Well well well, would you diddly dang piddly po believe it?
Classroom Free has only gone and bloomin' well sneaked in on the bottom of Top 25 Homeschooling blogs over at Circle of Moms. I'm thrilled - not only because it means that people find me sharing tales from my little bubble inspirational and/or enjoyable enough to want to vote for the blog (which is amazing!), but also because getting the word out about home-education being a legal option here in the UK is important to me.
If it hadn't been for Joseph having 'issues' with school life we wouldn't be here sharing our world with you guys. I wouldn't have made the life-changing decision to take him out of school and therefore begin on this awesome journey. I wouldn't have met so many inspirational and truly special people - both in real life and online - as we wouldn't have shared a seat on the rollercoaster ride that is the Home-Ed community bus.
I wouldn't have become the mama I am today.
I would still be Julia Mainstream.
I would still be Mrs Julia Does-As-She-Is-Told.
I would still be obeying the rules, trying to fit in, not rocking the boat, not causing trouble, keeping head down, and mingling with the crowd.
I would still be 'doing the norm' - playgroups, nursery schools, primary, secondary.
I would still be that Sergeant Monster Mama in the morning, rushing around trying to get everyone organised and to school on time. Cries of hurry up and... get dressed, eat your breakfast, brush your hair, clean your teeth, get your shoes on, don't forget your coat, where's your bag... would still be heard. I'd still be barking orders at the little people, demanding that they listen and follow instructions, shouting louder and firmer as the minutes ticked by - after all, it would reflect badly on me as a parent if they were late for school wouldn't it?
The evening routine wasn't much better as I would demand that reading be done, homework completed, dinner eaten, bath taken, pyjamas on, and beds entered all within a few hours of the children reaching home.
*Great BIG fat sigh*
Yuck yuck yuckety yuck.
I detest the sort of mama I was back then. I hate thinking what my dear children went through each day.
I wasn't nice. I WASN'T NICE.
I wasn't nice at all. I yelled a lot. I worried, got frustrated, felt exasperated, and was determined to ensure I was the sort of parent the school welcomed and wanted. I strived to ensure that my children were never late, that they were always dressed smartly in their uniforms with their hair brushed and tidy - and sensible shoes, don't forget the sensible shoes. I made sure that their bags had all they needed, that their reading books were never lost, and that all their belongings were labelled with their names. I wouldn't let my children take toys to school as it was frowned upon, and always, I mean always, double checked their lunch boxes to ensure their packed lunches were up to healthy eating standards - as set by the school. I didn't want to be a nuisance parent. I didn't want to be the parent the teachers dread talking to. I didn't want to witness the headteacher rolling her eyes as she saw me striding across the playground towards her. And, being perfectly honest, I didn't want to be 'told off' by a teacher - the thought scared me. I just wanted to be perfect in the eyes of the school and did everything in my power to ensure that was the case.
My poor children.
I'm sure many of those that know me these days are stifling giggles as they read this. I'm sure I will probably hear many echoes of "Really? Were you really like that? You?? This woman that you describe of days gone by can't possibly be the happy-go-lucky, no bedtime, no food rules, totally relaxed, untidy and disorganised gal that we know now!"
The Julia of now will fight her corner, will stand up for what she believes in, and is not afraid to get her point of view across - loudly and proudly. This same Julia does not fret about what her children are getting up to, instead choosing to trust their judgements and allowing mistakes. I don't have anything to prove to anyone, not any more. Gone are the days when I lived and breathed to be accepted and liked. Now I'm me, and a very happy me I am.
I have changed so much. I have relaxed (lots). I have learnt so much about life, about education, about how children learn (thanks John Holt), about what is genuinely important to me, about my truth, my honesty and my integrity.
When the pressure cooker of the school system was released, it weirdly became clear to me that above all else my children needed to be happy. Why on earth didn't that factor in my way of thinking before? Why didn't I think of that as I was rushing around forcing this and that upon them in order to make others happy?
My children should have come first, but the system took over my mindset.
That had to change and I'm very glad to say it did - quickly. To be fully happy, my children now needed a plentiful supply of love, total security, adequate food and shelter, and unquestionable acceptance. They didn't need me demanding things of them. They didn't need me bellowing orders, or raising my voice to scare them into submission. It was back then that I made a promise to myself that our days would be filled with joy from then on. No longer would I be making sure that I was seen to be ticking the right boxes on somebody's form. No longer would I be forcing us to fit society's ideal and following the path of the masses. No longer would my family be marching to the beat of the mainstream drum. Instead we would be setting up our own band, donning wigs and cheerleader poms poms, and marching to the beat of individuality.
Do you know what? You can still tick the boxes on the 'providing a suitable education' form and fill your days with joy, laughter, love, and fun.
I'm so thankful that we are still marching. I'm so thankful that we haven't yet been cornered and confined. We haven't been forced to conform, nor have the wings of my beautiful children been clipped. Their confidence, dreams and passions are still firmly intact - they haven't had them shattered or their ideas belittled.
I'm so grateful for the life we are able to lead.
We may have a few wounds and battle scars. Our marching shoes may well be worn, our uniforms almost threadbare, but the smiles on our faces and the laughter ringing in our ears remains. And, to top it off, our memory banks are filled to bursting with real-life moments to treasure - and family times, oh so many hours of precious family time.
I'm so blessed that I am fully supported by my husband and I have a great support network of friends.
To be able to spread the word about home-education is precious. To share how it has changed our lives and empower others to do the same is awesome beyond all awesomeness. I am so passionate about what this lifestyle - and it is a lifestyle choice, not just an educational one - has done for the good of our family unit. I've seen the way it has helped Joseph regain his confidence and dramatically improve his speech ability, the way that it has enabled our family to bond together, the way that my children are able to just live life and explore - for real - doing the things they love and learning about the world, not just what is provided for them.
I love that. So much so that I can feel tears starting to form at the time of writing.
With this in mind, can I just say this. If you have stumbled across this blog at the beginning of your home-ed journey - or if you are considering home-educating your child/ren, do feel free to get in touch if you want or need to. I am more than happy to try to offer support, friendship, advice based on my own experiences (not saying my advice is right, I can only say what I would do), or if you just want to get your thoughts down. Contact me at my email, I'd love to hear from you.
Right, moving on to today.
We were invited to visit friends. We headed out of the house for 10.30am, complete with maps and instructions printed from the net. That gave us half an hour to get there. Easily done, it isn't far. We parked in a town centre car park, looked at the map and started to walk. We walked and walked - in the wrong direction. I asked three people along the way, none of which knew the road we were looking for. The map I'd printed wasn't showing all of the roads we could see, and I was getting confused. I text our patiently awaiting hosts and apologised for our lateness, claiming we would be with them within 10 or 15 minutes. 50 minutes later (yes, 50!) we had found their door - thanks to a lovely man who could clearly recognise a helpless damsel in distress as he asked if I was ok and in need of assistance *blush*.
I spent a lovely few hours chatting, with cuppa in hand, sat in a gorgeous kitchen. I could quite get used to it as it's becoming quite the regular occurrence. The children all went off in various directions - gerbils were petted and cooed over, rooms were explored, bookshelves were glanced through, pianos were played, shoes were stolen and carried (could only be Taisia!), food was eaten (most important!), games were played, growling noises were made (??!), and generally much fun was had so I believe.
All too soon it was time to leave and we drove home to find husband had beaten us to it.
Tiegan went off to Brownies this evening, whilst the rest of us all sat watching the budgie fly around the room and the football on the TV. Joseph also played on his guitar - it seems he is learning "Yellow Submarine". It also appears he is rather addicted to the playing and learning of "Yellow Submarine", even to the point that he is starting to annoy himself.
Tomorrow we have yet another trip out to visit friends, then it will be home to prepare for Callum's birthday on Saturday. I can't believe my blonde surfer-haired, blue eyed little man will be 7!