A February update.

I find myself in the middle of February and yet it feels as if I only blinked. How fast do these days and weeks fly by.

My daughter, at the age of 16 went and spent 4 weeks away from home in Australia. She was able to travel 2 weeks in the outback and see some amazing sights. She is back now and will be spending the upcoming months focusing on gaining qualifications in Maths and English before seeking employment. She has had a shift of focus and wants to work to save money to travel more, this is fine by me. For years her goal has been hair dressing, isn’t it funny how adults always ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?” this seems to come up more and more when you are home educating, this assumption that you have to be working towards an end goal, that all home educated young people are ambitious and career driven or else their education is failing. Isnt it odd? I reached 33 years old and still am not ambitious or career driven. When asked what I wanted to be when I grow up my answer was always “a mum” and now I just desire happy children, a happy family. Children with lots of lovely memories is my ambition. And yet when my daughter expressed to me that she was no longer all that interested in hair dressing, her dream was to travel more, she seemed as if she expected me to be disappointed. Far from it! I expressed that I have never met anyone who grew old and said they regretted travelling when they were young, I have met many who say that they regret not travelling, seeing the world is not something that people grow up to regret. This path does not leave us with no direction, focus on basic maths and English, CV writing and interview skills to gain successful employment alongside languages gives her something to work towards and we have found a learning centre nearby where she can be funded to gain qualifications and attend to study part time so we are hoping that it is as positive as it sounds talking to the staff on the phone.

J continues to work on his art, sketching for people on request. He is looking to expand this further and will be working towards his Bronze Arts Award to gain a qualification in Art. He continues with his main interest being animals and wildlife and he has been putting a lot of work into a project about animals of the world. He has looked at different species, their adaptations to different climates and habitats around the world. This has involved colour keys and colouring areas of blank world maps, he has looked at population rises and declines, zoos and the part they play in conservation. He has watched nature documentaries and written reviews and summaries of them.

He continues to attend his weekly science class, even recently describing science as “cool” which amazed us. I never thought I would see the day that he would be so enthusiastic about a “subject”. He is taking on a Sunday morning paper round in the village with a view to earn a little bit of money while joining the village community. He attends lego club fortnightly and both he and his sister attend the teen skills session run by connexions on a weekly basis. They completed their recording studio work and bought home their cds, and have spent the first half term of the year focusing on health and fitness. This has reignited Js spark for health and he is taking more care over what he eats and making the effort to be more active. He acknowledged that seeing less of certain friends meant he spent less time running around and went about resolving that by exploring our new local area.

The  small people are hard work but a constant source of enjoyment for us all. Both always learning new things. N is showing a keen interest in numbers, his independence is increasing and always something new to explore. M has learnt to walk, we get a very clear mum from him and his older siblings love the way he walks to them giggling.

We enjoyed a lovely few days away in Scotland, we learnt a lot about the Jacobite rising and the boys got to experience sledging in the snowy mountains and spotted red squirrels.

The snow drops are starting to peep out, spring is on its way, and with it, more adventures.


New house.

Ive been very quiet on here so wanted to come and jump on with an update of what we have been getting up to.

Its all been very busy, we finally moved house. We have been in here for a whole month now which is kind of shocking. We have moved out of the town that my husband and I grew up around, away from family and friends and all things familiar to have a new adventure. We are now 45 minutes drive away, and its fine. We are back seeing everyone for other commitments a couple of times a week but we have our own space which has been lovely.

We have a large garden, and a play room and space to relax, a separate office space and an open fire place. We have put our christmas decorations up and have been able to buy lights and decorations for out the front of the house as well which the children have always wanted.

Its been big changes, from packing and unpacking, the children (and I) have been mastering cooking on gas. We have been feeding the birds and enjoy being able to watch them all as in the old house we rarely saw anything other than urban pidgeons.  J is looking forward to his spring learning project being much more hands on as we have given him the job of planning and landscaping the pond area of the back garden (currently a large hole filled with plant life where the former pond once was, nearly the whole width of the garden, allowing for a 2 ft pathway, and over 3ft deep!) to allow for wildlife but to also make it usable and enjoyable for us, and safe for the small people I guess. He has been wanting a wildlife area and a pond for years and now he is able to have it.

J has been attending his science class which this term focused on space, he has continued to attend his lego club as well. Both children have been continuing with the youth connexions home ed group where they have been in the recording studio making a cd for the past few weeks. They have been learning to use the studio equipment, play instruments, record individual parts and mix them all together. They have loved doing this and in the new year plan to do some more AQA unit award study followed by some time in the media studio learning film / photo editing and green screen work. So I am watching that space eagerly.

A was awarded a young peoples award at county hall. She was among 50 young people from across the whole county (aged 13-19) who achieved this recognition for progress and achievements with youth connexions. We attended a buffet reception and award ceremony with her where she had her photo taken and was gifted her certificate and a photo frame.

Other than regular sessions and a small amount of online work and carefully selected tv viewing, we have not been focusing on formal work so much, a lot of books and stationary were packed up and we have had a lot to organise to prepare for Christmas. Then in January A goes off on her 4 week adventure to Australia with her uncle.

Everything else is beginning to wind down for Christmas and we feel like our adventures are only beginning.

Chris Packham Aspergers and Me…. and us.

Chris Packham, a television presenter who I grew up watching and who I still enjoy watching when he presents the likes of Spring watch and Autumn watch recently made a documentary with the BBC about his life with Aspergers. (You can read about this here) 

I sat and watched this with my husband and with J, who is 13, an animal lover with an ASD diagnosis. It made for interesting viewing. To see how Chris managed his condition without even fully knowing or understanding what his condition is was inspiring. I was saddened watching him explain about his friendships, or lack thereof, and to hear him making the realisation that he would succeed in education so long as he refrained from speaking to people. So much of this seemed to ring true for J and is part of the reason behind our decision to home educate.

J has much more of an affinity with animals, he admits that he has a general dislike for people, for humans generally. He likes that animals do what they need to do to survive but rarely are mean and cruel to each other just for the sake of it, a trait which seems all too common with people. Sure you can argue that foxes are cruel to chickens just for fun, I have heard tales from farmers to suggest this, but foxes don’t pretend to be friends with the chickens to serve their own purpose and then turn on them or be mean to them without their knowledge do they? Generally if a fox is in the hen house, then we know they are up to no good. People aren’t quite as transparent.

J is learning some of those skills needed for successful social interaction, he is beginning to grasp when people are joking and winding him up, he is more able to tell them to shut up and go away rather than losing it with them. Sometimes he tries to return the banter, on occasion he manages this very well, other times it doesn’t go down so well and every now and again someone gets really upset with him. Its a constant curveball for him as people come and go from our lives and everyone has their own humour and tolerance levels for him to navigate. I can see why it would be so easy for him to shut himself off.

It was interesting to see how Chris came into working with the BBC. He made a list of things that he needed to do, and those which he needed to not do. He went for the job because his sister suggested that he should get paid for talking about animals to people other than them. It was also mentioned however that he motivated the family to get involved and to know more and be more interested in animals, wildlife and nature than they would have been otherwise, that he inspired them, and this was viewed as a positive. I can definitely say this is true in our families case as well. Through Js interest we have been working on the Wildlife Challenge with the RSPB, we have Woodland Trust membership and do seasonal activities for that, we have taken part in the give nature a home initiative and have enjoyed many a walk admiring the change of seasons and practised photography. These and many more are activities and experiences that we may have missed out on if not for his keen interest and passion.

We have said on a number of occasions as a family that we could see J working in television. He has a wealth of knowledge and retains information that he then loves to share. It was positive to see that even with the social struggles and quirks, that Chris has made a very successful career. He has managed to form and maintain relationships successfully over the years, he still has a lovely relationship with his step daughter from a previous relationship and has been with his current partner for over 10 years. This is positive and promising, such a valuable insight to reassure children, young people and parents all over! J found it strange that having been together for 10 yrs Chris and his partner still do not live together, this proved an important lesson for him about variety and what works for some doesn’t work for all. Something that really he should be all too aware of, their relationship is clearly working. J is surrounded by couples who do live together, It is the norm for couples to move in with each other, So this documentary provided an intriguing alternative.

During the filming Chris went to America where he visited an education centre and talked about the search for a cure for Autism. Of course earlier on in the program my husband had raised the issue of those on the other end of the spectrum, Chris has Aspergers and so is quite high functioning in many ways, at the other end we know that there are those who are non verbal and who are affected in much bigger ways. I figured that to see the world from Chris’ perspective was insightful as to look at him you wouldn’t know anything of his inner struggles and in the same way that J struggles, people then expect far more than they are able to give. During the part of the program where Chris was in America I found it saddening to see how Autism was viewed and compared to a cancer, something that needed to be treated and cured with “educational chemotherapy” Having watched loved ones suffer and lose their battles with cancer I felt this was an appalling and disgusting comparison to make. J was confused by his thoughts, we needed to talk it out a bit. He could understand why some people would want a cure, of course being aware of the massive variety of ways and extremes that people are affected by autism it’s not hard to understand why there is a demand for research into a cure. But for J, much like Chris, it is the acceptance that those ASD traits, while tough to live with at times, make them who they are.

I felt it was very positive that alternatively the role that people potentially with Autism have played in the development of huge organisations such as Google, NASA and Microsoft was highlighted and praised. There was a brilliant example of employment, allowing applicants to demonstrate their capabilities across 5 days to take away the stress of an interview scenario that can cause so many ASD young adults to falter at the first hurdle and a brilliant interview with a Microsoft employee with ASD.

These programs do such a fantastic job of informing people, reassuring people and inspiring people. To have it placed right in front of us….. look at this struggle. Look at how his brain works. Look at that sensory overload. Anyone who would look at him just wouldn’t know. It’s the same for J. He related to so much of the program and it was brilliant to have it explained so clearly. Because J isn’t good at putting it into words at times. The first anyone would see of anything being “wrong” with J is when a meltdown happens. When I am having people complaining to me about various behaviours without understanding the trigger. A trigger which usually following a discussion with someone else present I can pinpoint pretty quickly. It doesn’t always seem like a lot.

I would ask anyone who finds themselves confronted with a meltdown, or not even a full meltdown….. those awkward, rude and tricky traits that usually for us preempt a meltdown….. Not just with J, but with any young person with ASD, don’t just think about what has directly been said, or done. Look at the whole picture. Lights, colours, smells, sounds….. is it a familiar place, is the young person comfortable? Are their clothes ok?  You see so much of these senses people often ignore, But to people like J, they can be huge factors.

You may see the young person with no eye contact, with no speech…. maybe making loud noises and shouts, maybe flapping or signing. You would look, you would know and there would be a level (albeit a very small amount) of understanding. This person has “special needs”  this person may struggle.

Spare a thought for those who at first glance appear “normal”.  Offer patience, kindness and understanding. For Chris, for J and for everyone. You never know what battles someone else is fighting.


Just a mum, needing a moan.

Last week we received news of a diagnosis. Our youngest edition has what is known as Mosaicism. It is a form of down syndrome where the Trisomy 21 is not found in every cell. In this case it was found in 1/3 of the cells tested. This has sprung up lots of questions that ultimately can not be answered, its a waiting game. Wait and see how he develops, how he progresses.  It is looking positive that currently there are no delays. He is eating well, gaining weight, mobile and alert so all is looking very positive in his development so far. But this has still come as a bit of a blow. When you are already caring for a teenager with anxiety, another with ASD and a 3 year old having ponsetti treatment for talipes, you find yourself as a parent wishing that the universe would give you a bit of a break.

I have received support messages and messages comforting me, reassuring me that we will be fine, there is nothing that can be thrown at me that I can’t cope with and that I am the absolute best person for the job of raising these babies. Comments that the universe (or god) wouldn’t give me more than I could handle and that as a home educator I am equipped to bring out the best in the children whatever their needs. Its all great, lovely to have the encouragement, the words of support and know that people have faith in me. In truth, they are right! I know that I’ve got this! My previous success rate in getting through difficult times and over coming hurdles currently stands on 100% and I have no intention of letting that record slip.

I am incredibly lucky, as a family we are lucky. There is so much love and support surrounding us. We have food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. We are in a financial position to be able to drive and access activities and events for the children and I am able to be at home with them 6 days a week, the one day I do go out to work they have their daddy here to care for them so we are not reliant on any other child care.  The children are secure and confident and progressing well emotionally, physically and academically. We are blessed.

Perhaps with all of that in mind I am in no place to complain, or to feel sorry for myself at all. There is certainly no denying that many others have it much much worse.

The thing is though, that actually the internet seems full of one extreme or the other. There is so much of the oh so wonderful, life is perfect, super mummy, put everyone else to shame posts across social media. Alongside the articles stating that these are partly responsible for the rise in mummy loneliness. So many see those perfect posts and feel that they themselves are in some way failing. “Oh look at all these wonderful home cooked fresh meals, I feel awful that mine had chicken nuggets and pizza for the 3rd day in a row” type issues. Hey mama, guess what?! You fed your kids, you’re winning!!!

On the flip side with so much truly awful stuff going on in the world its easy to feel guilty for not being absolutely over joyed with your lot in life.

But sometimes things get hard and its healthier to get it out and have a bit of a rant and a moan. I also think that it is helpful for other parents to see that not everyone has it smooth sailing and rosy, we all have battles to fight and we all have bad days.

If the children were in school then this would all be ok and considered normal. But when you home ed when you find yourself complaining about tiredness and the over whelming feeling of just soooo much, the question is always “have you thought about putting them back into school?”  WHY CAN’T HOME ED MAMAS HAVE A BAD DAY TOO!!??   In answer to that question, YES, I have thought about it. The thought fills me with dread and makes me realise how lucky we are. On top of everything else I could have to live by a government enforced time table, have my alarm set every single morning with deadlines and meetings and home work and crowds and peak time holidays and stress.

Well here we go, lets put it out there. I know that I am lucky, I know that we have a lot, a lot more than many others have. I know that actually we have it quite good. But sometimes, things just feel a bit pants. Sometimes the children don’t sleep, I am tired. Sometimes I forget to take anything out of the freezer to cook, or I forget to pop to the shop and the children get super noodles or beans on toast or pizza for dinner. Sometimes I hand the tv remote to the three year old and let him put on what will keep him quiet for just a little while, be it Peppa pig or (like today) Nightmare before Christmas has been on now for 4th time! Every now and again, I get overwhelmed and feel a little bit pants, I feel fed up of being an adult and want to build a blanket fort to sit in and colour while disney films play on the TV. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of the need to compete for who has the most, or who has it worse, we just reach out and support each other as parents who are raising their families with what they have. Because no matter how lucky you are, how good you’ve got it, sometimes being a mum is bloody hard, and it is exhausting.


School Friends and Growing Up.

When I was at school I had four female friends in my class, one of which I had grown up and gone through infant and primary school with and then two others who we met at secondary school. We were all close friends and did a lot together during the days. It was kind of an unspoken agreement that outside of school I would hang around with the friend who lived local to me and the other two girls were ok with that as we were a group. Growing up this girls mum was pretty strict, and we found that we weren’t allowed to leave the nearby park where her mum could keep an eye on her out the window and call her in for dinner.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, as a parent myself now I can understand the need to be able to get your children in when dinner is ready and wanting to know where they are. As an adult now, knowing what I know about what was going on in the village we were growing up in, I would do the same. But back then, as pre teens, it was a drag.

My upbringing was the opposite, my mum had passed away when I was 9 yrs old, my dad was working, my brother had his friends round after school and his annoying kid sister just got in the way, so I was out and about. I didn’t have strict curfew, I didn’t have a parent calling me in for dinner and when my friend was called in by her mum I was out on my own.

Then I met someone else, there was a girl a few years older than us, she would walk past the park on her way home from the village and would stop and chat with me. One day she invited me to go with her to her house for food. I remember the drama that having a new friend bought to our circle. It upset the status quo. I remember time going on and telling my friend one day that I was going home, taking the short cut through the alley way and walking round the other road to meet my new friend further up the road as a way of trying to save myself the grief that inevitably came from the girls at school when they heard I had been hanging out with someone new. The funny thing is that the bulk of the trouble came from one of the girls who didn’t even live nearby. She wasn’t affected at all by who I hung out with out outside of school at all, yet really gave me a pretty awful time for daring to hang around with someone who didn’t have her approval.

Over quite a short period of time (actually pretty suddenly) my place in the foursome disappeared. I started hanging around with the older, new friend, inside of school as well as outside. I put my head down in lessons and then break times we cracked the age segregated mould and I would sneak out of the school gates with her and the older years. I fitted in so much better with the older year groups, away from the drama that surrounded girls my own age. I got into fights with girls my own age, I took a few punches and wasn’t afraid to swing a few back. I was happy to do my own thing in my own time and girls at school didn’t seem to like that. Perhaps because of my upbringing, I had seen things and been through things that not many people my age at the time could relate to. I couldn’t understand the teenage fall outs and arguments with mums, I couldn’t tolerate hearing girls my age slag their mums off and wish them ill, or dead in some cases. I wasn’t afraid to tell these girls that they didn’t know how lucky they were, that they should appreciate their mums. Being told by one girl that I was lucky was one of the final blows. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken out, perhaps I should not have discounted their feelings of angst and anger. So I was the victim of assaults, from boys as well as girls, I bore the brunt of the bullying and frankly I hated school. The drama, the childishness, the forced uniform,  the teachers and their pets, the unfair spread of discipline that resulted in a friend of mine getting a detention and me being let off the same thing because the teacher thought my home life was shit. The downward spiral that resulted in me walking out and refusing to return. That saw the involvement of education welfare and social services (now all under the same “childrens services” umbrella)

Oddly enough, the “new” friend who I had met in the park that day, the meeting which sparked the teen drama and the ensuing downward spiral, remained a very good friend. One who ultimately put me up when things got so bad at home that I left altogether. I still saw her very regularly well into my 20s and am still in contact with via social media. I suspect she even reads this blog following my adventures and would be sat reading this saying “gawd  dayam” to herself. I dont see her much anymore, we lead separate lives each taking different paths, but there will never be a day when she cant call me up and shout if she needs me.

The thing is, as an adult I understand that the teenage behaviour is not only common, but actually fairly normal. I have spoken to enough other people over the years and have seen my own daughter go through the same thing to know how regularly it occurs. Teenage girls want their “best friend” to be their best friend only, they want that element of control and to know that their best friend wont be friends with someone who they don’t like, they want control and absolute loyalty. I was lucky as a teenager. I was able to meet enough like minded people, many of whom had equally shitty experiences at home or with other people. These people are my tribe, they have been for a long time now, many of my circle of friends knew me when I was younger than my daughter is now. We have grown together, we have raised our families together, we celebrate together and we support each other through everything. And we do this without the day to day drama. We all have our own lives, our own other friends, our own things going on, but we get together and there is nothing but love, respect and honesty.  We’ve all lost other people along the way, but never ceased to have each others backs.

I saw a similar pattern of behaviour when my daughter was in her early teens. Friends would want her to have sleep overs etc and if she had something else going on or wasn’t allowed then a night of prank calls and bitchiness would follow. I remember her being with us one night for a friends birthday on their canal boat and it was prank call after prank call. Secondary school didn’t see an improvement. It was all seemingly politics of who could be friends with who and this didn’t sit any better with my daughter than it had sat with me. She would be friends with who she wanted and no one could tell her not to talk to someone, and like me, she suffered the consequences from peers.

All through life we seem to meet these people who want to control us and dull our sparkle. From fake friends to abusive partners, some we see coming pretty quickly whilst others creep in then blindside us. I’ve learnt that friends don’t try to control you or make decisions for you. They are there to advise, to cheer you on and then to pick you up when you fall. I lived with an emotionally abusive partner. I had friends who saw what he was doing, who knew how unfaithful he was, who didn’t like him and didn’t trust him.  A few I lost along the road, he made it very hard to maintain friendships that he didn’t approve of. But others held on, held me and lifted me back up as many times as it took until I gained the strength to let him leave rather than beg him to stay.

One of my closest friends, who is more like family than anything else to me, had a friend who I couldn’t stand. I had had a run in with her and she had said some pretty horrendous stuff and I took a big dislike to her. My friend eventually chose to forgive her and make up. Where was the jealousy? Where was the fall out? It wasn’t there, because I respected her right to make her decisions and choose her own friends. And you know what? In time I was able to get talking to this girl again and grow past the dislike and now, years later,  we get on quite well. In the same way that there are girls I was in school with, we are now adults and parents and have been able to talk via social media and actually get on quite well. There are others who do not seem to have grown up or changed. Women who still bitch and fight and argue, who fall out with people for no reason or get involved in the disputes of others, getting into fights at the local nightclubs and girls who disliked each other at school STILL kicking off at each other out in public! Why do some of us outgrow this behaviour and some just really don’t seem to?

I have spent several months listening to someone talk about someone else. Complaining about certain behaviours and approaches to things. I have sat and listened, I have at times agreed. Perhaps it is foolish to not immediately consider that perhaps it was going the other way round as well. That’s a trust thing, being there for a friend and trusting that they wouldn’t betray you. Sometimes we put our trust in the wrong people, and that’s fine too. We learn to own that hurt and then brush it off, because it is life. We can’t go through life not letting people in, not giving people a chance, because how lonely would that be? Everyone we meet carries a lesson but we have to be open to learn it.

I was exceptionally proud of my daughter when an ex boyfriend of hers was trying to tell her not to be friends with someone and she responded by saying “you don’t have to like me, I don’t have to like you but it would make things nicer for “x” if we can be civil because he is allowed to choose his own friends and I respect that” Well done that girl!

I think that is definitely a bonus of home education. If you don’t get on with someone you aren’t forced to spend time with them, and you are free to make friends based on shared interests rather than age. Forced association isn’t passed off as friendship and socialisation and they have to learn how to meet people and spark up conversation and open up those lines of communication without a teacher sitting them next to someone at random. Which, lets face it, is far more like real life.

To me, friendship is about understanding someones past, believing in their future and accepting them every day for who they are. We aren’t perfect, sometimes we are pretty crap. Life isn’t easy, we have blips and low points, we have unexpected emergencies and then huge (and not so huge) achievements that we want to celebrate.  The overall experience is being part of all of it.



Parenting wars and social functioning.

Media wars, putting parents against each other. I was always used to the “mum wars”, the articles that would promote opposite sides of the coin between breast and bottle feeding, those that would portray reusable nappies as unhygienic and hard work whilst others highlighted the impact on the environment that disposables have. The working mum vs the stay at home parent. The opinions of parents in the media shift like the tides but all seem to serve one purpose, keep the mum wars going.

September is no different, each September the anti home education press hit out with claims of terrorist breeding grounds, neglect, abuse etc. While home educators respond across social media and in various interviews to promote it as a positive and valid choice for thousands of children across the country. Stories hitting the press about goings on in schools get people talking about the rules and policies in place in mainstream education yet still home educators are met with the questions about socialisation.

I found myself in a debate this week following this story hitting the news. A Christian couple choosing not only to deregister their child but to actually sue the school for allowing another male student to attend wearing a skirt. Now in my eyes the school did no wrong, the child was in school uniform, gender is a protected factor under the equality act so the school would have been in the wrong to discriminate in their uniform policy. They have provided a safe, supportive and accepting environment for a child to explore their identity and that, as far as I am concerned, is pretty brilliant. The parents who have removed their children from the school have not had any of their rights breached, they have done what many other parents across the country have done, disagreed with something within mainstream education and  chosen to remove their children, as is their right to do. It does not need to be a court case surely?

But sure enough people came forward with the view that “boys are boys and girls are girls” ok? So what exactly does that mean? for me people are people and, regardless of sex or gender, children and adults alike should be encouraged to be kind, compassionate, brave and honest. Nurturing is just as important as hard working whatever a childs gender, and what a child is wearing has no impact whatsoever on these traits. why should a boy not be allowed to wear a skirt in a society that widely accepts girls in trousers? Of course there is the “cultural norm” but these norms are fluid through time, they are not fixed, so its ok to question them.

I was told that “the purpose of parenting is to teach the child and help him grow into an adult, not to let him do whatever he wants” and that ” truly loving and supportive parents will guide their child. Independence comes later.” While being told that the parents and the school were in the wrong for allowing a boy to wear a skirt.

“one of the purposes of school uniform is to familiarise the child at a relatively early stage with the truth that not everything in life will be a matter of his personal preferences”

It is one thing to be yourself as an adult, but young children at primary school level need to learn to function socially first.”


So lets put this out there, we want our children to learn that to function and fit in with society they can’t be themselves? We will prepare them for adulthood by teaching them to function socially, we will do this by placing them in a room, divided into groups of 30 or so other children, segregated by age. We will tell them what they HAVE to wear and what shop they must buy this from and we will punish and humiliate them if they do not comply. With no choice or personal preference?  Flipping that into “real society” ?It doesn’t work. When I have been in adult education and in employment I have been with people of all ages, and sometimes I have come across people who I don’t get on with for various reasons. Have I been forced to spend time with them? Nope. I have been able to step away, make a cup of tea, have a breather. Absolute worse case scenario, I handed my notice in and left. My personal preference.

Lets consider this idea of learning social skills and learning to function and how that learning is promoted in these schools. Here children are being told where to look, to walk in single file between lessons and if they feel sick they will have a bucket next to them and carry on with their work. No worries  about the spread of illness or a persons right to privacy during bodily functions.  Meanwhile at this school children are made to wear signs around their necks and are isolated from their peers if their uniform is deemed incorrect. And here children are isolated and miss their whole 60 minute lunch break if their parents are unable to pay for their school dinners.

I am struggling to make sense of how any of this is of benefit to our children and their learning. It seems to bare no resemblance to our society out here “in the real world”. Yet still, the debates and arguments continue with groups of people seeming so obsessed with their rights that they forget about the rights of others. We are all just parenting, doing what is best for our children. There is no denying that our children are all different, unique individuals, so why do some find it hard to accept that they need different approaches? And it seems to me, that many of the people shouting the loudest about children needing school to learn how to function socially, probably went to school themselves, and are those who seem to struggle the most with acceptance, manners and functioning socially.

The mum guilt of a feral child

I laugh about my children being wild, its an ongoing joke. But in reality I am surrounded by children who spend their days playing, and not caring if they get muddy. Children who don’t have to worry about keeping a uniform clean or shoes dry and mud free to wear the following day. Every now and again I find myself out with the children during the weekend, surrounded by other children who aren’t as free as those I am usually with and it just jolts me. I hear a snippet and think “oh, that’s odd” and then I look around and ponder, perhaps I am the odd one!? Cue, parenting guilt!

My children are the ones climbing trees, rolling in leaves, splashing in puddles, dancing in the rain, getting covered in mud, rolling down hills, soaking wet and sometimes it gets to 9pm and we suddenly remember we should have some dinner! Other children might be tucked up in bed, mine might be out looking out for bats and other wildlife! Mum guilt.

Back in the summer time it was my experience at Chessington, we thought our visit would be quiet, not realising that local schools were closed for polling and there turned out to be a number of children there. At one point the 3 yr old was playing and splashing in the fountains and under jets of water, he was having a brilliant time, absolutely soaking wet  (water is definitely his happy element) when we heard a lady shout to her child “don’t get your shoes wet”… and it led me to think “why bring your child to the fountains in Chessington if  you don’t want shoes to get wet?” When I took to social media with this question I was ridiculed myself and my question answered by a whole number of mums justifying why someone would take a child to Chessington world of adventures in shoes that weren’t to get wet. It was suggested that perhaps that parent was looking at my child running with wild abandon under the fountains, giggling and shrieking in delight and thinking “poor child will be cold and wet”. Would someone feel sorry for that wild child? mind momentarily blown by the anonymous mummies of the internet.

Last week it was my children, in clothes and pants swimming, not just paddling, actual swimming, in the sea on St Osyths beach in Essex as the sun went down.

During the week we were on a visit in London, and when walking through St James Park my 3 yr old and my nearly 13 yr old began to hand feed the squirrels. A popular past time of people visiting St James park given how tame the squirrels are there, they will come and take food from your hand. My children were shocked and quite saddened to see a small group of children chasing the squirrels across the grass, clearly scaring them. Parents stood on and watched this with no apparent concerns that their children were scaring the animals despite signs around the park asking for wildlife to be respected etc… There was also a number of random passers by who were happy to shoot us disapproving looks as the three year old joyfully sat still and quiet allowing the squirrels to approach him. One was even overheard informing her daughter that they were dirty animals and they would bite when the daughter excitedly asked if she could also have a turn feeding them.

Today, my parenting “guilt” moment occurred in Hampton Court Magic Garden. My wild child ran in, spotted the sand and the water streams and off with his shoes and socks in he went. And in he fell. Oh how wet he got! The smile on his face was amazing, his laughter infectious. Yet still I hear another parent tell their child “no you mustn’t, it is far too cold to take  your shoes and socks off”  while glaring at me and my child, their child staring longingly at the water. I look around and sure enough it is only my children with bare feet. The sky is full of dark clouds, threatening a downpour (which did hit as we left) but the joy on their faces spoke volumes to me. It told me that it was right for them.

I get that we all parent differently. I also understand that most of us parent inevitably experience that mum guilt at some point. But what really hits me is what these incidences have in common. They stand out to me because my guilt is triggered by the apparent disapproval of random other mamas. My children are laughing, happy, giggling and experiencing the real feel of their environment. Other children are under strict control and are definitely not giggling merrily as they stare on, staying dry, keeping clean. I wonder if their comments are said to mask their own feelings of mum guilt? Are they feeling it or are they genuinely judging my parenting negatively when they see my happy, smiley children? And why does that mum guilt hit me albeit short lived, when in front of me are some of the most awesome, happy people that I know?

Mum guilt can jog on!