Ducks, Dogs, Digging and Dilemmas…

This week has been all about Ds!

Pickle adores young children! A lovely day spent at Slimbridge WWT this week saw her making friends with lots of 3-5 year olds and being kind and caring but with a lot of fun and silliness in her play with them; as always she was very popular! We also got a lot of comments from people about how the Ps were generally very friendly, sociable and eloquent. When I explained to a few that they were home educated their responses ranged from “Oh that explains it then” to one of wanting to find out more as a possibility for their own child’s future. It feels great to be in a position where I now feel confident enough to discuss our own journey into home ed and our first year, sharing the great parts and the occasional pitfalls with interested people. The ducks didn’t really get much of a look-in on this trip but that’s ok ’cause we’ll probably be there again next week!

Pickle’s adoration of animals might be even stronger than of young children and, although she loves dogs (and regularly asks for one as a pet), she is slightly nervous of them after having been bitten three times! We have a lot of friends, neighbours and family with dogs so the Ps get a lot of contact with them, but Pickle was still very jumpy when we went to a friend’s house this week and her little dog (I mean tiny!) was running and jumping up. I was exactly the same when I was little so I empathise hugely with how she feels. Despite her nervous start, by the end of our time with our friends Pickle was cuddling and playing with the dog 🙂 And once again asking when we could get one!

We spend a lot of time digging! I’ve been doing a lot of gardening over the past week, with a lot of ‘help’ from the Ps. Pickle particularly enjoys making mud pies! The little bed that I’ve given over to them to grow whatever they would like won’t have any soil left in it soon… I was chatting to a friend about how much muddier, and happier, Pickle has been recently! She really is better off when she can be outdoors getting messy – I’m just glad we have the space for her to do so… I only wish we had a utility room so the dirty clothes didn’t have to be trailed through the house (saying that, this week a lot of the muddy play has been done in the nuddy!!)

So, my dilemmas… The Ps are all so happy at the moment but I’ve just signed Piccalilli up for her free hours at a lovely, little, local playgroup (the same one the big Ps went to in fact) from September. This isn’t a dilemma in itself as I think she’ll really love it, but if she doesn’t she won’t have to go. It just throws up lots of other dilemmas for me… e.g. If the big Ps had stayed in school, now would be the time I’d be looking for jobs to start from September – that isn’t what I want to be doing, but I do feel the need to contribute to our family; I know, I’m educating our children but we still need money! I’m also aware that I need to stop stressing about it because it just makes me unhappy and grumpy and a pain to live with – Sorry Stinker ❤

 

 

 

A year into our journey and a wonderful week!

It’s been just over a year since our home education journey began – I still can’t believe I’ve had the Poppet at home learning with me for that long (about 6 months with the Pickle too). We definitely still have many ups and downs, good days and bad days, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We had the best week ever last week and I’m sure it was partly down to nicer weather (between the unseasonal hailstorms!) and my feeling relaxed…

As part of the week I decided to document #anunschoolday on instagram and thought I’d share the best photos from one day here…

Our morning started with me finding Piccalilli playing in the bath, while Pickle had a lie-in (her favourite place is bed!) and Poppet unravelled some wool to do more knitting!

Then Piccalilli asked if we could go on the big swing while the big Ps were getting dressed and when we returned to the house everyone was hungry, so we ate some yummy ‘alien’ pancakes! After breakfast we all went back down the garden and they all pottered happily while I planted potatoes.

Our afternoon consisted of Piccalilli napping in the car while the big Ps did Pony Club. When we returned home Pickle enjoyed making a log cabin (with the Stinker’s help) while Poppet planted the Space Rocket seeds.

It feels like our journey is really finding it’s direction and everyone is finding their place… it’s not easy but springtime is definitely a great time for us 🙂

 

 

 

 

Purple storm clouds – when the anger rolls in…

I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough with Pickle this week… but who knows what will happen next week!

She struggles with a lot of her emotions and can often be an anxious, nervous child. To outsiders this is not at all obvious as she is amazing at putting on a face and is often the ‘life and soul’, the comedian, the ‘Pickle’!

But behind closed doors she sometimes finds it hard to deal with her emotions and tries to hide them away, resulting in big violent outbursts at difficult times.

After a particularly tense few days last week I decided to talk to her (not for the first time!) about how she felt when these outbursts took over her. It was interesting to listen to her describe it as a ‘dark purple storm that she couldn’t get out of’. I asked her what colour made her feel happy and she replied lilac. So we practised blowing the purple storm away and letting the lovely lilac return. She also said she wanted to be cuddled and I’ve read a lot about how hugging children can really help during any emotional times.

The next time I saw the storm trying to take over I reminded her to blow it away and let the lilac come back – she did and it worked so well!

I’ve also been reading a lot about allowing children to have ‘freedom of the mouth’ during times of rage; basically accepting angry outbursts for what they are – a release and healing process – and ensuring that children feel able to have these moments if they need them. This doesn’t mean they are allowed to simply scream and shout and be rude and unkind – these things are responded to with a simple “We don’t talk like that in our family” and an attempt at distraction. But if it is truly a cry for help in a stressful situation, then giving time to listen (and simply listen), hold and reassure is our way out of the storm.

So, this week has been a good week for us, which I will share later 🙂

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When is it time to let go? 7 tips to increase your child’s independence…

Poppet has been showing signs of growing up recently, changing from a little girl to a, dare I say it, young lady?! She has mini strops on a regular basis (which remind me of myself when I was 13, not 7-and-a-half!) and is desperate to have more independence and responsibility.

As our oldest child this is all a steep learning curve for us, so I’ve done my usual and researched lots on how best to allow her more independence without letting go completely.

I have never wanted to ‘control’ my children but do realise that as parents it is the easy default to go to at difficult times (like trying to get out of the house in the morning!) A survey which has tracked more than 5,000 people since their birth in 1946 researched the impact of over-control on children. “Parents also give us [a] stable base from which to explore the world while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote  social and emotional development” said Dr Mai Stafford, of the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Lifelong Health and Ageing unit at UCL. “By contrast, psychlogical control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour.”

I would hate for my children to grow up to be ‘contingent children’ (part of our reason for home educating them I think!) but really don’t think this will be the case as our children certainly don’t fit the criteria of depending on others for their happiness or incentive to achieve (although they occasionally make poor decisions which is another sign, but don’t we all!)

I believe that independence is vital, when a child is ready to leave the safe attachment bond they have with their caregivers, and hope my children will all grow up to display the characteristics:

  • self motivated to achieve
  • able to choose activities that they enjoy
  • good decision makers
  • share a collaborative (rather than controlled) relationship with their parents

These characteristics seem to fit so well with home education and the unschooling theory of child initiated learning. Interestingly, independence has to be ‘taught’ to an extent by allowing our children to experience many opportunities of their choosing and providing the following essential aspects:

  1. Love and Respect Of course we all love and respect our children, but it is important to remember to show them love regularly in the little moments and to respect their choices, however odd they might seem to us at times!
  2. Be proud of their abilities However small an achievement might seem to us, it can be a big deal to a 7 year old. Poppet was so excited to complete her first ever mini dressage test completely independently, so I made a really big deal out of it because it mattered to her 🙂
  3. Ensure they understand the control they have over the world Whether it’s negative or positive they need to recognise the impact they have on those around them.  Displaying our emotions can really help them to understand this (and I’ve found that crying when Pickle has really pushed me does seem to make her think!)
  4. Give guidance but allow them to make their own decisions I often find myself explaining possible outcomes but then try to back off so the Ps can make their own choices. Even little Piccalilli at 2-and-a-half is able to make her own decisions, often resulting in the weirdest outfit combinations (a dress with Poppet’s skirt over the top and wellies on the wrong feet today!)
  5. Teach Responsibility Poppet is starting to desire more responsibility within the family so we have discussed with her how she can have this and the tasks she can undertake to help out. She has also started to show more responsibility for her own learning as she is starting to understand that she can achieve things independently now.
  6. Teach Accountability We all get things wrong occasionally and it’s important to be accountable for our own actions. If children do not learn to take responsibility for their mistakes they will struggle to take responsibility for their achievements. I am not advocating punishment when things go wrong, but I am aware that a discussion and time-to-think often work for us.
  7. Encourage Freedom and Exploration (AKA Risk Taking!) This is another aspect which fits so well with home educating as it is so much more possible to give children the freedom to explore when you have the time and space. We spend so much of our time in the great outdoors so there are often risks to take (usually resulting in very muddy children!)

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I’m sure some people think of home educated children as being less independent as they spend ‘all’ their time with a care-giver, but I can assure you that this is definitely not the case in our home ed journey! Without the constraints and control of school I have seen my children develop in confidence and with that independence; I aim to do everything I can to continue to bring up strong, independent young ladies.

 

 

What happened when I started saying “I understand”? – 5 steps to validating children’s feelings.

Pickle is an anxious, sensitive little soul.

She was the most chilled out baby (For the first five months of her life lots of people didn’t realise she existed as she slept so much!) but as soon as she hit toddlerhood – Is that a word? It’s definitely a stage! – she became difficult, defiant and easily distressed. At the time she spent two days a week with a fantastic childminder, who commented on the fact that in her many years of looking after little ones she rarely saw 2 year olds who struggled so much with embarrassment…

We have spent the past 5 years swinging from feeling resentful to feeling complete and utter panic and worry at what the future holds for our angry young Pickle. We have tried many different ways of dealing with her behaviour, some of which seem to help for a short period of time, but essentially any attempts to ‘control’ or ‘curb’ her just end up upsetting her more and therefore upsetting everyone.

I first read about ‘positive/peaceful/attachment parenting’ when the big Ps were little, and tried to incorporate some of the principles into our daily life. But it has only been the past year (since starting to home educate) that I have completely recognised the value of bringing our children up in a household where they feel valued, listened to, important. I realise that all of this pivots around me (and the Stinker) and how we behave toward the Ps.

The following quote sums it up for me in a much more eloquent way than I could explain it:

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a parent or teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
-Dr. Haim Ginott www.ahaparenting.com

So, I’ve been trying so hard to be positive and respond in a sensitive and calm manner to any issues that have arisen recently. It is hard! But responding to their shouting with shouting just results in… you’ve got it… more shouting!

I have been reading a lot about the importance of validating our children’s feelings a lot recently (like this amusing and thought-provoking take on it over at Lulastic) and completely agree that they, as small human beings, deserve to be valued and listened to. That doesn’t make it any easier! It is all too easy to revert to your own childhood (I’m not saying I wasn’t valued or listened to, but it was still the time of children ‘doing what they were told’!) and to respond with a curt “Don’t be so silly” or “No you can’t…”

I am trying hard to change my responses to “I understand…” and “We could…” – in fact I think the Ps are finding me quite hilarious and I’ve even noticed Poppet responding to Piccalilli in the same way!

If faced with an angry outburst or defiant moment I find the following five steps seem to work best for us:

  1. Take a deep breath and say to myself “It’s not about you” (even when the anger is aimed at me!)
  2. Respond with “I understand that you are feeling angry about…”
  3. Offer solutions to the problem and offer hugs
  4. Don’t take it personally if the solutions and hugs are ignored
  5. When the situation has calmed down talk about what happened and how we can avoid it happening again in the future

Of course I know this is not going to stop difficult situations from arising again but it has definitely diffused any problems that we have faced recently and we have been enjoying time together in the spring sunshine 🙂

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Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

Are we doing the right thing?

Are they learning anything?

Will they succeed in life without having gone through the education system?

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

These are just some of the questions I ask myself on a regular basis. As much as I know that (in the current education climate) we are doing the best thing for our family, it is still a radical decision to go against the norm. I’m not saying we’re radical (and maybe that makes it a bit harder still), but to choose to do something different is definitely seen as a bit radical or alternative.

Today has been a tough day. Piccalilli was ill yesterday meaning we had to cancel yesterday and today’s plans (which I’d thankfully not told the big Ps about), meaning I have not had a chance to unwind and chat to adults! The Stinker was late home last night meaning I had to do the whole bedtime routine alone (I know lots of people do regularly!) and also had less time with him to relax.

I’m feeling the need for a bit of me time and the weekend can’t come round soon enough – I’m actually off into the city with a friend for lunch and a museum trip 🙂

The thing is I know my questions will probably not be answered anytime soon:

Are we doing the right thing? We hope and really believe we are but there are probably many ‘right’ ways of doing things on a spectrum. We’ve hopefully chosen the best-fit for us at the moment.

Are they learning anything? Well I like to think that they will learn through life and any extra little snippets I can provide them are a bonus!

Will they succeed in life having not gone through the education system? Again I like to think that there are many ways of succeeding and academically is not the only way. Saying that, many home educated young people go onto university and achieve much in their lives apart from academic qualifications.

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!! Let’s hope so as the majority of them come from my own brain!

Wish me luck!

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When saws are involved in sibling rivalry, this happens…

This weekend was mainly fantastic and mostly spent outside enjoying the garden and local park, but the sibling rivalry between Poppet and Pickle is definitely at boiling point at the moment.

When we decided to have our first two children close together we didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly, so the fact that they are 12 months and 3 weeks apart wasn’t planned! In the early months it was unbelievably hard work but has definitely got easier as they have got older.

When they are out they usually form a formidable little team (often with Piccalilli tagging along!) and people often comment how they appear more like best friends than sisters. At home they alternate between being thick as thieves (usually when no adult is around and they are plotting something) to fighting like cat and dog when we are around.

Pickle is still going through a period of deschooling (getting school out of her system) and craves our undivided attention. This means that weekends can be great in the sense that we can share her between us but difficult because she struggles when one of us wants to do something special with Poppet.

So when Poppet decided she wanted to collect some sticks to make her own Stickman, Pickle initially wanted to be involved. When she realised it meant going outside to find the sticks she decided against it and disappeared inside to practise handstands!

When Poppet returned with sticks and Pickle realised that the Stinker was going to help her to use the saw her heckles went up and she demanded attention. For a moment I thought the situation was going to escalate beyond the usual sibling rivalry and arguing when she started trying to grab the saw… Luckily I’m getting better at handling these situations so rather than screeching ‘Stop!’, I managed to distract her with the calm request of help to make the dinner (one of her favourite activities) – phew, that was nearly another trip to the local MIU!

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Poppet and the Stinker made the most wonderful Stickman and all limbs remained intact. So this time round the result was peace and harmony 1 : sibling rivalry 0!

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5 reasons why having CHILDREN (not boys or girls!) will change your life…

I have been thinking about writing this for some time, but because I don’t like the idea of offending anyone I have held off. However, recently so many things have pushed my buttons in relation to this and I feel the need for a bit of a rant and as it’s International Women’s Day, I have linked up with the wonderful Lulastic and her International Women’s Day 2016 blog link up. 

I have three children, who just happen to be of the female variety. At the end of the day they are CHILDREN, and children to a point all behave the same. I get really annoyed when I read the posts about the things only mums of boys would know and wonder if the people who write these really believe these things to be exclusively male traits…

I am not writing this to compete (you won’t hear me saying that spending my days in and out of minor injuries is because I have boisterous girls – although I think it probably is because I have boisterous children!) rather to put another point of view across. I do feel strongly that the posts claiming ‘boys will be boys’ are just reinforcing gender stereotypes – I am fully aware that many are written in jest, but then so was the comment ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’ made by someone I know recently, in front of my three young, impressionable girls, who I am trying to bring up with the strong belief that they can be anyone/thing they want.

I am constantly reassuring the Ps that they (and their friends) can do/wear/be/play whatever they want and I struggle that they already have some of society’s beliefs ingrained, such as daddy needs to mow the lawn, boys can’t wear skirts, girls should have long hair, etc, etc. I think that their limited time in school and minimal television viewing both have had a negative impact on their perceptions of the world. I am also aware that it is impossible to shelter them completely, and they do need to understand the world that they are growing up in, but I do find myself questioning these viewpoints whenever I hear them!

 

Gender inequality is still a major issue in the UK, with women being paid, on average, 20% less than their male colleagues. Really?! The Stinker and I got talking about this and how society sadly still reinforces the idea that women can’t do the same as men, and this starts with people labelling their boys as loud and boisterous and girls as quiet and calm. I am not claiming that there are no differences between males and females (aside from the obvious few!) but it saddens me that people still talk about men’s jobs or needing a man for heavy work. It also saddens me that our government is so lacking in female members and we still have to have a minister for ‘Women and Equality’ in 2016 – surely by now equality should not be a problem!

There are even groups on Facebook trying to address these issues at the basic (children’s) level. Let Toys be Toys and Let Clothes be Clothes are both aiming to allow children to just be children, wearing what they like and playing with whatever makes them happy 🙂

Ok, this has ended up heavier than I planned on it being, but I guess I needed to rant more than I realised!

So to end on a lighter note!

To all the parents/relatives/family friends of young children,

Here are my top five things you should know:

  1. Wherever groups of children are there will be noise, whether it be laughter, screaming or shouting, be prepared for noise!
  2. Child-free spaces no longer exist! We often try to keep our lounge as a grown up room but they always manage to sneak a few toys in or leave random items of clothing lying around (Right now I am sitting on the sofa looking at one sock, a skirt, a pirate ship and a naked baby doll lying on the floor in front of me!)
  3. The clothes are lying around because they love to get naked – at the slightest opportunity children remove all of their clothes, even in the middle of winter!
  4. Your local Minor Injuries Unit nurses will know you very well! We have visited with all three of the Ps on more than one occasion – I was chatting with my cousin the other day about how the Ps are never ill, but she reminded me that we get our money’s worth out of the NHS with our frequent MIU visits!
  5. They will have you tearing your hair out in frustration  one minute and beaming with pride the next. Whatever their gender and personality children will give you all the emotions under the sun and that’s what makes being around them so great.

I hope it is clear that I am not being competitive in any way, nor am I angry with the parents who have written these posts. I think that, sadly, gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that many people don’t even realise they are doing it!

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Blood, Blogs and Brownies :)

This week is my chance to have a break as the Stinker is off work. But, of course, I’ve packed it almost completely with trips away and activities to keep the Ps busy!

After a fun-filled, hectic long weekend away with family and friends, I was quite glad when today brought minging weather and an excuse to just stay at home for the day.

I spent the morning painting (Our whole house needs an update so still loads to do!) while the Stinker amused the Ps with retro computer games! It all ended in tears when Poppet pushed a chair into Pickle and split her eyelid open – apparently blood everywhere but I was luckily in the shower so missed the whole event! Luckily it had stopped bleeding by the time I got downstairs (after being screamed at hysterically by Poppet that I was needed – cue end of relaxing shower!) so I still managed to get out of the house to do some shopping and sitting in our local cafe on my own…

… almost.

I knew I would see someone I knew, as that’s what happens when you live in a tiny town, but I was lucky that the person I bumped into was a good friend (and actually the friend who had given me the voucher for the cafe as a birthday present last month!) So we enjoyed a cuppa and catch up together and when she and her daughter left I had another cuppa and a yummy piece of gluten free raspberry chocolate brownie – yummy 🙂

I enjoyed just sitting quietly (while other people had to deal with their children), thinking about friends and family and our current journey in life. I doodled a bit and made a few notes relating to my plans to start another blog. But mainly I just drank tea, ate cake and relaxed.

I returned home to a very relaxed scene (all watching a film), so left them to it and made dinner. It’s been a very relaxed day, despite the ‘Attack of the Poppet’ incident, and I hope we can have a few more days like it before the Stinker goes back to work next week!

 

The internet, ice and irritability – a usual day!

Today has been a mixed day for us; I didn’t sleep well last night due to a snuffly nose so I was entirely to blame for the negative parts to our day!

The Ps are getting very excited about the week to come as it consists of the Stinker being home, a couple of sleepovers and lots of fun day trips and get togethers (if everything goes to plan that is!). I love that they are so happy about seeing family and special friends but, when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the excitement of three small (but oh so loud) people can be difficult to cope with! I have tried to remain calm and find some moments of sanctuary in the sun today (My attempt to complete a Headspace meditation was however completely unrealistic!) but I did lose my temper with the big Ps a few times about silly things 😦 Poppet actually went off quietly at one point and came back about 45 minutes later with a little owl she had hand sown and a card apologising for being rough with Piccalilli! I of course then apologised to her for overreacting and, after a big hug, we moved on.

I’ve been asked by a few people what a typical day looks like for us. I think it’s changed since I last wrote about A Typical Day and today was more like our current ‘usual days’, without any real ‘structure’ but with a lot of natural learning happening. I guess this is because the big Ps are now much further away from the school way of thinking and I’m also much more relaxed as I have been reassured, by spending time with fellow home edders, that they WILL learn without being forced to do so (also with the fantastic resource known as the internet, which we use daily to answer at least one question – today it was “How do magnetic drawing boards work?” following our discovery learning a few days ago.)

Although I was slightly irritable, the good parts of today were fantastic (as shown in the following photos):

Pickle and Piccalilli spent a lot of time in the garden finding ice and crushing it, looking through it, seeing if it floated in our stream, watching it melt ~ generally learning through discovery again.

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They all enjoyed playing with the trundle wheel that the Stinker has borrowed from work! They competed with each other to see who could go the furthest distance and lots of maths talk came from this.

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When we were all feeling in need of some quiet time this afternoon (Should that say I?!) they all got out the tablets and played various different ‘learning’ games.

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Poppet also practised her recorder and did a little bit of music theory, while Pickle revisited magnets and used the magnetic drawing board some more.

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Oh, and Piccalilli tried to squeeze a baby doll into a backpack! She learnt that it is possible if you persevere!

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