SUSTAINABLE PROSPECTS PROJECT DEVELOPMENT WEEK 11 – KATIE – SCHOOL TRAUMA
In June 2019 I started my MA with Falmouth university as part of an accredited education programme.
5th December 2019
SUSTAINABLE PROSPECTS PROJECT DEVELOPMENT WEEK 12 – A STORY OF A DOCTORS VISIT - https://www.bambino-art.co.uk/sustainable-prospects-project-development-week-12-story-doctors-visit/
The following story has been graciously shared by Katie. Telling the story of Eddie’s removal from mainstream education, and how home education helped Eddie and Katie heal. Certain elements of this story have been edited for clarity and for privacy, but the words are Katie’s own, and shared with Eddie’s permission and enthusiasm.
Katie & Eddie were originally going to take part in my project as a home educating family. When I originally found out that Eddie was returning to school, I was really happy for them, as I knew Eddie’s story and the difficulties he had faced, and automatically just thought, well they won’t be able to take part now. It then occurred to me that I was missing the point, a very important point. Home education doesn’t have to be forever. It is not a one size fits all thing. As my project tries to show, there are “as many different ways of doing it, as there are families doing it.” Eddie and Katie’s story may not be a story of a family home educating right now, today, but it is a very important story. A story about how home education fits in with different families, in different circumstances, for different reasons, and can look like very very different things to different families.
In November 2015 my husband, Eddie’s dad, walked out.
We didn’t see it coming and we didn’t see him go, he sent a text message.
My sons world was shattered. He had just started his second year of school having already completed reception year.
At home his heart was breaking, he came back to sleeping in my bed, he cried for his dad.
At school he started to struggle. He hated me leaving him and he would cry, hold on to me. Beg me to stay.
I was working, I needed to work, my husband had walked out and wasn’t helping financially.
I started to get called into school about Eddie, his behaviour was disruptive.
Walking home from school one day he said to me, do you know mummy that I am the worst child in the whole school?
Who had said this to him, who had made him believe he was a bad child, the worst?
My heart broke in two. He wasnt a bad child. He was a hurt child. Things escalated.
Eddie ran away from school, he crossed 2 main roads and headed for the M25.
Another day he climbed a tree and refused to come down until home time.
Part of me was horrified. But part of me admired his absolute determination.
Sounds strange to say it as his behaviour was getting him into so much trouble.
The phone calls kept coming, the meetings with his teachers and finally the referral to an out of school parent and child group.
I had to collect Eddie from school at lunchtime and take him to a session with other ‘troubled children’.
For 4 weeks we attended this group and we sat, surrounded by kids who were attacking their parents, throwing chairs and violently swearing, my 5 year old was speechless.
I refused to finish the 8 week course.
And then came the straw that broke the camels back.
I received another call from the school office. Eddie is in isolation. Again.
I put down the phone and drove to the school. I buzzed to be let into reception and I asked for my son.
They flustered and tried to tell me I couldn’t see him. I demanded they take me to him.
And finally a staff member let me through the doors and took me to the room where my 5 year old son was lying curled up in a ball underneath a table. Sobbing. He saw me coming and he started to apologise. (I asked Katie for clarification on this, Eddie was 5 years and 1 month old when this happened)
I picked him up in my arms and I held him to me. I turned and walked out of that room and kept walking out of the school. I put Eddie into the car and I told him not to worry we were never coming back.
I had no idea about home education. I had no idea if what I had just done was even legal.
I didn’t know if I was going to be in trouble.
I was already embroiled in a court case with my ex husband and I had no idea how my actions would affect that.
But. I knew that school was not the right place for my son right now. He needed love not discipline.
He needed security not punishment. So I drove home. That night with him asleep next to me I started to research home education.
I wrote my letter to the school telling them he wouldn’t be back.
And by a stroke of luck I came across a local home ed group on facebook.
I reached out and 2 days later we headed to our first meet up. Eddie didn’t leave my side.
But I was welcomed with hugely open arms and wise words from 2 women I now consider 2 of my best friends.
The support that Eddie and I had from those women and from their children helped to carry us through our first 12 months of not being at school.
In that time we lost both my grandmothers and my great aunt, we discovered that Eddie’s dad had moved *half way across the world and remarried* (edited) we faced eviction from our home, we had our family dog put to sleep, all the while I was being dragged through the courts over marital finances and I was going through chemotherapy based treatment for my arthritis.
It was the worst of times but we made the best of it.
Two years after my ex husband had walked out we were finally evicted from the family home, he had not been paying the mortgage and the court gave us 48 hours to leave.
We packed what we could into our car and drove the 300 miles back to my parents home in cornwall.
We were literal strangers in my home town but once again the home ed community opened its arms.
I had never looked at my decision to home educate as an educational decision it was a totally holistic one.
My son didn’t need to know his times tables but he did need to know he was safe and secure.
The time that we spent educating at home was focused almost entirely on Eddie’s emotional needs. It was about rebuilding his confidence.
Giving him space and time to heal without the stresses and difficulties that he was facing in a school environment.
We attended groups and we learnt through conversation and discovery.
We rarely sat down with pen and paper, occasionally I would panic that we weren’t doing enough academically.
I was faced with continual questioning from certain people around us, how would he socialise, how did I know he was learning, didn’t I want time to myself?
It was hard at times to remain steadfast to what I knew in my heart to be right for Eddie.
To not simply fold to external pressures and put him straight back into school.
Fifteen months ago a new skate park opened in Cornwall. (*edited*)
Eddie wanted to take his skateboard and go and try it out.
The first afternoon we went there eddie refused to get out of the car, we sat in the car park with the windows open and we watched.
The next day we got out of the car and Eddie walked around the outside of the park with his board under his arm.
We went to that park every single day. We didn’t go to home ed groups. We didn’t do any work books. We went skating.
And I watched my child’s confidence sky rocket.
Through luck more than judgement, through patient perseverance we had found “his thing”.
Hours we spent at the park, me knitting or reading, him skate boarding.
He found a language that spoke to him, Ollie’s and kick flips and bert slides.
When he wasnt skating he was watching youtube, he was finger boarding, he was building ramps.
I watched him rapidly growing in confidence, high-fiving the older guys at the skate park, slowly making friends, picking himself up from a fall, facing and accepting failure for the first time.
He came home animated and excited to share his skateboarding stories with my parents. And his laugh returned. The sound of which I had dreadfully missed.
In April this year , *after 2.5 years being home educated* (inserted) he asked if perhaps he could try going back to school.
This was huge.
When I first removed Eddie from school he would panic if he saw a child in uniform.
He would hide behind me.
He would ask to cross the road or close his eyes if we walked past a school building.
And suddenly he was asking me about school.
It was testament to the confidence he had developed in himself.
Slowly we discussed the idea and we moved at Eddie’s pace, sometimes one step forward and two steps back, he still had a lot of reticence and fear but his curiosity and determination was winning out.
We made our application and we waited.
Eddie started school in November, after conversations and meetings with his class teacher and the head it was agreed that Eddie should do half days.
He still has occasional crises of confidence and he still struggles to regulate his emotions at times.
There are good days and there are bad days.
But we have found a school that is working with him not against him, that is offering him space not isolation, encouraging him to talk through his emotions not just disciplining him.
I miss him terribly, he was by my side 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 3 years, but I’m so proud of him.
And I’m proud of myself.
I’m proud that I was brave enough to walk my child out of an environment that wasn’t right for him in spite of my decision being “against the society norm”.
I’m proud when the teacher tells me that he’s up to speed with the rest of the class on literacy and numeracy.
Proud because we did that together, and we didn’t do it sat at a desk with text books, we did it on the beach, in the woods, cuddled up in bed.
We did it in ways that Eddie needed and it was always secondary.
Secondary to Eddie’s emotional needs.
I needed Eddie to be secure and confident before he returned to formal education and I think we have achieved that.
I have loved being his facilitator of learning and I have loved learning alongside him.
But I’m happy now to just be mum.
We will never stop learning together, it’s just the way our conversations and time spent together, goes now.
I feel so lucky to have had those extra 3 years with Eddie without having to hand him over every morning to another adult.
But equally I’m certain that for Eddie now is the right time for him to take this step.