Taking the leap into homeschooling is a decision that may take months or years, but sometimes happens in an instant. So how do you know whether it's right for your family? A UK based mother of two shares her thought process.
By Sophie Copeman
The decisions that we make will shape the futures of our children. This is not a new concept, but for me it is a profound one. On a daily basis we are making decisions; simple decisions such as what they will have for dinner, where shall we go today, who shall we meet... and bigger decisions such as child-rearing techniques, childcare providers and where they will be educated.
So what do people consider when it comes to education? For some this is about location, school quality, necessity. For others this is about exactly how their children will be educated and whom will do it; and this is me, this is where I am at.
My twin daughters are almost 3, so in the coming year my husband and I have a big decision to make, a decision that will affect our children for years to come and quite possibly the rest of their lives. I have lots of questions to ask and only the beginnings of answers.
Why would I choose NOT to put my children in mainstream education?
There are lots of valid arguments for not putting my children into mainstream education, but for me it boils down to these factors right now:
- the traditional educational model does not cater well for the individual
- the UK's schooling system is largely geared towards exams, grades and targets
- each pupil is held up against their peers based on how they perform on standardised tests
- teaching is reliant on external motivation as opposed to internal motivation
- schools are hothouses of peer pressure, bullying and, in my opinion, unrealistic social interactions
Though I guess if I am 100% honest about my hesitation to put my daughters into mainstream education it comes down to one word: freedom.
Why is freedom so important?
Freedom refers to freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom to allow a child space to develop in a supportive environment, freedom to learn outside all day if the sun is shining not just go out between the lunch break bells, freedom to have an input into what and how they learn each day so that they feel empowered as individuals, and the freedom to take them places we couldn’t go to if we were restricted to term time.
Freedom, or the lack thereof is what puts me off mainstream education.
So where to go from here?
My husband is open-minded but also a traditionalist, so for him, the default decision is already made - he wants the girls to go to a mainstream school. So not only do I need to decide what route I want for the girls, if I decide I want to homeschool them I also have to put together a well-reasoned case to convince him that homeschooling is the better option for us.
Of course, I have doubts
On any given day hundreds of questions churn through my mind. Thoughts like:
- 'Can I homeschool in a mid-terrace in the centre of a town?' (the picture in my head of homeschooling is in the countryside with acres of space around you)
- 'Am I good enough to teach?'
- 'Can I handle what other people will say about my choice?'
- 'What if I miss out something important?'
- 'What if deciding to homeschool them will be detrimental to them in the future?'
- 'What if they would not just survive at school but thrive?'
- 'What if I am letting an overly negative view of school cloud my judgment?'
- 'What if I just haven’t got the energy and intellect to keep them stimulated and engaged?'
These are some BIG questions that I need to answer.
How to find the answers
- My first step is going to be talking to homeschooling parents and their children and to adults who were homeschooled. Luckily enough I already know parents whom are homeschooling their 8-year-old, and a young woman who was homeschooled, went on to a top UK university and is now training to be a lawyer, so I’ve arranged to meet up with them to discuss their experiences.
- I’ve contacted a local homeschooling group to see if I can go to one of their weekly meetups and plan to contact more so that I can get an accurate idea from as many people as possible about the realities of homeschooling. I’m hoping those conversations will allay some of my fears and answers some of my questions.
- I’ve begun to look up the logistics of how to homeschool. For example, I’ve read through my local council's guidelines on home education and the laws around it, I’ve begun looking into homeschool resources, using websites such as www.educationotherwise.org for information and support.
- I’ve started calculating whether or not we can afford not only to provide resources but for me to continue only working part-time whilst homeschooling.
So that’s it, I have a plan, I have a way to find the answers and I have a belief and hope that freedom of education will be at the end of my search.
Sophie is 32, lives on the coast in the South West of England with her husband and twin two-year-old daughters. She is a full time mum but also works part-time from home for a sea kayaking company. Undoubtedly her biggest passion is her children but she also loves the outdoors, gardening, crafts, photography and adventure. Sophie and her husband raise their daughters in an attachment parenting style, sharing on Instagram @life.as.a.twin.mum