Our journey began the day we were sitting in back to back traffic on the way to school due to the traffic lights being out of order. My 1-year-old was still in his pj’s strapped in at the back, my 4-year-old daughter was having to eat her breakfast in the car and my first grader was sitting anxiously, asking if she would get a red slip for being late for school.
I reassured her that when the traffic lights were out, most people would be late for school and that no red slips would be given out. Anxiousness had crept its way into her life and my previously confident little girl was struggling with all the new rules needed to keep a large school running successfully. I put on The Greatest Showman soundtrack, the girls’ favourite at the time, to get them singing and the morning off to a better start.
A land rover drove past us in the other direction with the sticker slogan, “one life, live it”. I smiled to myself: an incongruous statement when we were stuck in this traffic after a rushed breakfast with little chance to connect with each other.
However, there were lots of people around us in the same position – this is the accepted pace of city life. Much like it is accepted that going to school is a major adjustment to both child and parent and any stress that your child feels is just preparing them for the real world later on in life, my daughter wasn’t an unusual case.
My frustrating start to the morning got me thinking whether the stress of adult life is something we really should be passing onto our children? There are so many studies citing that time to play is imperative for the child and how they learn. Surely, there was another way.
Two families that we knew homeschooled. I started asking them lots of questions, visiting their homes to see what ‘school’ looked like and paging through their teaching materials. These families were clearly close-knit with the children all happy, confident and able to relate to any age group. In one home music lessons and exercise started the day, in the other, the kids all met in the lounge around a basket full of beautifully illustrated books which they shared together before moving onto their individual lessons. There seemed plenty to do outside of the home too from homeschool Netball groups and drama productions to picnics or ice skating socials.
I began to research – a lot. I grappled with so many questions common to those looking into homeschooling: ‘ How would I cope? Am I qualified enough? Would my daughter fit back into school if it didn’t work out?’ I also wondered if, in the needed structure of the school system, that there was the danger that education could become about progressing through a system rather than considering the individual child.
Children don’t all finish the year wearing the same shoe size. Alongside the fears, a huge desire started growing in me. A desire to see my children have more time outdoors and to swap out countless worksheets for activities and literature that cover the same concepts. For them to love learning because it is a joy in and of itself, rather than just to pass tests.
Earlier in the year, I had been helping my daughter with her homework when she burst into distressed sobs because she got one sum wrong out of 100. ‘Mommy’, she said, ‘I’m not good enough’. I hoped I could change that narrative and also show her that even if we score 100% on our tests, there is always more to uncover on the subject.
‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.’ Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason writes ‘ The question is not how much does the youth know when he has finished his education but how much does he care?… In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And
therefore, how full is the life he has before him?’
Oh, how I wanted, and still want, my children to find themselves in a very large room and for them to wonder and marvel at it.
We gave notice to the school the day before Grade 2 was about to start, that was over a year ago now. I have learnt and grown alongside my child. A life-giving education is educating for today as well as the future and the joy that this has brought to our days and the enthusiastic way my daughter now approaches her work, means we haven’t looked back.
Claire Barnes, mom to 3, started homeschooling her eldest daughter over a year ago. Their journey has opened up so many new joys and interests in their home including watercolour painting, nature study and reading aloud a variety of beautiful literature. Before having her children, Claire worked for a Christian charity in their family life and relationships department. She is married to David who keeps her balanced by motivating her to keep fit as well as buying her chocolate.
If you would like to share your journey to homeschooling, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org