I’ve worked with families that home-school for a variety of reasons. Some enforced and some consciously. Like many things on the edges of a society it is a place that is so often misunderstood, but a place where you can learn so much from the community and I am glad that I found this community before I had children of my own. Now that I have two small children, I know just how many different ways there are of experiencing education other than the very narrow formula that we see in mainstream schools.
Home-schooling throws both parents and children into the spotlight. Being in mainstream means you can end up being quite passive towards your education, it kind of happens around you in a rather narrow space, and a lot of children are just trying to survive the year, make it to the next year and see where it takes you. When you home-school, you have time and space to think. You have flexibility, in some cases more choice and you can allow for far more autonomy. This can be liberating for some, but it can also be quite scary.
What I notice seems to transcend among many of the home-schooling families that I have worked with is that their own connection to their gut instinct is more alive. Knowledge happens on many different levels and it’s important that we align ourselves with these different levels for any of the big decisions in our lives. They know it’s the right decision to home-school, but with that come so many of the concerns that would might have been picked up by the school and the spotlight turns directly to the parent.
So often I’ll meet parents and families who are struggling whose children are struggling in school and you can see that their mind is in overdrive working hard to keep them there in school whilst something else is just telling them that something just isn’t right. Whilst this is still there for many home-ed families, those doubts always remain on some level, there is also a peace in them that they know this is the right decision for them as a family and for their children. The extra security that the children pick up from being around this knowledge that is alive within the family is just such a wonderful place to develop and thrive in.
That security does not come easily though and I personally believe that the more we can work on that security then the better the environment our children will be in when they are in our company. And as home-schooling parents, that is quite a lot. So how can we support ourselves as parents. It’s easy to look for help for our children, but what about the parents?
I am a student of Dr Gabor Maté and have just finished and qualified as one of the UKs first Compassionate Inquiry Practitioners. Compassionate Inquiry is a psychotherapeutic approach that explores what lies beneath the appearances we show to the world. Anyone not familiar with the work of Dr Maté, I would encourage you to read some of his books or watch some of his YouTube videos. He is a world-renowned author and speaker with books on addiction, child development, health and ADHD. It’s during this time that I had the realisation that THE BEST gift we can give our own children is an awareness of our own issues, our past and how these affect us. With this work, we become lighter, less triggered, more present and connected to the true needs of our own children.
It’s because of this that I designed a 5-day self-explorative course that brings some awareness to how our past and our beliefs are picked up. Being a parent is the hardest role that I ever had and our society, as sad as it may be, is just not set up to look after the needs of parents, children or families. We’ve slipped down the pecking order. In many ways it is strange, because we are surrounded by the knowledge, the techniques, the answers of how to be a good parent. Can’t we just read a book and try out a different technique? This course is not about teaching or telling you how to parent. It is about opening up a space where you can explore how you show up as a parent.
Parents are increasingly isolated both from support and their own instinctive ways of being with children. Parenting was never meant to be done in the nuclear family and we must recognise we are all parenting in a very unnatural environment. I notice that many home-schooling communities are taking us back to more natural environments to learn in, but it can be lonely and isolating. On that note, it is important that we put in the work and start to get this awareness back and it is in this process that we can thank our children for guiding us back to ourselves.
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Joe Atkinson originally worked in addiction psychology. He later retrained as a primary school teacher/play therapist and for the last 10 years he has been working with families and children. He helps parents using Compassionate Inquiry, a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Dr Gabor Maté.