Taking the square peg out of the round hole.

I am not known for openly expressing my opinions on Political, Religious or Social discussion/debates. Most family and friends assume this is because I not really interested in current affairs and have nothing I want to contribute to their conversations.

I can without a shadow of a doubt tell you that, I most definitely have an opinion on nearly every ‘soapbox’ conversation I have had the misfortune of having to sit/stand around and listen too – Bumble’s brothers spring immediately to my mind. I love them dearly but OMG they are so vocal about everything and quite frankly on the rare occasion I have tried to join in, they have been completely arrogant and dismissive (just because you are highly educated does not give you the right to talk over someone else and treat them like a lesser person).

This is one reason why I keep my opinions to myself, I don’t need any more ways to have my confidence knocked. However, the main reason I rarely wade into discussions is because, once I have the bit between my teeth, I can become VERY passionate about the topic, and I end up feeling like I have embarrassed myself, or offended someone.

Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering?

Quite simply, over the past couple of weeks I have been slowly bubbling away, listening to the latest home education debate, and being directly and indirectly subjected to the utterly ridiculous outpourings from ignorant people who have no idea what they are talking about, on a topic that they have no real understanding of. In the last 2 days I have gone past silently simmering and have now reached boiling point.

Before Christmas, it was announced (sensationalised) in the media that Nicky Morgan, The Education Secretary, had asked officials to review home schooling amid fears that thousands of children may be having their minds “filled with poison” by radicalised parents, and from my own perspective, it has opened the flood gates to every Tom, Dick & Harry believing they have the right to express their opinion openly about the damaging effect ‘home schooling’ must have on children, and passing judgements on parents who choose this educational route for their child.

At the beginning of our adoption journey with Waxy and Buzzbee, home education was never considered as an option that we would want for our children or ourselves. Both of us were of the opinion that the boys would benefit from the security and structure that a school could provide, and, as the primary carer of two extremely traumatized young boys, in all honesty I felt that the time that the boys would be in school would be my opportunity to relax and regroup, if we had had a particularly difficult evening or morning, and by the time the boys returned from school, I would be able to once again dig down deep into my therapeutic mummy chest, and support and care for my boys as they deserved.

The reality however has been a completely different story. My free time was (and still is to be honest) racing back and forth from schools, for meetings or to fire fight the latest meltdown or drama that had unfolded. When Waxy moved to his specialist school, Bumble and I thought the frequency of my involvement would decrease, but it hasn’t, but I will save that for next week’s WASO post. Buzzbee’s school experience was a whole other experience and an unpleasant experience at that.

WE DID NOT CHOOSE HOME EDCATION for Buzzbee. We were left with NO CHOICE but to deregister Buzzbee, as his school was failing him and his mental health was being dramatically affected by it.

Just in the last few weeks, I have heard comments both directly and indirectly, like:-

  • “How can he be learning anything? You don’t have a teaching qualification. I know how to brush my teeth, but that doesn’t mean I go around telling people that I can do a deep clean treatment or a tooth extraction.”
  • “I bet all he does is sit watching TV and playing on the computer all day and doing nothing.”
  • “Oh, he’s home educated. That must be so lonely for him. How is he supposed to make friends, if he doesn’t go to school?”
  • “If you teach him, how do you prove he is actually learning anything, if he doesn’t have a professional checking his work?”
  • “Oh, you are one of those hemp wearing, earth mothers are you, who are anti-establishment and believe the world is all the classroom your child needs.”
  • “He has special needs and should be in a school where they know what they are doing and he can learn to get on with others and follow the rules of life.”

I have a million and more comments like this, but the pièce de résistance has to be a comment that an adopter had put on Facebook, that had incensed her when she heard it on a radio phone in debate about home education matters.

  • A male caller had phoned in and told the presenter that he believed home education was fundamentally wrong, because children won’t grow up being able to meet the expectations of society, if they’re not exposed to a one size fits all system. (Arrrrrrrrrrggghhhh)
if you train a fish

Image credited to Pinterest

I believe everyone has the right to voice their own opinions, but that does not mean that individual numpties have the right to force their uninvited opinions on others and insist that their opinion is the one everybody should accept.

It may surprise some to know that I can see pros and cons for both sides of the argument, I cannot and will not be the mouth piece for other parents, I can only speak for myself and our experience of home education for Buzzbee.

I have already said Buzzbee originally attended a mainstream primary school and tried his hardest to fit in with norms and expectations of the school community. He couldn’t meet their expectations and school wouldn’t/couldn’t meet ours. They broke him, and I will never forgive myself for leaving him in that situation for as long as we did.

They turned our happy, confident and inquisitive young boy into a child who no longer believed he was good enough or worthy enough to be around. His love for life and curiosity for the world around had disappeared along with his self-esteem. He had spent so much time isolated from his peers and falling apart at the smallest glimmer of expectations being put on him. From Bumble and my perspectives (and most probably Buzzbee’s), we were seeing school staff give up on him and just going through the motions each day and Buzzbee rapidly giving up on himself too.

While professionals and myself were just going around in circles having meetings after meetings, discussing the same issues, but never reaching a conclusion, Buzzbee’s social, emotional, academic wellbeing was disintegrating in front of our eyes. Buzzbee’s academics had not progressed in almost 2 years.

Bumble and I felt we were left with no choice but to remove him from school for a period of time while a suitable school could be identified.

Buzzbee was developing a phobia not only towards learning, but also to socializing and being in public settings in our local community. For me my priority was not to get him caught back up with his peers academically. Before I could help him “catch up” I needed to help him believe in himself again.

From the very beginning I was open to working closely with outside agencies as well as the local Home Education welfare officer to regularly review Buzz’s progress, and I welcomed their input – which usually involved them telling me that they were impressed with how much Buzzbee had actually achieved, despite lacking the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I was not passing off work I had done as his. Very quickly I identified Buzzbee’s learning style and focused my attention on creating opportunities for learning and succeeding using this knowledge.

For more than a year I directed my attentions to working only on topics and areas that I knew he could cope with, and for the first few months that meant going really back to basics. As Buzzbee’s self-esteem and confidence in his own abilities grew, and he was learning to trust that it was okay to make mistakes and that I wouldn’t think less of him for it, I gradually began sneaking in skills that would push him a little more out of his comfort zone. Sometimes this worked and sometimes……well, let me just say I am grateful for hot chocolate, and Steve Backshall.

Flexibility is at the heart of Buzzbee’s learning style needs, and without the freedom that home education offers, Buzzbee wouldn’t be where he is now, emotionally or socially, and he wouldn’t have the courage to try things that do not come naturally to him.

When Buzzbee was removed from school, he wouldn’t/couldn’t show adults what he could do, or have the courage to tell staff when he didn’t understand what he needed to do. He couldn’t spell his own name. He would crumble into a thousand pieces at the slightest suggestion of reading even a single word. He was unable to tolerate sitting in assemblies or class performances. His academic levels were no higher than a 1c, despite being in year 3. And he believed he was the most dangerous little boy on the planet.

2 years on, and while there are glaringly obvious difficulties in his abilities to learn the basics (something we had ourselves questioned while he was still in school), we have found solutions to work with or around this. Buzzbee can now ask for help if he doesn’t know how to do something, or is unsure of the words he is trying to read. Mistakes while doing project/school work no longer result in the whole piece of work being turned into confetti, and he can, most days, walk away when he is getting frustrated instead. He has begun to trust his dad and other adults enough to show them what he can do or has learnt (I love seeing his face light up when they congratulate him on his effort). He enjoys celebrating the efforts of his project work and insists on displaying it throughout our lounge. I could list so many more examples of how he is slowly getting there academically, but for myself (and Bumble) the biggest and most important example that I can give you for how Home Education has been the saviour of Buzzbee, has to be that it has given him the space he needed to recover and rebuild his emotional health and reconnect with, not only his peers in our community, but also engage in social and extracurricular activities that involve him needing to, not only learn social etiquette, but also ‘putting himself out there’ and joining in with activities that 2 years before would have been too much for him to cope with.

If you were to have asked me 2 years ago, if I could ever imagine that Buzzbee would not only attend dance lessons or join a theatre group. I would have said “It’ll never happen, and that breaks my heart because I know how much he loves to sing and dance”.

Well, we are 2 years along and not only is Buzz doing both of these, but he is actively involved with them and will confidently show them what he can do, the same goes for the forest school that he attends once a week. When they first met him he was in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’, but with their support and commitment, he has grown in himself and they report that he is a completely different child. He is happy and in my eyes that means he is successful, and I cannot tell you how much that fills me with pride.

Home Education is not the right fit for everyone, but for now it is the perfect fit for Buzzbee, and if you still are in any doubt about the benefits it has had for Buzzbee. Maybe this picture will make you think twice.

Every night I write a silly message on his blackboard. This evening Buzz proudly called me to his bedroom to show me what he had done without any input from anyone else – This is a first for him but I am hoping it won’t be his last.

thats me

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Taking the square peg out of the round hole.

  1. I echo everything you’ve written here, we too were left with no alternative! We only started our home education journey October but already the differences in all 3 girls have been hugly positive, more confidence, more curiosity, less anxiety! Just amazing, like you home education wasn’t in my plan, it wasn’t something I even considered a possibility before we adopted, kids go to school, that’s just how it is, well, my views changed, school doesn’t suit all kids, my only regret was not doing it sooner!

  2. As a teacher, I am all too aware of how the education system lets down a lot of children. I try to be as holistic as I can but there are so many pressures on teachers and schools to achieve certain things that it is impossible to meet all children’s needs. This is, in my opinion, a massive failing of the education system – why make a child feel like they are a failure when they can’t spell or add? In the grand scheme of life, the skills schools insist on are so narrow – there is so much more to life and so many other things to achieve and learn.
    In regards to the home education debate, I do think there should be some check that home educated children are learning and happy and healthy but this needs to be done in a sensitive, sympathetic way. I know – it’ll never happen, same as the education system will never change, but we can dream!
    And for what it is worth, it sounds like you are doing an incredible job educating your boys 🙂

    • Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. There were staff at Buzz’s school who had the potential to gain his trust but the system wouldn’t allow for flexibility. He has come so far and I have found our visiting EWO to be very supportive (although I do know others who have a diffent experience of her). Buzz is working at his pace and I am loving watching how his pace is increasing just that little bit more everyday.

  3. So pleased that home education is going well for you and Buzzbee!
    I completely understand that feeling. Our boys are doing so much better now than we ever thought they would, or even could do. I had no idea how many of their struggles were stress related, until I took them out of school and removed their greatest source of stress.
    Like you, I sometimes wonder whether we should have taken them out of school sooner. But, I think that I would have always wondered whether school could have gone better, if we just gave it one more try. At least this way, I am quite certain that school wasn’t the best place for my boys.

    • Thank you. I probably spend too much time worrying about whether if I removed him early would he be further along in basic skills but in truth if he hadn’t struggled so much at school and then continue to struggle with the same skills at home, I would never have had the evidence to push for further assessments for him. Now we have a better understanding of what he is having to cope with everyday, I am so proud of how far he has come.

  4. Thank you for this clear, honest and un-hysterical post! I, too, have been following this debate and watched its predictable descent into hyperbole and accusation. So depressing. I’m a teacher, and yet I became interested in alternative forms of education long before I had OB, when I never had any thought of becoming a parent. Why? Because it seemed patently obvious to me that however excellent a school was (and many are, and many teachers are too) it was only ever going to be excellent at a specific style of mass education. And – and this is the point – there’s more than one way of getting an education! To insist otherwise seems to me to be blinkered, and ignoring a rich history of educational variety in our country, which has only included a mass education system since the 19th century. Like many home educators (not home ‘schoolers’ – it’s not school here!) I can see the point of a proper system of ensuring that children are actually being educated but this already exists! LAs have the power and the mandate to identify children not receiving an education already, and systems in place to do this. However, I object to having our home inspected by people who know nothing at all about home education, its history, its methods, its varying philosophies and styles etc. etc. Sending Ofsted or similar will only end up with home educators being measured against standards designed to measure a mass education system. Totally pointless. A home educating friend of mine recently had a visit from the school nurse who spent the whole time trying to surreptitiously question the child on his educational achievement so far (he is 5) for goodness sake. Send somebody with relevant experience and qualifications and maybe we’ll talk. I could go on! But I won’t or I’ll start to sound like a conspiracy theorist. 🙂

    • Thank you. It is helpful to hear from different perspectives and I agree it is a minefield. I feel fortunate at the moment that the professionals involved with us at the moment are supportive and appear to have a pretty good level of understanding of the diversity and ‘out of the box’ thinking that we have had to use during Buzz’s home ed journey, they also know that Buzz is out of bounds unless he engages them (he is usually pretty good at making sure they know this too when he needs too). I would struggle (as would Buzz) if so called experts who had little or no awareness of the home ed methods that works for him or of his needs and started to try to guage his attainment and progress, and compare it to a national standards.

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