Tag Archives: voice

Learning democracy

The unschooling diaries: week twenty-three

Today I took Arthur to vote for the fourth time in his three and a half years. The most recent was only a few weeks ago – another referendum, then on the mayoral system in Torbay. It was clearly fresh in his mind as we walked down to the town hall today as when I told him we were going to vote he said “We’re going to vote? Again?”

He wanted to mark the cross on the ballot paper. I couldn’t quite bring myself to delegate that task to him – not yet – but it made me smile that he was so keen.

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He’s starting to learn what it’s all about. He has a head start, I guess, having a mum on the local council. Last Spring he spent hours with me delivering leaflets around the streets of our small town, and he has been to a fair few council meetings since, generally letting the talk wash over him but still with a creeping awareness that this is how decisions are made: that people get together, and they talk, and they work out the best way forward.

We’ve talked about the national picture too – he knows when conversation between me and Leigh is heating up politically, and he always asks shat it is we’re talking about. And we try to explain, as simply as we can, why we feel so strongly about the things going on in the world around us.

It is vital, I think, that our children are aware of – and engaged in – the democratic process. When I have wobbles about not sending Arthur off to preschool it’s one of the big selling points for the life we have chosen: he may not yet fully understand it all, but this immersion in the workings of our society is definitely seeping into his psyche.

After we voted today, we sat with our coffee and croissant in our favourite local cafe and the mood was reflective. I could swear there was a part of his mind that was pondering the impact that all of this would have on his future. Maybe not quite consciously, but still there was a sense of the importance of what we had done.

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I may be reading too much into it, but whether Arthur is starting to get the hang of this whole democracy business or not it is him – and all of our children – that this is all about. I felt this more keenly with the EU referendum than with any of the other votes he has cast with me.

If the people of the UK have chosen to Leave the EU (I am nervously watching the first results roll in as I write this and they are not looking good), then it is likely to have a dramatic impact on the life that my son will lead. We will have choices to make, as a family, about where we want to live: I am not convinced that a post-EU UK will be a good fit for any of us. Even if the vote leans towards Remain the months and years ahead are going to be difficult. So much fear and xenophobia has been stirred up by this divisive campaign that I worry about the tensions that will embed themselves if people feel that their voices have not been heard.

Whatever lies ahead, though, I want Arthur to be entering into it as informed as he possibly can be, and with a sense that he has an important part to play in deciding his future and the future of his country.

Amongst the many, many articles that I have read over the past week, there is one that stood out and made me fear for that future. It was the story of a woman whose son had come home from a school assembly about the referendum and told her that she should vote Remain. The details of what had led him to think that are open to debate and somewhat immaterial, but her reaction floored me. She was ‘disgusted’ that her eight year old child had been exposed to discussion about this political event, indeed about politics in general – in her own words she said:

I was so shocked because I have never voted in my life and I keep that stuff away from the kids.

I mean, what?

I’m not advocating schools (or anyone) politically brainwashing kids, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the issue here. What this woman seems to have taken umbrage with is the very notion that her son should be educated about the politics that underpins every single aspect of his life – and that is intrinsically linked with her own complete disengagement from the democratic process.

One of the most compelling arguments I have heard from Leave campaigners surrounds the undemocratic nature of the EU. That in itself is open for debate, but is surely a moot point if even within the UK people are opting out of democracy.

Our young people need to understand how the decisions made by different tiers of government impact on their lives – and in order to be able to do that they need to be invited to consider and discuss the choices and challenges we are facing.

I am looking forward to seeing how my continued discussion with Arthur unfolds. I do hope, though, that it’s against the backdrop of unity rather than division.

 

A new voice

So despite all of the crazy busyness of the last couple of weeks, the novel has managed somehow to hold its own. In fact last week I was flying – on Thursday and Friday alone I managed five thousand words, which helped me get my head well and truly back above the water.

It wasn’t just about the words, either: plot points fell into place, my characters led me through some tricky resolutions, and my head was bursting with ideas about where I wanted to take things next. Out of nowhere I had found some much-needed momentum, and just for a while it felt as if the story was writing itself.

But of course that didn’t last; I knew it wouldn’t.

The downhill cartwheels that were powering me through were gathering speed as I grew closer to an ending: the end of my protagonist’s childhood, and also the end of the section of the novel that is set in the (not so distant) past. But it is not the end of the novel. My task now is to get to know the adult she has grown into, and that is a whole new challenge.

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Yesterday, I mainly scribbled notes – adding to the initial ideas I’d had about those almost-present-day chapters and hovering my pen over emotions and actions that suddenly didn’t feel right. I thought I knew her, adult Catherine, but it turns out that maybe I didn’t.

I suppose it is only right that having spent several months (and sixty seven thousand words) travelling through her teenage years the woman who I am faced with now at thirty three is different to how I had imagined. She’s much more rounded, which is good. Initially when I was planning I only had the outline of the tumultuous events that had shaped her, I didn’t know exactly how she would respond. So I am almost starting again, in some respects, mapping out those future echoes with a preciseness that was previously beyond my reach.

Much of the details will come out in the writing itself. I began a scene today which, when I let it, filled in the gaps for me. It’s slower work though: finding a character who is changed and yet consistent, a tone which is complementary and yet not just more of the same.

I’m trying hard not to get frustrated.

I can see that 24th May deadline that I set myself looming up fast over the horizon, and I suspect I might not meet it. I don’t even know right now whether ninety thousand words are going to be enough to tell the story I want to. There’s definitely going to be some serious editing when it comes to the next draft, but I suspect the raw material may spill over once I’ve found my flow again.

And ultimately, I have to remind myself what’s important. The deadline was only ever a cursory one, the word counts plucked out of the air to give me something to aim for. Part of me is impatient for the next stage. I want to see how all of these parts are going to fit together, how the story will weave its way between past and future. But I know I need to get the whole of the story down before I can do that.

So I will carry on, listening hard to the voice of this damaged and disillusioned woman at the dawn of the new millennium. After all there is nobody else that can tell me the rest of her story as well as Catherine herself.

 

Word of the Week: Sing

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I don’t know whether Arthur’s just been infected by the festive spirit, or whether his memory and his linguistic skills have reached the perfect level to let the lyrics flow, but suddenly this week Arthur seems to be taking any opportunity to break into song.

There has been more music playing than usual (though we’re usually a pretty musical household anyway) and with Christmas coming his Music with Mummy classes have been especially good fun. And he’s just been amazing me with his ability to remember not only the words, but also the gist of the rhythm and the melody.

I have to admit I’m generally pretty impressed with Arthur’s words. His vocabulary and syntax are improving every day, and it is now entirely possible to have a conversation with him if the topic tickles his fancy. I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages to try to record this fascinating stage in his development, and have resolutely failed so far. So I might just record for posterity the lyrics he’s been singing for us this week.

We’ve had, almost word perfectly, ‘twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are’, inspired I think by our sparkly Christmas tree. One of his very first words was ‘star’ actually, about this time last year. Amazing to think how far he’s come.

Continuing the festive vibe there’s been ‘jingle bells jingle bells… all the way’, a slightly curtailed version which reminds me of his birthday greeting which until recently he shortened to ‘happy to you’ – actually a rather lovely sentiment really. The economy is also reminiscent of his re-telling of ‘this little piggy’, in which all the pigs get roast beef.

Then, from Music with Mummy, there’s the pudding song – sung to the tune of ‘wind the bobbin up’, possibly his first favourite song now I come to think of it. We get ‘stir the pudding, stir the pudding, mix, mix, chop chop chop’, though sometimes he skips the mixing for the chopping. He tends to skim past the next bit to get to ‘lick the spoon it does taste nice’. Too much baking with Daddy methinks…

And whilst on the subject of Daddy, I got back from a governors meeting last night to be welcomed by Arthur singing ‘you’re so money, honey’. I think I may need to monitor them a little more closely!

There are others, but just typing these little snapshots makes me smile so thank you for indulging me. I love that Arthur loves music, and I’m looking forward to continuing to hear him find his beautiful voice over the weeks and months to come.

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The Reading Residence