Why Home Education?
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
I saw the suspicious raised eyebrows, the ones that family and friends had little interest in hiding when we first told them that we were hoping to home educate Ella. It kind of felt like a 'coming out' conversation, similar to when I told many of them that I was in a relationship with a woman. They didn't all have this response, some were surprisingly supportive and entered a respectful conversation about our choice to say no to school. Top points to those who didn't throw in the socialisation concern. In my personal life, and over on my Instagram page I'm often asked why we're choosing to home educate Ella. It's a question that is far too complex to answer in a sentence or two; as this blog will confirm.
For those unaware, Ella is being assessed for an Autism diagnosis, she has mobility difficulties and challenges which relate to her early life experiences and adoption. So sending her to school isn't as straight forward for her as it is for neurotypical children.
I'm going to start with the emotional reasons that we're educating Ella at home. Given Ella's early life experiences she needs me close by at ALL times. She is still developing symbolic mental representation; you may know this better as object permanence so when we're out of sight, often, we don't exist for her which is a perceived loss on every separation. Reliving that loss is huge for her, so instead we focus on repairing and rebuilding those neural pathways in her brain that tell her that primary attachments aren't permanent. Imagine the trauma that daily separation would cause her! Yes, she would get used to it, but at what cost to her developmental, survive and thrive foundations? Forming a secure attachment is the priority for Ella, and we can't do that if she spends most of her time away from us.
Other emotional aspects are - to be free from shaming traffic light charts for 'good and bad' behaviour. I see how Ella's behaviour would be interpreted as problematic rather than an indication that she isn't coping. No way is she being placed on a shameful chart for this. She will be free from reward and punishment based teaching (check out Alfie Kohn's - Punished by Rewards for more info). Ella will be free to develop into her own, unique person and learn at her own academic pace without feeling the pressure to conform to what the education system says is 'normal'.
The social reasons are priority for us. Due to her Autism, socialisation is challenging for Ella. She finds social nuances, behaviour, verbal and non verbal communication and rules difficult to interpret. She will be the left out child. I know this because experience tells me so. Yes, children will be children, but experience tells me that it's rare that they are taught how to include children that seem somewhat different. Note - if you don't know, ask the parent, we don't mind if it means our child will be included. People say they want their child to go to school to be ready FOR the real world, but when would we ever be asked to be in a room with 30 people of the same age, likely the same background too, told that these are our choice of friends, for 6 hours a day? Instead, we want Ella to be raised and educated IN the real world, going to home education groups with children of a variety of age, race, religious beliefs and backgrounds. Groups where there are no expectations on her to conform or risk being left out, where she is free to make friends at her own pace. She will spend time within the community, where she has daily opportunities to engage in real world interactions, rather than being told about it in a classroom. The risk of bullying is reduced heavily, because let's be honest, an Autistic child, who is adopted and has two Mum's is a prime candidate to be bullied at schools.
Academically, Ella is already excelling much further than what she would be if she was in Year One at school. She would be starting reception this September where traditionally she would be learning about letters, what sounds they make and some basic reading. She would be introduced to numbers, basic sums and some shape work. Ella is Hyperlexic (common in Autism) which means that she self taught to read when she was two. Academically, she is way past this kind of work so yet again she would find herself the odd one out at school, and would be very, very bored. At home, we are privileged to be able to plan work for and with her, by following her interests and meeting her right where she is. We get to choose what educational approach we use (we are heavily influenced by, but not limited to Charlotte Mason), we also get to choose how much academic work we introduce Ella to or we can consider delaying formal work until she is older. I'm excited to be able to spend hours a day in nature, reading an abundance of literature, to cook and bake together, to read about history that extends past white, regal history about status and power. We love to get creative with art and listen to classical music and I can't wait to spend days at the library, museums and art galleries. And most importantly, PLAY; how children learn best. This is a well rounded education.
Other reasons, which mostly relate to Ella's additional needs, are some that school could never cater for. For example, who would do her physiotherapy or pain management because of her Hypermobility? Who would do her sensory diet 2x a day with sensory breaks in between? Who would supervise her every minute of the day to keep her safe from eating non food items and taking risks which are dangerous? Who would help her move around the school, get up and down steps or stairs, help her to chew and pace her food? Who would change her nappy? Who would help her communicate with her peers, or join in at break times? Who would support her to rest when she's struggling to deal with the pressures of the day? Who would help her to cope with the anxiety of a classroom setting, the transitions, get her dressed and undressed for PE? Who would advocate for her when her behaviour communicates that she is struggling but teachers perceive it is bad behaviour? I could go on. At least at home, all of Ella's additional needs will be met, she will have someone invested in her every minute of the day; the person who knows her inside out and who Ella feels free enough with to not wear a mask to get through the day. And for me, being free to be her happy self is the most important aspect of childhood. No matter what.