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What are the RIGHT reasons to home educate?

(25 Posts)
TolpuddleFarterOATB Wed 31-Aug-16 11:21:37

I'm going to try and be as honest as possible here, as many of my reasons are about me, not my child, so will try and give you the full picture.

DS1 started school last year. Not in our first choice school. Our first choice school was smaller, and had a nicer atmosphere. Nicer pupils and teachers.
We got our second choice school. Not really a true second choice, just geographically close (walking to school was/is important to me.) It is a big school, and when we had visited in the past we found the children, to be honest, quite unpleasant and out of control. (Visited reception and saw children tussling and fighting and not being nice to each other, with no supervision)

When my son had to start this school, it started a period of anxiety in me, which unfortunately got so bad I had to seek medical advice, and am now on anti-depressants as a result.

The first few weeks were traumatic, with my son coming home with bite marks, and complaints of being punched. The teachers, in their defence, have sorted out a lot of the problems, but there does seem to be an underlying unpleasant air with the children. DS1 was then coming home and acting badly to his younger brother. We think this is happening because, although he is no angel, he is actually at the bottom of the pecking order at school (I see it in the morning in the playground) He isn't bullied, but I think he's not as boisterous as some of the boys and suffers because of it.

My relationship with DS1 has suffered greatly this past year. The mornings have been hell (as I'm sure any school mother has experienced.) When he comes home from school he is grumpy and not particularly nice. Every week we get to the end of the week, and it seems that it takes all day Saturday for him to recover. On Sunday we get a glimpse of the boy we know, just to start over again on Monday.

(At this point I will say he has done well at school this year "academically", and achieved more than he probably would have done if he was under my tutelage.)

Fast forward, summer holidays. We've had a wonderful time. I feel I've got my son "back". It makes me sad that school has had this affect on his personality (though I'm not sure exactly what causes the change, could be tiredness, or something deeper.)

This summer holiday I've realised how much he has learnt, just by spending time with me (I'm a SAHM.) I probably underestimated how much he picks up from one-to-one time. I suppose I've got a bit of a taste of what "unschooling" could be like.

School is looming. It's concentrated my mind. We're about to start all over again. My concern is, how much are my plans to HE down to my own personal feelings, not what's best for my son? He is a sociable boy, and I feel taking him out of school would be detrimental from that point of view. I have talked to him about school, and he says he likes it at school, and likes it at home (which I have to say were much my thoughts at the same age.)
I think a lot of my problems may be with the particular school. If we lived in a lovely small village, with a nice small school, would things be different?

Advantages to home schooling I see, from an academic point of view, is that me and DH are educated, and we have a house full of books. I have the time to do it.

(Another thing that is focusing my mind is that DS2 detests pre-school - and I'm only sending him really as I'm trying to "prepare" him for school.)

Sorry this is a bit long, but I'm trying to sort out my thoughts on the subject. Are these the right reasons to consider HE?

Saracen Wed 31-Aug-16 15:25:47

Sometimes there is a conflict between what's best for parents and what's best for their children. Decisions in such a situation are always going to be hard.

However, it doesn't sound like that is your situation. You've described unpleasantness at school which has been partially resolved, but apparently some issues remain. Your son is being nasty to his younger brother: happy children don't do that. Morning have been hell and afternoons aren't great either - and surely it isn't just you who finds them unpleasant, but your son as well. He's only actually happy one day a week. Things have been great in the summer holidays. In short, your son has had a pretty rough year. His relationship with his mum and brother have suffered and he is often unhappy.

As a result of seeing and living through this, you too are feeling anxious and unhappy. That doesn't mean home ed would be "all about you" or "for the wrong reasons"!!! It just means that everyone will be happy.

Fortunately, in this case there is no conflict at all between what you need and what your little boy needs. You both need for him to come out of school, right? (And so does his brother.) It sounds simple to me!

Saracen Wed 31-Aug-16 15:30:07

When one of my children was a baby, she'd have died without medical treatment. It's very true that seeing her so ill made me anxious and worried, and that it was in my best interests for her not to die. I would have been grief-stricken if she'd died. I took her to hospital, they saved her, and now she is a ray of sunshine in my life.

Does that mean I took her to hospital for the "wrong reasons" which were "about me" instead of her?

TolpuddleFarterOATB Wed 31-Aug-16 18:40:34

Thanks for your response Saracen. You've framed the situation in a different way for me, so thank you. Also made me feel a bit emotional! I'm finding it hard to be objective about it at the moment, as we are a week away from him starting again and I feel anxious about it.

I feel like I could make a good fist of it if I had him at home. I feel slightly frightened about the prospect of it though as it's a step into the unknown for us all.

itsstillgood Thu 01-Sep-16 06:48:34

On the social front have you researched what local home ed groups offer? Might be reassuring.
I think as parents sometimes we need to acknowledge that while what are children want is very important, we are better placed to see the 'bigger picture', and see negatives such as bad behaviour coming home. As it happens it seems your son would be happy either way and home ed would work well for your family. Go for it!
It is not an irreversible decision we take a year at a time.

ChablisTyrant Thu 01-Sep-16 06:56:17

I think planning for a year at a time is the only way to make this decision. He can go back to year 2. Sit down and research what you could do with him this to give him some social contact. In your position I would home school. My DD loves school but I also see many of the same behavioural problems arising during term time.

Mumstheword21 Thu 01-Sep-16 20:44:22

You've mentioned the advantages, what do yoj see as the disadvantages?

I ask because often the perceived disadvatages are based purely on ideas of what might be - people on here can probably instantly re-assure you if you share what you feel he might be missing out on.

FWIW, regardless of the fact that I would always HE from a personal perspective, there's absolutely no way I would be sending my son back to somewhere is is not safe, either physically or mentally.

TolpuddleFarterOATB Fri 02-Sep-16 10:43:53

Thanks for your responses.

Things holding me back
1) DH has reservations (and it is half his decision after all.)
2) Social aspect - my son is incredibly sociable, and though if I did home educate I would make sure we tried to meet people socially, I worry this isn't the same as him finding his own friendships.
3) I worry that I might do some irreversible damage to his education somehow!

I am meeting with some people who Home Ed today at one of their social events, so hoping to have a chat with them and get their perspectives on it all.

Mumstheword21 Fri 02-Sep-16 14:42:34

Thoughts on the above, would be what did you do when he was 0-5 outside of any formal preschool hours?

For lots of people, social activities as a toddler would often include going to groups (say music, gym, art), playing at the park with friends, having play dates etc...these don't just stop being valuable and valid activities just because a child reaches school age.

Home education is often, to begin with, an extension of the toddler years. So groups that are of interest to you and your child on as many days as is relevent to your family, doing anything from languages, drama, sports, arts, music, etc regular social events and meet ups (think parent and toddler groups but for older kids). Then things such as park/playground meet ups and of course, once you and your son find some friends, play dates. Lots of opportunities to socialise in just those few examples. He is much more likely to develop some really strong friendships this way actually.

It's fairly difficult to do irreversable damage to his education. It is possible to feel that you are doing so IF you are constantly comparing him wih other children - funnily enough in the same way that people panic when their young child is not yet talking/walking/knowing their alphabet and so on...You are free to educate him in the way that you see fit and there are a huge many methods of doing so. The shackles are off in that sense so educationally, HE can be very advantageous.

I suspect DH has the same concerns as you re education and socialising. Both huge myths in HE, often largely perpetuated by people without any clue of home education, mostly involved in schools and the media. I'm sure you'll find that out for yourself pretty quickly once you meet lots of people in real life that HE.

Lastly, you know your children best. If they are unhappy at the moment, what harm can it be to try HE. If it doesn't work out for you, then no harm done, they can slot back into school as previously. The fact that the summer has been such a success is a very good indicator of how tour children might respond to HE.

I hope you are able to make a decision that you are happy with smile

Saracen Fri 02-Sep-16 15:18:16

1) DH has reservations (and it is half his decision after all.)
True. It is definitely worth exploring his reservations: what are they? Does your dh acknowledge that school hasn't been a great success so far? Have you told him of your reservations about school, and does he share your concerns?

2) Social aspect - my son is incredibly sociable, and though if I did home educate I would make sure we tried to meet people socially, I worry this isn't the same as him finding his own friendships.
My older daughter was super sociable. In fact, that's one of the reasons I didn't send her to school, because I thought all those hours of NOT being able to play would be too high a price to pay for a few short breaktimes every day. I felt my main mission in HEing her was to give her opportunities to spend time with other kids, and I did everything in my power to make that happen. She tried school for a short while. I thought she'd like the social side of school, but she said HE gave her access to a wider range of friends (and more time to actually play with them) than school did.

Is it going to be hard for you to get out? If so, that might be restrictive. Even so, I bet there are places you could go where he'd have access to lots of children. When we weren't yet well connected to the HE community, I used to take my eldest to a local park often after school. If you go regularly enough (try to stick to the same days every week) you will run into the same people repeatedly. Or, would your son like to go to a local "after-school club" (= childcare for working parents) for a couple of hours a day, if you can afford it? That would provide more actual playtime than he'd get in a school day, without all the extra non-playing hours which may be stressing him. While these are usually located in schools, they are often run by external providers who will accept any child, not just those attending that particular school.

Depending where you live, there may be a very active home ed social scene with loads of potential friends for your son to choose from. Though we didn't have enough of that when my eldest was little, it has snowballed in our area and her younger sister now has masses of play opportunities at various home ed groups.

3) I worry that I might do some irreversible damage to his education somehow!
Theoretically possible, if you manage to make an incredibly bad job of it over a decade or more. A year or two is not going to do irreversible damage. Some countries don't even start formal education until the age of seven! So why not try it for a while and see how you get on? If your fears are justified which they won't be you can return your son to school while he's still quite young.

TolpuddleFarterOATB Sat 03-Sep-16 20:18:48

Had a chat with DH tonight, and he absolutely won't entertain the idea of HE. He thinks it'seems a faddy idea of mine (it isn't) He also thinks my son's change in behaviour for the better is probably just a "phase" - a very coincidental phase obviously!

I just feel in a no win situation at the moment. The idea of DS going to school this week really upsets me.

Saracen Sat 03-Sep-16 21:13:05

But what are his reasons for refusing to entertain the idea? "Just because" won't cut it. Especially not if your son is visibly unhappy.

Does he not accept that his son is unhappy when going to school? If he does accept that he's unhappy, what alternative solution does he propose?

TolpuddleFarterOATB Sat 03-Sep-16 21:23:18

He thinks he isn't unhappy. And in truth, on the surface he probably doesn't seem unhappy. He likes going to school and he has friends there. It is me that has noticed the difference because of the positive change in his character during the holidays (which my DH hasn't witnessed as much as me.)

Saracen Sun 04-Sep-16 08:59:04

That's really hard then.

I think it's fairly common for a child to lack the emotional intelligence to notice that they're feeling stressed and pinpoint the cause of the stress. It's also common for one parent - whichever one spends more time with the child - to be more attuned to the child's emotional state than the other parent, and to notice patterns which point to the reasons for the child's unhappiness.

I don't know how you get around that problem.

There's only one thing I can suggest, which may help your son whether or not he ends up leaving school. Perhaps you can do some work with him about naming his feelings, noticing how he feels in the moment. This has been really helpful for one of my children who doesn't understand her own emotional state very well. When she knows how she feels, she is in a better position to understand why she feels that way, and then to act to improve matters for herself, for example by telling people what she needs. It's a complicated business though. Feelings are not always straightforward. It's quite possible to be sort-of having fun and also sort-of overwhelmed and anxious: look at kids who've been at a high-energy birthday party for a few hours who are just starting to develop a little hysterical edge. Are they having fun? Yes and no.

I don't mean to imply that your son "should" recognise that he finds some aspects of school stressful at times. He's only five; that's a big ask. But if he can somehow manage to achieve that, it would be tremendously helpful to him.

I hope someone else will come along with ideas about how you might take things forward in your discussions with your dh about home ed.

EggNChipsTw1ce Sun 04-Sep-16 20:37:07

Hi Tolpuddle,
I deregistered my daughter because she just didn't want to go to school anymore, my DH was very against the idea and has been giving me grief for the last year and a bit about it. Recently he heard something positive about a HE child on the radio and he is unbending a bit. It has been pretty grim for me since I couldn't make her go if she didn't want to anyway!
I thought perhaps if you kept your younger DS at home instead of sending him to the preschool he hates, it could have a knock on effect?

TolpuddleFarterOATB Mon 05-Sep-16 01:33:28

The feelings thing is interesting actually.

I remember being the same age, and being happy and having friends, but also suffering from a constant level of anxiety, but I only realise this from analysing it as an adult.

I have agreed with DH that DS1 will go to school this week, and we are to review it as it goes along. I'm not 100% happy with this. I do believe, however, that my instincts about my son, his happiness, and his behaviour are correct. But we will see....

Saracen Mon 05-Sep-16 14:34:20

EggNChips makes a good point about your ds2. I'd overlooked him blush but he is the obvious candidate for staying at home this year since he hates preschool.

I really don't buy the idea of preschool being essential preparation for school. I bet if you canvas opinion more widely here on MN (primary board maybe?) others will agree that it's a bad idea to keep sending a child to preschool if he hates it. Reception is supposed to be the gentle introduction to school, so what's with the extra year or more beforehand on top of that? Getting ready to get ready for school? If it takes two years or more to get used to school, then school can't be a very good fit for the needs of the child.

I reckon if your little one dislikes preschool, it means one of three things. Perhaps what he hates about preschool are the very things he'll encounter at school, where he will also hate them. Then this is just the start of his unhappiness, so why give him an extra year of being unhappy? Perhaps what he hates about preschool are things which won't be an issue at school, so why give him a bad experience now which will needlessly put him off the whole idea of school? Perhaps he isn't old enough to deal with stuff at school now but will manage it when he's older, in which case he should start later, by skipping preschool and going straight into Reception. I know it seems like "everyone goes" to preschool but about 10% of children don't for one reason or another.

If you did keep him out of preschool then you might take him along to home ed groups to help explore your options for both children. He might be more vocal than his big brother about not wanting to do Reception especially once he has got a taste for freedom and made friends who aren't going to school.

Saracen Mon 05-Sep-16 15:16:26

BTW I think the knock on effect to which EggNChips referred may be this: often, when a child has been HEd for a while, siblings who previously appeared happy or actually were happy at school start examining their lot rather more critically. They very often decide that they too want to be home educated, and follow their trailblazer sibling down that path.

EggNChipsTw1ce Mon 05-Sep-16 18:15:32

flowers for Saracen for doing all my explaining :-)
Exactly, if DS2 is having a nice time at home, not having to get up early on rainy dark mornings and is going out and about on fun trips with you, your DS1 might re-think.
Also I'm sure your instincts about your DS1 are correct, sometimes it just needs a little time for everything to fall into place and work out as you feel it should, so don't worry.

junebirthdaygirl Mon 05-Sep-16 19:25:20

If your dc ends up going back to school you may find that the second year is not as bad. Often pure exhaustion means they can be very out of sorts in the beginning especially if they are young for the year. One thing that would not be great would be if you suffer from anxiety. That could make it a bit stressful for you to HS and anxiety is not something we want to pass on to our children. I'm saying that in the kindest possible way.
I have a few friends who HS and my dd used say l feel so sorry for them as we have such fun in school everyday and l would hate not to be with my friends.
Saying that all those children fared very well.

ExAstris Mon 05-Sep-16 20:37:02

Junebirthdaygirl it's funny because my son and many of his HE friends and acquaintances feel so sorry for children who have to go to school and miss out on the fun they have! It's horses for courses. School would not suit my DS at all, but I'm sure for a child that is 'school shaped' then they might not understand why another child might much more enjoy HE. And of course so many people assume children who are HE basically spend school hours at home working!

junebirthdaygirl Mon 05-Sep-16 23:48:02

My dd knew her friends only spent part of the day specifically on school work as she was familiar with their routine but the banter in school appealed to her. She loved the debates in English class and had a competitive thing going with some of the boys in maths so she enjoyed all that. Even now when she is in college she speaks so nostalgically of certain teachers saying Oh l loved Mrs..... class. So they are some of the advantages of school once you get past the pure exhaustion of the early days.

TolpuddleFarterOATB Tue 06-Sep-16 10:00:32

Not that I like to go in for all the gender stereotyping nonsense BUT in my life experience it does seem that school seems to fit girls better than it does boys. A disproportionate amount of the people I know with issues with school have boys. Maybe it's because still boys have a lot to live up to (like being tough.) Just musing now though...

With regards to my anxiety, strangely enough, in the school holidays I feel "normal" again. I think this is what has held me back slightly as I know my own mental wellbeing has benefitted, and I don't want to be selfish.

As tomorrow draws nearer for us, I am feeling a bit of dread. DS2 will be asked if he wants to go playschool, and if not I'll remove him (and start going the HE groups with him.) DS1 will be going to school tomorrow, but as I said earlier, we will see how it goes.

6demandingchildren Fri 16-Sep-16 07:17:38

How is your ds getting on in school.
We are H.E as from today with our 10 year old .

Horsegirl1 Wed 12-Oct-16 21:31:56

How are things going ?

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