Monday, October 27, 2008


Rosy has been pestering me for weeks to buy her a set of particularly expensive drawing pencils, but today she came to me and said, "I have thought of a way to save you money, Mummy. I am going to ask Santa for the pencils, so you won't have to buy them for me." I thanked her for her thrifty thoughtfulness, and contemplated all the things I could put on my list to Santa. The Man will be so impressed at how much money I will be saving.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

About Us

I’m always really interested in the reasons that people choose to homeschool. There are many well reasoned philosophical standpoints, and deeply cherished religious beliefs. There are the parents whose children are having a terrible time at school for whatever reason. I’m often a little embarrassed to admit that for us…it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Around the time The Boy was born we met two families who homeschooled, and it seemed like fun. By the time The Boy was four we were far away, living in a mudbrick house in a forest on the side of a mountain. The school seemed a long journey away for a wee boy, and anyway, he didn’t like groups, and was still running about hitting his peers with sticks, which we thought might not be a stellar start to a school career.

Several years later, we decided that we weren’t so keen on leeches or snakes, and The Man wasn’t so keen spending six months of the year chopping wood. So we moved to a fixer-upper in the city where there are no leeches or snakes. And The Man gets to spend twelve months a year renovating, which is so much more fun, isn’t it hon, huh? The really exciting part is that we live half a block away from one of the city’s best primary schools. But we were having fun, so we just kept doing what we were doing. Eventually, all The Boy’s best friends went to school, and he got totally sick of the constant company of his little sisters, so at the age of thirteen and a half, he went to school too, in the second year of high school. And he’s still there, and it still works for him, and frankly, he’s a little noisy, so I’m rather grateful, really (though he’s also cute, funny, and very good company).

The girls are all still home. Sometimes they get to go to a tutor a couple of times a week, but currently they are all home, all the time. Sometimes we have fun, and sometimes there is lots of screaming, although that seems to mostly emanate from the four year old. It has taken me a long time, and I have made so many mistakes, but I think that I am finally getting the homeschooling thing. Yes, I am a slow learner. Ten years, and I now think I am on the right track.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Perfect Afternoon

The rhythm of yesterday went tantrum, tantrum, tantrum, tantrum, perfect bliss. Five minute’s drive away is a river with a small perfect wetland. Willows strewing catkins all over paths. Grasses, ferns, blackberries, hawthorns in lacy bloom. Actual shiny yellow buttercups to hold under your sister’s chin to find out if she likes butter. Granted all these plants are noxious weeds, and as such, are being ruthlessly eradicated by the council and replaced with native plantings, but we are determinedly enjoying it all until it goes. And right now it looks just like a corner of a Beatrix Potter story.

We met some dear friends there. The older girls sketched flowers and each other (not because they had to, but because they think they are reincarnations of the Edwardian lady with the country diary), and the younger ones threw rocks in the river, ‘explored’ with the aid of large sticks and rolled in the new mown grass. This, for me, is what homeschooling is really about. It is about being able to seize the moment, the perfect hour of the most exquisite Spring day, and to lie in the grass and gaze at the blue sky.

And Jane and I got to sit on a reasonably comfortable log and chat, and I believe there was a period of about, oh, seven and a half minutes somewhere there when no-one wanted a drink or the car keys, or for us to look at a leaf or a ladybird or to find a pencil sharpener or anything. And because we are totally the carpe diem girls, we did nothing at all, and it was…perfect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

By any other name...

I am seriously considering having a little red flag surgically implanted in my forehead that will pop up when my four year old is yelling, ‘Mama, mama, mama, MAMA, MAMA, MAMA, MAMA,’ three hundred and forty one times in succession. The little red flag will indicate wordlessly:
Yes, Mama is listening.
Yes, Mama will even answer you when you leave as much as a nanosecond between the word Mama, and the word Mama.
Yes, Mama’s brain is going to leak out of Mama’s ears in a minute, and
Yes, Mama is indeed going to change her name.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?*

I have decided to start this blog for a number of reasons, one being that having homeschooled my four children for ten years, new homeschooling parents often amusingly ask me for advice.

When I stop laughing I tell them that I am an expert only in the sense that, having done this for so long I have had the opportunity to make such a staggeringly vast number of mistakes that I can confidently tell people what not to do.

I am like Anne of Green Gables who said “There must be a limit to the number of mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought”. But Anne grew up to be wise and gracious, while I stupidly continue to make the very same mistakes. Take today, when there was a teeny, tiny tantrum from the Domestic Goddess, because I sent her off with the maths text book and some instructions about which bits to read and which questions to answer. Fifteen minutes later she was back fuming about the stupid text book which contradicted itself and didn’t make sense, and she hates maths, and won’t do any more ever again….etc etc and I realized I had sent a 12 year old perfectionist off to tackle a completely new topic all on her own without even a brief explanation and introduction on my part. Duh. Where is my brain? So this afternoon I will be boning up on obtuse angles and reflexive angles instead of mindlessly re-reading Agatha Christie novels (yup, I am so far gone with the mummy-brain thing, that I mostly can’t remember whodunnit). Tomorrow she and I will work together until our brains are bristling with knowledge and she ‘gets’ it, and then I will send her away with questions to answer. So you can see I am a little slow on the uptake. But I will graciously let you learn from my mistakes.

Oh, and neither do I have any real administrative or organizational talents. Don’t come here looking for remarkable new ways to organize family or house or schooling routines. This morning at 8 o’clock the girls were schlepping around in their pyjamas watching mindless children’s television and eating cornflakes, I was reading the paper, also in my pyjamas, drinking tea and eating chocolate for breakfast because I couldn’t think of anything else I fancied, and The Boy was stomping around and kicking things because he couldn’t find his ipod ear phones. I mentioned that it is, actually, humanly possible to endure a twenty minute bus ride without the company of an ipod, and could he please hurry up and not miss the bus, because I didn’t particularly want to drive him to school in my pyjamas. Yes, my life is that exciting, and organized, and I have obviously perfected an effective morning routine. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. But feel free to come by and point and laugh. I will be performing a community service in that I will be establishing a minimum benchmark and everyone else will feel that, in comparison, they are doing a great job.

I will be writing about what works for us, about our favourite things, especially books. Also about the hard things and the problems I haven’t solved yet. It may be a help to someone, it may not. It will at least be a trail of breadcrumbs leading back into the forest, leaving a faint trace which says, ‘Yes, someone passed this way.’

Oh, and the other reason I am blogging? My mother wants to see some photos of her grandchildren, and sooner rather than later, please. Now, if I can only work out how to do that…

*Yes, I stole the title from TS Eliot's LoveSong of J Alfred Prufrock. I don't generally dare to disturb the universe, and I'm not expecting to do so here. Maybe a dog will bark. But sending words out into the void. Scary.