Horizons

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All I want to do today is walk and think. We will be going out later to find some acorns for Miss Puddleduck’s autumn project. We might collect some crab apples too, as I intend to make crab apple jelly. I noticed blossoms, in the spring, where I had never seen apple blossoms before and now there is lots of fruit. But I want to get out to have some natural thinking time.

Our family is growing up. Our horizons are changing like in the beautiful sunset above that Longshanks captured on camera from our field, the other evening. In a short space of time the sky changed from being a stunning sunset to an even more outstanding sunset! It kept getting more and more breath taking as the sun sank lower.

Rich Tea Boy seems to be settling and we had a very grown-up conversation, on the way to school this morning, trying to ascertain whether attending school is the way that he should continue to walk in or not. I have been trying to get an appointment with his learning manager to hear how his teachers think he is doing. One thing that has surprised me about school is how little they actually get to do for the length of time that they are there. We were always told that, as home educators, 2-3 hours of concentrated learning was the equivalent of what was done in school. Should I be surprised to discover that that’s true? Rich Tea Boy tells me that it is a lot easier to learn at home and he’s already weary of the onslaught of distractions he has to fend off in order to get things learnt at school. But on the positive side, he is able to learn and has enjoyed meeting new people. He finds the immaturity of his peers amusing and, he said this morning, quite refreshing. He said he has had a number of people ask him if he should actually be in the year above, because he seems older. I was asking him questions this morning that related to how he felt his faith and character were growing. His answers were very mature and reflective of the discipleship input of Tim and his youth leader. To date, he hasn’t found school easy, which doesn’t mean it is necessarily the wrong decision for him. He prefers being home educated to school educated, he says, but has found school interesting. As we approach the one-month-in assessment of his schooling my thoughts are very absorbed in thinking about this.

My thoughts are also very absorbed by thinking about Longshanks’ future as, last weekend, he was offered an opportunity that is very true to who he is and completely fits him. I have felt myself being prepared for the changes this will bring but there is still a lot I have to process, as expectation becomes reality. He was focussing on re-sitting one of his exams with no real clarity about what he would do after. He knew what he would like to do, but wasn’t sure how he could do it. However, a door has opened for him at just the right moment and suddenly there is a clear way ahead for him after he has re-sat his exam. As we discussed this opportunity that has been offered to him, I expressed my conviction of it being right for him but explained that conviction didn’t prevent me being woken in the middle of night by what about this or what if that questions. He very philosophically responded by saying, “But any decision in life is accompanied by what ifs“. How true! It is so lovely to see him so excited. He mentally prepares me by joking that he might be driving home for Christmas 2017 with a girlfriend and a beard!

Every morning, as I drive the stunning country lanes that are now my daily school run I’m thinking how our horizons are changing as our family grows up, and my thoughts are echoed by outstanding Welsh vistas. Since our big “Blue” – as Miss Puddleduck named the Vauxhall -died, Tim’s little red car has been doing all the donkey work of fetching and carrying. It is old and tiny but bearing up well and we have to be very adaptable and clever in our logistics, as we can’t all fit in it. I feel that I have unwittingly become a taxi driver like the other day, I took Rich Tea Boy to school and returned home to immediately give Tim a lift down to work. A dance remix of Crowder’s version of “Because He lives” was blasting out of the speakers in the living room before we left. After laughing with Tim about the arrangement, I listened to the words and realised that Tim was purposefully strengthening himself – “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow”. After I had dropped him at work I returned home to find Miss Puddleduck dancing to the Chariots of Fire film theme. There is no significance in that!

Our horizons have got broader, over the summer, as we have taken on the responsibility of leading two churches. Right now, new structures and procedures are being put in place in the one church and it feels like we are spread quite thin. We have gone from overseeing the discipleship of approximately 100 people to 200 people and are rapidly trying to build apostolic structures that ensure both communities flourish in their location. Right now, the implication of this is that we feel less able to give quality time to individuals, but that will return as other people are released to meet discipleship needs and as structures are formed. This feeling of being spread thin is temporary and life is full those moments of transition, where everything changes gear.

When I stand back and look, I see so much that encourages me. I see fruit. I see people flourishing. I see young people growing. I see new life emerging. I see purpose. I see character developing. I see maturity blossoming. I see a beautiful horizon. I’m so grateful.

I quote Tim’s favourite verse: Proverbs 4:18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining brighter til the full light of dawn.

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Elin’s Air

img_4739Rehearsals are under way, although the costumes are only partial, the props temporary and the stage still full of instruments. But, it’s happening!! We’re getting ready for the big official launch of Elin’s Air.

 

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By Conviction or Convention?

A lot of people have asked me, of late, why we have chosen to put our second son into school. It’s a valid question and I shall answer it shortly. When also asked by one person “What has happened?” my answer was, “Nothing”. No great cataclysmic event has happened to cause this. I remain the passionate educationist I have always been who believes wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of home education – and loves it as a valid mode of education. In fact, through the beginning of this new and fresh season of school experience, I feel even more strongly about its effectiveness. I am processing a lot of thoughts on it all right now. My mind is constantly chuntering away, philosophically.

I believe that the primary purpose of education is to develop our character, in a way that does not undermine our self-worth, to make us successful contributors to society. What that actually looks like will vary according to the uniqueness of each individual.

This approach produces some interesting results in the small community if our own household. Our eldest is a ‘doer’ with a healthy work ethic. Our approach to his education has already helped him make contributions in a unusual field which, I hope, have been good contributions. I have seen his character develop and I am confident that he is able to conduct himself as a contributor to society not just a consumer. I know too that his nature lends him towards following a more apprenticeship style of education and that he is happiest and most effective when applying himself in a practical way.

In son no. 2 we have an observer and an analyst who is a sponge to knowledge and very perceptive about people. His learning style fits perfectly into the traditional academic modes of learning and I would not be surprised if, in time, he contributes to society through the field of academic research. However, this suitability is not our reason for putting him into school. The main reason we have embarked on this new adventure is that we want to see his character grow and we feel that, for the sort of person that he is, he has reached a stage in life where he needs more challenges to grow him. The school environment, we concluded, would provide this. If, however, his character is not enhanced in a positive way we will return to home education for him.

Of our other youngsters, one is very clear on what she believes is a vocation for her life and we are tailoring her education towards that, while developing her character and confidence. Her sense of vocation and learning style (again more traditionally academic) makes our objectives, in educating her, quite clear and straightforward. Our youngest, meanwhile, presents the biggest challenge. The beauty of her having a specific language impairment makes traditional learning difficult, keeps me humble and real. I reassess again and again what our objectives are. What am I trying to achieve through educating her at home? I conclude, with gratitude that she is not being taught for the purpose of jumping through hoops and tests but to enhance her own unique character and gifts. I conclude, with gratitude that her self-confidence, worth and social skills are not being undermined by her language impairment and preference for spending time with those younger than herself (as would not be the case in a school environment). I conclude, with gratitude, that she is flourishing by being able to learn at her own pace without external pressures or consciousness of limitations, when measured by traditional measures. I am educating her with the objective that one day she can manage her own finances, run a home, relate well to other people and contribute to society in a beautiful way.

So why have we chosen to put our second son into school? Well, we live by conviction not convention. This means that we make educational choices based on our conviction of what is right for each child of ours. Right now, we believe it is the right choice for him, as an individual, to bring the best out of him.

As with all these things, “Time will tell!”. The proof will be in the pudding! Whatever our choices they are made in hope and faith that it is the ‘BEST’ decision.

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Marmite for the Soul

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This truly is a meadow in an old fashioned sense; rarely seen these days with clover and harebells et al. Although rarely seen, I am treated to this view of beauty from my kitchen door. Today it was therapeutic ‘marmite for my soul’ as I pulled ragwort from the grass by the door. Insects filled the field with sound. They were surprisingly loud.

IMG_2973[1]I was soon accompanied by two herds of peaceful beasts who came to see what I was up to. One herd, curious but also comforting, wanted to be with me and it wasn’t long before they started dozing by the door.IMG_2977[1]

The other herd were a bit skittish as the black and white spotty dog decided to try his paw at being a collie but thought rounding-up meant scatter. The dozy ones brought me peace, as did the meadow and the verse that came to my mind in a moment of prayer, today.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

I had been troubled and while there seems to be a lot out there to trouble us, my troubles were fairly trivial. Remembering to believe and trust in Jesus was all I needed to refresh my hope and re-right my focus again. Sometimes troubled hearts engulf us and are so overwhelming, it’s like being in the belly of a whale with no way out. My worries were not so, though. They were small and simply around how I think my book might be received and if anyone (who doesn’t know me) will be interested enough to want to read it. They might have been troubled thoughts but they injected a good dose of realism into me, as did this conversation I had yesterday.

“Hey! Rich Tea Boy (aged 14) would you write a quick review for my book?”

“Sure Mum. Do you want me to do it now?”

“Yes please. You don’t have to write much.”

“Okay!”

Two minutes later…

“I can’t think of the word I’m looking for.”

“Do you want a thesaurus?”

“Yes, please” He looks in the thesaurus, “Ah tranquil. That’s it.”

He finishes writing and says to me, “You do realise some people are not going to enjoy it, don’t you? Especially if they like a fast-paced, action packed read.”

“Yes, son! I realise that. I think of it being like ‘marmite for the soul’. People will either love it or hate it.”

Pulling ragwort, today, I was remembering this conversation and with the comfort of the ponies standing by, the warm sun on my back, the beauty and insect song of the meadow beside me I wondered. I wondered if perhaps in the troubles of today our youngsters might appreciate a tranquil read, like a meadow to lose themselves in. I wondered if they might like something that reads peacefully without grit and gore and helps them escape to words of safety and hope. I wondered if they might like something that is gentle. I wondered if they needed comfort like the unassuming acceptance of a pony. I wondered if it would be like a balm or simply ‘marmite for the soul’. They will either love it or hate it! But do they need it?

 

 

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Exciting News 

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I have something to share! Like the moment you first see a black and white image of a tiny person growing inside you and all the discomfort and strange eating habits or feelings of sickness are made real in the … Continue reading

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Talks Too Much

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Today, I received these in the post! My school reports from Peterhouse and St Andrew’s prep. They are hilarious! Spanning my years as a 5-7 year old, they make for interesting reading. Yes, “talks too much and plays around in class” is one comment when I was 5 years and 5 months old. But in the same report, under art it says, “She enjoys modelling and always produces a good laugh with what she has made as it is usually quite out of the ordinary!”

Another, at 6 years old states that I loved acting and was very good at it and I apparently read 25 books that term. “She loves her books and really understands what she has read.”  Mmm…that love has only grown and today I sort out my enormous collection of books.

Reading these is like reading reports that mix my two girls into one pot. Sometimes I feel like I am reading about Miss Puddleduck and sometimes it could be about Miss Friendship. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

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Propaganda?

Today, I posted my EU Referendum vote. I made a decision how I would vote months ago and have barely read or listened to the news since April. I have not engaged with ‘In’ or ‘Out’ campaign arguments. I have not followed any political rhetoric. I have, to be honest, completely separated myself from any political engagement since the Welsh Assembly elections. I have a good reason for this. As a household we are actively engaged in Welsh politics, ie. members of our family put their words into actions by exercising democratic muscle as it is designed. We are very involved in local politics at a grassroots level and national level. My husband lead our local AM’s campaign for re-election and it naturally took a toll on our family’s energy levels as he seems to be the one to set the general pace of our lives.
Any campaign is exhausting. It is that saturation of political engagement that has left me feeling exhausted and really not interested in any further campaigns. However, as always, I have some observations. I have been intrigued at how I have found it quite consistent that in a room of friends I could cut it in half and put those on who feel convinced ‘In’ is the way to go on one side and those who feel that ‘Out’ is the way to go. We are at an unprecedented junction in British history. I am intrigued by the strength of gut feeling some people have and also I am intrigued by the over-riding confusion. I see a lot of ‘confusion’ at work, if I might have permission to name that as an actual thing.
My own confusion is slightly different. I have ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ dyslexia. I don’t know if there is a proper term for such a condition, but I have a mental block about my left and right. This makes for interesting conversations when I am giving directions or out driving. I was driving and my brother said, “At the next junction turn left.” So I did. He said, “Why did you turn right?” I said “I didn’t! I turned left.” He said, “You didn’t.” I said…you get the picture.  He was right. I was wrong. That said, I can never remember what ‘Left-wing’ politics represent and what ‘Right-wing’ politics represent. I understand fully the essence of both sides but cannot remember what ‘Right’ refers to, nor ‘Left’. So I have learnt to keep my mouth shut to save getting it wrong. I observe the extremes in both expressions of referendum campaign argument; in both those motivated by gut feeling and in the arguments of reason (and confusion). None of us really know the implications of this momentous, unprecedented decision. As I have this opportunity to make a choice, I vote with my conscience and an eye to the future. With all that I foresee happening, I want to be sure that on this day I cast my vote with my children’s future in mind. I have to live with my own conscience regardless of what happens in the political, national, global world.
On my way into town today, I posted my vote and my daughter said to me, “I don’t really understand what the EU referendum is.”
I explained it as best I could in terminology she might grasp. I said it is a bit like me asking everyone in the family if they want cheese toast or french toast (no EU pun intended there) for lunch. I said that’s a little bit like what the referendum itself is; me asking those who want cheese toast to raise their hands. So by taking a referendum we get a show of hands (almost) on what people want. Do people in Britain want to remain as part of the European Union, which Britain has been a part of since the 1970s or not? Being a part is like this, I said to her, “We are members of the British Driving Society and every year we pay a subscription to be a member. It costs us and with that we get several benefits. We get insurance, education and the opportunity to participate in events.” I then went on with my limited language and concepts to try to explain the economical implications of the EU and Britain being ‘In’ or ‘Out’. I wonder how cultural it is that we baulk at having to define divisive opinion? I know I avoid conflict and divisive opinions. I’d rather not talk about it. So please don’t talk to me about it. I just might add to your confusion with my ‘left and right’ dyslexia. I’ll keep my own conscience in the silence of a private ballot – oh yes! Democratic muscle is being exercised again.
We passed a gentleman on the street walking to the post box with his vote in hand.
I found myself teaching my daughter the meaning of the word ‘propaganda’.
 
Miss F: “So is it like when so-and-so gets cross with me because I won’t do what they want me to, and they start saying exaggerated things that I know are lies. So-and-so once said that if I didn’t play with her the way she wanted she would tell her mum not to invite me to her party.”
 
Me: “Well, that sounds like manipulation but perhaps we can use it as an illustration. Propaganda is like a very loud voice shouting out and elaborating the truth for its own purpose, to try and persuade you to think one way or another.”
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