My name is Francesca and I’m Mom to nearly 5 year old Xanthe, and 3 in a fortnight Hugo. We live in the West Midlands. We have a blog that records our home ed journey called The Penny Three.
Xanthe was diagnosed with Autism, development delay, learning difficulties and severe anxiety around a year ago. To begin with she was in a mainstream nursery. Rated outstanding by ofsted and with myself as a parent governor, they tried really hard to make it work. She had one to one support and small group work, they put emphasis on her making friends and becoming integrated but Xanthe’s anxiety just continued to grow.
When it came to choosing a school for her Reception year and onwards, I began to worry about how she would cope. I did some research and discovered that due to her birthday I could possibly get a “Summer Born Deferral.” I approached the local authority and armed with evidence from the senco at the nursery and Xanthe’s consultants – they agreed.
I thought that was the answer to all our problems. Sadly that wasn’t the case, when Xanthe went back to the nursery after summer, they had changed things such as the room her group met in, the children had changed too and they left her pretty much to her own devices whilst they settled in the new children. Her anxiety became so extreme that she began to regress, and could no longer count to 10 for example. Getting her to Nursery became a huge battle. I spoke to her consultant at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and they agreed that the nursery was causing more harm than good.
So in November 2016 I removed her from the Nursery. I was really anxious about my decision, and questioned whether it was the right choice – I soon discovered that I really didn’t need to worry.
To begin with we thought about purchasing a Waldorf Steiner home ed curriculum, as certain aspects of the philosophy I really like. The emphasis on child led play, and using natural resources, reducing screen time and being outdoors… but I soon learnt that sitting down with a set routine of work, was not the best way to reach Xanthe. So we firmly headed into Unschooling territory. Unschooling means that I very much follow her lead and interests and I’m pleased to report that her ability to count to 10 came back, and further breakthroughs have been made. She now is attempting to write, and will listen to stories.
We spend a lot of time outdoors, as that is where both Xanthe and Hugo feel at home. We have a number of home ed groups that we join in with as and when we can – Forest School, Trampolining, Science events. We also have other clubs that we want to get involved with – swimming, horse riding, ice skating and craft club. There are many more to choose from!
Our highlight of home ed last week, was getting out into the garden now the weather is improving and Xanthe being able to identify a number of different flowers. We also headed to Norfolk for a few days and stayed on the Broads. In a couple of weeks we head to North Devon for a week and having just bought a tent, we have lots of trips planned for the summer. We have a couple of festivals booked and some uk based trips, and then next year we are planning on a longer European trip with the tent. We are currently thinking France/Italy/Switzerland. We can’t wait!
I love that Xanthe and Hugo get to learn at their own pace and explore their own interests. The hardest thing is making sure that as their education falls solely to me, that they get a well rounded view of the world and grow up with love and tolerance at the forefront of their personalities. My role is not to “teach” them, but give them the tools to explore, learn and discover.
My advice to other parents considering home ed would be… do it! It seems like a big leap, but you soon fall into your own rhythm and routine, and no decision has to be forever – you can always go back to school if that ends up being the right choice for your child. Throw yourself into the home ed community – we have so much going on, that we can’t possibly join in everything! Give yourself a few weeks to settle into your new life and then watch your children blossom -the really will. It was the best decision that I’ve ever made, and for Hugo he will go straight into home education.