Tuesday, December 6

learning at home, deciding

I've written virtually nothing on this but felt it about time, and was in a writing mood.

I've not written because it's an almost ridiculous toing-n-froing in my mind. I mean, I come to a complete definite answer...and then switch back. I may be a Libran, but I'm actually incredibly decisive.

Despite having little faith (not, no faith) in the schooling system, I believe more strongly that homeschooling is not for everyone. Not for every parent and not for every child. Despite some very dogmatic believers out there, school can be exactly what your child wants/needs - like it or not.

So, that aside. My dilemma comes not from whether it's right for my child, because I believe in homeschooling. Also, I'm totally open to taking her to school if at some point she desires it and we find a decent school. I won't sacrifice her unique needs her for my theoretical beliefs.

My dilemma centres on my needs. Unlike some homeschoolers, I believe in a whole family approach, not a child-centred one. That means that everyone ought to feel good about the choices. I've read articles and discussions online aiming to induce guilt. Not for me thanks.

However, when I say my needs, it includes her more than that might suggest. I need creativity, space to think, meaningful work (at home), and lots of silence. These are, for me, fundamental to feeling balanced, whole, sane.

I'm also not a crafty hands-on mama. I'm okay with that. My gifts to my child are word related, books, reading, ideas, computer use, languages, discussion. Also compassion and related social awareness. I also provide paints and pencils and lots of paper. I just don't sit there making stuff out of toilet-paper rolls.

And despite being so great at the word stuff, her incessant talking can drive me to distraction. She is a clingy child and until the Husband comes home, has dinner, showers, a cup of coffee and a quick breath after work, and then plays with her and I leave the room, I rarely have 5 straight minutes of silence.

So having a child at home is exactly antagonistic to my needs. It's a combination of that and being rubbish at many activities (or rubbish at wanting to do them). And that we live a little isolated.

I am determined to have her at home until school age (6ish). So that has meant no nursery, preschool, etc. But after that? So many fun things, so much communicating, different view points, that she can engage in.

I do not for one minute believe that school can give her more than I can give her. But I can see how it can provide certain things I'm unwilling to give. I can make toilet-roll puppets, but I'd rather stick a hot fork in my eye.

I can see that for natural mamas, for very hands-on mamas, it's no big deal.

When I'm of the mind that we can do this, I see it's possible if we had clubs, communities, outside activities to attend. Not really possible here (in Montenegro), but possible if we returned to England. But that means an enormous shift of lifestyle. Can we retain the lifestyle we have worked for (out of the rat-race) and live in England? Or do we find a great school, Montessori or something? But that costs too.

And community. Here, she is not only a foreigner, an expat kid, but also the only one of her expat friends who doesn't attend pre-school/school. It won't be long before she becomes aware of that. She is a lone outsider in a tiny outsider community.

Then just a couple of days ago, when she talked like a champion talker, I said to the Mr - school would stifle her. They spend half the time telling kids to be quiet. She has an innate emotional need to talk things out. She might drive me batty, but I never ask her to be quiet (or at least not 99% of the time).

I have also thought that it would be easier as she gets older. After all, an older child can entertain themselves so much more right? I could just be the provider of guidance of which she takes up and does her thing her way. But then I know of at least one mama who found a 7-yr-old at home like returning to toddler days - everything had gone back to bite-sized portions of time.

On days I hear her read and tell stories and do her puzzles while I write or read or crochet, I feel glowing and love that I'll be giving her the gift of homeschooling.

On days she will not stop to breathe for talking, when she clings and clings and refuses to play alone, when I look back and see she did very little other than watch DVDs and read a few books, and I am desperate for a nap for the sake of my health and some silence for the sake of my sanity, and at the end of the day I'm in tears for the lack of both.... I think, no way homeschooling.

You see? Round and round. If nothing else, I wanted to write this out. To have here to read back one day. And of course I've simplified it all for the sake of brevity.

Talk to me mamas.


  1. I get it. I did this round and round thing with Aoife. It was driving me totally batty. Now I'm sure we made the right decision for us. But by gum, some of those ardent home schoolers had me feeling guilty about my decision to send her to school. One even told me it was borderline child abuse (yup, I stopped following that blog STRAIGHT AWAY!)

    Only you (and the Mr) can make that decision. My opinion doesn't matter one bit. But know this, I'm here no matter what. xx

  2. This is our 7th year of homeschooling, and I'll tell ya, it ALWAYS has it's pluses and minuses, it's up days and down days. I try to remind myself that that's life and what better lesson than to work through relational issues. So much opportunity there! ;P That said, I DO wish Anouk could go to school. But only for 1/2 day (or longer if SHE wants). And only a Summerhill kind of school. I do think, especially as they get to be adolescents, that they need to be a part of a larger world view and need to be mentored by someone other than the parent. Is a democratic school something you could/would want to start in your town? How about winters in England and summers in Montenegro? The good thing is that, whatever you decide, it does not have to be forever.

  3. argh, there are way too many of that type Carin, but they're not the core of HSing. :)
    thanks x

    Jenell, hello lovely!
    Yes, I had thought something similar, that there's always ups and downs. I guess I go against when I see we have more unworkable days than not. lol
    I would LOVE part-time school. I've actually heard many parents express the same.

    I have considered part year school but this would be hugely disruptive I think. To her.

    The good thing is that we have many options, like that, if we choose flexible schooling or HSing.

  4. I've got a 4 month old and the debates about school vs he have already started in my head. I've not discussed it with anyone though yet. Any time her dad mentions school (there's a local Steiner school), I just say, "What's the point deciding now when the education system is going through so many changes?"

    But I agree you shouldn't be made to feel guilty about your decision.x

  5. i have the same exact to-ing and fro-ing that you do. all i can advise is to take it year by year and decide as new opportunities present themselves. i feel just like you do, but i'm also so aware of what public school in california is like, having been a teacher, and my child has no idea what school is really like because it's not like "sid the science kid" that he watches on t.v. - i think that's what he thinks school is like. so because i am the adult and have an informed opinion, i do think i will keep him out of school if i don't find one that i like where we move to next. if only i could afford private school, i think we'd put him in a wonderful program. for now, i must say homeschooling has worked for us and we have many more good days than bad.

  6. How, how I can relate! My twin boys are 2.5 yrs old and while there are good days and moments there are equally BAD days and moments - and those bad days and moments can freak me out about whether I'm cut out to homeschool them like I plan to. I guess like everything else I have to take it one day at a time.

    You can only do your best! ;)


  7. Love the honesty of this post, Monica!

    I struggled and debated back and forth, ultimately deciding to send them to public school. HSing is such a huge commitment, one that I wasn't sure I was willing to make. And, living in a rural area, I felt that the kids going to school with the other children would really benefit their socialization. That's not to say that I don't have moments where I wonder if HSing would be better. And reading some other blogs where the writers are homeschoolers, I sometimes feel a bit guilty and judged. But, for now, the kids leave the house for school. They are happy and comfortable with their teachers, friends, and classes. Their happiness and adjustments are what is important.

    And, I wish I could give you a great big hug about the toilet paper roll crafts!!! I am definitely not that kind of mother. I do see crafts, and bookmark them, but I'm not sure why, because that just isn't me. I will be happy to read them stories, sing and dance with them. I give them my paints, brushes, and paper. But to sit down with tp rolls and popsicle sticks - I'll take the hot fork, too.

  8. mon,
    one thing that differs between your situation and mine is that i am not the only parent doing the unschooling (in our case the homeschooling is unschooling... or organic learning as you might say! ;) i think it is really important to figure out how to get one's sanity time, if one decides on homeschooling. or for that matter, stay-at-home-momming. it's not always easy to carve out and it may fall short of what you could really use, but there might be other ways to have it besides schooling. i guess what i mean is, it would be ideal (and maybe idealistic/unrealistic) if the choice about schooling could really be based on what is best for the child's learning process, rather than those other factors (and i couldn't agree more- for some children the school will be a good place and will meet certain needs that can't be met at home- it is always going to depend on the kid!). every family is different and every family's solution to this question is different. i never want anyone to feel judged because of a decision i make for my family, just like i don't intend to take on someone else's judgement of my situation. until we walk a mile in another's shoes....

  9. Oh wow, what a huge topic. I think that whatever you decide, you will make the right decision for all of you.

    I'll just share my experience, which will be different to yours and everyone else's. Everyone's family is unique and each child is different. I am so happy to have found Montessori education and specifically the school Annie goes to. It is on a huge piece of land, the children have a pine forest where they play, they get a lot more outside play than children in a mainstream school. The community itself is also wonderful. The parents are on the same wavelength as me and I am very comfortable with the friends Annie is making at the school. We are all sending our children there for similar reasons, so we have similar philosophies on most things, this was very important to me. To be in a community of like minded people. Especially being a little bit "alternative" or "hippie", or whatever people perceive me as, I just think I am normal!!

    We live in a townhouse with a very small courtyard at the back of the house. I spend a lot of time at the school. After school, I let my children run around and play, and I chat to other parents. I get to connect with like minded adults and my children get to play like children should play, outside, being creative and moving their bodies.

    Sohail works in the city, rat race, you could say, but, he practices yoga and has a strong spiritual core, so he is at peace with his situation. He sets boundaries at work, does not work weekends and also really enjoys his job.

    I also have a strong need to be on my own. When I was away at a yoga retreat, I had a mentoring where one of the senior tutors told me that when we have a strong urge to be on our own, it is because we feel like we can't be ourselves with the people around us. This impacted me deeply and I have since been much more "real" with my family and people around me. It has brought me much peace and I now have less need to "be on my own". I am also HUGE on self care, so I also do a lot of that, but my family sees me doing it as opposed to me running away to have self care.

    We are incredibly lucky to have found the school and to have Sohail's salary to pay for it. A lot of people can't send their children to a Montessori school, I find it sad, I wish it was funded by the government, who knows, maybe one day! I went to a public school and so do many children. Ultimately, the biggest influence on our children is their mother. Society can say whatever it says, our children will always go back the values at home. So, that is going to be the biggest influence.

    I have also had to work through some resentment for being at home and not spending my days at an ashram all the time. I have chosen a role as a mother of two young children. I am embracing that. Just the acceptance and embracing of it has made my whole life flow so much better.

    Good luck with your decision, like I said, I know you will make the right one.

    I am being called to share this blog with you, not sure why, maybe it's meant for you or someone else reading my comment.


  10. thanks so much everyone, really helps just hearing real life experiences and needs and wants and doubts...

    ola, i can't say that i'm in agreement with that surmise, that wanting to be alone means that one is not being oneself. of course it may be true for some people some of the time. as you discovered yourself, it was true for you.
    but i am an introvert, and i think it's a basic need to need silence and solitude to recharge.
    personally, i'm a very honest person and no kore than with my family. but no amount of honesty/being who i am makes up for sweet sweet silence. lol

    i also made peace with the sahm thing, and the not living in a monastry type thing too. even the whole housework thing years ago. :D my choice to be a mama. and i do love it.
    but continuing being a sahm and home educator is another matter.

    my fantasy situation would be a steiner or montessori school part time. LOL

  11. Oh Mon. What a thought-provoking post. Move to Sweden dear and your child will be able to attend a Montessori school for 100 euro/month, which is where my little guy has gone for the past 2 years :-). Seriously though, I cannot say enough good things about the "curriculum", the "teachers" (which they are not technically in the Montessori world) and the school as a whole. This child-led learning environment is right up your alley. In fact, I have often thought of you in relation to this pedagogy (maybe that's a swenglish word? ha!). And here, the kids can go to preschool part-time, and pay only for part-time. Whether you decide to stay in Monty or move back to England, you will make the right decision for you and for the little lady. God Bless xo

  12. Monica,

    I have come to this post quite a while after you posted it, but I do want to say that though I think an intelligent set of parents could theoretically provide everything a child needs education wise till the end of primary school, you could run into trouble after that - particularly if you child's learning style tends toward the academic. Also, socialisation is incredibly important in primary aged children.

    My perspective is somewhat biased since I trained as a teacher though!

  13. Hi Lisa,

    Oh no, you misunderstood my dilemma. I totally believe in home education.
    Countless children have successfully gone though this and are now adults. You should read up on it, it's quite a wonderful alternative.

    It actually gets easier when they reach those ages. Children are incredibly intelligent and with guidance and their own initiative can learn everything and more than a child in school.

    There are teachers who have home educated their kids because they were disillusioned with schools! lol

  14. I don't think I have anything to add here, only coming to saying I hear you. I went round a bit on this myself as you know, especially when we really thought we might try and move to Utah, but now have settled into school as the best option for us. But there are a lot of days I question it - when something happens at school I don't like, when they get a message I don't agree with from a teacher of fellow student, when I see behaviors come out in them that they might have picked up there, or when I see pointless homework or activities...so there is always doubt...and while it would seem my own doubt would be easier to handle than a homeschoolers doubt because at least social conventions are pressuring me, that actually makes me question it more (i.e. am I just taking the easy, conformist way?)

    Over the last 2 years I have gradually settled down into not taking any one incident too seriously...for myself I have always said if any of my kids doesn't want to go to school, that's it I will homeschool him/her...but short of that I will try and work with it, counterbalance the things I don't like, and appreciate the things I do - the sense of community, the time for me, the enrichment things they get that I'm not suited to (like you, I'm not the crafty mom), the separate social activities (since mine are so close in age, and then the twins of course, they can all be very insular with each other)...In my case, I don't think there is a perfect solution, so we are making do with the best we have, and most days, everyone is happy, but it definitely is a 'whole family' type decision...

  15. I have the same thoughts for my little one,
    a very different character to yours according to your description.
    I am english-Greek,
    live in Greece the past 7 years
    would love to have access to a Waldorf education
    (I like to social-communal-spiritual aspect of this education)
    but can not imagine that the british culture and life style
    will fulfill my anymore..
    She attended the parent's initiative/ local waldorf
    kindergarten in september, at the age of 3,5 years
    and loves it
    in ways that I had not imagined.
    I love to see this little person blooming, away and beyond me...
    But what happens next, is my great dilemma.
    Where should we be and be happy with the choices and consequences.
    I fear this is my old battle of how I imagine/desire things
    and where I finally land...

  16. Yes, I recognise these thoughts and feelings. I always thought I'd home educate but we sent my son to a state primary school as a trial part-time and he is incredibly enthusiastic about it.

    I am an introvert too (and definitely not a crafter either) and like a slow pace of life. However he is naturally more social than me and likes to be busy. The entire school seems to know and like him; he's 5 and he even plays with the 11 year-olds. Every day he comes home excited and asks to go on weekends!

    We may think our way and values are best for them but we don't know that for sure. It's important to stand back and observe how life is for the child without putting your own issues on it. I could have looked through the lens of 'school is bad' and missed the fact it's doing him good! Big spirits are not as easily quashed by institutions as people seem to think.

    That said, I still have terrible doubts when I see how the teachers talk to the pupils, treat them like sheep to be herded and when I see how overstimulated and tired he gets. Flexi-schooling with a day or two at home would be better and I'm going to campaign for that next year. We don't want to move for a couple of years but when we do and if we can afford it we may try to move closer to an alternative school which might be more nurturing.

    I don't think any route is perfect so it's very important to take your own feelings into account as well. As you said, take a whole family view. I know schooling suits my needs better than full on home-schooling and so far it seems it suits my son too. Who knew?!

  17. thank you so much. so good just to feel in a mama community.

    Hannah, that is it exactly, about how he would have missed on all he loves at school if you had a blinkered view of schooling.

  18. Hi Mon,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I don't really have any 'advice' to give as I haven't thought about homeschooling at all, but I really appreciated reading this. You are such a committed and passionate mama.
    Ronnie xo

  19. I feel you on this. I believe I have what it takes to do all the great homeschooling stuff...but I don't really want to do it all. I know someone who does all the crafty stuff made out of trash and whatnot, and it actually makes me cringe. I do like some crafts, just not that kind. So it's nice that he can have that at preschool. It's nice that I can go on just being mama, teaching him in my own way but knowing he is getting other forms of teaching/experiences at school, so I don't feel like I have to cover everything myself. I was so torn about sending him to school, but now he's there I know it's a good match for him. I still want to homeschool, but not sure when we will pull him out of school...next year, the year after...? Definitely feeling our way through this. Oh, and the silence...getting a breather...that's priceless.

  20. I used to think how you are thinking and of course we do in the isolated situation you/we are in, of course you think like this about the school or not school dilemma. But with another child on the way and homeschooling 3 and how to do it all I realised (with another person's perspective), how DO I WANT it to be. It means I have quite radically changed in how I respond to my children. I am simply not available to meet all their whinges and cries anymore, I now encourage them to work it out for themselves and they do, I have to say I was surprised but very happy for it. Initially it caused major tantrums from my saying "no", but they all get it now, it didn't take long, the younger they are, the quicker they seem to get it, so my littlest (now just 2) has completely come out of his shell in new ways, they are way more self-managing, less needing my energy and it suits me and I have a very empowered feeling now of "ahhh, I can keep doing this because it's how I want it to be and I have the ability to create this". The other thing I thought was if I did choose school, I would be dealing with a whole lot of new and different problems to deal with, I have chosen to remain homeschooling because there is no distraction or outside influences to the problems (there are always going to be problems/highs and lows to deal with in living), and we stay connected as a family.
    All the best with what you choose for yourself. x

  21. thanks Ruth!

    i think that if i had another child it would make one aspect easier. it's tough pushing her away when i know she has no other but me. we are social creatures after all. so i encourage independence but have to accept she requires contact and i'm it.

    i love what you say about that choosing school is just a different set of problems, and that at home at least we know what we're dealing with. excellent point.


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