Thursday, 29 December 2011

Making decisions?

Here I am. Skulking behind a rock, and suddenly! Up pops a crowd of you, poking me with flashlights.

In other words, grit's day is receiving an upswing in callers.

But I know what this is! It happens three times a year. The days before a new term starts.

Well, in grit's day you will find wisdom on home ed pain, trauma, comforting communities, delirious joys, face-ache from sobbing, ear-ache from slamming bathroom doors, no time (or money) to go and buy shoes, crippling doubts, occasional dementia, educational over-thinking with a bottle of red wine, and the odd cracked-pot idea about what you can get up to with kids in a field, wood, museum, art gallery, craft shop, shopping centre, or National Trust property. Take consolation and search the blog.

Today, if you are researching home ed, you already know it's a big decision. Be reassured! The people who chose it know what you feel, and what a big decision it is. They will help.

And have a virtual hug. You need not choose this course of action purely for negative reasons, i.e. because your heart will break on January 3rd, at the sound of Tinkertop bawling her eyes out when she imagines returning to school, where no sanctuary is to be found from the little kid who has effectively modelled his playground career on Charles Manson.

You can choose home ed for positive reasons! (I know at the outset it will seem unlikely.) Consider these as you weigh the consequences of that deregistration letter.

1. You can loaf around in bed.
It's important! At 8am you can ear-wig on the street noises of other mummies screaming at kids on the school run. Ha! Ask Tinkertop to bring her books and sit with you while you both curl up with toast and chocolate. Call it your reading lesson.

2. You can do what you want, for as long as you want.
Activities last as long as Tinkertop likes. Two minutes, two hours, three days. You do not have to bash her over the head with timetables or tell her to stop the moment Gillian the giraffe becomes interesting.

3. You can follow Tinkertop's interests.
Flowers? Fish? Soil? Why not? You do not have to teach the National Curriculum. (Not unless you're slotting her back in school in February.) Seriously, at primary level, the NC is pants. Tinkertop will absorb the knowledge she needs as you live a normal home ed life, be confident about that.

4. Tinkertop can be her own person.
Yes! You have put years into raising an individual. Home ed lets Tinkertop find out about that in her own way. She can do a task simply because she wants to, and not because 30 kids down the road are doing it. She can form ideas and opinions about the world without fear of Crusher threatening her or Mrs Binns humiliating her.

5. Everyone can join in.
Home ed is not simply about transmitting knowledge to a kid's head. It is about living a shared experience. An entire family can be involved. You can each learn new skills, work out different ways of doing ordinary activities, find beautiful moments, and enjoy how time passes. Of course you'll argue how to do it. You would if Tinkertop went to school.

6. Tinkertop will make new friends.
In this brilliant community, you will meet the people who blast apart your ideas about normal. And of course you will meet the wackos. It is a privilege to meet them all. They are what makes this society sparkle.

7. You can develop skills you didn't know you had.
Abilities to sweet-talk your way to education officers, negotiate cut-price entrance fees, organise group tours, find workshops, barter for lessons, face the truancy patrol, learn the law, write philosophies of education. (To my way of thinking, all more rewarding than being bullied by the PTA.)

8. The world becomes exciting!
Once you break away from routines that are considered conventional, then everything is up for grabs. You'll hear, time and again, The world is our classroom. That phrase didn't become common because people couldn't recognise its truth.

9. You're special.
Turn up Monday to Friday 9-3 at a museum, cinema, ice rink, gallery, sports centre, discovery centre, swimming pool, and you have that space to yourselves. At most, your home crowd, come for a workshop, just for your group. Within days you will expect immediate access and reduced rates. Come the Easter holidays, you'll be pulling pouty faces and making outraged Who's in charge here? noises, simply because you clapped eyes on a queue.

10. School pressure is off.
You don't have to do what teacher says. You don't have to maintain uniforms. You don't have to smuggle a Jaffa Cake past the lunchbox police. And you don't have to become a teacher. You don't have to set work, mark it, or match any arbitrary standards that someone else is crowing about their child achieving. You just have to help your own child explore and discover the world.

(If Tinkertop is aged 14, obviously some of the above does not apply. Just join the Home Ed Exams list if she wants GCSEs, A levels, or OU courses, then leave her alone to paint her room black.)

Now if you want legal advice on home ed, go elsewhere. Sober counsel on Education Law is not my strength.

If you want tales of home ed glory and Hama beading, go elsewhere. Personally, I find perfection sometimes encouraging; sometimes it just makes me feel like a pissed off failure.

If you want to find contact lists for your local home ed groups, go elsewhere. (We have excellent connections.)

But please lower the flashlight because Tiger is trying to get to sleep. She has had a long hard day loafing on the sofa, reading a book. (And I call that an education.)