Sometimes a decision about home education can be straightforward – it may be that you and your partner have had conversations about it since your child was very young, and that you both knew that this was the path you’d end up taking.
It might be that your child had a really difficult time at school and that deregistration was the obvious choice – perhaps the only one you felt you had left.
In other circumstances, though, the idea of home educating your child can be the cause of tension and disagreements between parents, and in this article I’ll outline how you can navigate this fairly and hopefully with positive outcomes for the whole family.
It may be useful to clarify here that my children’s other parent was always on board with home education, and even though we are no longer together, it is still a decision we are both happy with. My experience in these disagreements comes from families reaching out to ask me for help, or who simply share their conversations with me.
It is also prudent to note that I will be writing the following based on one typical family dynamic that seems to be the majority – that is that there is one stay at home parent and one working parent.
This is because these disagreements generally tend to be within these family dynamics and is in no way to discount any other types of family! I will also be making generalisations, because it is impossible to nuance every individual situation- it is simply what I’ve observed over the past 11 years. So let’s get to it…
I Want To Home Educate My Child… What Now?
It is usually the stay-at-home parent who starts to think about home education, and who often ends up wanting to do it; either from ‘the start’ (the age at which your child would start school) or through the process of deregistration from school.
This is because stay-at-home parents are generally:
- More likely to research and look into ideas about child development.
- More aware of their child’s individual needs and differences.
- More likely to spend more time with other parents who may have things to share about their experiences of education for their child.
This is of course not to say that the working parent doesn’t do these things too, but simply from a logistical standpoint the stay at home parent is the primary carer and therefore does these things more. They are also in some ways more invested in these things because it affects their own lives in a greater way than it does for parents who are out of the house most of the time.
Once a parent starts thinking about home education, one of three things usually happens:
- The parents have a conversation where both parties bring research and points of discussion, and they agree to try home education.
- The parents have a discussion where both parties bring research and points of discussion, but both parents agree that home education wouldn’t work for them at this point for various reasons.
- The parents have a discussion that is one-sided; the working parent says “No” without backing up their reasons with research (they might say ‘because school is normal and everyone does it’ or ‘you’re not clever enough to do it’), and the stay at home parent is overridden. This happens easily because society does not support home education and favours school as the default, so friends and family are likely to support the working parent on this.
My Partner Said “No”
If you have experienced either of the first two points, great- you have had a mature discussion and come to a conclusion together for your family.
The issue occurs when the third example is the one at play, and I would strongly argue that this is not OK for the following reasons.
The stay at home parent is more likely to know their child better because of the amount of time they have spent with them and the research they have done into child development.
The stay at home parent is the one affected most by this decision. They are the one who have to facilitate school or home education, both physically and emotionally. They are the one who would have to do school runs, manage homework and bags and uniform, socialise with the other parents, manage their schedule around school hours, deal with emotional fallout, etc. If they are the one who have to do it, they should be the ones to actually choose it- not be forced into it.
It is based on status-quo bias, where ‘everyone else does it’ is the main weight behind their position. In this context the working parent is relying on pressure from society to get the stay at home parent to concede which is absolutely not ok.
It is not based on research. Vague feelings or sentiments about homeschool stereotypes are not a worthy basis for making such a big decision about your child’s life. There are studies online that show home educated children’s social, emotional and academic scores as being higher than their schooled peers, and there is also plenty of evidence for the school system being inappropriate for many children.
If one of the arguments is ‘you’re not clever enough’, that is a pretty low blow as well as being completely irrelevant. I explain why being non-academic can actually be useful as a home educating parent in my article ‘do you need qualifications to homeschool your child?’
Essentially an adult should not be forced to do something, and by saying ‘No, my child has to go to school and you have to facilitate that’, the working parent is trying to force the stay at home parent to do what they want.
So, what can I do?
If you have tried to show your partner research backing home education, and talked about child development and school issues without any response, you could also try asking them to come and meet some local home educating parents to get more of an idea of what it will look like for your family.
Home educators are a friendly bunch and it’s likely that there will be some local parents willing to meet and chat with you and your partner. You could also show your partner local home educating groups (both social and academic) to demonstrate that there is plenty of great stuff available for home educating families.
Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it doesn’t- if you’re in this position and feeling desperate, read on.
It goes without saying that society doesn’t really value stay at home parents. Because childcare isn’t seen as a particularly academically difficult job, stay at home parents are seen as little more than babysitters of their own children.
This means that over time, our own self-worth can diminish which makes it very difficult to stand up and say “Actually, I know what I’m talking about and I won’t be pushed around.”
Which is pretty much what I think parents in this situation should do. Let me explain.
In an ideal world, those two-way, mature conversations where both parties bring good reasons and evidence for their views would be the way that these decisions get made. But when one party (in this case the working parent) decides to say ‘No’ without engaging in dialogue properly, they are the ones stopping this process.
If they decide not to research home education, the fact that they panic that their child will fail or won’t have a social life is on them. It is not your job as the stay at home parent to reassure people who won’t help themselves.
If your partner is saying ‘you have to take our child to school’, they are being forceful and unreasonable. They do not get to force their partner to do something. In this case, saying ‘Actually I will be home educating our child; if you want them to go to school then you can facilitate it’, is a fair response.
If they claim that you are being unreasonable by refusing to facilitate school, simply remind them that you are simply responding in the same way that they did- but you’re not the one asking them to do anything or change their life. You’re simply doing what you have always done, which is raise your child.
Working parents may be more used to having ‘respect’ given to them and so may take this as disrespectful; simply explain that it’s not about them, it’s about what’s best for your child. Stay at home parents are used to having less control over their lives (kids will do that to you!) and it may feel familiar to be dictated to, but this is very likely to end in resentment which isn’t good for any relationship.
The working partner may claim that they had expected you to go back to work or expected their child to attend school because that’s what most people do. Well, the thing about having children is that life isn’t about us any more- it is about them, and what is best for them.
And it’s certainly not about following the norm ‘just because’. Things change, and it is a parent’s job to ensure that their child’s needs are being met in the best way possible given your circumstances.
Conclusion to ‘Partner says “No” to Home Education’
Ultimately, partners disagreeing on home education is a difficult issue. You don’t want either side to feel bulldozed, but if you have brought a reasonable case for home education to the table and they have refused to engage in proper dialogue about it, they have demonstrated that they are happy to bulldoze you to keep themselves comfortable.
If you feel that hearing some reassurance and information about home education from an experienced home educator would help, considering booking a coaching call with me may be a good option. I am used to hearing all kinds of concerns and worries about home education and it may simply be that your partner needs to hear that “it’s OK” from someone who has already been there, done that.
I hope this has been helpful in giving you some confidence- stay at home parents have a wealth of undervalued knowledge and experience, and I’d like to think that you are more aware of what you bring to the table than when you started reading.
For more information, support and guidance about home education, do take a look at my other home education blogs.