THE LONG WINTER


We had snow for the second time this winter and once again the village was transformed. The winter of our imagination for a morning or so before the crisp white was trampled brown and slushy.



 





In February we visited England. We went back to the farm, now Grannie’s Farm, and visited my sister and family on their new farm and travelled north to Manchester to visit Grandma’s House and family there. Our visit coincided with freezing cold storms and unprecedented snowfall and finally our flight home was cancelled and so we got an extra four days on the farms.

I can’t quite put into words Little L’s love of the farm. Her enthusiasm to see the animals and be outside in all weather but most of all to help; carry water, bed down, pass hay through the hurdles to sheep or goats. Little I definitely preferred tearing around the house being chased by her cousin or thrown high into the air by an uncle or bouncing on beds to risking freezing hands outside.







 
Little L turned five years old during the trip home. A whole five years of life. I look at her now and the baby she once once with rings of fat circling her wrists, the toddling two year old, the little girl who couldn’t say ‘squirrel’ are long gone. It all seems so along time ago. Here she is now; Irish jigging in a princess dress, begging for another chapter read aloud from her favourite books, dividing biscuits fairly across plates for all the family under a serious frown of concentration. Big sister to a little sister.










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This winter we made a decision that weighed heavy on us. A decision that challenged both Florent and I and took us a long time to arrive at.

Little L had been going to the local village school. Without going into great detail, from the beginning there were things that left us perplexed, worried and frustrated with both the individual school and the system it is part of. What we had wanted to be the exciting and positive first few year of school felt more disappointing and worrying than anything else. So, after a lot of thought and discussion between all of us and the school we decided to take her out of school. 

There were a lot of hesitations; the reactions of family and friends, accepting that my own belief in the positive potential of state education wasn’t the reality of what was before us here. And then all of the ‘warnings’ we received: that in some way we would be depriving our children of something they need or imposing a 'difference' on them, isolating them from mainstream society...

We considered people's concerns, our own and some we dismissed, some we reflected on some more. And then we thought about what the alternative might look like and it looked brighter and brighter. We could give the girls more opportunities to socialise with not only children the same age but with more people in our community, learn from everyone around them and not a single teacher, have the opportunity to follow their own interests and at their own pace. They would not learn, sat in the same class room day after day, but outside in the great open spaces around us, in the garden, the library, through play and, in fact, how they have been learning from the day they were born.

Most importantly we listened to what Little L wanted. We feel now that a decision we came to, initially because something wasn't working out as we had hoped, became a positive one, moving towards an alternative that offered more.

We don't know what the future will hold. It might be that a time will come when the girls want to go to school and the right school for them is available and that would be welcome. We'll just have to wait and see. For now the decision feels more and more like the right one to have made for the time being and the girls seem pretty content and that's the main thing.



 

 

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