There’s something about Jasper.
By Demian Allan
I would call myself a moderate alternative, a person who seeks a liberal attitude to life whilst taking an active role in society, or perhaps that is just being middle aged. Being a full time working astrologer you are immediately pigeonholed as being on the outskirts of popular belief systems. My path in life whether I like it or not ,seems to always demand that I take an alternative route whether it be in spiritual values or creative expression, life always makes me sit up and puts me in a position of going against the grain. However one step too much initially for me was when my wife announced a year ago that we should consider home educating our youngest child Jasper. He had been experiencing a tough time at his local school for several months, a Libran with Venus as his ruler, Jasper loves arts and crafts, but for a seven year old the schooling system seem to add stress to his world which in turn led to his confidence being affected. Both my wife and I spoke at lengths to the head teacher to resolve ongoing issues and encouraged Jasper to remain positive about school. The school originally said that Jasper was probably autistic and that we should book him in to see a doctor. We both agreed to do this, only to find that our local Doctor was appalled at the schools ‘diagnosis’ and felt there was little evidence to support this assertion and in a white faced fury wrote to the school to complain. Communication between the school prolonged, but jasper continued to lose confidence and withdraw and then more worryingly started to develop ticks and nervous habits as time progressed. We soon both realised that the school has certain procedures and ways of educating that were detrimental to Jasper’s development, drastic action need to be implemented. So in May of 2015 after many discussions around the kitchen table till late at night, discussing the pros and cons (my wife looking at the pros and me looking at the cons) we decided to take Jasper out of school and home educate.
Home education is a growing trend with increasing numbers each year of parents deciding to home educate their children. There are many reasons why home education is on the rise, not enough places available in local schools to issues with the way that we now educate our children in the schooling system. However there also seems to be a general issue with the way schools deal with sensitive or creative children. The common theme is to label a child with a diagnosis; your child has autism, asperger’s, dyslexia or ADHE. I’m not suggesting that these labels don’t exist, but more in the line as to why they exist? There seems to be developing an ongoing flurry of tests and assessments for school children and the teachers. As far as I’m concerned children are all very sensitive to their immediate environments, they soak up the stress and strains of their parents, guardians and of course teachers. The highly competitive nature in schools has brought about through a constant barrage of tests causing the children and their teacher’s ongoing anxiety levels to rise in the day to day running of a school.
Home schooling is an alternative that allows the parents (sometimes with the help of independent tutors) to give a greater awareness of the child’s learning and development. When Jasper first started to home school my wife and I tried to create a reconstruction of his school day, getting him to sit down and do his Maths and English. However, we soon realised that this defeated the purpose of our objective. This brings about the next stage in home schooling which is ‘deschooling’. This term means a period of readjustment for the child and parents to help break down the limitations imposed by the schooling system. This can take a while to literally get both parties to become used to living without the regimented routine of school. Jasper is a child who does love to learn, and we quickly realised that he was more than capable of leading his learning; this meant that areas that interested him would allow us to add subject matters that he found difficult or just not interested in. One example of this is gardening; Jasper loves nature and is keen to learn about growing plants and vegetables. Through his attentiveness to nature we discovered that we could teach him Maths and English that made sense to him, for example measuring the plants at how far they have grown in a week and creating a graphs and writing down his results of his active research.
One of the big questions that we are always asked about home education is about the social aspects for the child. I have to admit this is one area which worried me a lot in the early stages of Jasper’s home education. How would Jasper learn about working with others, but also to defend himself and stand up to bullies, not matter what we think, even as adults we come across people through work or social engagements that can belittle us. Learning to cope with this as far as I was concerned is part of growing up. But perhaps that is a question more for society than social learning. Jasper has a fantastic social life. Where we are located in Suffolk, there are a number of home education groups and movements that help to support you and your child. Jasper immediately warmed to his home education colleagues, they play (a lot with sticks in forests) they communicate as a cohort and deal with the difficulties of group dynamics, learning about trust, empathy and encouragement. In fact Jasper’s social skills have improved through taking him out of school. Jasper is part of a forest group, organised by parents, he also has French lessons, gym classes, dance and drama activities, and between me and my wife, we concentrate on his academic side through different projects.
Our aim is to give Jasper time to grow with confidence and have no added pressure that in the schooling system was making him very self-aware and unsure of himself. In hindsight Jasper has always been a child that has preferred the more alternative ways of learning. When he was a baby I use to take him to a Rudolf Steiner parent a toddler group. Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, author, social reformer from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He advocated child development in a more holistic way, emotionally, mentally, physically and from a spiritual perspective. In the early child years this would take form in the ‘rhythm’ of the day, through movement, singing to planting and drawing as part of the child’s need to express themselves. Jasper as every child seems to, took to this routine like a duck to water and enjoyed the calmness of the learning and the structure of the group. When Jasper was at the age to start school both me and my wife agreed to send him to the local primary school in London where we were living at the time. This was also because his siblings had also been to the same school and so it was natural in our minds that he would take that step. However it soon became evident that Jasper started to go inside himself quite early on and became quiet but stoic in his outlook on school. This was at the time when the education system was beginning to become the beast it is now, academies starting to sprout up with added targets from the Government being implemented at all age levels.
As an astrologer Jasper’s chart reflects his learning journey, a Libran Sun with Aquarius rising and a Taurus Moon, Jasper would need (his moon) structure, routine and an ability to feel safe and secure within his environment. His Aquarius ascendant makes a conjunction with Neptune in the first house; this depicts a sensitive and dreamy nature. His ruler of the third house (early years) is Mars placed in Cancer in the 6th house, the early years being difficult, but supported by the Mother (Moon in Taurus ) my wife was the one who decided and led taking Jasper out of school. As a father and astrologer this gives me a sneaky glimpse into Jaspers world and I am a big advocate of using astrology for child development, the Moon ruling the years 0 – 7, Mercury the ruler 7 – 14 and Venus 14 – 21. Jasper’s Mercury became active at seven, which is placed in the 10th house (the house of the mother) my wife is the main educator out of the two of us. The ruler of Jasper’s 10th house is Mars, placed in the 9th house from the 10th, the house of higher learning which again represents my wife. It will be interesting when Jasper’s Venus is activated at fourteen being placed in the royal sign of Leo!
Home education has liberated us as a family, parents that we have met have been very supportive, mainly because you are all trying to work together, which brings about a real community feel to Jasper’s routine. It is now over a year since we took Jasper out of his local school and he has flourished and within the space of two weeks of taking him out of the schooling system Jasper’s ticks left him, which for me and my wife confirmed that we had made the right decision. It’s strange that as soon as Jasper began to be much more present within himself, happy and expressive, family members would comment and say things like, “He’s much better now, he’s a like a different child, so when are you going to put him back into school?”
If you are thinking of taking you child out of school be prepared for other people’s reactions, you will be surprised at how conventional and limited some can be. The best way to deal with this is to simply reinforce how well your child is doing, remember others may well be unsure about taking such a big leap or unable to because of financial restrictions. Home schooling is a massive commitment and me and my wife are only able to manage it because we are both self-employed, although it can be tricky working around both our careers, however we have made it work, but I realise not everyone can do this. Alternative schools are becoming much more active such as Waldorf/Steiner or transcendental meditation schooling, I get a sense underneath the system is a budding educational revolution that is trying to develop and grow in this country.
The future of home education is expansion with an ever increasing dissatisfaction in conventional education and more parents taking their children out of school and with the help of external tutors (many ex teachers who have left the system) we could find a different way of educating emerge. My advice if you’re thinking of taking your child out of school is research, there are many resources on the internet and check for local groups in your area. Both me and my wife were really surprised at the amount of activity that was taking place in terms of home education in Suffolk. So don’t assume that you are located in a part of the county that will not support home schooling, it seems to be everywhere. Lastly I think it’s important to remember that as much as anything listen to your child’s needs and don’t be scared to respond, it made me question myself but in a really healthy way.