Interview with a second Generation Homeschooler
Tell me about yourself
Hm, what to say?! I’m a thirty-four year old who is very much a work-in-progress; an extrovert who loves to read with a particular love of history, and literature that has stood the test of time. In Jane Austen speak, I wish I was a Lizzy yet have come to realise I’m actually an Emma (with a dash of Eleanor) who found her perfectly complementary Mr Knightley. My husband, Andy, and I have been married for twelve years and our family live in Essex. We have four lively children who keep us on our toes: our ‘bookend’ daughters are eleven and four while our two boys are almost ten and seven.
I grew up surrounded by little siblings but quickly found out that no amount of babysitting and nappy changing can truly prepare you for becoming a mother. The juggling act of having three children aged four and under was a shock to my system and I consequently have huge respect for mothers everywhere with small children.
What was your experience as a home ed child?- I was home educated from the beginning, never going into a classroom, so didn’t have anything to compare homeschooling with. My parents were trailblazers and gave me and my eight younger siblings a freestyle education: fairly child-led, sprinkled with a little bit of structure to keep things moving along. I learnt to read at five but had a mental block for years when it came to writing and spelling. I guess that I was mildly dyslexic, but my mother didn’t officially label me as such and, without a same-age peer group to compare with, I never really noticed. I was an avid reader, reading anything I could get my hands on.
When the penny dropped with writing at the age of about 11 or 12, I started working through O levels/IGCSEs, one or two at time, following my interests. My mother would source the syllabus and track down an exam centre willing to take external candidates (no internet or HE Wiki to help out back then) and taxi us miles to other cities so we could sit the exam papers six months or so later. We had an allotment, got involved in community projects, and life always felt full. As an adult now, the more I look back on my education the more I realise what an ideal life it was in so many ways, flexible, free of so many pressures and academic expectations.
Why did you decide to home educate your children?
My own experience of home education was hugely positive which made choosing home education for our children a natural choice. On top of that I could add so many other benefits that confirmed our decision.
Flexibility: With no restrictions as to style of home education methods, official hours of ‘school’ meant we could choose the path best suited to the children individually and our family. We can so easily adapt materials for each child in their different seasons of development and growth.
Lifestyle: We are blessed to be able to live on my husband’s salary and so I am able to stay home to educate the children. It is such a privilege to spend time with my children – they are small for such a short time relatively. Being on one income does mean we have to skip holidays and treats sometimes and be extra sensible with finances but it’s our lifestyle choice which is worth sacrificing for.
Faith: We’re Christians and our faith is very much part of our identity and life. Home education enables us to easily pass on our beliefs as part of our way of daily life rather than squeezing it into Sundays and family time.
Socialising: My children have the freedom to mix with so many people, of all ages and walks of life. I didn’t see how being restricted to spending much of their week with only teachers and children born within twelve months of them was an ideal preparation for their adult life.
We were always going to need overwhelmingly good reasons to send the children to school; the more we looked at, and started, home education, the more handing them over to an educational institution was simply not an option to pursue.
What are the pros of home ed?
Well, I mentioned many reasons above; I cherish the flexibility, and the more natural way of life for us. I also love the way we get to choose our field trips and getting hands on as often as we fancy. Taking advantage of doing this in term time means we can make use of the school rates and often attractions aren’t as busy compared to doing the same things in the holidays. We’ve been down into a cramped submarine at the Naval Dockyards and up to the giddying top of St Paul’s with other home educators; we’ve watched Shakespeare performed at the Globe and looked at modern art at the Tate, classical art at the National Gallery; we enjoy empty playgrounds and hardly-any-queuing trips to Legoland. What’s not to like about that?!
What do you struggle with?
The 24/7 nature of the task is definitely the aspect that I struggle with the most. On good “most-things-going-well” days, I adore home education. But, as all of us know, life is rarely that simple and throws curve balls. Often, it seems! So being with children all day, every day on top of that is, for me, the biggest challenge.
Yes, I can stress over curriculum and learning blocks, and the housework and cooking never seem to stop, but my stress levels hit a high being on call All. The. Time.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children; I love the life we have together. But, although it may sound a little cliché, self-care really is super important. I’m learning how to cope by choosing to take time out intentionally.
Aside from binging on crisps while hiding in the garage next to the whirr of the washing machine, the following have been helping me keep that “sergeant mummy” voice to a minimum:
- A cup of coffee (sitting down!), maybe with a book to dip into, for five or ten minutes. (TV on for the children to keep them quiet and in one place.)
- “Quiet time” after lunch, for everyone. (A tip from my mother’s survival tactics; but my pitfall here is using this time with a child for one-to-one learning tasks instead of taking a power nap, cleaning up the lunch, or reading a book!)
- Listening to music or a favourite podcast while washing up or hanging the laundry.
- Coffee out with a friend – grown-up talking time!
- Coffee out with myself!
- Watching my time commitments. There is so much on offer for home educators but if I overbook activities and play dates week in, week out, the children burnout and, consequently, so do I!
- A simple thing like leaving extra time (on top of extra time) to get out of the house also helps no end.
I’d be interested to hear any other handy tips!
What do your children think about being home educated?
I asked my three older children this question recently. My eleven year old daughter said she appreciates being able to so easily race ahead with subjects she loves while having individual help with the topics she is finding tricky.
My nine year old son sighed and exclaimed that he loves all of it. I don’t for a second think he is referring to the actual work (especially not anything involving a pen), but am glad that he seems to have a positive feeling about it.My bubbly six year expressed his joy that he doesn’t have to do too much ‘schoolwork’ and that no one has to do it on birthdays! As they have never been to school, they can’t make a true comparison; yet they know enough to realise that they have a privileged freedom that the majority of children can only dream of.
What are your favourite activities to do as a family?
Days out, when Andy can join us too, are a particular joy. Using downtime or driving time to chat with the children about things that interest them – they come out with the funniest things.
Curling up on the sofa with a blanket and reading aloud a fun book together is another favourite activity. ‘Karlson on the Roof’, anyone? As much as I like the idea in principle, I don’t actually do regular crafts or nature stuff with the children because it involves so much extra effort for my stretched mummy brain; but, when we do finally do something along those lines, it becomes memorable and fun – possibly because it’s such a novelty!
Any tips for newbie home educators?
There is so much on offer now – curriculum, outings, etc – and it is tempting to jump in with both feet and then feeling overwhelmed (and that is coming from an extrovert)! FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] can be a genuine worry but, quite honestly, your child’s development won’t be hindered in the long term if you take your time choosing methods, materials, and events.
Adjust and tweak
What is working for a fellow homeschooler might not work for your child so don’t feel you have to follow other parents; tweaking, chopping, and changing direction is nothing to be afraid of. Home Education is at its best when both you and your child are enjoying it.
Take your time
You and your child are both learning together. Many problems will iron themselves out over time if you can chill and trust your instinct.
Tell us about @exitsupermum and how can we contact you?
I’ve been off Instagram for ‘ScrollFreeSeptember’ but you’ll usually find me over there sharing quotes, taking the snapshots of homeschool days, and even giving away books. My @exitsupermum tag is to remind myself there that there is no need to strive for that unreachable and unnecessary supermum status – every mother is amazing just the way she is already and we’re stronger when we support each other in community. Feel free to contact me there!