Competitive. Tis a dirty word in some of the circles I hang out in.
Is that time of year when all eyes are on our young and how they have done for their GCSEs, A Levels and other forms of academic assessments. The home-ed community isn’t immune to the same pressure but we do mighty well at stemming the excitement lest we come across as being that fussed about it.
Throughout our home educating adventures, we have been spurred on by the tales of home educating children who have managed to bypass all formal qualifications pre-requisites and being accepted into Oxbridge purely on the merit of their portfolio / interview / attitude / passion / radical haircut / awesomeness or even for something as insane as just having been home educated. I’m not sure how many of these there were but I suspect they are fewer than I’d like to think and I suspect it isn’t as cut and dry as that.
There does seem to be this wishful thinking amongst some home educating circles that by proclaiming to have been home educated, the formal academic world will automatically associate this as being a marker of industrious, self-motivated, disciplined individuals with intelligence untampered by the constrains of formal education and naturally developed.
Whilst I cannot prove that this isn’t true, I surely am not comfortable in resting on my laurel.
Sure I KNOW my children are awesome. They are immensely cool. They’re unique. We all think that of our children and so we should, our children deserve it. However, I’m sort of getting the feeling that not everyone is going to just take my word for it. And fuck yeah, why should they? Unless we want to see nepotism spreading far and wide. So ‘parent’ I will do as I ignore just how dirty that word has become recently in the various circles I hover. I don’t need to prefix my ‘parenting’ with descriptions of being a guide, or a facilitator, enabler or provider. I parent. It’s a pretty good enough word in my world.
Recently, it has struck me how some home-ed parents do believe that there is harm in encouraging children in ‘doing’. Unlike Slaveboy and I, who both believe in momentum and pondering less and doing more, there are people who believe that their children should only do (or not for that matter) what they wish to do, if and when they want to, with no expectations of commitment or sense of responsibility.
And fair enough, and I don’t have to raise their children and “thank fuck for that” comes to mind ever so easily.
However, doing nothing is not an option in our family. Tumbleweed is only amusing in spaghetti westerns and sitting on one’s hands and doing nothing can only be beneficial when dealing with birth and death (and sometimes tax returns, if you’re a charmed bugger like Slaveboy).
We encourage competitiveness in our sproglettes. Not necessarily with others but definitely with their own selves. We encourage them to look at their performance objectively, to consider if they could do better, and if pursuing it further is an worthwhile option (and not just because it is an easy option).
During my degree level teacher training course, we had this exercise where we were asked to pose ourselves on this continuum according to how competitive we consider ourselves to be. Fred, our tutor was keen to have me plot myself on this continuum, and unsurprising to him, I placed myself quite close to the extreme end of ‘not competitive at all’.
This was pretty much true to how I conducted myself throughout my school years. I took myself out of gear and coasted through it, shirked away from any activities where a team would be dependent on my participation and performance. Heavens forbid that I was seen responsible for the success or failure of a team.
I do wonder if this had anything to do with having had a pretty much ‘only child’ existence despite having five other siblings, all much older and either living in our second home in another state or at a boarding school. I hardly experienced any sibling rivalry, taunting or that benign sisterly bitching. I saw my actions as my own, and of no consequence to others.
And if I am to be honest, it isn’t that I wasn’t competitive (which in itself, I think is a perfectly acceptable character trait), I simply did not know how to deal with failure. Failing to me was a full stop in a sentence. A life defining action. A living proof that I simply did not try hard enough.
Noone told me that it was ok to fail. That you could try your damnest, and you could still fail. And that it doesn’t make you a lesser person. Just a disappointed one. Maybe it is when you allow your failure to define you and excuse you from being the person you could become, maybe that is when you become a broken person.
We are currently at the brink of our two oldest children leaving home education to enter further education. Comments have been noted from friends who questioned the appropriateness of exposing our 14 and 15 year olds to the mature world of older college students. This perplexes me because in OUR experience of home educating, the sproglettes have been interacting in mixed are social circles all the time. We don’t only have friends who are our crowds because their children are friends to our sproglettes and nor do we actively seek these friendships out.
We have the charming but socially inept ageing old rocker regularly visiting, who lives at home looking after his elderly parents. He’d grace us with help around the house, impromptu lessons with the sproglettes on our wild poppies and Haribo sweets so insane in amount that only a childless man would consider it ok to give to children.
Between the recovering alcoholic, the manic methodone dependent tortured writer, the cross-dressing nurse and the tolerated acquaintance with the letters D E S T R forever etched on his chest because he ran out of space when he tried to carve the word DESTROY on it, the sproglettes have met all manners of the weird and not so wonderful.
Call us irresponsible, but this is OUR reality. The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle that Izzy The Rockstar might witness whilst on his Jazz course is not going to be much different to the ones he’s witnessed at the gigs he’s been helping out at with Slaveboy. If anything, Izzy The Rockstar has a more realistic view of what a prevailing myth the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle is. Reality doesn’t hit any better than when faced with a tired old lonely man with no family to call his own and vices he can’t afford who thinks he still looks good in spandex.
Our sproglettes see Slaveboy and I as we come. Warts and all. Us at our most unreasonable, us at most elated, us fucking up and having to eat humble pie and having to apologise for being such shits. Us at our lowest, fifteen months ago with the Seventh Wonder in Special Care and them pulling together as siblings and keeping the home fire burning.
If surviving your Bonnie & Clyde parents isn’t good enough preparation for the real world (whatever that means as I believe my children have been in it from the start), then I don’t know what is.