My Learning Story

I hope this isn't too self-indulgent - but I believe we all have a story, and that story forms us.  My passion for home education has been informed by all of my experiences - so for those who are interested, and to help me as I work out my own journey, here is my story regarding education and me.

When I was five years old I decided I wanted to be a teacher - to help children to learn.  That ambition never wavered, even thoroughout my own varied experiences of education.  I was a very early reader (learned age two, due to watching and absorbing while my mum did flash cards with my older school-age brother), and entered primary school already reading fluently.  From the very start I was given extra work while my peers played - in an attempt to stretch me I suppose.  Primary school was easy academically, not so easy socially (I was never confident when it came to making friends).

Secondary school was not a happy place for me.  I went to the local all-girls grammar school and instead of excelling without effort as I had at primary school, secondary school involved work.  My lack of social skills became painfully evident, and with the exception of a couple of friends for the first two or three years, I was not in any way popular.  I tried too hard to gain people's friendship, which of course had the opposite effect and I was left friendless.  As I became unhappier I saw no reason to make an effort academically, and my teachers were too busy with the hard-workers to pay me much attention.  I got my O'levels, but do not see my years there as happy or successful.  

Sixth form (at the same school) was much better socially: I was in a new class with people who hadn't necessarily grown up with me, and I made a new start: I gave up trying to please people and joined the groups (choir, Christian union, drama club etc) that I had always been drawn to but never had the confidence that I would be accepted.  I can still feel how baffling it was that suddenly people wanted to be around me, just because (in my memory) I was no longer trying to please.  I had got bored of being a doormat & started having fun, organising charity events, even being voted class captain.  Weird.  Academically all was not well though - I had weekend/ holiday jobs as a mother's help and shelf-stacker, and was not used to working hard, so continued coasting in my lessons. And bizarrely became depressed, despite all the sudden attention.  I scraped my A'levels, and went to teacher training college.

The first two years at college were great.  I didn't do all the drunken partying that some associate with student life, but I had fun, and did well enough in my studies.  But by the third year I was crashing.  My teaching practice was not going well (I was fine at the actual teaching, just hated all the paperwork, mostly needless (as I saw it) planning & evaluating etc, and I did not know how to ask for help (it just hadn't figured in my school years).  Old habits of being needy resurfaced, pushing people away, and I became depressed again, eventually dropping out of college near the end of the third year.

As far as I was concerned, I was a failure.

I had a year off education, spent as a mother's help for a family of lovely, bright kids who I loved.  I got married, and went to a different college to do a final year converting the Diploma in Higher Education that I had achieved at teacher training college, into a BA(Hons) in English and combined studies.  I did OK (passed with a 2:2), but was still convinced I was a failure.

Having graduated I found (as do so many) that a degree is no guarantee of a job - plus I had no idea what to do now that my life-long ambition had been crushed.  I became a special needs assistant, helping children with physical or behavioural problems in class.  I loved it.  I was good at it while it lasted.  Then I had another almost-year as mother's help with the same lovely family from before, until hubby and I moved across the country to work for a Christian minister.  I loved that too - free from the old traumas associated with education and teaching, I found myself as an office manager/ administrator (I do love organising!) for a few years... until our church started an independant school and my teaching skills were once more in demand.  To be honest, inside I felt a fraud as even though I knew I could teach in terms of helping children to understand, I had never done that final year to gain full qualification (of which my bosses were well aware)... but maybe, I thought, this is what I was meant to do.  I stayed there on and off for many years, during which time I had varying lengths of maternity leave to give birth to my own three precious boys, followed by part-time teaching, while one by one the boys joined the school that I was part of.  Nb We were by this point aware of home education as an option, but despite my own negative experiences of school socialisation, we thought the boys would be better at our little school where they could make friends.  Anyway, in September 2011 I went back full-time as Youngest was old enough to join the Preschool... and it wasn't long before the cracks started to show again.  But this time the cracks were not born out of a lack of confidence.  This time I was confident.  I could see that my children weren't flourishing at school - either academically or in Middle's case, socially... and for that matter, nor were some of the children in my own class - despite the fact that I was confident I was doing the best for them all within the given constraints.  I realised that the system just does not work for all children - whether that's state schools, independent schools, or any system of teaching multiple children in one group with one style.

So we removed our boys.  I voluntarily removed myself from the job I always thought I wanted.  And now I have the utter joy of fulfilling my life's ambition: to help children learn.  As a five-year-old I assumed that meant being a teacher in school. It took me almost 40 years to realise that actually, it is so much more!  I'm not even sure if I believe in the concept of a "teacher" any more, but regardless, I am not a teacher - I just help my kids to learn.  That's what it's all about!  They are much happier, relaxed, enthusiastic and learning at a natural pace.  And I am fulfilled.  Completely.  Naturally.  Joyfully.

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