Friday, 16 May 2008

An invitation

Oh dear. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have an invitation. Another birthday party. And it is tomorrow.

As all good home educators know, a birthday party for an eight-year old golden-haired child in a twinkly pink satin frock is not just an excuse to eat cake, twirl about the floor, fall over, cry and be carted off home covered in vomit after a good scream. For the home educating family, a birthday party is a means of developing literacy, numeracy, citizenship skills, art, geography and, if we are lucky, nutritional awareness, team building skills and musical knowledge.

This is how our home ed works. The children have a normal growing up time, filled with humiliations, rages and jealousies of childhood, maturing into teenagedom, and the quiet guiding hands of us adult helpers extract as much as we can in terms of knowledges and awareness.

And so, in front of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, every day I say 'That's GREAT! LOVELY! Well DONE!' over just about everything. I gush out Wow! let's work out how many we can bury! when Shark has dug a big hole in the ground and filled it with unicorns (maths, science). When Tiger brings me to her model of a time machine made out of wool, I spout Brilliant! Shall we find out about Einstein? (physics, materials science, design and technology). When Squirrel draws a fairy, I say That is marvellous! Let's look at Frida Kahlo's nice bits! (art, history, cultural awareness).

And wow, do I enthuse. Every day. Because in home ed happy land we must extract positive life lessons from just about whatever the child does, so long as it's not kill your granny and smash up your neighbour's Audi, obviously, because that is not home ed, that is anti-social. Although I bet somewhere there's a home educator who would have a good go in getting a fun spelling game out of those two events.

Now if Shark, Squirrel and Tiger went to school Monday to Friday I wouldn't feel the need to turn everything into a quiet lesson in the name of child-led education. At weekends I could just say I've told you before. Don't dig up the tree. Put the wool back. Stop drawing. Art is not tested in SATs. Just get on with the revision worksheet. But home ed is a life I've chosen as being in the best interests of us all, and I bet if pushed I could even back it up with something akin to an argument and philosophy.

Committing oneself ideologically to home ed in this way unfortunately comes with a side effect - one apart from poverty and hounding by the authorities for off-template parenting. Sadly, it also means extracting as much education as I can out of little Moonshine's birthday party, on the sly. Today, that means I plan the birthday cards and the birthday presents.

The birthday cards

First we must do art. Does your child have problems with front and back? This is the front of the card. Try and draw the picture here I say to Squirrel. And Squirrel draws her picture of a fairy on the back. Shark produces an unwise picture of a killer whale chewing on a seal. Tiger paints a picture that she insists must go in a frame and be put up on the wall. I have to negotiate my way round this lot to proudly present Moonshine with... a back to front card, a picture of a blue whale not eating anything, and a crumpled picture from Tiger because, with no time left to do another one, I had to fight her for it.

The birthday presents

Next, the chemistry lesson (making bath fizzies). This does not go well because I forget that's what I planned. I switch to the standby maths lesson instead (buying a present to a budget). This also means citizenship (thinking of and buying for others, while interacting with the deaf old lady in the Help the Aged shop).

This is also a good lesson in family trust because it means I have to trust my children to select wisely for Moonshine. I reckon, because Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are aged 8, this will go well because they will know what to do. If the present buying is left to a 48-year old woman, she will go into home ed mode and buy a dust-gatheringly worthy tome, like an Arabic-Esperanto dictionary, or proudly offer the children's version of Darwin's Origin of the Species, and then discover Moonshine's mummy is a creationist preacher. So I will get everything deeply wrong. Better give the job to three 8-year olds.

First stop, charity shop. Perhaps this sounds mean. I should get everyone down to Hamley's and blow £300 on Moonshine with some real swanky stuff. But you see, I am so ideologically driven. Basically, I need to work in some maths with notes and coins. I could say I am doing citizenship too by helping the aged because I tell Tiger that one day I might need their bus service. I will certainly justify the charity shop environmentally, and I tell Squirrel that I bet Moonshine is as delighted by a pink bag with fluff round the top costing 20p as she is with the same item wrapped in 30 metres of plastic packaging costing £34.99.

After three pink bags and assorted junk is bought (total cost £3.20. It's the thought that counts), we pop to the newsagent and I buy a box of Cadbury's Roses for Moonshine's mum. Partly to apologise in advance should Shark, Squirrel and Tiger go at each other's eyes over pass-the-parcel, but mostly because I genuinely think kid's birthdays are a bum deal for mothers. Mothers suffer the memory of their innards launched out on this commemorative day to strangers passing by, poised to catch the slime, and they never get so much as a thank you from their offspring for the pain, humiliation and sacrifice of their womb. They just get Gimme the goddam cake and It's soooo Not Fair. So after the ordeal of childbirth, the least Moonshine's mummy deserves from anyone is a half-size box of Cadbury's Roses which have not been eaten before she gets to them.

Now, with cards, and presents, we are just about ready for tomorrow's birthday party. In fact thanks to some smart organisation today we have the evening free to discuss celebrations around the world. Or mummy Grit could act like a proper worn out teacher and flop on the sofa with a bottle of beer, happy to have extracted a bit of home education from unsuspecting Moonshine, who thinks she is just having a birthday party, cake, and a big cry.


Kitty said...

I've said it before and I'm going to say it again: I admire you. A mother's work is never done anyway, but a home educating mother's work is much, much harder.


sharon said...

Sounds like hard work to me Grit. Never thought about how many lessons could be involved in going to a party! Do you get to drink beer while the little cherubs are enjoying themselves? I really think you deserve to after all that effort.

Brad said...

I've read the last three posts and I'm starting to suspect either Dig has slipped Prozax into your coffee or your at the brandy again.

Then I get to the forth, and oh yes, it started last Friday. *wink*