Diary of Events

2016/17 – Ruth is 7/8 years old. She is a capable expected rate achiever in school but seems a little unhappy and has no interest in reading at home. She is sometimes writing b’s and d’s the wrong way round. She had previously struggled with recognising 3’s and 5’s. I query dyslexia with school. Ruth’s reading comprehension is age 12.75 and I’m told not to worry.

2017/18 – Ruth seems to enjoy school and particularly Maths, but her friendships are struggling. Her friends are different ages and have different interests. Ruth attends a very small school, is one of only 4 children in her year group and the only girl. Ruth asks if we can home educate. I’d love to but I work (at the school!), and there seems to be lots of people who ‘look down’ on home education. Another girl joins Ruth’s year group which she’s thrilled about and is briefly positive. However, friendships continue to struggle as this girl finds similar interests with the others and not Ruth. Summer 2018 I stop working at the school and take up self-employment.

2019 – nothing improves, Ruth is not happy at school. We move Ruth to a middle school to give opportunity for a variety of friendships and experience of a larger school with more facilities, such as science labs, a PE hall, a wood working room, computer rooms etc. Also, with the viewpoint that this would be a good stepping-stone for an even larger intended high school. Everything is once again positive; Ruth settles well and seems to enjoy school for a while. A girl Ruth becomes friendly with, begins to ‘use’ her, is unkind and there’s questionable bullying happening. Ruth is unhappy again but the girl in question moves on to high school, so we hope things will improve.

2020 – the year of COVID…. During lockdowns Ruth goes up to top set. She didn’t enjoy online school lessons (and so I thought maybe home education wasn’t meant to be). She doesn’t seem bothered about her achievement and says she didn’t really try. Ruth breaks her arm on the trampoline. A couple of weeks later her very close Nan passes from terminal illness (fought for approx. 4 years). Ruth attends the funeral, but I am advised to try and ‘keep things normal’ and so she attends school normally even though school itself isn’t normal, we’re in between lockdowns…. The school support hub is excellent, allowing Ruth time out of class when needed. Ruth is diagnosed with hypermobility and struggles with her joints and pain (including knees locking and feeling like they’re going to dislocate). Finally, we gain schools support with hypermobility after they have been doubting Ruth’s ‘effort’ and a PE teacher showed little compassion saying, ‘if you can’t run then jog.’

2021 – the school support hub seems to lack effort with Ruth now and she says she feels like she’s being a nuisance. My worst nightmare unfolds as Ruth begins self-harming and can’t explain to us why, other than it makes her feel better…. We seek support from school as we are concerned of the number of children in her group of ‘friends’ doing the same. We learn she is ‘presenting well’ at school i.e. Doing her work and not showing any signs of being unhappy. We support Ruth best we can but she irregularly self-harms at school on a few occasions. School advises to see the GP which we decide to take a viewpoint on during/after the summer holidays depending how things go. Ruth is very low in mood and quiet all summer despite us getting away and having lots of walks/keeping busy. No self-harming takes place all summer but she’s a completely different girl to the beginning of last year and it’s breaking my heart. She doesn’t often want hugs anymore and tries to shut herself away in her room. Ruth goes back to school in September for her first day in year 8 and typically a kind hearted girl, helps the new year 5’s happily with no problems, but I still am worried. I know my daughter, i know she’s still not right.

The Decision to Home Educate

I attend a webinar that evening on the myths and truths of home education. It reinforces everything that I thought and wanted home education to be. Ruth is keen, so we go for it. It’s the second day of term and first day of home-education/‘de-schooling’, we decide to go out to get some workbooks. The car breaks down, so we take it to the garage (after we assess if it was safe to do so on google – lesson 1!). We have a bit of a walk into town and do our shopping while the car’s being fixed. As we chat and walk, like we often do, she opens-up and tells me more about her friendships and her emotions than she has all summer, all year in fact. It was like the decision to home-educate had lifted an almighty huge weight off her shoulders and she felt like she could finally talk about it all.

Ruth’s headteacher responded to my letter with a call. He was genuinely supportive of our decision and said there’s a space at school for her if ever we change our minds, be that in a week or several months. He finished saying he looks forward to hearing great things about her.

To date, we haven’t set any plans in stone and are still in the process of de-schooling. Ruth can follow her interests and I will be ensuring she receives a more than sufficient education. I’ve learnt where and how I can access GCSE’s when / if we need to. I’ve downloaded ‘year’ appropriate curriculums for possible guidance but for now, she is just enjoying the learning opportunities life gives or she that she feels drawn to.

The beauty of home education is that schooling, or more appropriately, learning, literally happens at any time of the day. Ruth’s enjoying exploring subjects and skills of interest for herself when she’s ready to and in the right mind to. Cooking is a current favourite. Plus, she hasn’t had to put her food creation in a plastic tub in school where it sweats all day and comes home cold and soggy looking like something you wouldn’t even give to the dog…!

Ruth recently asked if she could learn to use my graphics tablet. She ended up spending two and a half hours, on it. Despite offering my help, she learnt how to use it, figured how to use different features to create different effects and then came up with an idea for a project she completed – all by herself. She wanted to do this. She found a flow and stopped only when she was ready. In school, she would’ve had to pack up after a 45-minute lesson and come back this 2 or 3 times more, to get to a finished project. In effect, she completed 3-4 weeks of ICT learning in one session and without the distraction of other students.

Don’t get me wrong, the learning doesn’t always go well. A clay session was soon brought to a halt as Ruth just got frustrated with it. But that’s okay. I think i would have too to be honest – it was awful stuff!!! She gave it a go and it’ll be there if or when she wants to come back to it. There’s no pressure with learning at home and the learning in this instance was, knowing when to stop something and managing emotions.

Why I Wish I’d Done it Sooner

The opportunities for learning are truly endless.

However, the biggest thing for me and my husband in all this, is that home education has helped us to get our daughter back. She is 110% happier and feels close to us once again. The girl that pushed my hugs away once, now wakes up and comes to hug me. We can prioritise her mental health and wellbeing and we feel able to support and guide her through her education in a way that doesn’t make her feel anxious or undervalued. In a way that school unfortunately just weren’t able to.

Ruth is no longer self-harming and feels positive about her future.

I honestly wish I had found out more about the benefits of home-education and spoken to more people about it sooner.