Last September after my daughter had awful issues at school, we decided to home-educate her. Very quickly, her younger brother was staying at home too.

learn

It has taken me until now to relax about the whole thing. I had no faith in my ability to teach despite having an amazing educational background. What if I damaged their life chances for ever? Let’s face it – I couldn’t even potty train them effectively for long enough so covering a load of topics some of which I might struggle with a bit myself seemed daunting.

On a selfish level, having just about rediscovered a sense of self after the onslaught of becoming a parent, what about my me time? What about my career or business prospects? What about me?

I know many people were interested in our home education journey but I was not sure how much I wanted to reveal. I wanted to get it right and know what I was doing first. I also wanted to fit in with other home educators and was not sure I was “hippy-dippy” enough. So I joined online networks and whilst being inspired by other home educators, ran away from actually joining them in real life and feared what I was doing with the children might not suit the home-educating community.

I have changed my perspective on quite a few things over recent weeks and months. This includes home education I think partly though learning by doing. As we move towards a year of home education, I am reminded of how terrified I was about my daughter’s mental well-being. Now I see a happy, creative, excited little girl with her own strong passions including politics, film-making and story-telling. Isn’t that good enough for Year 1 of the Family on Thin Ice Homeschool?

I also have to give a huge vote of thanks to the wonderful Cerys from RainyDay Mum. I was fortunate to be in her company with my family twice in recent months including on a camping weekend. It was a joy to get to know her a little and I want to make her a a friend. She told me in no uncertain terms how impressed she was by my children. As it was clear she has a fine mind and knows about education in a big way, I actually listened and perhaps more vitally, RELAXED!

I have started reading “A Funny Kind of Education” by Ross Mountney. People advised me to read this ages ago but it has taken me a long time to accept myself an an “official” home educator. I advise anyone embarking on the home education to read this book straightaway. It is down to earth, honest and true. It makes me feel OK and good enough.

So how was starting home education for me?

Terrifying – heart-beatingly scary with adrenalin overload.
Confusing – which home education philosophy was right for us?
Exciting – the joy of our first day of freedom from school runs and what have I forgotten? was superb. We had a picnic in the sunshine and made precious memories.
Guilt-ridden – are we doing enough and the right sort of thing? What if we have a day or two off? What if I allow them to play video games? Arrrgh!
Lovely – no nits all year!
Revealing – used to children coming home and saying little about their days however much I enquired, now they chatter on about their passions with me. Very quickly I learned that my son loves classical music because he finds it calming. My daughter showed that she wants to make films. I knew neither of these things about them when they were in school.

I often wonder what my parents would think about this life choice. I do clearly remember my mum telling me to make the most of the pre-school years “because you lose them when they go to school”. At the time I thought at least I could look foward to that as I struggled with post-natal depression, nappies and bottle-feeding.

Now the fog of depression has cleared, I see what great individual children I have and Fate has decided for now that they spend more time with us and we learn together ever day. I think I want to be “hippy dippy”!

I am going to write a lot about home education from now on – this family matters and I am going to revel in it.

The amazing thing about starting home education is you can make a fresh beginning every day and do it your way.

Starting Home Education

And then the fun began...

How to move on after abuse is a question on the minds of so many people. They might have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse. They have scars which may or may not be visible. Moving forwards positively often takes huge courage and a willingness to seek support. Vicky shares her story.

vicky

1. What is the striking story you have to share?

I have been a single mother since my daughter was 3 weeks old and her abusive father walked out on us. I was very lucky that my health visitor stepped in, and sent me to the Freedom Programme, which is group counselling for people who’ve been in abusive relationships. I was scared of my health visitor, convinced that if I didn’t do everything she told me, she would deem me an unfit mother and my baby would be taken away – so I went to the counselling, even though I felt like I was making a big fuss about nothing and just causing trouble.

It took me a while to realise that I had been in an abusive relationship, that I wasn’t just being deliberately difficult, that I wasn’t just difficult to live with and moody and selfish. It took me longer to recover from the realisation; for a long while afterwards I would have flashbacks and memories of things and a dawning realisation, “oh wait, that wasn’t my fault…” or “oh wait, that was probably a lie…”

Very early on, I had this feeling that “it’s fine for you to treat me like this, but you don’t get to do this to my daughter.” I was very protective over her and determined to keep her safe from the life I knew her father’s other children were living. I stopped all contact with him when my daughter was four months old, after he refused to have any counselling for his abusive behaviour. On the day I told him he could not see my daughter if he would not seek help, I didn’t realise he was recording our conversation – but I did wonder why he was speaking so strangely. He said, ” you and I both know that she is in no danger with me.” I said no, that’s not true. He went through his usual “box of tricks” that all abusers have, trying to find the one that would make me back down – I wasn’t a fit mother, I was mentally unstable, he would take me to court. When I said “ok great, take me to court – I’ll bring Social Services with me and see you there” he shut up. I walked away as he shouted at me down the street, “you’re not mentally or financialy capable of looking after my child!” For the first time I thought to myself, “yes, I am – because I know to keep her safe from you.” He has not set eyes on her since – and has barely attempted contact – usually an odd email here and there when he’s had a fight with his girlfriend, or turning up drunk at our door on his way home from somewhere. The last time we were in contact, my daughter was teething and I was studying for an Open University degree. He boasted to his friends, “she’s tired and stressed; she’s never had to deal with a teething baby before. She’ll give in soon and let me come in to babysit so she can study – and then I’m taking my child.” At that point, I stopped answering him or acknowledging his existence in any way. He and his other children still live around here, and he works two blocks from where we live – but the police are aware of our situation, and I refuse to be driven away from the city I grew up in, from all of my friends and family. I stand my ground because it’s the only choice I have.

People tell me I am “inspirational” as if I have done something outrageously brave or incredible by caring for my daughter alone – but for me, it was just what I had to do. I was alone with a tiny baby relying on me for everything – what else was I going to do, but keep her safe and protect her?

2. What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Being a single mother means that I am not being second-guessed or belittled by my daughter’s father. I am immensely proud of my daughter and the amazing person she is growing to be. No matter how bad my day is, I get into bed at night next to my gorgeous daughter (yes, we still share a bed!) and everything is ok. Being a single mother is not a bed of roses, but it brings me immense joy and pride to know I’m capable of doing this alone

3. What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Every day is a challenge, to a certain extent. Teething wasn’t much fun, and night feeds were tiring – but I find that when I’m feeling stressed and “challenged” as if I just can’t cope any more, the best thing is to call it a day and accept that my work/blog/housework/whatever just won’t get done today. Once I remove the pressures of trying to get something done, and just accept the situation, it just gets easier.

4. How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

I am self employed and work from home – so “time to myself” is generally translated as “time working on the business or the blog” – luckily I enjoy both!

My daughter goes to nursery four days a week, which gives me time to do my work and get basic housework done. She also has a bed time that is kept to all of the time, unless she is ill or it’s a special occasion. Sticking to our routine means that things run more smoothly for both of us. At the moment she is in the process of dropping daytime naps. She naps at nursery, and then goes to bed at her usual time, but when she’s home with me she doesn’t nap and goes to bed earlier – which works out well for me, in terms of having time to myself!

5. Have you ever redisovered or reinvented yourself? How?

When I met my daughter’s father, I was recovering from a massive nervous breakdown. When I became pregnant I had to come off my medication, and took the decision that I would never go back to it. Once she was born, I think something just clicked inside of my head and I was so incredibly lucky. I am painfully aware that there is no backup – if I fail, my daughter has nobody else. So I do not fail. Becoming a mother has reinvented me; I have a confidence I never had before because I know I’m doing a damn good job, and that I have no choice but to do so. I’m self employed now, something I never thought I could do before – and I am prepared to argue my point if I believe I’m right. A large part of this was setting up the blog.

6. Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

This is such a difficult question! I’ve never considered myself to be beautiful but actually, when my Timehop throws up selfies of myself and my daughter, I think my smile can be quite beautiful, given the right light – and the right gorgeous baby to smile at!

7. What makes you stand out?

I’d like to think I stand out because of my strength. I don’t feel particularly strong from day to day, but I know if someone else told me this story as their own, I would think them quite strong.

8. Is it important to you to support other mums?

Absolutely. I feel like new mums are bullied into all sorts of everything: you must do this, go there, your baby must wear this, sleep this way. A lot of the time we’re told this by self proclaimed “experts” who half the time don’t even have experience with their own children! I think we should all support mums to trust their own instincts with regard to their children and what is best for them. The best thing any of us can learn to say is “thanks for your input, but I’m going to do it my way.”

9. Which mum inspires you?

All mums do – we all have our own battles, our own struggles. When my daughter was first born I thought all mums with a husband at home had it easy but a close friend with a husband also suffered terribly with postnatal depression – something I was lucky enough to avoid. Another struggled with a partner who was physically present but didn’t help with nappy changing or night feeds – and I know from experience it’s easier to just know there’s no help and get on with it yourself, than to have someone there who’s not helping. Babies get colic and reflux and constipation and they teethe and they cry for no discernible reason; we worry they’re too hot or too cold or not feeding enough or their head doesn’t look quite right or they’re sleeping too much or we’ve put the wrong colour babygro on. All mums have that; all mums are inspiring in their ability to care for a small, screaming creature that can’t tell us what to do to make it better.

10. What would you like the next government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I am lucky in that being a single parent, I had a genuine choice as to whether I returned to work at the end of my maternity leave, or claimed Income Support and stayed home with my daughter until she started school. Other mums do not have that choice; some stay home and care for the children out of choice; others do it because they can’t afford to pay for childcare but would rather be at work. Some go to work because they’re desperate to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around nappies or CBeebies; others do it because they can’t afford the rent if they don’t. All mums should have a genuine choice and government funding should be used to level the playing field in terms of Tax Credits, subsidised nursery placements and general assistance.

What I love about Vicky’s story is that she recognises her own qualities. Her story if presented in her own words and if you would like to know more about Vicky, please visit her blog.

Vicky shows us how to move on after abuse but every individual will do it in their way and if you have a story to share, please leave a comment.

Winnettes

How to talk to a girl about her period

My daughter brought home a book on periods the other day. She read it cover to cover in one sitting,

I remember my Mum buying me a book by Clare Rayner back in the day. I can’t remember reading it far too interested in Mallory Towers no doubt. I have always had a habit of avoiding the more troublesome aspects of life like periods and boys. Mum used to do her best sending me for her “nappies” out of the drawer even when I was very little. She was aware she was an older mum and so tried to be modern about matters like sex even suggesting I should go to the GP for the contraceptive pill on my 16th birthday. I remember being horrified at the idea and telling her so. I had no intention of having sex ever – if a knight turned up on a white horse, fair enough but otherwise no deal!

I am working my way through the book on periods. Chatting to my husband, it turns out her knows far more about the mechanics of it all that I do. I remember being intrigued as to the state of my hymen when I was little. I seem to remember reading dire warnings that tree climbing could break it. I might not have wanted sex but I was quite the little tree-climber.

How to do I feel as my little girl grows up?

I can see her excitement at the idea of getting her period. I remember those days well and the conversations at school. “Have you started yet?” and all that.

I was 13 when the milestone came along and for some reason I kept it secret even from my Mum initially. She sussed it and asked me outright. She then sent Dad off to get a cake “because your daughter has become a woman”. I have always been quite impressed by how she recognised it as a milestone to celebrate. After she died, I found out from my Auntie that Mum had telephoned all the family to let them know. My Auntie said she did it in a way “as if you were the only girl who had ever had a period”

Like most girls I suppose, I started using sanitary pads and then moved onto tampons. My daughter has already whisked me off to the supermarket to buy sanitary pads so she is prepared. She even got a free tin to carry them in. Now that is progress!

I know it is weird but I don’t like the idea of her using tampons. I remember Mum being the same with me.

There is also that worry that growing up means getting hurt and me not being able to protect her from that. I don’t want to see my daughter in physical pain from periods. Worse, I don’t want her to have her heart broken by some idiot boy.

Whatever I may think or feel, my daughter is growing up. Yesterday, a boy walked with us all the way home so he could stay with her chatting away. She was flirting telling him a pack of half-truths that made me and my son giggle. Anyone who knows me will know that it is most unlikely that my daughter would be a netball champion but out this line trotted yesterday to impress the boy.

Ah well, at least when she starts there will be cake!

What is the perfect bag for a busy mum like me?

The first thing to reveal is that there used to be battles when I was a teenager. My late Mum felt a handbag was an essential piece of kit for all girls and women. She had lots of different ones and I could never see the point of that. Now I sometimes see bags that remind me of hers and there is one of those little pangs of grief. They were very much a part of who she was. They were a bit like the Mary Poppins’ bag in terms of having every possible item you might need in them.

When you become a mum, you are going to need a changing bag at the very least. Can you remember just how much stuff a new baby needs? – nappies, cotton wool, wipes, nappy rash cream, nappy bags, comb, scissors and so on.

On my quest to become groovy, I have started injecting a few of the things into my life that I see other women enjoy.

I am going to grow up and stop using my pockets as my way of carrying things around. When out shopping, it is good to have my hands free and that only really works with a good handbag.

I recently took delivery of a Mia Tui Grace bag. I opened the parcel excitedly and there was the bag in a bright pink carrying case.

The Perfect Bag For A Busy Mum

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What do I love about my new Mia Tui bag?

* It is soft to the touch
* It comes in a variety of colours and mine is aubergine
* I love that the zip has a little star on it – cheerful and fun
* The lining is wonderful – bright pink to brighten your world on the darkest of days
* There is a pocket on the outside of the bag which is so useful for things you need readily to hand like train tickets
* The bag is incredibly roomy and has 4 internal pockets
* There are even special places for pens. I am always losing pens so love this feature
* There is a transparent make-up case
* It includes a good-sized clutch bag
* You can use the bag as a hands-free or as a cross-body satchel
* It is an all seasons bag as it is waterproof inside and out
* It looks chic whether on the school run, out shopping or at a blogging event

There is a wide range of bags available on the Mia Tui website

Mia Tui offer Kate on Thin Ice readers a discount.

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