Me Time, Schmee Time.

So, we had made the decision to home educate (easy for us because the kids were seriously losing their marbles), we had handed in the de-registration letter and legged it into the night (fun and frightening all at the same time) and then reality kicked in.

I had spent about 18 months ranting about the education system and how it was failing our kids.  I would witter on about this subject to just about anyone who would listen.  I even tried to draw the teachers at the school into the conversation.  I could tell they wanted to say more but they were very professional.  They have to toe the line even if they know it is all a load of bollocks.  Excusez mon francais but you know…..

Anyway, once we handed in the letter I was quite shocked.  Nothing happened.  The school weren’t phoning or asking for our reasons, neighbours weren’t questioning why the kids were at home in term time, family didn’t kick up a fuss.  There was no fanfare or confetti.  I was quite ready to deal with the fall-out but it never came.  So there we were with two kids who did not have to attend school but needed educating.  Fantastic, job done.

The biggest shock to the system, however, was having the kids under my feet ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  Remember, we had been through an emotional time with them, they were falling apart and we did what we needed to do to make them mentally well again.  Any parent who cares for their child would do the same thing but with that comes sacrifice.

When you home educate young ones (and I am sure parents of older home educated children will experience the same thing) you make sacrifices.  For me, I gave up time alone.  I used to drop them off to school, come home, make beds, do the washing, vaccum and clean and then settle down to work.  I would have 6 peaceful hours to get everything done before collecting them from school.  This was the set up for 5 days of the week!

As it stands, I have not been on my own for 5 months, unless you count driving to work.  It is relentless.  So my first piece of advice for any potential home educators is to prepare for that.  You might be caught up in the emotion of the decision but do consider your own sanity.  Kids are bloody hard work.  School gives you the time to do things for yourself, work, earn money, have a life outside of your children.  Home education takes that away, at least to begin with.

So this is where the blog comes in.  I come across at least one person a day who is considering home education. It is a fast growing community and if this blog can help anyone make the decision and move forward with their journey, then that is fantastic.  If it can inspire any current home educators to continue then even better but if it keeps me sane when I feel as if I am losing my mind, then it has served its purpose.  Everyone needs an outlet and a connection with the world when they feel like their daily grind is getting them down – that is why Facebook is so successful.  So this will be my little outlet.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture but to begin with, the period of adjustment was tricky (for all of us). After a few months it improved drastically but as my husband works 6 days a week, I naturally find it all a bit much sometimes.

So, potential home -edders; brace yourselves.  It is a bumpy road but one I am CONVINCED it is worth taking, even it has taken 3 weeks for me to get around to removing my chipped toe polish.  Sigh.

 

 

 

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The Soft Play Phenomenon

We only started our home education journey last September.  That seems like such a short time and we have seen some pretty dramatic shifts in the behaviour of the kids.  It is honestly like voodoo has happened in our home.

One of the small things we have both noticed since home educating, is the difference in the way our children play now.  We regularly take them to the soft play places, they love them.  We love them too, for in spite of the overpowering stench of urine and outstanding levels of cacophony, hubby and I can always enjoy a weak coffee and conversation that lasts for more than 4 minutes without interruption. So we go to them – a lot.

When our children were schooled, they would run around like they hadn’t been out of the house for a month, jump, slide, climb and generally have fun.  They would be near other children but that was about it.  I would encourage them to find out the names of children they were playing next to and they would look at me like I had lost my tiny mind.

Now our children are home educated, they play differently at these places.  They come running back to report who they have met, what they are called and how they are on a team.  Totally different.  The new friends even find it hard to say Goodbye in some cases  because they have properly connected and not played selfishly. It is a beautiful thing.

In addition to this, they are so much better at dealing with younger ones….and older ones…and adults.  They are much more confident and willing to speak for themselves. The soft play phenomenon is a small part of a bigger picture.  Now they don’t only mix with the same 30 kids every day, they are much more…sociable.  Who would have thunk it?

 

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Project

We consider ourselves very lucky that both of our children gave very clear distress signals.

Thing 1 (it is an affectionate name for her before you call social services) was nothing short of a mess.  We are never going to forget that time.

She had always been a little bit touchy about school and was never excited about going. Although fine when she was there, when she came out there was the daily explosion of resentment, frustration and anger……at 4 years of age.

We stuck with school, we got through 4 years of it but our child was becoming painfully unhappy.  As simple as that.

During her third year, she developed a vocal tic.  Fairly minor really, just a repetitive short humming sound.  We could hear her in her bedroom, reading to herself ‘hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm’.  She would watch TV, ‘hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm’.  It was slightly unsettling but a quick ‘Google’ proved it was nothing to worry about, quite common for her age and likely to pass. Well, it was going to get worse before it got better.

By the end of the third year, her vocal tic was going like the clappers and she had developed a physical tic to match – we don’t do things by halves in this family.  So on the last day of term, my husband and I sat and watched her playing in the garden as she ‘hmmmm’d’ and twitched her afternoon away.  It was pitiful.  It was like she was being given tiny electric shocks every 2 seconds.  Not cool.

It was not in the least bit surprising to us, that the tics calmed down enormously over the long summer holiday – only to return in September when school started again.  We thought at that point that her health and happiness mattered more than anything she could learn in the classroom, but it still took us a year to take the leap.

I feel awful about that but it was a joint decision.  We asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to give school a try “just for 7 more weeks”.  Random number of weeks but we went with it.  She managed a year but, my goodness, that was a difficult and emotionally draining year – for everyone.

Meanwhile, Thing 2 (it’s an affectionate nickname don’t forget) was like The Incredible Hulk on steroids.  My beautiful, gentle, funny sweet little 4 year old was angry. Really angry.  This came after a short period of extreme controlling behaviour, we had:

The stair times – “Mummy, no.  Go back down the stairs and then step with that foot at the same time as me”

The blanket times – “The blanket isn’t straight” (52 flicks of the blanket later, we can all relax).

The night-fright era – When a black eyed child would wander into the living room at 11pm, start moving furniture and screaming abuse.  It got so bad we had to message the neighbours to say not to worry, it was just a mild case of possession and once the exorcism was complete, all would be well. It was in short, disturbing.

Finally, we had the ‘blind rage’ period.  Oh my, this was on another level.  It mainly happened at bedtime (I later realised because that meant school was one sleep away) and it sounded like someone was being murdered.  His bed would be stripped, toys would be thrown,the mattress removed (he really did not want to go to sleep).  He would shout abuse for an hour at a time and I would eventually take him for a ride in the car to calm him down.  After about 20 minutes of driving (with him still shouting and hitting the back of my head) he would suddenly stop and talk in a calm and polite tone.  I genuinely thought he had a serious medical condition.  I felt sure he would need a brain scan.  This went on for quite a few months….right up to the point we started home-educating.

Our house was all ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ and now it is not.I do not accept co-incidence as a possible explanation for the peace and calm we now have in our home.  I will body slam anyone who dares to suggest that they have simply ‘grown up’ or come through a ‘phase’.  Please.  Don’t even go there.  School made my children unhappy and ill.  Home educating has made them happy again.  This is all we ever wanted.

I started this lengthy post by saying we were lucky.  Our poor children endured some horrible things but it made the decision to home educate simple.  Now, when challenged about our decision it is very easy for us to justify and remember why we are doing this.  I admire the brave people who took the leap, even when their children seemed happy at school.  Brave and brilliant people.

So, now we are on a mission to raise children who understand that mental health and happiness comes first EVERY time.