Tag Archives: home education

Looking forward

Hi people 🙂 A happy post for a change. I’m feeling good!

I have been so down for so long. All the heaviness of the past few years just heaped up on me and I was so weighed down I couldn’t get up. There is obviously a situational basis for my misery – I had the most miserable year of my life living by the beach (ironically) because I was ill in an unsuitable house, with financial troubles (not to mention marital, car, family troubles!) and no friends! But it was more than that. The stress had worn me down until I had no mental or emotional strength to fight it.

But then, there’s no rhyme or reason to depression.

black cat

I feel better now, but there’s no particular or obvious reason why I should feel better. I just do. I’m sleeping better too, and hopefully that means that the vicious circle is straightening itself out.  I hope I’ll be able to shrug it all off now and things will start to look better on a permanent basis.

I know I keep saying this, but I don’t have the life I wanted, or hoped for, or thought was right around the corner. But we hopefully have some good things on the horizon, and I truly am grateful for all the good things I have.

(But, do you know what? the glad game doesn’t work when you’re deep in the pit.)

I started a dose of amitriptyline about 3 weeks ago, and honestly I usually forget to take it, so I’m not sure whether or not it’s having any effect. But at this point, knowing what the deep pit looks like, I thoroughly recommend taking whatever hand is held out to you, just to get your head above the parapet where you can see the sun again.

Funnily, you know – I have been down in the pit deep enough to ask my GP before to give me anti-depressants, but that GP refused (bizarrely, a few years before, when I was desperately trying to get a proper diagnosis of ME, I was offered anti-depressants when I didn’t need them). This time, I just casually mentioned to my new GP that battling ME makes me feel a bit depressed every now and then, could I try anti-depressants?

No problem.

It totally depends on the doctor you get. If you need it, don’t take no for an answer, or by all means find a better doctor. They are so variable, and some of them are complete buggers.

So now, despite contemplating moving house again for the 7th time in just over 5 years, I am actually looking forward to moving. I think. I mean, I’m not looking forward to the actual moving of course, that would be crazy. But I am looking forward to being settled.

I’m looking forward to living right in the centre of town where everything I need will be within walking distance. I’m looking forward to living in a place where I already have a bunch of good friends who can’t wait to visit us.

Incidentally, I keep wondering why I found this place so unfriendly? I can’t work it out. I don’t think it has anything to do with Cornish culture, because we’re not even that far down into Cornwall, and it isn’t that Cornish here. (And before I am accused of being racist, I never thought it was that, but the suggestion keeps getting thrown into the mix, so I thought I’d mention it. Whether there is a truly Cornish culture, or whether what we’re experiencing up here is just countryside culture is another topic.)

I think the problem here has been a mixture of being here at the wrong time, with the wrong aged children (home educating never isolated us until we moved here, but the HE group in this place was just filled to the brim with under 8s. The only families with teens we knew passed through and moved away long ago) and apparently having nothing in common with any of the people we met. It can’t be helped. I think we weren’t meant to stay here, it was just for a season. I do just wish that season had been a little easier. But anyway. It’s nearly over.

And here’s another irony for you. After all this time – five years with virtually no friends despite huge effort on my part to be social and gregarious (without appearing desparate! lol) to no avail – I just discovered a local vegan group that didn’t seem to exist when I searched for it a year ago, or five years ago, and I’ve MADE FRIENDS.

Really.

So here’s what I am expecting to happen: when we move away, we will be coming back here to visit and go to the beach more than we ever did when we lived here.

Isn’t life just gloriously ridiculous?!

p.s. I just passed my one month as a vegan mark. It’s about as long as I’ve managed to stay vegan before, but this time I have plugged into social networking for accountability, and I’m thinking about getting a vegan tattoo. That would probably keep me vegan. Oy vey.

 

Parenting Choices

Over Christmas, I had what almost amounted to an argument with a very old friend, on facebook (of course). I could rant and rave how facebook is the spawn of the devil and brings out the worst in everybody – which it does, but that isn’t the point I’m wanting to make this time.

Our almost argument was essentially over parenting styles.

Another, even older friend had re-posted a photo of a monkey with words along the lines of “I can’t wait until the monkeys go back to school (and I pity their teachers)”. Personally, I found the whole sentiment sad (what an indictment on society that mothers can’t spend two weeks’ holiday with their children without wishing them away) and bordering on offensive. (Perhaps I’m easily offended – maybe that’s the topic for another post…)

I re-posted it with words to the effect that “I find this really quite sad and offensive, and if you feel like this, I feel sorry for you.”

I had several mothers chime in with comments agreeing with me, and a couple from abroad who mentioned that the UK seems to be a very anti-child culture and the openness with which mothers speak so negatively about their children, even in front of their children, is really quite shocking.

My friend, however, posted a snarky comment to say that she did feel that way, and that it was quite normal for ‘normal’ parents to feel that way, and if I thought she was a bad parent, it was my problem.

Hmm.

I had never to my knowledge suggested that she was a bad parent or had made bad choices, so I suspect that there is a little bit of a conscience-prick (or cognitive dissonance?) happening to make her feel defensive, but here is the thing. We made very different and opposite choices.

We both have children with special needs. We both have a child with ADHD and very difficult behaviour. My friend sent her child to school and encountered enormous difficulties including suspensions and permanent exclusions, psychiatrists, CAMHS and medications, and getting the help she needed involved an enormous amount of fighting against the system to force the system to address the problem so that he could cope with the system. Actually I admire her tenacity and determination. It is not so much my friend’s parenting or parenting choices that I dislike so much as the system itself.

The choices I made involved avoiding the system altogether.

Special needs were not the initial reason that made us choose to home educate (my eldest son’s special needs were of a quite different nature) but by the time our third child came to ‘school age’ it was obvious that there was no way he could be squeezed into the box that the system required.

When his behaviour started to become difficult to manage, we did try to deal with GPs and CAMHS, but without success. But since he was home educated, I concluded, as I had done with my eldest (who has suspected Asperger’s but for whom we also failed to obtain a diagnosis or a Statement), that we would just continue to find solutions at home. For the most part, I believe that was the right decision for the children and learning at home has been a much calmer and better choice.

There is a ‘but’ though.

For me though, for my health and sanity, home education has possibly not been the best choice. It certainly hasn’t been the easiest choice. I have no doubt whatsoever that the stress level has contributed to my overall ill health and in as far as adrenal exhaustion may play a part in ME, I think that stress has broken me. Really. I am certainly not the person I was  – either physically or mentally / emotionally – as I was when I started out on this journey just over 15 years ago.

So my choice has come at a rather high price.

I have wondered seriously whether I am well enough to go forward with our plan to adopt. Right now, I do not feel that I am, and that feeling of failure just adds to my overall state of mind. My Plan A, to have more children, failed spectacularly, but now I wonder if my Plan B will fail. I don’t have a Plan C. Just be sad indefinitely?

However, would I do it again, even knowing what I know about how hard it is? Yes, I would. For my children’s sake, I would. I am glad I did. Would I home educate an adopted child? I have to say, despite everything that I know now, that I absolutely would.

From my observation, school for the most well-adjusted children is tough and often comes at the price of impacting the child’s personality and character negatively. For adopted children, who have already been through trauma, loss and worse, it has the potential to be downright abusive and even in the best cases seems to add another layer of trauma which inevitably adds to their overall difficulties.

Please don’t get me wrong. This is not intended to be a judgement on parents – especially adoptive parents – who choose school. I’m only looking from the outside, and I know that I don’t fully understand the special stresses that come with adopting a traumatised child. Home education is not the norm, and for most people, it can seem like an extreme solution. It involves one partner giving up their job, or a very difficult financial struggle. There is no ‘respite’ from home education, and I wouldn’t even suggest anybody try it unless they have a very supportive husband or extended support network. You will need a break, you will need support, and you will need a very strong sense of humour to be able to laugh when life and the state of the house is just so awful it’s ridiculous.

But for me, from a list of imperfect possible choices, home education seems to be the least bad, least damaging option, especially for children with special needs.

Open Letter to My Former Friends

For over ten years I lived and worked as a home educator in my former town. I worked tirelessly to run the Christian group, organising events and activities (mostly for free) in friendly co-operation with the secular groups. It is a deep regret that the group I set up did not continue after I left.

For a few years, it was absolutely great. Additionally, I started and briefly ran a home education learning co-op, and I ran several websites supporting, helping and encouraging people who wanted to start home educating.

I am told that ‘nice people’, and voluntary organisations in particular, are prone to infiltration and harassment from Dangerous People: twisted, troubled, manipulative individuals who may even have mental illnesses such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Fair enough. I’m sensitive, I hope, but I was also a fairly tough cookie, a good judge of character, and really not about to be troubled by That Sort of Thing because I’m basically pretty strong, I have a solid foundation, and I have a great circle of friends.

So far so good. Crazy person attacks, I fight back (with love to begin with, as much as possible, but make it clear that I won’t be walked over), problem solved.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how dastardly, cunningly clever the crazy people were (and we’re talking multiple crazies). Neither was I prepared for how easily my solid circle of friends could be swayed, poisoned against me and end up making the lies their own.

Character assassination is alarmingly easy to achieve. Social isolation, mental breakdown, even physical breakdown, easy-peasy. (It was at this point that my ME became much more serious, and I’m sure that stress is a major part of my health puzzle).

It obviously helps if your audience is slightly naïeve and a bit gullible, and perhaps prone to preconceptions and prejudice. (Not quite middle class? Not quite respectable? Must be suspect!)

But You – my friends – listened to the lies, believed them, maybe agreed with them (she is an insomniac, she is up all hours of the night on the internet, she’s can’t be looking after her children properly, easy couple of mental steps to “her children must be being abused”! She had post-natal depression, she must be mentally ill!)

You held a secret meeting to discuss me.

You lied to my face.

I hoped and prayed that the Truth would out, but it took years to do so; and finally, when the crazy people were revealed for what they were – manipulative, trouble-making liars (on a scale that would make you weep with laughter if this were fiction), you turned around and unapologetically laid all the blame for everything you had done at the feet of the crazy, disturbed, probably mentally ill person who actually, on reflection, had an excuse.

You had no excuse.

Three years ago, when I lost identical twins in miscarriage, my friends (and a couple in particular) – instead of supporting me emotionally or making any effort to understand how devastating it was (at my age, after so many years of hoping and longing and praying) – said the most appalling things to me. Amongst other things, they accused me of being selfish, self-indulgent, oh and a whole host of other things that I choose not to remember. “It’s not all about you!”

Wow.

I guess not.

I am told that the gossip ran along the lines that “she was never pregnant at all, she made it up.”

WHAT THE.

At this point we decided as a family to turn our backs on the whole toxic, bitchy, gossipy scene. This kind of constant battle really isn’t conducive to raising kids, or to home education, or to family. We left the city and moved away. Way away.

It has taken me three years to even begin to feel as though I am recovered.

Not once have I had a single apology.

Not a single one.

I tried my hand at reconciliation before we moved, but it really doesn’t work when a relationship is unbalanced with one side refusing to acknowledge their faults.

I am not twisted, and I’m not bitter, however easy that would be. I choose to walk in forgiveness whether or not you can acknowledge what you did.

But I sure do hope that you learned from the last few years – not only how twisted and dangerous the crazies are (that’s a given), but how vulnerable and easily persuaded and fooled you were. Because you were had. Not only did you contribute to emotionally damaging a friend and potentially destroying a happy family unit (remember how close you came to allowing the Crazy Woman to report us to Social Services?), you allowed lies to destroy a happy, supportive, stimulating social circle and home education group.

I presume the group itself recovered, moved on, has new people now. But what we had for those few years, that beautiful supportive, happy group of parents and children – is gone forever.

I mourn what I have lost.

I miss you.

I loved you.

I don’t do gossip, and I have always made it a rule to not say anything about anybody that I wouldn’t want that person to hear. I am still a nice person, I still volunteer and organise, and I always try to look for the good in people. (But I’m a little wiser now)

I know I’m not faultless in this, I know I said unkind things. I know I made bad decisions. I lost my temper. I hurt people. I apologised. I hope I have come out of this a little bit more mature, a little bit of a better person.

If you are willing to put your hand up and say, “Mea culpa”, I would be more than happy to reconcile.

There it is, an open door.

But if you want to argue, if you want to gossip and prevaricate a little bit more (I didn’t mention any names, you know who you are and which portion of this applies to you), I really don’t want to hear it.

I’m done.

Post-script

The night after I wrote this, I took it down after receiving some strange phone calls. It may have been an excessively paranoid reaction. I have re-read the post and decided to put it up again (minus the identifying locations). At the risk of possibly making me sound a little bit pathetic, and also possibly of upsetting and offending people, it is a chapter of my life that deserves not to be swept under the carpet. Lessons need to be learned, ultimately, and I feel that the best way for me to put this all behind me and move on is to make it public.

And so these three things remain: Faith, Hope and Charity (love) and the greatest of these is Charity. Love and forgiveness are paramount. I won’t waste my time bearing grudges.