Why my Daughter Did Not go Back to School After Half Term

not back to schoolEvery home educating family has a story to tell. Some felt so strongly about wanting their children to learn at home, that they never sent them to school, even for one day. Some got as far as nursery but had a hunch that school would be too much.

Others, like us, sent their child(ren) to school in good faith, but things didn’t work out. 

One of my closest friends and her partner home educate. They had been thinking of it from the off, and made the decision after their eldest had been through pre-school. He’s seven now and they’ve never looked back. When she told me they would be doing this, I asked her the same questions that almost every single person I’ve mentioned home ed to has asked me.

“Won’t you need some time away from the kids? Won’t you miss your ‘you time’? Won’t them being there constantly drive you mad?” 

Her response was brilliant, and completely put my mind at ease. She said that the kids wouldn’t be young for long, and if she sent them off to school against her gut she’d end up living her life full of regret. 

My friend is the most selfless person I know, she epitomises the phrase ‘heart of gold’. She doesn’t do spa days or long boozy lunches. She doesn’t crave ‘me time’ like I do or so many other mums I know. She knows what is important, who are important and is almost always happy. She constantly amazes me, and I am very lucky to have her in my life.  

The things is, I’m a bit like Monica from Friends. I NEED THE STUFF! Not in a materialistic way, but I need my space. I need to do things just for me outside the family unit. I need to write to order my thoughts. Spa days and long boozy lunches are my ideal way to spend rare days off.  

Also until very recently I loved my job, and wanted to work in it. Until hubby’s promotion earlier this year we couldn’t have survived financially without my job either. I guess I didn’t question it all too deeply prior to that, because we couldn’t have done it even if we had wanted to. I learnt long ago that there is no point in torturing ourselves over the things we can’t control. 

no point torturing ourselvesI’ve known for a while now that school was a massive problem for my 6yo. She didn’t breeze through Reception like her friends; she used to walk out looking like an extra from The Walking Dead whilst her little buddies were skipping out the door asking their mum or dad to take them to the play park.

It’s a well documented fact that Reception is hard work for all children, but usually once they get through the first term things start getting easier, and by the end of the first year (according to their parents anyway) they are mostly ‘loving school’. This did not happen for us, and rather than improve over time, things got steadily worse.

There was the tiredness, and nightly meltdowns (also linked to autism). There was the bullying we had to contend with in year one, which was awful. There was the so-called best friend who was basically bullying her intermittently (which is a big problem for many from what I can gather). I just couldn’t shake the feeling that although school had some massive pros, they were being far outweighed by the cons. 

When we had the news of P’s autism diagnosis, and my redundancy in the same week back in June, the doors of my mind flung wide open. During the summer holidays my thoughts started seriously drifting towards the possibility of educating my children otherwise. I started researching ideas for what our time table would look like. I created Pinterest boards packed with worksheets, projects and games. I joined home ed groups on Facebook to get an idea of how other people make it work. 

Hubby needed a lot more convincing though, and I begrudgingly sent P back to school on the 3rd September to start Year Two. 

When I asked her what she was looking forward to most about going back she said that it was a two day week, and she didn’t have to wait very long for ‘golden time’ (their 30 mins of unstructured play on a Friday afternoon). It was heart breaking watching her fall to pieces, and all our hard work from the summer go out the window in a matter of days. Once again the name calling and pinching became a daily feature, and she would taunt her sister by calling her stupid until she made her cry.  

Something really troubling started happening as well. She was coming home with at least one red slip per week – sometimes two and once two from the same afternoon – to inform us that she’d hurt herself. She was being pushed over in the playground a lot, and the best friend/bully I mentioned stepped up her nastiness. I was genuinely fearing for her safety. 

The week before half term was absolutely dreadful. This girl pushed P off the adventure trail in the playground, and she came home with a bruised and grazed spine. I raised it with her teacher the following day, and she told me that she thought P had fallen off, and wasn’t aware that she’d been pushed. Anyone with an autistic child will confirm that they are unable to lie, so when P tells me something like this I know she’s telling me the truth. 

I asked her teacher to keep her inside that lunchtime, and separated from the other girl as much as possible. I couldn’t believe it when P told me that she’d gone to an indoors club at lunch, along with the other girl. Clearly my words of worry had fallen on deaf ears. Again. I’d just about had enough of not being listened to or taken seriously. 

What about other options I hear you ask…

There are two alternatives: a wonderful sounding Steiner type school, and a school for autistic children, both of which are a bus ride away. Unfortunately as part of the ‘squeezed middle’ we earn too much to qualify for help, yet would need to earn at least double to consider paying £10k a year per child for their education. Not that I’m complaining of course, coming from my background I see it as a miracle that I’m even in the middle. 

The popularity of my recent post about high functioning autism parenting made me realise how much of a wide spread problem school is for our kids. How utterly overwhelmed they get. How heart wrenching it is watching their peers sail past them in so many ways, leaving ours behind. I’ve heard from many families over the last few weeks that have almost identical stories to ours, and they have all said the same thing over and over again. 

“Remove the stress of school, and watch your child flourish”!

So after MUCH to-ing and fro-ing and dithering and worrying, hubby and I made the decision to not send her back to school after half term. We notified the Head that we were de-registering her on the first day of term, and had an email in reply wishing us all the best.  

2015-09-17 15.28.48We are now a home educating family

I’m not going to lie and say that our first week was a complete breeze because it wasn’t. It was a mixed bag of emotions, but it was always going to be. Overall it was a massive improvement on what it had been like just before half term. I don’t think the need to de-school can be under estimated at all, so from now until Christmas my biggest priority is keeping life as stress free and calm as possible. 

As for ‘the stuff’, I think I was just looking at it all wrong. Now that I’m not living my life according to the school day, and entire evenings aren’t being written off to after-school meltdowns, I have more time on my hands for everything else.  More on that and what our days look like in another post though.  

For now I’d like to thank everyone that has shared their stories with me, and offered their words of wisdom and encouragement over the last six months. The blogs Ross Mountney’s NotebookLive Otherwise and Free Range Family, plus Ross’s books Learning Without School and A Funny Kind of Education have been hugely inspiring.

It’s high time my family stops surviving and starts thriving.

We can do this! 

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48 thoughts on “Why my Daughter Did Not go Back to School After Half Term

  1. OMG you lot have had me in tears reading all these comments (at the time, and now again replying), it’s been wonderful to have such support. Pleased to report that P is already doing so much better at home xxx

  2. You are too kind to me Sam, thanks once again for your lovely words (cue more tears!) P is already doing better, and I’m positive this will be the making of our family xxx

  3. Thanks so much for your kind words Tracey. So pleased to hear that your two are getting on so well at school – many kids thrive, but for some it’s just not the case. One glove will never fit all, and thankfully I’m now in a position to do this 🙂 xxx

  4. Thanks my lovely. I’m hopeful that because she’s so young, the bullying and flashbacks of being overwhelmed, etc, will disappear from her memory pretty quickly. As you know this has been brewing for a long time xxx

  5. Thanks so much for dropping by gorgeous lady, I know how insanely busy you are! And thanks for your support and faith in me. Cannot wait to get you all to myself next week xxx

  6. Oh yay – we can be home school buddies… I’m not surprised at all and given our previous conversations. Look forward to chatting to you more about it all my lovely xxx

  7. Oh honey you are so so lovely, your kind words had tears welling in my eyes the other day when I read this. I think it’s good to keep your options open, and do what you have to do to ensure the happiness of your children. That’s what it’s all about right? xxx

  8. Thanks so much Jo, the support I’ve had through the blog has been incredible! I’m glad that school is working for your son, it does for some kids just not all 🙂

  9. Very true – long gone at the days where the home educated kids were the weirdos down the end of the street wearing Xmas jumpers all year round, never leaving their house 😉

  10. Thanks so much Carolynne! It’s certainly not been an easy decision, but it definitely seems to be the right one. We’re only on week two, and it’s certainly not been a walk in the park so far, but we’ve seen the meltdowns disappear which is great.

    Sorry to hear that you have concerns for your twins. I agree that prem August babies are at a disadvantage. Glad you’re able to keep an open mind, and if there is anything I can ever do just yell hon xxx

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your story Emma, I’m glad that you’ve seen such an improvement in your boy. I’m pleased to say that P’s meltdowns have also disappeared, long may it continue!! I’ve just subscribed to your blog and am now following you on SM. Look forward to reading about your journey xx

  12. It’s been a pretty horrendous year if I think about it all, which is why we are taking de-schooling really seriously. Thanks so much for your support lovely xx

  13. Thanks so much Sara, your support and that of the other wonderful bloggers who have left messages of love this past week has been very appreciated (your faith in me in astounding!) Hope all’s well your end xx

  14. Thanks so much Megan! There’s definitely networks we can tap into, but for the time being I’m concentrating on de-schooling. I think after Xmas I’ll start taking mine to groups 🙂

  15. Such a difficult decision, but ultimately the right one for you. I know the home ed network is huge (much bigger than we think!) and it is also very supportive. Really looking forward to seeing further posts on how it is going, and good luck.

  16. Like Sam, I suspected that this was coming, and yet again all I can do is applaud you for having the courage to do what you know is right for your family. I have no doubt that P will flourish with you back in control of her days. I look forward to reading about this next stage in your journey Renee x

  17. What a huge decision and sounds like you’ve made the right one for you all. Sorry to hear about the bullying, that is awful and not what a child should have to endure. Hugs and wishing you all the best x

  18. That’s a big decision, and it certainly sounds like the right one for you, your daughter and your family. I know you’ll find plenty of support to do this and I hope you do get the calmer, stress free environment that you’re after. You can do it, I’ve every faith x

  19. I’ve followed your blog for a while and also love the other blogs you mentioned. Our story is very similar to yours and I pulled my son out this time last year, at the beginning of year 2. His daily meltdowns disappeared and what you say about freeing up time is so true. Life looks completely different once you take school out of the equation. Xx

  20. Ah Renee I think this is wonderful. So brave but so great that you’ve made this decision, to do what you think is best for your daughter. I have thought about home educating ever since my twins started school too young but I always feared I wouldn’t do it right! I still think about it now (they’re in year 2) because even though they’re aren’t unhappy, my tiny boys always want to stay at home and I’ve always felt they are in the wrong school year… August born premature babies. I’ll see how it goes, it’s an option that I haven’t put to bed just yet! I will look forward to reading how you’re all getting on xx

  21. Thanks for this timely post. We are just going through the whole thing of should we/ should we not. But more and more is pointing to the we should. I have read a number of blogs that describe exactly what it happening to our little one at school and that is why we want to remove those to get our happy little one back before education is not seen as fun!!

  22. I can’t believe the school didn’t listen to your requests, really shocking. My eldest would have started school this Sept but we decided to home ed and are loving it so far. It’s so nice to have the freedom that come with no school routine and I also get people asking me how I cope with kids with me all the time but even now at 5 and 2 they spend a lot of time upstairs playing on their own so I manage to work in the day too. Looking forward to reading more about your journey 🙂 x

  23. I applaud you both for making what must have been a very scary decision. You have to do what’s right for your family and for P. Taking control of the situation is probably the best decision you’ve made. You most definitely can do this. Good luck with your new journey my darling, I’ll be there all the way and support anyway I can! xxx

  24. Wow! That’s quite a decision you’ve made there. I once thought I would like to home school my son but he needed the socialisation of other children (he’s a lone child). The very best of luck in your new adventure. I’m sure you’ll have a blast and there will be lots of support for you if you need it.

  25. Well done for making this decision – I have no doubt its the right one for you and your family. I imagine home schooling will have its own challenges but none so big as those you have been facing with P being bullied and the overwhelming nature of the school environment for her. With all the research and planning you’ve done and your determination, I can see you totally rocking the home schooling thing and all of your kids benefitting as a result. Go you – inspiring as always. xxx

  26. Wow I’m so glad you did take her out after reading this. I admire anyone that home schools. I don’t think it would be something I would have the first clue about. May your lovely girl flourish under your amazing wings xxx

  27. What an inspired read! It is never an easy decision and life is never constantly smooth – it wouldn’t be with the children in school either! When we first started I remember thinking that we had been liberated into the world to learn about the world and that’s what education is for surely! Many thanks for the delightful mention of my work too – that’s so good to know! May you enjoy your home education as much as we did; despite the inevitable choppy bits, present in all family life whatever you’re doing, it was a decision we never once regretted! xx

  28. Making a decision like this clearly wasn’t taken lightly and now that you have, you yourself must be feeling less stressed and more positive about the future. I am one of those parents who happily sends their children to school and watches them come skipping out at the other end; we have so far been relatively untouched when it comes to childhood bullying, although we had had our moments which are always tough to bear. But it comes down to what is good for your child; where do they flourish and how. Someone once said to me ‘there is no such thing as a good school it’s about whether the school is good for your child’ – so true. You’ve made the right decision for your child and I hope it all goes really well. I look forward to reading about it – and no doubt being inspired!

  29. I suspected that this might be the announcement you were waiting to make too. Good for you for making that somewhat scary leap of faith. I hope that P will now be able to flourish- certainly being back in control and not having to rely on overworked teachers to both educate her and protect her from bullies must be a huge relief. I shall be very interested to read how it all goes and what difference it brings to your family life. Really proud of you for doing it your way again – you really are the kind of person who makes things happen and doesn’t hang around passively waiting for life to happen to you which is something I hugely admire. Xx

  30. You are amazing darling, you truly are. Please never ever forget that in this whole process. It takes strength and guts to do what you are doing and sheer and utter love. What a journey but I believe you are doing the right thing. I once thought that’s what I would want for my children (prior to having them) now I feel, they will thrive in school although I have concerns for F (which I may have mentioned before) I will do what it takes to make sure she is happy. Another fantastic piece Hun and I look forward to hearing/reading all about your journey. I’m off to follow your Pinterest boards with great interest. Xxxx

  31. Ah Renee, I had been wondering if this was on the cards from things you have said and when your post just popped up, I was glad for you to see that you have taken the plunge. I’m guessing that any change will take time to adjust to (I mean for you more than anyone), but it will be worth it if it makes life more pleasant and balanced overall, once it all settles down. I look forward to hearing more about your home-school journey. xxx

  32. Huge congratulations for taking this leap! I think it is absolutely the right thing for you and your family, and really quite exciting… I have all but decided to home school Arthur for at least the first couple of years – this time whilst they are so little and their personalities are still forming is so important. I cannot see how the stresses and structure of school, let alone the endless testing, can possibly be a good thing. Looking forward to hearing more about this part of your journey xx

  33. Well done darling on making the best decision for you all. You’ve taken control and will make this work. So sad to read about how let down you all were with the school but yay for doing things your way that will be the best for you all. Can’t wait for our lunch soon, wish it could be boozy but with me speaking later, might be dangerous. We can enjoy a glass of bubbles to toast you though. Wonderfully uplifting, beautifully written post x

  34. Renee, congratulations on making your decision, I know it has been a long tough one to make but I am sure now it is made you will feel a lot happier and will move on beautifully! You are one very brave, stong and inspiring lady. I shall look forward to reading about how well P is doing at home xxx

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