Yet another reminder to stop

We’ve been forced to slow down this week, as littlest had a stomach bug. She has been remarkably cheerful during it all, and stoic during the gut-churny bits, amazingly so.

Only in stopping do I realise how frazzled we’ve all been. Despite approaching Autumn as a relaxed continuation for Ro (and us all) rather than a mighty leap into home educating, I see I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure to get everything ‘right’. Getting a new drama group going, seeing lots of people each day, going on holidays and weekend trips, acknowledging the worry that she’d actually prefer school (that particular furball deserves some full bloggy consideration of its own, soon).

So we’ve been racing around trying to fit everything in. And my mind’s been going round and round it all, all the damn time, as though Violet Beauregarde’s tagged me in.

This bug has been a blessing. We’ve had to cancel everything and see where the moment took us. Here’s where it took us today. We:

  • watched lots of Octonauts
  • made dens
  • went shopping with the play kitchen stuff

    finger knitted scarf for George Pig
    Dapper, blurry George
  • learned how to finger knit (At least, I did, at Ro’s request. And now George Pig has a scarf)
  • watched Mister Maker and found all the countries he visited on the globe
  • read a lot: Everyday Blessings, the Rainbow Magic fairies, Fox’s Socks, On The Way Home all featured heavily
  • baked fairy cakes for Ro to take to her friends’ house (one of which returned iced and sprinkled for me!)
  • napped

It was far simpler than I always expect – I still assume the time that’s ‘just us’ is when the girls are getting the thin end of the wedge. That they’re missing out on seeing the world, seeing other people. I underestimate how much of their worlds they create, and how much fun they have doing it. And aside from all the stuff we do – there’s that sparkle in both Ro’s and H’s eyes when they know they have your full attention. So simple and worth everything.

And the other part of this slowing down story is being thankful for friends – those that took Ro out the house to play or go to a group, those that brought food round, those that texted to ask how we’re all doing. Noticing and being grateful for the community around us.

Yet another lesson in what unfolds when you don’t over-schedule and choose to keep it simple. I’m learning. Slowly.

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Why I’m not brave to home educate

What with school starting here this week, and Ro being of the age to start reception, we’ve had a lot of conversations with parents-in-the-park about where she’s going. They start off something like this:

Parent: Which school is she going to?
Me: She’s not, we’re home educating.
Parent: Wow. You’re brave.
Me [cheery smile]: No. No, I’m not.

There’s loads I could write about this, and some of these conversation-openers have sparked genuinely interesting discussions. Both of us have learned something about what’s important to the other as parents, and often they’ve heard for the first time that home educating isn’t illegal or requiring you to follow a curriculum or necessarily much to do with being at home.

But I want to focus on the brave thing, because it’s started to get to me. In the way it got to me when I planned (and had – very joyously) home births with each of my daughters.

Here’s a definition of brave I just plucked from t’internet:

‘endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behaviour) without showing fear’.

It’s the Oxford Dictionary one, so I’m going with it.

This is in no way a description of what my family is doing.

I confess I was a little scared by the speed she was coming towards me
I confess I was a little scared by the speed she was coming towards me

A big reason for us choosing home education is because we feel (and have witnessed) how very pleasant, nay, delightful, it can be. Days spent going at the children’s pace, following, unpacking and supporting their interests.

Today, for instance (our first ‘official’ day I suppose), was a cycle ride into town, then reading and choosing books in the library, then climbing trees and rolling down grassy slopes with friends. Then finding conkers and a pigeon eggshell on the way home. Then a few episodes of Peppa Pig while I crashed on the sofa. Nothing unpleasant (depending on your views of Peppa Pig).

Happy hill rolling
Happy hill rolling
No enduring unpleasant situations here
No enduring unpleasant situations here

And as an example of how learning does indeed happen everywhere – it was the pig herself who prompted Ro to expand her vocabulary at dinnertime. “What’s appetite mean?”. Cue a discussion about feeling hungry versus wanting food, and how sometimes people (and George Pig) can want some types of food but not others.

The days we spend are not unpleasant (most of them, anyway. Of course we have bad days). As to the behaviours, I confess we all display unpleasant behaviours sometimes – H can really let rip with voice and fist at the moment, she gets frustrated a lot as she’s learning to assert her identity. And I shout more than I’d like when I’m tired. And we need to be courageous about working those things through.

But that’s nothing to do with our choice about school or not.

And finally, showing fear. We came to the decision to home educate from a position of fear – unease about what school held. That’s really not what it’s about for us any more. I do have worries – particularly that we’ll get to play with enough different children during the school day (as an introvert I’m observing Ro’s emerging extrovert tendencies with awe). But we’re excited and going into this with our eyes open. Not afraid.

The other thing I don’t like about ‘brave’ is that it hints at recklessness, or doing something dangerous. But having researched and discussed the benefits of school (and for the record, I think there are quite a few) and the benefits of home education long and hard over some time now, I’m very happy to say we are not being brave in the slightest. Nor reckless. This is a considered, joyful decision.

My driving, however… That’s another matter.

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Autumn 2015 – the start?

Autumn is here!

We turned our foraging into crumble this evening. Plums and blackberries from the local wood:

Autumn in a bowl.
Autumn in a bowl.
Crumble chef
Crumble chef

September feels like we’re officially getting on the home ed train, in some ways. There are back to school/starting school pics everywhere. We’ve chosen something else.

People keep asking when we’re going to ‘start’. I do understand the question, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a start or an end or anything. We’re carrying on doing what we’re doing, maybe mixing it up a little as we get interested in different things. And that’s exactly as it should be. It’s not as though the living and learning’s been switched off over summer.

Sunflower
Happy days

Our decision to home educate has been 18 months of researching and being with the girls and thinking through what’s best for them (more here on on all that). And making fab new friends who don’t do school either. Relaxing into it.

And, while there are questions, and unknowns about how things are going to work out, and fears and what-ifs… Most of all there’s peace. It feels right. And excitement. We don’t know how it’s all going to play out. But we’re so up for it.

Making space for everyday magic

I’ve written before about  avoiding time on our own, just the girls and I. Given the choice I’ll want an activity/play date/trip to anchor the day. I’m not sure where that comes from. Because every time we’re home alone, so long as we spend time together, quietly remarkable things seem to happen.

This morning it was play dough. We emptied the pots, shapes, cutters, rollers onto the table. We were instantly absorbed. All of us.

H spent a lot of time squishing dough into shapes and making them all go ‘woof’.

Ro has spent the last few days counting EVERYTHING. So she started cutting up dough into blueberries and counting in groups of five, up to thirty. Then she started shaping letters to make words: “How do you spell ‘tickle’?”.

I got my 80’s vibe on and re-lived my fimo days, making roses, then horses to join H’s dogs.

None of this seems particularly noteworthy. But the beauty of all being sat round the table, in harmony, doing our own thing as equals, sharing tools, showing each other when we’d made something we were particularly excited about. Enjoying each other’s company.

play dough cake
bonus birthday cake

It was a magical hour. And not that it needs saying, but all that learning too, without a single thing being forced. Just giving time and attention to each other.

And when I was making our lunch, they both told me not to look, and made me a very special birthday cake (note the blueberries!).

Surprise potatoes and first solo bike ride

We’ve let our garden do its own thing this summer, mostly.

The lawn’s turned to meadow, which is great apart from the cat-toilet aspect. The raised beds were wildly sown back in May and all sorts of veg have gone into battle for resources. The bamboo canes have littered the garden and been turned into (sometimes treacherous) dens.

den building in action
den building in action

We’ve tended to fill summer seeing lots of people (Ro loves playing and I can’t quite quell the whisper that she’ll be lonely when many of her friends go to school). But today H was totally zoned out with a cold, so it was just us.

It was great.

We made pancakes, then improvised fairy cakes with the leftover banana. We were going to do some painting but it was sunny so we headed outside instead.

The veg beds have been ignored through several camping trips (most of them have been rainy, so the veg has looked after itself – silver linings). We set to harvest and got the last of the broad beans. And rootling around in the soil came across some potatoes.

This was something of a surprise as we’d not planted any. But – we’d used our own compost and I’m lazy at riddling out the big bits. The girls loved the magic of it. They loved feeling around in the soil, spotting potato pebbles. They loved pulling the bean pods off the tired stems. And they loved cooking them for our lunch (then ignoring them in favour of cheese sandwiches.)

beans and potatoes
Harvest remnants

In the afternoon, H just wanted sleepy, milky cuddles. Rich was at home so he took Ro out on her pedal bike, at her request. She’s had it a couple of months, tried it out, wobbled and not been in the mood to persevere. But this time, all hopped-up on having daddy to herself, she totally got it. Her look of  joy when she demo-ed her new skills made me want to explode.