Tag Archive | parenting

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

Our home education journey by Julia Pollard

I’m thrilled to be handing this post over to Julia from Classroom Free to tell us her story – an inspirational read:


“In March 2015 we will be celebrating twelve years of home-educating. Twelve years! Other than my marriage and being a mama, it’s the longest that I’ve stuck with anything – and if I’m honest, I’m more than a little surprised.

You see, I was such a ‘mainstream’ mama. I was such a yes sir mama. I was such a follow the rules and do as I am told mama, don’t question authority and cause a fuss mama.

At 28 years of age, I was doing what was expected and raising two children of school age. We had done the usual mother and toddler groups, gone on to nursery school, and then handed over the reins to primary. My life was a whirl of daily school-runs, birthday invitations, sleep-over arrangements, and avoiding school gate gossip. I thought that it would be that way for many years to come. I was wrong.

At the tender age of 4 years old, Joseph started to struggle. He was diagnosed with speech dyspraxia, and he had to wear an eye patch to correct a lazy eye – along with glasses. He became an easy target for ‘bullies’ – although that seems like a harsh word to use when referring to primary aged children. Joseph was bringing broken pieces of his glasses home with him several times a week. He became incredibly withdrawn and would refuse to enter in any sort of conversation, instead he preferred to retreat to his bedroom and shut the door.

The change in such a short time was incredible. He went from being a happy-go-lucky, always laughing and smiling, running to get to school early child, to becoming sullen and quiet. His behaviour regressed drastically, so much so that he wouldn’t get dressed or feed himself. He was physically sick during the morning walks to school and complained of stomach pains daily.

He lost his joy.

He lost that dazzling sparkle from his eyes.

He lost his smile.

I found my pain.

I didn’t know what to do. I talked to his teacher, his head teacher, the dinner ladies. I started volunteering to help in class, I assisted with reading and swimming lessons. I was willing to try anything I could in order to observe and see for myself what was going on. I needed answers. Just what was happening to my child, what was he going through? Any reference to bullying was strongly denied by the school and instead our own family life was brought into question. Were there problems at home? Any changes in circumstances? Were there problems within our marriage? It could only be our fault.

I searched the internet for help, looking for advice on school phobia and bullying. I was lost. I was losing my child and I didn’t know what to do about it. Joseph wouldn’t readily speak. He would hardly eat. He wouldn’t play games or do things that he had previously loved. People were telling me that he was just being naughty, that Joseph just didn’t want to go to school, but I knew that wasn’t the case.

I was scared.

Joseph turned five.

How long could I let it go on for before I lost him – my beautiful happy, funny and smiley boy, forever?

Those online searches came up with a site called Education Otherwise (EO). I had never heard of home-education before and didn’t know that there was an alternative to the school system. When I was struggling with bullying myself during my secondary school days, my mother told me that it was law that I attended school. All children had to go or their parents would be imprisoned. I believed her and had no reason not to. I had never heard of anyone home-educating in the UK.

The feeling of relief that washed over me as I began reading about home-education on the EO site was absolutely immense. I can’t begin to put it into words. There was actually something that I could do to help my son. There was a legal alternative to school. Wow!  That felt huge.

I discussed things with my husband and he too felt relief. It felt like at last there was light at the end of a very dark tunnel. We talked and talked, researched and researched some more, not wanting to just jump at what seemed like the ‘easy’ option. This was a child’s education we were toying with, we had to get it right. We talked about changing schools, but figured that the issues Joe was experiencing could easily happen anywhere – he would still be wearing his patch for some time to come, he would still struggle with his speech, he would still wear glasses. Could we risk that?

Within the week we had sent in the de-registration letter – not just for Joseph but for his older sister too. Chelsea was then 7 and although was seemingly doing ok at school we had numerous little niggles. We felt that we would work better as a family if we home-educated them both. Our initial thoughts were that we could home-educate for just 6 months to a year to build up lost confidence, develop self-esteem, and work on the speech issues. We wanted to give Joseph every chance of fitting back into the system.

For Chelsea we felt that we could tailor her education to suit her needs better than a teacher with a class full of students could ever do. We found out that Chelsea was struggling desperately with maths work but excelled in literacy. We knew that Chelsea was frustrated at the time restraints of lessons. She often wanted to work for longer on her stories and poems, and found that she didn’t get the help she needed in order to understand numeracy. As she was deemed as a ‘good girl’ she would often be left waiting with her hand up throughout the lesson whilst the teacher saw to the more disruptive members of the class.    At home we could offer Chelsea the help and time she required.

It was very much a temporary solution to a difficult problem. I really didn’t think that I was clever enough to teach my children long term.

At first we tried to do ‘school at home’. I worked out lesson plans, timetables, pencilled in breaks and lunch times – the lot.  Disaster! Our lessons would always overrun as the children became enthused on a topic, or a lesson would lead on to another topic and go off in another direction entirely. I became totally disheartened by it. All that effort planning our days was going to waste and I was starting to feel like a failure. I believed that children needed such structure, planning and discipline in order to learn. I thought that they needed to sit at desks with pens, paper, and textbooks being told what to learn and when. Isn’t that why schools are organised in such a way?

Of course, I was very wrong.

I started reading all I could about child development, learning styles and teaching methods. I explored books written by the likes of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. I became more relaxed and less in need of structure. I dropped the idea of having to ‘teach’ things and stopped myself from searching for an educational value in everything. I began to realise the value of living a happy life and the way we are always constantly learning. I became less focused on educating my children and more focussed on creating happy children. I sought to offer pressure free childhoods and realised that a love of learning can easily be a by-product of such. I didn’t have to force feed information in order for my children to learn.

I read blogs written by experienced home-educators, and connected with families online. I learnt such a lot and we developed our own routine. We found out what worked for us as a family. I noted that when my children were interested in something they developed a real passion to find out all they could about it. I also discovered that when my children knew they had a reason for knowing something, when it was felt as being relevant to them, they would find a way of learning it. An example I can give is Joseph with his reading. He left school unable to read anything other than his name – they had tried to teach him phonetically and with his speech and pronunciation issues that wouldn’t work for him at all. When he left school he felt like he needed to read like his school-going peers did. I felt under pressure to prove that I could ‘teach’ my children and I was going to be a good home-educating mama. If I could teach Joseph to read it would prove that, right?

Oh how we struggled. There were tears and tantrums on both sides. He was frustrated that he couldn’t read, I was frustrated that he would seemingly know a word one day but forget it the next. We both felt like failures. Then I said enough is enough. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I just needed to do what was right for my boy.  So, I announced that we were stopping the reading lessons. No more learn to read workbooks, printed worksheets, or boring simplified reading schemes. Instead we were just going to enjoy reading real books.

We started reading chapter books as a family, snuggled up under blankets on the sofa. I read aloud as the children played with their Lego bricks or train track. Sometimes Chelsea would take over the reading.  At the age of 8 Joseph asked if I could help him to read. Why? Because he wanted to read the instructions for his Playstation games. We started sitting and reading together with purpose and within a week he was a fluent reader. He had discovered a need to read, developed a will to read and thus began to read – even with his dyspraxia issues. It all clicked into place for him.

It took just over a year away from the school environment to help Joseph feel confident enough to leave my side when we were out. I allowed him to cling to me without frustration or pressure, to just be. We had weekly speech therapy sessions at first, which then dropped to fortnightly, then monthly.  The speech therapist was so patient. She said that it was the worst case of school phobia and lack of confidence in a child that she had ever seen in all her years of practice. I was devastated. He hadn’t always been this way.

A year into our home-educating journey and I passed my driving test. This opened up a whole new world of group meetings and exploration. At first I had my boy holding my skirt, but over time he trusted that I would be there for him always and he would go off and play. Joseph made friends easily and more importantly he was accepted.

The change in him was incredible. His confidence grew and he became the joker of the pack again. The glint returned in his eyes and I knew I had my son back.

The speech therapy became less regular. The therapist could see the progress being made at home and saw no need to keep seeing us, she just continued to provide us with support if we needed it. On the day that Joseph was signed off from the sessions, we were told that it was because we home-educated. I quote; “I am of no doubt that if Joe was in the school system, I wouldn’t be signing him off today.”

I was so proud. It really felt as if we had done the absolute right thing. It hadn’t always been an easy ride. Relatives disapproved of our actions and were often vocal in telling us so. I did question myself; was I ruining my children’s future? Was my mum right when she said that Chelsea would only ever be good enough to stack shelves in a supermarket (not that there is anything wrong with that – if my kids were happy and stacked shelves, I’d be happy!).

Now, with hindsight, I know that home-educating was the absolute right path for us to take. Eleven years into the journey, it is still the absolute right road for us to be on. I now have six children and the youngest four have never set foot within the school system. They are vibrant and energetic, they are curious and questioning, with a thirst for knowledge and a strong will to learn. They are amazing. As a family unit we are so close. The children are like best friends, and I have an amazing relationship with all, including the teens. Chelsea is nearly 19 now and studying Psychology, Sociology, and English Literature at college in order to gain a place at University next year.  She wants to study Psychology and earn a degree. Joseph at 16 is still home-educated and happy. He has a great interest in Politics, Journalism, and History and is often found to be reading up on one of these subjects or doing a project. He is under no pressure to decide on his future path just yet, although he is researching college opportunities for himself at the moment.

There are days when I wonder what life would be like for us now if we hadn’t found an alternative to the system, and to be honest it isn’t something I like to ponder on too much. I wonder just how much damage would have been done to Joseph over the years and how he would have coped with it – if indeed he would have. I shudder when I look back and remember the hurt and sadness in his eyes and am so glad that we overcame all we did and Joseph is where he is at now. I know that my own life would be very different. Perhaps I would be travelling along the 9 to 5 work path by now, and I wouldn’t have met any of the amazing people I have – both online and in real. Home-education isn’t just an educational choice, it’s a family lifestyle one.

I know that I have home-education to thank for so much and I will always be grateful to those that have fought over the years in order to afford us the right to such freedom.” Julia Pollard

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!