It’s been an eventful year, both for our family and for our community. Much of what has happened to Home Educators politically has overshadowed the lives of too many of my friends, taken our time away from each other, caused rifts and sadness and frightened people into feeling they will have to move away from friends and family in order to safely continue living a blameless life without persecution.
I’m going to get the bad round up over first, before doing our lovely good, family bits at the end 🙂
The Badman Review has definitely been the Ugly in our year; when your government decides to look in detail at your life, through the lens of judging everyone in a community of maybe 100,000 people as if you are all the same, starting on the premise that you may be child abusers and infringing the rights of your children by being with them, then you could be forgiven for feeling your world had fallen in rather. Being judged and found communally wanting because you are prepared to give up literally years of 24/7 time to your children in order to give them a good start is not a nice feeling. It might feel less cruel if, after a year, they’d been able to come up with one single example of why this might be justified.
It might seem less frightening if over this year i hadn’t heard it suggested by the authorities of this country some of the most astonishing things ever as possible measures for controlling us. Leave aside all the well publicised ones, i’m still reeling from the suggesting that parents who home educate should be CRB checked so they can be with their own children between the hours of 9-3. As if that would prove or save anything. If nothing else, the case of Vanessa George, abusing nursery worker, proves that a CRB check can save no one from a first time offender anyway. But the insult of the suggestion that home educators alone should be singled out for this parental check is beyond insulting. Speaking for my own children, they probably have close, regular personal or professional contact with more adults than almost any other child they know. It staggers me, given that many HEd children are the same, that the government cannot see past the idea of a children needing a school teacher for any sort of “safe and well check”. The CRB check idea came from Ofsted.
And then there was, from i think an MP, a suggestion that perhaps all HEd children could wear some sort of badge, perhaps a rainbow one, to identify them at all times while out and about, ostensibly so they won’t be harassed by truant patrols. Well, why not just make it a yellow star and be done with it? We’re people, not a section of the community at large who need to be identified. Imagine if you said that all Muslims had to wear a crescent to identify them? Not to mark them out, you understand, just to make sure they were left in peace to pray at the right times. How quickly would one thing lead to another?
The ugliest thing about this year has been the utter disregard our government has come to have for the voice of the people, or the rights of the people. From the Badman Report, to the ignoring of our voices in the Euro Election, to the blatant disregard of due political process in just the education sector as the year has gone on. I shudder to think what else is going on. I keep half expecting them to declare a state of economic emergency and day they aren’t going to call an election. I no longer trust our democratic process at all and it isn’t so long since i as at school, learning about the Nazi’s and watching the end of the Cold War and being taught that such things, such mentalities, would never be allowed again. How quickly we forget. How surely we say “but this is not the same”. But it is – almost everything starts in small ways which we fight to ignore.
There has been some good in this; i’ve been awed by the fight my community has put up, awed by the way we’ve worked together and mobilised. There is huge hope in that. And i’ve been glad to make contact again with more than one old friend because of it.
So if that was the Ugly, then the Bad, this year, has been small and personal and as always with such things, has tended in the end to bring good. It’s been a year of big changes for me and for all of us; for me there was the the return to full time mum after running the business for so long – an altogether good thing but quite hard to get used to after being in charge of it totally. The handing over of it all to Max took some doing and rubbed tetchily on some recently healed raw places between us. But in the end, it has been excellent. Then there was the fairly long, for me, process of deciding whether to actually try for that long (euphemism coming up) discussed baby and then not actually finding it terribly easy to do so. After never trying longer than 14 days to get pregnant, i found months of doing so difficult, particularly as i knew the time in which it was reasonable to do so was ticking away. And there was one very early lost one inside that; not known about long enough to even be upset about (literally hours) but frustrating. When i did get pregnant, i had an early threatened miscarriage which took the joy out of it all and i found the first half of the pregnancy rather stressful to say the least. But now it is great and i’m loving it, not least because i finally have that certain inner knowledge that this WILL be the last time, that i know it in myself and that i will not change my mind. I hope desperately my luck will hold and this baby will be healthy and well but i already know that much that felt irreparably broken in me has been fixed. The feeling of knowing i will have done with babies is the best part of that.
All that happened again a backdrop of Fran starting school, which i handled very badly indeed and worried me enormously. I think that, combined with the Badman thing and the pregnancy thing and the fact that life had been so unsettled for so long and was just beginning to reform, it all just felt difficult to react well to. But it was an entirely positive experience for her and has turned out very well for the whole family, our confidence in ourselves as HEers and as a family and – well, what seemed bad turned out to be good.
Then there was Fran’s operation, always stressful; we’re fortunate never to have experienced our child in a life or death operation situation but these ones are quite bad enough and after the previous one which frightened her badly, we were dreading this one. But it went well and this time her mend has held and all looks positive.
I could have done without Amelie breaking her arm 4 days later; two general anaesthetics for children in 4 days was too much. Breaking her arm might have made Amelie slightly more sensible -and she certainly showed a very grown up and pragmatic side to her nature during it, but i do feel sorry for her as she hasn’t been able to regain the gym prowess or notice she had just gained before that and i feel she has lost out an awful lot because of it. Hoping this year will be better for her but am not sure i’ll be able to help her make that happen.
And then, the unequivocally Good.
Max applying for, and getting, redundancy from work. It has changed our life, giving us the push we needed to take the plunge and run the family business we had tentatively played at. Max has done so well at it and the business is thriving. Now we need to learn to take time out too and be able to holiday and relax and switch off but the flexibility of life we have now has saved us this year and made such an amazing difference to everything from the time the children get, to the way we do things, to the places we can go and the things we can try. It was obvious that we had to give it a go but the leap was scary -and the reward for making the leap has been the beginning of wonderful. We so needed a good year after some really, really tough ones and it has felt like we’ve had one.
In our home ed life the above has flowed over to give me more time, decent sleep without worrying constantly and more time to think about what we do and how to make it better. In some respects this year, as i gradually relinquished the business, has been about finding out where we are and where we are going again and that has been great. Fran going to school for a while gave us a kick and produced some change here and then a summer of trips out and alarums kind of reset everything. I think now we’ve settled into a steady way of working for the big two, which suits them and is producing a sense of achievement for them as well as satisfying me that i can satisfy anyone who comes calling. The younger two need a very different approach but i continue to be glad that we started those “normals” all that time ago – our policy of “do something meaningful unless we are somewhere more interesting” seems to work well for them all. I think next year we need to continue similarly, but i’ve got plans to be out more and more varied too.
In terms of each of the children…
I know Fran would say the highlight of her year has been making the General Squad at gym, her competitions, her Golds and the friends she has made in all sorts of places, her Grade 1 at cello and the trying of school. Plus having that op behind her. She’s on course for Grade 2 and the festival again next year and has plenty she wants to get her teeth into. For me, i’m delighted to see her so well rounded, so full of life, so healthy and fit and happy and achieving in all the areas that matter to her. Gradually she is settling to being more academically inclined and can certainly hold her own – or at least she more than did while at school. It was a joy to see her so well received there. What pleases me most about Fran is that she is having the opportunity to work hard, supported in doing so, at the things that mean so much to her. I don’t think it matters in what area of your life you learn to apply yourself to get results, so long as you learn it – she’s certainly not a child with an interest in slogging over an essay right now when i see her putting hours into patiently learning a gym move or a dance, i know she has learned a work ethic that will be a building block of her life.
Maddy has loved having the chance to make more friends and spend time with varieties of people. She is beginning to carve out her own place in our family and is definitely the one who stands out in many areas. She’s resolutely given up the things she doesn’t like and held out for trying things that she wants to; she’s done well at rugby and at music, begun a second instrument and continued to do the things that please her. She’s still unsure of herself at times but she knows what she wants and is a very single-minded, fearless person about achieving it. From singing in various shows, to learning the flute and sticking with guitar, to plugging away at gym and persevering with spelling, trying new art ideas and learning about inventors and art – she’s a particular person with a very clear picture of herself. I think this has been a year of emergence for her but i think next year will be her year.
Amelie and Josie are so very different. Amelie taught herself to read this year, effortlessly. She does most things effortlessly apart, surprisingly, from acting for an audience, which she finds very difficult. She is a gorgeous dancer, a lithe and athletic gymnast and beginning to be a really musical little girl. Her music teacher thinks she’s great and she is hopefully going to play in the festival this year. She has come on lots, mostly because she is a child who has a very clear understanding that practise reaps reward. She is clever and perceptive and lovable – and irrepressible, incorrigible and annoying! We adore her.
Now i have Josie, i understand why i found my elder children hard to understand when they were very small. Josie is just like me; she plays games with bits of nothing for hours, thinks and pontificates, works patiently at things she wants to do (currently sewing a bag for about 90 minutes in one go) and has a tendency to see the glass half empty. I know exactly who she is – and i have to remind myself there will also be bits of her which are different and not fall into the trap of thinking she IS me. She’s looking forward to being a big sister.
And as for me and Max; Max says he has no regrets about leaving work and enjoys our life and his new job. I enjoy not doing it 🙂 We’re happily married again and both looking forward to having a new little person in our life. I didn’t really think it could all turn out this well and i am so very grateful it has.