Tag Archive | lifestyle

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!

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How writing is like homeschooling

I’ve just realised that writing books is a bit like home educating.

What next I wonder?

Why?

Well:

  • the initial prospect is terrifying and you think you can’t do it
  • you’re daunted by the fact it’s going to be one helluva long haul
  • there’s not much tangible proof you’re going in the right direction
  • there are no concrete ‘results’ until years have gone by
  • and just because you chose to do it doesn’t make it easy.

And there was me thinking life would be easier after my little home edders had graduated!

But the thing is; you get over these things by just ploughing on through.

Whether on the brink of home educating or on the brink of writing a book I have some advice:

  • don’t look at the long haul for now – keep focussed on doing each day
  • keep reminding yourself what you’re doing it for
  • keep faith with those ideals and keep going anyway, unless something dire isn’t working, then make adjustments and press on
  • don’t base your judgement on mainstream expectations, focus on how your kids’ (or your books’) progress
  • ignore all those who think you should do ‘mainstream’. If they haven’t experienced your route first hand what do they know about it?

And whether you’re home educating (which is also parenting and all the same things apply), or writing a book, remember that you are fundamentally doing it for love! And choice. You can make change at any time. And it’s an amazing thing that you do which takes grit, determination, stamina and courage… in case you needed reminding!

 

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!

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!

‘Daring Greatly’

“But it’s such a risk taking the children out of school and home educating,” someone once said to me. 

“It’s no more risky than leaving them in,” I remember replying.

They hadn’t thought of that!

I didn’t ever see it as a risk, really. What was I risking? That they would be happier, healthier and achieve more than the downhill slide we were observing whilst they were in school?

Home schooling reversed that slide. It was wonderful to witness.

Going against the norm does make you doubt some days though, I admit that. (Hence the reason for me writing ‘The Home Education Notebook’ to help you with those days).

But here’s a point to remember when you’re doubting and wobbling; it’s a sign of your conscientiousness.

Conscientious parents always question and review and consider what they’re doing. And that’s a good thing. It’s a necessary part of your learning process. But it’s bound to make you wobble at times. Be brave. Examine what you’re doing. Research (as in chat to others about your concerns). And wobble on.

Doubting days will come throughout life and not just from parenting or home educating. We’ll always have wobbles about our choices, it’s a natural part of a healthy consideration of them. Especially when the decisions we make mean doing something which makes us a little more vulnerable and a little less comfortable. I still have wobbles and usually turn to reading to help me overcome them.

I’m reading an uplifting book about that very concept; ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown which talks about feeling vulnerable and how it is a necessary part of the courage needed to live life in inspirational ways. It immediately made me think of all the home educating parents who are doing just that – daring greatly – in order to do what they think is right for their family.

I have a stock of books to turn to now, on different subjects, to give me the courage and inspiration to dare greatly when I’m having wobbles about the things I still want to do (writing among them). This will be added to the collection.

And I thought it might help you too, to carry on daring and taking risks and not letting the wobbles stop you from continuing to do what you think is right for you and your family.

I’m cheering you on!

Feeling daunted

Goodness you’ve no idea how scary it is writing!

Well – not writing perhaps. The creative part of it is the nice bit – when it’s working of course. But the creative writing is only a very small percentage of a writer’s life these days. You need to be part of the marketing, selling and publicity all which I find as excruciating as being drilled at the dentist. More so actually because it’s public and at least you’re hidden in the dentist’s chair and you can dribble in private.

But far worse than the dentist is the drilling you can get from readers. In fact, the minute you put your writing out there, you feel immediately exposed. Naked. vulnerable. That is quite terrifying. Few are brave enough to do it.

Many people write. Many people say – ‘oh, I was going to write a book’. Many people are forever engaged in the process of doing a book. Many people will even get to the brave point of reading that work to others – usually in the safe confines of a writers’ group.

But that is quite different to going properly public and only the bravest actually get to that point. It is the exposure to all and sundry – even those who think you’re writing’s crap and say so – as well as those who are encouraging, that is the real test of courage.

Everyone suddenly is a critic, those who know about the job and those who don’t. (A bit the same as Home Ed really!) And they can make that as public as they like.

Thankfully, most of my critics and reviewers have been delightful. I am eternally grateful to all those who’ve taken time to review my books and say kind things. For I know there are faults with them – I don’t need reminding, my shame does that every day. And like with most writers, I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone’s going to like my stuff. Of course not.

It’s just that, like with most writers, I do it to inspire, to share, to hopefully give a little boost to someone else’s life. Writing is the medium I chose to do that by. Others choose other media.

My work happens to be to support a minority community. I don’t write to grab attention – that’s the excruciating bit for me – I write to quietly encourage. Encourage those courageous people choosing more challenging routes through life.

And that’s just what I need, as we all do, to help me overcome the fear! To start writing something new again.

It is your encouraging reviews that keep me going. Thank you so much. And if you’ve read one of my books recently – or anyone’s actually – think about taking the time to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you hang out and share a bit of love and encouragement around.

Encouragement, rather than criticism, makes the world a far, far nicer place to be – it’s good for the human race. And is a wonderful style of parenting and partnering too.

Pass it on!

Home Education – Less something you Do, More something you Are

I met with my friend, former home educator, and now publisher, the other day for a catch up, to talk a little bit about books, the publishing business, and a lot more about our children – well adults now really as most of them either approach – or are – twenty somethings!

Always interested in the variety of home educating experiences there are out there I asked her if she’d share her own. 

She has four children. Her first started at school as she knew little about home education and like many of us at the outset, just thought it was school-at-home. By accident she stumbled across it again on the Net, the diversity of approaches, and realised immediately that this was what she wanted to do as by then her two schoolers weren’t thriving there at all. And she herself was becoming increasingly unhappy with the teaching to the test, the box ticking, and no chance for the kids to learn through a pace or style suited to them.

When she started, she told me, she had a wonderfully idyllic idea of all the fab activities they’d do, across all their ages. But all they seemed to want to do was watch telly, and then they’d get bored. She tried several ways to inspire them and discovered that what worked best was a more project-based approach, mostly starting from their own interests, into which she could incorporate basic skills as and when needed.

“I never forced them to do stuff they didn’t want to, or to do it in a particular way” she told me. “The projects evolved as we got into them, we researched and did related stuff like watching films, relevant visits, cooking, and met others for activities and social events. If their enthusiasm waned – we stopped.”

“As time went on and the children grew up I realised that home education is less something you do, and more something you are,” she told me. “It became less planned. Themes emerged, they learned naturally through their own interest and motivation, and they started to join all the random things they’d learned into a coherent form.”

“Although we were quite rural, we travelled to meet other home educating families, but were also lucky in having a lot of youngsters in the village, and clubs and classes they joined in with so social isolation was never an issue.”

I asked if it got harder with teens:

“The hardest thing was for me to let go! Especially my expectations. And to properly listen to them. My two girls were academically minded so they opted to go down the GCSE route, knowing where they wanted to go later on. One is now at Uni, the other about to start A levels at college. The boys rejected the idea of GCSEs, were more sports orientated, and that was harder for me to let go of. However, my eldest decided to advance his interest in sport through college, gained qualifications that way which showed he had a standard and has gone into work. My youngest boy is looking to go straight into work, deciding he is happy starting on the bottom rung and working his way up. His attitude towards learning is very much that it is a lifelong activity; he has interests in video production, media and science and knows that these areas of study are always available to him, should he want to follow them.

“As I come to the end of my home educating years now, I’m really happy how it all worked out and am proud of my motivated, engaged young people who’ve basically done it for themselves! Along the way they learned that they could have control of their learning, it didn’t have to be done in certain time frames, they can learn whatever they want, when they want. It’s more the case that they are educating me now. We help each other. We talk together about what we’re all doing now – I share my business stuff with them.”

“I started Bird’s Nest Books aware of the lack of books featuring home school characters, but it’s broadened now into looking at books featuring communities whose lives are often under represented. As well as the desire to support new and local authors. And my children have been so supportive in encouraging me – almost as if the home educating has come full circle!”

Thanks so much to Jane for sharing her story!