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Next week is a scary time for us at FTC. Somehow, without us quite noticing it, the time has come for Alfie to start preschool.

You may remember me banging on about Montessori educations, and how I felt it would be right for Alfie. Well I believe that more firmly now than I ever have, even though it has left me struggling with a decision I still don’t feel we have entirely nailed.

First, we signed Alfie up to an incredible school, only to be told that they had stopped accepting preschool funding.

That night I shook it off, went online and found an even more incredible preschool just down the road who just happened to have one space left. We signed him up and I bored everyone with how excited I was for him until a letter came through our door and shattered my dreams. The preschool had to close because new OFSTED rules on adult/ child ratios meant it was no longer economically viable.

I found myself less able to shake off the disappointment a second time, and there were no more Montessori options in our area. Then the lady who had run the preschool offered parents an evening of Montessori briefing and also suggested another preschool that a lot of her staff had moved to. It wasn’t a Montessori, but it was very close.

A few days later Keith took Alfie to see it and he apparently loved it and so we signed him up. So far no meteor has fallen on it, and if there has been an outbreak of plague, they have kept it quiet.

I kinda wish something would happen though, and I just can’t put my finger on why.

Recently Alfie has matured in huge bounding leaps. The child falls asleep and wakes up with an extra 20 words in his vocabulary: It’s like he inhales them during the night or something. Physically, mentally, logically, behaviourally he rolled over, stretched and got out of bed a not-two-year-old.

So that means he’s ready for preschool, right?

That seems to be the received wisdom on these things, but somehow that just doesn’t sit right with me. If anything, it makes me wonder even more if home schooling is the right way forward for our family. It certainly seems to have done right by him so far.

I read my fellow bloggers talking over their educational choices, and each time I get to the end of a piece my heart tells me not to send Alfie to a state school.

Amy writes about why she has chosen to home school and her sentiments are ones I have heard from other friends who have made the same choice. 

Rixa talked about her concerns but has cautiously taken a different route and started Zari at school to balance the needs of her whole family. 

Heather broke her heart over the battle she has had to find a safe place for her wonderful son to learn and I know she is still dealing with the fallout of not being able to have done that sooner. I read about her son Xan and I see a lot of parallels with Alfie. Her reality and my fears are one and the same, except I’m a few years behind her and I can learn from her experiences.  

So once again I find myself wanting to take the road less travelled and wanting to explain why.

Recently I have been trying really hard to turn away from my natural inclination towards reacting like a Mediterranean fishwife every time Alfie pushes my many and varied buttons. Having read the beginners guide from this place something clicked for me, and while I do still shout, my attitude towards Alfie has done a complete U turn and as a result I’ve really started to feel close to him.

My reservation about school isn’t about him growing independent - I don’t want him to be my little baby any more, he hasn’t been my little baby in a long time and I adore every new step he takes towards adulthood – it is about me feeling that I should protect his need to be, well, himself.

State education is, by its very definition, an exercise in compromise and uniformity. A school can bleat on all day about how it honours the individuality of its student but I have yet to see one that can give each child the freedom to explore and learn in their own way. Did anyone here successfully stand up in class one day and say “actually, I want to study astro physics today, see you later” and not end up in front of the headmaster?

For a lot of children it doesn’t matter, they are happy to mooch along a predefined route and pick up some knowledge along the way. Alfie is not one of those children. Alfie is the kid who is always in detention for setting fire to his exercise book (do they still have those?). Nobody is ever going to care that he was doing it because he was curious about how fire works, they are just going to care about the big black mark on the desk. Frankly if I were a teacher I would feel the same, especially when I had a room full of 29 other Alfie’s all wanting to do their own discovering.

Problem is I feel like it’s my job as a parent to be the one to look out for what is in the best interests of my child, and I just can’t shake the feeling that state education isn’t it.


  1. School is more than education.

    Our little boy Jamie (6) has Global Development Delay which in essence means he is under developed in a number of areas primarily movement (he has only been walking for 6 months) and speech (he doesn't use words).

    The type of school was a major decision in his life. We eventually decided to send him to the local village school and it was probably the best decision we ever made. Not only have they taken his issues on board and adjusted their teaching to include him despite his abilities but they have involved all the other children and consequently their parents in his development.

    Everybody in the school and the village know Jamie and his needs. They all have seen him grow and develop over the last 2 years into the happy social little boy he has become. He is involved in everything, no longer do we get the anxious looks from parents as to why a 6 year old turns up for school in a buggy, or the feeble excuses as to why he has not been invited to a birthday party but we get comments of how great he is doing, how is improving day by day, week by week.

    It's not all about education it's also about being involved in the community. There will be a day when Jamie will be better suited to an alternative education, when either his school can't manage any more or more likely where his development starts to impact the other children's learning. When ever this will be we will always be grateful to the village school for what they have achieved and will miss the community that has supported him in these early years.

  2. Thanks for posting that Andrew, it’s a really valid point and one I need to go away and digest I think.


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