Sunday, 7 February 2010

Personal autonomy

I'm still here, trying to navigate the unfamiliar laptop keyboard. My own dear computer stack returns tomorrow having been purged of its dastardly viruses.

E went to a tutorial yesterday. For a long time, E didn't do tutorials because she had such a dreadful time in school that anything school-like was awful for her. She sailed into her tutorial, then came out after two hours looking all serene and confident. "It was good," she commented.

This week has been a bit odd. Braces meant a whole new way of chewing and eating and swallowing and cleaning and rinsing. A law tutorial was nothing to it.

E has an extremely elegant, interesting and logical mind. She is also very funny with a dry spicy humour that hits you just when you don't expect it.

I love her so devotedly. I admire her for overcoming the inhibiting background of school to follow her interests. I followed her into a bookshop yesterday.

She picked up a beginning book on Chemistry. "I really want to get into this subject," she said. "So interesting."

Ah, the unboring life of an autonomous home educating person.

Y, meanwhile, has passed her fancy for gobbling any information she could possibly dig up upon spleens and was enquiring if one could swallow one's tongue.

Er, yes, I think so. Dad, who is a trained nurse, took over the discussion.

Unbridled learning. Curious children. Engendered autonomy. Personal autonomy.

Can't beat it. You won't ever beat it.

There is nothing like the joy of learning. It is a breath of spring in the deepest and longest midwinter. It is a shout of elation from an excited child. It is bread to a starving pigeon. It is the smooth squish of clay through your creative fingers.

A couple of days ago I met a friendly acquaintance I haven't seen for five years at the local store. After the usual chat I was asked which GCSEs the girls were doing and, having been primed by clear-thinking Y, I said: "GCSEs are just for schools to show how 'good' they are."

"Yes, I know," said friendly aquaintance.

Why are you putting your youngsters through them then? said my internal voice.

"R is going through a lot of pressure because of GCSEs," said FA. "The school is making her quite stressed."

The same question presented itself to me.

"She's left two chips in the packet so I had to come around and buy some more for dinner, and now she's gone off to town without telling me she was going."

FA sighed. "Teenagers."

School, I thought. School makes them dead inside. Dead to manners and the lubrication that everyone needs to make themselves a part of society. R protests by being rude. I suppose FA should be glad that R has chosen only to be rude and not to join a gang or to vent her frustration through violence on other children.

It's not teens. It's not being teenaged. It's some schooled teens who see that their parents think work is MORE important than they are. Teens who seek other lost teens because they are the only ones around who actually have time or the inclination to listen to them. It's the lost leading the lost.

With our young we are reaping what we have sown. We are gathering the whirlwind. We cannot see that whatever school gives or, in actuality, fails to give our children is what they are missing in their personalities and their lives. School, no matter how you dress it up or tell people how marvellous it is, cannot provide what children need.

Loving kindness. Interest. Encouragement. A watchful eye. A listening devoted ear. Discussions about spleens and tongue-swallowing.

I will say something that I can never say enough.

Thanks for being you, my beloved daughters. Thanks for teaching me how to love and how to argue and debate and how to think. Thanks for reminding me how it is to be young and fresh and magnificent. Thanks for offering me some of your giant chocolate buttons, Y. Thanks for expressing your delight at your new book - a Japanese dictionary - E.

Thanks for helping me to understand that I am a mother and what that means.

Thanks for explaining things I don't understand so patiently.

Thanks for the loving smiles.

Thanks for crafting the beautiful hand-made cards.

Thanks for the tremendously tight hugs.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow with you, and share your sheer delight in your freedom to learn what intrigues you.

Just thank you.

Ever lovingly yours,


  1. Wonderful post.

    Lost children - this is exactly what has been going round and round in my head for the last few days.
    Squashed and squeezed into the cage that is school, their response shows their desperate attmepts to redefine freedom.
    One day, people will see that schools not children are the problem.

  2. Weird. I've just written a similar post after having a load of youngsters at our house t'other night.
    Why don't parents SEE how miserable their kids are?

  3. I've got a talented brother he's 15, loves art, creative writing and his bike.

    He really hates school. In the holidays he comes to stay. He spends his days with my children. He is excellent company for them and me.

    My father tells me he is awful at home. Rude, moody and failing a lot at school but he won't make the link between his bad behaviour and his unhappiness at school. It's so fustrating.