To home school or not to home school?

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Special Educational Needs (SEN) By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Last updated: 15/08/2016
Tags: adhd, at home learning, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspaxia

For the past year I have been having a debate with myself about whether or not to home school my 7 year old daughter. I have two children, my daughter and my son who is 5. Both are extremely different in every way.

When my daughter started in Reception, I had all the same highs and lows as any parent experiences when they send their little one off to school for the first time. She had turned 4 at the end of July, a summer baby and so, so small, swamped in her uniform. I debated about holding her back a year but made the decision to send her. This didn't come without regret.

I spent a year trying to get her engaged with school, trying to learn her sounds, to read and to write. She really wasn't interested and I didn't push it. She was a small child who wanted to play and always wanted to be outside. She had a fascination with nature and everything about the world around her. This I thought was more important than the tantrums and tears experienced from trying to get her to do any academic work and in my eyes she was learning in a different way. The school were not so happy. I was called in time and time again to be told she was not engaged, distracted and distracting. She could not sit on the carpet and just wanted to play. The only thought that went through my mind at that time was, “but she's only 4.”

Reception came to an end and after the summer holidays she moved into Year 1. Her peers seemed to have grown up over the extended break but she hadn't. She moved schools in November to a little village school which seemed the perfect fit for her. Creative, caring and most of the learning was outdoors. She was happier and the tantrums had stopped. I was happy that she was happy, she had good friends and a supportive teacher. She still couldn't read or write and found maths extremely challenging but I supported her at home as much as I could. We would dance and sing to try to learn. You would think working in a special needs setting I had all the answers for her but my main role as a parent was to maintain her emotional well-being and make sure family time was as fun and supportive as possible.

It was only when my son started in Reception that I really started to think about her future. There was no stopping him, reading and writing became second nature - much to the distaste of my daughter! She was just 6 and now in Year 2. The tantrums had started wasn't so fun anymore and the challenges of reading and writing and keeping up with her peers were a struggle. All the signs were there for learning difficulties. Dyslexia being the main concern, but Maths was also an ongoing issue. I cannot tell you how many times we tried to learn our number bonds to 10 for her maths targets. Even with my knowledge I found it extremely difficult to teach her. My daughter is excitable, distractable but at the end of the day I'm her mum. The question that I kept coming back to was, am I willing to entirely change my relationship with my child and her relationship with her peers for a goal that in the long term may do more damage than good?

 This is my I take her out of school and give her the opportunity of learning in her own unique way or keep her in school and see how she goes – hoping that the ‘system’ can bring her round. At the time I was working full time and studying. The time wasn’t right for either of us. I spoke to her teacher and he said progress was coming so I remained positive. Then at Easter progress finally came! All of a sudden, she became engaged in reading and made great progress, her reading level soared and I knew this was the start of her learning journey. Was I right all along, it was a developmental issue and she was finally catching up? Her reading was followed by a desire to write. She had always been so creative and now her amazing pictures and models were accompanied by writing. She became confident and found her voice too. She'd be ok!

 Then the blow came, she had to sit Year 2 SATS. The tears came and the mood swings started. Once again, the school system was effecting her well-being. This time, I had a real desire to take her out of school but could our relationship cope with this?

 I have trawled websites, spoken to many parents and yet still I am uneasy with home schooling her. I have no problem with the teaching side, my main issue is how it will affect our relationship, our family dynamics and her relationship with her brother. She is 'different'. She has all the signs of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia. Even with my experience she stretches my patience. She is impulsive, clumsy, challenging, she day dreams and dances everywhere. She is extremely creative and superbly confident when talking to people. Her teacher said to me after her SATS results (all under achieving apart from Science) that her day dreaming is part of her ability to succeed. She is in the classroom but not with the class, she is off in her own world but all the time thinking around the topic. Her ideas are wonderful and her scientific knowledge and desire to find out more about the world and solve problems is a huge credit to her.

 The importance of one’s environment and the positive role that it can play in a child’s learning are well documented and so we have recently moved to live by the beach where I can reduce my working hours and be there to support my daughter. It’s been a big decision but so far extremely right for her. Her mood has changed, she is so much more relaxed and the sea and all its treasures are proving to be a great experience for her, not only expanding her craft cupboard but also her knowledge of nature and how the world works.

 And so the long term questions surrounding her learning return, can I use this move to my advantage? Take her out of school and teach her from home, using the great outdoors as our biggest resource.

Would the benefits of being home schooled far outweigh the social aspects of school that she would miss out on? Will it create resentment if I leave her brother in school? Would it really be fair to withdraw him? When is the right time to reintroduce her to school?

 Most importantly, can our relationship stand the test of home schooling - will it bring us closer or the tension of teaching her cause too many frustrations for both of us?

 So to home school or not to home school – that is the BIG question. Maybe I should have involved my daughter in my decision all along. When asked the other day how she felt, her immediate reaction was “yes mummy, I want to learn at home with you.” I think it says it all. When I asked her why, her reaction was this “I love new things and get really excited but then that gets me into trouble as when I get excited I get clumsy and then get shouted at.” Wise words from a 7-year-old struggling with her impulsivities but so in tune with her own emotions.

 She is enrolled in a new school for September and will start Year 3 in a better position emotionally than she has ever been. If it doesn't work out this time, there is no doubt about it that as a family unit I will have to commit to home schooling my daughter – a decision that we simply have to make work, emotionally, socially, and financially.

 Childhood and learning should be a fun experience but at the end of the day reading and writing are fundamental skills needed to get us through life. Whichever path we choose, I'll be on hand to help her with these fundamentals and with more time together and lots of time exploring the coastline, hopefully we'll have a healthy balance of schooling and home time together.


Karen Russell Dyslexia Tutor (Brighton)

About The Author

Hi, I'm Karen, a level 5 SpLD qualified dyslexia practitioner offering one to one tuition for children of all ages with dyslexia, dyscalculia or dyslexic tendencies. I have a dedicated classroom or can travel to your home.

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