The great school dilemma

I have never been one to follow the norm unquestioningly. I think that most things need to be vigorously dissected and pulled apart and shaken around before you accept them. So when it comes to my kid’s education it is no different.

My passion for life extends to a passion and a love of learning; this is where I part ways with the current education system. Nothing kills natural curiosity and desire to learn quicker than being told what, when and how to learn by someone else. They decide when you have had enough, even though you might just be getting into what you were doing and they say it is now time to move onto the next prescribed subject limited by some nebulous authority that has randomly picked some content as more valuable than another and assigned some higher value to it by saying the all import words – ‘this is for marks’. With these 4 little words you change this topic into something now ‘more’ worthwhile of knowing and deem other information less valuable. When in fact the anatomy of the butterfly might be more exciting to some than the chosen locust.

We are taught not to question but rather to blindly do what we are told, learn what we need to so as to get the grades we need for move to the next level of random information. You learn how to answer question to work with the system rather than how to engage with content in a meaningful challenging way.

It is ridiculous to think that everyone of the same age is going to be on the same level or interested in the same things, or that kids of the same age miraculously have great knowledge and skills to pass on to one another. In traditional cultures and in deed in much of life we learn by watching those older or more experience than ourselves and we hone our skills but teaching others.

I read Dumbing us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto teacher of 26 years who eventually quit because he could no longer take part in a system that destroys lives by destroying minds. It is a book well worth reading and contains one of his speeches titled, “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” Gatto describes the seven lessons that are taught by school teachers, whether they know it or not. He writes:

The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach dis-connections….Even in the best of schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions….Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working along with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess….In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work…or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny.

The second lesson I teach is class position….The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class….My job is to make them like being locked together with children who bear numbers like their own.…If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes….That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

The third lesson I teach is indifference….When the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch….Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.

The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestinated chain of command.

The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency….It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives….[Only], the teacher can determine what my kids must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions, which I then enforce. If I’m told that evolution is a fact instead of a theory, I transmit that as ordered, punishing deviants who resist what I have been told to tell them to think….Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm….Bad kids fight this, of course, even though they lack the concepts to know what they are fighting, struggling to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn and when they will learn it…Fortunately there are tested procedures to break the will of those who resist; it is more difficult, naturally, if the kids have respectable parents who come to their aid, but that happens less and less in spite of the bad reputation of schools. No middle-class parents I have ever met actually believe that their kid’s school is one of the bad ones. No one single parent in twenty-six years of teaching.

The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem….The lesson of report cards, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.

The seventh lesson I teach is that one can’t hide. I teach students they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by myself and my colleagues….The meaning of constant surveillance and denial of privacy is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate.

These are not lessons I want my kids to learn, I want their natural curiosity and love for learning to dictate what, when and how the learn. People always raise the same objections to Home schooling, the say that the kids will lack in socializing, that I am not a trained teacher and that it is the norm and so needs to be followed or they won’t be able to go to university.

Socializing: as I said earlier, to imagine that kids of the same age all thrown together have any great social skill so teach each other is crazy. True socialization is about learning how our society works and being able to function in it, no where else in society again will kids lumped with only people of the same ages and experience, outside the walls of school in the real world people of different ages and varying levels of life experience and knowledge interact and it is often only out side of school that we finally learn to function as part of this society. Teaching children to interact with a wide variety of ages and to learn from all sort of people is not something I see as being limited to a school environment. Most of us did not get on with or were friendly with all the kids in out class or year group anyway, children really only need a few close friend with which to grow, disagree, learn and play.

As for not being a trained teacher, I love my kids more than any teacher and have their best interest at heart. Any literate parent can facilitate what a child needs to know, besides basic numeracy and literacy the content is of little importance, knowledge is forever changing and so what children need to know is how to access this ever changing information and how to engage with it is a way that promote critical thinking and is meaning to them. What I don’t know, I will learn with them and what is beyond my realm I will outsource. I guess being a nurse educator and have lectured for a number of years gives me some educational background but it is not that I am more or less qualified than any teacher, it is that I am more interested in my kids.

Getting into university: by the time a child that has been given the responsibility for their own learning gets to the age that they want to go on and study further, they will know that there are entrance requirement and exams that need to be passed. At this stage the desire to obtain a qualification from a university in order to pursue a career that interest them is the motivating force and we will then get the curriculum and information that they need to pass the exam to get into university. It is worth noting that in a lot of countries where home schooling takes place, the top results for university entrance are often home schooled children.

So now to my dilemma, as a single mom needing to work to make a living for us, how to I make the above a reality? Watch this space…

Not such a great day

Today was one of those days when the reality of my situation really hit me. Most of the time you just carry on, life is busy and experiences happen. You just go with where life takes you, even if sometimes the timing of things leaves a lot to be desired.

But then there are days which are not so good, maybe it was the fact that the day started with taking Rachel to a course for divorced kids. Not exactly the type of social group and course that one pictures happening in your child’s life when you have them. Knowing that no matter how much you are doing the right thing that there are casualties in this process. That despite your best efforts they are going to get hurt. Sometime even though you know being selfish and doing what is right for yourself will have the best outcome for everybody in the end, it is hard to think that my decisions change their reality. And yes I truly believe that it will be for the best but no kid walks away from divorce unscathed. To heal yourself you hurt them, but not being true to yourself damages you all more in the end anyway.

The rest of the day I was reminded of being alone. I should be so used to it by now. With my ex having worked on an oil rig for so much of the time I used to go to a lot of social events on my own with the kids. Even when he was with me, there was no connection, no signs of affection, no bond. It was as lonely with him there as it was without.

Now that I am out the other side, I see how much I crave to have that connection with someone. I am tired of doing it all alone and yet I don’t just want a relationship for the sake of it. I long to share who I am with someone. I want that person who is not only a practical help but whose eyes catch you across the room and you know you are theirs and that you share you lives willingly and totally. I want the person who comes and puts their arms around me and shows how much they love me.

As I said it is not a good day, the reality is very different and there is no point is spiralling myself down thinking of all that could be different. I have the most amazing people in my life who love me and for the rest I will wait…

My pink day

If there is anyone who understands my desire for pink hair it is my good friend Janine. She has the most awesome purple hair. The kids and I went to Klerksdorp to visit Janine and her family. The mission: to catch up with a great friend and to have my hair done with permanent pink rather than the wash out stuff I had been using to date. Her Aunty has a salon next to her house and they had ordered some special dye for me.

Well Mission accomplished. We had such a great trip, only pity was that it was just too short. Janine is one of my on line chat buddies who has become a real life best friend. She and her wonderful hubby and 2 beautiful girls made our stay so much fun.

Sitting up late, drinking sherry and chatting with a friend who loves you just the way you are and understands the need to be a little different is so precious. Life at the moment is anything but easy but it is people like Janine that carry you through.

So from 10am-3pm this is what I did

Blond highlights (the highlights that this pink is done on were put in at the beginning of May so my roots are in much need of help.)
pink hair
pink hair

pink hair
pink hair

Left over hair dyed my natural colour:
pink hair

Coffee and wait:
pink hair

Rince. (Can you belive my hair was the same colour as my daughters when I was a kid?)
pink hair
pink hair

The blond before the pink:
pink hair

Adding pink:
pink hair
pink hair

Wait:
pink hair

Rince again:
pink hair
look at Nicci’s hands!
pink hair

Cut:
pink hair

Blow dry:

pink hair
pink hair

The end:
pink hair
pink hair
pink hair
I hate the way my nose wrikles up when I smile, I have been told it is cute – maybe it is in the eye of the beholder
pink hair

A huge thanks to Janine for organising this for me and helping look after my kids during the day. And to Nicci at Salon Gigi thanks a million I totally love it!!!

How much power should the past have?

I was talking to a friend today and it got me thinking about how much power we let the past hold over the way we think and feel now. I have just resigned myself to believing stuff about myself and the way others will see me as a result of past memories, but maybe the past is only as powerful as we let it be? There are things that I am terrified of doing or not, that I have been blaming on my past. Excuse me a bit vague and while there are very specific fears I have, it is more the idea of this power that fascinates me.

Why do we let these memories shape so much of what we do in the present? I accept that the past shapes us into what we are today, but is this an excuse for holding onto things that damage us? While we can’t just discard them and they have value in what they have taught us, surely we control the power they have over our future actions. I think sometimes we feeding into a memory because changing it takes self reflection. If you let go of an idea that a memory holds then you have to replace it with something and be willing to live that reality rather.

I don’t think this is easy by any means but I have started looking at some of the stuff I have included into my idea of myself as a person, stuff that I have assimilated from other people’s reactions and comments. Some have become so ingrained that I have not questioned them in years. Recently 2 new friends have challenged this reality of me and I have had to re-think painful stuff and let go of things that are holding me back. The notion that I have to carry these negative ideas with me always is just stupid. Of course not everyone is going to like me, BUT those that like the real me for who I am, are the ones that I want in my life anyway, the rest well who cares.

Love

What is love? It inspires people to express themselves in all sorts of ways; music, art, dance, poetry, writing etc. The emotion in some of these art forms is almost tangible, you can feel it reaching out at you across the medium of expression. I know I have never felt love like that. Not in the true sense of the word. I have felt lust, affection, even a connection with some people but not true love. Just thinking about how my kids make me feel inside, then there is no man who has come even close to stirring a comparable feeling. While it will obviously be a very different kind of love it is the intensity of what I feel for my kids that has never been there for a man before.

I think part of the problem may have been selling myself short. I gave up on the notion of romantic love quite young and as such was willing to put up with less than ideal as I was sure it was as good as one could expect. As long as it was not all bad then surely that was okay? Well 8 years down the line I look back and see that it was not okay. Compromise on some levels is always needed in a relationship but to such an extent where you as a person gets lost and is not valued or cherished is not okay.

I read a blog post recently on the 5 Mistakes Women Make it is well worth a read and I could identify with so much of it

I want to be someone else’s world and for them to be the same to me. I want to be the one that makes their face light up when I enter the room. I want to be the prize that they are willing to go out of their way to obtain. I want to give all of my thoughts and deep desires. I am quite a fiery person and have come to realize that what I need is someone that is strong enough to stand up to my temper but in a way that is diffusive and not explosive. Someone is going to have to rock my world for me to make a commitment again. I always thought I was so afraid of being alone, now I would rather be alone than be lonely with someone else.

I hope love is out there and while dating at this point seems quite intimidating, I am looking forward to meeting new people and being challenged by new ideas. This time though I want the real deal.

Friendship in the age of technology

Some people see the influence of technology as a bad thing in the light of friendship. I understand that friendship can never been as easy as an instant message and that people can be followed, un-followed, de-friended easily and this can make the whole thing seem superficial and lacking in the effort face to face relationship require. I still think that meaningful contact can be had with people.

I have been chatting on an on-line parenting forum for almost 5 years and there are woman on there whom I have never met and yet we have shared the best and worst that life has to offer, we have been through deaths, births, marriages, divorces and the enormous joys and heart aches that come from being a parent. These ladies most who have never met me, helped me raise money when I ran the comrades for another mom on the forum who little foster daughter needed ARV’s. These women supported me through my decision to have an unassisted birth with my son, they many not have always agreed or understood my choice but the love and encouragement and excitement with which they followed my labour was heart warming.

I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the ladies in really life and yes it does make the friendship deeper and add a whole new level to them, but even those I may never meet I feel a closeness to a real friendship.

I recently joined twitter and again I have been bowled over by people’s kindness. I have had people sit up ALL night, when they have to be up early for work the next day, to help me fix my broken website. I am a stranger yet people have reached across and surpassed the superficial contact that the web allows and have put real effort in to helping me. More I might say than some friend who I have known in person for many years.

Technology helps me stay in touch with friend overseas whom I otherwise would have very little contact with. Is it the same as sitting with a cup of vanilla rooibos together and support one another through the worst heartaches ever? – no, but it gives us the chance to ‘meet’ on line and exchange meaningful support so that when we do see each other we can just pick right up where we left off.

Forums and social networking also bring you in contact with people and ideas that you might never have normally had if you remained in your own little world. I have met people that I know would not have been in my friend circle was it not for the web, these people have challenged me and sometimes changed my mind and other times helped me believe in something stronger through meaningful debate and exchange of ideas.

The idea that technology cheapens friendship is not true for me. And while there is no substitute for a face to face chat and the layers expression and emotion that are not possible on line, I think how you treat friends on line and off is just an extension of what you would have done anyway. Human nature does not change just because technology advances. I mean even before technology friendships required effort. Maybe it seems easier to be superficial on line but I think if you do it on line you more than likely are the same in person.

I have been touched deeply by people I have never met and classify many of them as real true friends.

Running

I run because I have to. I know that sounds weird but running is like my happy pills. It makes me feel good. I love that I need nothing more and a good pair of shoes and the body I have. Well I do need to rope in a baby sitter but the Grandparents are usually more than willing.

While I run it is just me, and at the moment since my ipod is on the to-do list, and my thoughts. Maybe it is the forward motion of running but I always feel better and am able to have clearer more creative thoughts when I run. What I ‘write’ in my head when running is always so much better than when I come to sit down and actually get it out. Maybe I need some sort of a voice recorder that I can use when I run.

Somehow making out the words through the puffing and panting might be hard and I think that vocalizing what it is I am thinking will stop the free flow of ideas. I will just have to be resigned to the fact that what comes out in written word will never be quite as good as it was in my head but at least the ideas have a place to start.

Leaving

Very few people ever knew how deeply unhappy I was in my marriage. I never really spoke about it and when I did it was always with the resolve that it would get better. Few people ever see what it is like behind closed doors and that emotional neglect and abuse is hard to understand when the person in question is charming to others. So my decision to separate and stay in South Africa with the kids after we had come from the UK on holiday was quite a shock to most people.

I think a lot of people saw my decision as quite drastic and a lot said they were not going to take sides and hoped we could sort it out. But I knew I could never go back, I knew that all the promise to change in the world would not be enough. Once out, it was like the blinkers I had been wearing for ages, without even knowing it, were gone. I saw people and places differently. I was not under this negative cloud that covered my outlook with gloom. I could see our beautiful country South Africa for what it was and not just a crime ridden disaster to be run from, but an opportunity and a place to be involved and make a real difference. I think the biggest change was the way I saw myself, I can never be that person again.

I was terrified by the prospect of being alone, not something I like. But there is in fact no lonelier place than being in a relationship that destroys your spirit. So now I am alone again but not lonely. I have the most amazing friends and family that are getting me through, but they need a whole post of their own…

Doing it on my own

So I have always thought of myself as a fairly independent free thinking woman who can do most things. Well it has only taken leaving an 8 year marriage to see that perhaps I was a little too dependent. Since leaving there are things I have had to or still need to do on my own. Some things are really simple, some I will just learn and some I will just out source – I am never going to mow lawn or wash my own car!

These steps to independence are rather daunting though but the scariest thing is how much control of my life I was willing to give to someone else. To be honest as I face these things the usual feeling is panic, but the euphoria once it is done and I can tick it off the list and say ‘actually that was really not so bad’ is great.

So to date the stuff I have had to do alone includes:

– getting my own internet banking and learning to do EFT’s myself instead of saying please pay so-and-so.

– driving around town centre to find customs and excise office to sign for our shipping arriving from the UK.

-fix the computer when some random virus notice appeared.

Okay the done list is not long – the To Do one is way longer but if I am totally honest I am putting a lot of them off, baby steps.

– find a decent second hand car (I am clueless about cars so think this may be one to be outsourced)

-put my desktop together, like physically plug the whole thing together – no stop laughing, I have never done this before, I have been assured that there is only one hole for everything and that it is simple, but I have given up believing computer geeks about what is actually simple and what is not. But I am willing to give it one bash and then it will be outsourced but on a ‘teach me so I can do it next time’ basis

– teach my son to pee standing up

-fix stuff, everything was left for ‘daddy’ to fix, but with staying on the same property as my parents, my daughter just rolls her eyes if I say I can’t fix it and she says ‘Bumpa will fix it’ ( she could not say Gr as a young child so Grandpa became Bumpa)

-knowing what to do with the computer when it breaks, how to back up stuff, what programs are on it and what I need to keep it all functioning.

– For all DIY I have Dad or there are actually quite a few things I can do myself. When the shipping arrives there is a lot of flat packed book cases and stuff – I guess the Allen key and I are going to be friends.

– driving, yes I know I can drive but if we were all together He always drove. Besides being totally directionally challenged this is one I can do, I just don’t like it all that much. On second thought though being driven is not worth the atmosphere that was in car most of the time, the bickering, the anger, the staring out the window with folded arms feeling like there was no escape.

-putting music on my ipod, I have been assured this is easy.

– figuring my running watch and foot pod thing out so it records my training and then transfers the info onto the computer.

I could go on and on but my point is, like the pink hair reminds me to be true to myself, doing each little thing I learn to do on my own restores my sense of self and my ability to cope on my own.

Hello world!

Thanks to some help from some very kind people with the patience of a saint I now have a blog!! As for the 5 minute install, ha ha that was obvioulsy not meant for the web challenged. But slow and steady wins  the race and although a LOT longer than 5 minutes the blog is finally up.