I’m Jo, mother to two girls (an 8 year old and a 4 year old) who have never been to school. I work 5 night a week from home for a maritime company and my husband works in the construction industry. I first read about home education in a Sunday Times colour supplement years before we had even thought about trying for a family. I tore it out and still have it, it spoke to me of a wonderful freedom and to teach the things I considered important.
To begin with I had an idyllic vision of what our life would be like: how I would carefully craft an all-encompassing curriculum and I imagined how my lucky children would peacefully sit before me hanging on every word as I filled their minds with the cultural wonders of our world whilst moulding then to share my political and personal beliefs. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened! After I had my eldest, I quickly realised I couldn’t replicate school at home and drastically lowered my expectations and embraced home education as a lifestyle.
I stood back and watched the unfolding of this unique personality, I don’t see myself as her teacher but as her facilitator, my role is to open doors for her and wait to see which one she chooses. Both girls love being outdoors with friends, they love drawing and although neither can read yet - they adore books and we go on many adventures together. I honestly get as much (if not more) out of the way we live our lives as they do. I continue to learn new things alongside them and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and be a role model for them.
We are loosely Charlotte Mason inspired (I love Julie Bogart’s Brave Learner book) and we do sit down work daily but it is anchored in a chronological history rotation with a strong focus on the arts (ballet, Shakespeare, fine arts, music, etc). We leave the house about 10am and try not to come home before 4pm (harder in the winter!). We spend our days in the forest, at the beach or on field trips. The girls have friends of different ages and backgrounds, and they are free to choose who they want to spend their time with, happily our local community is tight-knit, supportive and intrepid.
Although I feel very privileged and honoured to spend my days with them it’s not always an easy ride. The girls can bicker when indoors for too long, I have days that I wobble and worry about the unknown, and money can be tight as every penny goes on various lessons, experiences and equipment. The girls desperately miss their father when he’s at work but my husband loves seeing and hearing about our daily adventures and that helps make his hard work more rewarding.
I have no idea what the future looks like for our girls. One of the top reasons I wanted to home educate was for their mental health, after being bullied in middle school and going to a pressurised high performing all-girl state school, I wanted a different experience for them. Having said that I am not anti-school and if one of the girls requested to attend I would (reluctantly) make that happen. I hope they will do GCSEs (the core subjects at very least) but how many or in which subjects I do not know. As a post-graduate myself, I would like them to go to university but that might not be the path they choose.
My advice would be that it’s never too early to start reaching out to your local community as it may take some time to find your tribe as unsurprisingly there is the whole human spectrum of home educators out there. Also, you will have wobbly days as even the most seasoned of home educators do and to embrace them, let them go and be kind to yourself. It can be hard to ignore the pressure of what your child *should* be doing (ask me how I know!), especially if you’re still institutionalised like I am - for those times I think about the progress they have made in the last 12 months and think about all the wonderful experiences we have had (and are yet to have) as a family.
Jo enjoys organising various activities for her local home education community and she helps to run the Totton Home Education Network Follow Jo on Instagram as she documents her days @pleasesendsleep.
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