We're still at home! That's nearly four weeks and Scooby went for his third chemo intake last Thursday. So I can take a break from the medical updates to talk about school instead!
I can't really assess at this stage how 'well' it is going, but I'm certainly glad we're doing it. Over the summer, we went for a daily structured approach (apart from the weeks we went on holiday) and it seemed to go well. There was a timetable for each family member and things had a natural flow to them, which gave me the confidence to make the decision to home educate, but then the last week of summer hit and things have been haywire since then.
The schedule had to go out of the window and although I tried to bring it back on calmer days, it had lost its usefulness as everyone was out of it rhythm. Also, Scooby could no longer do things independently, so neither he or I could do what we were doing before. So we shuffled and rethought and after several doubts about the whole thing, I decided to loosen up in some areas and firm up in others and things seem to be working well again.
The point of homeschooling was to take a break from the disjointed way we were living and try and to find a flow that made our family life and the kids' education stronger and more fluid. Last year was spent in a haze as I tried to keep up with four different timetables including school, preschool, child-minder and medical or educational appointments. The two younger ones slept at really irregular times because of their time spent in the car and would be tired and grumpy in the day and wide awake in the evenings. Scooby would manage half a day at school some days, and other days not at all. There were days I had to go and pick him back up after half an hour; and times when I'd wake Baby early from her nap, drive Scooby to school, realise he was too shaky to stay and have to bring him straight home again, then endure a full scale medication-fueled tantrum because he'd wanted to stay. He would eventually wear himself and fall asleep, at which point I then had to wake him up because it was time to pick up his brothers from school... Not fun.
Added to that was the fact that Ace, who has always had a strong speech delay and needed extra staff support at school (still waiting on a diagnosis for him too!) was retreating more and more back into his non-communicative state that we'd worked so hard to get him out of. He would come home and switch off, and I would still be frantically running round trying to get all the basic everyday jobs done that all the car time and grouchy toddlers had prevented me from doing during the rest of the day, so I wasn't in a place to be able to help him. Richard worked long hours on two jobs so he often wasn't home till late so he was exhausted too - and even Turtle had developed such a bad nervous twitch that we were considering taking him to the doctors!
During this time, I was following a few other mum bloggers to fuel my enthusiasm and keep me in perspective, and I was intrigued by a couple of them who home-schooled. Their way of life seemed so different to the way I was living, and I liked it. Then I got closer to a good friend who was home schooling, and had some good conversations and insight from it. I started researching it, and realised it could actually be the right thing for us at this time.
I was more surprised than anyone - my previous perception of home education was not a good one, and like most people, for three large concerns:
1. How on earth can one person teach a child everything they need for the whole of their life when people spend years learning their specialised subject before they teach it? Surely that child will grow up with a really limited education?
2. What about the socialisation? Cutting a child off from regular contact with his own age group is not setting him up to be able to cope with a wide variety of social situations in the future.
3. Every mother needs a break! How can someone's sanity cope if their kids are with them all the time? It would drive me insane!
That's what you were thinking too, right?
Well, I'm not going to answer all three of those now (I'm tired and I want to go to bed), but let's look at the third one, shall we?
As you can see from the above, I wasn't actually getting a break anyway. I had at least two children with me all the time, except for a few weeks in a row where I managed to wangle a two hour child-free period on a Monday morning, at which point I would run through my house like a headless chicken, managing to make a very small dint in the chaotic mess that was my house, which would be completely undone by Wednesday. It took me more than two hours to drop everybody off and pick them all up again for the sake of that 'me-time', and I had to pay money to do it!
The lack of focus on anything other than getting everyone where they should be (including into bed...) was killing me.
Then, I spent the summer researching pirates with them, and we all loved it. Suddenly, we were all engaged in something together, coming up with ideas, playing games, reading stories, building a giant pirate ship, going on treasure hunts - and part of me woke up again. I was more chilled and relaxed and eager to spend time with them. The mummy-guilt that comes from always running out of time to do the things you wanted to do with them wasn't there. The house wouldn't have looked any tidier to an outsider, but I could see things changing - by being home more, I was able to keep chipping away at each job, and the boys could do it alongside me, instead of the frantic military style tidying we had always tried to do before at the end of the day - you know, the You-Will-Not-Leave-This-Room-Until-It's-Done type tidying.
I found that when I stopped searching for a break from them, I didn't really feel the need for it anymore. I just enjoyed them instead. So many mums of grown-up children have said to me that if they could go back and do it again, they'd home school too for the same reason. I'm not saying I don't get tired and wound up with them, but with less time pressures, we can slow thing down and have less of the stress points that we had before, and we can adjust our days depending on how we are all doing. With Scooby the way he is, plus two preschoolers, I wouldn't be getting time on my own anyway, so it made sense to me to get more of a handle on how we spend the time and make it better!
That's point three in a nutshell - will I still be thinking like that in a few months' time? Who knows? :) I'm viewing this as a break from outside pressures at the moment, so we may go back to how things were, or we may make a permanent decision, but for now I'm just happy to enjoy the time we have all together.