For nearly two years, we were a home educating family. The kids and I would trek off to various locations for different events and classes; gymnastics, chemistry, tours of Roman forts and museums, etc. At times, the "home" part of home educating did not apply! We were busy and it was exhausting but very, very fun. I loved having them at home all the time and watching them play together. I loved chatting with them, learning things as a group or one-on-one when the others were occupied with different things. They grew so close as siblings and fought less. It was wonderful.
We played, nearly all the time. Learning was through doing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. There wasn't much sitting down, unless they wanted to "play schools" or I was reading chapters from Winnie-the-Pooh. I was constantly packing lunches and picnic blankets, slathering sunscreen or scrounging around for wellies that fit their ever-growing feet. Some days we didn't bother to come home until after dinner time; if we were lucky, I had put the slow cooker on before we left.
I loved it. Really, truly, deep-within-my-soul loved it. But, in time, their needs changed. So I sucked it up, put my ego and self-image as a home educating momma aside and sent them to school. For another year and a bit, I had my eldest and my youngest at home. My eldest was against the very idea of school for a long time. She refused to even entertain the notion. So we carried on as best we could, with trips out and classes and fun things at home. It wasn't the same - we were tied to the school run, and the bustle of our days wasn't as interesting (for me). Eventually I got pregnant and was sick for several months. I then felt better, and took my eldest to Greece for a week. That was wonderful. I came back renewed and ready to do fun stuff as a family again. So we went to the beach for the day, and I injured myself in the process. Flat on my back again, we were housebound for several weeks (I had to be ever so careful not to re-injure my pelvis). Once the baby was born, I was at home almost all the time. A month later, we were left carless as my husband's offices changed location and he needed it to travel to work. Incrementally, over the space of a year or so, our world shrunk to where we could get by bus or walking, within the hours of 9am-3pm. It limited us severely and school became a viable option for her.
Last month, she started school again, after being home educated for over three years. She loves it very much. It was a bit difficult for her to get back into the routine at first, and making friends has been a slower process than she expected, but she is doing fantastically well. She attends a different school than the younger ones, so she has to walk there and back again on her own. It isn't far, and it's on a route that we walk regularly in the course of our days anyway, so she's fine. She enjoys a small class and a friendly teacher; in many ways the experiences she is enjoying at school are what we would have done at home or at home ed groups back when we were all together and had the car. Her maths lessons included baking cakes; her art lessons included flinging paint all over the room; her literacy lessons included writing stories; she has been watching chicks hatch from their shells recently and has been reading stories to the little ones in nursery. The best schools mimic home life and this has definitely been the case recently.
So I am happy for her. School is giving her what I simply cannot provide these days, and she is blossoming into a lovely young lady. She is more active and interested in new hobbies and ideas. It's great stuff.
I am at home with the little ones now, and our days are a bit slow, a bit simplified. We do things like read stories, colour, go for walks, and so on. I don't have deep conversations with my three year old about life, the universe, and everything, but it's pretty close sometimes! She's a wonderful companion. As I slowly come out of the newborn haze, and blink in the sunlight of spring, I can see a different world opening up to us. One with days spent close to home, a world that can only be reached by walking or riding the bus between the hours of 9am-3pm, and it will be just enough. It will satisfy my pre-schooler and baby, and I won't have to worry about balancing their small needs with a nearly-11-year-old's larger needs.
This has been the right choice. Home education was brilliant and beautiful and chaotic and messy, and I loved almost every moment of it. Truly, I did. School is the right choice for all of my school-aged children right now, for very different reasons for all of them. We are not a home educating family anymore.
But I still miss it.