It was unavoidable really, the decision to home educate coming up. I was sat at a networking meeting eating lunch with about 10 other women. I’ve meet roughly half of them once before and the others are new members or guests.
Why am I there? To talk about our IT business. Of course the conversation always tends to veer off topic and get a little more personal. It’s nice to get to know the people behind the businesses. This time however, I was almost praying for the topic of education not to come up.
I’m perfectly happy with our choice to home educate. So is Andy. So are our daughters. What we haven’t quite figured out yet is how to tell people that. We haven’t really told anyone yet.
The lady on my left seemed nice enough. She told me she was a solicitor and we chatted about work for a bit and then she asked about my girls. “What school do they go to?” she asked. I could have lied but what’s the point? I’m not ashamed of our decision. I just don’t enjoy awkward conversations.
The Big Two Questions
She looked genuinely shocked when I said, “Actually we’ve decided to home educate them from September”. I mean, I can see her point, it’s not what people usually do is it? Especially where we live. An area no stranger to privilege where almost all of the schools are “outstanding”, at least according to Ofsted.
Within seconds she’d already asked me the two questions that I’m guessing are going to become quite common when I say “home educate” to anyone:
“What about socialisation?”
“What about secondary school?”
I was taken aback that a perfect stranger, someone who met me an hour before, felt the need to ask those questions. As if we haven’t considered it. As if she was mentioning something that would make me say, “Oh my goodness, you’re absolutely right, I’d better not home educate after all!”. It’s ridiculous that a perfect stranger seemed to think she’d got my children’s best interests at heart, rather than myself.
Although, let’s answer those questions anyway….
The very notion that children have to go to school to be “socialised” is ridiculous in itself. My children learned more social skills from their father and I in the years prior to school than they ever did whilst there.
Although for those who are concerned, my girls have been part of a karate club for three years and mix with children of all ages and backgrounds on a regular basis. They’ve got an older half sister who they see as regularly as possible. I have a group of friends who have children from 0 – 8 years old who we see when we can. We’ve found out where our nearest home educating group meets and plan to join them fortnightly. The girls have also just started a parkour class too. There are plenty of children in their lives to socialise with; they’re hardly living an existence of solitude.
As for socialising at school, I’ll admit my youngest had it easier than her sister who always felt fairly lonely. There are a couple of children from school who we’ll still invite round for play dates though.
My daughters are currently five (nearly six) and eight. Secondary school is so far off it’s not something we’re even thinking about. I do know that I don’t really want them to go to our local secondary school. It’s the school that controls the cluster of primary schools and, as I’m not impressed with our previous primary school, I don’t have high hopes.
From what I’ve read, and I’ll admit my knowledge is minimal here, children who are home educated can absolutely fit back into mainstream school education for secondary if they wish to. Or, they can be home educated all the way through. They can take exams privately, or they might not.
But I’m A Teacher!
I’ve realised that the easier way to shut down these kinds of conversations is to tell people I’m a qualified teacher.
It’s true, I am. I spent four years getting my BA (Hons) with Qualified Teacher Status, teaching in schools across Birmingham and then I taught for several years before I had Eleanor. This seems to placate people and reassure them that I’m not mad. They stop asking questions and they look relieved. Like I’ve earned the right to educate my children.
Being someone who doesn’t like uncomfortable conversations this suits me just fine, but I do feel the need to point out that you don’t have to be a teacher to educate your own children. It doesn’t seem fair to me that other home educating parents, who aren’t teachers, might have to justify themselves more to complete strangers.
That’s just parenting though isn’t it? From making a birth plan (or not) to choosing a car seat or buggy, using a sling, or deciding how to feed your baby; there’s always someone who will question it. Someone who will feel the need to point things out to you just in case you didn’t think of something. Parenting is hard enough without all the judgement and I get the feeling that home educating is going to be very much the same deal.
As for the solicitor, she wouldn’t let it drop. I guess it’s in her DNA to ask questions (much like it’s in mine to correct everyone’s spelling) but it was like having questions fired at me by machine gun: Which school did they go to? What years were in they in? Who is the headteacher? What did the school say in response? What curriculum will you follow? What’s the law on home education? Will you have timetable?
I guess I’d better just get used to it. Someone else did say “Well I think you’re amazing”, which lifted me up for about five seconds before it was followed by, “but aren’t you worried?”.
No. I’m not worried. I’m excited and… spoiler alert… I actually like spending time with my children!