Many years ago, in 2005 for the very first time we didn’t go ‘back to school’ when Davies didn’t start school aged 5. We didn’t go back to school in September 2006 either and in September 2007 Scarlett joined her older brother in not going Back to School when she didn’t start school either.
In 2009 we spectacularly didn’t go back to school when we hit the local, regional and national news in not going back to school as we joined in with a network of events all over the UK by holding picnics, bubble blowing flash mob style events and other peaceful ways of marking our own Home Ed rite of passage which instead of buying school uniform and sewing in name tapes is more about celebrating freedom, following passions rather than the crowd and pursuing individuality rather than institutionalization.
Since we moved here back to school as a concept has blurred anyway – Scottish school goes back in August and so the little girls who attend the primary school here on Rum started back two weeks ago. UK schools are going back this week but it all seems rather irrelevant to us anyway. We’re looking ahead to Davies turning 13 next week as our big landmark of the moment.
But that doesn’t mean that somewhere deep within me there is a September stirring happening regardless of my educational philosophy. A need to buy new stationery and turn over a crisp new page in my personal life story exercise book. I recently referred to our headspace just now as ‘the third age of Home Ed’ and it’s true. We did the early years stuff which was similar to every home within the country probably with lots of kids TV, sitting on the floor doing jigsaws, molding playdoh, sprinkling glitter, singing nursery rhymes. It’s just that instead of preparing them for pre school I was preparing them to stay with me instead and knowing that those early ‘why?’ questions from my three year old would morph into more sophisticated why questions from a 7 year old that I’d need to answer rather than their teachers.
The second age of Home Ed was the following their passions – the field trips to museums and art galleries, the finding experts, clubs, like minded folk, resources in the shape of books, dvds, websites to assist where my own knowledge fell short. The realising that these children are not mini versions of me at all but their own little people complete with passions, interests, ideas, concepts and thought processes that I cannot possibly meet all the needs of but ensuring that we do not fall short of finding the places to satisfy those needs. I was facilitator, researcher, prompter and financier in those years.
This third age is different again. Now I am a channeller. I am suggesting ways in which their fledgling ideas and dreams and plans could come to fruition. Ways in which their passions could earn them a living, possibilities for things they can work towards doing without me by their side. I am cheerleading and supporting but more in a ‘you can do this’ manner than my previous ‘I’ll do this and you reap the rewards’ role. It’s daunting, scary and challenging. It’s exciting, fulfilling and thrilling watching these confident young people spread their wings and test them. There will be false starts, mistakes and hiccups along the way but that is where I step in to encourage another try or suggest an alternate option just as I was there when they took their first tentative footsteps all those years ago and needed to let go of my hand to actually walk alone.
I think Home Educators generally can be even more prone than most parents to potential empty nest syndrome. To no longer knowing where their place in the world is if it is not as a home educator. For all my radical life choices and unconventional path choosing I have always had an end plan in mind which is to ensure that along the way everyone’s needs were being met now and in the future. Our move to Rum – and the year of travel that preceded it was both about meeting Davies and Scarlett’s needs at that time and broadening their horizons and giving them an amazing experience along with finding what Ady and I would do next. Rum met all of those objectives from being a fab place for our kids to do the third phase of their growing up and maturing and providing us with our next big thing to tackle once the children were no longer quite so dependent on us. Thus far it is meeting all of those objectives.
So Davies has not headed off on the school boat each fortnight to live at a mainland school hostel for twelve nights out of every fourteen while Scarlett does her final year of primary schooling as the only child in the school last year joined by a five year old this year. Instead they are carrying on as normal – for them, with a clear eye on what happens next and the direction they are headed off in over the coming five years ahead.