Suky talks about home educating her six-year-old daughter, who has a rare syndrome and additional needs.
We home educate our nearly six-year-old daughter and have a 20-month-old ball of energy who happens to be learning along the way as well. Our daughter has never been to school though spent a few months in a specialist nursery. Home education has always been something that interested us as a family, we have an extensive background in education. My grandmother was a nursery teacher for children with special needs in Switzerland in the 60’s, my mum is a passionate primary school teacher, and I work with children with Autism. My husband works in design and believes that the modern interpretation of education can stifle creativity, so he’s always seen it as a positive opportunity for our children too.
Once my daughter was born, and in the turbulent months that followed after becoming a mother, it became clear that she had additional needs. She has had several operations, developmental challenges and was recently diagnosed with a rare syndrome which finally gave us a reason for her difficulties. I feel lucky that my career meant I had the confidence to fully commit to home educating, knowing that I can meet her needs at home and that my husbands career is stable enough to financially allow me that privilege.
Despite having mainly enjoyed school myself, and having worked in great schools, I felt strongly that throwing my sensitive, gentle natured girl into a huge overwhelming and distracting environment would not see her thrive. I have seen first hand the battles parents have to go through to get their child appropriate support in schools, many times ending up in court. The system is over stretched, we all know that. And it’s children like my daughter, the quiet compliant ones who need extra support, who easily slip through the gaps. It was a no brainer to me that I could provide a higher, deeper more individualised level of education than schools could.
So here we are. Now, in my core I believe that formal education doesn’t need to begin before seven. Childhood belongs to children to enjoy, to play and learn naturally. However, when you have a child with additional needs, some of that charmed view is taken away because we’re dealing with a child developmentally behind her peers, it doesn’t seem fair to hope they will just absorb it all. Having my second child, I can see that would suit him as he naturally picks up everything! But with my oldest, we started introducing phonics and numbers when she was five. She has always adored books, her perfect day would be a day on the sofa with me reading to her for hours on end.
Activity wise and socialising, there’s plenty of that. Sometimes the difficulty is making sure we’re home enough! The beauty of home ed is we can tailor her activities to suit her needs so most of what we do is to strengthen her core muscles as she has hypotonia and hypermobility which greatly impact her daily life as well as educational needs. We do horse riding, swimming and Capoeria regularly, in between bike rides, playground trips and outdoor nature play. She learns Arabic! The girl who used sign language until she was nearly three is learning a second language, and excelling, always the first to answer! We go to group Montessori sessions. At home we use a variety of methods for teaching numeracy and literacy, nothing formal, rarely at the table, and always positively and enthusiastically working with her interests. We work in regular OT and physio sessions within our week too, and there’s always sand on the kitchen floor from the garden so there’s plenty of free play too.
Home education is a hot topic in the press and amongst parents too. The research seems to indicate a richer learning environment at home but that’s not to say I’m anti school. If we lived in a little village instead of a big bustling city, with a small homely school with a large outdoor space as our source of education, would I still home educate? I’m not sure. Home education isn’t for everyone but for us we see it as the best choice for the benefit of our children’s future. I hope the government preserves our right to choose how we raise and educate our children. Society will be the richer for it.