Today, across the country, thousands of parents find out which primary school their three- and four-year-olds will be going to in September.
But not us.
Our girls turn four in July, a month and a half before the August 31st cut off that would put them in Reception from the term starting September 2016.
But they won’t be going.
Initially, we worried that barely four wasn’t old enough to be thrown headfirst into a classroom. And actually a child doesn’t have to be in full-time education until the term after their fifth birthday, which would have given us a full year to delay starting school.
But they won’t be starting school in September 2017 either.
The education system in this country seems to be getting worse and worse, with politicians trying to encourage formal schooling from a younger and younger age, despite the rest of Europe looking at us askance from their classrooms of seven-year-olds who are just starting school.
I have read books about how children learn and studies about the ways in which schools can stifle a child’s natural enthusiasm for learning and it all makes perfect sense. The girls learned to crawl and talk and walk without anyone needing to overtly “teach” them and I see no reason why that instinctive and enthusiastic learning won’t continue throughout their lives.
As a parent, your primary job is to facilitate learning for your child. You teach them how the world works, you give them language to describe it, you help them to communicate and socialise and learn empathy. This is how we plan to continue. We will offer the girls opportunities to experience a range of different things. We will talk to them and share ideas.
We already have a number of friends whose children are also going to be home educated. We have been to museums and soft play, to the woods and into London. And everywhere we go, they play. They play and they learn because play is how children learn. I don’t want them to go to school and be told that “play” is what they do when they’re not learning.
They can already count and recognise numbers, they can recognise letters and are interested in words. But it’s not important to us that they reach a certain target level by a certain age. It’s important to us that they achieve what they can, when they can, without being subject to arbitrarily imposed targets or compared across an age group made up of individual children with individual interests and developmental needs.
Until a point at which this arrangement no longer works for us as a family, we will be asserting our right to educate our children otherwise than at school, as stated in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. I am excited for the future and the things we will learn and explore together. The world is full of opportunity and I can’t wait to help them discover it.
Here is just a small snapshot of the sort of things we have got up to over the last few months.