Tuesday, 2 July 2013

thoughts on schooling at home {homeschooling}

Last week I announced on my instagram feed that the kids were going back to school. That we had tried homeschooling, and had decided it wasn't right for us. 

Oh, but my heart is torn about this decision. For many reasons. Some I don't know I can share here. Some....

Firstly. I want to share with you why homeschooling didn't "work" for us. You might be thinking we only gave it a short trial, and yes, that's so true. But I think we threw ourselves into it as quickly as I throw us into other things. Of course, I'm the one doing the throwing / pushing / pulling, and they all come along with me. 

I wanted homeschooling to be us. I wanted us to be homeschooling. But in reality, the situation that we are currently living in ~ one tiny house, with no space for study, or creativity, or spreading out of books, reading, drawing, making, doing. No space to be away from each other. No space to choose to be together. No space to be organised and planned. Only space to feel on top of each other constantly. Not really very good to suddenly throw us into 24hours on top of each other. Suddenly it felt like the school hours were 7 hours of baby-sitting we were missing out on, 7 hours (that includes bus travel time, etc) of peace and quiet that we were missing. 

And sometimes I realised it also included 7 hours of doing something separate to each other. I stopped asking the kids what they'd done during the day. Because I'd been there with them the whole time, I neither needed to ask, nor wanted to hear their voices whining at me again. And maybe perhaps they didn't want to go over school work with me again, either.

Sam and I lost time to be alone together. To talk with no-one interrupting, or over-hearing, or wanting to be part of it all. No time to just sit and enjoy being with each other; a quiet coffee in the sun (once the kids have gone off to school) with your partner is surely an important thing in any relationship.

I did barely any - actually maybe none - crochet or screen printing or sewing or anything once the kids started schooling at home. Everything creative I did involved them, and had them at my side. And oh yes, that's what I wanted. It is what I DO want. But I also wanted just snippets of myself. My head my thoughts. Small snippets that I never got. 

I think, really, the biggest thing was that our little skateboard jewellery making business got a little bit busier. YAH to that!! And I needed to spend time working on all that was needed for that. And that meant taking time away from schooling and the children. And whenever I wasn't there at their side doing work, preparing work, pushing and enticing work to happen it just didn't. The kids thought they were on holiday if I wasn't teacher at the school desk. 

I guess it's unfair of me to have expected them to be any different. But I think that I expected they would "self learn" a lot more than they did. I think they were maybe too used to school where the teacher walks them through everything. I wanted them to grab their passions and interests and run away with it, and me be there to offer thoughts and advice and encouragement and assistance, and drive them to the library or show them how to make papier mache. Oh. How naive was I!!

Having said that; some school days were excellent. They made me the happiest mama in the world. To sit with my two babies and see them soaking up the learning. To talk with them about things that interested them, and help them discover more. To hear them sharing and learning and teaching each other. For them to be side-by-side learning were some of the happiest moments. 

and therein lies my heart ache. For though I know we can continue much at home, now that they are going back to school, I also know that after-school, weekends and holidays are brief, and that mostly they want to play and explore and 'not do school work'. We will always, as a family, be learners and explorers and teachers in our home (that is something I cannot give up), but I know that with them at school it is in a limited capacity, and that sometimes I am battling against the norm of a public schooling education with my thoughts and ideas to stretch their little minds further and bigger and deeper. Sometimes they feel locked into a system that they don't want to break out of. The ease of cut and paste from a google page, instead of exploring the library or art gallery or museum for the answer. Of saying that their school teacher says their work is good enough, and they're happy with good enough.....

Oh the sadness of a mama who knows her children have more potential than they will receive at school. 

I want it to be known that the school they go to, the local public school, is beautiful and supportive and loving, and has a solid foundation of honest and real values. I just feel that the education system in general lets education and learning down. Every week it seems I hear a teacher, or ex-teacher, talking about the stupid paperwork rather than actual teaching they have to do. And having 20-something other kids in a classroom isn't always the best learning environment. But then, maybe sometimes it is. Children are strong and resilient and perhaps we can give them enough (more than enough!) at home to counter what they will miss.

This for me is an on-going thought / feeling. I hope that with them and me together we can make learning endlessly happen in our family, in a happy contented joyful manner. Perhaps this can be the best of both options - the 7 hours of space that we all needed (them and us), and then the other time of sharing and learning and evolving and growing and expanding.

The one thing I do know about schooling of our children, is that there is rarely a "right" answer, and sometimes that right answer changes weekly. As parents we are always weighing the options of right and best against mediocre. I guess a school who openly cares and supports and knows my children is a wonderful thing indeed and that I should embrace.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, experiences, feelings on this.


  1. I think you are incredibly insightful and honest about why you stopped homeschooling. I know personally that as much as I love my 6 year old, I love that we have time apart. I think it makes me a better mumma to her. I Like to hear her adventures in the world without me, I love having time with just Chef and the baby, like we did with her. I also agree that the week goes o quickly and that I often think I have hardly seen her.

  2. This is something very dear to me right now.
    My kids ( 10,9 and 7) are currently in school but I would dearly love the opportunity to homeschool. HOWEVER, I am very aware of all the things that you have just raised. As parents that both work from home maybe it would be too much togetherness - more than any of us needs - or wants.
    Unfortunately the school they are in are somewhat less than supportive of children who don't fit the norm ( one is being bullied, one is gifted and the other is just plan bored!) which at least it sounds like is something you arent having to contend with.
    We too are a constantly learning family and for that I am very grateful. What I long for though is some flexibility, to take flight if it feels right for a couple of days knowing the experience will enrich their lives more than anything they might learn at school.
    Oh its a tough one to be sure... and one I still dont have an answer for....

    1. Thanks for your comment. It's such a hard, never-prefect decision.
      Don't get me wrong - many of the reasons we tried homeschooling in the first place was the school. I think I'm trying to talk myself into it's positives, but it's a public school with it's not positives. I went to Steiner school for primary and so wanted my children to go to one, but it wasn't possible.
      My kids are different to the other kids. They are mostly town kids or country farm kids, whereas we are country "hippy" kids.... School lunches is a bit of a nightmare. There isn't bullying as such (quite tough on that thankfully), but my son has had lots of trouble with friends. He's not at all sporty like the rest of them, and that's been hard. My 6-yr old daughter was bored as well; we got the school to move her up a class, and thankfully she has some great teachers who see her intelligence and imagination.... It's such a hard one.
      I spend a lot of time at school. The principle is thankful for any involvement, and actively asks for me to be part of it. The other kids know me, which gives (I think??) my kids that tiny bit of extra something at school. I think spending time at school shows other kids about being different - I do craft projects and that sort of thing. I'm not in with the other mothers, as I think they too see me as different, but I enjoy talking with the other kids and hoping to educate them in a new manner.
      I hope/wish that one day in a few years we might go on an extended overseas holiday, and that will be our chance for "life/home schooling" to happen again. In the mean time I'll continue to teach my children at home, and enjoy the time we have. Maybe that's the best solution.
      Good luck with your family choices / decisions.

    2. Yes I think we fall into the country hippy kids tag too. Sadly we are in the wrong area for that sort of alternative thinking and the school ( also a public school - and a small one at that) is very much the same ( my youngest got into serious trouble for typing sex on the computer as that is apparently a swear word!!)
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience - it has certainly helped me sort through some of what is buzzing around in my head.
      Question - Are the kids excited to be going back to school?

  3. We changed schools this year and it's been a good change for us because even though the idea of homeschooling sounds fantastic to me I know I don't have the patience to be with the boys all through the day. My biggest boy also doesn't fit in because he's not sporty too and he still hasn't made any solid friendships. My littlest boy slips in and out of days with ease and makes friends wherever he goes. I know that the experiences you give them in life will be enough Ellie. Even going to mainstream school your kids will never be ordinary :)


  4. Thank you for this post, I've been meaning to say something since I saw the Instagram feed. I always loved the idea of homeschooling and when my little one was younger had planned for it to be something we would do in our life. Now as she's getting closer to that age and I've watched her personality develop and realised more about myself as a mum, I really don't think I could. Like you've discovered, there is value in alone time and child-free time no matter how much we love them, and the idea of taking on a job as a full-time teacher as well as my own work just didn't seem do-able.

    It's also been interesting watching the way she is around other children, being a real extrovert, I believe that she will thrive in an environment with other children. One example was in her swimming lessons, at first, she didn't really like putting her head under water. There was another girl there who also didn't, so my little one wanted to encourage her, so got over her own fear, put her head under and said to the other girl "See, it's ok. You can do it." That was the exact moment for me that I realised she was going to be better in a school rather than being homeschooled.

    Your comment of " I hope that with them and me together we can make learning endlessly happen in our family, in a happy contented joyful manner" really shows that while they will be getting their formal schooling "at school", there is still going to be so much more education happening with their parents, and I'd say that is pretty close to having the best of both worlds.


  5. I've often considered giving my kids a four day school week just so they can have another day at home. I spend lots of time at my kids school too doing craft and knitting and the like, but man, as far as I can see, teachers spend more time on discipline than teaching these days.


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