There are times in your life when you meet somebody so inspirational, you have to tell the world about them. Louise Hatfield is one of those people.
I’ve known Louise for about two years, but it is only recently that I have had the pleasure of finding out more about her. Louise is a full-time mother and businesswoman. She is intelligent, witty, wise beyond her years and a wonderful, giving parent.
We met to have a catch up (after losing touch for about a year), but what followed was a diverse and engaging conversation spanning topics such as motherhood, home education and starting a craft business from scratch.
Firstly we discussed Louise’s decision to home educate her middle child.
‘Seth started Year One in September 2012. Initially I was happy for him to go to school, but things suddenly changed.’
‘Well, he’s always been a very active child, he loves nature and the outdoors. He’s never been a bookworm – unlike our other two children! Far from being worried, I was happy to let it go. Reading was something I wanted Seth to come to organically. I did not want him to be forced into literature. But that was not the attitude of his school. Every day Seth would come home with his reading record, complete with a note from the teacher explaining that we needed to listen to Seth read on a daily basis. It came to a head before Christmas; Seth was becoming tearful each time he had to go to school. He was also a target for being “different”. Children would be curious about his long hair and question his gender. They were also confused about the contents of his lunch box (olives and hummus). The teacher was also nonplussed about Seth’s need to eat his lunch on a plate and not out of a box.’
Did you discuss your concerns with the teacher?
‘Absolutely. The teacher talked to the rest of the class about Seth’s hair and that actually he is a boy, not a girl. But as for the literacy thing, that was my main concern. Seth is very confident in how he looks. He has always had long hair and with it the attitude of “If you don’t like my hair, that is your issue, not mine”. But I felt instinctively that how Seth was being taught was wrong for him. My real fear was that he would be put off reading for life. The teacher still wanted myself and David (Louise’s partner) to persevere with the daily reading. But it just wasn’t right for Seth. He became more aggressive at home, just not his usual happy self. Seth is…insightful. He definitely thinks things though before he speaks. And this aggression was completely out of character. I made the decision to home educate Seth in January 2013. I haven’t looked back since.’
How difficult is it to home educate your child?
‘I found the de-registration part the most difficult. I wrote to Seth’s school and asked them to de-register Seth as I would be home educating him. A terse reply followed explaining that I needed to contact the Local Authority. I do not make knee-jerk reactions to important decisions. I had researched home education, found forums and of course had looked into the correct procedures for teaching your child outside of a school setting. The letter from school stung a little, as they did not seem to want to know the reasons why I had decided to remove my son from their school.’
What is the most rewarding part of home educating Seth?
‘Lots of things! Seth really thrives on the home-school environment. He has developed a real love of literature which is amazing really, considering how anti-books he was. He enjoys reading Flat Stanley. Whilst I don’t have a set routine, some of the work we do is very intense. I have purchased some software for our home computer, which combines literacy and mathematics and from that Seth has started to gain excellent keyboard skills! But it is the freedom Seth has that has had the most impact. We go for walks in the woods or spend an hour in the garden, talking about why there is ice covering the puddles or why the sun bleeds into the sky. Seth’s totally back to the way he was before he started school. His aggression has gone. He is very happy.’
It sounds like the teaching you do is very instinctive and completely based on Seth as an individual. I am interested in educational policies, as you know. What do you think needs to change in the way education is delivered in primary schools today?
‘I have spoken to many home educators and we agree that teaching needs to be more instinctive. Sandra Dobbs, a home education guru, gave me some invaluable tips on teaching – and this can and should be applied in a “normal” educational setting. An example of this would be to start a conversation with a child about a famous portrait – the Mona Lisa. Who painted it? Leonardo Di Vinci. Where is he from? Italy. What is the currency, the culture, the history, the politics. One simple question about art can springboard onto lots of different subjects. So instead of having a timetabled day – English, Mathematics, History etc, you can cover a diverse area of many topics in a shorter, more intense time period. Also I think classroom sizes need to be looked at. How can one teacher make an impact on a so many children? They can’t. Smaller class sizes, different age groups. I think that needs to be implemented in schools.’
Louise is passionate about her children and their wellbeing. I find this to be refreshing in someone so young – Louise is in her early thirties. It therefore makes sense for Louise to work from home – whilst home educating Seth and looking after her youngest child.
Louise is a very creative individual. And that word ‘individual’ sums Louise up to a tee. She is a self-confessed ‘Hippie’ and is used to be stared at in the school playground. Louise is like Mother Earth. She breastfeeds her youngest son, and has never owned a pushchair. She soaks information up like a sponge and constantly researches information. I’m surprised she has yet to take up the mantle of Higher Education as she is clearly capable. But Louise is very much attached to her ‘full-time mother’ role and so looked for a way to combine her love of crochet with earning a living. The genesis is her newly formed small business Dark Sprite Designs.
Louise uses organic fair-trade cotton (what else?) to make her eclectic designs. These can range from reusable make-up/cleansing pads to door hangings to soft toys. The colours used are inspired by nature – muted greens, warm browns, vibrant orange. She is very understated in her creativity. When I wowed over the examples she showed me, Louise smiled and shrugged. It takes a creative type to recognise creativity in others and Louise has it in spades. She is an artist in the making.
I will not dwell on the other things we discussed during our catch up. Some things are meant to be private. But what I will say is that when I discussed my mental health issues with Louise, I found a kindred spirit. It irks me to think that those who talk about madness and creativity being linked may actually be right. Or is it that those who suffer from a mental illness are more able to tap into their creative side far more easily than those who are ‘normal’?
You can find out more about Louise’s business on her facebook page: Dark Sprite Designs. You may also be able to follow her blog as soon as I have convinced her to set one up. I have assured her that many people would like to know more about the wonderful Louise Hatfield.