I am a mother of four children, having had my first child at the age of 15 years old and my last child at the age of 40 years old, you could say that I know what it is like to be a “young mum” and a “mature one”. I left a 19 year age gap before then having three more children in the space of 5 years and to be honest everything that I thought I knew about myself as a mother was then turned upside down on its head.
We knew very early on that we wanted to home educate our children and embarked on the amazing and crazy journey of home education (more accurately put “unschooling”) . For the best part of their early years (from 0-5 years) looking back it felt like an amazing adventure without many complications (I am sure that I am looking back with rose tinted glasses 😍). However, as my son who was the eldest of the three, approached 6 years old I started to notice that my emotional energy level was being challenged and I was really struggling with accepting aspects of myself as a mother and struggling to accept aspects of my children’s character and personality.
This was extremely painful, as I knew the kind of mother I wanted to be and yet I felt so far away from being that mother. This also had a huge impact on my confidence in home educating them. As I suffered from burnout I became more fearful about their future and my ability to give them what they emotionally and educationally needed. I struggled on for the next few years oscillating between believing there was something fundamentally wrong with me as a mother or there was something fundamentally wrong with them as children.
However, that changed when I met Simone back in 2016 at a PowerWood Workshop. Whilst I was struck by the concept of Overexcitability (OE), I was more struck by the level of empathy, compassion, and transparency Simone displayed in connecting her own experience to the concept. Little did I know then that PowerWood for years to come would have such a profound and positive input into my family and my own personal life, helping to shape and reshape some of my thinking and deep established behaviour patterns. That very first workshop helped me to recognise not only that three of my children have OEs but also my husband and I do too. I felt relieved and totally overwhelmed at the same time.
Working with Simone on and off over these past six years has been like drinking that glass of water that I desperately (and at times didn’t know ) needed. I have learnt to restructure my time and put strategies into place that I know without a doubt that I could not have done on my own. The trusting relationship we have built up has allowed me to be challenged and congratulated when needed. I have been able to see the small changes I have made as monumental achievements and this has had a knock on effect on all the whole family.
As a home educator one of my biggest challenges has been overcoming my own negative beliefs about my ability to provide our children with a good education. I am not naturally academic and do not have a background in teaching. Both my husband and my experience of school was not a positive one so the thought of putting our precious children through a system we had no faith in was not an option. However, being prone at times to create bleak scenarios there were many times that I believed I was incapable of providing them with a good all round education and on my worst days my belief was that by not sending them to school I was not giving them the best start in life.
Often I felt out on a limb, I did not follow an educational curriculum, more often than not I followed the children’s lead. This meant that on some days we did things that looked “educational”, some days they would just play, and then there were the days we didn’t get out of our Pjs and watched back to back films or they just played on their iPads.
I remember the shame I would sometimes feel about my ‘lack’ of teaching. Every session with Simone I would almost be seeking validation that what I was giving my children was educationally good enough. However, Simone never pandered to my insecurities or told me just what I wanted to hear just to placate me. Neither did she ignore my insecurities or minimise them in any way. Instead she would draw things out of me and help me to join the dots and more often than not she would get me to recognise if I had a low baseline and what I could do to build it back up to enable me to regain my confidence in my own ability to make informed choices again, also around the education of my children. She would help me to pause and acknowledge the true value of my parenting and of course commend me with her clapping and “well done you” phrase. I remember how uncomfortable I felt when she first introduced it. However, I came to love and appreciate that phrase and that clap. It helped me to learn how to give it to myself in times of achievement and in times of desperation.
The PowerWood techniques have helped me to view ‘education’ in an entirely different way and to understand the value of being able to emotionally listen to my needs and therefore be able to listen to the needs of my children. When I would worry about how much time my son was spending on his iPad Simone would come up with statistics around unschooling that would give a different viewpoint on my concerns. Most times during a session I would feel my concerns and fears entirely disappear and at the times they didn’t they were always right sized.
During lockdown our 15 year old son who had never done any formal learning in his life (let alone picked up a pen in many years) decided that he wanted to go to college and do his GCSEs. I was secretly terrified that he would fail, that this was the time that I would finally be exposed for neglecting to give him that “proper education”. However, despite my fears, this year our exceptional overexcitable child took six GCSE’s and for his Verbal GCSE English Language he achieved a Mark of Distinction. When we sat discussing his achievement he said “Mum I could not have achieved it without you. You gave me the space to be me, you listened to me when I needed to be heard, I have had the best teacher ever”.
Although I had a moment of feeling unworthy and a bit of a fraud I also deep down knew this to be true. Had I not had the benefit of PowerWood and been able to implement the strategies I have learnt into my life I doubt that my son would have had the freedom to have grown emotionally and educationally in the way in which he has.
The education that my children have received has been one that has been primarily built on love. It has been built on the foundation of self care and appreciation.Through PowerWood I have learnt to identify what my needs are, and I have learnt to apply the powerful but simple PowerWood principles and techniques to my life and as a result my children are also learning to implement them in their own lives too. I may not have given my children a “conventional” education but due to the work I have done with PowerWood I realise I have given them an emotional education That has been built on a safe foundation whereby as parents we can say sorry when we get things wrong and they feel safe enough to express their feelings and ask for help when they need it.
This foundation of trust and safety allows us as a family to enjoy and share this incredible journey together we call ‘life’.
© 2022 Melissa Wilson
Help us to continue support to all neurodiverse families and individuals
PowerWood offers to neurodiverse families understanding, simple tools and strategies that enable us to support ourselves and our children through emotional overwhelm. If you enjoy reading the articles please support PowerWood making all information available to all by becoming a PowerWood Community FreeBee or Friend member. Thank YOU!