There are some things you always know you are going to do in your life and for me it was have a family, a silver cross coach built pram, a home birth and to home educate, probably in that order. These I always knew I wanted. I was that keen on having the pram I bought it when I was 18 and Silver Cross announced they were closing the factory in Leeds. I didn’t use it until nine years later, but I had it! I didn’t get a home birth, ended up the complete opposite with an emergency caesarean, but I do home educate. Home ed working single mum!
What I hadn’t planned for was being single; my son was an accident, unplanned. His father was someone I didn’t love and I ended the relationship three months into my pregnancy. His father and I didn’t see eye to eye over the lad’s future, however, I was adamant about how I would want our future to be.
I went back to work after six months and the support of my mother made it all easier, my son, nephew and nieces are all in her care whilst we work and she provides some of the education. Together we provide different aspects of education, she is good at the maths and I like the messy stuff. We have some good times and some bad times. I went back to full time work last year and spent six months working long hours some distance away, which made life difficult for both me and my mother, we spent six long months tired and grumpy and certainly home education slipped on my part.
Recently I found a job which fits around our life and only last week we were talking to the kids about why we home educate.
“ Because we can!, so we don’t have to get up early and iron uniform every day, so we don’t have to wear the same as everyone else, so I can work full time and provide the life I want to for my son.”
If I hadn’t made the decision to home educate I couldn’t pursue my career and I am not going to pretend about this, I don’t want to spend 24/7 with my child with no outlet for myself. I want my son to have opportunities and have a good work ethic. I now work three very long days, with four days off. For our purposes this works, during the week we have time for all the things we want to do and my mother does all the stuff she likes doing at weekend whilst I work.
It’s difficult to identify the reasons I chose to home educate because I have always known I would, so now nine years later my reasons are different from then. Initially it was to avoid him having the school life I did. As I see my son develop I can see how he would fit in school, and he probably would fit in, however, kids are cruel and schools incapable of dealing with bullying. I didn’t want him growing up behind bars, schools are now more like prisons than places of freedom and I want him to have that freedom.
We haven’t had any involvement from the local authority, a letter from a health visitor when we first moved here which I ignored and there was no follow up. We get the odd raised eyebrow during term time, but very few queries. Where I live they all know us and are now used to seeing the lad during school times. I have found we now get more queries from other home educators or families of home educators.
As to his education, I suppose we are autonomous, I’m not very keen on labels, one reason we home educate is to avoid labels. My son decides what he wants to do, I put things in his way to discover, learn and develop. Unfortunately this doesn’t always fit in with my idea of education, as certain discoveries take over – Minecraft – springs to mind. There is always a way to educate though, and whilst it might not be conventional, we get it in there, if by stealth sometimes.
I love home educating, my lad could read sarcophagus, Coptic jar and astronaut before he could read ‘the’ and ‘then’. He opened a bank account and manages his finances, he is so proud when the bank staff treat him like any other customer. Together we plan our food, budget and days. On his own he is confident, self-assured and has the ability to fit into any group of people. We discuss anything, and have some very bizarre conversations, but also some very deep conversations. We have an understanding of each other and we are very close. I know some parents can achieve this whilst their children are at school, but I am glad I have it with him at home.
A typical day for us at the moment revolves around Minecraft! I am rather hoping that the whole Minecraft obsession dies down soon. We take the dogs out and chat about whatever. I try and entice him to cook, but food has never been high on his agenda. We decide whether or not to go see Grandma and then go out somewhere. I try and remember to fill in my diary of the day and the lad writes his. At home we snuggle up, watch telly (or play Minecraft) and the lad takes himself to sleep when he’s ready or if it’s what we call a ‘school night’ when I am working he goes up earlier.
As a single parent who home educates there are some issues, his father doesn’t agree with my method of education, and this can cause some serious problems. When the lad was six he had just started reading on his own, he wasn’t confident and his father shouted at him as he had expected the lad to be able to read fluently, this set his reading back, even now he suffers. I don’t pick books up and ask him to read, he doesn’t. I had to look for alternative ways of encouraging him to read. The lad would say he can’t read, but I know that if there is something he wants to do on Minecraft he will read the manual for the info.
There is also the issue of relationships, apart from a serious lack of time, finding someone who would value what I do and be able to fit our unconventional lifestyle is too difficult. Being a single parent I sometimes mourn the loss of what could have been if I’d been part of couple and the loneliness of being single gets to me occasionally but I cannot envisage accommodating a third person in our family.
Generally we are happy, it doesn’t always go to plan, when we have bad days we write them off and start again the next day. I have my worries and sometimes think I don’t do enough, or maybe I’ve made a mistake and what a huge mistake it could be. If I’ve got this wrong then I won’t know till he’s 18 and by then it will be too late. But I look at him and think he’s happy, and if it’s going wrong we can change it like we are planning to in September by adding a bit more structure to our day. It’s a flexible way of life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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