I had it all planned out. An extended Easter break. We were all very tired and needed to re-charge our batteries. We had a week in Cornwall, a week with family and last week my son was on the Horse Course (more of this fab scheme later). We had plenty of sunshine, too much chocolate, caught up with friends, and relaxed?….well no, not really.
I have spent the last four weeks crawling in and out of bed, wanting to die. I was ill practically from the moment we stopped work, and have just finished my third round of antibiotics. Meanwhile, my long-suffering husband has been having lots of tests and has just been diagnosed with diverticulitis.
I know that we are not the only home schoolers who, despite their best efforts, end up feeling drained, exhausted and ill. We love home schooling, and daily see the benefits for our son as he gains new strengths and confidence. So why has this happened?
For us I think there are three main reasons for our burn out:
1.constant interference from bodies who should support you, but don’t!
Sounds strong? Here is what has happened to us in the last year.
We chose to be dual registered with our son’s old school and the local Learning Centre when we took him out of school. This was on medical grounds with the support of his pediatrician. We were told by our Local Authority that if we didn’t do this we would lose his Statement. Effectively however, we were home schooling alone for a term and then have gradually gained some hours of support from the Learning Centre. Our son’s old school have provided next to no support to us, despite their obligation to do so. Rather, after 6 weeks they reported us to social services, saying that they did not know where he was and were concerned for his welfare. Despite having an ample paper trail to show that we had informed and involved all relevant professionals, our son was placed on the Child in Need register. I believe that this is supposed to be a positive and supportive step for families. However, we were subjected to a ten week investigation which was extremely invasive, and treated as if we were child abusers. The case was abruptly dropped and we were assigned a new social worker who was fantastically helpful, praised everything that we were doing, found us some funding for activities and represented us. But after about 8 weeks, her department was closed down due to cuts!
Now the school has entered our son for SAT’s against our child’s and our wishes, and his ability to take part, a decision we are still working to overturn!
So, despite schooling at home,we still have faced extremely stressful meetings and educational snafus.
2. the relentless nature of the beast! Having sole responsibility for every area of your child’s education whilst also being a parent.
It is much harder as a home schooling parent to carve out time for yourself for R and R, even just to read the paper or go to the loo some days. You may be with your child 24/7. Our son does now attend some activities in small, controlled groups, and I do now get a couple of hours a week “off”. But normally I need to be present if my son is being taught by a tutor at home or if he attends an activity.
3. not being ruthless enough about carving out “me” time, and always putting my child first.
Well naturally, you think. of course we do. But with a special needs child this can mean that you can’t attend dentist appointments for example, if you can’t get cover at home, because you can’t take your child with you as they are overwhelmed by the environment there and obsessed by the thought of blood. I have had to break Doctors appointments and even postpone an operation because of my son’s needs. Obviously these issues are heightened if your child is at home, as your time is even more limited.
Next time I will look at steps you can take to support yourselves, as well as your child.