To school or not to school… one year on!

Chicken pox arrived in our house at the most opportune of times. Our school-going son is daily questioning his school going, and as a wanna-be home schooling mama, and wanna be writer, I find myself completely torn. I shared the agonising decision almost a year ago about whether or not he was going to go to school here

I am sure I am not the only parent in this dilemma – some have gone down their chosen route without a doubt and with a spring in their step, or without questioning, it is not a decision… for me, for us, it really is… and neither option quite fits any of us…

I have read a huge amount about home education, un schooling, flexi schooling and various school education options over the years. I have a bulging book case on the subject. So I am not looking for information. But we do need to decide one way or the other – though as I said last year, and as my friend MF says, no choice is forever…

I write this with an awareness that my readership is split between home educators and schoolers, and I am very clear that I do not want to disparage either’s choices, or make this a battle ground of ideologies. Let there be no mud slinging here please! This is a space for dreaming aloud, and so it is with this intention that I am sharing my own dreams and struggles… I would really like to hear what the deciding factors have been for you in your own lives, and where your struggles have been rather  than any blanket judgements or proseletysing one way or the other.

The issues FOR US – if I went into detail on each this post would be VAST! So forgive me for just listing them:

  • Family approval/ acceptance – it shouldn’t matter but it does and none of the parents are particularly supportive of home-ed
  • Energy/sanity – I NEED headspace as a Highly Sensitive, and am looking forward to pre-school and school as allowing me to have more.
  • Myself as a writer and person, beyond mother and teacher – This is a big one for me. Having had my first child at 25, and had three in close succession, and being a creative minded person, I really feel the NEED for my own work and creative headspace. Other homeschooling mothers have said I can do it whilst the kids are at home, but with all due respect they are not writers themselves and so do not know this. I can do the sort of bitty writing I do now, but I want to be able to get more concentrated time. I am not hugely attracted to unschooling as an approach, therefore home ed will require more of my time and energy.
  • Our family income – I like to be able to contribute to our family income. It matters to me.
  • What about later? Exams, getting back into the system – what if he is academic like us, his parents, I don’t want homeschooling to limit what/ who he might be and pushing him towards creative work being his only option…
  • Isolation..Being the odd one out – him and us on the estate, in the village, we are already very different by religion and hobby choices, and lifestyle, I don’t want him to be stigmatised because of our choices.
  • Not being comfortable with unschooling approach –  have read a lot about it, seen it in action, and for me it is not really the answer either… I have seen a huge amount of maternal anxiety over it… it is not, I don’t think, the path that I would want to take.
  • Mother as teacher – When discussing this earlier in the year with another mama who is a very hands-on do loads of stuff at home mama, but has also chosen the school route, she said, and I agree, that our role with our kids is mother and trying to shift into the teacher role is challenging for both parties.
  • But he gets it at home anyway- Both of my parent’s attitudes is that what happens at home is most important, and that my kids already get lots of good stuff at home, and so what happens at school is of less importance. I agree to a point, but if school is dominating home life and routines, if school is a large chunk of his day, if we could do better and he could be happier at home, then shouldn’t we…
  • Biological equilibrium- going to the toilet and eating when he needs to are a big deal. As is being able to rest when he needs to. School does not allow this.
  • He is a highly sensitive child – needs time alone. School ahs really helped him to gain social confidence – but it taxes him beyond comfortable limits. He often returns totally drained.
  • What did you learn at school today? “Nothing” is his standard reply.
  • fairness with all my kids – I have three children, I don’t want to give my first born something that I am unable to offer all three
    My own limits of knowledge, child development and educational stuff – I am, like any parent, concerned about being judged by others: parents, authorities etc… and deemed a failure.
  • Providing a really good education… this goes both ways

Irish- school wins
Other modern languages – we win
Outdoor education -we win
Acctive learning – we win
Team sports – school wins
Reading and writing and maths – we would do it differently but equally well we would do it with more creativity, school with more efficiency
History, geography, humanities, science – we would win on creativity, breadth and tailoring it to his interests and for in depth project learning
Art, creativity – us,
 Home economics- that’d be us again
Spiritual/ religious education – don’t even get me started there
Music – us
Morals and love – ummmm , us!
Sense of independence
Sense of community…

No more school means:
No more inane work books, time filling, queing, being silent, putting up hands, making him do pointless homework, stickers and stars as rewards, packed lunches, early mornings, money spent on uniforms and school stuff – probably about 600 euro this year, planning all activities around school, endless birthday party invites to Go Safari,  early to bed school nights, worrying about what goes on in the playground…


No more writing mornings and possibly less writing evenings

More kiddies fighting, driving to after school clubs to “fill in the gaps”, mess, noise, planning, DEMANDS ON ME.


More time with kiddies, learning together, rewarding learning experiences seeing him grow, providing him with individualised learning, sense of self as learner,  sense of pride in work and ownership, being known and really appreciated, the removal of competitive learning and comparison which he is very sensitive to. Setting him up for a life of learning.

So here I am, swinging my legs on the fence. Knowing that both options have many positives. Knowing that I have a right to choose my own “career” over my kids and not feel bad. Knowing that his school is not really damaging him, it is a benign village school. Knowing that really it is all small fry, that it doesn’t really matter.. and yet… and yet…