Sunday, 15 January 2012

You did ask

When that question comes, Why do you home educate? I usually look at them, and size them up.

Are you a person I'd like to make uncomfortable? Who would you be if I broke through your politeness? Should I inflict on you the full-steam-ahead two hour lecture?

But I'm usually feeling kind. I wave it away, and give a flippant response. I can lie in bed until 10am.

Maybe I kept my mouth shut one too many times this week. I'm feeling a discharge coming on.

I've seen the inside of a classroom.
Enough. I have too many urgencies.

I wanted the aspirations of my children to come first.
Enter any institution and a child's needs, wants and relationships must be a lower priority than the workings of the organisation.

Sure, the administrators say the child is being listened to, and that everything is happening in the child's best interests, but in the end, the situation is only ever progressing one way - one that suits the institution. The child has merely to be manipulated to reach a stage of agreement and compliance with the paperwork.

It sort of pissed me off, watching the techniques for how this happened. And I wanted to be straight when I dealt with my kids.

I wanted my kids to be individuals.
I hated to think of my children sucked into a mass conveyor belt system. One likes fish, one likes horses, and one I haven't yet figured out. They're different, dammit.

And I didn't want them feeling powerless, or being coerced to fit in to a system from the age of five - one that had sanctions, humiliations and punishments for not fitting in.

I want to have fun.
Okay, I know I am a grown woman, but I want to enjoy being alive. I want to get out of bed at 4am to hunt nightingales; I want to dig holes in the soil; I want to sit at a firepit toasting bread; I want to stand in a field after dark listening to an astronomer enthuse about Orion. Kids are a great excuse to release your inner 12-year old.

Open and closed arguments.
When a classroom teacher gives an answer, it often reduces to 'That is how it is'. I have given answers like that myself. Really, the answer should be, 'It depends.'

A teacher in a classroom has moments to respond to any issue arising, and they feel the pressure to provide an answer that closes the debate down, and moves the lesson forward. That leads to superficial answers and pat conclusions. If they want to open the debate, class time has to be scheduled. That's artificial; the moment of interest has passed; the debate is limited by the bell; and then you find the kid who originally asked the question is off sick.

I wanted a situation where, when a child asks a question, I can answer it honestly, with 'It depends.' Then we can spend two hours talking.

The language of teachers.
I'm told research shows how kids constantly ask questions at home ... but when they arrive at school, the child stops asking questions, and the adults ask questions instead. But get this - the adults ask questions to which they already know the answers. So what's the point of asking the question? Eventually kids learn to play this game.

But I wanted a real dialogue with kids, not a pretend one. I wanted a discussion where I didn't know all the answers, and where our dialogue was a genuine construction of shared ideas.

The language of kids.
Yes, I want to protect my brood. I want to shield them from other kids who stream out of school effing and blinding. I don't want mine to feel coerced into ways of speaking, acting, and dressing that I feel are inappropriate to the values and ideas that I want to promote in our tribe.

And sod off with any accusations of middle class over-protectiveness. I believe some aspects of language, behaviours, modesties and courtesies transcend class.

Social horizons.
I wanted my children to have a wide social experience. I wanted them to see and meet different people living many different types of life. I simply couldn't see how school could offer a wide social experience.

Contact with adults.
As much as possible, because kids aren't kids forever. I wanted my three to be brought up surrounded by the models, behaviours and norms of adults leading the way. I wanted my children to learn how to interact with adults who were not in authority over them, but who were grown up people with their own interesting histories, opinions, ideas and conversations.

Attention span.
Who honestly believes that kids have little attention span? In my experience, they can concentrate for hours on something they like. I wanted to give them the time and space to attend to whatever interested them. So long as it wasn't torturing the neighbour's Mr Tibbles, what could go wrong?

Acquiring skills, ideas, and ways of seeing.
People are amazing, right? There's a woodworker, electrician, linguist, product developer, designer, writer, dreamer, all living down someone's street. I have a belief that everyone can be a teacher to a child. Yes, that includes the eccentric and the idler. All have a view to impart. Why shut my child away from these people and supply them only with one teacher who has a narrower range of life experience?

The curriculum & the testing of the curriculum.
Some knowledge is to be acquired first? Other knowledge delivered later? Then a child can be tested according to their understanding of the knowledge delivered? Pah.

The freedom of reading.
The process of learning to read? Scared me witless. I messed up a lot. I only narrowly avoided a breakdown. But hey, they cracked it, aged between eight and nine. Now they can spend as long as they want reading whatever they choose from the library (if it still exists.)

I wanted my children to have the time to play with each other, or with friends; to sit in mud and sand with unicorns, climb trees to escape goblins, run across fields chasing rabbits, and dash through woods looking for treasure. I wanted my kids to move, not sit still. Which child would seriously choose a day sat indoors by preference when the sun is shining and the air sharp?

I watched art, music, dance, history - all the subjects that mattered to me - be sidelined in the race for literacy and numeracy targets. I wanted music by experience, art covered in paint, and dance round the kitchen table. I wanted my history with wet feet and pinked cold cheeks on a battlefield, and I wanted geography to mean crossing a river and falling off the stepping stones. Practical, active, experiential.

Our local primary school has a uniform from age five. I burn it with my laser eyes. I had to be physically stopped from spraying graffiti on the local school outfitting shop. Who doesn't want to enjoy the sight of their five-year old taking pleasure in dressing up?

I don't understand how parents can bring these contradictions together. On the one hand they are beaten up about feeding their offspring, on the other instructed to turn them over to the junk-food mongers of the school premises. It doesn't make sense to me.

I want the kids to eat well. I feed them myself. We eat together, at a table, food that I damn well thought about and cooked. And if they don't like it, there's grass outside.

I don't like imposing a model of childhood on kids.
Schools look at children as if they are already adults. They instruct them in sex, but keep them away from politics. Isn't that perverse?

Me, I do it the other way round. I watch the kids play; I see them in conflict for control and I see them face issues of power in their relationships. So I teach them politics. I don't teach them about sex, because they don't play sex. On sex, I wait till I'm asked 'What does that mean?' then I answer.

In a crisis, I want my kids to come to me.
I don't want to be separated from my children by any institution that tells them how difficult it is to talk to parents. No, matey, a child should feel they can go to their parent, that they are a trusted person to talk over issues. I want to be that person, thanks. I don't trust a message like that given by a school.

I am a bolshy mare.
So I have to ASK PERMISSION to take my kid to the excellent Iron Age museum in Andover? From a headteacher who wears his trousers too long?

I DON'T THINK SO. The relationship would have lasted days, blown up into confrontation, and ended, bitterly, when I keyed his Volvo.

I like power with my responsibility.
I want to encourage the values, attitudes, behaviours and ways of approaching life that I believe are positive. If I am my child's main adult contact, I can discuss those values that I hold dear, without being undermined.

You can say that I'm brainwashing if you like. I call it passing on my culture to my kids.

In some countries, that process isn't liked much either. When people are really determined to prevent the passing on of values, there's one solution used. Cut out the tongue of the mother.

I could go on. And on. You've probably suffered enough.

I can lie in bed until 10am.


Michelle said...

Agree with everything. Miss you loads more when you write like this as it's the voice of you I know more. Or maybe this theme has featured heavily in discussions we've had in the past. Or maybe I neeeeeeeeeeed a ftf chat over tea before you launch soup at me (c said the other day never to sit at a table with the two of us and made me miss you more :-( ). Am currently having self doubt due to gcse booking agro and thinking school is so much easier for exam taking. You've reminded me why we decided not to apply for secondary school at all. Xx

KP Nuts said...

Great post.

KP Nuts said...

Especially the food bit - Food is at the core of us, our day is much of shopping, chopping, mixing etc (well, not at the moment because the kitchen is being decorated) but normally! It is not a bolt on extra.

Grit said...

michelle, these kids are old enough to cope on their own for a few hours. let's meet up in london for lunch when i'm back. we can be ladies who lunch! and i need a good f2f.

(ps. i completely and publicly apologise for launching a cheese and onion pasty at you.)

yes, kp nuts! and i love the way that cake can be the entire primary curriculum ;) what's your favorite?

Deb said...

I am going to steal this and pretend it's my own. Fair warning.

Also, I love you unabashedly.

kelly said...

Have you read the teenage liberation handbook? It's proving to be very comforting reading for a mother of and eleven year old, who has no idea what she is going to do when the teenage years come a-calling.

Michelle, if you need a home educator to launch food at you, just let me know...I did manage to smash pink lemonade all over aldi's today so should be able to manage soup, but I don't have Grit's way with words.

Michelle said...

Kelly, if I thought you were anywhere within driving distance I would be there like a shot. Will try that book though. Thank you!

Michelle said...

Grit yes!

Gweipo said...

you forgot one thing - you're selfless. Because mums like me are way to selfish with themselves and their time to home-educate!
All we do is pick up the pieces that get left behind and mend the broken balls that fall at school and end up with kids that fail in one way or another in the eyes of the establishment.

But having said that, my kids spend time with older people (at an old age home) organized by the school and my daughter has 2 hours a week this term in a home for autistic children. They're saving the planet from it's water issues and raising money for children from every south east asian nation, and have taken to telling me I need to frame things "positively" as it has better impact.
I think they're at a pretty good school now and that makes a huge difference.

KP Nuts said...

Our old LEA Inspector told me that basic cooking would cover most of primary maths and science. He was very interested to know if my daughter could make a sandwich.

Ooh best cakes. There are entire blogs devoted to that. Probably chocolate brownie, coffee & walnut and malteaser cake but really I prefer tiramisu to cake and my 7 year old makes a mean tirasmisu now. She testalates the sponge fingers, likes watching them bubble full of coffee and grates the chocolate!

But I am off cake atm. It has been two weeks now since I had any cake or wine or booze or biscuits. I have never done anything like this before and it is a little odd but..........

Lins said...

I read this yesterday and I read it again today because it makes me feel gooooood! I'd forgotten why I home educate and I'm going to lie in tomorrow morning just because I can.
Thanks Grit. x

Grit said...

thank you for taking the time to comment, people.

(cake for me is always best when soaked in liquor.)

KP Nuts said...

At our last monthly adults only evening home ed social there was sambuca cake.

I guess tiramisu ticks the liquor box too.

Tina Hollenbeck said...

I just today discovered you on the recommendation of my blogger friend Deb, who noted above that she intended to take this post and claim it as her own. :^) I just shared the post on Facebook (giving you credit, of course!) and noted that, if I were British and just a bit more brassy, this would have been my post; in fact, I think American versions of these responses every day! Totally looking forward to reading more of what you have to say!