We went up to London today, to take part in a demonstration - against the replacing of Trident and calling for the removal of troops from Iraq. We had explained the demo to the children and they both said they wanted to go. We met many and various family members (four grandparents, an uncle and a cousin) and were quite impressed by the size of the turnout.
It was a slow demo to move off and Leo got fed up waiting. This meant I gave him a piggy back for the first half hour of the march. He rallied though, and Pearlie got over her feelings of annoyance that he was getting a carry. They managed the rest of the day without complaint – and we ended up having a cup of tea and bit of cake at the photographer’s gallery café.
Pearlie asked me if what we were doing would work. I gave her an honest answer. I remember going on demos about Trident, when I was about her age. A bit sad about that. But what I do love about peace demonstrations is the fact that there are always people off all ages on them – and quite varied outlooks on life! It is a hopeful thing that people turn out to demonstrate – even if I sometimes feel I’ve spent my life traipsing around the streets of London for causes never won.
At bed time I had the following humbling exchange with Leo. Allie: “You did very well today, telling that Tony Blair that he is bad to want war and to buy weapons.” Leo – his eyes filling up with tears: “But he should know that some people love him.” Indeed he should – as should we all. I don’t normally use such simplistic labels for people as ‘bad’ but Leo didn’t miss it. I wish children could influence more of the insane things that go on in the world. People always say ‘kids are cruel’ but I’m often astonished by my children’s capacity for understanding and forgiveness. Anyway, Leo told me that he thought that we should chant: “Tony Blair, you should apologise!”
There is a lively debate going on over at the BBC 'Have your say' web site - on the subject of monitoring home ed. Pity they have a ridiculous ban on contributions from under sixteens. Mind you, a determined nine year old could easily get round that... These home educated kids just don't respect authority, do they?
The kids went, for the first time, to the local home ed sports session. To fit this in I have to drop the kids off at Dani’s work for the moment she finishes and then rush off to work myself. Sports was an hour of hockey in a local leisure centre. We weren’t sure if Leo would join in – as most of the kids are 8+ - but he really enjoyed it. Dani enjoyed it as it involved an hour of sitting in the leisure centre café, chatting with other home ed parents. After the session everyone decamps to a local park where the kids do more running about and the adults sit in a different café! It does make for a somewhat exhausting day for the kids as they then have capoeira classes to go to. No-one could say that our kids don’t get enough time being physically active!
Leo has now started at Kids’ Club (just one session a week – P. still doing two) and his first session was an outing to Brighton museum to look at the exhibits – and specifically how they are exhibited. The kids are going to follow this up with an activity involving making little museums of their own. I’m not sure how this is going to work but both of them came home to find shoe boxes and gathered together various precious things. This project is being led by a local artist. At the museum, Leo and Pearlie were taken round by one of the other parents and Dani took some other people’s kids. Dani’s group ended up in the local studies centre, where several of the children were enthralled by old Kelly’s Street Directories.
Pearlie went to Woodcraft in the evening, where she designed a magazine cover.
Today we went to the big, local home ed drop-in. There were four new families and it was extremely busy. The local home ed scene just seems to grow and grow. It’s no wonder the govt are getting scared!
I wasn’t in the most sociable of moods and really would have liked some quiet time at home, but P gets a lot out of this drop-in. It is a completely social space where the kids play ping pong, football, chat, play on an old arcade game, and go off in gangs to buy snacks from the local shops. There are maybe forty kids (?) of all ages – from babies to young adults. Leo spent most of his time drawing and demolishing a big bag of chocolate covered raisins! He did get involved in a rather wild game of tag, which involved him slipping into a muddy puddle. This wouldn’t have mattered had he not chosen to wear socks and sandals today.
Soon after we got home it was time for P to go to yoga – which has moved from Thursday to Friday. Yoga runs at P’s old school (her cousin’s current school) and today they told us to collect the kids from the office at the end. Leo and I got there on time but, of course, the kids were a bit late out. This meant we had to wait just outside the classrooms, amid the cleaners with hoovers and teachers chopping things up with guillotines. I felt very uncomfortable in that schooly environment – especially as Leo was on something of a sugar high (the choccy raisins) and very bouncy. I was relieved when the girls appeared and we could escape!
Pearlie went to Kids’ Club on Monday. It was a quiet session as several of the girls weren’t there. Later she went to the grandmothers’ house, where my mum had a new French magazine for her to read. Leo and I went to MMs where there was an auction. This was great fun and the kids did very well to handle disputes over much wanted items. Leo returned laden down with things, so our friends K and G gave us a lift home. Leo went on a somewhat chaotic penny hike with his Woodcraft group in the evening. He was happy because Dani had sewn his badges onto his hoodie. A penny hike is a good thing – you stop at each corner and toss a coin to decide which way to go next. I’m not entirely clear how you get everyone home – but they got back in the end. Pearlie had some trouble sleeping in the evening and was still awake at 12.45am. But she was up before me this morning, and seems to have made it through the day.
Dani went to work today and the rest of us got up slowly. The kids got very busy while still in nightwear. P got a postcard from her pen-friend (the little girl not the US convict) and this prompted her to write a long letter in reply. She did this lying on the floor in the hallway – occasionally calling me to check a spelling. Leo spent some time reading his Wild Times magazines, and then drawing. Both the kids had their Squeezebox sessions in the afternoon. Pearlie enjoyed herself as usual and Leo seems to be doing very well coping with a 30 min lesson. Pearlie’s little band is getting a third member from next week – one of her home ed friends from Kids’ Club.
I have been reflecting recently on how our HE approach is developing. There are ups and downs, of course, but at the moment I am feeling very happy with the way an autonomous approach is panning out. P, in particular, seems to have really cracked the art of being happily productive. Recently she has been enjoying learning a few words of Greek, with which she can be polite when we go to Crete in the summer. She has also set herself a goal with a particular bit of knitting and is putting in the required work to complete it. Leo is enjoying pottering about and learning a lot along the way. He always draws and has recently been enjoying using the drawing programme on the pc. He is also doing a lot of constructing things out of cardboard – so the floor is often covered in little bits of cardboard, tape and pairs of scissors. Both the kids are on the pc every day – sending emails and looking for information.
And we all talk all day long!
Sometimes we decide to do a little bit of finding out together. Last week we made a Mole display on our notice board. This had drawings with captions by Leo, a haiku by Pearlie, pictures of our cuddly moles wearing garments made by Pearlie – and of moles made by me and Leo. We also put up some printouts of info we found on the internet. The kids also found all the story books we had that contained moles – and I read them all aloud. I don’t think we’d be happy trying to work together all the time, but it’s nice every now and then. This evening Pearlie asked if we could get some new big jigsaws to work on together.
I am enjoying reading Eragon to Leo. He has read one chapter of a library book in the Ilmoor Chronicles, but I’m not sure that it has really gripped him. Pearlie is reading a set of books we gave her for Christmas – Terry Deary true tales.
And I keep forgetting to blog that Leo and I made a gorgeous banana cake last week - very gooey.
Pearlie and Leo had a lovely day. They spent all day with cousins and were taken to see Charlotte’s Web by my mum. I went to work and Dani went to the supermarket.
All the kids spent time working on comics, pictures and illustrated stories, which they sold to the various adults around.
The kids and I felt the need for a less half-termish and more regular day – so we went off to our favourite branch library. We were recently told that most of the libraries in Brighton and Hove will be getting a big infux of new children’s stock. Sadly, this still seems to be in cataloguing, or wherever, and the shelves have all been extensively weeded to make room for the new stock! The branch library probably had fewer children’s books on the shelves than our house does. But, as usual, the kids found themselves things to read and settled down in their usual chairs for some silent reading time. I pottered about and read the paper.
One of the things I like best about the relationship our kids have with the library is their appreciation of it as a space to read and withdraw from other people – not just somewhere to rush in, grab books and rush out. You might think that, as I spend so much of my life in a library, I wouldn’t want to spend time in one when I’m not working – but not so. Most librarians love libraries and even a whole working life spent in them doesn’t tend to kill that off.
The kids started Saturday with a rather spectacular falling out with each other. Once they’d got over that, Dani took them to a park on the edge of town where there was an event called ‘Amazing Grazing’. There were some sheep there and the children made felt pictures using sheep’s wool.
Then they went off to their cousins’ for yet another sleepover.
Dani and I met up with my mum and her partner for a meal, and then a trip to ‘Acorn Antiques – the musical’, which was on at our local theatre. We loved it! I shall never forget the spectacle of Mrs Overall coming up through the floor wearing a satin overall and diamante rubber gloves.
I had to work today. The kids and Dani pottered about in the morning – P on the internet and Leo making flicker books. In the afternoon they went to town so the kids could spend some saved pocket money. P bought yet another Fur-Real Friends Newborn Bunny.
This evening we all watched an interesting programme on Feral Children. It was terrifying to see the physiological affects on the brain of early deprivation.
We also amused ourselves by adding up all the clothes Pearlie would like in the Boden catalogue! We once ordered some clothes from them – a few years ago when we had more money. Ever since they send us their catalogue. Anyway, the total was £358!! What is really scary is that there must be families who do kit their kids out entirely in such clothes.
Leo has gone straight to sleep tonight, without reading or drawing. Such is the effect of two sleepovers in one week.
It ended when many parents decided they should be their children's 'friends', give them everything they wanted on demand and set absolutely no boundaries for behaviour.
There's too much friendship and not enough (actually, no) fear within many parent-child relationships these days.
TES staffroom contributor – apparently a head teacher
We have to make our voices heard, "BRING BACK THE CANE!" It should be on every teacher's lips. It's no good saying it's the fault of the parents. We all know it is. Can we change these parents? No. Can we bring back the cane. Yes, but not if we keep saying we can't.
Another TES staffroom contributor
One of my secret vices is to go and lurk in the TES staffroom – to see what teachers think of education news stories, and so on. Not all the posters are teachers, but a lot of them are. Not all the posts are of the flog’em and fear perspective, but many are. The two gems above hit me hard today. Maybe because I’d just come from the BBC news site and read the stories of teenage boys shot dead, of a toddler raped and murdered, of adults taunting and goading toddlers to hurt each other, of a teacher sexually abusing little boys. To me there is one thread here, one clear, strong, thread linking all this – it is the twine made of fear and violence.
In our society children are well schooled in violence – they always have been. I believe the posters on the TES site calling for fear and the cane are just wanting the violence back in their hands – they fear it spilling out, pouring over the schools and want to have it back. They want it back like they had it in my day, or the years before. They want to be free to rap a few knuckles, clonk a few heads, or indulge in the ritual brutality of a public caning. Better still they want it exercised in homes – they blame the hopeless parents who produce these violent children and they are sure that the answer lies in… you guessed it, violence.
There is a popular message in our culture at the moment (not just on the TES site!) that somehow ‘the pendulum has swung too far’ that ‘children’s rights’ and ‘political correctness’ are ‘undermining society’. I can’t really believe that this is ever taken seriously. If you just glance at the news you can see what nonsense it is – sickening nonsense. What I see is just the same old story – violence, violence, violence. All around the world - in their homes, in the streets, in the schools, in the bloody war zones - children suffer because of violence. I think that violence is like water flowing around our world – you suppress it somewhere it flows somewhere else.
I was brought up in a family home where adults did not use violence against children. I never got smacked, slapped or clipped round the ear. This was really quite unusual at the time - back in the good old 1970s. I also wasn’t raised with fear. My mum was, and still is, one of my greatest friends. Moreover, I was also brought up to believe that I should let no-one (not even a teacher) lay a hand on me. What I did receive at home was an anti-violence message. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t ever get into a scrap with my siblings – I did. I have a fiery temper and often lost it. But I can still hear my elder brother intervening in a scrap: “Allie. Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.” So, sometimes I slipped up. People will slip up – that’s life. But when I did there was nothing to fear, no violence but something much more powerful – reasoned argument.
I'm not saying that the way I was brought up is some sort of perfect model! I am just pointing out that there are families - and always have been - who use conflict resolution models that don't involve violence or fear. That doesn't mean operating in a moral vacuum, or asking nothing of children. It doesn't mean not caring how your children behave. It isn't 'political correctness gone mad'!
It is about facing up to the violent impulse in all of us and rejecting it. It is about pulling the plug and letting the violence drain away.
I don’t understand what is so complicated about this. Fear breeds violence and violence breeds fear – and on and on. We’ve tried violence for resolving conflicts, people – and it doesn’t work. The debate never seems to move beyond discussing who should be meting out the fear and meting out the violence. It saddens me.
The weekend was primarily marked by worrying about Bunny, our guinea pig. He was behaving very oddly, seeming unable to find his food, and lolling about. Needless to say that when we took him to the vet, on Monday, she could find nothing wrong with him. He now seems to be much more himself, but we think that maybe he doesn’t see very well. He is now happily munching through some very up-market hay we bought him on Tuesday.
After we’d taken Bunny to the vet on Monday we had a little window of time all in the house. Pearlie and I played a very long game of Uno, and then I read some of Eragon to Leo. He is reading the odd chapter to himself but it is a bit daunting for him to tackle the whole book. Dani had some frustrating conversations with train people, who couldn’t seem to give her any clear answers about our proposed Easter trip to Edinburgh. She finally bought the tickets today.
On Tuesday the kids and I pottered about and then I took them to town as I had some valentine’s related shopping to do. Leo finds it very challenging to cope with shopping that doesn’t involve him, so we had to do some negotiation in volving iced doughnuts and Doctor Who cards!
Pearlie and I had a good game of Dice Words – a Christmas present to me from my mum. It is a bit like scrabble but without the need for a board, so I can see it being very useful on train journeys.
Both P and L have been very busy with their own projects this week. Both kids are writing a lot at the moment, sending emails (mainly to each other), writing notes for local cousins, drawing, and playing with magnetic poetry.
We have a full house tonight – cousins S and D are sleeping over – and tomorrow there is a planned cousins trip to the cinema to see Charlotte’s Web with my mum. It’s funny how half term has such an impact on us – all our groups are off and it feels like ‘holiday time’!
We’re listening to my valentine’s pressie from D – ‘Lover’s Speak’ by Joan Armatrading. I was a massive Joan fan in my teen years and have a complete vinyl collection of all the 1970s and 1980s albums. But then children and lack of surplus cash meant that I stopped buying music much. So this is a lovely treat. My mum has bought us tickets to see her live next month. I guess I must have seen her live four or five times over the years – the first as a very excited fourteen year old. This time I think I won’t hang around the stage door and nearly get decked by a massive bouncer when trying to kiss the great woman. In my defence I was nineteen and a little bit pissed (though that could have been just hormones!)
Dani is sitting here punching holes in bits of paper because I bought her a filofax for valentine’s day. It isn’t the most romantic of presents but she loves stationery and I love her.
Seventeen years ago I sent her a valentine via a friend in another city – just to cover my tracks. By the next year we were an official couple. And now here we are with our great big, wonderful kids – and every day I know how lucky I am. I hope we’ll be sitting here in another twenty, thirty, forty years…
Tuesday 30th January I was at work. Allie & the kids stayed in for the morning and Pearlie had a good Squeezebox session in the afternoon.
Wednesday 31st January A rushed day for me, as I had half an hour after finishing work to get Leo to a birthday party on the other side of town. After dropping him off for pizza and bowling, Pearlie and I wandered to the nearby park and encountered lots of home edders there, so that was pleasant. We made it to capoeira in time for Pearlie’s class. I went to my knitting group in the evening and the others watched more of the Secret Garden.
Thursday 1st February P. had a fine time at kids club, doing sport and then digging a big hole in the sandpit. Leo had a fine time at the grandmothers’, where he heard the beginning of A Gift from Winklesea (he finished it himself later, at home). Allie went to two jobs. I went to two meetings. We all watched the end of the Secret Garden in the evening.
Friday 2nd February I went to work again, and the others did a successful experiment, writing secret messages in lemon juice and revealing them with candles. They also made some adorable creatures out of cardboard tubes and foamy eyes. The Emperor of the Veget, by Leo
Marcellus and Bingo, by Allie
Henrietta, by Pearlie
Saturday 3rd February Both kids got magazines in the post – Aquila for Pearlie and Doctor Who Adventures for Leo. P. also got a letter from a penpal she has contacted through Aquila, so she was very pleased. They were too busy with their own projects to go out this morning, but we did make it to the shops in the afternoon to buy hay for Bunny. They then arranged themselves a park trip with their cousins and uncle, while I stayed in and gave Bunny a bath and haircut.