Because the fullness of the heart is not measured externally…..
For me, the joy of home education is creating an environment that allows our daughter to explore her passions organically and without pressure. Before we embarked on this journey, I was stuck in my head; bound by the walls of conditioning when it came to education. Despite personal experience, I was reluctant and steadfast – I found it difficult to shake off the system that has become so engrained in our culture. I didn’t understand the difference between being schooled and being educated. Being coerced or being coached and encouraged. I found so many reasons to reject the idea; which was originally put forward by my husband, Alex…. Then our daughter Ruby grew, as our toddler faded, the school gates beckoned, and I had to start taking this decision more seriously. Is this what we wanted? Was it right for us? All of us? Ruby included. Was the UK school system performing well? How did it compare to other countries? Are the children thriving? Could we offer her more? People learned to read, write, and do arithmetic long before schooling. This line of enquiry opened so many opportunities for me to learn and grow, as I really delved deep into research; collecting books, articles, following pages online, listening to podcasts and exploring local groups within the community.
Looking back, the initial reason for this enquiry was freedom, recognising the positive impact travel had on our child and not wanting to sacrifice that. Reasons evolved over time, the more I read, the more I understood, my confidence grew, and I began to open up to the idea. By the time Ruby was three years old, she’d already endured some hard lessons that only life can teach you. I could not help but examine the academic agenda of an unquestionably flawed system and ponder its place in my family’s life.
I think it is important that I acknowledge that for many families, school is the right choice and for some a necessity. For others it is a valued safe space or the only safe space. I also recognise that it is a privilege to be in a position to consider this choice as a family and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity. I am certainly not here to critique hard working teachers or undermine the choices of others. However, we were beginning to realise that it wasn’t for us. The responsibility of our child’s future was ours, there would be no-one else to blame if things didn’t work out.
There hasn’t been a day in Ruby’s life that we haven’t done all we can to enable her to learn and to support her interests with the most stimulating and interesting environments possible. Encouraging her curiosity is an easy job – children have an innate desire to learn which they use naturally, just look at how far it has already gotten them by the time they reach school age. I passionately believe self-directed learning to be the most enduring style of learning. We just seize the right moments and allow ourselves to get lost in them! It is through this intrinsic motivation that we remember, the enjoyment far more valuable than any test scores. Coincidentally, many children educated at home surpass their peers simply because learning is not arbitrarily segregated and limited by age. Ruby has an extensive friendship group, she considers many of our friends her own but not at the expense of her peers or children of any other age. She regularly mixes with members of the community from diverse backgrounds and in various settings. Her regular groups and classes allow her the opportunity to also mix with school children. Real world education and experience encourages confidence with all ages. It seems the further along this path we go, the more it feels like it was made for us. Or better still, that we, ourselves were making it, directing our own future without sacrifice or submission.
Creating a well-rounded education demands we pay attention to the world around us, nurturing and supporting our natural environment, our health, our community, and our values. Spending endless days outdoors, long after the school bell stopped ringing. Each interest afforded time and attention. It isn’t hard to spark a child’s creativity when you really tune into what moves them. Pay attention to their interests. Enduring education will never be something you can force, and it certainly should not be something we aspire to at the cost of all else, least of all our child’s mental health and well-being. Grades mean nothing when you are disconnected. If the pressure is mounting, the only solution is to release pressure, that is such a simple concept. Sadly, we are seeing a school bill that is proposing the opposite – presented by a particularly out of tune government – this will come at a high cost to the next generation. A generation set to take on unimaginable responsibilities will need to be innovative, critical thinkers. Yet they are being judged by an incredibly outdated system, created in a different time – with a long-expired agenda. I’m left to wonder why, in the imagination age, are we working from a model designed for industry?
Evidence based research screams that we are going in the wrong direction. It’s our responsibility as parents to help steer our children towards the brightest possible future, in and out of school. I want Ruby to be a product of a colourful, varied, compassionate and magical existence. Free to travel and explore. I want her to find enchantment in the ordinary and follow her passions, without judgment or pressure. To climb trees and stay in them until she is bored. To create meaningful relationships with others born from connection. I want her natural curiosity to lead and her exuberance to be encouraged, never dimmed by the expectations and ideals of others. I want her to thrive on her own terms with us by her side, armed with endless love and encouragement.
The last thing I want for my daughter is subservience. For her wild, inquisitive spirit to be conditioned by authority from a predetermined age (and no other determinator) – her most magical and formative years exchanged for this privilege. Our time together forfeited, this most precious commodity, sacrificed so readily. Our sense of freedom and autonomy to follow.
I want Ruby to question dominant structures of control with courage and intent. To forge her own path, uncovering an alternative route; creating a map for others in the process. I hope for her to continue to not only think outside the box but to take it apart and totally reimagine its purpose, whilst enjoying every step of the task.
It is easy to feel disheartened when you have chosen a different path for your child to most. We are often marginalised for making a well-informed, researched decision about our own child’s future, their childhood years, their full-time experience of life. Despite this, I am so proud of how well Ruby is adapting, her enthusiasm for life is contagious and I am so grateful for the time we get to spend together, even if I am exhausted! Whilst home educating may not always be easy (and certainly isn’t for everyone), it might just be the most worthwhile choice I ever invest my time in; and raising a conscious being in a widely unconscious, fragile society, is priceless.
Thoughtful and inspiring writing, Katy. Your photographs show what a busy and inquiring little person you are raising. 🥰