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Batty & Bench

There's a term in Jamaica, "Batty & Bench" Is it possible to be closer than a bench and a bottom? It's been just over 4 months now since I took Israel out of nursery. From 8am to 6pm, 5 days a week, our lives were separate -literally passing ships- and I learned about my daughter through a school app, and a 5 min recap at the end of each day.

I couldn't tell you her favourite meals, what motivated her, or even what made her laugh, because I hid behind an extensive education system to mask my short-failings as a parent following post-natal depression. Not only did full time schooling allow me to reclaim my career, but it assuaged all the fears I had about not being enough for my daughter. She was in capable hands. She was fed 3 great meals a day. Her mind was stimulated and she was making friends.

Not long into our Summer of travelling, I started to fall in love with my daughter in a new sense. Not just the love of a parent, that I had thankfully developed following my PND. This time it was a love of character. A love of how she carried herself. A love of how she broached decision making. If my daughter was an adult, I would want to be her friend! Our daily affirmation of "Kind, Smart & Important" are the values I want her to uphold. Kindness wasn't stressed enough when I was growing up, and that's ok, we found our way. But I want to instil these 3 points to my daughter every day that she is all 3, because we become what we hear and we become what we feel.

Homeschooling provided a beautiful structure to our days, when I just couldn't get out of a rut. It gave us a clear focus and invaluable one on one time. I can tell you not just how Israel learns now but how she thrives. All these new tools, I can share with her teachers and work alongside them to maximise her interests. Following a curriculum with my daughter allowed me to physically get down to her level, and take things at the pace she needed. I had assumed she would love art for example. Her father has a degree in Technical Arts and it was always one of my favourite subjects. Oddly, any activity involving paint, usually lasted no longer than a few minutes! I managed to incorporate art daily into our activities with the help of inspiration from other homeschooling mums and I watched her love for the subject grow.

A real challenge for me initially was my daughter's attention span. A piece of advice I now live by, is to show her the amount of patience I want her school workers to show her. I learned to tailor activities to may daughter rather than follow a transcript. Before selecting a story, for example, we would select up to 5 props in the house to help her act the story out, and I learned to never be disappointed when a story was interrupted. I set us the realistic goal of each activity lasting just 3 minutes longer than the previous attempt and that really worked for us.

It has been a privilege having my daughter literally by my side over these last few months. I know it is very unlikely I'll get the same opportunity in the future and I guess because of that, we have been inseparable. Perhaps the guilt of knowing I'm returning to the Rat Race? If I could stay at home, and home-school forever, I know in my heart of hearts, that I would still make the choice to return to work. Working gives me a sense of clarity and perspective that sadly I'm too bogged down to notice when I'm at home. This morning I'm sending Israel back into an education that I wholeheartedly trust, to teachers that love her and share our values. I will work tirelessly alongside her teachers to bring out the very best in her. It will be a joint battle.

I'm not naive. It would be very easy for our relationship to regress to it's previous state, but this time there is too much at stake. While I'm happy for this system to educate her, I cannot afford to allow them to mould her personality or encroach on the values we are raising her with. I will never again allow our bond to dwindle

. Batty & Bench.


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