Fifteen years ago, Stonelaughter and I had not yet met, but we had begun to have the odd conversation on ICQ (remember that?), having been introduced to each other. We wouldn’t actually meet for another three and a half months, but the events which led to me writing this poem were already lining up, ready to knock me for six.
Those events have been on my mind a lot recently, and no wonder; they threatened to end my relationship with Stonelaughter before it had really begun and caused us both a world of pain. They also led to a conviction for the instigator of that pain. The effects of those events are still being felt too – they’re the reason I still hate answering the phone, amongst other things.
I wrote this poem shortly after the trial that it all led to, after the guilty verdict came, when I hoped, rather than felt that I could get my life back. It was several years before I truly felt that it was behind us, that I stopped being afraid of it all starting up again, that I could leave the house without wondering if today was the day it would start again. But to be completely honest, deep down I know I’ll never be free of that fear. Does a psychopath ever let go, move on? I often think that the best I can hope for is that he’s moved on to someone else but I also hope, for the sake of the someone else, that there’s a cessation of that behaviour. That’s not too much to ask is it?
You thought that you could mould me
and make me just like you,
but I escaped your clutches:
I had a different view.
I wanted something extra,
someone strong and loyal and true.
You said that I betrayed you
when that someone wasn’t you.
You imagined we were laughing
and to start with you were wrong,
but as the pain continued
our laughter made us strong.
You fed your pain to anger
and watched your anger grow
’til it was all-consuming
and you thought the world should know.
You hoped the press would hound me
and reveal my wicked ways;
the career I’d worked so hard for
would disappear in days.
But people saw you coming:
they read your lies and laughed –
not at me, as you’d hoped;
the laughs were on your path.
You said that you had done this
because you loved me dear,
but love knows not the actions
that build themselves on fear.
Your actions came not from love,
but from your insanity
(and tho’ you won’t admit it,
from spite and jealousy)
Perhaps you saw more sorrow
as surely we would part?
But you didn’t hear us promise
to face this heart to heart.
We faced the pain together
and kept each other strong.
You said that we would falter
but we knew that you were wrong.
And now that it’s all over,
do you still think you were right?
Did you forget why you admired me;
that I would stand and fight?
And that was your big mistake –
to think that I would fall.
You forgot that I get stronger
when my back’s against the wall.
So here I am, standing strong,
even stronger than before.
You didn’t win this battle
and you will not win the war.
Source: Wide Eyed Owl
As children get older, the list of things they want gets longer. Inevitably, at the same time, the size of things gets smaller and price tags increase significantly. Children rarely appreciate how much these things cost or where the money comes from to buy them. Of course not, they’re not in a position of having to maintain a budget.
This is what we are currently experiencing with Bean, now ten. He is really into Minecraft and wants all kinds of things to go with it. He sees games he wants for the XBox, different games consoles; all the usual things at his age. And we can’t supply all of those things, and neither do we want to. Time for a life lesson.
Bean gets pocket money from us each month, in exchange for doing a (very) few chores. A few months ago we came across a debit card specifically designed for children aged 8+. It’s a pre-paid card, not linked to a bank account, and it’s impossible to spend more than is loaded on to it. We got one for Bean.
Osper is a brilliant idea. As the parent, you order the card and activate it when it arrives. You manage it via a free app on your phone or tablet. You choose how much will be paid onto the card – we have it set to pay £10 on the first of each month. You also choose whether you want to allow your child to use the card online. You get to see the balance and all the transactions that have taken place. You can also change the amount you send each money, so if Bean didn’t do his chores, we could deduct an appropriate amount from next month’s allowance.
Bean manages his money via his own app. It shows him his balance and what he has spent. He has a PIN, so he can use the card in shops (the card itself is a Mastercard debit card) and he can use it to spend online too – lots of the things he wants to buy come from online.
It’s been interesting. The first couple of months, the money was spent within an hour of arriving on his card, and Bean, having not taken the time to prioritise his spending, ran out of money before he had got all the things he wanted. It took a little while, but he is now beginning to realise that there may well be lots of things he wants, but his money will only go so far. He’s taking time to work out what he can actually buy with his allowance, and making decisions about whether he thinks item x is worth spending his precious money on. Things he would have bought in a heartbeat a couple of months ago are now dismissed as expensive, or not worth the price tag, to him at least. It’s had the added benefit that things he has bought using his card have much more value to him – he looks after them because he appreciates just how much they have cost.
And he now has a much better understanding of the value of money, which shows itself in all areas of life. He gets that we also have to work to a budget and prioritise our spending. He understands (even if he doesn’t like it!) that boring things like heating bills and mortgage payments have to come before days at theme parks or going out for pizza.
It’s making him think more about money in a realistic way, but not in a boring “this is how money works” kind of way; he’s getting to spend his own money and be responsible for how it’s spent. A feature of Osper Learn is an enforced saving option – where you can insist that x amount of each month’s allowance is saved rather than spent. and I think that will add another interesting dimension to the lesson in money management. It will also hopefully help children form positive habits for later life – the ability to put aside some money each month is one that many adults don’t have, but something we could all do with. Having a “rainy day” fund to deal with unexpected expenses helps keep us out of expensive debt.
An Osper card is free for the young person who has it. The parent is charged £1 a month to administrate it, although there is a 3 month free trial available. Family and friends can also add funds to it (if you upgrade to Osper Learn), perhaps for a birthday or Christmas present. There’s also a Facebook group that parents can join called “Osper Insiders”. This group asks you for feedback on the way the card operates, on future plans and gives the children the chance to take part in challenges which can earn them credit on their card or goodies – Bean recently had a bright orange (and good quality) Osper t-shirt arrive in the post for him, which he loves. He also received an Osper card wallet to keep his card in.
If you’d like to know more about Osper, you can find answers to all your questions on the Osper website. If you use think link, Osper will add £5 credit to your child’s card when you activate it (and Bean will receive some credit too). If you want to know more about our experience with the card, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.
Info: I have not been asked to write this post and am not receiving any compensation for doing so. Bean will receive credit for each new activation using his code and each new activation using his code will receive £5 free credit on their card too.
So yesterday I wrote about how our HE journey had changed shape several times over the last two years, but now we feel like we’re in a place that suits us all.
Bean is throwing himself into his new found love of all things Minecraft, and as part of that he has begun making his own videos. In order to do that, he’s researched which software he needs for the tasks he has in mind, taught himself how to use it, recorded and edited his videos, added soundtracks and voiceovers and uploaded them to his own YouTube channel. He’s done all of this on his own and I’m really proud of him. He turned 10 last month.
So I thought it was time I introduced you to his work. He’s actually got two YouTube channels now, since he created one just for vlogs (something I’ve never felt comfortable enough to do, but he loves it!). So his first channel is THE Diamond Steve and this is the latest video on that channel
His vlog channel is called More TDS and he has just one video on there at the moment.
He is determined to add at least one new video a week so if you or anyone in your household is at all interested in Minecraft, please do watch his videos, and even subscribe. Your support would mean a lot to him!
We’ve been home educating for a little over 2 years now. When we started I had an idea of what home education would be like in our family. I had the National Curriculum saved to my computer, topics planned, resources found, worksheets printed …. and that lasted all of about a fortnight. This was not home education, this was trying to replicate school – and we had left the school system behind because we didn’t like it. So why were we trying to stick to it now?
So we changed things. We tried picking a topic that Bean was interested in and researching it but we came up against the same obstacles. He was picking a topic because he had to, not because he had a burning desire to find out about it. He wasn’t interested in writing things down, because he could remember them and didn’t see the point in writing just to satisfy someone else’s need.
So we changed again. We tried our own version of unschooling, with no formal learning. Bean loved it, but it made myself and Stonelaughter twitchy and it changed the dynamic of our family, not for the better, in our case.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with any of these ways of home educating, because there isn’t. They just weren’t right for us – and that’s the beauty of home education; you don’t have to choose a “one size fits all” solution. That’s what school education is providing by and large. And that’s not dissing teachers. They do a very hard job, often in difficult circumstances (I know, because I was one!). But even the best teacher in the world can’t clone themselves so that every child gets one-to-one attention. It’s the nature of trying to educate 30 or so individuals at the same time. So in home education, you can choose what’s right for you and your family, and that is likely to depend to some extent on why you chose to home educate in the first place.
For us, a big part of our decision was disillusionment with our education system, with the constant testing and the desire of the government to churn out obedient robots. So replicating school at home was never going to work for us.
And now we have arrived at a place that seems to work for us. Bean is Minecraft obsessed. He loves all things Minecraft, including watching videos of other people playing it. But he’s not content to just play and watch, he wants to make his own videos, get his own followers, carve out his own place in Minecraft society. And so that’s what he’s doing. We showed him how to set up a YouTube account. We set him off researching and he found the software he needed, discovered how to create a video, edit it, add a soundtrack, upload his finished video. And he loves doing it.
And so this is where we are. We ask him to do an hour and a half of Maths a week, but it’s down to him when he does it. We agreed with him that he would make one video a week. On top of that he attends our Home Education group every Tuesday and goes to Street Dance classes every Saturday. Beyond that, his time is his own, apart from the chores he has to do as part of our family. And this is working for us. We have fewer battles, he has a great attitude (most of the time) and he’s learning. He’s not necessarily learning about the Kings and Queens of England or tectonic plates, but he is learning the things that interest him, the things he needs to know to pursue his hobby (and what he currently wants to do as a career). When something else catches his attention, he looks into it. He’s happy to take part in workshops that will help him learn other skills. And it works for us.
And since we started home educating Bean, Plum has reached the age of compulsory education. We didn’t apply for a school place for her, because we knew that we weren’t going down that route again. Home education looks different for her. She’s only just turned five. She loves learning to read, so we do reading practice (with Reading Eggs) whenever she requests it. We are lucky that we have been able to repurpose my old laptop to give her an account so she can use Reading Eggs on her own. She likes playing the games on there too and we’re happy for her to do that because she learns a lot about using a computer. She likes Maths too, although she asks to do that less often. Most of her time is spent playing, as it should be at five years old. She also goes to our weekly home education group and she has dance classes – one weekly session during which she learns ballet, tap and pop dance. She wants to start on acrodance too.
PK is three now. He learns through play, of course. He picks up a lot from the other two. At his age, Plum was avidly using Reading Eggs. PK isn’t interested in the slightest, except to watch the song videos on there.
So this is what home education looks like to us. There are trips to parks, forests, place of interest, friends and more to fit in there too. But it doesn’t look anything like school, and we are happy with that.