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The Mother Magazine, Editorial

Issue 22, May/Jun 2007

Holding on, letting go, by Veronika Sophia Robinson

I'm currently going through a rather life-changing experience of letting go; not just of my daughters, or a way of life, but of a set of beliefs. The process is very much like that of going through the stages of grief. I look to Mother Nature, always my guru, to see what I can learn from this emotionally difficult time.

When we co-create with our partner to conceive a much longed for baby, we hold on to each other and the wish for conception. In a place of trust, we have no alternative but to let go. The sperm meets the egg and together they hold on. And then, a letting go must happen for the embryo to travel up the fallopian tube.

Our womb holds tight to the placenta, and we let go of it at birth. Already our parenting is taking on a pattern; an eternal breath of inhale, exhale.

Our baby arrives, and if our intuitive mothering is intact, we hold on. We might even hold on for six or so months, like the Balinese women, before putting our child down to touch the ground. Eventually though, we let go so our baby can feel the ground and learn to crawl. They will crawl away from us.
Our whole parenting path is based on these two diametrically opposed acts. Holding on and letting go. Somehow the holding on doesn't create the same dramas in our life. Yet both experiences are equally valid and entirely necessary for evolution. If we don't grow, don't blossom, we eat into ourselves and die.

As a passionate advocate for child-led, human-scale education, our family way of living was rocked to the core by my daughters' decision to 'try out school'. Living rurally has impacted on the availability of friendships for them. They do have friends, but not nearly as many as they'd like.
How in my heart could I reconcile everything I understand about how children learn, with them deliberately placing themselves in an educational setting far removed from my ideals? To say I was challenged doesn't even come close to how I felt, and still feel.

What I have learnt over the years is that the greatest gift we can give our children is that of trust. And trust, I have…

Each day that my children climb aboard the school bus, I trust they will experience the day in a way which opens their mind, heart and soul. I trust that their teachers recognise them as humans, rather than as numbers on a government supplied statistic sheet.

As I write, just five weeks into their school experience, they've both made comments about choosing home education for secondary school. For Bethany, that means this September, which is rather ironic because her desire to try out primary school was to give her some school experience before entering high school.

My experience of the girls being in mainstream education includes the shocking realisation that the 'system' isn't something I can change or control in any way, at least not on my own. That the school actually doesn't want input from parents, or to be told how to educate, is restrictive to say the least. Ok, I knew this already, but you can't blame a mum for trying!

Mainstream education needs a radical overhaul. These changes won't come from above. The government has targets to meet and that is their concern. Our concern, as parents, goes far deeper and it is from here, that we can act. If... if we act together. It simply shouldn't be acceptable to have 20+ children piled into one classroom. How can they possibly have their needs met this way?

What sort of culture do we live in where you have to buy education if you don't like what's on offer for the masses? Why is it that home educators don't get tax reductions, given they're not using the resources their taxes went towards? Why can't governments fund alternative schools? The money is still allocated for your child, so why should the government determine which school your child should go to in order to get the benefits of YOUR tax money?

Why isn't anyone speaking up about this? Why are we such an apathetic nation?

There are so many reasons why I don't want my children in school and I simply can't see how the benefit of a few extra friends can possibly outweigh the deleterious effects of a factory farm approach to education.

My daughters, known for their love of food, have cut their daily food consumption in half because they don't get enough time to eat at morning and afternoon break and most importantly, for them, there is nowhere to sit down and eat! This contravenes the very nature of our digestive process ~ the need to be in a state of relaxation. Children are encouraged to run around while they eat an apple ~ ironic with the health and safety red tape which strangles the system. Most days, in amongst the fun elements of school, the girls complain about how much time is wasted by the teacher yelling at the disruptive pupils. I try and explain that these children are seeking attention, most likely because they don't get it at home from their parents. The chances are they'll spend their waking hours at home glued to a tv or computer screen.

I've been horrified by how much time at school is spent by children playing computer games or watching dvds ~ all under the fancy title of media studies or ICT (information computer technology). Who are they trying to kid? What does my daughter get out of a computer game? Call me cynical, but I feel this use of televisual stimulus is nothing more than a band-aid; an acceptable childminder in a school culture that simply can't meet the needs of 25 plus children at once. Bethany's class was due to watch a horror film ~ but FORTUNATELY the tv didn't work! She wouldn't be watching that sort of show at home, so what right do the teachers have to inflict violence on them at school?

Bethany is in year 6, a few short months till secondary school. When she came home with her spelling list and the word perfectionist was spelt wrong, I 'tsk tskd'. Fancy allowing a typo to go unnoticed, I thought. At least I assumed it was a typo. The next day Bethany said the teacher looked it up in the dictionary and then told the children to add an 'I' to the word when they got home.

At this moment in time, I've 'let go' of the need to keep my children out of regimented, institutional learning. They know that the option to be home educated again is always there. And likewise, if we move towards a position of living in an area with an appropriate, affordable, human-scale school, they can try that too.

For now, I trust that my children will be able to retain their free spirit, that they won't sink under the weight of the school's control and that they will always fly. I see their independent thinking blossoming amidst ideas we, in our family, find odd. When Bethany had an assignment to draw God, she knew that you couldn't put the infinite into the finite. And perhaps it is, too, with my children, that their soul will never be suppressed in this culture; that they've touched freedom for enough of their childhood to not be drawn into the myth of what most people consider to be education.
As for me, after the initial adjustment, this has come to feel like a well-earned break after 11 years of full-time parenting. My days are filled with writing a book, walking, editing TM and gardening. I do believe that the western world is waking up to realise that less is more; that a life well lived isn't one of accumulation, but of what we give away. Not of what we hold onto, but of what we let go.

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