Wednesday 12 September 2012

Birthday boys

Its birthday time in our house. September is busy that way. Leo and his dad, Lily and her dad, Leo and Tansy's granny, Fred and Lily's step mum...yeah its complicated.....and busy!

We kick off with Leo and Hugh, who share the 8th and a love of boats and fishing. So guess what we did...grabbed the canoe, and a kayak for Fred and went out to sea again.

We had a late start. The birthday table for starters...laid out lovingly the night before with cloths and flowers, candles and presents, paintings and cards. Then there was the bowl of raspberries dropped on our doorstep by our lovely neighbour Ruth which inspired me to whip up an enormous batch of banana pancakes with cream. That took some time. Then there was the birthday song, composed by Fred and me while wandering round  the National museum Wales  in the summer holidays and performed live in the sitting room. And did I mention we didn't get up until..hmm about nine o clock?

Finally the vessels were strapped on the car and, as the veteran of one whole sea canoe trip I felt pleasantly excited rather than mildly terrified like last time.

The sea was calm and clear as a green marble and we canoed hungrily from Paignton to Brixham for birthday pasties with five turnstones and several gulls.

And birthday cake...

There were no fish biting this time, and the youngest birthday boy nearly slumbered over his fishing line. His newly acquired five years (is that right? My youngest child five?) not enough to carry him through the long paddle home! 

It's always strange to have the two boys share their birthday, working out a cake suitable for both, staying up late to finish paintings and birthday stories, trying to find a day suitable and acceptable to both. So far Leo has not ever had a party, his birthday activities centre around crabbing and water based activities, fishing puppet shows, boat shaped cakes etc.

It's also a strange time because there is always the knowledge of Lily's birthday just days away and what do we do about that?

I usually try to put it out of my mind while I prepare for Hugh and Leo, and then there are the days that follow when dove and angel cards start to appear  in the post and I start to think about the horse cake I made when she was two.

But for Saturday it was the boy's day

And two of these....seals for those may struggle to see...made their day!

Monday 3 September 2012

All change!

Well, I've been wanting to share this with you for a while, but I couldn't tell anyone until I'd told the kids.....No I'm not pregnant, we're not moving house, but we are about to start something I have thought about and read about and wanted to do since I started having children nearly fourteen years ago........

We're planning to home school our two youngest, Tansy and Leo, for a trial period of a year, with the get out clause of jumping back into school if any of us emerges from the year with lasting scars...

Why the change? We've already moved from a state primary school four years ago when Freddie and Lily were nine and six, to a Rudolf Steiner School which everyone melted into as if they had never been anywhere else.  This is not the post where I will be discussing the merits of Steiner schools. Suffice to say that we have learnt alot about child development and how they learn in a heart centred, non pressured, nature orientated environment, and we have no criticism. Bar the fact that apart from the lovely Hereford and Stroud schools (and shortly Exeter) they are not free. As in they are fee paying.  Hmm. (Anyone work out one of the reasons we have been living in yurts and caravans and wooden cabins for the last, uh four years?).  And they take up lots of time .Kids only become full time at steiner schools when they are ten....which for parents  with more than one child means a bewildering array of different pick up times and lots of driving.

But really, the point is that, as we are living in the woods and starting to have plans to buy goats, chickens, and start all sorts of exciting new projects, isn't it better for them just to be at home and learn here? Because really, that's where kids have always been....until the Industrial Revolution pushed everyone down mines and into mills, and there was a sudden urgent need for mass child care and a compliant work force. Enter compulsory education. That's why schools as we know them were invented folks. And they still do the same thing, create a compliant worker (consumer) and provide mass child care so we can earn (buy) more.

We were very very lucky that the Steiner School did only one of those things, ie provide child care, but still....How many times have I torn my kids away from some wonderful imaginative game to hurry and dress for school? How many times have I curtailed a  story, or a meal or a walk in the woods or a trip to the beach or a visit with friends...because the kids have to get to bed to get up early for school? When Freddie was small, and at state school, I even remember dragging him in from the garden where he was drawing and labelling the vegetables in his notebook yes, you guessed it, to go to school. Where he screamed to stay with me and fell asleep on the carpet after lunch. Insanity.

There's the worry of course that I won't be up to it. That I can't teach my kids to read and write. Don't I need to be qualified? And when I sit myself down and examine that, I realise that my kids have learned to walk, talk, dress themselves, eat cleanly, prepare food, knit, sew, saw firewood, weave, ride bikes, swim, sing, dance, play, care for animals, garden....with ME. Or their dads.

Tansy could probably teach herself to write, she's already got her own notebook where she copies the label off the tahini jar!

I have things I want to do, too many creative projects fizzing away, and I am concerned about my available time being eroded, but, who knows, I may even end up with more time than before .I have bouts of patience and gentleness and great storms of impatience and annoyance..How will it go? I 'll let you know.

How about you? What's your experience of schools, for your kids..or even for you?