When my 9 year old daughter innocently explained that she was using disassociation and self-harm strategies to get through maths lessons, we knew we’d never walk her over the threshold of the school again. As ex educators, both my wife and I had already experienced the anxiety and stress in the education sector and had left so it was only a matter of time really.
The amount of sheer joy which followed for all of us was unexpected, without the irrelevant requirements of the school day and adhoc demands (I’ll never forget the Christmas when there was a last minute message for the children to dress as nativity stable animals… The amount of “F*&k You Gruffalo costumes” was overwhelming) and the daily dinner time chats about struggles with ‘friends’, we felt a huge weight off our shoulders.
As an ex primary teacher, full of anxiety (had we done the right thing? Was I going to let them down? Were they going to fall behind compared to their school attending peers?) I not only replicated the school day but increased their workload! Even so, my two wonderful children shone.
In those first 6 months we covered numerous traditional topics (raiding twinkl daily) and almost took them back to the beginning again with their maths to great effect. They become confident, happier and relaxed – and made great progress. We spent an hour each morning just enjoying reading chapter books and their joy and ability for reading rocketed.
Looking back one of the jewels in the week is their weekly home school circus day where they lean trapeze and silks along with continuing practicing their social skills and have some fantastic role models in their lives.
As I grew more sure and less anxious, we naturally began to reduce the intensity and as Winter turned to Spring we got out much more and joined clubs for home educated children. But I started having misgivings. I started questioning the value of the curriculum I’d been trained to deliver. Also my boy was becoming more and more reluctant to write and it was getting a daily negative spiral. I asked a new friend from home educating (and ex head herself) for some peer support and she introduced us to Sir Ken Robinson, challenging the fundamentals of the UK education system, and Peter Gray with the whole unschooling concept.
So this is where we are in our journey. We try to read and do a bit of formal maths three or four mornings a week (mostly for my own reassurance!) then its play and getting out. It’s brilliant. The children have done things I never would have dreamed of: jam making, building working 8 foot high catapults, recreating Cornish mining heritage sites in Minecraft, using dolls to recreate and experiment with styles of government leadership and making their own radio show with hilarious call ins and carefully crafted musical playlists- all in the guise of play that is more genuine, much deeper and more sustained. At this point on my journey, I’m learning to trust my children to rekindle and follow their own curiosity, with my role being to support and guide when they’re open to my offerings.
Story written by Tom and uploaded by Streams.