Know what love is

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A cracker lovingly made just for me!

You can tell I’ve been feeling rubbish with this head cold because I now know pretty much every advert on the telly right through. In fact, I’m even singing some of them. It’s a sign I’ve been watching far too much, but my head’s been that fluffy it’s akin to being pregnant!

There’s one on at the moment that breaks my heart every time; have you seen it? It’s the singing toys to a rendition of ‘I wanna know what love is’.

Watch it here.

I may be a bit rosy rimmed but I could cry my heart out at the thought of all those unloved toys every time – is there a word for the anthropomorphism of animals which refers to toys? I need one – that’s what I’m doing when I watch it.

I grew up with parents whose lives had been so harsh (think North East, post war), that even one single bought toy in their childhoods would have been treasured and loved, respected and appreciated, and they passed that approach onto us. There’s something terribly sad about unloved toys.

So when I look at the mountains of stuff bought for kids at Christmas I have to wonder how they manage to appreciate it all. I’m not saying either a little or lots is good or bad, but I do know that appreciation, and lack of it, can become a habit that spills over into other aspects of our lives, even into the way we appreciate love. It can seem that the more we have the less we appreciate – love too.

‘I wanna know what love is…’ the song goes. I’m very lucky; I feel I know what love is, have been loved, are loved and have others to love and it’s something I truly appreciate.

I also know, having watched news of the awful Sydney incident and destructions of war, that some lose their loved ones in tragic, unexpected dramas, others have long drawn out illness. Some seem unfairly heaped with tragedy.

The loves in my life has been constant and run a more natural course, although we do, of course, all endure bereavement as the organic way of things.

But I don’t want it to be loss that dictates my appreciation. I so appreciate my normally robust good health even before I got this dratted cold!

And the singing toys make me aware of my other particular blessings, both material and more especially of knowing what love is.

May your life be filled with love too.


Glitter glue and a historic table top!

tattoo and glitter glue 003Nothing so Christmassy satisfying as Glitter Glue! So I bought some – just for me – to add to cards.

In the absence of small children I get the opportunity to use it all by myself – without interfering little hands wanting a squeeze – an unheard of luxury at one time.

Christmas cards aren’t complete without a bit of light catching sparkle. I love those nostalgic old fashioned snowy ones with sprinkles of it on tiles and trees and the kind of village streets Miss Marple would be walking through.

The snag with it I found over the years is that it sticks worse than glitter itself. I have remnants of it on jumpers I had when the girls were small and it still adorns our kitchen table.

Our table top is like a memory log of infant crafting. It has cuts and scrapes from various experiments, some not legit, it has various colours from wandering felt tips, holes from a good stabbing with a compass during a tantrum, rock hard PVA glue lumps and of course glitter glue.

More recently grown up additions have been added, there are burn marks and candle wax, hair dye and greasy cooking marks, permanent marker dots and of course even more glitter glue.

Come Christmas I’ll give it a good scrub. Or cover it with a holly patterned table cloth relatives have given me to try and make me a bit more of a decent hostess.

I’m not into that really and actually I love the table just as it is.

Written there in those scuffs and stains is a history of busy childhoods and a record of happy Home Educating days when I never actually saw the table top from one day to the next. When it was heaped with books and experiments, paper and card and paints, colours and concoctions even I didn’t recognise.

Table tops can be cleaned and tidied but happy memories – and glitter glue – will last forever.

Children don’t remember tidy or untidy, they remember instead a good time doing good stuff with mum and dad.

So I wish you a happy time creating a historic table top of your own.


The irony of the tattoo

tattoo and glitter glue 005The irony is laughable. I’ve had a complete sense of deja vu!

When my youngest turned 18 she went off with her ID and got more piercings – not something I liked the idea of which I might have mentioned to her just a teeny bit – okay – a lot! (see this post – and note the date)

Her words of comfort to me at the time were; ‘well, at least it’s not a tattoo’! How this was supposed to comfort I can’t imagine! She supposed my wobbles about tattoos would be greater than my wobbles about piercings I guess.

Today, those words come back to haunt as, having recently turned twenty one, it is the tattoo she’s off for and a fairly large one at that, forgetting her earlier words.

“Can I remind you of something?” I said before she went.

“What?” she said, instantly suspicious of another forthcoming attempt by me to divert her plans. I reminded her what she said to me last time and we laughed about it.

Except then she said; “well, at least it’s not on my face”.

I raised my eyebrows in horror and had goosebumps all over. After last time I’d prefer she didn’t say things like that.

I appreciate tattoos are quite an incredible art form – I’ve been dragged to look at loads recently and some are stunning. And I’m even more stunned at people totally covering themselves with indelible designs even if incredible. However tattoos don’t quite do it for me but then, some of what’s hanging in the Tate Modern doesn’t do it for me either so what do I know?

And it’s not about me any more. It’s a time for me to butt out, other then offering a few indelible opinions beforehand!

For like with anything our children learn, about the world, or themselves, the only real approach that truly works is one I drew on many a time, especially when home educating and getting a bit frustrated: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

I only ever got frustrated when I was trying to force someone to sip the learning I was offering and trying to force the outcome too. It didn’t work and forcing rarely remedies the situation.

With both learning and your opinions you can only lay them out and encourage the youngsters to take the opportunities – as and when they will.

I see our role as parents to keep on leading any which way we can. And sometimes that involves saying your piece and butting out and going off and dealing with it any which way you can!

And I begrudgingly admit, the tattoo is fairly awesome!

Flipping 500!!

Flipping heck – my 5ooth post! I’d never have thought it!

...decided I look better out of focus!

…decided I look better out of focus!

I suppose having been here for five years and kept at it regularly it was bound to happen. Five years of championing parenting and children and mums and home educators and I still feel just as passionately about all that as I ever did. Actually it goes back a long way before five years.

But this isn’t meant to be about me. It’s about YOU; you my faithful followers.

This is a great opportunity to say a heartfelt THANK YOU! Thank you to all who’ve followed me so faithfully, who’ve taken time out of busy lives to leave me a comment, who’ve ‘Liked’ my posts and my Facebook Page, RT’d my tweets, who’ve left me lovely reviews on Amazon about my books and an especial thank you to all those who’ve even bought them. I SO APPRECIATE IT!

It’s hard to find words to tell you how much you have lifted me up. So this seems like a good time to express my heartfelt gratitude to all you wonderful people who’ve read my stuff and shown support.

You make it worth it. THANK YOU.

Thank you very, very much! x

Image rich education

seeking out pictures - a soothing stream and leaves

seeking out pictures – a soothing stream and leaves

Sometimes I just have to go seek out pictures! Writing can be very monochromatic as a medium, even when talking about the diversity of home education. I begin to hanker for other things to look at besides print.

So I totally get it when kids feel the same. Especially those who don’t readily take to reading but find it as enjoyable as I do a smear test! And there are some kids like that, especially those on the Dyslexic spectrum or those fidgety little people for whom sitting still is an anathema!

When education in schools first took off it was always related to words, especially the printed word. It had to be; it was a person’s only access to knowledge. And it was also part of that exclusive hierarchy where those who had access to reading – and therefore learning – were considered better than those who did not.

That’s no longer the case. Everyone has access to reading and knowledge. And skill in reading is not a direct indication of intelligence. There are all sorts of intelligences and I have known very intelligent children, with a lively, logical and analytical mental aptitude who find no joy in reading because their brains are wired in such a way to make reading as challenging as I’d find running marathons.

Home educating a Dyslexic child made me think about this a lot. And think about ways in which learning, in our media and image rich culture today, no longer needs to depend on print. Although print would inevitably be part of it – it could be a small part at the beginning, building as skill and maturity grew. And we found other ways to learn through practical, experiential, image rich, hands-on opportunities. And that was even before the wonders of YouTube, a fabulous font of knowledge and understanding available through film clips.

For far too long children’s learning has been manifested through the narrow medium (by today’s standards) of the written word. I almost see the old fashioned text and exercise book method (or Web research which is just as bad for a dyslexic if not worse as there’s more to trawl through) needing extinction. Typing with Word is definitely less laborious for children who find writing difficult, but we could still lessen written methods of learning in favour of more image rich ones now accessible. Just because it isn’t reading and writing doesn’t mean it’s not learning, despite the snobbery still attached to those methods!

For many children their learning is inhibited by print. Formats like YouTube open access to learning in ways we didn’t previously have. Many home educating families have told me that their children didn’t practise formal written methods of learning until they were much older yet still went on to write accomplished essays and do Uni work. So we can seek alternative ways to enhance our children’s understanding and knowledge which don’t rely on print.

Meanwhile, I’m off to seek out pictures, away from print, and a visit to the theatre to see my eldest in a production of The Snow Queen. If you’re in Brighton seek it out at The New Venture Theatre and enjoy a print free story with the kids which is bound to inspire! Stories don’t always have to be read – from Snow Queen to Shakespeare – which you can even get in Manga! (Search ‘dyslexia’ for other posts on the subject)

Chelsea playing Gerda in The Snow Queen

The right to educational freedom

I thought I’d respond to Jax’s call for posts about educational freedoms.

The freedom to educate our children outside of the school system is a topic dear to my heart, having had two children who were failing to thrive both educationally and personally within it.

I’m thoroughly suspicious of politicians who try to control our home education, pretending they do so for the good of the child. What do they know about it?! And I’ve seen too many children in schools when I worked there who were not having any good done to them at all for me to believe that.

I also see that, although ministers cite ‘safe guarding’ as an excuse to do so, there are as many safe-guarding issues already existing with children known to schools and other services and they can’t seem to get it ‘safe’ for them, so that reason doesn’t ring true. What it does do is deflect attention away from the impingement of our rights by their ‘concern’.

I believe it is more the case that politicians are simply using that as a strategy to control and mask the rising dissatisfaction so many parents now have with the school system.

Calling home education ‘elective’ is the best mask of all. For I would say that in most cases parents do not ‘elect’ to home educate, they are driven to it in desperation by the failure of schools to provide children with exactly what home educators are by law supposed to provide; an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude. Consider this; if there was a place where our children could go to be stimulated and inspired, with adults who respected and encouraged, supported and nurtured our children’s individuality and education, where they had real choice and the experiences were such that the kids were gagging to go, how many parents would opt to home educate then?

Home education is growing because politicians are failing to provide what children need. Any attempt to limit the educational freedom it offers is in my view a corrupt strategy to deflect attention away from that failing.

Educational freedom is not really freedom in the real sense of the word, although home educators are freed from the inhibiting structures of a school system, which is a good thing as most impair learning rather than aid it (testing and Ofsted are good examples). However, none of us are truly free in that we want to fit into the social world that surrounds us, we want to earn and work, eat and survive, enjoy life and have friends, and all those things come with responsibility which we choose to take on.

Nearly all the home educating parents I know take on that responsibility extremely conscientiously by demonstrating that to their children though encouraging learning – in fact most of the kids do it for themselves. It’s just they choose to use other approaches. And that’s where we really need the freedom. Freedom to choose approaches which suit our individual children better than the system does. Freedom to work to the needs of the child, rather than make the child fit the needs of the establishment as schooling does.

As home educated children grow up and begin working as generations are doing now they are proof that other approaches work, that educational freedom and independence works, that we don’t need a government to do it for us. Proof that we don’t need registering, testing, watching, examining, controlling of our approaches, or telling how to do it for it to work. It’s working fine already!

In fact, when I think about it, I can’t help feeling that it is in breach of basic human rights to be told what you must know, how you must know it, where, when and at what age you must know it, that you must not question what is done to you in the name of knowing it, that you have no choice in the matter and if you don’t comply you’ll be a failure. Is that not totally bizarre? Where else in life are those freedoms for choice and preference taken away from us – except in prison of course?

It’s almost as if the powers that be would control our minds by controlling our education. Not forgetting that if politicians can control our minds they can control our votes.

But maybe that’s just me being extra cynical!

Meaningless crap!

sundaygardensundown 005

perfect for decoration

Apologies for the title but I can’t think of anything else to call it.

It came upon me when I was standing writing this first draft in a damp notebook out in the dusky field, with dripping stems and little creatures settling into night. And I haven’t managed to refine it – the title sums it up too well.

You see, I’ve had a couple of excursions to city lately and it’s a bit of a shock!

I love the city and the contrast of it and had some shopping to do towards Christmas. But I get a bit overwhelmed with the crowds and the crush after this rural solitude, especially as we visited a huge shopping outlet which I would normally recoil from in terror. But I was even more overwhelmed than normal.

Actually, I came away appalled.

It was the amount that did it! The mountains of totally meaningless crap that people are persuaded to buy for those who have everything they need anyway. Most of it disposable meaningless crap that has no doubt cost the planet in resources to produce and will doubly cost the planet when it ends up in landfill after Christmas.

The pointlessness of it! The vulgarity of the amount!

Could we not all take a serious moment to consider this? To consider the cost earth-wise of all this dustbin bound paraphernalia? Of yet another present for a child who probably is inundated with presents to the point of boredom, another ornament or plastic trash for the Christmas house already creaking under the strain?

The earth will certainly be creaking.

More does not mean better. But judging by the amount we buy at Christmas this seems to be the ethos we’re upholding and the lesson we’re teaching our children.

Don’t get me wrong; I like buying gifts – a few. I also like making them, purchasing them second hand, or finding something that’s valued. And I suppose I have my share of meaningless crap too – just not that much – the decoration, wrapping and gifts have been thoughtfully created or reused. Nature has a hand in it too.

But couldn’t we create a more meaningful way of gift giving and enjoying Christmas with loved ones than one which is charged with commercialism, materialism and trashes the planet far worse than the living room floor is trashed  after present opening?

What kind of lies is this telling our kids? That the more we buy the better Christmas is? That the more presents we get the more people love us? That waste or pollution doesn’t matter at Christmas and yet another set of lights or disposables is okay?

I don’t think so.

As the sun sinks itself into its rosy bed for the night and my nose and finger ends start to chill I ponder this. I ponder ways of making Christmas more meaningful than materialistic. With less cost to the purse and the planet. Less commercial hype for the children. And more imbued with a sense of togetherness than a sense of buying.

Meaningful lives cannot be bought. They are made. Meaningful celebrations are the same. And we certainly need to think about the meaning in planetary terms.

The 29th is Buy Nothing Day (check it out) – we need to do it for far more than a day!