Before having children I worked as a Primary School teacher for many years. I really loved the job and have very fond memories of the children who passed through my classrooms. However it was a job that I never learned to leave at the classroom door. I spent my leisure hours thinking about teaching; planning activities, reflecting on what had gone well and what needed changing and worrying about the individuals in my charge and their diverse needs. Once I had children, that part of my brain was consumed in much the same way but it was my own children that I was constantly reflecting and worrying about. I always knew that while they were young and their needs were constant there would not be enough of me to be shared between a class and my own children. So when people asked whether I would be returning I’d say ‘not yet’. But the education system has changed a lot since I last taught 8 years ago, and it is heading in a direction that I am not comfortable with. This became clear once my eldest started school and I was looking at it from a new perspective. Our top down, assessment heavy, one-size-fits-all school system is struggling. Teachers are struggling and children are ‘failing’ (I.e. not fitting into the increasingly more rigid boxes set out by educationally inexperienced politicians!) The more I thought about what frustrated me about schools, the more I saw that the bits I loved about my job as a teacher were being squashed out of mainstream education- creativity, playfulness, flexibility and respect for different learning styles and needs. I had never considered home education as an option for our family until a friend mentioned that she would be delaying her son’s entry into school until he was at least seven, an age before which many European countries focus on play based learning rather than formal teaching of subjects. This led me onto a path I hadn’t even known existed. One on which a parent has a right to decide how their child receives an education, be it at the local state school, a fee-paying private school, an alternative philosophy school such as Steiner or otherwise. The more I read about the ‘education otherwise’ option, or education at home, the more I became intrigued… and excited. Why couldn’t I, as an experienced educator, facilitate my own children’s education in a manner which I felt was right for them? Actually no, in a manner that THEY felt was right for them! Of course, anyone who knows me will know that this was not a quick decision. I am a researcher, I do nothing without reading a book or ten about it; so off I went and studied. I read about diverse educational philosophies, about structured schooling-at-home and unschooling. And I knew that it (in some form) was what I wanted and needed to do with my girls at this point in our lives. I was sold, but how was I going to sell the idea to my husband and our families? Would they understand and support the decision? You will see how we all get on as I blog about our early forays into the world of home education.
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