Lifting the anonymity & the next step in our journey

It has been a long while and many things have happened, most importantly that we have become parents for the second time and I am now a mum of two boys. My second son is 8.5 months, we’re finding our feet, somehow.

Now I’ve decided to change this blog, in a few ways: first, I’m lifting the anonymity. My name is Jennifer, or Jen, half French half British 35 year old, currently living in Ireland with my husband Christophe and our two boys. As a consequence, I’ve also cleaned up the blog of things I’m not sure I want everyone I know to read 😉

Second, I’m keeping a space on this blog for myself, poetry etc. Here is a good, if sad, read, recently published, on the needs of mums and the wrongs of our society towards mums: SamantahNolanSmith

Third, I’ve decided to “come out” as a mum. I’m a long term breastfeeder and tandem feeder, my eldest is four years old in a month, my youngest is just over 8 months old, both breastfed – if differently. I am, with my husband, also a co-sleeper: one big bed and a co-sleeper barely used for us four! It’s the only way, I think, if you want to continue breastfeeding…

Now it looks like I’m going to be a homeschooler too. As in the children won’t be going to school, or at least my eldest won’t be going for the next two years. No preschool, no school…

We have thought and read and talked a good deal about this decision. We have moved countries twice in two years. We have had a second child in March. We have also had health issues, for both boys, in addition to my own. Then in September, our eldest went to preschool for ten days. The first day, he was sooo excited. After we left, for just an hour that day, he cried hysterically for 40 min – until we came back, totally panicked, not understanding what was going on, though we’d tried to explain… And they had let him cry, when we were just outside the school… And when he’s already had so much to deal with and the language to get used to – we speak French at home and he barely knew a few words of English then. After ten days of trying, again and again, with the teachers, the principal, his crying not getting better and huge tantrums at home before bed, nightmares about being abandoned and walking home alone, I looked at what would happen if we took him out. Nothing, it seemed… Children are not obliged to go to school until they’re six, at least in Ireland. It is a parent’s right to teach him as he chooses. So we took him out, at first thinking that we would try again later that year, or next year. We would leave him time to settle after this very busy year.

Once the first decision taken, I started looking for groups of children, for socialisation, for activities, to keep us out of the house and away from the TV, and I found homeschooling groups (a lot is happening on Facebook) and books. We met people. I read and read and read until I find that I now strongly believe that the mainstream school system is outdated, based on the needs of our society more than a century ago. It may be bad for children, possibly bad for society now – how many schools teach critical thinking, the most valuable skill they should learn in our day (here Sal Kahn creator of Khan Academy, talk about our future)? There are too many children in classes (don’t give me that “it’s the same everywhere” it doesn’t mean it’s good). Closed in classes doing activities chosen by teachers rather than chosen by themselves (what are they, chain workers? I know some schools try to include some self-directed learning principles, but not where we live, or not at a reasonable price…), parked by age groups (a completely unnatural thing) rather than by interests or abilities, and going out on a macadam’ed space only for a few minutes a day even if it’s super sunny outside…

At 3.5 years old I believe he needs to play, to meet other children, to run and jump and experiment. Not sit quietly and give in to the control needs of the teachers (perfectly understandable given the number of children per class), ignoring other upset children, and having to let me leave even if he’s not ready for it…

Don’t make me say what I didn’t, school is useful. It brings a lot to children whose parents cannot or would not be able to teach them. It has decreased the illiteracy rates in western countries. It may be good for some children, just, I believe, not mine, not now. He is not a number. He has his own needs, because of the language, his life up to now, his personality. One day he will be ready to stay in places without me – technically he was ready before the disaster with the school – like he was ready to stop with nappies, or like he’s now asking to do everything by himself (very unhappy if you don’t let him). He’s growing, he’s changing, he’s learning all the time by trying and playing and repeating what he sees and hears.

And so we meet with other parents, other children, he’s running in the forest and getting his trousers wet… Though less in winter or when sick… But just like his father’s dad or my mum used to do in the 50s. They didn’t turn out bad. If anything, they’re the most confident people I know.

In the meantime I’m also looking at alternative schools, ways to teach him (and his brother) myself – maths, English, reading and writing, arts, gardening, and all the other things my toddler is interested in, from the sound of birds to rockets, dinosaurs or playing piano… – how we can proceed if in two years he doesn’t want to go to mainstream school. How we can help him go to university if he, and his brother, wants to go one day, like we did. I believe the school system (and more generally our way of life) is changing and I want the children to benefit from that change – critical thinking and everything internet can bring. It gives me hope for them and for our society. It’s cheesy but it’s true…

Some good reads on the subject of homeschooling – for those curious and interested:

– Children taught at home learn more, article from The Guardian

– Teach your own by John Holt
– Dont waste your time homeschooling by Traci Matt with lots tips
– Learning without school by Ross Mountney
– Homeschooling the early years by Linda Dobson, big American book not very recent
– One to one A practical guide to learning at home Age 0-11 by Gareth Lewis

In general for activities to do with children in the house:
– Tinkerlab by Rachel Doorley
– 150+ screen-free activities for kids by Asia Citro
– Also I love Djeco games, Orchard Toys, Melissa and Doug games, Usborne books including their sticker books 😉

More generally, here is a link I saw yesterday with lovely videos on the subject of our lives, how we can link the way we live with the environment, live a simpler and healthier life closer to nature: Happen films


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