Educating Josie.

“How many people are there in the world?”

It’s a pretty typical question for the 10 year old, an age where scale and numbers are beginning to make sense and an understanding of the wider world is something that can be grasped and considered.

We talked about there being 7 billion people and about how many there were when I was her age. She guessed that there would be 9 billion people by the time she was my age.

I said I wasn’t sure.

We talked about how many people there were in the UK and how much that has changed in the relatively short period of time (in terms of the human race) since the middle ages. We talked about the plague that swept England at that time and the decimation of the population (over 1/3 of the people of England died in 2 waves of plague in the 12-1300’s). I didn’t mention that there are some suggestions it might have been an ebola type sickness… there are limits to educating children after all. I like to get some sleep at night.

We talked about the 7 billionth baby and how that happened round about when Bene was born.

So we looked up some stuff and her prediction was quite right. We talked about how growth might happen faster because more people produce more people. We could have talked about what might stop that – but we can another day.

Home tutoring Friday. Josie is settling in to a chill out Friday that gets homework done and leaves time for following interests too.

Home tutoring Friday. Josie is settling in to a chill out Friday that gets homework done and leaves time for following interests too.

Regular readers will know that Josie very much wants to be home educated again but that for various reasons, we can’t really manage that right now. She has been given one day off school a week to regroup and recover from the life of an elite gymnast plus school child. She’s marked as home tutored on those days; sometimes her teacher sets her some work to finish off but mostly she does her homework early on while I get on with work of my own.

This week she read to me while I sewed up her cushion; reading has really not come easily to Josie and spelling even less so. School seemed to stutter the process that had only really just begun at home for her at 8 – its not their fault and they’ve been very supportive – but I think home ed into school doesn’t work well. Her flow of understanding and immersion got interrupted and she had to change track and something didn’t fit together. She’s more like Maddy with her word skill anyway and it doesn’t come easily. She’s just discovered Holly Webb books though and finally something is catching her interest.

Friday’s have to be about fitting in with me; she knew this when she took the offer of it and has been very good. Bene is at nursery so the house is quiet and she sits with me and works. Right now she is enjoying Bond 11+ books, spelling and doing mini projects of her own. She does a couple of hours in the morning and then crafts, reads or plays beside me. These days were all about her mental health and heading off the onset of school refusal and I think they’ve worked well for that. She relaxes on a Friday and winds down and by Saturday she is ready to play and have fun.

If she had been in a less supportive school, I’m not sure what would have happened. She’s had one class teacher throughout all her time there so far and a huge commitment from them to help her feel happy there. They manage her lunchtimes where she struggles to just let go and join in and give her jobs to do that fill her time and give her a role. I don’t know what we will do next year without Miss B, because I think only the ongoing connection and understanding from her really makes it manageable for Josie but for now, home ed Friday is an okay balance.

I’m struggling with enormous guilt that I can’t give Josie what she wants just now. I want to home educate her again, I’d love to. She would be a dream to have at home and it may well have to happen next year or the year after. I think this Friday arrangement has helped us both; it doesn’t take very much time to tip the balance back in the right direction. She knows all the adults listened and she is getting some time to be with a parent and be heard and given attention as well as down time.

It’s not perfect but it’s not a bad arrangement. If it has to change, I guess we know now that she will just have to leave school.


You might not yet know that we are gearing up for another hideous round of intervention in home educator rights. You might have thought last time that we were a bunch of ranty loons. Well now, perhaps, you know better about government and our right to a private family life. Please listen. Please support. You never know when you might need to home educate.


Another little evacuee.

A couple of years ago Amelie managed to sneak in on an evacuee day only a couple of weeks after joining school. Today Josie, otherwise known as Ivy Wilson, visited Stibbington to do the same day. From spam sandwiches (she woosed out and went for jam) to an air raid and having to write with an ink pen to see whether she could win her spot in the big kids class, she had a day filled with 940’s drama and intrigue.

I love these types of learning. It is how it should be all through school. Josie’s school do “wow” days which immerse the kids in the new topic and let them really absorb it. All education should be that way.

And doesn’t my little evacuee look adorable?



Sponsored Video: Choosing wisely for a bright future.

We flowed from the high of GCSE results day to the final decision on what Sixth Form Fran would attend, to last minute tweaks and changes to A Level choices and the scheduling in of enrichment activities around personal commitments. And all of it, for the first time, was judged up against the future. Lists were consulted, pathways considered and options – in the sense of the word far bigger than choosing school subjects – looked at and assessed.

I’m an enormous believer in it being possible to change your stars at any time. I’m not one for panicking about making the perfect choice at one moment and never wavering, as I wrote about here. I played safe and took no risks for fear of failing when I was at school and not following my heart meant nothing more than I look back not knowing if I would have been good enough but knowing for certain that I never really tried. And our home ed life certainly taught us to think differently about the paths our children might take – to try the unconventional, to follow your (and their) instincts and be prepared to carve out a way personal to the child, not carve the child to the accepted norm.

Fran has plenty of aspirations; like me, she has a tendency to think whatever is laid at her door is a great idea. having passed her Level 1 British Gymnastics coaching last week she already knows she can work as a gym coach. She;s likely to be a decently qualified coach well before she leaves school. And she is aspirational about her academic future and her career too, with physiotherapy and sport science at a good uni both high on her list of hopes. That means she has had to consider her A Level choices far more carefully than I did because some careers do become closed off once you turn your back on science subjects. She’s settled on Sport, Biology and Psychology for her AS Levels, knowing that they not only excite her but also support those careers that call to her. Carrying on working and training as a gym coach give her the tantalising possibility of having back up, skilled earning power through uni and gap years or even while she hunts for the perfect job afterwards. And if things don’t go to plan, if the high A level grades she needs don’t happen, she has a cast iron fall back plan.

It’s a set of subjects I find myself surprised by, my bookish, humanity subject loving, history conscious daughter choosing so far away from anything I would have imagined. I catch myself wondering what she would have done if she had continued with home education.

But in all that, there is another thread.

The stage calls her. Alongside those subjects is a BTEC in Performing Arts which, judging by her all round good parents evening last night, filled with all the normal praise, is where she excels. And sitting next to her in her exam success West End show treat a few weeks ago, it is  clear that the desire to perform at a high level tugs her bones even harder than it did mine.

When I was at school, the message was clear; get your education first, no matter what and then, if there is room left, follow your dream along the side.

I’m not sure if I agree with that. There are some things – gym and dance to name but two – which have a shelf life. It’s not only gathering qualifications that matters, though once you are in the system, doing well is clearly a good way forward. But passion and desire and total commitment will get you a very long way. There is little worse than regretful wishing – whether it is wishing you worked harder back then or wishing you had tested the footing on a different path..

For Fran, this looks like taking a few different forms. She’ll gather these A levels at school and give it her all but she plans a gap year before uni, if one of the courses she wants will take her. And in that gap year she plans to finish her basic gym qualifications and do a course that will give her some skills that link dance and performance and gym all together. And alongside that she plans to do some West End auditions (because why the hell not? The worst that can happen is a no) and apply to some performance colleges too.

And that’s as many doors to universes kept open as possible. Which is the subject of this rather lovely video, all about helping teenagers see the possibilities that science can bring them and all the ways their lives can pan out depending on whether they make one choice or another. Your Life is about the benefits of studying maths and physics at A level. It’s a 3 year project aimed at inspiring young people to see the career pathways they open up, the employers who value them as subjects and how being informed at up to date about technology and the sciences at drive them leave you able to step into any ‘universe’ you want to.

And now she is 10.

My youngest little girl is ten.

One of my friends said something yesterday that I’ve been thinking all week.

When my big girls were ten, they were practically grown up. Josie is still just a baby.

Surely, she is still just a baby?

One of my ancestors, great, great aunt Josephine.

But she isn’t. She is, as all ten years old girls are, a little girl on the cusp of a waft of hormones that will bring curves and strops and worries and attitude. She is all about becoming now, even though her heart and mind, like her biggest sister, is all about staying little.

This birthday I have bought her, I imagine, one of her last dolls. This year she chose Lego, and boyish Lego at that and she will cling to childhood through the games it will give her for just a few more years.

This year she is still a little girl.

Being 10 means she has lived half her life in the shadow of something which took away her smile and left her brittle boned and tough as a tree that stands against a gale.

Being 10 means she is having to hear the words that she is too old to still be able to catch up in the sport she loves.

Being 10 means she is becoming one of the big girls of the house, though she clings to her little status fiercely.

Being 10 means laps are getting too small for her, though being the size of a 7 year old is delaying the inevitable.

Single-minded. Stubborn. Serious. Sensitive. Strong.


This day, which was difficult and damaging in so many ways, is so far in history now. What is left, is a beautiful girl, as is only right.

I’ve watched her trying to perfect this move over the last week, the piggiest of pig moves for half way decent gymnasts. I watched her stand and do 20 or 30 of them, shaking with rage at herself for not being quite there. She has tenacity and determination, all wrapped up in a tiny parcel. Not for nothing did she deserve this post on talent the other week.

And when I watch her being like that, self motivated, driven and talented, I can hardly wonder that school has lost whatever edge it ever had for her. She’s been feeling very sad there, having found herself lonely at lunch after last years friend re-found her own friend of the year before and bored with the humdrum of the national curriculum and waiting for people to settle down to do tasks that come easily to her anyway or do not ignite the fire within her.

She’s in a lovely school, with a lovely, lovely teacher who has been there for her from the very start. The one who wrote this:-

Love this. Given to Josie from her teacher.

And who I know would do anything to make the environment as good as possible for my littlest girl.

Josie needs something else at the moment; she needs to be home educated and I can’t give her that, so the school and local authority have agreed that it is in the interests of Josie’s mental health to be home tutored (by us) one day a week.

I have so much admiration for a headmaster who will work to make a system suit a child. He has a beautiful ship, with a wonderful crew, that he works very hard to steer down a river of education system that is filled with something too toxic for too many children.

I really feel for teachers.

And I’m realising that while she has always been a funny little thing, Josie used to smile more – and we need to get that back again.


Happy tenth birthday Josie – our Fridays are my gift to you this year because you are, as you have always been ‘Just Josie’ and you need to feel like life is right for you.

The results are in.

I have so much to write about, big and small. And so I’m hardly writing at all. But today was a big day. A very big day indeed, the first full public exam results day.

Fran and I drove in to town first thing and got there at 9. There followed one of the trickiest of parent waits… Out in the car park while faces, happy and sad, ran or trailed back to cars.

One of those days where people who have arsed about discover that not working might not get you what you want.

And you have to hope that hard work and application and sticking power counts for something.

Then a text.


Proving that she might have, against the odds, got a B in maths but she can’t actually count ;)

A* in Sports Studies, A in geography, A in RE, B in English, English, maths, science and a Distinction* in Dance to add to 3 Bs last year.


She’s so happy and we are so proud. She has an ability to organise herself I have never learned; throughout the first half of this year she juggled gymnastics, coaching, dance, cello grade 4 and 2 huge dance exams as well as rugby training. She was only at home for a fraction of her week but the topics got ticked off the calendar and she stuck at it.

Well done Fran. Love you.