When I first began looking into home education as a possible alternative to school I discovered the many different ways in which people chose to home educate.
Autonomous learning seemed a popular approach, and it seemed everywhere I looked to for advice and information had tales of rolling out of bed late, lounging on the sofa reading books and doing pretty much whatever you wanted to do. People spoke of wonderful home-ed get-togethers, of fun days out and the benefits of going to places during the quieter term-times. It all sounded so fabulous and laid back and well, just one big holiday really.
Well to a great extent it can be like that.
Very much so.
But on the other hand, it isn’t.
What nobody spoke of was the tough days. The days when you wonder if you haven’t completely lost your mind to have taken these steps.
These are the days when the kids aren’t listening to anything you say, the laundry pile hasn’t a dent in it despite the fact that the machines have been on constantly since you woke, the baby won’t let you put her down, you forgot to take meat out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner and now need to think of a back-up plan, somebody by the name of ‘nobody’ drew on the sofa in felt tip pen, and the toddler threw your last toilet roll into the loo.
And on top of all of that you need to make sure your children are being educated because if you don’t your decisions will have short-changed them and they’ll be resigned to a life scraping dead foxes off the A-roads.
The pressure is on and it is huge.
Where is this joyful home educating journey you thought you were embarking on? What happened to the happy days reading Tom Sawyer under blankets, baking cookies and giggling at someone getting flour in their hair and on their nose, and singing multiplication rhymes with zest and laughter?
When I began home educating it was with all guns blazing. My enthusiasm was at a high and this was going to be the best thing ever!
And whilst I still do think it is the best thing ever, the one thing I have realised is that it isn’t always the easiest, fun, joyful thing I had expected it to be.
Some days are a struggle. Some days, I feel like I have achieved nothing. Some days I feel like I am a failure and feel like I am failing my children.
I feel stupid, I feel like I’m the only mum whose kids don’t listen and I wonder what in the name of Jiminy Cricket I was thinking when I made the commitment to home educate.
Some days are bad.
And then I realise that, you know, I’d be having bad days regardless. I had them when I had two children. I had them when I had children at school. I have them now and I’ll have them later on. Bad days are part of life.
But what I do have is flexibility.
I have the flexibility to tell the child who doesn’t have an interest in what I’m trying to explain to go off and burn some energy until he is ready to sit and listen.
I have the flexibility to offer another child the opportunity to work on an alternative way of doing something, if the way they are doing it doesn’t make them ‘click’.
I have the flexibility to call off the workbooks for a day and watch documentaries instead. Or even just call the whole day off and watch a movie with a bowl of popcorn because that will always turn a bad day into a good one.
The good days outweight the bad by a long shot, but refusing to admit that they don’t exist won’t do anyone any favours. They do, and they always will, and we aren’t failing ourselves or our kids by admitting it.
I thought twice about posting this for fear of putting people off home educating. Surely, I’m supposed to be an advocate for home education, aren’t I? But advocating something doesn’t mean sugar-coating it and making it look prettier than it is. And I am sure every home educating parent has a story to tell about a bad day or fifty. It is about being honest about it and putting forward not only the good but the bad too.
And there will be the bad.
But by preparing you for it and letting you know that you’re not alone I hope I can reassure you somewhat that it is normal and you haven’t made a mistake, you aren’t out of your depth and you aren’t a failure. How I wish someone had told me that back in 2005!
Home education can be fun. It can be joyful and it can be extremely fulfilling. But there will be bad days, and when they come along think of me, think of my words and write the day off with movie and a popcorn, knowing that you are not alone.
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