In uncharacteristically lucid moments.....

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I have a vision!
I shall be a content, settled, englishwoman, whose children go to school and yet who does not feel guilt every day because of this. Of course they go to school. They like school. Why on earth would I keep them here all the time?
I shall have a blissful garden, fit to be opened on charity days, and I shall remember the names of obscure varieties of plants, which I shall discuss knowledgeably with my fellow gardeners. I might even join the garden club.

I shall have my vegetable, plant and craft shop, in a little shed, beside my house, and I shall have old, fat, purebreed hens, pecking around the door. I shall make something of a living from this, enough to pay the school fees maybe, and it will make me happy. I shall go grey, and possibly even have a perm.
I shall hack out with my children, hunt occasionally, and take them to pony club, where they will be average but happy, we shall never excel, but their childhood will be golden.
When they marry, I shall buy them cookbooks and Cath Kidston aprons and babysit for them willingly, without feeling the need to turn them into puritan matriarchs.
Meanwhile, I shall help them with their homework, read Thomas Hardy and Anthony Trollope with them, continue to take them to Olympia, and teach them to pluck their eyebrows and use moisturiser. Before it's too late (as in my case.)
I might write the odd recipe book, or word or two of nostalgic prose, or at least I shall screen print my christmas card each year, and design nice labels for the plants I sell. I shall make pumpkin soup and force my friend Ali to come round for luch at least once a term, to browse my little shed shop and walk over the downs.
I shall grow old gracefully, smell of lavender, keep up My Standards, and be rather a dear Grandma. Of course, I shall always love God, and I shall give Him all the glory for this gentle existence, but i shall feel no need to be a zealous fundamentalist, blowing His trumpet for Him hither and yon. He has angels to blow trumpets, and can convert folks through His Holy Spirit - if people see Him in me it will be through the comfort of a mug of soup, a nicely sewn angel for the tree, or my children, who I pray will be a good example, and testimony of love.
I shall not be found writing words of wisdom when my children need a hug.
I shall bake mince pies and keep mulled wine on the go throughout the whole of December, and you will be most welcome to visit. Knock the snow off your boots and come on in!

Remembrance, Reality, Malory Towers

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Well, after blipping off the scale back into my plain down home phase, I am hitting reality again. I find it incredibly hard, but helped today by the Remembrance Day Parade.
O God Our Help in Ages Past, For Those in Peril .... Guides, Brownies and Senior Section were fantastic, we were so proud of them.
I just do have to stop rocking my children's boat. It's not my job now to pretend there is the option of a creekside homestead in Tennessee, home made cotton frocks for life and a Southern Baptist Boy to marry, and have 15 children!
They want to go to school, ride ponies, be in the Guides, and live their dream. It's time to leave mine to lie, and pick up where I left of 35 years ago.
Off to soak in the bath, with what else than First Term at Malory Towers.
I can brainwash myself into anything, if I try!!!

Lament for Lost Innocence

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Today, we went to a CofE church in our town. It was a challenging service, as there were two christenings going on, the church full of people who didn't really want to be there, and the incessant racket of discontented children, running riot all over the place.
It wasn't a good day to visit. The youth workers tried hard to talk to H, but it was more than she could take in. She ended up very tearful, with them being full on fab, groovy, you are going to love our wild and crazy kids activities, and her obviously praying for the security of her strict baptist sunday school where as wild and crazy as it gets is colouring!

Even before we went, I had a qualm about times gone by.

A few years ago, I would no more have visited the CofE church in town, than flown in the air! Scott Savage's The Plain Reader was the most thumbed book after the Bible, silence and the oil lamp reigned in our house. Heartily we homeschooled, peacefully we sought the old paths, the plain way .....

Now, I will admit, this caused us to take some dubious side routes with regard to the religion in our life, but in the calm before this morning's storm, I was suddenly reminded of moments from Savage's other book, another favourite, A Plain Life. Specifically, the moments shared with his daughter in the pre dawn barn, and the joyous garden planning of New Years Day, and I nearly wept.

These used to be my aims for my week, such precious, family close, earth scented silences, such private, prayerful, blossoming truths. This week, I will do Brownies, Guides, Pony Club, a couple of meetings, and no doubt wrangle with possibly arranging school for the children.

Where has it gone, Lord, and why? Is this sea change Of You, or am I so far from the right path, I can no longer even see it. Straight is the gate, and narrow the way. Have I fallen on the broad path?

I have a heavy heart tonight. Neil is sanguine. If we are wrong, he says, the Lord will show us. But children are such a precious duty, such a beautiful responsibility. What if I am wrong?

As they grow ....

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One of the reasons my blog is in witness protection, is that my daughters may well be going to school next year. Now in homeschool circles that's a hanging offence, and in christian homeschool circles, it's a burning offence! And I simply don't feel that way.
Saturday was a very special day for me. I watched my 10 year old daughter (who we think may have Aspergers Syndrome, though we do not know, we are hoping to get her priavately diagnosed, but there is a hold up, and this may turn out to be of the Lord, because I am now wondering if it really is as bad as we thought) grow up a step, and was privileged to hold her hand and help her along.
Firstly, we went out hacking, and I had to have her younger sister on the lead rein, as she is going through a nervous phase, and I watched as H happily and competently cantered on ahead of us, negotiated gates and bridges (she does all the getting off and on, on our rides, LOL) and set off across open country, leaving us behind, trotting sedately up the field margin, watching her plait swing in time with her pony's bustling chestnut bottom, cantering off into autumn mist and freedom. It was quite a tear jerker.
We then had a long and deep conversation about life, friends and school. H was taken out of school at 6, a jibbering wreck, frightened, confused, and we thought, damaged for life. We have homeschooled ever since, and worked with her to try to learn how to be her, without being afraid. She has of late realised that she would really like ot have friends. So we worked through how her ideal outcome would be that she would stay homeschooled, and have a ton of friends, but that outcome did not seem terribly likely. We have tried with making friends, but it doesn't seem to work for us with homeschool groups, and fellow christian homeschoolers. Partly, I have to tell you, there are some very strange homeschoolers out there, and partly, because, you know, it just isn't the same? Friends at school are different.
We have a christian school about 30-40 minutes from us, and thus far, the main stumbling block for me, has been the length of journey, I feel like this journey, twice daily, aside from the effect on our carbon footprint! robs us of a day a week! The cost is not too astronomic, and would have to be offset by my making more of a contribution to the family budget in the time when I would have been homeschooling. But can we give that time? It remains to be seen. H really desperately wants to go to another school, an all girls, private school a similar distance away, but that really is financially out of the question. I also don't think she would cope - not at first anyway, it's a lot bigger. But I truly believe that if my brave girl can seize the day, and try at least to get back to school, albeit in a small, protected, christian environment, it will be for the best.
I have noticed that when I am seized with the desire to say 'no, we can't do it, not after all we've been through' it is for me that I am feeling fear, doubt, failure, not her.
Finally, on Saturday, she said that if it came down to school and friends, or homeschool and no friends, she would like to go to school. I am so incredibly proud of her, unless you know the child, you can't know the courage it's taken. We have decided at the moment to see this school year out at home, and aim for admission in next September, but it does mean we will have to arrange to see the head soon, and it may be that it will be better for her to go in the summer term, and have one term in the junior school before she hits seniors in the autumn. We will see.
As for Boo, the younger - it is likely that she will opt to go along too, as she has always craved society (!) but we have decided that if she digs in her heels and wants to stay at home for a term or more, just to make the point that she too can have choices, that will be fine by us.

What to Look for in ....

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If you would like to look at the countryside with the eyes of one who grew up there, forty years since, can I recommend Ladybird Series 536, What to Look for in Spring/ Summer/ Autumn/ Winter. These beautiful little books, with their gorgeous illustrations by C.F. Tunnicliffe, R.A., tell the tale of a lost land - of frosts and snows, horse ploughs and fox hunts, red squirrels, hares and song birds - if they did not make your heart sing, they would make you weep.
Mostly when I wax lyrical about a children's book or series, it will undoubtedly be a pony book! But these little guides are a window to a better time, and do you know, all those old ways you will see therein, are more sustainable than our new practices?
What have we done? Can we ever get it back?
If you see these books, buy them for your children, or for yourself, treasure them, and dip into them with the passing of seasons, and if your heart sings, then look at the wonderful art of Gordon Beningfield, at the work of the Countryside Restoration Trust, and learn to treasure your rural heritage.

Why I love Miss Read

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I love the work of Dora Saint, aka Miss Read - who wrote gentle novels of English villages, reminiscent of my childhood. Life in those villages from the post war period up to perhaps the end of the sixties was not easy, it was not soft, and the rustic haze which has been cast over it by many is not deepened by Miss Read - of course the covers of the books present delightful, chocolate box scenes, but between the covers, the poverty and daily grind find a place as well, the cruelty of the life of a child in a large, ill managed, poor family, the grease and alcohol induced ulcers of a miserable, mean spirited old man, the thankless task of trying to heat a dingy, characterless rectory ..... all of these are there, alongside the glorious downland walks, the old roses and Mrs Sinkins pinks, the tabby cats and harvest festivals.
At the moment, she is a bit of a touchstone for me. For the last few years, we have been lost in New World life ideas - all a part of our christian journey, and none of them regretted, many of those ideas have been assimilated into daily life - but the time has come to ground ourselves, to accept our own inheritance. It is no easier to capture the essence of this time and the sense of those villages than it is to recapture the spirit of the pioneers, beloved of my US counterparts! But the thing is, it is our heritage, our memory, or will'o'the'wisp to capture, not someone else's.
I am not stupid enough to believe we can live in the past (quite, though I often wish we could!) but I know I want my children to have some of the same memories I hold dear, even if they have changed. So with a heave of self into reality, they are now in Pony Club, and attend rallies that are oh so different from the ones I went to, but nevertheless, they shine with the same enthusiasm as I did, they hug their ponies the same way, they talk a convincingly accurate amount of equine nonsens!
The immages of farm and country around them should be of our farms, and our country. They do love the food that has found its way to our table over the years, the cornbread and shoofly pie, but now it's time for scones and fruit cake. It's great that because of Laura Ingalls they know so much about the Western Expansion, but it's time for Agincourt .....
So for me, more than ever at the moment, Miss Read is kind of a poster girl! She's there to remind me that Thrush Green and Fairacre are not on the map, they are in the heart, and I would like for them to be in my children's hearts, too.

A New Beginning

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It is Autumn, the clocks have gone back, the fire crackles in the woodburner, and as I face challenges and changes, I have moved my blog and will be keeping it quiet for a while! This is kind of an experiment, in blogging our new way of being, which is quite scary for me.
For the last five years or so, I have been on a journey - a journey into a different way of life, homesteading, homeschooling, through a fascination with plain christianity and on to agrarianism..... and all of that has been to some extent web inspired, and very, very american. But you see we aren't american, we are english.
As our church has been split apart, and our lives are changing, so the children are consdering school, we are considering a return to the anglican church ... life seems to have come full circle. And I need a place to write my thoughts at the end of the day, where I do not pretend to be anything other than I am.
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