Living with school aged children at home

Now that you have questioned the system by deciding to home educate, you will find that a lot of other people will question you! It pays to think of answers in advance, and also to think about who you really want to answer. Although home education has become much more popular in the past three decades, you are still part of a tiny minority, and all kinds of people will question you: some will be interested, some just don’t like others to choose differently from themselves – it makes them feel uncomfortable. Some may feel they have a right to ask answers: grandparents, friends, extended family, teachers, checkout operators, librarians – it’s up to you to decide who you give answers to, and how much information you offer. Find phrases that you feel comfortable with for those with whom you don’t wish to discuss your choices, such as “I’d rather not discuss that just now,” or “We have made this choice because after due consideration we feel it is the best choice for our family at this point in time.” Don’t allow others to undermine your choice. They may ask about something you haven’t a ready answer to, so say something like, “Thank you for your interest.  We will think about your comments / question, and consider our decision in terms of it.”

And indeed, you will continue to question your decisions, to reassess the way you home educate – at least I hope you will, because growth and development is important in life.

Don’t worry too much about things you can’t change or do something about. Don’t worry about how your 6 year old is going to get into university – if you make your choices based on what the system requires now, you may find that by the time your child is university age things have changed. Work on what you want for them now.

Don’t worry that you aren’t a trained teacher – most of us aren’t. You can help your child learn without qualifications: observation of, and love for, your child will enable you to work out what s/he needs. If you feel unable to help your child with a particular thing, you can find someone else to do it: my children have taken classes or individual tuition from lots of other people over the years – gym, speech and drama, music, pottery, art, computer programming, science and more.

Don’t be afraid to change your curriculum, add to or subtract from it, or to throw it away and find something else altogether. Keep observing your child and adjusting to his / her needs. Don’t get hooked on the idea that you have to stick with something to the bitter end if it isn’t working for you and your children, even if it worked to start with, people change, needs change. Don’t be afraid to leave a book or a course unfinished. Let a child stop learning that violin if the joy has gone – if you make him / her continue s/he will probably learn to hate it, but given choice may well come back to it later.

There is no perfect way to home educate. Just observe and evaluate on an ongoing basis, and you will be able to adjust and adapt according to your child’s needs. Remember that a curriculum that suits one child may not fulfil the needs of the next, or even of the same child in subsequent years.

Realise that life with children at home means that your home will get messier than if they were at school, and you will not have as much time to sort it out. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, but try to think about the wonderful life you are giving your children – bring your expectations into line with your reality!

You will find other compromises with which you will need to come to terms. Compromises in lifestyle choices such as becoming a single income family (or staying one for longer than may have been anticipated), may mean that you and your children will not fit easily into the normal mold of society.

Meet other home educators at some of the many activities available. Not just for your children’s sake, nor for the sake of all those who ask “what about socialisation,” but for your sake: as home educating parents we need support when things aren’t going so well. Don’t retreat into your home when things are going well though: these are the times when you can support others. Even a very new home educating parent can inspire old timers with their fresh enthusiasm that reminds us of why we started this journey, on the days when we feel tired and down. Building a home education community is important for children and parents, old and new alike.

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