One of the most exciting things about home education is the feeling of liberation from a dictated path. You really can make your own choices about, not just how your family approaches learning, but how you approach day to day life. I think that can feel quite intoxicating, especially if you are withdrawing your child from school. From observation of others, I think that feeling can be amplified still further if you are withdrawing your child after a long, miserable and frustrating time trying to get the system to meet his/her needs. But what is exciting can also be daunting and doubts and fears are also the lot of the new home educator. That’s when it can be invaluable to have others around with whom to talk. But these interactions can have pitfalls that I’ve come to recognise over the years we’ve been home educating.
If you decide to home educate, you are taking a step down a path - walking away from a whole raft of people who will tell you (and your child) what to do and how to do it. You won’t have a book sent home in a book bag and your child will no longer be part of a class or a year group working to a plan. That is swept away at a stroke. The decisions are yours – the mistakes are yours. The happy days are yours and the miserable days are yours. So it’s not surprising that most of us crave interaction with others in the same boat. We want to know what others do. But what I have come to realise is that no amount of talking to others can (or should) replace considered decisions about what is right for us – for our own children. Other people’s enthusiasm, be it for an expensive curriculum or a child-led lifestyle, is not a sales pitch unless we choose to respond to it in that way. If we do, and we don’t like what we buy, then we have only ourselves to blame. That sounds harsh. But I’ve seen people burn their fingers here and there in home education (had a minor singe or two myself!) and it’s often because they clutched up (too readily) what others were saying and doing and assumed that it would surely work for them too. If home education has one huge advantage over mass schooling it’s that it enables us to help our children find paths that are right for them as individuals. Yes we can exchange valuable information and experiences but we need to always have our own children’s needs at the heart of what we do.