Sailing taught us not just who we were but who we wanted to be. During the second year on Quest, the pressure lifted a bit. I gave up trying to teach both children. Teaching them the same thing at the same time at different levels of ability? Perhaps I could if I was a trained teacher. Hmm. What was useful about being a trained embryologist floating on the Caribbean Sea with one kid with learning difficulties and the other having meltdowns when she wasn’t learning? Something needed to give.
Then late one night I found InterHigh. Maybe it found me. Whichever, it gave me a plan. Now I thought, Lulu could happily do her thing with real, actual classrooms while I could spend the time focusing on getting Delphine up to her level. Awesome. The reality was.. well the reality is always different. In the end, much of my year was spent helping Lulu cope with just being online. Logging into lessons, understanding her new classes: Film Studies, Spanish, French, Maths, Geography etc. and then, oh yes, helping her with her homework. She’d never even used a computer before. Word documents and PowerPoint presentations were logistical mysteries and it didn’t seem fair to send Lulu into the deep end.
On top of this, each class had progress tests to make sure the pupils were on target. This meant studying in advance, getting up as early as usual for the five-hour time difference, then printing, scanning and uploading the test. There were some interesting moments. Still, we did it, even if we had to lie down for many hours afterwards. One question remained though; where was all this ‘extra’ time for Delphine?? The painful truth was that for our second year of home school/boat school; extra time for Delphine equalled stolen time. Although Lulu was on an exciting new path with her schooling, Delphine seemed almost nowhere further than before.
We were running out of room. What was else going to give? Number one: we went home. Number two: we met Linda.
‘You have to go sit in the living room if you won’t behave.’ These words are meant for me. I looked up in mild shock. It’s Saturday morning 9am and we’re sitting in Linda’s kitchen. Linda lives in the next village to ours. A few days before I’d been recommended her by Mrs. Holland, Delphine’s teacher from primary school. We’d met Mrs Holland in Lidl’s and were exchanging pleasantries in our usual small-town way when I remembered that I’d promised myself a tutor for Delphine. A learning specialist. Someone who wasn’t experimenting teaching a child with cerebral palsy for the first time. Basically, I needed a teacher who wasn’t me.
In Aberystwyth, word of mouth is a social media concept in itself. I’d been asking everyone who I thought might have some idea. I’d had no luck so far and didn’t expect Mrs Holland to say yes. But Mrs Holland did know someone who might fit the bill. A specialist learning teacher who’d she’d worked with. She found her number in her phone, wished me luck and pushed her trolley towards the veg.
‘I only have time to see you on a Saturday morning at 9,’ Linda told me on the phone. Ok, but that isn’t what was unsettling me, sitting in Linda’s house. Linda was telling me her conclusion after finishing her assessment with Delphine.
‘Delphine needs to feel confident. You are making it too hard for her. And she needs to read. Every day.’
Hold on. ‘She does read every day,’ I say, looking for vocal conviction.
Linda had already waved her hands away at my words. On top of this, she has a sort of pained smile on her face. Watching her, I am poked with needles of recognition. This is a Welsh lady which, in my experience means it is someone led by intuition as much as knowledge and experience. I’ve lived for long enough in Wales to know that nothing I say will change this lady’s mind.
I nod. ‘Ok.’
‘And you need to make it easier.’
I sigh but nod again. Easy is harder than you think. It means keeping things at a level for a six-year old. This is fine for a six-year old but for a ten-year old otherwise smart and funny kid? Someone who can talk Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and Ruby Redfort till the sheep are finished destroying the biodiversity of a Welsh mountain but can’t seem to spell the most simple word? Who could give a clamping oyster a run for their money when it comes to reading anything out loud. The world is upside down for me. I began to read when I was six. Words were like flowers and I never looked back.
‘And she has to read more. Every single day. As much as she can.’
I glare at Linda now for a split-second. You already told me that. Meanwhile Linda has started smiling at Delphine. And here’s the thing; Delphine is smiling back at her. Like it or not and right now I might not entirely like it, one thing is as clear as juice. It’s hard to be who you want to be.