Monday, 28 December 2015

But we Home EDUCATE and we're ATHEISTS!

Just because I now lost TWO arguments doesn't mean I'm going quietly.

Swinging punches on the way down with Argument One:
We Home EDUCATE. We do not Home SCHOOL. 

School is about training to shut up and sit quiet while knowledge is transmitted to you. It usually filters from top to bottom. To allow that process to happen, you have to accept procedures, restraints, limitations. Did you hear that bell sound? Change what you are doing. Shut up that you were 'just getting into it'. Time to do something else.

Of course we are not trying to reproduce school in a kitchen. What would be the sodding point? If we wanted schooling then we could send the kids to school, duh.

Wot we do - we swotty Ancient Classics types staring specky-eyed at our Western philosophical tradition - we like to call our stuff, Education.

Education, well, that never stops. It's not timed, it's not disciplined, nor delimited by hours, and it includes the observation of dust trickling in sunset, the way sound scatters across a marble floor, and the entire works of Shakespeare if that is your passion.

Education is free-flowing; it requires your active thinking, pursuit, and construction of knowledge. The knowledge you construct, you call your own. You, thinker, doer, expert, you find out what you like, when you like.

This wonderful segue of learning about life does not mean your learning comes without structure. As you approach anything you want to learn about, you begin to find the way the subject organises itself; you learn the language of the area you study; you discover the rationales, reasonings, labellings and semantics of the discipline.

Quickly you realise that if you're going to get far into any area, then you must bring some self-discipline to the study. You organise your time and articulate your motivations; you discover the things which facilitate your learning and the things which prohibit your learning. You learn not only the discipline you've chosen, you also learn how to learn. Welcome to our philosophy of education.

Personally I don't believe the way schools are now structured, supervised and managed allows for much of that free-ranging discovery to happen.

Chewing at anyone's ankles while flat on the floor, losing Argument Two:
Religion has nothing to do with our choice to Home Educate. We are ATHEISTS.

I now routinely face the idea that we home educate because of our religious conviction. We must be Christian / Muslims / Jews, otherwise we would send our kids to school, right?

All I'm saying, is that I'm equipping the entire family with colanders.

Yes, of course there are children who are told to believe that a virgin can conceive a child after a shadow passes over her, Gabriel speaks to some bloke holding a rock, and Moses can't find the path out a desert for 40 years, and I call this passing on your values and beliefs to the next generation.

Good luck to you. Showing your child the cultural community they are born into, what beliefs can give comfort in times of crisis, and what guides can help aspire to kindness is no bad thing. If it involves a rock, a piece of thread, or a bird that the landed gentry didn't shoot already, then so what?

But it seems to me that every parent in this land is under assault for trying to pass on their beliefs.

And if only the kids would listen to us, right? I mean, kids got Planet Internet, Wikipedia, every media resource going, the news on the TV, the shops filled with people, and the street where they live.

So the idea that a child's only source of knowledge is their parents?


PS. If you want the Religion of Grit, it is Do to others as you would have done to you, and From little acorns grow big trees.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Death of Trust

Thanks, Independent on Sunday! Thanks for dramatically opening the flood gates to every vile thing that can be said about us; we quietly studious, we quiet minorities; we not-up-to-much home educators.

Now we're tarred. Parents who take direct responsibility for their child's education? We're poison.

Right now, in law, all us parents, every one of us, we all have the duty to educate the children we bring into the world: we have the moral responsibility, a trusted position, to choose the education we believe matches our child best. That is the law, today. And trust has long underpinned that treasured position.

But look now, how trust was killed.

Parents, trust is an inconvenient legacy. There are reasons you're not to be trusted. Why you're not to be trusted to make decisions for your children. Unregistered schools are just an excuse.

Follow the money. Your children need monitoring by central government so they can be handed over to the companies who have steadily, gradually, taken control of public funds to create large private educational ventures with global reach. Your children are theirs.

When registration is implemented, when a definitive curriculum introduced, when any school inspector can do away with any educational philosophy or style not approved, then you don't have a choice, we don't have a choice.

Trust? Trust can be redefined. The old trust, the one that came with old parents, with philosophical convictions, with history, with assumed duties, obligations, responsibilities, ideas about duties of parenthood; the simple notion that a parent knows their own child best? It's gone, it's gone.

A new parenthood is not so far away. Apply to the government for permissions to educate your child. The set curriculum will be delivered to your home computer via a corporate* who will remotely supervise and evaluate your child, keeping them 'on track' and 'on target' to better feed their test scores into global league tables. A qualified supervisor will visit your home to inspect your child and sanction your environment.

The New Parents, government and corporate, they will take decisions for your child. You, Old Parent, what they tell you to do, you do, or be punished.

* My money's on Pearson.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas preparations underway

We all scour the car boot sale for Christmas presents.

As Squirrel rightly says, we have to do the bootie, because 'the skips have locks on them'.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Arriba! Arriba! Ándale!

Okay! This home education malarky? Okay!

Thanks for asking.

It's just ...well time, please don't assume I teach. Look, my Big Grits are now aged 15. They jolly well teach themselves. They do learny-stuff by their own endeavours; they work out what to know, and how to shake it down in a language that an examiner will tick a box for.

Anyway, my little gribblehoofs busted me when they were aged about 9. I failed their primitive area maths questions! But then, I did teach them life's most useful lesson. It's no use asking your mother. Find out for yourself.

Take it all as living breathing proof that home ed works. The kids must do things for themselves: we can help only with Lingua Latina (aged 95) and Sam Martell. (Shark now allows me to tell you she got A grade in IGCSE Physics this year.)

Ah yes! The children! Shark, Squirrel, Tiger. My experiments! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Well, Shark has set her course for Life Domination. Having ticked Physics, sorted a newspaper delivery job, joined the Sea Cadets, learned how to cook 150 different bread types, and taken a course in Marine Engineering, she is now studying sea maps and has plans to build her own boat. At this point, I understand it is my job to close my mouth and hand out cash.

Squirrel lives in a faraway dimension where everything else makes sense. Squirrel is Shark's identical twin and her binary opposite.

While Shark purposefully handles the family laundry, Squirrel watches dust fall through sunlight. Shark marches off to source ingredients for her new-found bread recipe while Squirrel examines soil. This week, Shark learned how to handle herself on a sail, while Squirrel built a fifteen-foot articulated dragon.

I think no further explanation is needed, except to tell you my fears were unfounded, and four children could indeed hoist a fifteen-foot articulating dragon out of my house. Squirrel may arrive for a Theatre Props or Fine Art instruction near you in due course.

Tiger? Tiger is a swot for Latin, Anglo-Saxon grammar, and I'm damned if I can find a teacher of Ancient Greek.

PUBLIC APPEAL: If you know of, or you are, a teacher of Ancient Greek, please talk to me.

Apart from swotting (making dragons, sub-aqua diving, climbing, joining the stitch 'n' bitchers, taking up with the local park rangers, helping make a panto, and - joy of joys - running in teen spirit about the Wild Woods with The Wide Games Crowd), since my last missive, we have galloped through the following:

British Museum Celts exhibition; to the cinema for Fassbender in Macbeth, girl power with Suffragette, and fun with The Martian.

Live screenings of Our Lord Cumberbatch as Hamlet, the RSC's Henry V, the ENO's Mikado.

To the Globe and Sam Wannamaker theatre for Richard II and The Odyssey: Missing, Presumed Dead by Simon Armitage (I still love him, even though he spoke to me with cold, dead eyes).

Then chuck in Glyndebourne's touring production of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (I hope you're impressed I typed that from scratch).

And! We did a family team challenge which involved driving a car with a bucket of water strapped to the bonnet. (I say family. Dig was away and Tiger wouldn't join, on the grounds, It Is Silly.)

Somewhere in this, we all went to Mexico. I would tell you more, except it was werk-related and Dig says I ought not to blab about clients on a public blog.

But it wasn't all werk! Have photos! Templo Mayor, Anthropology Museum, to the Belle Arts for Diego Rivera, a couple of hours on the canals (thanks, Shark), Teotihuacan, and Shark cooking us cactus for dinner.

Speaking of clients, one of my finest moments happened recently when I was asked if I 'take part in the sex industry' thanks to my preference for leather.

Just to reassure everyone, I did not go to Mexico looking for work as a hooker. I just dress like that.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Counting the days...

Exams make life BORING, do they not?

Here is the conversation I had today with Shark:

Grit: Would anyone like to go to the PICTURES tonight with me? You are all aged 15! We can go and see Sicario! It has drugs and violence on the Mexican border!

Shark: I have my Jane Austen essay to write.
Tiger: I need to do an hour of maths.
Squirrel: Silence. (Not here. In a field with a bundle of old Astronomers, somewhere on a dark site.)

Grit: Goooooo OOOOOOONNNNNN. Come with meeeeeee! It will be FUN. We can eat ice cream while men blow things up. Then a woman will face a moral dilemma before becoming bitterly disillusioned with law, order and the justice system in today's USA. PLEEEASE. If you do not come with me I will have to go on my own!

Shark: Be back in the house by 10.30.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Steampunk Asylum, Lincoln

Thank goodness I'm not alone in wanting to wear plumbing joints, shower hoses, top hats, pith helmets and corsets. I don't care what the Daily Mail says. This is still Britain, we are still British, and there are hundreds of us.

The annual Steampunk bash. Get thee to a plumbing shop, get out the leather, make the corset, and join us.

Hopefully, I shall be there again with my Knicker Drawers and The Undeniable Husband. Here I am, occupied with the gin and ghost tour (a combination I highly recommend),

taking tea at the Very Splendid Lady Roses Edwardian Tea Room, Lincoln Assemby Rooms,

and taking photos of The Undeniable Husband aka Professor Pragma and his Language Translation Machine.


Monday, 10 August 2015

Friday, 7 August 2015

August 2015 already?

We are busy. We have Big Changes in the Gritty Household. By the year end, I hope to report All is Good. And not that I have taken to a park bench, where you can find me clutching a dead badger, swigging from a second-hand bottle of Vodka, and exposing myself to dog walkers. (But I reserve the option to enjoy that scenario when I am in my dotage.)

Change? Yes. We are in a countdown of our home education and we'll be doing that round of sixth form colleges come September.

In truth, I am done, finished before my children. Now I get my kicks from stitching wood bark to leather. No longer can I be moved to figure out quadratic equations. The woman who coerced Squirrel into spelling six words ending in -ible is gone. The teens under my charge are probably heaving great sighs of relief at being left alone. They can be off about their own challenges.

Incidentally, I am finding out things about living with teenagers. There is some secret Oath of Teenage where they are bound to lapse into complete indifference to all of life. If they are roused into response, then grunting is necessary. 'What shall we eat for supper?' Uh. Food. 'Would you like to go to the cinema?' Uh. What for? 'Shall we go shopping for something new to wear? Uh. No. 'Shall we flee the house? It is burning down about our ears.' Uh. Do I have to?

Still, the home ed. We had good times, eh? All running about fields; sobbing in despair; combing headlice; finding my Le Creuset used as a soil bucket; kicking the shit out the kitchen bin in a mathematically-fuelled rage; exploding vinegar and bicarb all over the kitchen; finding the mealy worm tub, empty, under the sofa; wearing the same stinking clothes until someone complained about the smell? Ah, the good old days!

But it is time to move on. In a few, short months I can use my special gesture I have been saving for the Local Authority.

If only the LA gave a rat's arse about us.

Maybe we got lucky (or maybe a flappy-mouthed blog assisted my armoury of deterrent) but no-one from the LA ever threatened this meagre home ed family with inspection, monitoring, surveillance, nor turned up on the doorstep uninvited. (I did once think someone was gaslighting me, moving the privet hedge, but it may have been one of my less stable episodes, or maybe during the Badman Era of Great Oppression.)

But I feel I am now looking back on ten years of home ed. (Thinking thank god it's nearly over and whose great idea was that?) If you are wondering about home ed, then my advice is, of course, as always, do it. Your life will be mashed, your priorities forced to change, but it is a great experience of freedom, even if you choose it just for one year.

What will I opine about when it's over? What will be the point of this blog come June 2016? I might turn it into Woman Rant.

Until then! Wot we did. Education, home-made, in this last month at Grit's.

Music. Listening, because we are each hopeless on the guitar in our own special way. Include local festivals such as the fantastic TogFest, the Folk Show on BBC Radio 2, and the Royal Opera House for Don Giovani. Home ed can be brilliant in this creative area. The best news for us parent-types is, we don't have to do much but enjoy music ourselves. In these days of t'internet, your happily wandering, multi-curious ears can take you a long, long way.

Drama. Mikron outdoor theatre, showing us a tale of ordinary working class folk with the History of Fish and Chips in One of Each. National Theatre's Everyman cinema relay. (I LOVED every second.) Shakespeare's King John at the Globe. The experimental immersive audio experience called Styx, performed by Stories Without Boundaries group, Rift in Tottenham...
..and Cambridge Shakespeare Festival's Timon of Athens. Yes, home ed parents have it easy in this creative world of ours. Especially if, like Grit, you can shut your mind from the huge economic outflow required by the theatre addiction. (We eat pasta, lentils, and rice.)

Art. MK Gallery, and the fantastically beautiful, evocative, poetic, and splendid Yorkshire Sculpture Park. MK Gallery fed us, grudgingly, and we nearly killed our Travelling Aunty in Yorkshire. (My request to the Sculpture Park is, Please, INSTALL A DRINKING FOUNTAIN.

Sports. Windsurfing (Squirrel and Tiger), rockbothering (Tiger), breathing underwater (Shark), not smashing up the car while learning how to drive it on an airfield (all of them). Another turn learning how to sail a tall ship for a week round the coast of England (Shark).

Okay, regarding the underwater life, Shark made her way to a hyperbaric chamber with a mild case of the bends, but so what? It's a sports related sub-aqua hazard. And I'm told, for your aches and pains, you can't do better than hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Politics. Oh hear ye, People of Westminster Village. Stuff your PISAS. On the Gritty home ed curriculum for teens, we put on good solid social foundation studies acquired through talk, pointing at things, asking why, and listening to the radio: call that philosophy, psychology, economics, linguistics, and gender politics. 

Stuff. All the other stuff of everyday. Shark is getting to grips with maths while knocking out a dozen loaves of bread a week; they all run about woods with wide games (kids, not loaves of bread); Squirrel is making a set of bows and arrows from hazel wood (don't ask any questions); and Tiger is teaching herself the grammar of Old English. It is all teach-yourself stuff now.

Travel. The sort of HOLIDAY travel that any school with a league table position to protect says We do not give permission for you to take your child out of school. Because there's no learning to be had out of school, right?

No learning then, in a trek along a stretch of Hadrian's Wall; Walkworth castle; beachcombing those beautiful Northumberland beaches; Vindolanda; the Roman Army Museum; Housesteads; boat to the Farne Islands for some Puffin porn; and a stagger round Wallington with the family's dear 80-year old Aunty M. She whispered - when all was done, and we cheerily cried See you next year! - she whispered, Hopefully.

I guess there's no learning in any of that holiday mucking about because there's no exam at the end of it.

There's just, living life.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Miseria! Fortuna!

Oh, my long-neglected blog! My dear, dear, grotsday! How I have not missed your charms!

In truth - let me put it bluntly - I love another. (Not completely, it's a passing phase.) But I am posting there. Not daily, but let's face it, if someone's prepared to throw a few coppers in my direction and I can wangle a bit of work, then off I go. Times are hard.

But here is a brief word from our 'hood.

1. The exams are nearly done, except for one half of physics. It has not been awful. It has been alright. Shark is declaring a profound love of Physics. Squirrel is approaching her studies cooly, and Tiger will smash up this house and blast all its contents to smithereens if she does not get the A* she has worked so hard for. (In Latin, Mother of all Subjects.)

2. We visited local colleges to find out wots wot. It was both a depressing experience and a helpful one. There are loadsa options educationally, and so many services, it makes me doubt *not one bit* the oppositional home ed path we chose was a good'un. We had so many years of freedom! Of running about this land dressed up and idle! It was BRILLIANT, that home ed life.

3. All the gribblymongers have their annoying teenage moments now, sometimes right from the tips of their tiny noses right down to their little awkward toes. But on balance, they are okay. They are good company, and Shark helps with the washing up. For me, I do not care if the gribblytruffles take one year or two, to decide about sixth forms or colleges, but I really do not want them to cop 30K debt in the next five years before they begin their first employ. Getting young people into severe debt is immoral. Its covert purpose is to create compliance.

4. But there are other things too, wot we did. Shark is on her Sports Diver course and Tiger has letters she can bandy about, like NICAS. (Apparently you do not pronounce them like knickas.) We went to Stonehenge at sunrise in the inner circle! (I am not dreaming. It was Dig's birthday date, so we had to do something stupendous.)

But there's more! A fantastic Mythogeography walk with Phil Smith of Devon. The Under-17 Car Club, the Woodcraft Folk, birthday parties, the windsurfing season has begun, Merchant of Venice at the Globe.

I crept away to the British Library for Goldsmith's day-long adventure in Visual Urbanism with Dig, that husband of mine. He is coming back to live with me, so yahboosucks to the rest of the world.

And that nightingale I have been trying to track down for the past 5 years? I drove over to Lackford Lakes with Squirrel, and we cracked it.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Daughters in the driving seat

We are all exams exams exams.

And I wish I could be one of those home ed mamas who are on the case.

Researchers, teachers, cheerleaders, invigilators, detectives, these Boudiccas of the home ed exam world know the ways of every syllabus from Accountancy to Zoology.

Just state your exam board, preferred date (a.m. or p.m.) and they pull past papers from the internet, just like magicians draw rabbits from hats. They quote mark schemes with such terrifying pin-point accuracy, they can advise I note that Question 3 on the 2013 exam was worth 10 marks, unlike the 2014 exam when the same on Question 5 was worth 4 marks, so watch out! It may be Question 4 in June 2015 and worth 30 seconds of your time.

Really, I am bruised. I turn to my daughters and say, Remind me. What exams are you taking next month?

A bit of me now wishes I could be one of the Boudicca warriors, just a teensy weensy bit! But my home ed daughters, now aged 15, are organising their own coastings towards the next set of exams. Mother? No Longer Required. Thank you very much and shut the door on your way out.

Round here, we have that big, big problem about your mama being your teacher. It is pointless your mother (graduate in EngLit plus teaching certificate) saying owt about a character, a plot, or the narrative style of William Faulkner. Forget it. Mama dragged you out her belly. That single act wiped away all respect for her brain.

Second, Shark (who can lead a pack), is a scientist. And I know feck all about Physics and Sea Bed Molluscs. A few tartly chosen phrases and I am left humiliated while the demonstration is complete. Shark knows much, much, much more than me, and she can even do some maths.

Third - the killer strike against me - I am embarrassing. In all ways. The way I stand, sit, wave, and say the word knickers while standing in the bank queue. (Even when it is an appropriate word to use, it being my handle on my business.)

Fourth, all my girls organise themselves. I am a little scared by this. (I have a to-do list from 2009 and, if I could find it, I bet it would still be good for today.)  But if I suggest any activity outside exams exams exams, then it must fit Tiger's timetable.

This should go some way to console you, if you are taking children out of school to save their heads, bodies, or souls. You do not need to be their teacher in all things. They can do it for themselves. Just watch them. Hand them a syllabus and some books and support them (if they'll let you) while they find out stuff for themselves in their own ways, with their own wits and resources about them. Trust them. They do not need to be spoon fed every hour of the day.

But there is still life outside exams! (Only just.) And I am still good for some (non-exam related) activities. These are:

Paying for theatre tickets.
In the last month we notched up Miller's Death of a Salesman at the RSC, Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Unicorn, and our old mate Mr Shakespeare's Cymbeline at the Waterloo East Theatre in Brad Street. (Where we had a monumental argument over just how embarrassing I could be. I told them they could all find their own way home. They did.)

Paying for driving.
We all decamped to Dorset for the Under-17 Car Club. This was excellent. Shark, Tiger and Squirrel slept in a field and I stayed in a room WITH MY HUSBAND. I have to shout it in caps at strangers because this is probably one of the most remarkable things to have happened to me in the last 15 years. You have no idea. I'm not going to tell you. Just accept it. It was a very big event in my life.

Squirrel, driving. Don't panic! She's not on the B542. She's on an army tank training ground.

Paying for friends membership.
Particularly, the British Library. We swank in and out of the Magna Carta exhibition like we own it. I also arranged a workshop on rights and responsibilities, so yay me. Big tick for mama.

Paying for folk music.
Oh yes, we are getting pretty darn big on following folk now, so look out. Thanks to Shark, I have to get us access to the local folk clubs where we can hear live music. BBC2's folk show just ain't enough anymore.

Paying for Russell Brand.
I make Shark, Squirrel and Tiger do politics. From attendance at the local sub-sub-commitee, to involvement in action campaigns, to climate change marches, and being forced to take the Global Citizen exam in a couple of weeks. They all went with the Woodcraft Folk to Cineworld's live screening. (I went next door and watched Child 44.)

Not paying for other stuff, just glad to have friends and places to go.
Specifically, maths with San and her lovely family. The last Stem lecture on X-Rays. Running about the woods for wide games. And the talk on river management (I should tell you about that. It was a growing up moment.) The preview at Milton Keynes Art Gallery (I loved the tangled woods, but I found the life size penis a bit puzzling.)

Happy to say to my girls and the world, it may be April, but there is life beyond your exam syllabus.

But this blog ain't all education now... I also use it as my aide memoire. ... In other news, Dig spent several days in Manchester, the washing machine broke down (new one installed), the car suspiciously passed the MOT, and my husband bought a fridge. In the UK and not Hong Kong. (Significant.)

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Monday Update

The travelling Aunty is here. She is sleeping in the cellar with a mouse. I tell her that the mice always come in winter, and there's very little we can do about them. This is what you get with old falling down Victorian houses. Mice. It is normal.

In other news, Squirrel is experimenting with clay. She has managed to fire small pots by first blasting them in the oven at 200C then placing them, wrapped in foil, into a coal fire, which we only light when we have visitors or the temperature sinks to 0C. She is getting quite good results, so I hope there's a career in it. Either clay pot making or lemon-peel stitching.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mother's Day

I had to buy my own bleeding heart.