Tag Archive | family life

My pre-Christmas plea

Is it not all too over-the-top?

I love Christmas.

It means the family are together again.

There’ll be love, warmth, cameraderie, jokes, fun, probably a few irritations and a little bit of power struggling in the kitchen no doubt! Soon resolved as the tensions of being together again after living independent lives slip away and bonds refresh and regroup.

But I also can’t help cringing every year at the prospect of the burden the earth has to bear as a consequence of our festivities.

When I start a bit of shopping – and compared to most it is only a bit, I get immensely anxious at the quantities of packaging, plastic, lights and useless tat I see in vulgar quantities for people to buy, and the equally vulgar attitudes with which people disregard the consequence of doing so.

I don’t want to be a humbug here. I also like to wrap, decorate and buy. But each year the consumerism seems more over-the-top than the year before and I have a very real sense of the earth groaning under the strain of it.

So this is a plea. Can you think about that and practise moderation as you buy trimmings and wrappings and disposables?

Please, please, please create Christmas traditions in your family that incorporate habits which consider the earth as much as the people on it.

Make love of the earth an important part of your Christmas preperations!

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Sewing is powerful stuff – according to homeschooler Alice Griffin

I’ve been connecting with fellow home educator and friend, Alice Griffin, lately. She has an inspirational approach to both life and home educating and I asked her if she’d feel like sharing some of her home ed ideas with readers here. She was happy to do so and writes about how they incorporate learning into everyday activities in a seamless way – if you’ll forgive the pun!

Here’s what she says:

I had a slight wobble recently, “we’re not doing much learning at the moment” I said to my husband worriedly, at which he laughed and gently reminded me that on that day alone our ten-year-old daughter had fed, cleaned, groomed and cared for a herd of Alpacas and a pony, baked a cake, taught herself a new piece of music on the recorder, read her book and designed and hand-sewn an outfit for a doll. “Oh yeah” I replied,“thanks for reminding me!”

Home-Education, for us, is a lifestyle. It’s not about set lessons, tests or endlessly planning what we should be learning. Instead it’s about discovering life and working out how we can incorporate learning into each day.

Take sewing for instance… our daughter is so into sewing right now that she will wake up in the morning and before we have washed up and prepared ourselves mentally for the day, she is sat on the sofa with her sewing box out and some new creation in her mind that she wants to bring to life. Once or twice I have said “come on, you can’t just sew all day!” before catching myself.

Sewing is powerful stuff you see… whilst sewing we have talked about clothing throughout history, we have looked at the traditional costumes people wear across the world, used maths when measuring and discussed what it means to be self-reliant. Just yesterday at a small sewing group I run within my local home-ed community we threw musical history into the lesson because, when you craft together, you also talk and share ideas. As it happens, sewing also fits perfectly with our lifestyle, too.

Being the wandering souls that we are – often criss-crossing our way across the UK and Europe – education has to happen as we move and so it has simply woven itself into our everyday life alongside cooking, washing and running our own businesses.The beauty for us of no school is that over time we have been able to develop our own version of a creative, wandering, family learning lifestyle that has no distinctions and really, feels a lot like just living.

Encouraging our daughter to discover the world and her passions in an organic way, benefitting from the experience and skills of both ourselves, other parents and all the other amazing people we meet, gives us great joy and I am thankful that Home Education has inspired us to mix things up a bit, allowing us to not be slaves to a set schedule and that it has guided us towards a very simple, shoestring life focused on time together rather than time apart. So on those days (that we all get) where we wonder if we’re doing OK, I reckon it’s good to acknowledge that learning comes in many guises and that if sewing is where it’s at, then we should just allow ourselves to roll with it.

Alice Griffin is a home-educating mum and a writer of articles, books, short stories and poetry for both grown-ups and children. Along with her husband she also handcrafts nature-inspired jewellery and gifts and is the creator of Chatty Monkey, providing parents with resources to initiate ‘talking around the table’.

www.alicegriffin.co.uk

www.chattymonkey.co.uk

www.facebook.com/agriffincreates

 

 

 

 

An imperative lesson

Some are starting work out there, even before it’s light

It is beautifully quiet where we live now. So quiet you notice the slightest noise; a fox’s bark, an alarmed pheasant, or the tiny scamperings of the mouse who has found its way into the roof space above the ceiling.

So we’re really sensitive to the rumblings of heavy machinery past the cottage at 5am.

The vegetable cutters start early. Some work through the night. I’m woken by the clanking of the rigs and trailers. I also have a sudden sense of gratitude that it’s not me turning out in the freezing cold and rain that I hear hammering down.

The gangs of workers are dropped off for their working day in dark, cold, muddy conditions, no shelter, no heat, cutting the cauliflower and broccoli that’ll be ready for you in the supermarket later today.

Surrounded by growing food, it was easy for our home educating children to learn where food comes from and what’s required for it to grow, that this doesn’t happen in super markets, but out on the earth.

And that it needs certain conditions; dependent on the elements of the earth. And it’s important that we all know how those elements are sustainable – if we want food to be sustained that is!

Stuck in a city centre, as far removed from the earth as I am from the Houses of Parliament, I worry that this essential part of education will be neglected. And families these days might not want contact with the earth and the elements, cosied as city dwellers are by the convenience of pavements, transport, concrete, shopping under cover and easily accessible eats!

So how to get across the importance of understanding the precious resource that the planet is – the only resource actually, for everything comes back to what it gives us – and how not to pollute it so much?

We need to learn to exist without creating the waste our lifestyles produce; by not subscribing to the hypocritical politics that ignores the real issue of consumerism, not be seduced by the commercial hype that continues to suggest that it’s okay to keep buying plastic bottles, disposables in any form, pollutive cleaners like wipes and chemicals. And remember that all our consumerism wounds the planet, contaminates the place we’re dependent on for our food.

Part of any child’s education should be to understand this stuff. Part of our duties as educators is to prioritise this understanding – to get kids back to the earth and caring for it as part of their everyday existence. Along with the simple idea that everything manmade that we buy will eventually pollute in some way, or has already done so in the manufacturing of it and that might come back to haunt us through the food chain (one example here)

A sombre lesson – worth the learning.

What small change can you and the kids make to your family lifestyle to stop your contribution to it? (Here’s an inspiring contribution from one family)

Learn to love the earth, buy less plastic for a start!

Why birthdays?

The lovely Charley

It’s my youngest’s birthday later this week – youngest adult that is – all grown up now!

We’ll be getting together at some point to celebrate…years later from those birthdays I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we started home educating and everyone found it suddenly necessary to give the kids ‘educational’ presents instead of toys!

People fail to see that toys (and playing) are ‘educational’ anyway – whatever that is, and many toys sold as educational simply aren’t!

Anyway, it’s not about the presents, is it?

So what are birthdays about then?

I always said that a birthday is not just a celebration of the day they were born (bit of a trauma in the back of the car with this one – as I describe briefly in the book). But more a celebration of the person, of them being here on this earth, and of the wonderful contribution they make, to our lives, to society, to being here.

And that’s what needs to be kept at the forefront of birthdays – the reason we are here – the contribution people make on a wider level. I guess many small children wouldn’t yet be aware of that concept. But as they grow, knowing they can make a contribution makes them feel valuable. When people feel valuable they feel loved and respected and consequently return that; they act differently, they act with responsibility and respect, they up their game. Those who are cared for, care more.

I always wanted my kids to feel valued. To feel that they make a difference too.

And that’s the best thing to celebrate birthdays for. The fact that these little people are here. The difference they have made. The difference they have to potentially make to so many as they grow and become the people they need to be.

Birthdays are so much more than presents. Birthdays are the day to celebrate a being, being here! And an opportunity to really appreciate that there are. I’m so looking forward to celebrating the presence of ours!

How long can you put your technological comforter down for?

A city centre poster causing a stir

Now I’m going to say something some might not like; put down your technology and listen.

I know; you’re going to need your technology to read this! And anyway – I don’t actually mean listen to me – I mean listen.

Really listen. To others. To your own thoughts. To the world around. Most especially to your children.

I think it’s rather ironic that society looks down on babies and toddlers with dummies stuck in their mouths as slightly distasteful or inferior. Yet many of the adults I see use their phones and tablets as little more than something to emotively suck on and bring them similar comfort. Most especially to overcome discomfort, particularly of the social kind!

Few can look another in the eye. So they stare at their technological comforter instead.

I know these gadgets are useful – we couldn’t function without them now. But has our attachment to them crept beyond being useful, to being an addiction?

I suspect it is for many people. And I also suspect it’s impacting on relationships.

Whilst we connect to our technology so obsessively we’re neglecting something far more important: human connection. Humane connection.

We’re losing communication skills. We’re losing observation skills which help us understand each other. We’re losing time engaging with each other – really engaging, which helps us learn about human relationships and practice the skills required to make them successful, whoever they’re with.

We’re neglecting time that we could be engaged with our kids.

It is human engagement that nurtures relationships, builds care and empathy, grows love. I fear some folks are becoming desensitised to what it is to be together socially, lovingly, meaningfully, especially with regard to parenting.

Some of the human connections we encounter make us uncomfortable. So what – we have to learn to deal with that, to get over it. And to stop turning to our dummies when it gets a bit awkward. Be more courageous. And consequently build the skills for strong relationships within our families, with the wider world of people – even those we don’t know that well.

People matter. Connecting meaningfully with people matters.

Strong relationships make us happy. With each other. With our world. With the earth.

Strong relationships save the day.

Technology just keeps us busy and keeps us dummified.

How long is it acceptable for a child to suck a dummy for? How long is it acceptable for grown-ups to suck on theirs?

It’s worth talking about in your family! It’s worth building healthy habits in the family right from the start!

Education along the yellow brick road!

I was looking back in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and reflecting. I hear so many parents wavering on the brink and was thinking about starting out.

“Learning can be full of fun…”

When you start home educating it seems an enormously big deal. You wobble and waver about all those decisions. You wonder where it’s all going to end up. And you also wonder if you’ll all stay sane until the end – actually you cannot even imagine the end. If you’re anything like I was that scenario is just beyond any imagining at all!

But I was revisiting my thoughts at the beginning of the book to see whether the things I talked about actually came to fruition.

Here’s one particularly poignant piece that I found on page 17 when I’d dashed out along the country lanes at dusk for some exercise soon after we’d started this joyful life with the kids out of school:

I cycled along smiling like someone with a guilty secret. Around us was this beautiful world and I just wanted to show every little bit of it to the girls. I wanted to show them that learning about it is beautiful too. That learning can be full of fun and full of love and not the dull, dreary days shut inside that they’d come to expect through schooling. I will take them places; museums, galleries, nature reserves, cities, exhibitions, zoos. We will enjoy real life relationships across a wide spectrum of society, not those unnaturally cloistered within the confines of age groups.

They will be respected.

My legs turned the pedals as my mind turned the ideas. Our first week of Home Educating was through and it’s been like living along the Yellow Brick Road. Education has become a golden opportunity in our lives now as it truly should be, instead of the awful drudgery it had become.

I must have pedalled five miles without noticing. That’s how I want their learning to be.

And did it turn out like that?

I think I can honestly say it did!

To find out how we got there – you’ll have to read the book for yourself. I hope it’s a story of family love and learning you’ll enjoy. There are some lovely reviews on Amazon.

And if you need something to calm those wobbles see ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

Meanwhile, I wish the same road for you!

Don’t forget to adjust and enjoy!

I always loved this picture of my eldest walking through the trees with the dog when she was little.

Twenty years later I snapped another one; same girl, same place, different dog! Which just goes to show how everything grows – kids and trees!

We know that obviously. But when you’re with little ones, and when you’re home educating especially, it’s not something you can ever possibly imagine. You don’t even need to really. You just need to make the most of the time you’re in.

That’s important, I think, to be in the now.

However, there will be times when the ‘now’ is driving you nuts. Wearing you down. Frustrating you into pieces! Be comforted by the fact that it’s not you, it’s not them, it’s not because you’re home schooling. It’s just the normal way of human relationships. It’s normal.

So don’t worry.

Instead, I found it helps to be proactive. Ask yourself if there’s something you need to do to help you past this little bit. Like; have some space from each other? Get outside? Get some physical activity? (essential for the wellbeing of both you and the children). Make changes?

Review your approaches to your parenting or your home education?

We know kids grow and change. We know we grow and change. But what we fail to notice sometimes is that we might need to adjust our behaviour to each other, adjust the way we speak, act, re-act, as a consequence of those changes. Not just carry on in the same old way – now possibly outdated. You wouldn’t react to a fifteen year old the same way you’d act to your five year old. But sometimes we forget that simple adjustment.

So if you’re having ‘one of those days’ take a step back, view it as an objective observer for a moment – as if you were someone else looking at you. There may be a sign of a simple solution. There may be change required to accommodate the way things grow. Relationships grow like the girl in the picture.

She and I have a lovely relationship now. We did then. It is obviously quite different. But there were times when it was less obvious to me that I had to halt a minute, review what I was doing, and adjust. Hard to see sometimes when you’re going through it. Just thought I’d give you a gently reminder to help your days grow better.

Adjust and enjoy whatever stage you’re at!