Saturday 17 October 2020

On Being a Full Time Mum

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Before I had children I was a secondary Art and Design teacher.  There was much that I loved about this job, engaging with young people, hearing about their ideas and what made the excited, sharing my passion and love of art with a younger generation, and igniting a spark in them for a love of art.  At the end of the school year I could look over my spread sheets of marks, levels and grades and say "yes, I did a good job this year." Seeing some of my pupils go on to do degrees in the arts or gain creative jobs added another layer of job satisfaction, My work here was done. 

At the age of 28 I gave birth to my first child and I was forever a changed, a new adventure had begun.  

When that day came where I had to make a decision about going back to work, although I enjoyed my job and the rewards, both emotional and financial, the choice was an easy one.  Although it would mean living on a small budget and not upgrading our home as many of my friends were, the thought of giving my child to someone else to look after for upwards of 8 hours a day 5 days a week was unthinkable.  In spite of the words I was hearing around me about being a full time mother, that I wouldn't be mentally stimulated, that I would lose my identity and financial independence, being able to continue breastfeeding on demand, to be the one to help him off to sleep for a nap, to sit with him whilst he ate, to provide fun activities for him to do, to be there for him when he was sad, to witness his first words and steps, to mother my child full time was too much of a draw.  I would be a full time mother.  

At the time I didn't know what a challenging role full time mothering would be (there were days during my teacher training when I thought I couldn't be tireder, little did I know that that tiredness was nothing compared to the tiredness of being a first time mum) , I could never had imagined what this adventure of motherhood that I was embarking on would be like.  But as I look back over the last 8 years I can honestly say that it is the best, most rewarding and fulfilling job I have ever done.  Yes it can be crazy making at times, I continue to be thoroughly sleep deprived, and we are still having to stick to a small budget, but I have had the privilege and honour of being with my children whilst they are little, I will only get that time once.  As soon as I had my first child I knew I wanted to be a full time mother and I am so thankful that I get to live that dream. 

It would be easy in our society to feel like I was the only mother in the world to feel this way, in this country it is pretty much standard that mothers will go back to work either part time or full time once their child is at most a year old, only 20% of mothers stay home after the birth of their first child, we are in the minority (although ironically I hear some mums who go back to work experiencing guilt about their decision).  Returning to work is expected of you.  It is expected of you by society to return to being a contributor to the economy, and therefore it is expected of you by every other part of society.  Your family assumes you will return to work, because, although perhaps your mother didn't, you will because that's what modern women do, and being a full time mum is a relic of a past generation.  Your friends assume you will because they all are and they all want to. Even your church will assume that you are returning to work because they wouldn't want to appear to be expecting you not to and then seem sexist or old fashioned, (you may even be the only full time mum there). Likely, if you are a valued member of your work team, you've also had pressure from work to return, or at least they would like to know if they need to begin recruiting again. 

It makes you think that there must be something really terrible about being a full time mother, and something that is really amazing about returning to work. 

I find it really strange that some mothers experience guilt and regret about going back to work when it is what most mothers (4 out of 5) do.  I experience guilt because of NOT returning to work, I feel guilty that the burden of providing for my family falls 100% on my husbands shoulders I feel guilty that we can't have a more comfortable lifestyle on only one income, that my children don't have some of the luxuries and privileges of other children whose parents both work.  But I do not feel guilty about not contributing to the economy, because I know that in spite of what society would have me thing, my role is very very important, Sally Clarkson puts it perfectly:

"A mother, living well in her God-ordained role is of great beauty and inestimable value to the future history of any generation.  Her impact is irreplaceable and necessary to the spiritual formation of children who will be the future adults of the next generation." Mom Heart Moments,

The message from society is clear in its contrast to this; disparaging phrases like "stuck at home", and "tied to the kitchen sink",  reverberate with a feeling of imprisonment and subjugation, words ike "drudgery" and "monotony" will ring in your ears, they make us feel like being a full time mum is a punishment, a last resort, something you might do if you have run out of other options, or have no other skills to do anything else.  Society also tells us that other people could be doing a much better job than we are, trained nursery workers are presented as being able to offer our children care and experiences that we never could. 

The message that contributing to the economy is the only way to be useful and of value is insidious and hard to ignore.  It is a powerful message, and it has to be because the economy wants mother back in work paying taxes and the leaders do not want mothers at home cultivating a culture of togetherness, unity, home and family; the earthly leaders would rather us all split into our own separate boxes, work, school, care homes etc lest we realise that it is family and community that give our lives meaning, not expensive gadgets, cars and holidays.  Without any of the perks, rewards or gratitude one receives in the workplace it takes a lot of strength to believe that what I am doing is worth something, that what I am doing is of value and that what I am doing is something no one else can do. 

When I really think about it working on the job of making a home and caring for my family is far more rewarding than any paid work I could ever do. It's the best job in the world!  And I choose to make it feel rewarding and satisfying rather than making myself miserable by comparing and craving external validation.  I am beholden to no one, I am the Queen of my kingdom.  No boss to hold me accountable (aside from God) or check up on me. I am not working to fill someone else's pockets or build someone else's empire.  I am in charge. I choose.  You might say hanging laundry is boring and tedious, how can anyone find that sort of thing alone satisfying? Well I would rather hang laundry, cook meals and clean and tidy to care for my family, my own flesh and blood, the people who give real meaning to life than work day in day out for a corporation.  You might say that being with my kids all day must drive me crazy, and feel unsatisfying, but I'd rather gain fulfillment from breaking up fights between my children, holding them when there are tears, and being there for them when they have nightmares than find fulfillment in filling someone else's pockets.  I could serve strangers, or I could commit to serving my family, the gifts from God that I have been blessed with whilst they are all under my roof.  Being a full time mother and home maker is an honor and a privilege, I'm looking after my household, I am in charge of making my house a...well a home! It is my job to make my home into a loving, peaceful retreat away from the stresses of the world.  It is my job to educate my children in our ways and values, to build their character on the things we feel are important, to nurture them and help them grow into kind, loving thoughtful adults.  What could be more rewarding than that?  

As a full time mother there is no end of term tick sheet, no grades, no external validation, it's all a mystery for 18 plus years till you send them out into the world with a prayer and fingers crossed to discover if you did a good job or not. But I would really encourage any mums who are not sure if they want to return to work or to give full time mothering serious consideration, with intention it can fulfill all the wonderful claims that we are told we will gain by returning to work; find your tribe of other mothers to share your feelings with, they are out there if you look beyond the toddler groups and library rhyme time, find mums who share your interests, who have similar life experiences, who have the same parenting philosophies and you will gain so much in mental stimulation, support and encouragement.  My mum friends really are the best friends I have and I couldn't be without them. Also remember being a full time mum doesn't mean you stop having other interests.  Look at me right now!  Writing a blog post and everything!  I make time for the things I love, you can even make money from these things if you wish, if you do this you are less likely to experience the "loss of identity" which is so often hung over us as a threat to our emotional welfare if we quit paid work.  Remember there will always be jobs out there when the time comes that you are ready to return to work, you are replaceable in your job, but you are not replaceable to your children, and they are only little once. 

I do not need spread sheets and grades to give me a sense of worth and value, witnessing my children grow and develop, seeing them conquer battles and share compassion, hearing their stories, problems, feelings and ideas far outweighs any validation I gained from previous paid employment and I would not change it for the world.  What's so great about filling in spread sheets anyway?

P.S I know that there are people reading this who will disagree with what I have said here, and that's cool, we don't all have to agree on everything, we can still be friends and have different ideas about how to live life, I am simply sharing my own positive experiences and outlook in the hope that it might give another mum the courage to do the thing she dearly wishes to do but didn't feel confident enough to try.  It's to encourage that mum to take that step in spite of the messages she has been receiving from all around her, to ignore those messages and live the life she dreams of, if you're not that mum, that's cool, this message isn't for you.  This is a message to mums for whom it is not financially critical for them to return to work, if you're not that mum, that's OK, this post isn't for you. We are all different and if you're not relating to anything I am saying here then this post probably isn't the post for you and that's fine. I can't please everyone.  I am all for supporting mums in their choices, let's life each other up, not tear eachother down just because we have different ideas about what is best for our families.  However my message will always draw from my own personal well of experience and be for those who wish to receive it.

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Saturday 3 October 2020

Lockdown reflections

A friend called me out on my complaining this week.

As most of you know I have struggled through lockdown and continue to struggle through the ongoing restrictions.  Phrases like "the new normal" set my teeth on edge and I want to throttle anyone to tells me that there is no going back to what we had before and that the virus will be with us forever. 

I enjoyed my life before lockdown.  I enjoyed seeing my friends and family, I enjoyed being able to do things spontaneously, I enjoyed socialising with other families, I enjoyed going to church and singing hymns. Living in our tiny house wasn't so bad when we were out of it most of the day at groups, other people's houses or visiting places, I have found spending more time at home with three children and an extra adult in the house all day (my husband working in our tiny bedroom) very challenging. I have had intense moments of cabin fever, wanting not only to run away from the house but to climb out of my own skin and just get away. But we've been trapped. 

That's how I've felt during lockdown: trapped. 

I have read often in messages from friends and on facebook that people have enjoyed lockdown.  All I could feel about this was envy and irritation. How can they find THIS enjoyable!! Don't they know how hard it's been for ME? How dare they say they've enjoyed it! 

And this is where my friend came in with her truth.  And I am so thankful for her insight.

"Your life was good before lockdown so lockdown is just a bad patch for you.  For the people who have enjoyed lockdown their lives were worse before and the lockdown is the good patch for them; and that's sad."


For some people lockdown has been like an oasis in the desert, compared to my relatively small shadow in the light, (apologies for the mixed metaphors).  There are people out there who have had to go to a miserable job everyday who have been furloughed or else been able to work from home for whom lockdown has been a huge relief and a rest, maybe they've got away from a mean boss or unpleasant coworkers and be able to relax and be themselves, there are people who have been able to spend time with their children that perhaps they never felt able to before due to school pressure, endless hobbies and clubs, and they have loved it.  There are people who have really enjoyed being able to spend time at home instead of  travelling away for work, there are people whose lives may have been so busy before that lockdown has given them the chance to pause and reflect on their lives. 

So while I have been busy moaning about how hard lockdown is for me, I should have been being thankful that my life was so good before and that lockdown in only temporary.  For me that bad bit is temporary, for other people the good bit is temporary.  Talk about food for thought.

I don't mean at all to sound patronising to people here, my life was good before but not perfect and I certainly don't mean to sound boastful or prideful about my life because it's not that at all.  It's gratitude, it's appreciation, it's thankfulness. It's feeling like actually I have got a lot to be happy about my life, as much as there are hard parts, like everyone else, overall, it's pretty damn good. 

Now there is no point in a moment of epiphany if one doesn't take something from it and change. How am I going to use this insight and make a difference in my life.  Here are some ways I am starting to make changes:

Stop moaning about how hard it all is, it's not as hard for me in lockdown as it is for some people normally, 

Tell myself that I enjoy cleaning and tidying for my family (fake it to make it!),

Make the best of the home we have, we are lucky to have one of our own despite how small it is, 

Enjoy my children as much as possible, I am fortunate to be able to home educate them, 

Craft a beautiful life.


My wise friend messaged me later and said this:

"Compare lockdown with food rationing during the war.  Families that were more well off, and could usually afford a wide variety of quality food, found rationing really difficult.  They were so unsatisfied with it because they were used to much better and much more food that that, and they tended to be the people that would buy stuff on the black market quite regularly.  However, the poorer working class families thrived during rationing because they were usually mal-nourished.  And so, they found that they were now getting more food than they'd ever had before.  A lot of them said "we've never had it so good!" By the end of the war the British nation was at its most healthy in terms of nutrition and cardio-vascular health as a result of rationing.  There was no gap in health between the rich and the poor.  Be like the poor people.  Proclaim to yourself: "we've never had it so good!"  Even if you don't feel like it."


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Tuesday 15 September 2020

Stepping into motherhood

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I was recently part of a conversation on Facebook where a woman was asking for parenting resources particularly for her as a mother who was new to gentle parenting and wanted support and encouragement from other mums.  One of the commenters replied asking why she would need resources particularly for mothers as "it's all parenting".  A couple of other people who replied also seems confused as to why anyone would want resources specific to mothers.  This was really disheartening for the original poster who just wanted some links to resources that might help her embrace this new philosophy. It also made me sad that Christian mothers couldn't see that parenting a child as a woman or parenting a child as a man are two different things and that each has value.  Of course there is a massive amount of overlap which is why most parenting books are helpful to both mums and dads, but to deny that there are any differences at all seemed to me not only unbiblical (the Bible makes it clear that God created us with different unique gifts), but also reductionist, reducing us from our unique and sacred roles as mothers or fathers to an all encompassing and homogenous "parents".  It's also just plain unhelpful for people seeking resources suited to their sex. 

This denial that women and men have spiritual and emotional differences and needs is also happening in churches, women are rejecting sex separated groups and ministry, often preferring everyone together all the time. Long gone is the mothers union.  Why are women rejecting women's ministry?  Why do they see no value in women gathering together in a space of shared experiences? 

I am sure I have some beloved readers who are feeling their blood pressure rise as they read this thinking I am talking about gender stereotypes.  I'm not.  I am not talking about how mothers should be staying home cleaning and cooking whilst dads should be the ones going out to work, nor am I saying mothers should be the soft ones who offer comfort and sympathy whilst dads should be the tough ones dishing out discipline and rough housing. The debate over whether and how male and females brains are different and whether these differences are social or biological will probably go on for decades, even some of the most respected thinkers haven't been able to draw concrete conclusions, but it is my belief that there are differences between men and women, fathers and mothers that go beyond our reproductive organs, hormones and social upbringing.  This stems from my own personal observations and experience, and from my perspective as a Christian which looks to the Bible for truth about things that science cannot explain.  The Bible is consistent in the picture it paints of what it means to be male and female and the fact of them being different, not that women in are in any way inferior to men or that women and men shouldn't do things together or that there are many things that are the same for women and men, but that God made us different for a special reason. 

So all that to say (as a disclaimer!), what I want to discuss here isn't whether men and women, mothers and father are different (you can safely assume that I believe they are) what I want to discuss is why some Christian women would question the value of resources specific to mothers and fathers, men and women, why they would reject the Biblical (and may I say rather wonderful) ways than the sexes differ in preference for a homogenous application of spirituality and treatment generally.  

So why are women rejecting women only spaces? And why are women not seeing the value in resources and support tailored to their unique roles as mothers? 

Maybe women aren't just rejecting women and mother only spaces and specific resources but they are rejecting womanhood and motherhood altogether. I see this in the way we treat periods (pretend we aren't having them, treat them as a huge inconvenience, take hormones to eliminate them etc), breastfeeding (hide it away, minimise it as much as possible or decline participating at all etc), pregnancy (expected to carry on as if nothing is happening, talk about the pregnancy as it is is something the male partner also experiences "we're pregnant!" etc) and childbirth (unnecessary intervention, mistrust of a woman's ability to birth, rejection of physiological childbirth due to fear etc), women are rejecting the very functions that make them women (and just to clarify I am not saying that women who do not experience these things are any less women.) I talk about these more in my series on Patreon HERE .  There are several reasons why I believe women are rejecting womanhood:

  • History of marginalisation, oppression and persecution: Aside from a few ancient maternal societies, women have been marginalised, oppressed and persecuted by men.  Is it any wonder then that they want to reject those things that define their femininity?  By avoiding women's only groups, by rejecting the idea that resources designed specifically for mothers or fathers are of value women can feel like they are moving away from this historical oppression.  Women can hope then to be treated exactly the same as men, be treated as their equal. Women and mothers are perhaps trying to shake off the negative historical connotations of womanhood and motherhood, those gender stereotypes I mentioned earlier, plus the stereotypes of servitude and weakness.
  • Pressure to be an economic contributor: Motherhood has no immediate value to the economy, so it is not supported by government or businesses.  In fact whole other businesses have been created on the back of women returning to work (childcare).  The message that paid work is the only work that is of value is deeply ingrained into our modern society and into the psyche of women.  Many of my mother peers have never had the role model of a mum at home to affirm their own desire to be with their children, and there are no celebrity role models for motherhood.  Also women feel guilty about staying home when their husbands are in paid work (as if looking after your children is a holiday!). 
  • Sexualisation and objectification of women's bodies: Most women don't want to be constantly sexualised and objectified, yet this is the image we constantly bombarded with in the media and from society.  We are told that our worth is in our ability to excite the male gaze and if our visage doesn't do this we are spent, rejected and useless.  Some women find their sense of worth through being objectified in this way and when their bodies do not fit with the stereotype of what is sexually acceptable they lose their sense of worth.  Women who don't feel this way and never wanted to be sexualised to begin with are stepping away from womanhood in order to avoid the sexualisation of our bodies. We think if we can be more like men then we won't be sexualised and objectified by them. 
Historically women were marginalized and oppressed by men because of our biology so the obvious solution to this is to reject it (as mentioned above) Clearly this hasn't worked.  Women are still oppressed and marginalised, maybe we in the west are married off as children, or sent to huts during our periods or refused positions of power in businesses, now, instead we oppress ourselves.  Instead of being oppressed by the patriarchy we now kowtow to the economy, we think we are free because we are no longer tied to the perceived slavery of domesticity, but we are enslaved anew byt out own chosen economic servitude. Stepping into motherhood, grabbing it with both hands and embracing everything that it is is the most empowering thing I have ever done.  Making that choice, not because I am forced to by a society that expects women to stay home as it did in the past but because I know in my heart that being a full time mother is the best thing I can do with the time I have with my children when they are little. 
As Sally Clarkson says in her book Desperate:

"Understanding that the best and most lasting "work" I would ever do was wrapped up in my call as a mother gave me a grand scope for my life such as I had never known before.  I began to see that the nurturing of my children was my great stewardship in every part of their little lives: accepting them into my arms and bearing the responsibility for their health from feeding at my breasts; developing their emotional well-being by encouraging them to attach deeply to me as infants; stimulating their brains by talking with them, touching them, snuggling with them; and predisposing them to know the love of God by building pathways in their brains.  I was just beginning to grasp how profound God had created the role of mother to be."

If we, instead of criticising women who don't go back to work; encourage and uplift them, we ultimately uplift the role of motherhood for everyone. Maybe in the future we will see a generation of women emboldened enough to choose full time motherhood as a role that is just as valid (and maybe even more so) than returning to paid work, even if only for a short time (but perhaps longer that the government approved maximum of a year)  How about we petition the government for longer maternity leave, fully paid rather than free childcare so we can return to paid work? If we made motherhood a desirable option  maybe more mums who wanted to stay home would feel empowered to make that choice. 

There is already a movement towards accepting different body types, embracing our stretch marks, marvelling at our baggy skin, but the market for body hatred is still going strong. We have a long way to go before women feel strong enough to reject whatever the current fashion is for a sexy body, before women are strong enough to say with confidence and truly believing that enough is enough, women are beautiful in their own right, the approval of men isn't what makes us beautiful. 

I imagine a future where we truly celebrate our stretch marks and loose skin, not as a token gesture towards body acceptance, but as badges of the amazing things our bodies have done. Maybe if we were excited about our first grey hair, our first wrinkle as a mark of achievement, a sign that we were one of the lucky ones who lived long enough to get them, we would feel like our female bodies are a thing of wonder to be honoured, treated with care and love.  Our bodies are just fine as they are fabulous in fact.  Your loved ones aren't going to love you any more for whiter teeth, smoother bellies or thinner thighs, they love you just as you are, and anyone who would love you more because of these things isn't worth having in your life, lets stop being handmaidens to the patriarchy by continuing to spend money on these things, by continuing to agree that this or that is more beautiful. Embracing our bodies with all their natural oddities and differences is the first step towards accepting and embracing our womanhood and motherhood. Imagine if, because of how we talked about and treated our bodies today, we nurtured a generation of girls and boys who really believed that natural bodies, in all their variety were beautiful.  Imagine a generation who rejected cosmetic surgery to make themselves all look the same.  It just takes us being brave enough to say that yellowy teeth are ok, that baggy bellies are just fine thanks, that thin lips, flat bums and small/big/low/wonky breasts are just as good as any other kind, to dismantle an entire industry! 

We have all this within our power if we choose to embrace our womanhood and our motherhood, to join together with other women who feel the same.  I want to encourage all women and especially mothers who feel like rejecting women only spaces, groups, ministry books etc, because of some sense of discomfort with these things to carefully examine their subconscious, step deeply into their discomfort, and consider the reasons why they feel this way because I am not convinced it is a simple as preferring male company and feeling like we are the same. Joining with other women is one of the most empowering acts of sisterhood a woman can claim, as artist Sark says: 

"The circle of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong."

So today consider the women around you, we all have something in common;  a shared experience of being women and mothers. We are united by the shared physical experiences we all have an understanding of, puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, motherhood and just simply the lived experience of being a woman in this world which comes with much that men can never fully understand (having not lived it) including the oppression by the patriarchy, the fear of male violence, the power of the media and beauty industry to undermine our confidence, and the pressure to make money by a society that says this is where you find value.

If you are struggling to find women to connect with, keep persevering, there are women out there like you, with similar interests and passions, keep looking, keep going to those toddler groups, those women's craft afternoons, those NCT meets, those breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth bumming groups, keep searching till you find your tribe, it's out there I promise.  I think we could transform the world by grasping womanhood and motherhood with two arms, by really honouring the role of motherhood and the unique and marvelous gift it is to the world.  You are not wasting your time or your skills by embracing motherhood when your children are little, it is the best thing you could possibly do with this one wild and precious life.  You are not any less of a person when you embrace your womanhood, sisterhood, motherhood, let's embrace it now, let's step into it, lets uplift others who are doing it, it can be wonderful and rewarding and empowering and it might just be there for the taking. 

We rise by lifting others.


Saturday 22 August 2020

Let's go fly a kite

 This week we had one lovely, blustery day.  I took the boys up to the local playing field with a few kites and the intention to fly them.   After a rather dodgy start with one kite whose string frayed through and another that refused to fly at all, we finally got one up in the air and flying beautifully.  The boys eventually lost interest and went off to play in the playground whilst I continued to hold meditatively onto the handle of the kite, enjoying the sensation of the gentle tugging, the feeling of being connected to the wind high above me and the sight of the coloured kite swirling and twirling in the air like a party streamer.  I imagined the kite was trying to free itself from the tether of the string and fly free across the sky.

This idea got me thinking.  Am I like a kite that feels tethered and wants to be free?  What is tying me down and stopping me from swooping and flying?  It would be easy to imagine that when I committed my life to God as a Christian, to following Him only, I tethered myself like the kite.  Initially this thought felt awkward and restricting and I had to wrestle with it for a moment, but then came a divine flash of insight.  I imagined myself letting go of the kite to allow it to fly free, I imagined what would happen to that kite....

It would be blown chaotically across the sky, it would no longer hold its shape, it would swoop off in random directions, we wouldn't be able to see it's beautiful colours, the string would get tangled and wrapped around itself, it would likely get stuck in a tree or else drop to the floor still and lifeless, tumbling across the playing field like an abandoned crisp packet.  The kite was free, but was it able to show its best?  Could the kite live it's best life untethered?  I realised with clarity that no, it couldn't. 

For me in that moment this was very much an analogy of life with God. When we tether ourselves to God, it can appear like we are no longer free, like we are restricted, tied down, but in fact when we tether ourselves we can become the best version of ourselves possible.  With God holding the string our beautiful colours show, we can swoop and twirl in the wind in a beautiful and intentional display as the wind fills us and allows us to fly as high as possible, bold and bright against the sky, tail and ribbons dancing joyfully in the wind. This is not the chaos and collapse of life without a tether. What's more, with God we are protected, he keeps us safe from blowing away, we cannot get lost and are less likely to get stuck in a tree, he tucks us under his wing during a storm. Of course sometimes the wind drops and we flop, but we can always trust that God is holding us in the low times and if we do get tangled in branches, when we are tethered to God we can trust that he is going to climb that tree to us and get us down when we call for help. 

I am so thankful to live a life tethered to God, I am thankful that because I have asked him to, and invited him into my life, He has hold tight of me and won't let me go.  I am thankful that I can be my best self when I trust in His word and love and I am thankful that He is my protector in times of trouble, the one who is always there for me, whom I can always turn to, who shares in my joys and sadness and cares for me as a perfect father who cares for His child. The exquisite freedom that is granted when I am being tethered to God is far more beautiful, joyful and satisfying that any supposed freedom the world has to offer.  

But the amazing thing about God is that he doesn't force us to be tethered, he doesn't make us be held, he gives us ultimate freedom to choose to be tied to him or not.  And there is one thing that I am coming to learn, not just from flying kites but from understanding God and it is as Thomas Watson says: "To serve God, to love God, to enjoy God, is the sweetest freedom in the world."

Monday 17 August 2020

You've decided to home ed, now what?

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In my last post I posed two thoughts for you to consider if you have been thinking about home educating.  Now you have decided to take the leap, what next?
In this post I will discuss some steps you need to take next and some steps that you might like to take as you begin your home education journey.

If you child is currently enrolled in a school you must inform the school that you intend to remove them from the school to home educate them.  A simple letter stating your intention should be enough to satisfy the school and they are legally obligated to remove your child from the school roll and inform the local authority that your child is no longer enrolled in the school. 

And now you are free, and the adventure begins.  No curriculum, no timetables, no school bells, no tests, no deadlines.  The world is your oyster.  The only stipulation is that the education you provide be efficient (meets it's goals) is full time (the government does not specify how many hours are "full-time") and is suitable for your child's age, ability and aptitude (you are the best person to know this).  

This can be both exciting and daunting, where do you begin now?

With this newfound freedom and excitement comes the discovery of a whole new world of learning possibilities:  Home ed Forest School, music classes, science clubs, sports sessions, home ed rock climbing and gymnastics, home ed maths and literacy, group classes, playground meets, online classes, big box curriculums, and any other kind of activity you can think of set up just for home educated children.  These are just some of the many options out there that will help your child ,make progress, meet other people and fill up your diary. 

Of course all these things are good and important, but if there is one thing I have learnt over my years of home educating, it is to SLOW DOWN!  You'll probably want to sign up for every group possible, but the groups will still be there is a month, 3 months, 6 months time, put away your FOMO (Fear of missing out) and embrace your JOMO (joy of missing out).  Groups and classes give us a sense of security because it feels like we must be succeeding if we are busy, and we feel reassured as we pass on some of the responsibility for our children's learning onto someone else.  But remember you know your child better than anyone. You don't need to know everything in order to be your children's teacher, you can learn together based on your child's interests and pretty much all the learning resources you could possibly want or need are available to you online often for free.  Remember you were your child's first teacher and your ability to facilitate their learning didn't stop when they turned 5.

So take some time to really get to know your child again, spend time in nature, read some really good books together, find out what their passions are outside of the social pressures of school, find out what "subjects" they love and which they despise, find out what motivates them and what leaves them disinterested, discover if they are kinaesthetic, auditory or visual learners, find out what their love languages are, go for long walks and talk, watch movies together, get up in the middle of the night just to look at the stars, dance in the rain... Enjoy all the little things in life that you were perhaps too busy to appreciate when you had places to be. 

Don't rush, just enjoy.

As your home education journey begins to grow, you might like to think about recording some of the activities you get up to, this could be photographically or written notes or diaries, scrapbooks or journals. This will be useful for you to look back on and see your child's progress and as a way of gathering memories. There is no legal requirement for you to do this, but if there is ever any doubt as to your provision it is something you can whip out for the local authority to demonstrate that the home education you are providing is full time, efficient and is suitable to your child's age ability and aptitude.

Finally to quote Meryl Street in Death Becomes Her "now a warning!" But don't be worried, it's nothing to be afraid of:  You might receive a letter from your local authority asking for a home visit to check on your provision.  There is no obligation for you to accept this visit, no obligation for you to meet in your home, for them to meet your children or for them to see your child's work. You could meet elsewhere, such as in a library or playground or politely decline a visit altogether citing your knowledge and understanding of your home education responsibilities as a reason for not requiring a visit and that you'll let them know if you need any help.  It can be useful to provide an educational philosophy explaining some of the activities you take part in and some of your general plans, but it would be wise not to be too specific with these as if you end up not following through with your plans this could be considered a failure to provide an "efficient" education. Keeping communication in writing (i.e. email) means you will have all your communications with the LA on record. 

Home education can be a really beautiful and unique journey, remember you know your child better than anyone, you don't need to know everything before your child does, you learn together.  I'd love to hear how you are getting on or if there is anything else you would like to know and I will do my best to help, I wish you all the best on your journey. 

Here are a few links to websites providing free resources that you might find helpful:

And some books that may be of interest: