Tag Archive | lifeskills

Rewards to come

Chelsea and I were having a giggle on the phone the other morning. We speak most days – treasured times!

Chelsea performing on International Women’s Day

We talk about all sorts of things usually starting with current irritations, concerns and recently the bloody weather. And we talk about creative pursuits, finding solutions and sometimes even more philosophical ideas that inspire us; that really make us think.

Sometimes of course we just rant!

This time we were talking about delayed gratification. The skill more usually associated with the development of children but which, we noted, some of the adults around us don’t seem to have matured enough to acquire!

Being able to delay gratification is important. It means, when necessary, we are able to put off immediate rewards for longer term benefits. We need it for saving perhaps – by not spending now we will benefit by being able to afford something later on. Or for health as another example – by resisting too many pieces of cake I’ll benefit health wise in the longer term. Tricky one that!

The need for instant gratification in little people is sometimes desperate. They want it and they want it NOW. And no amount of reasoning will enable them to see otherwise if they are not at a level of maturity to have experienced the gains. And that’s what gradually enables them to practice the skill for themselves; by actually experiencing it. For example, by seeing how resisting frittering away those pounds whenever they’re in the sweet shop, made it possible for them to buy that Game later on which was much more expensive. They need to have benefitted from it to really understand gains.

Each child is different and each child matures at a different rate – so don’t sweat over it!

But it struck me how this applies to us too. That we, as parents, most particularly home educating parents, have to practice letting go of the need for instant gratification where education’s concerned.

To really grit our teeth sometimes, in order to keep faith in our conviction that by risking moving away from the instant reassurance of educating our kids in a proven mainstream way with proven outcomes, we will instead earn later gratification by seeing them enjoy a happier route to education outside of mainstream by a different approach.

Because they all do!

Many home schooled kids who’ve graduated before yours are proof. And if you can delay your need for that familiar mainstream reassurance now, and stick with the approach your gut tells you is right for you and your family, you will be rewarded.

Just like the children, in order to do this you need support, you need to exercise patience and faith, courage and confidence. When you wobble you need distraction or reassurance from those who’ve done it already. As you’d encourage your children to keep their eye on that Game or whatever they’re after, you should keep your focus on your longer term goals. And remind yourselves regularly of the principles behind your choices. Write them down. Post notes round the house if you need. Read what others say about their journeys. And my books may help.

And remember what it feels like when your child wavers from their course of a longer term goal and have a little wobbly, be kind to yourself when you waver too. It’s a natural part of the process!

I watched my little girls, of ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ fame, grow from the need for having it and having it now to the skill of seeing a wider view and manage to practice restraint in order to manifest later rewards. And I have watched them develop away from the need to always do what they want when they want, into intelligent, social, caring and hard working members of society who can make wider contribution beyond themselves.

As no doubt yours will.

And one day you’ll also be getting phone calls that really make you think!

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Disconnected!

We’ve been another week without an internet connection. I’ve had to decamp to a friend’s house to use hers. For the other problem with rural living is poor mobile signal – not enough for me to go online on my phone at home.

Such are the disadvantages of living in remote places. But we’re used to it!

It has its upside. It means that without the seduction of social media, emails and messaging I focus more intently on new writing rather than allowing my time to be eaten away by responding to notifications. It’s easy for that to be an excuse for not getting the real work done. I admit I can be a bit dilatory at managing that!

The absence of the internet also reminds me to practice skills that are independent of it, to be more resourceful, to re-visit other activities, perhaps less sedentary, that do not depend on that connection. And it’s a good reminder that we need variety in our daily lives to bring a healthy balance and outlook, to help us maintain other skills and interests, practical and physical as well as social, to make us more rounded people.

Exactly the same for our children. They need this variety too; involvement in an assortment of skills as well as internet ones, most particularly the physical, practical and personal, to make them healthy, rounded, skills-rich adults.

I’ve enjoyed watching some of the ‘Back in time…’ programmes that have taken families back to life in earlier times, mostly before internet and telly. And some of the comments the youngsters on the programme have made suggest that they have enjoyed living without their phones, internet and telly at times because it has made them focus on each other. Conversation has become a pastime for example, or communicating over board games. Another remarked they’ve become closer as a family.

Now, I acknowledge that I was as grateful as anyone to distract a restless child with some screen based pursuits.

But I’m now aware that this has become such an overused activity that children are lacking in many of the skills they would have naturally gained from connected family time. Some cannot converse adequately, use language effectively, interact with peers appropriately and are starved of the nurture family closeness brings because of long isolate hours entertained by screens, disconnected from real people. Even communal meal times have been overturned by TV dinners.

I enjoy a TV dinner, but not all the time.

What I need, and what children need even more as their on going development is more important, is a rich diversity of experiences. They need opportunities to try a range of different activities, explore potential interests, chances to develop a variety of skills, physical, practical and personal for their well being, resourcefulness and healthy maturity.

A balance of life’s activities in other words. Not a life that’s dependent on one.

Nothing like a week with disconnection to make me check whether my time usage was balanced.

If this extreme weather continues I suspect I might be in for another one!

Which world is real?

I’ve been enjoying reading about the family, farm and parenting life of Amanda Owen of ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ fame.

She tells the story of how she worked hard to become a sheep farmer, despite her city routes, and how she lives and works on the farm with her nine children.

Amanda Owen and growing family

She sounds like an amazing woman. And I love her descriptions of how her family works, her no-fuss approach to everything, to her parenting, to her children and the way they all live in a remote farmhouse miles from anywhere.

Although her children go to school, she has that down-to-earth approach to her children’s lives that many home educating families have. One that sees the true educative value in everyday, real life experiences, how the children are involved in their very tough life on the farm, and how much they learn from it.

This question of ‘real’ life is something that’s often thrown at home educators. Like we should send them to school because it’s a taste of ‘real’ life – which of course it isn’t! ‘Real’ life is nothing like school. But most people don’t see that.

Amanda has the the same accusation thrown at her with her children being so isolated on the farm.

“You can’t keep the children cooped up here, this isn’t the real world” she was once told!

Sound familiar – I think someone once said the same thing to us about home schooling.

I loved her response. She was understandably indignant because that was their real world, and that statement devalued it. Home educating was our real world and it was often devalued too. But some people can’t acknowledge a life that is different from theirs. Many people want everyone to be all the same, do the same, follow the same path. And get really twitchy at those who choose a different one.

Amanada says her children have a good work ethic – many home educators do too, because they’ve been working in an independent way for so long. She goes on to say that living where they do they understand that if they want something they have to put the work in. They become more self sufficient, consequently learn that nothing must faze you. It’s about building mental strength as well as physical strength and the willingness to have a go at anything.

A great philosophy she’s built through her farming life and one that will serve her kids well when they move on. A great philosophy I also witnessed many home educating families adopt.

She goes on to say that she gets a lot of people telling her what she should be doing with her children (sounds familiar)! But she believes they’re having a good childhood involved in the farm, it’s just different. And her only hope is that they’ll look back on their childhood as a happy one.

I think most home educators feel the same!

But as for which world’s real – that’s an ongoing philosophical debate that will never be answered.

The more important question is – which world works?

Home educating works for some. Life in alternative places work for others. City life works for many.

But whether people live in cities, or farm in remote places, or home educate, the children can see all sorts of other worlds now via the internet. They have opportunities to explore and learn about other worlds different from their own. And Amanda says, like most home educating parents say, that the children may well move away and choose their own different worlds one day and that’s fine. However, no single world is more ‘real’ (or valuable – which is the hidden meaning of the expression) than another.

And no one should be criticised for choosing a way of life that is different from mainstream.

I leave you with Amanda’s words from the end of her book; “We get such pleasure out of the children and take a pride in bringing them up in a free and natural way”. I think many of you will identify with that!

Home Educating – surviving the frosty bits!

We face many challenges in life. Winter is clearly one of them that’s foremost in our minds right now! But, also like winter, most of them are seasonal and pass over.

And home educating can be just the same.

The frost will eventually melt off the snowdrops. Frosty times at home can be melted too!

It presented us with challenges – of course it did. They passed over. We reviewed, made changes, adapted to suit the nature of the challenge and pressed on.

If you think about your own home educating life, it’s never going to remain the same although we are sometimes caught out by expecting it to.

It doesn’t remain the same for the glaringly obvious reason that the kids never remain the same either. Like plants growing through a season, they have their seasons too. So will your home education. So does all family life.

I think, as adults and parents, we’re a bit sticky! We like to stick with what we know. We get into a habit, a way of thinking, a way of responding, a way of expecting, and forget that we need to make adjustments to these changes too.

And that’s to do with family life, life in general, not just to do with home schooling.

You’ll have times when family life flows smoothly and everyone is happy. You’ll have times when family life is as frosty as winter and everyone hates one another!

Quite normal!

This is no one’s fault. This is just how it is. And in order to weather it you have to do the same as you do for winter; examine what you might have to do in order to rectify it.

For example – you feel cold, you look at why, you put another jumper on!

If family connections turn cold, you have to look at why. Has someone grown and changed? Is someone hurting? Have your children outgrown your habits? Do you need to change your responses to accommodate that? Do they need something different?

Whether it’s toddlers or ten year olds, tweenagers or older teens, their seasons and our responses to them have to continually adapt. That’s life – so make sure you don’t blame home education, as some peple tend to do.

If it’s a bit frosty right now don’t seek to blame, seek to understand what might be the cause. Be honest. Don’t give up on it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re no good for the kids. You will be fine – but you might need to change something in order to keep up with them.

It might simply be that one of the things you need to do is relax and allow your kids to grow – I missed that solution a number of times!

But be reassured that, like with seasons, nothing lasts forever. Moods don’t last forever. Phases don’t last forever. You’ve weathered them before you can do it again!

This is a skill that will support you throughout your life and well worth the practice.

Meanwhile, let’s wish for spring to come soon, in whatever sense!

Restore your enthusiasm for home education

January is a bit of a bleak time for me. I think we all suffer the post Christmas, goodbye-sparkle, back-to-reality drop in spirits. Add on our seasonally affected doldrums and it’s a bit of a month to get through. 

Do you find the same?

I know the children used to when we were home educating. We were stuck inside a lot (not much fun sitting outdoors with books and projects this weather) and we soon got twitchy. Thank goodness for swimming pools, activity centres and sports halls where we could make dates with others for burning off that bulging energy after being indoors too much. (The energy not the only thing bulging after Christmas)!

It can be a bit of a hard month for enthusiasm. And however much you love your parenting, and love your choice to homeschool, even that enthusiasm can wane at times like these.

So, how to get it back?

Do any of these ideas help:

  • January is short lived. Time changes everything. Take each day at a time, create some self-nurturing practices and good things for each one. A great lesson for the kids to learn too – self care.
  • Re-acquaint yourself with your core reasons for home educating, your philosophies for parenting and learning and life. Why did you choose to do it? It’s still an inspirational choice.
  • But like with all aspects of life, it’s not inspirational all the time. that’s not because it’s ‘failing’, it’s just the way life is. We have to learn to negotiate these times. And keep faith.
  • Keep active. All of you. It’s a necessary and very effective part of self nurturing and mental and emotional wellbeing. Even if the initial inertia is tough, fight on through. Physical activity also gives a huge confidence boost – good for kids, good for you!
  • Relax about the ‘learning’. It’s going on all the time even if it isn’t formally constructive. All learning is valid. All experiences are valid. But stressed approaches can inhibit learning, as can forcing it, or making it a huge demand. There’s no time limit on learning. It happens in leaps and stand-stills. There will be times you’ll think you’re kids are going nowhere. That’s a misconception. they will be.
  • Be pro-active. find new things to do, places to go, websites to explore, people to connect with. They’re out there for you to engage with. Being proactive with life is another great example to set the kids!

You won’t enjoy your home education every single day – that’s probably not possible – as with life; it’s an unreal expectation. Just try some of the tips above and ease yourself back on track with the inspirational, uplifting way of life that it is!

Above all, just enjoy yourselves as much as you can for now – just because you can!

Fresh new year – fresh ways of seeing

Happy New Year!

I love a new start. New opportunities to learn, new things to do, new ways of being.

But I’ve been thinking about the last – inevitably! And how I’ve enjoyed doing Instagram over the past year; recording my daily being with the natural world. It’s a great change from always working with words under the laptop! And it had other benefits as well which I didn’t spot at first.

The beauty of frosted nettles – when seen with fresh eyes

For a start, it’s made me find something more positive in the sometimes challenging winter days when I tend to keep my chin on my chest and my spirits in my boots. It’s made me look up, lift up, which generally raises the spirits as well as the eyes.

Secondly, it’s made me really look. As I take my daily walk it’s quite hard to be inspired by what you think is the same old…same old… Except it’s not the same old…not if you really put those observational skills to good use. I can nearly always see something different. But the trick is not only to look, but to see with fresh eyes.

And mind.

It’s made me change my mind on many things.

Sometimes we can’t see with fresh eyes because we’re looking with old mind sets.

This could happen when the kids were growing up, when we were home educating. I could get stuck in parenting routines, and former assumptions that had become out of date.

It’s so easy to forget the simple fact that kids grow and change constantly and we need to as well.

To allow them to be different we need to refresh our view of them just as constantly. We need to see our kids with fresh eyes and minds. When things got tricky in the household it was very often the result of me looking at the children – and consequently behaving towards them – in ways that were out-of-date and which failed to allow them to grow into fresh ways of being.

As well as encouraging our youngsters to practise their own observational skills, we should remember to practise our own! And not keep them stuck by reacting to them through the lens of what they were, and not what they are becoming!

Fresh eyes and fresh minds allow children – and parents – to be who they need to be! And is a great way to start the new year.

May you have a happy one to come.

Don’t Bah Humbug me!

 I may switch to making instead of blogging so much – just for Christmas!

I don’t need the excuse of little people in the house to get the glitter glue and art materials out! It’s something that I do for myself anyway. Practical, creative pursuits are my antidote to screen tired eyes and the medium of words!

I don’t know how ecologically sound it is still to be sending christmas cards. But I like making them so much and try to reuse materials already to hand or saved for the purpose, so they have a second life. I also use what nature provides and inspires. I picked and pressed some ivy leaves earlier in the year, from the mass that’s overtaken the barn roof. I felt sure it wouldn’t miss a few.

The cards that come into the house will also be reused. The ones I kept from last year make good tags. The backs used for scrap card and scribbled notes. The wrapping paper is always carefully untaped and used again. Some pieces last several Christmases and a friend and I have a decorated paper carrier we pass between us – it’s become a bit of a funny tradition!

Some people would think this is miserly. I look upon it as respect for what the planet provides.

And as well as benefiting a purse already stretched at christmas, a third advantage is that it gives your brain a good exercising inventing ways in which you can use what’s around, creating ways to reuse what comes to you, and making things. Creating is as good a mental exercise as doing maths.

And it’s enormously valuable for the kids to see you do this, to see you creating christmas as much as buying it. For inventive, creative, conservational, budgeting, and problem solving skills are the best gifts to be passing onto your children and down the generations. Along with respect for the earth and remembrance of its natural place in the season. These skills are gifts that set them up for real living as much as academic ones!

So to anyone who says this is miserly, I would say Bah humbug!