What with school starting here this week, and Ro being of the age to start reception, we’ve had a lot of conversations with parents-in-the-park about where she’s going. They start off something like this:
Parent: Which school is she going to?
Me: She’s not, we’re home educating.
Parent: Wow. You’re brave.
Me [cheery smile]: No. No, I’m not.
There’s loads I could write about this, and some of these conversation-openers have sparked genuinely interesting discussions. Both of us have learned something about what’s important to the other as parents, and often they’ve heard for the first time that home educating isn’t illegal or requiring you to follow a curriculum or necessarily much to do with being at home.
But I want to focus on the brave thing, because it’s started to get to me. In the way it got to me when I planned (and had – very joyously) home births with each of my daughters.
Here’s a definition of brave I just plucked from t’internet:
‘endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behaviour) without showing fear’.
It’s the Oxford Dictionary one, so I’m going with it.
This is in no way a description of what my family is doing.
A big reason for us choosing home education is because we feel (and have witnessed) how very pleasant, nay, delightful, it can be. Days spent going at the children’s pace, following, unpacking and supporting their interests.
Today, for instance (our first ‘official’ day I suppose), was a cycle ride into town, then reading and choosing books in the library, then climbing trees and rolling down grassy slopes with friends. Then finding conkers and a pigeon eggshell on the way home. Then a few episodes of Peppa Pig while I crashed on the sofa. Nothing unpleasant (depending on your views of Peppa Pig).
And as an example of how learning does indeed happen everywhere – it was the pig herself who prompted Ro to expand her vocabulary at dinnertime. “What’s appetite mean?”. Cue a discussion about feeling hungry versus wanting food, and how sometimes people (and George Pig) can want some types of food but not others.
The days we spend are not unpleasant (most of them, anyway. Of course we have bad days). As to the behaviours, I confess we all display unpleasant behaviours sometimes – H can really let rip with voice and fist at the moment, she gets frustrated a lot as she’s learning to assert her identity. And I shout more than I’d like when I’m tired. And we need to be courageous about working those things through.
But that’s nothing to do with our choice about school or not.
And finally, showing fear. We came to the decision to home educate from a position of fear – unease about what school held. That’s really not what it’s about for us any more. I do have worries – particularly that we’ll get to play with enough different children during the school day (as an introvert I’m observing Ro’s emerging extrovert tendencies with awe). But we’re excited and going into this with our eyes open. Not afraid.
The other thing I don’t like about ‘brave’ is that it hints at recklessness, or doing something dangerous. But having researched and discussed the benefits of school (and for the record, I think there are quite a few) and the benefits of home education long and hard over some time now, I’m very happy to say we are not being brave in the slightest. Nor reckless. This is a considered, joyful decision.
My driving, however… That’s another matter.