Stepping into the world of home education when you have been in the education system was a challenge for me. I stepped out of our cosy school community (which also had it’s playground chatter challenges) and suddenly found myself alone with the kids. We had made the final decision to home educate at the time we were due to move house, seemed a natural break. Except our house sale fell through and we had a further five months of living 100m away from school. So every morning I would watch the school run, see the chatter, watch the mums walk away either off to work, going for coffee or just getting on with their CHILD FREE day! There was part of me that envied this – the sense of freedom and doing things for yourself.
Yet even with that I knew the decision we had made was the right one and I knew I had to find a friend. Our city has some great groups linked by social media and other networks. I knew I just needed to be brave and put myself out there. However, I also realised I the reality was that meeting a new person felt a bit like a first date except there was not only the challenge of do we get on but do our kids get on too. We tried the first dates for a while and became obvious to me that this was not the way for us as a family to find friends. So our second strategy was to go to organised ‘trip’ or educational visits. This was a better route for us; no first date feelings, awkward moments or ‘can we go home now’ comments. However, these gatherings still required me to be brave and go say hi.
It was on one of these trips to a local zoo that I met a mum and our kids seemed to get along. A few weeks later they arrived en masse at our home and a new friendship emerged. Through this new friend I was introduced to other friends and then I started to realise the home ed world is a friendly one. I always try to remember to keep an eye out for new people. I think when we are new to home edding we can look a little shell shocked, a little out of control and a warm welcome is all we need. One of the things I love about the home ed community is we are all brave, we have chosen to not be in the system, made sacrifices to have our kids at home, given up some of our own freedom and had to embrace the uncertainty of the journey. Yet in this, we choose not to judge, see our kids are individuals and learn in different ways therefore acknowledge there is no ‘one right way’ but actually just a need to walk with each other on our different paths. On my journey I have found that my paths interweave with different yet recurrent families as we join education days, sign up for classes or end up in the same park. There is a familiarity and a warmth. My kids get to hang out with kids and adults of all different ages and one of the riches I see from this is that they are articulate and confident. Their hearts are open to welcome all. My belief is that this is one of the many benefits of home education. Building community I have found takes time, it takes courage and it takes a willingness at times to be the person who organises a gathering or event. Our perseverance makes us stronger and hopefully more willing to look out for the new home edders.
Jo is a founding member of Streams; mum to three kids (a boy and twin girls) and a passionate advocate for home education.