I received so much support when I wrote a Facebook post a few days ago explaining my absence and revealing the craziness that I’ve been living and the outrageous notion that I might want to start a school. I’d like to thank those of you who gave the post a like or a link or had something to say. I’d originally intended to write a 10 Favorite Posts for the new year round up post as December marked this blog’s one year anniversary which was exciting, but also, just another thing to do. So I didn’t.
Back nearly 6 years ago now, my husband was due to start a funded Phd program and we were discussing whether I should start a degree (I’d intended to do so three years after moving here from America and qualifying for “home fees” back when home fees were only £3k!) or pursue a business (I wanted to be a personal trainer back then, but that was only my current “work for myself dream” scheme) or have a baby and do that stuff later. Back then I thought you have kids and it slows you down for a few years but then you can get back in the game when they go to school. That was the plan. Before I got married, my father had offered to pay for me to get a university degree back home in America if I didn’t elope with my husband and move here to the UK. We had considered putting off the marriage for a while because it was a tempting offer, but neither of us could bear to continue the super long distance relationship any more. So we’d decided I would get a degree here in the UK as soon as possible, which really meant waiting until I could pay £3k per year rather than £9k. (How ironic then that home fees are now £9k right? Ugh.)
How I realised I would be home schooling
As I have a natural addiction for truth, my worry about SIDS lead to research into co-sleeping before my daughter was born. This as well as the research I did about breast feeding while trying to get that latch right lead me to reading about attachment parenting and then non-punitive discipline and then home schooling. I specifically remember telling my husband, who was against home schooling at the time I did NOT want to home school. I specifically remember NOT reading the information about it for a long time, actively avoiding it, because I did not want to home school my kids. But that’s not the kind of person I am; curiosity got the better of me and I eventually read this article and that blog post and one thing lead to another. The last straw I think was a video about Summerhill as well as a second video interview with a guy who had left Summerhill unable to read but who taught himself when it was relevant for him. That struck me, that the difference in these kids who were given agency was a confidence they could learn things when they needed to. I want that for my kids. I probably don’t have to worry because both my husband and myself retained that even though we went to school but we didn’t enjoy school so why would we want to put our kids through it? How would we have been different if we’d gone to a place like Summerhill or Sudbury Valley School?
I’ve read so much more since then and while I can understand why some people cannot home school my personal choice is that I cannot send my kids to a traditional British state school. I just can’t. All of this reading has been like The Matrix to me. I just can’t go back.
Why I don’t want to be home schooling
So I’m home schooling. But this is not what I wanted for my life. I love my kids more than anything and I will do the best I can for them, but that doesn’t mean it fulfills me. I don’t want to seem arrogant, and indeed I do not feel superior at all, I wish it weren’t the case but deep intellectual discovery is what fulfills me. Not Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Happy Land figurines. And there is no deep intellectual discovery happening at 8:00 at night after a long day when the kids are in bed. Only zombie drooling at a DVD with some wine or while scrolling through Facebook.
Also, as an introvert with social anxiety, I’m not sure I can get them out to spend time with enough other kids as they should. I want to hole away like Emily Dickinson for 12 years not get out and about like Cameron Diaz. Getting out and meeting people as I know I should actually fills me with real dread. I sometimes don’t take them to the park 2 minutes away because there might be other people there. My kids are SO social and will talk to and play with everybody. I get so upset when other kids ignore them and I don’t know how to deal with it. Do I intervene and tell them to leave the kids alone if they aren’t interested? Do I let them learn their own way? Will the mother be offended at either of those choices? Will she want to talk to me? Am I supposed to talk to her first? Is not talking to her rude? Sometimes I think maybe I should hire someone to come take them to the park for me for an hour every other day.
The other option; democratic Sudbuy Valley type schools
But they need more than that. I’m reading Free to Learn right now (and LOVING it) and though I’d already thought this, the hunter-gatherer norm for childhood, the natural expectation of children therefore, is to be able to run and play with close childhood friends for hours every day. My almost five year old loves being out playing with friends and even meeting new ones. She’s going to her Montessori pre-school right now which is good but she’ll be five soon and cannot go anymore at that point. This is where Small Acres School looks absolutely perfect for her. She would be the happiest person she could be, I think, if she went there. Six hours a day of playing with friends; nothing could be better. Being at home with me would definitely not be better for her than that. But it’s in London, and we’re not. And my husband, who’s just completed his Phd and is looking for an academic job anywhere in the UK will have an even harder time finding one specifically in London. And even if he did, I’m not sure we could afford the tuition. Maybe some day, but not quite yet.
For a couple of weeks I was seriously considering trying to launch a career in business analysis, crossing over from my position right now (part time) in a risk department at an insurance consultancy office (riveting stuff I know). If I worked full time in business analysis I could probably afford to send my kids to the school I want to send them. But I would barely see them, they would need to go to a child minder or nanny after school until I got home and all day between terms. That’s not what I want. I want to send them three days a week and study for a psychology degree those three days, pick them up at 3:00 pm and spend the rest of my time with them. We can’t. We just can’t find a way to do that right now.
So, the last way I can imagine making this happen is to create my own school, right here. (My husband can go work anywhere and come visit us on the weekend if all this other stuff is so perfect. For a while.) One of the comments I got on my Facebook post alerted me to this Steiner home ed co-op and the model they are using looks amazing. They are working with the council as an “out of school educational facility“, so not running an illegal school, and everybody is ok with that. I’d love to set something like this up. There is or was also something very similar in Stroud called A Place to Grow.
It won’t be easy. Especially with no money of my own. It may be impossible. But, sometimes mothers can accomplish impossible feats for their children.