Freddie went to preschool for a year and a half, two sessions a week. Betsy did a term. I won't be sending Meg. We hadn't planned on home education. We applied for a school place for Freddie. I had some niggly worries about the areas of reception I felt Freddie would struggle with - structured crafts, singing, story time, waiting quietly- but this stayed under the surface until a chance conversation with a couple of friends. One, a year 1 teacher, told me that it was common for parents of 5 and 6 year olds to ask her if she thought they would pass the 11+. The stress! The anxiety! Ugh, I started to feel anxious and Freddie hadn't even started school. My other friend talked about her experiences at grammar school - the pressure of being clever, the high expectations. By now I was a gibbering wreck!
That evening with friends (both of whom have children in school and wouldn't dream of home educating) plus my worries about school being a good fit for Freddie, left me looking for an alternative.
Somewhere in my brain, I vaguely remembered I had read something about home education. I took myself off to Google to do some research. I ordered lots of books.
I read Free Range Education by Terri Dowty, followed by How Children Learn by John Holt, and Moving a Puddle by Sandra Dodd. I discovered Yahoo! home education lists. I realised I was going to have to discuss this with Rob. He's pretty mainstream (not a criticism, an observation!) and I thought he wouldn't entertain the idea for a second. But he surprised me by agreeing it was a good idea, no persuasion required. Phew!
So, we declined Freddie's place, and in September 2009 he didn't start school.
In the last four years, we've tried a few groups, been part of a co-op, made lots of friends, had great days, bad days and everything in between. I haven't ever regretted our decision to home educate, and consider our family very lucky that my husband works hard to enable us to do so.
Here is a typical day, with the disclaimer that there is no typical day. I've chosen a day in May, as I took photos of pretty much everything.
I got the kids up quite early as we were leaving the house at 9.30. One of the lovely things about home ed is relaxed mornings, people waking when they are ready. However, on this morning I woke them up, and they snuggled a while on the sofa watching TV and playing with the Nexus.
We checked the runner bean race, and the caterpillars. Meg's bean was well ahead of Freddie's, and Betsy's hadn't even started off the blocks (this really irritated her).
We headed out to a relaxed meet-up at Ikea. We've only been a couple of times and the kids don't know the other children that go, so they decided to go into the creche. They loved it, and I had a cup of tea and chatted to the other parents. Afterwards we looked around the shop, played in some of the room set-ups, and briefly stopped in the playground on the way to the car.
After Ikea we went to meet some families in deer park. It was glorious weather. We had a picnic, and played with bubbles, balls and sticks. They climbed trees, and had ice cream. It was a great afternoon.
When we got back Freddie played with his friend a couple of doors down, and the girls watched some TV. Meg went to bed around 8, Freddie and Betsy went about 9 but took a Nexus each to watch Netflix and play games till around 10pm.
The next day we went to a fantastic day with lots of activities including handling owls, crafts, woodland tracking, playground, soft play, sensory room. The day after that we went to the allotment, and later they played in the garden with the local kids, with paddling pool, trampoline and hose. We had a barbecue. The next day was nerf wars and playing with the wagon on the little road. The day after, a walk along the canal, spotting ducklings, then the playground, and when we got home we played some board games.
No typical day, no typical week. No structured learning, no lessons. Lots of games, playing, talking. Lots of TV, laptop, technology. And I'm sure that's how we'll continue, for as long as the kids are happy and learning.