I took my kids back to school after two weeks of homeschooling them
By Rachel Brady
22 June 2018 — 11:58pm
It's 8.45am on a cold Monday morning and I nervously approach the school gates, holding on to my son's and daughter's hands tightly. A few of the mums look surprised to see us. "What are you doing here?" asks one. "Look who it is," jokes another. I smile through clenched teeth. It feels good to be back, but I have some explaining to do …
Two weeks earlier, I had decided to take my children, Arthur, then 6, and Beatrix, 4, out of the village primary school near our house in Derbyshire, England. My plan was to home-school them. But within a fortnight I had packed them back off to school.
Clearly not enough time!
I won't be offended if you laugh. I laughed, too – if I hadn't, I'd have cried. But I don't regret doing it, just as I don't regret backtracking: the latter was the right thing to do for my own sanity, for the health of my marriage and, above all, for the children.
I actually think homeschooling helps a marriage because the children will do better, and there is nothing harder on a marriage than children going south. Also, her children would have thrived at home if she'd understood what homeschooling is and how to do it. I also think the comment about sanity is silly. One has to find a balance in all things related to parenting.
I first became interested in home education two years ago, when a friend announced she wouldn't be sending her two children to primary school.
Our mutual friends were shocked at the thought of her teaching them herself, but I watched from afar with admiration as they flourished.
I began to read books and blogs about home-schooling and learnt that there are lots of ways of doing it, from "unschooling" – where there's no structure, curriculum or testing and children "learn through living" – to more structured routes.
Then, in early 2017, Arthur stopped wanting to go to school. Mornings became a struggle. Concerned, I spoke to his teacher, who said that while she could see that he was bright, he was under-performing in reading, writing and maths. We soon discovered that Arthur was slightly dyslexic – he knew he was struggling and felt he wasn't good enough.
Her son was most likely not "dyslexic" but just not ready to learn to read. Six is still too young for a boy to be expected to learn to read well. As is typical of this scenario, Arthur was already developing a negative attitude towards learning and a lack of confidence in his ability and intelligence.
Around the same time, Bea, who loved school, started becoming more anxious.
A four-year-old is too young to go to school and symptoms of anxiety can emerge when they do. Her mom sensed something wasn't right and she did the right thing to remove her.
Her people-pleasing tendencies (hello, mini me!) were going into overdrive, and I felt that the rewards system at school was possibly feeding into these traits.
I could empathise – school hadn't suited me, either. I'd disliked authority and truanted a lot. My final exam results were terrible. After university, I went on to have a good career in digital marketing before leaving my job to be a full-time mum, but my career success was despite school, not because of it.
So, after much research, I broached the idea of home-schooling with my husband, Adam, who is a commercial property developer and hadn't especially enjoyed school either. Although he had reservations, he agreed to try it for a year, then reassess.
Husband is not fully on board—this is a problem. Both parents have to be committed to homeschooling. If one isn't, it weakens the resolve of the other. You need a lot of support in knowing you're doing the right thing, and if you don't have it then you have to be very strong and ready to prove by results. She quit unbelievably soon.
We settled on a mix of structured education, which I knew would work well for Bea, who loves workbooks, and real-life learning, which can be anything from building dens to going to the shops and working out what you can buy with the money you have.
I don't know what she means by "a mix of structured education," but she clearly has not developed her own philosophy on how or why to educate.
Arthur and Bea were overjoyed when we told them the plan, and friends and relatives were supportive. So, one evening in February 2017, I wrote a short, polite letter to the headmistress explaining that we wanted to home-school.
Apart from her husband's reservations, she had a lot of support and the kids were so happy...I don't think she realized how much she had going for her.
For the next week I frantically prepared, buzzing at how great it would be. I bought all of the books the children were reading in school, and treated myself to a rucksack and a warm coat, excited that we would be out and about more.
Since Adam works from home one day a week, I planned to have those days out at museums and galleries so we wouldn't be in the way. Then there are bargain term-time flights, meaning we could make the most of my in-laws' house in Spain and do educational projects while there. But the night before we began, I couldn't sleep because I was so anxious about being on form for the first day.
I needn't have worried. We spent the Monday at a local National Trust property, where we had a picnic and happily built dens. Since we were in the "deschooling" process (home educators recommend you spend two months unwinding for each year they were in school, to lose the school-lessons mindset), I didn't structure any lessons, and by the end of the first week we had baked cakes, been rockclimbing, had picnics and swimming lessons, and met up with my friend who home-schools her children.
Arthur and Bea loved it all, and that weekend we celebrated. Below the surface, though, something was niggling me. I'd barely had a moment to think or get on with my own chores and tasks. Even simple things like planning my monthly book club had fallen by the wayside, and driving the children to activity after activity was taking its toll. Still, I felt selfish for even thinking that, so I pushed my concerns aside and said nothing.
She's off to a great start, kids are doing fantastic, and she's worrying about chores and book clubs? Teach the kids to do chores, that's part of homeschooling. Get in a routine first, and then get back to your book club. Book clubs and homeschooling are not mutually exclusive, in fact, they're mutually supportive. We see she loves learning or she wouldn't be in a book club. This woman had so much going for her it's almost maddening. Why was she so faint-hearted?
At the end of the second week, keen to ensure they still mixed with other children, I took them to spend a few hours at a "forest school", an outdoors, holistic way of learning that first found popularity in Scandinavia.
When I went to collect them, Arthur was in tears. "What's wrong?" I asked, and he explained that an older girl had been very aggressive towards him. I spoke to the teachers, but instead of reassuring me this wouldn't happen again, they did nothing. I was really annoyed and told the children I wouldn't send them there again.
Kids will be kids. What does "very aggressive" mean? It sounds like the girl wasn't physical with him so maybe she grabbed some toys or pushed him. I don't know but whatever it was you don't just quit like that. What does this teach Arthur? If someone gives you a hard time you run? You quit? If every time another kid does something you don't like you run and tell your mother? No!
Maybe the girl's behavior should have been dealt with and maybe not. We don't know what she did so we can't say.
That afternoon, I freaked out, convinced I'd made a huge mistake. If something like that had happened at their local primary school, the teachers would have dealt with it professionally and I would have felt that they were in good hands. Doubts I'd had about home-schooling began bubbling up.
She freaked out. You can't freak out every time someone is "aggressive" with your child. Teach your child to deal with all sorts of personality types. You can't build a wall around him. You can, but you'll raise a coward and someone unskilled in dealing with the wide and colorful range of human beings. You'll also teach him to become unhinged at the slightest disturbance.
I worried I'd bitten off more than I could chew, and something came back to me that I'd read in a blog by an American businesswoman called Penelope Trunk. She'd written that home-schooling is undoubtedly better for the children – the real question is whether the parent can handle it.
Yes, you can handle it. You're a grown woman. The question is do you want to?
This summed up everything I was feeling. I wasn't handling it. I'd only been teaching them for two weeks, but already I felt I was sacrificing myself and my freedom. I also began to resent Adam, thinking, "He gets to have a life, while I'm giving everything I have to the kids."
Yes, you were handling it. Yes, you sacrificed your free time. No, you did not sacrifice yourself. You are still alive. You are still breathing. You still exist.
Your husband is working full-time so he can support you and your children, and that's why you have the luxury of homeschooling for God's sake! Do you know how lucky you are to have a husband to support you?
I finally admitted to Adam, my mum and my mother-in-law how I was feeling. "Is it too late to speak to the head and send them back?" I asked desperately, in floods of tears.
I am a very impetuous person and tend to have knee-jerk emotional reactions. In hindsight, that's what happened that day. Maybe I should have given home-schooling a few more weeks, but we all agreed that it was the right thing to send them back. The second we made that decision, I phoned the head teacher to explain, and she was lovely. She agreed to have them back the very next week.
You are incredibly impetuous and my guess is that you have been over-indulged and coddled by your parents and now your husband just like you are doing with your son when a girl is "aggressive" with him, whatever that means. We still don't know.
Still, I knew the children would be disappointed. And they were – there's no sugar-coating it.
Disappointment is an understatement. I felt terrible for messing them about, and still do.
You should feel terrible.
But on that first day back, as we reached the school gates, Bea ran off, delighted to be reunited with her friends.
She's four-years old and too young to know what's best for her. That's your job.
Arthur needed a little more persuasion, so I promised him treats later if he went in without making a fuss. Eventually he toddled off, too. An enormous sense of relief washed over me.
Bribed him. Relief for what? Getting rid of him?
One year on, with baby number three on the way (and me turning 40 next year), our family is entering a new chapter. Looking back, I know we made the best decision.
You were perfectly capable of homeschooling, you're kids were eager to be with you and have you teach them, and you had a lot of support. How many women wouldn't love to homeschool but have no choice but to work full-time? You made the best decision for YOU, but I doubt you made the best decision for your family. Time will tell.
I still believe that home-schooling can be a wonderful way of life if it's right for everyone involved – and I hugely admire my home-schooling friend, whose children are continuing to do well. I also feel a slight sadness that it didn't happen for us, but ultimately I need time and space for myself. And I don't feel guilty about that any more.
Time and space to do what? You have kids and a husband for God's sake! I'm not saying you can't have your own interests and pursuits, but life changes when you are no longer a single woman. You have other people to think about.
I adore my children; they're my world.
They are not your world. You are your world.
I can't bear spending time away from them at the weekend (but it's no problem during the week?) – we do everything together. That said, when I've dropped them off at school, I can walk the dog in peace, then come home, have a coffee and get on with my day. At 3.30pm we are reunited and mutually replenished, ready to be together again. It's balance, and I need that. You sure do.
Even so, there are some changes we've made as a result of this experience. It reminded me that the whole of life is education, so now when I'm baking I get Arthur and Bea involved. When we walk the dog, Adam teaches them about types of trees. Even watching TV can be educational (Blue Planet is Arthur's favourite). I am also more hands-on with their school work, ready to help them along when they're struggling.
And now I'm more appreciative than ever of their wonderful school, caring teachers and the benefit of being in a playground every day with 50 children to socialise with (and babysit your kids for free). As the saying goes, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.
You really don't.
Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
As you can see, I grew more and more irked with this women the further down the page I got. She just sounded silly and self-indulgent. She wasn't faint-hearted as I originally thought. My guess is that she homeschooled because her kids wanted her to and because she felt guilty not homeschooling. So she "tried" it, threw in the towel as quickly as possible, made a big drama about it so everyone felt sorry for her and stuck the kids back in school.
Just admit you're too selfish to homeschool and spare everyone the drama. Plenty of moms have said just that to me, and I respect them for it. Why? Because at least they're honest about it. This women is either fooling herself or simply trying to fool everyone around her.
Yes, some women can't homeschool, but this was not one of them. This was a woman who could homeschool but didn't want to.
A stupid article that should have never been published.