Home education diary, December 2002

December 12th

November raced by - our routine seems to be working, with a bit of ACE when we can, and plenty of other activities. Daniel was baptised in the sea early in November, and then we had a week off academics when Richard's mother came to stay. I thought I was pretty much organised for Christmas, too.

Now, suddenly everything seems stressful. It's been a busy few weeks; Daniel was in the premiere of the Antidote Theatre Christmas pantomime/play called 'The Frog Prince' on Saturday, and was extremely stressed and tired all week beforehand. He gets so burned out with heavy rehearsal schedules. He's also having continued arm problems. We took him to a chiropracter, who said his neck and back muscles were all tight, and that Dan should only sit on chairs or lie on his bed - no sprawling on the sofa. 

December 17th

I'd always heard that thirteen was the age when boys started getting moody and surly. Since both mine sailed fairly cheerfully through being thirteen, I breathed a sigh of relief. But since Daniel's turned 16 he's been much more unpredictable. He's not surly, exactly, but he seems to snap at Tim a lot, and he's definitely moody. Some days he's fine, but some days he wakes up tired, and spends the day mooching about saying he can't concentrate on anything. He seems to be under stress all the time, no matter how much we try and ease it, and has aches and pains, and awful fatigue.

He's had three chiropracter appointments, and his back/neck/arm does seem to be a lot better, although for 24 hours after each one they apparently get worse for a while. I'm not surprised that's been making him miserable. But the chiropracter thinks he's sorted out now, and he seems able to use the computer again. He was very stressed and burned out in the last week of hectic rehearsals before the premiere of the play he's in, but now he's done three performances and they've gone well, and he says he's not worried about that any more.

He also gets fed up when he hears about the awful lives some of his friends have, and the lifestyles that some of his drama group peers live. I don't think he wants that for himself, but it does make him feel the 'odd one out'. He says he is glad he doesn't go to school, and tells me he's quite content, but I know it seriously bothers him that there's so much suffering in the world.

I think too he's worried about growing up; thinking about leaving the nest and being an adult. Sixteen is such a milestone, really. It's the age for wanting so much independence, but still feeling dependent and not sure he'll ever cope on his own. It's pretty scary. In a way it seems like a repeat of the two-year-old thing, wanting to assert more independence but not sure how to go about it. So although a teenager doesn't throw tantrums on the floor like a toddler, they get moody and bad-tempered and then feel bad about that, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

It seems my role is to give hugs and cuddles on request no matter how busy I am, to listen any time he wants to talk, and respond without lecturing or trying to persuade him to think differently; to encourage without any hint of criticism, but also without going overboard or saying something I don't mean; to give him lots of food that he likes, coffee in bed in the morning, hot chocolate in the evening... in fact generally to let him know he's special and precious without actually saying so.

It worries me that being home educated is somehow damaging him and making things worse as he has so much more time to think. But mostly I realise that he would have hated secondary school, and would probably have been even worse. At least he's talking about his worries and still wanting hugs. 

December 18th

We've stopped all the ACE work until January at present as Daniel was getting so bogged down in play rehearsals and music. So now he's also worried he's getting 'behind'. Not that he has any set schedule, but he'd hoped to finish level one by Christmas, whereas now it's going to be some time in the Spring. He only has about 10 more paces to finish for level one, so I really want him to get that done, and get the certificate, even if he doesn't continue with level 2. It would be silly to give up at this stage.

Also he worries that he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. I think because this would be his GCSE year in school, he's aware that education isn't compulsory for him any more. He's not over-enamoured with the thought of two more years of ACE, although he'd probably go into sixth form if we were in the UK. He had thought of going to work part-time at the theatre company in September, helping with the younger classes, and scenery and so on, but he seems to have gone right off that idea. He did help a few afternoons and got very tired and rather bored with it. So that's no good.

Now his arm's better he can do web-site and graphic stuff again but he's not very interested in doing sites for other people any more. He wants to have creative control over everything he does, and to work at his own speed. Sometimes I wonder if being so relaxed about home education has made it worse, but then again he really doesn't do well under stress.

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