11 surefire ways to show your children that you care…

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So I recently read a Psychology Today article claiming to tell me the 11 ways that my man should show me that he loves me. And it told me that I’m very lucky to have the Stinker as he does all of the things (and more, like bringing me wine and chocolate on a Wednesday evening when I’m feeling tired and rubbish!)

But it got me to thinking about how we can show our children how much we love them, and care about them as individual human beings, in the same 11 ways:

1. Want to spend time with them. Ok so we all have to spend time with our children (especially when we’re home educating them!) but it’s about finding time and truly enjoying doing an activity with them. For example at our home ed group today one of the very musical mothers (who already runs band, recorders and drama!) decided to start a choir, which Poppet was keen (but nervous) to join. I was happy to go along with her and we really enjoyed singing a Let it Go/Happy mash up together 🙂 (Well I think I might have enjoyed it slightly more!)

2. Ask about the time you spend apart. Well at the moment that’s rare for us, but the big Ps do a few sport activities without us there and I always make a point of asking how it has gone. Whether or not I receive a coherent response is another matter because it seems as if nearly 8 is the new teenager! (Another blog to follow about that soon.)

3. Trust them. Obviously my children are not quite at the stage of hiding things from me yet but I guess when they reach their teens (or 8 – see above!) they might. I really hope that we are building the kind of relationship where they will trust me enough to share things with me and I’ll be able to trust that they will lead a, mostly, safe life.

4. Help when they need it. As parents this is a given really, but sometimes I think it is important to give the help without making a big deal out of it, without expecting any thanks, just because we want to. We are often caught up in ensuring our children grow up to be respectful with pleases and thank yous but sometimes a little bit of help, just because we want to, doesn’t need a big song and a dance to be made. I watched a lovely home ed dad helping Poppet learn to finger knit yesterday; when it clicked she was so focused on her knitting that I don’t think a thanks passed her lips, but the dad of her friend looked so pleased that she was obviously chuffed with herself, I think that was all the thanks he needed. If I had got involved and told her to say thank you I think the magic of the moment would have disappeared. (Another post on saying thank you, or not, to come soon.)

5. Show respect for their views. As the Ps get older they are starting to have more of an opinion about things. It can be all too easy to dismiss children’s views as immature or pointless, but we are really trying to bring our children up to know that they are valued and also have interesting points to share in a family discussion, and that even grown ups sometimes have a view that seems silly!

6. Include them in decisions. This follows on well from point 5. If we respect their views then we care about what they think of our choices. Sometimes as parents we just need to be able to say what we are doing or where we are going, but to allow our children to help make decisions we really show them that we care what they think. As home educators trying to be as child led and unschooling as possible, we often ask the Ps to help make decisions, the simple fact that they don’t attend school being the main one. But be warned, the results aren’t always what you hoped for (a rainy day in the garden making mud pies appeal to anyone?!)

7. Show affection. Loving physical contact is so important, in fact it is crucial for a child’s well being. As children get older the chances to show affection in this way diminish, but it is so important to continue to give them. Cuddles can also help with behaviour as author of the Positive Discipline series, Dr. Jane Nelsen explains, “Children do better when they feel better.” The Ps all love a cuddle, to the point where I often wish I had more arms, but I hope they continue to as they get older.

8. Look at them. I think all parents are guilty of not doing this one at times. We can be busy making dinner, washing up or taking time out on Facebook when a little face pops up with something really interesting (to them!) to share with us. “Oh lovely” or something similar comes out of our mouth but we don’t take the time to focus on them. I also find that if I don’t actually stop and listen properly I don’t really take in what they are saying; I’ve been known to agree to things without ever really hearing what I’ve agreed to! All jokes aside though, how does it feel when you are talking to someone who doesn’t actually engage with you? Horrible isn’t it, so if we love and respect our little people we should show them this common courtesy.

9. Talk about the past. We often share old photos and talk about what life was like when the Ps were littler. They love hearing funny stories about themselves and we enjoy sharing them. “Remember the time when…” is a common sentence starter in this house 🙂

10. Defend them. I guess this is usually a given with parenting but it’s important to let our children know that we’re in their corner. Ok we’re not always going to agree with them and the things they do but we should always have their back.

11. Make them feel good about themselves. I’d assume that by doing all of the above we will be going the right way to boosting our children’s self esteem, making them feel like worthwhile, valued human beings.

I really hope that the Ps get all of these 11 affirmations from myself and the Stinker regularly, even on a rubbish Wednesday when all I want is wine and chocolate! Thanks for loving me Stinker ❤

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Autumn is back again…

It’s been nearly a year since I started writing my blog! Looking back I can see how much more relaxed we are at this stage in our journey. All three girls seem to be happy and the sunny days help my moods 🙂

We’ve had a great week getting properly back into our ‘routine’ and the reduced ‘timetable’ has been great, although we’ve still been hectic and the Ps are currently zoned out for Friday Film Night, giving me an hour to write this while dinner cooks itself!

Monday – Juno went to kindy again, although I’m still staying with her at the moment so didn’t get any time to focus on the big Ps but Nanny did some experiments with them so they were happy 🙂

Tuesday – We spent the morning making pizzas on a home ed trip to Pizza Express, which we then ate in the park in the sunshine. We then went to pony club for the first session back this term. It was very different without our friends there (who have moved to Germany 😦 ) but hopefully we’ll get to know the other people.

 

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Wednesday – Our usual social group had to be cancelled but a large group of us met up in the park, where Poppet still had her cornet lesson!

Thursday – We spent the day at Slimbridge, with Piccalilli’s little friend, looking for the lego creatures.

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Friday – The big Ps did tennis this morning and then we went to see friends this afternoon (with a friend each everyone played happily)

It sounds like we did no actual ‘learning’ but in amongst this we spent some time learning about fractions in creative ways and Poppet spent most mornings sewing (having decided to make Christmas presents for the whole family this year!)

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A week of days…

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right of course; every week has days – seven if we want to be precise about it. But sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that each new day can be a fresh start and we can do/be whatever we want each and every day.

I know that as adults it is harder to start afresh every day. There are things that need to happen. There are consequences of the previous day to deal with. There are plans to be made for the following day.

But children don’t see the world like us. They live for the moment. They forget about the argument you had yesterday, well yesterday! They don’t worry about what’s happening in the next hour  (as long as they’ve been fed recently!) let alone the next day.

What I’m trying to say is that for the past week I’ve been trying to get into a child’s mindset and just enjoy each day as it comes. And do you know what? I’ve enjoyed our days more for it.

I’m not worrying about trying to link all of our learning and going totally with the flow of what the Ps want to know – we’ve had an Isambard Kingdom Brunel day of designing and making bridges inspired by looking at local history films on YouTube (check out the Brunel one – it’s brilliant).

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Followed by a Roald Dahl day (#roalddahl100) designing chocolate bars (which the Ps are now keen to make!) and learning about fairtrade after Poppet asked what the symbol on the packet meant.

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We’ve managed to practise times tables in fun ways linked to the things we’ve been finding out about; bricks for bridges and sharing out chocolates – can you guess which one we enjoyed the most? !

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Pickle has been the most inspired to learn something than I’ve seen her in a long time. Poppet told me today that having special days at home was a lot more fun than going out to groups (I hope her enthusiasm continues!)

Living for each day is going well in our world 🙂

We’re back to it, with a day whittling in the woods!

Of course ‘learning’ is happening all the time, even when we take a ‘break’ over the summer but we started back to home education this week with a renewed enthusiasm all round!

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Our #notbacktoschool photo 🙂

There have been some changes in the way we’re doing things and everything is fluid and constantly altering so who knows where we’ll be tomorrow, let alone next week! But currently the plan is for the big Ps attend less groups and spend more time learning at home, but in an informal way! Piccalilli is going to be attending a Steiner kindergarten, initially for two mornings a week but this could be upped if things work out well. The time that she is at kindy will be the times that the big Ps can focus more easily on their learning projects (that’s the idea anyway!)

So, for the new ‘learning’ year (it seems funny that we still work with the school calendar, but when you have a husband working in education it seems to make sense) our plan is to focus on local history and geography with our days as follows:

Monday – Piccalilli will attend kindy. Nanny will spend the day with us so the big Ps can both have one-on-one time to do their learning projects; they will go to Beavers in the evening

Tuesday – Piccalilli will attend kindy. Me and the big Ps will either learn at home or go out for some living history/geography days with friends

Wednesday – Home ed social group. Also recorders/band (cornet!)/drama/sports groups

Thursday – A day to meet friends/go on day trips/learn at home followed by swimming lessons

Friday – tennis lesson followed by home learning/chilling! Monthly Art group

Saturday – ballet for Poppet and gymnastics for Pickle

Sunday – family day

It’s a much less full week that last term, but the Ps have requested not to attend as many groups. I’m hoping that we will have enough going on to keep them busy and entertained but we’ll see! We can always add some more activities if needs be…

Our closest home ed friends, who we used to see at least once a week, have sadly moved to Berlin over the summer. There are lots of other lovely people that we enjoy spending time with so hopefully we’ll have plenty of social activities to attend. I don’t really know why I’m worrying. Yesterday we spent the day at Westonbirt with friends, where the Ps had a great time den building and whittling (now they are  requesting their own penknives!). Today we are meeting with a large group of home edders for a ‘not back to school’ play in the park and picnic 🙂

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Whittling in the woods at Westonbirt!

At the moment I’m enthusiastic and clear on the way we are doing things (child led with some adult input to direct their learning) so hope this remains until half term – wish me luck!

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The obligatory silly faces shot 😉

Independence vs Idleness – Are we really learning?

I find it really interesting chatting to people, usually with grown-up children, who wish they’d realised that home education was an option… After just over a year in the world of home ed I know I am not an expert, but I certainly feel much more confident (as do the Ps!) when answering questions and discussing the route we have taken.

We are, of course, still discovering ‘how’ we do things; it changes regularly and can be different day to day!

But one thing I know is that I left the teaching profession (and then removed my children from it) for a reason. When people say “Oh, you’re a teacher so you know what you’re doing”, I find it quite amusing.

We most definitely don’t do ‘school at home’ (although that is one route that some home educating families take) –  when I said this to a pilates’ friend last week, she responded “Oh, so where do you do school?” When I explained that what I meant was that we don’t have a rigid timetable and don’t spend hours doing sit-down learning, rather we learn through the activities we are doing (with some sit-down learning when the Ps request it), she seemed slightly shocked (“Doesn’t someone check up on you?”) but even more keen on the idea!

We are ALL learning all the time – we don’t need to be sitting at a desk listening to one person talk and then completing a comprehension (or memory) task based on what we have heard. I am passionate about helping my children to become learners, to be inquisitive, to be capable of getting by in life, to be confident in who they are.

I really want the Ps to grow up to be independent learners, keen to find out about the world in which they live, without having to be pushed to learn (often pointless) information. Most of the learning we do is child-directed – they tell me what they are interested in and I facilitate their learning of that topic. Some days we follow our ‘topic’; some days we find out about something random inspired by a walk or visit; some days we don’t appear to be learning much!

But I am sure that most of the time the Ps aren’t being idle… Pickle isn’t as keen to ‘learn’ in the formal sense of the word as Poppet, but some of the facts that she shares amaze me and make me realise that she is definitely an independent learner who does pick up and awful lot of knowledge in her own way (usually physically!). And Piccalilli is already showing signs of loving learning (she often asks for her own books to do ‘writing’ and loves answering questions about the stories we have shared!), which I believe is heightened due to being brought up in a learning environment.

I have always loved learning, but remember very few ‘facts’ (I just don’t think my brain works that way!) I am sure that the Ps will grow up to be incredible, independent learners 🙂

A few pictures of that past week’s ‘learning’ activities:

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Making fruity fridge flapjacks, inspired by the ones our lovely neighbour let us try 🙂
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Making bird nest hangers to help the birds mend broken nests thanks to ‘A Little Bit of Dirt’
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Measuring our Space Rocket plants for Tim Peake 🙂
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Working out how to double-scoot to make the trip home from the shop easier! 🙂

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 ❤

 

 

 

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.