I am delighted to be part of 4 Pesky Hobbits 5th Birthday blog share. I’ve followed their blog for several years now and have had the pleasure of meeting them all in real life, despite living at totally different ends of the country!
Five years ago we were living in Suffolk whereas now we live in Hampshire and have lived in Spain and North Cambridgeshire in between. Home education has enabled much freedom and flexibility in our lives not to mention a constant stream of social blind dates. It’s a path I hope we will always be grateful we took.
I can see from this blog that the oldest post was in August 2011 but that doesn’t take us back far enough. Anyway it’s here and we were out on an adventure. The children looked like this and were 9,9,4,4. They are now 13,13,8,8.
Taking us back to double 8 and double 3 here they are in our garden in Suffolk.
Home Educating back then looked a lot different for us. The community was much smaller and spread out than it is here in Hampshire. We had a few home ed friends and maintained contact with friends from our time in school. We stayed at home and swam in the pool, played with ants and lady birds in the garden. Garden wildlife was a big feature with a family of ducks at one point which fed half hourly and we joked were worse than the twin feeding routine. We had rabbits, deer, weasels, rats, birds to name but a few, oh and a donkey next door. Twin Dad even bought home some road kill all in the name of HE. We went for walks in the country which L used to complain about a lot, had friends and family visit or we would explore the surrounding areas of Suffolk and Norfolk and the usual family attractions such as zoos and parks. Then we went to Spain.
Home Education is illegal in Spain. As tourists living in rural Axarqui, Andalusia it didn’t matter. The children were young enough to appreciate all that it offered. For us, a mountainous tranquil location and a garden that spilled over into said hills. Back then Harry Potter was already a favourite and the children would venture off to Azkaban, the name they gave to a dry cracked area of mud which they explored far down the hill. There were goats roaming the hills with a shepherd, olive trees, lemon trees and banana plants. The garden wildlife changed to locust and chameleons. Plenty of sunshine, beach trips, swimming, exploration and an insight to a different country, food, language and so much more. We were all so much healthier with a higher level of fitness when we were there. The children spent most of their time swimming in the pool or playing in the sand pit and then we’d take off to the beach for more of the same. We explored Malaga with its Picasso Museum and horse drawn carriages. The Alhambra at Granada and the caves and beaches at Nerja. As well as the Costa del Sol coastline we spent time in the Costa Blanca and the Costa Dorada and even had a stint in Southern France before returning home. This was a special time for us.
We returned to the UK and resided with Grandad in the Fenlands for about a year where we met a few more home educators but again far less of a community than we have down here in Hampshire. You have to be prepared to travel if you home educate in more rural areas – people are spread far and wide. I can remember back then feeling the need to find a bigger more active home ed community plus generally more places to take the children and it was at that point whereby blogging came into our world and enabled me to make the connections that have been so valuable to our lives today. Four Pesky Hobbits was one of these connections as was The Gallivanters whose blog convinced me we should be moving much further south – and we did!
So, here we are in Hampshire with A and W now 8 and S and L now 13. It feels like we have been home educating forever and we are definitely in it for the long haul. Actually it’s been more than 6 years since S and L left school behind and A and W of course have never been to any kind of school.
Our approach remains very much learn as we go along and let our pathway unfold before us. We do our own thing that suits our own family – it’s as simple as that. We continue to try and have courage in our own convictions. I think balancing the age gap will always be work in progress. The Teen years are going to be very different but I would hope that we do things because we genuinely want to rather than because everyone else is.
This thing we call home education isn’t just about the children’s education, its a family event and the 6 of us have to be in it together. Having this extra time together as a family is massively important to us.
Both family life and Home Education has influenced our career paths too and to a certain degree has meant that both our work choices have not been entirely free from constraint. However, we have continued to work our way through and find a balance. Some decisions have been good and some others maybe not so, but we don’t live in a world of regrets and instead we continue to survive the roller coaster that is life.
Another change that came about a year ago is also set to change things going forward. I started Earth Conscious with a friend who I met through home education. Earth Conscious wouldn’t have been born had we not found ourselves home educating in Southsea.
The children have all benefited from home ed, sometimes for the same reasons and others for different reasons. I hope this continues.
S (13) nowadays is still the beautiful soul (although far more stroppy) who never followed the crowd anyway and having been spared the noisy classroom distractions and damages to self esteem that came with the early years of school she is now self motivated in her learning. She spends hours drawing and refining her style and she also has a tutor that helps her in these areas. The past few years she has discovered a love of drama and singing and belongs to a wonderful Theatre School. I’m not sure how the future will pan out but right now she wants to pursue her Silver Arts Award and possibly some LAMDA qualifications via her Theatre School. The freedom she had as a younger child to learn outside in the real world, to touch, feel, observe and climb trees is still there except now she is a Teen her freedom is more about sleeping in late, going to bed late, chatting on skype and being glued to her smart phone as much as she desires.
L(13) is still our favourite son (it’s ok we only have one!). He’s a complex being and life can be quite exhausting living with him, he is high maintenance due to anxiety but he is also great company. I know that if its difficult for us then it’s a hundred times more difficult for L. There is no doubt in my mind that the past five years being spared any more of the anxiety that school presented for him has been the best decision we ever made. He continues to amaze us with the amount of knowledge he has amassed. He reads a lot and watches a lot of movies, documentaries etc. I’m not sure what he will do with all of this yet and he’s not sure where he’s heading yet but that’s ok because the focus is on the here and now and not the future. He has had unlimited access and freedom on his PC and has spent hours and hours playing Minecraft and other games such as Roblox or World of Warcraft. Despite all of this game playing I don’t think a computer based industry is for him but I could be wrong. I think it’s simply something he enjoys doing. He has a strong interest in History and enjoys current affairs and politics. He really likes going to Museums and places of interest and will read as much as he can when doing so. More recently he has found MTG and Dr Who and again when interested will read everything he can about said subjects. Despite much anxiety with the world he genuinely is a sociable being but I think he is yet to find his real comfort zone outside of the family. We will just sit and wait patiently, working quietly behind the scenes (and it has to be quietly because there are no flies on L!) so that he may become inspired and find his feet in his own time. The beauty of home ed is that he can do just that.
A and W (both 8) are totally different to their older brother and sister in that having never been to school they have no references to teachers or schooling. They are completely unschooled and it shows. Right now they have the world at their feet. They immerse themselves in their interests which are mainly Fashion, Drawing, watching You Tube Channels, Primates, Monster High Dolls and lots of physical activity. They have recently joined the same theatre school as S. When they’re not engaged in those things they can be found annoying their older siblings. There is a lot of shouting going on in the house because of this and I’d really like to work out a way to handle this better but as I’ve mentioned, the 5 year age gap does present problems. I can’t even imagine right now the future for our batch two but the great thing with them being just 8 is we really do have plenty of time. There is far less pressure being 8 than there is 13.
To wrap up, nobody really has a handle on how things will work out and life really does have a knack of getting in the way of all the best laid plans. That’s not to say we don’t make plans, we definitely do but we aren’t mapping out every last detail. It will be what it will be. So, maybe the biggest change overall is the attitude we all have towards life. We value our time and our ability to focus on our interests and carve our own way in the world. I believe home education has played an instrumental role in forming this attitude.
Home Education really has changed everything.