Tag Archive | children

Treat a bad day like passing wind!

Waiting for the climate to change!

Being the best parent you can be (see last post) is exhausting. You’re bound to get a bad day. A day when you probably wish you weren’t a parent at all and had another job!

We all get them whatever job we’re doing. Whether it’s parenting, home educating, employment out the home, self employment, what ever path you’re forging you’re bound to get a day that’s totally crap. It’s a life thing – not a job thing.

It’s odd though; when you’re an employee you tend to blame the job. When you’re a parent, particularly a home schooling parent, you tend to blame yourself. And that makes a crap day a whole lot crappier!

So this is a post just to say: DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.

We all love our kids to bits and love being with them – of course we do. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t be the kind of person bothering to read this if you didn’t) But that’s not going to mean that we won’t get down about life occasionally. It’s just what happens, whatever we do, and is as natural a part of the human condition as passing wind! And – yes – everyone passes wind even those who pretend otherwise. Equally, everyone will suffer a bad day even if they pretend they’re perfect.

But that doesn’t make us bad parents or bad home educators. It’s just the way it is sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up over it. The best way to help yourselves is to ACCEPT it. It’s just life. And nurture yourself through this bit just as you would nurture a friend.

If you viewed your parenting, or home educating role, like you’d view employment, you’d accept there’s bound to be bad days when you’re giving less than you’d like. If you were employed you might even throw a sickie!

Can’t do that as a parent – but you can go easy on yourself for a day till it passes. Also remember there are teachers, nursery workers, assistants, helpers, who will be working through a bad day without giving their best either. It’s just normal having a bad day from time to time. Doesn’t make you a bad person, just because you can’t give your best today.

Make a cuppa. Sit it out. Accept it gracefully. Wait for the climate of your day to change. You’re just human. Deal with it with the compassion and gentleness that makes you humane.

This will show your children the skills to deal with bad days whenever they get them too, and help them understand bad days are part of life and not to worry – the climate always changes – bad wind always passes! So even on a bad day you’ll be teaching them something through your parenting! Take comfort from that. And if you’re suffering one right now, may your climate soon change!

The best way to parent

If you want them to be interested in caring for the world get them out and show them what to care for

I didn’t think I’d ever make such a statement – or a suggestion. I didn’t think I’d ever be so arrogant as to assume I knew what the best way to parent was!

I’m not saying I do it’s just that I read a rather nice statement the other day that put me in mind of it. It said that the best way we can serve others is by being an example and an inspiration. And it came to me that this is exactly true of parenting.

The best parent that you can be comes not from parenting rules or trends. It comes more importantly from being  the best person you can be.

Through being the best person you can be you demonstrate to your children what a best person looks like – what they can to aim for. So maybe the best way to parent is through being an example of the kind of person you’d like your children to become.

Children learn far, far, far more through example than through anything else.

Thus; if you want to raise kind, considerate people you show them what kind, considerate is.

You inspire them to work, learn, relate to others by the way you work, learn, relate to others.

You encourage them to take care of the world and the things in it by the way you take care of those things.

You teach them how to love and respect by the way you love and respect.

You also show them how to discern, decide and gracefully detach when need be by the way in which you do that.

If you want to raise kids who contribute to the way the world works then you’ll do that through your own contribution (parenting being one of the most important contributions you can make).

If you want to raise children who have standards and morals and principles you need to decide for yourself what standards, principles and morals are important to you and live by them – consistently.

And if you want to raise people who know how to relax, take care of their mind body and spirit, then the way you do that will be the most influential demonstration they could have.

This perhaps is not only the best way to parent, but also the simplest way to parent. Be who you want them to become, then allow them the integrity to follow.

You inspire by your consistent example – and it won’t just be your kids, it will be other parents too.

Don’t you think that’s an awesome thought?

A way to renew this Easter

One of the beautiful things about life with young children – as well as the children themselves, of course – is their awe and delight in

Take a moment with the kids to appreciate the little things like droplets on a feather

the simplest of little things. A ladybird on the pavement. A tree for climbing. A hole in the undergrowth just right for crawling into. A wall for walking along. The feel of mud through fingers. The splashy noise of puddles.

It’s such a magic time and parents get the joy of sharing these things – if you take the time, that is.

Are you missing it?

A way of not missing it is to slow down and look at the little things as if they were new to you too. Indulge in the delight of really looking – like kids do. Of looking through the lens of their eyes, seeing things as if for the first time. What better way to spend the weekend?

Easter is traditionally a time of regrowth and rebirth. Maybe you could do your own bit of rebirthing and learn from your kids – learn from the little people who are usually learning from you. We’re never too grown up to change. Learn how to see with a different view – their view – their delight.

So how about, whatever the weather, leaving the phones and tablets behind, getting out in a green space somewhere, and observing the world with renewed eyes, attitude and time frame?

Take time to replenish yourself by going at their pace, change your momentum and the way you race by all the tiny wonders around without really seeing, without really feeling the awe. Slow down. Look closely. Absorb yourself. It’s quite a meditative practice – just what we need sometimes!

And renewing yourself will help you be the best parent you can be – one that’s never to busy to enjoy the little things with the kids. They’ll remember you for that!

Happy Easter!

Using nature to talk about mortality with kids

I wonder how the little Guillemot is? 

I think it was a guillemot anyway. It was standing forlornly at the edge of the water so still I thought it was an upstanding stone when I first caught sight of it in the distance. But as I walked nearer I realised it was a little bird. It was bedraggled and saturated and appeared to be shivering.

I guessed it had probably got exhausted and waterlogged. But had managed to come ashore with the tide.

What to do?

Leave it to recover in calm and solitude, or take it somewhere? The stress of being captured can often create further injury or cause them to die of shock anyway.

It was always a dilemma when we found exhausted or injured wild things. They rarely survived as a result of our attentions but the children always wanted to take them home and cosset and cuddle them back to health as we did them! None of which does wild things any good usually but it’s very hard to explain that to a child.

Nestlings were the worst. The children were adamant that they could save them with human ministrations, not understanding that most of them wouldn’t make it – human comforts are rarely what they need.

Living in the country animal fatalities were regularly witnessed. Another corpse in the tideline or a remnant of a fox’s meal, as well as farming, were opportunities for study and discussion and also conversations about the natural course of life.

These events, and the passing of pets, are a good opportunity to talk to kids about these difficult issues – although not difficult really if you make them a natural part of examining life.

More difficult when they’re not talked about and come as a terrible shock.

Mortality is usually conveniently hidden away like a taboo. But it is far better that it is confronted honestly, that children understand about the cycle of life, that we are sad and bereft for some time after losing someone or something, and that this passes, new aspects of life flood in and make us feel better and we survive and move forward.

Children are very matter-of-fact. They deal far better with honest answers than with cover ups. They see through those. They can only trust us if they know we’re honest. That way they’ll believe us when we say that we can recover from grief and loss, rather than thinking this is just another grown up lie.

The loss of pets or things in the wild and natural world provide good opportunities for us to talk about both the living and the passing of life, not in a morbid way. But in a matter-of-fact way with the children. And we shouldn’t shy away from it.

Had little children been with me when I saw the guillemot they would no doubt have wanted to do something about it. But I thought it best to leave it to find itself somewhere quiet to recover as it looked reasonable robust. After I’d had a good look at it – a rare treat to be so close.

But it popped into my mind occasionally throughout the day as I wondered about its fate.

Wish we could get the heart back into learning

I miss having children around. I miss being able to show them things and take them places and those quiet little cuddles at any time.

The former village school – now a nursery

It was wonderful watching their amazement as they learn and enjoy the world and grow. In fact, I’ve even missed them so much I’ve thought of returning to teaching.

Then I come to my senses when I remember.

I remember all the reasons why I left. Like my unhappiness at having to force kids to do stuff that didn’t seem appropriate or relevant or worth anything. Like having to drive and pressurise and push until they got the required points. Like having to teach stuff in certain ways when I could clearly see it wasn’t what the child needed. Having to implement stupid policies devised by  some idiot who knew little about the needs of kids. And worst of all, watching their keen little faces glaze over with apathy as another boring objective is confronted; practices that just made kids feel bad and switch off. And worse still, giving them the blame for their failure instead of acknowledging that the fault lay with the approach not the kids.

And that was years ago – it’s ten times worse than that now.

I used to think I was just a cynic. But current remarks from parents and colleagues and recently one new young teacher who was so unhappy because what she felt she was required to do to kids wasn’t really ethical, let alone valuable, make me think I have a cause to be so. And some of the articles on the Secret Teacher site support that cynicism. They make for grim reading.

I used to teach in a small village school, where we all knew all the kids, where everyone functioned for the good of everyone else, where the climate in a school was one of care and nurture directed at the children And their happiness and enjoyment was important.

I don’t sense that about schools any more. I only have to walk in one and something in me shrivels. But thankfully I feel it among the home educating community.

The home educating community seem to base their educational provision on something that all educational provision should be based on: a love of learning. They at least are putting the heart back into learning.

Kids come into the world already programmed to learn – it’s as natural as survival and part of it. But schools change learning into something else – into point scoring, usually for the good of the school.

Keep a child’s love of learning intact and education follows naturally. It’s so sad that the educational system has completely lost sight of the pleasure of learning as they turn it into big political business.

So I’m sure glad to know so many wonderful parents who are brave enough to follow their hearts to learning, rather than the politics!

Undercurrents of love and play

My 23yo still playing I’m glad to say!

When the children were small there was nothing we liked better than a little expedition. Especially ones that took us to favourite haunts where the children could rush along the footpaths, clamber on logs, make dens, look for natural treasures like creepy crawlies, fungi, birds and snails, and slosh about in water as much as possible. Picnics were usually part of it too, even if we had to eat with our gloves on.

These days when my grown up daughter comes home for a visit, like she did recently, there’s nothing I like better than doing the same; than going back to those old haunts where she still balances on logs, sloshes about in her wellies and hopes for a picnic. And I join in for most of it!

Such magic moments to be treasured all the more as the opportunities for them become more rare, especially as their activities tend to be more sophisticated and urban these days. And mine at the computer!

However, the undercurrents of love and playfulness haven’t changed even if the venues do. Even if we become more sophisticated as we grow – supposedly – we must never be too grown up to play – very important. Especially in the light of reports over recent years  about the damage of children not playing outside any more. And reports that to play is good for our well-being.

So, I hope you’re making lots of opportunities for uninhibited play, for yourself and for the children, and creating magic moments with yours to revisit when they’re grown, as they inevitably do.

Remember; no one is ever too old or too sophisticated to play. Encourage it and demonstrate it all the time!

Playing to the system – or not!

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m often on about the need for education to develop creative skills (read this blog and you’ll see why it’s important)

20170112_093050And it’s come back to mind again as I’m reading Grayson Perry’s book ‘Playing to the Gallery’. He is of course talking about art – but what he asks about art is exactly true of education; how do we tell if something’s good or not? Is it in financial terms – it’s potential to earn or have monitory value? Do we judge by mass popular opinion, or whether it works for us or not? Does tradition have a part to play in our assessment? Or do we judge by aesthetic qualities – whether we like it – which is of course tied up in all these things?

It struck me that those questions about artwork, equally apply to education.

When you home educate, out of the system of expected outcomes and assessment, you really have to consider answers to those questions. But whether you home educate or not – you should still be asking them.

Consider the financial aspect for a start. Business politics are now having a huge influence on schools and consequently education. Funding was always an issue. But in blinding us with budgets a valuable fact is being masked. The fact that you don’t have to throw money at learning to make it good – it’s the quality of the people involved that’s important and the time they have to inspire individuals. Home educators on very tight budgets are providing an alternative learning experience which leads to intelligent, social and qualified young people.

Our popular acceptance of schooling as the only means to education serves the political economy by looking after kids whilst both parents work – this is what many parents want. Whether it is an education that serves the children well is another matter!

Mass popular opinion also governs what goes on in schools, but being popular isn’t a sign that it is good, as Grayson says of art. We have been conditioned to think that the education children receive in school is going to be a good one because that’s the popular opinion and that’s the only one most of us know. But the politics of it has influenced the quality through demanding constant measurement and measurement has been interpreted as constant testing, which is neglecting true education in the broader sense.

There is also the matter of whether the kids like it or not. Do they have to like it? Certainly do – that’s if you want them to reach their potential, rather than just be child-minded. Deterioration in a child’s achievement, because of their unhappiness in school, has driven many a family to home educate where they can provide a better learning climate, where the child is comfortable and enjoys their learning, that doesn’t cost enormous amounts and can take any form you want it to take to make it good.

So how do we judge whether our home education is good or not?

To answer that you have to ask what education is for.

We had many a discussion about this over all our days of home educating and discovered that the answer lies more in the broader view.

The broader reason we all educate, both schools and home schoolers, is not necessarily for qualification as most traditionalists see it. But so that the children can take their place, independently, in the society in which we live. So they can contribute to it in their own way, be a productive, pleasant and caring member of the human race who is considerate and thoughtful and ever learning and developing their wider understanding of themselves, others and the wider world.

They may use qualifications to do that. They may not. But the archaic, dull and pressurised testing criteria schools use certainly does not have to play a part in it.

The approach you use  as a home educator will be determined by your circumstances, your own beliefs, your child and their needs and the interactions you make. But be assured that the system’s way is just one way to educate and one that’s not doing many children a lot of good. There’s a myriad of ways to learn – some you might not consider learning at all, like having a conversation for example, but which are equally valuable. You don’t have to play by the system’s rules just because of mass popularity and you get more Likes on Facebook!

As Grayson says of art; we’ve all come to it influenced by the system which got us there in the first place. Same with education; we’ve all come to accept the education system because it leads us to do so.

Doesn’t mean we have to play to it, though, to achieve educational success for our children.