Friday, August 31, 2007

A bit of a change of plan

Back in January, I blogged something about Tom, Ali and Zara's plans for the future. The boys seemed then to have both decided against any kind of structured, accredited study and were set on simply continuing and expanding the paid, self-employed work they'd already started. But now Tom at least is having a major re-think.

He's spent the past few months surviving on very little money and focusing intensely on graphic art. He's going away soon on retreat, at his own instigation, to finally work out what he needs to do with the first stage of his adult life, but he's very interested in our own local University of Huddersfield and has started to prepare a portfolio of his work to that end.

It's funny, but far from actively guiding, developing and taking charge of their education, I'm just increasingly awed and amazed as I watch them taking charge of their own with strong, quiet dignity and gentle elegance. All that worrying we parents do! There's no need for any of it. We just need to be there, be constant, listen and provide what they need. In the end they do work out where they need to be and take steps to get themselves there.

If Tom hadn't gone through the deschooling process - which seemed to take so long I often thought he'd never come out of it - he wouldn't have been so totally free to find his niche: that whatever-it-is thing that he's so passionate to develop. He went through his frantic work-all-hours to earn loadsamoney stage a few years ago, and if I'd have listened to my fears he would have never been allowed to get that out of his system.

His trip away seems to be an initiatory rite of passage - something he instinctively feels he needs to do. Just him, a tent, some camping gear and the Scottish mountains. No guidance, no company, no phone. No computer, no cosy warm duvet, no mother to make regular wellbeing checks and keep the freezer stocked. No freezer!

Of course I'm worried! But he's 18 now, so I couldn't stop him doing this even if I wanted to, and of course I don't want to. I can recognise, through my paranoia, that this is a vital and natural process for him, to test his mettle. He'll go away a boy and come back a man.

Luckily, there's plenty here to distract me from panicking about him - I get to clean out his room while he's away! Yes, I'm finally allowed in there with my bin bags, cleaning gear, new Ikea shelves and my plastic sorting boxes. I'm doing my bit: he'll leave behind his teenage boy's bedroom and come back to a much more adult space. I'm going to thoroughly enjoy doing that! It's been such a long time coming.

Ali is quite shocked and he actually seems a little unnerved by his brother's plans. He's been 'out there' doing voluntary work, making contacts and generally having fun, feeling safe in the knowledge that his sibling rival was safely ensconced at home in the basement, but not realising that it was actually a chrysalis stage, let alone that the time for emergence was imminent! The look of complete shock on his face was priceless when he heard about Tom's plans. "University???!"

But I think Ali has still got a lot of surprises in store for us, even if he doesn't realise it himself yet.


Blogger Lisa G said...

Gill, can I just say that I love reading your blog! My own daughter has only been out of school 8 months and we're following the autonomous route. I have had several moments of panic wondering how it's all going to work out, but then I read something on your blog and it all makes sense again, can't say I'll stop having these panic attacks now and then but reading about your children especially the older ones makes me feel far more confident about the future. Good luck to Tom as he starts his adult life, he sounds like a very 'together' kind of guy!

1:37 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Lisa. Thanks for your comment, it was just what I needed to read today. Great to know that you're finding it useful to read things here. Now I know that, I'll write more along those lines.

Ohh I remember being 8 months into our home ed, after deregistration. We had panics too! Well I did: the children were just relieved all the enforced schooling had finally stopped, I think ;-)

I've just had a peep at your blog. It looks great!

5:26 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

That's great Gill :)

6:17 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Ruth :-) Didn't some of yours go through a similar process?

10:02 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

I am looking forward to the homecoming blog and finding out how he managed his 'finding out'

10:30 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL Elaine - not as much as I am! ;-)

11:04 pm, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laugh every time I see the slightly quizzical/amused look you have in your photo! Today, you have the sort of poised look quite appropriate for your post!
Becs (19) was a month in India in January/ February, and did appear different initially when she returned, but I was quite surprised how short a time it took for her to become frustrated with living at home, and return to her current 'normal' (which is someone who really needs to be independent now, and who is gradually getting the courage to do what she really needs to do.)
I'm fascinated to see what happens when she returns from 3 months in Indonesia! I wonder if it will have broken as many frustration patterns about living at home as she thinks it will have. I'm not so sure. It's got to be a bit of an anticlimax and there are always chores and money to earn ... and it's all somewhat more mundane, I suspect.
It has been a great process for us both this year. We have gained a lot of trust in each others ability to cope with the separation that is inevitable and that she really needs, but previously feared. She has discovered depths and strengths, as well as weaknesses she (and we) didn't know she had. It has been a deep learning experience for us all.
Good luck to Tom. It is a very exciting time, and so great that the whole thing is not being packaged for him (so many package trip 'gap years' out there. Great, but it's not really unschooled, is it?)

11:31 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

I too am greatly encouraged by reading about your older ones, Gill. If Tom does decide to pursue university it will be a genuine choice - which is (IMO) the way to do it. I think that going away, alone, is an incredibly mature way to consider things through and make decisions and plans.

10:23 am, September 01, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

"Didn't some of yours go through a similar process? "

Yes C started a degree but is not sure it is really his thing now and is looking at other options and K1 who never wanted to do a degree is starting an OU one in October. That was a shock tbh.

It is true tho that I didn' t need to chivvy them along or anything cos they came to their own ideas in their own time. I expect G will surprise me next:)

11:56 am, September 01, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL Sally, are you looking at the same pic each time?
And blimey, India and Indonesia are a bit different to Scotland, aren't they? Were they structured/scheduled trips? I'm relieved Tom isn't planning to go so far afield - yet! Yes, a package trip wouldn't have suited him at all.

Thanks Allie, yes to me that's the only way uni can be worthwhile: if it's a completely self-motivated decision. He's planning to fund his own way through it too. Well, no choice but to except to build up lots of debt and he says he wouldn't be happy to do that.

Ah I thought so, Ruth :-)

7:02 pm, September 01, 2007  

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