Saturday, 15 May 2010

Exploring the tensions that hold this stuff together

Plan A: Teach Business Studies to Little Grits
  1. Visit Innocent Smoothie HQ.
  2. Enjoy it.
  3. Talk with kids about stuff. Business. Fair trade. Marketing and cash flow and profit and distribution and avoiding bankruptcy. Stuff like that.
  4. Feel smug. Sprinkle self with extra smugness.
Easy, huh? Theoretically speaking, brilliant planning. Learning, not through school-mediated knowledge, but directly in society. Immersion. Opportunistic. Making it up through ordinary things that happen everyday. Talking, through real-life situations. And enjoying it. Because educate/alternate path is normal and natural and FUN.

On a practical level, bloody hard work.

So, to anyone thinking about the theory of home education, think through how the thing works in practice, that's what I'm saying.

First, you will have a thrilling sense of freedom. And responsibility. Then you will be gripped by insanity. Once removed from school, you feel every minute of every waking day must be made into a productive learning experience.

After five hours on the first, official, home educating day, you reflect how making everything a productive learning experience is a crap idea. It's only dinnertime and you're already exhausted by researching the chemistry of cake, demonstrating the Big Bang theory with a bucket of flour, and trying to make a maths equation with one egg and a tea spoon. In Poetic French. Meanwhile, Tinkertop is driving you bonkers because all she wants to do is run to the park and shove creepy crawlies down her knickers.

Welcome to the next stage of home education: reasoning how there are learning opportunities only some of the time. Leaving the rest of the day free, to express personal identity.

That feels good. For a while. Until you wake one morning and reflect that really, now there is a good bit of personal identity and sod all else. Tinkertop can barely add 4 and 5, but she can march to the park on her own account and identify 4,652 types of minibeast blindfold.

Of course you try and make that feel good. Console yourself. She might become a biologist. Until she bursts into tears at tea time and shouts that really she wants to be a mathematician. Patiently, you drag out all the maths books that have laid discarded for 4 years. Horror struck, she crawls to bed at midnight having a big squeal because after four hours sobbing she is still not able to work out 4+5.

Which is all to say that home education is a state of constant struggle between theory and practice; an everyday struggle between your own inner voice matched to that of Tinkertop yelling in your ears.

Which brings me to Plan A.

And what a brilliant, theoretically sound plan it is. Until I try and put it into practice.

Not because when we finally descend on their Saturday party, the people at HQ Innocent Smooth are not nice. They are. Very nice indeed. Young, attractive flicky-hair types who have teeth. And they look very healthy. Maybe a bit too healthy. Like they drink fruit smoothies all day long just to grow perfect hair and skin and nails. (Not that I am jealous but I have now consumed five litres of their blackberry mash in the expectation that I wake up tomorrow morning 20 years younger with a glowing bikini body like Elle Macpherson.)

Anyway. That is not what I want to say. I want to say that it is very difficult to bring the self guided and self willed Tiger and Shark to the state of consciousness that bloody well shuts up and agrees with me. And my lovely Plan A. That Business Studies is a very good idea, that we are doing it in the most possible FUN way there is, how it perfectly accords to my grand theories, and that it will be of great practical and social benefit.

Now you autonomous home educators are clapping your hands mercilessly in glee. Do not tell me I am half way there, that I can see the route to autonomy, so I may as well give myself up to that conclusion. No. It is moments like this that demonstrate what a constant tension this choice of life is. Struggling between the things I think kids should know and the things they want to choose for themselves.

So it is in that fragile position - balancing between well worked out theories and several years of bitter practical experience - that I show up at Innocent Smooth HQ with two foot-dragging bolshy business students. Ambassador A and Ambassador B.

Oh, happy children filled with the joy of learning!

From this point, I am claiming that Ambassador A was sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is bad for Ambassador A.

Everyone knows that when you sleep, all the nutrients go into your brain and make you smile the next day. Without those nutrients, your brain may shrivel and your nostrils flare to the size of train tunnels. Growling like a dinosaur you stare with frozen eyes. Unpredictably, you might then burst into tears, suddenly propelled by a lethal cocktail of frustration, incomprehension, thwarted autonomy, and the fact that you have an empty smoothie box in front of you which you are obliged to make into a rabbit. At which point, I ask myself, will Ambassador A fall headlong into a deep pit of despair, smack her fist on the table, bust into a flood of tears and shout in pain, as if twenty demons inhabit her socks, NOOOOOOO! I HATE THAT FLAVOUR SMOOTHIE! WHY DO YOU NEVEREVEREVER LISTENTOANYTHING I EVERSAAAAAAAAY?

I could pin my hopes on Ambassador B.

The one who doesn't want to be here. The one who is sulking because she wants to stay at home and draw horses. The one who hates all smoothies, living and dead. The one who, when put in any situation with timed demands on her, like pressure and questions and stuff to do, behaves a little like the core of a nuclear reactor with extra scorching flame underneath. Building up the type of nuclear overheating reactor where all the needles marked TIME PRESSURE DOSTUFFNOW ping their way past number 11 on the dial for 10, which heads straight to core meltdown, discharge of radiation, and blasting apart of all the earth. That is OK. I can deal with that in our own special way.

So I'm not posting a diary about the tensions between my expectations and the demands of my children. Nope. I'm not posting about the struggle towards an autonomous education and Mama Grit's bloody good plan. No, not at all. Because I do not want to think through the consequences of a life without a plan.

I will merely say that Grit's fantastic Business Studies Plan worked. Mostly. Even if Ambassadors A and B were not quite on tip top forms.

After all, we left Innocent HQ wearing our shoes, with no dents in the head, not covered in snot and tears and with no police escort.

I would say that is a good result for an excellent plan.

And I recommend to home educators that if you do a Business Studies project like Grit, then go along to Innocent HQ next time you are trolling tired around London. They invite you. They want to see you. Because they're nice, and will even talk about Coca Cola owning 58% share.


Slugs On The Refrigerator said...

Fantastic!!! THE best if all of the innocent smoothie posts!!! Love it.

And as a potential home edder, gives me a lot to think about, particularly with a small Ambassador B-like companion.

Stuff On My Blog said...

LMAO that is just Epic. I accidentally stumbled on your blog from a random link on a msg board.. officially stalking you now :D

Grit said...

hi, slugs! i hope it helps, in some small way! to be forewarned, etc etc.

welcome, somb!

Deb said...

Whatever happened to Ambassador C?

katyboo1 said...

I am very glad you did not kill the innocent smoothie people, or hurl a&b into a vat of their smoothie juice. I really like their business philosophy, or did, until they sold out to the Man. I hope they are converting the Man from the inside into a lovely, smoothie flavoured old hippie. Do you think they are?

Grit said...

hi deb. she was on an ice rink. non negotiable. i already paid for the lesson. but she came later for the geology museum and the chips.

i asked that question, katyboo. i got the answer that innocent would hope to influence business for the better and bring about a change of business practice by working within and alongside ...the others.

i understand that approach, because we do much the same in home ed when we work with schools to create more options for kids. but generally i do not think any good strategy is based on hope. maybe somewhere innocent give information on what practical steps they take to push through change in the predatory corporates, and how they work with cc to create a fairer and more responsible way of doing business.