Week in the Life: Home Ed.

Most weeks we’re a whirl of activity. It often feels as if we’re either getting ready to go out or clearing up from being out. My hallway is usually home to haphazard piles of muddy shoes and half emptied rucksacks. The water bottles and coffee flasks are used so much they live in the kitchen window. 

But this week, we’ve relaxed. Aside from swimming and a brief trip to pick up some vegetables, we’ve not left the house.

Which, I’ll admit, is not a great advert for that age old debate on whether home educated children are socialised enough. 

Instead we’ve done maths, though I can’t say the kids were overly inspired. We’ve worked our way through some craft kits that have been gathering dust since 2010 or thereabouts. The boys look online to plan our trip to Wales. We paint rocks to join the craze of Derbyshire Rocks. We’ve cooked a new recipe every day in a bid to bring something new to the mundanity of the routine: prepare, cook, clean. Prepare, cook, clean. 

I swear, when these boys leave home, I am boarding up this kitchen, like a beach cafĂ© in winter, and declaring it CLOSED. 

My eldest has catalogued our trip to the Isle of Wight in his Avengers notepad. Endless pages of words, capitals and lowercase all mixed together in crazily wonky lines. I smile with the kind of joy only a mother can muster as I realise he can spell ‘shipwreck’ but struggles with ‘out’. And as for ‘museum’…..’m-you-zee-um’. Nice try, kid. But I smile and encourage and try not to worry what our friends think as he so proudly shows off his work at a friend’s birthday party. 

His smile when he realises people can read what he’s written – that, right there, makes his struggle with writing so worthwhile. It’s finally sinking in and my heart is soaring with pride. 

The days have been slow, unravelling gently like a ball of twine. The rain never really goes away and every time we look outside it’s still dark and grey. But it’s needed, this slower pace, from time to time. 

I’ve finally swept the sand up from the floors that we brought home in our shoes and clothes. There’s still a dead crab on my kitchen counter and bags of shells I have no home for. I want to hold on to them, as if they might magically transport me back to the beach. I trace the shells of oysters with my fingertips, inhaling an imaginary scent of the ocean that’s faded from memory already.

I live about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get in this country. And I wonder how I managed that. 


Fraught

Things have felt fraught these last few days. I find myself crabby and uninspired. It feels as if I don’t want to be here. 

I want some solitude and fresh air. Neither are seemingly possible. 

My temper flares, the gnarled hands of claustrophobia tightening around my throat. And all I can do is keep pushing through it, reminding myself that everything I do is a choice. 

Today, I’m choosing to be softer. A little less angular. A little less hard. A little less caught up with all the things I ‘should’ be doing.

Today I merely plan to love my kids and go easy on myself. 

Isle of Wight

We’ve been in the Isle of Wight this last week. 

It’s been amazing.

6 a.m. rolls around and I slip on my shoes to take Muttley down to the beach. We watch the sun rise over the ocean, the lights  of waiting ships twinkling softly in the watery light. The beach is empty and it’s a beautiful way to start the day. 

The boys join me one day and spend time dipping in the rockpools while the tide is out. By lunchtime there is no sign of the rocks beneath the water so instead they skim stones on the water and find stones with holes in for me to make jewellery. 

I could list all the things we did this week, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’ll briefly mention that we spent time with one of my most favourite people. We visited beach after beach, eating chips and ice cream. We found crabs on the shoreline. After getting soaked in the rain we slip into pyjamas and dry off in front of the fire. Mostly, we just enjoyed being a family. 

I sit looking through the photos of another batch of memories, pleased that we’re blessed enough to be able to come here time and time again. 

It takes us 8 hours to get home in a car filled with soggy laundry, half a beach worth of sand and bags of shells.

I miss the ocean already. 

Muttley

I took Muttley out tonight, to my favourite place. It’s a place I don’t share with anyone. I never take friends or mention it to anyone – it’s mine. 

Mile upon mile of fields in the middle of nowhere. A beautiful stone church with fallen gravestones and numerous famous ghost stories. A lake over which the sun sets with such grace it makes you stop a while. 

I park up, loosen my hair from its tight plait and shrug on my jacket. Muttley steps into his harness and then waits patiently as I climb over the first wooden stile into a field full of wildflowers. 

The path climbs steadily upwards and the higher I get, the more ferociously the wind blows through my loose hair. Tears gather at the corners of my eyes, the way they always do when I’m walking into the wind. 

Miles pass me by, and I circle back onto the road where we parked. The sun is beginning to set, the day disappearing into darkness with each step I take. 

It’s blissful. It’s silent. It’s the solitude I’ve so desperately needed these last few days. 

Rosliston Forestry Centre

I was desperate to get out this morning, in some bizarre attempt to convince myself that the weather wasn’t that bad. It was. We packed up soup and shiny red apples before grabbing rain jackets and piling into the car. 

The journey to Rosliston is usually pretty scenic. Today I found myself stuck on a long and winding road with approximately two hundred cyclists – none of which had an ounce of courtesy and left no space for cars to pass them. Riding three/four abreast in clusters of up to twenty, these Lycra-clad, numbered numpties held no regard for the Highway Code and left me part shaking with nerves and part ready to commit murder.

But I digress.

Finally arriving at Rosliston, we find the play area blissfully deserted, which is a good start to calm my mind of the urge to bludgeon a cyclist or two to an early death. 

We attempt to follow the Science Trail but somehow or another we end up heading in the wrong direction. We followed the blue arrows which we (wrongly) assumed correlated to the path marked in blue on the map. 

Am I digressing again? 

We find a Science Trail board and I try to explain how a sundial works. Instead I confuse myself – not helped by a complete lack of sunshine and 3 boys asking a thousand questions all at once. 

The following quote, or something similar, is generally attributed to Einstein, so we’ll stick with that:

And thus, I realised that I’m a little clueless. This is a science trail for children. The board asks, what would be different about a sundial at the North Pole? 

Um…….. 

So I think maybe we’ll educate me on sundials and in due course I might be able to explain it to a six year old. 

We carry on with the science trail until a board asks us to cross a little suspension bridge – which would have been grand had it not been roped off with ten tonne of orange plastic netting. 

Another board tells us to follow the track to the hammock, to which the boys respond with excitement – except there is no hammock, only two posts and an abundance of nettles where the hammock should be. 

We stopped in the den to see if we could spot any wildlife, but really unhelpfully, all the bird feeders were empty and one bird table knocked over. As a measly consolation prize my eldest exclaims ‘I can hear a pigeon!’ which he proceeds to frighten the life out of by jumping out of the den screeching ‘there he is, mum!’ 

My youngest spills his soup all over the floor, requiring a clean up of epic proportions. Once the soup was cleared, I had to sacrifice my own soup to appease a teary-eyed soul with a grumbling belly. 

On a brighter note, the den is beautifully decorated with painted animals. 

And maybe it’s nice here. Maybe I’m just grumpy today. Maybe there’s too many things wrong that I’d usually overlook. But I didn’t enjoy this trip. When the boys suggested we head back to the car I wholeheartedly agreed, still muttering under my breath about cyclists and sundials and science trails.

We drive home to a fraught afternoon where my mood doesn’t improve and I put the boys to bed early in an attempt to regain a few snippets of sanity. 

We managed a few moments of fun this afternoon making giant bubbles, but then the rain and wind that had temporarily settled decided to return with alarming ferocity. We called it a day.

Now I sit drinking tea, feeling sorry for myself, for a bad day of my own making. 

More tea. Bath. Mindless T.V. with a tired husband. Early night. 

Then a new start in the morning with these beautiful boys of mine.