Dear Home Ed Mama Who’s Decided To Send Your Child To School

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My children have been educated at home since pretty much the day they were born, and as such, we’ve always mingled with people who intend, or do, home educate their children. As a result, we’ve come across pretty much every ‘type’ of home educator known to man, I’m sure. From those who do it for religious reasons to those that do it for anti-establishment reasons, from those who do it purely while they wait for schools to come available, to those who do not intend to send their children to school, ever.

We’ve met and engaged with all the styles too, from the extreme unschoolers who don’t even like ‘themed’ activity days at the home ed groups, to those who follow a strict curriculum, from those who teach nothing at all formally, to those who have flashcards for their two year olds. We have met them all.

The biggest shock for me in the home learning networks has been the difference in parenting styles. Our first home educating network consisted mostly of the style of parenting known as attachment parenting or gentle parenting. Subsequent groups introduced us to much stricter, more regimented parenting styles.The one thing, however, that I have noticed in every mother (and the fathers I’ve met, though I usually meet the mothers) is this: Without exception, each of us thinks, hopes, or believes that we are doing the very best we can for our children. Each of us believes that what we’re doing matters, and that it is what our children need. We all have our idea of their best interests in mind and at heart. 

Without exception, each of us thinks, hopes, or believes that we are doing the very best we can for our children. Each of us believes that what we’re doing matters, and that it is what our children need. We all have our idea of their best interests in mind and at heart. 

What’s often happened is that our groups have started out with preschoolers, with parents thinking about learning at home as compared to school, but then as the reality of school places kicked in, many of those went off to school. Then that first year with a child at home while others were at school became too much for some, and the children went to school in the second year. Then there are those that have managed a few years of home education, and they’ve sent their children off to school at around 7 or 8, in line with some of the Scandinavian countries, and then there are those who’ve made the decision later, sending their senior school children off.

And a trend I’ve noticed among those who’ve only ‘achieved’ a few years of home based learning is the feeling that they’ve failed. Isn’t this so normal in motherhood – we’ve not done what someone, anyone, else has done, and so we feel like a failure?

I recently heard yet another ex-home educating mother say that the children have gone to school as ‘home education wasn’t working for us’ and I want to encourage these mothers to stop seeing that they failed as home educators, but realise that they provided their children with the best education they could, till the point where the needs of the child, the children or the family as a whole, changed, and then, being the intuitive, loving, caring and devoted mothers that they are, they took the next step, and sent their children to school.

First day of 'big class' at PreschoolThis does not mean that home education didn’t work for you. It does not mean that you failed at it. It does not mean that you failed as a mother. What it means, quite simply, is that the needs of the family changed, and you did what we always do: you adapted to provide for the ever changing needs of your children.

Sometimes those needs are a roof over their heads, where a mother has had to go back to work. Sometimes those needs are purely educational, social, or that new and different challenges became necessary. You didn’t fail. You did what you did when your child went from crawling to walking, from nappies to a potty, from milk to food; you recognised the change, adapted to it, and facilitated their onward journey to adulthood.  

I want to encourage these mothers to stop seeing that they failed as home educators, but realise that they provided their children with the best education they could, till the point where the needs of the child, the children or the family as a whole, changed, and then, being the intuitive, loving, caring and devoted mothers that they are, they took the next step, and sent their children to school.

As mothers, as parents, we have enough guilt, we have enough outside messages telling us how we’re doing it all wrong. As women we have enough telling us that we’re not enough. This is not a burden we have to carry.

I intend to keep educating my two girls at home, but I am very aware that a day may come where their needs, or their own desires, might outgrow me and what I can provide for them, and while I will probably cry a little on that day, I hope that I will hold my head up high and say I did this much, I gave you all I could, and now I’m letting you go, so that you can find more. 

Let them stand on the shoulders of giants, because mamas, every single one of you, of us, is a giant.

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