I remember the moment I realised school was not for me. I was in the 4th grade, in math class with Mr Fox. We were supposed to be doing a division worksheet...25-30 different problems, repeating the same lesson over and over. Rather than working through each one, I knew that the problems got harder as you worked down the page, so I did a cross section and left the others blank. After putting my hand up to say that I was finished, Mr Fox came and checked over the worksheet and hauled me out of class.
He led me to a set of double doors that led out of the 4th and 5th grade hallway to the outside. He proceeded to yell at the top of his voice at me, using words like 'lazy' and 'failure'. I am sure I made some smart-alack comments, I've always had a talent for the witty comeback. I was told I had to finish the worksheet, even though my answers were correct. "How completely pointless," I thought.
I know it wasn't the first time I bucked against the school system and it certainly wasn't the last. Year after year, I was branded an underacheiver, rarely finished my homework and was often told off for reading books in class. I don't want to paint a picture that I was some too-smart kid, bored in school. In fact, I am astoundingly average, I just have a low tolerance for things I don't find useful and do well in multiple choice tests.
Year after year, through high school, university, and 2 (failed) masters, I repeated the same pattern over and over. I loved reading and learning, but could rarely be bothered to do an arbitrary assignment. Kevin has had similar experiences, put on a lower track throughout his schooling because he dare have gifts in the arts and language.
And now, we stand 6 months away from our own son entering a school system even more focussed on rote learning and testing than the one I grew up in. That alone would be enough to have me worrying, but added to that, the child is Ellis. I know I have said it before, but I wish you could all see this whirlwind in action. I am not exaggerating when I say he has never sat still of his own accord. He is such a fiercely independent and vibrant person, but to the untrained eye I worry he is a diagnosis waiting to happen. I don't say that lightly or jokingly. I find it hard to see how he will fit in a system that values compliance...and wonder if I really want him to.
I know that many people have a range of educational choices available to them. Unfortunately, we don't where we are currently. We have the state school, which is not great and big and doesn't have a very good reputation. We have a private school, whose yearly tuition is over £10k a year. Or we can homeschool.
I like the idea of homeschooling a lot. I know many home ed kids and families and am so often in awe of their enthusiasm and ability to learn. I do not like the way the UK system dictates how parents should raise their children and the "government knows best" mentality that pervades any interaction with the system.
I do not have the same worries about socialisation that often hangs around homeschooling arguments. I don't think its natural to be in a closed environment with just your peers to learn about the world and I don't think the negative, competitive and often violent culture that exists in schools is a fair representation of society as a whole. I believe that socialisation happens at the store, the post office as well as the playground.
My hesitation about home education rests simply on 2 things: I am a fundamentally lazy person and worry about my ability to stay motivated. I envision days of sitting Ellis and his siblings in front of the TV. Second, I like to work. I like using a different part of my brain. I like the world of adults and I value my economic independence. (Just so we are not under any illusions, Kev would of course take a role in any home education, but socially and career-wise the staying at home bit would fall to me.)
I know the decision doesn't have to be made now, but as nursery looms, its something Kev and I discuss at length. We know he can go to school and withdraw later or we can homeschool and he enters the school system later. But we have to at least consider the options. And we have to make sure I am basing the judgement not solely on my own school baggage.
You see, I know the answer already...Happy parents = happy kids. Happy kids = happy parents. Its just the other part of the equation I am not so sure of.