Monthly Archives: January 2015

Organic, Free-Range Children

So Matilda’s gap year has come to an end. 2014 has been an adventure in homeschooling. I’ve had a teacher’s dream job – a classroom with one gifted student, eager to learn.

This is the year I made new friends, learnt Japanese, went on interesting excursions and got re-acquainted with our local library.  Matilda now plays guitar, tutors one of Christopher’s friends, plays a mean game of netball and can rollerskate with the best of them.  She also walks taller, stands up for herself and chatters warmly and effusively to her new friends.

She’s still a sensitive child – she wouldn’t be Matilda if she wasn’t – but her eyes have lost that hunted, anxious look, she eats her lunch and goes to sleep at night.

Of course, it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s hard work organizing regular social catch-ups for Matilda and regular sanity-breaks for myself, and I often feel I could be doing more with her (her brain is enormous).  It’s no picnic having to explain myself everywhere I go, either (No, she’s not sick, we homeschool.  You want me to explain my reasons for homeschooling in 140 characters or less?  Forget it.  She’s sick.)

But it’s a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

I love the lifestyle.  I love learning about how Matilda learns.  I love the rich curriculum and I love being able to tailor it to Matilda’s needs.  I love the freedom and the simplicity.  I love socializing with other families.  I love the space it creates for extracurricular activities.

I feel like the most stress I’ve dealt with this year has been related to Christopher’s school.  The pick ups and the drop offs.  The tiredness and crankiness.  The readers and the homework books.  The bullying and standard-issue cruelty.  And the endless, endless admin.

Homeschooling is rather strange, I guess.  But sending my children off to a one-size-fits-all institution for an inefficiently mass-produced education is a different sort of strange.  Not that I’m anti-school.  And not that I’m telling you to homeschool or judging you for not homeschooling or waiting for you to list the manifold reasons why you can’t homeschool.  I’m just trying to work out what works for my family.

All through the year, Christopher had begged me to homeschool him too and I’ve struggled to find a reason not to do it.  It was difficult saying goodbye to the school, but in another way, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

So, I’m committing to one more year of homeschool.  After this year, things get a little more complicated.  Harry will be old enough for school and Matilda will be in Grade 6 and might benefit from a year at school before she goes to high school.  But I’m only doing things one year at a time.  I will have a clearer idea of where to go later this year.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Am I a mad person?

Busy Fingers #1

Note – I wrote this one a month ago and am only just getting around to posting it now.  Hence all the references to “Advent” and “December”.  I tried to fix it, but it was getting too complicated.  I hope you can cope with this blast from the past…

crochet angel

My fingers have been very busy this Advent season. Here’s why:

 

1. Something about Christmas fills me with the urge to create things with my hands.

2. I prefer to spend my time with a bag of yarn and a box set of Little Dorrit than doing battle with a shopping centre car park.

3. I get to tell myself I’m being all anti-consumerist and sticking it to the man.

4.  I’ve been invited to two weddings this December, and as a result have NO MONEY for expensive presents.  All my money fell down the wishing well…

Here’s what I made for Harry’s and Christopher Robin’s teachers:

group of crocheted angels

These angels are TOTALLY MY OWN PATTERN.  I’m so excited!  OK, so maybe I got lacy wings idea from a book I got from the library and I did steal Lucy Ravenscar’s method of joining the head to the body without fastening off, but the rest of it is ALL ME.  If you look closely, you can see that some of the angels have different body-types – it took me a while to refine the pattern…

Back of angel

I might just put a tutorial up for these sometime next year…

Decorated gingerbread

We also gave them gingerbread in jars, using The Green Dragonfly’s excellent recipe.  All of the kids helped to make these.  Annie ate all her dough, and Christopher Robin got rather creative in his choice of biscuit shapes, but I bit back the strong urge to fix the wonky ones and let them roll and cut to their hearts content.  We decorated with white fudge writing icing, but I wouldn’t recommend it (it doesn’t set properly).

gingerbread in jars

All of the teachers were very happy with their Christmas presents, and I was glad of the opportunity to thank them for taking care of my boys this year.

Stay tuned for more – I’m afraid you don’t have a choice!

5 Reasons Why Stay-At-Home Parenting = Writing Success

I used to think I would have to wait for my children to grow up a bit before thinking about becoming a writer, but now I realize I’m exactly where I need to be. Here’s why:

 

1. You will be desperate for a creative outlet

odd socks

There are only so many lullabies you can sing and pretend cappuccinos you can sip before you start craving a use for your brain.  Harness this hunger and write!

 

2.  It’s the ideal set-up

"The Frenzy": a cartoon depicting chaos surrounding an oblivious Kate who is writing furiously. Annie empties cornflakes onto the table, Harry is watering the television and the other two have kindled a small fire on the table and are roasting marshmallows

If you were trying to write on weekends whilst working full-time, you might struggle to get yourself into the right frame of mind.  If you took time off work to focus on your writing, you would have to face the unbearable pressure of producing something good and printable to validate your choice.  When you’re a stay-at-home-parent, you have the luxury of writing for fun.  If you ever get to the point of writing something print-worthy, that’s a bonus.

 

3. Writing time is precious

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Let’s face it: If I had all day to write, I would probably spend it drinking tea, flipping through Facebook, re-organising my shoe collection and staring at a blank page.  As a stay-at-home-parent, writing time alone is a rare treat for me.  I try to make the most of every second, whether the words are flowing or not.

 

4. There is a never-ending supply of writer’s block cures

fairy dresses on washing line

I find the best antidote for blank-page-syndrome is menial work.  Doing something boring with my hands frees up my brain to explore ideas.  Fortunately, being a stay-at-home-parent provides me with an endless supply of these cures.  I’ve chewed over writing while I’m doing the dishes, shopping for sausages, pegging out washing, changing nappies and buttering piles of sandwiches.

It works wonders.

 

5.  You will be provided with a perfect abundance of material

Hand drawn cartoon. A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted: her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume. Caption reads "Enid Blyton versus Newton's law or universal gravitation"

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

We all think we would write better if we could just go off to some cabin in the woods and be a hermit for a while.  But I don’t think it really works that way.  Apart from the obvious homicidal-mania-related side effects (haven’t you ever seen The Shining?), shutting yourself off from daily distraction would also mean shutting yourself off from a wealth of inspiration.  If I didn’t spend the bulk of my time making colossal mistakes as a parent, I would have nothing to write about.

 

So there you have it.  I know you think you don’t have time, but use what small pockets you can set aside.  A lot of this can apply to other creative pursuits as well (just replace the word “writing” with “painting”/ “pottery”/ “international space-station design”)

What do you think?  Have I missed anything?  Am I totally off my rocker?  Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

On Writing

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Disclaimer: I suspect this is going to be an insufferably self-indulgent and introspective post.

Suffer.

I love writing. I get such a rush from words tumbling out and jostling for position on the screen or in my ratty notebook.  There is a delicious agony in searching for the right word or the perfect one-liner. I am filled with glee when I finish a piece and it’s done, it’s definitely done and I can totally publish it.  And knowing that I have readers as lovely as you is pure bliss.  I think I know now what I want to be when I grow up.

And here’s the funny part: I think that my job as a stay-at-home-mum fits perfectly with this plan.

I feel a little nervous saying this – in any other profession, it’s perfectly OK to say you love working and that your job is full of fun perks, but the role of full-time Domestic Engineer is fraught with emotional landmines.

You see, we’re all a little bruised by the idea put about that we’re spoiled rich ladies who spend our days wearing pearls and watching infomercials.  Or that we’re a little bit stupid and child-care (being such an unworthy pursuit) is all our poor intellects are capable of. Or that we’re so insufferably dull, we need to surround ourselves with children as a distraction.

This makes us rather defensive.

As a result, we flood social media with earnest posts about how SAHMs should be earning a CEO’s salary for all the work they do (often accompanied by a Vishnu-like diagram depicting all the roles they play); stories of husbands who try to do the work of their stay-as-home wife and fall apart after Day 1 (“I had no idea!”); and heartwarming video clips that involve evocative piano music, baby’s first steps and advertisements for a South East Asian phone company.

I feel like a traitor to the cause admitting I really like what I do – and not just for the worthy reasons like “being there for my kids” and “hearing Baby’s first words” – the lifestyle really suits me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a proper career as a writer and I see this time at home not as a delay or a roadblock, but as a gift.  Time to practice and develop my skills before I try it on for real.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about it so much, I’m going to write a whole separate blog post about it.

Stay tuned.