Saturday, 24 March 2012


I have just waved the Changeling off to her final university interview. This one is down in Bristol where her big sis already lives. I seem to have realised that the way to get her to calm down, is to panic myself. ;-) Just realised this as she was panicking, so when I joined in, she calmed down. I wonder if I should try over-reacting to things as a way to get them to deal in the future?!

She has been working and going to college in the days, and babysitting for a couple of nights this week as well. Having been to Barcelona with college, she is now trying to earn some money to save for university (excluding the stuff she will spend on this trip to see big sis...oh yeah, and go to the interview.) So having been at college on Thursday and Friday, and having evening commitments as well, and working all day yesterday then going babysitting until midnight, she decided to pack and prepare for her trip when she got back. Midnight. Thirty. Or maybe 1am. That was when she was reminded that she was supposed to prepare a project and brief for the interview.

So a minor panic, with which her little bro helped (as he had stayed up to make sure she got home ok!) I was in bed, so missed all of this. I was only part of the morning, "I need a bigger bag, rucksack, suitcase!" panic while the previous panic was being described to me. Oh dear. 

It may have not helped that the clocks went forward as well. And her train leaves and 8.30 am. And she has to get a bus at 7.20 to get to the train station. And she has had about 3 hours of sleep. And she hasn't had any breakfast. And I kept going on about her bare legs looking cold (well, I guess I am a middle aged mother.)

So what has any of this to do with anything? Well, I have a strangely satisfied feeling, that my kids are going to be alright; that they can take care of themselves and each other; that maybe they can deal with things that life throws at them. All that sticks in my mind now that she has gone, and everybody else is asleep and the house is quiet, is two things. Her parting words were, "Ya know Mum? I'm just gonna wing it..." And the fact that her 15 year old brother was there to listen and help her calm down last night (or early this morning.) It isn't the first time that has happened. And it seems that they are nice enough people to each other and that maybe somebody was listening to me say for all those years, "Every problem has a solution" even if wasn't me.

Confidence and kindness. What more could a mother hope for?

Sentimental moment over. I've still got 2 more to worry about.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Since I have had a pretty good day...

digging and sowing and planting...I can admit that I have been feeling a little bit lost lately.  I don't want to go on about it, but I have been a full time parent for over 21 years, in spite of the occasional degree, course, or part-time job. For most of those years, since my eldest was 4, I have been a home educator. At the moment, I have 2 children who are past compulsory education age, 1 who has chosen school, 1 who is too young for compulsory education age, and 1 who has about 3 months left of being officially home educated, before heading off to play music at college. Come the summer, and I won't be home educating anyone - officially.

I think I shall always be a home educator deep down - and a certain type - the old hippy type who believes in children's freedom, and taking care of each other and the planet, carries around Arnica and Rescue Remedy, and tries (too hard sometimes) not to get caught up in worries and fears. (Although as I get older, and more tired, I think a life of conspicuous consumerism would be fun, if only for a few weeks.)  But things are confusing for me at the moment, and I am wondering about getting a job, or doing another academic thing, or building up a new home ed network to carry on life with the Babe. So I know I have been writing a lot about changes this year, but it is only March, and there are more changes to come, and I just thought I would admit to being a bit lost.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Parents' evening

So we went to our first Parents Evening on Wednesday. Actually we have been to a couple with kids at 6th form, but this is the first with any child at high school. Let's see, how to describe it....chaotic, busy, disorganised, and pretty much complete nonsense.

It is like many professions, where teachers and so-called professional educators have created a language and a way of assessment and looking at the world that they use to judge our children...and then think they can tell us what our kids are like. I've lived with the Meister for over 12 years, they have had her for 6 weeks (and not taken very good care IMO) and then I go along to hear them tell me all about her.

Just have a look here for the complete nonsense, that they waste their time on. I really do think teachers time could be used more productively, and enjoyably for themselves, as well as their students.

It was quite telling that all the teachers were white, most were female, and most were young. I think there were 2 that were probably over 30. So they are all lacking in a bit of experience, but nice enough and well-meaning. They are a generation who has been educated and trained in the pathetic National Curriculum, and if any of them have any ideas about creative teaching they will soon be disillusioned and leave the profession.

I met the English teacher who didn't recognise Puck's final monologue when the Meister delivered it in a class where they were 'learning' A Midsummer Night's Dream. I met the drama teacher who couldn't remember the Meister's name. I met the Geography teacher who is trying to teach my child that our importing food from developing nations is a good thing for those nations so they can get money to buy things-ignoring the fact that Western companies are profitting from getting farmers in developing nations to grow monocultures with sterile seed using herbicides and pesticides that also have to be bought, so the farmers can have the money to buy the things that other Western companies are selling in those nations. There was no mention of sustainable agriculture, or any negative side effects of moving from a sustainable agrarian based economy to one that is based on dependence on export markets and the problems of erosion and drought, deforestation, palm oil, etc. But then again, they are only year 7. I met the RE teacher, the History teacher (who seemed to know his stuff), the Art teacher, the old Maths teacher (who seemed sensible), some others and the 3rd Science teacher the Meister has had in 2.5 months of school. I pointed out that she said she was studying 'Electromancers' and that there was no such thing. He concurred. Apparently the school have bought in a curriculum based on some magical world to teach the kids science. Is there really any need to comment further?!

In the end, after an hour and a half of walking around meeting people who seemed to like the Meister, and have good things to say about her, but who were generally talking performance and targets (apparently she has Target level 5A for just about everything-whatever the hell that means) her father and I convinced her to let us go home without having seen PE and Spanish teachers. We had a long walk, and it was cold, and we had to get the baby, which all seemed more important than listening to people whose opinions we don't really value.

It was a difficult exercise. And while I think they were all perfectly nice, and wouldn't mind socialising with a few of them, mostly I was just made to feel that institutional education is limiting and demeaning and causes much more harm than good. I keep thinking that if she stays in school, she is going to be judged using criteria chosen by somebody else. Her older siblings have all been able to apply to college or university using their own CV of accomplishments based on their abilities and interests and portfolios and auditions and interviews. She is going to be judged by tick boxes and grades and levels and other peoples' agenda. But of course, the difficult thing is letting her know we are proud of her, that we like seeing her growing up and learning things (inside or outside of school) and coping and finding her place in the world. We don't really care about the targets, but she does for the moment. So we are letting her know that we love her and are proud of her because of who she is, not because of how she performs. But I think that she is a bit young to understand the distinction. She likes doing well, and if they all think she is great, no wonder she likes it there.

I do think that having people tell you how great you are is limiting, though. Sometimes its just means you stop trying, sometimes it means you forget the things you love best and do those things that get the praise, sometimes it means you reject all learning because you don't get praise for the things you are good at. It is all damaging though. And I just hope that the Meister can enjoy her experiences, and not forget who she is.

On another note, the Boy got his letter from the Music Base. He has been offered a place at college on the level 3 performing musician course. WooHoo. He is rather excited, and sent off his acceptance after taking about 30 seconds to find a pen. :-)