As a home educating Mum of two small humans, I follow lots of social media accounts for other home ed families as well as various Vlogs and Blogs.
I always find the majority of them to be informative and helpful and I’ve learned a lot from them in the past and still continue to find them extremely beneficial.
Not only have I found out about lots of great resources, but I also find it really interesting to see different learning styles and how they work for others, they provide a great insight into whether alternative styles would work for us.
However, one thing that I have noticed is that some of them only seem to show one side of the story when it comes to the reality of home education.
I think that this is partly because as a minority group, when it comes to educational choice, some do feel that they constantly have to defend their decision to home educate and try to show everything in a positive light to avoid negativity or uninformed judgements from others.
Whilst I totally understand this, I think it is important that home educators can be open and honest about what life is really like day to day and should also be able to talk freely about the challenges that the majority of us face at one time or another.
Whilst home education is extremely rewarding, like anything, it can come with its fair share of challenges.
In my opinion, not only is it important to give a true picture of what it’s really like in order for others to make an informed choice on whether home education could be right for their family, I think it’s just as important for those who are starting out on their own journey to get a true feel of how learning can look for others.
From experience, I found that home education can be quite lonely in the beginning until you are a little more established in your local community and are able to find a social circle.
It can also be pretty overwhelming at the start and at various stages throughout.
At these times, many of us take to social media in the hope of finding others who are experiencing the same or similar challenges, only to be faced with Instagram stories or Facebook posts of other home educating families getting up to some really cool stuff.
Their day is looking like an advert for Alton Towers whilst yours may resemble the London Dungeons….. Maybe too much of a contrast but you get the idea!
This happened to me very recently, so recently it was in fact, only yesterday!
It had been one of those days that felt like it was never going to end, in an attempt to distract myself I clicked onto social media, only to find another family having what looked to be a fantastic time on their staycation, whizzing through forests on zip wires and looking happy and chilled in a beautiful forest surrounding, laughing and smiling together.
I quickly tried to console myself with the thought that as any parent knows things can change pretty fast when it comes to family life and it was more than viable that 5 minutes after those videos were taken, the kids began arguing, it started to pour with rain and everyone sat around cold and wet silently thinking that it would have been better all round had they just stayed at home.
It’s so easy to fall into a trap thinking that because your days don’t look anything like theirs today or any other day, that you must be doing something wrong but in reality that really couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just as all of our children are different, so are our learning journey’s but as parents, we seem to be programmed by default to compare ourselves to others.
We are now over 4 years into our elective home education journey and have faced our own fair share of challenges along the way, many of which I will be sharing in up and coming blogs in the future.
To kick things off, in today’s article I want to share 3 truth bombs of the things that I wish I had known about home education before I started!
Truth bomb 1:
When you tell people that you have decided to home educate your children, chances are, you will most likely come up against resistance or negativity from others.
This could be from family, friends or even the next door neighbours.
Talking from experience, It could even be from the person serving you in the local supermarket!
It would seem that as soon as your children reach CSA (Compulsory School Age) every person and their dog suddenly start taking an interest in what educational decisions you’ve made for YOUR children and what provisions you’re going to be making for them for the next 13 years.
I think that a lot of negativity in these situations, comes from the fact that a lot of people have probably never met a home educating family before or spoken to a child, teenager or adult who has actually been home educated.
In the UK, I find that Home education is still a bit of an unknown entity to a lot of people.
However, regardless of where their negativity comes from, I can almost guarantee that in the beginning, you’re going to walk away from those conversations, questioning the choice that you’ve made to home educate.
This happened to me a lot in the beginning and it was something that I really wasn’t prepared for. I still remember feeling so awkward when I ended up in those situations and I didn’t know what to say.
I can tell you this story now and smile but at the time I was absolutely mortified.
There we were, minding our own business just myself and my then, 4 year old daughter.
We had just done the ‘big shop’ at the supermarket and I was pushing the trolley with my daughter sat in it, back to the car to unload.
I heard shouting from behind me, like someone trying to get another’s attention and the next thing I knew, a random lady who I had never seen before in my life grabbed hold of my arm.
“Are you this child’s mother” she asked.
I was absolutely lost for words and just nodded my head!
She went on to say how she recognised my daughter from the hairdresser’s where she had seen her with my other half just a few days prior.
Apparently, she had overhead that we were planning to home educate whilst sat having her hair done because my partner had been telling our hairdresser.
She launched into this whole speech about how she was a primary school head mistress and regardless of our thoughts, she could tell me right now that we would ruin our daughters education if we went ahead with our plan to home educate and begged me to reconsider!
My little girl looked totally bewildered so that made 2 of us!
I made my escape and got back to the car, I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
The one thing that does actually still annoy me to this day is the fact that I remember my daughter asking who we would get into trouble with if she didn’t go to school after what the lady said.
It was rather ironic that she was lecturing me on the benefits of school education compared to HE whilst been, in my opinion, a totally inappropriate representative of such a setting Infront of my young impressionable child.
It probably comes as no surprise that in the beginning I used to get really disheartened when things like this happened and began to wonder if maybe everybody else knew something that we didn’t.
Over time, I’ve come to realise that the reason why we feel like that isn’t because we’ve made the wrong choice. It’s purely because, by proxy, when we decide to home educate our children, we automatically put ourselves in a minority group that many people still don’t fully understand because the majority of people still choose to send their children to school.
Regardless of sector, it’s always hard being in a minority group but it really does get easier over time.
I can genuinely say that now, I really don’t give negative comments a second thought and they literally wash over me.
One extremely important fact to keep in mind, particularly at the beginning, is to remember that nobody knows you or your family as well as you do and you have made your decision based on that information.
Whatever comments you may receive, whether negative or just plain rude, please don’t let it influence your choice in the slightest, stand firm and know that it does get easier to handle over time.
Truth Bomb 2:
Contrary to belief, and apologies now for bursting the bubble early on, but most home educators do not spend the majority of their time in blissful woodland settings sat in circles basket weaving, listening to the birds singing and being joyful and happy.
I can tell you first hand after meeting lots of home educating families that I have come across precisely zero parents who get up every day, dress their children in gingham and go skipping through meadows with them whilst singing songs and being gleeful for the rest of the day……. I know, shocker right!
The truth of the matter is that some days are really, REALLY hard!
If your having an off day and take to social media like I did yesterday, one thing to bear in mind is that some of the home ed accounts on there have got literally thousands of followers, chances are that they are well into their He journey.
When you look to them for inspiration, remember that you’re looking at a brief snapshot of their life and not the full picture.
Questioning what your doing and how your doing it is not only completely normal, but it’s how we evolve and find the right rhythm for our own family, in fact it’s one of the top benefits of home education, if it’s not working, change it!
On the days when everything is driving you crazy, remember that at the end of the day, whether you send your children to school or whether you choose to home educate, some days are just really difficult because that’s parenting whichever way you slice it.
Some people only choose to show you the good bits, what they are more reluctant to show you are the days where the kids are having a permanent meltdown, you’ve got a million things to do, the cars broken down so your plans fall apart at the seams, the washing machine has packed in and you have a pile of laundry the size of Everest to get through and to top it off the Wi-Fi is on the blink so it’s world war 3 because the kids can’t watch their favourite TV program!
Home education most certainly isn’t a walk in the park and you should never compare your daily life to others because no two are the same.
I know a lot of families who have many similarities to ours in that their children are the same ages and our learning ethos is the same, but our day to day lives look very different.
Earlier, I talked about questioning your decision to home educate when you come across negativity from others in the beginning and based on my own experience, I can honestly say that you continuously question yourself throughout the process based on many factors yet the answer is still the same.
It’s not because it’s the wrong decision, it’s just because you have to overcome the hurdles along the way and like anything, when it comes to parenting, they range from those that are quick and easy to overcome to those that require a little more time and thought.
If you were to ask any home educator new or otherwise, they will likely tell you that they all have days where they wonder if they made the right decision.
We all have moments where we think should we look at alternatives but if you think about it, that’s very much like if you were to send your child to school.
Some days it’s going to work out great and others not so much.
If your little one comes home every day crying because they don’t feel comfortable in a school setting because they are not getting to grips with the learning, they have disagreements with other children or teachers or they generally seem unhappy, on those days you’re going to question whether you should look into other options, even if a decision is right 99% of the time it still leaves that 1% of uncertainty which on some days can feel all consuming but try to take a step back and keep things in perspective.
It’s all just part of that fantastic learning curve rollercoaster that we are on through life whether we like it or not.
When you have a bad day, know that your not alone, put it down to experience and move on because tomorrow is a new day.
Truth bomb 3:
Home education isn’t just an educational choice. It’s a lifestyle choice.
ThIs one may sound pretty obvious, but it’s not always a priority in people’s minds when they decide that home education is right for their family.
Its worth giving consideration in the beginning, that home education can fit in alongside your working commitments.
One of the important things to factor in is that ideally, you will need to make sure that the work that you do fits in with the fact that you’re going to be with your children a lot of the time unless you have childcare in the form of family or friends who can help you out.
A job that allows you to work remotely or has flexibility is a huge advantage, obviously we all need to earn money to be able to subsidise the lifestyle choice that we’ve chosen.
My partner and I are both self employed which allows for us to share the responsibility of home education and gives us the opportunity to spend more time together as a family.
Our circumstances have changed from when we first started out and finding our work/life rhythm has been far from easy but like many others, we make it work.
Alongside paid work, you also need to filter in the unpaid side of things !
There still needs to be provision made for all of the boring stuff like washing, shopping, cleaning and cooking that goes hand in hand with the whole grown up parenting gig!
Arguably, it probably is a little bit more workable when children are at school because parents tend to have that little bit of flexibility during school hours to attend a place of work, where generally home educators tend to more work from home.
I always think that forewarned is forearmed so I personally think that it’s worth spending a little time checking that your work and life balance are going to be achievable alongside your commitment to home educate before you start.
If you would like to check out my earlier blogs about home education, please head over to this link on my website:
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