Tag Archive | parenting

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!

 

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’)

Home education – in case you didn’t know!

Wow! I can’t believe I started this blog in 2009 and I don’t think I’ve missed a week’s post in all that time. Mostly I’ve posted twice. What do I ramble on about?

Well, mostly about home education, although parenting comes into it too because that’s an essential part of it. And kids and books. And there are seasonal rambles out in the countryside which is where I’d rather be instead of under the laptop! I’ve published five more books since then and watched my teens grow into mature, working young people who amaze me with their drive and accomplishments.

Most of my writing has been to raise awareness, understanding and confidence in out-of-school education because it works – people need to know that. In many posts I’ve set out the facts so the endless myths about home schooling can be dispelled.

Here are some of them again in case you’re new to home educating or need some to pass on to others doubting your choice!

All sorts of approaches to learning!

  • Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other young people. All of those I know have done so. Their academic, social, intellectual and personal skills, reputed to be in advance of their school peers, are what got them there.
  • Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities, with loyal friends. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills and confidence standing them in good stead for interviews etc.
  • Home education/home schooling both refer to educating out of school although most don’t like the term homeschooling as it suggests ‘school at home’ which it isn’t, there are other approaches to learning. And the word ‘home’ in the title is a misnomer anyway since much of the learning takes place outside of the home, with others, in the community visiting places like museums, galleries, libraries, sports halls, going on field trips and other activities, etc.
  • Many families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
  • Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
  • Home educating families are mostly as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
  • Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
  • In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse which is often cited as a reason to ‘monitor’ home educating families. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

Do feel free to share these on!

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!

A good reason to spill milk regularly!

I wanted to share a story I read this morning: 

When he was two a little lad was trying to take a bottle of milk out of the fridge when he dropped it and the entire contents went all over the kitchen. Instead of a cross reaction or judgement mum said; ‘What a wonderful mess you’ve made, I’ve never seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well the damage is already done so would you like to get down and play in it before we clean it up?’ Of course he did.

After a few minutes mum said; ‘Whenever we make a mess like this we have to eventually clean it up, so how would you like to do that? Sponge? Towel. Or mop? Which do you prefer?’

Once it was cleaned up she then said; ‘What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. So let’s go out into the back yard with a big bottle of water and see if you can discover a way of carrying it without dropping it’. And they did!

What a wonderful way to show that the circumstances we usually judge as disasters – and often attach shame to – can instead be used as opportunities. And if our kids can go through life with that attitude towards mistakes and failures then they are set up to continue towards achievement, whatever goes wrong along the way. In fact, we could all do with that attitude.

I read it in Jack Canfield’s book ‘The Success Principles’, another of those books I dip into to give me the proverbial kick-up-the…!

It’s something I need regularly when I’ve used up all my inspirational energy encouraging others through my writing and forget I need to recharge my own sometimes!

It just struck me as a wonderful way to parent. Wished I’d managed it more!

It’s such a great philosophy: to turn those little mishaps kids have, which sometimes leave us wallowing in frustration, into a positive opportunity to grow and learn – and have fun! The most important thing to learn being that it’s okay to get it wrong and make mistakes – kids and parents – because they are an essential part of the growing and learning process, and nothing that we need to feel bad about in any way. Even the most famous and succesful will have messed up at times.

So have a good day with the kids, have fun messing up, and see what you can create and learn out of proverbial spilt milk!

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!