Tag Archive | bereavement

Cycles of life

It’s time yet again to say another sad goodbye to a dear pet. These emotional partings seem to come around so quickly and you’re never really prepared even though you know their time is drawing near. It doesn’t seem two minutes since I was writing about a little furry hollow on a cushion, empty of cat, and here we are again with our faithful dog, years later, who came to us as a puppy at the time that blog was written. Read it here.

Charley snuggled up to her when she first came to us 15 years ago

The only difference really is that the children are grown and you’re telling adults rather than little ones about this ending of life that’s so hard to impart.

It isn’t any easier because they’re older. In fact the younger the children are the more accepting they are of the event, not yet perhaps understanding the consequence of grief if they’ve never experienced it before.

“Why did the cat die?” their young cousin asked on one such occasion. We adults looked at each other not knowing the answer.

“It was her time,” was the only answer I could think of in the moment. But it was an answer that was completely accepted.

Children are very stoic. Especially if they haven’t experienced the sentimentality and drama that some parents attach to the event of a passing. Sadness is inevitable. But my feeling has always been that we must face up to it, allow our sadness, be true and honest about death, and rather than wallow in histrionics give the children the tools they need to deal with their emotions surrounding it. They do that by our example.

I know its difficult to hold yourself together sometimes. I wrote about this in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when the children’s only grandparent passed away. You can only do the best you can.

Being home educated there is no distraction of school to ease a moment here and there when you’re grieving but, as ever, it’s an opportunity for learning! We had some searing conversations, searingly honest and scientific, that reassured the children that this is what happens and that we do all endure it and recover from loss in time. It’s so important I think to be carefully honest and not use generalisations like ‘they’ve gone to sleep’, for example which might terrify a child into not sleeping themselves. Answer their questions and give them the information they can process according to their age and understanding. (There are some ideas to help here on the Young Minds website).

Meanwhile my grown youngsters are of an age now where they can show empathy for me and the sad hole in the house they’re no longer in, as well as receive it themselves and I find many of my sayings from the past years when we’ve been dealing with loss, coming full circle and being quoted back to me!

One of them is that the horrible gap that is left by the passing of something or someone loved will eventually be filled up again.

Seasons always come and go, such is the season of sadness.

Comforting thoughts.

Using opportunities for meaningful learning

We’re house hunting at the moment. This is an enormous learning curve – not curve actually, a mountain that we are climbing! A new experience for us, having inherited the house we’re in so didn’t search for it.

It puts me in mind of when we did the transition to this house, following a bereavement of course, and what a huge, if shocking, life learning opportunity it all was at the time for the kids. And indeed a good illustration of what home education can fundamentally be; an education steeped in the rich opportunities life throws at us that are such valuable learning experiences, far more educative than sitting in a school doing meaningless academics like frontal adverbials or improper fractions.

Using opportunities for real life learning

Our story; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, is an illustration of how this life learning happens and how we used even this experience of loss of a loved one, also uppermost in the news recently with the death of Prince Phillip, as a basis for developing understanding and meaning, giving learning a purpose. (If you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page you’ll find more on the book)

Life learning, that is using life experiences to develop various skills, gave the children a real reason for learning about the things they did; the historical, scientific, environmental, creative and mathematical concepts associated with everything; even death is scientific. And concepts like these run through everything we do if you just notice and explore them. Endless academic practise is not necessary for all learning, isn’t the only approach, and certainly doesn’t motivate children to learn as it has no visible purpose for them.

Even skills which have been made seemingly complex by the school style, objective led, test burdened approach, like reading for example, can be woven organically through the things kids naturally come into contact with.

For, if you think about it, why would kids not want to learn to read when they see us doing it, see us texting, messaging, using written communication through various keyboards. (Recent post on reading here)

In fact a home schooling friend said to me once that she believed her son, who hated any kind of formal English exercises, had learnt to read and spell through Gaming, by communicating with other gamers via messaging them, and the desire to be able to read the things he encountered on the computer. He’s successfully doing a degree in higher maths now so it obviously worked and I know for a fact that the family did very little formal academics at the time. Their learning was based around life experiences and building the skills they needed from what they encountered along the way.

Years ago, in Teacher-Training colleges, it used to be called ‘project based’ learning. You choose a topic to study with the kids and incorporated the basic skills they were required to accomplish at the time within those fun projects.

This approach has mostly disappeared now within the intense drilling for testing that occurs throughout the basic subjects, other projects like the arts or environment, just treated as add-ons. And the real purpose of basic life skills buried under the silly useless analysis and naming of various academic structures, like the parts of a sentence, just so they can be ticked off.

Who cares what the parts of sentence are called? Knowing that doesn’t make you a good communicator. And it’s communication which makes you human – life skills make you human, whether that’s understanding  what’s appropriate to say, how to be, or even bereavement. The current Royal loss presents a huge opportunity for understanding the life cycle, the politics, beliefs and traditions, the history associated with it, etc. etc.

Whatever happens to you at the time is an opportunity to learn, whether that’s knowing how to care, grieve, and empathise with others, read and decipher your messages, or use your technology well enough to move house!

All life presents opportunities for real learning, learning for the purpose of living a life, not learning just for ticks.