There are times when i wonder if i can really encompass all i want to say about my role in life by calling what we do “home education.” It isn’t really all we do, nor is it all i am passionate about but because it is the bit we ‘have’ to do, it becomes a byword for much much more. it’s the much, much more that i think i tend to let go uncelebrated at time, because i can’t write it on an LEA report and because it doesn’t appeal to my control freakery, but actually it is fundamentally the thing that drives me the most.
A while ago, i wrote about religion, about how my searching, my searchers nature had driven me to a sense of inadequacy and almost loss, because i hadn’t been able to find a niche that i truly believed in. I see people around me who have and i wondered what was wrong with me, that i can’t find that sense of drive and peace. But i think it is true to say that i do have that thing; for me, this thing which we call “being home educators” is the path that lights up before me like a runway. I am absolutely SURE, certain sure, that what we are giving our children is the most right thing we possibly could. If i could evangelise all day about it, i would; i feel my face light up when i tell people about home ed, i hear the saleswoman in me begin to list its Unique Selling Points. I know that i must almost terrify people into buying in and i know i’ve lost a few friends along the way because my pasion for having my children right here, right with me, is just too weird, too threatening.
It’s true that i didn’t come to ‘home ed’ by virtue of parenting, in fact i regularly regard my parenting from a fairly rueful stance. I’m so very far from perfect, in fact i wonder at times if i’ve learned anything at all, or if all the mistakes that knocked out my knees from under me at times are just bound to be repeated. I don’t mind making my own mistakes, but i do wish i could have some surety i wasn’t going to make the same ones as my parents made. To learn would be an advantage 🙄 Even when i hear myself say “in a minute” i know i’m doing it; maybe my children will remember ‘the bead lady’ – as fast as i bemoan it all going to fast, i’m busy doing something other than being with them.
I came to home ed, with my first child already in nursery, purely from panic that former brutalities were going to be repeated. I came to it from fear that i was going to nurse the same helpless child through bullying and revisit that bullying myself, just as helpless the second time round. I came to it with nothing better than a feeling that i wanted better for my children that to be simply driven by a need to fulfill someone elses expectations, or expire trying. I didn’t have high values, i just wanted to protect them, even if it meant hiding them away.
But the truth is, home ed is just so much more than that. In fact, i’ve ceased to really see us as a “home educating family” and i think i see us far more as just a family who live as we wish, as we should. We aren’t perfect; i don’t read books on parenting, i make awful mistakes and i hear my strains in their conversation. Sometimes i lose my temper, sometimes i want space, sometimes a weekend drifts by, sometimes a week does. my children are a little flighty, a little loopy, a little headstrong, a little LOUD… at times. Max and i don’t talk enough, or cuddle up doing nothing enough. But i can’t separate things; what i’m doing, what Max is doing, what the children are doing – it all rolls up into ‘home ed’ or none of it does. Life is all one thing.
By the time i left school, a good school, i had ascertained that i had almost definitely just wasted 7 years of my life being harried by people who needed results for THEIR job, wanted me to dance to their tune for THEIR reputation, wanted power over me because of THEIR baggage. I didn’t like being there, i fought to find myself tiny rebellions which afforded me my own space; drama, friends at the boys school, not going to uni, never handing in work on time, or done well enough. I knew i could, they knew i could – but it was my silent rebellion. I wore my socks pulled up as i should, but i didn’t work as i should because they couldn’t actually make me. What i could do, and did, was always perform irritatingly well at the end of year exams, causing at least one teacher to say to my face that she hoped i’d fail my GCSE geography because it would be a travesty of fairness if i passed (I got an A; Mrs Cameron, i still think you were the biggest power crazed f*cker they had there).
They knew best; they didn’t let me do Business Studies, Art or Design for A Level because it wouldn’t be useful to me and i wasn’t clever enough. Yuh-huh. 🙄
So, i’m working on sparing my children all that; i won’t have them jumping through hoops to suit others, i’d rather that we set some hoops for ourselves, together, but the myriad of tiny pulls on each others webstrings that finetunes the way we live together. Whatever it sounds like on a daily basis, i do know for absolute certain that my children and i exist within this slightly structured, slightly child-led, slightly autonomous home ed scenario by mutual consent. i know EXACTLY what everyone is up for each day, they know exactly why i want them to be meaningfully employed in something, even if it is a game. We don’t fight over it, we don’t have misery, we just do it. And when someone tugs from their side of the web to let me know they aren’t okay today, i know, i feel and i respond. It’s sort of home ed, it has more to do with being a family that is functioning as a family should, as a family only really can if it has had a long opportunity to learn to live together and know one another. That is my passion; if i had a wish for society it would be that we could learn to value that again, rebuild family life from the bottom up. Sod education; education is inevitable if the family is working properly, but families need time to prepare, live in and maintain their inner structure, so that even a heavy footfall on its web gets noticed.
i have a keen memory of knowing when i had got cut off from that inner family structure, brought on by the reality of school. It was when my brother and sister were still at home, but i wasn’t, and they had weekly visits from a mobile grocer we called the egg man. There was always some joke or other going on, they would talk about it, they seemed to have an easy, friendly relaitionship with him – and i wasn’t part of it. When i was at home in the holidays, he didn’t know me, i was an outsider in my own family home for those few moments a week. it was something i saw in Amelie when she went to nursery; she didn’t like not knowing what we were doing, she wasn’t ready to strike out – and that was why i brought her home again.
For me, i have many hopes, plans and dreams – and much of those have been shaped by why we are STILL home educating, even thoguh the need has passed. It isn’t that i simply feel that schools are wrong, or not good enough for my children, though i own that that is part of it. I do believe that schools are a fundamental waste of the time of most children but i own they have their place, for some children, some families, some conditions. The reason i am still home educating is simply that i believe that a family should be together until its members are so utterly sure of it, that they know that no member of it will ever, ever let them down. I’m family educating, i’m building something.
I’ve got aspirations for my children and a good education is one of them. I do believe in helping them work towards good life skills, i do believe in setting opportunites for knowledge out before them, i do want them to have amassed the skills and inclination to go singlemindedly after an idea or an interest. i do want to lay the world at their feet. I’m not ashamed or harried by the notions of doing that with the use of some of the more structured resources we have here, because the key to it is always that they consent, they are interested, they enjoy and they come back for more. That, so far, is my success. That no one has yet asked to leave, that i don’t have to have battles over ‘making people do their work.’ What happens here, just happens, fluidly, gently and with a thread or purpose that i might gently encourage, but i don’t have to dictate.
I’m still a keen believer in Charlotte Mason, in no formal work before 7 – but with some limits. Fran needed some formal stuff before 7, Maddy won’t need it for a little while yet, Amelie is ready for it now. Flexibility is what i want to achieve. Rigid goals, other peoples goals, didn’t work for me nor did i see it bring joy to many of my peers. They made me rebel, they made me unhappy, they made me even refuse and procrastinate at thngs i wanted to be doing, just for the sheer hell of it. Endless years of revision and discarding of other peoples information choices left me with a short attention span and a bad long term memory for facts. Jumping to other peoples tune left me never able to simply sit back and relax; i always feel i have to be filling every moment, because to just sit and be was never deemed a worthy occupation. These are the things i would gift to my children; the right to learn as they wish and to just be, when they wish to.
And what prompted this? Just that my children spread grass seed and played Playmobil in the sun all day, because it was right today that they should do so. And while they did, Fran told me about crocodiles eating rocks, maddy told me the story of how the Manx cat lost his tail, Amelie learned more letters and sung the alphabet and Josie effortlessly sadi “thank you” and “sorry” whenever she needed to.
I’m not always the home educator i would like to be, i’m not always the business woman i would like, i fail often as the mother i would wish… but i have allowed my children a childhood. And no one can take that away from them.