My Home Educating Experience 1980's - 2000's
An edited version of an article I wrote for Funky Raw in 2013
As an ex home schooling Mamma I am of course vastly interested in the amount of people now aiding their children to grow and learn without schooling. Those of us connected to organic ways of living are more than likely aware of the natural approach to teaching your own child, so rather than home educating it becomes child led learning. As my own teaching- at- home years spanned across 5 children, my 'method's’ were vastly different by the end. We progressed from the more formal set hours a day at a mini school desk approach, to the youngest two learning as and when they felt like it. And learn they did, despite this being at variance with what many of us have been brought up to believe! IE: If you leave a child to play and don't control it, all manner of terrible things will happen.
There are now many sources available for information on how to proceed with home education, but still comparatively few accounts of how home educated children turn out. So I proffer my experiences in this respect. The most important thing you need to believe is that you can do this and your children will be more than OK (despite you).
Education News May 2012 had this to say:
" As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, common myths that have long been associated with the practice of homeschooling have been debunked.
Any concerns about the quality of education children receive by their parents can be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled students on standardized assessment exams.
Data demonstrates that those who are independently educated generally score between the 65th and 89th percentile on these measures, while those in traditional academic settings average at around the 50th percentile.
In addition, achievement gaps between sexes, income levels, or ethnicity—all of which have plagued public schools around the country—do not exist in homeschooling environments.
The high achievement level of homeschoolers is readily recognized by recruiters from some of the best colleges in the nation.
Home-educated children matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from both public and private schools. Schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, and Duke Universities all actively recruit homeschoolers.“
I have found the same to be true with UK Colleges and Universities. All welcome home educated children knowing that they will be studious and more importantly, are choosing to further their studies rather than being pushed into it. Which let's face it bodes well for their statistics although from my own experience of University, these can be manipulated by tutors anyhow!
Please never ever look at what someone else is doing and be disheartened, because it may make you feel as if you are not doing enough. When I began home educating in the UK back in the early 1980s, I used an organisation called Education Otherwise. They were very helpful to me initially, but after some months I stopped getting their newsletters as I felt I was useless compared to the many accomplishments of the other families. I was discouraged rather than inspired, but fortunately I had faith enough in myself to carry on regardless!
As I have read over again on many a mother's blog re raising children at home, this truism: I have made mistakes.
Yet, although I had been with at least some of them 24/7 for over 25 years they remain people I want to spend time with. According to renowned author and women's health campaigner Dr Christiane Northrup, this is the key to how well your have brought your children up!
All five of them have gone through many of the same problems and issues that happen to all our young people today, and particularly to the ones who care and feel at a very deep level. Although they were home educated, the soceital cultural influence is so deeply insidious that releasing them into that mid teens has meant they did not escape the effects of pressure.
The other truism you will see : I wish I knew then what I know now! Impossible, and yet a stick we tend to beat ourselves with. I wish I raised my children on a high raw diet for a start. I wish I had been more aware of my spiritual being at that time rather than coming from an entrenched and claustrophobic religious background - shed along the home education way. I learned too.
I wish I had learned much earlier that children are not trying to take out adult power away.
The report continues:
“ Similarly, the common myth that homeschoolers “miss out” on so-called “socialization opportunities,” often thought to be a vital aspect of traditional academic settings, has proven to be without merit. According to the National Home Education Research Institute survey, homeschoolers tend to be more socially engaged than their peers and demonstrate “healthy social, psychological, and emotional development, and success into adulthood.”
Admittedly with 5 children in a family there is no shortage of playmates, but this does not necessarily mean they will socialize outside. My children were all different, from highly gregarious to preferring their own company and all the shades in between. One was very shy but forced herself to attend drama as she recognized she needed to push herself. Incidentally, I seem to have borne a sub set of actresses/singers, 3 out of the 4 girls are/were involved in this. Anyhow, friends were always aplenty, as other children living close by gravitated to our house.
I did not feel that I was lighting the way forward when I decided to not send my children to school. However, I was astonished that other parents could not make the connection between the misery they endured at school (as seriously - there are very few of us who really enjoyed going and would have chosen not to do so had we been given that freedom), and then imposing the very same on their own children. So what on earth keeps us en masse from home educating? Fear mostly. Fear that we are not capable...fear of what others may think...fear of losing our lifestyle due to one less wage earner...all of these and more. At least half of my home educating years were as a single parent with very little money, but how fortunate we were to live in the country.
Let me be clear that I am not writing this to cause anyone to feel ashamed or unworthy or lacking if your child attends school. Each individual family situation is different and variables have to be factored in. Nevertheless if you are wondering whether this is a way forward for you and your children, then jump in the water is lovely.
My own home educating years were spread between the 1980's until approximately 2006. This time period saw huge changes in the availability of aid and information, with the computer becoming a part later on. This opened up so much, enabling me to gather, copy, print and use information. When I started out I drew tiny pictures for my under 5’s to count and circle before they could write numbers. Continually buying expensive work books is not an option for most, but printing off the computer is.
It is a huge responsibility we take upon ourselves. However instinctive it may feel, it still brings with it the eyes of the local neighbourhood at the very least. It would be useful at the outset to determine the world you wish to bring into your child's vista. For instance, do you actually want your alternatively educated and alternative thinking child to fit in with normal society? I thought I did - as I could see no other way for them to be able to work and support themselves. I know now that if I was starting all over again, I would have a different attitude and approach.
I didn't give my children the choice to go to school as some parents do. I figured in this respect I knew better than them, and I had read how difficult it was to de- school them once they had been incorporated into the system. I looked at perhaps joining one or two classes a week at one school with a helpful Head, but decided against it. I felt that if the authorities were to come into the equation one way or another it would be a fight from there on in to keep doing what I was doing and I did not want to expend useful energy on such. However, most of my children went to College from the age of 14
( for non UK readers this normally intakes those aged 16 upwards).
Retrospectively I am not sure this was a good idea re socialization, their shining spirits of unusual brightness were dimmed by the ways of this wretched competitive world of adults.
Certainly, had I had connections who could have taught the subjects they were interested in, I would not have considered College. It had many down sides in as much as it affected their confidence as they had to deal with the nasty element of peer groups and the condescension of some - not all - teachers. Thankfully they do to this day all think that bit differently to schooled children, and all have some wonderful, loyal, supportive friends.
So Where are they now?
In other words, how does a home educated child turn out? Without wishing to impinge on their privacy - some went to University, some didn't - all are employed - some have lived and worked abroad, some haven't.
All are fully integrated in society having a close caring circle of friends. They have excellent relationships with each other and the only two nieces are doted upon. Better still, they have successfully (but not painlessly) negotiated the tricky course between divorced parents. They are inherently better people than me, and this I believe is success!
All have hugely humanitarian natures and want to give something to the world.
As they wend their way through life I constantly assess where I could have been a better mother (this is not a condition of only home educators but the cloak we clothe ourselves with as soon as we give birth!) I wince and cringe at some of the ways I thought were ‘right’, but happily, occasionally I am reminded out of the blue that good times were had a lot. even in poverty. One of the playmates of my younger daughters wrote me:
“ I loved growing up in XX and visiting your home, it was always full of laughter and to be honest I was always so jealous of how everyone played together I think it was because I was from a house of boys and playing 'army' just wasn't appealing enough. Performances and playing in the mud was much more my thing."
You are just as capable as me. If I can do it you can. So worry not. Relax into it. All will be well.