Tag Archive | Motherhood

Parents are the foundation of education

When you become a mum the last thing that’s probably on your mind is education or school! It takes ages to settle into a new life as a parent which is why I wanted to offer help through my MUMHOOD book.

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But education is different from starting school if that’s what you think I mean and that’s not what I’m talking about here. Real education begins at home with the parents – usually mums. Whatever follows – home education or school – the foundation of it starts the minute the baby is born and the child’s achievement later in life is dependent on what you do as parents at home from birth.

Since so few parents realise how, I’ve copied an extract from my MUMHOOD book for you below because it’s so important and it’s something all parents have the chance to influence:-

…what many parents don’t understand is that, whatever age your children are, however small or big, their education and their achievement are wholly influenced by you. Their education i.e. their learning, starts a long, long time before school and you are the one who affects it. Both now and in the future.

But don’t worry, it’s not complicated. And it’s not academic learning I’m talking about, or is of the only importance.

Children need to learn something more important than academics. They need to learn about their world and how to fit into it. How to relate to it and to others. How to operate it and how to cope with it. As well as all the skills they need just to grow and get to grips with living on a daily basis.

Whatever age children are they’re learning all the time. And you will be teaching them without even noticing.

You’ll be teaching them skills like; using their utensils to eat their dinner. You’ll be encouraging their speech and teaching them the names of things. You’ll be teaching them how to put their clothes on, build with toys, put toys in the cupboard, or use the tablet.

Just take note throughout your day together and you’ll realise how much you are already teaching your children. It happens just by interacting together, showing them things, getting them to mimic sounds, encouraging them to walk, demonstrating things by example, talking about the things you see and answering their ‘why’ questions.

Through all this your children are learning. Through you – teachers aren’t required here – this kind of learning is equally valuable learning. It is the beginning of their understanding, the basis of all development and learning to come.

That’s how you influence your child’s education right from the start.

The things you do together at home, the attention you pay them, the conversations you have, are the groundwork for everything that follows. The way you engage with them, stimulate them, love them, all the things I’ve mentioned in the ‘Mother and Child’ chapter all influence the way in which your child learns and all the learning that will come after. The first three years of a child’s life are now recognised to be the kingpin for all that follows. And the learning they do from birth to four is the essential spring board for everything they do as they grow.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to establish the relationship with your child I discussed in the last section, why it’s important to be there with them much of the time, talking and listening, playing and interacting. Because everything you do with your child from the moment they’re born counts for something. All the experiences they have. The circumstances they’re in. The vibes they pick up. It all matters.

That’s a fundamental truth about children learning that parents sometimes overlook.

Some parents think that all learning takes place in schools between the ages of four and sixteen. It doesn’t. Some parents think teaching is required for learning to take place. It isn’t. It starts at home through your interaction. That’s why whatever you do with them matters.

But don’t think of it in educational or school terms or you’ll spoil it. Just make times to engage with them, to observe the world together, to discuss it, to encourage an interest in it and how everything works, and stimulate their curiosity.

Children are naturally curious about everything. Their curiosity is one of the most valuable starting points for them to learn about things. If we can keep their curiosity in the things around them alive, their desire to learn will stay alive, and it’s that desire to learn that educates them and which affects their education throughout their life.

Children who are curious are bound to want to find out, to know, to explore and discover. To learn. And even though you might think this is wearing sometimes, it’s extremely positive; it means your child is developing his knowledge, intelligence and his skills all the time. And he’s motivated to learn – the lack of which can be an enormous stumbling block to education in later life.

These natural opportunities stimulate learning of valuable skills all of which your child needs to develop educationally and, more important, personally. Skills and knowledge are the basis from which every child goes forward to find and live a fulfilled and productive life.

That’s why your attention to them in small everyday ways matters so much. Your attention educates.

And you need to pay the world attention too. Your interest, your interest in the world at large, in finding things out too, also has another impact. It demonstrates a positive attitude to learning. And that affects how well they learn. Both now and, importantly, later in life too.

Through the attitude you show towards learning things they will develop their own attitude towards learning things. That’s why it matters that you make your attitude to things around you one of interest and curiosity. Your attitude shows them that learning is worth it. Learning matters, that learning is exciting – even if it’s just learning how to stack beakers and watching the tower fall. It can show that learning is fascinating and has an impact – like learning how to manipulate scissors. That learning is such fun – looking at a book about dinosaurs together. That learning helps us grow – like playing a computer game and gaining skills that help us progress through the levels. That learning helps us – like learning how to do up buttons. That learning makes us feel fulfilled – like learning how to make muffins!

All these simple everyday things you show an interest in helps your child learn about his world and plays a vital role in the development of his personal education.

Learn about things together. Promote learning as worthwhile, whatever it is you’re learning about.

Some of the best ways to develop your child’s capacity to learn are the simplest. Here are a few:

Through conversations; talking together, back and forth, about whatever you’re doing is an opportunity to tell them so much. And more importantly it promotes language and communication skills, it makes them articulate, it develops vocabulary and thinking skills to name a few. Chat about what you’re doing or what you’re both going to do together and why. Explain why things are happening. Answer their why questions. Use your conversations for observation and questioning.

Making observations and posing questions; this can be easily included in your chatter. Observe what you see, point things out, bring your child’s attention to things. Like saying; ‘look at that tiny little ant.’ ‘I wonder what sort of flower that is?’ ‘Now what do we need to buy today?’ ‘What a huge lorry.’ This kind of chatter stimulates your child’s mind and that valuable curiosity about the world. Observe what people are doing and discuss why. Encourage them to ask their own questions.

Reading to them; not trying to teach them to read – just enjoying stories or non-fiction together in whatever format. Reading to them is the basis for them reading for themselves. Reading for themselves is founded in a love of stories, books and eBooks. Any time spent together enjoying books and stories in whatever format is valuable. Reading to them encourages interest in language, shows how it works, demonstrates the skills needed. It is one of the most valuable things you could be doing with your children – whatever age.

Play; it’s the foundation of a multitude of skills. Many parents don’t get how educative play is. But practical play is one of the most educative activities a child can be doing. Through play children learn about the things around them. For example they learn about the properties of things – hard, soft, liquid, solid, etc, they learn how to use things and gain hand-eye coordination skills – how scissors cut or paper folds, jugs fill and pour, things stack, etc, they gain practical skills – climbing, running, catching balls, etc. So many basic skills increase through play. Practical play is the best, play where they’re engaged using tools and materials, recycled junk, art and craft materials, pots and pans, constructional or collectable toys, toys that stimulate them to do things rather than just passively watch a screen or play a computer game. They don’t need complicated, expensive equipment – a den under the kitchen table made with an old sheet or a collection of old boxes stimulates their imagination just as much. Imagination promotes intelligent thinking. Thinking skills are essential to learning.

Through engaging them in the things you do; shopping, cooking, mending things, recycling, going places, whatever you’re doing is an opportunity to engage them, talk to them, explain, involve. It may sometimes need to be on their level, i.e. if you’re cooking give them some of their own ‘ingredients’ to play-cook with or wash plastic pots at the sink, or an old item to dismantle. But if they are involved in life they learn about life.

Physical activity is another educative activity that parents sometimes overlook. You both should be engaging in regular physical exercise anyway whether it’s walking to the shops or a play in the park and spending time outdoors. Apart from keeping fit physical activity also stimulates mental activity. Mental activity is what’s required for learning and education. Physical activity is good for your child in so many ways; it promotes self confidence, health – mental as well as physical, relaxation and sleep, makes them feel happier, helps with development – including that of the brain, increases general wellbeing.

So, in conclusion, just remember that everything you do with your child from the moment they are born, not only will build you a strong relationship, it will count towards their education too. And your child’s attitude towards their world as being something worth learning about will rub off on others. So through your attention you bestow enormous benefits not only on your child and your relationships but, via their interaction, on the wider world too.

As a mum, is there anything you could be doing more worthwhile than that!

(For more on the book; MUMHOOD How to handle it Why it matters, see the Books page or Amazon)

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Why mums matter!

In honour of Mothers Day I want to reiterate something I’m passionate about; the importance of mums. In particular mums at home, who most often get looked down on as insignificant instead of heralded. This is to herald them!

Some people still don’t understand the depth of the impact mums have. Some people still don’t get the role mums play in the well being, development and education of children and consequently the perpetuation of a healthy, educated and caring society.

Apart from the fact that a happy, healthy and organised home doesn’t just run itself, put simply and even more importantly; neither do the children who need one – they need ‘running’ too!

For basically; in order for a child to progress towards being a caring, intelligent, well adjusted, considerate and self-aware human being they need the full time attention from another adult who is the same. This mammoth task usually falls to the mums, especially mums at home.

And there are no short cuts. It takes a lot of time and a lot of input. The richness and quality of one-to-one interaction is irreplaceable when it comes to a child’s development.

So, mums at home are sowing the seeds of loving relationships, of healthy strong bonds, moral values, and an understanding of commitment and responsibility towards other human beings. If no one shows them that, how can they be committed and responsible towards others when it’s their turn? Mums interacting with their children are laying the groundwork of the understanding of what it is to be human.

Our society, politics, work ethic, even our health sometimes is greatly dependent on the quality of relationships and our primary relationship is the one we receive at home in those essential early experiences and interactions with our mums. (Dads too – but in most cases it is still mums who spend the bulk of the time). And it is ongoing – never ending. It needs not to stop – ever! Although it will change. This relationship needs time giving to it. That’s why mums matter so much.

It is also the bedrock of our children’s education.

When I say education I don’t mean all that dull academic stuff kids do when they get to school. I certainly don’t mean that mums at home need to be forcing their child, who is often too young and underdeveloped to be ready, to do reading, writing or maths.

What I mean is the kind of irreplaceable foundation for learning and understanding that comes out of time spent with mum (or dad does just as well but it’s mums I’m talking about today).

Just being with mum, looking, chatting and questioning – having their questions answered. From just doing things together in the home or going out and about and talking together whether it’s a trip as mundane as the supermarket or as exciting as a park or a museum. Through all sorts of play, meetings with others, and a whole wealth of experiences in the real world that provoke observation, exploration, questioning and chatter with the adult alongside them.

From these early experiences children learn all the time. The constant chatter gives them the basics of language and communication. Play with all manner of things gives them an increasing understanding of their world (science really). Being read to gives them the foundations of reading and language. Counting, chanting, rhymes, songs, sharing, grouping, etc gives them the basis for maths.

All these experiences may sound so simple yet they are the start of core learning skills. Being with another interested and interesting adult is the best basis for education a child could have.

It is for all these reasons that I champion mums and the time they spend with their children. Just by being there and giving their child time and love they are investing in the most valuable asset to our future: our children and their potential to become intelligent, kind, loving, conscientious and productive human beings.

I honestly don’t think we can shout loudly enough about why mums matter!

 

For more on this and support with your work as a mum see my book ‘Mumhood. How to handle it. Why it matters’ And you can find more round this site about home education.

 

 

What’s a good start to education?

A similar event in a Suffolk library

There was the sound of giggling and tiny tots voices coming from the children’s section. I was in the library returning books and couldn’t help having a peep to see what was going on.

The toddlers and parents were sat in a circle on the floor having such a happy time together doing rhymes and actions and songs etc. Lovely to see. Fab to see parents engaging and interacting with their kids (no phones anywhere). And full marks to the library for initiating it to help them achieve it.

It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone; engaging with tiny beings, pre-conversation, especially when you’ve only been used to adult chat. I remember wondering what to do with the littlies sometimes – not being a great chitterer myself it didn’t come naturally. So groups like this are great to help those of us who are less inspired in that department to get going.

Because it’s really important that we do. For the simple reason that all the chat, chant, song and engagement with the youngsters we have, at whatever age, is the foundation of education. 

This contact, connection, interaction in whatever form is the pre-cursor for essential skills on which education is built – communication being one, as well as listening, observing, responding, thinking, vocabulary development, the basic skills needed for learning to progress. All founded in those simple little sing-songs, chats with your child, constantly reading to them, engaging in whatever way. They are the building blocks from which the mastery of language, communication, mental agility and other skills for wider learning can grow. Just from the stimulation of these types of activities when they are young. Well – it should continue throughout childhood really.

Parents think that getting kids reading early or writing their name, recognising numbers etc will give them a good start to their education. It does.

But the reality is that it starts much, much earlier than that. A good start to education is you!

(For more, check out the last section; ‘How you influence your child’s education’, in my book ‘Mumhood. How to Handle it. Why it Matters’)

A sentimental celebration

It’s my eldest’s birthday today. It makes me all sentimental and nostalgic as a parent, especially since we cannot be with her to help her celebrate. So, round the phone calls, I’ll have to be content to celebrate it in my own way with a dear friend who I met through her baby being born exactly one month previous.

We are of course together in spirit and always have been since the day she was born. Besotted doesn’t describe it as I drooled over that tiny being. I wouldn’t let the nurse put her in that plastic fish tank thing they like babies in to keep them safe.

Safe? Who wants safe when there’s love to be expressed in the holding? It’s part of the same institutionalised thinking that dominates society, schools, institutions. I’m all for Indie thinking; (you’ll no doubt have guessed with all I write about home education).

Thankfully I got my besottedness under control – it’s hardly healthy – for either of us. But our connections remain strong, supportive and as loving as ever, after twenty odd years, after home educating which sometimes makes people think the kids are going to hate you, and after all the mistakes we make as parents. And even though we have to let go and allow them space to go out into the world and do their thing.

Very necessary!

But the important thing about our connections with our children, the way we attend to them when needed, the way we relate and behave towards them, rather than tossing the random ‘I love you’ their way to make up for the times we don’t, is that it makes them feel worth something.

A child who is made to feel worth something is a child who is more likely to give something of worth to the world.

Her worth is immeasurable, as I’m sure your child’s is to you. Make sure they feel it.

Today I shall be celebrating her being in the world, already giving something of worth to it with her presence.

And as well as her presence the other thing I gained through her birth was that special friend to go out and eat cake with in her honour!

Your child is different from you!

I was born and grew up in the city of London. Right in the centre as far away from rural as you can get.

But all of our childhood holidays were spent in the countryside, so I was aware of these two contrasting worlds. And it didn’t take

A glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on

much growing up for me to recognise from a hunger within which of these two environments was right for my soul. I soon understood that my spirits wilted when surrounded by concrete, buildings, noise and crowds without a glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on. Yet the surroundings of greenery, fields and solitary quiet gave my spirits wings and a sense of relief I still require to thrive.

Even though I live in the countryside now and these things are common place I still experience the sudden sense of imprisonment, when shut inside too long or under laptop. Hence why I can often be found scribbling in the shelter of a hedge bottom with my bum in damp grass, or on my daily walk (as you see from Instagram). I’m just letting my spirits heal from the onslaught of contemporary life.

Of course not everyone feels this. Or feels it this way round. Ironically my eldest is the complete opposite.

We made many, many excursions into cities whilst we were home educating here in the country. And as her teen years kicked in I began to realise that, unlike me, it was the city that made her spirits come alive.

I can clearly remember the time when I suddenly spotted, with shock and empathy, that familiar look on her face one day that described that same feeling I’d had when I was stuck somewhere that did nothing for my spirits.

In contrast to me, she needed the city for hers. And that’s where she’s lived since Uni.

That is not to say she doesn’t relish her trips home and the rural things we do like picnics and walks and encounters with wildlife and flowers. And when I’m visiting her we often find park walks to do from the city.

But we both know and accept what we each are, what each needs to thrive, and that those needs are completely different from the other.

It is SO important, I think, to know and accept that our children are NOT us. And allow them to be different. Allow them to be separate.

Allowing our children to be who they need to be, without judgement, and loving them for who they are without conditions, is a fundamental ingredient to being the parent we should be, a parent that all kids need. And inevitably one of the hardest parts!

But we get over it.

The most wonderful result, though, is that from that respect and loving acceptance the relationship can grow stronger despite the independence.

Independence means allowing our children to be who they need to be and loving them just the same – allowing their independence from us, and consequently practising our own independence from trying to keep them like us.

In fact, this is true of all relationships.

So love your children the way they are and in such a way which affords them the opportunity to discover who they need to be, whatever age they are, wherever that is. And make sure you’re not hanging onto keeping them like you.

The parenting endurance test!

January can feel like an endurance test!

I find it hard to keep my spirits on the bright side when my daily walk, which I take for that very reason – keeping bright, becomes grueling rather than graceful at this time of the year.

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The best bit of a wet January morning; shiny droplets on the winter flowering cherry

Recording my pictures on Instagram helps me focus on the charms rather than the challenges, even if I have to seek them sometimes.

But that’s a good way to get through all challenges; remind yourself of the best bits among life’s barrage.

A parent asked me recently how I managed to get through the challenge of the years home educating with such ‘patience and grace’?

The short answer is; I didn’t all the time!

For, although it is mostly the best bits I write about to encourage and inspire – and it is an inspiring thing to do – it is certainly a challenge, verging on an endurance test sometimes. But isn’t all parenting like that – not just home educating?

The thing is; you know your kids are absolutely delightful beings. You know you completely love them to bits. You know home educating is totally the best thing you’ve ever done. And you know you don’t want it any other way.

BUT…..

There are times you are inevitably going to shout ‘FFS’!!!

I had those times too.

You would also have those times if the children were in school – believe me!

The longer answer to the above question was that I built strategies to help me through the grueling bits. We need that with both parenting and home education.

You’ll need to take deep breaths – often.

You’ll need to step back and let be – often.

You’ll need to stop worrying – that’s a decision as much as any.

You’ll need to trust that time will sort it.

Get outside – often.

You’ll need to look after yourself – as much as the children. Your mental and spiritual well being is included in that; build strategies to help refocus when needed (like me with the Instagram).

And you need to winkle out the best bits. There are always good bits.

Seasons change. January passes. Kids grow. Family life changes rapidly. All challenges change just as rapidly too.

All will be well.

(For more enduring comfort and reassurance try my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Or just for mum support; ‘Mumhood’. See the books page for details)

Help with Mumhood and why it matters

“Oh! Have you written a motherhood book too?” said a new friend in surprise.

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‘Mumhood…’ Find it on Amazon; see the link below or read about it on the ‘My Books’ page

I suppose she wasn’t to know I had as we’d made the connection through home educating. And parents visiting here may think home schooling is my first love.

But actually, it isn’t. Parenting, and how important it is, must really be my first love and home education is generally an extension of that. (See my previous post). Therefore championing mums and the essential work they do is very close to my heart.

Mums are among the most important people on the planet. Although I think few acknowledge that fact. But mums do essential work.

What’s that then – some still ask?

Well; it’s only raising the next custodians of the planet, the next generation of scientists or surgeons who may well find the cure for cancer – who knows what their children will do. They may be raising the next politician who’ll find the answer to world peace. Or the next creators who’ll invent a facility as great as the Internet has become. Equally important are the mums raising the children who’ll do other vital jobs like caring or cleaning or teaching or farming, all of whom play a necessary and valid role in our lives. Not to mention the other essential roles mums play in showing children how to care, communicate, be considerate, grow respect, so that those children in turn will contribute to creating caring, respectful societies.

The role mums play in doing that requires time and attention and an example of love. Only by receiving those things will children learn what it they are and how to pass them on. And despite our enlightened age of equality, the truth is that it is mainly the mums who play the biggest part in that.

That’s what mums do. Fantastic or what?

Mums’ roles are constantly changing, as societies and culture and consequently human beings constantly evolve. So we need to be regularly updating our roles as mums and how we want to play them out within the new family group we are creating.

This is something we rarely give a thought to, dropping into our mumhood life, sometimes a little shocked after the birth and often so infatuated with this beautiful new being there’s no time to think! And sometimes, through neglecting to think that stuff out, we lose some of the satisfarction of being mums under the weight of hidden roles that come with it like; laundry maid, cleaning lady, skyvy to partner, general carer and dog’s body. All of which can conspire to make us less than optimistic about this lovely new mum job.

This book investigates these feelings and roles, poses some questions to ask yourself, and makes suggestions in the hope of leading these important mums towards experiencing the most fulfilling and love filled time in our life that being a mum can be!

Find it on Amazon here