Thursday, 15 August 2013

Flexischool to feral

I must be helpful to a new home educator, so forgive this moment of thought. (Normal service will be resumed shortly.)

One of the difficulties people in the home ed world seem to have (and probably not just in the world of home ed) is how to label the stuff we do. Like the Autonomous vs Structured tag.

I have fretted about this myself. Is la famille Grit autonomous? Structured? School at home? Free range? Eclectic?

How many times have I heard myself explaining what position we adopt in this wild spectrum, not to people outside the community, but to people inside it. Yet I never think I got that label exactly right.

And it's easy to make the same assumptions about each other. One week you might observe Tinkertop casually kicking a chicken carcass about a car park while mama looks on tolerantly. Then I'm thinking, Aha! Note the non-coercive parent approach. Must be autonomous. Mama is probably respecting Tinkertop's expression of violence towards the dead chicken as some sort of emotional response towards the avian world. 

But two weeks later I could probably catch Tinkertop hunched over a desk with a maths worksheet, mama scrutinising her from afar, holding a pack of 12 pencils in a threatening manner. Then I might think, Aha! Note the coercive parent approach. Must be structured. Mama is probably organising Tinkertop's entry into the GCSE exam right now.

The reality is, once we withdraw Tinkertop from school to do it the alternative way, we never really know what the alternative way is, until we do it. So you try everything in every direction.

Through trial and error, by picking a way through all options, choices and approaches, you come to see what fits with Tinkertop's brain, character and emotional state. It may be a way that simultaneously allows you to manage the days, cook dinner, consider the rest of the tribe, and attend to your own needs. As if you needed more pressure, you might find yourself trying to position your family group in a face-saving way within the expectations of the wider communities in which you all move - and present yourself so the unaware school-choosers who are watching this whole sorry performance don't ostracise you on the conclusion that you just proved yourself irredeemably nuts.

That experience of home ed becomes the very close way you come to know your own child. And is possibly one reason why home educators become picky and prickly if they feel they're being given the wrong sort of interpretation. We're still working and thinking through all the approaches ourselves.

So my conclusion is, as you get started, I wouldn't fret too much about the labels; neither the ones that are given to you, nor the ones you feel under pressure to use, especially if they come with a whole package of ideas that you don't automatically subscribe to. Be free to try what you like, how you like, when you like.

And now I can leave you to draw your own conclusions about Squirrel's activities of the day.

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