Not Back To School (Yes…again!)

(Before I get started, I’ve just realised that I never posted about my big race earlier this year! I’ll make a note to quickly tie up that loose end in my next post.)

Anyway, that aside…on to the matter at hand. Another September means yet another academic year in which the kids are not back to school. Unlike some home educating families, we choose to observe the term times (roughly) – this is for a few reasons. The first is because all their groups and activities stop for school holidays and the second is so we can connect with friends who go to school. It just works for us. This means that when it comes to September, we are marking the start of a new ‘school’ year along with the masses.

A snapshot from this week…warhammer central!

This year, Sophia would have been entering year 8, Isaac year 6 and Eli year 3 (I had to google the last one, I’ve sort of lost track with the third – classic parent habit with the smallest no?!) I’ve been thinking a lot about home education recently and thought this was the best place to share my rambling thoughts. My main thought as I have children starting to think about GCSE’s and qualifications necessary to enter further education is that I think I was naive to the level of responsibility I was placing on myself all those years ago.

Back when our Home Ed life meant endless day trips to fun places and a home life filled with fun nature projects, craft activities and far too much baking, it was easy to dismiss what we’d have to do when they were in double figures and needing something more than banana bread and pond dipping. I used to say breezily ‘oh that’s ages away, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ when people enquired. But now we’re at that bridge and it turns out it’s not one that you simply walk across.

The options are many and varied but they all require a lot more time, effort, and commitment than anything we did in early years. Combined with this is trying to balance my thoughts on what education should look like with the reality of what children need to succeed in the system that exists. It’d be easy to declare GCSE’s an outdated system that don’t really impart knowledge to a level beyond that needed to pass an exam. It’s easy to talk about giving kids skills such as being able to seek out information, knowing how to analyse sources, knowing how to learn. I believe passionately that an enquiring, critical mind that can communicate, collaborate and lead is of more importance than a raft of GCSE’s.

However, if they want to access post 16 education, there are still hoops that need to be jumped through. At the very least, most colleges require a GCSE in English, Maths and Science but many of our local institutions ask for 5 or 6 as a minimum. So as is often the case in life, it’s a case of compromise. For Sophia, that means this year she is beginning three GCSE level courses – a Level 2 in Textiles and GCSE’s in Latin and Classical Civilisations. When she finishes them in 2 years, she’ll be 14 and all going well, will attend South Devon College to do their elective Home Ed programme to get her English, Maths and Science qualifications. It might not be what we would do in a perfect world but this compromise is how we’ve decided to navigate our idealised approach and what needs must. Doing them like this means she’ll still have plenty of free time each week over the next four years to follow her own passions, to come on adventures with me and the boys and to relax.

At the Roman baths with my big girl this week

I’m not going to lie though – I am quite apprehensive about what approach we’ll take in two years when Isaac reaches this age. He has a completely different learning style to Sophia. He is not as self motivated when it comes to traditional academic learning, preferring to absorb himself fully in one thing for weeks at a time and resisting any attempts by me to interrupt this with anything I feel he should do! Perhaps that is the point when there will be a less of a compromise and we’ll follow our own philosophy a bit more fully and see how that works? I don’t know yet – I’ve got a bit longer before I have to navigate that bridge, which I suspect is less of a bridge and more a bunch of misplaced stepping stones.

Finding stalactites, or stalacmites?

I’ve just realised how long and how serious this post is. Apologies! On reflection, I don’t think I’d have taken a different path when it comes to the kids education if I knew what I know now all those years ago. But it is definitely more challenging and all encompassing than I expected. I haven’t even mentioned Eli in this! We’ve been following a ‘learning through play until 7’ approach with him so this year is when we’ll really start investigating the three R’s and finding out what his learning style is. Given the chaos he caused in his early years, wish me luck!

Being a knight 😂

So happy back to school and not back to school for all our friends out there. Whatever education looks like for you, I hope your kids have a fantastic year! And as always, if you’re interested in finding out more about Home Education, feel free to get in touch with me or head over to Education Otherwise or Home Education Advisory Service.

Into the unknown…

Never have I approached a big race with more trepidation than excitement, feeling so unsure about the challenge I’ve (ill-advisedly?) taken on. I’ve spent this week worrying about everything you could worry about, from running in the dark at night to crossing the A39 safely, from my calf playing up to getting lost on Exmoor! I think the nerves are due to two factors. Firstly my training has not been what I had hoped it would be. I’ve been plagued with various bugs and injuries and haven’t gotten as many miles under my belt as I think I should have. I had hoped to be the fittest I have ever been at this point and that is definitely not the case. I’m feeling tired, a little sick, a bit broken and very old! Secondly, it’s 50 miles. I’ll say that again, FIFTY miles. I have never run more than 32 before so this is totally new, scary, exciting, daunting territory.

Mid-way through a comparatively short 21 miler!

I do think it’s all in the head though, a bit of a mind game so to speak. Everything I’ve read about ultra running and everyone I’ve spoken to has said that actually, a lot of the challenge is in mental fitness, rather than physical. Having the stamina and willpower to keep putting one foot in front of the other after 8, 10 or 12 hours of moving more-or-less constantly.

I suspect this is true. This week has been about tapering (shorter runs to rest your legs but keep them moving) and started with 4.5 miles on Monday. Each of those miles felt like hard work, my lungs didn’t seem to want to work, my legs hurt. Contrast that with 5 miles around Haldon Forest at dusk yesterday with Jeremy (my running mate for the day) and it couldn’t be more different. Yesterday felt fast, strong and most importantly, enjoyable.

So now I’m less than 48 hours out I’m going to try and focus on the positives to get into the best mindset for the big day on Saturday. The carbs I can indulge in tomorrow to try and maximise fuel stores, the amazing views we’re going to see from the coast path and then exploring Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon, visiting the smallest church in Britain, that sense of achievement and elation I know will overcome us when we finally cross the finish line in the dark at Minehead after probably 14 hours of moving.

So wish me luck and I’ll let you know how I get on on the other side…..(and cross your fingers for me for no encounters with cows or buzzards please!)

This is what Home Ed looks like (this week)

I promised a few more Home Ed updates at the beginning of the year and yesterday, I had a moment of clarity which I thought I’d share. I’d just got back from a disastrous run (I was feeling pretty sorry for myself to be fair) and enquired where the kids were. Given that it was 8am I assumed that S would be in bed still and the boys might be mooching around in PJS or eating breakfast. But no, everyone was up, dressed and had eaten. S was busily meticulously decorating cupcakes to take to a group we were going to later that day, Is was writing a book he’s been working on on the laptop and E was practising drum rhythms that my Dad taught him at the weekend.

This cheered me up after my crappy run immensely and I reflected, once more, on the effectiveness of child-led learning if you give them the time, space and trust to make their own way, follow their own interest and figure things out for themselves. Of course, it’s not all roses…there are plenty of days where I’m asked about video games approximately 11 seconds after my eyes have opened, days where we argue for 45 minutes about doing 10 minutes of maths, days when I would quite happily deposit them on the doorstep of the nearest school and scarper.

But (and it’s a big but!), with patience (which I have in varying amounts depending on the day, week, month, phase of the moon…etc) autonomous learning absolutely does work. What it means for you as an adult is a readjustment of what you think learning looks like and what you think they need to know. But what it also means is children and young people who are enthusiastically following their passions (and actually have the time to do so), kids who know an awful lot about the things they’re interested in, children that learn because they want to, of their own accord.

Interestingly, part of this learning is cyclical according to where we are in the year and finally after 8 years I can relax into each phase of it. We start in September (or more realistically by the time we’ve got ourselves back into gear after the summer, in October) with a fair amount of structured (sometimes child-led, sometimes parent-forced) work and project based learning before having an extra long Christmas break to rest our brains. We restart in January and keep going until Easter at which point we’ve basically run out of steam. As the weather gets nicer, we spend more and more time outdoors, exploring the natural playgrounds Devon has to offer, and less time inside working. Eventually I abandon all pretences in early July and we start a long summer of swimming, playing and mooching outside. Then September rocks around, the guilt used to kick in before I acknowledged the cycle, and we start again.

I reckon we do a little bit too much in the winter and a little bit too little in the summer but it basically evens out, we get to spend lots of time outside when it’s gorgeous, the kids are learning and making progress and so actually, I’m happy with that.

Right now, as the weather is improving, I’m reminding myself that it’s ok to loosen up a bit on the structure we’ve been following over the last few months and I thought that possibly, some other people needed to be reminded of that too!

At the end of the day, my kids probably won’t end up with 11 GCSE’s each but actually, from everything I’ve researched and all the people in education I’ve spoken to…that doesn’t really matter. We’ll do five to get them into college and from there, the world is their oyster. If sacrificing those 7 GCSEs means they’ve had a childhood for longer, if it means they’ve had more freedom to play, if it means that they’ve learnt to love learning and aren’t just being cajoled into it, if it means they’ve had more quality time making memories (cheesy I know – sorry!) with each other, with their friends, with their family…then I’m counting that as an absolute win.

Cakes! (Theme was colour)
Drums (innit)
Dragons and explorers…what a combo!
Playing with friends 💚

Spring Vibes

Today felt like the first real day of Spring in my neck of the woods. I started the day with a chilly run, the icy air biting any exposed skin as I ran down the quiet early morning streets around my house. By the time I got back home an hour later, the sun had already melted frosted windscreens and was warming me back up. Fast forward a few hours and I was in some local woods with the kids and their friends who were all having a home ed parkour lesson. Coats were ditched and the adults positively basked in the midday sunshine, marvelling at the beautiful day as the children ran, leapt and threw themselves around (my eldest even half-fell in a pond and was mostly unperturbed by the whole thing).

There’s something about spring sunshine and blazing blue skies that lift even the lowest of spirits. Vitamin D really is the feel good vitamin and it’s hard not to feel optimistic and hopeful as we are given a glimpse of the long, warm summer days that are once again approaching. This winter hasn’t been particularly vicious, more wet and windy than frozen tundra, but the dark days take their toll after a while, regardless of temperature.

It is this hopefulness that I blame for my decision to go ahead with my first ultra race of the year, in less than two weeks time on Saturday 26th March. I promised a running update post a while ago and hopefully this will serve as one.

Throughout January, my training for these two races (30 miles in March and 50 in May) had been going splendidly, I was increasing distance and fitness, my calf was (mostly) behaving itself. Then we caught covid in early February and that all ground to a halt. Once our ten days isolation was over I proceeded to hit the tarmac and trails again but my energy levels were in my absolute boots. A 10k knocked me out for several days and I started to mope.

I came to the conclusion that I would have to defer at the least, my March race, but dragged my heels in actually sending the email to do so As time passed, I realised that I had missed the deadline for deferring and started pondering what to do. Then last week, I got in touch with the race director and was offered the opportunity to either run the ultra as planned or drop down to the half. I pondered on it for a day or so before a sudden recklessness took hold of me and I confirmed that I would attempt the ultra, despite my training having been absolutely destroyed by the last month.

I ran 6 miles on Friday, 9 on Saturday and 6 again this morning and they all went reasonably well. Combined with the sunshine and I’ve been gripped with a feeling of absolute can-do. I’m aiming to walk/run the ultra and with a very comfortable cut off time of 10 hours, think I should have plenty of time to complete. Worst case scenario, I need to pull out and that’s fine, the route is close enough to civilisation that it’ll be easy enough to sit in a cafe and wait for the calvary, should I so need it!

I imagine I won’t post again (at least, not about running) before the race so wish me luck for the 26th as I attempt 30 miles of beautiful coastal running from Kingswear to Sheldon in the Total Coastal (from the amazing Winding Paths company)…I’ll let you know how I get on!

A lucky shot from a very relaxing girls trip last weekend, and the start of the spring sunshine!

Writing Prompt. Time.

We were never going to make it.

Figuratively or literally. Looking back it seems so obvious now but at the time, at the time we were so naively optimistic. Sweet really, if it hadn’t ended so painfully for so many people.

If I’m honest with myself, deceit underpinned everything. It was the foundation of the last 3 years. At the time I told myself that, on my part, they were just white lies. Everyone tells these small untruths, they are the lubrication of life, preventing unnecessary conflict and hurt. But as it turns out, years of small lies add up to one big wound, like being stabbed in the back when you’re in bed at night, at your most vulnerable.

I don’t think either of us were more to blame than the other. A business proposition that sounded so easy, so appealing, a guaranteed win. A few lies about experience, about qualifications – on both sides. Before we knew it, the company was up and running, making promises to clients left, right and centre. At first we were able to deliver but soon the numbers weren’t adding up and we started to panic. Individually. We took shortcuts, desperate to make it work, desperate to swim, not sink.

Those cracks, just 18 months in, might have been repairable if we’d have both been honest about our shortcomings, about our abilities, about our fears. But neither of us were. No. We both opted to pretend everything was OK, that we knew what we were doing. Our promises became bigger, we were overselling, cutting more corners – gotta fake it to make it right?

But it turns out there are some things you cannot fake – particularly when it comes to health and safety matters. By the time the first lawsuit arrived, delivered by a smartly suited gent, we knew that the end was in sight. For the first time since we met, we were honest with each other. Cards on the table. The lawyer who delivered that first suit came in scorning but looked almost sympathetic as he left, crossing paths with another, bringing more tragic news and accusations against us. Tragedies that were our fault. We have no defence.

The trial is looming now. We have no defence. Arrogance and misplaced confidence, a naive optimism that we could make things work. Low effort, high gain. It’s clear now. It was our fault, all of it, both of us.

We were never going to make it.

(A series of posts in which I attempt to shake off any inhibitions and delve into creative writing a little morecourtesy of a random prompt from a writing website)

Writing Prompt. Tea.

No, no, no! I hear her shout from behind me. Milk in FIRST. Mate, what kind of a heathen are you?!

I turn around bemused. This is a long standing low level conflict between the two of us, how to make tea. Not even the perfect cup of tea, just your every day, popped in for a chat, wake up in the morning tea. She favours milk and tea bag in together, then steeped in a miserable looking misty mug until it resembles something like tea. I do it the right way, obviously. Water in first, let it brew…then add milk.

Sometimes I forget to make it the way she likes it, sometimes I do it wrong on purpose. If I think she’s feeling a bit low, I’ll bend to her whims and make it improperly, just to please her. Today, I’ve done it my way on purpose.

She glowers at me and grudgingly accepts the mug from me. To be fair, I have given her the best mug. It’s a little wider and rounder than your average mug, a bit like a pot bellied pig of a cup, but in artsy ocean tones. I know she’s clocked this as she gives me a little smile before we sit down at the kitchen table.

Always at the kitchen table. Why we don’t go through to where there is a ridiculously comfy sofa next door, I don’t know. Perhaps it gives us the illusion that we’re not going to wile away hours when we should be doing something more productive. The hard chairs reminding us that this is temporary, that when the mugs are empty, we should be standing up and getting on. With work, with errands, with something other than companionship. I don’t know who we’re kidding, it’s foul outside – we’ll nurse cup after cup, punctuated with something to eat, until it’s time to leave and get the kids. I’m supposed to be working (the joys of remote offices!), I’m sure she is too. Or possibly it’s meant to be her study day. Either way, we’re choosing each other over what we should be doing – a thirty-something’s version of teenage rebellion.

Rebellion these days is nothing like how it looked twenty years ago. It’s taking the kids to the beach after dinner on a gorgeous evening even when you know it’ll make them tired for school. It’s signing up for a sexy salsa dance class even though you have two left feet and the idea terrifies (thrills) you. Sometimes, (sadly!) it’s not doing the dishes before you go to bed. Today, it’s spending a day with a friend instead of wading through company accounts and yes…making the tea the way you like it, just to piss her off.

(A series of posts in which I attempt to shake off any inhibitions and delve into creative writing a little more, courtesy of a random prompt from a writing website)

Relentless Forward Progress

I’m at the start of my training for my longest ever run in May, the forebodingly named ‘Westcountry Ultra Hilly 50’ and am feeling apprehensive and excited in not quite equal measures. In an earlier blog post about writer’s block I spoke about an essay I’d read by Ann Patchett about being a writer, her relationship with writing and how she feels about. She talks about it being horrendous and painful at times but not being able to stop doing it! I was talking to some friends about creative outlets recently and as the conversation unfolded I realised that I felt the same way about writing and running. Sometimes I find both writing and running excruciating and question why I do them, but I can’t imagine ever stopping doing either.

Right now I’m slightly in the ‘why the hell did I think this was a good idea’ camp but I’ve just completed my first week of training with 24 miles under my belt and was starting to think that maybe it’ll be OK, maybe I’ll complete it and maybe, just maybe, it’ll be fun! Then I picked up my ultra-running ‘how to’ book (the name of which inspired this post) and baulked at the sheer scale of what lies ahead over the next few weeks and months.


I started writing the above a few weeks ago and then spent a week unwell (again!) and not able to run which was very frustrating. Initially, this didn’t massively help with my fears about my training being sufficient. I spent most of the week thinking ‘I should be running 30 miles this week!!’ But then I remembered all the advice that I’d been given from much more experienced runners than myself and relaxed a little. Better to be rested and slightly undertrained than worn out before you’ve even reached the start line!

So this week marked a beginning, again for me. I’m aiming for 25 miles again this week and am on track for that. I feel cautiously excited about the next few months and am looking forward to hitting those 20+ long runs again – although route creation is always a bit of fun, trying to make sure I accurately plan where I’m going. You don’t want to come home and find you’re several miles too short but equally don’t want to find yourself miles from home when you’ve completed the distance you were aiming for that day! There’s something about those long runs that is simply meditative – hours and hours running on your own, with only your thoughts, music and the occasional podcast to keep you company.

When it comes to the race itself, I am slightly nervous about getting lost. I’ve got a 30 mile race in March which is going to be one of my long training runs but that is just following the coast path from Kingswear to Sheldon so I can’t see how I could go wrong (plus I’ve done all of it in segments already) following those acorn signs! But my main event of the year is 50 miles of coastal running mixed with running on the wilds of Exmoor. I’ve been advised to familiarise myself with the route as signage can be a little spacey and that was almost enough to throw me into a panic. But a friend is going to walk some of it with me in advance and I’ll download the gpx route for my watch and hopefully all will be a ok. If not, at least it will probably provide me with some writing material!

Overall though, I’m excited to be able to do this. I know I’m privileged to have the time and good health to be able to undertake this challenge and don’t take that for granted. I’ll keep you updated with training as things progress but in the meantime, wish me luck!

This Is What Home Education Looks Like (for us!)

I get asked so often how Home Ed works for us that I thought I’d try and post a little more regularly about what we’re doing and what day-to-day life looks like for us. Before I do though, I’ve got to caveat it by saying that our Home Ed life seems to change every few years and that of course, the joy of Home Ed is that it can look like whatever works for you so what we do is probably completely different from the approach taken by many other home educating families.

Back when the kids were toddlers and I didn’t have a paid job, I read a lot around educational philosophies, home education and research surrounding these things. There are so many different pedagogies you could subscribe to but I generally stuck with not doing much in the way of formal learning until they’re 7 and taking a very child-led approach, following their interests and ideas as much as possible.

Home Education was a very different beast for me before Sophia turned 7. There were endless days of play at home, in the woods, at the park, at our friends, on the beach. There was lots of crafts, lots of baking, lots of board games, lots of being active. Despite my best efforts there was little in the way of structure or routine. Our life was led by the seasons, was full of spontaneity and was very relaxed!

But as one by one, my kids have all hit 7 (Eli is the last in just a few month’s time) our approach has steadily become more routine-based. Now our weeks have rather a lot more structure to them – mainly because of the activities the kids do and the groups they attend. So what does our week look like?

Mondays

Sophia does an online Latin lesson in the morning (she’s studying towards Latin GCSE) and I take the boys to a Home Ed parkour lesson. I usually try and get the big two to do their music practice and Eli to either do Math Seeds or Reading Eggs before we get started.

In the afternoon we meet with another Home Ed family to do some work together. This has taken many forms over the years from a year long nature curriculum to a WW2 project to science experiments. Currently the younger four are following a history curriculum and the older two are studying towards a Classical Civilisations GCSE (facilitated by me and the other Mum).

Tuesdays

I try and make sure the big two practice their respective instruments again first thing and Eli does whichever of the programs he didn’t do the day before.

Then it’s off to a social Home Ed group, based in the woods. The kids run free, like feral wolf cubs, and the parents and guardians gather round a campfire to chat.

Wednesdays

Wednesdays are meant to be our designated ‘work day’. As well as music practice, a bit of maths and english (at the appropriate levels) we try and work on various projects. Sophia is currently signed up to a Costume Design course and then wants to start a Tudors projects. The boys are doing a project on ninjas and Isaac is learning to code. We usually try and get out for a walk in the afternoon before Sophia has a dancing class in the early evening.

Thursdays

On alternate weeks the kids go to my parents for music lessons, sewing and woodwork lessons and general Grandparent fun so I can work.

On the other week we either do a repeat of Wednesdays or have a playdate with various Home Ed friends. In the afternoon both the boys go to a gymnastics class and Sophia has another dance class.

Fridays

All three kids head to Forest School for a day of mud, fires and fun with their friends and I go to the office.

Losing the boys in the mist on Dartmoor!

Of course, things are always changing. The kids Forest School day will change later this year and we’re hoping to start doing fortnightly science sessions with another Home Ed family and later in the year still Sophia and a friend are going to start an online Culinary course. But for now, this is what Home Ed looks like in our house. It doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes I have a meeting and have to disappear and leave them to their own devices for a few hours (for the boys, that usually means lego and for Sophia – reading, sewing, dancing…) Sometimes we all wake up feeling crotchety and sack it all off in favour of going to the beach or playing board games. Sometimes an opportunity for a visit somewhere comes up that’s too good to pass.

But that’s one of the main reasons I love home educating – the flexibility it gives us. No two days look the same. It can be bloody hard and of course I have days where I think it’d be easier to send them all to school but for most of the time, I love the way our family is and the opportunities it gives us.

So right now, in January, this is our routine for the coming months. I’ll check back in later in the year with any changes! This post will be incredibly boring for many, many people but for those that ask how we ‘do’ Home Ed, it might be useful!

Good Riddance to Good Intentions

Whilst scrolling the ‘gram last night, I watched a short video in which someone was urging people who want to make a change to not set a date in the future (in this case, January 1st but it could apply to any time of year) but to actually just start right now. It got me thinking about intention setting and resolutions for the new year and why we often don’t see through the latter.

This morning in that strange ethereal stage between sleeping and waking, I pretty much composed an entire blog post all about this very topic. However, now in the murky light of day, I have forgotten quite what I was trying to say. I’m going to try and piece together the components though into something that will be interesting and possibly useful to others out there….

Like many of us, I usually use this ‘between’ time to reflect on the year gone by and the one about to start. I usually invite the kids to join me in this process and we tend to identify things we want to incorporate into our Home Ed (as well picking favourite days/activities from the last 365 days). However, this year we set our education goals back in the more traditional September so this particular part of the tradition will be redundant this year. For my part, over the last few years I have set goals that I haven’t achieved – this year I wanted to run my first 50 mile race – but was foiled by injury. I wanted to write more – but blamed lack of time when in fact procrastination was my roadblock.

So this year I’m thinking more generally. I’ve realised that you can’t plan for all the variables and so I’m casting a larger, vaguer net when I’m thinking about 2022 – using a holistic approach to wellbeing, both physical, mental and emotional. I’ve pinned down five things which I think are crucial for wellness and if I can make grounds in each of these areas, I think I’ll finish the year in a way that makes me proud of the way I’ve used the last 12 months.

Being Creative

I think creativity is key to keeping your brain active and interested and provides a fantastic outlet for the emotional rollercoaster of day-to-day life. I read recently that adults are often put off creative endeavours for fear that they won’t excel at them, but that this doesn’t matter. We should create for the joy of creating – and if others don’t objectively view what we create as ‘good’, then so what. If we’ve been happy doing it, that’s what matters. So draw, write, sing, paint, bake, take photos or do whatever it is you enjoy doing creatively this year – and do it more!

Eating Well

I think the diet culture can be toxic, damaging and divisive and often leads to extremes – either trying to exist on dust or overindulging and not feeling well as a result of it. So this year I’m thinking about eating well – about eating lots of nutritious, delicious food, about not restricting certain foods, about listening to my body, about enjoying everything in moderation.

Time Outside

It’ll come to no surprise to any of use that I perceive time outside to be absolutely vital to our mental and physical wellbeing. I could cite a dozen sources to back me up but if you’re interested, you’ll find them yourself. No matter the weather, being outside in fresh air (even if said air is very wet and windy!) is guaranteed to result in me feeling happier and on more of an even keel by the time I get home. Go outside, every day guys. Trust me on this one!

Moving More

You don’t have to embark on marathons, extreme challenges or let it consume your life but moving more does you the world of good. I think the trick is to find out what kind of moving you enjoy. Maybe you love swimming, maybe you love cycling, maybe you love boxing, maybe climbing makes you happy, maybe dancing is all you need. Move your body more this year, it’ll thank you for it.

Love

Finally, make sure you spend as much time as you can with people you love. Your family, friends, spouse, kids… You won’t regret choosing to spend time with them over doing something else. (And that’s not to say that sometimes you need a break from your darling offspring – no guilt there, I definitely do – regularly! But quality time with them can be pretty lush). Spending time with your favourite people fills your soul up in a way nothing else can.

Next week when work starts again, first up on my to-do list is to write a blog post about the New Year. Possibly I should have saved myself a job and used this for that – but as part of my new vague plan, I want to write more this year so you lucky ducks get it instead!

What are your thoughts about starting a New Year? How are you feeling about it? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments. To anyone reading this, I wish you a 2022 full of happiness, laughter and excitement and peacefulness in equal measures.

Doing It Our Way

We don’t put much value by school years in our house. If you asked me right now, I wouldn’t definitely be able to tell you what years the boys would be in if they were in school (I only know S because she’d have entered secondary school this year which feels like a milestone). I have absolutely no clue what the national curriculum consists of or what the government thinks they should know at the ages of 6, 9 and 11. I imagine that they would fall short in some areas if they had to do standardised tests. But I know that in other ways, they have knowledge or skills way beyond their years.

S is the queen of self directed learning. She seeks out information, she knows how to check her sources, she is a font of wisdom – often more than me! She is studying for a Latin GCSE and is doing adult-level costume design courses. I is more singular in what he pursues. He is an avid reader but of the same series of 20-odd books which he reads on repeat, starting at book 1 and going through until he’s finished before returning to the start. He loves video games and is an avid coder, in the middle of a ‘pirate treasure’ game on QB-64. E is….feral. But as I subscribe to the educational philosophy of not starting formal education until 7, I’m not too worried. He’s a force to be reckoned with and will be fine.

Sometimes I think about how they’d be if we have taken a more traditional approach to education. I don’t think by any means that they’d be hard done by or suffer. I think I might struggle a bit in mainstream schooling and that E would be in trouble constantly (anyone that has met him and his best friend will agree wholeheartedly with this assessment!) but generally they’d be fine. But…I think they’d be different. I love the freedom that home education gives us and the impact I think it’s had on their personalities.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that at least 30%* of the time I’m fed up with their constant presence. It’s hard being with them all day, nearly every day. The constant questions, demands, queries, squabbles… In an attempt to not be a shouty Mum I’ve started to level with them and will from time to time just state clearly ‘I’m feeling really frustrated right now and feel like I might shout. I suggest you give me a few minutes by myself’. I owe my parents a debt of gratitude for the times they have the kids and a similar thank you goes to the amazing Forest School leaders who engage them and their little gang every Friday in the woods.

But, (and of course there had to be a but!) would I change it? Nope. Because that other 70%* of the time we’re off having adventures, hanging out with our friends, exploring the amazing coast and moors on our doorsteps, learning together. We’re being silly, singing songs whilst we drive, challenging each other to obstacle races in the park. They’re my little friends and they’re pretty great kids. And man, reading that back makes me feel a little sick – all the cheese!! But it’s true. I’m in a privileged position to be able to home educate and I don’t take that lightly.

And if I think about it, a lot of the time when I get frustrated with them, it’s because of other things going on. Trying to fit in 2 days of work and all the running I want to do alongside home education is a challenge. Often my stress at not having enough time to do it all is what makes me lose my temper. I feel guilty at not having all my time exclusively for them or frustrated that I’m always rushing from one thing to another. But then I need something separate from them to feel like myself. And besides, I think it’s a good example to them to see me working doing something I feel passionate about. Also, I know that I don’t like to rest on my laurels and would be bored if I didn’t have these other things going on!

Most days though, I can look from the outside and see that what we’re doing works. It works for them and it works for me. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters right?

* these percentages vary massively in both directions depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle, the weather, how much the kids have been fighting, what the moon is doing, how bad the traffic has been…