I used to think people who homeschool their children were raving lunatics. Religious fanatics scared shitless their offspring may be exposed to freethought or survivalist preparing for Armageddon. Who in their right mind takes on the responsibility for preparing a child for the real world? Leave it to the trained professionals, I say – that is until the Daughter came to stay. She arrived in London, age 15, pursuing a Masters in Series TV and Snapchat. A few years in a top notch private school hadn't done her English any good; it seemed some hideous cross between shorthand and texting. And the same school had held her back a year for not being able to speak the local language, Afrikaans. Our goal was to get her into school here as soon as possible and try claw back that lost year.
Straight off the plane; we went down to our local council to apply for a place in a school. The lady who processed our application was genuinely helpful, but quick to inform us that she didn't hold much hope of finding a place for the Daughter at this stage in the school year. They would be in touch in a couple of weeks. So, rather than leave her education in the hands of fate, we went home and read everything we could find on homeschooling. It turns out that close to 37 thousand children are home educated in the UK and over 1.7 million in the US. The reasons range from lifestyle choices to disagreements with local schools. We enrolled because we wanted to make sure the Daughter graduates before she turns 20.
Within a few days, a box full of course material arrived. A file for each subject (English, Math, Law, Psychology and Business). We scanned the content of each file and started working on a timetable. The Daughter would rise at 7 am every morning, have breakfast and start working at 9 am. Four subjects a day, with breaks, she'd be finished by 2 pm every day.
Morning 1: Breakfast, but no Daughter. There was a fault in our plan, and I was feeling an approaching doom. Was this possibly my worst idea ever? When would the school call? If she couldn't stick to her timetable on day one, what should I do?
I had a choice; start throwing her out of bed at 7 am or find a natural pattern. Waking a teenage daughter can be like waking some hellish demon. I had no desire to face that fate. Instead, we revised our timetable and agreed 9 am would be a more civilised time to start. It worked, now she staggers in at around 8.30 am, eats her breakfast and starts working. And I don't risk vital parts of my anatomy waking her.
Three weeks after we started homeschooling a local school called to offer us an interview – the following week. We discussed it and decided the homeschooling was going so well; there was no need to take the offer. I wouldn't say it has been smooth sailing, but it has been much easier than I anticipated. The timetable has changed a lot over the first 6-weeks. It's more about absorbing the material and outcomes than timeslots for subjects, and she is progressing really well – she willingly does extra math lessons on the weekends. Must be the tutor. Thanks Jeannette!
What about the social aspect you ask? Well, we still face that challenge. Fortunately, she makes friends quickly, and once we have a rhythm, we'll find activities where she can meet new people. The break in her social calendar has probably helped her focus on her school work. Besides, she seems to operate a global Skype conference with her friends every evening.
We love the homeschooling experience, her grades are good, she is taking back her lost year, and we have freedom!