Saturday, 28 February 2009

Going with the flow

Yesterday's post made me think about all the times I have spent trying to outwit my children.

Like the two years trying to trick Shark, Squirrel and Tiger into wearing clothes. No one warned me about that. How all your brain cells are employed day and night working out how to keep a dress on a three year old. No. People did not tell me about stuff like that.

But then I changed tactics. Socks were first. I told Shark, Squirrel and Tiger that socks are pointless. Do not wear socks. If you must, wear them odd.

Squirrel delighted in left foot blue, right foot yellow. And much better for me than hiding three pairs of every colour in all locations including handbag, pockets, glove compartments and shopping bags, in case revolution kicked off half way to the post office. The old plan was I could smartly whip out a pair of pink socks, and restore social order. But the old plan never worked. Of course it never would. It was the wrong pink.

But with new tactics like this, outwitting small children became easier.

Knickers were next. Under trousers, forget knickers. There is no point. Coats went with the wind. Hats? Only pink hats that sang songs.

We were probably a rabble, tumbling down the street. Tiger in her pink wellies on the wrong feet, dressed as a mouse and no knickers. Shark, wearing her boy shoes and a red dress, home made to her design. Squirrel with odd socks. It was OK. Under my coat, I was in pyjamas.

Since then, these tactics have generally guided me in my approach to outwitting Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

I know that some people might call these tactics surrender. I say Nope. Not a bit of it. It is simply a new form of winning.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Grit is very cunning

HA! I cleverly outwit the gritlets ONCE MORE! I buy a calligraphy set for £1 at the Community Charity Shop, then whisper to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger that this set is so special and important that only one person can do this activity at any one time!

Immediate brawling, squabbling and falling out. Mummy Grit imposes a timetable for calligraphic pen use. And then I say now you are medieval monkettes and you must copy out the book of your choice. I am delirious with happiness. Because the writing GOES ON ALL DAY.

I am now the proud owner of 50 sheets of handwritten pages from each little grit. BEAT THAT FOR HOME EDUCATING GUILE.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Pause for reflection

This blog is so many things. Like a helpmate. It has to be. Dig is away, doing important things. When he is gone, no one comes round. They are sane. Then my blog is my ally, to whom I confide the gory details of the home educating day, when Shark is a right little madam. Squirrel and Tiger not much better.

And this blog is therapy, definitely. As good as the kitchen bin which I would kick the shit out of, if I could afford to replace it fifteen times a year. In fact, because for thirty minutes each day smacking the keyboard I can take time to sort everything out, this blog has probably saved me some £547 in kitchen bin replacement.

I know this blog is foolishly public, so this process is akin to walking down the street naked flagellating myself with electrical wire, but I remain consoled that at the end I can see straight and get things in perspective, albeit from the viewpoint of my disturbed head. It is like walking towards a huge slab of Lindt chilli chocolate. I will get there in the end. And en route I don't really mind having my failures exposed. So my blog is consoler, comforter, and rewarder.

Then maybe one day some notes from this blog will find their way out of an old office file condemned to the tip and show the little grits that some days, somewhere along the line, their mother was capable of joined up words and moments of rational coherent thought, and was not just a mad old bag shouting at bus stops.

Finally my blog is recorder for life. Here I can take the time to pause to reflect and savour a moment and build a memory of a day with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. I know it will never happen just the same again.

It's not been a wildly exciting day here at the Pile, as you can probably tell. Today I got round to giving Shark, Squirrel and Tiger their birthday presents. Scrapbooking packs. From Hobbycraft. All is quiet, bar the swishing of scissors and squirting of glue, and there are paper daisies strewn over the floor.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Taking Liberties

Because of the recent review of home education in the UK and the simultaneous experience of being stopped by the police for educating my daughter in Tesco, there is no way we are missing this exhibition. It closes too soon, so we are bloody well going.

Now if the current climate created by the government hadn't pissed me off quite so much, it might have been one of those exhibitions of which I said yeah yeah it would've been good to go but y'know we never got round to it. Well not bloody likely now. I march the gritlets down to the British Library and tour them round the exhibition demanding they start thinking about what point is the right point to start arguing, when does individual liberty become society's loss and when should we obey the law, or decide to break it and defend our rights to do so.

The place is packed with student groups and interested individuals. So thank you, Matthew Shaw. Really, there should be a permanent place for this exhibition. Because let's face it, it's not exactly a dead issue.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Birthday girls

Here we are. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, you have arrived at the birthday date. Another year gone and you're all still alive. Clearly, I haven't shoved the lot of you over a cliff and your fighting over the rocket launcher didn't end in death. This is good. You are now aged nine.

Of course I've been looking through the albums. I would like to compose a sort of homage to you.

One day I might, but quite frankly after two hours starting from 2003 (because 2000-2003 is stored under the eaves) I have surfaced with photo fatigue and a mental breakdown at the recollection of bloody hard work and days when a bottle of whiskey and a cartload of aspirins was the only solution. Truly, you should be grateful we have all made it this far. Really, I deserve chocolates.

But I have chosen a picture for each of you to show at this moment why I love you and possibly partly explains why you are not under the patio.

Tiger, this is you.

You are smiling. It thrills me to see you smile, because you are so often beset by doubts and self criticisms. Then the whole world is rubbish because in your drawing the dinosaur's toes point the wrong way. And I look at your dinosaur and know truly you have a talent, because that dinosaur has character and expression in one sweep of your pencil line. You are a natural illustrator. You deal harshly with yourself. So it is quite hard work extracting a smile from you. Of course I worry about this. I worry your scowl is the shape of things to come, along with crashed trolleys off rails, deeply unsuitable boyfriends and the drugs stash. And I notice that you always choose boys to play with now, Tiger. Just mentioning that. And I don't know why sometimes I am reminded of Aunty Vee, who ran away at age seventeen, got pregnant and lived in a squat. Well, we will tell you everyday that you are loved, and we'll mean it, everyday. And if you smile at me, I will probably forgive you anything and everything. Tiger, that might be worth remembering.

Squirrel, this is you.

You are dressed as a flower, because you were determined on that. You also walked the full length of the carnival as a flower, even though your head was about to drop off. You would not be deterred. You set your mind on something, then nothing short of revolution or the apocalypse will stop you. But sometimes I can find no logic, reason, sense or interpretation to what you want, nor how you have set yourself off to find it, nor do I understand why you are choosing the path you do. But I accept your path is your own, and I hope we can always find the patience and time to let you travel the unique way you will take. We'll support you when we can, and you are having your way with the scale model of the satellite, but I draw the line at forty three tins of custard and a can of emulsion to recreate a dinosaur swamp in the bath.

Shark. Here you are.

Now this was difficult, because in most photographs you are falling over, swinging punches, screaming, covered in food or painted. Give it ten years and you will be the star of Big Brother. But I'm not finished there. You are headstrong, self opinionated, dismissive, stubborn, and full of smartass wisecracks. You take totally after your father. Fortunately I love him as well. And I recognise that these qualities, albeit deeply irritating, show great resolve, determination and loyalty. And of course I expect you to do something with water. This is a natural home for you. You have loved everything aquatic for as long as I can recall and have a deep regard for fish. This impresses me deeply, and I respect you for that, although I do not love fish myself quite as much. You may have webbed feet though. I shall check those toes carefully tonight while you are asleep.

Happy ninth birthday, little gritlets.

Monday, 23 February 2009


I should not be this delighted at Squirrel's decision. But I am. So I am keeping it quiet.

Squirrel tells me that she has, for now, decided to hang up her ballet shoes and take a break from ballet. I nod, look sympathetic, say I understand, and that I am very proud she makes her decisions so carefully.

Inside I am turning cartwheels of joy. Because I no longer have to suffer the weekly ballet torture or be stared at in uncomprehending disbelief by the ballet mums because I do not talk sparkle hairgrip language.

And the end of year dance show? Off the agenda. Crack open the champagne. (But shhh! Don't let the cork pop, because Squirrel might hear.)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Art. Really.

I have found a cheap supplier of canvas. It is the local tip, which charges me one pound per canvas. Usually the canvas is already painted with a terrible landscape or someone's cat or abstract patterns which remind me of sick. We immediately emulsion it over, hoping it wasn't really by Rembrandt, then the little grits get stuck in and thrash around in the bathroom with acrylic paint while I intermittently weep and shout.

Here's the update. And apologies to the artists if I've hung them here the wrong way round.

You can guess who painted the fish.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Full diary

If you're on the brink of withdrawing your child from school to educate otherwise, you'll find one big problem ahead. There is too much to do.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have a better social life than I do. They have more events to go to, more occasions to dress up for, more morning and afternoon activities to prepare for and more people to meet in one week than I can manage in a year.

This might be a reason not to home educate, actually, and I'll add it to the list. Because in organising the weekly and monthly calenders for the little grits I cannot find time to swank around in Dior, attend coffee mornings, or meet ladies for lunch.

I do however, have to make time for a fabric craft workshop where the gritlets can take a pair of scissors to my old D&G jeans (RSPCA shop, £1). Here they happily thrash around in the beads and sequins box, cut up lots of denim, and get active with sewing machines, glue guns and needles to create organisers, book covers, book marks, shoulder bags and a dreadful skirt.

And if you ever see me wearing it, or carrying one of the matching handbags, shoot me.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Forest school

A morning where Squirrel and Tiger run whooping to the cold, bare winter woods with a bunch of wildeyed kids, a couple of smiley instructors and a selection of parents straggling behind, gritted teeth, wellington boots, hands in pockets. (Not Grit, mind. She legs it to the local cafe to talk politics and drink coffee with Michelle.)

In the woods with forest school the little gritlets spend the morning learning how to survive. Useful should they one day find themselves driven to Salcey Forest, frisked for breadcrumbs and kicked out the car.

Actually, they probably wouldn't mind if they were dumped in a forest. This outdoor education brings about such complete and overwhelming joy that when I pick up Tiger she squeals with stars dancing in her eyes that for this type of lesson she would get up at 4 O CLOCK IN THE MORNING. 4am has become something of a benchmark for excellence round here, since Dig took us all on a flight to the Hotel de Londres in San Sebastian and we all fell in love with the strawberries dipped in chocolate and the creaky hotel lift. That's how good 4 in the morning can be.

And with Tiger and Squirrel clearly loving every second of a forest education, I am left to wonder why don't parents of primary age kids stage a mass rebellion? Go on. Take your offspring out of school for a year of home education. Go and muck about in woods and fields, receiving the type of experience a little kid should have. Especially on a day like this when the newspapers are pouring out news we've heard all before. Because didn't we all know this? We're looking at a big reason why we dumped school in the first place.

And you'll notice that Shark's not here. She says she doesn't want to get out of bed early because she is half way through The Railway Children and then needs to start the Harry Potter series. Carry on like this little Shark and it could be time to introduce you to Ezra Pound and James Joyce.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Reclaiming my role

Today I am setting aside all thoughts of this nosy government, the interfering NSPCC and the slanderous Mr Patel, and asserting my rights and responsibilities as a home educating parent.

That means I can plead, cajole, yell, sob, tear out my hair, bribe, lose all the arguments about Henry VII and, at the end of the day, wish I'd done it all differently.

And just in case the NSPCC is peering through the curtains, that's what I want in my family too. I want to be surrounded by complex, interesting and thinking people, and I accept that means we all do some screaming, shouting, and slamming doors. We'll cope, thanks.

But sadly I didn't need to yell and throw myself on the ground today. I took the little grits happily to the RSPB bird workshop run at the local library and afterwards everyone did the stuff they like. That means argue over the computer, pretend to be seals eating cod, demand more bread and honey, roll about the floor in a game where you catch a wild baby tiger to tie its ears together, then make a model cat.

After supper we all slammed some doors and went to bed. But not before we all said sorry and I love you.

And we didn't need any government interference to do that either.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dear NSPCC! Please protect my children!

'Our view is simply that those educated at home should have the same right to protection as those taught in school' NSPCC

NSPCC! You are SO RIGHT. My children need protecting. From ME.

Because today I ABUSED* Shark, Squirrel and Tiger SOME MORE and took them to Our Lord HOBBYCRAFT.

I need protecting from myself in there. Do you know how much I can fritter away on a stick-on butterfly? Well now I have plunged the entire family into the debt crisis thanks to the cardboard swans that Squirrel wanted for her scrapbooking project.

Now did I mention today's scrapbooking project? SAVE US FROM THAT, DEAR NSPCC.

Here we are, sticking down swans and butterflies when everyone knows we should be out on the streets, learning how to be hookers. Or peddling wraps at the school gates for two quid, organising a gang fight at the back of the toilets, dressing like sexy dolls, worshipping Brangelina and drawling Books? They're sooo uncool in fake American accents.

Yeah, come round immediately, NSPCC, because tomorrow I'm planning to ABUSE MY CHILDREN WITH COOKING.

Abusive swans.
One look at these should tell you
how our children need protecting
on a DAILY basis.

* I did warn all readers about the RANDOM SHOUTING that may now take place on this BLOG. You can BLAME THE NSPCC. Yeah. NSPCC. PROTECT US ALL FROM CAPITAL LETTERS.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Health and safety? Pass me the hammer.

It's been a whole 24 hours since I did something dangerous with my children's minds, and I'm feeling the urge to parent badly in that home education way of ours, so I lure the kids out the comfort zone of the house with softly spoken promises of a false spring and how we can help cute little robins and blue tits look for homes.

It works. In fifteen minutes I've imprisoned Shark, Squirrel and Tiger in a community room with a dozen other kids and said you're not going home until you've learned how to make a nest box.

Now I start messing with their minds properly. I say you first have to find the six bits of wood that make up a nest box from the mountain of pine, then work out how to fit the bits of wood together and finally bang in all the nails so the bottom doesn't fall out when the bird sits on it. By the way, don't look at me, because I don't know, and make sure you don't end up in casualty.

Dumping kids in freak out situations like this is excellent material for the abusive parent. But it gets better. Because some little kid has nicked the only sheet of instructions.

Now the only option left for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger is to learn from everyone else how to build a nest box when no-one has a clue. Or they can use past experience (none), guesswork (plenty), and brute force (no shortage of that). Well of course they rise to the challenge, because it's either that or allow blue tits to die homeless.

So now I'll let the pictures tell the story. There is supposed to be a carpenter to help, but he possibly crawled away to die before we got there, driven mad by the banging sounds of hammer blows from fifteen kids smashing their way through planks of wood.

And I promise myself to work out how to transfer video to this blog because you would not believe the volume in this room, but I am now partially deaf in both ears and seeking compensation.

Two hours later, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger emerge victorious, and no doubt the little robins and blue tits will be queuing up with their bags, waiting to move in to these desirable residences straight away.

And by some standards, I guess I am a bad, bad parent, because I take real pleasure in knowing here how the kids don't have any answers, or any teachers come to that. They worked it out, made it up, learned from each other, made guesses, used their wits, hit things with hammers and became downright dangerous and experimental.

And for this am I abusive? You may need to call me so, because the more I can get of this, the better.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Vijay Patel drove me to drink

This home education blog jogs along, doesn't it?

Today we went to the theatre and came home. Or, Today we had a big fight.


Because all Grit wants to do is tell you about a home educating lifestyle. It's one among many.

Our home education is mainly conducted in English fields, or in places like battle sites, sewage farms, Tesco, museums, science parks and the occasional monastery. I've wanted you to know what a child's day is like if you choose something other than school. Perhaps because some people have bizarre ideas about home education. Like the kids never go out, or they don't have friends, or they never see anyone, or maybe that we chain them to radiators and beat them all day long. So this blog hopes to let you in on our world, to show you home education is a normal choice and, despite the problems and frustrations, a safe thing to do, and that - dare we say it - we think it's more fun to learn this way than at school.

But now! Now look! That happy daily home ed diary is all upset and spoiled and pissed on.

And how has this sorry state of affairs come about?

Vijay Patel.

If you haven't heard of him, I'll explain. Mr Patel is policy adviser for the NSPCC. He says,

'Some people use home education to hide. Look at the Victoria ClimbiƩ case.'

Now Grit is no longer a home educator. She is a child abuser. And potential murderer. When you meet me walking down the street, will you wonder, just a little bit, whether everything is alright with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger? Will you? I hope not. If you don't, you'll probably know that Victoria ClimbiƩ wasn't home educated. That the little girl was referred to the NSPCC. That they did nothing to help her. And at the following inquiry, the NSPCC conveniently lost key documents and censored names to protect NSPCC staff. But hey! say the NSPCC! Forget that! Because do you know who's really to blame? Yup! That's right! Home educators!

Now Grit is shaking her head in confusion, disbelief and horror. Why are we being demonised, slurred, and why are such defamatory remarks made against us? Would I be right in thinking such remarks are deliberately designed to bring about a negative opinion of home educators in the eyes of the school-choosing public?

So I'm afraid I have drunk not one bottle of beer. Not two. But three. Vijay Patel drove me to it.

Worse. With the effects of the demon drink my blog will become, intermittently, the toxic outpourings of an exploding spleen from a rambling, incoherent git who swings punches and SHOUTS FOR NO APPARENT REASON, and then suddenly jumps up and sets off down the road with plastic bags tied to the string she keeps for a belt to hold up her trousers. Soon I will be lying in the gutter, burbling.

But Vijay, I'm not going without a fight. I'm keeping to my daily diary of home educating triumphs and disasters. And I'll tell you what the abusive home educating parent did today with the beaten Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

We read some more of The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, then Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all ran off in the sunshine to play.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Shaping young minds

One criticism made of home education is that we parents seek to control the environment for our children; that we shape the children we want; that we direct interests, or pass on our parental values to children; and that we do this unrelentingly, year after year after year.

And I would say in answer to that criticism, ABSOLUTELY.

But on that, we're no different to another type of environment set up to bring about this state of affairs. Except that one costs £9,000 a term.

And the reason we might buy it? For the same reasons everyone else puts their kids there. So Shark, Squirrel and Tiger could meet the right sort of people and develop the right sort of interests and the right type of values. This is essential kit for the upper middle class of Britain isn't it? Along with having the right name, the right family and the right tastes (which of course are shown in the right sort of understated way).

Well if we want to pass on some parental values, direct some interests and lay down some guiding principles for living, we may as well home educate. We cannot afford the fees for someone else to do it.

And anyway, the Dig and Grit family does not have the right sort of background.

For a start, Dig's family name is made up thanks to a midnight elopement in nineteenth century Wales. At least that's poetic. On Grit's side we have nothing but carnage, criminality and mayhem. Little Grit grew up with stories of family members running in this gang. Along with tales of wife beating, hiding in the coal shed, drunken rampages, murder with a chamber pot, shifty uncles who'd keep sweets in their trouser pockets, and a scattering of incarcerations, mental instabilities and imprisonments.

Quite frankly, with a heritage like that, we've blown the private school option. So if we're interested in shaping the urbane, sophisticated and well educated children we want, home education is the only option left.

Not surprisingly, as home educators, just like the parents of schooled children, we have ambitions for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. We want these children to develop into creative, intelligent, tolerant, well educated people too*.

And to this end, of course we want to help grow the people we want to be close to all our lives. Of course we want to help shape interests, pass on values, advance an education and assist the development of those urbane tastes.

We nearly achieve it today. We pack Squirrel, Shark and Tiger off to a classical music concert with the Hat. Here they listen to Carnival of the Animals and bits of Swan Lake and bits of Moussorgsky. And the Hat passes on some values of good behaviour and sophisticated choice in ice cream.

Then we come home and discuss over a party tea how ducks squirt poopy from their bottoms, why penguins might build road blocks, how you can walk if your knickers are round your ankles, whether Fish head the local cat really does eat fish heads, and how rancid they are before he gives them to the alley cat Tin Can, and whether you can balance rabbits on your head and would anyone notice if you did.

As I said right up front, we aim to do this for years, and years, and years.

Consider it a long term project.

And those ambitions? Squirrel thinks flowers and an engineer, Tiger thinks artist and animator, and Shark thinks chef and marine biologist. Whatever else, we do not lack ambition. And fortunately, no-one has yet said they aim to become a drugged up prostitute.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Will you be my Valentine?

So we have reached Valentine's day. Someone says this is supposed to be the day when we declare our love. That's what I'll do.

Dig, I love you.

I love you because when you set off for the big meeting in London last week to meet the corporate zombie woman who lives in the tunnels, you looked like a hobo.

I think that shows your attitude of I'll do it my way or not at all. And that's what I love about you. You are the most obstinate and awkward person I'll ever know. You can even beat me at my own game in being a stubborn bullhead. And I admire this quality. I really do. Because it also means perseverance and persistence. It means never give up, even when to stand up again means life will pack another smack in the mouth.

I love you for that resilience. And it works too for those moments when I'm screaming and lost in the middle of nowhere and you say in your public school voice, the one you keep for disasters, emergencies and the apocalypse, words of quiet comfort, like, everything will be alright when we find a draper.

Yes! It will! We just need to find a draper, and everything will be alright!

I need that. And all that firm vision and fixed purpose, that fortitude and strength. Especially when, in your honour, I create a carbon offering like this.

Now all I need is fifteen metres of upholstery fabric.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Note the date

Today is Friday the thirteenth, so life is to be enjoyed.

Tiger decides she will entertain us, and embarks on a recipe from scratch that will send sighs of contentment all round. She composes ginger bananas on toffee toast.

Squirrel, tummy full, departs quietly and contentedly to snuggle upstairs on her bed with a gentle story about a caterpillar.

And Shark, relaxed and thinking fish, spends three hours in the company of the Royal Institution CD on Antarctica.

Grit and Dig, in companionable arrangement, preside over this house of calm, and after lunch talk wisdoms and agreeable reflections.

Tomorrow, when this effortless and lazy day is over, we will probably return to normal. We can attempt to murder each other by placing tennis balls on the stairs, tying the furniture together until mummy Grit screams in despair, and burning dinner.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Some days, all things are possible

Thinking that today would be incomplete without shoving a mallet into Shark's hands, a chisel in Tiger's and a saw into Squirrel's, I drive everyone to the back of a village beyond to meet Jeremy Turner, woodcarver.

Jeremy supplies a two hour workshop for Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, and teaches them knowledge that ancient men of the woods might know. Like how to shape and texture wood; how to cut across, round and down; how to feel the grain and see the rough lines marking dry winters and wet summers ; how to smell a curled leaf of wood and tell if it's cedar or lime; and where best to go for tools and how to pollard trees. OK, not that last one, but give it a few sessions and, armed with a little knowledge, all will seem possible.

Anyway, here is Squirrel in the wood workshop, waiting to get her hands on a mallet, preparatory drawing at the ready.

And here is Shark, on the receiving end of some woodcarving advice. And if I were Jeremy, I wouldn't put my fingers there, but I did see he had a packet of band aid ready.

Finally, Tiger, chiseling away. She is possibly in disguise.

Now regarding the gritlets abilities in new pursuits, I aim my ambitions low. That way, I won't be disappointed. Sometimes I aim so low, that simply arriving at a workshop anywhere would be a success. Today, I have thought that holding a mallet and crashing around a studio before being sent home in disgrace, weeping, clutching some splintered wood with bandages on our fingers, would be the pinnacle of our triumph. But I am simply awed at the expert skill with which the little grits are not only led through carving techniques, but then go on, with confidence, to produce the following:

Now if you look at Jeremy's work, you'll see that he paints the finished result, and Squirrel likewise has made a start. But no-one wants to paint further. They like to see the wood. For the moment, so do I.

But you can bet I've been pricing up those tools, and eyeing up those trees.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The dental appointment

Ha! I am a good, kind parent - one who lolls around semi naked out of her face on cocaine and alcohol only on Sundays - and I truly honour my duty in shielding the little grits from the world's pains and woes and dreadful ways!

But now we are reaching the moment of impending doom and torture. I can protect them no longer.

I have to break the news at some time. At 10.05 am, precisely.

Because at 10.45, 10.55 and 11.05 Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are to be shackled in turn to an iron chair, the chair will plunge suddenly and fearfully to the ground, rendering them helpless in the rubber gloves of Dr Fang. He will blind them with 1000 megawatt lights on a machine that looks like it fell off the bottom of a space rocket. Then he will poke about in their faces with a metal instrument that feels like a 12 inch kebab skewer. He may incant strange and mysterious words which could be a perverted hymn to Satan or a running commentary on the state of the London Underground 3 missing gap closed. But then! Not satisfied with his evil inclinations, he will interrogate them while they are helpless and turned upside down, staring up his nostrils. He will ask them Little girl! Do you brush your teeth twice a day? Do you do that? Of course he will pronounce it vat. He will probably have a bull neck and red eyes.

All these things are possible, I say, peering at Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, before adding, twenty minutes to go.

Well, that's what I'd like to say, since this describes my experience perfectly. But I do not. I lie.

I say Dr Fang is a lovely man. He is so lovely I would like to have a dental appointment every day. I would too, if I wasn't so busy. I am so busy I have trouble fitting it in once a year, and when I left in disgrace last time after the sobbing and screaming it was only because I was having a fit of emotional joy.

There! Nothing to be worried about! Of course I am telling you the truth! There is nothing to be alarmed about! Dr Fang is a lovely, lovely man! Mama would never betray you with lies!

Now, shall we brush our teeth in preparation, or should I leave him to hammer his way through the dried on cornflakes with a pick axe?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Open heart surgery

Dig mends one of the dollies.

These identical dollies were kindly given to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger on their first overseas trip, which was to a characterless commuter town Ede, in the Netherlands.

Ede has a railway station. It has a pizza house. And it has a hotel which looks like an undistinguished rectangular box next to a motorway, suitable for conference proceedings. I know it doesn't sound much, and you would wonder why we went there. Dig was attending a conference, and we were there for the experiment.

Now this was the first time we had been brave enough to take Shark, Squirrel and Tiger on any overseas travel involving airports, walking this way, and being on time. I was scared of how I would manage with three toddlers. Dig would be working, and this was a quiet business hotel where the staff would expect so much more.

I learned a good deal from that experience. The first was to conquer fear, and remember that anything is possible. Then, how useful is string. And, finally, that my goal must be to learn two words in all languages for use anywhere in the world. These words are connecting door.

Because of course we need two rooms, one for the children, and one for us. And when we arrived at the Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken Hotel (or something quick and simple to say like that, which also requires you to pronounce correctly by sticking two fingers down your throat), we have two rooms booked but, says the hotel receptionist in surprise, of course the hotel has no rooms with connecting door.

I stare, open mouthed and, stricken with panic, consider how I might do this, with bedtime at seven, Dig at business until midnight, and three children in two separate rooms on two floors, one which will be unattended while I am firefighting with soft furnishings elsewhere in the Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken.

Triplets, unattended in a stylish hotel lobby for twenty seconds, simultaneously depart to the street, up the stairs and into the conference hall. Dig taps his hand on the desk to indicate he, unlike the triplets, isn't going anywhere. Grit runs off, making sheep dog sounds. The receptionist's face contorts into an expression which says I am out of my depth but I will keep smiling. She hacks Dutch noises into a telephone like she has something caught in her throat. Hotel staff appear. The triplets run off again. I round them up again. I try jumping over the elegant stone tiles of the lobby, hoping they'll follow. They do, giggling. We jump round and round in circles, up and down, while Dig repeats over and over again the words connecting door like it might be a strange English prayer.

Then the magic breaks when the hotel doors swish open and a group of businessmen appear. Tiger runs off to snatch leaflets and scatter them over the floor. Shark pursues her, falls over and screams. Someone is sent to catch Squirrel and shepherd her into the bar where she cannot escape. Four staff are now involved. We are invited to wait while a hotel manager scuttles about looking alarmed. Part of me feels we're crazy to try travelling with triplets, and in business hotels, with stone floors, chandeliers and flowers in glass vases. Part of me feels this is probably the best way to start.

Intriguingly, after a twenty minute wait while the little Grits are plied with finest hotel Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken apple juice, two rooms with connecting door are found. We are amazed they have managed to knock down a wall and install a door in so short a time.

Now the conference proceeded quite well for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. They joined in on only one session, and this was to say, very charmingly and publicly, alstublieft and dank u wel, which they had learned on pain of death in the privacy of the hotel room.

And because they delivered the alstublieft and dank u wel so winningly, and the conference organiser was kind and generous, she gave the girls a dolly each. And the dollies, when they are poked and prodded, say things, like Mama! and Papa! and make electronic sucking noises and crying noises. One of these dollies would send an ordinary woman insane. I had to listen to three going off like exploding cannon for the next four months.

And then of course, like all electronic dollies, they wore out, got tired, were discarded, stopped whining Papa! Put away in some place or other, I forgot about them, and how they'd come about, and that they ever cried Mama! or made electronic sucking sounds.

Until yesterday. When Squirrel emerged, clutching the Netherlands reward, saying Will you mend my dolly?

So here is dolly, dutifully repaired. And when I hear her cry Mama! again, I want to feel nostalgic about that trip, and delight in the memory of three little giggling girls jumping around the Hotel Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken, and part of me will do that. But part of me will be so, so, glad that we braved that start, and it is gone. Because of course, it leads the way to better.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Back to normal

Well it's done now. I have submitted my comments to the government's review into how effectively we home educators are beating up our children before publishing their bums on YouTube, so that's it.

This blog can return to normal.

It will return to being a showcase of all the best things about the home educating lifestyle. Like photographs of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger occupied in intellectually challenging and stimulating activities.

Photographs of high quality craft items hand assembled by Squirrel.

Photographs of social activities and party venues where all the children are having fun.

News of exciting new outdoor pursuits that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are engaged with.

Tales of our enterprising cooking and the many adventures our children take with their food.

Images of our beautiful home, and of Grit's stylish domestic interiors.

And daily stories of Grit's happy life, which is not at all soaked in beer.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

I have been to the bottom of this bucket of emotion

This question isn't controversial, is it?

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?


To hell with it. I have run right through the emotions with this question.

I am not dangerous to my children because I choose a different form of education for my children. I think particular people within the government would like school-choosing parents to suspect that I am a danger. I think they would very much like school-choosing parents to think that home educators are aberrant. That we are not normal, strange, different, potential fanatics; that normal people should wonder about my motives. And I worry that a general campaign starts with a specific goal and targeted group.

I think this question seeks the answer 'monitor them'. 'Have rights of access to the home'. 'Be able to inspect the children'. 'A database'. I think the government will carry on until they achieve these goals.

And I don't believe such intrusive surveillance will be put in place just for home educators.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Back to the grindstone

There's never laughter for long round here.

5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Grit's first response is eh? What system?

There isn't a system for monitoring home ed families. Here's the Dept for Children, Schools and Families document, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities. Paragraph 2.7: 'Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.'

So, was question 5 written by someone who knows nothing of this document, or home education, or local authority duties, or the responsibilities of education officials?

But perhaps it is. Perhaps it's written by someone who knows there isn't a monitoring system. Perhaps this question just sets out the parameters for my response, and rather hopes I don't know much about home ed. Perhaps it's one of those questions that suggests you have an opinion about monitoring home ed families, and really this just invites you to express it.

And then there's the other thought I have.

I'm just going to change that question.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring Christian families?

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring Jewish families?

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring poor families? ... wealthy families? school-choosing families? meat-eating families? vegan families? ordinary families?

Having laboured that point, it should be clear that this question is guiding the reader to the assumption that families must be monitored. Home educating families are just one group. Who's next? What's your family doing?

Do you think there should be any changes to the system for monitoring you?

And if by now you're suspicious, outraged, pissed off, feeling hunted, led by guile into a state where surveillance is on you, then go off round planet internet for some research, and go and answer the home ed review. It's not just for home educators. It's for you.

And Grit's very pissed off kick the kitchen bin response is No response.

Friday, 6 February 2009

I can ignore it for only so long

I give in. I must recognise this irritating stuff, although I have tried to ignore it.

Today, it is very annoying. It stops me going out and doing things. We have to stay at home. Here, I am forced to read Horse Pie. I take my revenge. I make everyone watch Simon Schama and the Reformation.

Here's a back lane in Smalltown. It is enough of a hazard normally, what with staggering down there avoiding the sewage and dead dogs and bypassing the knife fights. And I only want a bottle of beer from the Co op. But after a day at home with the little grits, Simon Schama and the Pie, make that two.

I mean, it was alright when it started, last week. At 6am, I knew something had happened because the road was deathly quiet. It was like Smalltown packed up the veneer of industry for the day. After breakfast, the roads filled up with the neighbours, pelting each other with snowballs. The Evangelical Christians and Fundamentalist Muslims were out there in happy alliance lobbing snowmen heads at each other. The Marxist co-operative was not involved of course. They were off up the park fashioning snow workers and making igloos.

But now look. After the cavorting about, the news has changed. Now the snow is not fun anymore. It is the apocalypse, for us all. And I will die in an avalanche if I attempt to buy beer.

And so it's Friday. Grimly Grit has had enough of crunching about all week with cold toes. She has had enough of children shedding gloves all over the floor asking is there another pair and have we got another carrot. She has had enough of listening to the end of the world on the BBC. And the music workshop at the library was cancelled, because today they closed down the ruddy library.

Bring on a plague of locusts and give us all some light relief.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Another economic reason

Grit may have in her moth eaten purse three bent copper coins and an old rupee, but she's laughing.

Cost of 'free' education rises above £10,000.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The pain, the pain

I have an argument with Dig. It is not fair. He is a Big Pig Dig.

Suffice to say, he will not do what I want.

What I want is not a lot. So have sympathy with ME. ME ME ME. Because quite frankly this is all about ME. And MY PAIN.

Look! First I throw myself on the floor. I am shouting PITY ME! PITY ME! I plead, weep, pat at my red, sore and crying eyes with his shoelaces and it is to NO AVAIL.

So I try ANGER. I slam doors. I stomp. I rage. I point. And shout. I breathe. Loudly. Down my nose. I exhale as if it is the last breath I could take and that would be YOUR FAULT BIGPIGDIG if I died right now. Here! DEAD on your floor. DEAD DEAD DEAD.

And it is not working. Fuck. He will not give in.

I will do disdain. With martyrdom. I will look at bigpigdig down my nose. Oh look! those eyebrows will say! How little is this man! How great is my suffering! How eternal my torment! How gracious it would be for me to accept your very presence bigpigdig! How low did I aim when I married you! How much do you OWE me!

Oh, the horror. It does not work. He will NOT GIVE IN.

I have to go and be the RESPONSIBLE ADULT taking Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to watch CINDERELLA ON ICE.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Good spirits in! Bad spirits out!

Setsubun! Grit loves this festival! It means running across the icy snow in the black darkness, entering the warm and welcoming, bright Buddhist temple, quickly taking off our shoes to show the holes in our socks, rubbing our wet noses with cold fingers, and whispering HUSH! HUSH! in loud voices as we are swept into a dark room where the bean throwers pelt a crowd of children and adults with roasted soy beans and Smarties. Then we scrabble around the floor, bump heads and fall over while greedily collecting as many beans and Smarties as we can, chanting Good spirits in! Bad spirits out!

And if this is not enough, there's hot sweetcorn soup, vegetable noodles, and trifle, eaten cross legged on the floor.

Now I'm not sure what this all means, except a free dinner, but it has given me a hope that for the immediate future, I can chase away any ugly ogres by throwing beans at them. And in the case of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, Smarties.

And with no better plan in mind for these trying times, I shall try it.