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Homeschooling now? Welcome to the jungle!

25 March, 2020

A  few months ago my nine year old daughter sighed “Imagine if the whole world was homeschooled! I’d be able to play with all of my friends allllllll day!” Ramona hasn’t ever been to school and sometimes wishes that her school-going friends could come over straight after breakfast.  In a bizarre twist in a plot that feels like it’s been written by kids, now basically the entire world is homeschooling – but the kids can’t play! 

If you are new to life without school, welcome to the jungle.

Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious at the prospect of being home with your kids for the next four weeks. Solidarity. Personally, I am shitting myself. The next four weeks are not gonna look anything like the circumstances that I opted into. We usually roll out of bed, watch a bit of Netflix and then get with our little homeschooling gang to hit up some sweet museum or beach while us parents banter and generally have a good time.

We hunt down social interactions for our wee extrovert Ramona in the way junkies seek out smack. If she doesn’t get her fix life is terrifying.

Now it’s just the four of us knocking around with the craft supplies I panic-bought from the Warehouse yesterday. And I’m terrified!

So I don’t come to you with a high and mighty sense of yes I’ve done this for nine years and what can I say I’m QUITE the expert, but rather a genuine sense of we’ll get through this together.

‘Cos we will. ‘Cos humans are awesome. 

So, here’s a few things to get you started. Some foundational stuff that means I actually enjoy homeschooling.

1- Not a teacher
Firstly, I don’t try and teach my kids. We go for a type of home education called unschooling or life learning. It’s an education paradigm based on the idea that the best learning is self-motivated, rooted in curiosity and joyfully done.  Over the years I’ve seen our children pick up traditional curriculum topics such as multiplication and writing all through simply living their lives. (Ramona is so passionate about maths that we actually have long multiplication graffiti on our bathroom wall.) We’ve also seen them pick up millions of other skills through being around people in our community. 

Now, I get that some of you are thinking WHAT THE HELL, those poor kids! And that is absolutely fine! Because you can still think I am a nutter AND make room for the truth that the idea of parents becoming teachers is the worst possible idea on the planet, but for a month or six it’s far better for your child to not have a teacher than for them to feel disconnected from or coerced by their parent.

And if ever you have a wobble and think “my kid’s haven’t done the sheets sent from school” you can always think of me and how the government has approved my home education plan!

Kids are learning all the time, whether they are doing worksheets or not. They are learning creativity as they watch you make face masks out of your old bras, self-care as you tend to your caffeine needs and picking up literacy skills seeing you reading a novel on the sofa.*
*probably

I think that in these stressful and overwhelming times, what kids need most are parents committed to connection. Listening to them, holding them, playing with them, processing feelings with them. Basically anything BUT making them do stuff they don’t want to do.

I checked in with some teachers about this and around twenty got back to me, all of them saying things along these lines don’t make your kids study if they don’t want to! Use this time to do stuff together so they remember quarantine as good family time.

2- Stuff you can do lying down
Now one of the the things about that – doing stuff together is that it is knackering. I try not to do too much of it. Ha. But seriously, I do try and keep it in balance, spending enough time playing with my kids so they feel connected and nurtured, but also planning lots of things that they can be self-sufficient in. 

One of the things homeschoolers have got down is activities where the parent lies down. My sister who is new to homeschooling due to Covid19 (shall we just go ahead and call it #virusschooling)  sent me a picture of a man lying in bed and his kids sitting right there sketching him and the caption “Set my kids the challenge of drawing me so i can take a nap.” My sis was all lol emojis about it and I was like, girl that is the oldest  trick in the book. The kids latch on by the third time and you’re going to need the following activities:

The kids paint your belly while you read a book.(What this is a thing!! It’s on Pinterest! Usually the person is pregnant but whatevs.)
You pay them 50 cents for a full body massage.
They have to guess what kind of sleeping animal you are. (It goes without saying that the more obscure the better- a golden snub-nosed monkey is gonna be my next one.)
This game we haven’t named yet where they have to creep up on you while you nap.
Netflix
 

3-Intentional Compromise

Despite what my mum and dad think, our children do not watch Netflix all day. Nope sireeee there is also Youtube Kids and Cartoon Network.

Jokes.

They probably do watch slightly more TV than they would in my dream homeschooling life. That’s because of something I call Intentional Compromise. My friend and I came up with that term (I think, hang on, let me just google, no yeah we did AREN’T WE GREAT!) to describe the idea that nothing is ever absolutely perfect, and often in our endeavour to believe that it can be, we end up making compromises in areas that we don’t want to. If you acknowledge that we don’t have to be perfect, the perfect parent or the perfect homeschooler or perfect anything, you can instead select where you are going to compromise for the greater good.

I highly value self care. It’s the only way I can homeschool. Every morning I like to have a cup of tea and journal and spend a bit of time nurturing my heart. But I also like a teeny weeny lie in. Instead of waking up at 6am to get my self-care in pre kids wake up, or forsaking my self-care time and snapping at my family members because I’m bitter, I let the kids switch on Netflix when they get up, intentionally compromising my perfect vision of us doing family yoga at 7:30 every morning.

You are not going to be a perfect home education parent during this time. So go right ahead and choose some areas where you are going to release the pressure. This way you can be good enough in the areas that are important. 


4- Do this together

Part of the unschooling educational paradigm is a deep trust of our children. We reckon that our kids are their own gurus. They know their brains, their hearts, their bodies best, so we try and give them as much autonomy as we can handle.

You might not be quite ready to see where you kids go with lots more freedom. But many of you will find the next few weeks and months much easier with your kids if they feel like they’ve had a big say.

One way we do this is in Family Circles. We have two types – one where it’s just a chance for everyone to share their feelings. It might be around a particular incident or it might be just a response to some family tension. We had one this week about Covid19 and Ramona finished it with saying “PPPHEWF that felt good to get that off my chest!” I was surprised as I thought we had a fairly open communication anyway! 


And then there’s the planning kind. Yesterday our Family Circle was the opportunity for our kids to shape the next few weeks. We sketched out a gentle rhythm for each day and all put down our suggestions for things we want to do. The kids suggested loads of things that I never would have dreamt of – if you need us in the coming weeks we’ll be foraging mushrooms.

It’s going to be super important for our kids to have things to look forward to and they will really appreciate our attempts to include them in decision making and planning.

5-  Don’t be afraid of the Internet

There are so many educational programmes on Netflix (you can set up a profile especially for that) and Youtube Kids- you can also select channels that you feel okay for your kids to have free access to.  There are tons of kid friendly podcast to listen to. 

And, in honour of the Coronavirus people are putting out even more resources. Ben Fogles is entertaining kids with adventure stories on Instagram, The Little Oak Learning is running morning circles, there are dance parties and live yoga and so many weird and wonderful resources to tap into. The one I actually skipped about the room about was that Audible have made all their kids books available for free. Don’t tell anyone but this was the one single thing that made me feel like I was going to make it out the other end of this lock down without us turning into the Addams Family. (Pre-Audible announcement I was on a fasttrack to Uncle Fester.)

~

We are going to make it through. Not just as shells of our former selves, but even better versions of ourselves. There’s a very strong chance we will be more grounded, more connected, more resilient. And we get to do this with our kids. So many of them are going to thrive in this time. They are going to learn stuff they can’t at school, they are going to feel closer to you, less stressed, less social pressure and they’ll get to experience a four week long pyjama party with their fam!

~

These are really only the very start of ideas I want to share with you. There are so many little hacks that I think people will find super helpful. So I set up a new video series that’s gonna be jam packed with this stuff!  For more inspiration and support take a look at my Covid19 inspired Youtube Channel: Life Without School.

PS My online parenting course ALLY is kicking off in a couple of weeks. If you want to supercharge your empathy and worldchanging parenting take a look at the curriculum right here. 

 

Activism, Parenting

*new online parenting course* ALLY

2 March, 2020

The kids are forty minutes into a heated discussion about where they will live once they have their own families, all of us here in the big yurt together? Or Juno and her kids in the little yurt, which feels unfair to her, frankly? So I’m just taking the opportunity to zip in here with a rollicking big announcement! I am suuuuper excited to let you know that registrations  have opened for my new online course ALLY – be the guide, advocate and friend your child needs. It feels like the culmination of eight years of my work in this area. It’ll be the fourth course I’ve facilitated over this last year and I can say with confidence that these are deeply powerful, transformative experiences. Details below and you can register here.

The future of a fair and equal society lies in adults using their power to come alongside children in a supportive role.

Learn more about the principles of this kind of parenting and how to apply them to your life in a practical way. Discover how a fresh perspective and response to everything from tantrums to mealtimes can super-charge the connection and cooperation between you and your child, bringing you more joy and a sense of purpose into your home.

This radical course sits at the intersection of parenting and child rights. It is a holistic experience, where you are invited to bring the whole of you to this learning. We come to new understandings via teaching, reflection, meditation and discussion.

Ally involves weekly 1.5 hour interactive Zoom workshops, downloadable worksheets and an energetic pop-up community on Facebook.

Loving this course! The discovery and learning each week, the sharing, the 2 hours to myself each Monday. This is absolutely self care in my mind. I’m really enjoying taking the time to delve into something I believe so wholeheartedly in and being led by hand so to speak. (Can’t thank you enough Lucy.) 
Course Participant February 2020

The online course was so much more than I thought it would be! I love the fact it’s focused on us as parents, in a kind of healing way…
Course Participant February 2020
 I have to say I am already SO happy I decided to take this course. My mind and heart have been blown to bits. 
Course Participant February 2020

Module One –  Ally
A just and beautiful world begins in the home
SUNDAY 19:30 (NZST) 5th April
(This is 8:30am UK time)In our first session together we consider a radical new starting point for parents.Once we establish this new perspective we are better able to see how our parenting can impact the future of the world, the nurturing of a just and beautiful society. We take a look at some of the evidence for the idea that a peaceful world begins in the home.

In the second half of this module we begin to unpack why as a species we haven’t made the connection between empathetic parenting and social justice, despite all the evidence.

We begin to do the important, empowering work of unpacking our inherited beliefs that prevent us from truly living the way we want to with our children.

Module Two – Guide
Treating our children as though they are visitors from another world
SUNDAY 19:30 (NZST) 12th April

When we redfine the role of parenting we are freed up to consider what it is we really should be doing! In this session we take a look at how we navigate societal norms and holding boundaries with empathy, whilst making room for our children to bloom into who they really are. We work through each developmental stage and their associated needs and rights. We consider how we can practically honour these needs and rights practical, taking a look at common negotiations from mealtimes to clothing and visiting places other than our own homes.

Module Three – Advocate
How can we stand up for our children?
SUNDAY 19:30 (NZST) 19th April

Once we accept the invitation to be allies to our children, we accept that part of that may well be standing up for them. How does this look, both with close family members and society?
In this session we discover how to live in alignment, living authentically and courageously with the parenting decisions and lifestyle we have chosen.

We look at conflict as a doorway to connection, both in terms of our advocacy and in our general parenting life. How do we keep connection alive through struggles and tricky times with our children?

Module Four – Friend 
Are we afraid of a level playing field?
SUNDAY 19:30 (NZST) 26th April

So often parents will exclaim (at least on Facebook!) “I am their PARENT not their friend!” Friendship is technically simply about having mutual affection for one another, but of course, compared to the parent-child dyad, it is a very non-hierarchial relationship. This sense of power-sharing can be terrifying.  In our last session we consider how parents can very practically share their power with their children. We consider the needs and rights we ourselves are trying to have met, making room for inner child healing.

In this session you will understand how this kind of parenting doesn’t have to be depleting, and be given tools to ensure this is a sustainable and mutually fulfilling path.

~

You can register right here.

Would LOVE to see you in the room!

writing

Just launched an online course for those thinking about unschooling!

7 January, 2020

Now here’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing for a little while! (2020 is going to be the year of bravery, I reckon.) I have just launched an online course for those keen on life learning but wanting to go into it inspired, energised and confident.

DISCO – Embarking on a self-directed learning journey filled with joy and freedom.
A 4 week course throughout February. 

Are you drawn to the unschooling life but feel overwhelmed by the prospect? Enter this safe space to go deeply into your motivations, address your fears and resistance and become excited about the possibility of a life with your kids at home, learning in a self-directed and curriculum-free way. 

This is for the parent that knows there is a an education available that will bring out the very best in their child and wants to embark on that journey feeling fully equipped. You have imagined a different childhood for your kids, one where they feel able to grow into exactly who they are rather than squeezed into a box, one where their energy and creativity has full expression, where their rights and dignity are upheld, but you have just a few questions and concerns to work through before saying a full YES to that childhood!

This pop up community of fellow travellers will give you chance to ask the questions and imagine a different future for your family. This course is for parents considering Self Directed Learning at home – otherwise known as life learning or unschooling.

You can see all of the DISCO course details right here.

PS- this year I am hosting an array of online courses, real-life workshops and retreats. See what’s coming up by clicking this link.


(This photo is from the massive off grid unschooling camp we held on our farm last week! Such an incredibly magical time.)

wool carpet

Carpet diem

18 December, 2019

When we decorated our London home we tried to buy everything second hand. We would spend weekends looking around thrift stores, junk shops and even street corners! We picked up our beautiful vintage oven, a massive sofa and even a palm tree (that was stuck in a wheelie bin!)  from various corners of South London! In fact, since coming to New Zealand, these weekends trawling around looking for cool old shizzle have waned to nothing. For one, we have no space to put cool old stuff, but for two people don’t put their junk on the streets! What??! I know! Tidy kiwis they call themselves. Disappointing, I call it! Ha.

These days we have to make do with spending our weekends gardening and being wholesome, rather than ransacking dead people’s belongings.

Anyway, our house was a masterpiece! It was featured a few times in magazines.

One of the things we didn’t get second hand was the wool carpets we put through our upstairs. Below we restored the old floor boards (Tim may have forever damaged his knee sanding them, but it was worth it!) because down there is where we are eating and crafting and generally being messy. Upstairs, you know, less messy, right?

So we felt we could put carpet down. We agnosied for aaaaages over the decision! It was unbelievably hard! We really wanted to get the best, most sustainable thing. In the end we got pure wool, because of how it is a renewable resource, rather than based on fossil fuels.  And to our delight, it cleaned wonderfully!

It was such a pleasure to wake up in the winter to a warm floor beneath our feet, and we spent many happy hours rolling around on the softness with our babies.

As you know, many of us did elimination communication. Where we raised our children with the knowledge of their elimination, rather than hiding it all away in a nappy. Whilst from three months on we were catching in a potty almost all of Ramona’s potty needs, simply by responding to her cues, we did have the occasional whoopsy!

And we were stoked with how the wool was so easy to deal with and didn’t retain any smell. I’ve heard since it is naturally a scent repeller. So that was an accidental win!

When we left our London home to come to New Zealand, instead of having a garage sale – we didn’t have a garage because, yknow, #london, instead I simply put on my blog that we were having an open home. And we sold everything! We opened the doors and people came in and asked the price and just walked off with our bookcases, Doc Martens, house plants, fridge magnets.

Everything except the carpet!

habits

6 Habits Kids Learn from Us

13 December, 2019

As parents, we are responsible for most of the habits our kids develop. For this reason, we should try to teach them the best habits through the way we live our own life as happy and curious people! If acquired early, these patterns will be part of your child’s character and will affect their adult lives. Here are 6 of the best habits you can teach your kids through being a curious person:

Can you Make Your Kid Learn a New Language? Or is it best just to learn it yourself and model it?

With a second language, your child will be able to communicate with a greater percentage of the world’s population. Learning languages has been noted to improve test scores in core subjects and generally helps to improve brain functions. You should note that some folks think kids can learn languages faster when they are young, so you should not wait until they grow older. Nowadays, learning a foreign language is easier than ever and can be done online and through apps such as Babble, to give you an idea. Contrary to popular opinion, teaching kids two languages at the same time will not confuse them.

Familiarize Your Kids with Recycling

The best time to teach kids about recycling and sustainability is when they are young. This way, the habits will be ingrained in their character. When teaching them about recycling, you should make sure you create recycling systems at home. This is because children typically learn the habits they see at home. In addition, you should teach them about energy use, composting, and other sustainable habits. You should also make a point of using environmentally-friendly products at home.

Show them the beauty of nature

Kids build their imagination by playing outside, so you should encourage them to explore the outdoors. You can even help them with unstructured activities like building forts, pretending to be pirates, and hunting. If there is a nice park near you, consider taking your kids on a regular basis. Hiking is also a great activity in which the whole family can participate. Showing your kids the beauty of nature will help them become calmer and will heighten their observation skills.

Teach them body positivity

Teach your children to always celebrate their bodies. This way, they will grow up to be confident and happy, and that will open them up to many opportunities. People who love their bodies generally enjoy a higher quality of life, so make sure your kids understand that they are beautiful and perfect. You should try to use inclusive language around the house as that will boost their self-confidence.

Teach them to be free with their creativity

Give your child ample time to draw and paint and create. Don’t ever judge them for what they make. Like all the others, this is something you have to model yourself. Deal with the voice in your head that says you aren’t artistic and let your own, unique craftiness flow!

Teach them empathy by being empathetic

Unlike, perhaps, some of the others in this list. Empathy doesn’t grow by practicing empathy – empathy is a neural pathway in the brain that is activated by empathy! Do if you want your kids to grow up to be empathetic, they have to receive empathy from you! Make sure you have all the support and space you need so that you can be an empathetic person. And remember, while we are talking about habits – your child is their own person, never force them to do something they don’t want to do, simply model it and invite them into it empathetically.

Raising kids may not be the easiest job, but isn’t it rewarding, beyond belief? You will rest easy when your child grows up to become a healthy, happy, and outstanding adult. I reckon you can directly impact their future positively by teaching through your own life and curiosity the six habits noted above.

kids travel

Five ways to capture your family adventures

6 December, 2019

Spending time with the family is time perfectly spent. The adventures we experience together as a family are memories that will stick with all of us forever. That’s why it’s so very important to keep track of those marvellous times. The easiest and – thanks to technology – most convenient way to do so is by taking lots and lots of pictures. For many, the journey ends here. The pictures of holidays, trips, and special moments are stuck forever on your phone or camera, if you’re lucky and they aren’t lost in time. Others know that photos have the potential to bring joy for years to come and make sure they realise it. These are five ways to capture your family adventures and share them with your loved ones: 

1. Photo books The absolute classic among the memory preservation techniques out there is the photo book. Some families fill book shelves with tales of adventures, years full of love and joy, and little tokens of appreciation. All that is possible with photo books. The most popular options are yearbooks and holiday photo books. Depending on the quantity of photos at your disposal, the decision should be easy to make. Make sure you don’t spend more than you have to, though: There are always good deals around that will save you some money on your project. 

2. Wall decorations Photo wall decorations have become more and more popular in the last few years. Mass-produced decorations from the store have become too mundane to really make an impression in your home. With a family photo on a canvas, acrylic glass, or a metal plate, your living space really becomes homely. Plus, you can always dive right back into the most wonderful memories, without having to pick up your phone, laptop, or camera. 

3. Greeting cards It may not sound like much, but greeting cards have the ability to really knock someone’s socks off. The most obvious way would be to use your photos to send holiday greetings from near or far to friends and family. But greeting cards aren’t only made for sharing. They can make for fantastic decorations of coffee tables and sideboards as well as walls and refrigerators. In some places, you can even design photo postcards online and send them to the recipients directly from the beach – talk about convenience! 

This is where things get really interesting. There are lots of ingenious ways of turning photos into unique and amazing gifts and useful or fun items. From the traditional photo mug to puzzles, socks and Christmas ornaments, the choices are practically endless. So whether it’s a gift or a nifty piece of decoration you’re looking for, your photos can become a part of it and make the item special. 

5. DIY
At the end of the day, nothing is more personal than handmade objects. To decorate, give away, or simply enjoy, making something with your very own hands makes anything so much more special. Essentially, you can treat your photos as regular pieces of paper and start the creative process. Handmade collages, garlands, or even a world map can be upgraded to an entirely new level of personal with your photos. The only limit is your imagination – and perhaps creative input from the Internet. 

4. Photo gifts & objects 
At the end of the day, there are many fantastic ways to turn family adventures into everlasting memories you can look at and remember at any time and share with your friends and family. The most important aspect of these items – be it a photo book, a card, or a pillow case – is your family photo and the joy you take from them. 

Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal violence