There are so many chances for a new start. January 1st is the obvious time, a chance for resolutions, for trying again, for doing things a little diffently.
Then in the Spring many people like to have a clear out, and Lent offers a chance to give something up, to try to do better.
For me, though, the start to the school year in Autumn has always been about new starts. As a child it was a move to a new classroom, a new teacher, sometimes a new school. Every year my parents would bring us to the stationers for a new school bag, maybe a file, and a pencil case filled with new resources. Later, as a teacher myself, it was the time to clear out the old and bring in the new, including a new group of children (hopefully!) eager to learn. It’s hard to shake that feeling of needing to refresh in September, even though it is five years since I had a new class, and many more since that annual trip to the stationers.
I think this history is the essence of why I found this September so hard to step into. The pressure through August was building, I felt on edge and unprepared, and more than a little sensitive to well-meaning enquiries after my little family.
This September, Little Bear did not start school.
It was a planned decision, discussed and agreed between Daddy Bear and myself many months ago. Nothing needed to change for us, we were not going to launch ourselves into a curriculum, start sitting down to lessons every day, or buy a desk for our son to work at. But for some reason, as status posts popped up on Facebook of proud parents celebrating their children starting school, September felt like a major barrier to be hurdled.
After all my research, my plans to not let anything change, suddenly there was a (perceived) pressure to get him reading, adding and taking away, attending classes. We disastrously attempted gymnastics sessions. I tried to instigate ‘school time’ each day. And the whole thing fell apart before the month was up. In fact, it fell apart before the first week was up, it just took me three more weeks to accept it.
Home educators talk about ‘de-schooling’: a chance for children to take a step back from their experiences of school, to realise that the way things were do not have to be the way things go forward. Less talked of, but occasionally mentioned, is the parents’ need to de-school, to see that learning does not have to take place in a classroom and relax away from scheduling and set outcomes. I didn’t realise this would apply to me. My child never attended school.
But I did.
My life has revolved around term dates for coming up to 30 years. That’s going to take a lot of de-schooling. To make things just that bit more challenging, both my parents and my parents-in-law were teachers, and so they have preconceived ideas about how education looks. It is hard not to allow conversation with them not to shake my knowledge of what is right for my particular child and our particular situation. It’s a work in progress.
I have written September off. September was a mistake. I learned a lot from this mistake, though: my child is unique, different from any other child in the world. And the education I provide him with will be similarly unique. And that’s okay.