Now for another addition to my Fresher’s Friday and Worrisome&Wonderful Weekend. This post comes from the mother of one of my favourite mother-daughter duos: Su and Asha. She’s unique, creative and willing to stand up for what she believes in, which I admire greatly. When I thought about doing this feature, Su immediately came to mind as I wanted nothing more than to bring her enthusiasm and perspective to the piece. So here goes, an unconventional education.
When I first became a mother, in 1997, my whole world turned upside down. Plans just evaporated and became hopes. Hopes became begs. Begs became pleads. And then it all fell to pot as nothing fitted the script. *throws hands up in the air* Good. The script needed rewriting. It wasn’t mine after all.
I discovered that there really are genuine alternatives to the educational, cultural and societal stereotypical expectations, those prewritten scripts, the ‘one size fits all’ models of childhood, parenthood, womanhood. I was allowed (I allowed myself) to question the norm and challenge the status quo. I gave myself permission to live according to my principles, to be an adventurer, to be an autonomous mother. And it all started to happen.
Gradually all parenting rules were thrown out, books were read and dismissed, binned even. The principles I believed to be sound were questioned and I started to make it up as I went along. I started to ask why. Lots of whys. Why mother and toddler group, why playgroup, why nursery, why school, why uniforms, why certain medical conventions, why why why??? Do we really have to outsource our child’s education to anyone else, do we? ‘Why’ is a very frightening question when you have been thoroughly institutionalised. I was thoroughly institutionalised, as was the girl’s dad.
Turns out there are actually plenty of reasons to not follow prevalent cultural expectations. We made the days last and stretched them into weeks and months and years and before we knew it, sixteen years of relaxed childhood has passed, without a day in school. There was music, (lots of), photography, books, outdoor life, politics, friendship, swimming, instruments, craft, gymnastics, dance, orchestra, camping, radio, construction, travel, first aid, philosophy, tennis, self employment, managing money, faith, lifeguarding, cooking, accounting, hockey, taekwondo, concerts, education law, some exams… so much variety, so much time to pursue interests, so much time for real life. We have had the freedom to roam and explore, to be wild explorers of life. To explore the woods, study photography, to drive and walk and feel alive. So many things that would otherwise be squeezed into the spaces left after school guzzled time.
Sixth form was a conscious choice that became a reality after initial wobbles, improving as time went on. There were moments where home education seemed like a real fall back option, but we persisted. She persisted. And it worked out in the end. We overcame. She overcame.
University wasn’t ever a compulsory option, it was always a possibility but never a necessity. There really are many alternatives these days to gain life experience and pursue interests. So, when the decision to pursue a university education became a reality, we were fully behind her choice. Her choice. Completely. And she did everything she needed to do. She chose the places she wanted to go, made all the enquiries, booked the open days, met the relevant people, asked the pertinent questions. And received an unconditional offer and passed all her exams. She found accommodation. She’s incredible.
The challenges we’ve faced were always faced together. As co-parents we’ve tried to create a loving, supportive home atmosphere. We had the desire to push past limitations and achieve what is needed to live a wholesome life, an authentic life, a rich life, a life with genuine choices. And I think we’ve done that, we’re still doing that. We’ve provided the framework for it to happen. We don’t give up easily, we pursue life.
The young woman will soon pack her bags in readiness to move away… that, dear ones, will be off the scale. And another journey entirely. She is ready. But, like the last 19 years, it will become part of who I am, who we are, who we become. The mother, friend, cheerleader, believer, empowerer, learner, facilitator, the world’s greatest supporter of a daughter in a million, our daughter. This tailor-made, unconventional education means that we never stop learning, and that is our sincere hope. We will never stop relating, learning, living, loving, connecting. We are so thankful for the greatest and richest ride of our lives. When love is the motivation, all things are possible.
Writer: Susanna Matthan, Asha’s mum
Contact: @thesurealist or firstname.lastname@example.org
Big thank you to Su for writing this beautiful piece!
Photo credit to Asha, Su and Mia Crutchley