Thursday, November 03, 2005

Home education - a valid option

The article below is reprinted with permission by Sally Lever and is taken from her excellent newsletter on downshifting and healthy/simple living "Fruitful"
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© Helen Moore.

I have always been interested in Home Education (HE), even before I had children. I used to hear the odd thing on Radio 4, or an article in the Sunday papers and I always thought what a good idea it was – but it was just a thought.

Anyway, fast forward umpteen years, and on marriage number 2 and at the grand age of 37, I give birth to my first son, Rupert. I now live in London with my husband Tony, who is a musician, and we have a great lifestyle. We’re both based at home and we both do work that we find really interesting and satisfying. As I was working, I never really considered home education as I thought that I didn’t have the time, and as we were really keen for our children (we now have Angus as well) to have the best education on offer, we opted into the private system – the state system in Haringey is pretty dreadful. Initially he went to a little pre-school group around the corner which he seemed to like, but as we were committed to him going into the private system, he had to start at a ‘proper’ nursery attached to a pre-prep.

So, come the September, he went off to ‘school’, although still only 2 ¾ years old. Nothing really went ‘wrong’, and I can’t criticise the school in any particular way, but it was a slow realisation that we were going in the wrong direction – we felt like we’d run to catch a train, and now we were sitting on it, we didn’t like where it was going, or the other people on it. Rupert didn’t hate it, but it didn’t particularly like it either. I think the catalyst for our decision was having to look at schools that he would go to when he was 7 (you have to look at other schools incredibly early in the private system). These schools just seemed so detached from reality – a call back to the Empire or something, and the parents were caricatures of snooty middle-class people – think Margot and Gerry (with bells on!) My Eureka moment, came when I was at an awards ceremony and got chatting to Janey Lee Grace who is a Radio 2 DJ – she was heavily pregnant with her fourth child. The topic of education came up, and I was rolling my eyes about school fees and so on, and she just said, ‘Oh no, I educate mine at home – it’s sooo much better.”

It wasn’t the fact that she was educating at home that really struck me, it was the fact that she was this trendy 40-something working woman with a brood of children who was managing to fit it all in. I didn’t think that I would be able to do it, but once I heard about someone else doing it, that was it! I phoned Tony from the awards ceremony, he agreed and that was that really! And once we’d worked out how long we’d be spending on the school run and so on, we figured out that HE would be right up our street. Not to mention the fact that there is an HE club five minutes walk from our house, which fifty, yes fifty, children attend. The more we find out about it, the more enthusiastic we are becoming – the amount of material available for home ed families, not to mention the support, is truly amazing.

It was great not having to send him off to school in the morning (definitely a bonus for our lifestyle too – being a musician household, we’re not renowned for our early starts, and we were dreading the day when our lovely relaxed morning routine would be broken by the dash out of the door to sit in a traffic jam at 8.15 in the morning.)

So, we have taken the first step. Rupert is thriving at home with piles of books, watching documentaries, and looking up stuff up the ‘pootier’ as he calls my computer! We’ll let you know how we’re getting on.