We applied for a school place last summer for M and were waitlisted; we recently got The Call.
There were certainly mixed emotions from all of us. I was excited and nervous; B was super-excited; L was very excited and M was resigned to accepting that attending school would be like his job and he just had to do it.
I should probably start by letting you know that the decision to apply to school was not taken lightly. I spent a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons and looking at what secondary school can offer.
Our home education has been self directed learning and our goal was more focused on the personal development and sense of self for The Kids while they followed the subjects that were of interest and the learning happened as a byproduct. Academic work can be learned later on but [in my opinion] the development of self through early years is crucial yet undervalued by society. M is now at the point where he is confident of himself and his place in the world and I think the experience of secondary school will further enrich his learning.
The Headteacher of M’s new school asked me to send them as much information as I can on what M has been learning and when I first started thinking about what to write I began to feel like we had somehow failed in what we wanted to achieve. I worried that we had not done any curriculum based work and that the way The Kids have been learning while being home educated is so very different that it was now going to make M’s progression that much more difficult.
One of our home-ed friends reached out to me and told me about a Facebook group for home ed mums who all have experience of transitioning their children into school and I gladly joined and posted about my concerns. The advice and information I received from the group was amazingly reassuring and made even more so because these are mums whose children have been through the change from unschooling to secondary school.
I started to write about everything we had done since leaving school and this trip down memory lane, along with the advice from the other mums, worked wonders on my confidence. I was able to see the development from the angry, anxious boy who left school to a confident, strong young man able to hold his own and who had gained so much knowledge and experience along the way.
Transitioning from autonomous, self-directed learning to a traditional secondary school is a huge culture shock and will take time, patience and hard work. I have no doubt M is capable of the work but he is less sure of his own abilities. Unfortunately the only way to prove to him that he can do it is for him to actually do it. I am thankful the school is understanding and have agreed to the SENCo working with M and his teachers to address any gaps.
It is a relatively new school (2 years old) and will have a brand new building in September 2020 so it should be fully accessible to my wheelchair, which makes it infinitely easier for me to support M’s education alongside his teachers. That may sound a bit presumptuous but, even when children attend a school, parents continue to have a large role with their education.
Fingers crossed we will not encounter any unnecessary/unforeseen obstacles to a successful school experience.