The local authority wanted to see us... agh!
We had a really relaxed and informal visit from our local authority about a month after we de-registered Sullivan from school. Although I was nervous about that, I knew it was mainly for
The lady was so nice, extremely positive about home education and was very vocal in agreeing that we were making the right decision with Sullivan's education as things stand now. She explained that in a few months time the other member of the team, a qualified teacher, would like to come and visit us at home (or at a designated safe place like the library for example, if we didn't feel home was appropriate) to have a chat about how education is going and to satisfy themselves that Sullivan is receiving a suitable and appropriate education.
My heart skipped a beat. Would I be good enough? My circumstances are complicated as you may know. So many stories float around of newly home ed families throwing themselves in to UK or world travel, amazing exploration, messy play in beautiful forests up to their knees in nature, meeting with family and friends everyday... but that just isn't doable for me. We're limited more than I would like us to be with things like travel, accessibility and endurance. We don't really have an amount of disposable income to be able to fill every day with clubs and sessions. Sullivan struggles with social situations and with all of those issues, things can be pretty tough.
The other elephant in the room is that I am not a qualified teacher. With a lot of home ed parents fulfilling their children's educational needs by moving away from traditional sit down work to learn in outdoor and every day environments like I described earlier, my personal worries started with the fact that If I can't do that to a great enough level, nor am I actually qualified for the more traditional sit down work, then what can I offer? Am I enough? Will I fail his needs? Will someone who is qualified come in to our house, see that I cannot offer him traditional schooling or education in other exploratory nature-based ways and decide that he needs to go back to school?
The day came...
Although the local authority meetings are not mandatory in any way at all (you can refuse contact however they eventually like you to at least send off a loose educational plan/philosophy and some examples of work if you wish not to meet anyone) I decided to work through my anxiety and go ahead and meet with the teacher. I talked my worries over with my rock, my love, my husband - without whom I would probably have lost my mind by now - and he, as always, boosted the confidence I was lacking to make me feel like I was enough. We put together our educational philosophy, gathered the work, art, pictures, books, experiments and fun we had been thoroughly indulging in since September's de-registration and I waited for the door bell with racing heart and sweaty palms, hoping he wouldn't want to shake my gross, trembling hand.
Spoilers. I worried for nothing.
I worried for nothing.
It was the easiest, most interesting, positive and supportive meeting I'd had in a long time. Kevin is a secondary school teacher and really loves both his jobs. It's clear kids and their education mean a lot to him but he is passionate about education being suitable for the individual child. He assured me there are no rights or wrongs, there's no 'should be/right way' and that if Sullivan is happy, healthy and learning, then we are thriving and they won't intervene. The educational philosophy I prepared was more than adequate, along with a little glimpse of the work and art we'd been doing to show we are all ok. He complimented Sullivan's handwriting which was a real tear-jerking moment for me, as it's something he really struggled with in school. He had no suggestions, no complaints and nothing but happiness for us as a family.
The darker side
This is my story. I realise it will not be like this for everyone and that is really sad. Local authorities can have a reputation for coming down really hard on home edding families especially when there are other factors involved. Some regularly break the law by turning up unannounced at houses, demanding face to face meetings and detailed in depth analysis of work being completed etc to the point of harassment. Some schools refuse to de-register children when it's again against the law to do so (unless there is an EHCP where things can get a little more complicated). I also realise that a small minority of people who home educate may not have the best intentions for their children either. This also breaks my heart. I can only give my side of my own personal experiences and thankfully, those experiences so far have been full of positivity and support.
Have you had a good or bad experience with your local authority in regards to home education? Please feel free to leave a comment below, I'd love to hear your stories.
Who is Julie?
30 something, mother of two gorgeous boys, lover of one gorgeous husband, perpetually living in a dream world full of wine, chocolate and artsy crafty things.