Wednesday, 7 May 2014

How it happened

It's springtime and the children are going back to school after their Easter break. But not mine. 


We have two sons. Our eldest, Tom, in his early teens, was the first one to be home educated because of difficulties with school and anxiety. He has just been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He returned to school last year (his choice), but the same difficulties resurfaced. Now he is at home again, still on the school roll, and having lessons online whilst we wait for him to get a Statement of Special Educational Needs. 

Frankly, Tom deserves a blog all to himself, but he is 14 and likes his privacy.

Charlie, my youngest, is the child who seemed to fit in fine at school.  He's eight. Now and again, he’d protest about how much he hated it, but I chivvied him along.
Charlie's favourite thing in the world is Lego. He invents things with Lego every day. Here we are, portrayed in Lego by Charlie: me, Charlie, Tom and Michael.

It took me several months to realise that Charlie was very unhappy at school. There were signs, but they were interspersed with busy family life and work and it took a while to piece them all together. For a start, Charlie stopped playing with his friends at playtime and sat on his own. He started bringing his sandwiches home from school uneaten. He complained that he was stupid at Maths and felt ill every Maths lesson. 

When I helped out at school, I noticed that he didn't finish the worksheets handed to him to complete. When I asked him whether this would be picked up by the teacher, he said nobody ever noticed. A quiet boy, he seemed to be lost amongst the class of 30 children.

I went to a parents' evening and noticed that his schoolwork looked untidy and careless, as if he didn’t care about it and as if nobody else cared either. On one page, the teacher had written : 'Well done, Ryan!". 

When I asked him about school, he told me that there wasn’t a single lesson that he enjoyed.

He seemed bored and stressed and unhappy. He developed tics, which embarrassed him. His teacher, always pleasant enough to me, was reportedly often snappy and irritable with her pupils and, although Charlie rarely got the sharp end of her tongue, he told me that it upset him to see his friends and classmates picked on.

This boy, who had always loved learning and had enjoyed his early years at school, now expressed horror at the prospect of staying in education. I imagined he saw it stretching ahead of him - primary school, secondary school, university - in one long, unbroken chain of boredom and misery. His cheery disposition disappeared every Sunday evening, to be replaced by a grim, stoic little figure. 

I had seen all this before, with my oldest son, and I wasn't willing to put another child of mine through this, or go through it again myself. 

After a very happy half-term holiday, Charlie told me he needed to talk to me. He listed all the things he hated about school and said he couldn’t put up with it anymore. I told him he had to go to school, but promised that  I would look into another school for him. He is not the sort of boy who cries very much, but at the prospect of returning to school the next day, he wept.

I found another school. Charlie had a taster day and loved it. He told us that everyone was very kind and that, to his surprise, he had not only understood the Maths lesson – he enjoyed it. The teacher picked up immediately that my son was a fantastic reader and took him to choose a more challenging book at reading time. We were delighted.

But then his place at the school fell through. We were faced with the prospect of forcing him to go back to the school that was making him miserable, or home educating him whilst we waited for a place to become available.

We chose to home educate.


  1. Well done for taking the step to home educate Charlie. It is heart breaking to watch the lights go out of their eyes because of the daily grind of school life - what an insult to childhood innocence and freedom. Anyway , I could veer off on a little rant about classroom based education but it is not the place:)
    He seems so happy with the decision ( having read later posts) and I wonder now if you would take a place at the other school if one became available?

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure about the other school, to be honest. We are having such a great time and he is so happy and learning so much.... But no need for us to worry about that yet.

    I am also very disillusioned with school education. I feel it has let down both my children.