Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Our big decision


Remember those big decisions I mentioned a while ago on Facebook? I've been talking about change, and courage, and freedom for a while now. I haven't been deliberately secretive, because the decision was made a while ago, but I just haven't been able to type the words here.

I was going to tell the long story leading up to the decision, but that would drag it out even more. I'm dragging it out now, just writing these words!

We're homeschooling. There.

All done. End of post.

Seriously. Luca's not going to school. It started with a gut feel. I couldn't ignore the dread I felt every time school was mentioned. I thought it was natural to feel this way with my first-born off to school, but the dread was more than that. Nevertheless, I came round (temporarily) and fought my way to the school I felt would suit Luca. I managed to sidestep the dread and hand in a very wordy (me?) out-of-zone application. That's where I started having doubts. I was happy with our choice until this point and yet as we walked around I couldn't shake off the dark cloud, an empty yet heavy feeling. It wasn't good.

Some time around then, a friend sent me an essay she wrote on education and learning. I sat on my sofa here squirming. Squirming because it was all so true for me, painfully true yet I fought it back justifying it in my head with 'we aren't the homeschooling type', 'we can't do it', 'it wouldn't work for us'.

I wish I could remember the exact sequence of events, but I can't. Somehow my way of thinking transformed. It was such a profound shift because with it came such amazing clarity. The more I delved and read and dug deeper, the more it made sense. The dread completely disappeared. I saw a different way to be and a different way to live. It was huge.

I knew in a moment. And I knew it with incredible certainty. Because of who Luca is and because of who we are. Creativity, passion, purpose, expression, freedom, joy are all things I've been exploring over the past few months – they are really the driving force behind the homeschool decision.

Numeracy and literacy aren't. Numeracy and literacy are very important, but they only form a small part of it. Tiny in comparison. When I hear, over and over, how much a school values numeracy and literacy, how 'they will teach my child to read and write', all I hear is what they're not going to do. I hear an institution that is addressing a fear in most parents, a fear that their child won't be 'up to standard'. Reading, writing, counting to 30 or 1000, all of it, it's a done deal for me. Like walking, running, climbing. If we continue doing what we're doing, he'll do it, when he wants to do it. There's no issue for me. I'm more concerned with the subtler aspects (I'll talk about this more in another post). I've felt all of this, for years and years, but I haven't been able to articulate it until now, until the point I have to make sense of it all for my children.

I want my children to have an education that prepares them for life, not for a job. I want my children to learn about themselves first and foremost, not a set of subjects under a government-prescribed curriculum. I want my children to have a strong sense above all else of who they are and what their passions are, not to be able to churn facts and dates and pass exams.

It's very radical, especially for me. After all, I've been an A-grade student all my life. Most of my life has been spent in a school system, passing exams, pleasing God knows who.

But I got to the other side of a first-class university degree, looked back and wondered what it was all for.

That's why I can see it so clearly. An extreme education can do that.

I haven't addressed anything of a practical nature here, but I will do in time. The hows, whats and wheres are all so important. For now, I'm just covering a very brief why.

My knowing is a feeling. I feel it so much more than I can articulate it, so here are some other people's whys that spoke to me loud and clear:

How schools kill creativity
Education gaps holding us back from truly fulfilling lives
Why I homeschool
I will not let an exam result decide my fate

Now I know why there's been resistance getting to this post: so much to cover I don't know where to start. Concern that my words on the subject will be too heartfelt, too impassioned for some of my friends, and readers here... (Is there such a thing as too heartfelt?) Cautious, so very cautious that my words don't hurt my mum who's reading this in England – and this is a note to all mums and dads out there: we are all doing the best we can. My mum did the very best she could. She loved me, she picked the best school on offer in a third-world Middle Eastern city, she stood up for me in bad situations, she read Shakespeare with me in bed and always sat with us for hours of homework.

I'm so very grateful for the clarity I have and for the chance to be open, knowing my intention is to express, to say what's true for us, not to convince or cause friction.

31 comments:

  1. Good on you for following your gut - i knew as soon as I clicked on this that you were homeschooling - seems like a good fit lovely Vanessa xx

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  2. I love this post Vanessa. I read all of your blogs, but this one has hit a chord with me. We have a 4 year old son and I so admire people who can home-school their children. I also have feelings like, there is no way "I" could home-school my son. Thankfully, I still have time to consider it...

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    1. Yes you have plenty of time. Read about other people's journeys, feel your way through and explore all your options. Listen to what your son needs from life and follow your heart. You'll find the right path for him, I'm sure. Keep me posted! x

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  3. I wish I had been in the position to home educate my children right from the beginning instead of some of them only, for some of the time.

    You will "cop flack" and others will wait a couple of years until you think you're doing pretty well and things are flowing smoothly, only to then criticise you for "holding your children back", throwing in some "aren't you over that crazy idea yet?" comments.

    One thing I had up my sleeve to respond with was that if it didn't work, I could send them back to school. And I did mean it, even though I wouldn't have wanted to do it! There was a whole heap of undoing to do first, and that was taking time.

    We do the best we can with what we've got. You care deeply about your children and what sort of people they grow up into, and they will be fine. xxx

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    1. Thank you lovely Maree. Yes have already copped a little flack, but also so much encouragement from family and friends - I'm very fortunate. What's also so wonderful is the amazing support from online communities where I've managed to get a lot of questions answers and where, crucially, I've been able to build a picture, of sorts, of what homeschooling might look like for us. There's still so much I don't know - of course there is, and I'm prepared for a good year or two before we find our smooth sailing, but I'm convinced this is best for Luca and our family. Thank you so much Maree for your words. x

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  4. As a mother, I completely support your decision and admire your courage and the way you are following your heart. As a teacher, I feel so sad that your experience of sending your beautiful son to school was a negative one. There are some amazing, wonderful, creative, progressive, caring and loving teachers out there, I promise x

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    1. Thank you Kristin, and yes I couldn't agree with you more. It's those amazing teachers that make school a great experience for so many. I know teachers like this (and I'm in the middle of trying to convince one to run a drama class for homeschoolers!). But it's the system that they must adhere to, the lack of freedom, the curriculum that doesn't allow for individual learning, creativity and growth, the standards each child has to meet, the classroom setting, the playground setting, the hours and the relentless pace. There's so much that would break a sensitive, creative soul like Luca. Like I said, my post was only a brief why. Homeschooling (for us) won't mean Luca and I constantly at home, me as his only teacher. I'm planning on enriching his learning journey with some of those wonderful, progressive, creative teachers. There are so many out there. More to come on that!

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  5. What a beautiful and courageous decision! I so admire all your thinking (and agonising I'm sure!) and wish you the most beautiful of learning journeys together. :) xx

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  6. Beautiful decision Vanessa! Wish you and Luca a great (learning) journey. I often regret having my son in school, feeling incredible sad about the loss of creativity and stress that it causes him. I am sure, you wont have those regrets. Lots of love!

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    1. We do the best we can with what resources we have available. I regret following books, rather than my heart, when Luca was a tiny baby. I used to beat myself up, but I did the best I could at the time. I didn't know how to do it differently. I'll write a post on this at some point. x

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  7. I'm relieved. I was worried your big decision was that you were going to quit blogging!! Phew. Yes a big decision you have made, definitely sounds like the right one for your family and one that I know would not have been made lightly. Every single soul is unique and wouldn't it be wonderful if the school system was able to honour that a little more, well actually a lot more. Our eldest boy River is going in to grade two next year and school is a very positive experience for him, he is an incredibly social being there is no way homeschooling could have met those needs but our second boy is very different, more inner, happy painting, happy pottering, even when there are children around he is happiest to be near but not necessarily involved school will be a different experience for him and we will make those decisions when his time comes. Life is fluid we can always make new decisions as we go. I wish you and Luca a beautiful learning journey. Thank you for sharing it with us. xx

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  8. Only you knows what is best for Luca...and I know you will make his journey into homeschooling a rich, varied, creative and rewarding one xx

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  9. This landscape is stunning. Your children are lucky to grow up with that views! xx

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  11. I just pulled my 16 year old Aspie (Aspergers) son out of the school system this year in Grade 9. He found the school environment so difficult and really some of the subjects that they were putting so much focus on were ridiculous. Does a child who find living in today's world so difficult really need to do three terms on life in the middle ages. He has learnt more science off Mythbusters in a format he understands than he ever has in a classroom. He cooks meals at home in our kitchen not in a class of 20 at school. I cant home school as i work full time but he is now having one on one tutoring in english and maths to Year 10 equivalency (so he can join the military if he wants to in the future) and all else he is learning through simply living. He wont be studying Shakespere but he is writing an essay on wars (military is his Aspie singular interest) and working his way through spelling lists, grammar and writing skills. These are the things he will need in life not trying understand or interpret someone elses thoughts from a play written many years ago. Simply impossible for him to do. He applied for, and won a full time job and will soon learn to manage money, how to work with others, how to groom and present himself and to develop (hopefully) good work ethics. Not being able to point at a map and name every country wont define who he. We have changed our perception of success. Its not a number on a report but his being able to live independently, to have a quality life and to be a good citizen.

    I wish you well and applaud you for having the courage to step out of the norm for the love of your child.



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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like your son is in the right place with a mother who understands him. Thank you for your words. x

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  12. Hi Vanessa,
    It is a big decision, and a brave one! I have been considering homeschooling for all the same reasons as you, but I am not sure if I have the courage to break out of the status quo. I will reassess by the end of next year, where we are at financially and all that, but I will watch your progress with interest. xx

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    1. Yes keep following along. And keep reading and immersing yourself elsewhere, and then you might wake up one day and just know. x

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  13. Coming straight from the heart! Now that is courage and love and very very awesome.

    These words Vanessa- so powerful! I want my children to have a strong sense above all else of who they are and what their passions are, not to be able to churn facts and dates and pass exams. I think it relates to all of us as well, a constant reminder to approach things and bring into our life people and experiences that fit with ourselves and our passions.

    It's going to one exciting journey! xxx

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    1. Thank you Nat. Yes, it's the one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't sit well with me. Your words are truly encouraging. x

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  14. Vanessa, I love that you wrote this post from your heart using your gut instinct as a mum to make your decision, there is nothing more certain than a mum's instinct!
    You've given me a little confidence too as my husband and I have homeschooling on the cards for our little one (he is only 2 so no hurry). My main worry has been that he won't have enough interaction, he is bubbly and bright, loves playing and sharing with other kids and most of all he loves being outside. Can't wait to hear more about the teachers you link up with because we're hoping to be back on the Coast by the time our boy is ready for school.

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    1. The socialisation aspect is probably the biggest myth with homeschooling Melissa. We think of isolated periods at home, but that is far from what homeschooling looks like for most people, and indeed it's not what my vision looks like! Join the Central Coast homeschooling group (biggest in the country btw) to get a feel of what everyone gets up to, and subscribe to a few homeschooling blogs (Penelope Trunk debunks many myths, including this one). Whatever beliefs I had about homeschooling before I started on this journey were quite wrong!

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  15. Mother instinct, its always right!
    My hubby and his sibs were all home schooled. One is a professional muso, another a photographer and professional tennis coach, another owns/runs a family building company, and the other is in human resources.
    All are incredibly talented musos, have great self esteem, have excellent communicative skills and are all as funny as hell!
    It worked for them!
    Goodluck pet xx

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    1. Thank you so much Olivia. Hugs to you. x

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  16. How wonderful for you and your family, congratulations! I live in a bit of a bubble so the negativity surrounding homeschooling hasn't really reached me. There are many families in my area who homeschool and it is just seen as another option really, just like choosing Montessori or Steiner or a democratic school. It's choosing what is best for your family and let's face it - you're an expert at that. Everyone is. I can't wait to read more about your journey as you approach all of your adventures together. Hooray!

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    1. Thank you! We ought to retreat to a little bubble more often - making important decisions would be a lot easier! x

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  17. Hi Vanessa,
    This year I have been "Homeschooling" my 10 yo daughter for a different reason.
    In the past she has had wonderful teachers, but this year's teacher is very unsatisfactory to say the least. He is on the computer or his iPhone constantly during lesson time instead of teaching the children, doesn't mark children's schoolwork, doesn't give homework, does not explain Mathematics concepts, just writes the answers on the board, and so on.
    My daughter is in Yr 5, so I have been homeschooling her for half an hour every day since Term 2. This has made a huge difference. She still attends school during the day as she loves the social interaction and sports. However, I homeschool her in Maths and English. She is now thriving in these areas. For example, she has represented the school as the Regional Finalist in the Premier's Spelling Bee. She is performing much better now in Maths and Engish.
    For our family, this has been the best balance between the benefits of the social aspects of school and supporting her academic progress and confidence in her abilities.
    Congratulations on your homeschooling decision and enjoy!

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