The picture above was taken on 16th May 2016, the day we made one of the biggest parenting decisions we had ever made. We de-registered our 5 year old from the school she disliked so much and embarked on a home education journey. At the time I had no idea how long it would last or where we would go, but I just knew that I couldn’t continue to let that school steal my once confident, outspoken little girl and replace her with the timid, anxious and lifeless child that I picked up every day at 3.20pm.
This photo was taken on the day Moo started school in September 2015. Looking back at this picture makes me sad. I can see the nerves in her little face, the excitement she had for wearing her new uniform completely subsided. Most kids are nervous on their first day at school, I know that, but it only got worse for Moo. Even by May she still cried most mornings before school and most days at school. I’m not sure whether it was the strict routine governed by men in offices and their boxes which must be ticked, or whether this particular school just didn’t do enough to help her settle, most likely a mix of both. Either way, opting out of both on that Monday morning was a massive relief and when the head master e-mailed me back with nothing more than a generic acknowledgement of receipt of my e-mail I knew we’d made the right decision.
We’d considered home ed as an option pretty early on but to be honest I found the idea of being around the girls 24/7 really daunting. I’m someone who needs my own space. I like to lie in the bath for an hour and read a book, or have an hour in the coffee shop on my laptop without having to answer to, “mommmmm,” every 2 minutes, I’m sure most other moms feel the same. School is often seen as a light relief to the intensity of parenting, but not when you spend the whole 6+ hours every day worried about your baby. That shits emotionally draining, and so far I’ve found home ed to be much less so.
Most home edders recommend a period of de-schooling; a length of time to get you and your child out of the routine of school and to let go of the expectations of the schooling system. This time is about allowing your child to discover themselves again, the things they enjoy and the things they’re good at and letting the learning happen organically. Children learn all of the time, mostly through play and exploration, but it’s hard as a parent to stop comparing your child to everyone else’s, something I think the schooling system enhances.
I’m not somebody who finds comfort sitting in their home for long periods. I’m a social bunny and so I’ve jumped straight in to some of the local home ed groups. Every monday we go to a gymnastics group specifically for home ed kids. Moo has always enjoyed gymnastics but has never had the confidence to go to a group, and in true Moo style, she didn’t venture far from me during the first session. However, as the weeks have gone on she has become more confident. Just this week she took part in the whole class without having me hold her hand or follow her around. She even put up her hand to go next during the individual sessions. These things might seem minor to most parents, but when your child is massively anxious, these are huge steps. So far they are both loving gymnastics, it’s by far the biggest hit with both of them and it’s increased Moo’s confidence 100%.
We’ve also ventured out to the bi-weekly home ed meet once. It’s held at a local park with a community centre and on the day we visited the sun happened to be out, making for a glorious time. Moo became quite fond of one of the older girls who attends the gymnastics too. She’s 7 and extremely good at gymnastics which has encouraged Moo to want to practice more. She’s an extremely confident and chatty little girl and will hopefully be a positive influence for Moo.
We’ve also continued going to the little playgroups that I’ve taken both the girls to as little ones. Woo has lots of little friends there and it seemed unfair to stop taking her. There’s often painting or crafting of some sort for Moo to enjoy also, and the ladies who run it love seeing Moo now she’s growing up. Of course, we also get more time for days at grandparents in the sunshine too.
And as for wondering whether I could hack having them both around 24/7? It’s been way easier and more difficult than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both having to adjust to the new routine and there’s plenty of arguments and fighting (who said that was just boys?!) but then it all totally beats having to count down the days to the weekend with a 5 year old who hates school. Removing Moo from that school has definitely been the right choice, just one month in we’re seeing huge changes already. We might just be starting to see Moo coming back and it’s worth every fight and, “mommmmm” a million times over. I have no idea what our long term plan is, but for now we’re happy.