Tag Archive | parenting

Memories for your loved ones

autumn14 007You know the time of day when the busyness ends; when you get in, put shopping away, make supper, eat supper, tuck children in bed and, duties done, you finally sink down onto the sofa with a big contented sigh?

Well, I always think that’s exactly what the earth must be doing right now.

It’s settling itself into the soft shoulders of the season its bounteous duties done. It’s drawing its resources back into the ground to nurture and enrich it for next year. It’s laying low whilst autumnal gales race and roar through stems, ripping off the last of the leaves and heaving down those branches not strong enough to bear another growing season. The animals and birds hunker down in the earth’s embrace, managing to survive on the minimum of nourishment that remains around them and sleep it out until it’s worth going out again.

Quite frankly, I sometimes feel like doing the same.

But eager for exercise and light, and keen to see what’s afoot in the changing tides of landscape, I go out.

Sometimes it’s unimaginably still and calm and quiet, maybe with just the faintest of distant ploughing noise, or ethereally misty when the silence is only punctuated by the robin’s shrill melodious solo.

Other times the elements slap me round the ears, pour tears down my face and I huddle by the hedgerow like the winter blackbirds before returning to that settee to watch the Blue tits from behind the comfort of the window. They cling to the rocking feeder and sometimes pop into the bird box for shelter too.

And although we bemoan the drawing in of the dark at this time of the year, the elements still give us something spectacular.

I watched many an autumn sunset fall over city rooftops as a child. Now I get to watch autumn’s most majestic finales across the uninterrupted scape of sky that this fen land offers. I get the light from horizon to horizon. And if we go to the marsh or the estuary we get it doubled as it reflects in the water.

The sunsets at this time of the year are the most spectacular, igniting the sky far better than any bonfire. We watch until dark, silently sharing with grown up kids now too mesmerised to speak. Silhouettes of birds go out to river for the night. Pheasants chuckle from the dark land side. And hares scuttle across the path of the headlights as we hurry home again and hand the night time land back to them.

So despite the desire to hunker down indoors, get out and observe the passing of a season. Seek and share a sunset with your loved ones, however little or large they are; they’ll always remember.

And never be too busy as a parent to give some time to making them those memories!

last of 2013 022

 

Peculiar seasons of the soul

How peculiar the season is this year! peculiar autumn14 012

We’ve had August temperatures in October when it’s been warm enough at times for me to sit on the step outside with a lunchtime cuppa.

We’ve had the rich scent of a spring flowering shrub, flowering now despite the fact it’s not spring. And that’s mingled with the perfume of late roses. I’ve collected one for the table – it’s alongside the Christmas cactus, also deciding to flower out of sync with the season.

And I’ve just discovered the stems of a miniature daffodil rising up beside a pot of viola and nasturtiums still surviving despite the first frost.

peculiar autumn14 004

Daffodils shooting up already!

Very peculiar!

Although we like to think we can, there’s just no predicting nature.

There is no predicting our own nature either!

I find my own seasons come and go just like nature’s, flushing me through with emotions either blossoming or bleak, bounteous or barren. And our children are just the same. You can almost see the changes in their moods flash across their lovely faces like clouds on a blue sky. It all gets a bit difficult to manage sometimes.

So this is to reassure you, especially if you’re going through a particularly challenging season with the little ones right now, that there is one thing that is comfortingly constant through all this unpredictability; things always change.

Children and nature. Seasons and souls.

Whatever is feeling difficult now, won’t remain so. However peculiar their moods and emotions are they’ll pass; they too experience seasonal changes. As you do. We all do. Nature does. And it’s important to acknowledge your own as well as theirs, let them be and let them pass.

And incidentally, there’s no better tonic than getting all outside and seeking the delights of this season to help lighten the spirits whilst you do so.

A seasonal delight – gossamer strung across the fields catching the autumn sunlight

Royal babies, kids and the education gamble

A new royal baby on the way, how lovely is that. How lavish will their life be with the  royal couple and their take on parenting. I wonder how hard that is to manage and how torn they are between their royal duties and just being parents.

But I don’t wonder much – I wouldn’t want it, or my baby to be so public.

This baby I guess will never want for food or shelter or the stuff many have to do without. They will no doubt have an exclusive education, never be spoken down to, ridiculed, neglected, lost in a crowd, or bullied by the people who teach them as some of our youngsters are.

So they are luckier than most – but I wouldn’t want to be them. I would want to break out, particularly of the institutionalisation they will no doubt endure.

Like I wanted to break out of the institution of school.

It was never about the work – it was about the irrelevance.

I don’t think it’s about the work for most youngsters. Most youngsters are hungry to learn. They want the learning if it’s relevant, they also want to work because of the pay packet that it brings, as we all do.

But what young people don’t want is all the other stuff done to them in the name of education; the tedious restrictions put upon them by a system that’s out of date, designed by up-their-arse politicians with no experience of children’s development, trying to win punters and using our kids like lab rats in their climb up the political stats.

They don’t want the ridiculous rules which adults impose upon them, not out of usefulness but out of control and the desire to keep the youngsters subservient and quiet and teach a mass rather than an individual.

And they don’t want the gloom of insignificance pressed on them by the violation of that individuality and the total disregard of them as people, in preference to a regard for the institution.

And most of all they don’t want to be shuffled into packs by useless testing schemes, like cards are shuffled into suits, with a hierarchy and self fulfilling prophecy as damaging as a crap hand in poker. Education is becoming a similar gamble about what you’re dealt, rather than what you’re capable of.

I wonder if the new royal children will ever feel that about being royal, as some of our youngsters feel about schooling?

I suppose home educating families at least had the choice to opt out.

The royal children are sadly stuck with it!

Another approach to learning

There was a little piece about Home Education on Radio Five Live the other morning and an interview with the Meek family.

They’re taking a year to travel with their children to enrich their education. It’s fascinating reading their blog ‘Do try this at home’.

But the presenter came out with some rather daft questions, seeming not to understand a great deal about home education and how children learn from life.

It illustrated the huge difference in thinking between those who can only define education by what happens in schools, compartmentalised testable outcomes, its effectiveness measured by such, and those who know that education is far, far broader.

Education is to do with learning about life, an approach to living and learning, and about the qualities of an educated person rather than any finite outcome external to that individual.

The Meeks are living a learning life with their children (albeit for a year). As a result their children are having rich, varied and educative opportunities and experiences which develop many of the skills they need to transfer that education to real life.

In contrast a school education consists of unvaried experiences transferable only to test results and irrelevant to real life – certainly to children’s real lives.

For example, instead of sitting at a desk learning about water pollution the family is examining what happens for real. Instead of the ‘socialisation’ of a classroom, where people seem to think skills will develop from being in a confined institution, they are engaging with a range of people and their social skills are developing naturally and organically from those interactions. Instead of their learning being dully delivered by irrelevant others in uninspiring ways through a prescribed curriculum they are instead being excited and motivated by their experiences. Nothing teaches more profoundly than exciting experiences!

None of these are really testable experiences. But that’s the other misconception that many people have about education; that it’s only valuable and accomplished if it’s testable.

The truth is that education is only valuable and accomplished if it’s transferable to living in responsible ways.

Real valuable learning, that means something, will be transferable to tests and exams if and when necessary to the individual. But for now the Meeks are just living. They are educating their daughters through real living experiences from which they are learning.

Thousands and thousands of families now opt to do this, but not just for a year’s trip; for the majority of their children’s childhoods. Some home educating throughout their children’s entire ‘school’ age, until such time that they’re ready to move on.

And making a wonderful success of it too.

Living a learning life is such an inspirational way to raise and educate children quite different from the ‘school’ way. And the more the media – and presenters – understand what it is to be educated, rather than what it is to be schooled, the better it will be!

(Check out the page of home educators blogs on this site for a real illustration of how it works for each family)

Taking the switch to the child

Can you imagine it? Can you ever even conceive of taking a stick to your child as punishment for some errant behaviour?

It makes me feel quite sick to think about it, but this is what happens in some cultures – there’s a controversy about it in America now which Hugh Muir talked about in the Guardian last Sunday (read the article here).

As he says in his closing statement our ‘cultural baggage’ can impact on our own parenting. We are inclined to pass on what was passed down to us if we’re not thoughtful and considered.

There was never ever any kind of violence in our parenting, despite what was doled out to us. I find the concept quite disgusting and no different to assault. And it’s certainly not good parenting; there’s another approach that works in guiding our children’s behaviour without any kind of horrendous ‘corrective’ measures.

It’s the power of demonstration.

The most powerful parenting tool we have is our own behaviour. This is similar to passing things on as Hugh Muir suggests, it’s just that we pass on the idea of ‘good’ behaviour to our children instead of passing on the punishments we received!

A child’s natural instinct is to learn by copying. So basically, we can parent and teach by the way we are.

We ‘teach’ our children how to behave by the way we behave.

Show our children how to learn by the way we learn.

Show them how to treat others by the way we treat them.

Show how wonderful the world is by our own interest and reactions of wonder.

Show them how to interact, make responses, be polite and caring and considerate by the way we do.

Show them how the real world works by engaging with real things and encouraging them to do so.

Show them how useful technology or language, or maths or science is to us every day as we use those things in our every day lives.

We teach them how to respect by the respect we show.

We teach them what’s acceptable by acting in acceptable ways.

And above all we show them what it is to love by the way we love.

Our actions are the most influential parenting of any sort, the most influential way of educating. Because ‘actions speak louder than words’ as the saying goes. Our actions will be a far more powerfully guiding influence than anything we might say.

Besides, anything we dole out to our children we are endorsing as something acceptable for them to dole out to others.

So whether we are parenting or teaching our own at home it’s worth examining our actions and deciding what it is we want to pass on!

Challenging the addiction to getting

Is it just me or is there far too much emphasis on ‘getting’ in our culture?

So many aspects of our lives are bombarded with images of getting. Getting more. Getting bigger. Getting newer. Getting updated. Getting thinner. Getting the games. Getting beauty. Getting better than the next man.

If we’re not careful, even our parenting can be occupied with getting. The educational system certainly is.

It perpetuates the ‘getting’ doctrine. Get grades, get results, get higher than your peers, get further up the tables. Get better degrees or more degrees to get more wages to get more stuff. Adverts tell us that more stuff for our kids makes us better parents. Getting more grades makes a better education.

Does it? Rubbish!

Getting is addictive. Are we leading our children towards this addictive way of life? Towards a way of feeling that as soon as the quick fix from the latest thing you’ve got wears off you have to get another one. Towards feeling that we’re not as good as others if we haven’t got the latest, newest update that others have.

This way of life is a self-perpetuated treadmill driven by big industry and the politics that supports it, also perpetuated in our schools.

Schools threaten pupils with having no life without getting the grades. But that’s political, not personal about the student; the reality is that without the pupils getting the grades the schools don’t get themselves higher up the league tables and get the rewards they’re after. They never mention the fact that people can and do lead happy successful lives even without getting, by progressing through life in different ways.

One of the dangers of this getting is that it pulls us away from being good and being giving.

It would be nice to have a cultural shift away from a getting style of parenting and education, away from a getting style of learning, to a style more filled with giving.

Giving attention. Giving time. Giving respect. Giving inspiration experiences. Giving love.

Those are the things that children need both for their well being and for their education.

You can’t ‘get’ education any more than you can ‘get’ goodness. Both those things can only ever be developed in themselves. And if you’re not educated in goodness you’re not educated at all because goodness is a quality of intelligence that goes hand in hand with an educated person.

A life that is joyful and good is a life that is full of warm loving relationships, also part of a rounded educated person.

You cannot get those you can only grow them. A ‘getting’ approach won’t help. Being a warm, giving human being will.

My dream is for the emphasis in our culture to change from getting to giving, for education to change from getting to growing. Growing warm, loving human beings with a sensitive intelligence that is of value to each other and the wider world.

That’s a priority with education and parenting surely?

Body bother!

Glad it's not for me!

Glad it’s not for me!

I’ve been giving friends lifts to hospitals recently. Accidents seem to go in batches.

They’ve not been too serious; broken wrist, wrenched back, that sort of thing. And sitting chirping away in waiting rooms trying to take their mind off it I can’t help a sneaky feeling of gladness that it’s not me. How bad is that?

I suppose it’s good in one way. It’s good from the point of view that it makes me sit up and take note of good health, instead of only noticing when it’s the opposite.

Throughout our life we tend to ignore good health. We certainly don’t bother to appreciate it much, or the miraculous machine that our bodies are. When did you last get up I say ‘My body feels great today’? But I bet you often do the opposite! It’s the classic case of only noticing when we’re not functioning properly rather than gratitude when we are.

Even worse – we tend to treat our bodies with a complete lack of respect sometimes. We over fill them with toxic substances – smoke, alcohol, sugar, fat, we under use them with lack of exercise, we ignore our motherboard – i.e. the brain – when it’s sending us warning thoughts and emotions, and then we wonder why we’re not operating properly. Ironic, but I think we take more care of our latest technology that we do ourselves, yet it’s the technology which is replaceable!

I mull this over as I sit beside the broken wrist. I watch others being wheeled past looking more sickly than my friend did when she broke it and was incoherent with the pain and shock. Knowing that there are also many other awful diseases that cannot be set right with a plaster cast or wheel chair.

And I’m thinking what a wonderful piece of human technology our bodies are, with our micro-chip of a brain and how I’m going to maybe look after it all a little better from now on in. Unlike technology, it has to last me a lifetime. It deserves monumental respect for that surely.

Perhaps if I do this, if I take a little more care and appreciation, not only will I benefit but I’ll also be demonstrating to my family and others how to do the same. Especially to kids: the body is the best biology to study with children; encouraging them to understand that they are actually the ultimate in technology and it’s worth coming off the other kind regularly to pay that some attention!