Saturday, December 15, 2012

Still learning....

I lay in bed this morning, watching the fluffy white clouds glide through the pale blue sky and felt so blessed.  I have been finding things a little struggle of late.  Recently I have had my 'lifestyle', parenting ideas, and my children criticised a great deal.  In just the past few days I have heard such things as:

- Callum's hair is too long.
- Callum should be reading by now (he is 7 and has *just* discovered that learning to read might be fun).
- Chelsea shouldn't dye her hair, it will all fall out by the time she is 20.  Oh and no boys will ever want a girlfriend with green hair, boys go for blondes!
- Taisia should be sleeping in her own bed.
- I am *weird* because I don't use (or actually own) a pushchair for Taisia.
- I do too much baking (too much baking??  Really??)
- I've bought too many presents for the children this Christmas.
- I shouldn't have a real tree as we have a dog.
- The girls shouldn't be vegetarians at their age, they need meat.
- The house and land we have moved to is too far from anywhere/too dark/too muddy, etc
- The children are missing out on so much by not being at school.

Sadly I could go on and on, but I won't.  I'm sure just those few snippets give you more than enough insight into how I must have been feeling recently.  I'm not always very good at keeping my mouth shut, but I have done my very best to shrug off these criticisms and remind myself about what is truly important to me.

So, what is important to me?

Years ago, when I started upon our home-educating adventure (9 years ago) I remember trying to think about what I wanted to achieve.  Did I want my children to excel academically?  Did I want them to take lots of exams and gain good grades?  Did I pin my hopes on my children becoming high achievers, gaining good University places which would hopefully enable them to leap into the world of employment with ease?  Did I base our home-education success on the amount of A grades, or how much better my children were at reading, writing, or arithmetic than their friends?

Quite simply, no.

I have never measured our home-educating successes with how much my children academically achieve.  I have never thought it important to gain grades or certificates. I know that some reading this won't understand that.  Those that are influenced by 'normal' schooling will wonder no doubt wide-eyed at just how can it be possible to know how well a child is progressing and developing without the use of tests and charts.  I know because I am witness to their just being.  I spend time with them.  I experience their struggles and am privy to their accomplishments.  Of course I can tell if their reading ability is improving - what books are they choosing from the shelf?  When they read aloud is it flowing easier? Fewer errors? Less of a struggle? Is their handwriting becoming clearer? Are they showing a greater understanding of a subject?  Are questions and discussions becoming more in depth and thoughtful?  These are my measuring sticks.  That's all I need in order to know that things are heading in the right direction.  I don't take any notice of what my children *should* be doing and when.  Over the years I have relaxed and learnt that children will develop at different rates.  Some will develop the ability to read whilst others have no interest in picking up a book.  Some children will put pen to paper and handwriting seems easy, whilst others will struggle with letter formation.  That is ok.  Yes, really, it really is ok.

As I lay in bed this morning, my face was smiling with thoughts of what we have achieved.

We have achieved a strong family unit.

We have cemented firm bonds and beautiful relationships.

Friendships amongst all siblings and between parents and children have developed and grown.  Few squabbles and disagreements are to be heard.  Instead teenagers play board games, bake with, read to and enjoy time spent with their younger counterparts.  When friends visit, all are included, no-one is left out.  There are no cries of "I'm not playing with you 'cos you're a girl/a baby/a boy" to be heard, instead everyone is treated as an equal and all needs and requests are taken into account.

All of the children are able to converse with people of all ages.  They are all helpful, considerate, genuinely lovely members of society.  All have their own interests, their own thoughts and opinions, their own likes and dislikes.  The older four are computer literate, three are avidly fluent readers with Callum (7) beginning to follow suit.  I have absolutely no concerns about their future and know that they will succeed at whatever they seek to do.  They are already equipped with the tools they need - confidence, communication skills, research ability, and personal strength of mind.

Actually having someone criticise in such a way has made me truly re-evaluate and  think about my personal values and expectations.  It has made me think about my life, my children, the way I 'parent' , and the childhood I am providing.  As the clouds were flitting by carefree and silent, I smiled. I am on the exact right path for us.   The smiles on my children's faces, the excited chatter in the morning, the cosy curled up cuddles as we read books and share home-baked goodies, the questions that get asked and the discussions we partake in, are all testament to that.  We may not have a fancy car.  We may not enjoy fancy holidays abroad.  We may not be in the sort of financial situation that allows us to be carefree with pennies and rest easy when bills are due - BUT we have laughter filling our home.  We have smiles decorating our rooms.  We have joyful hearts beating within these walls.

That is how I measure our success in parenting/home-education/life.


  1. aah i too have a by whose hair is 'too long' and 'not brushed enough', I also have too many children, should send them to school, should make them eat what I want them to eat and the list goes on. However when I look atmy children I see happy contented souls who love each other and their surroundings and generally enjoy life.

    I love to read your blog as you always share the good and the bad, I admire your ability to follow your dreams and to raise what seem to be such lovely confident and happy children.

    In short (as my 2nd eldet would say) BUMS to them!

  2. It is awful when others feel it necessary to judge and condemn those who choose to live differently to themselves. It is one of the reasons I have been wary of unschooling myself. Being a quiet person I don't like drawing attention to myself and family, but when you take this less travelled path, others will judge. Those who do judge have no doubt been judged harshly in the past and it is this and their fears that bring out that criticism.
    I am just thankful that there are people like yourself Julia - an inspiration to lead a more joyful, peaceful and successful (on your own terms) life.
    Best wishes for a lovely christmas to you and your family.

  3. Sigh Yes this is how we see our way of parenting/unschooling/life. However we have had a few hiccups along the way.

  4. Beautiful - so happy for you, that you live life on your own terms & that you can make peace with the times when those choices are challenged. You are rich in many ways xx

  5. Oh dear. Sentences with the word "should" in them (either spoken or by implication) are generally spoken by those in a position of ignorance or insecurity, rather than a position of creative and original thought - so that discounts pretty much every criticsm aimed at you above
    I'm glad your achievements put a smile on you face - quite right too - you have a lot to be proud of, not least because you have shed the general preconceptions blindly followed by so many, and have put an enormous amount of energy and care into the successful upbringing (including education) of each of your children.
    I love your blog, love your life - long may it continue :) xx

  6. heartwarming post you are an inspiration and your children will always carry the bond and skills forever they are so lucky to have parents like you

  7. Good on you Julia for this post! it always amazes me how people dare to express their opinions just because we may be different! and thank god for individuality - your children are being brought up to know true values. I myself are not concerned about qualifications for my children, who would want them to join the masses just to end up with massive debt and still not be able to gain employment far better that they have stills to be able to bring to the workforce or to be self-employed and as for where you live, wow to be surrounded by all of those fab views and nature what more could a family ask for.

  8. I know you don't know me so what I say may not count but anyway ... I read your list several times to see if I could find anything wrong with those things people criticised you for. No - you are brave about the pushchair thing - but other than that all seems perfectly ordinary to me. Is there any way you can spend less time with those who spew such ignorant negativity, so you don't have to spend so much energy shielding yourself? Maybe that's not easy for other reasons, but do rest assured there are other folk who live like you, and totally get why you do because they value the same sorts of things for their kids.
    - who has 2 boys aged 10 and 7, both co-sleeping, both with long hair, one not-yet-reading, neither going to school. Oh and we have a dog and a real tree too, do loads of baking, we're overstretching on presents, and are HAPPY!!!!

  9. Totally lovely and totally insightful Julia. So many can learn so much from you! x

  10. Oh my goodness! When did it become acceptable for people to voice such negative opinions - whatever happened to 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything'?1