Thursday, 12 April 2018

Meaningful Engagement.

We don't do science. We don't do maths. We don't do music. We don't do geography. We don't do ICT. We don't do drama. We don't do PE. We don't do art.

But of course, we learn about all of these broad categories continuously, in one way or another. To try and quantify a genuine life/education (synonymous imho) is not possible! That would diminish the very experience itself. We could not measure it in and of itself because then it would cease to exist.

Learning is fluid. In order to be truly valuable the learning has to be able to bend and change at will.

For example, I cannot say anything about tomorrow other than that we will get up, get ready, eat, walk the dog, play, read, cook and then go to bed.

If you had asked me this morning whether or not Lily would grasp fractions whilst talking about the time, I could not have predicted that. But she did.

If you had asked me this morning whether or not Dominik would run around the house this evening examining literally everything there is under a black light, I could not have predicted that. But he did.

If you had asked me whether or not Dominik was going to learn how to combine probabilities today, I could not have predicted that. But he did.

If you had asked me whether or not Harriet was going to show me a perfect bow and a cute courtesy today, I could nto have predicted that. But she did.

If you had asked me this morning whether or not Hannon would go to the shop for me...well, you get the idea!

On another note, I also read the draft for the soon to be updated EHE Guidelines today because it is out for consultation until June 2nd 2018. The new guidelines would attempt to destroy our way of life (an example of which I have highlighted above). Our privacy would be brutally invaded against out wishes (right of entry to our home or else risk sanctions). Our family life would be placed under a microscope by an unqualified and unknown stranger (or risk sanctions).

When did we decide that this was ok? I did not think I was living in this kind of country!

I am also so frustrated that people don't seem to understand that the measures that are currently in place are powerful enough to deal with any safeguarding issues that arise when implemented competently.

As a conscious and gentle parent, I care enormously about children being kept safe. What is being proposed in the new guidelines will not enhance the measures currently available. It will easily supersede them. As a home educator I will come instantly under suspicion and scrutiny.  I am a 'red flag'. What the hell does that mean? How dare they! People in glass houses should not be throwing stones.

As a result of the above, my children have talked with me extensively about their rights and how they could be affected by these potential changes.

But of course they have! We practice consensual living! We consult and discuss and compromise with one another all the time so they are used to talking about their rights and their responsibilities. (Another example of something we don't 'do' - explore British Values! Or are these still British values? I'm not sure anymore.)

If you had asked me this morning whether or not the children and I would discuss their rights as citizens, I could not have predicted that. But we did.

I also caught sight of the news about Syria and I find that once again, as above, I am completely insulted by everything going on right now that is being directed by governments!

The public are once again outraged at the thought of dropping yet more bombs on innocent people and still, the government are going to forge ahead anyway! Sound familiar? Anyone remember Iraq? (Apologies for the sarcasm.)

If you had asked me this morning whether or not my family would discuss history and war and democracy on an even grander scale, I could not have predicted that. But we did.

You see, learning has no boundaries. It cannot be meaningfully measured as it is a constant and continuing process, so much so that once it is interrupted, it automatically becomes 'less'.

The more stringent the guidelines are (any guidelines) and the more rules that are put in place, the more the authenticity and the meaningful engagements are kept from us. You cannot be happy and peaceful when you are in chains.

I will not sit back and say nothing about the state of the world. If I won't stand up for my children and their right to be safe, happy and self determining, who will? Just because the government treats me like an incompetent child who knows no better, it does not follow that I will repeat that mistake. My children would not stand to be bullied by anyone, least of all me. I have not raised them that way.

In the spirit of community and continued personal development, the children and I attended a forum about self-directed learning and I am sad to say that I came away a little disappointed. I wanted it to be a chance to meet like minds and meet some free range children and hear what they had to say about their futures but what it actually was was something different entirely.

The event that sticks in my mind the clearest, is when my son had wanted to use the weekend, and a massive community, to make an escape room! He was told we could only book a space for a 30 minute slot. Well, it isn't possible to create an escape room in just 30 minutes so he decided not to bother in spite of my protests that I was sure we could sort something out.

I didn't think that this was in keeping with the spirit of self directed learning at all and it really clouded my view from there on in. My son was disappointed after this happened so we decided to go and do something different instead...so we went for a walk by the sea!

I kind of wish we'd saved the money and gone to Comicon instead but, I had to go and see for myself what it was all about, and the children were so supportive of my desire to go that I did give it my best shot but found that that kind of environment just isn't for me!

I have had so much to write that I'm not sure any of it made it out in tact!
Sorry. It's a bit of a garbled mess. I might come back and edit it.
But I probably won't!


In conclusion -

In order to truly learn, I am more and more leaning towards the idea that it has to be in a completely self-motivated and malleable environment. You just can't plan for it!

N x

Monday, 18 December 2017

Contemplating Snowflakes

Whilst Lily and I were making paper craft snowflakes this evening loads of things occurred that I felt compelled to share!

Firstly, it was unanimous, amoung our little family at least, that the 6 pointed snowflakes looked amazing when compared with the 4 pointed snowflakes.

We asked eachother why and had a nice discussion about nature, Fibonacci numbers, symmetry, tessellation, fractions and probably a couple of other things too! Win, win with a spontaneous and cool Christmas craft!

The snowflakes also brought to light a few other things unrelated to the snowflakes themselves.

Lily found it really hard. Overall. Not just one part. She could not imagine the completed snowflake in her head and even after she had cut one, she had to refold it and study what she had done in order to draw another. She also could not follow a pattern. Whilst she was designing her snowflake, she constantly unfolded and refolded, indicating again that she was unable to imagine what it may look like in the end (when unfolded). She point blank (read - after a huge meltdown), refused to use the second method we found for folding the paper (the one that created the 6 pointed snowflakes) because she thought the first method was easier. And finally, she found the cutting really stressful. She was breathing hard and then holding her breathe. She was groaning and gnarling with frustration. She was terrified she would cut her design too far and ruin it. She did actually do this a couple of times and both were snowflakes were violently screwed up and thrown across the table.

However, she is now happily sat making her snowflakes, her way and she is improving fast! Oh, and they are being stuck all over the house! :-)

During the snowflake making, Dominik came into the kitchen with his office chair, tablet, hat and headphones so that I could do his daily neurodevelopmental exercises. Amazing. I didn't even ask him to come. He wandered in and was ready to get started.

Well, that didn't last long. It really was too good to be true.

Let me explain why I think Dominik then had a huge meltdown (larger than he's experienced in a fair few weeks).

On Wednesday, we're going to see Hamilton in London. I cannot recall if I have ever mentioned his obsession with the musical in this blog, but, it's been there, for probably around 9 months now. He knows all the words to a large chunk of the songs. He has researched it's performers and writer, read parts of the Benjamin Franklin papers, learned some American History, spent hours singing the songs and has generally been very Autistic about it!

It's heavily on his mind and is basically replacing Christmas as his 'event' this year. Everything in his life revolves around 7.30pm Wednesday night. He is excited, terrified, nervous, angry, thankful and anxious all the time.

So, back to the kitchen, the reason he was unable to even start his therapy is because he started talking to me about his sleep pattern. It is all over the place and he has been trying  to 'correct it' (his words, not mine). As he sat on his chair he asked me what I thought he could do to try and ensure he does not feel tired during our evening out to see Hamilton (which is in fact a late afternoon to an early morning in reality) and I answered him.
That was my mistake. He did not actually want to hear my suggestions (turn everything off, have a warm milk, put on the fan for white noise and stay in bed to relax and, hopefully at the very least, help his body understand that it is bed time now), what he wanted was a big hug and some empathy.

Soooooo, mine were not helpful suggestions in the circumstances. They were stupid, useless, a waste of time and obviously not going to work for him (his words). Sigh. He stomped off. Slammed his chair against the kitchen cupboards and slammed his bedroom door for good measure.

I probably should have seen it coming when I noticed that his actions were literally, 'too good to be true' but I didn't. I was worn out from calming and coaching Lily for half an hour. I was brain numb from talking about Fibonacci and geometry. I was excited that Dominik was doing something VOLUNTARILY that I have literally had to beg him to do every. single. day. since September. I missed the clues!

But, here I am now, analyzing what happened and seeing it all more clearly.

I think that's why I write this blog. Having no partner to reflect with means that I have to get the thoughts out somewhere! Ta-da! :-)

Dominik will be ok. I will go downstairs now and give him that hug and tell him that of course he won't feel tired and that of course he WILL NOT fall asleep on Wednesday! And that it is going to be perfect.

Thanks for reading!

N x

PS - Snowflakes also made me think of a friend who lost a loved one this week and send her a little extra prayer. Life is just so precious and fleeting, much like snowflakes themselves, so love each other and be kind. <3

PPS - Lily is writing her first manga! Just giving it a mention because otherwise I will never remember when she wrote it!


Monday, 27 November 2017

There is ALWAYS more to learn.

The home education community is currently feeling under attack once again. (There is a pattern.)

Lord Soley's bill had its second reading in the House of Lords last week and is proceeding to the committee stage whereby amendments and changes can be made before it is presented again.

My mood is wobbling between screaming, "I told you so!" to anyone who will listen/hiding from all social media/springing into direct, offensive action or, starting some process of family defense!

Amidst all of this angst though, I think the above title is vitally important.
I am desperately trying not to lose sight of what I love about my family life and why we choose to live as we do.

The title of this post is the reason why I LOVE home education, and especially unschooling.

We are all always learning and we know that there is ALWAYS more to learn. We are never done.

In my house:
  • We do not kid ourselves that it is only during 'lesson time' that we are learning something important. 
  • We do not wait for someone else to suddenly impart the knowledge we need upon us.
  • We do not believe that all there is that is worth learning comes in bite-size chunks in age appropriate categories and can only be delivered by 'qualified' teachers.
The thought of having to teach my children a prescribed curriculum and subject them to standardised testing, just sucks all the joy, spontaneity, creativity and desire OUT of our learning experience and therefore our family lives. If they wanted to learn in a traditional way, they would all choose to be in school (yes, they have the choice and their voices are loud and clear let me assure you :-D).

If the Lords wish to have a larger say in how I educate my children (or how they educate themselves for that matter), they had best be providing the funds for me to do it! This is of course in the same way that they would fund a school! If the Lords want that right then they need to accept the financial responsibility too. I am almost certain that this is not something they would consider.
 
I perhaps would not be quite so bothered by their interest if it weren't for the fact that modern science has demonstrated over and over again that active, effective, long term learning does not happen in a classroom style environment!

Academics have also proven that delaying formal learning IMPROVES long term results.
We know that intrinsic motivation is key and yet we push more and more external rewards.
We also know that homework has no significant, measurable effect on results and yet it is still mandatory in many schools.
We know that our school population are in the poorest mental health EVER in history and yet nothing is being done about it.


Obviously nothing about the bill is set in stone (indeed it may come to absolutely nothing, although I highly doubt it), and I am largely speculating about what might happen in the future, but I think it is safe to say that child led learning (that looks entirely different than 'mainstream' learning) will be more difficult to 'justify' to the local government representatives when they come around for their mandatory home visits.

I find the notion of my children studying a curriculum completely baffling. Why would you want your children to learn facts and information that come from limited and biased sources? Why would you want your children memorising information and 'facts' that are at best of date and at worst incorrect? Why would you want them to be basically the same as every other child? Why would you want to risk their mental health and well being as well as their curiosity and enthusiasm? (NB - I am speaking ONLY for myself.)

I am aware that I am using broad strokes when speaking about school and school children.
I am aware that there are many children who love school.
And to that I say, "Thank goodness!".
Please do not think for one second I am hoping to ban schools or discourage those who love it from attending. I most definitely am not.  Each to their own provided there is no actual harm.

What I am doing is defending my right to make different choices, and the rights of my children to follow their interests, talents, skills and hobbies in their own time and in their own way.

Speaking only for my family, we are active, self-motivated learners. Our minds are waiting all the time to glean some nuance we missed before. Or to hear a new word or explore a new idea. Our lifestyle facilitates our learning.

We embrace our lives as a part of the whole 'lesson'. To spend these precious years in a government institution seems like a huge waste of time and opportunity to me. Again, just speaking for myself.

There are many lessons in this experience too I'm sure and I hope we can all explore them together.

Please, when the time comes, stand by me and my family and help us protect our right to learn in a way that is most meaningful to us.

Join the discussion. This affects us all.

Thanks for reading my tired, our of practice ramblings.

N x

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Irritating timing.

Every time I get a little distracted and disheartened with life in general, it turns around.

It is literally like I need to hit my version of 'bottom', (which isn't very low!) in order to turn it around.

I have been feeling truly disappointed with my lot lately. It is fairly uncharacteristic for me to feel pessimistic and frightened, but I have been.

On the surface everything is great though! I honestly cannot complain.

We have all that we need and we are healthy and (mostly) getting along well with each other happily.
The weather has been wonderful!
We've had a lovely family holiday in a lodge in Norfolk and were able to visit dear friends.
Lily is managing life so well it means she must be happy and stress free. Yay!
Harriet is pushing every limit she encounters in true 2 year old style! It is exhausting.
Hannon is designing games and creating his own redstone circuits whilst having agreed to go back to Scouts. Exciting times.
Dominik went to the cinema alone today (at his request), gave Hannon permission to use his PS4 whilst he was gone (arghhhhh, never happened before), had a shower before he went and loved every minute of it. So, so proud of his achievement.

The children have all been talking about their passions and what they see in their respective futures. They are all enthusiastic about their options and seem to be approaching the subject in unique ways.
Hannon is focused on being a game designer and is flowing with ideas of projects to work on with his friends.
Lily is drawing and offering her 'chibi' portraits for sale.
Dominik has asked to attend voice coaching tuition to improve his chances of becoming a professional voice actor.

Such wonderful, genuine aspirations that will allow them to live authentic lives and hopefully remain happy and safe. They all want to generate their incomes from their own talents.

They are all conscious that their choices allow them to travel in the future whilst they continue working! And they also know that they will be able to determine their own schedules to a large extent!

I've been talking about creating an income from one of my passions too, so I can completely relate to their emotions. I sometimes wish that I'd been encouraged to follow my instincts and had the freedom to develop my passions at their ages.

But I think that all of the above happened exactly because the last few weeks, until today, have been dull!

Since we returned from our holiday, we have kept our socialising to a minimum (and our spending) as we all needed to recharge, but it has made life a little quieter than usual.

Today was clearly the end of that cycle. It feels almost as if we flat-lined for a moment and then rebounded afresh!

I now realise, that for our family, a natural 'lull' is absolutely necessary in order for us to coalesce the knowledge we've each been gathering.
It's like the moment before you are finally able to make a decision about something you've been procrastinating over! And on a family sized scale!

The learning is happening for all of us all the time if we would only slow down enough to actually process each moment.

I feel so lucky to be able to offer my special needs children such a varied and interesting life.

N x

Sunday, 11 June 2017

It's the moments that take your breath away.

Tonight I connected with my children in my favourite way.

We each spent some time reflecting on our day and listening to it from a different perspective. I would love to say we do this every night, but we don't! We often discuss particular events but we rarely talk about our entire day as we did tonight.

Lily came to tell me that she'd let the cat out, locked all the doors, turned off all the lights and folded up her clothes. I must have had the most dramatic change in demeanor because suddenly Lily was beside herself with joy! The feeling that engulfed me when she listed all the things she had just done (as well as being in her pajama's and having brushed her teeth) was one of utter love. I felt cared for, loved, heard and appreciated all at once.

Lily had done all of those jobs, in her own words, "Because I am getting older now and I need to learn to look after myself more." without any prompting at all from me.

My children are asked to help when needed, but are rarely required to do something for me when I ask (under threat or bribe). Lily has simply observed me and listened to my questions if she comes upstairs after I do, and learnt what jobs must be done before coming up to go to bed.

Of course she has!

In my deepest, most secure place I know my children are learning these things all the time, but at a shallower level, I still shit myself regularly that I'm doing this mum thing all wrong!

As Lily and I were talking, we discussed something that had happened when we had guests over this afternoon. Lily, plus 3 other children including Dominik, had been playing on the trampoline when Dominik pushed Lily and she fell into another child.

Lily hit her mouth and a massive meltdown ensued. She screamed at the top of her voice and listeners would have thought she was dying! Dominik simply climbed off the trampoline and said quietly that he was going inside.

I calmly tried to reassure Lily that she was ok and that she could have anything she needed to help her calm down. She was insistent that Dominik had hurt her lip on purpose. She did not comprehend that it was an accident. She assigned blame for her poorly mouth to the push from Dominik. She was inconsolable. :-(

When we talked about this before bed tonight, Lily said that she had acted childishly and that she was sorry for screaming. We decided to risk disturbing Dominik to tell him that we were both very proud of him, that we loved him and that Lily was sorry.

We first checked that all the doors were indeed locked (!), and then knocked on his door. He said we could come in and Lily, calmly and kindly, said she was sorry for what she did and that she knew he did not do it on purpose. He was visibly relieved and thanked Lily for coming to tell him.

Dominik interacted with two young men today, neither of whom are associated with particularly positive memories, and he did it amazingly well. I am so proud. He has had an abnormal sleep pattern again recently and has been really struggling to live with us all (and vice versa) but, the effort he has put in is paying off. I think he has realised, for the time being at least, that he does enjoy life when we spend more time together and that he can exercise some self control if he is able to pay attention.

Lily also played hostess today and loved it! She asked more than once if everyone was having a nice time (asking for a show of hands!), put food on plates and brought almost everything outside, all by herself. She was so proud to have been a help. It was amazing.

Hannon played happily with both of our visitors and didn't eat all the pizza before anyone else had had some! :-D He was also an amazing host. Polite, friendly and fun.

Harriet, and my lovely friend who babysat for me today (hey Sharon!), looked to have had an amazing time together too judging from the pictures! Harriet had looked forward to Sharon and Pepsi arriving all day so was quite happy for me to toddle off to my roller derby course without so much as a backwards glance!

Today I was so blessed.

Good friends. Lovely food. Fresh air. Roller skates. Love. Gratitude. Understanding. Learning. Happiness.

I'm pretty sure I could not ask for more.

Hope you all have a blessed week

N x


PS - UPDATE - Dominik has made some huge developmental leaps as a result of his brushing and movement therapy. For the first time ever he is becoming self-aware. The egocentricity, notable during toddler hood, is finally abating. He is starting to see that he is a part of a system and not alone in this place. He is taking better care of his immediate environment and is being more considerate than I had ever dared to hope for.

Small steps. Kind words. Patience.


Baby-wearing (28months, so not really a baby anymore!) my way through painting my garden furniture and cutting the grass!


Monday, 13 March 2017

UNschooling Life

This past week has been an enlightening experience.

We've felt energised by the warmer temperatures and the first signs of Spring so we've been out of the house more than in it I think. Just amazing. At last!

We've been to a park almost everyday and visited Wrest Park yesterday, (all with the Slackline). We even went swimming today. All 5 of us! It was so fun and it went so well. Proud moments.

One trip however, does stand out because it involved a life changing discussion for us all.

My youngest son and I went to 'town' (rare event) to visit the library and collect my new glasses. The other 3 children stayed at home with their nan so it was a treat to be out, just us two for a change.

We ran our errands and then decided to go to CEX and look at the games because H had some birthday money to spend (from his Dad!). He spent £6.50 on two games and decided to give his change to the homeless man that had asked us for some just before we had entered the shop.

As he walked up to the man to give him his money, a lady walked past and shouted, "Get a f*C^ing job.". I felt so sad and angry and disappointed all at once. My stomach took a nosedive and I felt sick.

After several seconds, I realised that I was truly outraged. That someone could show such little compassion almost floored me. H didn't hear what she had said, but I was upset, and I repeated it to him. He was easily as angry as I was.

This event has led to several discussions over the following days about how this could have happened. When did it happen? Has it always been this way?

We have now discussed it at length, and we are all in agreement that the next time we should witness something like this, we should say something.

It is time to stand up and be heard.

The misfits. The hippies. The carers. The children. All of you (us).

It is incumbent upon us to act now. It is time.

We're not advocating anything other than being compassionate and empathetic during your daily lives. We should all be sharing our goodness and shining our own individual light on dark places and dark people and dark acts. Things have to change.

I have always wanted to be kind but I guess it is presented as something meek and gentle (not very me!), so is consequently seen as a weak characteristic.

I think it is time that 'being kind' was seen as also being a courageous and (sometimes) loud characteristic!

Why not? Why can't we be kind, loudly? Share your good deeds! Spread your fortune and count your blessings! Speak out against injustice. Don't just sign petitions! Use your voice.

Let's face it, we are the peacemakers! I know that it is so difficult to invite conflict into our lives. It is uncomfortable and stressful for us to 'draw attention' to ourselves. I truly understand. But it is time now.  

Has society become so lost that it cannot even recognise kindness anymore? What if it has?

 
The following quote keeps me searching, learning, speaking out and acting.



For me, this is what unschooling is all about. The impromptu lessons and experiences that are immeasurable in their impact.

What happened during these conversations is life long learning.

This week my children and I realised that being kind and empathetic are the lock and key to true happiness.

Sending out lots of love tonight,

N x

PS - A friend shared this with me once and it seems pertinent.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

#100daysofhomeed

Just wanted to add some pictures for a change.

Here are our bookcases! I have been thinking a lot about our journey and the prevailing theme is literature.

If you all read together, for pleasure, you can't go wrong.

Harriet's book box.

Lily's/family book shelf

Hannon's book shelf

Natasha's book shelf

And Dominik's to come (of course). :-)

Natasha x