For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm leaving the country...

but only for a while. A short while, I hope.
On Tuesday I'm going to Holland. My sister is in hospital again and I'm going to stay with her children for at least a week. My niece is in the middle of her final exams and these past few weeks it hasn't been easy for her to concentrate on her learning. Fortunately, her mentor is aware of the situation and is helping her any way he can. She goes to one of the best Steiner schools in Holland and enjoys going, she's actually thriving. I think if we'd still be living in Holland Myrna would probably want to go to that school and I wouldn't have any problems with it.
It's a shame there isn't such a school here, at least not anywhere close to where we are.
I find that even though home education is practically illegal in Holland, there is a wider range of school educational systems than in this country. Every major city has Steiner, Montessori, Jenaplan, Freynet schools as well as 'regular' ones, for all religious and non-religious walks of life. There are even quite a few private schools based on the Sudbury Valley School principles.
In this country educating your child outside the school system is a legal right, which cannot be appreciated enough. But - as far as I know, and I must admit I haven't done extensive research into the matter - there is a very limited choice of educational systems in schools. Which means that - unfortunately - the initial choice to home educate (or homeschool) is often a negative one: "I don't want to send my children to school." Instead of the positive: 'I want to home educate my child(ren) because I believe it's the best possible thing for them.'

In my eyes the difference in educational possibilities typifies the difference between the two countries.
Very generally speaking my impression is that in Britain things are more extreme, black and white, either / or, where in Holland there is a larger scale of greys.
Look at the difference in politics.
In Holland there are over thirty active political parties, of which I think twelve have representatives in the national parliament; the other ones are mainly active in local or regional politics.
And, as Wikipedia states, the UK is nearly but not quite a two-party system.

Anyway, I suppose I was just trying to say that my niece enjoys going to school and is very motivated to do well in her exams... which might sound like cursing in church on a home edders weblog ;), but I think it's wonderful and I can see her schoolgoing life genuinely suits her. She has spent a lot of time in our family, also here in England, and she absolutely agrees we're doing the right thing for us, but she's still adamant about preferring (her) school to home education for herself. And since she is a well balanced, confident, intelligent and happy girl I can only agree with her.

Obviously with my impending departure there are lists all over the house with 'things to do before I leave'. Also listed was getting the garden sorted. I'm not a very skilled gardener, but I just love putting my hands in the earth, digging and planting. I know it sounds silly, but I talk to every plant, tell them how pretty they are, why I bought them and how I hope they will feel comfortable and happy in our garden.
Only my little sedum plants didn't last very long. The morning after I planted them they were all dug up and in bits, poor things. First I blamed the cats, but then I saw from my bedroom window how the blackbirds were pecking at them, having a feast! Anyone knew that?
Ah well, such is nature, to eat or to be eaten.

So here's what I've been doing in the garden:

I don't like fencing, but we had this one put in to give AL some privacy in her conservatory. And to create a space behind the house where the dogs can wander around freely. On the street side I planted clematis and heather, so hopefully by next year this side of the fence will be colourfully covered.

Yes, the garden is only small and yes, Owen is a big lad :).

This charming spring flowering clematis grows just left of the front door and was a total surprise for us. There were just a few dead twigs there, until a week or two ago. And look at it now! And what about the hanging baskets (for the sake of symmetry there's another one on the other side of the door) with saxifraga in a colour matching the flower pattern in the stained glass window of the front door.

Myrna wanted a little rose garden, so we made this bed on the conservatory side of the fence with four rose bushes in different colours. And lavender - Myrna's other favourite - at their feet to keep the lice away.

Kitchen herbs are supposed to be planted by the kitchen door, but we don't have a kitchen door. And by the conservatory wouldn't be a good idea, because I don't want to have to go through AL's room - for reasons of self preservation and sanity. So these - mint, thyme and parsley - ended up by the front door....

together with these. The sedum still looked alright here :(.

And so this is what that side of the garden looks like now. Is it what you call a suburbian garden? I don't know. It suits the house and I'm happy with it, because I can just about manage it.
The garden in the Vicarage was so much bigger - about two football pitches - and so beautifully wild, with all kinds of wild flowers, apple and other fruit trees, high grass and all that. We didn't do much with it apart from mowing the bits where the mower wouldn't sink away in the mud. It was heaven for the kids when they were still climbing trees and building huts, and it was heaven for the dogs.
But they seem happy enough with where we are now. At least here we can go on walks along the river, where they can go off the lead without the risk of getting shot by a farmer who's worried about his sheep being upset. There's so many sides to life, isn't there? And different situations can be equally good. It all depends on what you need and want at that particular time.
We're happy here!

1 comment:

liz said...

my personal experience certainly chimes with your description of the decision to home ed. we looked into the possibility of a small school before we decided to home ed. I said at the time that I wanted any decision we made to be a pro positive step rather than an anti negative one. As it turns out home ed is the most pro positive step we could have made. We've discovered that as we went along.
I also agree with what you said about the differences between town and country life. Sure we have more space around us int he country but perversely it's harder to find places to walk with the kids and the dog than it was in town. Stil, I'm happy on the whole with where we are now and what we're doing. Hope it's all going well in dutchland:-)