13 years ago more or less today it would have been the very first September that we didn’t go back to school because instead of starting school Davies became officially Home Educated. That sounds far more of an event than it actually was because all that really happened was that we carried on doing exactly what we’d been doing already. Living and learning. We’d made the decision to Home Educate, at least for the early days a couple of years previously and were already part of the local Home Ed community where we lived in Sussex, attending regular group meet ups and workshops. Building a life that was not so very different to most families with young children with after school clubs, swimming lessons, Rainbows and Beaver Scouts, the St Johns Ambulance Badgers, try outs for various musical instrument lessons, sports and gymnastics and dance classes, RSPB Wildlife Explorers, Young Archaeologists Club, Magic Lantern Film club… the list goes on. With the glaring exception of going to school, which our children never did.
While Davies and Scarlett were young we were incredibly active in the local and national Home Education world, we were on TV, radio and the newspapers talking about it, locally and nationally. I set up Home Ed groups where we lived, talked to hundreds of new and considering it as an option Home Educators, I organised group trips, countless Home Education residential camps, talked to politicians, the local education authority and people in supermarkets about why our children were not in school and how it worked. There is no question that our decision to not send our children to school has shaped our lives and set us on the path we have trodden. At every step of the way the option to try school was available to Davies and Scarlett and while neither of them considered it plenty of their friends and Home Educated peers tried school and many stayed in school. For many years we attended (and often organised) an annual Not Back to School picnic around the time that local children were heading back to the classroom for the start of the school year.
Since moving to Rum our connection to school and the parallels between a school life and a Home Ed life have drifted ever further apart. No longer do we see schooled children walking past in their uniforms, no longer do we notice a quietening of the parks, the museums and the beach at this time of year. Here in Scotland the school term times are very different anyway and schools went back a week or two ago back in August. Back to School or Not Back to School feels quite removed from us. And in fact I realised today that this would be our very last Not Back to School anyway as Scarlett is 16 in a few months, official school leaving age in Scotland.
Both are continuing their education at home for now – Davies begins his PhD with the Open University in a few weeks having completed the access course with a very high pass. Scarlett is doing a series of short courses with the OpenLearn department of the OU with a view to researching her next steps. Whilst I am proud of them for these academic steps forward it is the rest of the stories they have to tell about what they have done instead of school that we celebrate the most. The adventures they have had, the opportunities, the knowledge and experiences they have gained from a life already out living in the world.
This is not necessarily the right way, certainly not right for everyone. Most definitely, completely and absolutely the right way for us.