“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

There are a million reasons why we, as a family, chose to tread this unfamiliar (still slightly taboo) road that is home educating.

We are not a family that chose home education from the start, in fact it never crossed our minds until our eldest daughter started year 1.

She never really enjoyed school, even in Reception, I would say she tolerated it. I was one of those mums who would drive to work in tears every morning as I had left her screaming at the door, being ‘comforted’ by the rather stressed out teacher. Things became gradually worse as the years progressed. Our beautiful, bright, bubbly little girl became introverted, quiet and very, very angry. Her eating suffered, her sleeping suffered and she became very down. People were quick to say “It’s just her age.” “It’s just a stage she’s going through.” Or my favourite: “She’ll grow out of it.” Well she didn’t grow out of it. A trip to the GP confirmed our suspicions. Big Bean was suffering from anxiety, probably caused by school. This is quite common according to the doctor, particularly since schools have felt the need to heap a ton of pressure on children at a younger and younger age.

This fact makes my heart feel so sad, why are we allowing, no forcing, our children to become stressed and anxious at the tender age of 5. We had to do something, which is where our journey into home educating began.

I spent months and months researching everything I could regarding Home Education, but I may as well chuck all of that research out of the window. It really is a day by day learning curve for me too.

So here are some nuggets of advice from me for anyone who is thinking of taking this huge leap.

Don’t Plan a curriculum! I’m not saying don’t plan, I love to plan. But what I am saying is don’t expect to follow a set curriculum day in day out. I tried this for the first couple of weeks and it failed miserably! She still wasn’t interested in learning and the stress of me trying to make her learn what I thought she needed to know made us both miserable. Instead I took her lead, and followed her interests and curiosities. She is now so full of wonder and so motivated and engaged in her learning. Plan from their passions, not your expectations!

Don’t sweat the small stuff! I worry often, am I doing enough maths, should I be doing more spellings and handwriting. Then I snap out of that the second I see her fascinated with building a stone age house from clay, intricately carving every little brick, or spend an hour measuring the length of Arctic animals. What I’m saying is don’t worry about the specific subjects as they will learn what they need to know when they need to know it, as long as you’re there to guide them the way they need to go.

Read books everyday, several times a day! Kind of self explanatory. Whatever they are interested in, find as many books as you can on that topic and blast through them with as much enthusiasm as you can manage.

Get outdoors often, come rain or shine! It costs nothing but makes everyone feel awesome. Plus you’re doing tons of learning. Whether it’s going for a bike ride, digging on the beach, den building or just a run around the park. We try to get out everyday; muddy puddles are our fave.

Ignore the negativity! You will get some. Some people just don’t understand what home edding is all about. Some will have very strong opinions on YOUR childs education. Honestly, just ignore them, you know what is best. I didn’t to start with and it just stressed me out, wish I’d trusted my gut from the start.

Don’t force stuff! A prime example here. My big bean is a leftie, and has always struggled with writing. At school she was forced to write in cursive, even though she hadn’t sussed out correct letter formation yet, even though we had spoken to her teacher about forcing children to write a certain way when they’ve yet to grasp the basic shapes. Fast forward a year and my daughter will not write anything at all unless she wants to! “I hate writing!” she regularly tells me. I despaired for a while, but…slowly she is starting to write things of her own accord. Letters to fairies, cards for daddy, menus when we are playing cafĂ©. It isn’t spelled correctly, some of the letters are backwards or misused capitals here and there, and it most definitely is not in cursive! But it’s beautiful because it has a purpose, she is writing because she needs to or wants to not because she is being told to. So long story short, leave them to it! They will find their way.

Don’t compare! Don’t compare them to children the same age who are in school; or worse her younger sister (more on little bean later). I did and it made me feel rubbish. I whittled about her reading levels and handwriting, I didn’t want her to be different to her friends. But then I stopped that and watched her. So what if she can’t read well yet, so what if her handwriting isn’t as good as her friends. Her artwork is amazing, she has an incredibly scientific mind. She is kind and compassionate and most of all she is happy! When they are all 18 no one will be able to tell who could read better aged 6. But at least I will know that I gave my girls one amazing childhood filled with joy, and a love for learning that no one can supress.

Find some people. I was so lucky to find some. Some beautiful home edding families with the same principles and parenting styles as us. They are now firm friends and the girls have found best friends for life. No forced socialisation here just someone to help support us through the tumultuous journey that is home education. We meet regularly, text all the time. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have a decent support network. So don’t go it alone. Find your groups and stick by them!

I can honestly say it is the best decision we have ever made. Our lovely daughter is progressing so well, and most importantly is happy everyday. Her younger sister has now decided that she would like to be home educated also (we believe in giving them the choice of how they wish to be educated, it isn’t for us to make that decision for them) which is really positive, and has made their sisterly bond so much closer.

I am now passionate about making our learning as fun, exciting and engaging as I can. I’m giving my girls their childhood back, helping shape them into thoughtful, honest and curious citizens and making so many precious memories along the way.

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