One Year On

By Nabeela Wahid

‘I can do this, Mama! I just need to try harder.’ 

‘I can’t believe I did this!’ ‘I love this challenge!’ 

These are not positive affirmations from a TikTok video, rehearsed and performed for an audience to amass followers and likes. These are the utterances of a child no older than ten. Behind these words lies a gargantuan shift of mindset, countless tears (mainly mine), sprinkled with an abundance of tenderness, nurturing love, and care! 

One year on, our home education journey has metamorphosed, far removed from what it once was romanticised to be. I daren’t say that it has reached its pinnacle; I believe that we are still evolving, changing, growing—discovering. 

Reminiscing over the past sixteen months, what would undeniably be at the forefront of our collective minds are the endless disruptions, lockdowns, and curfews. Plunged into the uncertainties of what our future holds, the fear of the unknown, we cling to the little hope and optimism we could muster to weather this COVID storm. It might sound cliche, but as the saying goes, when you live within a storm cloud, you learn to find the bright side! 

Our bright side has been the decision to home educate. When day one of official home education rolled along, I had it all figured out—or I thought I did. I purchased an expensive out-of-the-box curriculum that I was confident would see us through the rest of the year, and well into the following one. Meticulous meal planning meant I could invest all my time in ‘educating’ and ‘teaching’. 

A good couple of days were spent reorganizing furniture, purchasing a bookshelf, labelling folders, and forming a list of school supplies to make sure we had enough. 

For the first few days after we officially began, I was living the dream. Everything was working out just as I imagined it would. It was like those women from the 50s—not a step out of place. 

‘Work to your child’s interests.’ 

‘Let them lead.’ 

‘De-school.’ 

‘Cuddle on the couch, read a book, have a picnic at the park.’ 

These suggestions from well- wishing home educators felt rather preposterous. I thought to myself, surely that is not all they do? What about real learning? Something is definitely amiss. So confident I was with my choice of 

curriculum and ‘structure’ that I was internally pleased with my sensible decision. 

A month in, the cracks began to show. The doubt crept in. Unrelenting questions kept me up at night, scrolling through countless websites, searching, until my eyes turned square, and my thumb felt sore. 

• What was I thinking? 

• Am I doing enough? 

• Was this the right decision? 

• Are we even meeting the standards? 

• What if we fall behind? Will I be able to tell? 

To top it off, the fancy all-in- one curriculum started to feel tedious. There was so much busywork. Countless worksheets, facile projects, and uninspiring readings. It felt bland. Lacklustre! We were so focused on ticking boxes, following lesson plans, and meeting deadlines that we did not allow ourselves the opportunity to appreciate the learning process. 

Slowly but surely, I found myself reluctantly veering off the course, initially swapping one thing for another. In due course we were confidently carving our own path, completely abandoning what I once thought was the absolute right fit. We began diving headfirst into topics that piqued interest. We eventually fell into a rhythm that felt effortless, natural, and meaningful. 

I realised that in order to let my child grow, I needed to let go of my own preconceived notions. Having gone through the education system myself, it was hard for me to even fathom doing anything so drastically different. The curriculum, the workbooks, and the regimented routine were my comfort zone. If I was expecting my child to transform, I needed to take the first step and let go. 

When you look up ‘schooling’ in the dictionary, it’s often translated to mean ‘education received at school’ or has synonyms such as ‘tutoring’, ‘instructions’, ‘book learning’, ‘training’, or ‘lessons’ associated with it. I would argue that ‘homeschooling’ in itself is a term that needs to be revised. 

Institutionalised education might be the norm, but it surely isn’t the ideal. Is an education considered 

worthwhile only if it is delivered within the four walls of a classroom, with a teacher perched in the front? 

If I had made the decision to steer away from the herd, to tread the path less travelled, why was I trying to bring in the limitations I so desired to break free from? 

Reflecting on the days bygone, here are some parting words of advice to those that are contemplating or warily tiptoeing at the start of this winding path. 

Consider it your food for thought: 

1. It is okay to feel vulnerable. Vulnerability leads to growth. 

2. The fear of failure will paralyse you. 

3. Be in the moment. Bring your focus back to now and do not dwell on what is to come as it will take care of itself. 

4. You are not a teacher. You are a mentor. A guide. 

5. You are not meant to instruct, rather you are meant to lead by example. 

6. Equip them with the right tools to forge their own path to success. 

7. Be a worthy companion because learning is a journey, not a destination. 

8. You nurtured and raised your child in infancy, you were their first teacher and you imparted to them the vital skills of survival. You did it then, and you can surely do it now! 

9. Prepare to be amazed. By freeing them from the bondage of expectations, milestones, and grades you are giving them the wings to soar—the sky is the limit. 

10. Watch your relationship blossom. You will fall in love with your babies all over again, just as you did the first moment you held them. 

Remember, in the words of Steve Jobs, ‘The journey is the reward.’ 

Otherways 170 (Nov 2021)

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