Thursday, 20 March 2014

Being Authentic

I realize that this blog has turned into a couple of things that I did not intend. When I started blogging, I had intended for my posts to be more like debates on the nature of education. I have a lot of those conversations with people (well, I used to) and I think about it a lot. I reject state education as a form or social control, I hate the conveyer belt actions of  tests and targets, and I despise the fact that governments and politicians make policies that will benefit them electorally, and not benefit our children and our families.

But really, I find that primarily, I am a mother. I have to find the time to think, and I have to get through each day, and regardless of my thoughts on education, I have just as much to do and distract me as the home schooling evangelical American mother and the working British  mother who sends her kids to school and still doesn't have enough time to get things done.

I end up using this space to remind myself that we have had some good times, which helps me when I am questioning what I am doing. And I use it to express my nostalgia, and my desire to do 'other things' and sometimes I just ramble. Which is a shame really, because I have some really interesting thoughts. They are just stuck in a head with inconsistent organizational ability.

Or maybe, I just never get to the computer because the kids are on it. :-)

But I have been thinking about why I am so adamant to home educate the Babe, even though I have not been very happy for the past couple of years. Of course, I should point out that the only reason I can rally look at this objectively is because things are on the up.

I have felt a bit cheated. I did think that I was eventually going to go back to do more post grad study, and get a job, and some kudos, and some money. Mothers don't get those last two just for being mothers. And while I have struggled with the searching for a part time job, or how to get funding to do more study, and how to home educate another child when my network of parents are all moving on to other things because their kids have grown up, quite a few people have said to me, "Why don't you just send her to school?."

It never seemed an option. Not really. My belief that the school system we have is terribly damaging to children is so much a part of me now, that I had to really force myself to consider this option. And in the end, (although the end isn't here yet) I find that the problem solving I want to do is all about how to make home education continue to work for us.

I am old and tired and a bit burnt out and things are not as I had imagined, and yet I am still me, and I have to be true to that being, and it does not include sending the Babe to other people to be educated, and let's face it, RAISED, by people who have their own agenda for what my child learns, and what her goals and ambitions SHOULD be.

The only way I could think to explain it to my dear friend, was to say that I felt like I was in purgatory.  I wasn't happy, but I was only in purgatory. Sending the Babe to school, would be more like being in Hell. I cannot imagine standing at the school gates waiting to be told when my child could come out to me. Having somebody else tell me about her as if they knew her better than me. Watching her interactions become more pathological and institutional. That would be Hell.

And now I find that I had maybe made a mistake about how to go about home education this time around. I have lost a lot of my network, mostly because of ages of kids and time and geography. They are still there, but not in great numbers, or maybe only for a week or so of camping. But on a day to day basis, I do not have a social network the fits with having a 4 year old.

Every time I tried to 'do home education' I picked something really worthy; taking the Babe to the museum, or going looking for leaves, or going swimming. I was sad that we didn't have any friends to share these things with. And we often came home cross because expectations had not been met. We did used to have a nice small group of friends who were all local, and we used to just spend our days out at parks and gardens with lots of tree climbing, snail collecting, mud fort building, and picnic sharing. We talked and played and pitied those poor souls locked up in their cars or behind the school gates.

But without the friends, it wouldn't have worked.

I wrote in my last post about us being more social. And the being social grows. We are getting out, and I am talking to new people, and watching the Babe explore, and make friends herself, and while that is happening, my old self is coming back.

I am finding myself again. It is only tentative, and perhaps I am still just aglow from the great day we had yesterday at the organized trip to the Bolton Transport Museum. It had everything. Sunshine, running around, a little bit of worthy learning, making new friends, nice conversation, and people to travel with on the tram. :-) The only thing missing was a bit of the picnic I had left behind!

So I am getting used to new people. And beginning to realize that I can still be me with some different friends.  The social side of home education is so important. You need to feel supported when you do this. You need to feel you are not the only one and that you are not fighting battles all the time.

I have talked about the importance of fun and being social before, but I guess I had forgotten. And now little steps are helping me to get two places at once; back to who I am at heart, and forward with some new experiences with the Babe. Although I realize that the past couple of years of posts on here have been illustrating my struggle with my good days, I am yet again feeling positive. I can think about other things, and the bigger picture, and have some fun as well.  :-)

Let's see what happens next!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Contemplations after a lovely couple of weeks

We have been rather social lately and I find that I like it. It is interesting, in a sad kind of way, how being social is a habit that you can sort of lose. I wrote in my last post about how I was feeling a bit nostalgic about how we home educated when the big kids were small and I was hoping to start building a network for the Babe. And me!

We have had visitors for the weekend and gone to a new home ed group where the Babe had a good time. We also managed the adventure playground meetup and again, she had fun, even if I didn't manage to get to speak to anybody for more than 5 minutes. Last night we went to a friend's house for family food and games and it was really nice. We used to do that sort of thing more often. I guess that means that we should again!

Well, we have given up on the childminder option as she really didn't want to go. Even one day a week was too much for her. I found this hard to come to terms with because I kept looking at it from my point of view - it is only one day - is that too much to ask?- and she is a really nice childminder - and it is free! Oh well, I finally realized that wanting it and not getting it was making me angry so I decided to stop wanting it. I will find me time elsewhere. The Babe's dad can take her out to exciting places or let me get out, and I can still attempt to maintain my sanity.

The one thing that is suffering already is the English group. I haven't written much about this group, but for the past two academic years, it has been my favourite thing to do with home educators and/or kids. We have done whatever I felt like doing, and I have had some good feedback from the participants. Some stuff is academic, some is games, some is grammar, some is literary themes. We are working on writing at the moment, having discussed a few short stories and looked at character, setting and plot over the past few months.

It is funny how I notice the differences in age, ability and aptitude with only these 8 kids, and often know that I am doing things that some of them like and others don't, and some of them get it, and others don't, and some of them are really fed up with others going off on tangents as they make all sorts of connections in their heads. But they all seem to get something out of it. How in the world can teachers do it with big classes of 25-35 kids? Well, they can't. I imagine they connect on some level with the same 5 kids over and over.  I am lucky that I don't have to follow a curriculum, so that when they like something, we can change what we are doing. Last year, I had planned out a term of covering things like simile and metaphor, symbolism, personification, and imagery using poetry. But they really liked the simile and metaphor bits and the poetry we were reading, so we ended up doing that three times longer than originally planned. :-) It meant that reading Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah got postponed by a year or so, but that has turned out lucky because the play of the book is on soon and some of us are going to see it, having read and discussed the book over Xmas and January.

But I am not sure what we are going to do next. With the Babe not going to the childminder, I lose my afternoon of planning and thinking. I think I am also losing a bit of motivation because of the Meister's plans to start school in September. I feel sort of like our time is coming to an end. Even as I say that, I find it ridiculous, as she is only 14, but I do wish that we had more opportunities to do all the things I would like to do, if time and money allowed. Like go to Stratford, or London, or even just have a car to go to some National Trust properties, and visit friends in far away towns.

As you can see, (or I can at least) everything is in a jumble, and the way it is all connected is what makes up LIFE. Talking about one kid, means talking about another. Talking about being social, means thinking about other opportunities. It is how all of these themes are related. And when I sit down to think and write today, it is all jumbled in my head.

But maybe I don't care. Because we have been visiting with friends, and playing games, and smiling.