The Toughest Job

It is often said that parenting is the toughest job and at times it can feel that way, but I love my salary of hugs and "I Love You Mum"s.

Home Education, School and Autism - Part 1


When I first started discussing starting a family with my (then) partner over 16 years ago, he stated that he thought we should home educate. Like many parents, even today, I did not know that home education was a legal option let alone know how one went about it. I went to the local library and sure enough there was a book on the subject, just the one, called "School's Out" by Jean Bendell. I withdrew it and read it in a matter of a few hours, but it was enough to form the opinion that home education was the way to go. I just didn't know where to go for more information or who to contact. As if someone was looking out for me a few days I spotted an Education Otherwise car window sticker just a few days later. Unfortunately I could not get any other details from the sticker as the car was driven past me, but I wrote the name down in the back of my diary for future reference.

A couple of years later, I was delighted to discover I was pregnant. I spent most of the pregnancy knitting, albeit very slowly, and reading. A lot of the books I read were about hyperactivity in children, on account that my husband had been diagnosed with hyperactivity as a 10 month old baby and he already had a daughter who was hyper-active. We were still intent on home educating, so I looked up the telephone number for Education Otherwise and became a member.

By the time our little boy was a year old we were adamant that home education was the right choice for him. A lot of our decision making was based upon our own experiences in school and the alienation we had felt in that environment. There were also other factors that I took into consideration including, but not limited to, the following

  • Children should learn things they are interested in. For things that they don't like their 'teacher' has a responsibilty to utilise the childs interests to make the subject engaging.
  • Children should be able to use the toilet when needed, as well as being able to have a drink when they are thirsty or a snack when they are hungry.
  • Children should be free to socialise as they wish and make friends with who they wish. Socialisation should not be forced upon them.
  • Children should be directly involved in their educational choices. Their education should not be imposed on them.
  • Their education should be well balanced and free from political or religious interference.
  • A child's home can provide a better learning environment than a noisy, crowded classroom.
  • A child should be free to learn in the way that works best for them and at the time of day that suits them best.
  • And most of all, learning should be fun.

Our son was naturally inquisitve, full of life and eager to explore everything, just like any young child should be. Shortly before his second birthday a little baby sister arrived for him. Never at any point did we consider that we would not home educate her also. We just carried on as we had been. This was the time I decided to inform my family of our decision, especially as our little boy was getting to the age where I was expected to put his name down for nursery school. The most surprising reaction I had was from my brother, a public school teacher, he said "Oh we were thinking of doing that for our girls. I can recommend some good books for you to read.". That was when I was introduced to the works of John Holt and from him A.S.Neill.

By the time our little girl was 2.5 years old our marriage was over and I was in a position where I had to make some major decisions regarding the future for myself and my two children. As I still needed to work I chose to send the two children to a local private nursery. It operated on a one adult to 3 children ratio and as far as nurseries go, was very nice. I was never truly happy leaving my children there from 7am until 6pm, 5 days a week, but it was necessary at the time.

According to the law, if a child is to start school they must do so at the beginning of the term that they have their 5th birthday in. I waited until the last minute before I withdrew my son from the nursery and was fortunate enough that he was able to get a place in our local school which was very highly rated by both the local community and by Ofsted.

Unfortunately he did not fit in right from the start. Apparently he was disruptive and the staff gave me the distinctive feeling that I was being unreasonable when I insisted that he wear long cotton trousers if he were to sit on the nylon carpet. They allowed him to change into his PE shorts during the day, so I insisted in which case that he would be allowed to sit upon a chair to prevent the eczema on his legs being aggravated. During the 6 weeks he was at the school he had to be returned to the class several times after escaping to the toilets or cloakroom as he was finding the level of noise unbearable. There was nothing the school could do about the noise level, it was an open plan room which accomodated three classes seperated by built in bookcases and pillars. I withdrew him from the school at the end of the half term and decided to find another school for him to attend.

As my work contract had finished and I no longer had an income I moved into my boyfriends house. My daughter was removed from the nursery and I applied for a place at the school opposite our new home. The school was an old fashioned design and although it was not highly rated by Ofsted the staff seemed friendly. I suppose at this point I could have chosen to home educate again but given that my daughter was hyper-active (good job I did all that reading!) and I was newly pregnant it seemed the right thing to at least give the new school a try. If I had realised the disasterous effect that it would have on my sons mental well-being I would never have sent him there.