Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Where to go next

It feels as though this post has been a long time in the making because it's been a long time in the thinking. It's about something that's at the heart of every home ed home. And it has gone from being a whisper in my ear to a howling and shrieking that reverberates through my whole body. It has occupied ever larger parts of my mind and my time as the past year has gone on. I've made excuses to myself, made allowances for the stressful times and tried hard not to beat myself up, but in the end reality has to be faced. Squarely. Head on.
I have no alternative but to try and tackle it and get my thoughts, and our life, straightened out. I detest routines and structures and systems and timetables and have fought them, kicking and screaming at times, and it's not that I can no longer fight. It's that I have to find a way to bring it all together somehow. I have to get it all out and make myself face it. My deliberations have led me to one conclusion.  I'm just not happy with how things are. It seems that the time has come to start imposing things, because if I don't I'll just stay unhappy. I have to find a way to move things in a direction that meets everyone's needs, including my own. I have tried leading by example and presenting positive choices to the kids, but these methods just haven't produced the results that I need in order to feel that I'm doing my very best by my family.
The rot set in, it seems, a couple of years ago with our dog's decreasing health. This led to less exercise being taken by all of us with consequences that I am no longer prepared to allow to continue. Except the 5 year old we are all overweight, and not just a bit overweight,and it's a result of not exercising enough and making unhealthy choices in our diets. Sleep is a big issue. The lack of it means that the children seem constantly tired and grumpy and Daddy Bear and I never get enough 'together time'.The constant tension in the house is really draining. Their ability to learn is also affected, as they and we are not able to focus on what they really need. This is my 'line in the sand', my own personal Rubikon. I've tried prioritising the things that are really important, but the trouble is that it's ALL important and if I concentrate on one or two key areas, say exercise and diet, then other things suffer and lead me back ultimately to the starting point. A lot of going round in circles has been done. I'm beginning to see that a holistic approach is needed, and a pretty radical one at that. Everything needs to change, and it needs to change now. Resistance must be ignored and overcome and new habits and ways of being must be found. I hate to hear myself talking like this, but I have to face facts. My children have gone from being portable, dependent little ones to noisy, opinionated big ones. The shape of my family has changed. I look back fondly to the years when we used to be able to go out every day and wander the streets with the dog, scooters and bikes, and I wonder where it all changed. I now have kids that we have to hassle into their outdoor clothes and almost drag round walks with us. Getting Charlie, our 6 month old puppy, has provided some incentive for getting out of the house, but it hasn't been enough. The children won't go out in the garden on their own (ok, the weather hasn't exactly been clement) and it has left me thinking that maybe my mum had the right idea. She used to work nights and would shove my brother and me out of the house for hours at a time so that she could sleep. My children seem to be unable to do some things by themselves, even around the house. It often feels like I need to have at least three of me in order to just tread water. Maybe I need a bit of loving harshness in order to get them to venture away from me and more into their own (outside) worlds. Way back then what I was doing felt right. I could see that I was doing the best I could for all of us. Attachment parenting just felt so right, but the benefits that I thought would flow from it just haven't. I thought meeting their needs promptly and fully would lead to fearless, confident, autonomous learners, and while it has happened to some extent, it feels like there is something missing from their lives, the kind of inner strength and resilience that my upbringing taught me. Well, imposed on me. If I can help them to develop that kind of strength, and do it with kindness and love then I'll feel I've done my job. However in order for that to happen I (and dh) need to gently and firmly guide them to do what's necessary for us all to feel happier and more fulfilled. It boils down, it seems, to respect. Respect for ourselves and for others. If you respect yourself then you do what your body and mind need you to do. You eat well, exercise enough, sleep adequately and challenge yourself mentally. You learn the skills that you need to be able to thrive. And if you respect others, you consider their needs and appreciate who they are and what they mean to you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Better late than never

International Optimism Day 18th January 2010

This post is instead of the long, rambly, grumbly one I've been working on for ages. Even though it's past the actual event, I'm sure I'm not the only person who needs a bit of optimism at the moment.

Whatever you are in this wonderful world make sure you try and achieve the following:

Make a list of simple things that make you happy and share it:

my wonderful husband
spending time with my dh and children
living in a beautiful part of the country
walking my dog
time to reflect
being online
chatting to friends
natural beauty
having enough
feeding the birds
being creative

Write down 3 things you're grateful for:

my family
the NHS

Call someone you haven't spoken to for ages:

Hmm, I'll have a think about that one

Say hello to someone you see everyday, but never speak to:

Luckily everyone round here talks to each other, it's one of the reasons we moved here:-)

Say Yes to something you'd normally say No to:

LOL, dh'll be happy about that one!

Do something random and lovely for a complete stranger:

Next time I get the chance, I will.

Spread the word and get as many of your friends to do the same:


Then tell us what you get up to...


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celebrating what IS

It may take me a while but sometimes I do 'catch myself on'. I reread my last post and realised there was a lesson in it for me. I had a feeling it was there all along and that I'd find it eventually. I bemoaned the fact that one of my close relatives is finding it hard to accept life as it is. That's when it struck me that that is exactly what I need to be doing: seeing life as it is and celebrating everything that I have in my life every day.

I have a wonderful husband who is my best friend, my gentle and honest critic, my support through hard times and the best possible person to accompany me on my journey through life.

I have four amazing children, three daughters and a son, not bad going for someone who never considered herself as being particularly maternal. It just goes to show that parethood is something that can be learnt, and my children have taught me everything I know.

Our eldest daughter is a constant source of pride and hope. She has come through some incredible challenges in her life, not least of which was having a young and inexperienced mother. She has found a way to truly be herself and is now carving out a life for herself studying something she is passionate about and achieving amazing things with her tenacity, wisdom and hard work. She is one of the most compassionate people I know, always there to lend a hand or a shoulder to others in need and whilst we don't live in each other's pockets, she is always willing to listen and talk when things get tough.

Our son is a sensitive, intelligent and caring young man. He has taught himself so much in his eleven years. He taught himself to read at the age of six and ever since he has followed his interests and learnt, and taught others, so much about the things that fire his enthusiasm. He has an amazing way with younger children and I am certain that he will make a fabulous dad one day. He finds it easy, despite his natural reticence, to mix with people of all ages, and his infectious sense of humour is a constant source of joy, and occasional puzzlement.

Our middle daughter is bright, funny, uncompromising and courageous. She wrings every ounce of fun out of any given situation. She is a natural performer, and is unstinting in her desire to try out new things and  push herself to creative heights. Her pride in herself earlier this month when she performed in the local amateur dramatic group's play was a joy to behold. It was not just her own performance which gave her such pleasure, it was her ability to enjoy the entire experience and appreciate how difficult some of the accompanying challenges were, such as getting to the stage on time and being really quiet, often for long periods, when she was not on stage.

Our youngest daughter is cute, feisty, fierce and imaginative. She is loves animals of all kinds and has an instinctive understanding of their needs, and of how much fun they are to be around. She has learnt how to hold her own in a busy family and has found her voice in times when it is difficult to make yourself heard. She views the world as an amazing place, full of things to observe and learn from. Her imagination and rich inner life enable her to create incredible stories with her 'little people' (small toy figures) and the worlds that she creates for them are full of depth and meaning.

Our labrador puppy Charlie is growing well and we are all learning, under his careful tuition, how to be the best pack leaders. Although he is full of mischief and energy he is maturing at an alarming rate and has settled down such a lot in the last few months, or maybe it's that he no longer needs to shout at us in order to show us what to do. His loyalty and steadfastness are amazing to witness. He is so closely attached to us that he will not venture far from us despite the fascinating things going on around him. Now, if he could just temper his youthful, friendly exuberance and greet people with a waggy tale and a huge doggy smile instead of trying to climb up them, that'd be just about perfect.

And so to me. What is my reality? What is the IS where I am concerned? Beware, there will probably be a bit of personal-trumpet-blowing here. Well, I'm learning to trust my instincts a lot more. I'd love to be wise, and I'm working on it. I'm generous, caring, willing to learn from others, from life and from myself. I am fiercely loyal and loving, and willing to hang in there when others have long since given up. I face difficult times and people with trepidation but with fortitude, and always try to give of my best, especially when others don't seem to deserve it. I pride myself on my authenticity and integrity. I try my best not to judge others and to remember that they are on a different journey. I'm not saying I don't have faults, but this is supposed to be a celebration, so my doubts, faults and failings can take a back seat just for now.

I'm intending to take this celebration with me from now on. I caught myself worrying the other day about what we 'should' have been doing during the last month, and it suddenly struck me that life is not what we should be doing but what we are doing. So the 'shoulds' are banished from our life from now on, call it an early New Year's resolution if you like. What matter is what IS.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The wave of the future?

Well, august may well be a wicked month, but november, for me, is a deadly one. For a start I have six close family birthdays between 16th november and 5th december (so don't even mention christmas to me yet!) including my mum, my brother, my husband, our daughter and my grandma. I spent a lot of time planning and carrying out a lovely party for our daughter's eighth birthday which took up a lot of my mental energy. Add to that the shortening days and the unending stress that this year has thrown up and you'll see why some days I feel barely able to function. There have been some positives. I managed to get to see my gp about my low mood and general overloaded feeling, and my husband noticed how rotten I've been feeling and suggested that he looks after the kids for a few days in the new year so that I can get away somewhere quiet and read a lot, and go on a few energising walks. Our Big Girl stepped in and offered to do a house swap, we go to her house in scotland while she and her partner come here and look after the kids for a week.That's really helping to keep my spirits up. Christmas always tends to be more stressful than it needs to be, but I suppose you could say that I'm getting used to that.

Two members of my extended family are causing me problems at the moment with their attitude to life and to other family members. It's funny that I can often see where they're going 'wrong' and think clearly about how they should be looking at things but forget to apply the same lessons to my own life. My biggest criticism of one of them is that he seems unable to see life as it is, and thinks it's ok to want to change it (including changing other people) so that it is how he thinks he wants it to be. I don't agree with him, especially as I'm one of the people who he thinks should change. That may sound a bit unbending of me, but to be honest I've already bent over backwards to be patient, compassionate and understanding towards him and his needs in the past. Now it's time to look after my needs and those if my immediate family. That is the message I'm giving out (and loudly saying inwardly to myself). When it comes to stressmas this year I am going to be brutal in my decision to make sure that my children have the best christmas I can give them, to the exclusion, if necessary, of others. If anyone feels left out then maybe it's time for them to look at their behaviour and understand that it's THEM not me who are the architects of their own misery. The trouble is that I greatly fear they won't and will carry on painting themselves as the victims.

I haven't had much time for blogging, and have been giving only a cursory glance at the groups as it has all been a bit energy-sapping. I've 'found' facebook again (I've always had a bit of an ambivalent atitude to it in the past) and it has been very useful in giving me something else to do online. A friend of mine suggested it as an antidote to all the stress and it has really worked. So now I go online and do silly things with Pets and Farms. It has lifted my spirits no end.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Roller coaster life

Well, I seem to start with this a lot, but it really has been an up and down time, literally. You see last week we went to Flamingo Land. I discovered a few things. 1)Three mums with 7 kids between them can co-exist pretty well in two caravans, as long as you talk about things that are bugging you in a timely and constructive way. 2)My son is happy to be himself and decide whether or not he wants to go on scary rides and not feel the pressure to conform to other people's ideas of what an eleven year old should or shouldn't enjoy. 3)My 7 nearly 8 year old daughter is an adrenaline junkie, and 4) I can 'feel the fear and do it anyway' when it comes to sharing the scary upside down corkscrew rollercoaster and the spinning, whooshing dinner plate that swings up and down like a pirate ship with her.5) My 5 year old daughter has an infectious, squealy laugh when she's on the Frog hopper. 6) All the kids like spending money on those silly waste of money hook a duck/throw the ball on the barrel/knock the tins down games that spew out silly fluffy toys for £2 or £3 a go ('But there's all this other stuff to go on for free and you want to spend money on that?!!). And 7) I can forget about Badman and Balls even if it is only for a few days. There's a long way to go with the whole thing, and I'm still waking up discomfited and gloomy some days, but I think I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's very small, and a long way off, but it's there. I'll do my best to keep it glowing.

I've been thinking about what it takes to be happy and feel secure in a place. Because we moved over 300 miles from where we lived before it can seem like we'll never quite fit in. Everything we've done since we moved here has been starting from scratch, or very nearly. That's one of the reasons, I suppose, why the setbacks seem to hit harder than they might have in a place we were already familiar, if bored and miserable, with. At least there I might have had people to fall back on. Our social circle here seems limited because we don't have a history here, or not one we can grasp anyway. We have to make our roots ourselves, which can be difficult when we have a fully-grown tree of a family to support them on. If we expend our energy on bedding in and finding new networks to hook into we run the risk of neglecting the nurturing we should be doing to keep the tree alive, yet if we concentrate on the day to day growth, we risk being too inward-looking which will perpetuate the feeling of isolation. As in all things it's a question of balance, easy to say, hard to do.

It was whilst thinking along these lines, as well as feeling pretty lethargic today after the hullabaloo of the holiday and halloween last night, that I remembered something as I was listlessly surfing the web. About a year ago I came across a blog written by a woman who seemed to be in a similar position to me. She'd moved to Northumberland, to a location I recognised from our house-hunting days. It seemed interesting so I tried it out, but was put off by the whinging tone and the London-centric nature of the posts. I couldn't understand why she would agree to a move that was so important to her husband (who seemed to always be in London himself - go figure) and then spend most of her life moaning about it. She even said that she knew before she moved that she'd hate it. Maybe that's not quite fair. She loved London so much that anything else just wasn't right. I realised she wasn't writing it for people like me who'd done a similar thing - she'd done it for people who lived in London and wanted their decision not to do it justified for them. Fair enough. That's what sells I guess, there's more of them than me. Judging by the reviews on Amazon I'm obviously not alone in my assessment, although I felt like I was, given that Woman's Hour chose to serialise it a while ago. I even toyed with the idea of writing a different perspective kind of blog about my life since I'd got here. It really has been the best move we ever made, all things considered. It just needs a bit of working on, our life here. A bit more outward looking, a bit more embracing of the unknown rather than sticking with what has become familiar. A bit more daring myself to go on the scary roller coaster is what's needed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Darkest hour?

I'm sitting here feeling very strange. I feel like I should be posting on here, as though someone is looking over my shoulder, in a school-like way, and compelling me to 'finish my work'. It's not as though I have nothing to say, it's just that none of it is very positive. Why on earth would anyone want to read about how cr*p last week was for me?
In both my personal and home ed lives (which are linked of course) I've had a horrible time, probably the worst week to date on our home ed journey ,losing sleep, arguing with people in my head, getting upset, barely functioning some days, which adds to the amount of beating myself up that is an inevitable consequence of all the above.
I'm hoping that once I've got a bit further away from the personal and home ed problems I might be able to look back with a little more understanding and clarity. For now it just all seems really bleak. So bleak that I even wondered whether it wouldn't be easier all round if I just accepted defeat and put the kids in school. I wonder if it's just me or whether others out there are feeling similarly burnt out and hopeless. According to Daddy Bear it's called battle fatigue. He said this whilst gently wiping my despairing tears away.
There have been positives in the form of lovely chats with caring and compassionate friends, who have been really supportive on my blackest days, and the bolstering of my fragile confidence by the continually amazing efforts of 'proper' bloggers, (ones with important stuff to say) and fighters for our home ed freedom.
I just hope that this is a case of the darkest hour being just before the dawn. I'll keep you posted on that one. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Secondary wobbles

Well, it's been a funny old time,as usual, round here with lots of thinking and soul-searching going on. I knew already that I'd be wobbly, as I always am in September, but I wasn't prepared for the extra wobble of having a child who would have been going to secondary school. For some reason this made me more wobbly than ever as I started to question whether he'd be able to do this or that if he were in school, and whether he'd have more confidence in this area or that one, and whether doing what he has been doing since birth, ie learning mostly on his own and choosing what to do for himself day after day, is still the best thing for him. I mean going to secondary school is such a massive change in a child's life, and maybe what has been fine up till now won't be good enough any more and I should maybe stop kidding myself that I can provide all he needs. It also seems that the length of time until he is independent and will have to go out in the world and fend for himself has telescoped into such a short time frame that he won't possibly be able to do and learn all the things that he needs to, especially as we're coming up to the teen years where I won't be able to get him to do anything at all. That leaves us with, what, two weeks or so to cram everything in and fill his brain with 'what he needs'. It's ok I'll go and have a lie down soon then everything will be all right again and I'll realise that he already has all he needs. He has a love of reading, a willingness to learn, an ability to be totally self-leading with his learning, and a capacity to pick things up very quickly once he sets his mind to it. He also has two parents who will do all in their power to make sure that he has all he needs to complete (or not!) whatever task he sets himself. We are also building up an amazing community of people around us who we can call on for help and guidance, from the lovely local librarian, to other home ed parents, to people we know who are passionate about what they do, be it the arts,working with wildlife, or just living their lives on their own terms.

I appreciate that what I am about to say could be interpreted as being rather negative, but I have to say that I am also aware of all the things, to do with school, that he doesn't have and hopefully never will. He doesn't have some other person or body making important decisions for him and then making him follow their made up-rules about how to go about this, whether in academic terms or just in daily life. He doesn't have the experience of being belittled or hurt, physically or emotionally, on a daily basis by adults and children alike. He doesn't have the stomach-churning dread of going to the place that does this to him every single day. He doesn't have his individuality intentionally squashed and moulded into a more acceptable form by someone who has no idea who he is, and no willingness to find out. He doesn't have relentless 'busy work' to do with no time to sit, think, reflect, do nothing, get bored, find things out for himself.

I hoped that writing all this down would help me to see it from a different angle and it has. It can be hard to explain to people who are at a different stage in their journey from the one I am at. It can be easy to have your energy sucked out of you by negativity and narrow thinking. It is hard to explain to someone who believes that there is nothing wrong, and everything right, with the way schools do it, or even that it is just inevitable and is something to put up with and get through. I don't ever want my children's childhood to be like that. I am arrogant enough to feel that I have reclaimed their childhood for them and given it to them, to choose to do with it what they will.

  © Blogger template 'Isolation' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP