Have been discussing this subject with a few people since the first part of this post was put up and someone has recently e-mailed an excellent snap-shot insight on the issue of single parenthood and/or illness and home education.
"Doing it alone is hard - hard work, no time out, complete responsibility, the unfairness that your family has missed out so much financially and you personally. However, this has little to do with whether children go to school or not. Personally, and I know many others who share this view - I found it far more difficult to do the school thing. All that money for uniforms, early morning grumpiness, the fear of getting prosecuted for not getting them there when there is no one else to support and/or share the blame, just the responsibility of choosing the school in the first place, the many hours a day spent 'debriefing' each child after all the petty injustices and heartaches of the day and no-one to off-load to about this, the sense of isolation when school-gate parents seem like a different species, issues over homework, being called in and admonished for not 'supporting the school' (which actually means refusing to punish your children for whatever the teacher says they have done wrong) - all this adds up to one massive stress".
By contrast she wrote of HE:
" When you wake up in the morning, welcome your children down at whatever time they decide to get up, chat over breakfast, decide whether to go to the beach or the pictures that day etc, it's hard to feel that HE is a harder option than school."
She writes of the bad HE days:
When you wake after not enough sleep to the sound of arguing over who's turn it is on the playstation in the knowledge that you have a ton of bills to pay and petty admin to wade through, the house is a tip and the grass needs cutting, it could be easy to think that HE is bloody hard. However - if the kids were to go to school, what would change? The grass would still need cutting, there would be even less sleep and a need for instant clarity of mind and organisation skills as soon as you wake- the arguing would be over who had the last of the milk or who 's friend said what, and the bills would still need paying. The only difference would be that there would be a few free hours to get the jobs done while the kids are at school before the grumpiness starts again. Or, instead, after a little assistance and something nice and leisurely for breakfast (pancakes usually does the trick), the kids will maybe settle to something peaceful, maybe one of them will cut the grass, maybe we will make an agreement that the morning is peaceful so that bill paying can be done (maybe insert long discussion about budgeting, banking, alternative power sources, the history of the welfare state here!) then the afternoon will be spent in the woods or we will have a quiz afternoon or watch a film together.
And the single life has its upsides too...which may need a separate entry entirely!
But she reports:
"It is pretty scary when I'm ill - there is no-one to 'look after' the kids. When they were very small this led to some scary times. Nowadays my biggest challenge when I am ill is to give myself sufficient recovery time before plunging back in to everything at a great pace. The kids are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and I am usually lavished with cups of tea and hot water bottles, stories, cuddles etc. Like single parenthood, long term illness is tough. But, again, home education doesn't necessarily add to this - and where it does, it takes other stresses away in at least equal measure. Getting up, dressed and ready for the school run first thing, making sure everyone's homework and kit is present, done etc, doing lunches, discussing problems, worrying about them in an environment you can't help them with immediately all take their toll. It all makes it far harder to be flexible about your wellbeing.
She talks also of external pressures:
"officialdom and society will assume that you are an incompetent parent and will take every opportunity to patronise, interfere and discriminate against you. Being out of 'the system' cuts all this crap and gives you back the control, dignity and competence that you deserve just as much as any other parent. In choosing to 'home educate' we are equal as thinking parents even if we may lag behind financially and can't take a bloody evening class when we want to!!"