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I was homeschooled as a kid and I'm struggling massively in life as an adult. Was my HE experience atypical?

(60 Posts)
BookerDeWitt Sun 19-Oct-14 03:43:08

Hi everyone. I've been searching the internet for a homeschool forum that is intended for people in the UK. I am very glad to have found this forum. I would like to share my experience of being home-educated. I went to primary school as a child, but never went to secondary school at all because my mum decide to homeschool me. She didn't want me to go to the local underperforming state comp which, at the time, had a poor reputation locally. She tried to get me in to a private school, but unfortunately I wasn't accepted. My mum seemed to have a fixed belief that state schools are crap and private schools are amazing. I also believed that to be true myself at the time. Thus began my homeschooling odyssey. If I had foreseen the destructive impact not going to school would have on me, I wouldn't have allowed it to happen. I would have made absolutely sure that I was in school. I had no idea that my life was going to be completely ruined. I'd like to explain exactly why it didn't work out for me.

To start with, I wasn't monitored at all by anyone from the local council or school. I ended up being completely forgotten about. I have no idea if my mum informed them that I was being HEd. She said that she did, but I received no contact from them until I was 16. My parents got a letter from someone at the LEA asking about how my education was going. Apparently they went to a meeting with this person and had to tell lies about me. They said I was thriving, being educated adequately and had an active social life. None of those things were remotely true. The education I received at home was completely inadequate. My mum has no educational qualifications at all, and was unable to deliver anything close to the standard of education I would have received at school (even an academically underperforming school). Many subjects were skipped entirely, such as chemistry, physics and foreign languages. I was usually left alone to read textbooks or write essays. There were no lessons and very little teaching was performed, as far as I can recall. By the time I got to 16, I was completely unprepared for doing any GCSEs. Even if I had been ready, my mum seemed to have no idea how I would be able to actually sit any exams without being in school. I didn't know either. From what I have read, there's a lot of hoop-jumping involved in trying to sit exams as an external candidate. The onus wasn't on me to find a place to sit the exams though, just like it wasn't up to me to provide my own education. That was my mum's job, and she sadly wasn't equipped for either task. I don't want to be too hard on her as she had no support from anyone. My dad was around but he just left her to get on with it. I completely missed out on doing any GCSEs or any other qualifications. I guess I fell through the system.

As tremendously damaging as my 'education' was to my life prospects, that is only one half of the story. I missed out on everything by not being in school. Friendships, relationships, experiences... I missed out on all of those completely. I had no friends or social life away from school, at all. The friends I had in primary moved on to secondary and made new friends, so they didn't need me after that. I ended up being completely isolated. As I had no siblings, cousins, or friends, my social opportunities were effectively non-existent outside of school. I talked to someone online a while back and they said it was my parents' fault for allowing me to become so isolated. No efforts were made to contact any other homeschooling families. I have never actually met another person who was homeschooled. I feel alienated from the 99%+ of people in the UK who actually went to school. I've spent all of my birthdays since I was 11 completely alone. No parties, and no friends or family to socialise with. My 18th and 21st were spent in my room at home feeling lonely and miserable (I'm 23 now). I've also had a facebook account since 2007, but have zero friends on it. I don't think I'll ever find anyone to add as a friend.

I believe very strongly that none of this would have happened if I had went to school. I would have been properly educated and I wouldn't have ended up being a friendless recluse, feeling completely rejected and ostracised by society. Secondary school provides a proven, tried and tested pathway that prepares a person for the next stage of their education. It also provides the platform a person needs as they adjust to adulthood and being independent. It also gives you a structure, purpose and routine in your daily life. I haven't really had any of those since I left school. Also, colleges and universities are specifically designed for people who attended and finished school. As I didn't, any hopes I might have harboured of continuing in education were extinguished. I have no work experience, qualifications or professional skills, which makes me about as attractive to potential employers as an Ebola victim. I believe I would have acquired those skills and qualifications quite easily if I had went to school. Instead, I have none of them and I'm going nowhere in life as a result. I recently looked up a few people on facebook who I knew growing up. All of them are thriving and excelling in life. They all went to school. The only people I looked up who aren't thriving or excelling are either dead or in prison. I don't think my prospects are any better than theirs. I feel like I'm serving my own life sentence - a lifetime of loneliness, misery and worthlessness.

I just can't understand what the benefits are of homeschooling. As far as I'm concerned there was no reason at all for me not to be in school. I had no disabilities or special educational needs. I was actually one of the top dogs academically in primary school. Is anyone out there actually doing well in life after being homeschooled? Can I just ask, how did you avoid the pitfalls that have befallen me? In particular, how the hell did you meet other kids without being in school? I have had no social life since I left school more than 13 years ago. I have actually barely had a life at all. I have no future and nothing to look forward to. I have no purpose in life beyond eating, sleeping and trying to exist from one day to another. I also hate telling anyone that I was homeschooled, not just because it's destroyed me, but because of how uncommon it is. I'm from a rough city in the north of England and home education is almost completely unheard of here. Is it more common in more affluent areas of the country? Also, I've talked to several people online who went to school and are doing fantastically well in life, and they have all basically said the same thing about it - that secondary school was an incredibly important period in their lives. I read a post on Mumsnet recently from a teacher who said they could not understand why homeschooling parents believe they are able to deliver the rich curriculum or social opportunities that school provides. I can certainly empathise with that based on my own experience of HE.

I just wanted to get all of this my chest. I found it cathartic. I only want to hear from people who were homeschooled or are homeschooling their own kids.

Wonc Sun 19-Oct-14 03:52:53

I have a friend who homeschooled her children in secondary school for a number of years. Then they both revolted and demanded to go to school. She didn't want to, but she allowed it. I think because there were two of them, she couldn't really say no if you see what I mean.
They are both doing well, not so much academically, but socially. And we know that is just as, if not more important.
I'm sorry about what happened to you. But you are still so young. You can start again. Are there no clubs you are interested in joining? Volunteering?

Wonc Sun 19-Oct-14 03:54:23

Also just want to say that what your mum to you was cruel. Very cruel. It sounds like she may have her own serious issues.

LadyofDunedin Sun 19-Oct-14 04:00:15

Hi OP . I didn't want to read and run.

I don't personally know anyone that was home educated to contribute, but I wanted to comment that your story is well articulated and in spite of your lack of formal qualifications, you clearly are an able woman.

Now, I don't know the ins and outs , but at 23 I am fairly confident you have it within you to turn this difficult situation around. Is there a local college you can talk to ? A foundation entry year course you could be considered for as a route to further education? This would allow you the academic qualification you need, and also begin the social skills process again.

You're life at present sounds in danger of making you depressed, and I truly hope / believe you can turn this around with a little determination and inspiration.

You talk of others achieving and excelling, and I don't think you are over the hill where that is concerned by a long way. Please do contact some further education institutes. Although you feel it, your situation will not be isolated.

Believe in yourself, you could be writing a very different update on MN in a very short period of time.

All the best thanks

DontDrinkAndFacebook Sun 19-Oct-14 04:09:53

I'm sorry but I don't have time to address the many points you made about HE (and I admit to being a bit cynical about much HE and the motives of the some of the parents who choose to do it) but I couldn't leave your post unanswered. I just want to say how sorry I am for you that things have turned out this way. what your mother did was awful - tantamount to abuse really, to isolate you like that.

Your post is one of the saddest I have read on mumsnet. to have a facebook account without a single friend to put on it on it at 23 is tragic.

But you can and must move on from this. You sound bright and articulate. Seize your life and run with it. Make massive changes and start today. I think you should go to your GP and request some counselling to help you come to terms with what is, essentially, a lost childhood and whole chunks of your life that have been taken from you.

flowers (((hugs)))

claraschu Sun 19-Oct-14 04:43:57

OP you are very young, you are unusually self-aware, and you write very well. You can work, make friends, get an education, and do anything else you want.

It sounds to me like your parents are pretty screwed up and school would have been better for you, but I just want to say that I have done some HE and know many HErs and I have NEVER seen a situation like this. One of my closest friends HEs her 14 year old, who has numerous tutors, plays in a band, has hordes of friends, a job caring for horses, a small business as a baker (she's amazing), and fundraises for a wildlife charity (raised over £200 yesterday). I know quite a few other HErs with similar busy lives, but it takes a big effort to do a good job with HE.

You sound very angry with your parents. Did you ever go through a period of teenage rebellion when you were younger? Did you have the chance to distance yourself from your mum, reject her ideas, and go your own way? Maybe you need to do these things now, if you didn't have the chance when you were 15? Maybe you need some counselling to help you come to terms with your parents?

As far as practical advice, have you thought about volunteering? There are so many different charities that, depending where you live, there's a good chance you could find something interesting. Can you join a group (book club, Meetup group, choir, sporting club), get a job of any sort, find a position as an AuPair, take an adult continuing education course?

What sorts of things interest you? If you want suggestions, we might be able to help.

I am happy to be your FB friend, if you PM me (though I am not very active on it, but still...)

claraschu Sun 19-Oct-14 04:49:13

Just want to add that no one else who has answered your post so far has first hand experience of HE.

There are plenty of 23 year olds who, like the OP, have only bad feelings about their secondary school years.

Most of them went to school.

Coughle Sun 19-Oct-14 05:00:07

I have first hand experience of HE.

I was HE until age 12. It was extremely difficult to make the transition to school at that point as I had poor social skills and was immature for my age.

PM me if you'd like to chat some more. My experience was nowhere near as isolating as yours, but it affected my entire life. I know that HE can be fantastic for some families but I do not feel it was beneficial for me in any way.

mathanxiety Sun 19-Oct-14 05:11:39

I also want to express my encouragement to you to get into formal education - a foundation course for instance - and also to talk to your GP about a referral for counselling. From the sound of it, your mum may have had some issues that seriously affected your childhood and you could do with someone to talk it through with. Do you have a relationship with your parents now?

If you look at the further education or higher education topics here you may find some advice about jumping into formal education again. One bonus of looking at education again is you would get to meet people and develop a social life. People from all sorts of backgrounds do those courses and go on to degrees and qualifications.

A friend of mine who is a teacher HE'd some of her children at one point for I think two or three years. I think two of them in particular were floundering in school. She got together with another mother who was also home eding and they joined forces for trips to museums and other activities. Between them there were four children. The other mother is a physical therapist but was sahming at the time. Once the children were caught up they went back to school.

My DCs attend a huge American high school whose intake includes a good few students who have been exclusively HE'd to age 14. Some of the HE children they encounter are amazingly advanced in some areas (taking calculus as their first high school maths course and ending up with almost engineering degree calibre maths courses). I would imagine that high school is a culture shock for them, but there is an active HE community here that teams up to provide a sort of HE club experience and a social outlet, plus providing a chance to use lab equipment for science classes and do music and art.

FavadiCacao Sun 19-Oct-14 18:20:52

OP, I'm really sorry to hear your very sad story. flowers
I believe your situation is unsual, I speak as a home educator (6 years); I also know a few home educated adults -some in their 30s, now.

You are young, don't be defeated by your current situation. You are bright and articulate, you will florish. As you have never sat exams and you are under 25, you should qualify for fundings to attend a local college. Some might even assess you to see whether you can skip straight to A levels. Most cities would have an Adult Education programme, you could try googling ^adult education^+ your city. The alternative is do courses with the Open University. You might even qualify for job seeker allowance whilst training/studying as an adult.

stayathomegardener Sun 19-Oct-14 18:34:45

I kind of want to be cruel to be kind. You are sooo young.

Stop asking about others with experiences of home schooling and stop dwelling on your albeit very poor experiences.
Draw a line under it today and sign up for an adult education college course,you lucky thing you can possible choose anything as long as you start at basic level.Yes you may initially be stuck with others reluctantly doing basic English and Maths but that's what you have to do.
A year from today you can start talking not about your lack of schooling and friends but what you spent the last year doing and the people you met and then go on. Once you have the basics you can do more specialized courses in things that really interest you with people you really connect with.

Make it your mission to accept that what happened did happen but that that is ill in the past and right now you are in control of your future.

Good luck.

MrsMcRuff Sun 19-Oct-14 18:40:31

Don't, don't don't write yourself off, op!

You are obviously very articulate and self-aware, and although you may not be following a traditional path, you can definitely get where you want to go!

This link may be useful: www.accesstohe.ac.uk/Pages/Default.aspx

bobbysgirlfirst Mon 20-Oct-14 16:59:46

Well it's not the story of HE that I'd recognise.
I'm sorry you didn't find it went well for you, but the formerly home educated young people I know (hundreds of the now) are all doing really well at college, university employment or self employment.
Our own three had a great time in higher education and came out with very good results.IME the rate of HE youngsters going to university is at least as high as schooled children.
Socially we had a wonderful time, mixing with HE friends locally and nationally. So much so that I have had quite a few kids asking me to adopt them, as they wanted my kids lovely life style.
And of course school isn't by any means a guarantee of social or academic success..and yes I have parented a child who was schooled all the way through, so I do know what both pathways bring.
Interestingly asked just this weekend whether they would home educate their own children, our three answered with a resounding yes.

freckleonear Mon 20-Oct-14 20:51:50

I'm sorry home education went badly for you, but I don't think yours is a typical experience.

In some ways, my situation was similar to yours. I went to primary school and then did one year of secondary school before being home educated. However, it was also very different. I was left alone with textbooks a lot, but that was because I was self-motivated and it suited my learning style. I didn't do any GCSEs, because I decided to go straight on to do A levels and then a degree. I am an introvert and have always preferred one or two friends over many, but I did go to church and various groups where I had the opportunity to socialise. I got a job as soon as I had officially left "school" and was legally allowed to work full time. In my case, school would have ruined my life and home education was what saved me.

I now home educate my two young children whilst studying for my second degree. There are so many more home educators now than when I was home educated that we have a choice of local events and groups to choose from each week. I have watched large groups of home educated and schooled children play on beaches, parks and playgrounds and you honestly wouldn't know which was which except that home educated children tend to think more outside the box.

Without wanting to trivialize what you've been through, I think you now need to actively take ownership of your own life. Join some clubs or classes to make friends and practice social skills. Look into doing some courses at your local college or through an adult education centre, there is lots of funding available nowadays. There are also free online courses you can do through MOOCs like FutureLearn and Coursera to build up a CV. Do some volunteer work to gain experience. Stop having a passive view of your life as something that has been done to you, and start believing that you can shape your life into whatever you want to. You can!

roastchicken Mon 20-Oct-14 21:26:24

Booker, your post is so articulate, you clearly have a lot to offer. Although, it may not seem like it, you're still young and have a lot to offer. Give yourself a three year plan - in three years you could be at university. Start with getting access courses, and then do A Levels at further education college. Aim high and get the school experience now. I went to Oxford but my room mate there from a Shameless-style family dropped out of school at 16 without qualifications, spent some time partying before then going back to college, aceing her A levels and going to Oxford as a mature student. Obviously not typical but just to show that with determination you can change your life. Set yourself a plan of where you want to be in three years, and how to get there and start working towards it now. smile

Liara Tue 21-Oct-14 20:57:43

My dc are home ed, and I know a reasonably large number of he children.

In all honesty, I know two or three that could be going through what you describe. This is because their parents have serious issues, and so cannot/will not facilitate their access to other people (will often hinder it, in fact) and the children have access to no other adults to counterbalance their influence.

For these children I do agree that home ed is not ideal. To be perfectly frank, what is not ideal is their home situation, and school might provide an outlet where they can at least temporarily escape from it. On the other hand, I went to school and I knew a number of girls with less than ideal home circumstances and school provided no escape at all - rather a place where they could get bullied/picked on.

However, here and now this is all irrelevant. Many people have gone through much, much worse than you describe and have picked themselves up, pulled their life together and made something wonderful of it. You can look around the site and will find many stories like that.

Regardless of what happened to you as a teenager, you are an adult now and free to build your life as you see fit. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself and dwell on the past, or you can look at the things you do have going for you and use them to build the future you would like.

Roseformeplease Tue 21-Oct-14 21:05:41

You look like to have very good literacy skills which mean that you should be able to access a huge range of qualifications. I don't know about elsewhere but in Scotland we frequently get adult learners in my school and I am sure that there are colleges who will help you. It is still very early in your life. Set yourself small targets - join one course, speak to one person for 5 minutes. Over time you will be able to undo the damage done to you. Get in touch with the old Primary friends, if only to see their updates on Facebook. Try charity work, a job.

You have had a really shit decade. Make the next one brilliant!

TinkerLula Tue 21-Oct-14 21:28:21

Hi booker, the very first thing which struck me was how well you write! There is absolutely NO reason why you cannot turn your situation around and do anything you want!
I think your parents did fail you, but there are plenty of examples of school failing many children too. My sister went to a perfectly good state secondary and had an awful experience. She is an adult with no friends either. I don't think your experience is at all typical of HE.
HE requires a very committed parent or parents. It is a huge responsibility. I'm sure your Mum did not mean for things to turn out this way, but I do think she did perhaps let you down somewhat.
My kids are home schooled, they love it. They have plenty of friends, but I have taken my job very seriously! I have ensured all their needs are met, including social ones.
I would begin now in re-building your life. Decide what you want to do, get careers advise, think about your options. Its not too late to take A levels or similar in order to go on and do a degree if that's what you wish for. Alternatively try some voluntary work in the field you are interested in. Just get out there and go for it! Nothing is stopping you! You will make friends too. Friends tend to come in different life phases anyway. The people I spend most of my time with now are not the people I went to school with.
Best of luck!

morethanpotatoprints Tue 21-Oct-14 21:28:54

Hello OP.

Your English skills are very good and you would find no problem writing essays for a college course.
I too had a terrible experience of school, attending one of the schools your mum wouldn't have liked. I left school with nothing and to boot was bullied by teachers. It took a lot of counselling to get over it, but there comes a time when you have to draw a line under it.
I do think you were cheated out of socialising with friends and this is important for any child, but especially a H.ed child if they are the sociable sort.
I don't think there is a problem with you being H.ed, but the choices taken on your behalf were obviously flawed.
You are young and able to gain an education, it is never too late.
I finally got my education in my thirties. I met lots of people who I am still in touch with now.
You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 21-Oct-14 21:50:38

Sorry OP, forgot to say two of my dc went through school, the other went until the end of y3 and then has been H.ed since.
I'm not sure if she will go to secondary or not yet, but she loves being at home.
I don't teach her and we don't have lessons and for much of the time she is left to her own devices.
This has proved to work well for her as she is an independent learner and able to self motivate which she appreciates will help in her chosen career. u
We do not religiously follow the n.c but much of what she chooses to do is somehow related.
As a very sociable child she has lots of friends and is involved in many groups. Her friends are mostly schooled but she comes into contact with several who are H.ed
I don't think your experience is typical because as others have said H.ed parents are normally very pro active in sourcing opportunities to learn and socialise. They are motivated and determined, from what I have seen anyway.
Please take the good advice that has been offered, go and see somebody at your local college, you may be surprised.
Good luck to you, and please draw a line under your past and look forward to a great future, the one you deserve.

claraschu Wed 22-Oct-14 03:20:04

OP, if you are there, it would be great to hear more about your interests and about your reactions to what has been posted. Hope you feel a bit encouraged-

coasttocoast Wed 22-Oct-14 04:27:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FoxgloveFairy Wed 22-Oct-14 05:22:00

Hi op.Your written English is certainly excellent. Are there bridging courses around that would equip you to go into tertiary education if that is what you would like? Sounds like your Mum meant well ( oh, the "meant well"!) but did not actually have any idea about what she was doing. I can't understand why she couldn't see that she was floundering, as it sounds like she was, and seek advice but if she is like mine, she would probably rather die than admit to stuffing something up. Anyway, there are surely options for you to get qualifications now, and there are heaps of mature age students doing courses these days. It's pretty common, at least on any course I've done. Good luck op.

CalmAndConfused Wed 22-Oct-14 06:17:01

Hi OP,

I never normally comment on HS, however I had to on this one. I was home schooled my entire life, I didn't even get to experience primary school. My mum made the effort to take me and my siblings to HE groups, but there were no other kids my own age at them. I felt very isolated and alone. This added to the fact my father was abusive made for a hellish childhood. I never had a friend till I was in my 20's - the exception being my husband who I started dating at 16. I am now in a bad marriage which I am looking to leave.

Like you I gained no qualifications through home schooling. I took the reins and went to college to gain my gcse's. I am now on my MSc. I am 27 and still feel that HE effects me, especially socially.

I would love to talk to you via Facebook and pm if you would like.

Tobery Wed 22-Oct-14 07:38:41

I know a couple of people who home educate, each have a single child at primary school age. One does loads of things with her child and the child appears to really thrive on it. She has lots of unusual experiences.
Another isolates her child completely apart from family and isn't capable of providing much of an education except in one or two areas, she is not interested in anyone else's opinion on this and believes she is absolutely doing what is best for him - he could well end up like you.
Actually, I've remembered another HE family I know and the kids are always doing stuff.
There is a real mixture out there, but as others have said, you are young enough to change your future with a couple of years at college. I know it will be hard to adapt socially and academically but it's worth a good try I would think.

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