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Unschooling the Brady's

life hand in hand

Kindness isn’t Taught

My 2.5 year old is the sweetest and kindest little human. As  I observe him day by day, interacting with his brothers and us as his parents, I can see how much kindness radiates from his little soul. When his brothers are hurt, he quickly rushes to their side, are you ok? Can I help you? Bringing a blanket or a soft cushion for comfort. In his play I can hear his sweet little sorry as he accidentally knocks into someone, his exuberant thank you when his brother offers him a toy to play with. He is gentle with me, stroking my face and back when we lie together in the early mornings.

Here is the thing. This nature of his, was not taught. I have never once asked him to say thank you, I have never forced a ‘Ta’ or an apology. I regret this was something I did with my other three children. Isn’t that what any involved parent did? Teach children to use manners?

What I have come to understand from raising my youngest without the traditional methods of teaching manners, is that children are not incomplete humans. They don’t need to be taught kindness, generosity, empathy. It is already part of who they are. What parents can do is treat their children as a whole human being. In honouring their spirit we recognise that we are in relationship, not an unequal dynamic of parent child, teacher and student. Our children will be apart of our own evolution as much as we are of theirs. We can help them shine brightly if we do not stomp on their spirit.

Studies have shown that children who are forced to share, or are rewarded for sharing, using manners, saying sorry. Exhibit less of these behaviours naturally than their counterparts who were not praised or rewarded for the same behaviours. Psychology tells us that human behaviours such as empathy and kindness do not increase rather decrease with traditional parenting methods.

In my own experience when we transitioned to a more consensual and respectful partnership, my three older children, who I had previously praised for using manners, sharing and who I also encouraged forcibly to apologise. Now demonstrated less of those traits. For many this would be an indication of how respectful parenting does not work. However it is not the absence of traditional parenting but the previous paradigm of parent child inequality, that has interfered with their natural behaviour. The disrespect I showed my own children in trying to “teach” them to use manners was visible in their behaviour towards me and their siblings. It surely highlighted to me that without rewards/punishments those things I was trying to encouraged were less noticeable.

Yet here was a little person who has never been praised, rewarded, punished. Showing more kindness than any one else in the family.

It has me thinking. Because children have been predominately brought up in this paradigm, we have lost vision of what children really are like without interference. I now know it is not necessary to teach a child manners. In doing so with my older children, I have skewed their perspective of kindness. Kindness means “pleasing adults to meet my own needs”. My youngest is kind because this is what he has lived, he has been treated this way from day one. He knows this is how we live in relationship with others.

So instead “teaching manners” what can we do instead? Over the last 18 months we have moved to live in a more consensual and respectful relationship with our children. This means, we treat them as we ourselves would like to be treated. We are kind, generous, forgiving, respectful. Not because we are trying to get a particular outcome but because it is what they deserve. It is taking time but I can see the healing done from past parenting. I can see kindness seep back into their relationships with one another, I can see their perspective changing. They are no longer needing to please adults in order to get their needs met, they are no longer relying on extrinsic motivation for being a  kind human.

I am most certain, that kindness is not taught. It is shared, it flows back and forth like a river between partners. So let your river flow!!!!!

We aren’t Hands free, we are Hands on.

Could it be one of the most controversial topics?  ‘Screen-time’. Anytime I have clicked a link to an article about the use of technology, in particular “screens” use in children, it clearly divides the masses. Its a topic with many different layers and I think its difficult to really place a one size fits all solution. I think for many families parents are really unsure how to navigate the issue of ‘screen time’, with most things unknown we tend to follow the idea that limiting or removing it is the best option. It seems to be agreed upon by many that the alternative, giving children more freedom with technology is negligent, people might assume  that a family who has less restrictions on screens are completely hands off. That their children sit hour apon hour watching tv while they hang out in the other room getting some zzzsss. I am here to tell you that there is an alternative, and its very hands on.

For those who have followed our journey from the beginning, you will know that we have previously been a very ‘hands free’ household. Limiting screen time from early on, encouraging explorations of the natural world and expressing a  dislike for technology as a whole and its apparent damaging effect on children.

You may also know, that we began our journey into homeschooling this way but decided to approach the issue of screen time completely differently. Embracing it rather than being fearful. After realising that technology was becoming a bigger influence in our children’s childhood than what I had experienced growing up, I was naturally fearful of allowing something new into our home without significant amount of research. So research I did. We decided, after looking further into what information was out there, that we would be open minded and open our home to the world of technology,  exploring this with our children. We have learnt about its uses, its history, how it can be a useful tool, how it opens the door to a world of knowledge, while at the same time being aware of some of the dangers lurking on the internet.

By opening the door to the unknown, we really had a lot of learning to do. However we found, that by not relying on limits to keep control over our children’s technology use, we opened the door to experience a greater connection with them and a much more respectful partnership. Many people advocate for being hands free, meaning putting away our devices and limiting technology. While I think connection is the goal here for this sentiment, I don’t think that necessarily needs to come from restricting technology. If your finding yourself on your phone all day while your child plays then yes maybe making steps in that direction is a good idea, but if your wanting to engage with your children more and be more connected you don’t have to restrict all their devices. I have come to dislike the idea, that limiting technology is the answer to enjoying a more initmate and connected relationships with our children. The experience has been very different for our family. The difference with not restricting screen time is that we are very hands on. I think as parents we can be fearful of technology not only because of much of what we have read, or heard about how it causes children to be overstimulated zombies. But also because we feel an incredible amount of guilt for allowing our children to sit in front of a screen while we do what we have to do. So we rely on these limits to give us the illusion of keeping our children safe.

Hands on Technology gives us an alternative. It means that you can still be a connected and engaged parent who is supporting your child in whatever he chooses to do. Hands on means having to delve into their interests. It means researching new games, new platforms, new servers, helping to get through the next challenge. Recently my 8 year old  wanted to find out how to get rainbow dye for his character in one of his games. This involved both of us sitting down together, watching a video, pausing it writing it down, drawing and taking pictures of each step. There were 9 different components some of which were challenging. It took him a whole day to complete. I was with him and helped him complete it. I helped him get comfortable, offered him snacks, offered to help him look for cheats,  I cheered and was equally as excited as he was, when he did it because we had worked on that goal together. He had persisted at a goal and achieved it. Even through his frustration he persisted. Which to me is amazing. I would have given up. This can happen in so many ways with technology. If we stop being afraid of it. Sitting with your child and discussing the development of characters in the favourite series, helping them to animate their toys, joining a game and exploring their incredible creations.

I also believe that we often set limits in order to keep our children safe, which comes from a good place but in doing so we often set them up to fail. Parents often don’t communicate to their children early enough the dangers and possible set backs of being online. By restricting their time online or controlling what content they are exposed to, we miss a valuable opportunity, for them to learn about a world that they will inevitably come across when they are in their teens or younger. A time, when they are less likely to listen to our words of doubt or concern. By creating an environment of parental control and distance between you and your child, we often create the very situation we fear. A situation where a child reaches his teens and ends up hiding his technology use from his parents, behind closed doors, ashamed and afraid and really not prepared.

I am not saying throw your child in front of graphic content as soon as possible. I am saying that by engaging with your child, being by their side, watching what they are watching with them, you are with them when they have questions, and you can prepare them for things that they might see or find that are uncomfortable or potentially dangerous. It also means that they aren’t worried about your judgment, and aren’t scared to come to you when it really matters.  Children don’t want to be in scary situations, they don’t want to watch things they aren’t comfortable with, when it isn’t something limited or controlled. Often my sons will ask to watch something that may be over their age bracket, so I will watch it first. Then I will tell them what scenes they might find uncomfortable and then they get to make the choice whether it is something they want to watch. Often they will turn it down, sometimes we watch it and I skip through things for them.

It reminds me of a story from when I was growing up. I had a fairly strict bed time, going to bed at 830pm every evening, even when I was in my teen years. Not always because I had to, but because that was the time I got tired. I remember never really watching anything scary or over PG rated and I do remember listening, to kids at school talk about  popular shows on tv and Aussie comedies they had watched after 830. I felt like I was missing out somehow. My parents allowed me to stay home one evening without them and I remember watching a number of shows that would have been deemed inappropriate and far too scary for me. But I couldn’t stop watching them, my eyes were glued to the screen, not turning my head away. I had nightmares for months after that night.

Without relying on limits we also have a greater understanding of what things our children are uncomfortable with, I was unaware of what things they avoided or didn’t like and what themes made them frightened. I had one of those aha moments when my boys were sat down to watch a popular new children’s movie on Netflix, at one point my oldest 7 ran out of the room crying and hiding behind a wall, my other boys asked to turn it off. I was bewildered because to me it wasn’t frightening but on discussing it further we realised that they were frightened by the friends turning on each other, the animals suddenly turned on their friends. It was unpredictable and frightening. It was something we learned together and we were able to talk more about how and why that was upsetting for them. Amazingly a movie that I myself thought was disturbing they thought was funny.

I love that they are able to learn far more about themselves this way. With limits we limit the possibilities of learning and restrict it only to what we deem appropriate which often, is just not. Demonising technology is not the answer. Young people are wired to become accomplished in the tools of their culture and for our children’s generation its technology, if we restrict their access completely they miss a wonderful opportunity to explore an incredible platform for learning. It also doesn’t have to have the dreaded outcome that some research suggests. How do I know? Because I have witnessed it with my own eyes, because I have spoken to countless families who have also seen the joy in their own children and disagree entirely with the idea that technology makes us distant from our children, that our children become hyperactive, unfocussed and damaged in some way.

I get that we are afraid, there  is an abundance of research out there that will infer a parent who doesn’t restrict access to technology is negligent.  But I just don’t buy it anymore. All of our children have unlimited access to an Ipad, Xbox, and pc. They can play on it whenever they want for as long as they want, they are never told its time to put it away, they are never told those things are bad for you and you should go play outside instead, technology is never used as a bribe for good behaviour. It is just another tool they can use to learn with, have fun, and connect with their friends with.  We share the enjoyment together, playing together, learning together and being very hands on. I am their partner in helping them achieve what they want, not their opposition.

But won’t they just watch tv and play on their iPad all day? Initially that was something we witnessed but as we delved into what they were doing, we were able to see that it was much more than just “screen time”. They were exploring an array of different interests and learning an incredible amount, listening to music, playing with photography, animation, mathematics, building, creativity, story telling and much more. Now 1 year later my children still enjoy using their Ipad’s, computers and tv but I often find that several days will pass and they don’t even pick it up. The greatest gift I have given them by not controlling their usage is confidence in themselves. I haven’t allowed my own fear to predetermine what interest of theirs is of value and what is not. I haven’t allowed my judgement of their activities fill them with self doubt and shame. I haven’t allowed my own perspective to cloud their own view of themselves or the world, and I have opened the door for it to be something very hands on and joyous. Not something they do on their own without my input. We play together and laugh and enjoy all that it can be. We also discuss more than we ever did when we had strict parental controls.

And guess what, they aren’t zombies. They are clever, curious, happy, engaged, passionate, always seeking more, joyful children. Technology has not dulled their imagination in anyway, in fact it has been the opposite, it has enhanced it for them. The impossible has become the possible. I often get comments on how creative my children are, how busy they seem to be with creating, playing elaborate games and being inspired.  I have also found it to be true that the more you limit something the more of an appeal it has. They find so many other activities enjoyable now and even more so than before. Funnily enough, I can rarely get them to sit and watch a movie with me anymore, they are too busy with so many more interesting things.

Even if they didn’t, even if they wanted to follow their passion of gaming, which my oldest is most passionate about that would be ok too.

It is also important to remember that many of the studies done on children and technology are done on school children, children who don’t have unlimited access to technology, and who also don’t live in partnership with children.  These elements are all important in creating what we are creating here, and not creating an negative relationship with “screens” . A child who’s environment is over controlled either at school or at home, can often use “sreeens” as an escape, its a way to play out the frustrations of the day, of having to be ‘good’ all day. He can behave erratically if someone tries to take this tool away from him, he can appear addicted, zombified. What I suggest for parents, is loosen up the controls at home in all areas, especially if a child is at school all day, the need a safe, comforting place to come home without more controls. If your worried about connection, join alongside them. Even if its not your thing, once you see how much they are learning, having fun. It will put you more at ease too.

The connection and energy surrounding technology is a massive piece of the puzzle. Sure you can have unlimited access to technology and parents who have no desire to connect with their children and learn what they are doing. They are the children who sit for hours in their bedroom with the tv buzzing along. This is not what I am advocating either. CONNECT, CONNECT, CONNECT.

I am going to leave a great excerpt here by Teri Demarco on Living Joyfully as she discusses balance and technology.

“But you know, the values in our society are about balance and moderation, and technology generally, when you see it used by kids, it’s not that, right? They tend to deep dive and are very happy and joyful. So that I think that those that were brought up with balance and moderation as kind of a family value, we get uncomfortable with excess. You know, excess in anything. Excess in food, excess in joy, you know, when kids are too happy? I think people get uncomfortable sometimes. And I think kids are just trying to figure out, they always want to come to stasis of joy, or happiness. And they’ll get there, sometimes even they’ll force themselves there, because they are always seem to want to get to that equilibrium. And if we just let them get there, they chill out. They relax a lot.

I think greatness comes from passion. And passion in general, where you meet someone who has had a great success or is very passionate, they rarely have balance. You know, you don’t see, like, Michael Jordan, you know, basketball player. I doubt he had a lot of balance in his life, right? Or a lot of moderation.

I think it’s a really great conversation. I’m guessing its true for most of us in conventional society. We don’t mind a little bit of everything, but then its time to go out and play with sticks or in the dirt. Children can have balance with technology as they work out the world and what their passions and interests, are. Not all with delve as deeply into technology as others. I have three children who probably spend less than the ‘reccomened daily amount’ on ‘screens’ and one who is very passionate about minecraft and several other games.

So instead of advocating for being hands free and loosing the tech in your house. Im advocating for getting involved, being hands on, find out what your kids are really doing, what they are interested in, play along, have the conversations. Be their partner.  Be there. It is possible to have a close relationship with your kids and still have access to technology.

 

 

 

 

 

My child who will not be tamed, Thank you!

My darling wild one. Thank you.

Because you have humbled me with your honesty, when I realise that I don’t know it all. Because I have been pushed to places that are uncomfortable, you have challenged me there. I have grown the most in those places. Because you have shown me true beauty. Because you have healed me from my own wounds. Because I now know no one person’s opinion of me is greater than yours. You are what matters. Because I have learnt to be more assertive. Because I have learned not to worry so much about what others think. Because I have felt the greatest love whilst the most vulnerability. Because being your mum is my greatest honour.

Trying to change you would be like a caged bird. To be caged, to be tamed, to clip your wings. A caged bird may make life easier for its owner or for the public who wish to see a tame bird. But your true beauty is untameable, it shines when you are free. As with a bird with his wings stretched in the cool breeze, feathers glistening in the sun, I have no right to own you, to try to mould you, cut your feathers all under the premise of good parenting. I will give you all that you need to grow to succeed as you are, I will wait patiently for you to come to me, I will admire your intense beauty, your true nature, all that you are. I will trust that your instincts to survive and excel in your world will guide you as with my love. My love. I promise to love you even when I don’t understand you, I promise to hold you when your emotions are too intense for you to hold yourself. I promise to protect you from those who stand between who you are and what they think you should be.

For you do not need to change, the world needs to change, not you. Until then I will be beside you, this I promise.  

My darling wild one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about Home schooling? Here’s where to start.

“I have used the words “home schooling” to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth in the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all. ”

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

I thought I would write a practical guide for those who are wishing to start home schooling but aren’t sure were to start. Below are a list of some of the things you need to get started.

  1. Get to know you local Law.
  2. Read up on Different types of home schooling
  3. Decide on what your Educational philosophy is
  4. Find your local resources
  5. Be confident in your decision
  6. Relax
  7. Have fun

Is homeschooling legal

Yes!!!! Each country has different laws for parents wishing to home educate their children. Some countries require students still do annual testing, others require an annual review or report stating what education program has been used and what progress was made over the year, others have no requirements other than initial registration. It’s important that you first work out what the laws are, in the State you live. Contact your local home education office and ask if they can send you information on the Laws in your state, then do your research. Look up the specific laws and make sure you know the difference between recommendations and actual arbitrary requirements. You can also join online Facebook groups for your area, who can assist you on understanding more of what is required.  In Western Australia we have pretty good laws pertaining to Home Education. Contacting your regional education office to get application papers is a simple process. It’s a two page application with the addition of sending in your child’s birth certificate. Once registered you are contacted by a local moderator who comes out to visit 3 months from the date of registration to meet you and discuss what your  plan is for the year and to have a base line to record progress over the year. So basically they will see where your child is at currently and can document from there. They will then meet with you one year from the initial visit to review your years progress. There are lots of ways in which to show your progress and they do not expect your child to be at the same level as other children their age, but progress in the subject areas within the Australian curriculum should be demonstrated. Whether that be with work examples, photos, videos, certificates they have received, participation in certain activities, online courses etc. There are also lots of homeschoolers who arent registered by choice, beleiving that it is their right to make the choice about how their children  are educated and dont believe they should have to answer to any government.

Different Types Of Homeschooling

There are several different ways in which people choose to home educate

There is the option of a pre packaged curriculum, people who choose this option often do so as they like the convenience of not having to lesson plan too much and everything they need is in the curriculum, often including the resources or list of resources needed to begin. They can be bought online for varying cost. Some are pretty costly though. The type of curriculum can be up to you. For those  choosing are more alternative pathway  such as Steiner or Montessori these can be purchased along with materials and resources online, and are a completely acceptable curriculum to be used as both meet National standards.

There is also the option of when purchasing a Curriculum to sign up for Homeschooling support that comes with your curriculum, so they will guide you through and answer your questions along the way. Which can be comforting for those who are starting out.

Project Based Home schoolers/Child Led is another way to home educate. Which follows a more child led approach and is far less rigid or adult directed. Children have the option to choose what they would like to learn about and the curriculum or learning is based around those interest. For example if the child is really interested in snakes. The parent may ask the child to draw pictures of snakes, they may read books about snakes, they may ask the child to write a story about their favourite snake, they may visit a reptile park and do a project at home making a snake habitat . The parent may use resources that align with the child’s interest to cover other subjects such as reading and maths and art.  There is some adult guidance and teaching but it is the child’s interests that are at the core of this philosophy.

Natural Learners/Unschoolers is an educational philosophy that is underpinned by the belief that children learn best when they are interested. That children are born with an innate desire to learn and do not need to be forced, coerced or encouraged to learn. That life isn’t separated into subjects and therefore neither should a child’s learning. The child learns about maths by counting his pocket money and weighing the flour for his mum’s birthday cake, he learns to read by being read to and by being surrounded by books, and any form of literature. The parent follows the child’s interests and provides a resource rich enviroment for the child, where they spend their time pursuing the things they love . Enjoying living in the world together, exploring and learning. They do not put a time limit on when a child should learn a certain thing but accept that he or she will learn when the content is relevant to them and when interesting.

Eclectic Homeschoolers would probably describe themselves as people who embrace aspects of several different learning philosophy’s or styles. They may follow a natural learning approach but like many aspects of Steiner philosophy’s and providing a similar environment at home. Using many similar resources and approaches as Steiner in his teachings, for example limited technology and natural resources. Others take aspects from Montessori or Reggio Emilia and implement those in the home along with a more relaxed approach to learning. Others do a little book work and then a more relaxed approach for the rest.

The great thing is it is really up to you, and you make the choice based on what aligns with your beliefs, what works for your family and most importantly where you see your child shining the most. You have the right to educate your child as you see fit, its not your child who is responsible for making sure you tick all the boxes but yours. So you can be creative in how you can meet the requirements. Look outside the box. You will be surprised at all the learning you will find there.

Just begin

Before you start the process you may have already made your own decision on what kind of environment you want to provide and what type of educational philosophy best aligns with you and your family, which is great. Having a good foundation is a great start to any homeschooling family. But if you don’t quite know yet it is ok to just start and no doubt when you watch your child in action it will become more and more clear what things work and what things just didn’t. Give yourself time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be a perfect at it. Keeping in mind though that some states require you have a clear plan or at least a direction in which type of style of home education you will be implementing, but they should be there to support you through this process too. So ask for help if you need it.  Homeschoolers  do very well statistically, and if you think about it practically, the ratios work in your favour. There is more time to spend one on one, dedicating your time and attention to your child specific needs and interests. This is one of the wonderful perks of homeschooling. No one knows and loves your child the way you do. No teacher as wonderful and as dedicated as they are, can match the love, patience or complete investment that you have in your own child. So its ok to not have it all figured out. You will all survive.

Finding your village

Don’t underestimate the absolute gems you will find in your local homeschooling community. There you will find the invaluable support and resources to help you on your journey. Hunt them down if you have too, lol. Search online, Facebook groups, forums everywhere. Home education is amazing but it can be at times a place of loneliness when you begin and everyone has questions, and family members look at your like you really have well and truly lost the plot, and no one really understand why you would ever want to spend every day with your kids. If you don’t have a village you can begin to question what you are doing, you can feel alone. But they are out there. The number of people homeschooling now is incredible. It used to be a small select group of people homeschooling for religious reasons or hippyish folk (I say that with the utmost love). The demographics are far more diverse now. So hook up with your local ‘homies’ and feel the love. Excursions, clubs, coops, play dates, mum dates, the works. There is actually a whole world going on without school. If you live remote then you might have to find a community online but there are heaps of great online groups, and maybe visit camp or seminar to keep you connected and inspired.

Shine on, Shine On

Pretty much everyone will have an opinion on your choice to homeschool. The questions range from ” But what about socialization?” “Don’t you worry about whether they will be able to get a job?” “How will they learn to read?” “What about being able to wait in line?” “I just couldn’t do it, I need my own time, don’t you get sick of being with your kids all day?”

Remember that you don’t have to answer. Unless you want to answer questions, but don’t feel like you have to answer intruding questions and interrogations. You wouldn’t ask personal questions to someone else about whether they worry that by sending their child to school that they wont grow up to be a successful adult. There are plenty of people who went to school who certainly didn’t grow up to be successful adults so I don’t know why people assume that school is a pre requisite to be a functioning person.

Read, research and listen to other people who have been through the journey and have come out the other side. Spend time with your children, connecting, learning, exploring and in time you will have the confidence to brush off those questions and answer with confidence or don’t answer at all.  Just shine on Sista! Your making an amazing brave choice for your family. Be confident and when you have your moments of worry, turn to your village or just Fake it till you make it. What parent homeschooling or not doesn’t worry about their kids? Sometimes its looking at your worry for what it is. Is it a real fear that is valid or is it a simulation in your mind of something that doesn’t really need to be a fear at all? For me I had some valid concerns about school, the thought of a life with school produced more anxiety, than the thought of leaving school behind.  Increased pressure to perform, incessant testing, grading, rewards systems, bullies, peer pressure the list goes on. I am more ok with having a late reader or a child who has no interest in art or music or doesn’t know all the continents, or perhaps doesn’t understand why he has to put his hand up to go to the bathroom. So keep in mind the reasons why you came to the decision to homeschool and be true to yourself. If you feel you need some more inspiration there are plenty of great resources out there, podcasts, blogs, books and so on, when you get time explore them. I have  found them to be a fantastic addition to our homeschooling journey.

Don’t stress

Childhood is precious, it is passing swiftly. Don’t rush your days stressing. Don’t miss those moments, one of the many reasons to choose home education is to create a long-lasting strong relationship with your kids. Stressing the small stuff isn’t worth it. Most of all the messages I have received from people who have been doing this far longer than I have. Talk about the moments, the connection, the joy, they don’t talk about making a schedule and making sure you meet certain deadlines. Find your own rhythm and beat your own little drum.

Have fun!!!!!

Be silly, find ways to explore your own passions alongside your children. Join them in their games, make learning interesting, visit museums, surround yourself with beautiful things, enjoy the simple things, take your time, watch movies, play board games, go to the beach, collect shells, play a hundred games of home base and tickle monster, have a pillow fight, make a slide out of mattresses. I know I know!!!! Where will you  get the energy. There are times when you won’t, you will feel overtouched, noises will irritate you, you will need to just be on your own. But play will energize you. It really will. I have had many a moment where I have felt so lethargic and just wanting to curl up on the lounge with a book and then everyone needed me right at that moment. All four little faces. Mum can we play …. and I thought to myself, “are you kidding me?”” I have just sat down, I’m so tired, why oh why”. But then a couple of minutes in and I am laughing and energised and the kids are laughing and energised and we are ready for another round. Suddenly I don’t feel so tired. I am not saying ignore your needs, take time out when you can, breathe, get up early or go to bed late or whatever works for you. But don’t underestimate the power of play, it energizes it heals and it connects us. I think when we become parents we assume a role and all of a suddenly we get too serious and forget how to play. Playful parenting (Lawrence J. Cohen) is a good book for anyone feeling they need a little pep talk in this department. Its available as an audiobook so you can listen while your cooking or folding the laundry 🙂 I know sometimes I find it a struggle to go from mum mode to being fun. It’s so worth it though.

If you get in a funk just remember you are a human being, and its probably a good time to give yourself some self care.

Be kind, be human, be gentle, be joyful, be curious, be yourself.

 

Would love to hear some other tips for those starting out homeschooling. Leave your comments. Add your links to some of your favourite resources.

 

Happy learning

With love Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking your own path

Our 5-year-old isn’t keeping up with school kids his age and that’s more than ok with us. When we started homeschooling the idea was making school subjects fun, essentially hiding learning in play, while we were well aware of how early academic learning can be harmful in the long-term to children, we were still encouraging learning all academic subjects.Pushing literacy and numeracy wasn’t a priority but rather fostering a love of all those things by making them fun.

A little while longer on our path and we have come to realize that language, maths, science, music, art, history are all one big thing called life. You cannot learn math without finding out about history, or using maths in music, or history when learning about Art. We don’t separate life into subjects so we no longer separate their learning, their time into subjects either. Because they are still breathing, still living in the world, and growing from day-to-day. They are learning all the subjects when they come up and when they are relevant to them.

Pam Larichia responds to those who ask what unschooling looks like. “Children at school learn information and facts so that when they leave school they will be prepared for the real world. Unschooling children are in the real world and learn what they need to know when it comes up, when it is relevant to them.”

My 5-year-old doesn’t need to read now, he has no need for it at the moment. When he does he will learn it very quickly and proficiently, the information is absorbed much quicker and more effectively when it is interesting to them or relevant. We read together and he points out words that he sees he can recognise but there is no expectation that he learn to read or even want to. He is also under no pressure to write unless he wants to which he does occasionally. He can write his  name and other letters but has never had to sit day-to-day practicing over and over. He also knows some numbers but not all of them but can tell you the odd and even numbers in our street from reading the no’s on letter boxes.

I’m sure if he were to go to school he would be told he was behind and would have to catch up, but Im so glad he doesn’t have to. He is forging his own path.

He is incredibly smart, his vocabulary is blossoming and his story telling and creative thinking is amazing. He knows so much about dinosaurs and has an unbelievable ability to mimic the exact sounds of a trex and velociraptor. I’m telling you its scary. He knows exactly how many eggs you need to make scrambled eggs and can make anyone a unique and tasty plate of food. He is fascinated by dog breeds and can name many different breeds, as well as having a keen interests in plant species.

He has learnt how to swim, after several years of water anxiety following a close call in the family pool, without lessons or coercion. He spent a whole season not leaving the step. Now he loves water and you can hardly get him out. He has also inherited a family love of music and is exploring this love by performing concerts and memorizing lyrics to his favourite songs, he is also getting practice playing drums and using a mic.

He knows holding hands makes him feel safe, and that a cuddle under the blanket is the best medicine. He knows his comfort food is steak with mash and mushroom sauce and savours each mouth full. He also knows that a good game of tickle monster is good for getting the endorphins pumping or playing a game of indoor soccer and kicking mummy’s butt.

He is creative, and good with a hammer and screwdriver, he can make and epic treehouse in a matter of minutes. He will also make you a caravan, market, hospital or airport pretty efficiently too.

He loves cooking and mastering science experiments, and making goop, he has learnt about balance, gravity, heat and fire, he loves rocks and treasures and often has a little pile in his pocket. He loves bugs, especially bees. He loves to learn about how honey is made. He likes to know how everything is made, if I am honest.  He has felt lots of different sand in between his toes. The red dirt of the Pilbara and Kimberley, the sandy beaches of Broome and the dark dust of the hills.He has had to make friends from many different places and he is gaining more confidence as he grows.

He is working, working, working on so many skills and learning things on a daily basis. I don’t worry anymore if he is doing what all the other kids are doing, I trust he will learn what he needs to learn and more. I am glad he will get the chance to find his own path. Not only that, there is no expecation that he will be anything other than himself.

I can appreciate that homeschooling isn’t an option for many families, there are financial and practical limitations and I absolutely agree that school is the best option for many children and their families. However I think we can all benefit from looking through a less conventional lens at learning and education, ponder about it, question it, explore it. Learning is innate, its pleasurable, those dopamine cells are firing constantly. It’s no wonder we are seeking to know more. When we are interested. So how have we driven away the joy? Looking at learning through a new lens can inspire us to passionately seek out our own interests, even those things that may not lead us down the conventional path to success. We are also more free and open to engage with our children and joyfully join them in their own interests, even if we ourselves don’t understand them, knowing that they are passionate and engaged we can be confident they are learning.

Joining them where they are, rather than creating opportunities to learn something you think is better for them.

A study on grown unschoolers, done by Gina Riley and Peter Grey found that 75 percent of the group  said their current career choices had a direct link to the things they were interested in as a child. It is quite a big percentage. But it’s not so astounding considering that we come into the world with such an incredible desire to learn everything we need to know to thrive. When we hand our mind over to someone else it isn’t surprising we forget who we are and what we enjoy.

Shifting my eyes from my very schoolish perspective,  has helped me uncover my own desires and interests that were buried under a pile of societal expectation.  I have been able to set free  my inner child.

When I look back at my childhood memories and those things that I was drawn to I can draw a parallel to much of my life as it is today.

I was a mother, I would mother everything and I strived for perfection in this arena. I would get incredibly frustrated if I couldn’t swaddle the babies properly. I would always have a large family with plenty of pets. I would create hospitals and fill them with patients and even had my very own wheelchair made from an old golf cart. I was a scientist researching bird species, bird eggs, nurturing hatchlings that had fallen out of their nests. I was also a big dreamer. Spending hours listening to music and playing the piano, lying under a tree and pondering the meaning of life. I had journals full of musings, and stories and poems or songs. Probably terrible ones as I remember. lol

Today these things are still all there. Being a mother is my biggest passion, above everything i believe it is my greatest love. I am still awestruck by the beauty and vulnerability of birds, and still moved to tears when I hear a piano solo or instrumental. I still find myself pondering all those big questions and find writing about my journey is such a soothing experience.

When I was in school I had no idea what I wanted to do, I knew from what they told me that If I didn’t succeed now and know what I was going to do, I could damage all future choices I had of getting the career I wanted. I was nervous and followed the path I thought was the right one for me. I chose to study nursing as I did really enjoy the sciences but here I am, years after finishing my degree having rarely worked in that profession and with no real desire to go back, other than because well I should. I have the degree right, I should use it. What if we let go of the should and replaced it with could. If you could do anything what would it be? What is it you remember doing that brought you joy? When you find the answer  put your energy there.  Make your own path, don’t follow anyone else’s. And if you don’t know now, that’s ok. It takes a little practice, trying on those new glasses and re focussing on the new image you are seeing. Give yourself time, but not too much time as WE ONLY GET ONE LIFE!!!!

 

FORGE YOUR OWN PATH or fork in the road.

 

much love

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empathy Challenge

“Yesterday I was clever I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise and am changing myself.” ~ Rumi

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about empathy. Empathy is a word that is thrown around a lot, particularly in respectful parenting forums and books. I wonder though how many of us have a real understanding of what empathy really is and how to give empathy to the people in our lives. In particular our little people.

As I was researching more about empathy, I found more and more articles addressing what was considered a total empathy deficit in our society, so much so it has even been given a name EDD empathy deficit disorder by some physicians in the psychology field. As I read and listened more, the word narcissism popped up frequently in reference to current and future generations of young people.  I think empathy and narcissism are incredible interwoven.

Empathy is described in the Oxford dictionary as “the action of understanding, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings and thoughts of others”

while narcissism is the ” extreme interest and admiration of oneself, extreme selfishness”

When I say I believe that these two things are interwoven, It is because I have come to understand that the capacity to feel empathy is particularly difficult when one is focussed inward on his own needs and desires, so much so that he or she would possibly be described as Narcissistic. A complete selfishness and lack of empathy for the plight of other human beings. Those who have a lack of empathy for others may be in desperate need of empathy themselves to help them heal from those things that have turned them inward but they are less likely to receive it. Someone who does not receive empathy will be more and more in deficit.

What makes a young person or adult a narcissist. I refrain from talking about children because they are by nature egotistic. It is in their best interest for their survival. But what happens when our teens and young adults show a significant lack of empathy and connection.

There could be two contributing factors. The western idea and pursuit of success and society’s very limited and negative view of children.

Carol blacks research and documentary schooling of the world very poignantly illustrates how very misplaced the idea of the ‘American Dream’ is and the untold stories of its destructive and harmful effect on the underdeveloped world.  A multibillion dollar industry selling education to the people of the underdeveloped nation. They are sold the dream that if they become educated in schools like the ones our children attend, they too can have the American dream. A designer career, money, power and success. The reality is for so many  that they are lost in between two worlds. They have lost connection to their families often leaving home and travelling far distances to live and work at school, In doing so they lose their culture, stories and history. They no longer know of what world they belong. In addition this dream of a western success is mostly not a reality. We have sold them the ultimate lie, and the cost is huge. The heart is lost.

Unfortunately we are not immune to the same lie. We have sold the same idea to our own children. With an ever-increasing demand for excellence, the pursuit of academic success is at an ultimate high. The scale of the damage we are causing to our young people is yet fully to be understood but its is clearly evident that the voices of our youth are being ignored by those in ultimate power. Instead of listening to what the research shows us about forced early academic learning, lack of play in the early years and the impact on children’s mental health. The government continues its agenda. Future workers, tax payers, consumers.

Evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray has his own theories about the reason why our young people are showing signs of narcissistic behaviour. His research suggests the reduction of play has had a significant impact. Play is the work of children and where they ultimately learn the art of communication. Today playgrounds are over supervised, over regulated and dull children have less and less time to play unsupervised without being micro managed by adults, they are also forced into activities they have no interest in and therefore begin to exhibit the behaviours parents might describe as unmotivated, and lazy.

Could it be that laziness is a product of boredom, a lack of intrinsic motivation, too high and expectation of success in academia and deterioration of curiosity and passion. Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards, discusses in detail the very damaging effects of our reward, award and grade system. Over time what the reward does is takes the focus of the action away from the child and shifts in to the reward. In other words. The child intrinsic motivation for the action diminishes over time, whereas the extrinsic motivation increases. A child who is frequently rewarded for a particular behaviour or action is eventually only motivated by a reward not the sense of accomplishment or enjoyment of learning. He is less likely to exhibit the same behaviours, work or action if the reward isn’t present. This result is children who are driven by external factors. Eventually the reward isn’t enough and he is craving more. But is always left feeling unfulfilled. Such characteristics such as curiosity, innovation, exploration and joy are all dimmed by these system, because rather than curiously seeking, he will answer only what is required to pass the test, rather than challenge and change he will work out whether the reward is greater than the risk of failure. It also a system that teaches children very early that in order to succeed someone must fail. Have you ever received a grade that wasn’t particularly what you hoped for then glanced over at a friends grade who received lower and felt slightly better? That it was ok because you didn’t fail as bad as the person next to you. Is it human nature to feel happy when someone fails, or is it that we are conditioned by these rewards system to value our own successes dependent on the success and failure of others. The problem with looking outward for a measure of success is that you will never be satisfied. There will always be more to gain and those rewards become less and less meaningful. For a true measure of success we should look inward at our own selves and focus our outward eyes on the needs of others. Focussing on others needs helps to bridge the deficit in our empathy stores.

I think we have a great fear that if we don’t push young people by giving them incentives such as rewards they wont amount to anything, they wont be motivated, they wont be passionate. I think our negative attitude towards children fuels this fear greatly. We can’t  fully appreciate just how driven a child is to learn and succeed in everything they need to be a succesful adult, unless we have truly given them the opportunity and put our trust in them to develop those passions, and interest. Children are born curious and wanting to learn everything of their world, but because many children have only ever known to do things for reward, for praise, for acceptance this can be hard to see. The fear of failure as a parent, drives us to push further. We fear that if we don’t force independence, push success, enrol them in every extra curricula they will be lazy and never accomplish anything. Be firm “dont pander to your childs every whim” ” at some point we all have to learn to do things we dont like” ” how will they survive in the real world if they cant handle a little bully”. We project these fears into the future.

The problem with this thinking is it leaves little room for empathy. The words, “your alright, move on, stop being so dramatic, it’s not a big deal” These are all words that come from fear. It also comes from the lack of empathy that we ourselves have received, perhaps for similar things. Remembering that in order to give empathy we must ourselves have felt true empathy. Otherwise we alienate our heart from our mind, we listen to fear instead.  Without empathy we are all a little bit lost. We carry our burdens around with us daily, communicating in ways that leave us unfulfilled. We may sympathise but Empathy is a true art.

When we don’t empathise with our children. They will fill their cup in any way they can and often seemingly insignificant things can result in a big reaction for a child, leaving a parent wondering why? It’s either met with little empathy or a parent rushes in to fix it for the child. Neither address the underlying emotion that is needing to be expressed and heard. It is the same for adults, when we don’t receive the empathy we need, we can become defensive, offensive, passive aggressive and resentful. The good news it is never too late to start giving and receiving empathy.

It is truly amazing the change that occurs when someone feels truly understood.

An example I have that may be useful for parents, but can be translated into any conversation is as follows.

Children fighting over a toy.

Non empathetic response

“Mum he wont let me have a turn” “He never lets me have a turn”

” Well you can’t always get what you want, you have to wait” Screaming follows, I want a turn, whingeing whining. “Stop whining, you have to wait, your being silly” Goes to take toy of sibling.

Parent steps in, now your both not getting a turn. Screaming from both children.”Well i told you if you didn’t share with each other than no one would get a turn.”

Another example  would be a parent rushing to stop the screaming and insisting the other child hand over they toy.

Both do little to empathise  and the child hasn’t learned any tools to deal with a similar scenario next time, in fact its likely to encourage more explosive reactions in future.

Empathetic response

“Mum I want that toy, he wont let me have a turn, He never lets me have a turn”

“I hear you, you really want that toy, You feel like he is having a much longer turn than you”

“You are finding it hard to wait, waiting is hard and frustrating. You really want that toy, you had such fun playing with it last time”

“It’s ok to be frustrated. I am here with you”

Sometimes with a younger child fewer words are better, but acknowledging the feeling behind his words or actions is key.

In Dr Marshall’s book Non Violent communication he states that “empathy allows us to reperceive our world in a new way and to go on”

You will notice once the child or person feels like they are being heard that they begin to relax they may start telling you in more direct ways what they are feeling now.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed with emotion when I hear the real feelings that flow out once they know I am really listening. I am grateful that I have been present in that moment to hear them.

Discovering empathy has opened some wounds. Realising much of my own burdens that I have carried even from childhood pain that has gone unacknowledged. Empathy has not come easy to me. It takes practice. It may feel strange at first to talk in this way. However over the week I have really been opening up to this feeling. Being slightly introverted and socially awkward at times I find the execution with others hard, but I have been talking in my head a lot, as strange as that sounds. Acknowledging where I didn’t listen to a feeling someone was expressing and either jumping to defend, attack or self blame. It’s easy to hear the negative first. I’ve also been observing more, and trying to be mindful of what the other persons needs are. It has helped me to feel more connected to the people around me, not only that but people in general.

I really believe that the key to solving this apparent lack of empathy in young people and in fact all people is to start as early as possible. Observing, listening and giving. If we can show our children empathy they will be well ahead of so many of us. Not only this but if we can truly let go of the idea that children’s only way to succeed is to be pushed and sent on the egotistical pursuit of success train, let them grow at their own pace, help them to develop their interests organically by supporting everything they do and to preserve their curiosity and love of learning by ditching rewards and celebrating who they are, not what they do and what grade they get.

So if you want to follow me on instagram, I will be doing an Empathy challenge 52 weeks of Empathy in photos #empathychallenge

Follow me @lizzybourhomeourschool and join me on the challenge.

The book that I will be referencing a lot is Dr Marshall’s Non Violent Communication, which is a must read for anyone wanting to be more mindful of how they communicate with others.

Gratitude

Gratitude ~ The state of being grateful. To be grateful – expressing or giving thanks.

Maybe it’s old age creeping up on me, or perhaps my family and I have lived in the country for too long, that made christmas shopping almost unbearable this year. I heard myself muttering things that I remember my dad would say. “Oh for goodness sake why are there so many people?”  “Oh my god, why are you moving so slow?”, “I hate christmas time”, PARKING oh the PARKING. I love christmas but christmas shopping just made me grumpy this day. Several reasons why,  but I left this particular shopping expedition feeling exasperated. The personalised Santa bags, unique handcrafted ornaments, gingerbread houses, ice-skating rink for the kids that you almost need to take out a small loan to afford. It was overwhelming. We all want to make christmas magical for our kids. So I found myself wondering how do you really achieve the magic of christmas without buying into the idea that we need more. Do I need this? Will my children feel they have missed out if we don’t have all these things? Alongside the perfect tree and pinterest worthy advent calendar?

One thing that seems to be on many people’s minds around this time of year is gratitude, giving thanks. We try to balance the demonstrous amount of consumption with some giving and remind ourselves of what we are thankful for. This seems an incredibly pertinent lesson to pass onto our consumer driven offspring,right? How does one teach gratitude? Why are kids so spoilt? How can we teach them to be grateful for what they have?

If you look at the word gratitude in the dictionary it says ‘the state of being grateful’, to be grateful is ‘feeling or expressing thanks’.

When I hear talk about children and gratitude, most usually refer to children appreciating what they have and saying thank you when a gift is received.  God forbid your child opens up a gift that he or she didn’t really want and expresses disappointment. I am sure many of us have been there. The moment you want to shrink into your oversized christmas jumper and tell yourself Aunty Mary didn’t notice. If you happen to live in the southern hemisphere you will be more than likely NOT wearing a jumper in which case you can blame their ‘bad behaviour’ on those evil selection stockings they ate before, during, and after their breakfast.  I will never forget the year that I so desperately wanted a kitten and the sudden devastation at finding out on christmas morning that I wasn’t the proud owner of my very own little fuzzball. Not only that, was the shame I felt for expressing such sadness. I remember the months leading up to christmas planting the seed, hounding my parents daily about all the reasons why I had to have a kitten. The thing with christmas is, it is steeped in such traditions  as Santa and the naughty and nice list that i felt horribly betrayed. Hadn’t I done everything right? Shouldnt I get what I really want for christmas?

We are so conditioned to give with conditions, that sometimes even receiving  leaves us disappointed followed by a deep sense of shame.

It leaves me pondering, how can a child really feel the state of being grateful? How can we truly receive and be happy, how do we give without conditions?

Recently I was watching a documentary on Netflix about an Inmate rebellion in an American penitentiary. Basically the inmates were in uproar over mandatory TB testing which was against certain religious beliefs for a certain group of inmates. They felt their constitutional rights as human beings should still be upheld even though they were in prison. A hostage situation ensued and several inmates along with one prison guard was killed. During negotiations the inmates had their water supply cut off and various other things. This was in the protocol. To wear them down so that they would be more compliant.  It worked to a degree, the inmates surrendered and there was no further loss of life. It had me thinking of  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If a human beings basic and fundamental needs are not met they have less motivation to focus on the next level of the pyramid. The pyramid starts with physiological needs, safety, then moves up to love /belonging, self esteem and finally self actualisation.  What has this all got to do with gratitude?

It occurred to me that sometimes we find ourselves in these similar hostile negotiations with our own children. They are fighting us for often the basic level things on the pyramid and we push back against them in further negotiations. See when someone is desperate they are more compliant. They are easy to control. This is why parenting techniques such as ‘time outs’ ‘reward charts’ thinking spots’ positive praise are hailed for being effective in curbing bad behaviour or reinforcing the ‘good stuff’.  It is because with all those things we hold the power over those hierarchy of needs. We control when a child receives our favour,our love and our approval. If your bad you will not get my attention, if your good I will praise you. Their motivation for those needs gets stronger, we can manipulate their will, they are more easily pliable, but what happens to those magic words at the top of the pyramid? Self esteem and self actualisation? We might hold the belief that in giving to our children  we must do so sparingly in order to stop them from behaving like ‘spoilt brats’ then they will be more grateful right? That if we give them our attention when they are clearly showing us they need it, then we reinforce that ‘negative behaviour’ so we ignore them, they initially fight hard by displaying even more negative behaviours, but over time they eventually learn that their needs will not be met unless he or she behaves in a way that the parent  finds acceptable. He learns that he is only going to get the love and attention of a parent when he changes himself. This is conditional love, it is the same with giving a child treats or presents depending on the behaviour of a child.

What I have noticed over the past year that giving generously from a place of love is what breeds gratitude. Not deprivation. Now when I say deprivation, most of you would argue that our children are far from deprived, you only need to turn on world news to see children without fresh drinking water and access to medical care and feel ridiculously guilty for your lavish entitled life. What I mean is the conditions we place on giving that deprives children whether it be our time or the things we give our children. You don’t have to go far to see, The naughty and nice list, elf on the shelf and several new crazes out there that come out every christmas as a way of manipulating children over the holiday season, and even well-meaning people over the holiday season who ask if your child has been good or bad.

I recently was stopped in a popular department store with my children in tow, to be asked by a Jovial santa if my children have been good this year, good enough to receive a small paper headband? I happily replied, they are never bad.. To which he joked “ah never bad, but do they listen all the time”? When  I said no,  he seemed pleased that I had confirmed that they were naughty after all. Sadly it’s everywhere. These traditions are normalised, it’s whats expected. Even the most magical parts of christmas are all about conditions and fear.

So over the course of the year we have done something different. There hasn’t been any threats of missing out if behaviour doesnt improve, “Santa is not watching you”. We have spent the year exploring our children’s loves and interests and being generous with our time and love, if they ask for something and its possible we try to get it for them, we discuss limitations if there are any and involve them in the budget. Sometimes we go without something so we can meet someones wish. Working this way rather than placing a condition on giving, opens them up to freely receive. There is no condition, they understand that we are on their side not the negotiator on the other side of the barbed fencing.

Gratitude is hard even for us as adults, a constant need for more and more to fulfill so much of the disconnection we feel from each other, our communities and the world around us. Getting gives us  momentary pleasure, but what we are really seeking is the closeness to others, the connection and contentment that no material possession can ever deliver. We fuel this conditioning even with ourselves, we justify all that we buy as a reward for our hard work, it helps for those who work day in day out jobs we dislike. It is not suprising we feel that our children are only entitled to rewards if they have truly earned it.  But can we really be grateful when giving is mindless, when its conditional, when we have replaced the love for people with the love for things? My answer is no, not really.

Everything we give should be of value, and the thing of most value is our love and time.

When love becomes conditional, when giving is based on whether a child has been naughty or nice. They learn that giving is associated with the love and approval of a parent. It’s a basic need on the pyramid that is now in the control of another and the child will fight hard for it, he becomes the ‘ungrateful kid’ who is never happy with what he has, he wants more, but he is not really fighting for gifts he is fighting for the very thing that comes with the gift, all wrapped with a ribbon on it.`5

So leaving the shopping centre that day, I stepped into my car and took a deep breath, my children have only asked for one thing this year, They have all asked for something they really want and every gift is a different price. Ordinarily I would race around balancing out each persons gifts so they all got the same amount so its fair. But really they are happy this year with the gifts they have asked for, they aren’t desperate to have the most amount of presents under the tree. They don’t need to have it all on one day, because they know if there is something they really need or desire that we will help them achieve it. This hasn’t spoiled them. What spoils them, is when I utter those words, “IF YOU DONT DO …… THEN I WONT”…… , What SPOILS them is when I give them a toy instead of my time, What SPOILS them is when they need me desperately and act in ways that I dislike and I scold them instead of being present, What SPOILS them is the harsh words I sometimes speak when they appear in my eyes ungrateful. LOVE DOES NOT SPOIL, our humanness does. We are all human and have so much past that we bring with us into parenting that sometimes we don’t realise what we do. But there is another way, that way I am learning too.

So what does it look like?

I notice that they express gratitude in so many ways beside an arbitrary thank you. My three-year old will just come up to me sometimes a day later and just hug me so sweetly and touch my face and plant the most gentle kiss on my face, and say “thanks mum for washing my snuggy” or giving me those cool army guys or whatever it is, or my 5 and 7-year-old will jump for joy days down the line over a cool game and say this is so awesome, “I’m so happy, Thanks so much mum”, or thanks for making me my favourite lunch, or cleaning my room. They arent forced to do chores but they are helpful and its genuine, and the more we show them this way of being with each other, the more they blossom. It isn’t an instantaneous thing, and they don’t always speak respectfully, they don’t always remember to say please and thank you, but then neither do I. We are human after all. I DONT ALWAYS  GET IT RIGHT, but my children are great at showing me when I have got it wrong. My heart and eyes are more open to seeing than they ever have before.

So not just at Christmas time…….

Be generous with more than just gifts this year, with kindness, grace, forgiveness, and love. Wrap those presents and chuck out the conditions, just give with an open heart. Let go of all that takes you away from connecting deeply with those you love, even if it’s something you have always done. Let gratitude grow from a true sense of being really connected and happy.

MeRrY ChRiStMaS!

Respectful Parenting and What it has to do with Education?

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, I knew I would be a single parent. Although at the time I was scared, I do remember distinctly feeling a sense of peace and calm. I had been preparing to be a mother my whole life. I was confident that I could do this on my own and not only do it, but do it well. I would make a good mum I thought to myself. After all women for generations had raised babies and If they could do it then so could I. I was educated, I had worked as  an Au pair, worked in childcare and had a nursing degree. Hey I had this. I remember that first 48 hours I spent after delivering my first son. I was totally awestruck, I had never felt more vulnerable yet strong at the same time and had never known a love like this one. Boy he had me totally.  I brought my son home and I was overcome with emotion. What now? I remember looking at his tiny little hands, and dark long eyelashes and saying “It’s just me and you kid”? The reality is in today’s world it quite often is just that. You and baby against the world. You may be lucky enough to have a partner to share that journey with but even still the incredible pressure of our society today  puts mothers in a place of isolation when they need a tribe of people the most. Husbands return to work, friends have their own families or work commitments, often grandparents are still working themselves. Women are left wondering what on earth happens now? In other society’s. women are usually surrounded by aunties, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. All there to help support families raise their babies. Its more than likely she would  have  helped raised siblings, watched sisters raise nieces and nephews, listened to the wisdom of her grandmothers and generations before her. For most women in Western cultures we are overwhelmed by the advice and information available. We look for images of motherhood in the glossy magazines, on social media, and on the pages of parenting books. Books that call to us in the middle of the night over spilt coffee, nursing babies, and unfolded laundry.Somewhere in that book is the “perfect mother” If I can find the formula I too can have the warm fuzzy home, the manicured lawn, the helpful husband who does the first bottle feed of the night with carefully expressed breast milk, while you get some sleep. The perfect, sleeping, minimal crying, baby who stares adoringly at you from your one thousand dollar bugaboo pram.

You see as a mother, I felt I had this incredible responsibility to be the best mother I could possibly be, so where do I look to find such an example? I don’t remember much of the time I was a baby, I do remember my parents like most parents of their generation were fairly authoritarian, “you can’t leave the table unless your plate was clear, smack on the bum for being disrespectful,  but I had years before I would need to have those kind or rules. I needed something tangible now. So I drowned myself in those books and magazines, spending hour upon hour researching the perfect method to child rearing. I was an expert so I thought. I filled my days with scheduled feeding, scheduled naps, pumping, feeding and just generally driving myself to insanity. Although the time passed quickly enough and I was the proud owner of a happy, thriving, fed sleeping baby. There was definitely a cost to me, and a cost to my dear first-born. By society standards, I had such a ‘good baby’ , I heard your must be a good mother, “well done you”. See society does this to a  first time mother, She stares at her baby, wanting to give him the world. She looks at the world, and the world gives her a list of rules to follow. If she follows these rules then she is a good mother, we will praise her, in books, in magazines, in conversations between friends, on social media.

No wonder she is exhausted, no wonder she thinks she is a failure.

My schooling as a parent, continued as my oldest grew, Although I wasn’t overly controlling, my son was always in the dirt and I certainly didn’t helicopter,  I still liked to be in control and for my son to listen and to do what I asked. If he misbehaved we would go home, if he was rough with someone I would take him home or at least remind that was a possibilty, or remove the toy he was playing with if he wouldn’t share it. If he didn’t pick up his toys I would tell him we wouldn’t be able to do xyz until he was finished cleaning up. And it worked, my son did what he was told, he picked up his toys, if I warned him we would leave the park if he didn’t behave he would most often behave accordingly. You know what too, I would see the approving looks of other mothers, “good on you”, “stick to your guns”, “don’t let him walk all over you”. Even my own family members would congratulate me on how well I had raised him. Not that I don’t agree that I didn’t put everything and every part of myself into my little boy as any mother does but I somehow instinctively knew that there was another way, but what was it? It wasn’t until I met some other mothers who followed more attachment style child rearing practices that I found that there were mothers, feeding their babies to sleep, never leaving them to cry, holding them, and certainly didn’t follow schedules I noticed they were much more respectful when it came to ‘behaviour management’. Not only that they looked happy, content, their children seemed to thrive also. So i began to research more into alternative parenting styles and more and more learned of more respectful ways to parent my growing family. At the time it was just ideas,  I started to add a few of these “techniques” into practice but we were far from the picture I had imagined.

Not long after I had my oldest I was introduced to my  husband and together we added 3 more little boys to our tribe, as they grew  I noticed that conventional parenting methods just didn’t seem to work anymore. The threats, the consequences, all seemed to get more and more difficult. While a 2-year-old might respond to ‘ put down the stick or we are going home’ a 5-year-old will just tell you “good great I want to go home this park is stupid anyway”. It seemed achievable to have well-behaved and obedient children when there was only two of them but I found the more children we had, naturally the days became more about survival, and I spent so much of my time managing behavior. Each child was in a different phase and needed something entirely different. I found myself pulled in 4 different directions, barking at my oldest to clean his room, telling my middle child to clean his teeth or there would be no time for stories before bed, leaving shopping centers with a screaming toddler and a crying 4-year-old because they didn’t get to have that ice cream i promised because they didn’t behave accordingly. When i look back at so many of my parenting struggles, I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I chose obedience and control over compassion and empathy. Not only that I feel sadness that the society we lived in seemed to praise me for it. If  I could control my children and still remain calm, I was a super mum. I get it we are overwhelmed, we are tired and exhausted and without support we turn to the methods we have been conditioned into. The inner voice that looks at your child in those moments and says, “he will obey me”,” how dare he talk to me that way”, “I am his mother”, “he should show me respect”, “how will he learn to treat others with respect if he doesn’t treat his own mother with respect”. The thing I hadn’t thought of is, respect isn’t taught. It is learned. What is the difference you say? I can teach my child a lesson, by forcing it upon him or contriving a consequence or I can show him kindness, empathy and compassion. So that he will know what these look like. So instead of telling him that he cannot go out to play because he hasn’t cleaned his room it might look like, saying to him.”Wow you really have had fun in this room, but it looks like it might be a lot for you to clean on your own, would you like me to help you clean your room? “Should we do a little bit now and a little bit later?” What lesson A looks like, is the parent is trying to teach the child a lesson, respect me and our property or I wont respect you. I will take away your things or your freedom. It doesn’t really teach them anything but It might make you feel more in control and like a good parent. It might also disconnect you from your child further though and he may be even less willing next time to do as he is asked.  At the end of the day when you look at him sleeping and remind yourself of all the things you want your child to be and how much  you wished they knew, how much they were loved by you. Here is the moment when option B is more likely to get you there.So what does this all have to do with where we are now and my children’s education?

Parenting respectfully does look different to conventional methods. In my experience, I was able to get quick results by using threats but I was noticing that my relationships with my children could have been better. I started to question whether I could really know my child if they couldn’t really be themselves with me. I remember having an argument with my then 6-year-old about something and he just blurted out, “Why can’t you listen to my suggestions”, Why are you always the boss of me.” It hit me that he was totally right. Why was I the boss of him?  He was no more my property than I was the property of my husband. He was a human being with a voice, and he wanted me to hear him. So when my son started to ask why he had to go to school, saying “I can’t make him go, that he hated school”. Something had changed, I knew I had to listen.

Learning to live respectfully with your children takes lots of work, especially with older children who have been conditioned to believe they aren’t worthy of trust, that they are innately bad and that they need to be taught to be good. With my two younger babies it was easy as soon as I realized I didn’t have to buy into all the crap they feed you about never having a baby who sleeps if you don’t let them learn to self settle on their own. I fed them babies and cuddled them babies and picked them up when they cried. I loved it and  I felt like we had a great rhythm. Older children I was still learning, I knew how to get a child to eat their dinner by telling them they wouldn’t get any dessert or they would go to bed hungry. I knew how to get a child to say please and thank you by simply not giving the child the item they requested unless they used appropriate manners and respect,easy right? Well how does one go about these things in a respectful way? I was about to find out and it has changed my life.

So much of conventional parenting looks at the child but on this journey it has all been about me and my perspectives. I am learning to be kind to myself and heal my own heart. I have been called too relaxed, permissive, and I’m sure many more things. I’ve had parents  choose not to let their child play because I refused to punish my child and instead listen to, and talk with them instead. It isn’t easy. It takes lots of internal dialogue, questions all your assumptions and I am working at it every day. There are days when I mess up and apologize (which was hard at first) Like apologizing to a child for messing up would put you at the same level as them right? A human level rather than the person in control. When a child has been controlled for a long time he has to start all over again, his world looks different now as he learns that his voice is heard. It can be challenging at first as you navigate how on earth do you get them to do anything without using a reward, or a threat or some other form of coercion? I began to understand that respectful parenting isn’t about finding a gentler way to get my children to behave, I found it wasn’t about obedience at all but more seeing your child who he is, a human being  and treating him as one. Just because he is smaller and his brain isn’t as developed as mine he is no less deserving of respect than you or I or an old dementia patient who can no longer tell you who they are. As I learned to move further from conventional parenting I found more and more people who were too. With all the hate in the world, I think people are guessing  that maybe it all starts at home. That showing love and generosity, compassion and empathy are what breeds loving compassionate and kind adults. That forcing a child to say please does not make him inherently more grateful. Just obedient. With businessman running countries who wants to raise people who are obedient? We want thinkers, questioners and those who don’t stand for crap just because someone is bigger, stronger and has more money and more power. But that’s another story and I am getting off track lol.

Our journey into homeschooling and into unschooling has helped me dramatically in this shift. My learning of unschooling and understanding that thousands of children world-wide are learning and thriving with no school. Just living life and partnering with their parents rather than having their days planned and controlled by adults was amazing to me. It was inspiring and gave me such hope and faith that we were on the right path for our family. As the days go by and we go further along our winding path it becomes more and more clear. You see the joy in your own children as they make all those amazing connections, and seeing the learning happen right before your eyes. The wonderful thing is, when you let go of expectation and see your child in all his brightness, the whispers become silent. You can watch your child in all his wildness and see light and happiness and are free to just enjoy him. You will be more open to kindness, joy and happiness. It wont be a destination that you will one day reach It is already here.

I am not saying that when you see my children playing you will think “wow what amazing children” what method is she using? That’s if you’re looking for children who are obedient. Because that is not my goal, to you they may look wild, they may say no to me when I ask them to do something, which always makes  adults feel uncomfortable. I see the squirming as they witness a child say no, and a parent responding without punishment or threats but perhaps with empathy and understanding and acknowledging the child’s needs. Sometimes they will amaze you as much as they amaze me. I don’t try to control what they do or say, I am learning when to be quiet and not everything needs to be a lesson.  That doesn’t mean that I am not helping them to learn all the things they need to learn to be successful adults, and modelling all the things that no rule can teach. But right now we are healing from the past as my children learn to trust me again and trust themselves, sometimes we take a few steps backward but then we tend to leap ahead. I have still more shifting to do to be what they  need me to be but we are well on our way to a far stronger relationship.

Letting go of control and partnering with my children has been so important for their education because if my trust is truly theirs, they are free. Free to explore, to question, to be curious, to challenge. Although happiness and emotional well-being is our focus a wonderful education and inspired journey of unique learning just occurs naturally, because of such a relationship. Something that can truly flourish when we are willing to do work on ourselves. As our connection deepens I am truly inspired at all that they are learning and just how naturally that occurs. I can appreciate everything they learn not just what is deemed important by society, because I see them light up when they are doing things they love and learning things that is interesting to them. They have taught me more about the world in their short lives then almost 2 decades I spent schooling.

What helps me to stay focused is to remain connected. When the moments come, when my anxiety creeps back in, when society’s glum attitude towards children gets me down and makes me question my parenting. I look to so many others who have been there, I have found  comfort with people who live their days like us too. And I am reminded that we all have times in our journey where we need to question our own discomfort and choose connection and peace over fighting to be right or be in control. We are human after all. Being kind to yourself is just as much part of healing your family as it is for your child.

We look at learning so differently now, we no longer only associate learning with school but that learning is living. And to me the most important part of our living is the connections and relationships we have with people and our planet. So it makes sense to spend a huge portion of our days focusing on these things. Relationships, connection, love, joy, peace, harmony and experiencing it all side by side. Who better to teach a child about love than his parents.

 

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November 27, 2016 Uncategorized

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Say Yes

I recently came across a quote on one of my favorite podcasts by Living joyfully “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves”. – Mahatma Gandhi.
This absolutely sings to my heart right now. So much of our everyday life involves decisions by me, that aren’t always comfortable, and aren’t always ones that come naturally. As my children’s learning facilitator it is my role everyday, to look closely at many of the things that I do as a parent, that may be a roadblock to some amazing learning experiences.  Also those things that may erode the connection that I have with my children. Sometimes many of my answers in the past to questions and situations that arose were answers that had been entrenched in me for a long time. Often I was unaware of how much they lacked in authenticity.
In order for me to truly understand the way in which my children learn best, I need to do much work on myself. ‘Remake myself’.
How do i know that I am changing? Easy I see it in my children’s faces, I feel it in our connection that grows deeper.
It is not always easy to look at yourself and make change, it is easier to stay as we are. Admitting that things can be done differently and better is hard. When you do let go of all the no’s, of all the reasons why something can’t be done and realize it can. Saying yes will set you free.
It reminds me of a recent evening with friends. We were all set for a night listening to music outdoors, a night out, something that doesn’t happen often. Well of course it rained didn’t it. Not a sprinkle, we are talking flooding roads type of rain. In a place of the country that is dry almost year round. It bucketed down. So here we are a a gaggle of ladies ready for a night of fun and music and we are stuck under a tent feeling cold. We could have gone home then, we could have said no way. What did we do instead? We danced in the rain, soaked through to our underwear, drenched hair, mascara faces, surrounded by lots of other brave festival goers.

I keep thinking of how many moments like these that pass us by because we are too afraid to say yes. We got soaked and cold, But i wont forget it. I don’t want to be the wall between my kids and these kinds of memories. I want to choose trust instead of fear.

I am so grateful for all the little moments that have happened because I said yes, so many discussions, so many I love you’s and so much wonder and delight, plus and abundance of smiles. A growing understanding of who these people are and not an acceptance of who society wants them to be.

My inner work is still in progress… but

Everyday I vow to say yes more!!!

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