Busy doing nothing

How does one go about running away with the circus?

I love that expression.  My Mum always used to say it when people were negative about my countless surprising decisions, “Blimey, it’s not as if you’re running away with the circus”.  As if, somehow, that is the most extreme thing one could do.  It has always quite appealed to me actually.

Anyway, once we had decided to home educate, we needed to let the school know.  I researched the process required to de-register them and I did the deed in typical warrior style.  I waited until the summer holidays, pushed the letter through the door of a locked and deserted school and didn’t show my face again.  Rock and roll. I did follow up with an email to thank the staff for all of their hard work.  I didn’t hear anything in return.  No big deal.  And it’s not that unusual nowadays.  It’s not as if I sent a letter to say we had polished the tumbling act and bought a caravan and an elephant.  So why did I feel so naughty?

I know why now….because I had been well and truly schooled.  I was schooled to the max.  I did primary, secondary, college and drama school (if that counts), that is all I knew.  So when the possibility of home education came up, naturally it was all a bit alien to me, but it felt so right.  But then we had to get our heads around the decision.

I had heard of de-schooling and instantly dismissed it as too hippie – even for us.  I thought we should bypass that bit and cut to the worksheets.  WRONG! For those of you who don’t hang out on home-ed forums, de-schooling is a process that should be undertaken at the start of the home education journey.  It is all about getting school out of the system.  For every year a child has been at school they will need around a month de-schooling.  During that time, they do bugger all. Woah!  Wait a minute.  What is this lunacy?

Yup.  I started all keen and eager with my pen pot and armful of worksheets, thinking that home-school was school, at home.  How wrong can you be?  Worksheets, desks, structure and repetition were all the things they were trying to escape, so why was I just recreating it at home?  Well, it took about a week of battling with a disgruntled 6 year old before I realised I had the most to learn.

So de-schooling began and while they were ‘doing nothing’ we all learnt so much.

Learning does not only happen between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.  It doesn’t only happen at a desk.  Education and school exist separately. We played, we created, we made, we baked, we explored, we talked, we read, we watched, we learnt. The de-schooling process was for me, as much as for them.

So, de-school.  For as long as it takes. Let people’s eyeballs pop out on stalks when you say your kids are ‘doing nothing’ for a few months.  I can tell you now, a child learns through this process and just because you can’t measure the progress on some ever changing scale of made-up levels, does not mean there is no value in it.

 

 

 

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The Soft Play Phenomenon

We only started our home education journey last September.  That seems like such a short time and we have seen some pretty dramatic shifts in the behaviour of the kids.  It is honestly like voodoo has happened in our home.

One of the small things we have both noticed since home educating, is the difference in the way our children play now.  We regularly take them to the soft play places, they love them.  We love them too, for in spite of the overpowering stench of urine and outstanding levels of cacophony, hubby and I can always enjoy a weak coffee and conversation that lasts for more than 4 minutes without interruption. So we go to them – a lot.

When our children were schooled, they would run around like they hadn’t been out of the house for a month, jump, slide, climb and generally have fun.  They would be near other children but that was about it.  I would encourage them to find out the names of children they were playing next to and they would look at me like I had lost my tiny mind.

Now our children are home educated, they play differently at these places.  They come running back to report who they have met, what they are called and how they are on a team.  Totally different.  The new friends even find it hard to say Goodbye in some cases  because they have properly connected and not played selfishly. It is a beautiful thing.

In addition to this, they are so much better at dealing with younger ones….and older ones…and adults.  They are much more confident and willing to speak for themselves. The soft play phenomenon is a small part of a bigger picture.  Now they don’t only mix with the same 30 kids every day, they are much more…sociable.  Who would have thunk it?

 

 

 

 

 

Censored

They say you should walk for a mile in another person’s flip flops before you judge (or something) and that annoys me.

I am annoyed that anyone would need to be told that.  I am annoyed about the amount of censorship that goes on between fellow humans, friends even.  In fact, especially friends. Not real ones but Facebook ones.  We think Facebook is great but only if you don’t use it to promote yourself (that gets irritating), don’t be all cryptic (that is attention seeking), don’t be political (this is not the place for it), don’t show me your dinner (how boring), only do very specific Facebook posts within the confines of the unwritten Facebook rules or you will be judged.  But while they are judging you, they will putting up pretty memes with spiritual messages about how we should ‘walk a day in another man’s flip flops’ (or something).  Oh please.

Live your life the way you want to live it (without hurting others) and keep your nose out elsewhere.  Simple.

I have not come up against much criticism since we decided to home-educate and maybe that is because I’m ready for them.  I think I emanate ‘F-Off’ vibes and I could not care less what people think when my kids are out and about during term time.  I have zero interest in the opinion of others because I know that what we are doing is right for our kids – right now.  It may change – we are not saying school is never going to happen – but we are living in the present and right now, this is working for them in the most positive way imaginable.

I am troubled by the stories I hear from other home-edders who have experienced negative reactions from family, friends and even strangers.  In some cases they are subjected to the third degree by old ladies in National Trust shops.  Now, we have to accept that for a lot of people who do not know about home education, it will be curiosity….which is understandable. Questions about the structure of the day, curriculum choice or your own qualifications are very often asked in innocence.  It is our reaction that is key. If we are secure in the knowledge that we are doing the right thing for our children (right now) then these innocent questions will be just that.  If we react as if wounded by gentle enquiry, then we need to take a bit of time to remind ourselves why we are doing it.  That happy, outgoing child with a newfound thirst for knowledge and lust for life, is the reason.  Any person who would challenge that is as bad as the Facebook censor who possibly needs to concentrate on their own life a little more.

So, anyone who has any concerns about our decision is more than welcome to borrow my flip flops…..maybe have a go at the school run, see how far you get.

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Project

We consider ourselves very lucky that both of our children gave very clear distress signals.

Thing 1 (it is an affectionate name for her before you call social services) was nothing short of a mess.  We are never going to forget that time.

She had always been a little bit touchy about school and was never excited about going. Although fine when she was there, when she came out there was the daily explosion of resentment, frustration and anger……at 4 years of age.

We stuck with school, we got through 4 years of it but our child was becoming painfully unhappy.  As simple as that.

During her third year, she developed a vocal tic.  Fairly minor really, just a repetitive short humming sound.  We could hear her in her bedroom, reading to herself ‘hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm’.  She would watch TV, ‘hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm’.  It was slightly unsettling but a quick ‘Google’ proved it was nothing to worry about, quite common for her age and likely to pass. Well, it was going to get worse before it got better.

By the end of the third year, her vocal tic was going like the clappers and she had developed a physical tic to match – we don’t do things by halves in this family.  So on the last day of term, my husband and I sat and watched her playing in the garden as she ‘hmmmm’d’ and twitched her afternoon away.  It was pitiful.  It was like she was being given tiny electric shocks every 2 seconds.  Not cool.

It was not in the least bit surprising to us, that the tics calmed down enormously over the long summer holiday – only to return in September when school started again.  We thought at that point that her health and happiness mattered more than anything she could learn in the classroom, but it still took us a year to take the leap.

I feel awful about that but it was a joint decision.  We asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to give school a try “just for 7 more weeks”.  Random number of weeks but we went with it.  She managed a year but, my goodness, that was a difficult and emotionally draining year – for everyone.

Meanwhile, Thing 2 (it’s an affectionate nickname don’t forget) was like The Incredible Hulk on steroids.  My beautiful, gentle, funny sweet little 4 year old was angry. Really angry.  This came after a short period of extreme controlling behaviour, we had:

The stair times – “Mummy, no.  Go back down the stairs and then step with that foot at the same time as me”

The blanket times – “The blanket isn’t straight” (52 flicks of the blanket later, we can all relax).

The night-fright era – When a black eyed child would wander into the living room at 11pm, start moving furniture and screaming abuse.  It got so bad we had to message the neighbours to say not to worry, it was just a mild case of possession and once the exorcism was complete, all would be well. It was in short, disturbing.

Finally, we had the ‘blind rage’ period.  Oh my, this was on another level.  It mainly happened at bedtime (I later realised because that meant school was one sleep away) and it sounded like someone was being murdered.  His bed would be stripped, toys would be thrown,the mattress removed (he really did not want to go to sleep).  He would shout abuse for an hour at a time and I would eventually take him for a ride in the car to calm him down.  After about 20 minutes of driving (with him still shouting and hitting the back of my head) he would suddenly stop and talk in a calm and polite tone.  I genuinely thought he had a serious medical condition.  I felt sure he would need a brain scan.  This went on for quite a few months….right up to the point we started home-educating.

Our house was all ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ and now it is not.I do not accept co-incidence as a possible explanation for the peace and calm we now have in our home.  I will body slam anyone who dares to suggest that they have simply ‘grown up’ or come through a ‘phase’.  Please.  Don’t even go there.  School made my children unhappy and ill.  Home educating has made them happy again.  This is all we ever wanted.

I started this lengthy post by saying we were lucky.  Our poor children endured some horrible things but it made the decision to home educate simple.  Now, when challenged about our decision it is very easy for us to justify and remember why we are doing this.  I admire the brave people who took the leap, even when their children seemed happy at school.  Brave and brilliant people.

So, now we are on a mission to raise children who understand that mental health and happiness comes first EVERY time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circus Freaks

“But they’ll be social freaks”

Yep.  Pretty sure with oddball parents like us, they are going to be freaks – in school or out.

Seriously, I never bought into that idea.  Never.  Saying home-educated children are likely to be social outcasts is about as sensible as saying that all schooled children are not.  I went to school.  Case closed.

If I cast my mind back (many, many years) to my school days, I can most definitely recall shy, quiet loners.  I can certainly remember the kids who chose to be alone and the ones who had that thrust upon them.  I know there were angry, dangerous kids who pushed people away.  I am pretty certain that school did not do that to them – although it did very little to save them.  So, I will not accept that all schooled children are better off socially and I will never believe that all home-educated children are sad, lonely, social freaks.

When we started considering home education, that was the first thing people would say. It is the first concern people have and I can now speak with absolute certainty that there is zero need to be worried about that one.  In fact, I now view school as a barrier to healthy socialization and the home education route opens up many, many opportunities for meeting people, making friends and maintaining old friendships.  Zero concern.

Parents have a huge role to play in the social life of their child.  School can’t accept responsibility for every aspect of a child’s lifestyle and behaviour.  The foundations are laid at home.  So, when you take school out of the equation, you actually lose very little on that front.

When I told my daughter’s teacher about our plans to remove her from the education system, her words were “No! It would be social suicide”.

I am pleased to say, we ain’t dead yet.