Thursday, 19 October 2017

Quite a day

So it's been a while since I've written, and both recently and today especially I have been asked ALOT about our decision to Home School, how we do it, why we do it and how I'm managing.....

I've Blogged about this before.  A lot 😁😁😁

Alot of people assume it's because of the children's autism, their 'additional needs' and sometimes yes I am guilty of hiding behind that as an excuse to justify our choices to the more pressingly, intrusively skeptical out there.  But the truth is we would have ended up here anyway - of that I am sure.

I always wanted to be a teacher, a primary school teacher.  I went to uni to study just that, and realized within weeks that it wasn't for me.  Not because I don't love kids, I do, so much.  But because I knew I couldn't be part of a system I would want to fight against day in day out.

When I did my early teaching practice, I was placed in the largest primary school in Britain, in reception class. In a blended class of 90 (yes 90!) 4 and 5 year olds, with 3 teachers.  Wow!  What a learning curve!

I knew almost immediately it wasn't going to be for me.  But one thing above all made this decision crystal clear for me.  One little girl.  One darling little girl who took a shine to me from the first moment, latched on to me, followed me around, not talking, week on week.  I think my third or fourth week in to practice she took me by the hand, she was holding a book.  We sat down on a bean bag together in the reading corner and I started to read her the story.  She smiled her little smiles, encouraged me on with her eyes or a hand gesture, and eventually took the book and started trying to read some of the words back to me, and pointing to the pictures and saying the words for them.  This is the first time she had spoken to me, at all.  This led into a full two-way conversation.  I noticed, after a time, the Deputy Head teacher was watching us with keen interest.  At break time, he asked me to stay behind to talk to him. 

Naturally I wondered what about.  I thought I would probably get 'told off' for spending too much time with just one child.  But he simply asked me what we had been doing, why I was reading to her.  I told him, she had come to me with the book.  When I said she had spoken aloud to me for the first time, he did a sort of double take and asked me several times to clarify this.  Turns out this sweet child hadn't spoken at all, to anyone, ever, from the day she started school.  Not one word.

After school that day her Mum and her older sister came in to the school to meet me.  There was a meeting with us & the deputy head.  I was 18 years old and so far out of my depth.  How, they all wanted to know, how had I got her to speak to me when no-one else could.  She didn't even talk at home apparently.  There were tears, and desperation.  In my immaturity, I didn't know what to say.  I don't know why she chose me, only that she did.  Perhaps precisely because I didn't ask, I listened, to what she didn't say, and sat and played with her in her silent world.  Perhaps it was this that made her want to come out of it.  I don't know, I will never know, but I knew in that moment I could not do that job.  I would have been too emotionally involved. I would have never switched off.  I would have wanted to save, heal, help every child that passed through my class, until it broke me.  Working against a system that is not geared to hear children, to see them, to allow them to find their voice. I couldn't do it.

Years later, when I had children of my own, I had huge nagging doubts about school. Huge. DD struggled hugely at nursery, to find her place, to be understood and when DS started nursery he cried almost every day and begged and begged and begged not to go, to stay with Mummy, he needed Mummy.  And I listened to the professionals, that told me I had to keep bringing him, force through the separation anxiety, get him ready for school.  Oh how I wish I hadn't.

As each of my children started school I watched them slowly unravel before me.  I tried to throw myself into Mum-life, School-life.  I'm not a natural girl's girl.  I never was.  I like a mix of company, a variety of subjects, I like fun and laughter but I also like deep conversations, honest conversations.  I like to go about my business without being judged or compared.  Any Mum will tell you, this is impossible at the school gates.

But I tried to suppress my issues.  Joined the PTA, Board of Governors (at the school's request, not mine!).  Helped in the classrooms with reading, drama, sewing and trips and swimming.  I hated it more with every passing hour.  Watching their little souls be crushed, the bullying, the behavior, the Above-All-Else-Conformity attitude.  The tests, the reward systems, the rife injustice everywhere, every day.  I HATED IT.  But I supported it for them.  Did the playdates, rolled with the punches, the cliques, the judgement of the 'It" Mums.  But gradually it became obvious they both hated it as much as I did. And so we made the jump.

Initially I thought my issues were with That School (and there were sooooooo many issues with That School) so my plan was to take them out, look around at other schools and wait until we could get in to one that was better suited to their needs.  Well, I quickly found there were none and that I, and they, would have the same issues where-ever we went.  So we stayed with Home Educating, gradually found our groove and have settled in to this alternative way of life we have found.

And I try hard to explain it to people.  No we are not on You Tube all day.  Yes we see other families, the kids play with other kids - lots and lots of other kids.  We do all the things you do, we just do them our way in our time.  And no we don't have to follow the curriculum.

People tell me all the time they are in awe of me.  That I am amazing.  Brave is another one. Strong.  I'm not particularly any of these things.  In fact I cringe when people say them, because it kind of makes me feel a bit unapproachable, a bit off limits.  As if I don't need or want anything else, and that's not the case at all. 

I am in a good place in my life.  I would say I am certainly the happiest I've been in a decade.  I frequently don't recognize the person I was.  Inside and out.  And I'm not the only one.

Today I had a funeral to go to.  A friend's dear old Dad, whom I have so many fond memories of.  And a friend to my Dad.  I remember the whole family turning out for his funeral, my Pa's, 15 years ago to support me. So of course I wouldn't have been anywhere else today but there.

And it was a difficult thing to go to, not only because it was the same chapel, the same songs, the same faces.  But because it meant revisiting more of the past - many people, old friends, some of whom I haven't seen for 10 or 15 years, almost all of whom were at my wedding once upon a time.  So firstly there was that to explain, that no I'm no longer married.  Well I say first but actually if was after a number of them had walked past me, not recognizing me now that I am literally half the person I was when they knew me.  It was a stark reminder to me of how far I have come and how different I am that people I spent such a portion of my life with didn't physically recognize me. 

And so once we'd got over all the "Oh my God's" and some very kind "you look amazing"s then we moved on to the other inevitable catching up, which of course led to everything else - the kids, the Home Schooling, oh and the couple of stitches in my face &  the dressing on my neck!  Gees what a day. So much explaining.....

And they all said all the same things that people always say, but I really am not very amazing at all. I'm only me. Just me 😊 
I'm just the same as everyone else.
After all, aren't we all just playing the hand we were dealt? 
My life is no harder or easier than anyone else's.  It is what it is. 
We have days I would rather not repeat, and days that my heart just wants to burst from it's chest with love and happiness and pride. 
But isn't that just life?  All of our lives?  Now that we are adults.

I joined Twitter originally because of Autism and because of Home Education.  To help others - both the seek & gain diagnosis and support, and to dip their toes into the Home Ed pond if they were thinking of it.  I'm happy to say I have helped a number of people do both.  Just as a number of people helped us find out way.

And I'm so thankful for that.  I love that we are able to do this.  That we have found something that works for us.  That we have this great life where we are super close and we get to spend all this wonderful time together.

And I love the Twitter community. The support & encouragement.  And I love all my real life friends, and the Home Ed community.  I love people, I really do.

But if I could ask for anything it would be for people not to be in awe of us, please.  Especially not me 😌  Not to think we have it all together or that we don't need anyone.  Because we definitely don't, and we definitely do 😁😁 

We chose a different path to the one we expected, and we did choose it together the kids & I.  We are not asking for anyone's approval or permission, but we are also not here to judge or compare ourselves with anyone else.  We're just doing our thing, finding our way and sharing that journey for anyone who is interested in it πŸ’— 

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