The UK law states that it is a parents responsibility to ensure that their child has a ‘suitable education‘. That is the law. Children have a statutory right to a suitable education.
What is a suitable education?
I had enquired about homeschooling, when I moved house around christmas time 2012. I was moving my daughter from one school to another, but I wanted to homeschool her. I remember the phone call to the local council education department at that time. They were asking me if I had any formal qualifications or training, and how I planned to educate her myself without none. I felt discouraged by this call. Also, my daugher’s father was not agreeable to the idea, so she went to school.
During the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 I was severely depressed. I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed and face life. I couldn’t face the world, or the pressures. Subsequently, my daughter missed many days at school. The school that my daughter attended were completely unsympathetic. They sent me numerous letters, phone calls, threats of the Educational Welfare Officer and fines. The school didn’t offer any support to either of us, or offer my daughter any work that she missed out on to do at home. I was asking for support from the school with transport, and asking for advice – I didn’t know what to do. I was also asking for support from my daughter’s father. None was given to me. It seemed that nobody was listening to me. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was feeling very suicidal during this period.
I had a ‘Crisis’ at the beginning of March 2015 due to the deterioration of my mental health, all of the pressures that were on me, and a lover that physically hurt me.
After the visit to the crisis team, my gears kicked back in. I was still depressed, but I was beginning to think clearer. The confusions that were there, were dissipating. The anxieties though, not dissipating. My daughter’s father came to stay for a while after the crisis. That did help, but he didn’t stay long. My health improved after the crisis. And so, my daughter school attendance improved. She didn’t miss school anymore.
In June 2015, my daughter’s school agreed that they would not fine me if I took her to Glastonbury Music and Arts Festival, and out of school for 3 days. I asked for permission on June 5th, and was denied on June 8th by a letter which also outlined the consequential fines for taking an unauthorised absence. I phoned the head to discuss the matter and we had a meeting on June 19th. I expressed to her that I wanted to take my daughter camping to a music festival to bond with her and be close to her. I had previously been depressed for months with no energy to do anything, I felt that Glastonbury would be a great opportunity to enjoy things with my daughter that we both share. The Head Teacher understood and agreed not to fine me.
Below is the letter that I wrote to the school, requesting the 3 days for Glastonbury:
Dear Head Teacher,
‘I am requesting to take my daughter out of school for 3 days, so that she may attend Glastonbury Festival. A ticket has been bought for me and children go free. The dates that I request fall in with the school’s sports day, therefore I assume that she will not miss out on much important academic work and it will be more sports related. Although, any work could be given to her in advance so that she may complete it before she returns on the Monday. I know that she has had poor attendance, but as you are aware of my depression I hope that this factor alone does not deter your approval. Her recent attendance has been 100% and she is not falling behind in her work, in fact she is doing great. As my daughter is very much into music and science I feel that she should not miss out on the music, art and science shows / activities. Glastonbury will be an inspiring and educational experience. Thank-You. Kindest Regards.
The Head Teacher’s reply:
Further to our meeting, I refer to your application for leave of absence for your child to be absent for 3 days. As explained to you, the current law does not give any entitlement to parents to take their child our of school during term time. The education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) regulations 2013 prohibits Head teachers granting leave of absence to a puli except where an application has been made in advance and the Head teacher considers tat thee are exceptional circumstances relating to the application. Following due consideration, I am unable to agree to your request as the reason provided is not considered exceptional. As we discussed, I will not be seeking a leave of absence Penalty Notice request on this occasion but as your child is being monitored by Educational Welfare Service, I cannot guarantee that this unauthorised absence will not escalate into a Penalty Notice directly from them for poor attendance.
The school did fine me. Because I took my daughter back to school on the Tuesday instead of the Monday. The reason for this is because we didn’t get back into our house until the Sunday night / Monday morning at around 12.30-1am. We needed to have some food and a bath before we went to sleep. It was around 2-3am when my daughter went to bed that night. So I allowed my daughter the day off on the Monday to get some proper rest, rejuvenate. The school were not at all agreeable to this. The had me fined £250.
When my daughter went back to school in September 2015 as a year 4 student, she was having some trouble her teeth. She experienced toothache a lot. At first I took her to the dentist. She needed teeth removing, but she wouldn’t let the dentist do it. The dentist tried to persuade her a couple of time at separate appointments, but she was having none of it. I wasn’t going to force her to have it done while awake, so she went on a waiting list to have it done under anaesthetic at the local hospital. I think she was given antibiotics in case she had an infection. One of the only times I ever gave antibiotics to her! She had 4 teeth that needed removing due to the breakdown of enamel. 2 of them were adult teeth. The dentist totally blamed me! I was shocked and took offence. My daughter doesn’t eat a huge amount of sweets etc, no more than any other child. In fact, probably less. She hardly drinks juice, usually opting for water. I ensured she brushed her teeth, I even got her a timer so that she didn’t rush her brushing. Her father’s family have a history of teeth / mouth problems, so I put it down to that. The operating dentist at the hospital told me that my daughter’s teeth do not form enamel properly.
My daughter missed quite a bit of school during the period that she was on the waiting list for her teeth. She was having toothache regularly and was not sleeping properly at night due to this. We tried all sorts of things, cold towels, hot towels, pain killers, clove oil. One night, desperate to ease the pain, we tried rinsing with whisky. I remember, by the end of that night we were both on the whisky! That was a tough night for her, and me. Neither of us were getting enough sleep. The school, again were unsympathetic. Attendance attendance attendance! I knew why, and I could quite clearly see why she was having toothache. I didn’t need to waste the dentists time taking her back and forth. But the school insisted that I brought in dentist appointment cards for evidence, or her absences would be marked as unauthorised. She didn’t go to the dentists, so I had no appointment cards, but I wrote letters detailing her absence and left voice messages with the school. Still, regulations overrode humanity. I was sent more threatening letters by the school about my daughters attendance. Even when she was at the hospital having her teeth taken out, and the few days that followed that she spent at home the school did not authorise the attendance.
Due to my daughter’s attendance being low, the school did not authorise any illnesses without a professional’s note. When my daughter had minor but contagious ailments like worms, head lice, or a head cold, the school told me to bring her in! I did not agree to this as it is unhygienic and would most likely exacerbate the problem. So I didn’t take her in. I treated her at home, advised by the pharmacist, as I usually did. All of the days that she missed because of minor ailments went marked as unauthorised, even though I sent letters.
One time she had a horrid head cold with a very high temperature. I kept her off of school for 1-2 days and then reluctantly took her into school while she was still under the weather. The school called me a couple of hours later to collect her again. I got her home and checked her temperature, it was 39.2 degrees Celsius. The school had not checked her temperature. I decided that I would no longer be sending her into school against my better judgement.
By October 2015, I’d decided that I’d had enough of the pressures from the school. I’d decided that the school were not keeping my daughter’s welfare at the forefront, more concerned and preoccupied with their attendance ratings. Communications with the school at this point were very fraught. I decided I’d had enough, I was going to pull her out after Christmas. But the school carried on with the attendance letters, so I pulled my daughter out of school in November of 2015.
Before November 2015, I’d already had major doubts about the schooling system. I still do. I believe that there is way too much pressure on children of all ages within the academic settings. Children are being overworked and not being allowed the proper time to find out who they truly are and enjoy being a child. Even children in reception classes are even given homework. Children go to school too soon. Children can now attend preschool for free from the age of just 3 years old. My daughter did. I believe that children spend too much time under the influences and ‘care’ of their teachers and peers, and not enough under their parents or the people who they actually want to spend their time with. School is forced social interaction, sometimes with bullies who make a child’s life a complete misery. Some children even take their own lives due to bullying, or they develop self-harming behaviours and/or personality issues. School is forced learning. It is a one-fit-for-all system that children are meant to ‘fit in’ to. If they do not ‘fit in’ then they are labelled. Children are being put into categories of intelligence – low, medium, high. Children go from primary to secondary education and are then separated from their peers that they grew up with. The social interactions that they so needed through their primary years are then whisked from them as they are separated, and labelled.
I remember from my senior years, I used to skip school often during the last 2 years. But I was still intelligent and I did most of the work. Due to my low attendance, I was refused to be put into the ‘higher’ exam papers. Meaning that I could only achieve a C grade as my highest grade. I achieved 5 C grades, that should have probably been B’s or A’s.
Is that fair? Was that best for my welfare?
In November of 2015, with my daughter’s permission, I took removed her from school.
Homeschooling provided a welcome distraction for me from the anxieties and pressures that I faced. The depression by then was nowhere near as severe as it had been. It had lifted. Homeschooling my daughter helped me refocus and find some clarity. I had a purpose. Having my daughter at home with me, less the pressures, was a comfort. It was not stressful, we have a great relationship. She loved being with me, and I loved being with her. I loved the idea of teaching her meaningful lessons, meeting new families together and growing closer at the same time.
I quickly came to realise that my daughter struggled with mathematics. She came out of year 4 at school not even knowing her 2 times tables. So we didn’t make mathematics a focus right away. I wanted to try the student-led approach to learning, so we did. At first, I tried a relaxed approach to schooling. I would ask my daughter how she was feeling in the morning, and we would go from there. I noticed though, that she was not keen and proactive about completing tasks that I had set. I quickly realised that I was a soft touch. After a month or so of the relaxed approach not going to plan, I tried a new approach. To be honest, a month was no where near enough time to make that call, but the amount of new pressure placed on me and my daughter by my whole family and her whole family pushed me into rushing into that decision.
Pretty much NOBODY supported me, or my decision to homeschool my daughter. Even people who didn’t even know me, and that had no children themselves were piping up and chipping in giving their two pence. Most of it sounded like indoctrinated views, the type of views that I used to hold myself before I did my research. Below, is a link to an interesting blog, written by Greg Trimble. He covers the top 5 reasons that people give for not homeschooling, and argues the points – well.
I did much research into schooling before I took my daughter out of school. I didn’t just jump into it without a thought. Yes, it was rather a rash decision, but it was an informed one. Yet, everyone treated me like I didn’t know a thing and like I was incapable, not intelligent enough to teach her as well as a primary school teacher! HA! I wondered, how much had these people researched into schooling? And didn’t they know I am a genius?!
So, anyway, the new approach…
I looked properly into the national curriculum. I spent 2 weeks researching, planning, writing, creating, all kinds of work for her, that I could easily add to. I still wanted her to lead the way, follow her cues and learn what she was interested in, but with more structure and more emphasis on core subjects. She wanted to focus on making blogs, vlogs, editing videos and building with Minecraft. All things which I was happy to do, I encouraged it. She is more creative than academic, and she is only so young. But we did have to find more of a focus for those core subjects.
I came up with an interesting and extensive folder of work for her, below:
DAY TRIPS/ (calenders with possible day trips set out spanning 6 months, with financial costs included)
RESOURCES/ Certificates/ PDFs/ Web Archives and other misc resources
BOOKS/ (A selection of about 20 online acrchived Roald Dahl books)
CITIZENSHIP/ Charts/ Human Rights/ PDFs
CREATIVE/ Drawing Lessons/ Library Resources/ PDFs
ENGLISH/ Books I’ve Read/ Acrostic Poems/ Creative Writing/ Handwriting/ London/ PDFs/ Resources/ Synonms/ Web Archives/ Willy Wonker
FINANCE/ Coffee Shop/ Shopping List/ Shopping with Money/ Teaching Kids Business
GEOGRAPHY/ Europe/ UK
HISTORY/ Ancients/ Ancient Egyptians/ Ancient Greeks/ Archeaology/ British/ Celts/ Normans/ PDFs/ Romans/ Saxons/ Tudors/ Victorians/ Vikings/ World Wars/ Web Archives
HOME ECONOMICS/ Chickens/ Cooking/ DIY/ Gardening/ Sewing & Textures
I.T/ Computer Programming/ Creative/ GIMP/ Minecraft Coding/ Online/ Online Safety/ Web Archives/ Word Processing
LANGUAGES/ British Sign/ Spanish/ Web Archives
MUSIC/ Guitar/ Keyboard/ Reading Music/ Singing
RAINFOREST/ PDFs/ Web Archives
SCIENCE/ *British Science Week/ Biology/ Chemistry/ Earth & Space/ Experiments/ Physics/ Weather/ Web Archives
SPIRITUALITY/ Meditation/ Yoga/ YouTube
*SATS KS2/ Printouts/ Maths/ English
(It would be way too much to put all of the subfolders that are within the subfolders, etc. This is the gist of it!)
By this time, I had also joined the local educational science club. I had also joined many homeschooling groups on social media, and made a couple of friends. They really helped me through the pressures and criticisms, and guided me as we begun our homeschooling journey. The homeschooling sites ran educational group days out, classes and meet-ups. There is a wide community of homeschoolers. Most of them are nice people with good intentions. And some of them are aloof, secretive and suspicious of outsiders. I can understand the suspicion, as the government is always trying to get involved in homeschooling. If the government is so concerned about the welfare of a child, then why aren’t our children requested to take yearly health checks?
One woman, who runs a very well-known homeschooling group and page on Facebook, accused me of being an undercover journalist! Because I agreed with the newly-proposed government rules for home educators to register their children as being home-schooled. Or something to that effect. The proposed rule seemed very reasonable to me. I left that group and all associated groups and joined some more ‘normal’ groups. I got lots of information and ideas from those groups, they were very helpful.
I had started to feel better in those months of homeschooling. I had a purpose, and got to spend so much time with my girl. I loved it. It was a worthy purpose that started to really bring me back to life. I wasn’t always able to be the energy she needed. It wasn’t perfect, but we had some fun learning together and it brought us closer together.
By Spring of 2016, there were growing pressures on both me and my daughter from outside sources. It was due to these pressures that I thought about sending her back to school. We spoke about her going back to school a couple of times but she didn’t want to. We agreed that she would focus and pay more attention and we would carry on with the homeschooling. I was not always on form either, which was not helpful to the situation. But we carried on. The criticisms and pressures mounted with pretty much everyone pressuring me, and her, to go back to school. I was not happy about people pressuring her! Or me.
I began to feel less motivated, unsupported and deflated. I was questioning everything that I was doing and panicking that I was going to fail my daughter. I started to have panic attacks. I was not strong enough to do it without any support around me and with everyone telling me that I couldn’t do it, and so I caved in. After around 6 months, I told my daughter that she would have to go back to school. She agreed and she wanted to go back. So that was that. During mid-May 2016, she went back to the same school. Soon after she went back, she wanted to come back to homeschooling, but I couldn’t allow it. My health was deteriorating again.
Before my daughter went back to school, the school had arranged a meeting, where my daughter’s father and I signed the school agreement. We all spoke about support for getting my daughter to and from school. Her father said that he would help, and so did my mother. I was seeing someone who also said that he would help. And they all did, for a bit. But nobody was really reliable.
My daughter enjoyed being back at school. She had 2 months to settle back into Year 4, and then it was the school summer holidays. My mental health declined over that time, due to the complete lack of support and pressures before hand, and the ill treatment that my partner was putting me through. It was a turbulent but passionate relationship. It quickly broke down. Old relationship anxieties were quickly re-awoken.
When my daughter went back to school in the September 2016, as a year 5 student, the depression had kicked back in. The breakdown of my romantic relationship was a long and painful one. I came to be anxious, paranoid and irritable. A lot of the time, leaving the house was not easy, sometimes not even an option. I refused to do it because of how it made me feel. Panicked and unsafe. I needed help again with getting my daughter to and from school, but not everyday. Some days I was strong, others I was weak. Weak, and full of anxiety. And that’s not OK – I was making everyones life difficult!
The school…still helpful as ever, began applying new pressure to me. I explained my situation again and again. I explained that I needed, and asked for help, again and again.
I had asked the school repeatedly about social or school transport. I was repeatedly told that there was none. In the end, desperate for an answer, I phoned social services to ask them about getting children ‘in need’ to school. They gave me the number for the local school transport services! Why didn’t the school do that months ago? This delayed my daughter access to social transport that she so needed.
With the correct information, I started getting the transport into place. But I hit a brick wall as I needed a doctors letter, and unfortunately due to the NHS shift around within the mental health services, I could not get a doctors appointment for 3 months.
Failings in all directions.
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