Monday, 3 September 2012

All change!

Well, I've been wanting to share this with you for a while, but I couldn't tell anyone until I'd told the kids.....No I'm not pregnant, we're not moving house, but we are about to start something I have thought about and read about and wanted to do since I started having children nearly fourteen years ago........

We're planning to home school our two youngest, Tansy and Leo, for a trial period of a year, with the get out clause of jumping back into school if any of us emerges from the year with lasting scars...

Why the change? We've already moved from a state primary school four years ago when Freddie and Lily were nine and six, to a Rudolf Steiner School which everyone melted into as if they had never been anywhere else.  This is not the post where I will be discussing the merits of Steiner schools. Suffice to say that we have learnt alot about child development and how they learn in a heart centred, non pressured, nature orientated environment, and we have no criticism. Bar the fact that apart from the lovely Hereford and Stroud schools (and shortly Exeter) they are not free. As in they are fee paying.  Hmm. (Anyone work out one of the reasons we have been living in yurts and caravans and wooden cabins for the last, uh four years?).  And they take up lots of time .Kids only become full time at steiner schools when they are ten....which for parents  with more than one child means a bewildering array of different pick up times and lots of driving.

But really, the point is that, as we are living in the woods and starting to have plans to buy goats, chickens, and start all sorts of exciting new projects, isn't it better for them just to be at home and learn here? Because really, that's where kids have always been....until the Industrial Revolution pushed everyone down mines and into mills, and there was a sudden urgent need for mass child care and a compliant work force. Enter compulsory education. That's why schools as we know them were invented folks. And they still do the same thing, create a compliant worker (consumer) and provide mass child care so we can earn (buy) more.

We were very very lucky that the Steiner School did only one of those things, ie provide child care, but still....How many times have I torn my kids away from some wonderful imaginative game to hurry and dress for school? How many times have I curtailed a  story, or a meal or a walk in the woods or a trip to the beach or a visit with friends...because the kids have to get to bed to get up early for school? When Freddie was small, and at state school, I even remember dragging him in from the garden where he was drawing and labelling the vegetables in his notebook yes, you guessed it, to go to school. Where he screamed to stay with me and fell asleep on the carpet after lunch. Insanity.

There's the worry of course that I won't be up to it. That I can't teach my kids to read and write. Don't I need to be qualified? And when I sit myself down and examine that, I realise that my kids have learned to walk, talk, dress themselves, eat cleanly, prepare food, knit, sew, saw firewood, weave, ride bikes, swim, sing, dance, play, care for animals, garden....with ME. Or their dads.

Tansy could probably teach herself to write, she's already got her own notebook where she copies the label off the tahini jar!

I have things I want to do, too many creative projects fizzing away, and I am concerned about my available time being eroded, but, who knows, I may even end up with more time than before .I have bouts of patience and gentleness and great storms of impatience and annoyance..How will it go? I 'll let you know.

How about you? What's your experience of schools, for your kids..or even for you?


  1. I really needed this post today... the sentence "how they learn in a heart centred, non pressured, nature orientated environment" struck a chord. I home educate my daughter and go through (not so frequent now) bouts of worry about if I am doing it right. It's hard at times with my time (I sometimes daydream about 6 hours a day to do my own work) and also having to put myself out there to mix with others for my daughter, when I can find those situations quite awkward. If she plays up I worry 'it's me! it's because we home ed!' or if she's lonely I think 'she needs to be in school with loads of other kids!!!' But on most days as we bake together, learn together slowly and I teach her about the world that I care about, I see an independent person developing her own skills and personality in her own way, and for that I am glad. Thank you for this post today :-)

  2. I loved school, but as a child of the 70s it is nothing like the schools that are those of today. We have no Waldorf or Steiner schools anywhere near us so we have opted to home educate. We are officially three years into that journey and it has gone past really quickly. We have no structure, I do no teaching but learning happens. I keep no records and I never regard any activity, whatever it is, through the eyes of a subject. If you ask me how much science we do I cannot tell you, but I can tell you what we have been doing! I hope you enjoy your new learning journey as much as we do.

  3. This makes sense in so many ways. Very exciting news and I'm sure you are more than qualified!

  4. Thanks so much guys, was having a little wobble this morning on the first 'official' day. Everyone starting class one at their old school and Tansy wistfully sorting through her crayons...but it was great, she even said Mum it's fun to be home schooled' Leo has never been in doubt!
    Your comments make me feel better too, it'll all be fine....

  5. As a teacher firmly entrenched in the 'system' of teaching British Curriculum Secondary Education, my observation is that the environment for learning that schools provide does not suit every child. It is really up to the student - the family - and if you have a strong feeling about it and a creative and natural environment for learning, like the one you seem to have there, then you should really go for it. It's an exciting adventure: good luck all of you!

  6. Thanks Sarah, I need lots of encouragement at the moment!

  7. You will have great days, fantastic days, shit-on-a-stick days and a lot of fairly uneventful ones. The best attitude to have is that of co-adventurer, co-learner, and facilitator. As a longtime home-edder my advice would include not beating yourself up that you still gotta put dinner on the table and wash everyone's clothes and change tyres and pay bills - time not spent 'learning' in the conventional sense. The children will turn out just grand in spite of that fact - in fact they'll learn that these jobs are noble, important, part of the rhythms. Building character and learning how to get along, work together and muck in are vital life skills so remember that when you're attending to what may seem 'non-educational' jobs. Also, networking time with other mums, even online, is a lifeline so don't deny yourself that support. Be gentle with yourself and go with the flow - you are amazing Henrietta, I believe in you, good luck!


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