Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why We Home School

Deciding to home educate feels like the best decision we ever made. That said, it's a lifestyle choice and not one that I would recommend for everyone. If you feel like doing it - you can! It's great fun! You'll love it!

If you don't love the idea, it's probably not for you. No sweat. In my experience, state primary schools are good - sending your child to school may not be better or worse: just different.

So, why do we home educate?

I did send Francesca to school at first. She did her Reception year in our local state school and seemed to enjoy it. She certainly made excellent progress and I thought it was a good school. But it was still school and, for many reasons, it didn't seem right for us.

One thing I've noticed about my fellow home-educators is that we're all in it for different reasons. My reasons are many and varied. I'll go into them here, in no particular order, to help you understand why we've taken the home-ed route.

1. I missed Francesca

Having my three children quite close together meant that I spent most of Francesca's life pregnant, tired, hormonal, overwrought, grumpy, changing nappies, breastfeeding and generally fobbing her off with "Not now! In a minute..." And then she was gone.

All too soon, she was swept off into the school system and spending the best/most part of her day with someone else. Someone who hardly communicated with me and barely included me in her education (how could a school include the parents more? It's not practical!)

"What did you do today?"
"Can't remember."

I had little idea what my child did all day.

Meanwhile, I was out and about having fun with Elizabeth and Sebastian - outings, socialising, park trips, cafes, National Trust properties, museums, fun adventures... Here was I, spending all day with the little ones and loving it. I wanted Francesca to be with us too.

When it was time for Francesca to go into year 1, I wasn't even given the opportunity to meet her new teacher! School was increasingly keeping the parents at arms length: no longer inviting us into the classroom, for example and I felt like saying, "Wait a minute! You have my most precious thing! I need more contact and involvement! Don't shut me out!"

Now, I can spend lots of happy, quality time with my daughter.

2. Tired fighting

I had Francesca for the worst parts of the day. The shouty morning, stressing about getting all three of them ready for the school run (often literally running so as to make it on time) and the exhausted evening.

I often collected an over-tired child from school, crying and having tantrums over apparently nothing.

And, in the daily struggle to re-establish dominance (or something) the girls would fight mercilessly after school and rarely have time to play together and enjoy their positive relationship.

Now, my children still fight but it's part of a bigger picture including lots of collaborative play and fun times together.

3. Time

School has a way of filling up your life. There's the relentless drop-off and pick-up schedule that eats into the day, then there's the homework (yes, even in Reception) that has to be fitted in. Francesca would have loved to do Gymbobs, dancing, violin lessons etc but it was impossible to fit it all into the week, when the school day was so intense and exhausting for her. Teatime and bedtime were very early.

Now, Francesca can fit in all the activities she enjoys without being too exhausted to cope.

4. One size doesn't fit all

I have been a teacher. I know that it is impossible to cater, individually, to all 30 children in your class. Sure, you could pay for smaller classes but, even so, you're not going to get a 1:3 teacher:pupil ratio, are you?

I have seen, first hand, how children are herded through school, following the scheduled curriculum, come what may, to fulfil school requirements to tick boxes and meet certain standards.

I thought, when I was teaching, that this was a rather unhealthy way to learn and I was impressed with the idea of home educating.

When it came to Francesca starting school, I had an 8 month old and a 2 year old. I was tired and breastfeeding. I felt I couldn't cope with educating Francesca so I sent her to school. In hindsight, I think I could have managed. She probably wouldn't have been so far on with her reading and writing (school really pushed her, academically) but does that matter, at this age? I think not.

Now, we are free to pursue whatever the children are interested in at the moment when they are interested in it. Last week it was tarantulas. The week before it was story writing, sometimes it's maths. We work on projects for as long as we like, never constrained by the bell for the next lesson and never worrying that you 'don't do this til Key Stage 2' or whatever.

5. A love of learning

In our house, learning happens all the time/whenever we feel like it. It's not something that ends at half past three, or becomes a chore with enforced homework. It's the exciting pursuit of knowledge. It's the freedom to explore.

I still impose some rigour. We don't always let the children direct their own day: after all, they don't know what they're missing until I direct them to it. A balance of self-directed learning and mummy-imposed tasks seems to work well for us.

Learning happens at odd times too - discussing homophones on the way to the shops, for example, or thinking about where all the autumn leaves go, as we're kicking through them.

6. Social setting

I think the classroom is a very unnatural setting. A hoard of same-age children, often competitive. We mix with many home educating families with children of different ages. I have lots of great older role-models for my children. The older children love to help the little ones and there are no social stigmas "Eew! He's in the year below!" or "Girls don't play with boys!!" These seem to develop in the school environment, despite the school's best efforts to teach inclusion and tolerance.

Out in the real world, my children interact daily with people of all ages (from babies to the elderly) and have a rich (as in 'varied', not as in 'affluent' obviously) selection of friends and role-models.

7. Quality time

I absolutely love my time with the children. They're growing up so fast and I want to make the most of every second. I love playparks, romps through the woods, reading stories, singing songs, baking together, hearing them in imaginative role-play together - all that stuff that makes childhood fun.

I did not find the school run fun. I hated the relentless time-watching, the stupid rules, the uniform, the homework.

We are all so much more relaxed and happy these days. My life is So Much Better since we gave up school.

8. Holidays

I hate school holidays. The shops are packed, the playparks are packed, the museums are packed. The price of a holiday cottage rockets. We stay at home!

While everyone else is at school, we have free-run of the museums and shops. Cafes are less busy. Parks are emptier. If we see a last-minute holiday deal, we could take it. When Seymour's between contracts, we can go away somewhere. I don't have to ask anyone else's permission to live my life anyway I want to, with my children.


I could probably go on. I might well do so and add to this post one day.

Suffice to say that I am enthusiastic about home education and thoroughly loving the opportunity to do this.

I hope we will continue to home educate right up to GCSEs and I can't honestly see my children wanting it any other way. That said, we only need to take it one year at a time and we can pop them back into school if that becomes right for us in future.

If you are considering home ed, get in touch with Education Otherwise, who can put you in contact with local home-ed families in your area. You'll find lots of help and support to help you discover if home ed is right for you.


  1. Different reasons seem to spring to mind on different days for me. And I think I agree with all of yours!

  2. Im so glad i found this blog. We are just going through the 'shall we / shan't we' stage, deciding whether to take the plunge into home educating our daughters (one in year 1, the other aged 16 months). My reasons for are very similar to yours (I'm a teacher too) and I've been worried that they are not good enough reasons to pull her put of school. So many other home ed families seem to do so because their children have had really bad experiences at daughter is happy enough there and rarely complains...but for the reasons you mention above it doesn't seem right to me any more. It also doesn't help that I now run my own business which means I work hardly ever see her. Reading this has brought tears to my eyes as it has reaffirmed this is the right decision for our family. Thank you!

    1. What a wonderful comment! I felt so insecure about taking Francesca out of school. I think posting the deregistration letter through the school letter box was the hardest moment. After that, school quickly faded away. How quickly you move from the school-gate environment where home-ed seems like a crazy option, to the home-ed community where home-ed is the normal, sane path to take. We still have regular play dates with her school friends but now, school seems like a crazy idea. I too am trying to work in the evenings - I have a website teaching people how to make bread (what is your business, by the way?) - and I absolutely love having the daytime with the children. Good luck with your home-edding and let me know how you get on.