My 8-year-old daughter, Ava, joined Dame Catherine’s in September 2017, attending their home educator sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Prior to this she was at small state primary school and has just finished KS1. What these simple statements don’t convey is the enormity of making such a leap of faith; I always thought it was the right change to make, but a year later I can now write about our experiences, with absolute conviction – it was the right decision.

I’ll keep the whys and wherefores brief as we all have our own educational philosophies.  This is not a lecture on how to live your life, or that of your child, it’s more a call to arms if you have any uncertainty about the education your child is currently receiving; to show that there are many ways for a child to engage with education.  To be clear – I have no complaints about my daughter’s previous school, within the constraints of current systems and ideologies they did their very best and my daughter was happy there. Yet having trained as a primary school teacher and more recently having worked at a secondary school I have always had my doubts about whether Ava was receiving the best possible educational experience or not.  Having also worked in mental health services for over 10 years my viewpoint is far more holistic than perhaps it used to be.

That said I never felt a burning desire to home educate completely, I have always believed that schools offer lots of positive experiences and opportunities; I just didn’t want this 5 days a week for Ava.  I also liked the idea of having some input into Ava’s formal education and to be able to share in the wonder of learning alongside her.

I came across DCHS through an internet search, divine intervention you might say, potentially the missing piece of the puzzle for us as a family.  The website held a mirror up to my doubts and I just had to see for myself. So in the summer of 2017 I visited and fell in love with the place, I could write endlessly about all the reasons why, (starting with the warmest reception I’ve ever received when visiting a school) teachers who are allowed to teach, children who are encouraged to be children, topics and activities that inspire, an ethos that nurtures and celebrates individuality and a sense of flexibility that is sadly lacking in so many educational settings.  Academic arguments aside it came down to a gut feeling that is so hard to put into words but I just knew this was where I wanted Ava to be. Incidentally we live over an hour away from DCHS, the travelling is worth it as there is nowhere else that offers this unique educational environment.

A year on, I have a very different daughter, she has grown in ways that I could never have anticipated.  The confidence she has begun to develop and the peace that she emanates are of immeasurable value, those are the traits that will underpin all her future achievements, academic or otherwise; those are the parts of the puzzle that I now realise were lacking in the state system.  Ava is valued for who she is, not berated for what she has yet to master, she is treated with kindness and respect and is HAPPY, who could ask for more?