I’ve enjoyed Instagramming my regular walks – wanting to share a bit of the countryside with you all.
The danger of Instagram though, and other social media sites, is that you can be so busy photographing the moment, you’re not actually engaging with it. More than likely you’re engaging with the opportunity to show it off to others. In fact, holding your phone up almost creates a barrier – certainly a psychological one – between you and the sensation of mindfully enjoying.
I noticed this particularly on an autumn walk a month or so ago. I was so busy sharing the experience on my phone, and looking at the photos to see if they were good enough, I’d disengaged from the experience itself. Not just the sight of nature laid sweetly before my eyes, but all the other sensations of being there as well; a last bit of Lark song of the season, the smell of the damp foliage, the shine of the dew and the soft touch of the gentle breeze.
Instead of mindfully being there, I was missing it all. I put the phone away.
This is why I hardly took any photos at my daughter’s wedding. (See recent post here) There were several others snapping away, some who’d been particularly engaged to do so. There would be plenty of photographic memories, I could appropriate!
But you can’t photograph sensations. And it was the sensations of the day I wanted to bring away with me.
And it’s made me wonder, as I see so many photos of your delightful children and the activities they’re doing splashed across social media, whether some parents are so busy photographing their kids for posting on sites they’re actually missing out on the sensations of being there with them.
One day you won’t be! They’ll have flown.
A single photo memory is nice to have, I agree. But I suspect our phones have pushed us beyond that, beyond even the sensation of wanting to share, towards an addiction of wanting approval, likes and endorsement. These gadgets and platforms are designed to be addictive.
Just a thought.
So this is a call for you to enjoy your kids while they’re there with you. Masses of pics are no substitute for living the moment, of being with them, engaged. The depth of those feelings cannot be reproduced in an other medium. Only that which you have experienced within.
Put your phone down and live your life as a parent for the experience at the time, not for the reproduction of it.
Since it’s that time of year again I thought I’d bring up the subject of holidays and term times, with this story from ‘A Home Education Notebook‘.
Even after Home Educating for a while I could still be influenced by them even though I knew that education didn’t have anything to do with term times at all.
They were usually brought to my attention by the children – and the fact that most other families are controlled by them.
Even this one word could make me feel I was about to be manipulated, probably by something I may not like.
“Ye-es?” I’d reply suspiciously.
“Ruth’s breaking up from school today; it’s end of term.”
“Oh, is it?” I’d feign ignorance knowing full well what was coming.
“Can we break up too?” She’d give a big sheepish grin.
I’d give the usual answer. “Well, I wasn’t aware we had anything to break up from.”
Another grin. “But can we?”
I’d pause, keeping the suspense and the pretence going a little longer. Then; “Yea, go on then – let’s.”
And she’d bounce off to go and do the same things she would be doing anyway, ‘breaking up’ or not.
We’d sometimes go through this little ritual when the schools finished their terms and my children knew their school friends were available for play during the day.
It was partly that, but also because our children did spend some time in school earlier on in their lives and, although freed from it, they still wanted the sense of celebration and release their mates were feeling.
And why not? We all need a change and a celebration. A release from that constant feeling that we perhaps should be doing something more educational than just having fun. It took quite a while for us to get over that idiocy and realise that education just went on all the time, term times, learn times, fun times and holidays.
We educated our children in a mostly autonomous way, with them deciding very much what they worked on but we’d still motivate them to be busy doing something. We’d encourage them to try new things, make and invent, play actively, be engaged, to read, we’d go out, meet others, whatever.
But it was good for all of us, adults and children in the family, to have a break from all that motivation. To switch off the driving force for a while and stop looking for activities or projects that would stimulate, and searching the internet for active learning sites.
We could drift. Do things that merely took our fancy and I could stop looking for an educational slant.
So, on one ‘end-of-term’ occasion, I thought I’d observe what the kids did instead.
The eldest took a heap of books, magazines, sketch book and pens out into the garden, spread herself out on a rug and designed all day, researching her books for inspiration, studying other people’s work and incorporating and adapting their ideas into her own work.
The youngest decided to build a den out there. This required searching out suitable materials within her environment, putting them together and solving the problem of making the structure strong and upright in discussion with me or whoever else was available. Then she spent the rest of the day in creative play, making up stories, reading to her toys, imaginative ideas passing through her faster than hot biscuits passed through her mouth.
In other words the children, ‘on holiday’, covered these skills; reading, research, writing and use of language, drawing and hand eye coordination skills, problem solving, estimating, analysis, use of materials, investigation, construction, exploration, interpretation, discussion, development of imagination and ideas and creativity. All those skills that teachers had to force reluctant children to practice in schools, usually in a boringly academic and repetitive manner, because the children had been removed from the natural opportunity to practice them anyway.
My children had been busy with all this simply because their minds were freed up from the confines of ‘doing education’, a trap we sometimes find ourselves falling into how ever autonomous we try and be.
It was a good reminder that we don’t always have to be forcing everything in order to further a child’s education. And just because there are not set schedules, timetables, term times or regulated practice, it does not mean there will be no learning taking place.
So, just in case you’re wondering what to do in the holidays, just back off and see what happens. Encourage them to develop their own ideas to relieve the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome, and keep these five simple daily practices in mind:
Be physically active at some point everyday.
Get outside, in green spaces if you can but playgrounds and streets are just as good.
Observe the wonderful world around you – on your doorstep – by giving time to looking deeply and mindfully.
Plan, shop for, prepare and cook meals or bake together.
Encourage them in their own projects beyond the usual screen based ones!
All will develop important life skills without you even realising – trust me. And even better, they will enhance your well being too – an important skill for all.
If you’re struggling with your children’s education right now, being mindful in the way you think about it might make you feel a little easier.
Whether you’re doing school-at-home or home educating many of the same issues arise in ‘doing the work’, creating pressures in family life that make everyone feel discombobulated!
I love that word. Discombobulated describes very succinctly what we’re all feeling during this corona crisis. It’s defined as confused and disconcerted. Fits the bill, doesn’t it?
And I imagine many parents are discombobulated about their children’s education right now, both those doing school-set tasks at home and those who were already home educating for whom the lockdown is just as inhibiting.
Some of our feelings are caused by the pressure that we put upon ourselves when we’re not mindful of the way we think about it.
For example; think about the school day. Parents tend to think about kids in school doing useful stuff from 9 am til 3 pm but it doesn’t exactly work like that. During those hours there is a lot of moving about, messing about, distractions, disruptions, wandering attention and general procrastination and time wasting. I averaged it once in a classroom; the children actually only get about 7 minutes an hour of constructive time! So if you’re pressurising your child to do 9 til 3 non stop ‘work’ because that’s what you think they do in school I should stop. Whether you’re home educating or doing school-at-home your child will work more quickly through stuff and will have a lot more time for other valuable pursuits which contribute to their educational advancement in ways you’d never imagine!
Another example, thinking about the basics; the maths, english and science done in schools is designed to be done in schools and in such a way it can be measured. This can make it dull and the children switch off from seeing them as interesting subjects. However maths, english and science come up in everyday life at home all the time in much more relevant ways. For example, budgeting (maths) is a constant consideration (and essential life skill). Messaging, searching online, reading anything, comics, any form of writing like lists for example (not forgetting drawing and colouring are excellent for practising skills involved in writing) all increase the use and understanding of vocabulary and language as do discussions and chats – all useful literacy practice. And we are involved in science all the time in everything we do if you just notice – and use it as a starting point for investigation. We have bodies – biology. We use stuff and live in stuff which all originated at some point from the earth (materials, properties, sources etc). Not only do we have a virus crisis (what’s a virus?) we have a planetary crisis – the planet being one of the most important subjects for scientific research. Do you see what I mean? Scientific questioning and discussion develops a scientific mind as much as anything you might do in a workbook – and it’s real. Making maths english and science relevant to the youngsters’ lives through real stuff is as valuable as the maths, english and science you do on the curriculum. Be innovative about how you tackle it; relating it to life makes it more interesting and doable.
And finally be mindful of the idea that everything you do has the potential to be educative; your family interaction, discussions, contact by tech, cooking, organising, getting your exercise, playing, looking after yourself, managing life together, clapping the NHS. All builds skills, mental, physical, life skills – all has a worth.
This is a time of trauma for everyone. No one needs added pressure brought by needless worry about ‘school work’ or dull academic exercises.
We are all discombobulated! Many of our comfort blankets are gone and we’re all having to work life out in new ways for the time being. Fretting about academics will not help. And is not necessary for I bet that when the kids are in their twenties you’ll never even notice the school days they missed or this time of home schooling – however you’re doing it!
Family harmony, security, nurture and getting through as happily as you can are more important than academics right now. Far better the children remember a happy time of family learning together than the pressure of being forced to do stuff that’s less than relevant in this discombobulated time. Not forgetting that even discombobulated, and how you tackle it, can be educational!
So I suggest you take the pressure of yourselves – and the kids – and rethink it!
You can’t help but have noticed the massive trend for mindfulness at the moment.
You rarely go into a bookshop without seeing a mindful colouring book or a manual of mindful prompts and practices. Many companies are pushing it at the consumer – the capitalism of which rather belying the point!
I always think of home educating parents as mindful people. You kind of have to be in order to do it.
I know some of you may recoil from the concept of mindfulness as a load of psychobabble that has no relation to the serious business of education.
But I don’t think I’ve ever met a home schooling parent who isn’t mindful in that they are making conscious choices about the way their children are educated. They are mindful of the fact that a learning life does not have to be endured for some future reward, it is important that the kids are happy and fulfilled now. And it’s that which leads towards a happy and successful relationship with life thereafter. That is the way parents are mindful. It means being conscious of what you’re doing.
Of course, there are all sorts of interpretations of being mindful – awareness being the one I’m using here. I don’t think you could home educate without being very aware of what you’re doing, both day-to-day and with regard to the future.
But therein lies a danger of conflict.
Because mindfulness is an approach that is based very much in the now. Yet our educational agenda can sometimes become obsessed with the future.
It certainly is in schools. It seems like every activity undertaken has an agenda that is focussed towards forthcoming results. Test results. Exam results. Qualification of it, in some form or another. The quality of the present learning experience is prostituted for that.
It is natural as we parent to wonder about the future for our kids. Obviously we want the best for them. We wouldn’t be human if our considerations didn’t stray beyond the present as we raise them and guide them towards living good lives.
However, it’s important as we educate to balance that with what’s happening now, what their needs are now, making now an inspiring experience.
In fact I’d go so far as to say it needs to be imbalanced – for the now is far more important. Simply because what’s happening now will determine the future and if you take care to make the present a good experience of learning, then the children will want to go on with it and that’s an attitude that sets them up for life. If you take care of the now the future will take care of itself.
Educate because learning is a great thing to be doing, at this present moment.
By adopting a mindful/awareness practice yourself you will inspire the children to have mindful practices of their own which promotes a healthy and conscious way of living; with themselves, with others, and with the planet. It escalates out in beneficial ripples all around.
Being mindful is good for parents. Good for home education. Good for kids. Good for everyone.
How many of you had the feeling growing up that you were not good enough? Especially with relation to your achievements
From an exhibition by Ann Bellamy called ‘Just Be Normal: Memoirs of a Dissenting Child’
Answers in the comments below please!
I certainly did.
Being ‘good enough’ as a kid was an impossible task. And the painful feeling associated with it returned when I saw this piece of artwork in an exhibition recently, about being good enough.
Making people feel not good enough is a dangerous mistake we easily fall prey to as we raise and educate our kids.
On the one hand we want to be encouraging and supportive in helping them achieve. On the other hand we don’t want to be complacent about what can be achieved by over praising or staying still. I know there was a point in our home educating years where I was suddenly mindful of the fact that through my constant encouragement towards taking things further, I was inadvertently suggesting that the point which had been reached was never enough!
This is somewhere between a stick and a hard place I fear! I hope I changed.
The important thing is, when we are raising and facilitating our kids learning and growing, to remember that;
the children are already perfect, whole and complete, in the moment.
This does not mean that there is no room for advancement, or that there is not a journey of learning and growing to enjoy. It’s just means that no one is ‘not good enough’ yet without.
And we also have to be careful not to make educating in itself something judgemental and something that suggests the kids are not good enough without.
Of course, you have to define ‘education’! Something I’ve talked about before. (I’ve discussed this in numerous posts, examples here and here and in the last chapter of my ‘Home Education Notebook‘) I know that many make the mistake of equating education with qualification only. So people without qualification can end up feeling ‘not good enough’ if they didn’t go down that route. Hopefully, we are beginning to place that in a different perspective now as we’re recognising that over-qualification has often meant the lack of more important life-skills.
What we want to nurture is a feeling of optimism and potential for change within our learners that comes from an understanding of their many talents, encourage their openness to learning and growing and opportunity, within the context of knowing themselves, what they want, how achieving those things is fulfilling and worthwhile.
And that being ‘good enough’ in other people’s eyes – for that’s what we’re talking about here – bears no relation to their education whatsoever!
I got up from the computer and wandered outside. I was immediately aware of the soft caress of breeze and birdsong. The swish of stems and leaves sang with them and I inhaled the scent of fresh mown grass with every breath.
I just stood and absorbed it for a while. A much better break than going on Facebook! And part of the practice of being mindful which I’ve been trying to invest in after reading about it recently.
My first thoughts about mindfulness were; we certainly have to be mindful as parents. Mindful of what we’re doing, how we behave towards our kids, what messages we might be giving them through our attitudes and responses to life and to them, what kind of people we might be steering them towards being – by how we’re being!
But then I thought; maybe that’s also a reason to be mindful for ourselves. For our own restorative well being, so we can be supportive and calm people as well as parents!
Practising mindfulness is just practising consciousness, in ourselves, of ourselves, so that we keep ourselves centred and strong and not knocked about by outer things – like Facebook!
Usually once during the day I go out and walk. This is to stretch my limbs as much as the dog’s. But I’ve noticed, since reading about mindfulness, how although my body’s taking a break my mind isn’t.
I’m charging along, usually churning over some concern and missing the time to give my mind a rest. What I thought was an opportunity for mindfulness had become as stressful as sitting at the computer. Body was out there – brain was still at work.
How often have you done that?
I’m going to try and change that as I practice mindfulness more consciously for if it isn’t conscious – then it’s not mindfulness. And stop filling moments that could be song filled and soft with raging, tossing warfare between issues all vying for attention. Issues need attention, but to be resolved wisely, we need to put them aside sometimes too.
Instead, I’ll allow concerns that inevitably muscle in to flow on through with the breeze, concentrate on what my body and senses are doing and receiving, refreshing my mind. Which is, after all, what I was walking for in the first place.
So many of us walk unconsciously through life, not only missing half of it and then wondering when life went and stress came, but also inadvertently teaching our kids to do the same. And now our kids are becoming so stressed that schools are finding they need to make time for this practice. How bizarre is that!
Surely the practice of mindful, conscious living should come from home?
Better get started! A holiday weekend the perfect time!