Big things happened for our little guy last week. But before I go into it, I’m going to back up a little and tell you the full story.
In September or October 2018, when our son was just over 3 and a half and still at preschool, we’d started looking at schools for him.
At this point, we hadn’t really considered another option to education, although, being a teacher of over a decade, I knew that the school system wasn’t something I was entirely happy with. As someone that’s very knowledgeable about child development, and knowing that the kind of education I wanted for my son wasn’t really available to us, it sounds kind of silly that I hadn’t really thought about any other settings up until then.
Then a friend asked if home education had ever crossed our minds and it got me thinking about whether it could be an option for us.
I read up on it a lot, I joined groups on Facebook and I discussed it with my husband at length many, many times. We even attended a forest school session for homeschoolers once and I started up an Instagram account to test-run and track our homeschool journey.
In January 2019 we made our decision - homeschooling was for us. I’ve been working in the education system for years. I know what it’s like.
That isn’t to say that schools are bad places or that children don’t thrive and can’t be happy there. But I wanted more for my little guy and I knew I could give it to him.
So we told family. Some were more accepting than others. Home educating so outside of the norm that we were inundated with “concerns” and questions that I didn’t have all the answers for at that moment in time. We lost our nerve and began reconsidering. Had we made the right decision?
The deadline for school applications was looming and feeling pressured, we applied to school anyway. We had the intention to think about it a bit more and continue “homeschooling” him in the meantime, agreeing to decline the place if we felt we needed to.
Time went on and my husband and I discussed it here and there. But we bought the uniform. We attended the settling in days and talked about school with our son. He was going.
I remember feeling so torn at the time. Homeschooling was where my heart was at, but I felt up against such a lot of negativity. It was a pretty lonely place.
So he went. He was 4 and a half. And he enjoyed it for a while. Then he started to get tired. He suffered with after school restraint collapse occasionally. Then October half term came and he recouped. Then he enjoyed it again. And then he got tired again. But this time, Christmas excitement prevented him from resting fully. And when he returned to school in January 2020 we were getting very regular episodes of after school restraint collapse. I’m talking frequently twice a week, on the three times that I collected him from school, and often one more time when I collected him from Nanny and Grandads after work.
He’s what you would call a typical 4 year old but it was exhausting for both of us and it was heartbreaking to see him struggling so much.
But he was “fine”. At school he was anyway. This is what after school restraint collapse is all about. He conformed to the rules all day. He barely ate lunch. He started chewing his sleeve. He craved praise from the teacher. He was a “good boy” at school. He was so good that he held all the natural emotions he was feeling inside him until he saw me and it all came out. So much pressure for such a little person to deal with.
To see my happy, funny, beautiful boy struggling so much broke my heart and it felt like it was my fault for not sticking to my guns.
Then February half term came and we took a real break. Aside from his 5th birthday, we kept the whole week really chilled so he could recover from the tiredness. He started eating more too.
The return to school wasn’t terrible. On the whole he enjoyed himself. But I could see the cracks starting to form. The kid that had always run into school began telling me he didn’t want to go. And that he hated reading. And that he really really wanted to be chosen for the star. And that he wasn’t allowed the apple from his bag despite being told that it was okay to bring one in.
And then COVID-19 hit the news.
Around the beginning of March there was talk of there being a lockdown. I was becoming increasingly anxious about him being at school and my husband travelling into the city. On 9th March my daughter got a temperature. And on 10th, my son did too. And we were in 2 weeks of self isolation.
A couple of weeks later everything shut down and we were learning from home.
I remember feeling like this was a gift to us in lots of ways so there was no way I was letting it go.
We did so much together. We read books, played games, did sports, treasure hunts, went for nature walks, explored the country park, read books, planted vegetables, reared butterflies, did science experiments, read books, danced and sang at the top of our voices, kept tadpoles, we drew pictures and made books, read books, watched documentaries, made a website, read books and read books and read books.
Then one day he said to me “Mummy I love reading.” This kid, in the space of two months, had gone from avoiding reading completely to picking up anything and everything and giving it a go. And all on his own.
I knew, that from a Montessori perspective, there was no way I was going to be pushing any “learning” on him. I had already decided that his learning was to be completely lead by him. And look where he lead us!
A few weeks later my husband and I began talking again about the possibility of homeschooling. We had seen, before us, how much our son had flourished, even within the middle of lockdown. And we knew that under “normal” circumstances where we could meet other homeschooling families to socialise with and go on day trips to the zoo or visit the library again, he would thrive even more.
We asked our son what he thought. Although only 5, we always trust and follow our children and we felt it was important that he was involved in deciding what happened next. Because ultimately, it’s his life and his educational journey.
And he said “I think I’ll be happier at home” and that was it settled: in July 2020 we became official home educators.
We could not be more thrilled with the outcome and we are so excited for the journey ahead, wherever it may take us!
Here’s to living in the moment and loving every minute of it ❤️