Tag Archive | kids

Applauding our children’s achievements

Are we there yet?

Look back to see how far you've come

Look back to see how far you’ve come

Is there a parent who hasn’t heard that on long journeys?

But it’s maybe something we’re also guilty of thinking as parents; about our children’s progress. And missing the ‘journey’ because of it. Wondering if they’ll ever ‘get it’ or ‘get there’, especially in regard to their education.

And therein lies the problem; ‘getting there’ can be a false concept, because life doesn’t always happen like that, or to order. There isn’t always a ‘there’ to aim for. And whilst you’re striving you can sometimes miss the little things that have been achieved.

It’s like hill walking; I could bet my boots that as soon as I reached the top of one summit there’d be another one waiting just beyond that was even higher, diluting the achievement of climbing the first one. Unless I looked back and acknowledged how far I’d come.

We can do that with our children sometimes, always pressing them for more. Missing what’s achieved and what is now.

Yet now is where life resides.

There may be many days when you feel there’s no progress. It certainly can feel like that when you’re home educating long term. You may feel that your days are boring and pointless, the children haven’t gained anything. That you have nothing to show – no progress.

Life can be like that whatever you’re doing, whether it’s raising babies, or doing a tedious job day after day to feed them and keep a roof over your head, life may feel stagnant.

But; progress isn’t always measurable in tangible terms. 

And each day IS a progression in itself, even the dull days.

If you have lived, that is progress. Because each day however mundane supports us in some way, however small and insignificant. Each day is a demonstration to the children about living a life, will have taught them something. Each day makes up a life, so each one has it’s value as such even if you can’t feel it at the time.

If you look back to years gone by, or when your children were little – good excuse to get the photos out – you’ll see a huge progression and many achievements.

Life is a long journey. Life with kids is a long journey. A journey of learning and experience. Each day is another footstep on our way. And we mustn’t devalue a step because of a false concept of not being ‘there’ yet. Or it not being as you first imagined.

And each day is worth, even if not applauding, simply blessing for what it is. We don’t have to be ‘there’ to acknowledge that. And the children don’t need to be ‘there yet’ for us to cherish their achievements so far.

They may not be glamorous or measurable, but they are still achievements. And can always be appreciated.

It’s alright for you but could I home educate?

“Have you ever thought about doing a talk about home education?” my friend asked.

I think I may have snorted derision! Not the kindest thing to do.

“Are you joking?” I responded. “It’s taken me all this while to emerge from my writing cupboard and publish stuff, there’s no way I’d manage an audience”.

How I ever spawned a performer as a daughter I’ll never know. It’s alright for her but…

“But you have so much to say” she persisted.

“Yea, but chatting one to one is different. I could gab on about home education forever when people are truly interested, and it’s different one to one, isn’t it? A talk is just not for me”

I retreated to the back of the cupboard again and we changed the subject.

But once the seed of an idea is thought there’s no un-thinking it is there! And even writers get bored of writing stuff all the time.

There’s so much to say and do to help raise awareness of this option of educating, I argued with my cupboard myself, so many who might just stumble here in desperate need of something different to school. Being quiet about it doesn’t help them!

Steven Hawkins says that it is often the quietest people who have the loudest minds. And sometimes my mind is so loud and random that the written word can be too slow for getting it all out. And maybe I could just give it a go and talk to an empty room.

It’s a start.

So I’ve had a go talking to an empty room! Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 21.43.47

It’s not perfect, I make some mistakes, but like with educating it doesn’t matter because I’m learning from them, like children do. And anyway, you don’t have to be perfect to successfully home educate.

And as part of this Monday series for those fairly new to home schooling the question I’m asking is;

Home Education: Can I really do it? (Watch it here)

If you watch it, you’ll see why you can.

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

There’s no single ‘right’ way to educate

Having home educated our children people often ask what advice I would give to those just starting out. So with the surge in interest I thought I’d repost some ideas for those who are new to it.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be practically engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be learning. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re going to be collated in one new book; ‘Tales From My Home Education Notebook’ – hopefully out in the Spring. If you sign up to the publishers newsletter here you’ll get first news of when it’s due.

 

Oooops – gender stereotyping alert!

20151231_120846Nothing like getting out on a decent day and sawing up the branches I’ve acquired on my walks through the trees.

It engages me with something basic that modern life removes me from. I like foraging for free fuel and sawing it up for the open fire. Wood being less pollutive than coal or the oil of the central heating.

The physicality of it, the accomplishment of it out in the elements, the contact with the outside, replenishes the wellbeing in ways other perhaps more sophisticated or sedentary pursuits do not.

I admit, I only do the small bits. Charles gets the chainsaw out for the big chunks (could be more pollutive, I know). But he likes his machines and the sounds of satisfying revving, where I like the silence.

I think it might be a man thing. Or is that just a gender stereotypical thing to say?

It put me in mind of our philosophy group’s last discussion which was a bit of a surprise. The chair posed a question as a warm up which was about gender: ‘say something positive about the opposite sex’ he posed!

Dumb silence ensued. Just a bit significant I thought!

Then, one by one, the males piped up and said nice things, but the females seemed at a bit of a loss. Which I also thought was significant. I couldn’t tell whether this was because they couldn’t actually think of anything or they thought the question a bit inane.

Finally, one woman said; ‘Well, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say here but one thing I’ve noticed is that they’re good at sawing wood’.

A giggle passed round the group. This was the last thing anyone was expecting. Yet I thought it summarised it quite nicely. We appreciate the physicality of men, providing a nice strong comforting arm.

Yet equally a female offers a strong comforting arm, don’t they?

This came back to me as I was sawing. That, and how difficult it is not to gender stereotype as I’ve done here, and more particularly as parents.

These days the traditional male and female roles (as we saw them) overlap, both the physical and the comforting, the providing and the caring. And I believe we all need elements of all in our lives whatever gender we are. We need to be self observational and mindful in order to fulfil our own basic needs and those of others, and physical, emotional, cerebral, strong, sensitive, whatever’s required – whatever gender.

And make sure the kids get a demonstration of that; the choice of playing any role that suits.

And how ironic that I should be thinking all this when this news item reports a call for more female role models across the curriculum. Curriculum, politics, manual or academic, both women and men need to be there to balance the skills, strengths and sensitivities each can bring.

It’s SO important that no one is denied opportunities because of gender stereotyping or traditional roles, and we as parents don’t inadvertently impose either on our boys or girls; just value each for who they are.

A time for Peace surely!

The sun was out and the sky winter blue. Time to get out and chase away blues of another kind!

I walked round the edges of the ploughed earth where a flock of Fieldfares rested, turned through the tunnel of treessnow geese 003 and just saw the back end of a deer disappearing. Then out onto the open marshland where a flock of wild geese grazing there took to the wing with a gush of wind and gabbling. As they went quiet again, snippets of Larksong serenaded me as I walked back under the blue.

And seeing this tranquillity laid out before me I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible things that are happening in the world and feel incredibly lucky for these moments of peace around me.

Even if the blues were making me suffer I know it is nothing compared to the suffering of thousands of others right now. Despite what we have to confront sometimes, most of us are incredibly lucky.

So I am also incredibly grateful to be back here in front of the computer again,  in a country that is at peace, and find it bewildering to think of the mindless slaughter that is being inflicted elsewhere.

If there was one sole purpose of education that overrides all others it must surely be for children to learn how to live with others with tolerance, understanding and compassion, and be educated for the perpetuation of peace.

May peace be with you this season.

Another little word on worry…

People considering home schooling are often stopped by thinking it’s going to be too much of a worry! So I thought I’d repost some ideas here to try and put some of those to rest.

The worry that comes attached to parenting makes life pre-children look like a picnic. Add home schooling into the picture and it doubles.

However, if you think about it, there’s just as much worry attached to schooling isn’t there? There was for me.

The daft thing is; worry is pointless. It doesn’t help anything, it warps reasonable perspective, it wears you down and becomes counter-productive. So you might as well stop it.

The million dollar question is; how?

I’m a worrier and had to work hard at dealing with it so as not to spoil being a mum. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; perhaps they’ll work for you.

–          Look at your concern realistically. Usually worry is nothing more than us imagining the worst scenario. It’s not something that is actually happening. So try and switch your imagination off and focus on the reality now. Or…

–          Imagine instead the best scenario. Imagine how it looks when it’s positive – what you want to happen rather than thinking about the worst case. This is visualisation. It’s very powerful, but it’s ironic that we rarely imagine the best. Visualise what it looks like when everything is working perfectly, your children being angelic!

–          Worrying is nothing more than your thoughts – not events – just negative thinking. The best antidote to this I found was to stop thinking and start doing. Take action to change whatever is bothering you. Or if that’s not possible involve yourself in an activity that takes your mind off the worry and onto something else. This refreshes you, dilutes the worry, brings a new perspective.

–          Another point; worrying is about future events. You’re not there yet and you cannot predict what future is in store anyway – everything always changes. So stop living for the future, start making this moment the best it can be.

–          Obviously we want to do the best we can to secure our children’s future, whether that’s in the way we raise them or the way we educate them. But nothing can be secure really and sometimes we’re so busy doing that we forget that right now is what matters. Love matters. Happiness matters. Interest and fun matter. Putting those in place now is the best way to build a fulfilling, successful future – I don’t think fulfilment and success can happen without them.

–          There is no guarantee you can make for your child’s future except that. By doing that each day, but being aware of the way you are, by being relaxed, attentive, busy and FUN you can show your child how to build a life the same!

–          Worry also occurs when we’re focussing intensely on the smaller picture. Often a blinkered picture – an inaccurate one. Like your child not being able to achieve something that others can like sharing for example. It’s easy to get obsessed about it – this puts pressure on which makes it worse, creates an intensity which communicates itself to the child which prevents them from sharing because they know it’s something you’re worried about …etc…etc. To stop this take your mind’s eye out from the intensity of this small picture to the whole of your child’s life– I bet your child will be as considerate over sharing as anyone else by the time they’re twenty. So be patient – children are all different and are allowed to be. Look at the bigger picture.

–          Keep contact with others to help your perspective. Talk about your concerns – then stop and talk about something else – something positive! Don’t measure your child against your friend’s. If you must, measure instead against the millions and millions of children who started out with these noticeable differences then by adulthood have become insignificant.

–          Look after yourself! Worry is increased by tiredness, frustration, stress, unhappiness. Your needs as a parent are as important as the child’s. Happy parent equals happy child. Some of the things I did to help myself with this were; reading inspirational books, regular exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty, meeting with others,  avoided too much junk food (food affects your mind), attention to my mental/spiritual wellbeing.

–          If your child sees you doing this you’ll be teaching them how to look after themselves as they grow which is a far better lesson to be teaching them than how to worry!

I’ve suggested other ways of looking after yourself as a mum in my new book ‘Mumhood How to handle it Why it matters’. And there are ideas about dealing with worry if you’re a home educating parent in ‘Learning Without School’. But for a read to give you a giggle and a lift away from it all try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. All the details are on my book page.

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