Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Daffodil Whisky Pigeon anyone?

Having taken the plunge to get back into my blog, I think it's important to keep going. It's just that life is so, so busy right now. Having arranged an Easter Revision week with my students in London a long time ago, I have now taken on many more students in the local area and so am fully booked this week too. Not that I'm complaining and we have treated ourselves to a coffee machine as an Easter "bonus". It's so lovely to be working from home, the sun is shining, the Dale is beautiful and the lambs are frolicking.
The children are happy to be home and kept us amused on the last part of the journey home with wild tales based on three random nouns chosen by the others - chocolate lamp-post muffins, ginger raccoon jumpers, daffodil whisky pigeons...
It's a little thing, but moments like those give me a warm glow - somehow I think that our lifestyle and home ed has nourished these imaginations, this confidence and these easy relationships in a special way, and the fruit of that is three laughing children in the car at the end of a long journey,

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Calcium - who knew?

It's a long time since I've been here - a really long time! The last photo is of my son's 14th birthday and I am now mulling over what to do for his 15th. It's tricky, because I'd like to take him to the theatre but I will only just be out of hospital and, possibly, recovering from open chest surgery. And that, I guess, it's what has really defined this last year.
I have hypercalcaemia, caused by an over-active parathyroid gland.* I'm tired - all the time. I don't sleep well, which makes me tireder. I can't quite think straight and I have to lie down if I walk more than a few miles. And I'm tired. Did I mention the tiredness? Gradually my life has got smaller and harder and just a little darker. One of the symptoms is anxiety and depression. And I'm anxious and depressed about how little I can do, how hard I find everything and how little energy I have. I'm losing my sense of what's real.
I'm also working too hard. I moved up to Yorkshire at Christmas 2012, keeping on my work as a private tutor in the London area and committed to commuting twice per month. It's worked, it's worked just fine, but gradually the work in the North has picked up and I can leave London behind in September and my partner and I - Bespoke Tutors - can base ourselves entirely at home. So we have taken on every student enquiring in our local area while still holding down a full timetable in the South.
It's all good. I love our life. I walk the dogs (that's another thing, another dog, and another two on their way in June - one to keep and one to train and sell) along the bridle-path at the back of our house every morning - stopping to feed our free-range chickens and check for eggs - and am astounded by the fact that I live here, this is my home. I get to live here every day. I love my life, I love my children, my partner, my dogs, my home and the countryside surrounding me.
But it's hard; It's really hard right now. I don't Home Ed the way I would like to. I don't run any more; I don't read; I don't paint; we don't do days out. And I don't blog. Well, I am now. A dear friend of mine said she'd be mentioning my blog on hers and it's motivated me to show up - I don't want people clicking over and finding that the last time I wrote was last June! What will the neigbours say? And it's a way of getting a little something back. A place to reflect on the good things that are happening, my three children who are thriving and to build up my goals again for that time on the horizon which glows with hope and opportunity - Post Surgery.

*Last June my GP told me that my calcium levels were high. Not a problem, I thought, just cut back on the cheese and yoghurt. No, one of my parathyroid glands has gone into overdrive and needs removing: minor surgery. The appointment to see the consultant was not until September and he sent me off for more tests. These took a few months and I finally saw the surgeon in early December. At this point I was still, naively, wondering if I might get squeezed into the Christmas period. It wasn't to be. My gland gone rogue: in the consultant's words, it is a "cheeky monkey". I have had two ultrasounds, a radioactive tracer test and a CT scan, which have all been very interesting to an A Level Physics teacher, with no positive result. Instead of key-hole surgery, the operation is more like a search and rescue. If opening my neck up with a four-inch incision doesn't find it, a heart surgeon with a video camera will come and help. If he can't find it with the camera then he'll be getting the saw to my sternum! Because the heart guy has to be available, scheduling the op became difficult task and, only by cancelling our family holiday to Spain, has it become possible to find a date in the first half of this year.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

School's out!

I have not died, emigrated or been abducted by aliens. But I have been teaching in London, taking my sons to an Open Day at Oxford University and taking the whole family Trafalgar Square and Harrods after our planned Thorpe Park day out was rained off. I've been down to the south coast to visit family and returned home to begin marking 400 exam scripts. In the midst of this we have celebrated my eldest son's 14th birthday. It's been busy and we're all a bit weary but term has ended, the sun is shining and every time I look out of the window I remember that I live in the most beautiful place in the world!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Within the blur

Life is fading out of focus - this academic year is nearly done for us and I am beginning to draw together our various activities. My eldest has completed two IGCSEs this year and is aiming to finish a Literature assignment for his "1000 Years of Poetry" course so that he can put it away over the summer. My younger two each did a maths assessment this morning. Having been very excited by the idea of a maths exam, my little girl puffed her way through an hour of angles and I was surprised at the lack of her usual neatness that her work showed. It was only on marking it with her that I reflected on the fact that it was from a Year 7 textbook and she had got pretty much all of it right. (She's 10.) My student contact for the year is nearly over, the marathon is done and there is a sense of completion.

At the same time, my thoughts are turning to the future. My partner and I are in the process of transforming our tutoring into a business and launching my English teaching here in the Dales and I am beginning to put together my part-time teaching timetable for September. I am about to start exam marking and have just this morning seen a working-from-home opportunity in a local sixth form college which I will be applying for. I am considering options for the childrens' studies for next year, including Open Learn self-study courses available from the Open University and finding centres where the children would be able to take a Modern Foreign Language IGCSE and my two boys are busy planning our schedule for this coming Thursday when we will be at the Oxford University Open Day visiting the English and Engineering departments.

The image I have is of a slide-show, where one picture blurs into the next. For a while nothing is clear, it is just a mess of colour. The old picture is going and the new is not year clear. I feel as if I am living within the blur.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

I did it!

I did it. All 23.1 miles of it. The Swaledale marathon. It was pretty hilly, it was very hot, and it was a blast. The best jam sandwich I've ever eaten at 13 miles, ankle-deep mud at 20 and a hot meal at the end. Today has been the first day I've been able to take the dog on a decent walk and come down the stairs without wanting to cry. It's been a long and hard road and I thought that running in snow and bogs was never going to end, but I did it.


I'm tired. I''m tired of worrying if they're ok and if I'm doing enough, if I'm good enough. I'm tired of worrying that, right now, they are not learning anything.( I remember feeling that way while I changed the baby's nappy and my  eldest watched Teletubbies.) I'm tired of the relentless argument in my head that it really is ok, they really are learning and that they really are at least as educated as their schooled peers. I'm tired of the doubt. I'm tired hearing that the children feel an insidious pressure to go to school, to achieve 10 A*s and that owning a tea-room isn't ambition enough.
When they are excited about grasping vertically opposite angles, or proving the formula for interior angles or writing an essay comparing Shakespearean sonnet form to Spenserian, my confidence flashes for a moment and is gone, like a match flame.
When they are bored, or sneaky, or ungracious, or can't recite their times-tables, the slow-burn of my fear deepens.
I wouldn't have lived any other way. I just wish it wasn't so darn scary. And I wish I wasn't so tired.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Where am I looking?

It's that time of year again. The time of year when the sun is shining, the summer feels tangible, a picnic beckons and formal education feels like too hard a mountain to climb. We are all tired. My eldest is growing weary of revision: he has one more paper to go and he will have completed two IGCSEs. The younger two performed in the Swaledale Festival on Sunday: they played the parts of ghostly children in the poignant and funny, locally written "Deckchairs". I am beginning to panic that we haven't done "enough" this year, that there isn't enough on paper, that the fictional inspector would not be satisfied, that the voices of discontent would be, well, discontent.
I can see that what I often fail to do it to count our successes as weighty as our failures, that new and unexpected opportunities do not matter to me as much as the plans that got left behind. I like to tick boxes, see completed workbooks and have something to show on paper for a year's education.
What I do have to show is three happy, healthy and thriving children. They are increasingly independent and self-motivated. They have all become much fitter and eat more healthily since our move North. My eldest has taken his first qualifications. We have read books, studied maths and science, become part of the local parish church, my daughter has taken up dance, my middle son joined his first football team and my eldest become part of Youth Theatre in Richmond. For my own sake, I can keep repeating their achievements but I'm not sure that it really matters (or is very interesting to read), what matters is that we keep living this life that we have chosen, that the children keep on developing and growing and that I turn my eyes from what we haven't done to what we are, this moment, actually doing.