When I tell people I home educate, often the response is 'Wow, you're brave' or 'That must be hard work' or 'I could never do that'. And what I want to say in reply (but rarely do) is that educating my kids (or facilitating their learning, which is more our style), is actually the easy bit. It's all the other stuff that is hard.
This term I have been doing three courses. On Thursday evenings I'm doing a 2-year part-time diploma course, on alternate Monday evenings I'm doing an online course and on Friday mornings I'm doing another course. This equates to five 'homeworks' every fortnight, and one 2-3000 word assignment every term, plus working towards a larger portfolio and an exam. That's without actually making uninterrupted space for thinking time. I belong to a writing group, which meet every fortnight. It's my turn to lead the session tomorrow.
Two evenings a week during term-time I work from 7-10pm. The money isn't just handy, it's pretty much essential.
I try to home cook. I try to home bake. (Though at the moment the kids are living on Cream Crackers and Pot Noodle). I grow our own veg and I ignore our almost-abandoned allotment plot and feel guilty about it and continue to ignore it. I sell stuff on Ebay and Amazon to pay my late-payment credit card fines.
I do housework. I clean. I wash. I mend. I tidy. I cook. I shop. I cut grass and hedges. I scoop poop. I nag. I do it all over again. And still this place looks like something out of the series 'How Clean is Your House.'
Agreed, there are no dead mice in the wardrobe or cat pee stains on the carpet (there is no room in the wardrobe even for mice and we don't have a carpet). But it is a good demonstration of why hoarding stuff is A BAD THING and why pretty much everyone I know, except me, has a cleaner or an obliging mother who lives nearby and who cleans and babysits their kids every week, and why there are moments when I hate stay-at-home women whose kids are in school all day and who moan that they can't fit everything in. What I actually want to say is 'What the **** have you been doing all day? Writing a bestseller using alphabetti spaghetti?!' But of course I don't.
So, where does this leave us? Well, the crockery cupboards are full of dog hair and crud, the fridge has something growing in it, and the leaning tower of art and craft materials is now topped by a leaning tower of tablemats and books and clothes to mend and clothes beyond mending and weird things that the kids want to keep that I can no longer be bothered to resist, and one day it will topple down and bury us all and no-one will find us until the council break down the door to investigate the bad smell.
So when I start thinking about the home ed side of things, that is actually the easy bit. Or it would be if I had nothing else to do. One evening a week the boys have home ed fencing club, and middle child has cub scouts. This has to be juggled between work and courses. And then there is the kids' daytime activities - weekly fencing, monthly home ed group, monthly geography group, weekly/fortnightly Explorers Group for the younger ones. (We keep the activities to a tolerable level, but when you top up with play-dates and inpromptu meet-ups it all adds up.) And there's the time we spend on projects, research, library visits, outings, workshops.
But really, if someone - anyone - would step in and do the rest of the c**p, the boring, menial, essential stuff that is truly hard work, the home educating would be a doddle.