Single mum, benefits and a daughter’s extra needs.By Lorraine Williams.
I’m a 36 yr old single Mum and I have been a single Mum for 9 years. I have gone from JSA to ESA to ESA Permitted to work (Self employed), whilst also educating my 9 yr old dd N. Our Home Ed journey started early in May 2013.
When N started school in 2008, she was a bright, confident happy girl, though by the time she left she was very low on self esteem and hating herself, she had started being aggressive. She was a girl that was living in a panic, sad and feeling quite alone. Our journey started after N endured 2 years of bullying from pupils in school and in some respects from the teachers too.
She had medical problems, in which the teachers were the opposite of supportive. Two teachers humiliated N in front of the whole class, this was even after they knew that she had medical issues and after speaking with me and having letters from the podiatrist. I did what I could and I stood up for her wherever possible, but the truth is, once your child goes through those school gates, you can’t protect them. I was putting my faith & trust in the school. In her last week of school N was upset a lot, she was being bullied. The last straw was when the teacher ignored medical advice. School had been told previously, in a letter from myself, that N had been diagnosed as deaf in one ear. Whilst investigations went on with N, the teacher put her to the front of the class as I requested for her. After diagnosis the teacher’s reaction was to put her to the back of the classroom because N was too loud!
I had wished before that N wouldn’t have to go to school, as I was bullied from 4-15 yrs old. It resulted in a threatening situation, which left me out of school after my mocks, not sitting my exams. I had heard of Home Ed 2 years before but thought as I was not earning I would not be allowed to do it! After the last episode N had had to endure I called the council and was quite emotional. I was asking if I would be allowed to Home Educate my daughter. I explained that I had 2 days left of a course I was doing “back to work” and that I was due to take my exam for my English City & Guilds NVQ Level 2 and that I was also volunteering for a work group, sister to the Job Centre, whilst claiming JSA. I was told I didn’t need permission and could take N out at any time. I was relieved to hear this.
I made an appointment to see the EHE lady that I had talked to. 2 weeks later, she would be furnishing us with information, details to help on our journey. 2 days more… I mentioned the possibility of Home Ed in the reception area in school, I feel awful because as a result of mentioning it N was taunted about when she would be leaving school by her teacher that lunchtime! Then others “Ahh you’ll be back in the next few months” etc. This was upsetting to N she endured 2 days of hell from the teachers! I finished and passed my courses and gave up volunteering and sent in the deregistration letter to school.
The de-registration letter went in on the morning of the last day (Friday) I was called by the FLO (Family Liaison Officer) she’d only started working at the school that day, I listed all that I had been unhappy about and said quite frankly I felt N had been bullied and humiliated by both children and teachers. She was not improving and was getting sadder, I explained that I was scared for her. On N’s last day she was stopped in her tracks with any goodbye efforts with her friends. No goodbye card was allowed, no signing of her dress, no swapping numbers, not even a proper send off! It was so upsetting to N as she had seen a card her friend had made, but a teacher took it away and wouldn’t let her have it.
On the following Wednesday the EHE told us to enjoy two weeks of no school and have fun! We did this. We met the EHE, she gave us details of local groups, library details and information about different Home Ed styles. N was talking and had written a report, unbeknown to me that explained why she did not want to return to school. At this point, we did know that we did not have to meet with the EHE, she had made it clear when we spoke on the phone and again face to face. We were aware that there was no funding and we would have to pay for everything.
Shortly into our journey we met with some great people, but then I had toe nail surgery & ended up getting repeat infections, the pressure of searching for work day to day, Home Educating started to take its toll and we weren’t able to get out much. I stopped my JSA and claimed ESA, unfortunately I was unlucky, we had 4 weeks with no money other than the Child tax credits and Child Benefit, all because of a clerical error. I could not walk to get the form from the offices and it was not arriving through the post. Weeks went by and I had to call the council to ask for food, it was hard, although money spent we’d saved on school stuff helped. I had that to put into anything we could manage to do. Once I was back on my feet a little we were out and about, learning, exploring the park at the end of the road and fun days. She learnt the science behind magic tricks at a fun day, it was lovely to see her excited again.
During the early weeks of having no money, I took an antibiotic and it got stuck in my throat, 3 days and it was still there so I went to A&E, I was sent to the wrong department but eventually I was kept in overnight and most of the following day. During this time a lump was found in my throat more tests ensued. It was found to possibly be a Thyroid nodule. When I was in hospital, N was with a family member, who worked from home. I had no idea but she had purposely bought 7 different work books for N to work from! I was in hospital worried with very little I could do.
A month went on and I had more tests as an outpatient, during this time N went on a holiday with a good friend of mine, but N was made to work from workbooks and my friend assessed my daughter! Now that we Home Educate people seem to think it’s their duty to educate her, I will be addressing this with some people when I get the opportunity.
I decided to become an Avon Rep, it took my mind off the cancer scare a bit and gave me a little something extra in my earnings and got me out of the house a bit, I wasn’t able to walk far yet, but I took it easy. I went from plain ESA to ESA permitted to work. It will last 52 weeks and as long as I am not over £95 per week or work for more than 15 hours I will be ok. I can work around Home Ed and we find that we can juggle everything quite easily. I do hours in the early evening for my Avon and the learning/education can, quite simply, happen at all hours. I hope to do some good, helping others realise that Home Education is a viable path whoever you are, whatever your income. I started to help out with this website because I want to help get word out to people that may be in the same position as us.
We had our first ever holiday last month, possibly because it was cheaper as it was in term time. My daughter asked lots of questions and was interested in lots of things, it is great seeing her enthusiasm coming back. Unfortunately I dropped a suitcase on what was my healing toe, only to do the other toe a week later, which led to more infections. We both have mobility and other health problems so it is great to be able to take our time and go at our pace when we are out. We have a better mother/daughter relationship than when she was in school. We socialise all the time with others and we talk through any issue, we have always had a close bond, though it is calmer now.
I am looking into options for N learning life skills like St John’s Ambulance and swimming, she’s interested in Judo or martial arts/self defence and possibly dance, so we are looking into these, all things to help her channel her energies in a positive way. We spend time on English, Maths and Science etc. We don’t do work books too much, discussion works better for her, we mix this with the internet, library books and games. If a question is asked, I answer if I know the answer, and if I don’t know the answer, we look online or in books. I am also researching the possibilities of doing a course with the OU.
N is slowly coming back to the happy smiley girl she was before school took it away from her. For now my health is a little unsure, I still have more to check with a further biopsy, but for now I am doing ok. There is no option of school as far as we both see. We enjoy and get so much out of Home Ed. We were just existing whilst she was in school, now we are living life. So many new opportunities have opened up, meeting, socialising, fun, learning, adventures, education days, cheaper holidays and a sunny future. Need I say more? Happy Days and plenty more of them to come.