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Book Review by Beverley Paine

It Hasn't Shut Me Up

Wendy Priesnitz

"As it does for many women, motherhood was focussing my early political consciousness. It was helping me understand how the choices I make in my personal life are linked to those I make on a larger scale."

I suspect many women of my generation will identify with the many elements and themes running through Wendy's memoirs: I know I did. In places it was as though she was writing my life story, carefully pulling memories from my past and exploring my emotional wounds.

 

As a subscriber and occasional contributor to Life Learning and Natural Child , two of the excellent magazines she produces with her husband Rolf, I have known Wendy for more than a decade. For the past few years we've become friends, corresponding via email, sharing where we are at in our life journeys and comparing notes. Wendy is one of my mentors, one of my home education heroes. However, she's more than that; she is a trusted friend.

As I read Wendy's memoirs I am stunned at the profound wisdom rattling through the pages. It's brutally honest as all great memoirs ought to be, a process of critical self-reflection, someone looking for herself in the words of her poetry and in those that appear on the page as she writes, in the mirror that are the memories of her mother and her daughters. The sense of connected I feel as I read is immense. We are women connected by a common story: a story of motherhood.

With a few minor differences Wendy's mother could have been mine. Our childhood journeys resonate with similarities. I've found this echoed many times talking to other women, both younger and older. Few of us are able to disconnect from the need to blame the errors of others and identify and name the defensive reactions within ourselves to not only plot a different course but find the confidence to travel it. And feel and experience afresh again and again as though for the first time the many wounds we carry from our childhood, acknowledge their source, take ownership and move on. Wendy's level-headed analytical approach and attitude to life feed her strength and determination and gives this book its steadfastness. Or perhaps it is her stubbornness to right the wrongs of her upbringing? I find the same drive motivates me in the choices I make about parenting, lifestyle, supporting others and creating change. Our mother's errors, their insecurities and the way they dominated and plagued our emerging personalities as children, become a boon to their grandchildren as we seek alternative pathways and approaches to life. A gift, unwelcome then, possibly unwelcome now: I wish life had been different for me but I would not be who I am today without this particular start. I think Wendy feels the same.

Wendy and I share another thing in common, not only are we daughters but we have daughters who are now adults. Home educated adults. The first modern generation grown up without school. Are our daughters different in any way from their peers? Did home educating them make a difference? And most important of all, did it make a difference in our relationship. Women like Wendy and I are terrified of making the same mistakes as our mothers, or becoming like them. It Hasn't Shut Me Up is as much about Wendy's relationship with her daughters as it is her mother. Wendy offers an interesting explanation for this connection: "... we mothers likely have three generations of cells in our bodies - our own as well as some from our mothers and some from our children."

The deeply personal becomes the stimulus for examining the complexities of life on the broad canvas of community experience. Wendy's insights are born from thoughts that weave a connected web between the personal and communal: there are patterns in what happens in everyday life that tell wider stories with important lessons from which we can all learn. I love the quiet confidence in her writing, which is particularly strong in her poetry.

This is a book for mothers and daughters and grandmothers and women (for we are all daughters). It isn't a book which will make you feel good or reassured, or give you tips about what to do or not do, though there are plenty there if you want to read it that way. It is a deeply personal sharing of one woman's perception of her own life and how it has unfolded within the embrace of generations of women. But more than that, it is a story of motherhood and the important role it plays in our lives.

"Bringing a child into this world teaches us - perhaps in a way nothing else can - about the emotional, social, cultural, economic, educational and environmental responsibilities that are part of being human."

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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