LAURA TIFFEN, 30, lives in Pontefract with her husband Martin, 31, an Ebay seller, and children Daniel, twelve, and Amelia, six.
“Tomorrow is Brazil Day at my children’s school, but I won’t be frantically putting together a costume, nor will they spend the day at a desk.
Since lockdown hit in March 2020 and schools shut down, Laura and Martin Tiffen’s children have been homeschooledCredit: Instagram/Laura Tiffen
The parents of Daniel, twelve, and Amelia, six, have no intention of ever sending them backCredit: Instagram/Laura Tiffen
“Instead, I’ll take them both to a park, where we’ll look at butterflies and learn about the rainforest in a fun way. Since lockdown hit in March 2020, they’ve been permanently homeschooled – and I have no intention of ever sending them back.
“My own school days weren’t very happy. My dad died when I was 10, and my mum followed his wish to send me to a private school in Pontefract. I enjoyed the academic side, but struggled emotionally and I never felt like I fitted in. I developed anorexia and, though I’ve had therapy over the years, my recovery is ongoing. It’s a daily battle to stay well, physically and emotionally.
“At 18, after leaving school in 2009, I had my son Daniel with a former partner, and suffered from postnatal depression, which I had more therapy for. It was four years later when I met Martin on a night out, and we soon became a couple.
“Daniel, then four, started at a local state primary school. At every parents’ evening I’d hear what a polite, kind boy he was, but academically he wasn’t where he should be, which made me anxious. After Martin and I had our daughter Amelia in 2015, I gave up my job as a carer, which I’d started two years before, and became a full-time mum. Two years later, Martin and I got married.
I worried about the impact on my mental health and whether I’d have the resilience to be both mum and teacher.
“Amelia started nursery in 2019, and would sob at the gate as she hated being apart from me. But when lockdown hit last March and schools closed, I was filled with dread.
“Homeschooling sounded like my worst nightmare – how would they learn anything? I worried about the impact on my mental health and whether I’d have the resilience to be both mum and teacher.
‘The children loved it’
“I decided planning was the best way to make it work, so I drew up a timetable and scheduled playtime in the garden. The routine helped me feel in control, and the children loved it.
“They said they wanted to be homeschooled forever, but I told myself that as soon as schools reopened, they’d go straight back. But as the weeks went by, I softened. The children were so much happier and were actually learning. We were having quality time together, too – we were thriving.
“When the announcement came in May 2020 that schools would start reopening the following month, Martin and I agreed the kids wouldn’t go back. When we deregistered them, our parents thought we’d change our minds, and some friends made it clear that they believed it would be bad for the children, socially and educationally.
The children were so much happier and were actually learning. We were having quality time together, too – we were thriving.
“Daniel lost some friendships because he was no longer at school with those children, but we persevered. We followed the same timetable and I sourced school work from a website called Twinkl. Meanwhile, I found a new confidence in myself that has benefited my mental health.
“Martin and I had no doubt that we’d made the right decision, which led to a complete life overhaul.
“We’d always talked about moving from Carlisle to Pontefract, where I grew up and where we’d have access to lots of parks, nature reserves and museums, but we hadn’t wanted to disrupt the children’s schooling. That was no longer an issue, so we bought a new-build house last October and moved in four months later.
Homeschooling has transformed all our lives for the better.
“Covid means many of the usual home-school groups, where we’d meet up with other families like us, aren’t running yet, but hopefully they’ll resume soon. In the meantime, the children socialise through football, kickboxing and Scouts, and meeting children of all ages wherever we go.
“We still get some strange reactions when people realise we homeschool. Recently at a museum, one of the staff stopped talking to us when we told her! But the benefits outweigh the negatives, and the children love it. However, if they ever wanted to return to school, I’d fully support them.
“Homeschooling has transformed all our lives for the better. We’re closer and happier as a family than we’ve ever been, and it has really boosted my self-confidence. It’s the only thing I thank the pandemic for!”
Daniel and Amelia wanted to be homeschooled forever and were in fact ‘so much happier and were actually learning’Credit: Instagram/Laura Tiffen
The mum-of-two says ‘some friends made it clear that they believed it would be bad for the children, socially and educationally’Credit: Instagram/Laura Tiffen
Laura says the kids and the family are thriving, adding: ‘It’s the only thing I thank the pandemic for!’Credit: Instagram/Laura Tiffen