Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The perils and pitfalls of a home educator (no it's not always fluffy as butterscotch Angel Delight, sometimes it's decidedly like burnt rock cakes)

You know when you feel like you should be blogging and somehow life, lethargy or that sore patch on your nose where it's been on the grindstone for several weeks and you've forgotten to take a step back, gets in the way..? Hmm.

Winter has arrived. It's cold. I mean more than a slightly temperate English dreary cold, a Father Ted fecking fffffrrreeeezing cold.

What is happening with the weather? It's only December! We don't get our usual freeze til Easter after 3 months of complaining about the mild miserable British global-warming winter. Did someone up there hear me when I said I was economising? When I said I was going to set the heating to be off all day and only come on at 7pm, because I'm broke. Oi! You up there! Are you intending on thinning out the population by tipping all us low-light sufferers into a perpetual cycle of self-harming gloom?

Back to home education. Or not. This week it is fair to say that I have thrown in the towel. My ambitiously-manufactured project on Polar Explorers (yes, highly appropriate for our minus temperatures) has gone mammaries up. It's a common outcome of good educational intentions.

'Let's do lap books' I say. 'I'll print off stuff, all you guys have to do is put a title and add some pritt stick'.

Who would suppose that two pairs of scissors between 3 children would be enough to start World War 3 in a suburban semi. Fifteen minutes of felt-tip pen missiles, sellotape tear gas, and a farting cloud the size of a nuclear mushroom later I return. The lounge resembles a pillow fight with a paper shredder in ToysRus.
'Have you finished then?' I ask.
'Finished what?' They say. 'What was it we were supposed to do?'

And so I rant at great length about how long the hours would be at school. What time they would have to get up. How little play time they would get. How many maths workbooks they would be forced to fill in. Yes. I'm on a roll now....How easy it would be for me to get on the phone and call a school now. (It's been a while since I've threatened school, but some days...)

There's no stopping me...How I have put time and effort into finding something vaguely interesting for them to do and how they can't even be arsed to fake some effort. How even though I am so very proud of the many things they do, I'm embarrassed to tell people - ordinary people - how we spend our days, and when people come, I hide evidence of the children's writing, because I'm tired of defending their apparent lack of progress in what others think is important.

Nope, there's still more....'When relatives visit they might want to know what you've been doing.' I say 'And what will you tell them? Eh? What have we been doing?'

It takes some thought...'Well we went to Scotland.' One brave soul attempts a guess.

'3 months ago! 3 beeping months ago! Anything else? You know, has anyone noticed anything we've been doing?'

No. They can't think of anything...ANYTHING we have done in the past 3 months. The fencing and martial arts...Scouts...Museum visits...Workshops... Animation rides...poetry...firelighting in the woods...Perhaps they think it is a trick question. Perhaps their only hope is to stay silent, so I'll slunk off and leave them to their exclusive children-only war.

I try a new tack. 'What is it you want to do, if you don't want to do this? Well???? And don't say you don't know!'

Ds2 says 'Go on the computer.' He sees my eyebrow hackles and knows it was the wrong thing to say.

Silent teary faces sniff. I slam the door, fall over the dog, growl at it, storm upstairs, feel guilty, sit in contemplation of my guilt for half an hour, drink half a litre of coke and raid the baking cupboard for chocolate and then, shamefaced, I return.

I am about to apologise. But then I am greeted by tumbling children hitting each other with cushions, drinks cups flying off the table, home-baked cookie crumbs dispersed along the length of the sofa, books, papers, wii-game cases littering the floor, the tv on full blast; three children, pulling hair and twisting limbs, blissfully unaware of the ton of parental guilt, resentment and weariness I am shouldering.

On Saturday I attend a HE adult discussion group. We contemplate autonomous education and other HE dilemmas over cheesy doritos and tea.

When we think about 'auto' are we refering to the child, or to us? is one question posed.

I think some more on this. It is particularly poignant to think about it while I'm spending my precious study time - the time I need to make this course worthwhile - picking up the pieces of my lounge and worrying how I'm going to make a low-budget dinner in time before I go out to work. I listen to the kids now arguing over the computer. One wails. Tearful recriminations follow. I am mum again. Which means no writing today.

Truth is, even if the aim is for all of us to be autonomous, even if that were humanly possible, history tells me that it wouldn't work. There will always be someone - most likely a woman -who through guilt, loyalty, love, or buck-stopping-here responsibility, has to sacrifice their autonomy in order to clear up the massive pile of crap that all those happily-autonomous beings leave behind them.


Carolyn said...

You are so absolutely right.
You are not alone xx

MadameSmokinGun said...

I love you I love you I love you........

I got so desperate this week I posted up on our Home Ed mailing list a plea for everyone to tell me how they get their 'interesting' children 'interested' in 'interesting' stuff - cos I was at a total loss. Being just the annoying cleaner who gets in the way of Spongebob Bloody Squarepants.

Had a few suggestions - jolly interesting ones - that worked for other people. I get all hopeful for a minute and then turn away from the computer and rest my rose-tinted peepers at my family. They don't do 'rose' exactly. Faded blood-stained perhaps.

There is no point.

Decided to stay in denial a little longer and hide the writing from the visitors too. In fact, resolved not to have any visitors ever again.

It's best to just stay out of the room and hope that in the future there'll be a surge in criminal masterminds needing bat-wielding one-eyed grunting henchmen/women. Then, there's always McDonalds......

Big mamma frog said...

yeah, was in McDonalds the other evening (having thrown my eco-prinicples out with the home ed) and found myself thinking, hey, maybe it's not the end of civilization if the kids ended up working here. There's always a need to feed the obese underclass with pocket-sized heart-attacks in a paper bag.

Anonymous said...

Just for fun I chekcked out autonomy on wiki and found this

"Kant argued that autonomy is demonstrated by a person who decides on a course of action out of respect for moral duty. That is, an autonomous person acts morally solely for the sake of doing "good", independently of other incentives."

Is that a job description for mummies? My moral duty is to keep them alive and thankfully I have achieved this every day of their lives so far.

There has been ranting from both sides in this house too this week but more about non-violent solutions to disputes over barbies or paper or pens or cake rather than learning.

Must be the weather

thell is my word verification tonight...t' hell - apt!

HolisticHumanist said...

Take heart... Your children are missing nothing!

Every day I used to pick my eldest up from school & I would ask "So what did you do today"... & his reply would be a mere shrug of the shoulders... then the rest of the way home he would tell me all about how he was "having a chat with so-n-so the other day when they were on a mission... & then they went somewhere else & did some more stuff... & then..." And after 10 mins of listening & wondering what they heck my son had been up to that I didn't know about I would realise he was talking about the progress of whichever computer game he was currently obsessed as if it had happened in real life... I'd always get mad about it & the end of the walk home would usually be in stony silence...

... now my eldest is 16 & after being HE for most of the last 9 years is STILL obsessed with his computer... but now he talks to online friends around the world about CSS & C++ & the pitfalls of Javascript & 'Modding'(changing the code of) games & myriad other things I don't understand & could never have taught him if I'd tried. He gets off his butt occasionally at the least expected moments & declares "I'm going to hand out my CV around town!"... or I find him in the kitchen 'autonomously' washing up :-O & I frequently get moaned at for the unfairness of it all when Paypal won't allow under 18's to set up an account even tho Google & YouTube are inviting him to put Ads on his successful instructional videos on 'How to..' do geeky stuff!... Trust me I breathe a huge sigh of relief every time he proves to me that 9yrs spent mostly playing computer games & telling his younger brother & sister to shove off, hasn't left him inarticulate, illiterate or work-shy! ;)

kellyi said...

You have summed up perfectly any given day in our household.

I've given up second guessing what my kids are interested in.

Instead, I do what I would like to do, and, if I'm lucky enough, a kid will join in.