Tag Archive | relationships

Home educating time for yourself

“So how do you get time to yourself?”

This was one of the questions often asked by other parents when they discovered we were home educating and – shock horror – were with our kids all the time!

Sometimes, so appalled were they at the thought of not having the kids away from them in school all day, it even preceded the more important questions that were actually about learning and education! We generally got fewer of those – apart from the ones like ‘How do kids learn anything without being in school?’

Anyway, you’ll no doubt be gaining the answers to that as you progress through your home ed life.

But the time-to-yourself issue is very personal and different for everyone, depending on how much you feel the need for it, and how you want to manage it within the relationship with your children.

I say that because all our home ed is dependent on our relationships. And part of education is learning about relating to others with respect and consideration. And that’s at the core of finding time out for yourself, however it is needed.

It’s a subject I talk about in ‘A Home Education Notebook’.

And in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ I tell the story of how I first started practising this in a tangible (if laughable) way. I described how I’d tell the kids I was slipping upstairs to read quietly whilst they were happy playing and I’d be down to help with anything in a little while. Did it work? Well, after spending the first few sessions worrying myself sick at first about what was going on whilst I wasn’t there it developed into a habit I was able to practise with some success when I’d got to the end of my tether (yep – I wasn’t perfect!) and needed some time to myself. Didn’t always work. But evolved as the children grew. They do need to be at a certain age and stage of development to be able to manage it.

But I saw it as part of their social education – part of the give-and-take of living with others – they won’t always be living with their parents hard though it is to imagine when they’re young.

I explained it to them this way: when the kids were busy immersed in their playing or other individual pursuits I didn’t pester them as I could see they were busy. So referencing that, I talked to them about me needing time to be busy in my own way and I’d appreciate it if they could keep their requests for when I’d finished. This is part of the respectful way we interacted in the home and the way we learned together about having consideration for others’ personal space and privacy at times.

Everyone needs time out from each other who ever you are, whatever relationships you’re in; lovers, relatives, parents, kids, siblings, etc. Taking time apart is not a denunciation of love in any way and should not be tied up with that. It’s just a natural need, greater in some than in others. Some never need it at all. I actually need quite a lot of solitude. Sod’s law I have far too much now and can go head-crazy! 😉

I just thought I’d mention it in case you’re one of the parents who I’ve heard about that can feel guilty wanting time away from their kids. We need time away from our partners, or our own parents too on occasion – but somehow that isn’t something we feel so guilty about.

Guilt has nothing to do with your personal need for personal space. We are all individuals and should take the time we need, asking for respect for those needs from the people we love. Respect is an essential ingredient to all loving relationships. If you need time out – arrange it.

And then you can go on loving your kids in the way you want and building a strong respectful relationship with them that will last a lifetime.

As ours has.

Here they are on a recent visit home; Charley left, Chelsea right

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Hurtful and potentially damaging

I sit in a cafe where no one is talking. Everyone has their head down. Do they all hate each other? Are they depressed?

No – they’re staring at their phones.

Phones distract from real social interaction study shows; click the pic for the article

A child pipes up in a train carriage with a reasonable question for his mum about their journey. At first she ignores him and continues to stare blankly at her phone. So does everyone else in the carriage. He asks again, a little louder. So she yanks her earphones out her ears with a vicious glare and screams at him to leave her alone – she’s already told him – will he shut up – and various other hurtful remarks. Then she returns to watching her screen. He has no such entertainment and has to be content with nothing. And learn nothing about interaction but a lot about how it’s okay to ignore one another if you’ve got a phone in your hand. For that’s what most folks are doing.

We recognise additions to drugs and alcohol but we’re soon going to have to acknowledge addictions to technology which some people use compulsively. Not to mention to excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Like alcohol changes behaviour and severe alcoholism can ruin relationships I fear that compulsive checking of notifications and absorption in social media or gaming could be sending us the same way. We may have more facilities than ever with which to communicate but is this diminishing our skills to do so in warm humane ways, face to face? Diminishing interactions which communicate feelings and meanings more accurately than a digital emoji can. It’s certainly in danger of ruining our parenting and trashing the responsibility we have of teaching kids how to be social.

People would once have chit-chatted to strangers at the next table, on the next seat or in the bus queue. Now we’re all heads down creating isolation and distance. We’re learning how to ignore the person next to us in the room – familiar or stranger – by engaging with others miles away, or by gaming, which can overtake the desire to connect with anyone at all.

It’s easier not to. Our phones give us a chance to disengage and close ourselves in a digital bubble, avoiding the slight social difficulty of face to face, eye to eye.

The trouble is, apart from the fact that it is deskilling the youngsters – well and the oldsters too who are supposed to be setting an example – disengagement leads to desensitisation. Desensitisation makes it easier not to care. When you care less you can commit offenses and crimes against others more easily, you can bully more easily, you can disassociate the responsibility we all have to care for one another and maybe be polite to one another which makes a day go round more pleasantly than screaming.

I don’t know what preceded the incident on the train when mum sounded off loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. I acknowledge we’re all driven to less than acceptable behaviour with our kids on occasion, although she kept it up all journey. But I do know that kid did not deserve to be spoken to like that – no one does. Or be ignored for the rest of the hour’s journey without anything to do. He needed his own phone! Better still, he needed someone to talk to.

We all do. However updated we all are, and connected as we need to be to modern communications, it is nothing more than hurtful to be in the company of someone who clearly seems to prefer to communicate with someone else. It hurts us all; child or adult.

And it’s something we perhaps need to give serious thought to as we parent and prepare our kids for the wider world. Phones are absolutely brilliant. But we have to consider and take charge of them and their place in society, not have them in charge of us. Or replace the time given to the warm loving interactions we all inherently need.

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!

5 elements of parenting (and education) that are important

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ in a rare academic moment!

I often think back to our Home educating days when the children were younger and things seemed a little simpler.

Yea – I know it’s hard to believe it’s simple right now if you’ve got a complex life with younger ones. And maybe those former days weren’t simpler as I imagine – they were just different!

Anyway, instead of the parent/child relationships we had then we now have parent/adult relationships, with best friend thrown in too.

These adult relationships, with those little girls featured in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, are something I truly treasure. We love spending time together, we have a giggle together, they still share, and trust my support and – dare I say – wisdom! And I theirs; they teach me a lot too!

Recently someone sent me a lovely comment and expressed the hope that their own relationship with their little ones would turn into the adult ones we have now.

It made me wonder what it was that got us to this point, whether there were particular elements of parenting that aid the process.

I would say the answer lies in the elements of any relationships and is not necessarily to do with children; there’s not one rule for kids and another for grown-ups, as some seem to think. It’s just about being together and caring for one another in respectful ways.

So I came up with what I considered to be the five most important elements of our parenting, and home educating, in fact, of any relationship:

Respect – Children learn this by demonstration, by your respectful behaviour. They need to be shown the same respect as you expect from them, as you’d wish them to show to others, as you show to others. It’s derived from listening, responding, care, compromise, tolerance, talking, give and take and understanding on a mutual basis. Also from self-respect. And it has to be consistent.

Honesty – Children know when we are not honest. They learn their honesty from us. They need to be able to trust us. You have to be brave to be honest, find ways to explain even if it’s difficult. We are all human; make mistakes, get it wrong. We can admit it. Apologies work wonders. But you always have to be fair even when it’s hard. This will earn their respect too.

Communication – Always communicate, share, explain, inquire, request, listen. All relationships are based on communication whoever they’re between. Even the tiniest moments of communication can have enormous impacts. They also show you care for and respect them.

Space – It’s okay to have space from the children, as we would want space from any family members! It is not a reflection of how much we love our kids if we want to have some time away from them, just as it’s not a reflection of love for a partner if we want time apart! Space from each other helps each identify who they are.

Balance – I don’t think extremes in any aspect of life are healthy. Rules are sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Everything we do with our children – or with any relationship – should always be up for scrutiny, review and refreshment within the perspective of what we learn as we all grow together. We need to balance things like saying no with saying yes, being firm when it’s important with being able to compromise, being a playmate, being a protector. You balance many hats as a parent, the way you behave as you do so can make or break your relationship with your children and the adults they’ll become.

And of course everything here is based in LOVE. I took it for granted that element would be there anyway!

Challenging the addiction to getting

Is it just me or is there far too much emphasis on ‘getting’ in our culture?

So many aspects of our lives are bombarded with images of getting. Getting more. Getting bigger. Getting newer. Getting updated. Getting thinner. Getting the games. Getting beauty. Getting better than the next man.

If we’re not careful, even our parenting can be occupied with getting. The educational system certainly is.

It perpetuates the ‘getting’ doctrine. Get grades, get results, get higher than your peers, get further up the tables. Get better degrees or more degrees to get more wages to get more stuff. Adverts tell us that more stuff for our kids makes us better parents. Getting more grades makes a better education.

Does it? Rubbish!

Getting is addictive. Are we leading our children towards this addictive way of life? Towards a way of feeling that as soon as the quick fix from the latest thing you’ve got wears off you have to get another one. Towards feeling that we’re not as good as others if we haven’t got the latest, newest update that others have.

This way of life is a self-perpetuated treadmill driven by big industry and the politics that supports it, also perpetuated in our schools.

Schools threaten pupils with having no life without getting the grades. But that’s political, not personal about the student; the reality is that without the pupils getting the grades the schools don’t get themselves higher up the league tables and get the rewards they’re after. They never mention the fact that people can and do lead happy successful lives even without getting, by progressing through life in different ways.

One of the dangers of this getting is that it pulls us away from being good and being giving.

It would be nice to have a cultural shift away from a getting style of parenting and education, away from a getting style of learning, to a style more filled with giving.

Giving attention. Giving time. Giving respect. Giving inspiration experiences. Giving love.

Those are the things that children need both for their well being and for their education.

You can’t ‘get’ education any more than you can ‘get’ goodness. Both those things can only ever be developed in themselves. And if you’re not educated in goodness you’re not educated at all because goodness is a quality of intelligence that goes hand in hand with an educated person.

A life that is joyful and good is a life that is full of warm loving relationships, also part of a rounded educated person.

You cannot get those you can only grow them. A ‘getting’ approach won’t help. Being a warm, giving human being will.

My dream is for the emphasis in our culture to change from getting to giving, for education to change from getting to growing. Growing warm, loving human beings with a sensitive intelligence that is of value to each other and the wider world.

That’s a priority with education and parenting surely?

New best friends

A serious moment – there won’t be many of those!

I’m getting to see one of my two newest and bestest friends next week and I’m as over excited as a little child. Because she also happen to be one of my daughters.

Your children can be your best friends too. That’s a lovely thought isn’t it; that you’re not only raising children you’re raising new best friends!

That doesn’t mean cloying or possessive relationships – best friends are not like that anyway. It’s just about relationships and you’re sowing the seeds and building the skills for good ones right from when they’re tiny.

While many parents – and teachers too – often want to be the best friends of the children they are looking after, they sometimes forget what it is about friends that makes them so, what makes for that special relationship.

Sometimes it’s interpreted as all give and no take – that’s not a healthy way to forge relationships. Sometimes it’s misunderstood as making the other feel all-important to the sacrifice of the self – that’s not right either. Some people think that if they always give in to what the other demands it will secure friendships – nope!

That special relationship – in fact all relationships – are built around reciprocation. They’re two-way. Both give and take.

Take respect. Respect is essential in relationships. But it has to be mutual – demanded as well as given. This happens through behaviour. We have to behave in ways that others will respect – always – no short cuts. And we show respect for others if they behave in ways that command it. That’s important whether those others are adults or children.

And this mutuality works whatever it is we are giving and receiving within a relationship; with compassion and empathy, loyalty and support, understanding and trust, honesty and communication. All these are fundamental to good relationships, to good parenting, to good friends. They’re all necessary for relationships to properly work.

And they are demonstrated by the way you behave towards your children and the way in which you guide them to behave towards you and others. Everyone is as equal and important as each other in relationships. It’s never about competition or being boss or one-up. It’s a mutual demonstration of behaviour.

The other thing this approach will show your kids as well as how to be best friends, whether that’s to you or others, is how much they are valued.

Your children will feel as valued and important by having the chance to return that love and support and friendship you give, as they will receiving it. Children feel valued by knowing what they give to you, as well as by what they receive. You’ll know for yourself as an adult that it is lovely having friends you can turn to, but it’s also a lovely feeling knowing that you are a valued and trusted friend to someone else.

These things show children how to be good friends to others, an important part of their progress towards happy and enduring relationships. And one day they might become your best friend too. How lovely will that be!

It is – take it from me!

And I’m off next week to spend some time with one of mine. Hugs will be shared, chat will be endless and cake will be involved! Here’s wishing the same for you one day too!

How do you stand your kids….

A sneaky peak in her den!

A sneaky peak in her den!

How do you stand you kids round you all the time? We got asked that a lot when we home educated.

Weird that! You don’t get asked how you stand your partner round you all the time when you live with someone or get married.

I know it’s not the same obviously, but the concept of relationships is still the same. We connect and commit to the people we love. That’s why we have them! Being with them a huge amount is nice. I loved having my kids round me.

But like any relationship it has to be managed.

Being lovingly committed doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be with our loved ones every single moment – wouldn’t your partner drive you mad if you were? And it means we organise our relationships to include healthy times apart or do separate things in the same space like one watching TV whilst the other reads a book. Separate but lovingly together.

It works similarly with home education and actually with parenting too.

Firstly you have children because you actually like to be with them don’t you? Home educating is just and extension of that.

Secondly, a different way of being together develops once the school stress is alleviated and your kids realise you’re on their side. Also when they know they have lots of your attention, they actually don’t demand it all the time.

Thirdly, as a parent, you build a little independence in your children where you can be lovingly together – independently sometimes, as well as apart.

And fourthly you encourage an understanding that each needs a little space from each other at times for relationships to endure. Which is part of respectful parenting.

The amount you do this depends on the maturity of the children and you can develop it as they grow. Here are some ideas to help achieve it:

–          We kept some toys and activities that are fresh which absorbed them more than those they’re used to. When we got this secret stock out (charity shops are good for ‘new’ supplies) we could turn our focus to other jobs for a while.

–          Small children are fascinated by the things around the house that you use or do. I.e. being at the sink with water and pots and pans, old technology to play with or dismantle, tools in the garden, foodstuffs to ‘cook’ with. Be inventive and create activities for them which free you up for some private space whilst they’re absorbed.

–          Making a ‘new’ den in an unusual place that they don’t frequent (bath, shed, stairs). Being out of sight behind a curtain, but in the same room, helps build independence. It’s fascinating listening to them when they forget you’re there as they can’t see you…except you need to use this space from them as a bit of time for you! Ours used to take a hoard of toys in there and picnics of course.

–          Be wise with time when you’re doing separate things and use it to recharge. Their time on computers/telly etc is useful for this, but at other times you need to be involved with these too.

–          Talk and explain about respect for personal time; you don’t disturb them when they’re busy playing, you need them to do the same for you. Always make sure they get the attention they need afterwards.

–          Providing materials to invent, create or construct with inspires kids to be busy. These don’t necessarily have to be expensive. Keep collections of things like; boxes, paper, buttons, cartons, woodcuts, jars…recycling centres are a good resource.

–          We sometimes arranged time swaps with other parents and friends and relatives.

–          We soon become stale with familiar activities so seek new ones, or new angles on old activities, new places to visit.

–          All these ideas change and develop with the children. It might be that you can only achieve a minute or two of independent time at first. But as they grow you can develop this idea to suit the needs of your family.

–          Talk to them about how you want to manage this, what your needs are and what they need too. A habit of discussion develops respect for each other which is paramount to relationships, even if it is minimal when they’re really little.

Home educating is a wonderful opportunity to be with your children, watch them grow, develop and step out into the world. There was never an occasion when we wished that they were off our hands in school. I’m not saying that there weren’t arguments and fall outs. But actually these are inevitable in parenting anyway whether home educating or not!