Friday, 25 November 2016

Black Friday, Day of National Shame

Yes, I hate Black Friday.

Everything about it. The name; the way we adopt an American cultural import without critical reflection; the global retail box shifters who drive it all; the insidious advertising preying on our need for security; the impulse purchasing that the day normalises and celebrates; the embarrassing photographs of people humiliating themselves in shopping rage over a flat-screen TV.  I cannot find one good thing yet to recommend it.

People, spare a thought for your independent retailers! They're not box shifters and discounters. They work hard everyday to create a shop and a trade that works for you and them. Think - ahem - of crafters and makers! Like the poor lady book-creators who stitch and bind by the midnight hours, just to put a crust of bread on the table for the children (and three teen-tickets at a fiver apiece for The Tempest at the RSC). They - we - cannot afford to offer you a 60% discount on a hand-made item, crafted with love, sold in a shop that we all work hard to support.

The whole Black Friday import is no more than a way to get you to support everything bad about global consumerism: the culture of underpaid and exploited workers in Asia, the overworking and bullying of retail staff, your own personal debt, and a great big toot for materialism. Meanwhile Black Friday rejects the things that should form part of our lives: honest fair-dealing trade, meeting the sellers and makers, and celebrating your independent shop owners.

I'm thinking all this, then I walk into the office, where Dig says, 'When do you need the car today? I'm thinking of going over to Bicester Shopping Village. I need new shoes and it's Black Friday.'

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Post-16 choices

Some discussion these last weeks about choices for post-16 home ed kids. What next? Work? College? Loafing about? So many things to do!

I'll chip in, for the benefit of family and friends, and to cause pain to one wing of my extended family who, let's face it, are basically Scared by Strange, aka Tiger, Squirrel and Shark. Home educated all their life? How is that possible?

Then here's the choice of three typical home ed kids aged 16

Squirrel. Last seen heading off outdoors. She visited the nearest Agricultural College to look up courses in forest management. The lure of the chainsaw is strong. Visits beckon, to pig farms and silos. Discussions about badgers and tractors. We have started listening to The Archers. Maybe she can marry a farmer.

But Squirrel cannot decide between Outdoors, or Art. When Not Outdoors, she is found cutting things up and sticking and gluing and composing very fine sketchbooks. From my consensus-seeking view, I have reminded her that many dedicated and original artists work outdoors! Howabout our local Linda Johns! Anyway, Squirrel is taking a year to think and to apply somewhere for a course in something for 2017. Whatever Squirrel chooses, I have promised her close involvement with a falcon.

By-the-bye, Squirrel has a clutch of IGCSEs at Grade A. At school, I strongly suspect this quiet academic industry would have condemned her to No Choice. The staff would have discounted Art (not a real subject). Squirrel's aspirations to living off-grid in a wood wouldn't blip on their radar. No, they would have geared her into 3 academic A-Levels and then 50 grand's worth of debt in a subject she didn't, at heart, want to study, because, basically, she wants to live outdoors while sticking and gluing and that, to my mind, is fantastic way to live.

As an aside, I also want to tell you about Squirrel's mission for your youth, should she ever become Minister in Charge of Primary Schools: "All primary schools should be knocked down. All primary children should be educated in fields and woods. Why are children sitting in rooms? They should learn how to conduct themselves with Nature. What do you mean, 'what if there is a thunderstorm?'. Oh alright, they can have a Shed, but only to wait in while the thunderstorm passes."

Tiger. Taking a year to begin Latin A-Level online with Cambridge, while teaching herself Ancient Greek, Old Norse and Anglo Saxon. She notes Cambridge University "has some very interesting courses". High achieving academic goals are both her strength and weakness: if she gets less than 90% from her online Latin tutor, then all is lost and, in Tiger's view, proves she's not able. We parents are working on this, while wading through her piles of papers on Runic and Phoenician scripts, to achieve perspective.

Otherwise, Tiger loves Art, and has composed lovely sketchbooks which improve all the time. But no local Sixth Form offers Latin, Anglo Saxon and Art. She may settle for conventional A-Levels in History, Art, Something else, and continue to teach herself at home.

Shark. Gets up early each morning to attend a local Sixth Form College for conventional A-Levels: Physics, Biology, Maths, Engineering. Shark chose this route and, despite my whining, she has our complete support! But we are all experiencing the Culture Clash. Shark cannot believe how much is done for kids at school. "They don't even have to look up the Specification!" (I am reeling over the cost. Blimey, if anyone tells me how state schooling is free but home ed is expensive, then I have no response for you, except the evidence of my own bank balance.) Otherwise, continuing to enjoy Sea Cadet / marine life, even when we are the furthest point from the sea in all directions we can get.

There you have it. Three very different people making their own decisions! Just think, if it had all gone wrong, we could have had three children with suppressed ambitions, facing futures they never chose with passion, or simply bullied into changing life goals, each being told to fill in the UCCA forms, whether they wanted to or not, then doing so only because they couldn't think of anything else to do, and anyway, 'everyone else seems to be doing it'.

Hurrah for choice! Yes, your world still needs Artists, Scholars, Engineers, and people whose life goals include living off-grid in a wood.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The IAM course

I am learning to drive, second time around.

The first time I learned to drive was London, Hanger Lane Gyratory. Good training for Bletchley High Street, where I passed some sort of test in the 1980s. But since then, I have driven everywhere in third gear, badly.

So I thought I would learn it all again. I am now sitting with an observer on a weekly basis taking the Institute of Advanced Motorists course. I pore over videos like this. Then quietly slip out to have a go at my parallel park.

I totally recommend the IAM course, if you have any type of nerdy streak, any type of compulsion to get things right, or have children rising 17 about to hit the roads and you - parent-driving-teacher - are scared witless at the thought of sitting next to them while you approach an actual roundabout.

There are just a few obstacles causing me difficulty.

Left and Right. These two are quite confusing, are they not? So when the observer says Right and you turn Left, there is an awkward moment while we all work it out.

Directions in general. When the Observer says, Follow the road to Buckingham, I think, Where the hell is Buckingham? I know we're now only 3 miles from it, and it's around here somewhere, but unless I drive at it on my normal road, I have no idea whether to turn left or right. Embarrassing. Especially when part of the course is learning to observe the road sign you just drove past.

The commentary. Advanced drivers are supposed to say things like Accelerate. Third gear. Pedestrian. Dog on lead. Mirror check. Limit level increasing. See how concise it is? I am getting the hang of it. At the moment I am more in the way of, Accelerate, ooer, are you sure? What gear am I in? Oh dear I can see a Pedestrian. Ha! They have a dog on lead. It's not going to leap into the road if it's on a lead. Unless they have an extending lead. They are downright dangerous. Does that dog look a bit sad to you? I can see them in my mirror now. Was I supposed to Give Way back then?

Driving round for an hour in the car worrying about the planet. Because, on an IAM course, you're not driving from A to B with a purpose, you're driving the route A to B for the sake of it, just in a smarty-pants way which does not end upside-down in a ditch (an incident which we passed on my second time out). I force myself to quell my worry about my extravagant use of fuel, mostly by consoling myself that my bad old ways of driving in third gear was the most wasteful I could get.

Conclusion: It's consoling, comforting, and makes you a more aware driver. As in, did you ever know those things about kerbs? I have driven past kerb sides for 30 years without ever realising they come with their own stories. So yes, an IAM course would make a great Christmas present if you're stuck* and have ever wished your fellow-driver would slow down, speed up, take that corner more precisely, miss the dog, not crash the car, or be able to tell you stories about the kerb.

*I am not an ambassador and this is not a sponsored post, I am just in the middle of starry-eyed enthusiasm.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Advice to my daughters

I have been listening to Susie Orbach on Radio 4 In Therapy.

This is an all-fun road trip into the human psyche!

But it is undeniable that she helps me narrate my day's emotional baggage. (In my handbag-of-life today: slodgy grudge; sharp resentment; a slice of injustice/righteousness; a spike of pure hatred with extra acid attached; a weak diluted combo of humanity juice; offal slop; dash of tenderness and wistfulness. Yours?)

But, after thinking long and hard about life and all its wisdoms, I emerge with three bits of gold for you, my daughters.

Girls, three gold lumps should be enough; you can have one each and share them out when the going gets tough.

1. Have you noticed this? The pair relationships that endure are the relationships where you can change, and you both allow for that change; where you both can renegotiate how you live. In a changing relationship that endures, you can work out a new normal, and find something you want; something you can grow with.

Like your mother and father! We have nearly put each other under the patio on more than one occasion, but we are still here, together!

But listen, I realised how important this is - that relationships must change - with my own mother, when our relationship took a new turn after you were born. The fact that the Grim Reaper decided to then carry off your new Granny almost immediately is one of life's cruel injustices: we had a new relationship to negotiate, mother and daughter, and we never got that chance. But the fact that I knew we would both manage that readjustment gave me the knowledge that, despite everything I'd said aged 13, it was a pretty strong relationship we had.

Conversely, if your relationship changes, and you don't like it, can't say anything about it, feel it's all gone wroong, maybe know in your insides that you can't handle that change, then chuck it in; it's run a course, and things aren't going to get better. Maybe that relationship was based on one dimension: mutual interest, a short-term goal, lust, the pairings of enemies against a greater threat, whatever. It won't last. Go and create a relationship that can change as you do.

2. Be true to yourself. You have a moral code, albeit one that you might argue with, make compromises towards, try and ignore, pretend ain't there. It is there, and you will know when you cross it, because you do violence to your own being. It's too simple for me to say 'don't cross your own boundaries', but if / when you do, then know it, forgive yourself, and make redress with yourself to bring yourself back to a state you can live with. Don't lie to yourself or make excuses. Be honest. Call a spade a bloody shovel, and if you've used one of those to bury anyone, better fess up. Also, go and see Hamlet, and contemplate how you might have made a less bloody ending.

3. If you do blunder about the world, heaping humiliations and miseries upon your own head and the heads of others, then know this: we will always be here for you, we elderly parents, for as long as we are standing, perhaps together, for which refer to Gold Lump 1. You are our tribe, and tribe members look after their own. We will look after you*, and we expect you will look after us. Think what your Granny would say! Blood is thicker than water. (And don't make me spill either.)

*Unless, as I have cautioned you, you choose to become a drug taking lady of the night, in which case you first will have a lot of explaining to do.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

'Good fun' Probably doesn't make for a great story.

Tuned in to Radio 4 just in time to hear the miserable child saga which leads to this week's Children in Need appeal.

Today, Skye is experiencing yet more misery with feckless irresponsible parenting: the bonkers dad (not even a 'real' parent) now attempts 'home school' with some conspiracy theories based around 9/11.

The drama depends on it - listeners who live in Mainstream Land where children are looked after, schools are safe community places where people care, and school dinners are free - expect 'home school prison', don't they?

Give us a drama, a book, a talk, an article, and the moment that trigger is given - home schooling - then we good, attentive audience all know what's next! Feral, chaotic, uncaring; starving neglected children and a lot of running away.

Incidentally, Skye and Dexter do a lot of running. I could say, well, at least this feral chaotic life is keeping her physically exercised. Imagine her peer group. They haven't run anywhere for days. They all sit at desks for hours because the school playing fields were sold.

Yes, take my tone as: I am wearily unsurprised. Home education - or, to give it the 'official mainstream label of home schooling' - is once again the casual, stereotyped meme of child deprivation. A means to an end in a saga of misery.

Tiger, Squirrel and Shark would probably give different interpretations to the words, 'home schooling' and 'home education'. As would the hundreds of kids in our community who have been, um, outside Mainstream Land, yet - get this! - happy, looked after, fed, living in the world, able to choose their own paths, not bullied, not abused, not beaten up, not taught conspiracy theories by feckless druggies with mad dogs, but just, um, educated.

What we home educators need, is a bit of help in this cultural loading of stories, books, plays and articles.

At the moment, it's all stacked against us. We don't often get stories telling Mainstream Land about our good bits; we usually get teen dramas where we are given roles as folk devils and ne'er do wells. Where home educating parents are uninterested and uncaring, where kids who don't go to school have no idea about social values.

We got a heroine of sorts in the form of Mina, child in David Almond's Skellig. Mina didn't go to school but was 'home schooled' (even though there was no evidence of school, only evidence of autonomous education, so wrong label); but she was still represented as being very much alone and outside society. Hmm. Home ed kids have lots of friends. The friends they have are in a different world than Mainstream Land, that's all.

Home Ed Land has greater mobility and flexibility; friends move in and out, move away, appear and leave. Friendships can be short-term and intense as they can be long-term and enduring:  Tiger, Squirrel and Shark have grown up with friends from age 5, and still dearly miss Short-haired Bee who left for Scotland. It's different, or it's just the same, I expect, to Mainstream Land. I dunno. Discuss at your leisure.

But if you are spreading some cultural knowledge in this week's misery-fest of the 'home-schooled' Skye, then please, remember, home education needn't be a short handle grab for misery, exclusion, despair, pain and child neglect. Tell some stories where - after all the difficulties we parents face and the negative assumptions made about our kids - home education can be just simply, quite good fun and a great choice in life.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Parents evening

What are you supposed to say, as a parent, at school parents evening? What should you not say?

Dilemmas like this go right over my head.

As any reader know, I have no courtesy and not much politeness strategy. I have, however, sat on the other side of the desk. As teacher, I have said things like, Tinkertop is a delight to have in the classroom! or Tinkertop is a proper little madam, but now I've met you, it all makes sense.

But tonight I am Parent! And as parents, we start off with Design and Technology.

Pause, while I recall the interviewing admission tutor, refusing to enter Shark for A-level on the grounds that she is home educated and therefore five years behind. (Grudge number 567, Volume XII, CP 25/2/1321/2.)

But Shark talked her way onto this course, and we learn she's looking at an A-grade, probably thanks to her oblique home ed perspective, so we can move on. No real problem either with Physics and Biology. I have been waiting for Maths. Where there is a big problem, and it's called The Maths Teacher.

Now what do you do, you parents? Because I cannot just sit there and shut up. At home we hear a constant complaint about Maths Teacher.

Shark's report is that they are disorganised, don't give any appearance that they're actually interested in maths, writes up stuff wrong on the board to be corrected by the class, dismisses student problems, and fails to answer questions with clarity. Shark is worried that, if she relies on Maths Teacher, any higher grade is under threat.

So that's more or less what I tell Maths Teacher. Then I ask how they are going to attend to organisation and pay attention to detail? By the end of five minutes I am tapping the desk pointedly asking for a different teaching approach in the class, with Dig wading in with questions like, What is the point of daughter coming to school?

I would just like to say, at this point, that I used to dread parents coming in like this. But unlike Maths Teacher (got defensive) I knew that I deserved a telling off.

Because, by the requirements of the day, I was dreadful, and a thoroughly useless teacher. My teaching fell far short of what was sanctioned. I was supposed to teach a National Curriculum approved anthology of poetry, so I locked it in a cupboard and instead put a broken umbrella on the floor with an old tin can and a crumpled newspaper, then assaulted everyone with metaphysics. But at least I had the self-awareness to know that the style of teaching I wanted to do was not the type of teaching that the Ofsted-approved world was moving towards. So I left.

But I do not expect Maths Teacher to change, despite us giving them an E grade. I don't expect them to suddenly find any passion in maths, either. They are one of those long-serving bodies who are ill-equipped for any other career, without much reflection on the job they do, and failing to see, or care, whether they are inspiring any child within a 50-mile radius. They are in it for the next 15 years to retirement. Even in my short teaching career I could spot them, and surely other parents can, too.

Meanwhile, Shark is planning a Maths self-teaching schedule at home.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Selling the church lecturn

I reproduce this here, since some of you are local.

I bought this church lecturn, not from a vicar with a problem, but from a secondhand shop specialising in curios.

I thought this lovely oak lecturn would be BRILLIANT, placed decoratively in our late Victorian house, holding up the Family Diary - which is the same as the Bible in our house. You want to suffer for all eternity with Satan and his little pixies? Then mess with MOTHER'S DIARY.

Just look at it! It is ELEGANT, SIMPLE, and DELIGHTFUL. Really, I cannot say when it dates from, because it is a simple style; non-fussy, a generous tilted top, and with a discreet rim to hold your big books; height measures 47ins up, floor to front, and 52ins up floor to back. About chest height on a medium sized person. PERFECT.

But the lecturn was too big for the hallway.

This is the problem with fantasy, is it not?

You tour the junk shops and salvage yards, convincing yourself it will fit, if only we move the anchor.

I moved the lecturn into the kitchen, which it immediately transformed into a restaurant. And it still didn't fit.

Then I moved it to the front room. It stayed there for a while, positioned elegantly in the front window, until someone knocked on the door thinking we were something to do with the council and where could they get new bins?

I moved the lecturn into the children's room - but whipped it out sharpish when they started using it to hold up knitting - and I moved it into a corner of nowhere, where it has sat in the dark feeling sorry for itself.

Now! I bought a printer's box, so the lecturn has to go!

But I think it would look very lovely in your home. I'm not peeping through your windows or anything, just saying I think you are probably the person with enough style and presence needed to own this beautiful piece, and have it in your home, holding up your most beautiful and treasured book.

If you want my lecturn, let me know. I do no deliveries. And I'm not wrapping it up for the post. For collection only.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Difference? Home ed and illegal schools

Branwen Jeffreys on BBC Radio 4 Today spoke clearly: an illegal school is a setting where more than five children are present 'full time' (I assume the boundaries of school guide her education reporting, so she means kids are at the setting between 9am to 3pm).

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools - who quite rightly is concerned about public money being used to place vulnerable children in unregistered centres with poorly-qualified staff - then went on, at the end of the piece, to gloss it all, home education.

I would just like to point out that Home Education is NOT the same as an illegal school.

Here are TWO DIFFERENCES. They are Great Big ones.

1. Home educators draw no public money to home ed our kids.

2. Home educators do not send kids to a centre for 6 hours a day Monday to Friday.

Michael Wilshaw knows what he is saying, when he uses the term 'home education' to mean all education provision that is not mainstream. He knows the difference between home ed and illegal school settings. But he hopes that you don't.

Because what's on his immediate wish-list is Registration for every child. You may want this approach or not - it's up to you to argue your point of view - but to advance his agenda, Wilshaw should have the decency not to lie to you. There is a difference, and he knows it. But he would like to make you think that home educators are doing something illegal, dirty, dangerous, and wrong.

Now, if you want to know more, then know the debate in home ed land about the use of public money to fund home ed.

Some home educators argue that we should receive state help for exams, text books, syllabus provision, tutors, invigilation fees. It can be frighteningly expensive, depending how you do it. Seven hundred quid to get three kids through their Global Citizenship course, and roughly a hundred pounds each child for each exam, means I haven't bought a new pair of shoes since 2002. (Barnardos charity equips us all at £1.99 a pair.)

In my view, if we accept state money for exams, then we also allow the state to scrutinise us in our home, tell us how my kids are to learn stuff, and dictate their rates of learning. That would cut a fundamental freedom of choice - which we all enjoy - about how to live our family life. My kids have learned most of their stuff autonomously, with some structures as they've needed: they study for an exam in one year, not two, and if their study means spending most of the day in a field, then that's what they need to do. I trust my kids to learn the way they need.

Let's just say, the debate about whether home educators should accept state money will continue, for sure.

The second point - sending kids to a centre for 6 hours a day and assuming this is 'home education' - is frankly a bizarre thing for Wilshaw to claim, and it shouldn't stand up to any scrutiny at all. One of the reasons people pull kids out of school is to free them from this constraint. This blog has been fairly typical of many home educating styles, and how many days were there for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to see the same setting?

But Mr Wilshaw, you know we use the mantra, The World is our Classroom. It is about as far away from the concept of school setting that we can get. You know this. My request to you is, whatever your aim, to get it, at least be decent. Don't lie.

Monday, 7 November 2016

In love with a soup maker

Yes, a soup maker. Soup Maker is not a metaphor. Not a metaphor for a naked man wearing one of those PVC aprons with cursive writing over his delicious middle, like 'souper douper soup maker'. That is fantasy only, and one cannot be in love with fantasy.

What I am in love with, is an actual soup maker, as in a kettle-ish machine with an On button and a whizzy stick for blending. This is Love as in Need.

Because with only a potato and a carrot, I am conjuring wondrous home goodness for Shark and for me and for everyone who wants delicious soop from a thermos at any time of day!

In the nature of all new love-struck yearnlings, I want to share my love with you. Here are my favourites.

Add to all below a goodly amount of the finest sold by ethical enterprise, Daily Bread Co-op. The delicious Marigold. (The stock, not a rubber glove.)

Sweet potato and ginger
My absolute favourite. A huge sweet potato and a thumb lump of ginger.

Potato, onion, big lump of frozen pea.

Celery and cumin
Potato, celery, cumin.

Tin sweetcorn, onion, potato

Red pepper and garlic
Potato, red pepper, garlic.

Old Familiar
Yesterday's dinner, with added water and rubber glove. Today, it was yesterday's pearl barley and yesterday's suede.

Anything in the fridge, or grown in the veg patch. (Not much there. Those carrots were puny! And the slugs ate the cabbage.) But! I acquired four bags of kale from Tesco bins at 10p each, thus ensuring tomorrow's soup contains kale.

Potato, carrot, something from the spice shelf, best before date.

I think we have the hang of this now.

All I can say is, buy a soup maker! It is one of those things in life that you think DUH, I am not an IDIOT. I can make soup ALREADY! But then! When you actually have a loverly soup maker, I guarantee that life is made easier. I simply stick the soup in a thermos and leave it on the kitchen table. Lunch is sorted.

PS. to anyone who thinks they might be able to make money from this post because you can get me to review soup makers, don't bother. I will be a sad disappointment*. As in, I can't recall the brand of the one I bought at Costco, even while I am in love with it. I think it's a Russell Hobbes, but don't push me and I can't be bothered to go and look.

*I do however accept free bags of chocolate with no strings attached.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The pointless misery of the school English class

Okay Shark! You've had nearly two months of this! You can see now why I home educated. To make DAMN SURE that in the morning you could wake up with Rowling and Pullman, in the afternoon carouse with Chesterton and Dickens, and in the evening, go out with Shakespeare. And THINK NOTHING OF IT.

Because to my way of thinking, this is what your reading should be about - the freedom to wander about life, history, cultures, and everything in between. No book on the shelf is banned and I never set reading lists. They are pointless chronicles of misery and guilt. Read what you damn well like.

So the school is unpicking my intention, obviously. That is a purpose of these institutions: to separate children from family cultures. You can say that's a good thing, or a bad thing, or an it-depends-thing. Have your own debate.

But they are using the following means.

1. Telling you you must do English. It is non-negotiable.
When asked why? because Shark has been allocated, at 6th form, a resit class, when she's not a resit student and already has a pass at IGCSE in English Literature, so she already meets the requirements for prior attainment, she is told it is for 'a lot of complicated reasons'. Which basically means, we're fobbing you off with guff so you submit to us. Guess what, Mrs and Mrs School? Shark now says she hates English. THANKS FOR THAT.

2. But the English teacher doesn't turn up.
Because there isn't one! Well, a new appointee did arrive for one week. Then decided the job wasn't for them. Maybe they had a breakdown. Maybe they fled the country. Who knows? We all know how unstable are English teachers, coming over a bit Blake and Quincey.

3. The cover teacher turns up.
And they can't give a fuck. They teach History. But from the skool's pov ... English - History, History - English. It's all the same, innit? Words, words, words. Anyone can do that! Dear Mrs and Mrs School, you are sending out a message that English? It's just that thing you MUST DO. Nothing special.

4. The cover teacher changes every day until a temporary teacher is hired bloody asap.
Oh! We're 6 weeks into the term and no-one learned Shark's name because there's no point.

5. Shark has been picking up work from the office.
What is the point of this? she asks. No-one collects it, no-one marks it. It is just stuff you must do.

6. Aha! Someone talks to her!
Admittedly, I have to email the school to find out 'what syllabus she must be put on for complicated reasons', and at the end of it, she finds out it's Of Mice and Men. This is a book we've read in our Home Ed Reading Group! But Shark does not want this dragged out for 6 months while we all slowly die of pain. Her critical opinion of this text is that 'it is depressing, especially the second time round', which I agree is fair enough. I have told her to answer a question on another book when she gets to the exam. Meanwhile, dig your fingernails into the palms of your hands. That worked for me, with Ezra Pound.

7. Why does school assume all students can't be bothered?
Now this really PISSES ME OFF, Mr and Mrs School. In my experience, what you assume is true tends, in time, to become true. Standing on my soap box - which already levitates, powered by moral righteousness - I have assumed all my children are brilliant readers capable of reading everything from Dostoyevsky to Joyce to Dos Passos to Anglo-Saxon riddlings, to I Love Dolphins. Hey! GUESS WHAT? Admittedly, some authors are yet on the shelf, waiting to be found, but IT WILL COME TRUE. Such is the power of that assumption. It's only a matter of time. So why, why, why, do Mr and Mrs School assume the people - the same people they are charged with inspiring and inflaming with reading passion - cannot be bothered, so must be lectured and nannied and hectored. Really, now they got the very people they made.

So soon after this short blast of school, I can feel Shark's reading pleasure recast as a drag and a chore and a problem.

Mr and Mrs School, you are damaging and downright dangerous. If I ever had times of doubt about the venture of home education, then two months with you has made me dispel all my doubts. We did the right thing. And I hope that when Shark is done with your miserable experience, that she bounces back to normal, and wants to wake up with Austen, all over again.