During a crisis is home education better, the same or worse than having the children in school?

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.


15 responses to “During a crisis is home education better, the same or worse than having the children in school?

  1. I also believe that having the children at home helps with the coping and accepting of a serious illness. We as a family nearly lost our eldest son (grown up but still living at home) in January of this year. He was in hospital for a full month and had two major operations in that time. He was then home coping with the healing for a further 5 months (post op complications). During this time the child who is Home Educated knew exactly what was going on and was there when two of the emergency dashes back to hospital happened. If he had been at school and come home to an empty house with a note saying ‘big brother back in hospital’ it could have been traumatic to say the least.
    During the first three months, the Home Education took pretty much a back seat (except for plenty of human biology) because we his parents were not capable of teaching nor our youngest son in the right frame of mind to learn. We are now playing catch up in the ‘school’ holidays, as its quieter for us now because we don’t do trips during the school holidays (too many people for full enjoyment of places) and all his scouts etc have finsished for the summer hols so he has extra time now.

    • Julie, while I can see that academic HE takes a back seat in these situations I bet the children learned a huge amount about family love, care and even what mortality is about. Those lessons can be a huge advantage as they grow into adults. It the ‘real life’ that I think so many anti-HE people think our children don’t get, but they actually get it in technicolour.

      I hope you have all come through.
      Thank you for your story which adds so much to what I was trying to say.

  2. Hi there 🙂

    I totally agree with the sentiments in your post. By having children be there to experience first hand what makes family life truly unique, they become better people, better citizens, and better Catholics as they can see the examples of and better understand the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and the beatitudes in action before there eyes.



    • I think you are right Kalei, though I hadn’t thought of that in the light of the Beatitudes until you mentioned it.
      There I was teaching the Corporal Works of Mercy last term (spiritual ones to come) and do you know I am so slow it never occured to me to think of all we had been through as a family and HE group. I need to concentrate!

  3. trouble his a lot of people dont want to even think about illness and bury they heads in the sand so if you are brave enough to be able to explain to your children about serious illness this is a good thing not so sure i could have when our child was younger! but i think you are right that home educated children may will cope better because they involved with family life more.

    i think your right that home educated children are less stressed/depressed maybe that why Balls wanted to change all of this because many people are stressed at work or in fear of losing job Balls wanted to get all children used to this before starting work!

    • Peter, I am sure many people do want to ignore suffering in all its forms, but our little group and our family have had it thrust upon us- so it’s a bit hard to ignore. lol.
      When faced with my illness, their sister’s illness that was so serious we had a close call in one admission, and then the cancer two other mums have, plus the death of two friends in the last few months that they all knew and loved – I don’t think there is the luxury of avoidance.

      On Ed Balls and his pal Badman – I don’t think they see education as anything outside the box ticking National Curriculum. Sad and narrow- but they lost. We move on and for now we move on with freedom.

  4. Definitely better to be at home!
    My first husband ran off with another woman, deserting me and the children in 1999. If they had been at school theywould each be dealing with their own emotions in a crowd of people with no empathy ( or at least very little) for what they were going through. As it was, we cried together whenever we felt the hurt; we talked until the ealry hours when we needed without worrying about getting up the next morning; and they stayed in bed if they wanted! I was amazed at the regression I saw in my children. The 10 yr old started using a baby drinking beaker with a spout! For some reason she needed that security, and was able to comfort herself by that without fear of ridicule.
    There have been other almost as equally bad crises, and I definitely say keep them at home if they want to – even IF they are enrolled in school :-0

  5. Well your a lot stronger than me mum6kids coping with all of that i know i would bury my head in the sand even if it was thrust in my face!

    your right Balls/Badman lost and we have to move on.

    Paula your right to better for children to be at home if something bad happens in family but im not so sure how i would cope!

    keep up the good work with the blog i even enjoy the bits on your faith!

  6. have you seen this about the behavior of children in schools very worrying it was in the daily mail on 16/8/2010 and Ed Balls/Badman wanted to force us to send our chilren into this nightmare!

    Schoolchildren as young as six are subjecting teachers to a shocking level of sexual abuse – from leering and sexual comments to groping and threats of rape.
    New figures reveal that hundreds of teachers have been touched inappropriately or propositioned by pupils, and other reports say that children have fondled themselves in class in a bid to embarrass or intimidate their teacher.
    It comes as police reports reveal that children – also as young as six in some cases – are being arrested for serious crimes including assault and battery and robbery.
    The increasing incidence of children sexual harassing their teachers has been highlighted in private logs kept by local councils, which have been made available through the Freedom Of Information Act.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1303426/Teachers-suffering-sexual-harassment-rape-threats-pupils-young-6.html#ixzz0wwrJmVyy

  7. Funny; I’m just about to write something on this myself. Well, we’ve had the most awful crisis recently – our long awaited baby boy died when he was 11 days old. I’ve thought long and hard about whether the girls are better here, or if they’d have been better at school. There seems to be an inclination to rush a child way from the scene of disaster. But looking at my girls and how whole they are despite the loss of their brother, I can’t help but think HE has been exactly right during such an awful time. They’ve had time, space and peace to process and reassure themselves that they and we are okay. I think it has been just right.

    • Merry, there is something so important about grieving together it seems to me, and having that time and space to do so. Like Paula says, they may want to ‘regress’ in some way and surely need the safe place to do this.
      I hope you do write your post on this. It seems so important and so under-considered.

      Someone I care about hasn’t done well at all after her mother died in tragic circumstances. I can’t help wishing she hadn’t gone back to school.

  8. I my experience, growing up in a large extended family (lots of cousins, aunts/uncles), we were always attending weddings, baptisms, graduations and funerals. None of these things were “shielded” from us. I do think it helped me when I was a child to deal with my mother’s illness and eventual death to see how all these things are part of our lives.

    And, I think last year when I was sick and not able to HE for a period, that my kids were able to see how someone handles illness and suffering. When I got a bit better, we were able to pick up with school and finish everything in plenty of time.

    My in-laws, however, choose to keep these types of things at arm’s length. My nephews, one will be starting college, may have been to one funeral in their lives. I don’t think they have the tools to deal with crisis and suffering…and neither do their parents. No wonder they advocate assisted suicide since they have never learned to deal with death and suffering…plus they have no Faith to find comfort in.

    Specifically dealing with our home school group, there are always new babies and health issues. In fact, one mom is in labor right now. Two other moms are due any day. I appreciate how our group supports each other by bringing meals to new moms or moms with health issues, helps each other move, babysit and generally spend time together in a variety of ways. I think the whole co-op approach is structured differently than dropping your kid off at school and picking them up at the end of the day and changing teachers and groups of kids you see each year. Sorry, I’m rambling…. 🙂

    • But such good ramblings.
      I’m interested in your observation of a large extended family. A lot of my Irish friends had a similar upbringing. Open coffin in the parlour and everyone walking past to say goodbye.
      I think other cultures were similar; certainly in the past with my Italian, Polish, Jamaican friends. Don’t remember it so much with my Indian friends, though it might have been there.

      Something has changed.
      I remember a friend from Africa who was only in England for a year and placed with a vicar locally. He had attended the funeral of an old man and was horrified. No one was there but the vicar, himself and a social worker. He wanted to know what on earth we thought we were doing in England, letting our old people die like that!
      Good question.

  9. Swissmiss says-My in-laws, however, choose to keep these types of things at arm’s length. My nephews, one will be starting college, may have been to one funeral in their lives. I don’t think they have the tools to deal with crisis and suffering…and neither do their parents. No wonder they advocate assisted suicide since they have never learned to deal with death and suffering…plus they have no Faith to find comfort in.

    your right about the going to funerals people have not learned how to deal with death /suffering went to me first funeral when i was over 30! no one talks about these things enough maybe it is do with faith i always retreat to burying me head in the sand and hoping it will go away!

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