Tag Archive | parenting

Teach them everyday food habits

Isn’t food info confusing? You think you’re guiding the children towards a healthy habit of eating then new research comes along and challenges it and you find it’s not so healthy after all.

I watched the programme; ‘Trust me, I’m a doctor’ last night and discovered that several of the habits I thought were healthy turn out not to be!

One was the idea of using healthy oils, like sunflower or vegetable oils, to cook with as an alternative to the demonised butter. On the programme it showed that some of these oils. although okay in the cold state like perhaps in salad dressing, were quite unhealthy once cooked as the heating process released harmful substances.

The other surprise was to do with organic food. There is no doubt that growing organic food is far, far better for the environment. But tests they’d conducted for the programme showed that in view of our personal health, the fact that veg were organically grown or not made little difference.

One good piece of news for me was that the claims made about the health benefits of the extortionately priced Manuka honey were just a con. The cheap brands, which are all I can afford, were just as beneficial. Excellent – I always had my suspicions anyway, being aware of selling hype.

One of the benefits of having the children learning at home with you is that you can plan meals, talk about nutrition, shop for, cook and eat together and incorporate a healthy approach to food choices and eating into your everyday habits.

It is these lifestyle habits and routines established at home with you, in particular what and how you parents eat, that influences the children in the long run. Your attitudes inform theirs really. And learning how to feed themselves well is an essential aspect of education.

Okay so they might dodge into a fast food chain occasionally, especially when they’re teens, but we don’t have to be perfect. The best we can do is be conscious and educate them to be aware. To discuss, to develop healthy habits and to educate them to the idea that the fuel we put in our bodies affects not only our physical health, our heart and other organs, stamina and muscle tone, but also our mental and emotional health too. It’s worth being conscious of it.

Just as I am conscious that too much chocolate is bad for me, despite my desire for it. And I might even get around to trying the method they suggest in the programme to wean me from it!

That’s going to take one helluva lot of imagining…!

Tolerance for those who do it differently

I’m hatching a follow up to my newest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’books 001

We’ve had some lovely reviews. But I’m also trying to take on board the not so lovely ones and make adjustments, give people what they want.

Some want an image of Home Ed respectability and felt Little Harry will give home schoolers a bad reputation. Others complained it was an image of a structured family and left others out. It’s difficult knowing who to please!

It’s also difficult to capture a good story with just a few words to play with. Far easier to indulge a writer’s passion for lots and lots of them!

Some of the children’s stories I’ve read in the past have been fantastic. Some not so good.

The best, I think, are stories that leave you wondering and talking with the children, like ‘Horrid Henry’ (by Francesca Simon) – what a child! Or ‘Pippi Longstocking’ (Astrid Lindgren), who lives outside all our preconceptions. Or books with a message like ‘Wonder’ (P J Palacio) which raises our awareness of our response to children with facial disfigurement.

I suppose my message with Harry was that whoever they are and whatever they are doing children have reasons for what they do. Admittedly some of these doings need moderating as they mature and increase their understanding of why certain actions might not be desirable, if they want to become happy and involved members of society that is. But we need to show patience and understanding in our guidance until they get there.

And especially tolerance of all the different types of people there are in the world. And of those who want to do it differently.

Home educating families are among those who want to do things a bit differently.

But everyone is different really; all children are different whether in school or out, all parents are different. All writers are different too and produce a different kind of work.

Tolerance and understanding are the keys to us all living gracefully together whoever we are and whatever we purport.

How wild are you?

Nothing like taking some time over the weekend to sit among the rose petals and read. Although I don’t think that’s quite what Simon Barnes meant in the book of his I was reading; ‘How To Be Wild’! wild book 002

This is a trip through various wild places with him, mostly on his doorstep in Suffolk, but also in Zambia, as he talks about our connection with the natural world and why we need it. How we need to preserve it. I was drawn to it through that mutual interest and the fact the marshes he walks through are so like the ones I also frequent when I’m getting my regular dose of the wild.

I couldn’t thrive without this connection. I think many people can’t, but maybe they haven’t recognised that fact. We need to keep in touch with wildness to understand that it runs through our own genes however sophisticated and concreted we try and make our lives.

Our health needs it, our psyche needs it. But most don’t get enough of it – some don’t get any contact with wild places and the natural world. Sadly, many kids don’t – some are almost afraid of it.

If our children have no contact then they’ll have little regard, because contact breeds knowledge and understanding. We are spawned from the wild and basically need to preserve it in order to preserve ourselves. Experience is the starting point for understanding.

Simon lists a number of ways to reconnect with the wild. All of which are doable with family. Here are some of them:

  • Walk. Get out from under rooves and walk under the sky. Even in a city this has benefits as there is always something natural to observe.
  • Sit. Anywhere you can breathe in air and even better if it’s a natural open space. Observe.
  • Drink; although I interpret this as picnic with family and kids. Do it outside.
  • Learn. Name what you see, Keep adding to the list of things you can name. With technology you can identify something in an instant, flower, bird, tree, insect, whatever…
  • Read. And research. Especially about the environment, the planet, the species. Explore nature websites and charities.
  • Visit. Find wild places to visit. These don’t always have to be organised nature reserves. A river walk, wood or wasteland that’s less well known may be nearby without you ever having realised.
  • Join. Volunteer. Get involved. There may be branches of wildlife groups near you to be involved with and check out the less well known ones like Buglife or Plantlife as well as the larger ones like The National Trust or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Now the summer’s here see how wild you can be. There’s nothing quite like gathering a clan together and getting out there. You’ll make a difference to your life and you’ll make a difference to the environment by extending your contact and thus your understanding, and that of the next generation who’ll one day be it’s guardians.

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.

 

Precious moments

20150604_144804When they’re little, it’s important to spend as much time with them as you can. This is the groundwork for their development and education.

When they’re older those times all together become increasingly rare. And very precious.

Which is why this is substituting for a blog post. I’m spending a bit of time with these two and making the most of precious moments! :)

Introducing Natty…

flowers DSUbook 004You must be sick of hearing me harp on about my new book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ so I’m going to talk about someone else’s.

‘I Love You Natty’ is a book written and produced by the family from DownsSideUp an award winning blog, raising awareness of Down’s Syndrome and bringing comfort and reassurance to many.

I’m sure their book will do the same. It’s written through the voice of Mia, Natty’s big sister, and shows something of what it’s like in a family with a Down’s Syndrome child. Not only is it a really moving text, the illustrations and book itself is utterly exquisite and I’m dead jealous!

Hayley, Natty and Mia’s mum, has done such a mammoth amount of work to increase understanding of Down’s and bring comfort to parents who may be experiencing it for the first time and feeling daunted. She’s provided many with a reassuring hand to hold and this book provides another one, especially for a sibling, helping to make those experiencing the condition less alone.

Hayley and I first met when she included a home education approach in addressing Natty’s learning needs.

Children with particular needs are often left floundering in the school system and some parents find that home schooling gives the opportunity to tailor educational approaches to their individual.

There are so many ways learning can be approached; home educating means parents are able to provide stimulating experiences, practical activities, and follow a different schedule in order to best provide for their individual child. This can mean that potential failure in a classroom setting can be turned into educational success.

I’m wishing Mia and Natty and all the family all the very best with their delightful book.

Find them at www.downsideup.com And you can order copies of their book on Amazon.