Sunday, 2 September 2012

Why "The Road Less Traveled"...

Disclaimer... I don't think homeschooling is the  "perfect" solution.

And I don't think it's right for everyone, all children, families and people are different and need different things.

Everyone has to follow their own truth and what they know is instinctively best for their own families. Every path is different, this is just ours...


 My ideal set up has never really been exclusive homeschooling.

 It isn't a perfect solution by any means. In my ideal world, my girls would spend a 3 hour day at school from 7 years and up, with lots of time for unstructured play, family time, community time and extracurricular activities afterwards.

Classes would be small and there would be more parental and community input in teaching with at least a couple of teachers for each class.

Schools would look more like homes, less formal, more inviting and relaxing.

More  value would be given to the arts and humanities than there is presently.

There would be more opportunities for vocational and practical learning.

Careful attention would be given to the aesthetic quality of the school grounds.


Children's emotional and spiritual needs and the needs of families would be prioritized over formal academics.

There would be far less pressure, more flexibility and absolutely no testing for under fourteens. I also think it would be wonderful if teachers could be given  more freedom in their teaching.

Funnily enough, I wanted to be a teacher for many years. My husbands parents are teachers, as are many of my friends, both inside the homeschooling community and outside of it.
Teaching is probably more of a vocation than a profession. I have so much admiration for teachers.

Most teachers have a deep love and compassion for children and want to help nurture them in every way they can. Yet the system is set up to make things difficult for them to achieve this.

Often teachers are unfairly made into the scapegoats when things go wrong.
I know most people within the system are trying their best to work for the good of children, parents, families and community.

It is simply very hard to balance the needs of individual human beings with the needs of a system that deals in standardization and generalization.

No path is perfect 

I'm not a hard and fast rule kind of person, and have been on all sides of the fence at different points in my life, which makes it impossible for me to judge another persons story.  

I have been single working mum, married mum, teen mum, formula feeding mum, breast feeding mum, unemployed mum, natural birth mum, c section mum, homeschooling mum and school run mum!

But just like you, I am not the sum of the labels put on me.

The words that follow are just a part of our story and a little bit of background for those who have asked us how and why we came to this place.

We all have our own story which we have to live and tell and by sharing we can only enlarge our perspectives and our compassion for one another.

I thank you in advance for grace :)

So here is a little about our story...

We decided in 2008 to start homeschooling our girls. We "Unschool" (using the term loosely) because we also embrace much of the educational philosophies of Rudolf Steiner and Charlotte Mason in our day to day life.
So here are some of the reasons why we chose to take "The Road Less Traveled."

So how did we come to this decision?

My little girl loved her Montessori style nursery and I assumed she would fit right into school too!
Yet as soon as she started it seemed her' little light went out, she just changed.
She cried every morning and was so tired as soon as she returned home that we hardly had time together anymore.
She begged me not to make her go to school. I looked into my four year old's eyes and wondered what it was all about really...


It seems that more than ever children are driven to achieve "learning goals" not so much for learning's sake but to tick boxes. Information is absorbed and memorized in order to past standardized tests. However,  the emotional, physical and spiritual development of the whole child is often not prioritized as much as their academic achievements.

By the time GCSE's hit there are so many facts to remember, so much info to process, learning has become more superficial and more about quantity that quality and depth.


Lessons on  friendship are often formalized rather than modeled.

Rather than engage the whole child the system tends to magnify and value the part that can memorize random facts and follow instruction unquestionably.

 Inflexible Systems 

When they were at school, my children's natural love for learning was crushed by the rigidity and bureaucracy of the school curriculum, so full of tests, and exams, and grade scores.
My eldest began to equate her value as a person with how she performed at school.
However the time she was 9 her school had really cut back on art, craft and drama lessons and instead focused almost solely on sat practice papers. Due to this the school had a great reputation for performance, yet this was at a real cost to the children's learning.


Different Needs 

Each one of my children has learned to read and write at different ages.

My third daughter had mild speech delay and didn't begin to show an interest in reading until she was about seven.
In hindsight, I'm so grateful that she was given the time and space to learn to love books without anxiety or pressure.

My fourth daughter can't sit still.
Whenever she is thinking she has to move about.
Although this would probably be considered difficult behavior in a school setting it is something we can easily accommodate at home.

My second daughter began reading at the age of three. When she still had to do the same simple phonics work as her other classmates she quickly became disengaged and bored with the work. Once we brought her out of school she could begin to learn at her own pace.

A Holistic Approach to Nurture the Whole Child

 I fear that children can lose the sense of who they really are at heart in the relentless pressure to conform, perform and show a strong "front" among their peers.

 During my eldest daughter's last two years at school she was bullied daily. Although we tried to intervene countless times, little was done to resolve the situation.
 This only compounded her feelings of powerlessness.
She passed her 11 plus which meant that she could go to the local grammar school. Whether to send her or not was an agonizing decisions as it was meant to be one of the top performing schools in the area.
We eventually decided to home school her simply because she was adamant that she wanted some time to find her strength and herself again.

As parents we wanted to support her in all ways, not just in terms of her academic future.

Fitting in

My daughter told me many times that she felt she often had to pretend to be "someone else" in order to fit in.

Children need time, security and acceptance to fully form their egos so that they can become confident and well adjusted adults.

Some children are strengthened by the intense social life school affords, others are weakened by it.

 Happily, I have seen my lovely, lively, passionate, strong, creative  girl, return over these last 4 years.

 Too Young

I believe that starting school at 4 and spending 7 hours a day away from their family at such a young and vulnerable age is emotionally strenuous for children.

 To cope they are often forced to repress their natural desire for the nurturing that both family and familial surroundings offer.

They have to diss-associate from their bodies needs.

They can only eat, go to the toilet, rest, talk, move around and play at specific times, with permission.

This is hard for small children to understand.

However good a school may be and however gentle a teacher, nothing can replace a Mother's arms when you fall and hurt yourself and nothing can replace your own little bedroom when you want some peace to, sleep rest or play quietly. Even my 8 year old likes to nap for an hour or so in the afternoons and I am glad to be able to accommodate her need for this.

Over Scheduled

Children are desperately over- scheduled these days. There is no time for downtime, imaginative play, unstructured activity, daydreaming, or just plain thoughtful wonderment at the world around them.
Many studies have proved that the lack of "downtime" impedes many aspects of normal child development.

Downtime means being able to switch off and feel 100% comfortable in your surroundings...

Yet we as parents feel all this pressure to make sure our child is "equipped" to compete in the job market.

So we push, and we feel the strain and the stress.

I know because I feel it too. But this is not what life is meant to be about.

Somehow we have all got caught up in these lies and they have become self perpetuating.

Real Life

We are not powerless and I don't want my children to feel powerless. We can create a life that nourishes and sustains us at a deep level.
It always makes me wonder when people say that schooling prepares children for "real life."
However well fitted and furnished, classrooms are an artificial environment for children who need days filled with the outdoors, nature, real work and community to thrive.


I don't want the memories of my children's childhood to become a blurred mosaic of classrooms, playground politics, scheduled activities, car journeys, chores and homework. I want their days to be slow, full, rich and warm.

 A Soulful Life
I want my children's memories to be full of warm, family moments. Wonderment at nature.
I want to give them the opportunity to learn the things that will matter most in time to come.
Not random facts and dates but depth of knowledge; wisdom and understanding, compassion and inner resourcefulness.

Freedom, Respect and Autonomy

I want to give them the freedom to find topics they are deeply interested in discovering more about.
 I want my children to discover and experience real life, not text book life. Have adventures, volunteer, serve in their family and community, concentrate on their true passions.

I want my children to be free thinkers.

Not sheltered, but nurtured, in an environment where they can blossom into the unique and wonderful flowers they were designed to be.

 More than anything I want them to find their truth and build the courage to have fidelity to that truth.


I want my children to take joy in the simple things. Find beauty in the everyday!


Above all I want them to have the space and the silence, the encouragement and the light of a simple yet deep knowledge of their spirit. A life that will "give them the ears" to hear, to discern and to hear the small, still voice of the sacred in their hearts.
The gentle sound that starts with a whisper, deep down inside the soul of a person; the soft breath that guides, teaches, counsels, comforts and heals.

The Voice that bestows wings and unrolls a big, beautiful, endless blue sky right to the edges of their horizon and beyond in which those wings can take flight.

But right now we are just taking one day at a time. 

Connecting, growing, creating.

Seeking beauty in the ordinary 

and joy in the simple things.

Broadening the parameters of  learning?
Changing Education Paradigms?

Here is an interesting collaboration between Sir Ken Robinson and Animate.


  1. Its a brave and beautiful thing you do, Suzy. I wish you God speed and grace and wisdom and love and patience. Your kids are blessed to have you as their mummy.

  2. Wonderful! Just wonderful, Suzy! Welcome aboard! It was such a pleasure to read your beautiful description of how your heart has moved you toward the homeschooling path. Yours is much the same whispering as we heard, but I know I couldn't explain it better than you have!

    God bless you all in the journey!

  3. Hi Suzy! I wanted to stop over and say hello... I love what you have to say in this post. You echo my own sentiments exactly. If my husband and I are ever blessed with children, I cannot wait to school them in books and life right here at home.

  4. Suzy, this is absolutely beautiful. As a retired school teacher in California and Washington, DC, and then Children's Librarian I would homeschool my children in a heartbeat today. I have no children of my own but have had hundreds! They truly need everything that you write from your heart. I am blessed to know many homeschooling families and am delighted to see the community growing. Yes, my once most favorite job might be eliminated one day, but I think not. Too many are too afraid, too scheduled, to overburdened with financial debt. I still work with children one-on-one when I am able and love teaching reading, but as I teach, I love them dearly. God has allowed that for which I am so grateful. I thank you for visiting my blog and will return to yours as well.
    May your day be filled with blessings.
    ~ linda

  5. Thank you so much (((Linda)))
    Your comment really touched me today.
    I shall treasure your words in my heart :)
    And return to them often.
    you bless

  6. Suzy, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts! If you feel led, come visit me at


  7. I bookmarked this after Imperfect Prose the other day, to stop by later and read. This is a lovely expression of your desires for your children, and a well thought rationale for your home schooling. And it will stand you in good stead as you progress!

    I home schooled my daughter through the age of 15, when she began gradually dual-enrolling in our local community college. She and I both have very rich, fond memories of this experience, despite my imperfections as a teacher and a mom.

    There is nothing like the gift of nurturing your child's own intellectual and spiritual gifts. I wish more parents could enjoy this.

    May you be filled with joy and peace as you walk down this road with your children.

    P.S. I love Robert Frost, and this poem is a favorite!

  8. Thank you for this inspiration! My "ideal" schooling theory matches yours to a T. I don't have children yet, but I am passionate about home schooling them because I feel it is the best option with what is available to us. I'm not going to have children for them to be raised by a government employee, that's that. I look forward to traveling this path and stopping by the blog to see how you are doing it!


I treasure each and every one of your comments.
Your kind words never fail to bring a smile to my face:)
At the moment I am going through a busy season of life with 5 girls under my wing! I may not always be able to respond immediately but please know that every word left here is read and appreciated deeply.