I’m Kate – Mummy to four biological daughters and one step-daughter; one with autism and one with type-1 diabetes; two in secondary education, two in primary education, and one home-educated. We have a hyperactive dog name George and a fairground fish called Finn, and we live just outside London. Collectively, we go under the name of The Princess Army, and you can follow our adventures at www.theprincessarmy.co.uk
How long have you home educated for, and what made you decide to do it?
In 2009, frustrated by the National Curriculum, I deregistered my eldest two children, who were in Year 2 and reception class at the local primary school, and together with my then-two-year-old, began our home education adventure. And we loved it. We had the freedom to learn autonomously, and my children’s confidence and personalities bloomed. Then a year later, my husband and I decided to get a divorce. I was concerned about the girls’ well being, being in the midst of a separation 24 hours a day, and so I reluctantly re-registered them at a mainstream school.
When my youngest daughter was born in 2013, I was certain that I was going to home educate her from the start. Whilst my older girls are doing well in the school system, they still reminisce fondly about their year of home education, and I still have the same feelings about the National Curriculum.
Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?
My youngest daughter is on the Autistic Spectrum and has sensory processing difficulties. She is cognitively very bright, but has trouble with communication and is predominantly non-verbal. We do daily art therapy to give her an outlet to express herself without words, and this also helps her sensory issues. She also loves being out in nature, so we try to go to the local nature reserve at least once a week. Our “typical week” will also involve baking, reading stories, occupational therapy, lots and lots of learning through play, and music. On Thursdays, she goes to an amazing childminder who has a sensory room in her home and experience with children on the spectrum.
What was your highlight of home ed last week?
I often have classical music playing in the background as a soundtrack to our days. Last week, my daughter started quietly “singing along” to Beethoven’s 9thSymphony. Considering that she has selective mutism and doesn’t often engage with new things, it was wonderful to see that she was connecting to the music and actually enjoying it. My home ed “highlights” are often things that parents of neurotypical children may take for granted. I was so happy when she was able to use PVA glue for the first time without being squeamish, for example.
What is your favourite thing about home-edding your child/ren?
I love that we have the freedom to prioritise the things that make my daughter happy. She doesn’t need to be “table-ready”, she’s able to go outside to play whenever she likes, and we are able to focus on activities that reduce her anxieties and give her confidence.
What do you find most difficult and why?
The most difficult thing is not home-edding all my children. My other girls are happy and settled in school now, which means that some of the “perks” of home education, such as being able to take holidays in term-time, aren’t an option for us. When I originally chose to home ed my older children, I would’ve said that I found the judgmental attitudes of others to be the most difficult thing. I’m older and more thick-skinned these days (especially being an autism parent – getting judged by strangers happens almost on the daily), so I wouldn’t say that that bothered me anymore.
What advice would you give to other home educators?
It’s not easy to go against the norm. I’d say to trust your instincts and judgments, and be confident. There will be days when you doubt that you’re doing the right thing for your children – that’s normal. There will be days that you feel that you’re not doing enough. Just remind yourself that just because nobody posts pictures on social media of their kitchen sink overflowing with yesterday’s dirty dishes, it doesn’t mean they didn’t crop them out of the photo of the organic, gluten-free, vegan cake they just posted a picture of. For every successful, well-organised home ed pin you see on Pinterest, there’s a thousand activities that were a complete disaster. That’s real life. I can’t remember the last time I vacuumed. And I don’t even own an iron.
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