When I decided to do this interview series I asked friends for their questions about home education. A question that came up a couple of times was whether you could do it as a single parent. Cassie’s blog, Us Wee Three, is one of my favourite home ed blogs and she also happens to be a single parent, so she was the perfect person to ask…
I’m a single parent and made the decision to home school my daughters alone. This works well as the three of us have a natural rhythm and this isn’t interrupted by having to compromise my philosophy towards learning. It does mean that I rarely get a break but, surprisingly, this has been easier to manage since removing my children from school. I think there was an element of ‘school will take care of that’ in my parenting approach before and I now think I’m a better parent.
I study at university and this means that the children need to go to a childminder while I attend lectures. This isn’t a huge problem as we unschool and no childminder would be expected to tutor the girls in any way. Once I graduate I will look to working part-time and subsidising my income by working from home. It can be difficult to make a living and home school as a single parent but it’s not impossible. There are sacrifices we have to make but not big ones and nothing of much real importance (material possessions).
What made you decide to home educate?
I’m just beginning my final year of a Primary Education degree so the subject of education has been at the forefront of my mind for the past three years. During my third teaching practice (at the school my children attended), I started to become more aware of the short comings of a school based education.Teachers were highly stressed, undermined by box ticking and disillusioned – the result of this was that children and their education was at the bottom of the list of priorities.
As my children attended the school it was inevitable that they would be in the classroom of the teachers I worked closely with. No matter how I tried to manipulate my thinking so that this fact sat comfortably with me, I couldn’t shift the feeling that I was doing my children a disservice. It occurred to me that most schools would be the same, and once I saw that I couldn’t unsee it. I started looking into local free schools with alternative curriculum but still I found nothing I was happy with. I stumbled across websites about home schooling – I didn’t even know it was so easy to deregister children from school. I didn’t hesitate and a few weeks later we became home schoolers.
What reaction did/do you get from friends and family?
A mixture of reactions. Most people have been supportive – including the school. Most of my teacher friends understand and support the decision fully. Friends have said they wish they could take the plunge. Family have shown the most concern about the girls learning everything they ‘should’ learn. Almost every body mentions the dreaded ‘socialisation’.
We are lucky that the girls’ dad supports our decision but has never really been involved in the children’s education so I use the term ‘supports’ rather loosely. There have been a couple of incidents when friends or family have quizzed the girls about what they do at home, whether they miss their friends and so on but I just politely ask them to stop.
What does an average home ed day look like?
I’m not sure there is one! We’ve adopted an autonomous approach and have been deschooling for a majority of our time (I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to recognise when deschooling ends and unschooling begins). There are some things we do everyday: I always read to the girls at least once a day (usually a story); we get outside every day; they help make lunch. I suggest things everyday – I get ideas for activities from other home ed blogs – and then it’s up to the girls. We go swimming regularly and attend home ed groups.
How do you make sure your children are socialised and get other people’s perspectives on life?
The girls socialise with a range of people – not just other kids. I make an effort to arrange play dates with friends and they mix with people at home ed groups. I don’t find socialisation to be a problem. It seems that wherever we go they make friends, even if for only 10 minutes. My daughters are very close in age (6 and 5 years old) and they’re best friends. This was the case even when they were at school. Through their relationship with one another, they learn empathy, working together, how to resolve differences, secure in the knowledge that their friendship won’t be harmed. A concern that I had when they were in school was the seemingly constant bargaining for friendship. We a part of a very open family and live in a diverse community so the girls are exposed to a variety of outlooks and ways of life.
How do you prepare your children for the future: having to have a job, sticking to rules, dealing with authority/bullies, etc.?
I don’t believe in sticking to rules for the sake of rules. We don’t have rules in our home but we do talk about the consequences of our decisions. So I would never tell them they need to get a job but I would discuss with them the benefits of getting a job and what it might mean for them if they didn’t. I model the behaviour I’d like to see my children adopt. They witness me working hard in my studies and they know why it’s important to me. They understand why I go to university, why other people go to work, why we must pay for the things we need and want. I encourage them to question everything.
How do you make sure your children learn the value of doing things they may not want to do? (Assuming you *do* think this is valuable. If not, why not?)
I don’t think there is any value in doing things you don’t want to do. There are things I’d rather not do but do them in order to achieve a specific goal. For example at times, I’d rather not work on my assignment but I want to finish my degree so, in essence, I want to work on the assignment. If my children found themselves doing something they didn’t want to do, I would hope they would question why they were doing it.
If your children decided they wanted to go to school would you let them? If so, how would you prepare them for school?
It would be very difficult but if that’s what they wanted to do, I would let them. They have been to school before so may remember what to expect. However, I would talk to them about why they wanted to go, what they wanted to gain from going and what they expected. I would remind them that they could change their mind at any point.
What do you feel are the most positive aspects of home ed?
Home ed provides an environment where children can learn at their own pace, doing things that are meaningful to them; where they can take risks without fear of failure and where they be the masters of their own learning.
Are there any negatives?
Not so far.
Any home ed misconceptions you’d like to clear up?
That all of us recreate the school environment at home.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about home education?
Be prepared to think about learning ALL THE TIME, to talk about learning ALL THE TIME. You’ll never get a break from it and it’s great!
If you’d like to be interviewed for this blog – or if you have a burning home ed question you’d like me to ask – either let me know in the comments or email me keris dot stainton at gmail dot com.