Sunday, 27 November 2011

The perfect home educating body

Many times in our home educating journey have I had cause to look inwards, measuring my heavy responsibilities against the insufficiency of my inner resources.

But I have also looked down, and seen the physical impact this great learning journey has wrought upon a woman's frail and feeble body.

Here is the evidence of a home educating experience. Battered ribs, stringy thighs, and wretched knees of despair. Ankles of doom, pounded feet, and wiry hands, scarred from a thousand face-clawing, vein-popping struggles.

Yet, as I look south, beyond these sad and torn remnants, I am happy, for I have learned what wisdoms to impart.

Collecting my battle wounds and dismembered limbs, I can now give you, youthful person considering home education, the gift of my experience.

If you really, really, REALLY are intent on spending several years teaching your own, then with these essential items, you must now prepare your body.*

1. Brass neck.
Every home educating mother must acquire one of these. A solid brass neck to navigate the High Street at 11am on a Monday morning.

More than moral righteousness is cast in the brass. It disables any ability to turn head-wise to the whisperings following the 'school-age child' straggling at your side. The particularly scruffy child, clad in grubby tee-shirt, torn jeans, an assortment of dreadlocks, chocolate over one eye, and a left shoe only (a fact you are bound not to notice until you reach the Co op on account of not being able to turn the neck).

2. A tongue you already bit off.
My advice is DON'T SAY IT. I have struggled with this, and still do, because oh yes there are so many responses to the in-law who, horror-struck, whispers Home education? Is that wise? or the neighbour who asks 'Are you allowed to do that?

STOP. Your response will not only be taken as evidence in court, it must be totally positive PR for what you are about to do, and simultaneously support all the struggling world of home ed. DON'T SAY WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. JUST SMILE.

3. Face of steel.
As you sit around the kitchen table, determined to enjoy yet another happy learning moment with Urban Environments or What shall we watch on the telly, the peace will shatter between Arch Enemies, Sibling Rivals 1,2, and 3. Number 1 destroys the moment of educational perfection with I hate you; number 2 screams Get out of my life, and number 3 chimes in with the chorus, It would be better off if you were dead.

Then, with the learning day of happiness in ruins, you will need a face of steel. Any ordinary plasticine face, betraying motherly tenderness brutalised by shock, disbelief, and horror, inevitably adds emotion to the moment; it allows the offspring a terrible opportunity to observe the maternal pain, then show how much they care by finishing the kill.

4. No ears.
With kids around all day everyday, simply plug the ears up. Shove them under a duvet. Better still, take them off. Hide them in a padded box and stash them in the linen cupboard where they can't transmit any sound at all.

5. Wired up teeth.
Yes, wire the buggers up, top to bottom, and quick about it. If you are home educating any primary-age child, with or without siblings, you very quickly realise that your entire education is composed of cake.

Cake is chemical reaction! (Obviously.) It's maths! (There are four in the family to eat one cake and the mother must be fed six slices.) Cake is geography! (Punch a hole in one side and turn it into a river valley with a bucket of cream.) French! (Oui, nous voulons faire un bon g√Ęteau.) Business studies! (Grandma, your slice costs $200, hand it over, cash.) And English Literature! (While their mouths are full, reverentially lay your copy of Robinson Crusoe upon the table.)

If you fail to wire your teeth together, you will come to know the consequences. That cake is 5,890 calories every day. And only Millets can cater for size 36.

6. Hands, hands, and more hands.
Three pairs of hands per child, minimum, are required for all daily interactions of education and child management.

One pair to lay out the happy learning craft resources. A second pair to put the kid with the scissors in lock down. The third to pour a stiff gin and tonic. Three kids = Nine pairs of hands. Stitch your extra hands onto a belt and hang them round your middle.

7. Legs.
Acquire a pair of stout and sturdy tree trunks to attach when the original human pair buckle, as they are sure to do. (Mine went in a stable yard under three kids, a pissed off horse-keeper and a disabled mongrel called Lucy.**)

Keep two additional leg pairs, both waterproof, suitable for nature studies and small children peeing on you. Use one pair for climbing out of ditches because no-one else will fetch the ball, and use the second pair for plodding across woods, fields and hills in the drizzle while you look in despair and rising panic for prehistoric art, moths, or rocks.

(Keep a decent trolly-dolly pair in the cupboard 'for best'. You can always hope to have a night out in 2016.)

8. No hair.
Shave it off or hope it falls out. Only this way can you be relieved of washing, styling, cutting and thinking about the irritating, increasingly grey chore sprouting from your head.

When you home educate kids, consider this. You may have them 24/7. Spending two hours alone in the hairdressers is as likely as flying to the moon.

If you do get to Curl up and Dye, you will inevitably sit next to the lucky cow who whines on and on about how her life is shit because she has to be home in five hours to 'pick the kids up from school'. Then you will never want to go there again.

9. Armour.
In your home educating journey, there will be weapons. Feet, fists, words dipped in poison, lethal pauses, and fatal punctuation marks. Your body without armour will be dented, scratched, bruised, bitten, torn, and trampled upon. Medieval armour c. 1485 is recommended.

10. Nerves of steel.
You are going to need these. You are going to chew down your knuckles with anxiety for Tinkertop's total FAIL if your mother measures her against the common ideas in her knitting circle about reading, writing and 'rithmeticing. When your teeth hit the bones, the nerves of steel will be the only things holding the entire arm together.

11. Large empty space in head.
Yes, when you start home educating, the world will open up, and with it, your mind.

Your brain will no longer be crammed full of pointless crap about lunch boxes, the PTA, holiday forms, or whether Tinkertop's uniform meets the regulation grey.

But do not be scared of the space. Enjoy it. Your mind will be called upon at all hours to help explore the Arctic, explain why polar bears have feet, or expound upon DNA. Keep the space as wide and as far-ranging as possible, then exercise it often. It must be fit for sudden demands to answer questions What holds the sky up? and then to elaborate upon Stephen Hawkin's conception of the universe.

Yet always it must be prepared to try out a new recipe for cake. This time cooked with nettle leaves.

12. Heart.
This must be enormous, bigger than your whole body, with a capacity far greater than all the oceans of the world.

What you are about to do will challenge yourself, your in-laws, show the neighbours a thing or two, take on the educational thought police, put you on the defensive against people you meet, lose friends, make enemies, and cause a tail-back on the M1 southbound from Junction 14. Yes, you will probably take the blame for that too, from the likes of Ed Balls, the NUT and the TES.

In the face of this onslaught you will at times be plunged into severe and crippling doubt. Then you will need a strong heart.

When you are fighting the universe and the children are foul; when the heart wants only to sit sobbing and defeated in a corner; when you are overwhelmed, in despair; when Tinkertop says, after all your effort and stinging hands, that maths with nettle cake is crap, then you must call upon the heart's limitless capacity for forgiving.

Apply it to everyone and, most importantly, to yourself.

* True, I am only talking woman body. This is based on the undeniable, observable fact that most people who turn up at the home ed meet up group - and who we can assume are in the bloody daily front line of the home ed decision - are women.

**Disabled mongrel.

Edited because my French is so bad. That shows you what an A grade is worth.


Blue Dragonfly said...

So true Grit, especially about the cake.

When all else fails, when the most exciting, most educational, most amazing project you just spent half the night preparing is thrown back at you as crap or worse still boring by the ungrateful little git, you can always bake cake.

Thus claiming an educational victory over the little so and so, who actually thinks it's all just fun and not learning at all.
Plus I do love cake.

Trista Teeter said...

As a mom right on the precipice of jumping into the homeschooling abyss, I have been so excited to jump right in...except for this crippling fear of completely falling apart at the seams.

Thanks for the post that puts my mind at ease--IT IS NORMAL. I can concentrate on other things.


KP Nuts said...

I have been wondering for ages why my hair won't grow