Joyful fun for everyone. AKA the good stuff about being a home educating parent!

I hear it all the time. I couldn’t be around my kids all the time, I’d go crazy. Do you ever get time for yourself?

Yeah, home education is time intensive. But if we forget about the children for a minute….there are so many benefits for the parents. Benefit one?

Going to visit the local fire station with friends and getting to dress up in an actual firefighter uniform.

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Yeah, you heard me. I got to wear a skin protecting head wrap under that helmet. Feel what it was like to walk in those heavy boots. Look so awesome all the other people on the planet want to be me! Ahem. But seriously, can you want or need anything more than that?

If so, here’s a few excellent things about being a home educator, from the purely parental point of view:

Getting to finally learn that there’s another way to learn. Maybe starting to find a deeper well that’s been hidden all these years – one filled with longing, individualistic passion, curiosity. You get to see the proof that this well is real because, you know, your kids aren’t getting their wells filled in or covered up.

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Laughing. Really, really laughing. Parenting can be divisive even among friends you’ve known a long time. But if you are choosing to live a freer life outside of the mainstream, you have a much higher chance of meeting like minded people. People who view life similarly, people who appreciate and celebrate wackiness, people to adventure with. I’ve laughed so hard I’ve almost pissed myself on occasion. And I get to spend hours with these people. And not in an office. No. We are walking through gale force hail storms, we are exploring in Wales, we are playing dangerous little games with actual firefighting hoses.

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Consensual living. Some people view radical unschooling or totally autonomous education as the kids ruling the roost. Not in this house. We make decisions as a team, we compromise, we try to find good solutions that everyone is happy with. That means if I’m having an overwhelming time, my kids are practiced in the skills of discussion and debate….and I get time to wear fleece pajama bottoms and read if I need an afternoon in.

Being the best version of yourself. I’m still learning, but what can be better than joyfully saying yes to as much stuff as possible? Evening marshmallow roasting, flying kites in the midst of ancient stone circles, making vegan chocolate cakes and throwing a pretend birthday party. It doesn’t get much better than this. (Except if you’re in a fire fighter outfit. Seriously.)

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Trying new stuff. Many home ed classes or groups are a happy mixture of people of all ages – toddlers through adults. Just recently, I’ve got to sculpt with real clay, walk along a balance beam, learn new songs in various languages from Africa, and picnic in the rain. As the kids get older, I look forward to signing up for classes geared more toward me and bringing them along if they are interested – maybe the local acting group? Harmonica lessons? Hiking meet ups?

And the best bit. Being there. I get the zany questions, the little lips blowing raspberries on me, the hugs and every day moments that are so filled with magic. I get to throw my arms up and be loudly me, loudly their mother, loudly a friend. I get all those explosions of wonder and happiness and love.

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There’s nothing better.

Brown bear, brown bear……why are you here?!

My kids really like their martial arts class, particularly S. Up till now it’s been a standard thirty minute class each week, with the slightly annoying sticker reward at the end. I know, I know, I’m such a sticker hating hippy. But seriously. At four, five, and six, why can’t the joy of the sport be enough? Little kids shouldn’t need to be bribed. But if there is a week when the stickers are forgotten, every bloody kid is upset. And why? Do they actually cognitively link the sticker to anything? Every kid gets one, so they are not merit based.

My kids like the stickers, so I’ve squashed my anti sticker sentiment. I don’t want to make them give up something they enjoy. And as we used to say when I was back in the therapy world, everything is ‘grist for the mill.’ We can have lots of discussions about these things. Fine.

But then talk of the reward charts entered the scene. Myself and a couple of other parents weren’t pleased, and that included parents of schooled kids. These reward charts are to get them to do things at home that the parent might normally have trouble getting them to do. Oh, there is so much wrong with that last sentence I don’t know where to start! We don’t have continual problem behaviours. Nor do we have to (often) coerce the kids to do things. We have a lot of freedom and choice, and both kids have taken on growing responsibility for stuff – their own personal care and toys, as well as helping pitch in around the house. There are no obligations, no punishments if someone doesn’t want to help – because they only help if they offer to. I know some of you may think we are crazy. That’s okay. Maybe we are. But it is working for us.

I just don’t get why martial arts should be rewarding kids for doing nightly reading, brushing their teeth, etc. I wonder if it is because it is trying to instill some mystical martial art thought processes or something? But surely martial arts are an inbuilt meritocracy – you earn belt/badges and progress to different levels depending on how much you train. Fair enough. That’s the nature of it.

Then why The Bear?

The Bear is a giant bear neither of my kids has cared too much about. He’s a relatively new thing, only making an appearance twice so far. The ‘best’ kid gets to borrow him for the week after class. I’ve been very lucky in that neither of my children has had a breakdown over not getting The Bear, though other poor souls have.

Until today. S worked her arse off. There was lots of (brilliant, really brilliant stuff) about heart rates, being healthy, etc – and she participated more than anyone. Did she win the effing bear? Nope.

She hung her head and asked me, ‘Why didn’t I win the bear? I tried so hard.’ In my head I was thinking, I don’t know, dude, but you totally should have. Ha.

She is the sort of person who does try very hard. She wants to be perfect. That worries me, but that’s a post for another day. Bottom line, though, my daughter cares a lot about stuff like this. And while The Bear is supposed to build children up, for kids like S, I think it only has the potential to do more harm.

So as we walked to the car I told them the truth – a little something I picked up from other mothers who also had bears in their children’s activities (wtf is up with these bears?). I told the kids that The Bear would likely just be rotated, that everyone would get a turn. I’d rather break the mystique of The Bear than have it break my kid’s spirit.

She loves martial arts. The exercises, the kicking, the punching. Her face glows while we are there.

And I wish that could be enough. Her joy, her getting to try new things, her working hard to progress.

Perhaps this is an inevitable problem – as we are now the only home educating family in a class of children who are daily offered rewards (that may not logically link to anything! I’m a rant girl!), use behaviour charts, are daily forced to do things they do not want to do. It makes me happy that we are not living that way – not that I judge people who are. Each to their own.

A few months back I took the reward chart issue to an online group filled with experienced, wise unschoolers. I read and deeply considered everything that was discussed, and it has helped us move forward. My kids can choose whether to do the charts. I won’t be signing my name in the squares – they can put happy faces in themselves. But The Bear?

You don’t need him, S. You are strong and smart and you may feel you are not sure, but I am. I can hold the sureness for you until you are ready to rise up, magnificent, and claim it for your own.

follow up post