Tag Archive | health

The health benefits of Home Education

“Her eczema has all cleared up. She’s been plagued by it for years but there’s no longer any sign of it now that she’s not going to school” he said.

This dad had stopped me in the lane he was so excited to tell me. He’d leaned out of the truck window to flag me down.

“And both the children have been so happy – and busy,” he went on. “They’re like different children. We can hardly believe it!”

I can!

I have heard the tale so often. About children who’ve had minor conditions and illnesses and health challenges, even behavioural issues, which remarkably disappeared once the children had been out of school for a while. It’s a tale often told among the home educating community.

It was the same for us. Our eldest, who suffered endless infections to the point of needing anti-biotics during her few years at school, hardly seemed to get any during our yeas of home educating. Despite the fact that our children were still in almost daily contact with mainstream groups through regular mainstream activities, clubs and classes that other children attended and as such exposed to all the usual germs.

Our home educating contemporaries remarked upon the same thing happening with their children. One child who was regularly hospitalised and missing school, to the point where the parent was being suspected of being the cause, ceased to have her condition once she came out of school to be home educated.

One of the most marked differences which parents reported was in their children’s behaviour. Tantrums, anger, migraines, bed-wetting, melt-downs over little things, disruption, withdrawal, lack of motivation, dwindling mental health, – all manner of issues – seemed to settle once the children no longer had the stress of being in school in their lives.

There is an argument that children will have to suffer stress later in life so they should get used to it in school. But it’s a poor argument for the simple reason that later life is nothing like school. Nowhere are the circumstances of school replicated, where you have absolutely no choice or autonomy in managing the stressful situations we find ourselves in. Unlike youngsters in a school scenario where they’re just expected to shut up and suck it up, regardless of whether it’s disrespectful or even harmful or not. Later in life we have a voice – and a choice, even though those choices may be extremely challenging or limited. And I think it is the voice-less helplessness that children feel in school, which gets to them, never mind the noise, crowds, threat and hubbub which many find overwhelming.

When schooling affects children’s wellbeing it affects their potential and their learning opportunities. Happiness is as important to their education as health is – the two are intertwined. (Read this article here on why happiness is important for education).

School should come with a health warning. Or better still it should be organised so it isn’t a health hazard at all! Because facts need to be faced – some children are just Not Fine in School or this organisation wouldn’t exist.

And we should not be treating this as if it doesn’t matter, as many parents and politicians would treat it. As the politics says; every child has the right to an education. It follows then that every child should have the opportunity of good health, as the two are intertwined, and if the government are providing institutions which cause the opposite by their pressured policies and structures, both on kids and teachers, then the politicians are denying the children that right. No question.

If you’re a home educator, let us know if your child’s health was affected by school and if home educating changed it.

Meanwhile, the dad above continued to regale me of their happy home educating adventures so far and I was delighted to listen. Another set of kids who no longer have to suffer for their education.


Life’s not easy – but easy isn’t always best!

You can walk anywhere

You can walk anywhere – nothing fancy needed!

When my nose was buried in the grass I swear something went up it. I was doing a long sumptuous in-breath with a bit of yoga stretching.

Don’t think I’m some fanatical fitness freak or extreme yogic. I’m not – I’m not extreme anything really. I aim for balance. I just try to keep up with the little things that I know have helped me over the years, gentle stretching and moments to check in with the self being some of them.

It’s helped me deal with challenges and angst. It’s helped me deal with grief. It helps me bring myself down to earth (especially the nose in grass bit), and it’s helped me deal with the frustrations and anxieties of being a parent, a home educator and now a writer.

So I’ve learned that it’s worth pressing on with it, even if not the pressing face on floor bit which is not supposed to happen anyway. But at least I do it – occasionally. And keep on doing it – occasionally – but consistently occasionally, if you get my drift.

‘It’s all right for you, you’ve always done it’, people have said, always thinking things are harder for themselves than for anyone else. I also hear ‘it’s all right for you, you’re not overweight,’ as I indulge in a slice of cake. Or, ‘it’s all right for you, you’re fit,’ as we walk and talk and I’m not gasping for breath as much as they are. And most annoying; ‘it’s all right for you, you’re a calm person’.

Believe me, I’m not. Ask the family!

And it’s comments like these that really get up my nose. For it’s not all right for me. It’s bloody hard work to keep going with things that feel like too much bother sometimes. It’s as hard for me as for other people.

The only difference, maybe, is in attitude. Is in my belief that we build our own lives. And can take charge of some parts of it if not all. It’s up to us. No point in waiting for others to do something about things we want to be different.

And I practice that mentality. I act upon it.

We can all have some charge. We can all do some things to build lives towards keeping fit, keeping well (and weight’s included in that), and keeping sane.

And the only way to do that is to act. To start now. And keep at it – slog though it is sometimes. That’s what reaps the benefits, longer term. And life is long term remember!

To others I suppose, being fit enough to do some stretching and in my own garden must seem lucky. And luck does play a part. But the biggest part is building what you want for yourself.

If you want to be fit enough to walk without gasping; build your fitness – walk. That’s all I do; you don’t need anything fancy. If you want less weight; consume less food, fat and sugar – that’s what I have to do, very hard for someone with a sweet tooth. If you want to be calm and content to help you deal with these challenging times; build things into your life which create calm and content. And be persistent with them.

It’s SO worth it!

You only get one life. Does it not make sense to value and take charge of aspects of it that keep you feeling good? Especially as we have so much other stuff we cannot control doing the opposite!

It won’t always be easy – but easy is not always the best answer is it?

No reason not to start right now really! And what an inspiration you will be to those around you, most especially the children.

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!

Body bother!

Glad it's not for me!

Glad it’s not for me!

I’ve been giving friends lifts to hospitals recently. Accidents seem to go in batches.

They’ve not been too serious; broken wrist, wrenched back, that sort of thing. And sitting chirping away in waiting rooms trying to take their mind off it I can’t help a sneaky feeling of gladness that it’s not me. How bad is that?

I suppose it’s good in one way. It’s good from the point of view that it makes me sit up and take note of good health, instead of only noticing when it’s the opposite.

Throughout our life we tend to ignore good health. We certainly don’t bother to appreciate it much, or the miraculous machine that our bodies are. When did you last get up I say ‘My body feels great today’? But I bet you often do the opposite! It’s the classic case of only noticing when we’re not functioning properly rather than gratitude when we are.

Even worse – we tend to treat our bodies with a complete lack of respect sometimes. We over fill them with toxic substances – smoke, alcohol, sugar, fat, we under use them with lack of exercise, we ignore our motherboard – i.e. the brain – when it’s sending us warning thoughts and emotions, and then we wonder why we’re not operating properly. Ironic, but I think we take more care of our latest technology that we do ourselves, yet it’s the technology which is replaceable!

I mull this over as I sit beside the broken wrist. I watch others being wheeled past looking more sickly than my friend did when she broke it and was incoherent with the pain and shock. Knowing that there are also many other awful diseases that cannot be set right with a plaster cast or wheel chair.

And I’m thinking what a wonderful piece of human technology our bodies are, with our micro-chip of a brain and how I’m going to maybe look after it all a little better from now on in. Unlike technology, it has to last me a lifetime. It deserves monumental respect for that surely.

Perhaps if I do this, if I take a little more care and appreciation, not only will I benefit but I’ll also be demonstrating to my family and others how to do the same. Especially to kids: the body is the best biology to study with children; encouraging them to understand that they are actually the ultimate in technology and it’s worth coming off the other kind regularly to pay that some attention!

A top up of a different kind

rain and sun july14 006

Lie on your back and watch the patterns of the day

August is singing at me. It’s causing me trouble staying in at the computer.

It heralds the dawn with purring doves and chinks of sunshine before I really want to be awake. But once I’m aware of it I’m far too stirred to stay shuteye.

It blossoms into a humming day. The morning dew dries, turns dripping greens to dusky yellows and the day shines right up until clear violet sunsets suggest a repeat performance tomorrow. All with birdsong and summer buzzing.

And the air – yummmmm – it’s luscious with the scent of trimmed lawns and cornfields, flowers, warm meadows and the odd whiff of cow. When it showers there’s a new fresh flavour of wet on dry land. Delicious! Sometimes I’m just standing drinking it in.

For sometimes, you just need some time with no agenda, to top you up after life expenditure. The kids do too.

And August is perfect for it.

Time for a book or game outside, a play in stream, pond, fountain or sea, a picnic in a breezy green park – sanctuary from arid pavements. Or simply time to lie on your backs under a tree and watch the patterns against the sky.

Just like storing a harvest of food for leaner months it stores up a harvest of outdoors and sunshine; therapy for winter. I’ll be devoting some time to the relish of it, so excuse me if I go AWOL.

And if you see someone standing still and breathing deep it might be me. Don’t think it strange; just getting the summer top-up that each and every one of us needs.

Don’t forget to reap yours!

A better remedy than drugs

charley4mum She just used to lie there. Utterly content. Or spend hours dribbling soft wet sand into Hogwart-like towers. Absorbed. Needing nothing. Demanding nothing.

This used to be what happened when we took our youngest to the beach. It was like a magic injection of calm. This energetic whirlwind would just melt into a relaxed serenity that never happened in the house.

It didn’t have to be the beach. Any outdoors would do. And it had to be for a decent length of time. Then the journeys home would seem as if with another person than the one we took out.

I used to wonder how others managed.

Where we lived at the time we could open the cottage door onto an area of grass in front, safely enclosed by hedge and gate, and she would shoot out across it like an arrow from a bow. You could see it was just something she inherently needed. And I used to wonder how families, all cooped up in concrete places managed with an energetic child, managed to satisfy that need in their children to be out, active and uncontrolled for a while.

Because it is a need; a requirement for the healthy development of mind and body. But quite often this is disregarded. It is masked by keeping kids passive and dormant in front of technological entertainment. Then correcting their frustrated combustible behaviour with drugs or leaving it for the teachers.

Wet playtimes can be a teachers’ curse. When the kids haven’t been outside it’s a recipe for a tricky afternoon. But after summer playtimes, especially when they have the opportunity to be on grass, you’d see kids lolling about and they’d come in happy and relaxed, with a shine in their eyes, and cooperation and goodwill in their spirits.

We must find ways in our shuttered, concrete, technological lives to give children long, free, times in the opposite. They don’t necessarily need an organised activity, they just need to be out there. Take warm things if need be or a big umbrella and rugs to make a camp, let them take personal items or toys. Or nothing at all and just rely on imagination. Ours could make whole soap operas with bits of stone and twigs in a city park.

One thing that is important to take is the time.

And make forays into open spaces an important part of your family’s timetable – yep – parents have to do it too, and willingly! Until you begin to unwind. And demonstrate how you can discharge the stress from closed in lives by spending hours in the open.

It’s a far better remedy than drugs!

Sad days of sheet ticking

DSC_0592 My blood pressure was high but I could see the nurse’s rising like red mercury in her face as she turned to the computer.

“We’ll let your pressure settle a bit and do another check in a minute,” she said. “I’m sorry but I have to ask you all these questions now when you come for your BP check”. She gave me a kind of sideways look; the sort you give to indicate hypocrisy.

She squinted at her form on the computer, sighed, and read me a load of drivel asking on a scale of hours how much running, skipping, aerobics, etc, did I do per week?

She looked at me. I looked at her rising red face.

“None,” I said, “I do other things”.

“But I haven’t got to that yet” – I wasn’t on her sheet. I was never one for fitting into statistics.

After another deep breath she went on; “On a scale of ….. how much …..”

It took ages to get it all read. We pressed on patiently. We both felt it was becoming farcical. Then she broke away from her form in a little rebellion.

“The thing is,” she said holding her hands out in agitation, “I’m spending all this time looking at this computer, filling in forms about your fitness instead of looking at you. By looking and listening to the patients I can soon assess how they’re doing.”

Sounded exactly like teachers and pupils to me. I totally sympathised.

More questions; “Now, about your work, on average do you sit….”

My work’s changed recently. I used to be on my feet with kids all day doing crazy things like searching for creepy crawlies in the undergrowth or going on adventures. Now I tend to sit and write about it.

I told her this. She silently went on filling in her statistics.

I thumb twiddled until she came to the end – ages later.

“Well … according to this you’re only moderately fit.” She made ‘moderately’ sound like an irresponsibility and I should be doing more to take care of myself.

“But I do yoga at least three times a week.”

“That’s not on my sheet.”

“So despite the fact that I walk for at least 30 minutes every day, cycle regularly, and do yoga your statistics suggest I’m not really fit?”

She looked miserable.

“Yes, according to this. And I know that’s stupid because from looking at you I can see you’re fine but that’s what the government is doing to health care. It’s preventing us from doing the real work of caring by keeping us busy collecting data that’s inaccurate and totally useless.”

But no doubt useful for the government to be able to quote for political purposes, I thought. Definitely like education. It seems it’s not only the teachers’ time that’s being wasted by sheet ticking.

And after all that, when she took my BP again it was even higher. Goodness knows what hers was with all this frustration.

I got on my bike and cycled home so stewed up I could feel my pressure rising all the time.

Is this what our caring professions are being reduced to? Nurses and teachers so busy taking care of sheet ticking they don’t have the time to care for the people!

Sad days!

Bums and bellies and bouncing spirits

dogs are useful...!

dogs are useful…!

You are SO lucky if you have little kids at home with you all day!

Wish I did. Not only because they’re cute and funny and opportunities for masses of cuddles. But also because they help keep you slim and fit.

Now mine have graduated and I’m at the computer most of the day I’m getting a graduated bum. It’s graduating outwards, downwards and even forwards – or is that my belly?

When home educating I hardly ever sat on it. Now my work is such that I don’t have that same footfall, no toddlers to chase, no field trips to go on, no running about, no swims and no ice-skating to wobble over. What fun it all was, demonstrating gallantly to my kids how all this activity could be enjoyed, hoping they didn’t spot the occasional gritted teeth. (Read ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’ and you’ll see what I mean).

I know you might not want to hear this but it really is a requisite of good parenting that you demonstrate to your kids the blessings of regular, habitual exercise in some form or another.

I hate the word ‘exercise’. It conjures up horrible images of rank-smelling gyms with torturous instruments, figure-shaming Lycra and something you have to add-on to your life like an App or something, mainly because it’s not part of your life.

That’s the secret; to get it as part of your life so it isn’t seen as exercise at all. Just part of what you do.

Running about with small kids, having them keep you busy on your feet is part of what you do as a parent. And perhaps part of your life as a parent is to create a lifestyle that incorporates activity (rather than exercise) which keeps your children healthy.

Everyone – you included – needs physical activity to keep them healthy; brain, body and spirits. Exercise stimulates the brain and helps with mental development. If it’s outside it promotes general wellbeing and tops up vital Vitamin D now known to be essential not just for bones but for our immune systems, it enhances mood too, increases confidence and lifts our spirits.

This physical activity could be something as simple as a daily walk (dogs are useful), using your feet instead of transport whenever you can (make time!), enjoying parks or outdoor places, going for regular visits to the swimming pool, dance or sport classes, whatever suits you.

If you establish this as part of what you do, then it becomes part of an established pattern for living a life that you’re educating your kids for. It is part of education – despite schools doing their best to ignore that fact!

So to avoid my arse graduating any further as I dash on towards another book I’m going to dash out for a brisk and bum toning walk!

(Lots of good sites round the web for ideas…here’s one to start you off; http://parentsforhealth.org/be-active