Monday, 3 September 2012

Advice to the home ed beginner

Find your nearest groups.

That's it. You'll find more than one: this community can offer you the religious groups, the secular groups, the autonomous wing, the structured, the gifted, the Asperger's, the primary, secondary, the playgroup, the muddling-along-in-the-middle groups, the travelling, the odd-balls, the flexischooled and the two-fingers-up-at-the-LA groups.

That's for starters. The people you'll meet swilling between them will range from the scarily strictly professional to the completely off the trolley bonkers.

They offer a fantastic range of support; and each and everyone of them can teach us something.

I defy you to locate one crazier than the woman I met, two weeks into our home ed decision, when I find her, and me, locked in a toilet together.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger were aged four. A friend of a friend invited us to a party for school refusers. Where Squirrel needs to wee. I usher her to the large bathroom, where the mad woman is already attending to a trouserless toddler stood by a washbasin. She carefully wipes his bum with a woven cloth, rinses the limp stained rag under the tap, wrings it out, and hands the dripping fabric to me.

Welcome to home ed. Did you not know that it comes with an ideological objection to the consumable paper products industry?

But this is what strikes me as fantastic about home ed. Not that you can be as wacky and wild as you like. But that in this community of individuals you are sure to meet people who put their principles into action. They live their beliefs. If they come to believe the environment is better off without toilet paper, well they can work without toilet paper. Thousands of people already do. Can't you give it up too, for the sake of the planet?

Aren't people like this remarkable? I assume a person's principles are created from what they imagine is a force for good in the world, and not a result of a blow on the head (although there probably is a group for them too). And they will have thought it all out; they'll be more than happy to share their knowledge on the destructive bleaching, dying, and embossing methods used in toilet paper manufacture while they remain utterly blind to the way you're scrabbling at the lock.

But every situation teaches us something, and not only check the toilet before you go in. What it is to live a principle. What it means to put beliefs into practical action. What hazards and benefits might follow; the consequences of following your commitments.

I like to imagine I'm a better person for meeting the mad woman in the toilet. From her I began to learn about the huge diversity of people in this home ed world, how they will readily give support, expect very little in return, and share what they have, willingly.

They offer something else, too. It's practical experience. Something which is always welcome. Every one of us parents is good for something: whether it's an in-depth knowledge of environmental law, teaching a musical instrument, doing practical household maths, mending bikes, discussing power and politics, or walking the dog. With an open mind, a great tolerance of others, a willingness to say I don't know, let's find out, and a readiness to share, there's no stopping any of us. Home educators use their brilliant diversity as a source of strength and support, and you can find it all, as much as you want, starting from your local group.

So that's my advice, if you're just setting out. And take your own toilet paper. That, too.


Kestrel said...

I love you Grit. Seriously, I do. I met the green smoothie swillers with the boundary-less ultra violent two year old who needed to be allowed to attack and bite anyone in range in order to achieve their full potential. I'm still slogging away at middle of my own road school free life and probably owe a debt of something to that family.

Sharing this blog post widely, and on the internet too.

peapod said...

Did you take the rag?

Minnie said...

Great post. Made me smile.

We definitely started off in the last group you listed. LAs can be such bullies. Present one is much better. Nowadays, we're muddling along nicely.. in a totally autonomous fashion.

I am a loo roll fan. Camping in the middle of nowhere, years ago, saw to that! You can keep your dock leaves. lol

Big mamma frog said...

Oh yes. Many a strange encounter at home ed groups.

I'm always reassured to find someone who has championed the classification of 'nutter mother' better than I have.

Here's to the home ed group, and all who sail in her :)

coffeebooksna said...

I wholeheartedly agree. The mad ship home ed and its many diverse passengers - from the rural hippies to the 5* suburbanites. Great blog post as always Grit :D

Grit said...

yup, proof again that in this world home educated kids can meet a full range of characters of all beliefs; if we're creating communities where people have to find out what unites us better than what divides us, then home ed is a valuable practical experience!

no, i didn't take the rag. i said, in a voice which was striving to be dignified, but only succeeded in sounding ridiculous, given the content, that i'd like to teach squirrel how to use toilet paper.

(but it's also true that until that moment, i'd never really considered there was any other option!)

Circus Queen said...

I can get my head around "family cloth" but the same cloth? Great post. I'm looking into home ed. My daughter's only 15 months at the moment though. Do you think it's too soon to touch base with groups?

Grit said...

nope, never too soon to figure out the advantages/disadvantages, your legal position, the social circumstance, the changes it will bring, the employment you sacrifice. ... to be forewarned is to be forearmed!