This was going to be my next homeschooling update but I’ve actually decided to follow with that as this post has ended up being longer than I expected.
January is never my favourite month but the one that has just passed was particularly difficult, in fact I would go as far to say that it was my hardest home educating month to date.
It’s during the hard times you really value speaking to other home educating families because they are the only ones who understand, I think of lot of people just feel like because we’ve made this decision, we shouldn’t complain about it. It’s not always that simple though, not everyone home educates their children because they desperately wanted to, in some cases it’s because they know it’s the best thing for their children and even in the cases where it’s all they ever wanted to do then there can still be incredibly challenging times.
In my case a big part of our reason for home educating was because I wanted to, I didn’t want to spend so much time away from the kids. There were other major factors in it too such as mainstream schooling being too focused on testing and not valuing creative topics enough but me (and obviously Mr C) wanting to was a big one. So that’s why January was hard, because for the first time since we made the decision I questioned whether it was still something I wanted. I don’t have family nearby so the kids are with me 24/7, this honestly isn’t a problem normally but they were being such hard work that I wasn’t finding it very enjoyable.
Then Mr C and I had 24 hours in Bristol with no children and it was amazing, I should have gone back feeling refreshed after a nice break but instead I came back feeling like that little taster of freedom was so good that I wanted more of it. I starting feeling a bit jealous of all the people that had time to themselves, time to sit at their computer in peace to work or to pop out and sit in a café on their own. I know this sounds a bit extreme but I felt a bit suffocated and it can be quite hard to parent well when you aren’t enjoying it.
Luckily something happened that week to snap me out of it, something to remind me that actually it’s not just about me, but the kids, Cherry especially, and realising that put me back on track again. I had signed the kids up to a 6 week sports session, they had liked the first week so I’d paid for all the sessions but when we arrived for the 2nd one they said they didn’t want to do it. I was torn between understanding they didn’t want to and thinking of the money I had spent and the fact they had enjoyed the first session so I said they could have some chocolate if they did it. Obviously I regret it now but we live and we learn. Tiger still wouldn’t go for it but Cherry joined in, only when I left the room and looked through the window I saw her do something that took me right back to my school days.
They were playing a game that involved them running around throwing sports vests at each other, no-one really knew what was going on and she tried her best to join in only I saw her secretly wiping away tears, and I felt what she was feeling because it’s exactly how I used to feel in certain situations when I was at school. That feeling of being so desperately uncomfortable with what you were having to do and of wanting to be anywhere but that place. I went straight back in and she burst into tears then came running over, I apologised in the sincerest way I could and we went home where I just felt so thankful that I was able to stop her having to endure anymore of a situation that reduced her to tears.
I know some people think it’s good for children to deal with situations like this, like it somehow makes them stronger, and maybe for some children it does but I know that in my case it didn’t. When you have super sensitive children then it can have such an effect on their confidence and self-esteem. Nearly all of my memories from school are of the times when I felt like I wanted to disappear, the times when girls would tell me to eat grass if I wanted to play with them, when boys asked me what condoms were and I didn’t know, when we had to stand outside in the freezing cold playing hockey, coming last when everyone had to choose people for teams in P.E classes, when I was told I had to take part in the sprint race on sport’s day, when I had to speak out loud in drama… the list goes on.
None of those things were good for me, they didn’t improve my confidence, they wore it down and it’s only over the last few years of my adult life that I’ve finally found the confidence and self-esteem that I lacked in school. It’s only now that I see how doing things that put me out of my comfort zone can be beneficial.
When we took Cherry out of nursery we knew she wasn’t very confident in herself and that she was very sensitive, things that would go over most children’s heads would really get to her and not only upset her but affect her whole behaviour. Then over the last two years her confidence had rocketed to a point where we couldn’t believe it, she would go and join in with things on her own, initiate playing with kids in the park and most importantly was happy. Just five minutes in that sports class has set her back massively, she’s refused to join in with any groups we’ve been to since, even gymnastics which I’m always saying how much she loves. It’s crazy how much of an effect it had but slowly we are getting there again, towards the end of our science class the other day she had started joining in with the activity.
The only good thing that came of this is that I have no doubt now that what we are doing is the right thing for her. If she was going into a school all day, every day and having moments where she didn’t feel good enough then that is what would start to fill her mind whereas by letting her choose the things she does feel good at we are helping her to build confidence and make her feel like she is good enough. It just helped put everything in perspective too, her confidence in later life is what I really want, not an hour to sit in a café alone.
I am also pleased to report that I’m enjoying parenting again too, I have always seen my kids being hard work as a sign that I’m doing something wrong so after having a big talk Mr C and I came up with a plan to try and make things work a bit better. We will never be a strict routine kind of household but bedtime had become a bit ridiculous with the kids awake playing till 9pm / 10pm and not having a few hours of peace meant that we were both being grumpy so we’ve started a 7pm bedtime routine which has worked really well. I’ve also been doing lots more planned activities which I will cover in the homeschooling update coming up next.
I wanted to share this because I think it’s important to let people know that home education isn’t always fun and plain-sailing and despite what a lot of people think I don’t have some extraordinary level of patience! I have hard times just like everyone but one of my fears was that I would look back and wish I had spent more time with my children when they were young and I always joke that there is no chance of that now!