25 years – a lifetime of knowing

wedding photoOn the way to church my dad stopped me and asked me if I was sure?  Was I sure that I wanted to marry Pete?  Dad wasn’t being critical because it is something he did out of duty I think.  But I was sure and I have always been sure and now 25 years of knowing have galloped by.  It has not always been easy and we have had some difficult times.  We lost our first baby on Christmas day 18 months after we were married and it broke us.  Actually, it broke me, Pete was much stronger and helped put me back together.  We went on to have four wonderful children but then lost our last one as well.  Life can be cruel.

Our time together has very much defined by the children as they are our world.  We spend each and every day talking about them and feel really connected to them.  When we decided to home educated it was not a common pathway and we stood firm against criticism, some of it from our own family.  We mapped a pathway for our wee family that has taken us into some amazing places.  We learned to learn together and we played together as well.  It is, however, the laughter that stays with us the most.  We definitely  know how to laugh in our family.

At 38 I got ill and I have had bouts of poor health ever since with no cure on the horizon.  It is Pete and the children that make this bearable and I owe them all a great deal.  We just work as a family and it is not much more complicated as that.  I am sure Pete would join me in dedicating our 25th wedding anniversary to our lovely, lovely children.  The four of you make us complete although I think we all know that there will always be six of you…….

xxxxxx

Disconnected Times became Reconnected Times

It has been an age since I last blogged and for a regular blogger that has been disconnecting.  I love the community that is ‘Scottish island mum’ and we have shared much together over the years but this time I instinctively knew this was a journey I had to take by myself.  So, in February of this year I stepped off everything and stayed off for some months.  If I am honest I am not that keen to step back on, at least to some of my old life.  There was a trigger, of course but that matters not.  What matters is that I stepped off completely from everything except my family commitments and, in that time, I learnt more than I have ever learnt.  I learnt about myself but I also learnt about people in my life and the wider world generally.  I would recommend it.

My over-riding conclusion is that I have lost my way and, more worryingly, so has much of the society I inhabit.  We all measure things using artificial measures such as money, power and status.  Not only do we measure these but we clean onto them as if they were the perpetual comfort blanket.  Money has never impressed me and I gave up status and power when I left my job as an academic over 13 years ago.  Nevertheless, I get sucked into the norm that is controlled by these measures and that is disappointing.  I am disappointed in myself.

Pete and I celebrate 25 years married this month and the children are buying us a tent.  Goodness me, buckle up for the ride!  I want to inhabit new spaces for fleeting visits and I want to do it as simply as possible so we are going to give wild camping a go.  The west coast of Scotland fascinates me and so as the rest of our time unfolds we will be off in my new (to me) little French car to explore.  Pete seems pleased at the plans but we shall see how we both feel when washing is in the icy cold sea!

I can just glimpse a time without the children living with us and opportunities to escape for a reasonable length of time but for now it will be odd nights away here and there as our lives remain too full to allow for anything else.  Our children are our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  They are beginning to fledge and we need to be around to support them in this but we will soon be down to just the two of us……I am so not looking forward to this stage so my camping idea is a wee antidote.  We shall see.

borageThe period of disconnection has allowed sleep to return and a greater sense of wellbeing but I am not stepping back into my old life in its entirety.  I don’t want some of it back.  I have learnt that I like my own company – a lot!  I have a house that is demanding constant attention and a new garden that I am teaching to be productive and not just for humans.  I have a new crafting partner who is a very dear friend and I am excited about our shared creativity and I have a cat that I adore.   Pete has a new job in the village that he loves so I don’t need to earn the money I once did and the children all have savings!  Home school is done after 13 years and it is just Max working his way through his distance learning qualifications.

The worst thing about my period of disconnection was that I couldn’t sew.  My hands had become so painful but I am now on a new treatment that is working really well.  So my wee world is complete again.  It is also full and I am not adding anything else to it.

I do hope the community that is Scottish island mum is out there and enjoying their own lives.  Do drop me a message and let me know how it is going with you.

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Home School – the completing chapter

I promised this blog post quite some time ago but then life got in the way so apologies.  As our youngest of four enters his final term in full time home school it seems a good time to pause and reflect.  It has been quite a journey and most of it is outlined HERE.

The latest wee achievement is that George has been given a place at university despite not having the usual qualifications.  Firstly, well done to George and secondly well done to the University of Highlands and Islands for having an enlightened approach to admissions.  Some years ago our eldest, Molly, achieved the same by securing a place at the University of Lincoln but she had followed a far more recognised route as she was always aiming for university.  George was not until he did a U turn and sent us into a bit of a spin!

wild challenge 1 017The boys have (or will in Max’s case) followed the same route by taking far more vocationally orientated qualifications preparing then for work rather than further study as that was their choice.  It is still Harry’s choice (number 2 child and now 20) as he is mid way through a plastering apprenticeship with a master plasterer.  However, and this is the important bit, I always made sure whatever they chose the qualifications were accredited at level 3 on the Qualifications and credit framework  Harry took 3 subjects at level 3 (Sports, health and Exercise, Sports Nutrition & Professional Cookery).  In the English system they were EQUIVALENT to A levels and in the Scottish system just above Highers.

With those qualifications in his back pocket he entered the workplace but he could have applied for university.  Not every university is as enlightened as the University of Highlands and Islands but increasingly the picture is changing.  University admissions have been directed to consider a wide range of qualifications but you must make sure they are fully accredited and recognised on the Qualification and credit framework.   If in doubt ask the college or ask me!

All Harry’s qualifications were completed through distance learning colleges with great success.  We had to pick and choose a wee bit to get it right for him.  George then followed his example but choosing level 3 diploma in Animal Care as his first one.  He had thought he wanted to work with animals but then changed his mind when the Duke of Edinburgh expedition highlighted his love of the outdoors and, in particular, adventure sports.  He now kayaks, trail runs and mountain bikes.  He stumbled across a university degree in Adventure Tourism and that was it.  He did look around for similar courses in other institutions but found none and he was not interested in any other course.

This is also important.  I contacted the university and pitched his qualifications and experience to them to see whether, in theory, he could apply.  The programme leader very kindly looked it over and affirmed that George should apply.  George applied for entry in 2017 and held his breath.  None of my children have lots of qualifications as I am totally against that system.  But they all have, at least, their level 2 maths and English (equivalent to GCSE) and then a wee clutch of level 3s.  You will probably find that your children can hop to level 3 quite quickly.

Max, George, Pete, Molly & Harry.

Max, George, Pete, Molly & Harry some years ago now.  

We were delighted when George got a place at university.  He passed his animal care level 3 with distinction and is currently studying a level 3 diploma in Tourism Management from Stonebridge College and also a Higher in Photography via the local High School as the option became available.  Having tried a number of distance learning colleges Stonebridge is our favourite.  They give you little more than the module outline and a question paper and you have to do all the research yourself.  This approach builds very strong research and study skills.  They mark work quickly and all their administration is efficient.   They are to be recommended.

George will soon be taking a gap year to earn some money before going to university in September 2017.  Our youngest, Max, is now about to start his Maths and English levels 2 and take one level 3 at the same time.  No decisions on what that will be yet.  If we could we let our children have the complete home school experience until they turned 16 and only then did we introduce qualifications.  The boys charged through their level 2s in Maths and English with ease and took a level 3 at the same time because they had the self belief to do it.

Max may be like Harry and go into the workplace but he may still choose further study.  He will now take one level 3 diploma for the next three years meaning he will be 19 when he finishes and this was the same for Harry.  I teach my children that life is not a sprint but a marathon and therefore having an additional year in education is no bad thing.  It gives them time and space to think things through and even change direction as George did.

Home education has been a complete privilege.  Both Pete and I have been involved although I have done more of it and he has worked.  When we made the decision we knew we would probably have to live like church mice as one of us would also have to be home but that has never bothered us.  We have had the most amazing experiences with our children.  More importantly our children have grown into confident individuals with an acute sense of self belief and we couldn’t ask for anything more.  They all shine in their different ways.

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Molly is completing her Masters in species recovery at Nottingham Trent University.  She is fast becoming a shining light in seabird research and I sense will have an academic year of some sorts going forward.  

Harry is mid way through a demanding but rewarding, on the job, apprenticeship with a master plaster (and will never be out of a job)! He remains a fitness guru and a body builder and now trains other people including his dad!

George is putting everything in place to be ready for university in 2017 including attaining his gold Duke of Edinburgh award.  He is an experience and able trail runner with many compteitions booked for the coming season.  

Max is last passed the post and the past two years one to one with him have been a joy.  He is now making his first decisions.  He too is working towards his gold Duke of Edinburgh award at the age of just 16.

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Job done and what an honour.

scottish island mum