Where do you begin? In the middle of confusion, uncertainty, not knowing what to do, what to think. Because when you have become used to just accepting whatever is in front of you, and not really interceding in your own life, but instead are just passively observing in an almost curious manner at what is happening to you, your hands are tied. Or so you think.
Have you ever felt something that you felt was important, something that screamed at you to take action? And in doing so felt that you, for once, were doing something that you were meant to do, something that you felt sure of? Your head full of doubts, perhaps, but you felt sure?
Well, that was us, and is us. In the last year we have been through many changes, have seen many possibilites open, close and open again before us.
It started with a problem. Our daughters, aged 6 and 8 at the time, weren’t happy in school. Ainara, because she was terrified of a teacher who used intimidation as her method of control. And Laida, because she was being made to follow a rhythm that wasn’t right for her. We talked to Ainara’s teacher, expressed our concerns, but there wasn’t any change. We talked to the school psychologist, and then the headmaster, and finally the inspector in charge of the area. They all said the same thing: ‘She won’t change.’ And we realised that Laida was being assessed in a way that was completely different to how we saw her, and that her self-esteem was suffering. We could have changed schools, but what would happen if they were to again get a teacher that wasn’t right for them? Were we willing to take that risk? And wasn’t it also true that we felt that a lot of the time that was spent in school was spent doing repetitive exercises that did little to stimulate intelligence? So what about taking them out of school altogether?
Of course, one thing is saying it, and another is considering all the consequences involved in such a decision. But luckily we were aware there was a home education movement in Spain, and some of those involved wrote to us, offering valuable support and helping us to feel that it was indeed a viable option. I suppose we had to move past some standard fears, like ‘what would people think,’ and ‘won’t the children be bored and we desperate,’ but our indignation at the other alternatives and excitement about this new adventure helped us through them.
And of course there were teething problems, as we tried to figure out our educational philosopy, moving from ‘what do you mean you’re not going to do it?’ to ‘ok, what do you want to do?’ and we’re definitely still fine-tuning our approach. Unschooling or school at home, learner directed education or a standard programme, questions and answers, but we’re working them out together, and it helps that we don’t have anyone breathing down our necks. Some people who don’t educate their children at home wonder why home educators feel passionate when they suggest that homes should be treated as schools, with visits from inspection boards, tests and the rest, but apart from the whole issue of totalitarianism, it would put undue pressure on a situation that needs freedom and patience to flourish.
I suppose some people find it completely natural to evolve a natural learning environment, but it has taken (and is taking) us our time. Between wanting to allow our children to find their own path, deal with our own expectations and worries, ration the amount of time spend in front of screens of all shapes and sizes, work, eat, and have time for ourselves, it’s no wonder that everything doesn’t automatically snap into place, and the process is probably all the more worthwhile for not doing so. Reading lots of different opinions, talking among ourselves, observing what is working and what isn’t, bit by bit, piece by piece, this new jigsaw of ours has begun to resemble something that we definitely could never have planned out if we would have had to present some form of outline of what we were going to do at the start of the year. It’s by no means perfect, but the relationships in our family have grown steadily stronger and deeper, we are starting to get an idea about how this whole thing works, and we remain excited about and furfilled by not just learning, or educating, but simply living together.