In the little home education group I host we have gone through some seriously challenging times over the years. Two of the mums have faced cancer and chemo and I’ve gone through some pretty trying health times too both for myself and one of the children in particular. On the surface it may seem that when something bad happens that it would be better for the children to be in school, where they may at least appear to have been shielded from it all somewhat. But is that true in practice?
Serious illness in any family can cause stress and strain to the family set up. Is is worse, better or the same for those of us who home educate? It is not an area that has had any research t that I am aware of. However from our own little bit of experience I will say this; I wish I had been home educating the children when I became seriously ill. I think they would have felt closer to what was happening and less confused about it had they not been shipped off to school each day. It might also have been less stressful for my husband making sure they got to and from school and then off to visit me in hospital each day. Not easy.
To make matters worse for one child in particular he was facing bullies each day and the concern of what was going to happen to me each evening!
For both K and J as they went through chemo their children were aware of what was happening and when. They had lots of extended family support although sadly K was not as close into a good supportive home ed group when she had her 12 sessions of chemo (pretty extreme treatment) and so didn’t get the support she and the children needed from the HE community. I certainly hope we can rise to the occasion if and when she faces the onslaught of her cancer again. One thing she says though is that while her children suffered seeing their mother so desperately ill through surgeries and chemo, they coped well. As it happened one of K’s friends also went through the same cancer and similar chemo while her dd went to school. It was noted that it was much harder for that child to deal with. Whether this was because she was sent to school each day or whether it was because of the way different families deal with things is hard to say, but I think my children coped better with some of the really difficult times we faced over Avila’s repetitive hospital admissions and my own health problems because they were involved and not separated from it (artificially).
My children dealt with my illness well, although I know they found it hard and there were some really hard conversations about what was going to happen to me. We didn’t deliberately hide stuff from them, but they were more out of the loop of what was happening simply because they were in school all day. Our ability to just talk together improved so much once I began home educating and I am sure this made the next few years of uphill battle easier on us all.
When other things happened to me; the heamorrage after my first miscarriage for example, things were much simpler and the children were more settled. All of them were at home by this point except Josh. (My big regret in life is that I didn’t take the plunge and HE him too-but hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?) I have to say though I am massively grateful to Josh for his “strange feeling” that caused him to truant from school the day I heamorraged. I think he probably saved me from a far more serious situation simply by being there- and calling the ambulance.
One of the things Avila’s long illness and frequent hospital addmissions showed both the children and me, was that they could learn regardless of whether I sat over them or not. Alex and Iona got on with it and would bring stuff into the hospital for me to check over. We weren’t part of a particularly close HE group back then either but I am eternally grateful to R, one of the mums who saved me from hospital admission by promising the doc (who had the phone in her hand to call the ambulance!) that she would take care of me and Avila- and she did! Av had only been discharged from hospital the day before, and the doc now wanted me admitted; if R hadn’t been there it would have been very very hard indeed!!
Of course there have been the good things that also impact on HE, usually in our gorup’s case it’s the arrival of a baby. Home Ed will change during the time around the birth but it doesn’t (at least in our family and other’s I’ve seen) stop. Babies have a lot to teach as well as learn remember.
I don’t think I could say that home education as a system can save children from unnecessary stress during a family crisis.There are as many ways of home educating as families who do it (almost) and I get the impression that home ed groups vary hugely on how close and supportive and truly community(ish) they are. All I can say is that I have never had the close and trusting friendships with school gate mums that I have now, nor have my children been able to form trusting relationships with adults at the school gate they way they have in our little HE group.
Could HE mean that children are less stressed; less depressed; less afraid than we see in the research results about children and adolescents these days? I don’t honestly know- but in this little corner of HE world I think it is definately so.