A discussion and an idea

I’m currently KonMari-ing our books.  I mentioned this earlier.

Today while doing the kids’ books section of the process I compared the releasing of the unwanted books to our other semi-regular donation of goods and clothes to our local Women’s Refuge.  I also tied in the purpose of the “Donate” portion of their pocket money to the short discussion.

Miss Oh saw a connection immediately to helping others, and what they might need.
She asked if it would be a good idea to donate food to those who may be in need and could we do that.
I said it would be, then I suggested the idea of going to our local food bank and asking what items they most need.  Then perhaps we could get together a box once a month for them.

Apparently that would be a good idea.   And apparently we have stumbled in to another life lesson in appreciating what you have and doing what you can for others.

It’s the joy of impromptu discussions and a joy sparking result for me.

Life skills for kids – a timely reminder

Over at my personal blog I’ve talked about starting out on the KonMari method of decluttering and organisation.  Interestingly enough I started this morning off by thinking about moving through the untouched bookshelves today.  The Universe clearly approves as when I sat down with my coffee and the interwebs for my morning perusal of everyone else’s lives, what should come across my screen but a link to a post about the method.

What has this to do with homeschooling?  Well the post was by a home educating parent supporting her kids to learn how to look after their environment and possessions.

I often find that things poke my conscience in roundabout ways, and this one not only reminded me of my earlier morning thoughts of clearing out things we no longer love, but also of my overarching ideas around allowing the kids more autonomy as they grow.  It certainly is a completely 360º approach to kids’ stuff than I’ve come across from most other parents.  Elsewhere the sneak-it-out and hide-it-out-of-the-house method seems highly popular, as does the authoritarian method where the parent decides what goes and too bad for the kid as “we’re doing it’s for their own good”, that I’ve heard of from others.

Personally I’ve struggled with both of those ‘normal’ behaviours ever since I read another opinion on treating kids possessions the same way you would an adult’s – i.e. you wouldn’t give your grown friends gifts and then go round to their messy homes and start chucking out stuff you gave them, all the while saying “You have too much stuff, this is for your own good!  And think about all those people who have nothing in this world.”

Yet, like most parents, my eyes roll up in to the back of my head when I look at the bombsite that the kids get their rooms in to.  Clutter does my head in, there’s no denying it.  I am a person who requires space and clear surfaces in order to feel relatively relaxed in my home, not that I get them, or am great at looking after my own space.  So it’s a constant tension for me – a relatively clean kid’s room vs their autonomy.  Then along comes observations like this that challenge me to remember that some things in life are a process and not available for immediate gratification.

We have to accept our responsibility for things getting to this point and know that there is no quick fix for getting back out. Shifting the family culture is a long term goal best met through supporting their own choices (mistakes included) and leading by example.

Reading this blog post by Memoirs of a Childhood, I’ve realised that perhaps I need to button down that need for immediate success in cleanliness and strive for seeing the beginnings of self-control and self-determination in my kids.  Maybe I need to shift my focus from my (desperate, at times) need to be able to see the floor all through the house, to one where I help and support my kids with taking ownership of their own space.

Anyway, that’s a bit semi-philosophical this morning.  To finish up, here’s the link to the blog post that sparked it all off.

KonMari with Kids by Memoirs of a Childhood.

 

Teaching vs Learning

knowledge ahead

One of my favourite blogs, Happiness is Here, posted a great reminder about staying out of the way of the kids while they’re learning.  Which is pretty much all of the time!
I needed to hear this and now have some habits that require work to break.

If you have a tendency to teach your kids or help them a lot, then this might be good for you to read too.

Without further ado, head here to read Supporting Learning Without Taking Over.

Why choose to home educate?

At the beachThere are plenty of reasons why you might choose to home educate your children.  In the 2013 NCHENZ survey the top 5 reasons, in order of the number of responses were:
– learning at their own pace
– more flexible lifestyle
– closer family unit
– not happy with the school system
– family values more central

Interestingly the 2015 survey found an almost identical choice of answers.  And as you can clearly see, the majority of people actively choose this option from a positive perspective. Of the top five reasons, four are all about the positive benefits of home education and only one is about avoiding the school system.

I think that this fairly reflects my view on things too.  As neither of our kids have been to school, there were no issues around bullying or being left to drift, or possibly struggling in some areas.  We haven’t been forced into choosing this path for the Oh Waily kids, and our view has always been about the positives rather than the negatives.

While both the Oh Waily parents did very well in school, there were things we thought home educating would do that schools simply can’t.  Individualised learning being one of the main ones.  Our kids can go as fast or as slow as they want in learning, without fears of being teased or ‘aware’ that they are either ‘geeky-bright’ or ‘falling behind’.
The little blighters have one-on-one tutelage available to them on call, 24/7.

We have a fabulously flexible lifestyle that allows for lots and lots of experiences that school kids often have to ‘save up’ for the school holidays or weekends.  We get to go places in the quiet times and enjoy a more relaxed meander through and around places that otherwise might be teeming with people.  Case in point – last week we went to Auckland with Mr Oh Waily, who had to be up that neck of the woods for work.  While he worked, the kids and I went to Kelly Tarlton’s, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Zoo and Butterfly Creek.  We finished off with a game of mini-golf at Adventure Golf.  And along with that, they got to catch up with their grandparents as part of the trip.

Are we a closer family unit?  I’d like to think so.  For the most part my pair of monkeys get on really well and look after each other when they need to.  They scrap like other siblings do, but are also brilliant at co-operating when the mood takes them.  And I hope that this continues and grows as the kids age.
Is it all a bed of roses? No.  We are together 24/7 and that has its moments.  But I love being with them and can’t imagine farming them out on a permanent basis to anyone else to teach and be with.  Even when they’re driving me nuts.  Well maybe not right at the moment they’re driving me nuts, but afterwards… for sure.

As for being unhappy with the school system, yeah I guess as we’ve gone along I have come to thinking that way about things.  This isn’t to say that it’s all a mess, but there are things about it that no longer make sense to me when I watch my kids learning.  First off, I don’t want them to disappear in amongst 20 or 30 other kids.  I don’t want them to have to take tests to show skills – at least while they are young.  This was reinforced in my own mind when I had to sit tests and exams last year for a university paper I took, and had it confirm for me that all it was doing was showing how many snippets of knowledge I could remember and get out on paper in three hours.
I don’t want them to waste their lives on ‘busy work’ while they wait for the remainder of the class to catch up (or be left behind and have their self-esteem and confidence take a blow, while others waited on them).  I don’t make my 7 year old daughter do stuff that she has clearly shown she understands and is capable of doing, over and over and over again.  Revision of information, sure.  Repetitive work, no.
I don’t want creativity sidelined for ‘academic’ work.  I want my kids to be as rounded as possible – as whole as possible.  I want them to indulge their sporting sides, their art and crafting sides, and if it ever shows up…their musical sides. (In the meantime, I’ll settle for their love of dance and appreciation of the wide variety of music I play to them.  This being a current favourite.)  And I don’t want them to be convinced that their interests are ‘geeky’ or ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ or whatever the term du jour is for kids who dance to their own beat.

Pretty much that covers the family values side of things too.  I want the kids to be themselves, learn at their own pace and be valued for who they are and what they’re interested in learning about.  I want them to have a childhood where they can spend at least 50% or more of their time in creative, playful explorations of their own. I want to provide as many opportunities for life experiences as we can and is sensible to do at this stage of their lives.
I think we can give them the best environment to do that in.
I know that’s not possible in school as they would already be spending seven hours most days following other people’s rules about how they spend their time.  They only have to follow mine for a tiny fraction of that time during our days.
I don’t know about your household but that would leave roughly two hours in the morning (6:30am rising in this house, people!) and four hours in the evening for “their time” – and that doesn’t include time out for dinner and to do any homework. (I included an arbitrary 30 minutes before & after school in my estimates for travel & general faffing around, but knowing the shamble that my pair are like getting ready to go anywhere…it’d be much longer and more nagging on my part than I care to think about, just to get ready.)

Is this choice for everyone?  Nope.  Not at all.

Does it have its downsides?  Yep.  You don’t get nearly as much ‘time off’ or ‘personal time’ or ‘personal space’.  You need to have a robust support network or ridiculously strong internal fortitude – either / or both.  You will often have to live your family life on one income and still fund all of the learning opportunities you want your kids to have.  Thankfully a lot of learning opportunities do not cost an arm and a leg.  Still, a little bit more than $700 a year from the government would be nice, since we’re saving them several thousands of dollars per child per year in funding. A little bit more for us would be nice.  How single parents do home ed, I have no idea, but they have my fullest admiration as I can’t even begin to imagine how much harder that would make it.

Does the downside outweigh the positives?  For us, nope.  For others they may be a deal breaker.  Like all things to do with home education… it is entirely personal.  Your kids, you and your family.  Your situation, your life, your expectations.

It truly is the beauty of home education in a nutshell.  Nothing need come out of a box.  You can create it from scratch and make it fit to you.  If it doesn’t fit, then you don’t need to try and make it.  It is simply another educational path to take, nothing more and nothing less.

 


 

Motivation

I love this photograph of Miss Oh Waily that I took on our visit to Tikitapu, just outside of Rotorua.
I also happen to love the quote from Lao Tzu.  What could be better than combining the two?
This is now my desktop wallpaper.  Every time I open up the laptop, there she is with a reminder and motivation for me to focus on three really important aspects of our character.

Saying goodbye to “Good job!”

Yellow PerilThis is another yellow car post, on a parenting theme.

This morning I came across this nice post about alternatives to ‘good job’-ing your kids over at Picklebums.

I know from personal experience that it is really hard to change an ingrained habit without having some idea of what your new habit should look like.  In this case it sounds all very good to reduce or remove value judgements when you encourage your kids, but if that’s all you’ve ever known, it can be daunting to figure out what you should be saying instead.

Posts and printables, like the Picklebum’s one, and great suggestions from books like How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, go a very long way to giving you some ideas that you can put into immediate effect.  They offer practical ways to make changes, not just explaining the whys of changing.

At first the new phrases may feel a bit awkward and false, but over time these alternatives begin to feel normal and ‘good job’ starts to feel like the foreign language.  Even if you are a few steps further along the track to saying goodbye to ‘good job’, sometimes visual reminders are a great helpmate.

Personally I will be printing it out and putting it up somewhere I can see it every day.

 

Yellow Car Syndrome – Parenting Edition

A few years back I wrote about the Yellow Car Syndrome over at one of my t’other blogs. Yes, plural.  As in, many.
In that instance it was about the subjects of a running book.  Today I want to revisit the theme, but on a parenting front.

Back in June I wrote about my meanderings through a change in parenting style from command and control to a more respectful and peaceful type.  It should have come as no surprise to me that I would begin to spot those ideas everywhere now that I have embraced them as my guide.  But it did.

A short digression.  I have taken up a sabbatical from BookFace.  I needed to.  The support groups are fabulous, but a serious time-stealer.  So I am currently in time-recovery mode.
My point is this… what do I do with my recovered time?  Amongst other things, I plan to read.  Books.  Blogs.  My university course textbook.  <<aargh>>

So today I picked up where I had long ago left off in my blogosphere of reading and started with a perennial favourite, but lately ignored, Zen Habits.  Never been to hear from Leo before?  You really should visit, there’s bound to be some pearls of wisdom you can pick up.

I made my way through a few of the recent posts until I hit on Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent, and lo and behold, my Yellow Car Syndrome strikes again.

There, repeated for my pleasure, are many of the tenets that I am trying to put in to practice in my own home.  I love his first point, It’s not about you.

We parents tend to take kids’ bad behavior personally, as if what they’re doing is a personal attack on us or our belief systems, a personal offense. That’s why we get mad.

And there are plenty more, succinctly put points that had me nodding to myself all the way through.  And being a bit of a part-time geek-on-the-side, I particularly loved the Star Wars reference around guidance rather than dictatorship.

Imagine being Yoda (the mentor) instead of Darth Vader (the death-grip dictator).

If you were even a smidgen intrigued by the idea of a gentler, but still effective, style of parenting then this is a nice entry post for that.

Punitive Parenting

Shadow FamilyIt’s been interesting in my head lately.  I’ve been observing and thinking a lot about how I try to parent.  Emphasis on *try*, since I’m still a work in progress.

If you had asked me about raising kids, before I had kids, I would have definitely fallen into what I like to call the “command and control” style.  I’m sure you know what I mean by that – kids should do what they’re asked and the parents are the boss of them.

Frankly, and honestly, I would still have been very much a behaviorist parent even as recently as four years ago.  Supernanny would have seemed totally sensible and practical – and no doubt I would have expressed that to friends and family at the time.   Time outs, punitive restrictions and so forth, would have been considered just a part of life and the way to teach the kids what their behaviour should be.

Fast forward those four years and, thankfully, I have read a lot and learned a lot and – most importantly of all – I have thought and empathised A LOT.

Nowadays I find myself surprised and slightly uncomfortable when I hear parents talking about solutions to their kids’ behaviour in terms of punishing them.  I should be quite clear here, I am not passing judgement on those parents. I have been one of them myself, after all.  Actually I feel quite uncomfortable when I hear solutions put forward in that manner.

Please understand, I’m not a crunchy-type person.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that either.  I’m not a permissive-type parent.  I have standards of behaviour I expect my kids to learn and they aren’t the sort that allow my small people to dominate all and sundry.  I have, however, finally shed some really unhelpful ideas about children in general.

  1. Kids are inherently *naughty*.
  2. Kids do *naughty* things deliberately to get what they want. (Manipulation)
  3. Kids need externally-imposed consequences – aka punishment.

In the end I started to ask myself some hard questions – and more importantly think the consequences of my parenting choices through to their actual, logical, conclusion.

Did I want to control my kids’ behaviour so that my life was easier and I looked like I was a *good* parent to the outside world, or did I want to have a really close, respectful, relationship with my kids where they felt heard and appreciated?

Do my kids behave like that to make my life difficult and exercise their power (aka manipulation), or do they genuinely have no other way of showing me how they feel about things and how powerless they feel in certain situations?

And plenty more along those lines.

I read lots more peaceful parenting authors, and I came to view my kids in a very different light.  I’m still “the Mum” and my kids don’t get to run our lives, but they do get heard and listened to a lot more than they did before I started questioning MY behaviour.
I began to view them, properly, as smaller versions of me – in that they experience exactly the same sorts of feelings and responses to being treated well or poorly as I do.  Sometimes they just don’t have the internal filter system up and running that deals with negative experiences in the same way – so they *act up*.  Punishing them for feeling marginalised and unable to express that in a way an adult would is, to be honest, totally daft.  And I realised I was most certainly being daft.

I also realised that being shouted at, having anger directed at them for some indiscretion, or being shunned (time seat, anybody?) cannot feel good or be good for their self-worth.  Anybody dealt with an angry friend or partner, workmate or boss?   Anyone felt excluded by the “in” clique at school or work?  If you have, stop a moment and think how you felt during those incidents….

That’s how your kids will be feeling when you shout, growl or exclude them as *correction* for some sort of misdemeanour.  Probably a lot worse, because you are their Mum or Dad and they love you to bits.

I’ve rather come to think of it as parental bullying.
It can do only one thing – make the kids feel less valuable as people.
I appreciate that others may disagree, but this is where my observations have taken me.  It’s a hard mirror to look in – having had to do so myself.

And again, not perfect here by any means. The old ways are insidious and very hard to overwrite with the new.  For me it is going to be quite the journey, as I find the new skills get quickly bumped aside when I am tired, extremely stressed or haven’t been able to put myself first for a while.
But just like the old saw, I pick myself up and get back on to the horse.  I apologise to my kids and I try to start again.  It’s not an easy road, but it is the road I’ve consciously chosen to follow.  Four years ago and before I was unconsciously following a road that is dominant in our culture and ingrained in me.  I was simply running on default.
Now I feel more like me.  Like the parent I want to be and my kids deserve.

The one thing that struck me while I was thinking about all of this, and writing this post, was just how far my thoughts on parenting have moved in such a short period.  And I’m so very glad of it.

How about you?  Have you had any “Ah-ha!” moments in your parenting journey?

 

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

PP
I purchased this lovely book last May and I’ve kept on picking it up, reading a chapter and then setting it down.

I blame the year of reading drudge trying to keep up with the book reviews for a sister blog.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But with the New Year has come renewed vim and vigour and this will be my first Off The Bookshelf book for 2014.  Lucky for me and my kids then, eh?

A while back I tried out the idea of a good behaviour star chart for me, awarded by the kids.  This fizzled out.  Mostly because I kept forgetting and partly because it was a bit depressing.  Did I mention that a good bit of the last half of last year was pretty stressful? No? Well it was.

But that was then, and now is now.

I’m loving the book.  I’ve finished the first section and am in to the second.  It all makes perfect sense and intuitively I know it’s right, and right for me.  I’m not so right for it, but then perfection is only something to strive for and not expect to achieve.  To that end, and to try and help me along my parenting growth path, I’ve decided that I need to set myself some new rules and see what sort of impact they have on improving my relationship with my kids.  (Which isn’t dreadful, I must hasten to mention!  But there’s always room for improvement – especially self-improvement.)

So we have some new House Rules (mostly for my benefit rather than the kids), and the really important ones are:

– special time each day with each child, one on one.  (30 minutes minimum)
– twelve hugs a day (at least!)

There are also a couple of technology related rules too.  I love technology and what it can do to aid learning, but sometimes it just sucks your brain out – adult and child – so there are now strict limitations on its use.

I’ve also re-introduced the sticker chart idea, but in a simplified form – if the kids think I’ve been a great (non-shouty) Mummy they can give me a sticker at the end of the day.  This now goes on the bottom of each page in my diary.  A really visible reminder of how I’m tracking in being less bossy, less controlling, more connected, and an improved role model.

The upshot of all these small changes is the wish to model better behaviour, continue to keep closely attached to my kids and foster a great foundation for a life-long relationship based on love, courtesy, caring and connection.  Step one is now underway, I’m hopeful that it will produce positive results and reduce a lot of tantrum and stroppy attitude issues that had begun to raise their heads in the latter part of last year.  And that was only in the adult!   😉

How about you? Any great, inspirational books on parenting you’d like to recommend?  Leave a comment if something has inspired you to be a better parent.


Getting a good fit

I’ve long enjoyed reading the work of Jamie and her writers over at Simple Homeschool, so was unsurprised when Tuesday’s guest post by Kara Anderson hit a nail on the head for me.

In this case it was not just relevant for my kids, but also for me as an adult.  Sometimes we do what we think is best for our kids, or ourselves, but in reality we’re not taking their or our own individuality into account in doing so.  I’ve personally learned this lesson very recently and it is still a bit of a hot topic in my head, so I’m now seeing relevant material about it all over the place.

So, if you haven’t already been to Simple Homeschool before, why not take a look at Making friends through homeschooling (without worrying about socialization) and see what you think.