The worst thing anyone ever said to me about our decision to home educate is "You're brave!" I know: I've been let off lightly. I almost feel I'm letting the side down by not experiencing the usual flak of ignorance that most new home educators seem to endure, but there you have it: I obviously have remarkably supportive and intelligent family and friends! Even the "you're brave" comment wasn't really bad - maybe slightly patronising, but not hostile.
Anyway, having thought about it often since then, I've decided that the person who said it had a point. Not from the point of view seemingly shared by so many that it takes some kind of bravery to want to be with your own children full-time: I enjoy being around my children, even more so since they left school and the anxiety/ stress-laden exchanges that used to be so familiar have become largely a thing of the past. However, from the point of view that I am treading a path not chosen by many, that I am shouldering a responsibility that most choose to delegate to "professionals"... then yes, I am coming to agree: I AM brave.
Forgive me if that sounds indulgent. I could do with some cheerleading really - it's actually been quite a wobbly week, and today was not the best day. I knew the forecast was bad, and general household health is such that we are not able to just waterproof-up and go dancing in puddles, even if the trees weren't whipping their limbs about alarmingly in the howling wind. For that reason I had chosen a couple of lovely invitation-type indoor activities to strew for a nice change of pace. I was looking forward to it. Sadly we didn't get to do either. The boys didn't even spot one until almost tea-time, and the other, not at all! We spent this morning doing first MathsWhizz (which was actually quite nice as each of the boys took it in turns to snuggle next to me to complete their exercises on my laptop), and then some English workbook exercises, which reeeeealllllyyyyy dragged. We hardly ever do Maths AND English in any one day, but the boys had been to the park yesterday and wanted to leave their maths until today, so it was their choice really, but it didn't go well in the end.
It just turned out to be a heavily parent-led day, with me having to chivvy them to finish their "work". We haven't had a day like that for such a long time, and I was wondering why, as none of us work well like that. I think I have to accept that I've been 'wobbling' a bit. It started with the realisation that if (it's a considerable 'if') the boys - particularly thinking of Eldest at the moment - want to take GCSEs at some point, they are going to need to have to have "kept up" in certain subjects with their peers in school. However, that statement really sits in contradiction with my strongly held belief that education is neither a race nor a competition. Hence the wobbling. Anyway, I remembered that way back when we started our Home Ed adventure I felt that we just needed to focus a little on Maths and English, and let the rest flow with the boys' natural interest - and although our approach is very seasonal, we have pretty much continued on that theme, because that is what continues to feel right for us, and apart from today's hiccup, it seems to be working.
So I had a chat with Eldest and talked about what he might want to do. We looked at the possibilities of GCSEs and gently looked at the gap between where he is (with maths for example) and where he will need to get - and agreed that he does need to keep up with MathsWhizz and his English workbooks. It's just that after today I need to be careful to just stick with alternating those subjects so that he and his brothers don't feel overloaded! AND, I need to remember that if they are having a day where it drags, that it's fine to just lay down the workbooks and move on to something more enjoyable (it's not like it was going in by that point anyway - it was just futile "work").
Days like today remind me that Home Educating does have its down-side. I rarely see the down-side to be honest, for all the great reasons that I usually blog about. But today I was reminded that yes, as home educators we do need to be brave. It can be scary. It takes courage to commit to holding your child's future so fully in your hands. There will be days when it feels like a risk/ a gamble/ some kind of dodgy experiment. I am just so thankful that we are so blessed to have such an awesome community of people all travelling similar paths, offering encouragement and wonderful, wise experience. We have those cheering us on who trod the path before and whose children completely flourished as a result. We are surrounded by courageous ones: all determined to offer their children a better life, with better opportunities; all of whom decided not to delegate responsibility to someone else, but to take the risk because we all know deep down that taking the risk will be so utterly vindicated. So today - has it been wobbly? Yes. Brave? That too!