A note on homeschooling by Coral Golding

Ava was four and a half years old, due to start school in September and it was the last week of August... We were away on a family break in the New Forest and while watching her play, I suddenly got an empty feeling thinking about what would be happening in just a few weeks’ time. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something just didn’t sit right with me; she still just looked so small.

Ava had gone to a local Montessori nursery when she was two, with only six children in the group, then went on to a pre-school which followed Buddhist principles, where she seemed quite happy. Then we moved home and had to change her nursery and she started at a larger Montessori pre-school just around the corner. I thought she was going to love it, but every morning she would cling to my leg and cry, not wanting to let go. She was still a baby in my eyes and seeing her like that just broke me, so we decided to take her out.

Sufi was still a baby and it was springtime, so I just thought that we could all just spend the summer together and then Ava would be off to school that September.

The decision to home-school was a pretty quick one, but once we decided, I felt SO excited, like a weight had been lifted from us. The whole world was ours and we could choose what we wanted to do each day – such a sense of freedom!
So I started googling and looking for local Facebook home-schooling groups, so we could meet other families doing the same thing. We are lucky as there is quite a big home-ed community in Brighton and Hove, and lots of weekly activities going on. So Ava has a good social life too!

In Scandinavian countries and within Steiner education the belief is that there should not be any pressure put on a child for numeracy and literacy before they are seven years old, and we have followed that idea. Ava is now naturally showing an interest in reading and writing but one thing I have really struggled with, if I’m honest, is comparison. Most children at school would have spent a lot of time focusing on both literacy and numeracy and we decided to let go and trust that it will come to her when she is really ready.

We generally have pretty slow mornings, but we fill our weeks with lots of activities. Ava goes to a forest school every Tuesday and every Friday we visit the children’s grandfather, who lives completely off-grid in the woods. So lots of our time is spent outdoors with nature as a playground. She has just started a home-ed maths club, which she loves! Ava also
does aikido twice a week, attends a drama club, has piano lessons and street-dance classes – so there is a lot of variety. Once a week her grandmother takes her out for the day in Brighton and they have recently been focusing on local history and map reading, which I feel is really lovely. We are really fortunate that we get to spend a lot of time learning life skills in our day-to-day life as we are often busy exploring and learning together, which I really feel is so valuable to young children.

We get asked a lot if we will carry on home-schooling forever and if I’m completely honest, I don’t really know the answer to that. Right now, it is working beautifully for us and Ava seems very happy (although of course it can be challenging at times). But if one day Ava really wants to go to school, we would of course let her do so. All children are so, so different and I think it’s important for us to realise that and really listen to them; home-schooling enables this conversation. What works for one family might not work for another, and
I feel truly grateful that for the majority of the time we have these options. Time is so fleeting and I know the girls won’t always want to be there holding my hand, so while I can be there and stand by to watch and guide them on their journey, I will do whatever I can to support their needs. Right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.