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Once again thinking of HE... please talk to me! (Long sorry!)

(199 Posts)
fuzzpig Wed 28-Jan-15 17:38:51

Today I completely failed to get my DCs to school. Both have the odd day when they just refuse. DS (5, yr1) in particular - he gets very clingy and upset. DD (7, yr3) is having a bullying issue and that's what got her upset today, although she would've gone in if DS had, I think.

I've lurked/posted here under various names since I joined MN around 2010, and both DH and I are very pro-HE. We've read a bit about it and made plans about how we'd approach it, I even had plans for projects etc! We decided to give nursery/school a go though, and DD flourished immediately (she's very social... unlike us!) so we put HE plans on hold with the agreement that we would absolutely HE if we felt it best. This turned out to be a blessing as DH got an injury and lost his job, I had to go to work but then I got very ill - I'm now disabled with a variable, unpredictable condition. There's no way we would've managed if they weren't at school.

Things went pretty well until this September when DD moved to juniors (separate school, not primary) - it's huge (150 pupils per year) and she was overwhelmed. She has friends (barring this 'frenemy') but just found it too much really, she became even more anxious - she's always been sensitive - and wasn't sleeping. She has a referral for this as it does affect many aspects of her life. Anyway sometimes she would have to be peeled off me at the classroom door, which had honestly never happened before. BUT academically it has been surprisingly good for her - she's blossomed under the clearer structure and adores homework and spelling tests, finally enjoying and making progress in maths etc.

DS, who loved reception, is sometimes completely refusing to even get dressed now. Due to my health I simply cannot force him or 'drag' him to school (and we have no car to bundle him into). I tried once and really suffered for it. When I ask, he says it (the school day) 'takes too long', and he misses me. He also hates assembly and says it hurts his ears (he does cover his ears at loud noises, and has had congestion/hearing loss in the past so this is feasible, but school don't seem convinced). He is youngest in the year too, and has a significant speech disorder although that is gradually improving.

Anyway, both schools are very supportive and understanding and we've always been very open about or struggles. I have arranged a meeting with the infants SENCO tomorrow and am awaiting a call from the welfare officer at the juniors, both because they want to see how else they can help. I'm in a bad phase healthwise - not been to work for a few weeks - and I'm scared of their attendance dropping - I doubt the EWO would be so sympathetic as the schools themselves!

So back to today - I just wasn't up to the battle of getting them there. They both visibly relaxed when I agreed, and were very happy to do "school at home". We've had a great day - a bit of maths, reading, spelling etc, and DD even spent well over an hour enthusiastically making a poster to show her class, after reading more about a topic they'd briefly touched on at school. She said "I've set myself some homework!" and was so happy doing it! The only thing they've grumbled about is lack of telly (which we don't have during the school week anyway).

I'm just confused really and I have no idea what to do. Most of the time they are fine but when they have a bad day it's not just bad but impossible! But I was wary of making this too fun (hence not putting DVDs on - which I would, if we were actually HEing) in case the school refusal (if I can even call it that, when it's not constant) gets worse because they want to stay home more. And I'm worried that the fact I have idly dreamed of HE for years will cloud my judgement if it's not actually the best thing to do in this instance, IYSWIM. If they were refusing every day then it would be a much easier choice! DH (who due to his past is much angrier about this other girl upsetting DD) is very gung-ho and "we will make it work" but although I am yearning to just take them out, my head is more powerful than my heart.

I'm reasonably confident they could learn a lot at home (not that I'm saying it'd all be easy like today!), but there's the practical worries - money?! DH's job is low income at the moment, and without my extra pittance from part time work we would struggle (although things might get easier as our rent will decrease if we get housed - currently on register... which incidentally would mean we'd have to change schools anyway, because there's virtually no council housing in this relatively affluent part of town). Because of money and physical constraints I'm worried their world would just become TOO small, if that makes sense? Even continuing things like Brownies would be a strain on our wallets. And selfishly I worry what effect it would have on me - I need, need, NEED downtime both mentally (I have AS) and physically, and would lose confidence without my job I think. There's no family who could help really and with both of us being very shy, we don't have a support network per se and would really struggle to make one. Today I've got by because we are literally 'playing school', so they've had playtimes when teacher can have a rest - can't see that working long term. Getting enough exercise is a concern too, I worry enough as it is because I currently can't manage to visit the park after school etc and we don't have a garden to run around it (again this will hopefully change with council housing).

Oh gosh this is ridiculously long, apologies. I have just had all these thoughts going round and round for weeks/months now and I'm hoping for some wise words from you lovely people! smile

CaramelPie Wed 28-Jan-15 21:48:08

As you say today you were just 'playing at schools.' It sounds to me like you think that HE will solve your most immediate problems but I think they could create so much more.

fuzzpig Wed 28-Jan-15 21:59:00

That's the thing - it would remove the problem of getting them to school, as they seem unhappy at school - but I have no idea if it would be the right thing overall. I don't even know how to figure it out IYSWIM.

Anyway the best solution ATM would be to see what we/schools can do to make them happier there, because I know a lot of the time they do love it and get a lot from it. I just hate seeing them sad.

I felt such a failure today though. I mean getting your kids to school is a pretty big part of being a parent isn't it (if they're enrolled I mean!). I just don't understand where we've gone wrong.

ommmward Wed 28-Jan-15 22:46:11

Not all children are school shaped. If they aren't cheerfully going into school, it doesn't mean they are bad, or you've gone wrong, or that the school has failed - it just isn't a great match.

the shape of your life if you HE can absolutely be "you have a play for 15 minutes and when the buzzer goes, we'll do something together". Totally totally, you work out what works for your family, and if you continuing to work is part of it, find a way to make that work with shifts between you and your H (or extended family to help with childcare?). HE doesn't have to happen in school hours.

I strongly recommend that you find out what sort of HE community there is in your area, and get to know some of the people in it. Some people do quite structured stuff that looks like school at home. Others do "autonomous" home education (= totally child led). Many HE events are really cheap (£4 per family for a whole day's activity is pretty standard) or even free (we recently joined a group of HEers who meet once a week in the open air, and one parent volunteers to lead an activity (like camp fires or knots or tree climbing etc etc) each week. Totally free except for petrol, yk? It takes a while to build that sort of thing up, but it's out there!

justdrifting Wed 28-Jan-15 23:00:33

Hmm. I'm divided on this but just wanted to say you're not the only one.

My DD is not really really unhappy at school, but in her fourth school year and still not that happy either. It's hard to pin point, I don't think many kids are thrilled to go every day, but DD has never fully settled. It's not bullying, it's not the work. Seems to be the general environment.

I loved school and would rather DD attend regular school, but I keep wondering if it's just not right for her.

ommmward Thu 29-Jan-15 15:38:00

It's also worth saying: children can go through phases where transitions are really hard. They really want to go and do X, I mean really want to, waking up pleased and excited, but the actual getting out of the door may well be accompanied by a tantrum because they were enjoying being at home. And then, leaving the activity to come back home (where they didn't want to leave, remember), is accompanied by a tantrum because they don't want to leave X. THe important thing there, though, is that the tantrum is happening at every transition, not just the ones going from home to school...

AimlesslyPurposeful Thu 29-Jan-15 15:58:41

I home school DS3 for a couple of years. Unfortunately, like you, I developed an illness that meant he had to start school. He has done very well there and enjoys it so we've been lucky in that respect but I miss him and the lovely times we had when we home schooled.

It doesn't have to be isolating or expensive. Look online for home ed groups local to you. We were part of a home ed group and went along to meet ups and group outings. These outings are normally much cheaper than normal (We went to see the wooly mammoth baby at the NHM for just £2.00. Normal entrance for both of us would have been £16.00 if I remember correctly. We also had a staff member accompany us and they printed out work sheets for our group) and a great way for the DCs to make friends and for you to meet like minded parents.

There's lots of info online as to what educational milestones your DCs should be hitting and if you choose to follow the National Curriculum you can purchase work books. We did a mix - we had the workbooks but we also made little projects out of subjects that DS was interested in, such as space exploration, and we'd go to the library or a relevant museum to find pictures and information.

Saracen Thu 29-Jan-15 17:08:56

It does sound like home education wouldn't be smooth sailing for you, fuzzpig. But then again, school isn't perfect for your family at the moment either. So maybe it is a question of exploring both options: what can be done to improve the school experience, and how can you reduce the disadvantages of home ed in order to make that viable?

I agree with ommmward that you absolutely can continue with the playful approach which you tried out yesterday. It is common to do home ed that way, and some families are even more laid back. It doesn't usually look much like school with lessons all day long. So don't worry on that account!

Money is a challenge, getting time away from the kids is a challenge, and you may be right that your children's world would become "smaller" due to your current constraints in terms of finance, health, and your own shyness. But I still think it is well worth seeing what you can do about those challenges. There may be solutions, at least partial solutions. Why not brainstorm them on here? Other parents have faced similar problems and may have some ideas which hadn't occurred to you, or you may find your own way to tackle these issues.

fuzzpig Sun 01-Feb-15 19:48:43

Thanks everyone! It's really helpful to have a range of insights and views smile thanks

The meeting with the infant school went well and we are trying reward charts for now. Haven't heard from the junior school yet but both the infants senco and I will chase that up this week.

Omm I think you've hit the nail on the head re: transitions. It's something DD REALLY struggles with generally (I have wondered if she has AS like me) and will be a big focus if the referral ever goes anywhere.

I like the idea of brainstorming. I should say that if we did HE it certainly wouldn't be straight away anyway (obviously this would be different if they were struggling to an extreme every day) - but it is really helpful to talk it through. Especially as if we end up moving mid-year we may not have a choice anyway!

So, money. We are fairly frugal and are learning to be more so. On the face of it, DH would keep working FT (and he is getting training so hopefully wage/prospects will be improving) and I would quit or possibly get Saturday work. Small chance I could supplement by piano teaching although I've never done that on my own before (used to work in a music school) so wouldn't be confident to start with exam prep and that sort of thing. Generally I am very risk averse so the idea of self employment is terrifying!

Socially... hmm, I think DD could possibly benefit from less time around lots of people. I know I need it and in that sense she seems to be like me. So stuff like brownies and small meet-ups would be great and we are near a few good friends whom I would prioritise seeing. But then, when she has a 'play date' or party etc and like clockwork goes into meltdown that evening, I find myself wondering if actually it's because I don't do it (having friends round etc) enough, so she's not got used to it, IYSWIM?! How on earth do I tell? Is she really like me in needing more than average downtime, or am I just reading the wrong things into her behaviour? confused

ommmward Sun 01-Feb-15 19:55:22

Well, one of the things about HEing is that we have lots of time with our children, and can get good at working out what makes them thrive - school can be a complicating factor (it might be that frequent meet ups with friends are great for her - but not on top of 5 days of school per week, that sort of thing) smile

The nice thing about piano teaching is that you can charge quite a lot, so you would not have to work many hours in order to make quite a bit of money. Of course you can put beginners in for grades up to grade 3 without even thinking about it!!!! Dead easy, at that level.

fuzzpig Sun 01-Feb-15 20:13:48

it might be that frequent meet ups with friends are great for her - but not on top of 5 days of school per week, that sort of thing

Yes I think that's the case for DD. There's lots of extra things she would thrive on, but we have to say no because it's too much. In a sense I feel like school gets in the way grin I have never portrayed that view to the DCs though obviously!

fuzzpig Sun 01-Feb-15 20:14:58

And it's certainly not my only view of school BTW - I love the way they teach and she's really getting a lot from it at junior level.

fuzzpig Sun 01-Feb-15 20:21:35

Aaaand now she's having another Sunday night worry fest. Seems to be a tradition. sad

poorincashrichinlove Sun 01-Feb-15 20:39:56

You mentioned that your health isn't good and that your DH had suffered an injury. Is it possible that the children are concerned about you when they're at school and so don't want to leave you?

fuzzpig Sun 01-Feb-15 22:04:37

That has crossed our minds yes, especially DH's. I feel so guilty about it. We've tried hard to not burden them with it sad

ommmward Mon 02-Feb-15 15:14:23

You know what, if they ARE anxious about you and Dh, then allowing them to be with you for a period of time, without the enforced separation of school, might be just exactly what the entire family needs. Just sayin' smile

fuzzpig Mon 02-Feb-15 16:22:56


Baddz Mon 02-Feb-15 16:28:59

I did it for a year with ds1 fuzz.
Was great and I would do it again.
It's not easy...the sheer lack of me time can be hard...but my god, it did wonders for ds1.
He is now in year 7 at a local comp and thriving.
Ds2 is in year 1 and although doing well academically is not always happy.
We shall see......

fuzzpig Tue 03-Feb-15 09:39:31

Thank you Baddz thanks

Well today didn't go well. Both skipped into school yesterday, the reward chart (suggested and provided by school) was great. This morning DS absolutely refused again. Really upset and clingy. All the tactics we discussed in the meeting didn't work yet. DD was fine and went to school with a neighbour.

Spoke to DS' teacher (probably would've been the HT but she's on a trip today) and she was understanding but I lost count of the times I heard "he needs to be here" sad of course I know that. She's calling back later and I hopefully can persuade him to go in.

I'm so confused because 99% of the time he is fine and happy while there.

I did feel myself getting a bit 'mama bear' though... I was saying that I'm not making it fun eg I've refused DVDs/iPad time etc because he should be in school... She agreed I'm doing the right thing there and she knows we are trying hard, but then she said that he's already been rewarded with my time/attention. I don't know, it made me defensive TBH (though I didn't say anything) because I can't get on with the idea that attention from me is a reward - I feel that it's what he needs.

I may have cried a bit after the call blush

Baddz Tue 03-Feb-15 09:42:46

Oh fuzz sad
I think omm is spot on.
He needs Your attention for now
That may change when he matures/gets older.
I so deeply regret keeping ds1 in school for as long as I did.
Teachers aren't interested in the welfare of the dc - sorry but they aren't.
They are under so much pressure from ofsted to achieve 100% attendance.
It's madness.

ommmward Tue 03-Feb-15 10:17:00

Baddz is right - the bottom line is not about the welfare of your child. It's about (a) attendance records and (b) the funding that follows each bum on seat.

What would he have to do in order to persuade you that not going to school is genuinely the right thing for him? It would be really worth you working out what your line in the sand is. Maybe you haven't reached it yet, but maybe, actually, you have, in which case pull him out for the rest of the year. The schools will still be there in September (if you still want and need them by then!)

ommmward Tue 03-Feb-15 10:21:59

Each child is worth an average of £4550 per year to the school. You remove a child, and they are looking at losing that for the next year. It doesn't take many withdrawals for them not to be able to run the school with the staff they were using, and with the resources they previously had. You have two children. £9000 a year feels like a lot to the budget holder. There is also a huge risk that, if you remove your children, word will get out to other parents that this is a legal and viable option for unhappy children.

You are highly unlikely to have the school on the side of taking the children out (whatever is right for the children...) unless they are sufficiently oversubscribed to be able to fill the places fast, and unless they are sufficiently confident that the vast majority of children and parents are delighted with the service they provide.

Saracen Tue 03-Feb-15 11:03:42

Wellll... I do think that most teachers genuinely care about the welfare of the children. They wouldn't be in the profession if they didn't. A few maybe are burned out or distracted by funding and targets and threats to their jobs, but most do love children and want what is best for them.

The trouble is, the teacher doesn't have the "big picture" of your child's overall welfare and happiness. She sees the child only at school, where he is soldiering on most of the time because there's no one into whose arms he can collapse, the teacher being too busy (and perhaps having been instructed not to touch children unless absolutely necessary, for reasons of child protection). When she does see him she is thinking about a hundred and one other things. She only met him a few months ago and has never spent much time with him individually. She never talks to him for half an hour on end about whatever matters to him. She isn't attuned to him like you are.

She doesn't see and feel his misery. She simply isn't in a position to judge what is best for him. Having seen hundreds of children over the years, she may think she knows all about children and what they need. But all she really knows is how-children-appear-at-school and how-to-get-them-to-behave-as-desired-at-school. She is likely to think that a child who puts on a brave face and complies with school requirements is a contented child. You know that that often isn't true.

fuzzpig Tue 03-Feb-15 13:54:48

Of course they care.

I have to admit I had no idea about funding - but DS' school is extremely popular and oversubscribed, so I don't think they'd be specifically worried about that. In any case there is probably zero chance he would get back in after being withdrawn (but then if we get council housing we would be moving to a different part of town anyway, so not a worry for us if he wanted to go to school again).

I have to say in every other way I feel the school's excellent rating/reputation is well deserved. After all DD went through the whole 3 years happily and loved it despite being generally anxious and with the same issues at home etc - actually they were fantastically supportive and we wouldn't have managed without them (same with DS for preschool/reception years). She is at a different junior school now BTW, haven't heard from there yet and DD has been happy so far this week. I would imagine for the most part if we suggested HE to her, she would say no (but probably change her mind when she saw DS staying home) - overall she DOES love it. Even if subconsciously she struggles (if that makes sense!?) she has a generally positive view of school, unlike DS.

I definitely agree though that however much they care the schools are not seeing the full picture. Especially with DD - she is utterly compliant and quiet and then explodes at home if she's been keeping it in all day. So I can see how they may imagine both are happy even if they're not.

By the way DH and I obviously haven't mentioned any ideas of taking him out and have only discussed it between the two of us. I have seen enough threads on here where school staff have got very defensive and I just don't want to muddy the waters or create any bad feeling IYSWIM. They will only hear about it if we go ahead and inform them in writing.

Anyway, update. DS got to school around 11am. I messaged the family support worker (who unfortunately is leaving her role soon, aaaaargh) and she actually offered to come round even though she was working at a different school today. DS hid under the duvet refusing to speak until FSW mentioned that today his favourite lunch is on the menu. Then he rushed and got dressed and skipped into the classroom (FSW drove us) confused we had a quick chat with his teacher and we've put a few more things in place to try and help but they don't really see that basically nothing works with him! I really do try. They understand that we are trying our best - and we've been very proactive arranging meetings etc ourselves rather than shrugging it off - but I think their sympathy will wear thin soon. When I couldn't get them in a few months back because I literally couldn't stand up (one time - not happened since) it was fine but as a regular school refusal issue then of course it's not the same thing.

I am actually freaking out now.

Baddz Tue 03-Feb-15 14:00:21

I don't think all of them care....far from it.
But I concede I may have been unlucky.

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