Tag Archive | homeschooling

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.

Serenity

I need to get organised somehow. I feel as though I have been constantly battling chaos ever since… When did it begin? I think it began the moment I left home and became responsible for keeping my own house.

In my defence, since that moment I have always lived with the most exceptionally lazy and untidy people (or so it seems).

I have moved house in my life around 25 times, and unless there’s some kind of miracle to restore our finances so we can buy our rental house, this place won’t be the last. I wish it were not so, but that’s the way life has unfolded for me. I don’t like the feeling of being a helpless victim of circumstance, but it’s very clear to me that I’m not the one in control.

I can think of only three places where chaos wasn’t a problem: my student digs, our place in Stockholm, and finally, when we were living at my mother-in-law’s. In the first two places, I just didn’t have that much stuff, and in the third, somebody else was doing the housework! (Well, I helped, but I wasn’t the only one responsible for the whole house.)

Even when we had additional family members at Grandma’s (ten of us at one stage) it wasn’t hard like this. In fact, having more adults working together made things much more workable. It was a completely different dynamic. That’s one of the attractions of living in community.

My conclusion: I can’t manage this much stuff without help. And since there’s no help to be had, the stuff must go. Ugh. If only it were that easy. I’m really feeling totally overwhelmed this week, just drowning in stuff.

I keep thinking as well that this chaos is an obstacle to spirituality. I long for some kind of routine, and just a bit of space and time and solitude. I love my big ‘happy family’ but it is suffocating sometimes.

I keep planning to walk down to the church ‘tomorrow’, as I discovered a few weeks ago that it’s open during the day, but so far I haven’t managed it. Maybe tomorrow. But I won’t get my hopes up.

I can understand why the ‘desert fathers’ and mothers withdrew to the desert looking for a deeper and more satisfying spiritual life. Marriage and motherhood is a *much* harder path.

Is serenity even possible in a big, noisy, active, busy homeschooling nuclear family?

Next post had better be on joy, for balance, I guess.

Jag har haft fullt upp!

It has all fallen apart a bit. I tend to do this. I tend to take on so much that I burn out and end up not finishing anything. (Sigh) The title is a Swedish phrase, which means roughly ‘I have had a full schedule’, or ‘I’ve been super-busy’! 🙂

I have picked up a dozen or more books and started them, but not finished them. In fact, I took a bunch of half-read books back to the library yesterday. I’m trying not to kick myself about the Read52 challenge. I don’t think I could catch up now, unless I get credit for good intentions!

I’m also so far behind in the Bible in 90 Days challenge this time that I really have no hope (or intention, sorry) of catching up. I also got to the end of Job just feeling that I was getting very little out of it this time round. Last year I read through faithfully every day, and marked all the words of God in red, and anything else important (like repetition and themes) in blue, and I really loved it. I saw new things in it and I’m really glad I did it. But this time, I had already switched to listening on audio Bible by the time I got to Joshua instead of actually reading it, as I was finding it so… boring! I really don’t want to feel that way about Bible reading.

So actually I’m juggling. I have a lot of plates to spin – being a wife and ‘mum’ with ME, homeschooling, housework, study, and trying to set up a Ministry / Business. I have never managed to find a great balance between homeschooling and housework – when the children were young, I figured that if I managed to get out of bed and the children were basically washed and fed and clothed and happy, everything else could look after itself.

I have been wondering why I decided to take on the extra spinning plates of study and business. Maybe a psychoanalyst is called for – do I have some need to set myself up to fail? Actually, I think I’m pretty driven, perhaps I need to prove myself in some way (I’m not sure to whom though or why). But being driven and fighting ME is a pretty tough battle. Actually I have heard that there’s quite a bit of evidence that a lot of people who get ME are A-type personalities (I tried to look for a good article to link to but I couldn’t find one).

I have never quite learned to pace myself either. I always seem to need to start something new, take on a little bit more, work a little bit harder. I help out at Scouts and Guides in a limited capacity, I teach (Sunday School, very basic Hebrew, adult Bible Study, although actually I haven’t done any classes since we moved down here as there doesn’t seem to be any interest), I’m now involved with two churches, I study (and now I ‘have’ to be studying my OU course, just about everything else looks more interesting which is another challenge! I’m even trying to learn Cornish in my ‘spare time’!)

I constantly feel on the edge of relapse, but resting doesn’t help anyway. I figure that, if I’m going to feel desperately tired and in pain whether I rest or get on with it anyway, I might as well just get on with it. Thankfully my ME is not severe (although I have had a few bad patches, and poor husband always seems me at my worst as I’m always pretty wrecked by the end of the day). I still don’t want to accept that it is ME to be quite honest. I would much rather have something that’s easily fixable, curable. But I don’t go to the GP anymore. My current one is nicer and more helpful than previous ones, but he’s no help really. When the blood-tests always come back negative or ‘borderline’ there’s no clear direction on how to treat me. So until and unless I can’t, I keep on keeping on. I keep picking up books and starting them. I keep trying to read my Bible. I keep studying and writing and doing my little groups. The children are washed and clothed and fed and reasonably happy. That sounds like a good life to me 🙂