Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hello, Mumsnetters

As the entire world approaches that calender date on which children wait to be sacrificed to Gove's Global Datasheets of Branded Academic Performance Structures Phase I, I know from the secret statcounter that some of you parents are considering alternatives. (There is always a spike about August.)

Geology walk to Coombs Quarry

To wit: 'making the most disastrous mistake of your life', 'setting up your child to fail', and 'beginning on a path that will deny Tinkertop her life chances, remove from her opportunities of a professional career, and separate her from her friends forever'. Probably also she will become an anarchist member of that evil underground network bent on destroying all humanity, and led by our hero, Grimly Feendish, aka Home Educators.

Thornborough Bridge, built in the 14th century, 
the only surviving medieval bridge in Bucks! 
Imagine the travellers who crossed this way.

I cannot help you take your decision. All children are different, la? If Tinkertop threatens to go bonkers, breakdown, or chuck herself under a bus on September 4, in the absence of her rational thinking, then it is you, responsible parent, who weighs the options, costs, benefits, and consequences.

 WTF? Who signed off this repair?
Time to become the nit-picking little building nerd 
I truly am, and send a note to English Heritage.

What I can do, is give you what I do. Probably across many posts (apologies). Otherwise, I only have wrods of experience for the new-to-home ed:

1. Find local home ed groups; talk to practicing home educators, face to face. Meet as many as possible, all over the place. Yes, you will meet people who are bonkers. Some will be wary of you, some want to sell you tuition services for profit, some happily include you in the panda-themed party they're having that afternoon. That's life, not home ed. Be grateful your first introduction is not being locked in a toilet with the hippy who protests against the exploitation of cotton pickers and passes you her favourite bottom wipe. She knitted it herself from the hair of the family goat.

 Calming, no?

2. Are you suffering for the cause yet? Not enough. A next step is to attend home ed meets, visit the haunts and habitats, and generally discover how they know where to go. It may involve wellies, sticks, and a dog wearing a cardigan. Or tea and Bibles. Or watching a kid see if a pile of salt on the kitchen table can be ignited. Relax, broaden your mind, wait for it all to make sense. It never will. Probably why I enjoy the company of souls in this community. (But I am also comfortable with my own contradictions, denials, excuses and hypocrisies, so I am not much of a judge.)

 The river here would be an excellent place
 for the kids to do a river survey. 
I am all up for that. 
Anyone want to come along?

3. Open your eyes to education in everything, not just what school taught you. You have to do this with grinding relentlessness. Say, when you stand forlorn before a museum display that is basically a pile of old rocks, a joyless mound of dusty plastic fish, and a non-functioning video about newt warts. The lot will be guarded by an elderly woman who wants to do her very best for you. She may pin you down so she can find the worksheet that Doreen made in 1985. She is sure they have a photocopy of it somewhere. But even here we can find an education! There must be something about communities, social values, museum funding, and English politeness formula as you try and beat a path to the tea shop.

 Soil! I like soil.

4. Redefine the word Success. Tinkertop not made it out of bed today? Success. The pom-pom making workshop that ended in vomit? Success. The giddy heights of the stick-and-glue group where there is an almighty fight over the single Pritt Stick? Success.

Ah, woodland.

5. Don't feel bad, even when you feel marginalised. Oh yes, it will happen, even in happy home ed land.  One group may feel all wrong; you sense an ugly bad-tempered truce in another; a third resembles total chaos. The fact you weren't invited to the library group, and now you're sure they're telling you something? Keep with it: you and Tinkertop will be comfortable somewhere. And let's celebrate. Expect these divisions; they are made of ideologies, philosophies, religious beliefs and politics. You wanted to join a community of people who stand up for what they believe, don't do things just because someone tells them to, and rarely agree just for the sake of conflict avoidance, didn't you? Society needs strong minded people, and you'll meet a shed load out here.

In the quarry. 
Here you can find shells from the time 
this land was a tropical beach.

6. You must be prepared to face out the incomprehending others. Like those who think Tinkertop should be at school; assume she has been excluded; or there must be something socially wrong with her. They may make comments about how you must be mad/desperate, or your motives are suspicious. Maybe you are needy and weak. You never knew you were capable of murdering your own family until now, huh? I guess you'll develop your favourite reply which isn't fuck off delivered under your breath.

And the perfect spot for a picnic 
with a bit of ice age art.

7. You may have to get to grips with exam culture. Or not. The illegal flexischool, or not. But educationally, you and Tinkertop can sort out a route that is suited to her, and her specific needs and interests. Like the wise woman said, life is not a race. Tinkertop can find her own way, be inspired by courses for which she needs qualifications, aim to be in the place she wants to be. So what if she does it on her own path? It is for situations like this people invented the expression There is more than one way to skin a cat. (Apologies to Tiddles.) You have to help pick a curriculum, negotiate an exam centre, and pay the invigilator. For info, join the high volume, informed and intelligent home ed exams yahoo group.

 I love this gate. 
Whoever made it, I thank you.

8. You have to know the law. At some point, it will be unavoidable, maybe when you need to articulate your philosophy, choose whether to have visits, or avoid court. I could give you a quick legal thingummy, in case you fear an EWO will test your knowledge of English Educational Law 1947-2009, and you don't have the gibbering Tinkertop on hand to demonstrate the mess made by conventional schooling, but the law is not my first interest and anyway, other sites give you the gem.

The sort of day a girl needs. 
Equipped with knife, sticks, ancient shells and soil, 
what could be a better way to footle through a Sunday?

9. It may be of no use to anyone else, but fortune cookie philosophy keeps me upright. Be imaginative to think of the choices; be brave enough to carry them out. Leave the life you planned; embrace the life you have. Eat more prawn crackers; why resist their crunchy charms? And always look for the easy laugh. There will be times when you need it.

Burial mound.

10. You have to be prepared to drive a car where you hope the police never have cause to look in the boot.

Now you could say, Do you know what? Having thought about it, let's not do it.


Blue Dragonfly said...

So well put as always Grit.
After 7 years of HE my response to the criticism of family is still to mutter fuck off several times under my breath. Sometimes I even sing it to the tune of Go West by the Pet Shop Boys.
My own Tinkertop now rolls her eyes and tuts, stating I am juvenile in the extreme. I am glad she is learning that anyhow.

Grit said...

the only one of our extended tribal group who really took against us upped and left. i didn't weep.