When my eldest was born it made me realise how few people we really knew in the village where we live. We had moved here two years before he was born and both worked full time, we had got to know our neighbours but beyond that only a couple of people who we already knew prior to moving here. A very part time job came up in the village school which I applied for and got. It required me to attend eight meetings in a school year, here that is September to July, and a small amount of admin most of which I could do in my own time. The meetings I was to attend were the governors meeting, the governors are a management body, made up of members of the local community, who are responsible for the running of the school. I was required to sit in those meetings to take minutes, which I then went home, wrote up and distributed. At first this is what I did not taking any interest in the content, as I was not required to contribute to the meeting, it was easy to do this.
In the UK you have to apply for a place at a school. You have to do this twice, in most areas, once in the year before they are five (primary school) and then again in the year they turn eleven (secondary school), by year I mean school year not calender year. It is the parents legal responsibility to ensure a child receives an education, as the education act states:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable -
a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise
In the year that we had to make our application suddenly the content of those meeting changed. I was no longer an observer, listening in order to record, I became an absorber too. The meetings seemed to be filled with statistics, figures, comparisons which would have been appropriate in a company sales meeting but a school? This was the management team so I would expect some figures of the financial kind but there were figures for everything and the constant pressure of results pervaded every meeting. I knew you could legally home educate in the UK so armed with my knowledge of the education system that my child was going to be part of, it was very different when I was at school, I couldn't put my child through the machine which is what it felt like to me.
We were quiet about our decision, it is easy to do this as the application has to be sent in nine months before the child starts school, but once we did start telling people we had a positive reaction. Many people did not realise it was legal, most thought they could not do it and some were jealous that they could not do it for their children. I was surprised by some of the questions particularly in those early days. I think most of those asking assumed that we would have a day rather like a school day, starting at nine with breaks for play and eating and finishing at three, that I would sit and teach my children and that I would therefore need to do a lot of preparation and research. But the most surprising one was, what will you do when they he goes to secondary school? I know that most parents don't give this any thought when their child is four or five, I know there are exceptions who have their whole child's life mapped out until they are eighteen but they are rare, I hope? By the end of next year, 2015, we will need to have applied for a secondary school place if we want one, a place that will start in September 2016! Suddenly this question which I have always replied I will wait and see nearer the time needs to be answered.
There are several secondary schools near to us. A town to the north has two, a town to the south has two and there are three others in small towns within driving distance only the town to the north would come with free transport on the local bus, the rest would require us to drive or pay for a bus pass. Of these two schools one has an entrance exam and it is usually not possible to join this school after the age of eleven.
At the moment I am sure that my eldest would find school extremely stressful. He still loathes to be in big groups of people preferring time one on one, but two years is a long time in a child's life, will he change in the next two years? Can I provide the opportunities that he wants and needs to give him the education that will stand him in good stead to to out into the world and forge his own path? But the big one for me is, and this is one I am struggling with the most, what about those who asked the questions? I am feeling that I will have to justify my decision, if we opt to continue to home ed, when I wouldn't if I opted for the school route. I know little about secondary education in this country other than my own experience many years ago, are my judgements going to be sound? What keeps niggling me is that I am having to justify a decision that is mine, legally, to make. How much of what we are taught in secondary school is relevant to what we are doing today? Can you remember any of it? Could you open a textbook in one of the subjects you studied for exams at sixteen or eighteen and actually make sense of it? Is it not valid to go away and learn, rather then be taught, the subjects that really interest you? That will be the building blocks of what you go onto to study further at university or in the world of work. If you really want to become a doctor then you are likely to be interested in anatomy, physiology or there is little point you taking the time and effort with your learning. So it feels like a long way off and all too soon at the same time, it will be a hard one but I, should I say we, need to give it thought, I will continue to ponder.....
Blogger has informed me that is is my 500th post! Can't quite believe it, yet it seems somehow an appropriate one!