Tag Archive | parenting

Back to work…screwing up courage

My little break away with Chelsea went far too quick – isn’t it always the way with holidays and loved ones. We tramped the city, visited the Fringe events (her production amazed me – so proud) and hugged a lot.

Too soon it’s time to say goodbye and the missing begins again. I imagine you’re with your little ones twenty four seven so you don’t get the missing yet, but although I swap the pavements back for the lush green and bursts of blossom I also love it doesn’t make up for the missing.

And the prospect of work is not made easier by returning to a caustic comment, on the blog before last, accusing me of arrogance. That hurts.

I try my hardest to offer a balanced perspective here. Why is it arrogant to say it how it is? I don’t think people realise what courage it takes for writers to put their work out there and how easily it’s broken!

I swap the cityscape for this view from my bedroom window on my return

I swap the cityscape for this view from my bedroom window on my return

Anyway, smoothing ruffled feathers I have other things to look forward to; new books to come out next month (more soon on that) and an event to think about where I’ll get to meet some of you which is always so inspiring.

And breaks in between will mean roaming out among the greenery and bloomery to sample the season’s delights.

It’s what helps my heart survive!

A visit and a tribute

The lovely Chelsea – not often I get a picture!

Getting all excited about having a few days away and visiting my eldest tomorrow.

It’s so long since she’s been under this roof and we all miss each other. Although we speak regularly on the phone there’s nothing like sharing moments in physical space close enough to hug!

I was thinking the other day how little blogging there is about older kids – if kids is the right word for grown up ones. You read of all the beautiful babies and of mums paying tribute to their gorgeous little people, nestled as they are under the muddled motherhood roof. And shining out of the muddle and challenge of early parenting you read about the love and the intensity of feelings we have for them that accompanies it.

Is there anything so deep and consuming as the love parents feel for their children. anything that feels so complete as your baby’s head under your chin or that circle of love and protection that you can surround these small beings with as you enfold them on your lap.

Well, that feeling is just as strong when they are grown, when you can’t enfold them quite as easily and they don’t always want it anyway. But it’s not something that’s often written about. So with mine in mind I thought I’d equal that up a bit for parenting doesn’t just finish with age!

Although the children and the love matures, it is still there. And so is that loving connection even if it isn’t connected by a roof.

When you start with small kids, especially when you home educate them, you’ll no doubt have the hope, as I did, that your love will stay as precious even after you’ve inflicted your parenting on them! That your relationships will stay strong as it always was and you still stay friends.

Well, I’m just paying tribute here to my two closest friends, my two beautiful children who’ve grown into amazing twenty-somethings, who are just as revered as all those babies you read about, whom I admire and respect as never before. And with whom I perhaps have an even stronger bond simply because you have to let it go and trust that now you have no control over it like you did when you could keep them with you, wherever they go and whatever they choose to do, the bond becomes unbreakable simply because it is their choice – as much as it is mine – unlike when they were little.

My two continue to amaze and inspire me in the way they grow and grab at life, as much as they did when they were toddlers, in the way they work and laugh and love, their courage and their strength.

Toddlers teens or twenty-somethings, they have never ceased to amaze.

So I thought I’d write something about the adult children as they are just as precious and surprising as babies and toddlers, and remain forever awesome!

More when I get back!

Navigating friends and Foes!

Friendships are fragile things. Kids inevitably make them and break them, whether they’re in school or home

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

educated. And whatever age they are. We adults do too, don’t we?

I read a little paragraph the other day in a random book which had nothing to do with parenting or home education but said that by keeping children clubbed together we are blocking them from learning what it is to be grown up.

I thought about all the children clubbed together in classrooms when I read that. Especially in comparison with those who are home educating in the wider world, with a high proportion of adults from whom to learn what it is to be adult and how to behave towards others with respect and compassion.

Ironic then, that people ask how home schooled kids will learn social skills! And continue to think that schools and classrooms do this. When in fact they don’t reflect the social world at all really.

Wherever your child is and whatever groups they belong to the hardest thing for a parent is to watch a child be hurt by friends. We torture ourselves with the thought of them on the receiving end of unkindness, being left out, or hostility.

It’s something we have to talk them through and help them deal with by encouraging honesty, diplomacy and compassion. Our own example will teach them most of all – you can’t tell them one thing and then behave differently yourself.

Looking back over our children’s lives, and the times they’ve had to deal with some of the ways so-called friends behave, I was thinking about how we helped them navigate these difficult times. Thought I’d post them here in case any are of use to you. Here they are:

  •  Staying on their side – always – even through inevitable mistakes
  • Always making relationships something you talk openly about
  • Helping them see we are all different and there will be things we don’t like about each other and that’s okay; sometimes we can tolerate them or compromise, sometimes it’s not worth it
  • Making time to listen
  • Encouraging empathy towards how others might be feeling and why this might affect their behaviour
  • Explaining that some friendships may need abandoning
  • Helping them move away from accusation, recrimination and blame, which never helps you to move on
  • Making sure our own relationships with our kids are based in honesty and respect, loyalty and trust, as this is the example of good ones they’ll hopefully have with others.

Friendships are magnificent, important, and where our security lies as much as anything. But it is inevitable that there will be times when they go sour. This is nothing to do with schools or home educating or parenting, it is just to do with human nature. We found that keeping an open dialogue with our children was the best way to support them and help them through.

It still is!

Don’t stick with what it says on the box – or in the school!

There were some interesting comments from Ben Fogle in the press recently as he drew an analogy between the development of Lego and the development of the education system, both of whom he feels had become increasingly prescriptive.

He says that once upon a time you bought boxes of random Lego bricks and created models yourself, now children are frustrated over prescriptive kits that require you to stick to instructions. And this sounds very like schooling which has become so prescriptive kids have little opportunity to build the skills, or learn the subjects, that interest them but have to stick with within restrictive boundaries dictated by others.

Thank goodness for the choice of home education where we can step beyond those prescriptions about learning and approach it another way.

But we also have a choice with the Lego don’t we? And isn’t the issue really about training minds to exercise choice and not stick always with what it says on the box? To be brave and imaginative enough to try other approaches – either with Lego or learning? Lessons or life?

This is indeed what home educators do all the time. And the knock on effect of this creates something else; for once you’ve broken out of the idea that everyone has to go to school in order to learn anything, I believe we develop the skills to see possibilities in breaking out of other frameworks of thinking that can hold us imprisoned if we don’t examine them.

No one has to be imprisoned by Lego kits! Child or adult (apparently there’s a huge Lego cult among adults now too – I watched a fascinating programme about it). And the more we encourage the children to look for possibilities beyond the preconceived or prescribed the more this develops their intelligence, creative thinking and mental aptitude. So equally no one has to be imprisoned by other aspects of life either.

So whatever activities we buy for the kids or encourage them to do, we can also encourage them to consider other possibilities.

We can do that with Lego and we can do that with life; we can encourage vision beyond what we think are boundaries but may not be so at all. Both require innovative thinking. And innovative thinking is as useful a skill for living as being able to follow instructions!

Bank holidays are always better outside

I just had a short trip to Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire recently. Nice to be in the hills after the flatland walks I usually take. My poor legs were totally shocked when I took them for a clamber. It was snowing and sunny at the same time but it didn’t stop me – I love a good clamber! And it’s just so good to be outside.

As you walk round there are lots of little prompts for activities for you to do with the kids – such a great idea as I know it’s hard to think up activities all the time. And this is what prompted me to prompt you to get outdoors with your youngsters this bank holiday whatever the weather. Because whatever mood they’re in it will be improved outside – even if you’re all a bit reluctant.

You also don’t have to be in a specific reserve to enjoy many of the activities that were suggested; you’d be able to engineer some of them on your doorstep. Things like:

  • building a den
  • rolling down a hill
  • climbing a tree
  • searching for creepy-crawlies
  • making an insect home
  • looking for treasure from feathers to stones to owl pellets to bits of pot

And you also don’t have to be rural to find paces to enjoy them either; a park will do, or riverside, – most cities have a river going through. Or a wood or a bit of wasteland. And you can find all sorts or wildlife in a churchyard or cemetery!

Just be spontaneous, get outside and go to whatever places are local to you and get some space, some weather, some learning about the environment and some physical activity. And if you can do it on foot you beat the bank holiday traffic too!

You’ll come back feeling better – trust me!

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.

You won’t ruin them on your own!

Chelsea’s working so hard at the moment. She’s initiated a new production for the Brighton Fringe

A bold and thought provoking production

this year and is working on it with friends. It’s an impressive undertaking and I so admire her, tinged with concern of course at how busy she is.

I look at our two young adults now and wonder how they got to be the wonderful people they are – it’s something you always worry about as a parent, particularly a home educating parent.

I know all our experiences shape us; from childhood, school, home education, family, work, whatever. And although we can control some of the experiences our youngsters have we’ll never control all of it however much we want to keep them sweet. And we certainly can’t control how they respond to those experiences – that response is inherent in them. We won’t be able to determine that entirely.

For it is never nurture (or nature) in isolation, as the debate leads us to believe, it is the interaction between the two that determines the people our kids become. It is the youngsters’ reaction to their experiences which determine how things turn out. So that is never entirely the parents’ fault. A lot is genetic.

That’s a comforting thought when you’re parenting, particularly if you’re a home schooling parent and worrying you may be ruining the children.

Be reassured; if you are ruining them – you won’t be ruining them on your own!

In fact, I’m sure you won’t be ruining them at all, it’s far more likely that by parenting with care and respect – and I guess you care and respect otherwise you probably wouldn’t be the type of parent visiting here and reading this – you will be developing those qualities in them. And this will in turn nurture caring and respectful responses to the world from them, thereby influencing a little how they respond and what they will become.

But mostly they do it for themselves, even if they make decisions based on our attitudes.

Chelsea is inherently who she is on her own. Maybe with snippets of attitudes she grew up with here in her early years, but mostly she’s chosen what she reckons are the best of what she’s seen for herself. That’s what they’ve been educated to do.

And seeing the choices she is making I can only be proud!