Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Starting home ed?

Oh wow, the Spring school term is starting. There's acute anxiety somewhere out there regarding this momentous day. How can education proceed if not in class 3G with Mrs Binns and Crusher? Visitors are arriving at grit's day to find out in a steady flow. (Okay, dribble.)

Have a few ideas, off the top of my head.

Home ed is a big, scary, responsibility
Yes, the buck (whatever that is), stops right there, under your backside. If Tinkertop is not reading by age 12, you cannot point your finger at school. If she finds serial killing or house breaking an attractive career from age 21, you cannot blame it on her being bullied in class 4F.

Seriously, it's the same worry for us all. The knowledge of my responsibility terrifies me. What if Shark, Squirrel and Tiger reach age 18 with no inclination to study or earn their own living? I'm stuffed. Let's hope it's unlikely.

Um. Today Tiger spent four hours sewing a long-eared bat. And I have to count this as a productive day of education towards employment.

Home education is the most thrilling freedom
You can shape your life, the life of your family, and create a truly adventuresome way of living. You do not need to ask permission from the council, headteacher, or PTA. You do not have to enter into stupid and pointless school gate competitions with other parents about spelling tests and reading books. Personally, I have found this exhilarating.

People will hate you
Okay, hate is a bit strong. But doing your own thing can cause resentments and raise hackles, surprisingly. I think it could be threatening (or maybe that's just me). I have had suspicious glances, covert expressions of who do you think you are? and been cold shouldered from circles of school group mummies.

Maybe I come across as self-centred and arrogant. (Who could think that of me?!) But I can only thank everyone involved for hardening my brass neck and sealing my armour.

Nobody, nothing, and nowhere is normal
It is easy for voices in the mainstream to position home educators as overprotective and overbearing; as controlling parents, withdrawing children from society, and denying their kids normal contact with any other human being.

You can only deal with that in your own way as you live each day. Unfortunately, it has resolved me to shove my children into the maelstrom of the wild world, with all the weirdos and wackos. (It might not help their social adjustment at all, but they are probably growing up to be quite broad minded.)

Sod the maths, just look at the floor
You have to learn to live with mess. And for those of us with control issues, a cluttered house is a bigger psychological frontier to explore than whether the education we provide is actually any good.

Round here, a clear spread of carpet quickly became the stuff of legend, matched only by the mythological strength I needed to keep anything clean. The only way I have found to cope with the crap is simply not to look at it.

Children are with you all the time
Big issue. Their continual presence place restrictions on your life, yes. Me, I have tried dumping them in various worldwide locations, frisking them for breadcrumbs, but nothing works. They follow me right back home. Thanks to their continuous presence, I have failed to satisfactorily buy shoes for a decade or conduct an illicit affair.

You explore personal limits
Many home ed blogs do not cover the yelling part of parenting, choosing instead the Hama beading, pancakes, and smiling. I applaud their endurance.

Me, I am driven to call a spade a bloody shovel, so I tell you in all misery how there will be truly abysmal days when the kids are vile horrible monsters; when brandy over your cornflakes will seem like a suitable fortifying start to the day.

Without overburdening you with grisly personal details, I do believe you should know truths of the home ed experience. In our history here, my kids have failed to worship the educational value of my worksheets or adore my lovely craft activities; they have undermined my goals, destroyed my ambitions, been revoltingly insolent and, in a final punctuation mark to my carefully planned spelling endeavours, punched each other. And I have shouted. Lots. Aware that I have no authority, I have threatened school, bribed compliance, attempted emotional blackmail, and taken revenge by eating their chocolate stash.

However! I maintain the emotional limits you are thrown towards at high speed only provides a brilliant opportunity to explore your parent/child relationships, and to articulate what you experience as a family. I believe it works positively.

(The alternative at some points has been to throw myself under a train, so I have to think that.)

Your home education will change
Over the years we have done free-range, school-at-home, do-what-the-fuck-you-like-I'm-hiding, please-please-please-look-at-this-worksheet, and organised lessons at fantastic cost.

Our home ed is re-shaping again. The point is, what I do now, I am unlikely to be doing in two years; the inspiration I seek now will not be the inspiration I seek next year. I consider this all good. I like to imagine it's in touch with my kids and what they need.

You will live on tenterhooks regarding the press
When a parent goes berserk and commits hideous damage to their own children, a tiny part of my horrible selfish brain snaps Please God do not let them be home educated. Home educators are at the mercy of the press; will a journalist exploit an angle to the story and do us the most enormous and permanent damage?

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have now grown up with me yakking to them about how they are ambassadors for home ed. That's not been a fair pressure to apply to them, but unfortunately, I've felt it necessary.

So, there are some ideas. I have had time to write them today, thanks to the bat study, which is taking place unprompted by me and continuing in a free-range autonomous sort of way. It involves bat-sewing, strapping bats to the windows, making a charity shop front for bats, generally adding to the landfill aka the floor, and going aaahhhh at internet pictures of baby bats. (I defy you not to adore them.)

Just imagine! You could look forward to all this next Monday, if you wanted.