It wasn’t until our first Twins went to preschool did we really start to question the part we as parents were playing in our children’s lives and of course their education. To hand it over to strangers at such a very young age started to seem very unnatural and not very comfortable to us.
Neither of our eldest children liked preschool. We often left our son in tears at the door. We were told that lots of children go through separation anxiety and soon they would stop and that we should just leave and he would soon settle down. This was a very unnatural experience for me as a mother. Why push your child into a situation where they are clearly distressed? Any other situation and it wouldn’t happen but because it is “preschool” and the so called experts tell us this is normal and it will improve we push them into the situation regardless. I am not proud of my lack of free thinking back then.
Our son never stopped feeling anxious about going to nursery but like many he accepted the situation was going to take place and we learned to live with the fact that he would be upset when we left him. Our daughter didn’t show the same display of anxiety by being left but I know that she disliked many aspects of nursery and has told us about them since.
Certainly for our first two children it was too young to be sent off to preschool. I only wish I knew then what I know now and had been able to think for myself and look for an alternative route.
I can now see that my children gained nothing positive from preschool. The activities offered there were offered at home in a more loving and comfortable environment. They could eat and drink at home when they needed too and received far more assistance with the daily tasks that young children still need assistance with. They were still able to socialise with a variety of people which were part of our own daily lives separate of going to preschool and unlike preschool the age group was not limited. In summary, they would have received better quality time and guidance at home during the times they spent at preschool.
Having survived through preschool and not realising just how much both our children had disliked going we packed them off to Primary School. This is really when we started to question the whole schooling system.
In fairness, the primary school our children attended were probably doing the best job it could do given resources and the rules and guidelines schools work under. The Head Teacher and other teaching staff we had dealings with all seemed to be helpful, caring people who appeared generally interested in our children. There were positive aspects to this particular school environment.
However, our son still didn’t like going to school despite making a couple of friends. Having friends did not compensate him in anyway. He complained more and more as the three years of infant school passed. He said it was boring. He said there were horrible and naughty children there. He did not want to go the Junior School.
We had always known he had anxiety over new and unfamiliar situations albeit people or places but after 3 years of the same schooling environment he still wasn’t happy and at times we would leave him upset at the door. He hated it if a “stand in” teacher appeared at the door. He didn’t like to arrive late and felt very anxious if we were. He often felt uncomfortable in the playground situation whether it be due to being left out of games or because he wanted to avoid the rough play. In hindsight I think he felt stifled by the environment. He was too frightened to relax at school for fear of being told off in some way. The pressure to always be at his best in case of punishment or ridicule still shows through the cracks all of these years later. I can see that now.
The teachers informed us that he was the model pupil; quiet, polite, well behaved and mannered, focused and worked very well. He achieved well academically and received good assessment grades when tested. Everything he worried about with regards to school he expressed to us but he would never speak up in school or confide in his teacher; we had to do that for him. He wasn’t quiet at home and he certainly spoke his mind! During school holiday’s he was a much happier child – the pressure was off.
Simultaneously, our daughter (twin sister to our son as described above) went off to school happily nearly every morning. An outgoing, confident and popular class member who definitely understood school to be another opportunity to see friends! Easily distracted in class as we were often told (what do you expect at 4.5 years!) We didn’t think we had any concerns with our daughter and school until it became quite obvious to us that she had difficulties learning to read.
During Foundation Year we were told that lots of children find reading hard and our concerns were dismissed. By Year 1 when she had made very little progress and her letters and numbers were being written back to front we approached the teachers again and explained that we had informed ourselves about Dyslexia and that my husband was also Dyslexic. The school did some form of screening test and told us that they didn’t think she was Dyslexic but she does have a low visual learning ability. She was given extra reading lessons particularly with phonics to assist. This wasn’t very helpful and really only added to her frustrations. By Year 2 we were still concerned. The school stopped the extra help as she had crossed the marker point of what was deemed acceptable but we were still witness to her frustrations and difficulties at home. It didn’t just stop with reading it was becoming apparent with her maths too. There was a huge gap between her capabilities in other areas, her comprehension, her spoken vocabulary and her ability to read words or understand numbers. She was also suffering from Glue Ear which also meant that the classroom environment was swiftly becoming a waste of time.
During the last year in Infant school which is Year 2 in the UK we had started to look at alternatives for educating both our children and this is when we came to realise that home educating was not illegal but very much an option. We alongside the children welcomed school holidays and dreaded term time. The monotonous routine and dragging tired children from their beds every morning seemed ridiculous. The children had increasingly less time to pursue their own interests and thus didn’t manage their time at all.
We couldn’t understand why they had to follow a reading scheme when quite clearly our son preferred to read other material and our daughter struggled reading full stop! We began to feel as limited by the school system as our children as it became increasingly apparent that our lives were revolving around the school and its testing and timetables. It really had become a battle.
During these first 3 years of Infant School we had also been blessed with another set of twins so the pressures of family life were full on. Battling the traffic and trying to keep up with the school activities just became a chore for all of us. There was no pleasure from it. The children were complaining and weren’t really showing much interest and we found ourselves shouting at them, hurrying them along just to keep up with the system.
We were also concerned about the children going on to the accompanying Junior School. It didn’t have the best of reputations and there was no clear head steering the ship and special measures were being called upon to try and sort the school out. This all played a part in our final decision which was to move and try and take some control back in our lives.
We moved to a rural location in another county and thought that we would try to find a suitable school preferable to the one we had just avoided going to and if not successful we would bite the bullet and home-educate. We did find a small village school but we lasted 5 weeks before deciding to give home-educating a chance.
In our sixth year now and it’s been the best decision we could have made for many different reasons. We have rediscovered that learning is life and the bulk of it doesn’t happen between the hours of 9am and 3pm stuck in a classroom. We absolutely love the freedom and flexibility that Home Educating gives us and feel grateful every single day that we have this option.