Tag Archive | family life

Tolerance for those who do it differently

I’m hatching a follow up to my newest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’books 001

We’ve had some lovely reviews. But I’m also trying to take on board the not so lovely ones and make adjustments, give people what they want.

Some want an image of Home Ed respectability and felt Little Harry will give home schoolers a bad reputation. Others complained it was an image of a structured family and left others out. It’s difficult knowing who to please!

It’s also difficult to capture a good story with just a few words to play with. Far easier to indulge a writer’s passion for lots and lots of them!

Some of the children’s stories I’ve read in the past have been fantastic. Some not so good.

The best, I think, are stories that leave you wondering and talking with the children, like ‘Horrid Henry’ (by Francesca Simon) – what a child! Or ‘Pippi Longstocking’ (Astrid Lindgren), who lives outside all our preconceptions. Or books with a message like ‘Wonder’ (P J Palacio) which raises our awareness of our response to children with facial disfigurement.

I suppose my message with Harry was that whoever they are and whatever they are doing children have reasons for what they do. Admittedly some of these doings need moderating as they mature and increase their understanding of why certain actions might not be desirable, if they want to become happy and involved members of society that is. But we need to show patience and understanding in our guidance until they get there.

And especially tolerance of all the different types of people there are in the world. And of those who want to do it differently.

Home educating families are among those who want to do things a bit differently.

But everyone is different really; all children are different whether in school or out, all parents are different. All writers are different too and produce a different kind of work.

Tolerance and understanding are the keys to us all living gracefully together whoever we are and whatever we purport.

How wild are you?

Nothing like taking some time over the weekend to sit among the rose petals and read. Although I don’t think that’s quite what Simon Barnes meant in the book of his I was reading; ‘How To Be Wild’! wild book 002

This is a trip through various wild places with him, mostly on his doorstep in Suffolk, but also in Zambia, as he talks about our connection with the natural world and why we need it. How we need to preserve it. I was drawn to it through that mutual interest and the fact the marshes he walks through are so like the ones I also frequent when I’m getting my regular dose of the wild.

I couldn’t thrive without this connection. I think many people can’t, but maybe they haven’t recognised that fact. We need to keep in touch with wildness to understand that it runs through our own genes however sophisticated and concreted we try and make our lives.

Our health needs it, our psyche needs it. But most don’t get enough of it – some don’t get any contact with wild places and the natural world. Sadly, many kids don’t – some are almost afraid of it.

If our children have no contact then they’ll have little regard, because contact breeds knowledge and understanding. We are spawned from the wild and basically need to preserve it in order to preserve ourselves. Experience is the starting point for understanding.

Simon lists a number of ways to reconnect with the wild. All of which are doable with family. Here are some of them:

  • Walk. Get out from under rooves and walk under the sky. Even in a city this has benefits as there is always something natural to observe.
  • Sit. Anywhere you can breathe in air and even better if it’s a natural open space. Observe.
  • Drink; although I interpret this as picnic with family and kids. Do it outside.
  • Learn. Name what you see, Keep adding to the list of things you can name. With technology you can identify something in an instant, flower, bird, tree, insect, whatever…
  • Read. And research. Especially about the environment, the planet, the species. Explore nature websites and charities.
  • Visit. Find wild places to visit. These don’t always have to be organised nature reserves. A river walk, wood or wasteland that’s less well known may be nearby without you ever having realised.
  • Join. Volunteer. Get involved. There may be branches of wildlife groups near you to be involved with and check out the less well known ones like Buglife or Plantlife as well as the larger ones like The National Trust or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Now the summer’s here see how wild you can be. There’s nothing quite like gathering a clan together and getting out there. You’ll make a difference to your life and you’ll make a difference to the environment by extending your contact and thus your understanding, and that of the next generation who’ll one day be it’s guardians.

Missing Home Ed – so it’s great to meet you!

I do miss those home educating days with little ones. When there were children here full of curiosity and inquisitiveness about their world – like Little Harry in ‘Who’s Not In School’. It’s often misinterpreted for booklaunchnaughtiness when it becomes inappropriate! He’s the kind of child you take your eyes off for a second and his curiosity gets the better of him and he’s doing something he shouldn’t. I had one of those.

I also miss the company of other inspiring home educating parents and the excuse to have a good chinwag about our kids in general – oh – and education of course. My friends have heard it so much from me now I see their eyes glaze over.

So I have enjoyed meeting some of you at recent book events the publisher arranged.

These events are always a challenge for me. I prefer to hide away in natural places (where I write this now) rather than be public. But I’ve been so uplifted by the warm responses we’ve had so far I’m up for some more. So if you want us to visit your group do get in touch here.

I love meeting inspirational people and as home educators you’re definitely inspirational – it’s an inspirational thing to be doing. I never tire of hearing your stories and if we can pass something onto the next set of parents wanting to home educate, then it’s a double advantage.

So if you fancy coming along to any of the events I hope we get to chat.

Or come and let me know what you think of the new book – if it’s kind of course! As I used to say to the children; if it’s not kind or it’s not helpful, don’t say it! I think some of the people who go on forums could do with adhering to that rule! ;)

Otherwise your feedback is what keeps me writing – and emerging from my hiding place. Hope to see more of you soon.

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.

 

Precious moments

20150604_144804When they’re little, it’s important to spend as much time with them as you can. This is the groundwork for their development and education.

When they’re older those times all together become increasingly rare. And very precious.

Which is why this is substituting for a blog post. I’m spending a bit of time with these two and making the most of precious moments! :)

Bank holiday blessings

may15 004I’ll be outdoors for much of it; it’s my tonic for recent anxiety over the new book!

Having sat all winter wrapped in rugs while writing I’m off out in the sunshine. Outside can be warmer than in, apropos of old houses, whose draughts keep your feet on ice and a drip on your nose end. Over winter, to get out for my daily walk, (well – almost daily) has been a challenge sometimes described here!

Now, it’s a delight. Soft, warm breezes caress my hair – yep no woolly hat! The Spring flowers are tickled by sunshine. The virulent greens burst upon the eye and the swallows sweep over drying mud looking for nesting material. Even the dog slows down and ambles gently behind, tongue hanging, slops down in shade when we return to the garden.

Even my rusty bits feel eased with warmth.

It’s easy to get distracted. I just weed out a dandelion – we have another thousand or so, so it’s not going to be missed. I watch a massive bee bumble round the flowers. And a butterfly looking happy in the balmy air – or maybe that’s just me, but it’s all too real and marvellous to abandon for the sake of writing about the virtual at a computer.

All those long dark hours I’ve worked there desperate for warmth and the sun creates it in a single slice. I recharge my personal solar panels while I can.

For have you noticed how effective and penetrating sun warmth is compared to man-made?

Although fire does come a close second, there is nothing to beat the effect sun has on me and this old house. It generates warmth in the bricks, pockets of it under the sloping roof and radiates through the windows. I feel it has finally reached my bones where winter’s been for months.

No wonder people worshipped the sun.

And that’s what I’m going to be doing whenever I get the chance so sorry if I’m missing at times. But maybe you should be doing the same.

Apparently lack of sunshine and natural light not only creates vitamin D deficiency but also poor immunity (see this article) and they’re concerned about it with the increase in children’s allergies possibly made worse by spending far too much time indoors.

So everybody out for at least twenty minutes a day – since I’m fairly dark skinned I need longer apparently.

As if I needed an excuse – it’s what I’ll be doing this bank holiday. Vitamin D here I come!

Born Naughty?

“Mum, there’s a programme on Channel 4 tonight you might like, I just saw a trailer,” says Charley as she comes through to where I’m working.

I look up from the keyboard and peer at her suspiciously. “Oh, yea? What’s that then?” She knows I’m not into watching telly much, especially fly-on-the-wall type programmes that turn people’s misery into dramatic telly just because it’s cheap to make!

“It’s apparently about children being naughty – whether it’s learned or genetic. Thought you’d be interested as I know how much you hate that word.” She grinned at me round the door frame. She’s heard me ranting over parenting programmes many a time, and use very bad language!

I’ve always hated the concept of ‘naughty’. It goes right back to when I worked in schools back in the dark ages when parents instructed me to not worry about ‘givin ‘im a belt round the ear, cos he’ll need it, he’s so naughty’. A parent actually said that to me on one occasion.

I couldn’t really understand it, for I never had reason to label that child, or any other, as ‘naughty’. I always took the approach; kids have reasons for what they do. I appreciate that small kids aren’t open to reason sometimes and parents could do with some guidance themselves. You get thrown in the deep end with parenting – how could we know how to deal with the more complex challenges it throws our way?

The programme, ‘Born Naughty’ was quite empathetic. But when it opened with a question; ‘Do these children need diagnosis or discipline?’ I quailed at the prospect of these kids like many others just being given pills to calm them down. And I certainly quivered at the images of frustrated, screaming and anxious kids and desperate parents in dire conflict with one another. I never had to deal with anything quite so upsetting or extreme.

But watching the parents my heart went out to them. Parents always get the blame when a child is a screaming whirlwind of tantrum, don’t they? But funny how you never seem to get the credit for when they’re beautiful little people who do all the right things!

We certainly saw some screaming whirlwinds on the programme and the parents said how sick they were of everyone pointing the finger at them when they’d tried their best to manage. But child behaviour is never, ever just the fault of parenting. It’s far more complex than that.

Everyone’s behaviour, our own included, is affected by a multitude of things; our genetic make up, personality and character, our environment and family life, even the food we eat and the opportunity for exercise and recreation to help us burn off stress, feel calm and relax. It is never just the parents’ fault in isolation.

The programme dealt very sensitively with all this and made several recommendations to help parents deal with the challenges they faced with the children’s behaviour. Interestingly it was observed how contact with animals helped one girl, which I talked about in my last blog post.

But the answers lay in a collection of influences that we as parents could not possibly know about if we hadn’t already experienced them. And when you’re parents of young children, you haven’t! It’s as simple as that.

There’s no loss of face in asking for help, asking those who’ve spent hours observing and working with different child behaviours who might have more of an insight that we do with our limited experience.

I’m not in favour of children being labelled, filled with drugs, or forcibly restrained. I never trust the so-called experts unquestioningly.

But sometimes you have to seek help and guidance in order to save the child from themselves. Youngsters cannot understand that their behaviour is what connects them to others which is one of the elements in life that make us most happy. It’s also what can destroy those connections, which benefits no one.

When children are immature they cannot control their impulses as we can. They cannot understand the awful feelings they have or how to manage them. They’re not interested in reasons.

So it’s up to us to try and understand these reasons behind their behaviour – it was extreme anxiety in one of the examples – and guide them towards overcoming it with patience and consistency, so that they can go on to enjoy connected and happy lives.

There is no such thing as ‘naughtiness’ – only reasons. That’s not an excuse. It’s a demand for greater understanding.

And to increase my understanding, I might watch the next one. For a fly-on-the-wall parenting programme, it wasn’t too bad!