The Accidental Home School

How we are coping with a new school set up…

Despite the title of my blog referring to my motherhood, I have become more cautious about sharing about my son’s life. He is having a tricky time but the last thing I want to do is make the future tough for him by sharing too much. So to put it simply, he is currently not in school and at home with me. I never intended to become a homeschooling parent but this is the tale of my accidental homeschool and what I would have done differently.

As 2022 drew to an end, I reflected on the confusion of the last couple of school terms

At first I thought we would get to the bottom of the upset and get my son back to school at least part time…it didn’t happen.

Then I thought I should finish work set by school – fighting through my fatigue to meet their requirements and motivate him. Not a chance!

Me and my constant companion

Then I thought I would get a load of books for him to work through at his own pace and then I signed up for online classes… This was the most ridiculous thought of all. Had I forgotten how little he did all that time in lockdown?

None of this worked. If it still looks like school, it is too much. Now he does low demand activities with a tutor once a day and I try my best the rest of the time. The hope is we will not stay in this limbo, waiting for a specialist school placement, for too long. But while wait I have done what I can to look after myself.

How I have coped

Evening walks so I always get outside alone

Taking him to the park and stopping myself feeling guilty as school isn’t the right space for him right now

Ear phones in and lots of brilliant podcasts and audiobooks

Building up my reading muscle again so I can read more physical books in short chunks each day

Quiet time in the afternoon while he plays in his room

Asking the local authority for a tutor so he is not missing out as much

Acknowledging that I do not want to be his teacher but I can help him

And finally, though it means doing less creative work, volunteering my time to help other parents. This has helped me make connection with the adult world a little.

By sharing this part of my journey, I am hoping to explain why I have been less dedicated to my blog. But also take the time to explain that we do what life calls us to do. Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans I have explained before.

I hope that as I reflect on my accidental “homeschool” I can start to add more in again that also makes my life more creative, fun and interesting. And for both of us I hope we find the place where he can be his happy self.

Improv and the art of creating characters

How my nerdy side helps me be more creative


I have a confession, I was part of an improv troupe in college (uni) – personally I think it’s the coolest thing I have ever done but apparently making a fool of yourself and throwing yourself around with enthusiasm – I understand a lot of people consider it the nerdiest comedy. In later drama classes as an adult, I realised this was because it requires unadulterated enthusiasm which afterall is a sign you’re not that chill about things. I found others would stand self-conscious, I could still I flail around in the name of comedy quite happily. I think that’s called committing to the bit.


A self-confessed theatre-kid, who doesn’t get to indulge this side of myself anymore (see numerous post about how little time I have) I do actually get to use these skills all the time. A few of my favourite exercises in developing an idea, rely on my brains ability to lurch for that idea that’s just a bit different. As I wrote about before sometimes you have to avoid the cliché, even if they sit in your draft for a while, developing a character is about getting to know their quirks.


Here are a few ways I use my improv skills still to get to the depth of the character


Pick something at random is a great way to get a scene going. Taking my surroundings and turning them into a scene is something I have done many times. It is useful if you get stuck, to just start writing. I have sat in a coffee shop before and stared at a clock and wrote about the clock on the mantelpiece in the main character’s cottage. I have sat at a wobbly table at the bottom of the garden and translated into the gloomy teenager moping at his grandmother’s funeral. Of course this is a way of using your imagination that is valid and may even end up in a scene. But it is also playing the game put a character (yours) in a random scenario/ with a random object and create.


Ask more questions can trick your brain down a path that is further away than the first idea. If you ever played a game where you have to answer a question with a question, you know the comedy is in the absurdity. Words lose their meaning as you try and interrogate each other. Well instead of necessarily losing meaning, thinking about the barrage of questions or even drilling deeper on their why, can flesh out your character in your head. There is a theory in comedy that the tenth idea is your best one. Well what if that was the rough rule for all creative endeavours, asking relentless questions is a great way to get there.


Swap characters is a fiendish game because you have to really concentrate on what the other persons mannerisms are so when you are called to swap, you can carry on the scene. If I remember correctly, often someone puts on a weird accent or has something else obvious for you to copy. But in writing this can just be the game you play to understand your antagonist. Even if you are writing a first person narrator, knowing more about what the other person is a scene is thinking and doing has to help you develop and enrich them.


Be flexible is just general advice that you learn week one of improv. You need to yes and your writing. If another character begins to dominate the story, perhaps there story is a more interesting one to tell
Though improv games are there just to entertain, it doesn’t mean it can’t expand your brain. There is no reason either that it can’t expand your art.

What’s your secret hobby that’s helped you be more creative?

Take Micro Me Time

Time poor but determined to take care of yourself? Time for a microbreak

It is the half term break where we are right now so I am seeing lots of parent content about kids driving them to distraction this week. Well as someone whose son is out of school whilst we find the right special school, I know a little something about having someone around the whole time. As it’s six months now, I no longer chafe against the irritation – instead I try and find time to be me.

Here are some ideas to help take just a little me time whenever you can:

Of course I have to say get up early – what mum blogger is not going to tell you to get up early? But for me that does not mean before my child. He wakes anytime between 3am and 6am daily and needs far less sleep than me. So realistically that means get up with my child and supervise him. But each morning I make coffee in a special mug. Once he is happily on Roblox or YouTube and sit down and smell the coffee – a mindful moment can just get you appreciating life a bit more.

Obviously some parts of my morning routine like writing morning pages have become habits. Though they do not always happen and are usually interrupted -in fact the practice of writing three pages of stream of consciousness means my pages are often about the distractions I face. Irritation is a great tool to bring you back to your body – its usually a sign that I am not meeting a need. I may need the coffee, time to write or even – and this is tricky – enough quiet to think straight.

Having my headphones in is another great way to take a break even if it is not quiet. As well as listening to podcasts and audiobooks, I use binaural music which is soothing. Like a background track to daily life it helps me in those frantic moments. I may not be getting him out the door for school, but I still having to chivvy my child along particularly as getting dressed is harder for him than others his age. Accompanying my life with something which works well to soothe my mind and keep my relaxed has helped me greatly cope with life.

Savasana is the best bit

Take some time out on the mat. My yoga mat sits out to remind me to use it and does occasionally gather dust. I have got used to squeezing it between my bed and wardrobe or kicking aside the rug downstairs. And similarly I have got used to fitting in yoga when I can. By doing simple beginners routines online for just 10 minutes where I can. It’s amazing to me everytime that I stretch just how much tension there is in my muscles. We can become so used to holding it all together. I love this yoga from Yoga with Adrienne for neck pain if you also carry around your burdens on your shoulders, like me.

Quick browse in a bookshop

Finally, I take sneaky microbreaks when we are out and about as a family. Leaving my family whilst I do an errand and grabbing a coffee is not revolutionary idea but that treat can be a reminder you have a right to look after yourself. If my son is engaged I may shut my eyes for a few minutes to take a break or just enjoy being in the other room. I took a longer break this week by browsing in a secondhand book shop while my family enjoyed ice creams in the car.

Sometimes just taking ten minutes doing something you enjoy can be enough to set you up. You can be ready to fill your child’s cup with attention again. It’s not easy having my child with me all the time, I must be honest. But like all life’s challenges, it’s a lot easier if I take time to take care of me.

Essentialism and real life

How I am working on my novel the Essentialism way

A few weeks ago I took Greg McKeown’s course on Simple Productivity: How to accomplish more with less on Skillshare all about Essentialism and Productivity. I was already aware of the book from the excellent and always funny “Go Help Yourself” podcast which I would really recommend if you can’t always be bothered to read the book but want the ideas! Your main goal of the course is to identify the thing in your life are you not making an “essential” For me that is working on my novel. Once you have identified this, then you will need to think what makes it so essential for you. I took time to review the book I have written and – though it’s a right mess – I still believe in the story I am trying to tell.

Greg McKeown Essentialism:The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

After this philosphising about your purpose, you have to get down to practicalities. As you know I am always looking for ways to be more productive as I recently shared my reading list. Then you have to create strong boundaries around this essential thing. And finally you have to “routinize” the work so it actually happens. All of this is easier said than done!

I chose writing as my thing I don’t do enough of, you may have guessed that aside from faithfully writing morning pages, there are days the pen doesn’t hit the page. That has to change but in addition to McKeown’s advice I needed to consider my pacing approach. I am lucky enough to have help from a Fatigue Coach, Pamela Rose and she very wisely suggests you build up slowly within your tolerance and live carefully once you have established a baseline of energy. Her approach actually makes sense for lots of us, not just people with a fatigue condition. What I am suggesting is you shouldn’t rush straight into saying I’ll write an hour a day or a 1500 words a day or whatever other rule you have read somewhere. You can build up to this if that works for your life.

Looking at my current capability I have made a plan to build up over the next few months. I am still struggling with screens as they are more tiring for me with my foggy brain so instead I have been writing by hand. For the last few weeks I have been attempting to write two days a week for thirty minutes then having a type up day each Sunday. This practical focus has been achievable and the idea is to keep building on the momentum of the regular writing. I am going to attempt to lengthen one session this week before I add another day in. This way I have stayed building on my progress but not gone too far.

I think with all good self-help books we have to take the best parts. The advice can start to diffuse into our lives so that we establish any changes within our own capabilities. I think it is important to make our creativity an essential, to recognise artistic expression is more than just a hobby. But also to make realistic demands on our self. As ever real life can get in the way.

Productivity Hacks and Where to Find Them

The search continues for productivity hacks for busy-brained people who have too much to do…

If you have always had a busy brain like me, distractable and often day-dreamy, you will probably have spent years looking for systems that help you “get things done” or “be more productive”. You probably have to work twice as hard to put the any suggestions in place – I can tell you with the added bonus of brain fog for the last 18 months, I have hard-won experience about just how tough this can be. Over the years, I have developed an insatiable appetite for the self-help books that help and here are the productivity hacks that have actually helped:

Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This book is such a a classic though I haven’t read it since I was an impressionable teenager some of the habits have stuck. It’s definitely quite a dense management-speak book that couldn’t solve all my problems but there is one hack that has stuck – the importance matrix. You probably know to always write a to do list: mine has too many things on it and some on there that “should have dones” that haunt me every time I look at this.

But I am having a tough time, I sit and make a matrix. In essence what Covey teaches you to do is to rank the most important and time-consuming tasks so that you get your priorities done first. When my brain is fuzzed with too many tasks to do, I still use this method after all these years to focus in on what’s got to get done first.

Graham Allcott: How to Be a Productivity Ninja

One book I think that runs alongside Covey’s book which helps you prioritise tasks is The Productivity Ninja. The section that stayed with me was both about knowing your best times of day but most importantly protect your attention. This means working in focus mode on my phone or putting a timer on to work solidly for that time. Now as you will know getting precious time alone with enough energy is my constant battle, but knowing that mornings are the times I can concentrate best and that I work well with instrumental music on helps me keep on task.

Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism was a book I have found quite recently. It actually seems more of a philosophy – a minimalism for your inner life and I enjoyed this introductory course on Skillshare (link not affiliated). Having thought through a lot of advice, it seems like he is asking you to design your life and I will share more on the project I am working on as part of the course in a future post. The general idea is to really identify not just your priorities but areas of your lives where you can improve so you are always moving in the direction. As part of this work, you really have to identify your boundaries and so that you really are focusing on what is essential.

Manoush Zomodori: Bored and Brilliant: How Time Spent Doing Nothing Changes Everything

I have written my account of trying a bored and brilliant project before. The ideas that have really stuck is taking breaks from our phone. She forces you to go on your commute without your phone or go for a quiet walk. What a revelation that we can cope without the modern crutch. The most difficult part is you might feel weird being the only one looking around, not down at your phone. As well as giving you a break, it allows your restless brain to work and often ideas will form. It may seem the opposite of being productive to let your mind wander, but our problem solving mechanism works hard for us and although I do still often have the crutch of my phone, I am much more aware of taking time without it.

Nir Eyal, Indistractable: How to Control your Attention and Choose your Life

The final book I have found helpful has some startling evidence to share about the impact of social media and the instant access of information on our attention. The message I take from this book, apart from making me horrified about my screen time, is that we need to be aware when we are trying to escape.

Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality

Nir Eyal, Indistractable

For me I acknowledge I need these breaks, often into fiction or even writing itself. The hard disciplined work of being indistractable is not easy but will undoubtedly improve your productivity.

The fatigue recovery that I have had to undertake has taught me a lot about just how much energy focusing and using our brain takes. I am not yet at my full capacity but so much improved now I can see how important it is to be aware of how we spend our attention. As well as using these hacks, I would say we also need to balance. We need these hard and focused moments to work effectively in the time we have but also those things that give us a break.

Have you read any productivity books you think will help?