Amongst Other Things.

This weeks blog is an ‘amongst other things’ one, as opposed to an Autonomous Education one. Once a year I go to a Women’s Conference in Manchester over the May bank holiday weekend. Eleven years ago I co-founded the group that runs the conference and nowadays a hundred or so people from around the world come for a weekend of workshops and parties and have a wonderful time. Jessy went to Sheffield on Thursday and will be coming back sometime today. He loves going to stay with my ex and her fiancee, so I can enjoy myself knowing that he’s happy with his little holiday too.

This year was a little different for me. I’ve been doing a Shamanic Women’s Course which consists of several sessions over the space of a few months. One of these days fell on the Saturday that I’d usually be at my conference, and I decided that this year I needed and wanted to be at the Shamanic Course that day. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to explore new things, move forwards in a positive way in my life, and get more in touch with my own spirituality. Sharing this journey with a group of women feels powerful and delightful. Conference, on the other hand has an energetic, intellectually sexual energy; it’s lively and upbeat and deliciously carnal. Combining the two gave me a feeling of balance which suits me at the moment.

Eagle Woman

Eagle Woman

I’m not sure if it’s my age, or the stage of life I’m at, but I’m in a process of change and reflection at the moment. I felt different this year. I used this weekend as an opportunity to catch up with friends from around the world who I often only see during this weekend. I got to know some new people, in particular one young woman who despite making me feel very old, reassured me that the ‘youth of today’ can still be politically minded, intelligent, self aware people. I spent quite a lot of time with my ex partner who is now my good friend, despite the fact that we live only minutes away from one another and see each other every week at home ed activities! It was good to re-connect on a level that didn’t involve constant juggling of our children’s needs and wants! It was good to hear from others that things change and that sometimes we can all feel a little lost, even in the communities we have been part of for many years.

My energy was calmer. I watched as others around me grasped every opportunity for connection and pleasure in a myriad of ways that would leave most people’s heads spinning. I watched the connection between long term partners and the buzz of new connections made. I listened to sighs and screams and everything in betweens. I grinned, smirked, giggled and cringed. I felt a little outside of it all this year where as previously I’d have been diving in with the rest. The fun of flirtation left me with a happy glow and I had enough cuddles to keep my heart warm for a while. I barely saw my house guests, but I couldn’t have asked for better ones and it was lovely to end the weekend over mugs of tea, and crumpets before they headed home.

I think this break came at the right time. Jessy will be home later today and then I’m sure my head will be back to buzzing over what to do for the best where my wonderful little boy is concerned. My head is like a pendulum at the moment and the constant swinging back and forth is driving me a little crazy, to the point where I’m not sleeping very well and now have a nasty cold. A little time out for myself was just perfect to re-charge and gather my energy to move forward. Somebody lovely wrote some heartwarming and confidence boosting things about me on little post-it notes and and gave them to me to keep. Little treasures like that really help during a difficult time and I’ve already smiled reading them today. Yet again I feel blessed and grateful for the multitude of amazing people I have in my life. Even the ones I rarely see are important which I remember every year over conference weekend.

Just because it's cute!

Just because it’s cute!

Everything and Nothing has changed.

This week feels like a bit of a blur. My mind has been buzzing and I haven’t slept as well as usual. I feel as if everything and nothing has changed and that I’ve run a mental marathon. I’m not sure if I’ve ended up back where I started or whether I’m somewhere entirely new. I haven’t recorded a thing in Jessy’s Home education journal. I go through phases where I record what we do in a lot of detail (which is useful for when I write my blog!) and phases where I don’t write down anything at all. It’s just one of the many cycles I’ve noticed in our autonomous education journey. When I record a lot it motivates me. Every moment feels like an opportunity and I like the buzz of feelingĀ  ‘on the ball’. These times are great for keeping up my confidence. After a while of doing this I inevitably take a gradual slide where I relax more and more. These times are good for remembering that one of the things I value about home ed is the possibility of taking life a little slower, appreciating lazy pyjama days and generally taking time to relax. I think it must be quite common. I’m not sure that this time was a part of that lazy slide though, I think I’ve just been too preoccupied with other thoughts. This is where our weekly routine is helpful. The same things happen: Monday – Wood School, Tuesday – Meet with friends or hang out at home, Wednesday – Adventure Playground Home Ed meet, or local park meet, Thursday – Wood School, Friday – Highfields Park. It’s good to be able to trundle through the days knowing that Jessy and I both get to spend time with friends, get time together and have some time apart. It’s a good balance.

Does anyone else ever feel like the Universe suddenly drops a bomb on you? That’s what I felt like last week. To put it other ways it felt like the blinkers came off, or I suddenly saw the wood despite the trees, the puzzle pieces came together. You get the picture. The thing is that once I had the picture I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I’m being deliberately vague, because despite a bit of a Facebook faux pas where I didn’t realise my posts to a group were public, I hadn’t really wanted to voice the specifics to the world and her friends. So let’s say, for the sake of convenience that the picture was of a giraffe. All of a sudden I felt certain that my son is actually a giraffe. I kind of wanted to do this:

You know ... curl up in a ball and hide from the world.

You know … curl up in a ball and hide from the world.

Do you like the way I illustrated that with a cute picture of my cat? After that, I wanted to make the picture clearer and I felt as if someone professional needed to do that for me. I wanted someone with specialised authority to say, ‘yes indeed, that is a picture of a giraffe. It appears you have a giraffe. Here are some very useful things you can do to help giraffes and you have our permission to do them.’ I made an appointment to see my GP, hoping that he would make me an appointment with someone who could tell me if my instincts are right. Then I had a very long talk with my sister one evening and came away feeling completely different. Yes, we’ve had a tough time lately, but over all I have a happy healthy child who is enjoying life. He has his own challenges as we all do, but I feel very aware of his strengths and weaknesses. I think the hardest thing to realise is that Jessy gives me nearly all the answers I need if I just listen to him. For example, he is very clear that he likes to have rules. The other week he said, “I love Cubs. They’re very strict!” He was upset when I took the list of rules down from the fridge that I put up temporarily when my niece and nephews came to stay. The other day he spent the morning making a chart where he allocated points to the food we eat containing refined sugar. We have 7 points a week with a maximum of 2 per day and any days over 1 point must be made up for the next day. He has been a lot more relaxed about sugary foods since he made the chart.

Jessy's chart of refined sugar points.

Jessy’s chart of refined sugar points.

It amuses me that the largest space on the chart is dedicated to the marshmallow sandwich he got on his Cubs Trip to the beach on Saturday! I doubt we will ever have another marshmallow sandwich in the house! They had awful luck with the weather for a beach trip, but he came home all beaming smiles excited about being on the winning team for the sandcastle competition.

Marshmallow sandwich from the beach trip.

Marshmallow sandwich from the beach trip.

For the answers he can’t necessarily provide I feel that I’m very lucky with my support networks. Thank you to the Mums who have supported me this week in person, online and over the phone. The chats have been invaluable for everything from feeling like I’m not imagining things to getting some solid practical tips. I think the Universe has a sense of humour. I spent years trying to be a co-operative, negotiating kind of Mum, feeling it is kinder and more respectful. I have worked for a teamwork approach rather than an authoritarian one. It appears though that my little fellow wants something a little different.

I think my approach has often been confusing for him, so I’ve worked hard this week on making requests more straight forward, removing the ambiguity and using simpler, clearer language. It has helped immeasurably! I’ve often said about Jessy “he doesn’t have a compliant bone in his body!” with equal measures of pride and frustration! It seems I was wrong, it’s just that what I’ve been asking often isn’t clear to him. Changing from “I think it would be a good idea if you get changed now as we’re going out soon and I don’t want to be late” to “get changed now please” has made a world of difference! I had to smile today. I was a little anxious as I’d let a rule slide and allowed Jessy extra time on the computer to relax as we’ve had less time in lately. When I wanted him to come off I said “you’ve been on the computer for a really long time now so I would really like you to think about coming off soon”. He paused for a moment and then said very matter of factly “Ok, I’ll think about it.” He wasn’t ‘talking back’ or ignoring me, he was doing exactly what I had asked him to do! I realised, and said instead, “let’s set a time. Please come off at 14.30”. “Ok” he said.

I feel like it is still ok to explore and learn, but I’m going to stick with figuring this out ourselves for now. My sister said to me, “If you have to give him a label then give him your own label!” The first thing that popped into my head was ‘Jessy the Wonder-Quirk!’ I am the proud Mum of the one and only Jessy the Wonder-Quirk and we’re on a wonderful adventure together!

Long live Jessy the Wonder-Quirk!

Long live Jessy the Wonder-Quirk!

Sinking: Quicksand and Beyond

I didn’t write my blog last week because it was my niece’s birthday and instead of going to Cubs we went out for a Japanese meal with my sister, my niece and nephews, and Jessy’s Uncle and Nana.

Me with my 15 year old nephew Charlie, Jessy and my niece Anais on her 10th birthday meal.

Me with my 15 year old nephew Charlie, Jessy and my niece Anais on her 10th birthday meal.

It feels a long time ago that Jessy and I headed out for a day trip to Corby beach near Liverpool with my friends W and her 5 year old son, D. It turned out to be quite an eventful trip as I sunk in quick sand up to my knees! I had to leave my boots behind and wade through, falling as I went with my arm also disappearing into the sinking sludgy sand. It was pretty frightening! We flagged down some lifeguards to rescue my boots, but the journey home wasn’t much fun as I was caked in wet muddy sand. Add to that the rotten crab claw Jessy had picked up which covered his hands in unbelievably foul-smelling rancid dead crab juice and it didn’t turn out to be the best day I’ve ever had! After 2 trains I gave up and we got a taxi the rest of the way home! Despite the drama the boys enjoyed themselves and the company was good! We also got to see the sculpture installation by Antony Gormley called ‘another place’. It consists of many human figures dotted across the beach which sink and appear with the tide.

One of the figures in the art installation.

One of the figures in the art installation.

Jessy on Corby Beach

Jessy on Corby Beach

Jessy has found a new interest in construction. He spent his pocket money on a construction kit which uses ‘kid wood’, a kind of foam which acts as a wood substitute. The tools are plastic allowing a mess free and safer way to try out construction work. Jessy thinks it is brilliant which I’ve been a little surprised about considering he does real woodcraft using real tools at Wood School. He says he likes not having to worry about hurting himself which I think frees him up to think more about the construction. His first creation was something he pieced together as he went along. He calls it the ‘Jessymabob’.

The Jessymabob in mid construction. (Jessy was dressed in his Hogwarts uniform!)

The Jessymabob in mid construction. (Jessy was dressed in his Hogwarts uniform!)

The finished Jessymabob along with a person he made afterwards.

The finished Jessymabob along with a person he made afterwards.

As he liked it so much I ordered a larger kit and some spare kid-wood and tools. Jessy made this chest with hinged lid with a little assistance from me. He was very proud of it.

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We’ve watched some interesting videos this week. Firstly the world’s smallest ever video ‘A boy and his atom’, made with actual atoms!

We watched the supporting videos about how it was made too. Jessy asked about conception and foetal development. It’s on our minds at the moment as I’m charting my ovulation in order to have fertility treatment. He asked about my miscarriage and wanted to know how babies develop so we watched some videos about that and then ended up watching a documentary about conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. That led to some interesting discussions about thinking about the feelings of others and imagining about how it would feel to have people take pictures of you because you looked different. The twins had said they found it upsetting and Jessy was asking why.

This week we began my latest idea to get Jessy involved in chores around the home and it has certainly been the most successful so far. I call it ‘Happy House Hour’. It’s an idea from FlyLady that I used to do years ago. Once a week you spend an hour doing housework but you only work on each thing for 10 minutes. It makes it feel more manageable and it’s surprising what you can get done! I put a strong focus on us doing this with a happy attitude. We put on Jessy’s ‘Come and Praise’ CD to jolly us along. It went brilliantly. The 10 minute tasks seemed very manageable to Jessy and he joined in with a big smile and felt great afterwards. He said our house felt so happy he wanted to draw smiley faces all over it!

I’d love to say that this has been the general attitude in our home lately, but if I’m honest we’ve been having a difficult time. Jessy and I seem to frequently fall into ruts of wasting large amounts of time arguing and it’s been particularly bad the last few weeks. It’s led to me feeling quite miserable. I’ve cried a lot this week and had days where I’ve felt like an utter failure, convinced Jessy will end up on an awful talk show regurgitating the things I’ve said in my worst and most angry moments. šŸ˜¦

I have some things on my mind related to this ongoing conflict which I’m not going to post about here yet but may end up talking about if my ideas come to anything. Some days have been wonderful. The day we did Happy House Hour was a beautiful flow of co-operation and happiness, however, the next morning was awful and left Jessy so out of sorts he spent the morning trying to climb over the very high entrance gates at Wood School needing two teachers to stay with him. They called me to explain the problem, and I was about to go and pick him up when we decided that they could go and sit with him in the potting shed to help him calm down. I actually felt better about leaving him there where the teachers are all NVC (Non Violent Communication) trained and I knew they would handle him better than I was managing!

It’s nerve-racking to put this stuff in a blog, but I feel that as parents we owe each other a little honesty. It’s lovely to post about out activities and our happy days in the park, but perhaps it is then only fair to post about when it is tough. So I’ve been sinking. It started with the quick sand and then carried on at home. I’ll just keep doing the best I can.

Jessy by the climbing rock at Longford Park last Tuesday.