Homeschool follow up

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So it seems I have caused a bit of a stirring with my controversial views and I wanted to set some things straight…

Firstly, I am not meaning to cause offence to anyone who has chosen (or is intending to) to send their children to school. I have friends who are far better parents than I could ever hope to be who have children in mainstream schools and they are doing just fine. I also know there are brilliant teachers out there, the best. We all long for these teachers and if our children were lucky enough to have one for each subject, along with more one-on-one time and a intellectual and emotional connection with each one too, then they would sail through each subject. But how likely is that?
Like any choice that is different from the ‘norm’ my thoughts are bound to raise some eyebrows. I do believe that the school system is outdated and is no longer designed with the best interest of the pupils’ individual needs. I think things were bad when I was at school (twenty odd years ago), and that it has got worse, and will continue to do so. I am generally talking about high schools. There are many amazing primary schools in my area. However I have a lot of friends with children in secondary school and not one of them has a happy story to tell. One just the other day was telling me about how her daughter got stabbed with a pen (quite severely) and the school denied any responsibility for this as ‘no-one saw what happened’. I have another who’s child is being hugely bullied; she has met with the teachers, head teacher and parents of the children causing problems. The school say that the bulling isn’t ‘severe enough for them to take action’. They have more serious issues to deal with like weapons, rape and drugs. I could go on, I have tons of examples. The thing is, if my children have a super time in primary school and the hit these kinds of troubles in secondary school, how can I tear them out of the system then? How I can I justify pulling them away from any friendships made and dividing them so consciously and brutally? This will cause so much difficulty for all of us. I genuinely believe these problems will arise at some point and there will be nothing I can do to stop them. So I feel that homeschooling from the very beginning is the only fair way it can be done. It will be ordinary to them and I will work hard to meet others where that is also their normality so that they don’t feel like they are missing out.
My experiences of school have affected my views of course but they have not tainted them. I experienced many school settings as I moved a lot as a child. My main two examples of teenage educational settings (both of which failed me as a student) are interesting. One was a large comprehensive (2500 kids) split over two buildings. And the other was a small, country private school.
The first was intense. I was bullied from the start. Many people were. It’s fair to say I’ve always been fairly eccentric and people at that age don’t like it my experince. The girls would all buy the exact same pairs of shoes and hair bands and wear make up and smoke. I was ridiculed for not doing any of those things. Really, hugely ridiculed. So much so that I needed a distraction. I soon discovered that if I was ‘naughty’ and acted out to the teachers, people would laugh at me instead of picking on me. I then had people saying ‘Vikki, dare you to do this’ and I would! I was now likeable. I also would make fun of people less popular than myself (only in front of the mean kids which is worse than all the time really) so I looked tough. I learned many life lessons, none of them good as I was shaping to be a not very nice person. I learnt hardly anything when it came to school academia.
So concerned at my behaviour and bad reports etc my family decided to place me in a private setting. As far as my image went, this was fantastic for me. I was now able to become whoever I wanted. I made meaningful friendships. However, the school had no hope for me from the moment I began. A school like that is very precious about ‘success’ and ‘results’. They were worried about me lowering their averages. Not many people pay for a school that don’t offer excellent averages. So with every given opportunity I was suspended and at one point they tried to expel me over very little. Fortunately my family prevented that from happening. So I made it out with to quote one of my teachers, ‘surprisingly good results’. They were so convinced that I was going to fail that they didn’t want to teach me. In some classes, all I would have to do was walk through the door before being asked to leave. Sure I had a cheeky attitude but I was not a bad kid. I did leave school believing that I was though. In fact I thought I was pretty worthless. And that did not give me the courage to really try anything else educationally.
I know that not everyone’s experiences mirror mine but I can’t help but think my children are bound to have (already do) possess some of my (and our family’s) eccentricities. I want to embrace them rather than make them feel ashamed of who they are. I don’t want them to conform to the standards that someone, somewhere has decided is correct. I want them to grow into well rounded, helpful and kind people with an open mind and a passion for learning. Give me a school that can guarantee they will try their hardest to achieve this which each and every student?
Secondly (back to my last blog), I definitely allowed my anger at the growth and horror caused by capitalism to take over my main points. My fears of schools changing for the worse are caused by this, but I do realise it is a separate issue. I also suffer from anxiety so it’s safe to say that these thoughts may overwhelm me and keep me up at night on a regular basis so I know I have to evaluate them frequently. It does not make them all completely irrational though.
Thirdly, I am not intending to shelter my children from anything; quite the opposite. My eldest daughter is only three so I am only just starting my research and plans for our educational journey. I am reading heaps of books by fascinating and inspirational authors such as Alfie Kohn, John Holt, Maria Motessori and Rudolf Steiner to name a few. There are many home ed groups in my surrounding areas and I am planning to meet as many like minded people as I can and help develop the community. I feel there is a higher chance of building something wonderful for education locally outside the grip of school than in it when there are so many people to go through. I am planning to offer free music and cooking classes to children in the same situation as mine once a week with the hope to inspire others into sharing their talents with our children. I plan to bring accomplished friends in for days here and there to teach my children skills such as knitting, sewing, shooting, fishing, climbing, sailing, horse riding, building, carpentry and what ever else might be on offer. I also intend to en-roll my girls in any groups they wish to join. Susannah is starting a dance class next week. There are also drama groups, gym classes, sports teams and all sorts that we can look into depending on their interests. There are also local forest schools that we can attend every now and then to develop their nature skills. That’s the social side of things explained.
As far as the life lessons school gives: let me be clear, I am not at all wanting to raise my children wearing blinkers. But what kind of lessons of enormous value will they be missing out on exactly? The only one I see is how to survive (if they do) under huge amounts of unnecessary pressure. As far as knowing about the troubles in the world, to start with, we already have a lot of stories in our direct life that proves how different  one life experience can be from the next. We are also going to do community work once a month to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds with the intention to teach my girls that anyone can end up anywhere and to never to judge. We are going to keep a daily journal for ‘random acts of kindness’. They will have to take it in turns to think of something kind we can do each day for another person. This will hopefully show how easy it is to be there for others when one puts their mind to it. A valuable life lesson that schools most certainly do not focus on.  I want compassion to be their main attribute to anything they do. I feel it’s the most important trait any person can possess. Without compassion there is no room for growth or change. Without compassion, everything else one does is inconsequential. Without compassion, the world and everything in it has no worth.
A last huge pro to home-schooling is being able to chose how we learn. We can take trips, meet people from around the world, any time, any where. I will be there to help with every struggle educationally and emotionally. Not only will that make my understanding of my children a deeper one but I will be able to be actively involved when we hit any walls (which of course we will).
I have no doubt that my gorgeous, intelligent and funny girls would survive with Muzz and me as parents through the manic school system. (Which compared to many countries I accept that we are extremely lucky to have). We could guide them the best way we know how.
But to me, survival is not enough. I want my children to reach their full potentials, intellectually and as human beings. I am not saying I can absolutely do that, that is a massive assumption. But I am willing to sacrifice everything to try. Because I think I have a better chance of achieving that than anywhere or anyone else as far as my kids are concerned. Maybe I am crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

If I were gay…

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IF I WERE GAY… A friend  of mine came out as ‘bi sexual’ last year.   Did it change anything between us?   Of course not.   Did I see it coming?   I hadn’t thought about it but it didn’t surprise me.   Did it change anything for me?   Yes. Naturally being a self indulged human being, it made me analyse my own sexual existence.   I‘m not going to talk about labels. I don’t care about any of that. I believe anyone should be able to be, do, wear, make love to and call themselves anything they want (obviously as long as no-one is getting hurt). I believe in kindness, compassion and respect for other living creatures and the planet we share. Anyway, now i‘ve made myself sound like a complete self righteous hippy, I will get back to my point. I want to talk about two things:   1) Why it doesn’t matter whether we are attracted to men, or women, or both   2) I’m hoping to clear up any phobias that some people might hold over people being ‘gay’.   I am in a committed, straight relationship. Engaged actually. So obviously I am not looking for a mate. I occasionally meet people where for about five seconds I’m like “ding-dong hello there!” but it never goes further than that for me. As a couple we are happy and secure and we are both stubbornly loyal by nature. That for us means sharing a life together openly and honestly and (of course) monogamous sex. This is a concurrence we made from the beginning- we both chose to live like this which is why we work as a couple. Other people have different standards and in my opinion that is none of our business and should be approved by everyone (as long as both partners are happy and in agreement).   So about my friend. Her name is Lola (she’s not a showgirl). It was a big deal for her to ‘come out’. It is of course for most people. Admitting to your loved ones that you aren’t conventional, and are (or dream of) having sex differently to how society expects is extremely difficult. I think the biggest qualm someone in Lola’s position suffers with is the fear of rejection. No-one wants to be rejected, especially by the people that they are closest to.   Back to me. Like many others, my family contains members that are valuable to me but we clash on most opinions. They are intelligent people but often use the ‘generational’ excuse to be ignorant about things. If everyone did this, there would be no moving forward with anything. At what age exactly do we decide that we are too old to ‘move with the times’? No-one is too old to do that. We should all strive to think openly and be more accepting shouldn’t we? Surely the more we age, the more we have learnt therefore the more understanding we should be?   When I was about 12, I remember saying to a relative, “What if I’m gay?”   Their response was hilarious. She said: “Don’t be silly, of course you’re not, you’re far too feminine.”   OK…   Well what she didn’t actually know was that my first love/crush (whatever you want to call it) was in fact a girl. We were good friends going through puberty together. We were young and sexual and things between us often got heated. It never felt wrong. But it was also never spoken about really. It was entirely animalistic and teenage. However, things did end badly. Rather than parting ways gradually like many friends, we literally had a ‘break-up’. One day she told me that she didn’t want to hang around with me anymore and that was it, we never associated with each other again. I never really got over that.   Whether that experience makes me ‘lesbian’ or not is debatable. But actually, I don’t think it matters. It was what it was.   Since then I have only been in relationships with boys. I have occasionally been attracted to girls but I was never confident enough to explore this. I remember seeing a few girls in my late teens/early 20s that I liked. Once I was really drunk I would sometimes buy them a drink, bring it to them and walk/run away pretending it was just because I was weird. I just wanted them to notice me I suppose. I never thought about this as an ‘attraction to members of the same sex’ but looking back at it, that’s exactly what it was. One of these girls even invited me back to hers and we kissed a bit. We were teenagers and all my friends were experimenting, snogging eachother, drinking, drugs. Some even cutting themselves. So I never thought about my actions as ‘lesbian’, they were just adolescent.   So when Lola spoke to me about her situation, it made me reflect on this.   I think the main reason I wouldn’t have dared venture in a relationship with a woman, at that young age, was because I was very vulnerable anyway. I feared rejection so hugely that I couldn’t face ever being perceived differently by my family. The way I heard some of them speak of people who were homosexual was not kind. So I have decided to try and clear up any confusions or worries that may have occurred to them if I had indeed attempted being in a same sex relationship. Not because I want to run off with a woman or anything, but because I don’t think parents’ should influence their children in that way, or fill them with  judgements or fears of being (or being around) something quite ordinary and harmless. Being homosexual is something I just don’t believe that in this country, at this time should be viewed negatively. So really this isn’t about my family, it’s about all families that would have trouble accepting a fellow family member or friend as being ‘gay’. So, let’s pretend when I met Muzz (my fiance) he was a woman. Let’s call her Muzzina. All the same things… we met, we were hugely attracted to one and other, we soon realised we liked each other for other reasons too, we had the same visions for the future and the same morals. If this happens (which is of course quite rare) it is usually the recipe for falling in love. Once that transpired, it was normal for us to want to start introducing eachother to the other people we love in our life. But if I had said to these people, “I have met someone, I think it’s serious: would you like to meet HER?” Some of them would have freaked out.   I am going to try and guess the things that might run through their heads in this hypothetical scenario that could spur such disapproval.  Here is a list of these thoughts followed by my responses to them.  

  • “No kids for you guys then.”

  Obviously, being in a same-sex relationship complicates the art of having a child. It does not however terminate the dream. All couples that hope to become parents can experience challenges. If the couple are happy, in love and want children, it is perfectly acceptable for them to want to be parents. And of course explore all the options available to them to do so.  

  • “It’s not natural”

  Ok, who decided that? Most wild animals fornicate with members of the same sex. What’s strange about that? If there is a mutual sexual attraction, why not act on it (in most circumstances)? I am not religious, but if I was, I might be asking, why did God design a man to have a g-spot up his arse? Maybe it was to give him a choice. If that’s not natural, I don’t know what is. All consensual sex is natural (that I can think of). Let’s get used to that?  

  • “It’s perverted’”

  Well maybe stop picturing other peoples’ intimacy then. Perhaps that’s the thing that’s perverted.  

  • “Is this my fault?”

  Being in a gay relationship should be as everyday as being in a straight one. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore there is no-one to blame for anything. Also, it’s not something that is decided for a person. It’s an instinctual drive on an imaginary continuous line. One end is gay, the other straight. Everyone is somewhere on that line. No end is right or wrong. One friend said to me recently: “I’d probably go gay in prison, you’d have to wouldn’t you?” I suppose I see the logic in this as the majority of people you would be surrounded by would be of the same sex- so it’s slimmer pickings. However it is not the limited selection that makes you ‘gay’. It’s being attracted to members of the same sex. If you can see this happening to yourself in an extreme situation, why rule out the possibility that it could happen anywhere?  

  • “I thought I knew you”

  My sexuality is not the be all and end all of who I am. I still love the same food, the same tv programmes, the same clothes. I still have the same talents, ideas and preferences. Nothing has changed except your vision of me. This is your problem, not mine.  

  • “Is a phase.”

  Maybe. Who cares? Just invite Muzzina over for dinner and get to know her like you would with anyone else! If we break up, be there for me. Give us a chance as a couple because you want to see me happy. That should be what matters.  

  • “What will our friends think?”

  The good ones will admire your acceptance, modern open-mindedness and unconditional love for your family. Anyone who thinks badly of the situation, or you, is probably not worth a friendship.   And a couple of extra clear-ups for other outsiders looking in:   If you do have children, will they grow up unbalanced? Don’t you worry that they might get picked on?   The only thing dysfunctional about members of the same sex raising a child together, is the harsh and bigoted judgements they may have to receive from people around them. But don’t we all live with those? I have a son with autism and he is judged all the time for his behaviours as am I for my parenting. There is never going to be a set up that everyone approves of. All I can say is if a child is being raised with love and kindness then that is a good start in life. A start that sadly many children aren’t lucky enough to receive. As far as the child being unbalanced, again, that’s nothing to do with their parents being gay. It’s about the child having needs that perhaps the parent’s know nothing about. Look at Billy Elliot! He just needed support and acceptance. His dad did not need to become a ballet expert to make the story have a happy ending. All any of us can do as parents is our best. If there is something that our children feel the need to visit another member of family or a friend to be open about, then so be it. It is better than them bottling everything up and becoming unhappy. Obviously just because people chose to be in a gay relationship, it doesn’t mean they don’t associate with people of the opposite sex. We all grow up aspiring to everyone in our lives, not just our parents. So there will always be people of both sexes for our children to turn to for advice. Also when it comes to bullying, there are continually reasons to make fun of another person. I was bullied for the size of my teeth. I got over it and so did the bullies. If we can teach our children to accept and be proud of who they are and where they come from, and not to judge others, then the bullying will lessen as time goes on. If it doesn’t and it’s time to do something about it, that’s a separate issue. My point being, (once again) it’s not parent’s being gay that causes bullying- kids do it anyway.   Does that mean you fancy everyone? Are all your friends potential lovers now?   All of us can assess our friendships and think, am I attracted to this person? In my opinion, the truth is, if you have to ask then you probably aren’t. If you are and the feeling is mutual, it would be obvious. That’s a connection that most people can observe. If you once were but the feeling wasn’t reciprocated then the chances are you have moved on. But what ever sex we are attracted to, nobody wants to go to bed with everyone. It’s a relation that happens and is bilateral. Just like straight people. So if your friend has ‘come out’ no they probably don’t fancy you, and if they did, they are so over you because you didn’t fancy them. Unless you do, then who knows, maybe there is a romance to come? And what’s wrong with that?!   I can’t think of any more concerns that I have heard cross the minds of people who would rather their associates and relatives be straight. As you can see (I hope), what I am trying to get at is: if everyone accepted that we have the right to shack up with either sex then we would all have a lot less to complain and worry about wouldn’t we? I am lucky enough to live in a country that has a pretty good understanding of homosexuality. I recognise this is not the case everywhere. If we can start the acceptance at home though, in our own circles, no matter where we are from, then that is a wonderful step in the right direction. Let’s all get along and love people for who they are not who they are shagging.