Friday, 4 September 2009

But It Would Drive Me Mad To Spend That Much Time With My Children!

I'm hoping that this is just another cultural meme that people pick up and bandy about without really meaning it. If it's not, what a terribly sad indictment on our society. The UK has always been infamous for not really liking children, but can't we do something about this? If we would just stop to think about what we're saying before we repeat these things. Can you imagine how your child must feel hearing their parent say things like this? Imagine if it were your partner speaking about you in that manner.

With many children going back to school this week there have been plenty of stories that repeat this meme, notably this one from the BBC:

"Back to school also means back to work for many parents but it can also spell freedom for the full-time mothers and fathers out there.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of online forum Mumsnet, said at this time of year, many parents are "jumping for joy"."


Home Education means spending time, lots of time, with your children. It is not always easy, and the moments you get to yourself are fairly rare, but it's not as hard as you think. The rewards of spending time with your children, and really getting to know them are priceless, and let's face it, our children are children for such a short time that we need to treasure the time we do have whilst it lasts.

So how do you manage to retain your sanity when you spend so much time with your children?

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I think it's actually easier to be around my children so much because I have been. Let me explain what I mean: when the longest period of time you spend with your child is the school summer holidays, it's bound to be problematic. Your child is used to having much of it's waking hours micro-mangaged by school, after school clubs etc. Along come the school holidays and suddenly the micro-management has gone. The child isn't used to finding things to do to occupy itself, so the position of entertainer becomes the parent's. Having to continually find entertainment for your child is wearing, stressful and undoubtedly expensive. So I suppose it's fairly understandable that by the end of the holidays parents are overjoyed to be free from that burden.

We don't have to face these issues, because our children are well used to managing their time. I have a zero tolerance policy in my house for the words *I'm bored*. Always have had, even when they were going to be going to school. I am not their entertainer. Yes, I am here to facilitate their learning, yes I will provide things for them to try out, learning materials, outings, art supplies, games, help and support as needed, but boredom I will not cure. I am of the opinion that boredom is very important, particularly for children, and it seems I'm not alone in this. Boredom encourages children towards self reliance, and that is an incredibly important personal skill/quality as far as I'm concerned. Far too many people these days expect to be entertained by others, and then are completely lost when they find themselves in a situation where they have only themselves to rely on. The micro-managed children I know (and some of them are home educated, so it's by no means something that is only there in schooled children) are whingey, attention seeking, very high maintenance and in constant need of entertainment. I can completely understand why their parents would relish time to themselves in these instances.

If you pull your child out of school to home educate them, it is generally accepted that they will need a period of de-schooling. I would imagine (though having had no experience myself I am only speculating) that this would be quite a difficult time for a family, partly because of the sudden leap from a micro-managed day to a looser one. The adjustment will take time, and I would imagine a great deal of patience and understanding, but the rewards will definitely be worth it.

If we are to see a return to children and adults who are more self reliant than many currently are, parents need to stop seeing themselves as entertainers, and encourage a healthy level of boredom. Perhaps when that happens, we won't hear so many stories of stressed out parents longing for the end of the school holidays, and those who send their children to school might not be so staggered to find that home educators actually enjoy spending time with their children.


  1. I always dreaded the end of the summer holidays, the demands of school far outweighed any demands the kids would make. And deschooling, an absolute pleasure compared to making my home resemble in any way the place my daughter had come to see as a place of torture. That led smoothly into autonomous education but even I must admit to astonishment when she tried a key stage 2 maths test last night after realising she could have been going to secondary school that day and completed it correctly with very little difficulty.

  2. It baffled me that people say this - and it is just so sad. What happened to us?

  3. I think parents say this because others say it, I'm not sure it's that it's because they have been driven up walls or don;t like spending time with their children, maybe it's a way of justifying sending them to school in the first place, perhpas that's how it starts. I know I used to say it, I didn't mean it, I still say can't wait until the holidays are over now but for totally different reasons lol.

  4. Absolutely Denise, and that's why I refer to it as a meme, because it does seem to be something that people just say without thinking because it's what everyone else says.