Our home education story began a number of years ago when I was working as a youth minister at a church in Surrey, UK. It was during that time that I first remember meeting families who home schooled. I’m not completely sure why they chose to home school (as I didn’t think to ask at the time), but I assumed that it was partly for idealogical reasons, partly for practical reasons (one family had had to move countries) and partly for educational reasons. I never really considered that home education would be for us as our family didn’t fit my preconceived mould of what a home educating family was, nor did I think we had the capabilities (for a start which parent would give up their job to educate our daughters anyway?!). Sure, I’d experienced working in the school system, having been a youth worker in a secondary school and then working across several schools providing PSHE lessons, mentoring, assemblies and the like. But to take responsibility for your child’s whole education – that was another level. No. Thank. You.
And then we found ourselves moving 120 miles west to Bristol in order for Nic (my wife) to train to be a vicar. Times change. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been cause to delve into the peculiarly wonderful world of home education, but there were other things afoot. Several factors came into play:
- Nic was receiving a bursary to study. If I worked, then the bursary would be reduced. If I was a house-husband, the bursary would remain the same, I would be at home and available to be there for our daughters. At the very least, if I became a stay-at-home dad for the time that Nic was at college, I would have two years with our daughters – what a gift!
- We were definitely in Bristol for two years. After that? We weren’t sure. We felt that it would cause the least disruption to our girls’ education if we home schooled for the two years that we were in Bristol and to assess it after that.
- In an age before the pandemic, when I was a youth worker, I had noticed a subtle rise in problems with mental health with the young people with whom I came into contact. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, panic-attacks… all issues that I was helping young people to navigate. I started wondering what we were doing to our young people that meant that they were experiencing these difficulties on a more regular basis. I wondered if the school system (including the overdeveloped pressure of exam culture) was a part of the problem. NB.I must point out that I am in no way belittling or criticising the incredible work that teachers and support staff do with our young people – many of these adults are a lifeline to the students in our schools. I think they do an amazing job despite the system that they find themselves in.
- Our eldest daughter (E.) was due to start secondary school and our youngest (T.) was going into Year 4. I had already noticed that E had developed a distinct dislike of getting things wrong. She wasn’t happy just to give things a go and take a risk in case she got the answer wrong or did the wrong thing. I wondered if this was a consequence of the system or a personality trait.
- As a family (parents and children) , we felt that this was a good time to give this home education thing a go. Our friends, who were living in Bristol, had educated their children at home for a year and had seen how their youngsters had come alive and had flourished. If we decided to home educate, we would be able to join with them (and glean from their experiences!)
So, considering all of the above factors, we decided to take the plunge into the world of home education.
During the first few months of this new way of educating, we all learned a lot, not just about the Romans either. We all learned things about ourselves. We realised that we all needed to “decompress” from the system. We learned about each other – what we each needed. We learned about our limits too. And we learned that being together could be a lot of fun. I started to see some of the spark return to our daughters that I hadn’t realised had disappeared.
Three years later, with all of the highs and lows, frustrations, internally spoken expletives, conversations with family members (some difficult, some joyous), delights and breakthroughs, we are still educating our girls at home. Would we change it? Not a chance.
Matt is a former youth worker who, in 2018, became a stay-at-home, home-educating dad to his two daughters whilst his wife, Nicola, studied at Trinity College, Bristol. Matt’s passion is to see people live to their full potential and “be all they can be”. His strengths are his adaptability, empathy, positivity, love of learning and ability to help people develop. When Matt isn’t home educating, you’ll find him trying to keep fit, cooking, listening to a podcast, or working out how to get Wilson and Robin, the family dogs, to behave.