Tuesday, 22 March 2011

So Why is Chaos relaxing?

Just in case anybody is wondering about the title of this blog, I will attempt to wax philosophical while in my dressing gown.  It has to do with all of the restrictions and limits that we put on ourselves in this crazy modern world. I try not to be controlled by them, to remember what is important, and to relax along the way in the chaos that is having a family.

Our house is always messy. I must admit that it does get to me. Living with so much stuff. I can spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, tidying, and then walk into the  living room to find that the kids have been just as busy as me. K'nex everywhere, guitars everywhere, socks everywhere, books all over the floor, as well as shoes. What is it about socks, though? There are always socks in every room - and not just baby socks. People seem to take off their socks willy nilly!?

Of course, there are usually knitting bags and my ongoing projects and patterns and things adding to the mess. I am not a naturally tidy person. Al is. I am sure it is worse for him because my threshold for mess is much higher than his. But then again, I have realized that I am happier with it that way. It has  been a conscious effort to concentrate on doing things with the kids, playing games, reading, listening to music, or making music, rather than complain about the mess. I hope that my memories of being a parent are going to be spending time with them, rather than complaining about them. And I hope that their memories of me as a parent are about the fun things we did, or the conversations we had, rather than me being in a bad mood all the time.

Not going to school takes a lot of stress out of our lives. We don't have to live our lives to somebody else's time table. We don't have to worry about being late for school, or traffic, or lost gym kits, or getting homework done, and we don't have to worry about what the other kids, mums, teachers will think of us. That does change as the kids get older, and they choose to take part in activities to which they have to commit, but for the most part, our lives are fairly relaxed.

I am the one who has been stressed the most I think, because as they have grown up, and have not been quite ready to take care of themselves or organize themselves, I have had to do it. And it was hard for quite a few years when I was the only one able to get them places, and I was out every day doing home ed things, and out every night doing other other taxi services. Thank goodness I didn't have to worry about getting up for school as well....how do so many parents do that?! They can't be enjoying life.

But Chaos is good. It means we are pretty adaptable. It means we are resourceful. It means we are not under the thumb of an arbitrary scheduler.  It means that we have spent years lying in bed, reading books, cuddling, playing word games, or getting up to cook pancakes for breakfast, while there is a steady stream of crying kids and grumpy, harassed parents strolling past our house. Sometimes I feel smug. Most of the time I just feel lucky to appreciate chaos for what it is. Having the time to smile. :-)

An Amusing anecdote...as related by The Meister

So the Meister had a sleepover last week, with one her luvvies, and had a rather fun time. One of the things she did was to attend a youth group meeting that this particular Luvvie goes to.  I think it may have been the Boys and Girls Brigade. Anyway, at some point in the course of the evening, the leader asked the group, "Who here watches The News?" According to the Meister, everybody put their hand up, except for her and Luvvie.

"Hmmmm, not a good advert for home education," I thought at this point in the story.

Next question. "Who has heard about what is happening in Libya?" This time, the Meister and Luvvie were the ONLY ones to put their hands up.

So everybody else watches the news, but nobody knows about the news. Interesting. So the Meister and I talked about this for a while. (She insists that she does NOT listen to the news. We don't have a telly, but Radio 4 is on pretty much constantly in the house, so it must seep in via osmosis.)

And of course, the conclusions we came to have to do with general differences between home ed kids, and school kids. Why did all the other kids, who all go to school, raise their hands when asked a pejorative question? Because the whole school culture is based on answering such questions with the 'right' answer. Every answer that is given in school is judged. I don't dispute that it is like that in a lot of families as well, but not so much within our circle of friends, so I will continue with the generalisations and stereotypes.

It is herd mentality, it is peer pressure, it is performing to expectations, and it is damaging.

Those kids that felt it necessary to say that they did something which they could not actually back up did so because they felt there was a 'right' answer, a 'right' way to behave; that watching the news was something they 'should' be doing. The sad thought that accompanies that assumption is that they all feel that they are somehow lacking. If one feels the need to lie about one's likes and dislikes, and one's choices, then that is because one does not feel confident to be oneself. And that is sad.

Or the other possibility is that these kids did a current affairs unit in Year 5 and so think they are informed about the world they live in.

Give me kids like the The Meister and Luvvie any day of the week over sheep. They are loud and annoying, and question me and other adults. They say, "You what? Hang on a minute. No way!" And when I am tired and fed up, I remember that they are really just practising on me, and will go out and annoy the world when they grow up. The world can only benefit.

Friday, 18 March 2011

A poem

My daily poem from the Writer's Almanac

Prayer for Our Daughters
by Mark Jarman

May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven't written
Or still in middle age ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.

May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can't see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.

May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.

May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.

May they be themselves, long after we've stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn't bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Good Ole Connexions

So Connexions is supposed to be the Careers Guidance for teenagers. Well, a guidance system that monitors your education, health, relationships, sexual activity, parent's drug use, etc., etc., etc., and all sorts of other things that they really don't have the training to deal with, nor the resources to do anything about.

My involvement with Connexions so far has been having my eldest's info passed on from the college in spite of explicitly saying no. Then, after she went to uni, getting a questionnaire asking what she is doing - except the options were 1) in training 2) at college 3) employed 4) unemployed. So there was no option of university. The letter threatened that they would come to our house should we not respond. We didn't respond, and they haven't come. Because, as I mentioned before, they don't have the resources to be of any use anyway.

Next came a knock at the door. I answered my door to a man asking about my son. Naturally, I went into protective mother mode and asked him what the hell he wanted with my son. He was from Connexions, and it is their policy to get in touch with all year 7s and since the Boy isn't in school, he popped around to the house.  Actually, in the end, we had a nice conversation. He was just doing what he was told, and hadn't really thought about how knocking on somebody's door could be interpreted.  He went away knowing a lot more about home education, and nothing more about my son. The sad thing to me was that he said he had never been challenged before. People just go along with all of this stuff!

Now, I have another 16 year old daughter in college. The other day, she got something in the post. Unfortunately for her, I handed her her post when she and her boyfriend were having tea. It was from Connexions. The good ole "careers service" had sent her a leaflet on contraception, and a couple of leaflets about Chlamydia. Now, I know it is important to educate people about these things. There are some really stupid people out there. But this doesn't sit well with me. They are not just providing info, they are making assumptions. As the Changeling herself said to me, "Why is it whenever these people talk to teenagers, it's always about sex?" 

One of my problem with Connexions is the assumptions they make. Firstly, that parents don't communicate with their kids. That kids will only be able to get appropriate info from state sponsored institutions. Secondly, their standards are much lower than mine. I expect more from my kids, and they just lower the bar. Thirdly, they offer nothing of use to home educators anyway. What do some of us want? Access to educational opportunities, which Connexions cannot provide, because they don't control the funding. Fourthly, they assume that everybody wants their 'help' went it is really just their job to collect personal information for the state. They seem genuinely surprised when we say, "No thanks, we've got it covered." 

Why is it that state institutions think parents are such idiots. My teenagers don't even think that!

How can we be so busy, and yet accomplish so little?

Book club was yesterday, and history club today, and we haven't really prepared for either. The Meister managed to nearly finish the book, but we couldn't read together as we haven't had the time. I am wracking my brain, trying to remember what it is that we have been doing, but very little comes to mind.

There have been a couple of sleepovers, some DandD, a piano exam, and regular weekly events. There has also been a lot of cooking, baking, and making of redcurrant jelly. Ok, so the cake recipe was a learning experince, since some of the ingredients were doubled, and other weren't, and the redcurant jelly, from currants that have been in the freezer since last summer, turned out to be some very nice redcurrant cordial. :-)

I also had a nice day with the Changeling, which involved buying yarn, going into town, her taking me to a great vintage shop, and then doing a supermarket shop. It was the being together bit which was really nice.

Have to get to History now. Charles I, and the run up to civil war, and very little homework actually done.