We began talking about home education very early on in my pregnancy with Talitha. For me, it was something I’d been thinking about for a while. Laurence had never considered it before but he was open.
School was difficult for me. It wasn’t all negative but there wasn’t enough in my own experience to discourage me from exploring the alternatives. I found it an awkward social landscape to navigate – or rather I was the awkward one – and I was often really bored, either because of what was being taught or not taught, or the way in which it was taught. Laurence, on the other hand, has really healthy memories of school.
And we both have no doubt that Talitha would have her own experiences, independent of ours. The more we talked about home ed, though, the happier we both felt that this is what we wanted to do, at least for the first few years. The reasons are a blog post all their own. I think we keep discovering new reasons to go for it.
It comes up in conversations with friends, not because of some kind of weird, exhibitionist tendency on our part but because everyone keeps talking about school and, more surprisingly, pre-school. When is Talitha going to start pre-school? I have no beef with nursery at all. I think it really does benefit quite a lot of children and in fact, quite a few home educating families send their children to nursery. What I find interesting is the way that it’s become an expectation that children will go.
I often respond to the question of whether Talitha’s going by saying that she goes to a childminder one day a week. This allows me to do some paid work and to get the space I need, while providing her with a change of scene with someone I trust and with whom she can form a healthy attachment. She also gets to do fun stuff that might not occur to me and spends time with other children she’s come to love.
But I’ve been really surprised that some people wonder if she’s missing out on being prepared for school, which I kind of think is a bit unnecessary at the ripe old age of two, if I’m totally honest. I think nursery can be brilliant for some children but I don’t see how it’s an essential, even if they are going to go to school.
Which, as far as we know at this point, Talitha isn’t. We didn’t even take a proper look at the schools in the area when we were moving. If it really comes down to it, we could move but, right now, we’re pretty happy with the decision to home ed. Even if the prospect is sometimes scary.
It’s become a bit more real for me recently because she’s definitely reaching that stage where she needs a bit more organised input from me. I hadn’t really noticed it until I was flat out in my first trimester wiped out by whatever these pregnancy hormones were doing to me. I didn’t even have the energy to read to her. I’d start and my words would slur, trailing off until she poked me in the cheek and said, “Mummy! Wake up!”
Sometimes, boredom did her good. Who knew that the cat would let her put bangles on it or a hat? Why, oh why did I not get a picture of that?! How else would we have learned that if you unroll a roll of rubbish bags, you can make a tiny road across the length of the kitchen and diningroom to walk up and down and that it’s just as fun trying to roll it up again?
And that’s great but we did too often get to the point when she’d beg to watch Peppa Pig on Youtube or her Sing and Sign or The Very Hunger Caterpillar DVDs. I’m not a purist about the whole screen time thing but I do wonder what she’s missing out on doing when she spends too much time watching television. It felt unavoidable when I felt that awful and I expect things will get tough again with a newborn in the house.
We’ve realised that this is why people start thinking about nursery around now because this is the stage when a lot of kids seem to need more input from the adults around them, even if it is just a case of going out somewhere so they can do something different. It’s given me fresh perspective that I need to be a bit more intentional in how I plan our days. I won’t attempt to fill every hour because I don’t think it’s helpful for me to “entertain” her constantly but certainly a bit more structure would help us all. Even if it does have to go out of the window for a bit come February.
I wonder, though, why it’s so hard for me to “admit” to people we’re planning to home educate? I find myself doing one of two things. Either I get a bit shy about it because I think, well, until Talitha’s school aged, we haven’t really committed to it so mentioning it looks like the bold statement of a new parent who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Or, I actually feel like “we’re planning” is a ridiculous thing to say because we are doing it. Right now. We’re following her interests and informally giving her opportunities that match her natural development. The way we do that will change over time but, essentially, we’re doing what parents do. We’re educating her. We’re not necessarily teaching, mind, but we are guiding and that’s the kind of education we’re hoping to give her.