There are a vast number of issues faced by single parents, and home-education makes things even more interesting. Therefore this post is slightly longer than usual and will be revisited. The main topics include: emotional support, socialisation and money.
Who’s Supporting You?
Let’s face it, single parenting is a sacrifice, and for various reasons a number of us have also chosen to home-educate. A single parent bears the burdens and the joys of child rearing. If they are fortunate, they’ll have a support network of family and friends close by, and perhaps an ex-partner who helps emotionally and financially. If not, they gird their loins and get on with it. I have an amazing brother who supports me and Kai, and neighbours who help out, but we could still do with more support.
The period that Kai spent in school was often the only time that I had myself(wish I’d used the time better), the weekends and evenings being devoted to afterschool clubs and other child focused activities. With two parents there can at least be a hand-over at the end of the day (sometimes), but not for a lone parent.
Sometimes I go and sit in the bathroom just to be alone when tensions are high. However, Kai and I have quickly come to realise how important it is for us to get along, being in such close proximity. In teach Your Own by John Holt a single parent writes:
As a mother and daughter, we are the absolute minimum family group…we have simply had to learn to get on with each other. Issues can’t go unresolved, because all we have is each other and we just have to be able to find common ground.(Teach Your Own, Page 79) I think that says it all really.
Given my circumstances, why an earth would I put myself in this situation? There is also the opinion that Kai would be worse off out of school. Surely a single parent family need the support of school more? No. I think the crucial issue is making sure that both the parent and child’s needs are met. So dealing with socialisation will be a key factor that most single parents would be very aware of. I have been very proactive in seeking opportunities to meet other home-educators: attending group activities and listening out for any other events that may be of interest. I have found an athletics club for home-educators, a play session for children in north London, free lectures in London, as well as the group I attend on a Friday afternoon. The weekly group is an amazing source of support. I have exchanged numbers with two members and one of them is an ongoing source of support, informing me any events and being very encouraging.
The key is putting yourself out there and having a humble can-do attitude. The desire to meet others draws others to you; it’s then up to you to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and into new territory. It’s well worth the effort!
Another area of concern has been generating an income. Due to changes in income support most single parents lose their entitlement once their child reaches 5 and are required to claim jobseeker’s Allowance. This can be a challenge when you are trying to concentrate on raising your child and yet find yourself under pressure from your local jobcentre to find work. As long as you continue to claim JSA you are required to look for work, but you can look for opportunities that enable you to work from home. The NEA scheme is a government initiative to support people on jobseekers who want to start their own business. Under this scheme you continue to receive financial support (around £65 week) for up to 26 weeks, and you are no longer required to sign-on. Instead you meet regularly with a business counsellor who acts as a mentor. I found this scheme to be a lifesaver, but I ended up getting a part-time job (prior to home-educating) and lost my eligibility. Friends of mine who have used this scheme found it offered a welcome relief from having to sign-on.