Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun and frenzy

Manic Monday

Monday was killer tiring for me, but a really good day too. Pearlie went off to Kid’s Club where they made tortillas, and then on to the grandmothers’ for a bit of French and other stuff. She was very happy to visit them – as always. Leo and I went to MMs (our weekly home ed group) where we enjoyed the first in a series of ‘open’ sessions we’re having. Lots of new people turned up, including some blog ring buddies. It was fairly frantic but also fun – some clay, a science experiment involving an apple and electricity, and baking.

I went on to work where term had just begun – BUSY!

In the evening Leo went to Woodcraft Folk, where there was a visit from a woman who brought animals for the kids to see and handle. Leo held all kinds of creatures – frog, snake, iguana, giant snail, cockroach… It was a great session, which is very encouraging, as the group was a bit wild and noisy last year. When Pearlie and Dani went to collect Leo, Pearl managed to get a turn holding some of the animals too.

By the time I got home at 8.30pm everyone was very ready for bed.

Top Tuesday

Today Dani went to work, as usual, and the kids and I decided on a quiet morning at home. Pearlie did some maths from a funny old book we bought in a charity shop. It is Alpha Book 3 – an ancient Schofield and Sims publication that I used when I was her age. I think that the fact that I used the book when I was about her age makes it appealing. It is very dry and heavy when compared to the bells and whistles of the modern ‘workbook’. She did the first section – all super neat on squared paper – and filed it away to do more another day. I think she might decide it’s a bit too tedious to work through, but then again, she might carry on enjoying it – we shall see. After the maths, Pearlie borrowed Leo’s beautiful coloured pencils and did a gorgeous picture of blue mountains.

Blue Mountains by Pearlie Posted by Picasa

Leo decided that he wanted to do a project on dragons. I didn’t question him about this plan, as he seemed very confident. He went and got several books that mention dragons and laid them out around him. He spent some time reading and I thought that, maybe, he was just planning to read. But then he got pen and paper and started writing. I realised that he was producing his own work, using the books as source materials. I don’t really know where he has seen this model of work before – but it was rather impressive in a six year old! The first sentence or two were his own but then he started to find sentences in the books and copy them. That was not too far from my own undergraduate essay style… Anyway, he added a few pictures from the internet, printed very badly by our cronky printer, and declared it finished.

Leo's Dragon project Posted by Picasa

While the kids did their stuff, I was engaged on my own project of talking to the bank. I decided that if I told the kids that this was my project then they might let me get on with it in peace – and they did. We all worked quietly alongside each other. I think I’m going to try to make this sort of time more available in our week, as it felt good for all of us.

The kids then brought in all their plastic animals, which have had an eventful summer in the garden. They cleaned them up in the bath. This was great but necessitated a quick bath scrubbing and floor mopping session on my part before we could go out.

In the afternoon we had a mammoth park session playing with various other home eddors – in shifts! We stayed too late and so both kids went home with scrapes and were starving for the tea. We cobbled together quick food and then watched Doctor Who and did baths and bed.

The electrician came round in the evening and informed us that all the electrics were fine, so it must have been static that shocked me. What a wimp! Anyway, it’s a relief to find that no major work is needed and out basement room will soon be sorted for good.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do...


I can’t tell you much of interest from Thursday, as I was cleaning for our neighbour in the morning and then off to work in the afternoon. Dani rushed about taking P to Kid’s Club, then dropping L at the grandmothers’ house, and picking up cousin D from a half day at school. Not sure what P did at Kid’s Club but she came home with a lovely picture – ink blown with a straw, I think. Leo enjoyed his time at the grandmothers’ and then yet more opportunity to play with cousin D.

In the evening P went to Woodcraft, where she had a really good time playing games. Leo and Dani had to stick around as there was a parents’ meeting.


Friday was a good day – very productive all round. First thing in the morning, Pearlie discovered that her sock was too holey to work, so she whipped out her sewing kit and spent a happy hour or so turning it into a puppet.

We went out to see if we could track down the latest Dr Who Adventures for Leo, and it started to rain – hard! We did find the magazine but only after a long walk. We bought some fruit (including a watermelon!) and then I decided we’d better get the bus home. At this point I realised that I’d forgotten all our bus cards. This meant that the journey back up the hill would cost £3 for all of us, as opposed to 85p. I just couldn’t bear to hand over the extra money for nothing so we traipsed back up the hill, lugging purchases and getting wetter and wetter. But, as is so often the case, the kids didn’t mind at all and just enjoyed the rain, puddles etc. Pearlie took the whole thing as a challenge and insisted on walking as fast as she could, carrying the watermelon. The hill in question is (and this is really saying something!) one of the steepest in Brighton.

There was just time to dump our purchases and then we had to go up to the school to get cousin D, who is still doing half days. I had a brief ‘hot and cold’ moment when the head teacher appeared and recognised Pearlie. Luckily it was raining so hard that she didn’t stop to chat - needless to say, we were all standing out in the playground in the pouring rain , not invited to wait indoors!

In the afternoon Pearlie made a fantastic train track layout. Like many toys, I think that we bought this when P was too young to use it effectively and now, some seven years later, she really enjoys it.

D and Leo played for a bit, but Leo felt the need for a bit of space, and retreated into writing his next ‘Corner Chronicles’ book. Leo seems thrilled to be actually producing books that are all his own work – most of them are five or six pages – A6 size. By bed time he had finished three and declared the sequence complete. The following morning he started a new sequence! The books are full of drama, death, disaster, joyful reunions, and beasts – just like the Edge Chronicles.
During the later afternoon and early evening Pearlie played Zoombinis Maths journey on the pc. She loved this when we first got it (Christmas 04) but hasn’t played it for ages. She picked up a game she started ages ago, where the challenge is now at its hardest level, and immediately remembered everything.

We hit the credit card in the evening, doing some online winter clothes shopping. P never gets any wider but her legs and feet just grow and grow! We ordered her new walking boots and thought we’d got a great coat for Leo until the shop called the next morning to say that they don’t have it in stock.


Saturday was a working day for me. The kids and Dani went off to the pool for a birthday party – cousin S this time, now aged nine. Pearlie had packed the swimming bag and, when unpacked, it appeared that she had failed to put in a swimming costume for Dani. So poor Dani missed out on being in a pool full of wildly excited children armed with water pistols – I think she managed to contain her disappointment…

After the games, rampaging and delicious party tea, Dani, Pearl and Leo went down to town to see some of the Car Free Day events. They watched some people demonstrating parkour (or free running) outside the library, which Pearlie really liked. She has always taken a similar approach to moving around the house so we weren’t surprised she enjoyed it! They popped in to the library and were pleased to see their completed reading mission thingys on the wall.

By the time I got home from work the kids were rampaging about firing their water pistols out of the windows. Cousin S came for a sleep over but had a wobble at going to sleep time and needed to go home.

In the evening Dani and I worked on putting all the furniture back in the room we have decorated. We are planning to move the tv etc from our room into the newly decorated one. On plugging things in, however, we both felt that the DVD player was a bit ‘buzzy’ and then I got a painful shock from the back of the video. So, we unplugged the lot and are now waiting for the electrician to come and check the wall socket etc. Honestly, this decorating job reminds me of the rather wonderful Flanders and Swann ‘Gasman’ song, which my mum used to listen to when I was a kid.


Today we got up a bit gloomy about the endless basement saga and set about trying to tidy up some of the other rooms. Dani tackled the hallway, while I cleaned the bathroom. The kids played with their water pistols in the garden and then the next door neighbour knocked on the door to offer them two huge ‘super soaker’ type things. So Leo (still clad in his pyjamas) got soaked to the skin and pretty muddy – and then we realised that it was almost time to leave for the Green Party Conference where we’d offered to help out on the Education Otherwise stall.

We met Anne at the EO stall and spent some time there. It was very quiet but a few people came to chat. Leo was very disappointed with the event – I think he’d thought that it would be something like a museum. Anyway, something put him in mind of the Natural History Museum and he started crying and tearfully demanding that we go there – immediately! Ho hum – I walked him down to the beach, where he calmed down. Dani and Pearlie helped Anne pack up the stall and then came down to find us.

We fancied a bit of a treat, as this was the last Sunday we’ll get to spend as a family until Christmas, as I’ll be at work all term. Unfortunately Pearlie didn’t fancy ice-cream parlour, pizza, or cinema - or even all three! She chose to come home via the takeaway and we ate chips while watching the Antiques Roadshow. That girl is a rare one!

I read loads of Edge Chronicles to various people this evening, while they had baths and went to bed. Dani is ‘frogging’ old jumpers at the moment (unravelling them) and wet wool is dangled about the place, with tins of sweetcorn suspended from it. That, combined with Leo’s new dangling city hanging over the banisters (random objects and lots of string) is making the house look a bit like some kind of weird installation. In this town we could probably just open up the chaos during the festival as an ‘art house’, if we threw in some ‘mud treatments’ applied by our ‘indigo children’ then maybe we could even make money!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Birthday blowout

It’s mega birthday season here – starts with my sister in law on the 9th and then nephew on 17th, me on 18th and niece on 19th!

Saturday 16th

I had to work but Dani and the kids had an enjoyable day out at the Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival. They found yummy ginger wine, cake, and a fantastic herb stall showing all the medicinal qualities of the different herbs.

In the evening Dani and I went out for a lovely meal at the fabulous Terre a Terre vege restaurant. We enjoyed the food but the menu has become almost impenetrable - such is its pretentiousness! I had a mysterious glass of ice crystals on my dinner plate??? We almost had a babysitting crisis when my brother (J) got stuck in a lift in London, but luckily my brother (B) was able to step in. It’s a real blessing having so many family members around.

Sunday 17th

Dani worked hard to get the decorating more or less finished. The kids and I went to cousin D’s 5th birthday party. This was a lovely, family event – with a couple of D’s friends from nursery. Pearlie and cousin S organised all the younger children in party games – very carefully, to ensure even distribution of prizes.

In the morning, before the party, Pearlie displayed a lovely bit of investigative skill. She had found an ocarina knocking round the house and wanted to know the fingering to play a scale. We were not being very useful, so she went off to the internet and came back with a little diagram she’d copied from a web site. She also did lots of drum practice – using books and saucepans.

Monday 18th

I woke up to lovely presents. I got chocs, books and eurythmics greatest hits cd from family. Pearlie had made me a lovely waistcoat for my beloved bear – AA. She had embroidered his name on it, and sewed on a button.

Leo gave me a framed picture – also wonderful.

Dani got me a 1970s record player from one of the cool second hand shops in town. She said it was a bargain as it had no stylus, but she ordered one from an online shop. It came today and we just got it working. My old vinyl is now liberated, so the kids will get a long lesson in 80s music over the next few days.

Pearlie went off to Kid’s Club, where they made pizzas. Pearlie supplied the Cheezly – vegan cheese – and others brought other ingredients. After Kid’s Club Pearlie went off to the grandmothers’ house, where she did some French and played with the train set I had as a child.
Leo and I went to our first autumn session of MMs – now back in the hall. We had all boys this week and they chose to play in a small space near the toilets! We have decided to open up the group to some new members, so all our sessions are drop-in until Christmas. So, if anyone local fancies a smallish weekly group of mostly under 8s, then mail me for details.

I went off to work in the afternoon.

Leo went to Woodcraft, where they had a drama session, which he really enjoyed. We were quite surprised at that, but very glad that he felt confident joining in – especially now that Pearlie is not there.

Tuesday 19th

Pearlie went to Squeezebox, where her band has now shrunk to three members. But I hope it manages to survive, as she is enjoying it a great deal. While P was there, Leo and I went to the beach. Leo had a fine time finding driftwood and shells. I talked to him about how much I love to close my eyes and listen to the sea on Brighton beach. So we lay on the beach together and closed our eyes and listened to the sea! Heaven!

In the afternoon we went to the park. Pearlie and Leo, and I, have really found our feet in the local HE world now. Pearlie is very happy to see all her friends and runs off to play. Leo sometimes joins in, and sometimes just bobbles about on the outskirts. I am very happy to have found other home ed parents, of longstanding, who help boost my confidence that we’ll find our way through as the children get older.

In the evening I went to the theatre with my mum, to see Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus – very dated but funny. Mum and I sat in the gallery, where we love to go, and talked about happy memories of all the things we’d seen there over the years. My mum went to see Shakespeare plays there in the 1950s, with her mum, who had never ‘studied’ Shakespeare at all. I remembered going to the theatre with my sister, when she was about sixteen and I was about ten – on our own – and how grown up we felt, ordering interval drinks before the show started.

Wednesday 20th

Sadly we started this morning with a row. Dani had gone to work and I needed the kids not to trash the place, as we sorted out our washing to take to the laundrette. P and L are playing very happily at the moment, but it seems that all their play creates a huge mess. They say they’ll clear up, just ‘not now’ and then, of course, it never gets done. Anyway, we made it up and Leo sat drawing quietly for an hour or so, while P and I found her bedroom floor under all the mess…
This afternoon I went off to work. Dani attempted a draft housework agreement, but despite general agreement, no actual housework materialised… Then the kids went to capoeira, where they had successful sessions.

We really need to get the house sorted out a bit. The endless decorating job in our basement has been holding us in a state of some chaos for weeks now. This chaos, combined with the messy play that is so popular at the moment, is overwhelming us somewhat. But, no doubt we’ll muddle through.

Here are a few pictures of recent creations.

Birthday cards:

a lovely owl:

cornflour quicksand:

and general mayhem:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Aargh – forgot to blog again!

I can’t do a proper catch up – it’s too late and there’s too much to say. But here are the edited highlights:

All the groups are gearing up again – this week they’ve both been to Woodcraft Folk, Pearlie’s been to Kids Club twice, and to Squeezebox, and they went back to capoeira with their cousins.

We’ve been spending lots of time playing with cousins, especially cousin D, who is still waiting for his start date at school. This covers a multitude of highly educational activities, including lots of imaginary Doctor Who, Power Rangers and dragon games, some drawing, some water play, helping to clean out Bunny’s cage, some musical exploration with a glockenspiel, card games and charades.

Messy play continues apace, with some cornflower and water stuff. Pearlie investigated its quicksand-like properties very thoroughly, eventually succeeding in drowning an unfortunate plastic pig.

The Edge Chronicles are a great source of inspiration for Leo at the moment – he has written a couple of lovely books describing Edge-like worlds and characters of his own invention, and our hallway is festooned with objects dangling from the coat rack, to form his very own Sanctaphrax (a floating city, for those not in the know). He and Allie rushed to town one evening this week to spend some pocket money on the Edgeworld maps book, and they have also moved on to the next book in the sequence they’re reading - the Winter Knights.

Pearlie and I played some nice games of chess and Black Box, and she’s been doing a lot of catalogue window-shopping, as they’ve all started to arrive in preparation for Christmas.

We’ve been watching and discussing interesting programmes on the TV – Poirot (which Pearlie particularly likes), Who do you think you are?, How Clean is your House, You Are what you eat, and a few schools programmes in the mornings.

The kids and I did a fun walk at the weekend, through some woods and over the hill to a playpark we had never been to before, then a brief visit to the beach.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Groups and gripes

We have to try to keep us with this blog better. Life has gone mad busy again – with the end of the summer break for various groups, and me back to work.

Sunday 3rd September

We spent the day at home for a change, after I’d gone out in the pouring rain to get something to prime the bare plaster in our basement. I took a long time to paint that on the ceiling – I thought my neck had set at an angle of ninety degrees to my torso. Pearlie was thrilled to find Poirot on the tv, and settled down to watch in our bed. Leo popped Werther’s Originals into my mouth to keep me going. Dani made all the meals, washed up etc.

I think that was the day that the kids started making flour and water gloop and doing mad things with it too… Yes, it was. I thought it had gone very quiet and then found that they were hurling handfuls of the aforementioned gloop out of Leo’s bedroom window and onto the pavement. They claimed they were not trying to hit passers by. Yeah, right…. Anyway, they cleaned up the street - using their nailbrushes and soapy water – don’t ask…. I have to say that, irritating though the mess is, I am actually very pleased to see P , in particular, larking about with mud and gloop this year. When P was little she was quite reluctant to play with messy substances, which always struck me as something of a shame. Looks like she’s making up for it now.

Monday 4th September

Monday found us all up early! Dani went to work, Leo and I dropped P at Kids’ Club and then we went on to a local park to meet MMs friends. Once Pearlie’s group finished she walked round to Dani’s work and then they both came out to the park to meet me and Leo. From there I went off to work. Are you following this? I wasn’t sure that I was really – I had to start the day with three different bags that had to go with the right people, all of whom had to have the right bus-cards, etc. etc.

We usually get this right but on one famous occasions years ago I arrived at work with a bag containing not my food, diary, stationery, wallet etc but a pooey nappy and not much else.

P said that they will be doing cookery at Kids’ Club this half term, which she was enthusiastic about.

Leo had a melt-down in the park – something of a regular occurrence at the moment. He seems to be very bad at hearing his body just now and pushes himself past barriers of tiredness, hunger, thirst etc. We have to be on the ball to spot what is happening.

Tuesday 5th September

Pearlie went to Squeezebox. As Leo is not going any more I have lost an hour in which I used to drink a coffee and read the paper – shame really. We rushed off to collect a recorded delivery item from the central post office, which turned out to be a letter from British gas that had been sent to us in error. Leo was heartbroken as he had decided it would be his Doctor Who stickers.

In the afternoon we went to the park. A regular group of home eddors often meet there - they are people that we know from Kids’ Club and Squeezebox and other places. We had also arranged to meet two of Leo’s mates from MMs. A new home eddor had also rung us the night before so we met her there too. So, the park was awash with HE kids of all ages – maybe fifteen kids from toddlers to teenagers.

After a while we came back to our house with Leo’s two mates J and J! The boys played with Doctor Who stuff and Power Rangers, and were very happy.

I got to play with M (little sister of a J!) who is two. As I sat on the floor and made Duplo Bees talk I had a sudden moment of sadness that I never get to do that any more. I never get broody for babies but I find children of between one and three such fascinating company. I can remember long winter afternoons when Pearlie was little, sitting on the floor for hours with piles of picture books and toys, watching and listening and marvelling at her. Of course, poor Leo got less of that, but he got his revenge by eating a whole set of teletubbies books when we weren’t watching.

Wednesday 6th September

Wednesday was our first day of looking after cousin D, who is just about to start school. The school does staggered intakes, which they sprung on D’s parents at short notice – so he’s hanging about with us for a few weeks.

The kids played with air drying clay and made lovely things. Pearlie made two little horses and a trough for them, Leo made a mythical creature inspired by the Edge Chronicles and D made an island. Leo and D played in his room, while P and I watched a programme that attempted to teach the idea of a chronology. According to the video box, it was made in response to the fact that lots of children had been taught the isolated periods of history in the National Curriculum but had not real concept of when, or for how long, these periods were. It was ok, but I have seen it done better by Tony Robinson on another programme. Mind you, he didn’t have to try to cover from Ancient Egypt to the present day!

I went to work in the afternoon and Dani took the kids to the park. The kids had a bit of trouble when Leo was accidentally hit on the head with a stone. Of course, it had been Leo’s idea to hurl stones in the air!

I came home to fabulous home made pizzas that Dani and the kids had made. The dough was quite simple – and delicious.

Thursday 7th September

I had a long day of two hours cleaning at the neighbour’s house and then work until 7pm.

Dani took our two and D to Hove museum. I think they had some time there until Leo had another meltdown and they had to come home. This one was because L was hungry and had decided that they were having lunch in the expensive tea shop. Dani had decided that they were all going to have the picnic she had brought. Cue major strop and long journey home…

When they got home Dani made cheese scones which the kids devoured and L cheered up a lot!

After D. went home, Dani and the kids took all our washing to the laundrette (our washing machine is out of action during the interminable decorating), where Dani washed and dried the clothes and the kids organised a round robin tournament of Duplo vehicle races on the sloping pavement outside.

Leo wisely went to bed early in the evening, while the rest of us stayed up late watching a gripping and upsetting programme about 9/11, including a lot of eyewitness testimony and dramatised reconstructions.

Friday 8th September

The kids and I took cousin D to Friday home ed group with us. This was good but L was once again miserable when he got hungry. I managed to calm him enough to get him to eat and then he cheered up a lot.

Pearlie helped me with a concise Independent crossword when we got home and L did some drawing. Cousin D was very tired and watched Scooby Doo for a bit. I hope we haven’t exhausted him too much for his swimming class tonight.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Getting sorted

Random extracts from another busy week:

The adventure camp was a lot of fun for me and Pearlie. Contrary to all expectations, I ended up doing both climbing and kayaking, and enjoyed participating in the communal cooking and housekeeping of the group. Pearlie loved the activities and was just becoming happily integrated into the somewhat feral group of kids when we had to leave.

It was a lovely campsite, with beautiful beech woods just next to our field, and our tent held up well against the rain.

Our journey home was complicated but fun, involving five different modes of transport in total (car, steam train, bus, electric train, taxi).

Meanwhile, Allie and Leo picked blackberries in a beautiful local cemetery and turned them into a delicious crumble, with some windfall apples from the grandmothers' garden.

We’ve sorted out our weekly schedule for the coming term this week. Pearlie is going to go to Kids Club twice a week from next week, and she’ll be going to Pioneers (the next age group of Woodcraft Folk) on a different night from the Elfins group Leo is still a member of. Her second Kids Club session is on Monday, so she won’t be able to come to MMs, but we’re going to stay involved with that group, as Leo has some good friends there (as do we).

Leo has decided to pull out of Squeezebox for now, after an unfortunate upset at this week’s session. We think he’s been pushing himself quite hard to keep pace with the older kids in the group, so he and Allie are going to do a bit of music at home for a while instead. P. is hoping to take up a weekly yoga class, with her cousin S, and both kids will carry on with capoeira and trampolining. Overall, the new weekly routine has more separate groups for the two kids than we had before, which is probably a good thing for both of them.

Despite showery weather, we’ve managed to fit in a couple of park trips – our local park on Tuesday, with other home edders, and Allie’s childhood park on Thursday, just the four of us.

We’ve been doing quite a lot of pottering about at home too. I baked some good bread and some rubbish bread, and Pearlie made loads of delicious cheese pastry today. I did a lot of knitting today, Pearlie did a little bit of knitting and Leo created a spider-mouse from a scrap of fleece and some wool. The kids have been playing together in the house and street a lot, dangling things out of the window and off the banisters, taking the temperature, hiding from passers by, and so on. All good stuff.

There’s been a fair bit of reading, especially after a swimming and library trip with all the cousins on Friday, where the kids discovered that two of their cousins have completed their Reading Mission cards. Leo is still engrossed in the Edge Chronicles. Allie is reading him The Curse of the Gloamglozer, while he is ploughing through The Last of the Sky Pirates on his own. Pearlie has finally succumbed to her own curiosity and asked to borrow Beyond the Deepwoods from him. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading The Queens Spies to her at bedtime – quite exciting.

As I write, Allie is pressing on with the decorating, after a frustrating delay when a wall and ceiling had to be replastered while we were in the Isle of Wight. She is determined to get our long-neglected back basement room to a usable state, so that we can start using it as an extra living room, with comfy chairs and the tv that currently attracts children and their associated chaos into our bedroom.

Speaking of chaos, there’s been a bit of housework done, prompted in part by our new system of paying money for jobs. Anyone (including us) who does a job from the list on the wall can put a mark by their name, and get paid for all the jobs they’ve done at the end of the week. Each job has its own rate of pay, depending on how hard it is, ranging from 5p to 27p. So far (2 weeks) Allie and I have each earned about a fiver and the kids have earned something around £1 each. I don’t know how successful this will be at getting the work shared out more fairly in the long term, but at the least I think it makes some of the work we do more visible.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Happy today

One of the best aspects of home education for me is the fact that we give our children, and ourselves, the message that today matters. Mainstream education is set up as a structured journey of ‘progression’ starting in reception and ending with (hopefully) a sheaf of exam passes. Once the journey is over the child is said to have been ‘prepared for life’. The sadness of this, of course, is that every day we wake is a day of our lives. Even in the world of home education there is a school of thought that children must learn that they have to ‘work’ (i.e. do something they don’t want to do at that moment) to prepare them for life. I first questioned the idea of education as preparation for life when my sister died - when I was fourteen.

I returned to school just as everyone was preparing for the end of year exams. In my rigidly streamed comprehensive school ‘we’ were the elite – the kids being pushed to acquire the fist full of O levels. At the end of every year of senior school we sat exams that were used to measure whether or not we were in the ‘right’ stream – and later to set us for exam classes. I remember sitting in the classroom as teacher after teacher lectured the class about the importance of the approaching exams, about how they could determine so much. I felt that my experiences, as my sister lay dying in intensive care, had stripped away all the pretence of life and left me staring at a new reality. As the teachers lectured on so I sat muttering to myself, ‘Doesn’t bloody matter. None of it bloody matters.’ I felt that everything I was told was important was clearly not so. My sister had got the O levels, A levels and gone off to university and there she had died – a random moment, a split second, her skull on the kerbstone and then nothing more.

I was suddenly aware that nothing about my future could be predicted - that the only thing I could count on was that I was here today. I never really cared about an exam again. I went on and sat them all, but they meant very little to me. The whole notion that I had to follow some path of ‘hard work’ to my adult life was shattered – I made conscious choices to prioritise the present. Once the heavy fog of grief lifted I realised that I had the present, no matter how much it hurt. I skipped classes to spend hours in bed with my first girlfriend, I stayed up all night talking with friends, I watched TV programmes that made me smile instead of writing essays on Yeats, who didn’t. I made choices that kept me sane and optimistic, that helped me build a notion of who I was, but that didn’t maximise my chances of good grades. I know that teachers were disappointed with my A level grades but I didn’t regret the choices I’d made then – and I’ve never regretted them since.

Of course, life sometimes involves planning and looking to the future, but I have tried all my adult life not to let the future get in the way of today. All we can really know, as parents, is that our children are here in the world today. We can’t know what tomorrow will bring them. Sometimes we do have to wait for good things to come to us – children have to learn that. Sometimes we do have to work towards something that we will enjoy when it’s finished. But I refuse to accept a today that is boring, or unfulfilling, or brings me no joy, for the promise of something in the future. I believe that my children deserve no less. If they are pressured into doing things that mean nothing to them, for the sake of future ‘success’ then they are being pushed to stake their life today against some possible future that no-one can guarantee. I believe this is a foolish gamble for anyone to take.

One day, I deeply hope, our children will be adults. In our culture we are schooled to believe that children have ‘potential’ which will be realised or wasted. We set up structures to measure how well this ‘potential’ has been realised. But who am I to make such a judgement of my children? Who is anyone? Only we, ourselves, can know if we are happy or fulfilled in the way we are living our lives. That ability is undermined by a culture that teaches us to look to the yard stick, to others to measure us – and to slog and strive for a life after the page of sums is all done, after the course, after the exams, after the mortgage, once we retire…

Our children are here, today. Today I can hear them laugh, shriek, bicker – live. I can let them know that this day is their day, my day, our day – a sunrise and sunset. We have so much that is here in this moment. I don’t know what will happen in the future. But I love it that we can live without the pretence that a happy tomorrow is bought with a lousy today.