We got our daughter back!

We got our daughter back!

Three years ago, our daughter entered secondary school and, initially, seemed to thrive. It is a well respected school, the same one our boys had gone to with positive experiences. However, as time went on, we noticed her getting more insular and less excited about school each day. There were some relational conflicts emerging that were fuelled by the essential WhatsApp groups she was part of and one minute she was ‘in’ and the next ‘out’, like an emotional rollercoaster. It got to the point where we felt like we were losing our daughter and she couldn’t escape from the constant barrage of negative messages. It was tough to watch and hard to walk her through it.

Meeting with a close friend who we knew home educated was a major shift in our perspectives on home education, having had some previous ‘not so positive’ experiences in the past. She presented options in a manner that empowered us and gave us courage to walk away from the traditional methods of education and into the somewhat uncharted waters. So, we took the plunge and removed our daughter from school and enrolled her with GalileoXP,  an online learning community.

The shift in emotional wellbeing was obvious. Our daughter began to get her confidence back, reverting back to her bubbly self. The flexibility it gave her to pursue the things she loves rather than endure hours of classes that she has no interest in was great too. She then joined a local home ed group coordinated and facilitated by two parents; a group of 12 like-minded crazy kids who gather weekly to do group projects and drama. This has been amazing for her. She gets to interact socially with kids her own age, to be creative, to be expressive, to build friendships. Its a safe place to express who she is without the pressure that the school environment can create.

For anyone considering taking the plunge, we felt that our daughter’s mental and emotional health was more important than any academic qualification. Academic achievement is probably over-rated, with many of the world’s top leaders and entrepreneurs having few, if any, recognised qualifications. Those can come with time but nothing can replace good, positive emotional health and wellbeing.  Reach out for advice and be courageous! We took the risk and got our daughter back.

I Feel Proud of Myself

I Feel Proud of Myself

The photo is such a special one to me, the happiness and laughter on my daughter’s face is one thing – but there is something that you can not see in this photo…  Minutes before this was taken on Saturday night, my daughter had just watched herself on a cinema screen for the first time in the film premier of a movie that she is in. As the credits rolled, so did her tears – I watched as the tears flowed fast down her beautiful face, she swiped at them quickly, desperate to stop them before the cinema lights came back on.  I held her in my arms, and squeezed her tightly- when I asked her why she was crying she replied… “I’m happy mummy, and I feel proud of myself.”

Rewind to four years ago when we decided to take our daughter out of school – she was suffering terribly with anxiety and low self esteem – school were not supporting her at all. At her worst, she was being physically sick everyday, it really was such a distressing time.

Making the decision to home educate was the best decision we have made.  At the very start we enrolled Ellila-Jean in a local drama school in an attempt to help her with her confidence, and help it certainly did. She found something that she truly enjoyed and we watched her confidence blossom right in front of us.  In the last couple of years she has had some great opportunities, and met the loveliest people.

So this picture is much more than just a happy photo, it represents an incredible journey that Ellila-Jean has been on.  It has not always been smooth sailing – but we are worlds apart from where we were at the start, and words can not describe how incredibly proud we are of her.

Four years ago I would never have imagined that our little girl would have the confidence to stand up in front of a cinema full of people and talk, let alone be in a film… but what means so very much more than that, is that she now believes in herself…and that truly is the best thing of all!

(Photo credit Grant Archer.  Also in the photo is Tom England)

Written by Kirsty and uploaded by Streams.

From Mainstream to Home

From Mainstream to Home

We joined the world of home education over two years ago with our two girls who are now 13 and 10 years old. They are very different from each other and, therefore, need a different approach to learning, as was the case in school but they were unable to provide that individual approach and interest-based learning in the way we can at home. The older one is generally happy to sit down and concentrate on a task, drawing a sense of achievement from having a plan and achieving that plan. The younger one is much more of an external processor and needs more ‘convincing’ to sit down and concentrate on work, not being motivated by the simple achievement of a task.

When they were at school, our older daughter had learnt to get on, to stay out of trouble and please people- she hates being told off! She learnt this early on in her school career, with a very strict (and pretty shouty!) reception teacher. In hindsight, I can see now that we saw the relaxed, fun-loving side of our older daughter gradually diminish from reception onwards, along with her own sense of integrity. Thankfully, this has come back a little with a more relaxed nature of home education and she is now more confident in her sense of self and, whilst it’s not always easy, I’m very glad she’s now willing to stand her ground when she feels she needs to as I know she’ll need that in life! I am SO glad she’s not having to deal with the social pressures many 13 year olds are having to deal with in mainstream education, on top of just the brain & hormonal changes that take place when you’re a teenager AND the pandemic too.

Our younger daughter took convincing EVERY day to go to school, unless it was a day where they were having an outing, or a party day, which was about once a term. So, each morning was a struggle to get her to get dressed and ready for school which was tiring. Funnily enough, despite our concerns, she was actually doing OK according to the parents’ evenings, with the reports that she simply needed to concentrate better and stop talking to her friends in class. But she’s an external processor and is naturally very sociable, finding friends life-giving so the restrictions in when she could and could not talk in class were very confining for her. Being able to learn through the things she finds interesting works so much better for her. I’d be lying if I said she now always wants to learn (she still needs convincing to get going!) but I know she is a lot better off for the pace we can take each day and being able to learn in ways that suit her better.

We have had interesting conversations with family members who shared their concerns with us in the choice we were making to ‘home-school.’ I was privately educated, so my parents invested A LOT and went with a lot because they held education in such high regard. They held a lot of pre-conceived ideas and questions: Would they have enough social contact? How would they do science? What about team sports? What about exams? We have worked through these questions with them gradually as we’ve learnt ourselves, not claiming at any point to have it all completely nailed! They’ve become more supportive as time has gone on and they’ve seen how we’ve been doing the home ed, with others, with variety…and they’ve seen how well the girls are generally doing and that’s ‘proof’ in itself isn’t it?! Like I say, it’s not perfect and it’s not easy, but I am SO glad we’re investing in our girls this way, with the time and the energy – I don’t think we’ll ever regret that.

Why We Chose to Home Educate

Oliver, our eldest son, was born on the 26th August, a summer-born baby boy.  Oliver was a bright, inquisitive baby and toddler – always asking questions at every opportunity and eager to learn new things. He enjoyed pre-school for a time, but then became frustrated with the adults who wouldn’t answer his questions as they had too many other children to attend to. He was very good at communicating this to me at the time.

Then the time came for Oliver to start school. He turned 4 years old and started school a week later. I felt slightly anxious about this as he was by far the youngest in the school and in a class of 30!  He made friends and appeared to be settling in well. Then I gradually witnessed a change in him; he stopped asking questions, became very withdrawn and then started to say he felt ill every morning before school. At a parents’ evening, the only feedback we got from the teacher was that Oliver held his own for his age. I felt that the teachers didn’t really know him and I knew how important adult interaction was for Oliver at this stage. I then asked the school if they would consider flexi- schooling (part time school) or if he could possibly re-join in the year below. The answer was no to both, so we made the very difficult decision to pull him out of school with the plan to possibly put him back in in year 1. During this time we joined as many groups as we could and then found the local home educating community. I felt like we had to do as much as we could fit in as I was worried he would miss out on social interactions. Looking back I now realise that this was probably a mistake; my advice would be to spend time at home just doing the things your child is interested in and de-schooling before jumping into too many groups and activities. We did however make some really good friends and connections during this time that we are still connected to 6 years later.

We had many wobbles along the way and some negative opinions from some friends and family about our decision. It certainly was a rocky road in those early years. We did then put Oliver back into school in year 1 for a time which ended very badly and he became very anxious. So once again the decision was made to pull him out of school, this time for good. It was quite obvious this time around that school just wasn’t going to work for Oliver. We suspected he was dyslexic which has now been officially diagnosed and this was one of the big reasons we decided that home education was the way forward. Children with dyslexia really benefit from doing things in their own time without pressure and being made to feel inferior. We knew that keeping Oliver in school would probably have affected his self-confidence and ability to learn long-term. We now home educate Oliver and his little brothers William and Sebastian.

So 6 years on and my advice would be – take things slow, never compare (I have struggled with this one), all children do things at their own pace and they do get there in the end! Read stories, play and ditch the worksheets until they want to have a go and above all try and have fun in the process. It is such a gift getting to know your children properly without school getting in the way.

Written by Laura and uploaded by Streams.