What was my husband’s reaction to home education?
I always had a fantasy of home-educating my children. My mother had always told me I would make a great teacher. I imagined myself living by the sea in Ireland growing vegetables and giving them a life-affirming childhood.
I think my husband ruled all this out before my first son even entered the world. He has a traditional education followed by years in the military. He likes rules and systems. He likes to know where he is with things. Even setting off for a day trip with no particular destination in mind upsets his equilibrium. Lord knows what he is doing with me? Maybe I am his very own learning experience!
When my parents by then in their Seventies started to struggle with the looking after my first son, we decided to look at nursery education. I had heard fabulous things about the Montessori one so we paid a visit. My husband was so uncomfortable there. Whilst impressed with the beautiful resources and the gorgeous setting, he could not quite come to terms with any thought of child-led learning. He kept banging on about the 3 Rs! My son was about 18 months old at the time.
I think we came to a deal that if he let my son have the Montessori experience, I would put him state school when the time came and give up dreams of home education. I probably had every intention of reneging on this agreement in due course but as it happened I was the chief breadwinner when the time came for my son to go to school so he went after a magical few years with Montessori. I remember sobbing the day he left nursery.
Of course, life sometimes teaches us what we always needed to know and sometimes the worst of times can lead us to wonderful ones. Last year, when my daughter was so stressed by school that she was threatening suicide and when we heard about the practices in the school, both my husband and I agreed we needed to take her out of school immediately.
There followed a troubled period with both of us in a bit of a panic and not communicating particularly well. My husband kept going on and one about the National Curriculum and how important it was. Whilst my view at that time was to follow it, I felt my husband did not believe in my ability to teach the children. So I got argumentative and asked him if he had read the National Curriculum. He had not done so and neither had I in any detail. I read it in detail. I still do on my wobbly days. However, apart from where literacy and numeracy are concerned, I find it quite limited. My husband felt the same way, our eyes were opened and we became a home educating team with me doing most days and him getting involved in the evenings and at weekends.
When we deregistered our two youngest children from school, the local authority offered us an appointment with an Education Consultant. We were both keen to take this up. We met in a supermarket as my housework standards are never really of the domestic goddess variety. When you start to home educate, you are not quite sure of your ground and worry about being judged adversely.
As soon as the woman said she had worked for OFSTED, my husband took her seriously. She said amazing things like some days we might not do any learning in particular, that the children had me and would be fine and that we had already made a great start.
At that point, I relaxed a teeny bit. My husband surprised me and was relatively chilled from that moment and gets more and more so as the weeks and months go by. If anything he has become more “hippy-dippy” that I am. He is enjoying the children more particularly their questions and their firm opinions.
Technically we could place my daughter in a new secondary school now as she is 11. We were sure we would be doing this in September last year seeing home education as an urgent fix to a troublesome primary school. Neither of us have raised the issue of sending her beyond asking her whether she wants to go. She thinks she might want to go at some point but not yet. Having stressed myself all year and finally relaxed and deschooled myself, I am so pleased she is staying.
I suppose I am writing this blog to reveal more about what has gone on with us over the last year and also to reassure those considering home education who have people in the family who are cynical, fearful or whatever about home education.
Things change and sometimes quite radically. My anti home education husband is now its champion.