We’re now calling him ‘Boffin’ instead of Rich Tea Boy!
A month into his school experience and it was time to assess, as I had said we would, whether we have made the right decision or not to put him in school. I reiterate that we have put him in school because we felt it was the right decision for him as an individual. No pattern of education is perfect but with each of our children, we are looking to educate them in a way that best suits them as individuals. For this particular child of ours we felt that now was the time he should go to school for the sake of his unique future.
So he and I sat down with his learning manager and head of year, last week, to discuss how he was settling in. It has been a huge culture shock for him and it has been the shock waves of that, that has made me question our decision. As he was immersed in a completely different culture, it has felt on numerous occasions that he was only just keeping his head above the surface. He was coming home very exhausted, processing the experience and I was processing his perception of the new culture he was getting used to. However, by small increments which we didn’t always see, he was slowly gaining muscle to keep swimming. He was surviving but more than that he was becoming stronger. I then noticed he was coming home with a vibrancy about him and I knew he was winning within himself, until a cold knocked him out for a bit. This vibrancy and flourishing was more what I had hoped we would see when we made the decision to put him in school. It was what I was looking for. He has gained confidence, he is happy and is enjoying his experience now he has got used to whole culture of school. There are things he doesn’t like but he is very philosophical and, let’s face it, there’s always stuff we don’t like. No model of education is perfect, but we are looking for a ‘best fit’.
His learning manager and head of year were very complimentary and encouraging saying he was a credit to us and himself. I think this is a credit to the model of home education, too. Academically, he is swimming ahead of his peers in many subjects (apart from Welsh) and has been tested in recent weeks to be reset for sciences. I have always said that Boffin has a huge number of character traits like my father, who was a chemistry teacher in a fancy-pants boarding school in the south of England. I grew up in this environment where education and academia were worshipped. Understandably, this upbringing has fuelled my passion for excellence in education but also helped me be quite realistic in assessing what and what-not is valuable.
As Boffin came top of his set for Chemistry, top of his year for Science and is also excelling in theatre studies (another of my father’s great strengths), I emailed my mother to say how proud my father would have been and how sad I am that he doesn’t know he has a grandson who takes after him, in so many ways. She messaged back in agreement, but also said how proud I should be for teaching him everything so far.
Let me let you in to a little secret! I haven’t taught him any chemistry, except what related to daily life. I haven’t taught him facts and figures. I haven’t filled him with knowledge. When I break down the essence of what I have taught him, two things stand out most: (a)I have taught him to be himself and to be confident therefore in the uniqueness of who he is; and (b)I have taught him to love learning and therein how to learn well. He has learnt to learn on his own. His motivation is his own desire for knowledge. The rest is what naturally grows from that. His success comes from a sense of security within himself and his own self motivation. I think this is a real testament to the effectiveness of the home-ed. model of education, but I must remind myself that this particular child of ours is a visual, words learner who learns well with traditional methods of teaching. I only have to look at some of my other children to remember that that is not true of all learners, which is why I continue to focus on teaching my children to be confident in their uniqueness and to love learning.
I’m not naive. I know there are many challenges ahead and Boffin needs to work hard, but I am encouraged by the first month assessment and the positive report I hear coming from many lips. I have also been enormously encouraged by the endorsement of successful home education that should encourage parents who are home educating. When I weigh home education, as a model, against the school system it still comes up trumps as valid and effective! My advice to any home educator is to capatalise and invest heavily in what comes naturally to your child. Help them excel in the things they are good at and let the harder things they learn be over-shadowed by their strengths. Don’t weary yourself worrying over their weaknesses. Yes, work on them in comfortable, bite-sized chunks but remember that the school system measures so much by results in academic success and there is no need to compare yourselves with them. This is only a small part of a much bigger picture of life as a whole. You don’t have to use the same measures on your child if that doesn’t suit your child. Success in life is not measured by academic success, thankfully, or many of us would be disqualified. It is only a small part.
We are choosing to measure Boffin’s success by these measures because he is a natural academic, but many are not. However, above all, my greatest joy is seeing his character develop and flourish. That’s what his education is primarily about!