Are you thinking of homeschooling? I was for years, before I finally made the choice to offer a school free life to my kids.
I’m a primary school and early childhood teacher with twenty years teaching experience. I taught in public primary schools before teaching in Montessori and Reggio preschools and early learning centres for ten years +.
So, I surprised a lot of people when I pulled my children out of school to homeschool.
I hadn’t been teaching long before I realised the system doesn’t work. There’s a plethora of amazing teachers and schools out there. Schools and teachers aren’t at fault. The system is. School is not an ingredient of a natural childhood. It isn’t a natural way of learning.
School doesn’t work for children— socially or academically.
I wish I’d followed my instincts not to send my children to school. By the time I finally decided to homeschool, my children were in years 4 and 6. They’d lost their zest for learning, lost the beautiful independence they were born striving towards – and for my youngest child, there was a lot of emotional damage to heal.
Here are twelve factors that made me go school free. If you’re considering homeschooling, I hope these thoughts will help you in your decision:
1. I Wanted My Children Back.
When my children were at school, I lost them. Not only did I lose my daily time with them, I watched their intrinsic motivation slip away too. I lost the happy, inspired children my kids used to be.
As toddlers, my children had a deep sense of wonder. They wanted to know everything about the world around them. They kept this sense of wonder until they were 6 and started school. Schooled, their faces turned kind of grey. I realise this sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. Their eyes didn’t light up at new discoveries the way they used to. They didn’t even want to get out of bed. Before they started school, they’d get up early to consume each day.
When they were schooled, my firstborn found ways to get through the drudgery of the day, while my youngest child was sleepless with anxiety most school nights.
Apart from the worry about unhealthy levels of stress-caused cortisol in my youngest child and the unhealthy and unnatural amounts of sedentary hours my children spent at school, this broke my heart.
When I pulled them out of school, I got them back. I really did. It took time, but over weeks and months of being school free, I watched my children’s inner flames reignite, and the light come back to their eyes. Yep, true drama! Truth.
I got my happy, inspired, motivated kids back.
2. At Home, Intrinsic Motivation can Grow.
At home children can follow their interests. They can go and do stuff, as well as read about stuff.
At home, I value and nurture my children’s independence. They develop their passions, talents and skills because they want to. And gain knowledge through their own motivation.
This was not our experience of school. Intrinsic drive isn’t fostered in a classroom, it can’t be. By its nature, school is adult-led. Inner motivation comes from being self-led.
3. Home is a Natural Environment.
School is a made-up and relatively new environment. I believe it’s a social experiment gone wrong, but I guess that’s my lefty beliefs? Ha. Well, I stand by them. I’m a middle-class, once was conservative woman who has developed this strong belief through twenty years spent as a teacher, and fourteen years as a mother.
I’m not trying to be antagonistic, but here’s my truth:
The government is interested in training my children for the gaps in the workplace. I’m not. People are whole when they work towards their own purposes, not someone else’s. That’s what makes good citizens—passion driven people of purpose, who have nurtured and mastered their talents and the things they are interested in pursuing.
4. When They’re School Free, Children Can Socialise with People of All Ages, Whose Company they Enjoy.
The socialisation at school isn’t healthy or natural. Children are forced into close confinement with lots of other children whose birth year they share, but who they often have nothing else relatable with – for prolonged periods of time daily. It’s not real life.
This question: “But what about socialisation?” drives me nuts. Sometimes, I reply: “Oh, you’re right. My children can’t speak because they’re homeschooled.”
A little severe, I realise. But when I say this; usually while my children are comfortably socialising with the adults as well as the children present, people get the picture. At school, children learn to look down or stand to attention when an adult is present. There is a distinct differentiation between adults and kids. You can say no to another child. You can’t say no to an adult. This non-truth is an unsafe and unhealthy thing for children to learn.
When children are school free, they live in the real world. They mix with people of all ages who they enjoy seeing. Not just with others who happen to share their birth year.
The age segregation in schools doesn’t lead to healthy or well-rounded social contexts for children.
It takes a village to raise a child, and a part of that truth is that the village has people of all ages and experience. I admit, the village is flawed. But when you’re school free, you get to go out and find the village. Your village. Your tribe. Those whose influence you want around your kids.
5. Children Need Support Networks and Role-Models Outside of Their Own Age Group.
Children need support networks within their own age group, and outside of it. Think about it. When your child is 13, at their most emotionally vulnerable age since babyhood, who do they turn to for guidance, for six hours or more each day? Other 13 year-olds. Hmm. Other children who are at the same emotionally vulnerable and confused age in their lives. While it’s great and important for children to mix with others of their own age, it isn’t great if these are the only people children have as role-models and go-to’s for the majority of their time. It’s dog eat dog while everyone’s navigating the challenges of school and evolving age.
I’d like to be the one offering guidance during my children’s formative years. I’d like a say about who else has a strong influence on my children’s development. I’m mum. That’s the way nature intended.
6. At Home, There Really is a ‘Say No To Bullying’ Practice.
The subject of bullying takes up a lot of class time. If that isn’t indication that something is wrong with the school model, what is? What about the magical worlds of language, maths, arts, history, technologies, health and sciences? In a school free life, bullying isn’t on the curriculum. Resilience, yes. Respect for yours and other people’s personal boundaries, yes. Dealing with confrontation and rudeness, yes.
But socialisation happens in real life quantities. Not in forced, prolonged periods of time. So it rudeness and infringed boundaries aren’t debilitating to children’s development and they don’t take up learning time. We learn social skills on the run, in manageable portions; with our emotional health intact.
One of my children experienced bullying at school. The other didn’t. But they were both being raised in the same unhealthy social context in which bullying was ripe.
The message for my youngest child was that when you’re being bullied, you have to go back to endure the same mistreatment, day after day. Not at all what I wanted her to learn!
Despite two years of trying to amicably and respectfully diffuse the situation, the bullying continued and grew worse. The school’s strong anti-bullying agenda didn’t help: a healthy social environment was not being fostered.
For us now, emotional health is taught by example and experience, in the arms of a natural life. Not as a reaction to a toxic situation that my children have been forced into. Toxic situations aren’t tolerated. I don’t want my children to tolerate unhealthy relationships or social environments as adults, so I no longer ask them to tolerate social toxicity in childhood, either. We work to resolve issues that arise socially. And if they truly can’t be resolved, after time and effort, we decline the particular social interaction, in favour of healthier relationships.
The way I see it, that’s an incredibly important life skill to have.
7. There is Lots of Time for Concentration and Learning at Home.
There’s not actually a lot of time for concentration and learning in a school day. There’s a lot of crowd shuffling, assembly, interruption, teacher talk, and timetabling.
At home, children can engage with their activity in silence if they wish. They can achieve utter concentration, and develop this skill.
They can also move when they need to, eat or drink when they need to, and go to the toilet when they need to, without permission being declined. So, their discomfort or hunger doesn’t interfere with their concentration as it so often did at school.
Attention spans and concentration are nurtured and grow strong at home.
8. One on One Time is Readily Available.
One on one time with a teacher at school is rare, and often comes with a lot of background noise and distraction.
Children can work independently at home. When they do ask for help, it’s available.
Academic outcomes are not the most important thing in any life, but so many children slip through the radar at school and miss out on expanding their knowledge and skills. At home, children can get the attention they need to progress in their chosen tasks.
9. With Homeschool, There’s More Time to Spend in Nature, Being Active, and Going on Holiday.
You can go to the beach or on holiday when it best suits your family, outside of school holiday crowds and price hikes. Learning never stops, so you don’t have to stay at home cooped up in a school room, either. You can let your kids sleep for the hours that they need to, or can cancel all plans and get outside amongst nature when perfect weather or an amazing event arrives, if it suits your family.
Management of my oldest child’s autoimmune disease has become far easier since we went school free, because he can be physically active when he needs to be, eat and rest when his body tells him to.
Our schedule centres around the needs of our children and family. Not a one size fits all timetable.
Homeschooling frees up family life, immensely.
10. Do We Really Have the Right to Force Children to Attend School?
My children were denied personal rights while they were at school. Basic rights, like going to the toilet, for which permission was sometimes denied.
It took far too long for me to realise that I was guilty of the biggest infringement of my children’s rights. I’d forced them to go to school. I didn’t ask if they were okay with being banished from home five days a week, six hours a day, to spend their time in one room with a bunch of strangers. Turns out, it wasn’t okay with them. They preferred to be at home or in the world with their family.
I know this because when I made the decision that I would homeschool, I asked my kids if this was okay with them. My youngest said yes straight away. My oldest child joined us six months later, when he decided homeschool was his preference too. He hadn’t wanted to go to school when he started and it killed me to leave him there. But I’d forced him to be there. I had no right to force him to leave.
I can tell you; I did a little dance when he announced that he wanted to be school free, too.
11. I didn’t have kids to hand their upbringing over to a group of adults who I know very little about, for six hours a day, five days a week.
Even if your children’s teachers are lovely and most are, how well do you really know them? What are their values?
Are you privy to the decisions being made in the staff room about what is best for your child?
Does it sound crazy to you to let a group of adults who you know very little about, raise your child, or make decisions about what’s best for your children?
12. My Children Have a Right to their Childhood, and I Have a Right to My Time With Them While They Are Children.
I’m their mum. I love them. I get to be with them, and they get to be with me. They have a right to be with people who love them, and science has repeatedly shown the importance of forming strong attachments in childhood. In schools and childcare centres, there simply aren’t enough teachers and carers for these relationships to be fully available for children, and anyway, teachers aren’t dad or mum.
My children have one precious life, and one precious childhood. I want to celebrate that, and share it with them. They’re my children. I’m their mum. It’s the way of things.
Wow, thanks for reading this far down!
I hope that mightily long list helps you in some way.
Maybe you’re thinking of becoming a teacher turned homeschooler too.
Maybe you’re not a teacher, but your instincts are making you question what goes on in schools. You don’t have to be a teacher to homeschool (my guess is that it’s kind of easier not to be – teachers have to unlearn school too).
Whatever your situation, I hope this post is relatable. If you’ve read all the way to this paragraph, thank you for being here. I appreciate the opportunity to share my family’s quest for a natural life.
Wishing you strength in your journey.
Images in this post are from pixabay and unsplash. Click on each image to see the home pages of the photographers.