I’m not telling you how to vote, but…

It is voting season here in NZ. All the campaigns kicked off a couple of weeks ago and within days the rash of National (the right wing party currently running/ wrecking the country) billboards had been edited. One close to me used to have the Prime Minister saying “Working for New Zealand” now, with a little help, it reads “Twerking for New Zealand”. Excellent.

For the first time ever I have changed my vote. I have always been a Labour supporter. I could only ever see that my progressive, social justice loving vote would be most useful used for Labour.

This week however, I get to vote with full integrity and hope.

Thanks to New Zealand MMP system, our two votes count for far much more than in the UK. (My vote when I lived in central London counted for absolutely NOTHING. And the local Tory MP once sent our household THREE letters without stamps and I was charged postage – THE BLOODY CHEEK OF IT! Postage bandits!)

And I believe that if any country in the world could get a significant number of Green MP’s into parliament it is New Zealand. So that is it. The Greens have me hooked. I don’t want to sound like a party political broadcast but I feel the need to inspire conscientious non-voters, or the understandably apathetic about why they should use their vote for the Greens…

They are child friendly
They are, without a doubt, the most child-friendly party in the mix. It was Green MP Sue Bradford who bought in the bills that have changed the life of small kiwis more than any other bill. They banned smacking, they upped the youth minimum wage and they extended the amount of time female prisoners had with their new borns. And they have plans for so much more- their Number One principal in their policy document about kids states “Children and young people’s rights, needs and interests must be prioritised at all levels of political planning and policy-making to ensure positive outcomes for them.” They are a party that GET the fact that children are PEOPLE and deserve the accompanying human rights.vote green

They are future friendly
Despite having been a profesional climate change campaigner for many years, I realise that I have this “odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia” that Naomi Klein spoke about in her beautiful (also long- get a cuppa) piece this weekend. I am in desperate need of people in government that are amnesia-proof. People that know how intrinsic the natural world is to our survival and our well being. I believe that the Greens are the only ones that are fundamentally committed to this. Some have slightly okay environmental ambitions and others- like National – seem completely opposed to the environment. Yesterday we all attended a protest at some extravagantly beautiful conservation land, the Karangahake Gorge, that National have just signed over to a big mining corp. They did it in the most underhand, corrupt way and it is just one of the many harbingers of the government’s contempt for this land and the people that live here. (I explained it to Ramona in terms of “pirates stealing gold” – which is basically is.)

A vote for the Greens is a vote for the future – not policies of the past.
no mining
(Glory, you can never know how many swears I have urged back under my fingernails whilst typing this bit.)

They are fairness friendly
Everyone knows the Greens are hot on environmental justice- but not everyone knows quite how hot they are on social justice. They are consistently on to it- poverty, gender, inequality, indigenous rights- their policies are robust and FAIR. It’s not just theory either- they have a co-leader principle (the party will always be led by one male and one female) and they have strong Maori representation. If you care about fairness, please do explore the Greens – I think you will find their policies the perfect combination of radical and realistic.

A progressive alliance
I used to do a bit of work with a policy wonk- one of the smartest people I know- and we were discussing the Greens. She said that the only thing stopping the Greens really is lack of experience. That with a few MP’s under their belt they could go on to be a serious challenger. It is absurd not to vote for the Greens because they have little experience on the shop floor- we need to help them get that experience so they can keep taking things to the next level.

The current NZ circumstances make a progressive alliance- say Greens, Labour, Mana/ Internet- ENTIRELY possible on Saturday. A vote for those is a vote for a change in government- the thing we really, really need. (I read Hager’s Dirty Politics over the weekend. Oh. My. Days. National and Shonky John Key have slunk lower than you thought possible. Read it, get fired up, vote.) In the last NZ election the difference between a left alliance and the munters we were landed with was literally a matter of a few thousand votes. Your vote counts, it counts, it counts!!

Some further stuff
I’m sharing with you the things that swung my vote, but I really don’t want to tell you how to use yours. Vote Compass is a really fascinating tool to help you figure out which parties align more closely to your values. I found it really interesting. It will help you make a more informed decision on Saturday.

Martyn Bradbury and the Daily Blog’s Progressive Voter Guide
You want a progressive government? Use your vote wisely.

Tune in to Dotcom’s Moment of Truth tonight for a potential twist and to get amped about pushing National out. We’ll be streaming on a bus outside the local library, using their free wifi, and having a radical little party!)

What do we want? A change in government! When do we want it? On Saturday!

Posted in Activism | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

I’ve got a new writing gig and it’s pretty unlikely…

If I were to imagine the last place I’d ever be found writing a column it would be a toss up between the UKIP weekly newsletter and Cosmo. Well. Never say never.

Introducing my first column, DIY All Natural Mascara for UKIP.

Just kidding, it’s for Cosmo.

IMG_1016.JPG
I’ll be writing there fortnightly on natural, minimalist beauty. I’m chuffed to have a space to big up radical self love in a forum often reserved for extreme body hate.

(I avoid women’s mags entirely as I am pretty vulnerable to their messages. A little dallying with Heat in the dentist’s waiting room will have me sucking in my stomach and eschewing chocolate for HOURS.)

So far I’ve been surprised at the digital team’s openness toward the non-mainstream – their coverage of Happy Hair and No Poo was awesomely positive. And I like their funny and cynical writing about some beauty necessities.

I’m WELL excited about it- writing about some of my fave stuff (hippy shizzle!) for a new and unlikely crowd. Yahoo!

Any natural beauty fads or recipes you think I should tackle?

Posted in Talking It Up | 9 Comments

Kids at school? Protect their rights and nurture their curiosity

It is Back To School week. The week that, for a third of my life, filled me with the uneasy combination of dread and excitement. Dread because I hated almost every single element of school, excitement because I usually had a new pair of shoes I wanted to show off. (Although, never did own those magical treads from Clarkes that came with a key on the bottom to unlock the world of fairy princesses. NEGLECTED.)

How has Back to School week been for you? Are you wholly happy with it? Brilliant – head off and read about playing in the wild, if so, it’s about eating dirt basically grows your brain and stuff. If you aren’t fully stoked about your kids at school then read on.

I have in mind here people who question the education system but desire to be a part of it. Or parents who are Unschoolers in heart and spirit but who can’t, for whatever reason, keep kids at home.

I thought it would be good to have a discussion about how families can protect their school-attending children’s rights, curiosity and autonomy. I really believe there are ways of attending school without being institutionalised – but we need to be deliberate about it.Back to school for unschoolers at heart!

(A little musical interlude about my own motivation for this post, to the tune of The Hills Are Alive With the Sound Of Music: My heart is inspired by the world of unschooling! I didn’t like school and I don’t think my girls will go! But we have seen some great Forest Schools, so potentially we might create something like that! I really love it when kids get together, they do amazing things, driven by their innate curiosity. You’ll get, as you read on, that I am fairly cynical about schools. BUT, my husband is a teacher by trade, a really, really amazing one and I do believe there are schools out there that respect the rights of children and allow the child to lead in their own learning. I think they are just few and fair between. Sort of stopped singing about half way through that, got a bit serious pants, sorry.)

Stick up for your kids
My friend unschools most of her children, but her eldest attends the local primary. One day her school jumper had gone missing so the mum wrote a note and sent it in with her kid. But the teacher still wasn’t happy and forced her to wear a real raggedy, lost property jumper. Understandably my friend was pretty upset and rang up the principal and talked it through. She spoke specifically about her child’s rights and body autonomy and they had a really important discussion about how children are PEOPLE. Don’t be afraid of picking up the blower and defending your child. No one wants to be a pain in the arse but parents can change the culture of a school by reminding teacher’s that their students are human and have the accompanying rights.

Actually, be a pain in the arse. I mean, an INFLUENCER
Oh Lord, I know. Life is too busy. It is too hard to try and impact a school. But if there is anyway you can drop something in order to try and take on a new role as an influencer of your kid’s school DO IT! Take a thing you are really passionate about, say, encouraging schools to prioritise creativity and then try and work with the staff to change things. Have a screening at lunchtime - great Ted Talk about creativity and the education system here.  Or perhaps you want to challenge all the superflous rules - send the Head articles about the schools in NZ that thrived when the rules were taken away.  Be a pain in the arse, a good one. (Oops, sounds a bit rude.)

Ask questions and give feedback
Take the opportunity at Parent’s evening to ask questions about autonomy and human rights. If your children aren’t at school yet ask these questions at the open day. Reader, Emma, on my Facebook page says Trust your gut when you visit, and look for approachable, committed teachers.” (Also, read this fantastic post about reception class and induction and the rights of the child.) Things I would want to know are whether children are always allowed to visit the toilet (or “drop their darlings at the launderette” as Ramona has begun to say) whenever they need it. Questions like these also inform the culture of a school.  And when something great and rights-respecting happens give the school a whole heap of encouragement.

Encourage your kids to question everything
Bonnie, an unschooler at heart on Twitter says “My goal with my kids is to teach them to question EVERYTHING!! We are focused on advertising atm. Who, what, why etc..”
(Read more on Bonnie’s blog about the importance of asking questions.)
It would be SUCH a shame, in order to minimise cognitive dissonance, to shut down discourse with kids about some of the , erm, interesting practices at school. What is the point of tests? Do they work? Why did the teacher keep everyone back? Why do I have to come from home from school and spend two more hours on school work? The questions might shed understanding on some of the things that happen, but it will also help your children have a healthy perspective on authority. Ideally they might be able to keep their heads down at school without accepting the code of compliancy into their spirits! There is also a chance that asking these questions could resolve some issues. Over on my Facebook page Deb says My boys do not have to do homework unless they choose as I believe school hours are long enough and they need time to do activities of their choosing. The school has been ok with this. Interestingly the boys are at a similar level to their peers without any of the formal schooling behind them.” – AMAZING! 

Be an open critic
By being a critic I don’t mean being destructively critical, but I mean allowing a space in your home for honest analysis, alongside your children. Be upfront with them about school, apologise that for now school is part of your lives, figure out ways to feel comfortable with it, together. Let honesty an integral part of your conversation about school. Tackle some of the dodgy things about school but celebrate with your kids when the school initiates something awesome.

Stop teaching
Nurturing a child’s curiosity is directly related to us taking off our teach-y hat. They dont need us to correct them, to hand them info on a plate. We can be their partners in learning, to figure stuff out together. But the last thing they need is another teacher at home, using every opportunity to pass on some knowledge. There was a brilliant article in the Guardian on Saturday, an interview with Michael Rosen “Why curiosity is the key to life” … I liked this wee bit:
“Rosen recounts the story of David Attenborough finding an animal bone in the garden as a boy and taking it to his father, a GP, who pretended not to recognise it. Instead, they pored over zoology and anatomy books together: “They shared the excitement of discovery.””School? Protect your child's rights and nurture their curiosity

But then, you SHOULD see your home as an alternative education

Education is different from teaching right? We can let our homes be site of learning an altogether different set of values. Celebrate non-compliance. Nurture solitude. Question praise and reward. Dismantle competition.
The lovely Jessica wrote this on my Facebook page- originally from Geez mag “If regular school trains kids to succumb to authority and conform to the demands of the market (i.e. a good education leads to a high-paying job) then what does an alternative education look like? What manner of ed
ucation can help kids and grown ups criticize power structures and explore creativity that defies market values, honours personal autonomy and yet fosters affinities among groups?”

Consider part time schooling
And finally, on a very practical note, could Flexi-time be a real possibility for you. Your child splits time between school and home. They get more of your education and less of the schools, yet you still get to work.

I’ love this to be a start of discussion. Are you an unschooler-at-heart? How do you do it? Do visit my Facebook page where there has been some really cracking suggestions.

Posted in Parenting | 14 Comments

Let’s talk about sex, baby

I was sitting in the bath this week discussing gender reassignment surgery with my almost four year old daughter, Ramona.

Crikey. What brought us to this point?

Is it this scourge of liberal parenting sweeping the nations that will eventually turn our young children into monstrous delinquents funding their crack habit by servicing the fetishes of immigrants (who stole their future jobs?)

Or just a sort of general sense that we should be open and truthful in conversation with our children, whatever the topic be?

(It could also be the young child’s attention to detail – the distinction between hormone replacement therapy and surgery isn’t on my “Topics To Cover Before Fourth Birthday” list but it is where you kind of end up when your older kids asks whether her female friend might become a boy one day…)

Sex Positive Parenting
When I first heard the term “Sex Positive Parenting” I had been tagged in a tweet directing me to become part of a Sex Positive blogging collective. They had read my blog and thought I’d be a good contributor. I was like “WaHAAT?” ME? I’m, like, a total prude! I was well confused. I come from a long heritage of Christian ministers and I am very much still on the side of the spectrum that thinks sex is best when accompanied with love and commitment. I absolutely love Caitlin Moran and her work, but her mission to help young girls have more sex is something I just can not get on board with.

But, actually, I think now it is possible to be on both ends of the sex-commitment spectrum and still be Sex Positive, because at its heart it is about being truthful – and non-manipulative. And this resonates massively with all my parenting. I have strong ideals about loads of things but the very last thing I am willing to do is manipulate things so that my daughters follow in my footsteps.

My role is to open doors, have truthful conversations and present sex with all its potential goodness and potential badness.
“…that’s what sex-positive parenting really is. Not telling my kids lies about sex to keep them from behaviours I don’t think are healthy. It’s telling them the truth, the whole truth, and letting it sink in so they can make their own good choices.”

Read more in this great intro by Becoming Super Mommy. (But not at the library because you will get a scary WARNING! RESTRICTED CONTENT! window pop up and you will peer around hoping no one has seen you trying to access nudity and adult sex stuff whilst sitting at a desk next to an elderly man innocently perusing the new Jamie Oliver recipe book *shameface*)

Empowering children against child sexual abuse
I have begun doing some work with the local Child Abuse Prevention Services and it has been incredible to see how much respectful parenting is part of the solution. As part of their work they show parents how to interact with their children in a way that acknowledges their rights, even from birth, because this is one of the building blocks for creating a world free from child abuse. (Which New Zealand has a crazily big problem with, by the way.)

Did you know that being upfront about the anatomical terms for genitalia is also part of this too? They say “Using the proper name for genitals (penis/ vulva/ vagina) from as young as possible gives a clear message to your child that it is ok to talk to you about anything concerning their body, even their private parts. Current thought is that children who use the correct names for their body parts are less likely to be targeted by sexual abusers (because they assume that you have open telling environment with your child) and are more likely to be believed if they tell about abuse (because they use specific language and can describe what has happened.)”
Using anatomical terms for genitalia with children

Head over to their new Facebook page to keep in touch with other ways we can empower our kids and change the culture of child abuse.

Shame and Pleasure
I was struck by the section in Robin Grille’s “Parenting for a peaceful world’ that covers the developmental stage a child goes through at around six where they are discovering the sexual element within themselves. Every child goes through it – an obsession with their genitals amongst other things- and how we respond to it will impact them for the rest of their lives.
“Shaming or moralistic responses to the child’s burgeoning sexual exploration can produce an uptight temperament or result in rebellious, sexual acting out later in life… Both direct injunctions against his sexuality and unspoken parental embarrassment or discomfort are experiences by the child as a heart-breaking rejection of his expanding self… Thus begins the separation of sex from love, genitals from the heart. The need for love and for pleasure is sublimated , and substituted by a need to over achieve, to prove the worth he feels he has lost. Hence he re-diverts his energies towards competitiveness and a high accomplishment drive.”

Reading this made me consider my own sort of Beavis and Butthead attitude (huhhuhuhuhuh) towards things of a sexual nature. Blimey- I don’t want my own inability to say the word “anus” without a smothered giggle to pass on embarrassment and shame as they grow into their sexual selves.

Being shown what a child is experiencing and learning through the genital-obsession stage will really help me respond without shame and only with understanding when the girls hit that specific developmental period.

Nurturing Openness
Which just brings me back to the bath and discussing how some boys are born with penises but inside know they are girls, and vice versa. It was a fairly long conversation covering Ruby Roses’s recent video and Fa’afafine, the third gender present in Samoan culture (and our own culture to some extent- there being such a strong Samoan diaspora community here in NZ…)and then it ended abruptly, Ramona’s attention captured by Juno’s abduction of the blue rubber duck.

I was left feeling ever so slightly discombobulated (how much is too much?!) but in hindsight, glad to be setting off on this path as I mean to continue. Because I want our children to know we can talk about anything and I want them to know they will get the truth from me.

I read an account last week of a guy taking his newly teenaged lad camping to have The Talk. It seemed like a nice idea, father and son chatting about how babies are made.

As I read the article I realised that I was probably not going to have The Talk with my daughters, because we have already had it- the first when Ramona was two and discovered I was pregnant and we have micro versions of The Talk almost weekly at the moment. These conversations are both specific and surreal in the way only children can make them. (“Where is the rooster’s penis?”)

Ramona hasn’t quite cracked the physiology of it but we will get there eventually and it will just be another bit added to all the other information she has on hand. A gradual accumulation of info that fits in with all her other knowledge about how the world works- rather than a sex education class.

So, despite my own innate prudishness I want to avoid shame having any foothold at all in our home, and I want my girls to come to see sex in all its potential wholeness. I want to halt embarrassment and allow the tangle of love, pleasure and sexual self to develop unheeded.

*does the Running Man in neon shell suit whilst rapping* Let’s talk about sex, baby… (and toddler… and six year old… and teenager… ) Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…

Share you thoughts, my friends! Have you had The Talk yet?

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Wilting rainbows and 20 other reasons to play in the wild

My friend used to be a teacher in South London and he came back from a school trip to a farm that made us all fall about with laughter and gnash our teeth with worry in equal measure. They were all sitting on the bus, speeding down the motorway when a kid spotted an animal in a field “LOOK! What is that fluffy white thing?!” yelled one of the students.  “It’s a polar bear!” cried another student in response, at which point they all crammed their faces up against the windows to see, murmuring about how they’d never seen a polar bear before.

It was, of course, a sheep.

It is a pretty extreme example, but recent research has shown that  only 3/10 kids can identify a Magpie (while 9/10 can recognise a dalek.)  Those kids weren’t alone in being completely disconnected from the natural world.

We ALL miss out when childhoods are being lived inside. Children miss out, nature misses out, the adults miss out, the future misses out! I’m sure you don’t need any motivation to make the beach or the city farm or that small patch of woodland in your village, your second home. But this is for you to send to your kindly Aunt or curious neighbour – those people who raise their eyebrows when they see your kids covered from eyeball to ankle in mud or cradling two moss covered twigs in their buggy, having named them Baby Booba and Hokey Pokey.Wilting rainbows & twenty other reasons to play in the wild

Ramona looked out of the window last night at a rapidly darkening sky. With the foreboding voice of a prophet she declared “The rain shall come with those black clouds. Let’s get our wellies in.” Her awareness of weather is ballooning  - she is connecting dots that I am sure I never did as a child- whenever the sun shines and the rain comes she searches the horizon for the accompanying rainbow, she is predicting the chance of showers better than most weather forecasters. She is discovering her place within the natural world and seeing the patterns to it in a way that seems almost ancient, the stuff of folklore.

There is a window for young children, under fives, where they are learning about their place in the ecosystem, their “Ecophyscial selves”. This sense of connectedness then stays with them their whole life  - if it is not nurtured they are far more likely to be fearful of nature and only at home in places manmade. (Read more on this biophobia here.

Nature can create a poet as well as a weather bard. Carol Black, author of A Thousand Rivers writes; “The rainbows kind of wilt like flowers.” That’s what my daughter said as she stood at the top of a mountain one rainy, sunny day, watching the colors arcing and dissolving in the air. She was two and a half.”  This long but inspiring article about education speaks of the power of nature in a child’s learning. 

Black also considers the idea that many attributes of disruptive children within school are admirable attributes of children in the outdoors. High energy, leadership, a sense of curiosity and adventure, a pioneering spirit – these don’t sit well within many classrooms but in a meadow or forest these characteristics are wonderful, even vital!

She writes; “One day I watched a nine-year-old boy as he led a group of children scrambling over Vasquez Rocks, a great sandstone formation that slants up out of the California desert. He was one of those magnetic, electrical, radiant boys; kind to the younger ones, strong, quick, inquisitive, sharp as a tack, his eyes throwing sparks in the clear air. It was a joy just to watch him, I said to the friend standing beside me. She told me he had just been diagnosed with ADHD.”

Nature has a calming affect on children. The workers at the Forest Kindergarten we visited in Germany last year were certain that they had far less aggression and conflict in their days compared to normal schools as being in nature had a way of grounding children.

This grounding is a daily grounding but also a yearly one – seeing and feeling and smelling and eating the seasons helps children (and adults) expect and look forward to the changing seasons. Some hot pink blossom appeared on the farm a couple of weeks ago and we spent a happy hour chatting about how this signals the summer! Yippeeeee…

The outdoors is always age appropriate. No matter what the age of children there is something in nature to intrigue and challenge them. A baby can feel pieces of bark within her fingers, a teenager can carve a trinket.

The outdoors is non gendered. Ramona goes to a kindy one and a half days a week- it is amazing philosophically, just like a mass of unschooling kids- but there is quite a strong gender segregation. Colours and toys are clearly marked out by the children as “for boys” or “for girls” – something I’ve never experienced on our days amongst the trees.

In other ways nature is a leveller too – you don’t need any specific toys, threads or equipment to enjoy the outdoors. When you are all littered amongst the branches of a tree your socioeconomic status doesn’t really count for very much. In fact, the more filthy and ripped up your clothes are the more fun you’ve had – this is what I tell Ramona when she is worried about her muddy jeans!

For younger children, playing outside avoids all the typical points of conflict around ownership and sharing. I try to make a point of arranging play times in a neutral outdoor space because asking children to share their own toys is unfair and also hypocritical. A forest has enough twigs (aka swords, wands, diggers, babies) for everyone.

If we want children to care about the natural world, they must experience it. Sir David Attenborough says “no one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.

Further, kids decreasing time spent outdoors is considered by some conservationists to be the biggest risk to our environment. There is even a term for it; ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’.  Conservationist Matt Williams suggests  “This is perhaps the gravest threat to the long-term health of conservation and the natural world.”

Spending time amongst nature has been positively correlated (it feels weird to use scientific language here, but I do it to say LOOK! It is LEGIT!) with the development of strong imagination and a sense of wonder. I sometimes wonder if the pervasive cynicism that is found amongst my generation is to do with our lack of ability to be in awe or enthralled by something magnificent. (Read more on developing a sense of wonder amongst children here.)

Children who play regularly in nature:

 

score higher in tests monitoring concentration

feel more positively towards peers

show far superior motor fitness such as balance and coordination

have improved cognitive development such as awareness, reasoning and observational skills 

are buffered against life stress and deal better with adversity. (More on all that here.)

Did you know dirt is a happiness maker? There is bacteria in soil that lifts the mood, fights depression and boots the immune system. I remind myself of this research when I find Juno with a beard of mud, where she has happily been shoving it in her gob.

I feel as if I have just begun to scratch the surface of all of this… tell me the reasons YOU love to play in the wild!

PS –  I wrote about some people that bought a forest for £500 on Wonderthrift this week. And this HOW TO on playing in nature is absolutely wonderful – nature play is child led play!

“The wilderness holds answers to more (1)

Posted in Parenting | 12 Comments

Give a child a knife and you’ll empower them for a lifetime

I’m taking a little break from being the internet’s favourite filthy hippy to write a little something about one of my other favourite topics: children and knives!

Well, more widely, about how capable kids are and how it is up to us to either encourage their skills or make them afraid.

I was doing a bit of cleaning and tidying around the yurt yesterday, trying to get it ship shape. (By “cleaning and tidying” I mean “sitting on the sofa reading The Help”.) I looked out onto the deck and saw that Ramona and her mate Sandy were taking apart the washing basket, pulling each bit of weave out. It was on its last legs already but they were massively hastening its demise. I wondered to myself: do I mind? Well, it only cost 50p from the second hand shop and 50p spent on a thrilling activity where they analyse the process of basket weaving through deconstruction is 50p well spent. Also, very good bit in the book.

So I left them to it. I looked out about 20 minutes later and saw that they had found a bungee cord and had rigged up, from the floor of the deck to a hook on the wall, an enormous sling shot and they were firing bits of weave like arrows into the fruit trees. I was blown away! It was completely genius! They spent another half an hour working out what items fired the best. They are three and five years old and they had pretty much devised a contraption that would teach them about velocity and aerodynamics and they were having a complete blast.Childhood and risk

It made me consider how if I was in a worse mood I would have very quickly put an end to this activity. I have done it before, acted out of grumpiness (primarily) when I have observed Ramona making a mess – closing the door on what was almost certainly going to be an amazing learning experience and chance for creativity. (I say “almost certainly” because it is the only way kids are wired: to learn.)

I am glad that early on in our parenting story we decided to consider our stance on risk. As I think, apart from general parenting grumpiness (*puts hand up*) it is our own fear that impinges on these moments. It is our sense of risk that narrows our children’s scope for being able and shorts their learning journey.

Our children often have the natural skill, the ability to focus and the desire to DO STUFF. They have it all there. They just need a few things from us:

A chance
A friend mentioned the other day how her Aunty was on her back for letting her seven year old help chop the veggies. A seven year old? With a knife?! I’m sorry but that is a bit absurd. In some countries five year olds are out hunting. Ramona has been chopping veggies with me for dinner since she was about 2.5. Give children a chance to help, to be a part of things.  With something sharp we can show them how to keep it safe, but then stand back while they work it out.Give a child a knife and we empower them for a lifetime

Photo from our trip to a forest kindergarten in Germany

“We live in an increasingly risk-averse culture, where many children’s behaviour is constrained. We raise them and educate them “in captivity” because of our anxieties. We are continually hypervigilant, as our anxieties are fuelled by stories and images of violent and aggressive crimes. And then we label children as troublemakers or failures because, as a society, we often fail to see their potential.” Professor Tanya Byron

A realistic safety check
We do have a bigger picture and we are able to foresee in a way that children aren’t. We have a policy now of scoping out all the water in an area before giving the kids chance to free range it. However, far too often we cry DANGER! when realistically, the risk is small.

When it comes to sharp knives and cooking – there is no life/death scenario happening there.

A philosophical approach to accidents
Ramona has a burn on her arm from where she was frying something last week. She leant over just too far and touch the side of the pan. Definitely feel like a rubbish parent when out and about- especially as it looks far too much life a self harming injury…

But the funny thing about it is that I have an identical burn – in fact I have TWO on my arm from doing the same thing TWICE. And I am 32 and have been cooking my own dinners for 15 years! Clumsiness isn’t an attribute of toddlers alone.

Accidents happen regardless of age. It is how children learn.

And better a broken limb than a lifetime of being fearful, eh? (I wrote all about that once…)

Our reactions in check
In Letting GO As Children Grow (I HEARTILY recommend this book! Totally underrated) Deborah Jackson talks about how our eagerness to help children learn about safety can actually hurt them much more. She discusses the use of scissors- scissors are really quite harmless yet when a young child picks them up we start to hyperventilate. This reaction then underpins all their future interaction with scissors, making them timid and unlikely to use them well.

And, with mess, consider if it is worth getting the hump over a child’s creative chaos- could this be the moment they realise they want to be the next Picasso- or simply a genius child artist like twelve year old Keiron?!- before balling them out.

Make it a practice to take a few seconds to asses where you are coming from before you react to a bit of risk or deconstruction.

The tools
John Holt talks about how our children are worth good equipment. How is a child meant to fall in love with painting if they only have these cheap paints that have almost no colour to them? My children can craft for so much longer if we do it with nice stuff that works rather than the nasty kids versions.

There is also a safety thing here- when it comes to cutting vegetables, there is probably less damage to be done with a sharp knife than a blunt one was it requires less pressure.

Patience
It is probably the one I struggle with most. When we bake together I am ITCHING to take the beater out of my children’s hands so I can get it done. ARGH WHY DO I DO THIS? I realise that the process is equally as important with the end product with children, but still I have to stomp on my impatient brain particles during it. Last night we baked pikelets and Juno, 16 months, did most of the beating. Pretty amazing!

An open door
For our first five months in the yurt we weren’t hooked up to solar so we depended on candles for light. You can imagine how fascinated the girls were with that. I would sit for almost 45 minutes each night whilst they lit them and blew them out, lit them again. It was important to me as I felt sure that if I was to say no to the playing/ working with candles Ramona would find a way- her urge was THAT strong- with or without me. And without me would be far, far more dangerous.

“If we become the locked door that stands between them and what they want, the only options we’re giving them are to push against us or sneak around us. If we stand beside them and help them figure out how they can get from where they are to where they want to be, then we become their partner.” From Joyfully Rejoicing.

One of the great gifts we can give our children is the space and freedom to discover the world and their own place within it. This is a gift that begins in our own home, as we give them chance to genuinely participate and as we trust them with implements and as we leave them alone without our constant verbal motivation. But it is one that will bloom and grow as they march on out the door.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”By embracing a little risk and trusting our children more we are letting them know about their unique and powerful place in our exciting world.

I said something to Ramona in passing once, when she was asking me permission to do something(she does this, I don’t know where she gets it from.) I said “Sure, mighty girl. Go right ahead, the world is your oyster!” It has stuck with her, and now, every so often when she is discovering something brand new or thrillingly reaching her own upper limits, she will shout excitedly, “THE WORLD IS MY OYSTER, EH, MUM?!”

It is, Ramona, it really is.

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That time my smelly scalp went viral

So, flipping heck.

One minute I am sitting in my kitchen making up new lyrics to I Like Big Butts about my little one year old (“I love you Juno and I can’t deny! No other mother…” Etc) whilst observing out of the corner of my eye my three year old tying an especially long, thin leek around her neck (it wrapped around TWICE! Wiley old leek!) and also thinking about how to encourage them both to consider eating more than just marshmallows for breakfast…

And then… The next minute I have snuck off to use the next door neighbour’s internet and am reading about MY BOOK IN THE GUARDIAN.

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Photo credit: Malcolm Rutherford

WHOOPVILLE!!!

Truly, while I was asleep, the internet just went bonkers about No Poo. The Daily Mail, the Telegraph, (that article is the original and actually brilliant), plus a few others, have written about Happy Hair: The definitive guide to giving up shampoo *big toothy marketing smile*

I was warned not to read the comments, but couldn’t resist. Gosh, people are COMICS. And such caricatures of themselves – I.e the Daily Fail & Telegraph tending to be cynical and cruel and Guardian readers all saying “Huh? I haven’t used shampoo for years, of course it works!”

On the smelly thing
Mentioning the stinky stage was probably an urge towards honesty that wasn’t quite necessary – it is really the main thing people have focused on. Especially the Guardian article- it was a shame how much Sali had obviously not read my book and just rested on the old “smelly hippy” stereotype. I sort of wish I didn’t give people the opportunity to drag that tired image up. But then I wanted to be fully transparent about my own experience. I gave up shampoo without knowing anyone else who did it and really without knowing anything about it. I went cold turkey, and didn’t realise there were a billion options for achieving fresh smelling locks during transition. (Loads of tips in the book! *marketing smile*)

It is SO EXCITING that people are buying the book (you did buy it, yeah?) and finding it helpful- some of the reviews on Amazon (where it has been a Number 1 bestseller in its category since the beginning of the week arrghhhhhh)

IMG_0929.JPG“This book is your one stop shop for everything NO Poo related, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is a wealth of info on the internet for those wishing to explore giving up shampoo but a concise, inspiring guide to taking the plunge has been missing and this book is the business! I had already given up shampoo about 3 weeks before reading the book and was committed to giving it a go but now I feel I have the definitive guide to fall back on whenever I need it. Now I know I was using too much bicarb, not brushing enough, and I have an arsenal of conditioning treatments I am planning to try out. Best of all, Lucy explains the science behind how our hair is naturally equipped to clean itself in a way that I can actually remember and wax lyrical to anyone who will listen! And yes, my hair is thicker and shinier than ever.”

“This book is holding my hand through the tough transition to going shampoo free. Shampoo is another side to the Beauty Myth – it’s not good for us yet we have been taught we need it daily!
The book is a total step by step friend taking you through it all, without preaching to the reader. Buy. Read. Go NO POO.”

I’ve been asked loads of questions on Facebook over the last few days- I’m answering them all happily but everyone has been covered in the book. Seriously, I am fairly sure the book says everything anyone might possibly want to know about No Poo. (Hit me with any stones you I think I left unturned!)

Here is the Table of Contents:

Introduction
Chapter 1 But WHY?
Chapter 2 How it Works
Chapter 3 Coping with the transitional period
Chapter 4 Natural alternatives to shampoo
Chapter 5 Natural alternatives to conditioner
Chapter 6 Natural alternatives to styling products
Chapter 7 Hair troubles during transition
Chapter 8 Frequently Asked Questions
Chapter 9 Conclusion

That is a lot of information about giving up shampoo, innit?!

The fact that it has just gone so bonkers is bit baffling but don’t you reckon it just says an awful lot about how people are SO READY to embrace a life less dependant on highly packaged hair dreams, jam packed with carcinogens and false promises?

So, thank you, thank you for buying the book and thank you for all being so gunho about giving this No Poo thing a crack with me. It’s not a No Poo movement it’s a No Poo revolution!

Ps You can buy a discounted version hereLess than a bottle of shampoo!” *slightly wild eyed smile*Happy Hair No Poo Book

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Happy Hair: The definitive guide to giving up shampoo (The Ultimate NoPoo book)

ARGH! Here it is! My first book! A comprehensive guide to giving up shampoo and how No Poo will help you ditch the toxins, save money, and release your hair’s natural beauty…New book published on No Poo

I have had this book on my mind for six months – I have always felt there was a great need for a book that pulls all the No Poo information out there together in one easy place-  but it was only at the start of July that I decided to crack on with it. Cue late nights typing furiously and whole afternoon’s spent eyeball-deep in CHEMISTRY of all things. Ugh. I had to, like, figure out science for this thing.

In fact, that is the section I found most fascinating  - the Science of No Poo. Because it isn’t just some hippy poppycock – it is a proper, legitimate process that genuinely works.

This book will help No Pooers get through the transitional stage, find an alternative that works for them (there are over THIRTY alternatives to shampoo, conditioner and styling products) and gives solutions for common problems encountered.

There are several pages answering Frequently Asked Questions covering hair dye, hair straighteners, hair types, exercise, swimming, headlice amongst other glorious things.

And lots of testimonials and funny stories.

In fact, even if you are just curious about No Poo, I think you will find it entertaining. (I have freely thrown down my dignity on the altar of reader’s laughs.)

And so, on to buying this ultimate guide to No Poo. (ARGH, WHY DIDN’T I CALL IT THAT?! That’s a good name that. GAh.) The very best way to get this book is as a simple Ebook from my Ejunkie store for £2.20 – of which I will get EVERY penny! It is a PDF so you open it up and read it in your Kindle just as you would normally, or on your phone or Ipad or simply read in on your PC. Add to Cart, yeah?

If you don’t mind paying a bit more, and giving an awful lot of it to Amazon (70%! 70% I tell you!) you can also buy the book on Kindle or in Print, if you like things with a spine. (It is currently Number 1 Bestseller in its category- Wahey!)

And all for less than a bottle of good shampoo.

Perhaps you might even be the first person to review this book?! (Please do!) Head onto Amazon to do that. 

And if you can share the book all about with your mates/ any journos you know I will come and nuzzle my nice smelling, clean No Poo locks into your shoulder in a succulent internet cuddle.

And, feel free to join a whole load of No Pooers on my Facebook Page where we can share stories and answer questions. Please come and join in the fun!

And muchos, muchos gracias for all your support so far, you have all really encouraged me through this whole book thing.
Happy Hair No Poo Book

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Raising a Rebel (Why I’m glad my child isn’t compliant)

Do you yearn for a nice crafty post about how I decorated a door knob with the lining of an old shoe? Remember those days? It’s all children, bugs, giving up shampoo, blah, blah these days, eh?

(You can pop over to Wonderthrift for your quick DIY hit if you like.)

Today’s post comes courtesy of Alfie Kohn who is The Business when it comes to well researched, robust writing on unconditional parenting. I am reading his new book The Myth Of The Spoilt Child – which is a goody if you are sick of everyone bashing on about how we are raising privileged, indulged kids. The only way to spoil a kid is to not love them enough, not the other way round.

The last chapter is called Raising Rebels and has such nuggets as:

“Encourage young people to focus on the needs and rights of others, to examine the practices and institutions that get in the way of making everyone’s lives better, to summon the courage to question what one is told and be willing to break the rules sometimes.”
Raising a rebel
Here are some reasons I am glad my 3 year old doesn’t do as I say all the time:

  • Pushing boundaries is the perfect, healthy state of a young child. Their primary urge is to explore the world. It is in their make up. Vital to their development. If they can control that urge just to appease the parents then they aren’t being true to their instincts which could mess things up later. Have an “unruly” toddler? Pat your self on the back – you are raising a healthy kid!
  • I am reading a book, Flow, which is all about attaining true, deep happiness. The number one way of achieving this is to be purely internally motivated. And the number one way of being truly internally motivated? Through living a childhood where your internal motivation is given freedom to bloom. By undermining children’s internal urges we could be giving them the blue print to be seeking other people’s opinion and approval for the rest of their days. When my daughter does something I don’t want her to do I consider how excellently her internal motivation is being primed and how happy she will be as an adult!!
  • There is a weird thing that happens… we want children to be a certain way as children – compliant, basically- but then we really don’t want this in adults. Compliancy is a pretty bland and rubbish attribute in grown ups. So when they hit 18 we want them to switch from compliancy to assertiveness. This is so weird, right? We should respect awesome attributes whether they are in an adult or a child.
  • A child has an innate sense of fairness and I believe we can nurture or scupper this sense. When Ramona objects because she seems something as unfair, I consider how responding to that objection, rather than wishing she would just pipe down, is likely to preserve that sense of fairness.
  • There is also something about children having a right to autonomy. With our arbitrary rules and expectation that children must follow them, there i every chance we are violating some of their key rights. When my daughter asserts her own way over mine, I consider how much more fulfilling of her rights this is. And I believe that, as well as that being a good thing all on its own, a child who has their rights respected will be one who respects other people’s rights.
  • And finally, I believe that setting up a relationship that is naturally “them against us” or a “battle of wills” is detrimental to a relationship of cooperation. If Ramona does stuff I don’t want her to do I consider how I could help her do the thing she WANTS to do. So that we are in it together, working it out.

Do I get annoyed when she pulls the ink ribbon out of my awesome new vintage typewrite? (What, yes, I totally did need a new vintage typewriter.) I do. I explain respectfully that pulling the ribbon out will break it and I ask her not to do. But she keeps doing it. And I can understand why- what a jolly good time! Have you ever pulled the ribbon out of a typewriter? So satisfying. So I can see this isn’t an urge that is going to go anywhere, so instead we put the typewriter away until we can put it out in a less tempting, higher spot.  And meanwhile I figure out how to find something that will meet that urge to just pull and explore and dismantle things. It is quite a scientific urge, really.

Of course, sometimes I get mad. And I think ARGH WHY CAN’T MY KIDS JUST DO AS THEIR WISE OLD MOTHER SAYS FOR ONCE IN THEIR TINY LIIIIVVVVES!!!!! And then I break off a line of chocolate and have a sit and remind myself of all the reasons I am glad they don’t. Hehehehehe.

“In my experience, most parents sincerely want their children to be assertive, independent thinkers who are unafraid to stand their ground… with their peers. When a child demonstrates the identical sort of courage in interactions with them it is a different story! The truth is if we want children to be able to resist peer pressure and grow into principled and brave adults, we have to actively welcome their questioning and being assertive with us.

So, your kid is too assertive and never does anything you say? NICE ONE! What a beautiful childhood of freedom you are giving them and what world-changing rebels you will raise!My child never does anything I say!

Posted in Parenting | 19 Comments

Why go No Poo? Save money, ditch the toxins and release your hair’s natural beauty

I hereby announce the publication of the Ultimate Guide to No Poo! 13,000 words on how to give up shampoo, over 32 shampoo, conditioner and styling product alternatives, the scientific basis of No Poo and a whole load of stories from my 2.5 years Shampoo Free.

Happy Hair: The definitive guide to giving up shampoo.Happy Hair No Book Book Add to Cart

Here is a little preview from the WHY section…

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Release your hair’s natural beauty
It was a trip to the hairdressers that confirmed for me that we are all being hoodwinked by the beauty industry! It  was my first visit since giving up shampoo and I was nervous about having to ask her to forgo the products when washing my hair.

I was imagining a dropped comb, a face contorting with repulsion,  and, as the full realization of having massaged the scalp of a head that hasn’t seen a single goop of shampoo for over a year, projectile vomiting into the mirror.

Marvelously, that scene didn’t happen.

In fact, she barely blinked.

(Mind you, this salon is based in particularly wild corner of South London, where one infamous resident has taken to squirting pedestrians with her breastmilk. You’ve really seen everything in Peckham.)

As the hairdresser began cutting my hair she explained that she was “thinning it out”- I guffawed (glamorously) in shock. My WHOLE life hairdressers have been trying to cut my pathetically lank hair in a way that would add volume. I explained conspirationally that I was sure giving up shampoo had actually improved my hair. She looked at me as if I was an idiot “Of course it would! Using shampoo regularly just totally strips your hair out!” I was astonished that a hairdresser would so passionately admit that shampoo may not be bringing out the best in people’s tresses.

Tons of people are finding that giving up shampoo has uncovered a new, better side to their hair.  Dull hair has become glossy, frizzy hair curly, lank hair voluminous. (If you originally had dull AND frizzy AND lank hair your now look like Diana Ross!)

“I stopped using hair products a year and a half ago and curly hair takes to it very well! However the most satisfying thing is loving my hair in its most natural state, without needing products to change or “improve” it.”
~Amy

Save Money
It isn’t the ticket to becoming a millionaire by age 33 (unless , of course, you write a book about it  *evil billionaire laugh*) but giving up shampoo can relieve a tight budget.

Even if you use the traditional alternative to shampoo – a Bicarbonate of Soda wash once a week  you will only get through one jar every two months. If you throw in a weekly cider vinegar rinse too you’ll probably use up a bottle every three months. Depending on where you shop that is a mere £8-13 a year on hair washing paraphernalia.

Moreover, loads of people manage to wean off using natural alternatives regularly so end up spending far less than that.  Inconceivable!

In our home we were using a bottle of shampoo and conditioner every month at a cost of £5. We now use water and are saving £60 every year. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when we are old fogeys we will be able to go on a luxury £3000 cruise with the savings! Wahey!

“I have to admit my reason for going poo-free was monetary! I have been surprised at the results of using nothing and comments of how wonderful my hair looks! Both my children never shampoo their hair – they are 3 and 6. The 3 year old only ever washes her hair occasionally and it looks beautiful. The 6 year old has her hair washed occasionally by the grandparents and it totally destroys the natural beauty and lustre of her hair. It takes a few weeks for it to come back to normal.”
~Penny

Eliminate Toxins
I gave up shampoo about a week after reading the research published by Bionsen that revealed the 515 chemicals women put upon their bodies daily. I initially thought “Ha! They didn’t research ME!” but then I looked at the back of my shampoo bottle and realized that in my shampoo alone there were about a billion items I didn’t recognize in the slightest.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t lob imposing names out there like big fat toxic grenades, to scare people into giving up shampoo. I’d really rather talk about the magnificent simplicity of taking a lemon from the fruit bowl and cleaning our hair with it. But we do need to ask some big questions about what we readily pour into our pores. So quick! Take cover!

  • Sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate cause shampoo to be lovely and bubbly but are also skin and eye irritants that come with major warning labels.
  • Cocamide diethanolamine is in over 100 shampoos available on the high street. Cocamide DEA is not only an allergen with high potential as an irritant but it is classed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 2b Carcinogen.[1]
  •  Parabens  have been connected to higher estrogen levels, which wreak havoc with the hormones.
  • Quaternium-15 is a preservative that discharges formaldehyde. It is an allergen that can cause dermititus as well as having been linked to cancer, particularly leukemia.
  • Methylisothiazolinone has been connected with neurological damage and Alzimers, often abbreviated to MIT.
  • 1,4-dioxane has been found in almost a quarter of the products in the Skin Deep Database from the Environmental Working Group. This is cause for concern. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies dioxane as a probable carcinogen.[2]
  • Almost all commercial shampoos involve mineral oil, a byproduct of crude oil being turned into gasoline. It is pretty much the leftover sludge. It is in many shampoos and actually sort of acts like a sludge on your hair. It coats each shaft, indeed adding a glossy sheen, but also preventing any toxins and excess oils ever leaving your hair.

“I’ve been using Bicarbonate of Soda for 8 months now. I had been getting an itchy scalp with regular shampoo but since going poo-free my scalp is itch free and my hair is lighter and more healthy. I think my natural colour is more vibrant too. My husband and son both had eczema but since our whole family of five has gone poo- free they no longer have eczema. Best move ever.”
~Breanna

The book has now been featured in Cosmo, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and The Telegraph. Amazon Reviewers are raving about it, wahey!

Get your beautiful hands on a copy right here, right now for less than a bottle of shampoo… Available in every currency and every country of the world.
Happy Hair No Book Book Add to Cart(That is a link to a discounted Ebook but it is also available on Amazon in Kindle and Print – they just take a huge, enormous 70% tax…)

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