I sup­pose I’m for­tu­nate, my idea of ‘design­ing’ (albeit I’ve nev­er used that term until now!) my chil­dren had to do with what hap­pened to their brains, not their fash­ion­able ‘costumes’. Now, I may have failed in some aspects of their upbring­ing (I usu­al­ly ques­tion my choices/decisions dai­ly!) but I cer­tain­ly know that their brains work extreme­ly well. 

My design plan worked — I am hap­py with that result. I’ve just realised that my plan start­ed with tak­ing real­ly good care of myself while I was preg­nant – the build­ing blocks of my son­s’ devel­op­ment. Even before I was preg­nant I was fit and active. 

I nev­er intend­ed our chil­dren to be like every­one else, they are after­all not 100% Amer­i­can. They weren’t dressed like their peers, didn’t do the same activ­i­ties just “to keep them off the street­s” and weren’t involved in a mil­lion dif­fer­ent sports, although we always seemed busy.

What they did have was a well-round­ed edu­ca­tion that was rel­e­vant to each of them. They were edu­cat­ed at home by their parents.

This was ini­tial­ly our plan when my hus­band and I thought we would spend our lives sail­ing round the world. That nev­er happened. 

Once we and our old­est son expe­ri­enced his first year of Amer­i­can state school­ing at age 6 it became pret­ty clear that the only way to remove him from that awful envi­ron­ment would be to teach him at home. 

Thanks to that mem­o­rable deci­sion his younger broth­er had an unbro­ken edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence, based at home with his par­ents and yet active­ly involved in the real world. That is some­thing I am very proud of. 

I’m just real­ly sor­ry that I had to put our old­est son through that year of tor­ture in school. Not for­get­ting that the fol­low­ing year we were qui­et­ly in the van­guard of home edu­ca­tion and he was sad­ly under a lot of pres­sure to per­form, sim­ply to prove that home edu­ca­tion worked. 

Please note that we real­ly aimed to return to the very nat­ur­al learn­ing that had hap­pi­ly occurred in our house for our old­est son’s first four years of life. At age four he spent a few hours twice a week in a Moth­er’s Day Out Pro­gram sim­ply because there were no com­pan­ions for day­time play; most of his friends were by then in day­care or pre-school so that their moth­ers could work. 

Home edu­ca­tion wasn’t always that easy but it is some­thing our sons say they haven’t regretted. 

The oth­er pow­er­ful cat­a­lyst for the home edu­ca­tion deci­sion was my own edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence. Not attend­ing school proved to be a change in my orig­i­nal design for my children’s edu­ca­tion – I nev­er assumed that attend­ing a state school wouldn’t be on our radar. Based on my British teacher train­ing I thought that an Amer­i­can state run school would be very advanced in its phi­los­o­phy. Wrong! 

One of my own most painful expe­ri­ences was regard­ing a teacher I dis­liked at age 12. It was only ear­li­er this year, more than 50 years lat­er, that a fel­low pupil from my school years con­firmed that the way that teacher treat­ed me had a pro­found effect on his life too. My son’s expe­ri­ence at age 6 was sim­i­lar­ly awful and it was then I said “never again”.

So my ‘design’ and plan for my chil­dren was my own. I am for­tu­nate that my hus­band sup­port­ed that deci­sion and active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in all the avail­able hours he wasn’t working.

With­out the desire to be flex­i­ble in your child’s edu­ca­tion­al plan they may be con­signed to a mun­dane day­care or pre-school sit­u­a­tion. You might then feel that they will go to anoth­er pri­vate school – exact­ly how many dif­fer­ent care sit­u­a­tions will your child expe­ri­ence before they are 5 years old?

Con­ti­nu­ity of edu­ca­tion was what my youngest son expe­ri­enced. His edu­ca­tion was indi­vid­u­alised for him. Sur­pris­ing­ly he is quite like his broth­er in many ways but some of their gifts and tal­ents are very dif­fer­ent. Which is one of the rea­sons I don’t believe it when peo­ple say “It’s so dif­fer­ent rais­ing boys (or girls)”.

Every child should be con­sid­ered their own per­son and not cat­e­go­rized as “Boys are always……” or “Girls are always……”.

Each of our chil­dren had an always flex­i­ble indi­vid­u­alised edu­ca­tion plan before I knew there was such a thing as an IEP in state edu­ca­tion in Amer­i­ca. Their edu­ca­tion expe­ri­ences were 365 days a year and cer­tain­ly not based on the fact that they were born male. Sounds almost alarm­ing but with dynam­ic chil­dren (of whichev­er sex) and a will­ing­ness on the part of their par­ents to cre­ate indi­vid­ual oppor­tu­ni­ties for each of them it need not be a struggle.

Think about your design plan for your child. If you haven’t done it yet, make one. Then be will­ing to rewrite it when you find out what makes each one of your chil­dren tick.

For the good of the chil­dren – make a plan that focus­es on their brain devel­op­ment, not just on hav­ing them as an ornament!