Tag Archive | family life

Raise your voice…

I didn’t realise I liked to chat so much!

I recently spent several days trying to but I had no voice due to a nasty infection. Trying to say anything was a struggle.

It’s amazing how much you want to say when you can’t. And it’s very funny being out and about in the shops. I tried to avoid saying anything, just whispered the occasional thank you which often went unheard and people thought was very rude judging by the looks I got. But when I did manage to whisper a request they leaned in closer and started whispering back!

It reminded me of a day’s teaching I spent without a voice. I sat the children close, looking at me in amazement and somewhat apprehensively – kids hate you to be different in any way. Then, when I got their attention, I proceeded to whisper the predicament I was in and how I needed their help, how they’d have to be extra quiet to hear me and keep their eyes on me so I could wave, rather than raise my voice, in order to say something.

They were wonderful. And it was the quietest day I ever had in the classroom. They were soon all whispering too.

And it taught me a valuable lesson about learners; kids don’t have to be shouted at in order to learn. Shouting isn’t required in the learning relationship.

It’s also an important lesson for parents too – shouting isn’t required for parents to parent effectively, although judging by how some behave you’d think it was.

In fact, shouting isn’t required in any relationship. And if your kids are seeing you shout – at each other for example – then they’ll think it’s okay to shout in the relationships they build. No relationships require shouting. Relationships need communication in respectful ways in order for them to flourish. And shouting at the kids causes stress and can even affect their health.

If you drop something heavy on your foot, or your phone in the toilet, by all means have a good shout. And even though it doesn’t solve the problem it’s supposed to be therapeutic along with a flurry of swear words!

From ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ chapter 19

But if the kids are winding you up and you feel your own personal tantrum coming on, take some time to go elsewhere and have a good shout, where it’s not directed at anybody, certainly not at them. (You can read about my own tantrum in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ chapter 19 – not pretty).

If you don’t shout your household will generally be the quieter for it. And as adults we should be finding other ways to defuse our pent up frustrations and anger.

Otherwise raise your voice only in song! Shouting in family life isn’t required.

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Boldly into January

I have to admit I find post-christmas hard. I guess most people do. It’s the lengthy dark hours, the cold, the end of christmas holidays and sparkle that does it. Not to mention work and routine to be confronted.

But a fresh year’s start can also be a time for hope, for review, for new beginnings. Time for looking beyond these first difficult bits. To take stock and consider changes.

Everything always grows and changes – people too!

It was a good time to review family life and our home education I found. Investigate what’s working, acknowledge what’s not! Winkle out all those rancid ideas I might be clinging onto that had become out of date.

It’s often forgotten that no pattern, strategy or plan will work forever. The snag with kids is you find something that works, think you’ve cracked it, then everything changes again. Of course it does; they’re changing all the time. We have to renew along with them. And the education we facilitate has to change too.

In fact, that’s another aspect of education often overlooked; learning stuff is all about change really. About embracing change. Change of ideas, of mind, of knowledge. You have to change in order to learn something; you have to be prepared to slough off old ideas in order to accept new ones. Some people find that really hard. Thankfully the kids are more readily able to do that to accommodate the things they need to learn, adults perhaps less so. But we all need to embrace new ways of working, new skills and new understanding. And a new year is a great time to do so.

We all learn, grow, change constantly if you think about it – the kids, the mums and dads, the grandparents, the ambience in the home. It’s all in a constant state of flux. And that’s how it should be. We don’t need to cling onto old stuff, old routines, old habits, that no longer serve us well. We need to allow change. We need to notice it’s necessary! I often didn’t and created conflict in the house for that simple reason. So learn by my mistakes!

And as you venture boldly into January with your family, embrace the change of the year, acknowledge the children’s need to grow and change as they learn, and don’t be afraid of bold new thoughts!

There are all sorts of ways to live a family life. And all sorts of ways for kids to learn. We just have to remain open to things and prepared to go with the flow and flux and bold enough to implement what we believe in.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

I get fed up of looking at words so occasionally I do a bit of artwork especially at Christmas when I get the urge to make a few cards.

And I’m posting a card for you, dear readers, because Christmas seems like the perfect time to say thank you.

Thank you to you all. To all who’ve been with me through my books, to all who’ve shown such warm support for my work over the past year – for many years some of you. Your little messages here, on Facebook and other platforms, your reviews and your kind remarks have kept me going.

It’s been heartwarming. Thank you.

May your Christmas be heartwarming too and full of love and may that continue throughout the coming year.

Have a happy one!

You can tell who’s been talking…

Babies must wonder what all this Christmas palaver is about. They stare at all the going’s on in amazement, too young to understand what we’re up to, however much we talk to them. Our behaviour and our hype must seem bizarre,even if entertaining. But I’m sure they absorb the excitement if not the explanations.

Babies – their wonderful world on BBC2

And we should be explaining – well – talking to them, however young and however they look back at us in bewilderment. For talking with them is essential for their development whatever age they are and whatever we’re chatting about.

There have been some great programmes on the BBC recently about babies’ development which I’ve been absorbed in. It talks about how the interactions babies have impacts on their development later on. And engaging through talk and attention was one part of their growth which was discussed; how those babies and toddlers who’ve been talked to, and with, have a greater vocabulary and dexterity with language at a later date. Even more importantly; they are the ones who achieve better educationally. So even if you think your baby isn’t responding you need to keep chatting away to them about what you’re doing and the things you see as you take them out and about.

I cringe when I see babies – any kids actually – being ignored as if they were an uncommunicative blob, or being pushed along in their pushchairs, backs to their parent, whilst said parent is engaged with their mobile. I know there’s a case for this on occasion – maybe. But I suspect it happens too often. It may be a boring talking to a baby, but it is a responsibility that comes with the parent package.

In fact it’s just as important to talk with any toddler – any youngster – and that parents continue to do so. To explain, answer questions, observe, whatever, for it all impacts on the development of their brain.

I have heard that some teachers are dealing with children starting school who are so unused to being talked to, and to whom the concept of conversation is so alien, they hardly talk at all. Their spoken vocabulary is so inhibited that staff have to spend the first part of the term focussing on that, let alone anything else like reading and writing. A shocking sign of someone neglecting their parental duty to engage with their kids. Teachers can always tell which kids have been talked to!

What some parents perhaps don’t realise is that talking to the little ones whatever age they are doesn’t just impact at the time, but equally importantly affects their development later in life too. The fact that they need talking to carries on throughout their childhood. And it’s not only important for language development or academic achievement. Conversing also creates the foundations of relationships and social skills essential for our health and happiness.

So whatever is going on in your house this Christmas, make sure you chat about it with the littlies. Of course if you’re home educating you get to chat to them all the time – no wonder homeschooled kids turn out to be so well developed! And if you’ve got a baby in the mix make sure you include them in it too. You are contributing to their education even at that early age.

Who’s home-educating who?

The table was rarely visible! Cant’ believe this was 15 years ago!

Home educating was such an inspiring experience. Never regretted – sorely missed!

Now those little ones are grown ups they dash home for visits between work schedules and off they go again leaving the house to fall back into the ordered quiet I once wished for but don’t enjoy as much as I thought I would!

Isn’t it always the case that you fail to appreciate this stuff until it’s gone? Who’d have thought the chaos that home educating kids bring to the house would ever end and you’d miss the stuff-strewn style of home-decorating that’s an inevitable part of it. You think it’ll never change.

It does! So does your role as parent.

It’s funny, but it’s the offspring home educating me these days, as much as the other way round. I learn so much from them, as I like to think they learnt from me. We continue to learn from each other actually – that’s how it should be.

On her visit home recently my eldest was talking about the drama teaching she’s doing at the moment, not that ‘teaching’ is really a concept we ever adopted. It was more consensual learning and guidance that was a shared experience not a one-way ticket. We were talking about this and she expressed an approach we could all learn from.

She said that the only thing she really asks of her students is that they are kind. This creates a nicer environment and experience for everyone.

Her words really made me think. How many learning environments have we experienced that could have been so much better if that was the approach which governed it? How many teachers, facilitators and leaders could well do with adopting such an approach! And how much more progress would students make as a result?

And it would have even helped nurture along some of our less productive home educating days when my agenda had been overtaken by ‘teaching’, usually in a grump, instead of kindly facilitating my learners’ experience!

We’re only human. We all fall foul of human failings sometimes. But if there is nothing else that you can progress with during a tricky home educating day, you can always practice being kind and let the day take care of itself. I’m sure there’ll be a better outcome because of it.

Something I thought I’d share in case you want to try it out on a tough day!

The kids can suffer from SAD too

It’s around this time of year that I begin to feel the effect of the diminishing light hours.

My spirits and motivation drop like wilted geraniums left in the frost, my energy and enthusiasm along with them. I imagine I’m like the trees whose sap is seeping back to their roots, discarding their summer leaves so they’ve not got much to do till next Spring. I want to be the same!

It becomes very difficult to feel any kind of joy in stuff when I don’t get enough daylight. I soon succumb to being a SAD person. Achievement can be difficult. I have to work hard to combat it. Hence the daily walk recorded on my Instagram feed. 

I also realised it could be the same for the kids. Confined inside on dull dark days irritations and conflicts could soon cloud the atmosphere of generally happy home educating days. So, grey and cold or not, if we didn’t have another other activity planned out of the house that day, they got dragged out for a walk of some sort. And despite resistance, it lifted the mood every time – even if sometimes it was just gratitude at being back in the warm! (You can read more about our day to day Home Ed life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’).

With the continual reports of rising mental health issues among children at younger and younger ages I do wonder if this is a major factor. Kids are outdoors less and less, indoor virtual entertainment being both easily accessible, attractively seductive and convenient for parents too perhaps, especially for those less keen on braving the weather. Kids are outside in natural light and spaces for smaller amounts of time than ever before. It’s got to have a detrimental impact – as it does on many adults.

Increasingly it is thought that natural daylight and time outside, especially in green spaces, is vital for our mental wellbeing, for kids too, as well as giving them time to run off excess energy we might not have! This is what Mind, the mental health charity, have to say about it.

And more reasons why our kids need to be outside are outlined in this piece in the Huff Post uk.

So, just as we would never consciously do anything to harm our children’s physical health, perhaps we need to apply that principle to their mental wellbeing too, making sure the lifestyle choices we make aren’t damaging. Getting the family out for their regular dose of natural light and space needs to be part of those choices, wherever you live.

(See The Wild Network for some ideas)

 

Hugs for brains!

sdrThe minute I saw Charley I grabbed her in a massive hug. I tend to do that anyway. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done. And I don’t get so much opportunity these days, now we’re no longer home educating and they live independently.

I drool loving messages in her ears along with the kisses while she laughs and hugs back – she has the best hugs ever.

This time as I held her I said; “This is why you’re so intelligent, you know.”

She looked back at me laughing. “How come?”

“Well apparently, research now shows that the more you hug your babies the better their brains develop, so come here.” (Read the article here)

I grabbed her again as we joked at the idea of her being my baby when she’s about to celebrate her 25th birthday.

You’re never too old for hugs, brain development or not.

The beauty of home education is that you get an extra amount of time for hugs. For expressing your care and value and love for them. And respect of course.

They don’t always want it. Charley didn’t so much when she was tiny and very reserved. Anyway, she always wanted to be chasing about, too busy for huggy stuff. Nowadays she’s the most huggy person ever.

But I do think it is another one of those little things that going to school can affect; the time, opportunity and even inclination to express your love for one another especially through hugs and touch.

School creates tension in households with its rules and demands and stresses. Admittedly we all have those to negotiate in life, but so many of the school demands are unrealistic and unnecessary and placed on kids too young; the demand of the homework for one. Not to mention the tensions of school relationships which to me seem wholly unnatural, despite the ridiculous idea people have that kids have to go to school to ‘socialise’. School is the last place I’d want my kids to learn about socialising (post about that here) as relationships there are built on unhealthy tensions and are rarely anything like those relationships outside of school.

And I believe these tensions come home with them and affect the relationships within the family. There are bound to be tensions when the relationship many parents have with their kids after school boils down to arguments about getting their homework done, issues over uniform, or not behaving like so-and-so at school does!

Parents of school kids have a lot to counteract in maintaining their precious relationships with their kids at home.

Families who home school have the opportunity for hugs and holds whenever the need arises.

And it is all those hugs and holds which impact on the way your child develops emotionally and mentally and spiritually from then on. It is the natural part of the human existence that we all intrinsically need. And we should never skimp on it. Hugging time missed out on can never be replaced.

Better get on with it then!