Whats a bad day?

This week something happened, something that we don’t tend to hear or read too much about. It was a bad day!

All the blogs and books and reading I have done show home ed as this blissfully chilled experience where children learn at their own pace. They are interested, engaged, motivated and mum gets to smile and observe them while engaging in conversations around their questions allowing them to reach their own conclusions rather than being told the right or wrong way. Sounds wonderful!

But in reality, when you have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, pre teens, teenagers and especially siblings in the house we all know that life isn’t all peace and smooth sailing.

I have wondered on a couple of occasion why I haven’t read about the bad days, the days when you cant help but shout and feel like crying. The days you feel like a failure and cant imagine your children ever actually learning anything! Those days happen in every household right? I know from talking to friends that however lovely things may appear from the outside, they most definitely do have *those* days!

Well this week we had one, and at the same time i figured out why I may not have read much about these elusive bad days.

Firstly, you can’t talk to people about a bad day, you cant complain about how your children are driving you bonkers, to the edge of tears and you feel like physically pulling your hair out, or sticking red hot pokers in your eyes, to ease the impending “stress headache” , because as soon as you try to rant, vent and let it all out you get the all important, million dollar question; “why don’t you put them back to school?” This brings forth the defence of the choices that we have made, it causes me to highlight all the many problems that we had in school. The daily phone calls, the ill health, the stress, the meetings, the tears. You asking me that question gives me the cause to list all the reasons why I don’t “just put them back into school” and there are soooo many reasons for that. Its just that sometimes amidst the teenage hormones, the sleepless nights, the sibling bickering and the miserable weather, we lose sight of our reasons, and sometimes we need a really bad day to show us everything that is good. So a bad day stops being a bad day and becomes instead another life lesson.

Yesterday my daughter and I had an argument. It was quite a big argument with unkind and hurtful things said on both our parts. She was doing some English work and didn’t understand it, I was going through it with her and trying to explain it but she wasnt getting it. I was getting frustrated, she was getting frustrated. I got wound up, its not often we do book learning but we had all agreed that once a week we would make sure to do some and this was our only free day, so why wasnt she motivated and working on it? Why couldnt she grasp something that in my mind seemed so simple?! She got wound up that I was getting aggitated with her for not getting it because she couldnt help it, then everything exploded!

I went onto a home ed group on facebook and was able to vent in the safety zone on there, to get it out of my system and discuss it with like minded people, many of whom it turned out could completely relate having been there themselves, you see, I am not alone! Then I decided enough was enough and it was ME who needed to change things up! Clearly she wasnt getting it, so I needed to change tactics to help her to understand and to learn in another way. So we got ourselves ready, calmed ourselves down and got in the car. Despite the arguing I did something that I would never normally do following such attitude from her, I treated them to a mc donalds drive thru, and we drove to some woods. We sat in the car in the rain and ate our mc donalds and as we finished the sun came out. We went for a walk through the woods, oblivious to the mud, the toddler thoroughly enjoyed discovering muddy puddles and may have ruined his shoes and his socks will never again be white, but we had fun. While out the house we looked at different pieces of writing, information, adverts, road signs and discussed these. This helped A to understand what she had been really struggling to get from out of a book, it meant that when she got home she was refreshed and able to continue her work. She wouldn’t have had that opportunity in school!

It brings it home to me that while yes the bad days do happen, one bad home ed day is far better than constant bad days at  school, and it’s only really a bad day if you don’t learn anything from it. After that, it just becomes another lesson.

Why Home Ed?

September has come around and routines are returning. We have plans and ideas and no regrets.

I  have been asked about my plans regarding school for the small one, he is not yet 16 months old but already the questions have arose about will i be putting him into school. There is the assumption that just because the older two suffered the bullying, stress, anxieties and loss of creative spirit imposed by school it doesn’t mean that N will as well. Well maybe he wouldn’t, maybe he would go and love it, enjoy every moment and blossom. But then again, maybe he wouldn’t! Shall I go against my experience, put myself back in that position of dealing with the stresses of schools and seeing my small one unhappy on the basis of “he might be different” ?

Maybe if I had not seen the difference that being at home has made to A and J. Had I not seen how much they have grown in happiness, confidence and abilities being allowed to learn about their interests at their own pace without pressure. If I had not made home ed friends and met children who have never been to school and yet you couldn’t place an age on them their skills, knowledge and conversation is so impressive having not been restricted to classroom curriculum and people of their own age. The fact is though, that I have seen all of these things, and as a result when it comes to the small one and school, I know better.

I am not meaning to imply that I know better than people who do choose to send their children to school, a lot of children DO do well in school and enjoy it, For a lot of families school IS what works for them, what I mean is, is that for us, school is not the way forward and I know that now.

I feel I should explain myself further, dig deeper as a way to share my reasons and to clear my mind. I never liked sending my children to school. It always felt wrong. I enjoy having them with me, I missed them and our fun when school resumed. In fact the only time that I felt different to that was when the stresses from school were getting too much. Bullying and anxieties about tests made our home life pretty miserable but there was something inherently wrong with the answer to that being more time in school, the route cause of the unhappiness.  Of course for a short time I worried that if I chose to remove them from school my days would be spent solely dealing with their bad moods, stubbornness, arguing and tiredness. But instead an amazing thing happened, once I removed school from the equation things just seemed to calm. Yes we have bad days, any house with children in the throws of puberty will have bad days! but generally most of our days are chilled out and filled with smiles and exploration.

When I was at school I hated it. People say that when you grow up you will remember your school days fondly and long to return to those care free childhood days. Well not for me!  I was a victim of the school system from the word go. I remember in primary school my mum finding scratches on my back at bath time that was down to another girl who wanted to get on the classrooms sole computer, and I remember even in primary school in a safe small village all important “socialisation” led me to shoplifting with my friends.

Secondary school came, and with it a whole bunch of new troubles. My brother was already at the school and doing well, the teachers enjoyed teaching him and for any mischief he may have been getting up to (I know my brother, he was not all innocent!) he didn’t seem to get caught. The assumption among teachers seemed to be that I was his little sister I would be adorable. Well I wasn’t, I was a moody teenage girl, I was the youngest in my year (birthday being 28th August) and I wasn’t one to follow the crowds and copy others. I had developed my own personality and inherited an inability to hide my thoughts….. this individuality does not go down well in school when you are a teenage girl!

I remember a class teacher calling me “doris” until he found out who my brother was and in front of the class changed his tune completely calling me a “little poppet”…. and that was one of the nicer moments. The head teacher was renowned for pulling students by their ears across the quad for daring to have their shirts untucked. The year head (not so affectionately known as “green dragon”) was not adversed to making students stand for an entire lesson humiliating them for getting an answer wrong in class. The German teacher I look back on and remember her stopping a friend apply coldsore cream in class and commenting that “the only coldsore in the room is you” to said student. I remember completely all my work in her class and when she didn’t believe that I was done and tried to snatch the book from my hands in front of the class she shouted at me, spitting in my face. Yet I was the student punished for shouting back. In a science lesson a teacher gave my friend a detention for talking to me, before sharing with the whole class that she would let me off because I was “only like that because my dad was past caring my brother was never around and my mum wasn’t around to discipline me.” Try saying that to a teenager who lost her mum before she was 10 and see what response you get!….. or dont, because its not nice.

Outside of the classroom things were no better. Perhaps students saw the way that the teachers behaved towards me, figured either they didn’t care so I was fair game, or perhaps it was jealousy that from the outside looking in I appeared to “get away” with stuff. Either way, my memories consist of being hit in the stomach until I was physically sick and upon reaching the first aid room being told I “didn’t feel hot” so the assumption came that I was clearly putting it on and told to return to class. Being pushed down the metal stairs in the science block was another “fond” memory.

Teenage boys are cruel, anything they can pick on you for they will, they are ruthless, and so I was teased for not having a mum. I was told that she chose what happened to her rather than be around me, yet I was told to ignore their hurtful words and not show them that it got to me. When one day I lashed out and hit back, I suffered the consequences, and my brother got told by his friend that his little sister was once again “on top corridor”.

Eventually, I felt defeated. I walked out of that school and resolved to never go back. My dad suffered it, he was threatened with legal action. We sat in many meetings, me begging to move school, get a fresh start with no luck. I was beaten up in the village that I lived in. An older guy from the village collected me and drove me home, he described it as the scene from the Lion king when Timone and Pumba scare off the vultures from the unconscious young simba. The police were called and my dad went into the school, the head teacher was “too busy” to see him so he spoke to the year head who informed him that as the police were involved there was nothing that the school could do. My days at that school were affectively over. Social workers, education welfare officers, and members from our church tried to encourage me back into school, I remember my dad even driving me into the school gates and the headteacher waiting in the forecourt to see me into school himself. I wasn’t being treated as the victim of bullies, I was treated as a troublesome truant.  So as I climbed out of my dads car, I would look at the headteacher, and walk straight back out the gates with them shouting after me.

Eventually they gave me a break, dad gave up and told the powers that be that there was no way I would go back to that school, he had cooperated with them and it had not achieved anything…… and so I was given a place at a youth centre that ran a program two days a week to enable young people to gain GCSEs in English Maths and Art. Unfortunately at this point things also got too tough at home, the pressures of the past 12 months had built up and I had lost my faith that anyone had my back, and so after a period of time with family on the south coast which in itself hadn’t been all plain sailing, I was placed into foster care. Finally I was out of the village, away from the trouble, out of school and anonymous, ready for my fresh start. I had some great friends behind me at this point, they were older, none of them (except one) I would have met in school, all a bunch of outcasts, odd, weird, different…Alternative! I loved them, (I still do) and they accepted me.

I tried my hand at college, I secured a place on a childcare course that I really wanted to do, sadly I never made it past me first induction week. The stress, the anxiety and the fear came flooding back when i walked into the buildings, by the 4th day I was in my foster place being physically sick. I didn’t have the strength to fight it, I dropped out. Time past and generally I had no more issues, I was out of school, away from the village, had friends behind me and I could in theory come out of myself. Certain things remained, I couldnt attend college, I would arrange to meet friends in the pub but couldn’t bring myself to walk in, I was lucky, someone would always come outside to meet me and walk in with me.

Time passed, I had children, moved into my own home and began studying with the Open University. The picture of confidence….. until it came to attending tutorial which still turned me into a shaking mess. In 5 years of study I attended one tutorial. I completed my degree, but I was still a mess having to attend schools for meetings as by now it was my daughter in Secondary school, being bullied, feeling anxious, feeling afraid and not wanting to be there. Her health suffered, her spirit faded and I did not want my future for her.

And so here we are, a home educating family, we are happy, we are relaxed. Yes we socialise, we have great friends both in and out of school. We are learning all the time and the small one is benefiting hugely from having his older siblings around. So when I get asked “will I not even TRY N in school?” ….. I am making an informed decision when I say “Unless he comes to me and asks to try school, then No, i wont be making that decision to put him into school.” Most importantly, I am thoroughly excited and looking forward to exploring the world with him, learning alongside him and never having to watch that spark of interest go out!