Coping with criticism
One of the things that has been discussed a lot on the MP list recently is how to cope with relatives being negative about HE. Fortunately its not something i have really had to deal with – i am not sure my parents exactly approve of HE but as they made an “outside mainstream state run” decision themselves, i suspect they feel a little more open to different options. Besides, i suspect they know that while the educational benefits of a good private school were excellent the emotional effects took their toll on me somewhat. For me, deciding to HE is simply a lifestyle choice based on an individual assessment of me, my dh and my children. Really there is no one else who can make that decision because no one else knows us, the family unit, the way we do. I am terribly glad i don’t have to cope with day in day out criticism from my parents though because i think it would be pretty draining. My parents confine their concerns, if they have any, into putting effort and love into my children, to make sure they have the benefit of plenty of input from different sources. I think that a national journalist and an internationally known pharmaceutical research scientist are pretty good grandparents really ;~)- certainly adds breadth of experience to a maths genius and a literary/historically/crafty minded mummy :~) And then grandad and Auntie L can add mechanics, knitting, historical study of wars/ cars/ aeroplanes and a bit of accounting and book keeping in for good measure. I am deeply relieved that the family setting i live in are the kind who zip up rather than criticise and help rather than hinder. Of course, they know me pretty well and they know i go at stuff pretty determinedly so i suspect that gives them confidence. If it doesn’t, they are hiding it well ;~)
I am, however, also fortunate in that i have someone in my life who makes it their business to challenge everything i do and say, usually negatively. I must admit i find this an incredibly helpful input – it really helps me to look again at things from a different perspective and check that i am not disappearing off down some blind alley of self delusion. Everyone, or at least everyone who is strong enough, should have someone like that in their life – its very motivating. Sometimes, when i have almost have forgotten about feelings i once had, they remind me. Its very useful to have that prompt to re-evaluate things. The same could have been said recently of the Rainbows incident, not very nice but nontheless for me and dh a reminder of why initially we wanted to give our eldest this chance. We have discovered many other benefits since and wouldn’t change the decision to savour these days with our young children but when it comes down to it, Rainbows proved that those fears we had initially were right. And 5 is too young to have to deal with it. My girl has the rest of her life to deal with negativity and i don’t think there is anything wrong with thinking that its better to be able to articulate “This is how it is – deal with it or **** off” than have to cope with an unremitting onslaught about it when the very thing she needs to explain (her voice) is the one thing that makes it hard. I know very well how difficult it is to recover an undermined confidence – i don’t think there is anything wrong with re-evaluating the expected “norm” based on the lessons of our own experience. i was bullied, my dh admits he was probablym ore like the bully – both of us have a good insight into these things.
Its extraordinary how narrow minded and predictable people are, even when all they are doing is attempting to goad someone with repetition of arguments they probably already know the answer to. I mean, almost every parent at playgroup who knew we were going to HE said “yes.. i agree 4/5 is too young to go to school” but still sent them, many many mums i adore cried buckets at a child going off every day but felt it was unavoidable yet none of them would criticise virtually every european country apart from us who send their children FAR later (7 is typical) especially as pretty much all those countries have far better levels of numeracy and literacy than us, never mind all the other things you could compare. How does that make school at 4 or 5 so universally right? I’ve never felt the need to list historical geniuses who were HE’d, nor the fact that its a socially and educationally accepted way of life in plenty of places, notably Canada and the US – actually i think the fact that old Brittany Spears was HE’d is pretty encouraging – not sure you could say that she was suffering too much from a lack of social ability! ROFL!!!!
I can completely understand reservations from people who actually care but the fact is i have yet to meet the HE’d child who isn’t happy, secure, nice to be around, interesting, interested … the list goes on and on. And i love that fact that i go to my HE group and no one actually DOES discuss who is able to do what, who is cleverer, who is top/bottom/average (stuff my friend says is the ONLY topic of conversation at the school gate) – we have much more interesting stuff to chat about! All of which makes me think that none of the mums and dads doing this are loonies and that HE is at the VERY least, at least as good as school.
One thing i am glad about is that i and also therefore the girls, have a pretty wide variety of friends. I have people who HE now who i consider to be my equivalent of the school gate, people i refer to and ask for advice and discuss everything with but i also have friends who knew me before HE became an issue (in fact Auntie Kate remembers the conversation we had over a girl pulled out of school to skate full time the week before i discovered HE… i was horrified. Actually, i think i still am horrified… not sure abandoning everything else at 12 for a career that lasts to age 25 at the most IS a good idea – one of the things that appeals to me about HE is the opportunities for breadth of experience) We also have friends who school, and possibly the thing i like the most is the number of close friends i have who are teachers, who are unremittingly supportive of our decision, knowing what they do about the schooling system. I adore my HE world and wouldn’t be without any of it, but i enjoy being challenged some of the time, by curiosity in preference to negativity admittedly. I adore the fact that we can go and be at home in an HE group, with kids of all ages playing and working together and then go on to a party full of school kids and my kids don’t have any problem fitting in. Why would they?
One thing that i was pleased about at Rainbows this week was that Pud was completely immersed in the meeting, even though she had had a bad experience, she had no desire to run away and never go back, she was playing and being friendly and at the end they had a story and she asked lots of questions, so she obviously still felt confident about talking in front of them all. I think its a credit, not only to her but to the way we have brought her up and helped her discover herself – she has been able to rationalise the feelings she had about it from the fact that we have always talked openly about issues that came up. She knows very well about my bully (which i have worked very hard to explain it a separate sense to school as i really don’t believe in filling kids full of propaganda) and i think she knew that she didn’t feel bullied, just not really able to sort it out for herself. I don’t think i would have been that strong at 5 – i would not have wanted to go back, would not have wanted to hear my mum discuss me with other children, because at 5 i already felt ashamed of being different. Being ashamed of your own existance is NOT a nice feeling. I was not able to see for myself how to fix that at such a young age and i don’t think my mum felt able to muscle in. I think i have learnt from that experience; there is a gradient of dealing with large issues, we have to learn, bit by bit and if we are unlucky enough to be hit with a G
rade 10 emotional nightmare when we have only achieved coping level Grade 1, then we need help. We don’t expect adults to cope with every issue alone; there would be no need for workplace advocates, counsellors or at a huge level, law and order enforcers if we did, so why would we expect that a small child should be able to handle every new situation perfectly without help and guidence? Kids are just kids, so are the bullies, the gigglers, the teasers, the loud mouths who think they know everything, the timid ones who never express an opinion. They all have a right to get it right and wrong but they shouldn’t have to suffer for their choices needlessly.
I seem to have come over a bit Tony Blair recently – i don’t really care what people think of me and i don’t really care who likes me, doesn’t like me or whatever. HE has given me huge confidence in myself and criticism only makes me feel even more confident.