Sunday, 21 September 2008

By these things, we learn

We truss up three mermaids and skewer them to the ground in the front garden. This might seem an ordinary day here at the Pile. It is like our other achievements. Went to the woods and built a shelter for a four-inch sheep. Spent two hours hunting a monk in a field. Learned how Vikings cut off feet. But this particular home education project is a very big thing.

Because, for the first time in the history of home education management at the Pile, the stuffed mermaids project is achieved without argument, violence, threats of police, social services or a pointed finger toward the school gates. Indeed I do not have to squash any resistance, dispute, quarrel or rebellion from any quarter at any time. At all.

And here is the result of our week's happy consensus and, dare I write it, sustained enthusiasm.

I know they do not look much, these strange and lumpy fish creatures. They won't be snapped up by Madame Tussaud's for their very realistic touring mermaid display, nor will Disney come knocking clutching a million dollars to have our beautiful mer creatures in the trailer of Little Mermaid VI. But I treasure our mermaids as if they were a fraction of that value. Because here at the Pile these lustrous and exquisite beauties are the result of several hours attentive, quiet study. First the decision making and research, then the drawings, discussions, design and technology, the maths, materials science, and production. Heck, with that lot, even the little dollies join in. (Or at least two of them. I haven't seen the third since she was strung up on the zip wire.)

I may never be able to part with these big and gorgeous ladies. That is going to be a tadge of an inconvenience when a visitor needs to use the office bathroom and must manhandle mermaid 2 from her squatting position on the toilet because really, there is nowhere else to stuff her. But these mermaids show me that it can be done. Co-operation, agreement and happy construction of a family project. (OK, nearly a complete family. It is without Dig, who is in Canada. Not that he would have easily agreed anyway to sew his own merman.)

There have been days in the past when I thought I could not continue with home education, let alone triplets. I can immolate myself in the market square any day of the week, and some days it would not have been half so bad as squeezing three arguing beings into a small car for an expensive lesson that I have paid for and that they wanted yesterday, but today, right now, they do not want. At any price.

Over the past few years I have had to learn to negotiate, listen, side-step, argue; I have had to carefully select and organise lessons and outings; to plan rewards and incentives, delights and dinner, sometimes five times a day if necessary. Well, today it is all worth it. This project has required everyone to listen, work together, present a point of view, and accept limitations. We had to tell Squirrel with five minutes to go and without modelling wire that her mermaid could not hold up sea shells because her arms would collapse. And that had to be accepted, and it was, gracefully. I have known professional teams of people less able to cope with such news.

So when these mermaids sit in the front garden, and the Gritlets process for three hours around Smalltown comparing scarecrows on the Annual Scarecrow Walk, then I get to sigh and reflect on what a journey we have come, and how some days even though I have felt like this,

I can take a big sigh, slap myself on the back with a tea towel, and shout out that lesson I am learning in life. And that is, Never give up.


sharon said...

Brilliant! Ain't life grand when everything works out ok! Save those days as a talisman against the crappy ones, safe in the knowledge that, overall, it really is all worth while ;-)

the mother of this lot said...

I feel an Annual Mermaid Walk coming on.....

Kitty said...

You Go Girl! As our American friends would say.

Brilliant post, and I think those mermaids are fab.


Grit said...

hi sharon, atm i am a lot more laid back, and that helps!

hi motl! there have been demands to save the mermaids until next year. i don't know how to get out of that...

thank you kitty! you see? we are totally crap with a needle and thread, but it doesn't stop us! and i accept we have a long long LONG way to go before we can make mermaids like your monkeys!