Tag Archive | family life

Mad hares and swallow moments

Bluebells to look forward to

Bluebells to look forward to

I’m excited now the equinox has passed! Now that from this time on, for six months, there will be more light than dark. Despite irritating disruptions like clock changes I shall be waking in the light and there’ll still be enough light after supper to meander outside.

Outside things are changing. Mad hares have been leaping. Birds are home making. Shoots are surging and bursting open and when the extra light shines on me I feel like doing the same. There will be bluebells to look forward to and one of these coming days I might even toss my thermals off!

Thermals are required both inside and outside this house. Apart from the fact it’s old and draughty and I get damn cold sitting writing, I also try to ration the heating for both budget and planetary reasons. I want to go on enjoying this light and atmosphere and it needs preserving for those coming along behind me so they can do the same.

Winters can be challenging and I know I’m taking conscience a bit too far when it’s so cold in the house the dinner won’t defrost. But when it’s bad I light the log fire. Or hoovering is good for a warm up – the house is much cleaner in the winter! And I have jumpers that reach my knees and plenty of woolly rugs.

Now though, with longer hours of sunshine, I can utilise natural radiation and sit by a sunny window. Sun warmth penetrates deeper and faster than any heating and although I may have grown soft with modern comforts I appreciate the sun’s heat and the turning of the season more than any fire. So I do what I can to preserve it, however little a drop in the ecological ocean that may be.

It all helps.

And whatever little action you take will help too. Never think it’s not worth it.

Because all these little actions we take, added together, not only make a difference in lessening the impact you make upon the earth and its atmosphere and sunlight, are also a message in example to others. It may influence others’ actions.

Just like everyone follows a trend, like saying ‘hey’ in greeting instead of ‘hello’ for example which changes societal behaviour, we can change people’s behaviour towards the earth by our example and create new trends and habits. A good one to start with would be not to buy wet-wipes – have you seen the damage they do?

So, yea, I’m getting more than a little excited to see that added sunshine. And if any words I write here in my appreciation of it educates others enough to change one small thing they do to help preserve it, then I’ll be well chuffed.

Just as I am chuffed to see the sun rise each day, to witness the first feathered arrow dart across the sky as the summer swallows come, or see the mad hares leap about the fields in mating games.

And after writing this I will get up and leap about just as madly in order to warm up and resist putting the heating on so that the order of the natural world is disrupted a little less by pollutive habits.

May I plead with you to do the same and make one small change in your actions today, thus setting an example to your children and future generations and showing them how important is this earth?

Children are made readers…

First morning back at my desk and I’m having a bad attack of post holiday blues!

I’ve had such a lovely time away with my eldest. But such a painful time when it comes to parting again. Such is the nature of being a parent of grown offspring. It’s made up of greetings and partings and gaps in between. How parents managed before mobiles and Skype when they were so completely cut off from each other I’ve no idea!

Although I tried hard not to think about the work I do here; the writing and blogging etc, I did sneak into a book shop for a good browse and stroke of all the lovely books. The aesthetic of them will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of ebooks. They’re part of a writer’s world. That and the coffee shop and a chance to sit among books and eat cake; two delights in one!

And over one stand of books in the children’s department I noticed a little sign which said:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  Couldn’t resist posting it here to remind all parents that time spent with a child on their lap looking at a book does so much more than you think; it teaches them about reading.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a simple thing. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time.

If we all did it enough – instead of assuming we needn’t bother as children will be taught to read by schools or schemes – children would read naturally and organically with a little encouragement and help. Their delight and curiosity about reading ignites the motivation to want to do it – why would they not read then? It’s parents who start that off.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools – a thought worth keeping in mind.

Still speaking…!

Will the children still be speaking to me when they’re older?

I used to wonder this sometimes – you do so worry when you’re a a parent!

And when irrational fear really got hold I could imagine even worse scenarios: what if they grow to hate me? What if they think I’m absolutely mad for taking them out of school? What if they never forgive me for what I’ve done to them?

I guess these questions sneak through many a parent’s mind, most particularly home educating parents. Please tell me it’s not just me!

So I thought I’d tell you not to worry because they do – they are still speaking. In fact both of the girls at different times have told me I’m among their best friends. And considering they do have great friends – yep; people still have friends even though they don’t go to school! – I rate that as a great honour.

We’re still the family team we ever were, described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. Amazingly those two little girls in there are now grown up, confident, competent and, of course beautiful, young women.

I’ve been talking to some other grown up home educated young people recently and one mentioned the family unity she felt through home educating, where you all pulled together rather than apart, like some of her friends seem to. In fact, I don’t know any home educating family who have ended up like my worse scenarios, so no need to worry!

Our team still loves spending time together. We still have a good giggle. We talk about everything and anything. We share much. Of course we’re still speaking!

And I’m going away tomorrow to share a few days with my eldest so it will go quiet on here for a while. She and I will be busy gabbing and catching up and the only interruptions allowed will probably be caused by cake! :)

The view from the roof…

A change of view sometimes brings a change of mind!

A change of view sometimes brings a change of mind!

I was on the garage roof quite a bit last weekend. Charles was inside cooking dinner.We have very different priorities!

Although, he’s not interested in cooking any more than I am, it was just his turn. And I like being on the garage roof because it gets me outside.

It was part of the gardening I was doing. It’s a flat roof and thanks to deposits of leaves and blooms from the beautiful roses tangled there it’s almost an unintentional rooftop garden.

However, what isn’t so beautiful is the rapping on our bedroom window on gale force nights. And not just rapping, sometimes it was clawing and scraping like fingernails down glass. Not very soothing or restful when you’re trying to sleep. I lay planning my revenge; a severe chop.

Thankfully, after the raging wet and storms it was fairly pleasant up there. The sky felt lifted, the fields greening up and, unleashed from the bonds of snow and frosts, flushing with a brighter colour and shimmering in sunshiny moments.

Up there, the surrounding land stretches out from house to horizon and is not a view I see regularly. It instantly changed my perspective.

It’s amazing what a change of perspective can bring to a day, not only with regard to the landscape. The view from higher up than normal makes you feel tall both physically and emotionally. Your spirits seem to climb with height and distance. It must be why people like hill walking or mountaineering; the view from the top making you feel elevated in all respects.

Maybe that’s why my youngest liked climbing trees – I can still picture her face now, high up there staring at the distance.

When I lived in London it was at the top of a house of flats and I could stare over the rooves and treetops into endless sky. It lifted me away from weight of immediate concerns. It made me feel that life was larger than just my own little world.

When life makes you feel so very small on occasions it’s worth taking some time to stop looking at it from ground level and allow a change in perspective. For circumstances don’t necessarily have to change for you to feel better.

I got the climbing roses cut back from the windows. And also spent some moments admiring the view, changing my inner perspective, letting go some of the nagging concerns I could do nothing about. After all, life is not just nagging concerns! So not only did I have a more peaceful night following, I had a more peaceful state of mind.

And I only had to climb the garage roof to achieve it!

Swinging along with the children

Half term brings a gaggle of buzzing children and families onto the streets, in the parks, the pool, the library and the shops. I love to see it. Love to see families swinging along together enjoying themselves. Those who are anyway.

There also seems to be a rash of parents who don’t seem to be enjoying it.

Although children and shopping don’t generally go together well, I still don’t like to hear the remark; ‘can’t wait for them to go back to school’. It’s like people don’t like to have their kids with them. These people make me wonder; why have children in the first place!

I suppose if your children are in school all day you might get out of the swing of doing things together. Not that this happened to us when ours were at school.

Then, when we were home educating, we had to get into the swing of doing the opposite. ; we had to practise not doing things together sometimes.

I was so into providing stimulating activities, of constant communication with the children, debating and hypothesising, coming up with ideas, I had to focus on doing the opposite and ignoring them at times.

Now, I would never normally advocate that parents ignore their children. I’m usually encouraging the opposite, especially when I see so many children who’ve been in school all the time trying to get the attention of a disinterested parent on their mobile phone chatting to someone else rather than the child at their side.

However, when you home school and are mostly together a lot you have to find ways of being separate, to have separate activities, to give the children time to direct and manage their own time rather than us always doing it for them. They need opportunities for their own pursuits, to make their own mistakes, to resolve their own problems, to interact, fall out and solve their own disputes, to work play and occupy themselves independently.

This is vital for developing independent maturity. And independence builds confidence.

Obviously we need to do this safely. And always in balance with other activities. But one mistake I made early on in our home educating life was to think I should always be in charge of providing stimulation, engaging and encouraging them to be busy, all the time.

Not only is this unrealistic – children need ‘down time’ as much as stimulation – but it also inhibits the development of other vital skills they will need to lead their own lives.

I see this in school children. Released from the control school has over their lives some are lost to know what to do without it. Many children also have their lives filled for them with out-of-school activities, play dates, workshops and courses organised by pushy and obsessive parents without consulting the children. So these children rarely have the chance to build the skills needed to organise themselves. To have a taste of leading their own life rather than being lead along a life someone else has mapped out for them.

As with everything, there needs to be balance and contrast in what we provide for our kids. Children need directed time and undirected time, they need engaged time and solo time, they need attentive parents and parents who’ll leave them be at times.

And this is true in all aspects of our parenting whether home educating or not.

Our children; keepers of the World’s garden

I feel terrific – aching but terrific – because I had yesterday outdoors, mostly in the garden. derbyshire.bluebells 032

I’m no gardener, although I suppose I do a pretty good show of dock and nettles! But I have patches of ground round the cottage that require something doing to it, even if just keeping the dock and nettles in proportion with other plants. You know me; ever mindful of balance!

And the best thing is; this gets me outside. When I’m under the sky, especially with fingers in soil or in contact with plants, something calm switches on and I get a super soothing from it.

I so fear for today’s children who never get their faces in the wind or fingers in the soil, they just get drugs to calm them instead. Yet it is so therapeutic – being outside, not the drugs – and I think many of today’s highly charged children would be less so if they had a larger proportion of outdoor time.

Not only would this settle their restless souls but it also gets them better connected with the soil, and the understanding that it is soil upon which the soul and substance of the everything depends rather than the concrete that’s normally beneath our feet.

As much as I have never really taken to gardening – I must have been a complete disappointment to my mum who raved about her glorious plantings and dragged me for hours round plant centres – I do understand its importance. Not necessarily that we do it, but that we all understand that, in a way, we are all gardeners. We are all keepers of the world’s garden.

The world’s garden is what provides us with everything we need to survive. Just like our own little veg patch might provide us with a few leeks and lettuces, the world’s garden – the earth – provides us with the rest. And just like we would never ever consider chucking litter, rubbish, plastic bottles or wrapping down in our own little patch we should also refrain from doing it to the wider garden of the world.

That’s something worth encouraging our children to understand, forever keep in mind and more importantly; practise.

All those fab little growing activities we do as we educate our children like sowing cress in eggshells, or planting giant sunflowers or maybe getting involved in an allotment is just the beginning of educating our children that, not only are they keepers of their own little patch, they are important custodians of the rest of it too. As we all are!

Laying the foundations for education – Part 2

…continuing a two parter started in my last post about education, how you can influence your child’s learning from home and what you might be aiming for in the future…

Learning through play

Many parents underestimate the value of play, even though in our grown-up world we adults use play in order to learn about something.

For example we ‘play’ with our new mobile phones in order to get used to them and understand how they work. We ‘play’ with any new technology or gadget for the same reason. What we’re doing is learning through our real experiences of these things. And it is exactly the same for children.

Children like to ‘play’ at being grown-up. Especially games that involve role play like mums and dads, or hospitals, teachers and schools, shopping, going on ‘adventures’ (even if it’s just a den under the kitchen table or behind the sofa). It’s a kind of experimentation. And whilst they do it they are learning, practising skills, gaining experiences. This works particularly well if they can do an activity in a play way, alongside what you’re doing.

They can have their own tools and plants and ‘play’ at gardening. They can have their own bowls, cutlery, pans etc and wash up – or just stand there endlessly filling containers with water. This simple play activity teaches them a huge amount. For example they learn about capacity, about the properties of water, about the properties of the containers and how their size and shape governs their capacity in relation to other sizes and shapes. They learn about volume. They probably chat to themselves all the time developing language. They’ll be thinking and working out. They’ll be exploring, experimenting and building confidence. They’ll be developing hand eye coordination and the skills needed to manipulate tools.

They won’t know they’ll be doing any of that they’ll just be aware of getting their arms soaked. But these playtime experiences teach them much more than they’d learn from either being told or looking at it in a book. Experience provides the building blocks for more formal knowledge and academic skills later. And this is just one example.

Other activities that have the same educational impact which you can do at home with kids can be built round anything you do.

Here are some examples:

  • Cooking or preparing food (or ‘playing’ with pastry, mixing substances, using tools, cutting things up, warming or freezing etc.)
  • Cleaning or washing, in and out of the home.
  • Dealing with waste and rubbish.
  • Helping with other jobs outdoors, gardening – or den making whilst you do them!
  • Looking after the pets.
  • Using technology and the Net.
  • Managing a budget and money.
  • Looking at and enjoying books and magazines.
  • Dressing – dressing up especially in things they wouldn’t normally wear and using make up.
  • Playing games as a family.
  • Family outings and journeys.
  • Social occasions where there’s a mix of people and ages.
  • Anything creative that you do; making things, home decorating, rearranging a room, craft work and all creative activities like painting, collage – with anything at all, junk modelling, card making, drawing, colouring, cutting out, making scrapbooks, collecting and grouping, etc, – builds skills. Just let them have a go and make a mess and they learn loads simply from their minds and bodies being engaged.
  • Any constructional, experimental or inventive activities indoors and out.
  • Talking with you about anything and everything

Basically anything you do to live your lives and do your work your child can be involved in either through conversation and explanation, helping at their level or playing alongside. Involving your child with your activities teaches your child all about living a life.

And through these life experiences, where learning is something which is part of what they do day to day often without even realising it, they begin to see how learning is not something separate from life but something that is a natural part of it.

If learning is a natural part of it then they will be motivated to continue their learning throughout their life whatever form it takes, motivated to hopefully use education to develop and enhance their lives and give them greater access to the things they might want to do later on.

What are we aiming for – later on?

Many parents, when they think about what they might want their children to achieve in their education later on, tend to think about academic gain. They think about their children being good at the academic exercises that will get them good grades.

But other parents think more broadly and more holistically than that. They think about their child being happy and having confidence in themselves and academics fitting in around that. They think about their child having the skills to enjoy good relationships and social activities. They think about their child’s wellbeing; mental and physical, emotional and spiritual. They think about how their child’s personal strengths and interests can be developed; how they can get to know themselves well so they will be able to make informed and relevant lifestyle choices.

The ideal is perhaps to aim for a mix of both. And to maybe think through your priorities, keeping a holistic balance throughout.

Holistically, we need to be aiming for an outcome that is relevant to the whole child and within the perspective of the whole of their lives, not just the time they may be of school age, or the exams you want them to pass.

Sometimes it is best not to think too much about ‘later on’. Because you can never know what will happen. Far better to show your child the real relevant world on a daily basis.

Each day you spend with your child is a natural opportunity for you to help them develop and learn. And to make learning enjoyable.

Aiming for enjoyment in their day to day lives, for them to be stimulated and engaged in the activities they do at the time, is far better than having an agenda outside or ahead of the child. They soon suss it’s irrelevant to them right now and switch off. Switching off to things is the last thing we want them to do, because it switches them off to education too.

Sadly many school type activities switch children off to learning because they are often dull and the children cannot see the relevance of them. Adults might think they’re relevant to the child’s future, but are they really? How can we really predict a future which is so far away?

Taking care of the little times, making them good times, will make a good future. This is a much more natural way to build a future and the foundation for a natural and holistic education that will serve the child for life.