The hippy that changed my life.

If we hadn’t emigrated  I most certainly wouldn’t have homeschooled for the past 8 years. Neither would I have started my own touring theatre company but that’s a different blog.

That’s not to say that had we not dragged ourselves to the other side of the world I wouldn’t have dabbled in the waters of schooling without school. But you know what?.. truthfully.. I dont think I would have dared.

Back then you see before we made the big move, I  was different. I was a conformist. I wanted to be liked. Desperate to be liked. I wanted to please. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to get my children into the ‘right’ school. I wanted a BA1 address , having such a postcode said to people that I lived not on the outskirts, but slap bang centre in the middle of the historic city of Bath in the UK. I wanted the children to say Barth and not Ba’ath. That way I might be able to pretend to strangers ,through my well educated southern born children, that I myself was as well bred as those that drove to school in the Range Rover  and who’s parents had bequeathed them the solid silver cutlery set.

I am ashamed to say this.

I’m just going to say it.

I was a snob. Not a snob in the sense that I thought others were below me. No, that’s one personality trait that I can’t take ownership of. But the snobbiness that comes from striving to be something or someone that you are not ? Yes. Guilty. SHIT, SHiT Shit shit . It’s hard to admit that about yourself.

Keep going Liz. Breathe.

So. Homeschooling back then? Noooo. Infact, NNNOOOOOOO with a capital N.  Too hippy shitty..Too weirdy freaky..Too living on the canal boat with the kids wearing each other’s second hand clothes ..too funny haircuts…Too BA4.

And then one morning , walking along the  canal path (and let us be clear here, not walking because ‘eco is me and I have the time to walk my child to school’ No. Walking as in ‘I can’t get parked near the friggin’ school, so have to park in the pub car park down the road and sprint ‘ walking) Late as always to get Sonny to extra tuition maths class before school. You know the one. The one where you’re told in no uncertain terms that your kid is shit at maths because he is 7 and cant recite the 9 times table. That one.

When suddenly, on one of those new agey wooden bikes with no wheels, no hang on ,it had wheels ..it didn’t have pedals , that was it. On one of those pedaless things, was a little boy about the same age as Sonny. Riding across my very important and busy pathway. Nearly colliding into my sons very polished and very expensive Clarkes shoes.

Across from him a woman , coming out of her hand painted, beautiful house boat. Herbs balanced along the side, housed in old French looking pots.   The remenants of last nights late night moonlit chat in the form of two empty wine glasses and half a bottle of red  left at the little wrought iron painted yellow table . She was picking out fir cones from a basket for her fire and she looked over at him , witnessing the near head on .. she smiled.

Smiled.

There it was.

The moment.

You know when people ask “so what made you want to homeschool?”

That was it .

Her life versus my life. Femme parfait, on her woodsmoke smelling ‘bobbing on the water calmly’ abyss. Smiling. Living the good life in second hand clothes . Tending to her herbs .Not a school notice pinned anywhere on her battered fridge.

Not even.. wearing a watch.

And me.

Me.

Dragging my son along the towpath in order for him to chant his 9 times tables to an overtired, underpaid teacher aide. In order for me to get to work. In order for me to earn money. In order for me to pay off the credit card that we ran up taking our kids to Alton towers (a totally overpriced theme park in the UK) In order to feel happy thank you very much. In order to buy some expensive make up to cover my frown lines. In order to look as though ..I smiled.

Homeschooling. Take two.

Too free…Too real.. Too loads of time.. Too always seem to be relaxed.. Too confident..Too calm..Too free..

Too..me.

It all flashed through my suddenly clear mind as to if and how we could do it. (Not live on the house boat with femme beautiful, no, I dont like confined spaces.. herbs or no herbs) To just change our lives. Escape from this mess of tangled time tight schedules  that we had somehow created. Spending more and more money to try and find a place in our lives that felt safe. Like the safe you feel as a child when you know that your dinner will be ready at 5 no matter what.

This life that we were living.. this BA1 life..it just wasn’t authentic. This life that never allowed me to look for more than 5 minutes into the eyes of my children without saying “have you done your homework?”. I wanted to escape. I wanted to change. I wanted to homeschool. I wanted to smile like the pedalless mother.
That was in  March 2008. Within 9 months we were sitting on a plane headed for a country my husband had never even been to. The business? Gone. The BA1 house? Gone. The ever so prestigious primary school? Gone. The debt? Gone (most of it anyway).

My story of the hows and whens of emigrating is at least another 4 blogs long. It wasn’t easy, not by a long stretch. But.. when you see a life in front of you and that life is what you want..like us,  you’ll go to the end of the earth to get it. And thats what we did.

A one way ticket for 4 to New Zealand please.Throw away the scissors kids.. you’re growing your hair.

No maths. It’s Friday!

We are driving along us three and I,  spotting an available  time slot (squeezed in between the set of traffic lights ahead, ) see an ideal opportunity in which to have a quick maths lesson. This is what us homeschoolers do isn’t it ?  look for every given opportunity to have a quick teach. This is so that when we collapse into bed at night, we can at least say to ourselves..” Ok .. we’ve spent the whole day driving around to different things, we’ve done the cleaning, had the cat spayed, ate lunch.. BUT at least we did that maths lesson in the car.”

Smugness. Tick. Thank you very much.

Only, apparently I picked the wrong day, the wrong time and the wrong child. Remember I have a 50/50 chance of getting the last one right.

So. Wrong Day.

“Oh noooo.. its Friday.. we unschool on Friday..” she wails.

Tell me . Now. Who are you homeschool people that publisize the fact that your children love to learn at every given opportunity?  Bring them to me.

Yes, yes.. I know the aged supermarket trick ‘you add up these things as we go around and see how close you are to the total at the checkout..’ (Iit’s a good one Ill give you that ) but.. APART from that one ..how do you trick  your children into thinking that your question,”who can tell me what fraction of those cars are red?”Is really a fun packed , ‘can’t think of anything Id rather do’ question , and not an excuse to curb their withering mothers paranoia that her children have learned absolutely  ziltch over the past 8 years?

Right then. Friday we dont do maths. Got it. God forbid when she gets older and her boss asks  ” hey Tess.. did you do 14 hours this week or 17 ?”

“Errm ..excuse me .. Mr Bossy boots boss.. its Friday. Let’s leave it ’till  Monday shall we …?”

Wrong time.

It’s 3.15pm. But the maths question is already out there , lingering like a bad smell. The eyes roll..sigh .. even  ‘real’ School is finished. I follow the eyes and it’s  true. Real life school children with bags and everything, walking along the road. Chatting. Not doing maths, not even the fun sort .

Wrong child.

Tessa, like me.. panicks when under pressure (no pressure Tess, just tell me before the light goes to green) we probably know the answer ( honest ) but instead blurt out something that makes us sound like complete dim wits. Which we are not of course. We are geniuses.

We will refuse to answer. We will sigh ( a requirement when you’re 12 ) We will look out of the window ( I wander why the library has always got those same people sitting outside ?) We will start singing , not a song of course , just a la la melody that we’ve just made up ( we are immensely talented that way ) We will ask how the neighbours cat got run over last year ( because we are caring and compassionate ..and desperate now ) It’s Friday. We will not be answering maths questions .

There’s going to be a new rule. Maths questions (even those disguised as fun) like mobile phones, are to be banned from my car. Gone. Bye Bye. Ta ta .

Back to the neighbours dead cat .

“he was probably chasing a mouse because it was a lovely evening and the milk truck was going too fast to see him ”

“How fast ?”

” probably 130 Kmph ..”

“But that’s 30 over the limit !! ”

Ha !! Done !! Tricked !! Oh Yes.. big fat tick coming your way lady ..

Ahhh … you genius Liz … Sleep easy tonight you clever Mummy ..

One Messy Mama

Self Help Books?? No thanks..

Ive been pushed to my bedroom. Two computers in the house. One of which is playing a very blue and yellow film about about a lost fish and the other of which is killing monsters made of bricks. I’m on my bed.
Incidentally, this is exactly where I was when reading the latest self help ‘how to be a brilliant parenty ‘article this morning .Thats what I do. Read advice and then use my family as guinea pigs to see if the said advice works.
You can almost see the nervous glances when  I declare that “we are going to make a few changes round here..”

Silence

“just going to the toilet” .Gone, for about 45 minutes OR

“Have you done your meditation yet Mummy? “Hmmm ..

Ha ! No need for meditation my dears (I think whilst swishing my magical cloak around in a dramatic twirl  ..) Mamas got it all under control..

Even worse than this? No warning. Nothing. Zilch. A smug sort of secretiveness , just me and my whiring , coniving  mind and those poor , poor unknowing guinea pigs.

The article read: ” When you can feel negative tension mounting , rather than enter into an argument with your child, use positive language such as ‘ I know this is not what you want to hear right now’ or ‘Let’s try this and if it doesn’t  work , lets try something else’.

Ohhh .. pretty words..pwitty  birdy..Dangerous really.

Looking back now, WHAT was I thinking? These are NOT words that I use. This is NOT my language. This is the language of one of those gentle, softly spoken Mummy’s . Who, although 46 years old ,has n0 signs of frown lines on her gentle face. Just smile creases. You know who you are ladies. You call your children Sweetie and let them interrupt you when you’re talking , never giving them the MUM look.That’s you

Not me.

Did I listen to my wise inner voice? My best friend who loves me more than anyone in the world, the other me? ( think she’s called authentic self)

No. After declaring on a wet and misty (and beautiful ,may I add) New Zealand Sunday afternoon, that we were

“Going out for a long bush walk to get some fresh air”

I dont care if you want to stay at home and light the fire.

I’m not interested that you need to record your You Tube playing games thing in front of camera? No.

“Get your shoes on. Ive made up my mind.”

The  dog looks worried. She can sense the tone of my voice ,that sing song unnatural voice .That slightly maniac ‘look how happy and calm I am everyone’ voice.

Have I got Jack Nicholson eyes from the shining ? No, its just you Liz , you’re paranoid. The dog knows though .She’s just being polite . Being kind. She knows the real you. They all do. She just finds a spot on the wall that she decides to stare at.​​

“My trainers are too small. I can’t come”My 12 year old . Tessa.

“They’re fine. I only bought them a couple of months ago. Just put them on and get into the car” All good so far. I couldn’t manage ‘sweetie ‘. I’m not American after all .

“They’re scrunching my toes.. they don’t fit .. they’re too small .. ” Blahblahblah..

Here it is ! My chance !Lights! Camera! Action!

The fact that I got out of the car and walked into the house without a word set her on edge. You could see her eyeing me with suspicion .

I took the trainer. I took her foot. In my mind I am the ugly sisters mother, ramming her daughters foot into the glass slipper in order to claim the rich prince. In reality I’m trying hard to be that woman. Breathe Liz. You can do this. Be that woman. No one likes a hag.

” I know this is not what you want to hear Tess but lets try the trainer again ”

Stunned Silence from a face that resembled Harry Enfields teenager.

“We will loosen the laces, and if that doesn’t work we’ll try something else”

That was it. It was enough for her to break. Go away weird traitor.. bring back the Mum I know and love..She looked at me with both  a terrified and suspicious expression..

“Why are you being like .. I don’t know … like  ..Little  Miss  Positive ??” she exclaimed, with that look that says,”Duurr”.

She took  the offending shoe out of my hand and flounced out ,leaving me crouched over the dirty pile of footwear that lives in the garage. Crouched and .. like Bruce Tanner..and wait .. Oh  No .. Here it comes..Shirt ripping on biceps….AARRRGGG!! 

“I’ll tell you what Tess” (I’m following her out to the car now) “YOU put the sodding trainer on , I’M just trying to help but NO …HERE !! “Grabs another old pair of stinky shoes ..

Picture now if you will a ‘frustrated by being too nice and calm all morning ‘face. Not  disimilar to that of the witch in ‘into the woods’ (before she gets beautiful)

Holding the dirty shoe and glaring into the car .. Oh God. .. please let Brian , my husband be looking at the Sat Nav right now and not out at me ..

Luckily she was already in the car hidden behind the blacked out windows of our works van..Meaning that I am now not only likened to the witch in ‘into the woods’ (before she gets beautiful ) but add to that, one with blind eyes, not being able to focus on any given object. Wild. Frantic. Don’t be dramatic Liz..Just for a second or two. I get in .. Huffing and puffing like a steam train .

The shoe fits just perfectly. Glides on. Without a hitch. Silence. None says a word.

Stop reading the self help books Liz. They don’t work .You’re you. Frowns and all. You’re ok. Breathe. Right. What else can I have a think about..I know.. enjoying my kids in the New Zealand bush.There you go. Easy…until tomorrow morning..

Brain needed for homeschooler !

Any homeschooler  expects the same old questions and statements presented to us when we announce that our kids ‘learn at home’.
8 years on and I can confidently handle the tiresome socializing  and exam questions.How sweetly I smile..Sports teams. Tick. Pyjamas. Tick. University. Tick .Tick tick tick tick TICK. Ahhh ..If only I’d known the answers to these questions eight years ago.

How sweetly we smile..

BUT .But. However. Nonetheless . But.

There’s  one statement that gets me every time.  Makes me draw a breath and catch it. This one when uttered, makes me imagine a huge neon sign, slowly raising above me. A downward arrow pulsing at my head flashing the words ‘FAKE’ for my interrogator to see.

Go way, go way , go way ..

“Wow ..There’s no way I’M brainy enough to homeschool my kids…”

AARRGGGHHH !!!  Crash. Get up Liz, you’re fine . She didn’t see. You’re still just stood here, outside the supermarket. You’re not laying on the floor covering your head. A flicker.  A breath . A smile (usually forged)

“oh.. it’s amazing what you can do with the internet. 

Bye Bye little confidence shattererrr person. There. That’s the answer. Phew. Right Liz..Back to work..Where was I again? Oh yes,faking that I have the brain to teach my kids.

Thanks to Tessa..one of my beautiful guinea-pigs x

Asking for help

Hello world.

Theres one thing I find hard and thats asking for help.

Asking for help from my 15 year old , Sonny , to help me set up this blog is even worser.

He has just whizzed through all the ‘customise your site’ thing at a million miles an hour, whilst singing the same tune maniacally over and over again ( at least it wasn’t Phantom of the Opera this time)  Clicking , clicking, dragging  and then..”remove”. Whhaaatt??

I was so good. Such a good Mummy . I said nothing. I have no idea , still, how to upload a photo, or to change the massive photo of me in the ‘about’ section.

“Why has everyone else got a little thumb nail picture Sonny? Why is mine like a giants ?”

img_1014

“Its fine”

Click, click, refresh, click, bang, Done.

“There you go . You can start writing now”

Exits back into his room to look at his new phone controlled lights (that his Dad, Brian, set up for him might I add)IMG_8622.JPG

So. Here I am then. At the end of the day , its just a blog isn’t it? Nobody is even listening . Yet. ( Im an optimist)

You don’t really need to know all about the complicated nerdy language, do you ? No. Even if I have paid for the premium thing ? No. Its fine.  Just write the blog. Ok. ( this is me talking to myself which I do constantly. Tell me you do too ??)

You know what Liz? You could have figured this out by yourself probably. And you wouldn’t have the giant picture of yourself .. But.. I wouldn’t have got my boys attention for eight minutes either.. and goes what? I forgot to tell you.. he gave me a kiss and said “tut tut ..have you been spending money on the internet again ?” and then smiled as he winked at me. And that was worth eight minutes of the same verse of “one call away” being sung in an absent minded high soprano , click, click, dragging, any day. img_7307