The start of the new Not-Back-To-School year is always a time to take stock of where we've come to.
Having been home-educated his whole life, my 15yr old teen has never experienced the September thrill of standing at the front door for a photo in his new uniform. So with a pang of guilt this morning for what he's missed out on, I did consider sneaking into his room at about 11am to get a proud mummy moment pic of him wrapped up sleeping in his relatively recently laundered duvet. But then the moment seemed too sacred to disturb ;)
It's two years since I wrote a lengthy piece on not going back to school. I re-read it this morning and saw that this was written just one month before his father unexpectedly left and our entire personal and educational life changed and I can now confirm the truth of that old Philip Larkin quote 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad'. Which is a challenging truth to face in relation to yourself and all the expectations and intentions that you wanted and dreamed of providing for your child.
Home educating as a single parent has not been easy. But it is still my son's choice. And I am still committed to an educational philosophy and practice that is about consent; that honours individual choice and freedom; that trusts a person to learn what has meaning and value for them without coercion. A practice which trusts that even when things go wrong and at times when the ground appears frozen, infertile and broken, the most unexpected seedlings can emerge to surprise you, in places no one could have mapped out, and in ways no one else could have imagined, much less prescribed.
I don't believe in compulsory curriculums but if I had to create one, it would include a lot about RESILIENCE when the world, or somebody, or yourself and your own demons, tries to break you. It would be about trusting in those diehard seedlings that will spring up out of the asphalt to amaze and inspire you, make you smile and take you on a whole new adventure of growth and opportunity. Sometimes schools or elsewhere can teach this better than some children's home lives can (and it goes without saying that there are some awesome and inspiring, if tired and frustrated, teachers) but facilitating learning in a voluntary, cooperative and individually tailored way without a focus on grades and exams, requires a huge shift in the State approach to education.
So we're still here, being pretty damn resilient in most cases, and looking back, we've done quite a big mix of stuff but a couple of things that have been a particularly big part of life over the past year (which I have slightly complicated feelings about) are:
* unrestricted 'screen time' (although I am not allowed to use the generic term of 'screen time' as he points out that it derogatively lumps together a hugely diverse range of activities, media, tutorials, films, game playing, game development, coding, communication with friends, digital art, music etc).
* virtual reality - possibly the most potent escape and distraction from your own life that there can be without chemicals, whilst you're still sitting in your own bedroom (though personally I prefer a good book!). So we've climbed Everest and been in space and under the earth in caves, but my favourite was sat in a jazz bar with Vincent Van Gogh looking out at a starry sky...
I'm guessing that the following year will be more of the same, the ups and downs, the planned and the unexpected, the moving on towards adulthood whatever that means (I'm still trying to figure out what that one's about).
And as for a new 'school' year pic - well my son doesn't want one, so here's a pic I took at a home ed camp last year of a cute beetle going about her day just doing her own thing, which is sometimes the most excellent achievement of all.