Today for #100DaysofHomeEd I have a guest post from Jo. Here is her home ed story…
I am Jo, single mum to two boys aged 7yrs (T) and 12yrs (C ). I am diagnosed ASD (PDA) and both my children are on the spectrum, one with other complex issues. We have been HEing for 5.5 years, my oldest being removed from school and the youngest never having been. I realised when my oldest son was in reception that the state school provision just wasn’t suited to him or his needs, he was often confused by the interactions there and would be upset for hours after and before school times, yet the school claimed to have no issues.
As time went on, my son was getting hurt standing up for other children who were being bullied and on one occasion he came home having been hit in the face with a rounders bat and having been given a detention for kicking the child who hit him (the child who hit him went unpunished). After rounds of meetings with head and class teachers talking bout how my son “wouldn’t listen” and finding out just how ‘behind’ he was, as well as being miserable, I started to look for alternatives. I considered a range of ideas including home education, but was concerned I wouldn’t be ‘good enough’ to meet my sons needs due to my own health. The school he was in turned down my proposal for flexischooling so I bit the bullet and deregistered.
We have not looked back for a SECOND! I can hand on heart say choosing Home Education has been the absolute best thing we could have done. My child became the happy, bubbly boy he had once been and he (eventually!) began learning; and not just about how to write out sums or reciting poetry but REAL learning……learning about life and happiness.
We quite quickly realised that our lifestyle and general outlook leans itself to us being unschoolers and we have been that way since the beginning. It is an approach that fits in with my needs and my childrens needs and allows us to be exceptionally flexible about what we all do on a day to day basis to enable us to be happy and healthy. I learnt a lot from the ‘mistakes’ I made in sending my eldest through nursery and school and my younger son did not attend those things but instead has been immersed in the unschooling HE world from being very small. Although he has fairly complex issues he is thriving in a world where he can learn as he needs too and at his own pace, with no pressure or timescales.
He recently decided to start learning to read and within 2 months has progressed from letter recognition to reading books by Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss; this learning has been entirely self-guided with my input when and as requested. T enjoys flashcards, its been a funny one trying to fathom as his older brother loathed them at school! T likes to do some work with flashcards every night in bed before he reads part of a book, then I read him a story. He currently has 6 packs of various flashcards, most of which contain sight words, and games piled up next to his bed! T also enjoys workbooks when he is in the right mood, he gets great satisfaction from completing them and will choose to use them a couple of times a week.
This is a distinct difference to his brother who was partly schooled and whom generally has negative feelings about anything that looks like “formal learning” and whom chooses to do a lot of his learning through reading and asking questions, as well as visiting places of interest. Both boys are free to pick and choose what they would like to do and pick and choose how much input they would like me to have with those things, we have no timetable or structured “must haves” in any one day and I have found this has lead to a desire for knowledge in both boys that means they often seek out the answers and problem solve for themselves.
Both boys enjoy a range of activities which keep us all very busy! We regularly enjoy meeting up with other similar minded Home Edders, many of whom we have become long term friends with and our children have formed close relationships with, as they have similar attitudes and likes, regardless of age. We always find that breaking up our week with trips out is helpful; we all enjoy museums and art galleries, as well as community farms and National Trust. I feel we are privileged to be living in an area of beauty with an abundance of resources on our doorstep from ancient woodland to old railway lines to monuments and a rich local history.
I may give the impression that Home Ed is all starshine and fairy dust, and for the most part, it is! We all need realistic expectations however, and with two children with additional needs who are both very different, it can be a struggle to effectively balance these needs and ensure that both children are always getting what it is they require in the moment. What I have found is that Home Ed has opened up our relationships and made us a great deal closer, meaning these harder days where one or both children are struggling are not just fewer and further between but that they are not the sort of days that result in anger or upset; instead they involve duvets and hot chocolate with films and hugs.
I often feel that Home Ed has been a dream come true for us as a family; to have the freedom to pursue our collective and individual talents and abilities in a supportive and calm environment, without the strain and pressure of exams and meeting targets. It has certainly developed who I am as an individual and as a parent, and I also strongly believe it is leading my children to be confident, self-sufficient individuals in their own rights.
I am often astonished by, and incredibly proud of, my oldest son and his strong moral compass and his underlying desire to help others and propel others forward. He is a genuinely wonderful person whose personal and group achievements speak volumes, and the respect he has from both peers and adults in everything he does is touching and inspiring. Hearing my 7 yr old explain to me why he believes racism is wrong or listening to him being cross about a misunderstanding of feminism on the News report, watching him be passionate and concise about those things he loves and cherishes gives me all the hope that he too will turn into a rather spectacular individual who will be strong, moral and HAPPY.