Junior Unschooling Dads, Testimonials

Alan Southgate – Musician

Musician, Norwich, UK

I’m a musician and music tutor from the UK. I have three daughters, the eldest of which—from a previous relationship—is in public school, the younger two are homeschooled; they are twelve, seven and five, respectively. In recent years I have developed a passion for the ‘philosophy of liberty’; this increasingly informs every aspect of my life; from learning to integrate, heal and minimise the influence of emotional wounds received in my past, to finding ways of achieving financial freedom, as well as raising my children in a way that supports their burgeoning autonomy and self-ownership.

My partner and I are attempting to share childcare as much as possible. We are both self-employed and are developing businesses that aim to support our lifestyle, which centres on homeschooling our younger two children. We tend to spend weekends together as a family but during the week I’m solely responsible for the children for three days; at the moment this involves a lot of child-led play, reading aloud, days out with other home-ed families and lengthy conversations centred on conflict resolution!

In all honesty the challenges I face are much more to do with me than the children themselves, ways in which my actions contradict my principles, for example. I’m trying to do away with arbitrary authority in my fathering but having been raised in a ‘traditional’ environment of punishment, reward and provisional self-esteem, I find myself triggered during day-to-day moments with the children; this is happening less and less the more I grow as a parent and ‘when all is well with Dad, all is well with the children’ appears to be the rule.

The only real obstacle we have faced—aside from some unfounded concern about our efficacy as educators—is an economic one; it is extremely difficult for one parent to earn a living wage that will support a stay-at-home parent and children. My partner and I are both working hard to develop businesses that will afford us enough money and time to continue to home-educate. Currently it’s a struggle to offer as much opportunity and resources as we would like, though we overcome this with some creative thinking and sheer will and determination!

As the children progress I’m delighted to get feedback about them from other adults; I often receive compliments that my two daughters are intelligent, articulate and that they are fiercely independent thinkers. One criticism I have often heard is that home-educated children lack social skills and find integration with ‘schooled’ children somewhat difficult; I have found the opposite to be the case; both of mine will fearlessly address anyone of any age in a way that I think my eldest daughter had schooled out of her. Another quite unexpected but very welcome benefit to being a home-educating dad is the opportunity—or more appropriately—the necessity for personal growth in order to meet the challenge; I understand that this might be a daunting prospect for some, but I have found it richly rewarding. If I were to have outsourced responsibility for my children’s education to a school, I think my character would not have developed as it now has. In order to meet my children’s needs, I’ve needed to look hard at how my needs weren’t met as a child and the impact that that has had on my life; in order to nurture self-esteem, I’ve had to repair and build my own—hard, but immeasurably valuable, work!

The greatest anxiety I have going forward is again related to my role: “What if I haven’t got what it takes? What if I’m undermining my children’s future?” This comes up a lot but if I reason it out with my partner I generally find reassurance. There’s also the pressure of the economic situation in the UK; it’s very difficult to maintain the home-ed lifestyle when wages are so low relative to the cost of living. If my partner and I cannot earn enough between us then we may be forced to send the children to school; I’m uncertain as to how I would deal with that, if it comes up.

We try to be peaceful parents, I certainly try to be principled in my approach to discipline. One of the real advantages of home-ed is that you can take the time to talk things through if there is a problem that requires intervention; I try to examine each occurrence logically with the children, taking individual needs into account, and I encourage the children to help resolve any issues. Most importantly, I try to be clear about the principles at work behind my fathering—non-aggression and property rights being the main two. One consequence of this is that my daughters will call me out on my inconsistencies! The willingness to apologise is crucial.

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Alan Southgate

About Alan Southgate

Alan Southgate is a musician, music tutor and podcaster from the UK. He can be found online at Facebook.com/alan.southgate1.

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