I lay in bed this morning, watching the fluffy white clouds glide through the pale blue sky and felt so blessed. I have been finding things a little struggle of late. Recently I have had my 'lifestyle', parenting ideas, and my children criticised a great deal. In just the past few days I have heard such things as:
- Callum's hair is too long.
- Callum should be reading by now (he is 7 and has *just* discovered that learning to read might be fun).
- Chelsea shouldn't dye her hair, it will all fall out by the time she is 20. Oh and no boys will ever want a girlfriend with green hair, boys go for blondes!
- Taisia should be sleeping in her own bed.
- I am *weird* because I don't use (or actually own) a pushchair for Taisia.
- I do too much baking (too much baking?? Really??)
- I've bought too many presents for the children this Christmas.
- I shouldn't have a real tree as we have a dog.
- The girls shouldn't be vegetarians at their age, they need meat.
- The house and land we have moved to is too far from anywhere/too dark/too muddy, etc
- The children are missing out on so much by not being at school.
Sadly I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm sure just those few snippets give you more than enough insight into how I must have been feeling recently. I'm not always very good at keeping my mouth shut, but I have done my very best to shrug off these criticisms and remind myself about what is truly important to me.
So, what is important to me?
Years ago, when I started upon our home-educating adventure (9 years ago) I remember trying to think about what I wanted to achieve. Did I want my children to excel academically? Did I want them to take lots of exams and gain good grades? Did I pin my hopes on my children becoming high achievers, gaining good University places which would hopefully enable them to leap into the world of employment with ease? Did I base our home-education success on the amount of A grades, or how much better my children were at reading, writing, or arithmetic than their friends?
Quite simply, no.
I have never measured our home-educating successes with how much my children academically achieve. I have never thought it important to gain grades or certificates. I know that some reading this won't understand that. Those that are influenced by 'normal' schooling will wonder no doubt wide-eyed at just how can it be possible to know how well a child is progressing and developing without the use of tests and charts. I know because I am witness to their just being. I spend time with them. I experience their struggles and am privy to their accomplishments. Of course I can tell if their reading ability is improving - what books are they choosing from the shelf? When they read aloud is it flowing easier? Fewer errors? Less of a struggle? Is their handwriting becoming clearer? Are they showing a greater understanding of a subject? Are questions and discussions becoming more in depth and thoughtful? These are my measuring sticks. That's all I need in order to know that things are heading in the right direction. I don't take any notice of what my children *should* be doing and when. Over the years I have relaxed and learnt that children will develop at different rates. Some will develop the ability to read whilst others have no interest in picking up a book. Some children will put pen to paper and handwriting seems easy, whilst others will struggle with letter formation. That is ok. Yes, really, it really is ok.
As I lay in bed this morning, my face was smiling with thoughts of what we have achieved.
We have achieved a strong family unit.
We have cemented firm bonds and beautiful relationships.
Friendships amongst all siblings and between parents and children have developed and grown. Few squabbles and disagreements are to be heard. Instead teenagers play board games, bake with, read to and enjoy time spent with their younger counterparts. When friends visit, all are included, no-one is left out. There are no cries of "I'm not playing with you 'cos you're a girl/a baby/a boy" to be heard, instead everyone is treated as an equal and all needs and requests are taken into account.
All of the children are able to converse with people of all ages. They are all helpful, considerate, genuinely lovely members of society. All have their own interests, their own thoughts and opinions, their own likes and dislikes. The older four are computer literate, three are avidly fluent readers with Callum (7) beginning to follow suit. I have absolutely no concerns about their future and know that they will succeed at whatever they seek to do. They are already equipped with the tools they need - confidence, communication skills, research ability, and personal strength of mind.
Actually having someone criticise in such a way has made me truly re-evaluate and think about my personal values and expectations. It has made me think about my life, my children, the way I 'parent' , and the childhood I am providing. As the clouds were flitting by carefree and silent, I smiled. I am on the exact right path for us. The smiles on my children's faces, the excited chatter in the morning, the cosy curled up cuddles as we read books and share home-baked goodies, the questions that get asked and the discussions we partake in, are all testament to that. We may not have a fancy car. We may not enjoy fancy holidays abroad. We may not be in the sort of financial situation that allows us to be carefree with pennies and rest easy when bills are due - BUT we have laughter filling our home. We have smiles decorating our rooms. We have joyful hearts beating within these walls.
That is how I measure our success in parenting/home-education/life.