Featured, Green things, Shampoo Free, Thrifty

Ten Shampoo Alternatives for healthy, shiny and clean hair

29 March, 2016

Updated post: I have now been using 100% natural shampoo alternatives for over four years. My hair is stronger, shinier and healthier than it has ever been! I hope you enjoy this post featuring (still) my favourite No Poo shampoo substitutes. I am pretty surprised that the ingredients I fell in love with at the very beginning of my shampoo free journey have remained my favourites. For the last couple of years I have been working as a columnist for Cosmopolitan, writing up beauty experiments, and I also published a bestselling book all about how to give up shampoo which you can grab here.
Amazon Price- $5.56 My Price- $3.56 (2)

At a mere $5.20 or £3.40 (purchase in your own currency) it is a SNIP – less than a bottle of swanky shampoo. But unlike your shampoo it comes with a full refund if you don’t like it!

At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter the No Poo way of life!

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options for shampoo alternatives I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

One- Water! Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of an shampoo alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage- as you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days. My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!! I have to say that some water is kinder to hair than others! Sometimes the chemicals or the limescale in the water of city residents can be a little unkind. Make sure you use lots of lovely natural homemade conditioners every so often, and if after a little while it becomes clear that your water isn’t nice enough consider getting a shower filter or just committing to one of these other shampoo alternatives below.

Two- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. Every ten days or so I put one teaspoon in a cup of water and dissolve it, chuck it on my hair mid shower and wash it straight out. The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate. Using bicarbonate of soda regularly and often, and using too much of it will damage your hair more than shampoo. (Please read this ultimate guide to using bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda on your hair! It is a much needed step but you can have too much of a good thing.) My hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs a bit of Number Three Action:

Three- Egg. I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory…. Here is some info about how an egg works and how to apply it to your hair effectively.

Four- Soapnuts. These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things! Buy them from my affiliate chums, Ethical Superstore. They come in a 1 kilo pack and are a real bargain – over 300 washes in there!

Five– Rhassoul Clay. This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It is one of the better shampoo alternatives out there as it not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.)Shampoo alternatives for healthy hair

Six- Henna. This is one of the more colourful shampoo alternatives, something to suit those who like to play around with their hair. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea. This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness and lightness to blonde hair, for example. My favourite is to take some lemonbalm leaves and make a tea out of it. A little video here of that happening and an explanation of my motto “If you can’t eat it, don’t wash your hair with it!” ….

Eight- Lemon. Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze a whole lemon into a cup of water and pour over your head mid shower. Rinse well, unless you have hard water in which case you might want to leave on. Not recommended for greasy hair.

Nine- Tea Tree Oil. Full of incredible properties! Add tea tree oil to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash to turn them into very effective anti dandruff shampoos. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed by dabbing on a couple of drops of tea tree oil to the problem areas.

Ten- Rye Flour. Rye flour is fast becoming the star of the No Poo movement, the Bieber of all the shampoo alternatives! it has just the right mixture of saponins and exfoliating properties to make it super kind and cleaning on your hair. I wish i could say “Stick it on” but once again it is a little more complicated – mainly, you need to sieve it first! This video will give you the big HOW TO for rye flour.

A note on conditioner- Half of these, everyone apart from the rye flour, the clay and the egg and the lemon need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – often different hair just needs different proportions of things.

For the ultimate guide to giving up shampoo check out my bestselling book –  a shed load of advice and recipes for alternatives to shampoo and conditioners and styling products can be found here.
Happy Hair No Poo Book

Shampoo Free

Baking Soda for Hair (How, Why and When to use it- and when to step away)

29 March, 2016

Today I want to make the case for one of the cheapest, most effect alternative to shampoos that I know! (Imagine a cheesy 1950’s advert here with me holding a tub of baking soda.) “Use Baking Soda for hair that is healthy, clean and shiny!” Lots of people ask me if baking soda for hair is a winner or whether it will destroy your beautiful locks. This is a big deal as it shows me that the world has moved WAY past the “Does it smell?” stage, which lasted about seventeen million years. (The stage, not the smell! Pahaha.) Now people have accepted that No Poo is officially A Thing and are getting down to the nitty gritty about what to use. AWESOME, WORLD! Go us!

I am here to reassure you that baking soda for hair is a WINNER, people! It can really help make your hair healthy – if used in the right time and place. In fact, if you plan on giving up traditional shampoo baking soda has a crucial role. It strips your hair of nasty ‘cones (dimethicone coats your hair shaft and is present in almost every shop-bought shampoo bottle) – allowing it to become a good conduit for your glorious sebum.

Use bicarbonate of soda for healthy hair

Baking soda in hair? Really?!
Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda is the first alternative people who stop using shampoo turn to. This is because the mechanism between this ingredient and your hair is pure and simple. Baking soda effectively turns the glorious protective sebum of your hair (the bit that makes it looks greasey!) into soap. Sometimes when you use Baking Soda you can feel a slipperiness all over your hair- this is the saponification (soaping up!) in process. It is also the cheapest alternative (apart from water) you can use, costing about 2 cents per application.

How do I use baking soda for hair?
The internet is chockablock with the wrong information about this. Even my own blog has been there with the inaccurate info, when I was first starting out. This is because you use different amounts of baking soda at different times. To start off with you are really trying to strip out your hair of all the silicones piled upon each hair shaft- stuff inherent to most commercial shampoos. You will need a heaped table spoon of baking soda stirred into a cup of water and then poured onto it every section of your hair. You will leave it on for one minute, massaging it through. You will need to do this kind of wash at least 3-4 times at the start of your No Poo journey. Once you start heading through the transition stage you will gradually decrease the amount you use. Once you are through transition you will be using just 1/2 teaspoon in half a glass of water and it will be making your hair as clean as it was at the start. This is because your hair is clear of extras and the baking soda is working straight on your sebum.

What will baking soda do in my hair? 
A successful baking soda wash will firstly make your hair SQUEAK with cleanliness as you rinse it off. Your hair will then be shiny, bright, and light. And gradually, as your hair gets more and more used to it, it will become less greasy. You will soon be able to go a week, possibly two weeks, even three weeks without using anything on your hair apart from water.how to use baking soda for hair - healthy, shiny, clean hair

If it is dull, waxy, heavy, flywaway or brittle then read on….

Why might baking soda for hair make it feel unhealthy and broken?
There are a few blogposts out there where No Poo-ers have suggested that Bicarbonate of soda have destroyed their hair. This is a bit of a bummer as I think as an entry No Poo ingredient Bicarbonate of Soda is the absolute business. (I literally buy it in bulk and use it for EVERYTHING! From deodorant to cleaning.) It is very hard to get wrong (unlike the egg, with which even the most die hard No Pooer has had a catastrophe with) and really truly gives a good clean up to every head of hair, particularly dealing with the waxiness of transition.

Once you understand the science of No Poo (Gosh darn, I wish there was a simple and comprehensive guide to the chemistry of No Poo! Oh wait! What is THIS?! Oh hey there! There seems to be a best selling book that covers that… written by, erm, me!) it is easy to see that using too much baking soda will strip your hair of all of its sebum and the only place that will take your hair is to the Unstoppable Ferris Wheel of Grease Over Production – the very thing we are all trying to leave behind us. If you remove your sebum this effectively frequently your hair will keep producing too much sebum to replace it. Damaging the equilibrium of your hair this way will make it dry and brittle on the ends and heavy at the top.

Avoid the damaging nature of baking soda by:

  • Just as you are trying to INCREASE the amount of days in between washes you should try and DECREASE the amount of Baking Soda you use. If you are already through transition and are using anything more than one teaspoon in a cup of water once a week than I’d suggest you are using too much.
  • Use 1/4 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon for one wash and then use an alternative for your next wash. Ideally something with incredibly nourishing elements such as an egg.
  • Rinse the absolute HECK out of it. Left over BS in your hair will feel grim
  • Every month or so you should so a moisturising head mask – either with heated coconut oil, or a mashed up banana or a mashed up avocado.
  • If you have long hair you need to also use something acidic on your ends in order to smooth down the cuticle layer of your hair shaft. A spoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water sprinkled through the ends of your hair and rinsed off will do this. (This will solve flyaways too.)
  • Try to nail the water only wash. Use hot water to massage into your scalp, scrubbing out the sebum down through your hair shaft to the very ends of your hair. Then scoot your hair under a cold rinse. The colder the better. Hollering allowed. Towel dry – hefty rubbing also helps. Use a water wash instead of another baking soda wash.
  • If your hair is waxy be assured this is a natural part of transition. There comes a point when not even BS can shift the wax. For this you need the super sonic combo of egg, lemon and white vinegar – a mask that will hit reset for your hair, shifting all the wax. YESSSS!

If you want to experiment with alternatives to baking soda, I have done a bunch of hands on alternative shampoo research here and have also come up with three gorgeous homemade shampoos that bring together some of the most nourishing ingredients for healthy, shampoo free hair.

I hope this has answered all the questions out there about using Baking Soda for happy, healthy hair. Now, if you want to know all there is about giving up shampoo successfuly, I reckon you could do with my  my ebook, Happy Hair: the definitive guide to giving up shampoo.  You know what? Read my ebook and you will be the President of No Poo University. Actually, can I be president? You can be the librarian.

All the recipes mentioned briefly here- the conditioning masks, hot oil treatments and Wax Tackling egg combo are in there. As well as suggestions for dry shampoos and loads of tips about getting through transition. It is designed to be a reference point for all the tricky stages of your No Poo journey. It is available here in every country and currency and it downloads on to all computers, Kindles and E-readers and is also ready to print, if you like something in your hands.  All for a few buckeroos.No Poo Guide Transitional period

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping

Co sleeping with toddler: The good and the bad

24 March, 2016

Co sleeping with toddler age kiddies is a bit of a mixed bag. In the middle of the night a few days ago Ramona shuffled over to Tim, climbed up so her bum was right in his face and did a whopping toot. Then she clambered back down to her spot and returned to sleep. Oh, how Tim and I didst laugh- the timing was impeccable.

Farts- when it comes to making a list of pros and cons of co sleeping with toddler or baby – where do they come? No one likes little clouds of excrement in their nostrils but the comical effect of tiny bottom coughs are right up there. It is a dilemma, for sure. I’ll have to leave it hanging in the midst there.

Now, we always knew we would cosleep. We didn’t even buy a crib. (Read about this beautiful family who came round to the idea of co sleeping – Thalia has a whole series on their co sleeping process!) And I have to say, the good side has always, since day one, outweighed the bad. You can read all my writing on co sleeping here.

Here is the rest of my list.co sleeping with toddler

THE PROS OF CO SLEEPING WITH TODDLER RAMONA

  • My toddler’s morning kisses are definitely number one. Ramona wakes up, stretches and immediately finds my face for a kiss, as if she is so stoked to begin a new day with me as her mummy.
  • I am with her through her dreams and nightmares. Co sleeping allows me to hear her giggle in her sleep and I equally love that when she whimpers with fright or discomfort she somehow knows I am just a breath away.
  • Co sleeping provided another way for Tim to be with her through my maternity leave when he wasn’t getting to hang out with her nearly as much as me. There is a BEAUTY article here where a cosleeping daddy shares his thoughts.
  • Co sleeping has eased my transition back to part time work as I get to make up for any missed cuddles throughout the night. Just breathing in her hair as I go to sleep helps me to treasure her right now, in this very moment.
  • We didn’t have to spend any money on a baby room and crib. Our spare room is just a dumping ground spare room complete with double bed.
  • I like to think toddler co sleeping has given Ramona a real security around night times, that she will always associate bed time with comfort and met needs rather than being alone.
  • I am able to keep in touch with her potty needs, aware of her nightly wee rhythm and giving her chance to pee as soon as she needs it.


CONS OF CO SLEEPING WITH TODDLER RAMONA

  • Unlimited, non stop access to her milk source! Mostly this is fine, she only  helps her self one or two times a night and it isn’t enough to really wake either of us, but sometimes, like last night, it is NONSTOP and well, drives me a little, er, insane.
  • If Ramona wees the bed it is a whole load in the washing machine rather than a tiny little crib change.

 

Toddler co sleeping truth

Amazing illustration of toddler co sleeping postions on Howtobeadad.com

TODDLER CO SLEEPING PSEUDO-CONS
(things about toddler co sleeping that should be bad but aren’t really)

  • I definitely thought Ramona’s movement would bother us a bit more. We are pretty fortunate that she actually doesn’t shuffle around at all. When our little nephew used to come and stay he would Jazz Hand us ALL NIGHT and we vowed to never have our kiddies in bed!
  • A few people have mentioned the lack of marital space which I agree I thought initially would be an issue for us. However I don’t really have those distinctions in my mind – “Tim and I”/ “Ramona” – I just kind of see us as one little family, sharing everything and doing life all together. We make an effort to spend a day alone together every now and then, and
  • I also thought I would struggle with Ramona’s lack of “sleep independance” but since her arrival I have had a total turn around on this and instead feel like it is just natural for her to need the comfort of us for a while.

I really love hearing stories of people’s cosleeping experiences –this nice article by Dr Sears has lots of parents talking about the “protective effect” of cosleeping.

What are some of the things you love about cosleeping? And some of the things you find hard?

 

Featured, Parenting

Must Read Parenting Books (new series! A book club of sorts)

16 March, 2016

I was Lucy Read for 24 years of my life and I bet you will never GUESS what nick name I was given as a kid.

Read-a-Book.

Oh yeah, well clever. In an effort to side step that nickname at a new school I told everyone that my real name was Luncinda Readingu.

(Better, ay? Harrhahahahahahahahahhahaha)

Perhaps as an effort to stick it to my bullies I actually WAS a big reader. A HUGE reader. “I’ll show YOU! By READING A BOOK HA!”

I took a bit of a break from reading when my children came along. But picked it up again a couple of years ago and can put a lot of my parenting down to a handful of books. I love a parenting book conversation, I LOVE hearing what has influenced people’s lives and I LOVE describing the books that have changed mine. (Even if it goes “Oh it is AMAZING, by ummm, Jenny someone… about, er, like, attachment and stuff” – I’m not good at the details.)

Anyway, I could talk your head off..

SO WHY DON’T I?!?! Hehehe. Here are three videos, part of a new Youtube series on parenting books that have influenced my parenting. must read parenting books

The first book I discuss is Holly McNish, Nobody Told Me. It is a solid brick of bravery. I can’t even imagine the guts it would take to publish such personal intimacy and such a take-down on much that is wrong with society. It is reassuring in its honesty and awe-inspiring in its beautiful poetry.

I’ve basically stolen it from my sister now but I will die an awed and reassured criminal.

The second book I discuss is the little known Letting Go As Children Grow. I’m sure it’s not THAT little known, but however well known it is, it is not enough. Seriously, this book is a must read for all new parents, it takes you from newborn days right up to older children, and majorly helped me get a better perspective on children and childhood. It was part of my transition from “I must be in control” to “I must be connected”…

The third book was chosen mainly because I think I wanted to try and articulate the change it is having on my life right now. Pheewwwwweee. Somehow I managed to film this whole video with a bit of a cynical smile on my face, as if there is still a part of me determined to not be roped in to psychobabble. Don’t believe this cynical show! I absolutely think the Power of Now is legit and am witnessing the potency of nowness everyday at the moment. Even if I don’t know how to say his name.

What books have influenced your life? Would love to hear from you.

PS – I HAVE VERY EXCITING NEWS! ARGH! I AM WETTING MY PANTS TO TELL YOU BUT I HAVE TO WAIT! KEEP TUNED!

Feminism

International Women’s Day 2016 Blog Link Up

7 March, 2016

It is International Women’s Day today And this is the main page for the International Women’s Day Blog Link UP! Scroll down for to read the awesome collection of blogs.

My parents are over from England at the moment so we have fetched up at a beach for a few days, leaving my husband at home to get on with sorting stuff out. (Basics like, er, hot water…)

On the way up we stopped in at the library to pick up some reads and my eyes glanced the title “Women can’t park, men can’t pack” and my chest spluttered with a sort of ironic/mad laugh. Seconds earlier, just before popping into the library, I had spotted my rucksack in the boot, and sub consciously registered that my husband had repacked it. (There shouldn’t really be a “re” in there because what I had done was grab all our stuff and then shoved fistfuls of it into deep dark corners of the bag, and then realized it wasn’t going to fit in enough to do the zip up, so instead I had just pushed it up against the car window and piled other holiday flotsam around it to stop our clothes spilling out.) And there it was now, my ruck sack, all zipped up, our stuff all sorted.

He packs like a boss. And does dishes like a boss. And laundry too. He is a domestic goddess.

I, on the other hand, am the actual opposite of a domestic goddess… which, I guess, ah, makes me a domestic devil.

Or perhaps mortal. Perhaps we can go with domestic mortal.

(Although Domestic Tasmanian Devil is probably the thing that sums me up best… five minutes before people come, rampaging around the house throwing things behind sofas and into baskets and pushing toys under the bed and draping beautiful throws over The Piles. Followed around by two even wilder baby Tasmanian devils doing their own Special Thing.)

I may be a domestic Tasmanian devil but I park like a boss. I am renowned in our local town for it. The people on the street, when I’m lining up for a parallel park, often pause as they walk along, just to observe my skill. As I swiftly (but with matchless ease and care) maneuver into a seriously tight spot I hear their murmurs “She’s done it again! Cracking job.”

There are so many ways in which almost all the men and women I know blow gender stereotypes out of the water. But yet people keep on keeping on with their ideas about certain things coming naturally to women or innate in men.

Stereotypes like this are so, SO much to do with keeping women in their place and we need to dismantle them! Even if it involves taking a stupid stereotyping book up to the librarian who is already grumpy with you because you let the overdue fines rack up! (I’m totally doing them a favour right, letting books go overdue and paying them money? Hellooo)

They start when our children are tiny! Just yesterday in the swimming pool a mum of two boys said to my mum who was sitting with my two girls “I’ve told my boys that they have to watch out around your girls, I’ve told them girls aren’t boisterous like boys!!” I overheard my mum saying something back about Ramona and Juno being able to stick up for themselves which was great (and did also make me feel like she was egging them on a bit, verging on  I’ll put a tenner on Juno being able to knock your wee fella out)

If a whole society believes that one gender is brilliant at doing gentle things in the home and another gender is best  at doing all the boisterous “out and about” things then everything will continue to be set up to support that.

Workplaces will continue to not let men cut down their hours so they can share in childcare.
Governments will maintain forty year old parental leave policies.
Homes will continue to have a gendered division of labour.

What a load of crap.

We need to come up with a few succinct phrases we can spill when someone pops up with a stereotype like this.

“Oh ha, yeah ha ha (BEGIN WITH A BENIGN CHUCKLE ALWAYS) actually most scientific evidence suggests the differences between the male and female brains are negligible”

“Hehehehe the thing with stereotypes like that is that they perpetuate the patriarchy and therefore contribute to things like women getting paid less than men in 90% of sectors, rape and even human trafficking”

“Hahaa there’s absolutely no way on earth you have bought your child up gender neutrally and seen innate gender difference emerge! As soon as a child is born they are labeled one or the other and treated as such in every minute of everyday SO DON’T TELL ME IT CAN’T BE DENIED THAT BOYS JUST SIMPLY LOVE WHEELS WHEN MY LITTLE GIRL IS WHEELING A TRUCK AROUND OUR FEET AS WE SPEAK COS IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE YOU ARE WANTING TO LIMIT MY DAUGHTER AND HER ACCESS TO THINGS AND SHE’S ONLY TWO!!!!”

I totally suck at those information filled yet snappy retorts.

So yeah, there I was in the library, feeling firey, ready to rage, but when I opened it, I saw it actually wasn’t a Venus vs Mars book, but a look at stereotypes and why we are so ready to believe and perpetuate them. Ah. Saved.

I’ll be ready to go the very next time though. Me (also known as Tasmanian Devil Parallel Park Rockstar in some circles) and my two fierce girls.

~

Iwd 2016 blog Link up

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY BLOG LINK UP
Today is International Women’s Day and over 30 awesome writers joined up as part of a blog link up. The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 was Pledge for Parity and there were contributions from so many areas. I began pulling these together by saying “this brilliant post” and “this fascinating” but I discovered quickly that I would soon get monotonous in my use of adjectives! So please just trust that each one of these contributions is BRILLIANT! Hehe.

I really enjoyed the posts that described influential women, either relatives or well known women. These are always an inspiration to read. There was this powerful story of a mother and daughter, Becky looked at Rosa Parks, Federica described her Grandmother’s life, as did Slummy Single Mummy, Ali garnered opinion on a few heroines, also, some of Baba Fi’s heroines are fictional but STILL INSPIRING okay!

There were quite a few contributions about empowering our children. This epic post from Sacraparental included 38 MUST HAVE phrases for a feminist household, also Rainy Day Mum and Emma and 3 discuss practical ways to raise both boys and girls in an empowered way, the way that IWD is experienced differently as a mama to a little girl compared to a little boy, and you’ll definitely appreciate the post Parity, Penises and Parenting!

There were some great ones on steretypes, Lorna, mum to three girls here, and Madeline on raising a boy that doesn’t fit society’s expectations, and the challenge of gender neutral clothing.

There were fascinating insights on some of the global issues facing womankind – maternal health and the way that poverty is sexist, the nuances of the gennder pay gap in NZ, a showcase of some awesome woman-empowering clothing.

I loved this scathing look at the visual expectations of women, which also reminded me of Lissa’s poem about needing to simply just be US.

We followed one woman through IWD as it happened, a look at how quickly the “Crazy Lady Card” is pulled out, and got some insight into the sexism throughout the STEM industry.

And some of my faves were on the topic of parity beginning at home- Owl and the Accordian, Seeds and Stitches, Mel Wiggins, and Jenny from the Block. Along these lines too was a really intriguing look at an exhibition of the lists we make!

THANK YOU so much to all those of you who joined in.

 

unschooling

Unschooling: Trusting our children’s natural ability to learn

18 February, 2016

Here are some things that most children learn to do themselves. Yep, there are some parents that think they had something to do with it, as if the child wouldn’t have mastered “cat” without a grown up repeating it back to them, correcting the errant “K” at the end with the “T” sound, every time they attempted it. But here’s the thing, they would have! Otherwise the grown up world would be full of confused arguments about whether “Cat” ends in a K sound or a T. We don’t have that argument! Because eventually our mouths become able, and our minds become willing, to pronounce things the way everyone else does. Anyway, that list:

Things babies teach themselves- for better or worse:
Smile
Wave
Crawl
Sit
How to put things in things
How to throw things
How to put things in their mouth
Talk
Walk
Climb

I guess, on some level, we know we didn’t teach them these things, hey? That they learnt them by following their gut instincts, by observing, by copying, practicing, by repeating. That our pleas to “put one foot in front of the other, honey” had very little to do with whether they learnt to walk – apart from all the love we put into that encouragement. Because love does make a child’s world pretty fertile, when it comes to learning.

Some babies teach themselves to do hard out stuff, like breakdancing. My own child, Juno, when she was 15 months old, taught herself how to click her fingers. True thing. if she wanted something, she’d point and click. A sharp, unavoidable sound. Like a wealthy fine diner at a waiter.

So your kid gets to 3 or 4, and so far so good. They have learnt EVERYTHING they need to survive and thrive. Very little passes them by. Most children can move and communicate, some can click their fingers and some have had room in their brain to learn the entire script of Cars.

There’s been a fair amount of trust. And perhaps the odd wobble – is my child reaching all those developmental milestones?! And googling of “should a child be speaking in sentences by 2.5”

But mostly we’ve just been feeding and loving them, and they have been growing and learning.

Then they turn 5 and everything changes.

Suddenly we absolutely doubt their ability to learn what they need to learn. It’s more than doubt. We are convinced that it is impossible for a child to learn everything she needs to learn without the input of an adult.

We begin lessons. Lessons in reading, writing, maths, music, dancing, swimming, bike riding, sports.

Why?

The answer to that is HUGE, to do with the military industrial complex (please read Natural Born Learners for more on this, it is THE greatest education book, in my Umble opinion!)

But let me just leave that hanging there for a while and go on to describe some things that children learn all by themselves between the ages of 4 and 5, if you leave them to it.

Things Ramona has learnt this year – even though we are unschooling so have had no classes of any kind:

Swim (literally at the point at which I was googling “How to teach your children to swim” we went to a campsite with a big beautiful pool and Ramona sat and watched the big kids swimming for a few hours, then told me to get in the deep end and stand a few metres away from the ladder, then she jumped in and swam to me.)

Bike Ride (between the hours of 6pm and 8pm one evening)

Make jokes (she has just got the humour thing, beyond replacing all words with “poo”- now her Knock Knock jokes are still sublimely weird but with the core of humour within them)

Rhyme (absolutely no conscious effort on my part, apart from me mumbling “Tidy Schmidy” or “Clean Dishes Schmishes” when I feel something is overrated)

Count to a hundred (just for fun)

Recognise numbers and the letters that count (R)

I learn in my body

Now Ramona is five, almost every conversation with a stranger goes like this “How old are you?” “Five” “Do you like school?” “I don’t go to school” “Oh.”

She will often follow up with a unique explanation of what we do. Never “My parents believe that children are naturally inclined to learn, and given a nurturing and curious environment will learn everything they need to thrive” but something like:

“I learn my own self”

“I learn in my body”

“I teach my own self things.”

“I taught myself to ride my bike.”

I smiled particularly at the “learn in my body” answer… I wondered what she meant, how she had come to decide that her mind and body were inescapably tied in her learning journey. And then I read this brilliant article, about reading readiness being a bodily matter

“(Reading) readiness includes complex neurological pathways and kinesthetic awareness… It’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement.”

Who owns the joy of learning?

When Ramona learnt to ride her bike I was so freaking happy. It was a well of pride and joy bubbling up! Her own face was a picture of achievement. I was like “WOW! How do you FEEL?!” and she said “I feel so happy, like my heart is saying Go Ramona Go!!”

Here’s the thing. Something real important. When we step in and teach we can take away that sheer joy of discovery and the power of our children understanding their potential. If a child believes they have to be taught stuff, this will underpin their whole life. Alternatively, imagine a child absolutely owning her learning and knowing she can learn ANY THING SHE WANTS and this motoring her along for the rest of her days.

It is too easy for us to snatch a little bit of the honour of learning, by believing that our child’s legendaryness is due to our skill at teaching.

I loved this story, about learning to read, from Peter Gray’s unschooley column on Psychology Today.

“She had consistently told people that she didn’t know how to read until she made brownies this past November [at age 7]. She asked her father and myself to make her favorite brownies for her, but neither of us was willing to make them. A little while later she ran into the room and asked me if I would turn on the oven for her and find her a 9×11 pan (she said, “9 ex 11” instead of “9 by 11″). I got her a pan and turned on the oven. Later she ran in and asked me to put the brownies in the oven. Then she said, ‘Ma, I think I can read now.’ She brought me a few books that she then read out loud to me until she jumped up and said, ‘those brownies smell done. Will you take them out now?’ … Now she tells people that she knows how to read and that she taught herself how.”

Trusting a child's natural ability to learn
Learning together

There is so much to learn, so many resources, so many people, and I have so much to give my child! But I will share when invited, and share learning resources in a spirit of friendship, of equality. I would never withhold knowledge or sources of knowledge (here’s one of those weird nuance things “Do this! But also a bit of this! And bear this in mind! And this way you will be the best parent!”) and I will partner with my daughters as they learn more and more and more – but I will aim to make the joy of learning all their own.

I guess people who are home educating might be reading this going “ooh yes, true! I can simply let my child learn joyfully through play!” but perhaps people with children in school might be feeling a bit bummed out. I don’t know though. I like to think this idea, about trusting our children, can be applied in every home, and, if you have the energy, be taken further, perhaps influencing your pre-school, or classroom. (I don’t imagine you would turn up at the school board saying “I read a blog by a hippy in a yurt and I think we should let the children learn how, what and when they wanna learn!!” but you might raise this study from the University of Cambridge about the importance of play and formal learning beginning far, far later than it currently does.

I reckon we can all do a bit to recognise our child’s natural ability to learn cool stuff, we can all attempt to trust that a bit more, and see our children own the full joy of discovery.