Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Our home education journey began in earnest in early 2006 when our older son, Robin was 7. Our younger son,Rowan was 4 at the time so was yet to enter full-time education. Had anyone even suggested the notion that we would be home educating, say even 18 months prior to this, we would have scorned the possibility and probably laughed the idea away as some kind of joke. It wasn't that we hadn't been aware of the concept of home education, and Christian home education at that. However, the products of Christian Home Education that we had come across did not inspire us. However the tide was to slowly turn and God was to use situations and people to impress different things on our minds.
When Robin was about 6 we decided we wanted a change of school for him. He had been going to a local school just round the corner from where we lived, we wanted somewhere that would offer more of a religious input. We were able to get a place for him in a village Church of England school with a good reputation in almost every aspect, and there would be regular assemblies as well. All seemed to go well for some while but a few events were to trigger a change in our thought processes in the coming 12 months.
During this time we received a short questionnaire from the school asking us questions about how we felt the school was portraying its Christian values. Many of the questions we were able to answer positively. However we had observed that if Robin was going to stay throughout the rest of the school years, the study of Harry Potter material would come onto his syllabus. We had already decided that this was quite categorically not suitable consumption for our boys, and had explained to Robin prior to him starting school why we felt it would not be good for him -just the images were ugly, let alone Harry's methods of getting what he wanted. Anyway, the questionnaire left an open ended question at the end to ask anything else we felt of relevance. I chose to ask how the school felt that Harry Potter was in line with its Christian values. We did get a reply to the effect that it showed good triumphing over evil. That was not sufficient for us as it was quite obvious that Harry was not whiter than white and some of his methods were not desirable.
Even if we may not have realised it at the time, this was probably to sow a seed of doubt as to whether this was what we wanted for our sons' education.
What was to prove a much more telling event also happened during Robin's time at his new school. Quite typically, mornings could be quite difficult as Robin didn't always want to get ready for school (nothing new you might think), so there would be tensions between him and his mother. Then after a long day at school he would come home rather tired, and would often complain about not having enough play time, it would then be tea time, and then time for bedtime routines. This end of the day also proved to have its tensions with both Robin and parents. One day Vicky asked Robin, 'What kind of Mummy do you think I am? Am I a happy Mummy, a sad Mummy, a cross Mummy, an angry Mummy?' (or words to that effect). Robin's reply was to have a lasting impact -'You are an angry Mummy! 'As we analysed this answer we came to the realisation that it was school that was getting the best hours of Robin's day, and we were getting the rough ends at the start and the end of the school day. Surely, as his parents, shouldn't we be able to have him at his best as well as at his worst? It didn't seem right.During the Summer of 2005 we took a holiday to South England Conference Family camp, where we met a home educating family (Chris & Su) who were to have a significant influence on our decision to home educate. At the same time, in the welcome pack in our caravan there was a magazine which featured an article about an 'ordinary' Christian family who had decided to home educate.
Whilst the decision was far from made, the thoughts about home educating were beginning to gather a little momentum. Was God speaking to us, we asked ourselves? Could it be that this form of education which we had so easily dismissed before, now was starting to look a really viable way forward. Please forgive us but we can't quite remember the chronology of some of the above events and which came first, but what we do remember is that eventually, we ended up spending a weekend with Chris and Su in the December of 2005, talking late into the nights/early morning about many aspects of Home Education. It was they, more than anyone, who persuaded us that we could do it, although neither of us had had any teaching experience. This was to be a decision based largely on desiring a better quality of family life. We would put up with the difficult bits but we wanted to have the best part of our boys' days.
It was with a great deal of apprehension still, that we informed Robin's head teacher that we would be removing him from school to 'educate him otherwise.' She was very understanding and wished us all the best, Robin's class also gave him a good send off. This was February 2006. Only the days, weeks, months and years would tell whether the decision to educate our boys at home would prove to be the right one.Over time we have been questioned by some as to the social opportunities associated with H.E. but if anything Robin's opportunities have actually increased with a more flexible approach to education.
We have seen education as a whole life approach and, therefore, this has created far more opportunities for the boys to excel in certain areas than they might otherwise have done. Academically, Robin has gained a couple of good early exam results and is now doing really well at college, so for us, overall the decision to H.E. him has been completely vindicated.
As for Rowan, we are not sure yet. He was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at age 7 and we feel would have always had difficulty fitting in mainstream school.
In fact the Local Education Authority inspector, on his annual visits to us, was of the opinion that Rowan was far better off being educated at home. In some ways he has partially educated himself as it is often difficult to do structured things with him for long, but it cannot be doubted that he is a very intelligent young man in a number of ways -he just needs unlocking socially, which we are finding challenging at times. What he will do when he is older, we can't tell, but God surely has a plan for him as He does for all of us.There have been many days when we have questioned whether we did the right thing, but looking back over the last 8+ years there is no doubt in my mind that there have been some very rich opportunities that have been ours, which we would not have otherwise had, and for that we are very grateful.
Much more could be said but I just want to end on a note of thankfulness for what we all as a family have been able to learn as a result of this experience.