Regular readers will know my youngest son Sullivan was diagnosed with Autism back in December 2016. This was a long process with a multi-agency type approach including his pre-school, primary school, educational psychologist, Speech And Language and Occupational Therapy services. I have talked about this in my previous posts, most recently in my post about mental health awareness and anxiety in children, all of this lead us to take the big step that we had always held in our minds as parents of an autistic child with social anxieties; home education.
Why home educate?
I'm a firm believer that individuality needs to be embraced in every part of our society. It's a simple fact that the traditional education system doesn't work well for all children, so those that it doesn't work well for should be allowed the chance to try something else. It's really that simple for me. We tried. It wasn't working for Sullivan at this point in his life. Without going in to too much personal detail, the school were fully supportive of our decision and knew that with the financial restrictions placed on them that Sullivan would receive a more suited education away from a traditional setting at this time. The law reads:
'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full time education suitable a) to his age ability and aptitude, and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise.'
Now, 'otherwise' in our situation is home education. It is legal and recognised as a perfectly valid way to make sure your child is receiving the education they are both entitled and legally obliged to have. There are many ways people choose to home educate. It is sadly another trait of our society that only the extreme situations are covered (often badly and extremely biased) by news teams and social media, so people's views of home education can be very outdated, negative and forced in to a big box of dangerous taboo. I personally have no knowledge of un-schooling or families who have never entered in to any type of traditional-type schooling system so I won't be talking about that, just my own experiences. I will, however, state that I will not put down any families who participate in that kind of lifestyle just as I will not put down any families participating in traditional education system lifestyles.
We de-registered Sullivan on the 29th September 2017. It has been just over a calendar month now, so we are still relatively in the home education honeymoon I suppose but the difference in Sullivan has been, without doubt, amazing. It was as if the stress fell away from him, like the Autumn leaves from the trees. We follow structure and routine at home, alongside the general curriculum for KS1, pretty much as his previous school would be doing. This works for Sullivan but again many families choose to do their own version of education which doesn't follow traditional curriculum or 'sit down' work.
We have found some lovely local groups of families home educating children of different ages and regularly meet up to socialise. The local library has been an amazing source of support, not only for my Home Educator library card (which allows me to borrow up to 12 books at a time for 2 months - great for topics and long projects!) but for socialising too. We attend Stay And Play every week, then each weekend there is either Lego Club or Craft club, each time Sullivan gets to bond with peers and other adults in an authoritative role too. The pressure release from not attending full time traditional setting school has allowed him to start to embrace making friends and socialising rather than cower away from it, which is such a pleasure to see.
A practical benefit for us has been being able to focus more on the areas he needed help with on a one to one basis, which the school couldn't provide. His handwriting has improved tenfold and so has his ability to concentrate on tasks. He is choosing to do dexterous activities and is gaining confidence each day rather than it trickling away.
will we ever go back?
We'll never say never. We de-registered Sullivan with the idea of bringing him back in to school when we all feel he is ready to transition. When this will be, we are not sure yet. We've only been home educating for a month so time will tell I suppose. My main realisation as a parent was that we weren't actually tied to a situation that was making life horrendous for us all. There are other options out there and it's valid, legal and a-OK to try them out. If we decide to move Sullivan back in to a traditional school setting as a family, then that is also OK.
We're off to do some learning now. Sullivan has been fascinated by the use of fireworks for Diwali and Guy Fawkes night so we are researching into these topics this week, alongside some core curriculum work and a healthy dash of parks, soft play and socialising! We're both excited for a fab week and this makes me happier than I've been in a long, long time.
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.