Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014? Get the Hell out of my House

2014, you were shit.

You were, in a minor cosmetic way, better than 2013 when I spent several months face down in a bucket of zinc, expecting to explode and die without ever having the chance to use the epipen, but really, 2014? You were worse, far far worse than 2013.

2013 only brought me a worry about instant death, but 2014? You bought the prospect of a slow, slow lingering life, not by having my heart simply ripped from me (that happened in 2003), but by stapling my eyelids open to watch the pieces of heart be jumped up and down upon, then kicked about this planet, like so much broken stuff that the prospect of mending it all seemed as far as jumping to the moon.

But 2015, you are going to be good to me, are you not? You are going to be lovely and kind and healing and generous and gentle. You are going to be straight down the line, honest and true. You are going to be funny, witty, and wise. You are going to make me laugh with such big rolling bellylaugh laughter that I am glad to be alive and glad that it is 2015, the year when everything just said safe.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Yeah, the rest

Just so I don't forget, like. Apart from Berlin, the monthly home ed triumphs. We need to record them, in case I reach the end of the month and can't recall what we did. Not any of it.

1. The lantern parades: local, various, some burning of a dragon involved.
At one point in all this festival of light and lanternry, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger attended a workshop with our local wicker-botherers, Festive Road, which was being recorded for a programme, but I can't recall which one, nor exactly when it was recorded or broadcast. Apart from that, much wicker bothering was done.

2. More British Museum, more V&A, more British Library.
I am afraid we are regulars. You can probably find me in the friends room at some point, slumped against a cappuccino. The kids are old and wise enough to go an explore on their own accounts, so long as they come back to tell me interesting stuff they found out. That's the rule.

3. They went to the Globe, I went to the RSA.
Yes, I managed this splendidly: I booked the offspring into an event at Shakespeare's Globe then I sloped off with Dig to his Club of Choice, the RSA. I have no idea what education the children experienced, but I gathered it was community based, and involved singing.

4. Latin, Glob Cit, Tiger's rock climbing, and the Media education.
The normal round of lessons continues, including mother's Film Family Fun Night, which this month has been sci-fi based. The geeky Plan-9 and the prescient Brazil.

5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The lovely, funny, witty and insightful Simon Armitage reading his Gawain version at Sam Wannamaker theatre. (I was very restrained and did not throw panties.)

6. Opera.
Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are opera goers. They don't get it from me, but daddy Dig. I am working on it all with the elbow-length evening gloves and the up-do. This month the offspring clocked up Glyndebourne Touring Opera for Turn of the Screw, then the MET Opera (cineworld screening) with Wagner's 6-hour treat of the Meistersinger.

7. The Imitation Game.
The Travelling Christmas Aunty did her tour of family duty; keen to provide new and stimulating experiences for her jaded travel palette, we took her off to the cinema, having worked out that it could have been fifteen years since her last visit. (But do not tell her this: we are now hard at work on what we think should be her bucket list. So far we have thought about pushing her out of an aeroplane (with a parachute) and burying her alive. We read this experience has been therapeutic for some people in Germany.)

That's it. Someone said Christmas is coming up which means we have parties to attend, and I do battle with holly wreaths.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Feeling weary

Things are stirring in the home ed 'hood. After a (relatively) long period of quiet.

Not simply the trouble-making of the NSPCC, but the Sunday Times article, conflating out-of-school children to vulnerability to abuse and exploitation. Then further debates on changing guidance on children 'missing' education and 'questions in the house'. My guess is the registration and inspection debate will be the gift to home ed for 2015.

Some proper botherers are out for us. They simply can't let us alone to get on with an education. Any link of disreputable behaviour will do. Any suggestion that we are not caring parents providing a fantastic opportunity to live a childhood, or that we are providing the time and space for our kids to grow up in their own unique ways. Nope, none of that is useful for the culture the botherers want to build. Their story is to strew fear, uncertainty, doubt. Who knows what home educators are up to? Training up mini jihadists? Abusing children physically, emotionally, sexually? The secret 'invisible' people undermining normal society?

Please, could home educators just be a bunch of mild eccentrics, gentle people, independent minded people who take on huge family responsibilities? Could we be celebrated as people following philosophies of education that reach well back beyond the Victorian schooling solution?

I'm sure the botherers need to suggest that if all home educators were monitored, then this would address every suspicion they raised for you. Then we all lose. But this isn't an educational agenda, even though that will be the message with the push for earlier and earlier engagement with outsourced learning, closer accountability of childhood, more pressure of league tables, standardised testing regardless of how unique is Tinkertop, greater surveillance of how you're interacting with your child in the home.

It all means less contact time between parents and kids, and more monitored time between parents and kids. You have to wonder what society they're trying to build.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

That was a lesson and a half

We took the kids to visit Berlin. We cranked up a few journeys around the museums, with a few oohs and ahhs of the sights.

I particularly liked the Bauhaus Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum. And the upstairs  German Art exhibition in the Brohan Museum. We visited a Christmas Market! And I drank Gl├╝hwein in the frosty cold! The Berlin Wall exhibitions were on the list, of course, as was the sight of the reichstag, the Brandenberg Gate, reviews of the lovely Neil MacGregor's observations, and our ongoing, wide-ranging discussions on European economic policies and post-war European politics.

Yippee! say the home educated innocents, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger!

(One day they will be grateful for the parents they had.)

I can't call one particular line of our enquiry in Berlin a 'highlight', because that word triggers all the wrong connotations. But the most memorable lessons in humanity came from the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the exhibition at the Topography of Terror.

I am grateful to my parents. In 1974 they took me out of school for a tour of Germany and Austria. They found it difficult to navigate their relationship with Germany, or to talk about the Second World War, so they took me and my brother to experience together the modern Germany, then walk through Mauthausen Memorial. They left us at times to think out for ourselves what would our values be? Values of individual moralities when faced with social coercions; how we could be led into states of agreement, denial, complicity, resistance, fear or a belief in right and duty. How societies converge, part, forget, remember, move on.

And that's what I wanted to give Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

The memory of enjoying a holiday; seeing beautiful historic buildings, exciting modern developments, the boredoms and panics of travel, then feeling the texture of earth under foot, touching walls and doors and gateposts, moving through cold, practical spaces of death and survival. Such a visit for me in my same-teenage year was a more profound education than I could have gained by sitting in a classroom, staring at a black and white photograph in a school history textbook, waiting for breaktime.