Our journey to homeschooling – I am a mom of 2 beautiful girls, gifted in their own way and challenging in others. My decision to ‘home-school’ wasn’t taken lightly. I am a teacher with 20 years’ experience and knowing the difficulties that beset teachers and children alike in the classroom, as well as the benefits thereof, I can honestly say that we had to think long and hard about it. Even now after having been ‘home-schooling’ for a year, there are times when I doubt my decision while applauding it.
I am a person who is quite artistic, and teaching has allowed me to explore these avenues. I love to sing and draw and create and I could do these things in a classroom. I love to help others and share ideas and learn new things. I would challenge myself to constantly learn about new teaching methods. I love maths and am extremely organised (my husband would challenge that I am too organised). The classroom allowed me to be organised while constantly throwing curveballs throughout the day and challenging me to problem solve. To be honest… I loved my job. I love teaching, I loved seeing the children every day, however, I didn’t love the fact that my job was changing.
At school, I was now expected to spend time away from the job, marketing and advertising what we do. Every decision in the class had to be justified and touted to the parents and higher powers. When I should have been listening to a child, I would be taking photos of them instead. Class discussions would be interrupted by having to record every word said to be displayed, instead of the conversation being allowed to flow freely. The fact that the children were obviously learning wasn’t enough. We had to jump through hoops to prove it.
This made me irritable, and when seeing the disservice this did to the kids, I realised that this isn’t what I want to do. My children were getting a good education and their teachers were doing their best and it was expected of me to continue. So, when we first considered ‘home-schooling’, we allowed ourselves to be persuaded not to.
Working in a private school I was privileged to have resources and having worked at disadvantaged schools previously, I appreciated that. My children were benefitting from this too until they weren’t. When other children began to bully mine for not having the latest tablet or phone, for having a ‘teacher’ as a parent, it started to make us think. My eldest daughter tried to run away; she was so unhappy. Again, we considered ‘home-schooling’, but instead we decided to revaluate our choice of schools, and we transferred to another school, closer to home, and she was happier and so was I.
My youngest battled a little, but we comforted ourselves by telling ourselves that her best friend was emigrating soon anyway, so it was a good time to move, and we went on with our lives. My eldest seemed happier, but it was evident that she was different. You could describe her as ‘living with the fairies’. She battles to concentrate and has many ADD tendencies and, to be honest, so do I. Credit to the school, they never asked us to have her assessed, her teachers did not want to stifle her creativity, but, it does mean that she struggles with social niceties and doesn’t realise when she is being inappropriate.
She made a friend (not one I would have chosen for her), and she seemed happy. Our lives seemed to speed up, we were constantly rushing to try and get things done and my hubby and I longed to simplify things but we would talk about it and dream, Things were going well, and who were we to rock the boat?
Then something happened to make us step back and take a good long look at our lives. A young life was ripped away from his family by crime. The horror of this shook me to my core, my children are my life. I don’t want to just exist; I want a life where I can feel safe and watch my children grow. We decided to put our house on the market, with a view to moving to a small coastal town. We had an offer and I gave my terms notice.
I felt guilty leaving my class in the middle of the year, but this was what I needed to do for my family. When we told my children, they were happy and excited. I wrote and illustrated a children’s book and got some illustrating work and was all set for a change. Then our house offer fell through. What to do now? We decided to ‘home-school’ until we sold, knew where we were going and then could see if we liked the schools in the town we would be going to.
Having been a teacher for so long I knew I could do it, but wow! It’s challenging! It’s like prepping for 2 classes instead of 1. There are days when I want to ship them off, and the days when they are so happy, we think this is great. There is a wealth of resources out there, and sometimes it’s hard to choose the right thing.
I find that the wheels fall off when I am not organised, I work best to a routine. Once a teacher, always a teacher, I like a timetable, and goals. My children will be entering the real world of deadlines and exams, so I continue to expect that of them. Many ‘home-schooling’ families will find that this doesn’t work for them, but this is what works for me.
My eldest has thrived, she has made new friends and delights in allowing her creativity to pour out of her. My youngest, well there’s the rub, she’s settled, but seems anxious, she sets herself such high standards, she really doesn’t want to disappoint us. She panics and becomes tearful, but it has become better. There are days when we have both cried our eyes out. This is where my teacher hat and my ‘home-schooling’ hat, jostle for space. I know that she might benefit from going back to school after we move, and I’m not against that at all. It won’t be a fancy private school, but that will be a choice that we make together.
‘Home-schooling’ has given us the freedom to make those choices, allowed us to have the ability to pick where we want to live and for the kids to grow up at their own pace.
I suppose the point I want to make is that I’ve had many wonderful years in the classroom, I see the benefits of school, but I’ve also seen the negatives. I know what it’s like to have a child that doesn’t fit in and one that does. I keep telling myself to take one day at a time. There are many people who will argue their points for school, against it, for only teaching 2 hours a day and those that say it’s not enough. I’ve done both. I can honestly advocate both, but you must do what is right for you!
Don’t be complacent, do lots of research, challenge yourself to be the best you can be, challenge your children to be the best they can be too, but also be kind to yourself and listen to your heart. Enjoy your children, allow them to enjoy being little and remember that it’s okay to have moments of doubt and frustration. They feel that too! Prepare (it’s what I do), but take each day as it comes!
Nicola Obertik is a teacher with over 20 years experience and has recently written and illustrated her children’s book “Imi’s Sore Tooth” which is aimed at children between the ages of 4 to 8. “Imi’s Sore Tooth” brings to life our beautiful African wildlife whilst encouraging problem-solving skills and good dental-hygiene. It is unique in that it focuses on African fairies and can be used as an interactive teaching tool. Nicola is currently working on her second book, whilst illustrating for other authors and promoting her family portrait drawings.