We’ve been so impressed by how Oscar has got on at school. He organises his bags, does his homework as soon as possible after it has been set, has joined three clubs now (Warhammer, rugby and string orchestra) seems to be getting on well with several people and is still holding his own. He still has kept a strong out of school life going with lots of family stuff, all his music and has seen lots of his old friends. Despite my initial reservations, the homework has settled down, he seems to get less than he did at the start and he is very focused about getting it done (and I have calmed down about not trying to make him get it all perfect) so he does seem to have enough time for other things. Oscar has really risen to the challenge of school and it’s brought out sides to him that I knew were there but we didn’t see too much of – the more mature, responsible side. He’s also relishing learning new things, feeling good at the things he can do well and feeling fine about not being the best at everything which is important too.
He has had days where he has been disillusioned and disheartened, usually where his experience hasn’t lived up to his expectations which admittedly have been quite high. He has already written off R.E. and Art because he doesn’t like the teachers but luckily he seems to like everything else. I have noticed that he is picking up some “schoolish” behaviour in a sort of teasing manner and talks about how even his friends said that “Warhammer is gay” when he wanted to go to the lunchtime club. Luckily he ignored them and went anyway but I could see he was disappointed by their reaction. He still seems to be able to hold his own but I’m sure he’s affected by the need to try to stay with the crowd. It makes me realise how free and easy his friendship with R&A is. They don’t jostle each other for position or have to worry about looking cool. It’s such an easy friendship where they just have fun.
He has said a couple of times this half term that he doesn’t want to go back to school but he says it in such a half hearted manner that I think he’s just trying out the words. He says that it just takes too much time up and there are other things he wants to do. I’m trying to encourage him to talk without leaping straight in there to give advice or tell him what I think as I feel it’s crucial for how he will talk to us in the future. He has been really talking to us all this past half term about things at school which I’m so pleased about because he’s never been one to go back over things. He talks if you catch him at the right moment but he doesn’t usually mull things over. Since school though, he’s often got lots he wants to talk about when I go to say goodnight to him.
So although I don’t think that Oscar really wants to stop school I want to explore how it would be if he did. A huge part of me worries about how I would fulfil Oscar’s potential at home as he does react so well to learning in a group. I feel he’s just not that self motivated without peers to compare himself against and he is naturally competitive which is not something I relate to easily. He can get very involved in his interests but left to his own devices he can often be at a loss as to what to do with himself.
It is of course a relief in many ways to feel I can hand over the academic side to school and I also like the thought of Oscar having a more independent life in his teenage years. I don’t feel that I am nearly as patient and imaginative as I would need to be to help him with learning effectively in the next stage. That’s not to say that it can’t be done as parents are wonderful things and I do believe we can do anything for them if we put our minds to it but it just doesn’t come easily sometimes! I’ve found it frustrating in the past when Oscar doesn’t always want to see projects through and it can be difficult to get him going on projects. It’s not that he doesn’t want to work, he does, but he’s just more quirky in the way he works so it’s harder to feel I’m ticking the boxes that make me feel I’m doing a good job.
I think primary home education has suited Oscar and I think he has gained so much (although of course I can never know how it would have been otherwise) particularly in just giving him the time to think and the time to “be”. He has developed quite a strong sense of self and doesn’t mind going against the flow. He has also had time to develop his music and other interests and has also instilled in him the idea that you don’t have to follow a prescribed path and he has had far more relaxed family and friend time than he would have had otherwise which has been priceless. So why are we stopping here? A friend said the other day that they thought home educating at primary level was more important than secondary school level but I’m not sure I agree. Secondary school is so much more pressured and the pressures on them to conform are just so intense. The teenagers I know who have been home educated are not free completely from that of course because so much pressure comes just from the difficulties of growing up but they have time to work things out, they are not locked in to friendship patterns and they don’t have to prove themselves publicly – academically and socially. I can’t see any way in which the home educated teenagers that I know are missing out. They are getting on academically as well as socially and emotionally as far as I know and they are certainly very pleasant to have around.
So why am I not helping Oscar choose that path? There is something about Oscar that seems to suit school, no matter how many reservations I have about it. Gosh, how difficult it is to work out whether as a parent you are choosing the right path for them because you are reading them right or because it suits your way of thinking. I can’t even be sure what it is that I am thinking. Would I rather be home educating Oscar or am I chickening out? One thing that makes me feel that I am genuinely following Oscar is the thought that I can imagine Lucas home educating throughout teenage years better than I can Oscar. He seems more self motivated, less led by the crowd and more content with his own company. I’ve made that sound negative towards Oscar but it isn’t at all, it’s just different. I already feel concerned that Lucas could be squashed by school and I can’t see what it would add to his life but maybe we’ll feel different when we get there. One step and one child at a time.
Oscar said last night that he would give it until Christmas to make a decision. I don’t think he will pull himself away and I don’t think I would encourage him to if things carry on as they are but I wonder if either of us will ever quite feel 100% sure that we’re doing the right thing either way. I suppose that is more true to real life than those who feel they don’t have a choice though.