The house is quiet, I'm watching the sunrise while the rest of the family sleep. This hour or sometimes two is very precious. In finding my own rhythm, alone, our family life is finding its. I wobbled badly last year with this journey we're on, with the overwhelming relentlessness of family life to say nothing of living a school free life. A year of illness, a fifth house move in as many years, resettling into a new area, opportunities for me to do something different, the realisation that if we continue this particular path I will be 60 before I can realistically choose another path for me. Those wobbles and worries and fretting niggles rolled right over in a mighty wave to this year.
By the time we settled back into something resembling a "school" year the children were begging for table time, for structure and for a daily, weekly and from the Eldest, a yearly rhythm. I was more resistant than I've ever been, kicking back like a recalcitrant toddler. I did no reading. I did no lesson plans. I set up repeated meeting times with the Husband to discuss breaking down the curriculum sharing we'd tried at the end of last year and then subconsciously sabotaged each one. I realised right now, I really didn't want to be a homeschool mom, I wanted that empty house in the middle of the day, I wanted to walk back in the front door of an afternoon and see the house exactly as I'd left it to do the school run in the morning.
I realised, what I wanted most, was to be normal - to not be the person who caused the room to feel awkward when the inevitable questions were asked "which school do your kids go to?" or "so where do you work?"
I've spent my whole life slightly left of centre, I've never been normal in terms of what society might call everyday, even when our kids went to school we couldn't pick an ordinary one, we chose some weird, hippy, pastel colours in the kindy school. I don't eat meat and I don't give birth in a hospital (well I did, but I also birthed at home). Got me beaten up at school my differences, found me a huge group of interesting and diverse friends at university. Suddenly, in my mid 40s, I found myself with a fierce and unquenchable longing to just fit in with the world around me, choose the standard and understandable route. It's safe, it's understandable by the wider community and with that safety comes comfort and acceptance.
And here I sit, on a Sunday morning, breakfast and two cups of tea past the hour with my books and blog posts and lesson plans in hand. There was no sudden epiphany, no movie land consciousness raising moment, I'm not the heroine who finally earns the adulation of family and friends who understand how incredibly special it is to have a maverick in their midst. I wish I could relate a story of gut wrenching heart warming brilliance...
Instead, I still struggle with living a school free life, I am chafing from the demands of four children who need such different things from me, I work daily to carve out time to remember the other threads of me, the ones that are not mother and formal educator.
What's working to support our family choice to be school free?
*I'm a grown up - I took on the major responsibility and whilst I'd dearly love some days to throw it all in and go live in a small apartment in Edinburgh and work as an archaeologist, I won't.
*My Husband is a grown up - when I wobble or lack inspiration he's there to pick up the slack but more importantly we are finally working as a team to offer our children the knowledge and life skills available.
*The children - they quite clearly see me struggling with being the pivot and have sat down and explored with honesty what they'd like to do and learn and how they can take charge of their own learning - I don't mean by this that the four year old has decided on astrophysics as a career path and is currently hand making her own telescope - but that the 13 year old and I have sat ourselves down and sketched out a weekly plan, she's examined the year's curriculum for herself and discussed with her father and I how she might achieve it all in addition to her extra curricular activities. The 11 year old has chosen not hurl himself about in agony when asked to write more than one or two lines for each main lesson. The eight year old is helping set the table in the mornings and taking a deep breath when her creations don't work quite right. The four year old may be induced to not sing loudly about poo while we're doing morning circle.
*Continuing our community building. All communities are dynamic and our friendship circles wax and wane.
*Acknowledging our choices, owning them warts and all. Remembering the lessons learned from other paths we took that were not quite the mainstream norm. Remembering that whilst all paths are not created equal, people's journeys should, in the main be respected, and to not elevate our choices over others. To be humble and honest.
*Taking a step back when overwhelm sets in and taking a step forward when things need tweaking. Not giving in to the paralysis which can set in when it all feels not quite right. To wit - the two eldest children are having their four one hour sessions a week with their father to concentrate on maths, politics and grammar; the smallest and I are going to give a local home schooling co op a go whilst the three big ones work away on workbooks; I am going to honour my need for a hour to write each morning rather than wallow in lifestyle magazine induced guilt that I am abandoning my children. I will push my children to try something new and model that so they can see me work through my own fears.
It's going to be an interesting year.