Every day. Except. EXCEPT.
So why? The truth is that it’s complicated. We didn’t just wake up one morning and decide not to send our daughter to school. It was a slowly unfolding process. We’re in a position where we can home educate, and because we have become involved with our local community while our children are still so young, it feels like a very natural progression. And of course, we have lots of reasons. Large and small. I couldn’t possibly put them all into words, and I don’t really feel it’s necessary. Essentially, perhaps, it can be distilled into this: we don’t feel that it is the right time. There has been a great deal in the recent media about young children not being school-ready, without giving much thought to schools not being as child-ready as they were perhaps once upon a time they were able to be. People will say that we should give school a chance, but this feels right for us, and for our children, for now. It’s not necessarily a forever decision. School will always be there, should they choose, in the future, to go. We don’t see the harm in waiting to see what happens. We will never have this chance again. The joy of home ed is that we don’t need to commit right now. We have the freedom to wait and see.
Wait and see. Take in what happens in the next year. Wait and see. Experience new things and make new friends. Wait and see. Appreciate life with young children and grow and learn with them. Wait and see. In other countries children start formal learning at six or seven. Wait and see. Four is too young. Wait and see. Give my girl time to heal. Wait and see. Wait and see. Wait and see.
If there is one thing I have learned about home educators so far it is this: everyone’s reasons are different. But somewhere along the line, they felt that their child’s needs were not being or would not be met, in some way. There are many people who tried school first and spent years repairing the damage it caused. There are others who decided to home educate from the get go, and then thought about giving school a whirl further down the line. Others have never given it a thought and never will. And yet they are all passionate about their child’s education. They aren’t doing this because it’s the easy way out. They are home educators because they truly believe it is best for their child. We’re not doing this because we feel we, or our kids, are somehow better than everyone else’s, or that we know more than the teachers, or that our children are “special snowflakes”. We’re doing this because we trust that education doesn’t need to happen inside the classroom. It can happen wherever we happen to be. Home education is actually rather far from the mark, because, truly, we are rarely at home.
Someone is bound to be worried about how children make friends without a class full of children the same age. Most home educators will tell you that their diaries have never been so full! With the advent of social media, it is easier than ever to organise group gatherings and socials and educational events of one sort or another. My daughter has made several new friends just since the start of term. I’m already confident that she won’t be lonely.
So, for now, we’ll skip the school stuff, thank you. We’ll find our own ways to learn and grow, with our children to guide us. Please don’t worry about us, or them. They’ll make friends, they’ll develop new skills, they’ll do just fine. Will we send them to school eventually? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It shouldn’t matter. What matters is now. What matters are small people having the freedom to do what they need to do. What matters is that it doesn’t matter if they aren’t “school ready” a year, or even two years, from now. What matters is that they will do it in their own time. And that matters to us.