An Open Letter to Parents Considering Home Education 

An Open Letter to Parents Considering Home Education Dear parents,

Firstly I hope that your journey to this point hasn’t been too traumatic. I’ve heard so many horror stories, and my heart breaks for all involved.

Only you will know if this is the right move to make, but I’m sure many have given you their opinions on the matter.

‘You’re bonkers for even thinking about it.’
‘I could never do it.’
‘You’re braver than I am.’

Sound familiar?

I’m going to be straight here, home education is no walk in the park. In fact it’s been the biggest challenging of my life, and believe me I’ve had my fair share over the years. Although home ed may be the best option for your child, have you given full consideration to the impact it will have on you?

You must, absolutely, factor yourself into the equation you see. It’s not all about them, you are vital to this being a success. If you aren’t fully prepared, it could end up being disastrous.  

The big questions to ponder…

Are you mentally strong enough to cope with the additional responsibility? Can you cope financially if it means taking a pay cut? Do you have a support network in place? How are you going to feel about having no separation time from your child(ren)?

I thought I’d asked myself all this prior to pulling my then-6yo daughter Polly out of year two in 2015. I can now see, however, that there were bases I didn’t have covered. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Go over these questions again and again until you know for certain what the answers are. 

For Polly, home education has been the best move, because she desperately needs the flexibility that it provides. She was drowning at school, masking her autism and trying so hard to fit in that she couldn’t cope. She has grown and flourished since being at home. Gone are the two hour meltdowns every night, and slowly but surely the challenging child is becoming a lot less so.

The thing is, getting my girl on track came at a very high cost: my mental health. Already severely sleep starved and chronically stressed, it pushed me to my absolute limits last year.

I very nearly fell over the edge.

Been there, done that. Twice. Mental breakdown is not pretty, and I never want my children to have to witness it

I realised that if I didn’t take action about my frame of mind, one of my worst nightmares could become a reality. Getting back to super clean eating and having a break from the booze is working wonders for me now, but it’s a shame it had to get as bad as it did for me to recognise that a disaster was on its way. 

It’s all too easy to get engrossed in the vicious cycle of negativity though, isn’t it? My kids’ challenging behaviour was too much for me to bear. The fighting and screaming and shouting made me want to run away. Having a drink became the only way I could guarantee quietening down the ringing in my ears.

When Polly dug her heels in, and refused to do any learning, I’d take it personally and get upset with her. My internal monologue became toxic, full of unhelpful comments. It told me I was a useless mother and crap wife. I wasn’t cut out for home education, and I was going to mess it all up. 

I felt helpless and trapped by the circumstances I’d created.

I started thinking that putting Polly back into school was the only solution

Which was ludicrous, because even throughout the toughest moments, it’s been clear that we did the right thing. The positive changes in her can’t be denied.

I’d like to say that alone makes it all worthwhile, but it’s not. I’m a mama of three, and at points, home educating Polly has come at the detriment of her brother and/or sister. It’s not a pleasant thing to admit, but it’s the truth.

I’m not writing this to put you off, quite the opposite. I wanted to share my story with you just in case there were holes in your plan. Just in case it made you think of other complexities that you might have overlooked. So you can cover all bases before taking the plunge.  

A few tips

Touch base with your local authority, and see if there’s any assistance available. You could be surprised. We are in contact with the home education team and the ASD service, and have only met lovely people. They can see that we’re providing a safe, varied and engaging learning environment for Polly, and we more than tick their boxes. They’ve offered us behaviour strategies that I might not have come across independently, and I’ve been grateful for their expertise. You have nothing to hide, so you have nothing to be afraid of from them.

Don’t fret about how much work the kids are doing, as long as they are learning. We aim for an hour of maths and English each day, which we do first thing. We have workbooks, games and computer-based programmes. Once we get the basics done, we are free to do the fun stuff: science experiments, baking, art work, trips out. I aim for Polly to keep up with where she would be if she were still at school. Some days she breezes it, others it’ll take hours to complete a simple task. No two days are ever the same, and some days are best written off and forgotten about.   

Focus on their emotional learning. I feel that far too much emphasis is put on a child’s academic abilities, and not enough is done for their mental health and emotional well being. This should be a priority, especially if they’ve had a bad school experience that they’re recovering from. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are all great to counter their anxieties. Getting them to keep an emotions journal or draw pictures of how they are feeling, might also help them process those feelings.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities. If you’re anything like me, you will have torn yourself into pieces agonising over this decision. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts, if you know it’s the right move to make. Be bold, be brave, and have faith that no-one else knows your child(ren) the way you do. 

Also remember that home education isn’t for everyone, and that’s just fine.  

Wishing you the very best of luck!  

 

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