Sunday, 14 October 2012

Aunty Grit is so helpful and kind

I received an email this week, and because I am kind - honestly, I am! You don't have to bribe me with a bottle of Hendrick's or anything! (although clearly it helps) - I thought I would respond.

Well here goes. Yes, it's something home educators are not usually allowed to talk much about.


We know that if we confess in public anything like being lonely, it can be used against us in all manner of unhelpful ways, supporting dangerous judgements how our cursed misery is the result of our self-inflicted social isolation, our exclusion, the imposition on our children of this cruel, inhuman life, missing out all their normal friendships and all normal relationships. The type of life that sees a child locked up in the house for hours and hours and hours, to wither in strange solitude with only an unhinged mother and the sneering cat for company.

Talk one more step in that direction, and with the political wind blowing in the wrong direction and at a brutal strength, it'll be compulsory social training for the lot of us home educating Norma No-mates. The mothers will be whipped into shape via an Oliver James article about how clinically wrong in the head we all are, and the children will be sent for compulsory companionship down at the local comp.

Better let us say nothing about that curse of loneliness, and stress instead how fantastically busy we all are with our home educating social calenders!

But of course these states of loneliness, friendship, companionship, sociability, clubbiness, they aren't all unavoidable destinies that come with your chosen way of life.

Home educating does not necessarily result in loneliness, as school does not necessarily result in sociability. How many school children complain they have no special friends, no group that lets them in, or that they spend everyday avoiding Jessie and her gang?

In truth, it matters not a jot what you do, whether you home educate or not, nor whether your child attends school, flexischool, or whether they reluctantly attend the miserable anarchist home ed co-op knitting group that meets once a month in the scout hut. Everyone, all of us, feels lonely at points in life, because it's human.

We all feel it, and you do too, unless you are a lizard in human form. I bet you feel it most keenly between one state and another, say when you change route drastically, jump from the frying pan of school into the fiery pit of home ed, and suddenly lose those familiar routines and social networks, but are yet to build new ones. Or when your happy-to-be-home-ed 11-year old suddenly grows up to announce they don't want to play stupid baby games with the 9-year olds anymore! They want to chill with kids their own age and type. When you look around and realise there aren't any 11-year old girls called Tinkertop who like drawing wombats left in your area. They all moved back to school last September. Except one, and you had a blow up with her mother about a plant pot.

Look at it this way. Loneliness is part and parcel, comes and goes, feels keenly there and is far away. I know that, because last time I looked, I had no zip to let the lizard out. But it's a human thing, so it comes with a human reaction. Whether it's me, or my kids, who say I want friends to play with, we check out the lists for social meet ups, make an excuse for coffee, tag along somewhere, invite someone over. We'll make an excuse, create an event, find a group, send a pleading email, make a new connection, attend a meet up, offer a date, make a suggestion, and say yes, let's do that. I recommend all those approaches.

But of course this is grit's day. I accept things don't always go to plan, and sometimes my advice ain't worth the keyboard I typed it on (the letter r is dodgy).

Maybe you can feel better when I tell you that this weekend we didn't visit the space centre, we didn't go to see the battle at Hastings, we missed the talk at the art gallery, we never saw the play, I never sent the email, and I lost the number of the geocaching group.

We all stayed at home stirring the miserable stew that is our own family. Dig collapsed in a travel fugged heap. I grew bored facing the laundry. The little grits acted like kittens locked up, left in a house all day long. They intermittently stalked and cuffed each other, fought, snarled, sloped off to sulk in a chair. Minutes ticked by before they'd come again, batted each other with paws, hit each other with cushions, claws, feet, and finally wreaked vengeance with a plastic frog. Then one squealed, another went off in an arched huff, and a third howled with the frustration, boredom and loneliness of a ruined day.

I console myself. Next week I have several appointments for us all, and they are sure to be social.


Irene said...

I wonder if you don't really mean your own loneliness and project that onto the Gritlets who can't possibly be lonely. That you are lonely, I would believe and I sympathize with you completely. You need to find like minded friends of your own who have nothing to do with gome ed. Maybe it's time to send the Gritlets to a regular school and strike out for yourself. Wouldn't that be a good idea and about time? xox

Grit said...

What, Irene? Do you mean give up the miserable anarchist home ed co-op knitting group?? But that would be a disaster! I'm the only one who attends! Who else can take the minutes?

i can fully appreciate understand that not everyone enters home ed willingly! they never set out to re-think ideas or values or social norms; their child just led them to it.

so for many people who did not enter home ed from a philosophical frame of reference, home ed can feel like a lonely choice; to enter the home ed network from a school network is a big jump to take in outlook, practice, and thinking.

for anyone taking any step away from the norm, it can feel like an isolating experience, can't it? they may feel 'on their own'; but basically they've been put into a position where have to re-think life for themselves, rather than take on a set of ideas already given to them.

but the home ed network is extremely supportive, strong and very well connected; it's very tolerant and accepting of a huge range of views (including the bizarre); it's social, busy, and active, and it's one that most school-choosing people are simply unaware of.

and i am all in favour of discussing the unspeakable.

Irene said...

I do presume a lot, don't I? But you do give the impression of being somewhat emotionally isolated and that's the feeling I went with when I made my comment. Maybe you should put more emphasis on the social aspect of your personal life in home ed so that we know you don't live in a vacuum. xox

Anne B said...

I was lonelier in the crowd at the school gates when they were at school than I ever have been on my own as a home educator.

If anyone asks me now, I smile sweetly and say I prefer quality to quantity.

My darling children would actually prefer neither. They've decided they like some people. Some are child shaped, some are adult shaped. My beloved (sometimes) 12 year old recently asked a well-meaning questioner if she wasn't being discriminatory saying she should be socialising with other 12 year olds when so that excluded so much of the rest of the human race!

Grit said...

it would be like betraying my contacts, irene. these people, they are still ALIVE.

I like that answer, Anne B. I shall pinch it for my personal use!

Nikki Wall said...

I'm quality over quantity as well, but not every area is a buzzing hive of home-ed activity and some people just don't feel like they fit in (or indeed get frozen out - and I have seen this happen to people and it's very sad - not all home-ed people are very tolerant and accepting...)

That said, I still maintain one of the biggest perks of home-ed is that one is not forced on the awful school run - I hated, absolutely hated, waiting on the *play*ground waiting for school to end.

I think the potential for loneliness is potentially covered up more than many people will admit for fear that it could be used as a stick to beat some people with.

I miss going to a knitting group in the pub - I was the only home-edder there ('cos I do actually know some people who don't home-ed, honest) and it involved yarn and alcohol (two things I really like).

Sadly, the pubs round here have *issues* with bringing along a baby on a Wednesday evening (or indeed any evening) and knocking back Strawberry Timmermans whilst breastfeeding is generally frowned upon.

So now I'm having to attend the local home-ed group in order to get anything approaching adult-like conversation in the day. ;-)

I can knit there, but alcohol is still frowned upon (not least because it's at an LDS temple).

Iota said...

Isn't it funny how loneliness is - obviously - a part of life from time to time, as you say, but is nonetheless looked on as an embarrassment? Confessing to being lonely is almost impossible. And if you do so, you're likely to be more lonely - who wants to include lonely people in their social circle?

I remember when mummy blogging was new-ish in Britain, a newspaper wrote an article saying it was the latest activity for bored and lonely mothers - or something along those lines. There was an absolute blogging outcry. "Lonely? I'm not lonely!" said everyone. "I've got lots of friends."

It struck me as peculiarly British, actually (I'd recently moved the US, and was very into analysing all the differences... you probably remember). I'd noticed that in the US, people had made comments to me as a newcomer, about how lonely it is when you move to a new place. I don't think anyone ever says that when you're in a new place in the UK. It's a taboo word, somehow. I think we attach an awful lot of importance to belonging, and if you admit you're lonely, you're admitting you don't belong.