The past 3 weeks have seen my husband Peter and I homeschool our eldest son Oliver, 9, after a troubling time at school. I wanted to share our experiences here in case you might too be considering homeschooling or are perhaps going through a similar situation to us and this might be of use.
I won’t go into the exacts details of why we decided Oliver should leave his former school as a formal complaint have been made/ procedures followed and an investigation underway plus it isn’t appropriate to blog on a public domain about the intricacies. I will simply state that I’m relieved we removed him from school and we are certain it was the right action to take.
We have since viewed alternative schools and are now awaiting a formal offer from one Oliver liked which isn’t too far from us and where several of his friends attend too.
While a break like this might sound drastic, the decision wasn’t a rash one and came after a great deal of consideration. Seeing your child upset, anxious and miserable on a daily basis due to enduring problems at school is heartbreaking for a parent and as the issues progressed into the second term with no end in sight, removing him from school was the right action to take in order to prioritise his mental health.
And the good news is, it’s been the most nourishing few weeks for us all. Yes, I’ve had to move deadlines and push back on lots of work-related things but that’s life and everyone has been understanding, and overall it’s really not been that stressful. The crushing stress came prior to removing him, the weeks and months of fire fighting on my son’s behalf and seeing his happiness fade day by day.
The last few weeks homeschooling in contrast have been the easy bit and I’ll truly miss this precious time with my boy when he starts school again….
From a practical perspective, the schooling at home has revolved around the online educational platform Exemplar (I have not been paid to write this post nor asked to mention the brand but I have worked with the company before and that’s how we know about them) and Oliver has felt stimulated by their National Curriculum based learning programme which has formed our daily schedule, interspersed with sports outdoors, visits to the library, free reading time, cooking, and some outside learning.
Oliver is an academic child, and an autonomous learner too, and witnessing just how motivated he’s been during this homeschooling period has been reaffirmed that (particularly as I used to have to nag him to do homework after school). He actually woke up on day 1 of homeschool and created his own time table and even set alarms to mark different learning periods as if he were at school. This was all his doing without any prompting from Peter and I.
His positive attitude towards the change homeschool brough, and the sheer resilience he’s shown has emphasised quite how mature he is and equally how committed to his education he is. He truly loves to learn. And learn is what he’s done whether it’s been mental arithmetic (I honestly don’t know who he takes after with his passion for mental multiplications), creative writing which has seen him start writing a funny, short book on emoji cushions escaping from a bedroom, arts and crafts where he designed a floral birthday card for me on the computer which he printed out and also practical science experiments he took part in at The Science Museum‘s must-see Wonderlab earlier today.
He’s also appeared on national TV explaining children’s use of tech, charting the pros and cons on BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire (let’s term that Media Studies) and also contributed to a vital meeting I had with a charity today offering a child’s perspective to boot.
He even attended an NHS perinatal event where I shared my traumatic birth journey (something we’d discussed before) with a large group of parents in a church in Earlsfield earlier in the week, and empathising with the stories he heard (all age-appropriate I’d like to add) he surmised as we left, ‘having a baby really is hard, Mummy’.
It’s poignant really that he attended the perinatal day as I feel like this homeschooling period together has almost been like my second chance at maternity leave after so much of my experience with him as a baby was fractured due to birth trauma.
I missed out on so much of Oliver’s first year and while he was happy and knew nothing of my own struggles, I feel so grateful to have had this accidental chance to spend more precious time one-on-one with him, almost a decade later. This mother-son bonding with one another has felt sacred, a time we’ll always look back on as ‘our time’. It’s not always been easy but it’s been worth it. I’ve fought for my son on the front-line at school in the face of adversity then taken the role of both his teacher as well as his mother, guiding, educating, loving him, and most importantly having fun with my firstborn, helping him to release those endorphins and remember how wonderful life can be.
I used to teach English GCSE and have lectured at universities but nothing has prepared me for this time together with Oliver, and I feel, along with Peter, that we’ve rebuilt our boy again, really to the point he’s smiling again and this time, smiling with his eyes too and that we’ve got our boy back. That young boy, who just weeks ago felt so low and lacking in self-confidence has in a short period, slowly returned to his old carefree self… he’s emerged from the pain and confusion, the mood swings and tears stronger and more resilient than before because he’s experienced great sadness and has overcome it. He now understands that no matter how bad life might feel, problems can be overcome with time and after a while, you really can smile again-with your eyes too.
I’m so proud of my son.
Oliver, if you read this, Mummy really is so proud of you.