Monday, 30 November 2009

The ruddy petition

This is possibly one of the worst days of my year.

The first thing to get me heaving is the dread and icy thought that today I must deliver the home education petition of evil to the member of parliament for pointlessness.

How do I explain my involvement in this? Where do I begin?

To my wide (and thinly spread) audience out there - many of whom I know do not give a toss about home education - all I can say is this is just one more example of Grit attempting to take a responsible role in our democracy.

We are all entitled to do that in this country, theoretically, and Grit wants it to stay that way, thank you very much.

Suffice to say, apart from turning out in the rain to scrawl an X in a box once every four years, you can do other things to make your voice heard, like deliver petitions about anything you want to your local MP, and arm twist the bugger to read it out in parliament.

In theory, becoming involved in petitions and parliamentary procedures on the streets is great fun.

You can go round with an excuse knocking on doors.

When your neighbour opens up, you can say Hi! Nice to see you! Shall we have an argument? After fifteen minutes, shorter if you are lucky, you can reach the point of seething resentment and near blows after discovering your neighbour is a closet Nazi when you thought they were nice. It only took the issue of gravel extraction or speed bumps or Tesco to reveal the profound chasm of non-negotiation. When the neighbour has told you to shove your poxy petition where the sun don't shine, you can contemplate creeping back after dark and shoving rotting sardines through their letterbox. This is an example of our political life bringing the community together.

In a moment of madness I actually volunteered to be the local idiot bringing the community together, by taking on the job of delivering the home education petition of evil.

If you are a home educator you know which petition it is and I won't need to explain.

If you are not a home educator, I guess you couldn't give a toss about the petition. You just read to find out if this month I end up in prison or in a ditch. I may yet do both, and for you there is hope.

So I take the petition of evil that no one will sign, because apparently it is not taking part in a democracy, it is written with ink made from the festering BILE OF SATAN and it is EVIL and DANGEROUS, and I have to deliver it by hand to the constituency office.

If you have a local MP like ours, they will ignore you. They never reply to your emails, and all contact becomes strangely 'lost'. Well I am one of the constituents here and this little Labour party creep has turned their back on me. They are probably much more concerned with their own career and position within the local party. We have got to the point where I could stand in front of them, disembowel myself and hand them the throbbing gristle of my steaming innards and they would be gazing somewhere to the left of my shoulder idly reading the bus timetable pinned on the wall.

This is not only my experience. Take a read of these words used by another appellant to describe a visit to our lovely MP, and you have a flavour of what we're up against: 'they were confrontational, unenlightened, unsympathetic, were small minded, weren't interested in developing understanding to better understand our concerns, talked of HE parents controlling their children, and HE children not getting opportunities to interact with others'.

So this is my day today. I arrange for the petition of evil to be hand delivered to the MP of pointlessness.

I want to forget it, because it is so miserable. I want to remember it, because when I come to scrawl my X in the voting booth, I want to score it with venom and acid revenge, and know exactly WHY.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Back home

There is nothing to come home to from Madrid. The boiler is still broken upstairs, I left Tiger's pink trousers on the washing line outside for five days under the dropping ivy and the nesting pigeons, and the car tax is due.

On the plus side, I discover I am destined to be demented by age 70. On my doormat is a note from the dementia society. They say I should give them my money while I remember I still have some. Only I don't have any. I remember that.

But when I crank up the computer I discover everything is fantastic in the money department, if not in the trouser-on-the-washing-line department. I could donate my millions after all.

I have won £950,000 pounds from Mercedes Benz. That's three times now. It should nicely join the £1million I won last week from Google and the £50,000 I won in the Eurolottery that I don't play.

But there is more! My blog is now so exciting with its six and half readers, one of whom fancies the pigeon, that a website about dog mental health aspires to feature grit's day, but only if I pay them some eurodollars.

With my new found millions, and looking to escape the delights of a Smalltown house without heating, I might just do that.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Why oh why are museum cafes so expensive?

We have spent three hours in the Prado.

OK then, let's cut to the chase and say


and which unfortunately I keep asserting belongs to Prada.

But now we are knackered.

My eyes are bleeding, drawn squinting close at Goya, tracing atoms of crackled paint. And those colours of Fra Angelico! So pure and perfect I have been sniffing, just in case I can whiff paint and turps. Now my fingers have started twitching with involuntary spasms because I have been yearning to snatch man with a hand on his chest, shove him under my arm and run off with him. But I cannot decide. I want Durer as well. At the very sight of him I am slobbering. He is ohsoclose to my tender touch. I will be kind to him. I promise.

Dig says stop dribbling. He says I need a stabilising cup of tea, a jam sandwich and a packet of crisps. So let's shift our arses over to the Prado cafe like genteel ladies and an honorary Dig-like gentleman might do, and let's partake of a spot of lunch. Refreshed, we can restart our tour from the eighteenth century and take it to tea time.

We make it over to the Cafe Prado - and you can bet my entire body is elevated five inches off the floor at the very idea that Grit is become the sort of gal to enter such a refined place of luncheon - then we squeeze our five great British rears around a table built for four, and Dig strolls off patting his hungrytummy for the savoury delights to come.

He reappears five minutes later, with the shocked expression of a man who has seen a premonition that his body is to be ripped apart by demons. He needs only to have his hand round his own throat feeling for his whispering pulse to complete the picture of the near-death experience. Clutching a small bottle of wine, possibly one pipette's worth, he can only stutter How much? For a sandwich!

Now Dig is not particularly a poor man, but neither is he rich. He is northern. He has priorities about his brass. One of them is not to hand over fifty quid for a round of sandwiches and a bag of crisps to a cafe, even if it is in the Prada.

We all squeeze up again and have a very good British moan and groan about the ridiculous anti-family prices charged by museum cafes the world over.

And these are cafes in places where we cannot get out. We don't want to get out! We want to stay! We want to have lunch and go and see more art! But we are hostages. Fivefamilyhungrybellies. The only way out now I can see with dignity is to pin five hundred eurodollars to Dig, blindfold him, and shove him back again in the right direction for the cafe staff to rip those notes right off his shirt and stuff a cheese bap in his hand.

But Grit's resourceful and enterprising spirit saves the hour. I have a half a dozen semi-chewed bits of bread in my handbag which I have been carrying around for a few days, so we eat those. Here is Squirrel, examining this feast.

See the happy glow when she is replete!

So when we have dined on bits of handbag bread with added fluff, some tap water I have scrounged, and half a pipette of wine, off we go again to enjoy art.

Does this dent me? Not at all. I have yet to stand in front of Velazquez. I may strip off.

And this merely proves my point. We do not have to be the great and good to be in any art gallery in the world. I am loud, awkward, ugly, mean, broke, and shop at Lidl.

But this art is all ours. And I am in heaven. (Starving.)

Friday, 27 November 2009

Kids should go to art galleries. Full stop.

Kids! In you go!

The Reina Sofia in Madrid is one formidable modern art gallery, and in Grit's opinion, if you have kids, unmissable.

I don't know if you avoid taking your kids to art galleries. Perhaps you fret about what other people will say, or worry about the reaction of the art guards, or get anxious about whether your kids will scream, run about, then throw themselves on the floor if you show them a Picabia.

All I want to say is screw that. All kids belong in art galleries. No negotiation. Art is our culture, our past, our future. It belongs to our kids as much as to us. And if they stand in that gallery and yell out their guts, then shrug your shoulders, and call it art.

I should warn you, I have one big attitude problem about this. In some places I have thrown Shark, Squirrel and Tiger into those hallowed halls like a hand grenade. Chuck them in the middle of the Hockney and you can see the bomb blast of moral outrage taking place in slow motion all about you.

The indignation, I bet, is mostly from the child free who think they are the only rightful people who should be allowed to look at art. Spare me.

I have been very judgmental about those women in particular who look like high-class hookers clippyclopping Jimmy Choos through the holy house of art. The same women who, sighting a living breathing child just about to curdle the air with a yellow lungfull of howl, recoil with the type of disgust you would reserve for the smell of an eviscerated rat held over a bunsen burner.

Bad luck, ladies. Art is ours. Art galleries have been our legitimate life and stomping ground since dot. Believe me; me and the gritlets, we are not going away.

I have been very particular about this since I turned that pram sideways to get it through the door of the local art gallery.

And I get worse.

I do not even like kids to be quiet in art galleries. I do not like reverence and hushed voices. What is this place? A church? Nope. No way.

I have taught Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to march straight in there, own that space and place, stand still and be surrounded by all the art they wish; to point, shout mummmmeeeee! loookatthiiiiis! Then, if they hate something, I want them to tell me, strong and loud. And if they like something, I've taught them to lie on the floor, whip out crayons and a sketch pad, copy that idea, and take it home to see if they can model the like.

And do I care about the afflicted souls and morally wounded in our wake? Not at all. Get over it.

If I could get past security, I would make it so every parent can bring in orange squash and blankets, and set up squat in the middle of the floor and sit there, discussing whether vinegar on emulsion would have the same effect, then whip out a roll of wall paper and give that idea a go.

Nothing you say will dent me. I congratulate myself for that art is ours attitude. Because I believe it's thanks to that way-of-life education, now I have three kids who can spend five hours in the Renia Sofia, doing this.


Take your kids to art galleries. I want to see them there.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

We made it.

Oh yes we did. And here is the lucky business receiving our eurodollars for tonight's cheese and tomato extravaganza.

I tell you, these kids are round-the-world cheese and tomato pizza experts. So it had better be good from the Taberna Tirso de Molina.

Everyone likes the look of this place. Peering through the windows we can see shining white tiles, red brick, thick yellow varnished pine, crowds of people, and industrious red-faced waiters swirling around under globe lights. It looks French. Even the entrance door in the arch transports me; it's long and thin and glazed and it should be nineteenth century and reveal a sour faced Jean Paul Sartre sulking behind, brooding on gauloises.

It's not immediately obvious they do food at all, except for the menu slapped up outside. As soon as we risk an entry, the cigarette smoke from the youthful crowded bar front billows out, with great clouds of relaxed chatter following. No-one bats an eyelid as three kids are led through the crowd to the restaurant tables at the rear at 10pm at night.

Try and lead three kids through the beer stink of the Engineer's Arms in Smalltown and see how long before Social Services turn up. Thank goodness we've left that anti-child British land behind for a few days.

Here I could be experiencing pure joy, because an efficient and attentive waiter who doesn't tut and glower and fuss and snap whada the kids want? comes to take orders, wait like it's no problem to know whether Tiger will eventually order cheese and tomato pizza or cheese and tomato pizza and, without haste or hesitation, just brings the wine, water, great olives, and crisps as big and round as Squirrel's head.

And so begins a very fine meal. Excellent portion size. But a little salty on the cheese. Squirrel takes after mother and helps herself to a bottle of gin.

Only joking! Got to keep Mrs Gradgrind on her toes. Of course it's not gin. It's Martini.

After a few drinks, Shark is looking like a miniature version of Dig, in a frock.

Dig has met his match there. Soon she will be sitting in the gentleman's club, comparing the bouquet of a 1989 Chateau Moulin de la Graviere against the complexity of the 1986.

And here's Tiger. She's leaving, because she's not putting up with this ridiculous family any longer.

Not with the sort of mother who declares the pizza is far too big to finish and starts wrapping it up and shovelling it her handbag.

This is Spain, I say, and here carrying pizza around in your handbag is not at all frowned upon. People here are sociable, tolerant, relaxed and they won't do like they do in France either, which is look at you down their nose like you are draped in rat fur.

And just think yourself lucky young lady, because if we'd taken you down the Engineer's Arms in Smalltown for your cheese and tomato pizza you wouldn't have escaped without the compulsory purchase of a quarter of smack and a knife fight on the pavement.

As it is, we leave simply with smiles. And tomorrow's lunch in my handbag.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Odd marriage

While Grit spends her time impersonating fish or carrying bottles of cheap beer covertly from the local Co-op late at night avoiding the stabbing spots of Smalltown, Dig spends his time jet setting around the world.

But now Dig is back. Which means Grit and the gritlets are whisked away into Dig's world for a few days.

And if you are in Madrid, watch out.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Are these children yours?

Squirrel discusses the programme notes while waiting for the second part of Elgar's Dream Of Gerontius at the Royal Festival Hall. Don't ask me anything about it. I nodded off, just after he died.

By the end, the children said it was great. They are obviously Dig's children. He is posh. They are not my children. I am gutter. I went to see Soft Cell in the 1980s and vomited.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Life, interrupted, backwards, makes no sense.

Sometimes I ask myself, Why, Grit, Why?

I must have some serious anal-obsessive-compulsive-dishwashing-drama stashed beyond my skeleton closet.

Because it does not matter to me what the day, what the date, what the time. It's no matter.

It makes no difference to me whether this is September, January, December or the day we all put out frogs on the doorstep. Any convention, expectation, social norm? Things we should all do? It makes no difference. I have to do this. Post on blog dates gone backwards.* I am a driven woman.

Apart from the time I fell off the calender in Yemen - and only then because blabbing a quasi diplomatic life would probably cause a sorry incident somewhere - this blog has been going day after day after day.

And I am already sick and tired. So why, Grit, why? Why bother?

It's because I simply have only this way to escape the chaos for an hour and tell myself a story that makes sense.

I cannot dash into the car, drive to London, and reflect upon the times. I cannot wander the shops alone to speculate whether I might look good in red velvet. I cannot visit an art gallery to muse silently upon every future. I cannot dump the children somewhere and run.

I am here, and interrupted every five minutes of my life. I have had no single line of thought sustained from beginning to end for ten years. Everything inside my head winds up


spaghetti string.

And I am already an old lady, writing herself notes. I don't want the children to find my purse in the oven, or my shoes in the freezer. I need to make sense of chaos; remember what I do, where I live, who I am.

So I blog. Because today blogging is a toe hold on organisation, on memory, on order; a weapon against the day I reach for those shoes and think they are too hot to wear; I'd better cool them down.

And I need to remember Dig, because here is the day that Dig arrives homes from India, drops his bags on the office floor, sits heavily in front of the office computer, sighs, and books five tickets for us all to travel to London tomorrow night to the Royal Festival Hall to hear the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the choir Ex Cathedra perform The Dream of Gerontius, a story of a man who dies and is led to heaven by an angel.

And then Dig says, and of course I cannot bathe the children. I have to stay up late, he says, because I must book tickets for Madrid. We leave on Wednesday.

Remind me, which Wednesday is that?

* So today my post is for Monday 23rd November. But my diary says it is the 30th. C'est la vie.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Grit sells herself for a bottle of Jonnie Walker and a packet of fags

John Lewis say they'll bung 25 quid this way for tip top rules on a perfect family Christmas.

Grit's family is perfect, obviously. One member floats about Hong Kong harbour and three are tied to the radiators, so they've come to the right place.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any rules. This house mixes autonomy, anarchy, and seasonal adjustment disorder in equal measure. The line between them is razorfine, and cross it at your peril.

Quite frankly, it's easier to simply say that John Lewis is a lovely place to shop. OK? They sell lovely things like tinkly things and furry carpets and reindeer and things and more things.

But more importantly, no one who works there has ever thrown me and the gritlets out, probably fighting with themselves over that, but they never gave into that urge, which qualifies as lovely in my book.

Anyway. Christmas rules and traditions. We don't have any.

BUT THEN. I thought, Aha! We DO have rules. And special traditions!

The children must notice what they are. I'll ask them.

Squirrel: When you put up the decorations, do not make trip hazards on the stairs. People might fall down the stairs and go to hospital. Do not throw baubles. Do not climb up the Christmas tree. Do not hit your sister with bits of the Christmas tree. [You can see what issues we have here.] Do not eat all the sweets in one go. Do not electrocute yourself. Do not stab yourself in the eye. [Squirrel? You are rambling. Shut up. Your turn, Tiger.]

Tiger: Daddy must set the pudding on fire. Not his beard. The pudding.

Shark: If I had a grudge against the neighbour, could I put up an inflatable plastic reindeer now and everyday loll it over their wall by accident-on-purpose? [Advanced thinker.]

Be quiet the lot of you. I can think of sensible traditions.

1. Spend days doing craft, but not knitting with our own hair, that is right out.
We do lots of crafts. I am too mean to buy decorations. Holly up the bannisters, make home-made wreaths, dress down the house with toilet rolls and string, and create our own presents*. Except for gifts we buy at the charity shop.**

(OK, John Lewis might not like this rule, for obvious reasons. But every year I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger that it is time to help others, and in my book that's not a fat banker in a suit behind a desk who keeps a mistress in Newton le Willows.)

2. Do not mention the inlaws because they are all DEAD DEAD DEAD.
Now you feel guilty, don't you, John Lewis. Make it £30 and we call it quits.

3. On Christmas Eve we party at the Hat's.
Remember? Someone was sick down the back of my leg. But it's important to visit friends. Christmas is such a forgiving time. And this year don't eat all the grapes.

4. We tell the story about baby Jesus.
We may go to a special heaven for non believers who like the idea of virgins giving birth.

5. But say what? You want light entertainment?
This year ladies, we might take you to midnight mass to see all the drunks!

6. For Christmas dinner we eat baked potatoes.
With cheese and baked beans. Seriously! No-one's going to believe that. But it's true. This year I shall photograph it.

7. Christmas Day is a non-computer day.
Mummy Grit and Daddy Dig never turn on the computers. Only in secret. Next year we will all sing songs round the Victorian piano.

8. Mummy Grit mixes cheap gin at noon.
Then she has Daddy Dig see if he can squirt it into her mouth from a used shampoo bottle across the kitchen. By then she is smashed on cooking sherry and already foaming at the mouth, so it makes no difference.

9. Do not, under any circumstances, listen to the Queen's Speech.
If you so much as touch that remote control, you are DEAD. We are not quite at the republican stage in this house but we are coming pretty close. Close enough to want to see the entire lot of them living in a terrace in Manchester and see how they like it.

10. Bring about world peace from the homely fireside.
I am now insensible enough to think that spending entire days footling about with my kids, trying to extract modelling balloons from the U-bend, telling anyone who will listen that life can be imaginative and fun even though it comes with a destroyed house and a beaten spirit, all makes for a good way to raise happy children who appreciate and love their families. (Are you listening to this, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger?) And if there is one rule we have about enjoying each other's company, and not bloody well arguing all the day long, this one's it.

Now, if any reader persevered this far, know that I needed cheering up. And right now, considering the options, prostitution to John Lewis seems fair enough.

And what's with all the This is a sponsored post. What have I got to do now? Run a marathon?

P.S. Squirrel just asked What are you doing on the blog? I answer Trying to get 25 quid out of John Lewis. To which she replies Is it a bribe or a threat?

* Because we are smugbastardhomeeducating types and learning how to make a felt brooch is a way of providing an education round here.

* Because we are smugbastardhomeeducating types and giving to the local hospice shop is a way of providing an education round here.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Double judgement

Great hilarity here after the recent revelation about how children want to live.

Catch our coat tails!

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have followed their own sleep patterns for years.

The kids went to sleep about midnight last night.

No yelling, no screaming, no pleading, no power games.

We didn't need to get up early for anything this morning, so late nights are OK by me. The kids take it in turns for the bathroom and most nights they no longer need me to negotiate order of access to the bath, sink, loo. They sort it out themselves. When they're done with that, they climb into bed with books, and read until they decide to switch off their bedside lights.

It's as simple as that. I force nothing, the kids are not resisting anything, they sleep and wake as they need.

When they came down about 11am this morning, they set about reading their weekly newspaper.*

Over brunch, we talked about Children in Need, koalas and baby sharks.


But tell me, why is it that when home educated kids stay up late, it's neglect, but when a school does it, it's an educational revelation?

* And just to clarify, no money or advantage is conferred on the gritty household for that link.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Here's one mother who couldn't care less

You see? This is the cavalier approach I take to safeguarding my children.

Here's Squirrel, handling DANGEROUS TOOLS.

And this took place in a totally NON-REGISTERED environment.

Now guess what? We filled in no forms for any type of RISK ASSESSMENT.

That's how little I care.

Better still, this dangerous and alarming environment is the workshop of a local woodcarver and he works with SHARP CARVING TOOLS. At any moment, any one of those tools could KILL YOU or GOUGE OUT YOUR EYE.

You would think that was bad enough, wouldn't you? But this shows how far Grit has gone, because she cannot give a gnat's piss whether the oldcurledupwoodcarver - who is probably made of oak himself - she could not care less whether he has been entered on the VETTING AND BARRING DATABASE.

And WORSE. He is not even a registered and licenced teacher! NO! GET THAT! He is a WOODCARVER. TEACHING WOODCARVING.

I can hear the OFSTED inspectors tut tutting now.

Grit should have done this lesson on woodcarving PROPERLY. According to the government. Like, NOT AT ALL. Who approved this type of thing in the National Curriculum? Really, she should have BANNED the activity altogether.

But you know she's bloody-minded. The very least she should have done was hire a biology teacher with fuck all experience and interest to cover the lesson in a proper CCTV controlled classroom while Squirrel and 30 other kids watched a video about woodcarving and answered the questions on whether wood comes from a tree or a motorway.

Then, just as you thought it was as bad as it could be! Not only do I encourage my kids to enter dangerous environments, wield banned tools, and interact with people who are not rubberstampedgovernmentapproved, MICHELLE IS HERE TAKING PHOTOS.

And you know what that means.


And what is Grit's attitude?

Pah! Kiss my arse! IGNORE THE LAW

With that sort of attitude, you'd almost expect the government to try and close all home education down.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

That's the third person today who says...

... Oh dear! What can we do?

And my answer's the same.

If you don't like the sound of it, tell someone. Write to your MP.

If you want to sign the petition, do so.

Use your blog.

Print off this leaflet and stick it up on your local library notice board.

Read around, and get informed.

Do I sound tired? I'm tired. I need a break.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

'I'm a government minister and you're vulnerable, little girl. Let me safeguard you.'

Oh dear.

Ed, was it wise to turn up today at Parliament, with the big ceremony and everything, with all the cameras and the BBC and the Queen! and include stuff like your safeguarding proposal in the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

Was it wise? Would you like to take it back? To be honest, it makes you sound a bit creepy. You won't win friends with that sort of language these days you know.

Ed, I feel I have to lead you through a land filled with danger.

Let's look at the home educated Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. They are pretty tough kids. And Ed, when you come round here to try and bully the weak - sorry, I mean safeguard the vulnerable - you may find your work's cut out.

Trust me about this. Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are anything but vulnerable.

Did you read how Tiger knocked Shark's tooth out? Seriously, you don't want to mess with these kids. I mean, they know their own minds. The effort it has taken me to strap them to the radiators and shove fish fingers up their noses, you should hear them howl. So you be aware that they give as good as they get. And that proves they can look after themselves. Really, I'm proud of them, my little tough cookies. They don't need safeguarding. Possibly from you though.

But I must admit, I think you've got guts. I like the way you turn up there with the tiaras and all and say right up front in the same drawn breath as 'youth offending' the words 'home educators' like it's all as offensive and smelly to you as moving into a new house and after six weeks finding a rotting cod stuffed behind the skirting board.

The only advice I have for you now Ed, is Grab your pomander.

Because over the coming weeks, we home educators will probably smell. Some people who may be advising you in Westminsterland may say we stink only of homemade yogurt and granola. But hold on! You may be disappointed. In my experience with some of these mummy home educators out here in the shires, you may find there's a definite pong of outraged Dior.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Timetables are crap really, aren't they?

Apparently I should be spending an hour playing a board game to help Squirrel with her times tables. She'll no doubt get out that board game and play it with a sister soon enough.

And I don't worry; she'll learn her seven times table on another day.

Instead I am writing emails about petitions. And if this comes near you, dear reader, you can sign it if you want, or not sign if you want.

Personally, I blame the government for intruding on my educational provision, messing with my timetable, Squirrel's times tables, and trying to stick their foot into my door.

And if you think I must be that crazy woman to take things personally, then please call me crazy. It's personal. And this is why.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I should timetable an extra hour for emergencies and natural disasters

There isn't enough effing and blinding to go round the world today.

You might notice that shortage as you reach for a blasphemy on getting out of bed and standing on the upturned plug.

There is a shortage because I have already used up all the bad bad bad words, and I did it this morning while the world was still dark and the children sleeping.

Because as I stand in the shower and am just soaking up that yummyyummy warmth on this day when I have to get up special early and drive Dig to the train station to be mugged and assaulted by a wise and knowing Virgin on her run to London for Heathrow, just as I am murmuring in satisfied sleepy delight mmmmm and mmmmmm in all that lovely soapysoapysudsud then all the water runs suddenly at -120C and freezes me in the shower in the sort of freezestream which says


And that is how I start today.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Isn't life amazing with a timetable?

You see? Now I am officially in control of time. I can order about minutes and hours. I have a command centre. I am queen of timetable.

Today I command that we achieve. And not just wearing shoes, like yesterday.

Today is different. Today I can say we are going to Shenley Woods at 11am to learn about forest management techniques in ancient woodland. And then we are leaving at 1.30pm prompt, arriving at the Museum of St Albans felt workshop 2.24pm. Where we will make felt.

And I'm sure Shark, Squirrel and Tiger achieve with this structure too. Or they would have done, had they stuck to my timetable. Just don't ask. This is an ongoing process, and I'm building one day at a time.

But look here. At the woods.

We can achieve knowledge about how to kill pigeons with a Harris Hawk. And we learn that Harris Hawks are native to South America. I didn't know that. Did you know that? Knowledge is achievement, isn't it? Make me feel good and say yes.

Then we learn about the history of charcoal burning, the coppicing of woodland, the banking and ditching of animal enclosures and how many pigs you can release in medieval woods before they're taken off to the compound and you're fined.

Oh, and how to make a wood kazoo with a rubber band and some gratifyingly dangerous tools.

Come 2pm, we're learning to travel at exactly 50mph down the M1 monitored by the speed and distance cameras while learning Spanish with Michel Thomas on the in-car CD player. I'm beginning to like this sense of order.

And then there is felt making! How relaxing is that?

I don't want to be that woman who makes timetables, who controls things, and who says I'll read one chapter to you and no more, but right now, when the front room, taps, life, are all spinning away uncontrollably, and that husband is just about to step back on that plane to go east, then a timetable is a good structure to have.

And who knows, if it works, I could say goodbye to all the other control issues I have. Like bladder, mouth, memory, flab, mice, and bath plug.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

November now has a timetable

Grit is worn out, fed up, and mangled flat.

My solution at the end of the day is to create a large timetable for the week ahead and pin it up where everyone can see it every morning and I remember what I do.

In my timetable is listed lessons for children, group activities, things for everyone to do, and a free day on which they sort themselves out.

You can hear the rustling of the autonomous crowd as they shake their heads in despair. The fact that I have actually timetabled a day of autonomy is not in the spirit of things at all.

I can say the sound of that distant collective sigh is far better than the rasping of Grit's broken fingers drawn down her own despairing face.

On the plus side, Dig has flown back and mended the tap.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A time and place for everything

It's inevitable, what with my Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy and the way I tie up and beat each of my home educated triplets with frozen fish, that eventually I'll have to take the weakest and feeblest of them to the doctors.

I do that today. We have not much else to do, and with my keen eyesight, when she rolls out of bed this morning at 11am, she looks like a hamster.

So I get her over to the health centre, and apart from looking like a hamster, there is nothing wrong with this particular driblet, I can tell you. She is like one sulky argumentative little kid griblet, prodded out of bed, poked in the face, and brought to the attention of the National Health Service.

Tomorrow is Saturday, I tell her, and if looking like a hamster means the start of a horrible BIG disease, then it will happen on Saturday, and that will be inconvenient. Now get in the car.

And here she is, scowling, dragging her feet, crossing her arms, and doing that snorty harrumph noise while head tossing.

Sitting in the surgery with the very nice old doctor lady, I say I wake up this morning and she looks like a hamster.

If you follow this blog you will of course know that at this point I have an expression on my face that reads And I have Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy! Pay attention to ME ME ME.

The old lady doc peers at the miserable sulky triglet through her halfmoon doctor glasses, and says, She does a bit.

And she has no other symptoms! I add. (Apart from sulkyitis, snortynose, scowlydragfoot and harrumphing.)

And how do you feel, little girl? Asks kind old lady doc to the crossed arm sulk pit.

[Snort snort harrumph.]

Can I look into your mouth? Say aaaahhhhh.


Can you say aaaaaaaaahhhhhh?


Can I look in your ears?


I see. And how are you eating?


Mum? Is she eating alright?

Oh, MY BIG CHANCE! Because with the MSbyP it's now all about ME ME ME! She is eating fine! (I gave her the usual pint of vodka on cheerios this morning, and she wolfed them down and asked for her three lines of cocaine, like normal. What could possible be wrong? Apart from looking like a hamster and pre-teen snortynoising?)

Well it could be an infection. Or a virus. Or something. Did you go to school today little girl?


Now you can hear a pin drop, because if nice doctor lady finds out THE TRUTH about our incredibly depraved lifestyle, we are in BIG TROUBLE.

Did she go to school today, mum?

Er er er er... she's um home educated?

Oh! Is there a reason for that?

STOP RIGHT THERE LADY. Now I have brought in a fritlet looking like a hamster and that is as far as I am going to go. That is an educational question you asked me, and this is a hamster related illness. If it were not for bully Balls and all his little minions, would you even conflate safeguarding and education? Do you seriously have five hours for me to answer that question with a teaching and learning philosophy? And anyway, what about the MSbP and ME ME ME?

But I am saved from all embarrassment, because the little sulky griblet who has done nothing but scowl and frown and snort and harrumph when the MSbP mother frogmarched her to torture at the doctor's surgery, suddenly can take NO MORE!

She swings round in her seat, targets that laser beam of withering scowl direct at old lady doc and shouts


And me and old lady doc both sit with our hair shot away to a big circle round our dumbfounded faces and our eyebrows perched on top of our heads because we were just blasted in the face by a giant tornado and never saw it coming.

In my heart, little triblet, I love you more than ever, because maybe you took advantage of my hesitation there to tell that doctor lady to cross that line no further; and bringing up all your force and direct words you chose the most appropriate or inappropriate or best ever timed moment to yell that out in someone's inquiring face and settle that matter once and for all.

Daughter, even though you look like one sulky hamster, I am taking you right home and giving you a big smackeroo.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lovely. Just lovely lovely lovely.

Get your coat. We're going out.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are being educated properly, in society.

I know what you're thinking. The smugbastard home educator voice is back.

You're too right. We don't get days like this very often. And when we do, I'm milking them.

Let's just say it's the sort of day* I can shove granola down my moralhighgrounded sanctimonious homeknitted knickers.

Now come along on the perfect child-focused journey of an ordinary day down the home educating range.

Tonight, Shark Squirrel and Tiger are out at a drama club with schooled children for signing, singing, and dancing. But let's start the school day here. At the art gallery.

Did you hear that? THE ART GALLERY. Because over at MKG they have an exhibition on Nasreen Mohamedi. This is the sort of thing we home educators take for granted. That someone else will organise the gallery tour, talk and workshop. And they will be much better organisers than Grit.

They are too. In fact the gallery workshop people are so enthusiastic, working at just the right levels, and the home ed group of kids so occupied and involved, that Grit wanders off and gets artsy Mohamedi style with the phone camera.

When she gets back, the gritlets are all absorbed in making Mohamedi picture lookalikes with bits of wool and pencils.

So absorbed in fact, that I need to threaten them with the radiator to make them come away.

We must be on time for the afternoon education in a field. This is also a large group event not organised by Grit, for which she is truly grateful.

Here is the afternoon home ed group, getting ready to explore the natural world under the faultless guidance of a real unbludgeoned teacher who is free to respond in warm ordinary human language and totally unencumbered by worksheet 3 key stage 2 because it's Thursday.

Her first activity is to blindfold the children and send them off into the wood. On any other day I might say that at this point I ran off to the car and hid, but this home education group is having such a good time and my children are so accommodating, I might stick around to see the smiles and hear the laughter.

The walk is so successful all round that I will not even comment about how Shark, Squirrel and Tiger look like they are interrogating a tree in the style of an OFSTED inspector. No. They are making their own identification sheets.

This small insight should prove that home education children are not only quite normal children, what with the sensitivity, understanding and competence to hang around an art gallery and become inspired and enthused by the work, they are also inquiring, interested, well adjusted children who can read, write, make friends, have fun, talk to trees and go home happy.

I think it might be called a primary education suitable for a child.

Smug bastard.

* Don't mention the problem with the tap. I'm taking advice from Heather. The washer will grow back. After a day of pure education like today, it will see that this is a house of perfect parenting and total righteousness and make that decision to fulfil its destiny of tapturnonable and tapturnoffable. It's just been that sort of perfect day, I almost believe it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

We may not have mains water, but we do have an education

Wait a moment! I must finish the household checks!

I do the same duties before I leave the house.

I have to. It is like count to ten while washing your hands. Or push the front door with a forefinger after locking, just to check.

There are good reasons for this particular safety obsession.

Like the time I came down one morning and found the back door open. And I don't mean unlocked, I mean open. Why don't we put up a sign on the driveway notifying Burglar Bill that there isn't much, but the TV bought in 1989 still works?

Howabout the week we stayed in Northumberland and returned to find all the kitchen lights still burning? Or the day we spent in a field, came home and found the gas hob ring glowing brightly. For SEVEN HOURS. And are we lucky not to be dead or looking at a burned out shell of a house, dear husband, who made poached eggs for breakfast that day?

So of course I do obsessional house checking, because we're out for the day. I'm taking the kids to Hampton Court Palace, as part of our Tudors project.

Back door locked? Check. Lights off? Check. Gas knobs pointing in correct alignment towards the wall? Check. Kitchen tap turned off? Kitchen tap off? OFF?


And there I look at it. Gushing water into the sink like Niagara Falls. But it's worse, because the hot tap that won't turn off is connected to the hot-water-on-demand boiler, and after ten seconds of spinning a tap that's not responding, that boiler is rattling and wheezooing and squeaging with the effort of keeping pace with the demand for hot water drawn from that bust tap in the kitchen.

I stand to consider my options.

Quite frankly, with hot water plunging into the sink at 150 litres a second, there aren't many.

I cancel the day at Hampton Court. I never even got to threaten that punishment half way down the M1, yelling I'll turn the car round this second thanks to the swinging punches or screaming obscenities from the back seat.

But it has to be. I break the news to the kids, get the picnic out the car, and go and see if I can phone Dig to talk over the safest course of action whereby I can save the day and make sure I do not blow up the boiler, cause a thousand pounds worth of damage, soak us all in water, electrocute myself or blow all the fuses in the house by flooding the cellar.

Never think phoning Dig is making a straightforward call to an office in London, by the way. Dig is in Brazil. And such is his life that I realise that I cannot recall whether he is in Sao Paolo, Rio, or Buzios. Me, as usual I am up a creek without a paddle.

But you may think I am being over cautious about contacting him. Take a look back at that list. I have only one on it yet to do.

Of course even though it is early morning in Brazil, Dig is not contactable.

I might have been calm up to this point but now I am fuckingfurious because it is his responsibility to be available to me on Skype, mobile and email 24 hours, 7 days a week.

OK, it might be a worn out washer and a destroyed day, but it could have been Tiger, Shark or Squirrel throwing themselves out a top floor window.

After an hour of pleading, twisting the mains tap which is stuck, and alternatively crying and shouting at the tap, neither of which actions actually make the ruddy water stop, nothing gets any better. The water torture sure is working though, because after another hour I am just about beating my head against the wall.

Finally, I manage to apply the micro atom of my brain which I reserve for thinking and I locate a bit of equipment which looks like a big pair of teeth with long handles. I work out these will give me leverage on the stuck mains tap. Either that or the damn thing will twist off altogether and the pipe explode.

And that, dear reader, is what I do. I twist round the water mains and bring the entire flat to a watery conclusion. Then I call the wonderful Mr W, the home educating parent down the road who knows what he is doing because he is an engineer, and he dutifully and cheerfully arrives like a knight in shining Volvo to make sure that I have made the boiler safe, the water safe, and that nothing will blow up.

Miserably, we have lost Hampton Court Palace. But for a woman whose profound life motto alternates between never give up and look on the bright side, there is consolation.

See the benefit of a real world education? I tell the mournful Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Today you have learned about washers, taps, stuck mains valves, leverage, and being flexible with your planning.

And next time it might not be the water! Next time it might be mama electrocuting herself again, and then you will also learn how to wire plugs.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Child's tooth found under floorboards

I can see the headline up above, forty years down the line.

Some foolish innocent will renovate this fallingdownheapofbrick and they will find a child's tooth, lodged in the roofspace between kitchen and cellar.

The moment they make that gruesome discovery, they'll scream Help! and start ripping apart this old house, splinter by nail, looking for bodies.

So I had better fess up now, and put it forever on the record.

I stuck on the video Harry Potter and the Flesh Eating Zombies and wandered off to shovel shit in the upstairs rooms. After ten minutes I have to put down the shovel because the entire house is rocking on its foundations, and reverberating with POOPYBRAINIHATEYOUYOUFATPIG!

By the time I get downstairs, Tiger is on the sofa red hot with fury swinging punches like a windmill at Shark. Shark, from a floor position, is flaming bright scarlet with outrage and trying to claw up Tiger's legs to rip her face off.

My ears are bleeding with the pain of the bansheeing, so I do the mature adult parental thing and start yelling. Really I would like to beat the pair of them senseless with the Muzzy French video box, which is the nearest thing to hand, but I believe that is called setting a bad example. Anyway, Tiger might grab it out my hands and bash me over the head with it.

Squirrel meanwhile is sat on the sofa in this war zone, staring straight at the TV screen with a puzzled frown like there is an irritating buzz, somewhere over there.

Now no-one is paying one bit of attention to me and my big weight of AUTHORITY I carry about this house, so I take the next step to demonstrate my responsible power and that is to march up to the zombie video, clip it shut and start yelling again.

Squirrel tuts, curls her upper lip and stares in disgust at me, like Is that it? I didn't get to see the flesh eating demon rip out Harry's heart. No, Squirrel, that is because death and mayhem is now in 3D surroundasound and is happening on a carpet in front of you. At which point I yell some more.

It is clear to me as controller and supreme ruler in this house that neither Tiger nor Shark is taking one bit of notice of AUTHORITY.

AUTHORITY will not get involved in this fight. AUTHORITY is righteous and does not take to slapping arses, even though she'd like to. AUTHORITY does not drag six tonnes of screaming kids apart either. Not unless one is holding knitting needles or scissors.

Anyway, AUTHORITY has learned that if she totally ignores screaming kids and reappears thirty seconds later they will be sitting quiet side-by-side on the sofa indivisible as cells and acting as if nothing ever happened. Passions come and go quick in this house.

Once AUTHORITY has ascertained there are no knitting needles, scissors, or other sharp weapons of war available, she turns on her heel to leave the room righteously shouting SORT IT OUT in big letters and with an extra large booming voice.

No sooner have I slammed the door shut than a deathly silence descends. The door flings wide open, and Tiger zips up the stairs quicker than a speeding atom round a Hadron Collider.

Then I hear only the rising shriek Mmuuuuummmmmyy! and I see Shark standing up, a startled look on her face, and with her hands clamped round her jaw like she's just been punched in the mouth.

In response to moments like this I have been saying the same three tender words for years and they are not Are you alright? They are Doctor?Ambulance?Hospital?

Shark opens her mouth with a stream of blood and squeals My tooth!

Standing in the kitchen with a pint of warm water ready to throw it at Shark's mouth, I foolishly attempt to catch the tooth which Tiger had knocked clean out of Shark's face. But I let the bloodied evidence slip from my fingers, where it bounced through the hole in the kitchen floorboards: the same hole I never saw before last summer and which I have to assume was drilled out by a late night partying mouse.

So, to the people who will renovate this house when I am dead because I never got around to it, know that this story explains the child's tooth you're going to find under the floorboards which form the roof of the cellar.

It can join the three dead bodies of the gas men.

Monday, 9 November 2009

But what do I know? Gerald could secretly work for MI6.

Recently I left a comment on Jax's post.

To the effect that it's easy to confess I am followed by a giant iguana called Gerald. Much easier than rationally explaining the fears I have about the future, and which she and many other explain so well.

My fears are not whether Squirrel will fall out of that tree; nor whether Shark's desire to dive will be the death of her; nor whether Tiger's teenage years will wreak havoc on us with anorexia, bulimia and self-harming.

Those fears I put down to the normal range of anxieties pouring from the heart of motherhood. I may yet do self harming and substance abuse myself. Then I'll call it coping strategy.

My fears are outside that range. But admitting any fears beyond the conventional is a hazard though, isn't it?

It's worse in the world I inhabit. Let's call my world the one where our kids have education other than everyday 8-4 at school.

Some people hate people in my world. Even though the people in my world are not all granola eating hippies, knitting with their own hair, or living in communes. As I've said, some people in my world are engineers, scientists, drama practitioners, artists and health workers, but I won't get distracted by that here. Whatever we are, some people resent us, because they believe every child should be in school, and if we keep kids out of school, we are damaging those children, full stop.

So, as a home educator, passing any comment about anything is like holding out a stick which someone can grab and beat us with. At the first sign of vulnerability, like expressing fears, some very judgemental people leap at the chance to attack.

Horrible comments stick around. One commenter I recall, whose voice leapt off the page and stuck inside my head, burst out - probably from a discussion about How nice is your cushion cover? - that home educators are a load of smug bastards who think they own a moral high ground because they home educate.

I wasn't standing on any moral high ground when I looked. Swamp, maybe. I had a bloody exhausting day of hard work, a heavy sense of responsibility, a broken bank account, and no idea why my cushion covers were in the freezer. Despite it, I still think home education is worth the trauma, pain and misery. So maybe they're right about the label smug bastard.

But really, I'm feeling battered enough without attracting that kind of comment, so I'll say at this point that Gerald is a lovely blue green colour, likes to eat granola, and goes to sleep at night outside the kitchen door.

And I can confess my fears are not coming from my role as a parent, and not just for home educators. My fears come from my place as a citizen, and they are about what you are allowed to do, and be, as a parent.

Because I believe right now we're heading for a life where the law will make provision for every parent to be vetted or checked; where the right of state entry will be automatic to every home if you have a child of any age; where the right of a parent to make decisions about the upbringing of a child is increasingly fragile and within a whisper of being removed.

Now some folks can read those fears and say Grit is a nutcase. She is clearly followed by a giant spiny tailed iguana called Gerald. Voicing that sort of They've all got it in for me! attitude, she deserves to be suspect. With that mental condition, she is placing her vulnerable children at risk.

And who knows what will happen to Gerald then? He will be homeless, and he is not a bad sort when you get to know him.

All I can say in my defence, before the evil lords of power come to get Gerald, is that home educators have to be closer to the coal face when it comes to discussing the law, our legal rights, and the statements from local councils. We have to think carefully about our arguments; we have to take responsibility for our positions; we have to weigh up the pros and cons of any scheme, any help offered by any council, any statement made by anyone in power. We have to read the tons of stuff, from OFSTED, government, local authorities, advisers.

We simply have to be closer to it as a means of survival. Any day as a home educator we may be stopped by the police and by truancy officers. We may be challenged in the supermarket; or called upon to defend our decision in the park, or playground. We have to walk around the world knowing as best we can what rights and responsibilities we have and be prepared to argue for them at the drop of a hat.

That does not make us any more moral, nor better parents than anyone else. It just makes us aware.

Now excuse me. I have to go. I must bath the kids, and Gerald says when he snuggles down for the night, he wants the blue blankie, not the yellow. The yellow makes him itch.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The peaceful Sunday history walk in Salcey Forest

Tiger: Will there be dogs?

Grit: Probably. It's Sunday. People walk dogs on Sunday.

Leader: Hello everyone! Welcome to Salcey Forest! There aren't many of us. I'll go and get the dog.

Grit [sinks to ground in despair]

Tiger: [shouting] MUMMY! I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE!

Grit: [trying to pass off writhing behaviour like this is normal] Um um um, excuse me, umumum do you mind, umumum, my daughters are scared of dogs. Could you keep the dog on a lead? thankyouthankyouthankyou.

Squirrel: [shouting] MUMMY I WANT TO GO NOW.

[History group walks on, a few backward glances cast to the performance at the back of the line.]

Grit: [whispering] It will be alright. I am here. I will protect you from dogonlead.

Tiger: [whimpering sounds]

Leader: We've walked back in time and here we are at the ice age! Now in the ice age...

Tiger: Mummy! Don't leave me! Keep it away from me!

Grit: Shut up about the damn dog. It's nowhere near you. Stop whimpering. I cannot hear anything about the ice age.

Tiger: [whimpering sounds]

Grit: Ssssshhhs. shhhshs. shshshsss. If it comes near you I will do something. I cannot pick a fight with someone because they have dogonlead. We have strategies, remember? We have strategies for dogonlead and dognotonlead. We have to come out the house! We cannot stay at home forever because we might see dogonlead and dognotonlead.

Leader: Now we'll walk forward in time to our next stop! The iron age!

Grit: Now look I didn't hear anything about the damn ice age. Stop making that noise. People are looking.

[Repeat this conversation for...

Anglo Saxon ditching and forestry techniques...

Trees planted from the times of the Norman invasion to provide hunting forest...

Medieval coppicing...

Hunting in the Tudor style...

The establishment of forests for timber supplies for the navy to the battle of Trafalgar.]

I would say there was no respite at all from the dogonlead and dognotonlead, bar this moment, when an antler was found, and the whimpering changed to Cooo! Antler! If a dog comes near me, mummy you can hit it with the antler.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Somewhere there is a place for us all

Here we are, breathing a big Saturday sigh of relief. We are back among the finest eccentrics of England. The Meccano enthusiasts, exhibiting their pleasures today at the National Space Centre.

Honestly, this is where my soul should be, amongst people who maintain a single focus in their life: they keep right on doing as they must, whether you throw tornadoes at them, beat them about the face with frying pans, or feed them to polar bears.

To them, it makes no difference. They just extrude from that polar bear arse, a little crunched, weather battered and dented, and simply pick up where they left off.

I admire those people, I really do. They never give up, no matter what the challenge. And for that they are my inspiration.

Take Meccano. It occupies grown men for hours, weeks, months, years. I can look at those fantastic models in puzzlement and am genuinely uncomprehending how anyone would spend three years of their life in a purpose-made shed building a scale face shovel excavator.

I stand before one elderly gentleman who makes my life complete with his chalk dust hair and woolly waistcoat, and I utter something which sounds like That's a remarkable construction!

And the old man nods kindly, but looks at me askance, like this is not the starting comment of anyone who knows what they are talking about, but he'll give me the benefit of the doubt. He kindly points deep inside the face shovel's guts and explains gently Yes, this was a little tricky, the erector socket and boss facing forward next to the rod socket and between the nut and adjustable throw crank.

And because I am wide eyed staring blankly at this strange language I never heard before but which must be tribal, the elderly gentleman peers a little, leans to me, speaks more slowly, and politely inquires, Do you see there? Between the connecting strip, grub, and threaded boss?

The uncomprehending expression on my face now tells him for sure I am the village idiot.

But this is what I love about The Eccentrics of England, because at this point any normal person would ignore me and hate me and would take my lack of understanding merely as an opportunity to make me feel uncomfortable. Then they would show me how they are exasperated by me, by loudly tutting and making a face like they would like to kick me over a Dover cliff if only they could be bothered to soil their boot end with my pointless carcass.

But not your fine English Eccentric. They like nothing better than to come across one of these bemused idiots. For them it is a happy occasion where they can inform the unenlightened and naive; here is an opportunity, and a challenge, and who knows, a convert.

The elderly gentleman smiles benignly and gives me a comforting glance like you might reserve for the afflicted but not quite dead, and then he says And it lights up! knowing then that I will be amused by the LED display and will begin to grab Squirrel and pump her arm up and down in delight at the wonders of light inside Meccano. And I am! I am amazed! Look Squirrel! Look! It lights! It lights up!

I might feel abashed for not speaking tribal, but the old man smiles. I am welcomed, and then graciously entertained with moving clocks and shovels and this, the most splendid of all, from the orrery maker.

For one brief moment, all Meccano makes sense. I am completely won over. This is my destiny. I imagine life is filled with such acceptance, such warm hearted community and belonging. I imagine myself, gently crafting a face shovel excavator on the kitchen table, with adoring children clapping their hands in glee and their beaming faces turned to mine, and then I will say Look, the light is here! The light! The light!

Friday, 6 November 2009

If you're coming to this blog looking for evidence against home educators, add this

Here is Shark, outside BHS in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre.

You can say Evidence! This home educator humiliated her poor daughter by forcing her to face the wall in a public place to complete her homework!

Proof. Home ed should be banned, to protect the vulnerable.

My fantastic list of crimes, misdeeds and madnesses is coming along nicely, isn't it? I might do unicorn horn chopping next, or driving round Leicester, naked.

Well, it's a better line than saying this is a geology lesson.

This BHS wall is faced with marble, which you all know is a building material also used for gravestones, ornaments and worksurfaces. And it's a metamorphic rock, which is mainly why we're here, looking at the patterns and talking about heat and pressure under the earth and what that does to all the minerals and chemicals and fantastic bits that make up rock.

Not as exciting a story as driving round Leicester, naked, huh?

For me, the most wonderful rock is Travertine. Here it is.

Imagine a huge bubbling bath that you're going to leave for thousands of years. Every so often the water is just the lovely right temperature for lots of algae to grow, and they're joined by great gloopy lumps of bacteria and little creatures, having a fantastic time swimming about in that lovely warm bath.

Then someone turns on the tap, and out pours a load more water, mud, silt, and tiny carbonate particles like bits of melted pearl or crushed up snail shell.

That tapload bashes the surface, ripping up and killing off the algae, and lays down a new top layer of mud and silt.

But don't worry, after a few more thousand years the algae's grown back. Then you can turn on the tap again.

Give it long enough, and the whole lot solidifies. And now you can see it in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre. It's called Travertine. It's a sedimentary rock, and here it's all over the floors and walls. Can you see those layers? The darker lines are mud and the lighter lines are algae. It's fantastic. I love it.

When we've done with Travertine, we go off and look at Gabbro, and a pretty pink granite and a blood-red granite.

It's all thanks to one of those experts we know from this education world, fantastically filled with opportunity, should you take it. So a public thanks to Jill Eyers for one of her walking guides, Rocks Afoot.

But I know a geology lesson is not a crime. And if you've come here looking for that evidence of our sordid lifestyle, then this is bound to be a disappointment. Sorry. I promise to do better with the madness and naked driving thing.

But look on the bright side. You can always accuse me of being a smugbastard highhorsed granolaeating homeeducator who definitely lives on the fringes of society because we went all that way to CMK and never even bought an acrylic jumper.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

I think this means I'm not dead yet

Travelling this home education road over the last few years has been an eye-opening and challenging experience. It has taken some toll on me, emotionally and intellectually. And physically, it has trashed me. My withered face now scares horses.

I found an old photograph of me yesterday, one taken way before the responsibility that is children, and I just looked at that open smiling expression and thought such awful innocence. Call the last few years scary, isolating, fretful.

On the plus side, I can find exhilarating, satisfying, rewarding.

And fortunately, my mind can add, never boring.

But you can bet over the years on this home ed journey with triplets, I've seen some things. I've met some wild and wacko parents. And boringly normal ones too. All with as many approaches to education as there are kids.

Some home educators opt for school at home, with timetables and exercise books. Others go for autonomy - and take that to levels of child freedom which to watch at times has both scared me witless and knocked me sideways for the assumptions it has challenged, and the ways forward that approach has confidently found.

Many more people, like me, swing between goalposts, trying this, negotiating that, feeling our way, joining this group, trying that, working with the local authority here, backing off there, hoping this, working towards a future. I am sometimes blindfold, with soapbox, weeping, raising two fingers. Some days I have insisted on worksheets and stuff we need to know, but I do not know why, and some days I waved my kids away, saying Sure! when I am not sure. Pleading, Come back if you need!

Throughout, the huge variety of people and approaches in this world have been a support to me. It has only improved with time. Whereas once I used to feel home educators might be hard pressed to agree about anything, now I think there is such tolerance for each other's styles and ways, the latest attack from the government in the UK can only have helped us overlook our differences; now the loudest voice is about the need to protect our freedoms to choose.

I have seen a wide range of ways of working with local authorities too. Some home educators work closely alongside, supplying information, arranging meetings, building trust, teaching their local authority staff about the huge variety that is education. Others have found ways of working directly with the local authority through schools and local groups, drawing down funds and building flexischool schemes. Other home educators maintain a courteous distance, watchful, reminding authorities of good practice. Yet others refuse to deal with local authority staff, bruised perhaps, bullied, having met a system that has already failed them.

The thing is, what I want to convey, is that this education world is so very complex, so fantastically varied, offers so many options and avenues, that all is possible, and can be much much more than this government would have you believe.

This government wants you to think only in terms of types. Home educators are on the fringes of a normal society. They want you to eliminate all the shades and tones and nuances, all the people and personalities, all the possibilities. They want you to think in black and white, cut and dried, us and them, divide and rule.

The truth is, home educators are drawn from all society. We are you. We are professors of education, builders, teachers, diplomats, caterers, administrators, doctors, journalists, drivers, artists, visiting scholars, office workers, engineers, managers, cleaning staff, community workers, nurses, lawyers, volunteers, people who run their own business, people who employ others, people who work hard for a wage.

We cannot be picked off, isolated, controlled; we are this society.
'The problem Graham Badman, Delyth Morgan and all the other idiots who started on this crusade against Home Education, is that their ignorance of what Home Education really is was deeply profound. I say ‘was’ because now they know that there are a substantial number, probably the majority, of Home Educators who are highly qualified, trained, successful and professional people, who are more than capable of defending themselves, their philosophies, choices and methods of parenting.

They erroneously imagined that they were dealing with a bunch of uneducated, defenceless and deviant people who they could easily steamroller, like they do with every other disadvantaged group. How wrong they were. Out of the woodwork come PHDs and every other type of lettered academic and professionally accredited person, all of whom either Home Educate or fully support Home Education.

They poked their stick in a hornets nest, and now the angry Hornets are coming out and vigorously buzzing around them. There are THOUSANDS of other hornets waiting to emerge if they are needed. And when they get their stingers out, there will be NO MERCY SHOWN.'
If you are finding out today why people are defending this fantastically varied world with all the opportunities, choices and exhilarating ways to make education our own, then take a journey round these thousands and thousands of voices.

You could start from the place where the above quote is taken, here.