Nine years ago, when I first started homeschooling, I felt a little bit like a duck. A duck without any water on its back.
A dry, ducky freak.
Not because I had chosen to take my children out of a four-walled box so that I could spend more time with them and teach them at home but because try as I might I did not fit in with my new homeschooling community.
I wasn’t a regular homeschooling mum.
Why I Didn’t Fit In
I wasn’t religious— although admittedly, I do like to say ‘oh my God, you are j-o-k-i-n-g!’ a lot when I’m trying to sound cool in front of my kids…
and I swore. Usually under my breath and mostly in the form of ‘shut the f*ck up you little sh*ts’ from behind the locked bathroom door. I mean they never heard me but I don’t suppose that’s the point.
And I loved wine.
Not just a sip on a Sunday to give thanks to Jesus for his blood. No. I’m talking a couple of hefty glasses a night with my dinner. And even more, if it was his and my birthday.
So all in all, I wasn’t your average homeschooling parent role model.
Hands up. I admit it. I do love a glass of red. (The other glass is my husband’s by the way! We’re not quite Frenchy liberal yet).
Life as a Homeschooling Parent (When You Don’t Even Know How To Spell Astronaught).
When you step into the waters of something new and don’t know what the hell you are doing you talk, read and attend everything and anything about your subject matter.
And homeschooling was no different.
The trouble was, try as I might, I couldn’t find any other homeschooling parents that wanted to come to swim in my duck pond and drink wine and stuff.
Instead, these very intelligent parents talked about how their ten-year-old kid was almost ready to graduate and about how they were switching maths programmes because the algebra wasn’t challenging enough.
And this freaked me out.
My insecure ducky feelings were rampant in those early homeschooling years. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I spent most of my days measuring myself against other ‘successful’ homeschooling parents.
All in all, feeling like a crappy failure.
So, in order to find someone like me, I attended every activity under the sun.
Even the painfully shite ones.
So that I could swim in the duck pond with another quack.
What About You? Are You Cut Out To Homeschool? Take This 3 Min Quiz to Find Out NOW!
Looking a little bit worried there Liz…I wish I knew back then that everything would be just fine if only I had relaxed as a homeschooling mum.
Homeschooling get-togethers. With other mums and stuff.
If you are new to homeschooling and the leader of the duck pond suggests a get together with all the other parents, tell them that your cat has just died and you have to go to Afganistan to bury it.
I found those early homeschool socials where every housebound parent got together to release their frustrations, truly hideous.
Probably because of my insecurities and feelings of I’m-not-really-good-enough.
Looking back I probably should’ve stayed at home and poked myself in the eye with a sharp stick.
The events were always held in the same homeschooly venues. An odd-smelling room with orange polyester curtains flaying at the windows and a switched off tea urn that the group was banned from using.
And parents. Lots of parents. Asking me why my kid was wearing plastic vampire teeth.
Those Early Homeschool Memories
I wish I could tell you that I look back at those homeschool get-togethers with fondness, but I can’t.
The thought of those early homeschool meetups still sends shivers down my spine. Yes, they were valuable times—I made a handful of lifelong friends because of those village hall meet-ups— but to get to where I needed to be was painful.
I suppose now it would be different.
There are Facebook groups and TicToc parties where all ducks are equal and use emojis of a pencil and stuff, but back then? Nope.
To this day when I walk into any village hall, I start quivering and reciting the nine times tables in my head – all the while scanning the room for a rusty tea urn.
But. Be it out of guilt, ignorance or both, every week I was there; measuring myself up against the other homeschooling veterans.
Trying to be accepted into the big girls club and pretending that I gave a shit about Khan academy’s refund policy.
And all the time wishing I was at home drinking a G&T in the garden with my cat that was still alive.
Hello? Is anyone out there the same as me??
So why did I continue with this self-induced torture?
I thought that if I didn’t attend every homeschool get together under the sun that my kids would somehow fail.
That if I didn’t take my kids to these social events then they wouldn’t make friends or be happy.
Because apparently, if you don’t send your kids to school, then congregating in a 1970’s jumble sale hall on a Tuesday afternoon is the only way they will ever get to make friends and meet people.
I also didn’t trust in myself. I believed that because I was new to homeschooling and I wasn’t an ex-teacher or something else equally as worthy, I was somehow not good enough.
And then one day, at the beginning of a new term, I asked my kids if they were enjoying these get-togethers.
They said no.
They said that they’d rather go and swim in the river and play Minecraft than go to another homeschool meetup and draw pictures of carrots.
They said they couldn’t stand the smell of the baby duck pond any longer.
So I decided there and then to stop. As I said, I had made friends with a couple of parents that were on the same page as me and I saw no need to put myself through the comparison torture any longer.
Instead, I started to trust myself.
I began a new homeschooling journey, and on this voyage, I gave myself some credit and started to listen to my own common sense.
And that was all it took.
Come on kids. Let’s get across this duck pond the best way that we can…
What Did Did I Learn About Homeschooling?
Sadly, it took me a few years of trying to copy everyone else before I learned something invaluable about homeschooling.
What it really takes. Not just to be a successful homeschooler, but more importantly, a happy one.
Homeschooling your kids doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to take an avid interest in phonics and number patterns or start wearing your husband’s socks and crocs to the supermarket (although what’s wrong with that I say?).
Homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to stand by a tea urn and listen to other parents soapboxing their opinions on religion and health and university entrance exams; Droning on and on about how eating carrot sticks is far better for you than biltong.
What’s wrong with Biltong? Huh?
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is so much more than having your kids learn at home and answering questions about pyjamas and socialisation.
Homeschooling is about reading to your kids, talking to your kids. Cooking meals in the name of mathematics with your kids.
Homeschooling is having the freedom to travel as a family, to watch films on rainy days (or on sunny days with the curtains closed).
Being a homeschooling parent is about going grocery shopping with your kids.
No hang on. Scrub that. That’s ridiculous.
Being a homeschooling parent is about going grocery shopping and leaving the kids in the car with the windows down.
Homeschooling is about tickling your kids and keeping them as children for as long as possible.
Homeschooling means arguing with your kids and saying sorry afterwards.
Homeschooling is about crying to your kids and telling them stuff that you probably shouldn’t. (But which you’ll never regret because kids appreciate honest vulnerability).
It means drinking wine and wobbling your tummy in the bathroom mirror. It means wondering if you can go another week before you book an appointment at the hairdressers and it means that you’ll become a whizz on google.
Homeschooling is being yourself. Knowing who you are.
Knowing that’s it and that’s enough.
Finally. Homeschooling became so much easier when I realised that I just needed to trust in myself a bit more.
To be a successful homeschooler, all you have to do is be yourself.
It’s not about number crunching or essay writing. It doesn’t begin or end with finding the square root of a carrot or dissecting a milk carton with a compass.
You don’t need a fancy pants curriculum to cut it with homeschooling.
It’s just you and your kids. Making the best of what you’ve got.
And if that means making it the hell up as you go along then so be it.
Homeschooling means making it up as you go along. Learning from your mistakes and being really, REALLY kind to each other.
“My friend said that all parents should have told their teenage daughters about STD by the time they are at least 14. When are you going to tell me about it?”
My daughter. 15 next week. Going on sixty.
For Christ sake. Just when I was about to settle down with a nice glass of red and take my bra off.
I wasn’t ready for the STD talk. I was unprepared.
I had to quickly do some mental calculations in my head and figure out what the initials meant. My mind doesn’t work well at the best of times and tonight, my confident young whippersnapper daughter had chosen to approach me after dinner which meant that I was ever so slightly pissed.
STD. What The Hell Is That?
I thought she meant those card things that go in the side of the computer. The ones that my husband always blames everyone in the house for losing.
It dawned on me that here she was, my beautiful, innocent, homeschooled girl, who has never attended a sex education lesson in her life, asking me what STD was.
Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Bloody hell. I’ve only just recovered from the tampon talk.
I decided to take her out for a walk in the dark and have ‘the talk’. That way, she couldn’t see me squirming with embarrassment.
Cool, Not Cool
People think that because I went backing around the world with my two teenagers for a year and slept on peoples couches, I am this free-flowing, no knicker wearing hippy who believes in self-expression and voodoo.
Very far from the truth.
Between me and you, I’d be happy if they brought back chastity belts, and even now I refer to ‘that area’ as you know…down there.
What a prude.
Anyway. Off we went down the road for the talk. In the dark.
And we talked. About the thing. The STD thing.
To say it went terribly is an understatement. In fact, it went bloody awful. I was pathetic.
When my daughter was a baby and talks like this seemed like a zillion years away, I’d imagined myself as a cool, hip and easy-going mama. I wasn’t going to be an old fuddy-duddy like other mums.
I’d be open and have street cred. I’d probably go clubbing with her and everything.
Fast forward fifteen years and the reality is somewhat different.
A braless, hyperventilating mess with wine breath, and a daughter who won’t even come to the supermarket with her.
We immediately got off on the wrong foot.
I intended to use words like shag and rubber Johnny, just to be relatable and show her that I was still very much alive and kickin’ in the sex scene thank you very much.
But I couldn’t.
The words just wouldn’t leave my mouth.
Instead, I chose to use condom and intercourse and I could feel my daughter freezing over like Elsa in a snowstorm. Probably thinking, oh my god. My Mother actually just said intercourse.
I was informed a few months ago by my son that in New Zealand, the word for sex is rooting.
Rooting. I know. How vulgar is that?
What’s wrong with sheep shaggin’ I say.
There was no way I’d bring myself low enough to utter a word so crude. Not around my precious girl. Can you imagine?
‘Well Babe, next time you are in the mood for a good rootin, make sure the Johny is ready to go ’cause there are some nasty diseases out there and you might find yourself up the duff, or even worse with thrush, and whatever they tell you about natural yoghurt, it doesn’t work’.
I must be the only mother in the world that hasn’t told her naive young daughter about the STD card.
The talk got worse. Much worse.
She looked at me with utter disbelief when, in answer to her question regarding unprotected sex, I mused: “Noooo. You don’t want to ever do that. Not only could you end up pregnant but you could also get rabies”.
That’s what I said I kid you not.
IF YOU HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX YOU COULD GET RABIES.
For F*CK sake, Liz. You rootin’ tootin’ blumbering idiot.
I knew. I knew as soon as the word came out of my mouth that it was the wrong one. But I couldn’t remember the right word and I didn’t want to correct myself in front of her.
She already thinks I’m a halfwit who knows nothing.
So, I decided to keep going and bluff my way through.
I later remembered that the word I was looking for was the clap, but no matter. Rabies was out there now so I was staying with it. I don’t think she was listening to a word I was saying anyway.
I was on a roll.
I went on to speel some crap about Freddie Mercury and aids. The poor girl looked on in disbelief as I rambled on about how it was a bloody shame that Freddie died. And all because he didn’t use a condom.
I could see her out of the corner of my eye, willing me to shut up, cursing the day that she had ever been born to such an uncool, droopy boobed, freak.
We had only been walking for five minutes when she abruptly said “shall we go back in? It’s freezing”
Code for: this talk is over. Right now.
Shame really. I was just getting into the swing of it. I wanted to tell her my Rizzo from Grease story.
I tentatively put my hand onto her icy shoulder and tried my hardest to look intelligent. “If there’s anything else you’d like to ask me about my darling, absolutely anything, you know you only have to ask”.
So, that was the talk on STD
I think I can safely say that my daughter will never, ever have unprotected sex in her life – not for fear of becoming preggers and contracting a nasty, itchy disease, but from the worry of transforming into a monkey frothing at the mouth and singing Bohemian Rhapsody into the ear of her handsome kiwi sheep shagger.
So when it comes to your turn and your kid asks you to explain about the STD cards, tell them to come and see me.
I’ll handle it.
I reckon I’m like Helena Bonham Carter. Not the cool Helena who lives in the mansion with an underground tunnel to Tim Burton’s bedroom, the other one.
The Helena out of the planet of the apes.
The one with rabies.
PS: Why Not Save To Pinterest So You Can Remind Yourself That However Crap A Parent You Think You Are, There Is ALWAYS Someone Worse ⇓
I want to be an entrepreneur. I have seen all of these young fillies on Instagram selling their tie-dyed t-shirts and their sailor pants, and I have decided that I want a slice of that cool gang pie.
We are in Thailand, Chiang Mai to be exact. Anyone who is anyone knows that Chiang Mai is not just the home to very bendy people who love to show off by balancing each other on their big toes in the local park, but, it is also home to a mass of entrepreneurs; digital nomads, bloggers, web designers, online techy guru people who sit in coffee shops all day pretending to look very important.
It’s quite amazing. If you live in Chiang Mai, not only will you be a super duper entrepreneur, you will also have super-powered feet
I have decided that I too will spend long hours in trendy cafes, ordering frappuccinos and pushing my fringe back off my forehead while I frown at my laptop.
That’s going to be me.
Trouble is, I have never done anything remotely like this in my life. Not ever. The closest I have ever been to making things happen online is when I discovered how to use the online food shopping service from Tesco’s.
Time to put my acting skills to work and start to bluff it. Don’t they say fake it till you make it?
And so, in December 2018, the journey began to make it happen.
What to sell in my new super duper online shop
Anyone who knows me will know I have a passion for anything big, baggy and comfortable. Along with my belly and my charity shop Emu Ugg boots, my Berlai bra is the obvious example.
I don’t care that my boobs ooze out of the sides of it; it is soft and comfy and a dirty tan brown colour. It makes me feel as though I’m doing something positive for the planet by wearing it. That bra actually makes me feel like a better person.
While I was on my worldwide trip, I took a liking to those baggy yoga style harem pants. The ones that earth mothers wear with a hessian sac while they are breastfeeding their nine-year-olds.
I love those pants. Not only are they colourful and Asian, but they are also baggy, relaxed and very very comfortable. The perfect pants for me.
I never had the nerve to wear them in my twenties because I stupidly believed that they made my size ten bum look big. Fast forward thirty years and I’ll pay whatever it takes to let my bum cheeks flap around in the wind like two big wobbly jellies.
These pants are the bomb, so I decided that they were what I would sell on my soon to be up and running and making a fortune online store.
How to find a supplier in Thailand for my multi-million dollar baggy pants empire.
We started to plan all of this in Thailand. Crunching the numbers with Tess
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried googling ‘pants-wholesale-for desperate woman-to sell on her blog-dot com’, but if you do, nothing much comes up.
Luckily, I know how to stalk people. It is a skill that I have mastered over the years. All it took was for me to spy on other peoples threads on Instagram who were talking about fabulous pants in Thailand and I managed to trace the source back to a factory in Chiang Mai.
As soon as I had an address I was desperate to race over there and introduce myself. Strike a deal. I was convinced that this poor little factory in Chiang Mai would fall at my feet when they found out that I had New Zealand dollars to spend.
But on the advice of my husband, I refrained. He said that it wasn’t professional and that I should email.
So I did.
‘Hello’, the email said, ‘I’d like to sell your pants because I think they’re really nice. Can you give me some good prices, please? And don’t try ripping me off. I may be nearly fifty but I’m not totally doolally. Yours, Liz’.
Something along those lines.
Surprisingly, after waiting for three days, I still hadn’t received an answer, so one sunny Wednesday morning I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Get dressed,” I called at the two snoring heaps that were my teenage children slobbing away in the corner of the bedroom . “we are going to a clothes factory. To buy clothes.”
The factory was a good forty-five minutes away. Brian suggested that we take an Uber and arrive in style but there was no way that was happening when we had recently hired two perfectly good mopeds.
I had dressed in my best off the shoulder pink floaty top – the one I got from the charity shop in Blackpool. If I was to be an overseas buyer I needed to look the part.
Feeling like Coco Chanel, I pulled on the moped helmet, the one from the hire shop that smells of wet sweat, and heaved myself onto the back of Brian’s moped nearly toppling us both over.
I chose to ignore the fact that when I caught sight of myself in the moped wing mirror, I looked like a weeble wobble. My sweaty cheeks were pushed so close together that my lips looked as though they were saying choo choo.
No matter. In my mind, I looked like a high flying businesswoman and not like Matt Lucas with a mouth ulcer.
Arrival At The Factory.
The factory was very Thai. A large square building that looked a little bit like my old infant school without the lollypop lady.
“Oh, God. How embarrassing”. cringed my 14-year-old daughter.
My daughter – to whom everything is embarrassing. Unless of course, she is throwing a bottle of ice tea over herself and her best friend and then sharing it on Insta. That’s not embarrassing.
‘Let’s just go. They won’t even speak English. Why are we even in the middle of the jungle?’
It was true, we were in the middle of the countryside, but this made it feel a lot easier for me. I don’t know if I would have been able to bluff my way into a swanky shop on Saville Row.
Yes, as my daughter very kindly pointed out, we were in the middle of the jungle. But I didn’t care. It made it easier for me.
I ignored her and marched off with my shiny Matt Lucas cheeks held high, walking down the alleyway at the side of the building.
Through the glass doors, I could see hoards of workers bent over sewing machines handling reels of colourful material. Luckily, each person looked over the age of twenty-five, so that put an end to my son’s taunts that this was probably an illegal sweatshop that was run by a group of toddlers with guns.
No one took much notice of me which miffed me a bit. Didn’t these people not know that an international buyer was here to purchase their goods?
“We’re trespassing. This is so wrong. Can we just go?”
Dramatic teenage Son – 17. He’s a millennial. What can I say?
Meeting The Boss
From the door at the end of the building appeared a beautiful young Thai whippersnapper. Obviously the boss.
‘Can I help you?’ she said, looking very beautiful and very Thai in her black silk kimono. Just gorgeous.
My pink off the shoulder top was sticking to my back as a result of motorbike fumes and sweat and I momentarily panicked and almost lost my nerve.
I wasn’t expecting such a confident young beauty. I was thinking more of a big heifer with a pin cushion clasped to her bust, dragging a mile of yarn and a sewing machine whilst singing the blues.
‘Hello’ I spluttered trying to sound semi-intelligent, ‘I have a shop in New Zealand, And I am looking for some clothes to sell’.
What a lie.
You do not have a shop in New Zealand Liz. You have five shitty sheep, you live under a volcano and you write a blog that your mum and her next-door neighbour reads.
Luckily, the boss lady trusted me. It must have been because of the kids. Women who travel with their kids are mental and so would never think to lie about their life.
I love the way that Thai ladies bow and speak in a gentle tone. I wish I were like that.
This lovely woman who, just five minutes earlier had been going about her day doing gentle sewing and running her business empire, was now faced with a sweaty woman and a pair of embarrassed, sour-faced teenagers trailing behind her.
Never once did she think to screech, ‘what the bloody hell are you doing here? You haven’t got an appointment, you half-wit. And why on earth are your cheeks so squshed together?’
She was perfectly lovely.
I decide there and then that I will try to speak in a calm voice from now on.
How Things At The Factory Worked.
The lovely boss lady invited me to her office and we talked about how everything worked. Her, explaining essential things such as shipping costs and import duty tax and me, nodding and bluffing. Hoping that my sweaty top lip wasn’t too much of a giveaway.
We discussed price. ‘The pants are cheaper if you take over fifty pairs’. She explained in her Thailinglish.
I didn’t like to say that I’d probably only need two pairs to be going on with.
One for my mum and the other for the woman who is feeding the sheep. I wanted to impress her after all.
‘I’ll take one hundred pairs!’ I beamed, expecting her to fall through the floor like Rumplestiltskin. She didn’t bat an eyelid and went on to explain that it would be approximately $100 to ship the pants to New Zealand and the delivery would take approximately ten days.
A hundred bucks? No way Jose. My mind quickly calculated the cost and I pulled my shoulders back and made a bold family decision. You can’t be seen to be flustered when you are an international buyer of pants after all.
‘We’ll take them all now and we will carry them home in our rucksacks’. Hurray for me!
How about that clever clogs? Me. With my big wet cheeks growing like two bed sores.
The kids suddenly sprung to life.
Sonny, who doesn’t like to make a fuss in public obviously thought this was the time to break the habit of a lifetime. “I don’t have room. I have to pack my trainers and I want to but a samurai sword” — shut up weirdo, I wanted to snap, but instead, I smiled my nicest I’m-going-to-kill-you-later smile and tried to remember to talk in my soft Kimono voice.
‘This isn’t a game’ I hissed dramatically, ‘This is for the shop‘. If I could have reached his arm I would have pinched his skin as hard as I could, but lucky for him he was too far away.
I ignored his look of total disgust and was thankful that he didn’t fire back at me: ‘What effing shop you nutter?’.
Related Post That You May Enjoy. Or Not. Depending On How Drunk You Are.
This was the tricky bit. There I was, with two kids who are ready to drop because they got up at nine am and are suffering from shock — boiling hot — the sun glaring through the glass windows of the stock room.
There was no other way to decide on style size and colour, other than for me to try them on — one hundred pairs of pants.
Me sweating like a mule, the kids begging to go home and Brian with his head stuck under a sewing machine trying to figure out how it worked.
There was no mirror in the stock room and the assistant that was helping me with the purchase of the pants couldn’t speak a word of English. She just kept smiling at me for no reason.
I couldn’t possibly see how I could try on a hundred pair of pants and not know what the hell they looked like.
“You’ll have to tell me if they look nice,” I said to Brian.
Brian who hates baggy harem pants with a passion.
Brian who wishes his wife would wear those little denim shorts that she used to wear thirty years ago.
Brian who will get his brains bashed in if he doesn’t tell me that every single pair of these baggy Alibaba pants looks stunning.
No mirror, boiling hot and a lip that was almost drowning in sweat. Time to try 100 pairs of pants on.
Getting The Pants Home To NZ
Just like Fagin, examining my goods. Time to stuff them in the kid’s backpacks and get them back to NZ
I left the building from the same door that I had entered through three hours earlier when I was but a young naive pants buying novice, but now, here I was, carrying one hundred pairs of pants and three kimonos in four Thai bin bags. What a bloody legend.
I was the proud owner of my first stock load of Thai clothes. Silvano Vangi eat your heart out. I was buzzing.
‘Look at me now!’ I wanted to call out to the workers, who were still all ignoring me, ‘tell your friends! Spread it! I’ve got stock for my shop!’
Onto the back of the moped. Onto a plane. Into a car and finally reaching the bed in our spare room in New Zealand. Where the pants will sit until I have my shop up and running.
These things take time you understand.
See those bags? That’s my fortune that is…
Leave me a comment if you enjoyed this post and would like to hear more of how I am bullshitting my way into business. Liz x
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