‘I like to imagine no one else exists,’ I said to Howard this morning. Just for a few moments, when there is not a child hanging off me/climbing on me/nursing.
Yesterday I woke up with Ava’s feet on my head. Last night we had another night where Ezra seemed quite unsettled. It’s not that I don’t get any sleep on nights like those, but that sleep is so constantly interrupted that I do not feel at all rested when I ‘wake up’. I feel crazed, absent, drained. So this morning, when Ava was walking about the room narrating her actions, and Howard was playing with Ezra, I lay on the sheets and thought of nothing at all – just the sheets and the air, both sandwiching me in coolness.
Of course this never lasts more than seconds. There’s only so long you can pretend to be unconscious before your three year old slams into you with a giant floor puzzle in her hand saying, ‘Mama, I do this in bed? Come on! Let’s do the puzzle! Tat tat tat tat toooooo!’ (naked, bar a stripey elf hat, and sunglasses that you’ve never seen before)
Today was the first official day that Howard begins to work from home (most of the time). Up to this point, he’s been doing days here and there, but yesterday his new monthly schedule was approved which means he is here all the time, except for a few days in at the office. Every month. All the time! (He’ll be upstairs in the office/craft room; Ava curiously sneaking in…the concept of working, but from home, is not one she’s accepted yet)
This is a big deal for us. At the start of last year our number one hope for the year was just that. We didn’t quite know how or when that would happen, or even if, but we figured between us, the many different things we both do, it was feasible. And now we’re here, which is the best timing, because this year our decision not to send Ava to school has become very real. Although I’ve called ourselves an unschooling family for the last three years, I’ve come to understand why in actual fact you can’t really be unschooling unless your kid is at school age. If they’re not at school age yet, then what you’re doing with them is just attachment parenting, or whatever similar label might feel best. But the point at which you actually choose not to send your kid to nursery or school is when you become unschooling. The consequences of not joining in with what is largely expected and done by almost everyone become much more apparent. It’s no longer just about the ways you want your children to learn and live, but also the ways you don’t want your children to learn and live.
I’m also emerging out of a very intense period of deschooling where several ideas battled in my head all day long. For months. Exhausting. Moving between unschooling and radical unschooling, trying to understand the difference between natural boundaries and arbitrary limits, I made the mistake many unschoolers do. I jumped right in and we basically took all limits off everything and then sat back and watched with great trepidation what would happen. The trouble with this of course is that it feels like you’re free falling and it feels too much like permissive parenting, like you are saying, suddenly, ‘anything goes!’ which is not at all what any kind of unschooling looks like. Permissiveness is the very opposite of what unschooling should be. So I aired my concerns in a couple of groups I’m a part of, talked to some unschooling Mamas I know, and realised I was basically moving too fast. Way too fast. Which I do a lot. If I can see where I want to be, I find it insanely frustrating not to try and get there as quickly as possible.
Another challenge that emerges within intensive periods of unschooling is to realise that deschooling never, ever ends. Accepting that is part of what makes it all easier. And I think the more I see it in action, the more that acceptance will come naturally. The more I see the natural and joyful ways Ava learns things, in her own time, the more I can see that her whole experience is going to be so very different from mine. Right now we’ve just dialled it back and are taking it slower. Following Sandra Dodd’s advice to ‘read a little, try a little, wait, watch‘. We’re saying yes more, trusting more.
As always, it seems to come down to mindfulness. Noticing the things that interest Ava, having conversations about topics that arise from Charlie and Lola (which is the reason Ava is now dressing up like a doctor and ‘healing people’) When I loosen myself from my own fears what I see is a child who is learning through the things she enjoys. When I stop thinking of TV (by which I mean Netflix or DVDs) as a negative thing but as another resource for her to learn from and enjoy, I can see how it is just one of the many things that she is passionate about, that opens her up to new things.
I feel a renewed excitement about what will unfold this year even though she is still so young. I see so much personality blossoming in her play, so much of who she is, and already so many burgeoning interests. Dance! Singing! Dressing up! (always the dressing up). Her peenano. And having a network of unschooling families to turns to is such a blessing. Having friends who understand the questions and don’t judge me for asking them, even if the answers are obvious to both of us. Or who have been doing it for long enough that simply sharing their experience is enough to bring so much comfort.
With Howard working from home, we have an extra 3 1/2 hours of him every day – although more on days when he can spread out his writing all day long. That’s such a big change. It means dinners will be earlier, and it means there will be a little extra time in the day for things like making, or morning swimming, or my own writing. Mostly though, just the being together and the adventures that happen when we are.
This week has been full of difficulties. Broken phones, broken cars, and a stomach bug mid-week which knocked me out. That’s more than enough to turn me into a miserable and moody grouch. But it’s ended on a pretty good note, and sometimes, I am happy when a homey sort of week is forced upon us, because I am all too easily caught up in the doing and the busy. And in turn we have spent a lot of time just hanging out. Playing puzzles, drawing, colouring in, watching films, reading, napping, talking. Ezra has learned how to climb all our stairs. All of them. (Not on his own, I may add). Ava has learned about planets, has watched ‘What does the Fox say?’ song a lot (and I am firmly on the side of genius, with this). We’ve read nearly half of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ at bedtime. We have nearly finished the American Office, I have very nearly finished my first wet felted wall hanging, and we’ve been to the park most days to get rid of some of the energy that builds up at this time of year.
And for the first time, maybe ever, I can’t wait for Spring and Summer, to spend the long days outside in our garden, just hanging out, all of us together.