Why did we take M & D out of school? I’m asked this question a lot.
A very quick answer would be that my daughter did not suit school and was very unhappy there.
Here’s the long answer…
M is highly introverted. I never understood that until I read this book. This was a light bulb moment. I have always considered myself to be an introvert but having gone through the checklist at the front of the book I would say I’m 75% introvert whereas M is 100%! Introverts have a lot more going on inside their head than extroverts (no offence to the extroverts out there) and so don’t need (and sometimes can’t cope with) too much external stimulus. So this is why M seemed to ‘shut down’ after school: she didn’t want to do any extra-curricular activities and resented things we made her do like swimming. She really appreciated staying home in her pyjamas and playing. Don’t we all from time to time? But this was ALL the time.
Next came the anger. I read this book which helped me enormously in dealing with her anger in a more relaxed way, rather than getting wound up and angry myself. Anger was usually followed by tears. It was awful, and I couldn’t think of anything to help. I’m not sure I had even figured out that school was at the root of it all.
Then came the exhaustion. She seemed to be sooo tired all the time. When I would mention to other Mums how tired she was they would look a bit blank as their kids didn’t get tired until the end of term. She had tons of sleep but never shook it off. In the holidays it would take M roughly 3 weeks to get back to her equilibrium, and then of course she’d be back to school.
And there was the lack of time. M is the sort of girl who loves to potter around, quietly organising her toys, looking at her things, playing with her sister etc etc. Nothing gets done quickly, she’s a plodder, but she’s meticulous with it. This didn’t suit school life. Because of where the school is located, and the great potential for road works, traffic jams and accidents on the way, we had to leave the house at 7.30am. This meant if she was quick she might get 15 minutes playing time in the morning. In the evening she would have 2.5 hours to play but would also have to fit in dinner, homework and a bath. The poor girl. I remember a few weeks into Reception she said ‘Is this it?’ Meaning: is this my life now? Looking back on it, it really wasn’t a life. It certainly wasn’t a childhood. Not how I think childhood should be anyway.
Then we move on to what she was like while at school. Teachers would tell me what a good worker she was and how she participated in class and how kind she was. M hated school. She could freely admit that to me. If anyone she didn’t know asked her if she liked school, she would just say ‘yes’. She realised this is what everyone wanted to hear. I hated school too so it didn’t really faze me that M didn’t like it. I thought: ‘So? Who Does?’ I was amazed when other Mum’s told me how their daughter loved it and couldn’t wait to go back after the holidays. M put a sort of mask on while she was at school, so that she could cope with everything she couldn’t cope with. And I can see now how tiring and upsetting that was for her.
J & I had purposely chosen an excellent private school for M. It was kind and nurturing with small class sizes and was probably the best school you would get for someone with M’s temperament. It was also one of the top prep schools in the country and I hoped that M would benefit from all the extra resources they had there. I went to an utterly crap school where all joy was sucked out of learning and any signs of intelligence were stamped on by the other kids. So I wanted M to love learning. Towards the end of Year 1 M said to me that she didn’t find anything interesting at school. That did it for me. I thought: ‘Why are we paying all this money for her to be miserable?’. I was sure I could inject some love into learning for her.
As for D, she is a completely different kettle of fish! She is very extrovert and is VERY single minded. If she doesn’t want to do something, no persuading or bribery will work. She went to a lovely little pre-school for 5 mornings a week. Initially, she was fine there, but during her last year there, the first question she would ask every morning on waking was: ‘Is it the weekend?’ And she would be sad if it wasn’t. She didn’t usually get upset when I left her there but at my last parent – teacher meeting, her teachers described a child that I didn’t know! Quiet and reserved are the last words I would use to describe her.
So I started looking into home education and as I did research and asked questions (thank you Mumsnet) I got more and more excited by the prospect. I tentatively questioned M as to what she would miss if she didn’t go to school and she answered with her best friend’s name. When I finally gathered the courage to ask her what she thought about home schooling (I knew if I mentioned it there would be no turning back!) M was over joyed. I asked D what she would think about home schooling and she said I couldn’t be a teacher because my I didn’t have the right hair-do.
At first, J and I agreed that the girls would finish off the year at school to give me time to prepare and them the chance to finish properly rather than just disappearing. But as it drew nearer the end of term I couldn’t bear seeing their miserable faces anymore. M’s anxiety was also getting worse which was quite distressing. She wouldn’t go to sleep on her own anymore and she would have ‘visions’ of very stressful situations while trying to get to sleep. D also had quite a few tummy bugs around this time so she was barely attending nursery. One morning we were driving to school and I turned around and saw M’s face looking tired, pale and drawn. I turned the car around and drove home again.
I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted our decision for a minute. The girls are so much more happy and relaxed and I LOVE having them at home with me. J took a while to come around but now he’s fully on board and can see how happy it’s made the girls.
We love home education!