Tag Archive | kids

Mood miracle!

I know it's not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

I know it’s not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

It’s amazing how one little moment can become a mood miracle!

Last week was a bit of a wretched one. They can get like that sometimes, can’t they!

I’ve done book events for the new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ and much travelling recently, working in between, and was a bit exhausted with it despite meeting lots of lovely complimentary and sweet people.

So I strode out under the sky early this weekend; for even cloudy is supposed to help the spirits. The tide was seeping over the marshland in that calm and comforting way it does, lifting birds and gently filling creeks. I watched it a while.

Then coming back to the garden I saw that our Buddleia was bedecked with more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in one place. So rather than going in and getting involved back indoors, probably back at laptop, I took a cuppa and sat there and watched them. Not something I’ve ever done – or thought of doing – before.

There were so many I started to count and in just a few minutes counted ten different species. And there were more than one of each species so you can see how many there were in all.  I was totally absorbed.

And then I noticed something else had happened; something honeyed had happened to my spirits.

The doldrums of the week had vanished. Banished by mindful attention to the butterflies and that natural life outside the laptop.

I must remember, must remember, must remember, to take a few mindful moments outside each day and then maybe the week wouldn’t get so far down as wretched. I used it all the time as an antidote to children’s indoor moods. I’ve got to remember that I need it just as much!

And if you’re interested in butterfly watching you and the kids can get involved with the butterfly count this August – another great reason to be outside.

What’s your tagline – and do you want it?

I’ve just been to one of those groups where you start the meeting by going round, giving your name and saying a little bit about yourself. Most people seem to welcome the chance to pop themselves into a category or adopt a label of some kind.

I on the other hand hate it. I avoid it as much as I can; the anonymity is so refreshing and I loathe being pigeonholed.

We get so possessive about labels, taglines and categories, as if we don’t know who we are without them. I’ve been going to this philosophy group a while now and can see some still revel in opportunity to tag ‘who they are’ as if the label made them so.

I’ve run out of imaginative ways to not say who I am and have got to the point of just saying ‘I’m Ross’, after which there’s a long and awkward silence! But I refuse to be allocated to a category even if it makes others feel better being able to tidy me up into one.

Categories are something that can really trip parents up. Make you feel you have to be following certain trends irrespective of whether it suits or not. This is particularly true if you’re home educating.

Are you a home educator or an unschooler, structured or autonomous?

Who cares?

Does it matter? Not really.

Parenting, education, is far better if it’s flexible. (And those are two categories that are inseparable from one another anyway).

Flexibility means you don’t have to stick with a pre-set agenda or category, and are adaptable and open to change. If you have to stick with your label it can become restrictive. It can prevent you being open to flexibility, then there’s a danger you’re not open to learning new ways that might suit your child better.

For instance, you may have a hankering for a completely autonomous approach in your household, yet have a child who thrives better with some structure and the security of being told what to do. Some are born leaders, some aren’t. Some need leading out. And instructions can make some feel secure.

Conversely you might want to adopt a school style day in your Home Ed routine because you’re familiar with it and it helps you think what to do, but have a child so passionate about their interests it creates conflicts between you. That’s the last thing you want if you want to home educate successfully.

And anyway, you could do both on different occasions for different subjects. And whatever you do your child changes as he grows – you have to remain open to that.

So the thing is; there’s a whole plethora of ways to raise and educate and you can use elements of all approaches.

But what matters most is not the category you’re in, but that what you do suits your child, your household, your circumstances and you as well. This of course takes compromise. But compromise is good for a child to see. Leading successful lives requires getting on with others and that always takes compromise.

Labels, tags, categories and camps can lack compromise and are usually nothing to do with the child’s needs, are instead about our adult needs. But it’s the child who’s important here, surely!

Do what works for you and your children, I say, irrespective of categories or labels. Explore the range of possibilities and, like me at the group, enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to live up to a tagline!

Missing Home Ed – so it’s great to meet you!

I do miss those home educating days with little ones. When there were children here full of curiosity and inquisitiveness about their world – like Little Harry in ‘Who’s Not In School’. It’s often misinterpreted for booklaunchnaughtiness when it becomes inappropriate! He’s the kind of child you take your eyes off for a second and his curiosity gets the better of him and he’s doing something he shouldn’t. I had one of those.

I also miss the company of other inspiring home educating parents and the excuse to have a good chinwag about our kids in general – oh – and education of course. My friends have heard it so much from me now I see their eyes glaze over.

So I have enjoyed meeting some of you at recent book events the publisher arranged.

These events are always a challenge for me. I prefer to hide away in natural places (where I write this now) rather than be public. But I’ve been so uplifted by the warm responses we’ve had so far I’m up for some more. So if you want us to visit your group do get in touch here.

I love meeting inspirational people and as home educators you’re definitely inspirational – it’s an inspirational thing to be doing. I never tire of hearing your stories and if we can pass something onto the next set of parents wanting to home educate, then it’s a double advantage.

So if you fancy coming along to any of the events I hope we get to chat.

Or come and let me know what you think of the new book – if it’s kind of course! As I used to say to the children; if it’s not kind or it’s not helpful, don’t say it! I think some of the people who go on forums could do with adhering to that rule! ;)

Otherwise your feedback is what keeps me writing – and emerging from my hiding place. Hope to see more of you soon.

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.

 

Encouraging an educated mind

I have shamelessly used both my children as inspiration for my new book ‘Who’s Not In School?’

Charley exploring an art installation!

Charley exploring an art installation!

It was Chelsea I caught one time putting a bug in her mouth. And Charley was always looking for adventures beyond my line of vision. Chelsea could create artworks from anything in the cupboard, grated wax crayon included, and Charley who would toss herself into deep water despite not being able to swim.

Ironically Charley went on to become a scuba diver and Chelsea vegetarian. I often wondered if the bug had anything to do with it! (You’ll see why I mention these things when you read the story).

Although it made our hearts pump six times as fast as normal with all these experiments and investigations, it was always something we encouraged.

Most parents have a tendency to discourage it. They either think that it’s just kids being naughty and behaving badly. Or they want to keep them so suffocatingly safe they never have a chance for exploration.

But they’ll also never have the chance to learn about the world. And that’s what they’re doing; finding out about the world and testing to see what happens if..

Obviously children need to be safe and I admit that some of the experiments and explorations need moderating before they go too far. Certainly climbing up museum exhibits like ‘Little Harry’ does in the book is OTT and to be discouraged – you have to be ever watchful! But their experiments and investigations are demonstrating an active, interested and intelligent mind. And that kind of mind is a mind that has the potential to become a learning mind. To become an educated mind. So that aspect wants encouraging.

Within the limits of sensible vigilance the more your children explore and test their world the more they’ll learn, the more stimulated their minds will be, the more motivated to learn they become.

Which is the precursor to education after all!

Calling all parents!

Illustration by James Robinson

I’ve come back inside from the great outdoors to think about work, excited by the prospect of my picture book being released this week.

I reckon there’ll not be a parent out there who hasn’t known an inquisitive little spark like this one, endlessly wanting to investigate and not understanding why parents just don’t seem to appreciate it!

I always found it such a comfort to know mine wasn’t the only one. I’m calling all parents to please tell me you’ve got, or had, one the same – it would be a relief to hear!

Hope you enjoy the story, the illustrations are definitely awesome and I reckon it’s okay for me to say that since I didn’t do them!

Look out for it after 27th May. And do let me know if you like it.

Born Naughty?

“Mum, there’s a programme on Channel 4 tonight you might like, I just saw a trailer,” says Charley as she comes through to where I’m working.

I look up from the keyboard and peer at her suspiciously. “Oh, yea? What’s that then?” She knows I’m not into watching telly much, especially fly-on-the-wall type programmes that turn people’s misery into dramatic telly just because it’s cheap to make!

“It’s apparently about children being naughty – whether it’s learned or genetic. Thought you’d be interested as I know how much you hate that word.” She grinned at me round the door frame. She’s heard me ranting over parenting programmes many a time, and use very bad language!

I’ve always hated the concept of ‘naughty’. It goes right back to when I worked in schools back in the dark ages when parents instructed me to not worry about ‘givin ‘im a belt round the ear, cos he’ll need it, he’s so naughty’. A parent actually said that to me on one occasion.

I couldn’t really understand it, for I never had reason to label that child, or any other, as ‘naughty’. I always took the approach; kids have reasons for what they do. I appreciate that small kids aren’t open to reason sometimes and parents could do with some guidance themselves. You get thrown in the deep end with parenting – how could we know how to deal with the more complex challenges it throws our way?

The programme, ‘Born Naughty’ was quite empathetic. But when it opened with a question; ‘Do these children need diagnosis or discipline?’ I quailed at the prospect of these kids like many others just being given pills to calm them down. And I certainly quivered at the images of frustrated, screaming and anxious kids and desperate parents in dire conflict with one another. I never had to deal with anything quite so upsetting or extreme.

But watching the parents my heart went out to them. Parents always get the blame when a child is a screaming whirlwind of tantrum, don’t they? But funny how you never seem to get the credit for when they’re beautiful little people who do all the right things!

We certainly saw some screaming whirlwinds on the programme and the parents said how sick they were of everyone pointing the finger at them when they’d tried their best to manage. But child behaviour is never, ever just the fault of parenting. It’s far more complex than that.

Everyone’s behaviour, our own included, is affected by a multitude of things; our genetic make up, personality and character, our environment and family life, even the food we eat and the opportunity for exercise and recreation to help us burn off stress, feel calm and relax. It is never just the parents’ fault in isolation.

The programme dealt very sensitively with all this and made several recommendations to help parents deal with the challenges they faced with the children’s behaviour. Interestingly it was observed how contact with animals helped one girl, which I talked about in my last blog post.

But the answers lay in a collection of influences that we as parents could not possibly know about if we hadn’t already experienced them. And when you’re parents of young children, you haven’t! It’s as simple as that.

There’s no loss of face in asking for help, asking those who’ve spent hours observing and working with different child behaviours who might have more of an insight that we do with our limited experience.

I’m not in favour of children being labelled, filled with drugs, or forcibly restrained. I never trust the so-called experts unquestioningly.

But sometimes you have to seek help and guidance in order to save the child from themselves. Youngsters cannot understand that their behaviour is what connects them to others which is one of the elements in life that make us most happy. It’s also what can destroy those connections, which benefits no one.

When children are immature they cannot control their impulses as we can. They cannot understand the awful feelings they have or how to manage them. They’re not interested in reasons.

So it’s up to us to try and understand these reasons behind their behaviour – it was extreme anxiety in one of the examples – and guide them towards overcoming it with patience and consistency, so that they can go on to enjoy connected and happy lives.

There is no such thing as ‘naughtiness’ – only reasons. That’s not an excuse. It’s a demand for greater understanding.

And to increase my understanding, I might watch the next one. For a fly-on-the-wall parenting programme, it wasn’t too bad!