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Timeliness: That Window of Opportunity That Mothers Can’t Ignore

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I know some dads get it too… but in our house, it’s me. I’m always the one with the master plan in my head.

I know exactly how many milliseconds we need to leave the house by, before someone has to pee again, or before someone gets hungry, or before someone spills something on their clothes, or before someone wants to start building an 800 piece lego masterpiece.

Don’t tell me to hang on a sec while you figure something out on the computer, or you that you need to spend 10 minutes in the bathroom. Because, the time to leave is NOW! Especially… ESPECIALLY, when I have a baby.

Ok, ok, I know I need to relax. There’s no reason to rush…

But, I’m not rushing! I’m simply a super aware freak mum, who knows more about how my children feel and more about what they need, than is probably good for me! They were with me for nine months in the womb, and I fretted 24/7 over them for the first year or two of their lives. I KNOW these little people too well.

I KNOW things like, if we don’t get out of the shops in exactly 4.38 minutes, then dinner won’t get started, then the baths will be late, then the kids will go to sleep late, then the middle one will have night terrors because she’ll be over tired. Yes, all this JUST from leaving the shops a little too late.

And, I know that if we don’t leave the house NOW, then the 2 year old is going to fall to sleep in the car, but it will only be a micro nap, and then the good nap is spoiled and then I don’t get a break all day and then not only is the 2 year old cranky later, but I TURN INTO A RAVING LUNATIC!

Planning falls apart, I know that. And, it’s good to be spontaneous! Yes, I get all that and practice it daily. But, I have to be in the mood for it… I have to have the energy for breakdowns and meltdowns and missed sleep and so on.

So, I know, I seem like I’m keeping a secret schedule, or that I have an hidden agenda to be in control. And it sounds like I’m a super anal freak! What it is, is that I’m sharp and alert and I need to keep this little family unit running as smoothly as possible. It’s my inborn, slightly perfectionist yet nurturing, nature, that keeps me on a schedule the way I do.

When that window of opportunity presents itself, I need to make a move! And, if I don’t, and you see me getting uptight, now you know why.

 

Kids Don’t ‘Fight’ Sleep: Here’s What’s Happening

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Sorry if the title irritated you. Because we’ve all experienced kids ‘fighting‘ sleep and we ‘know‘ they’re fighting it, right?? And, OMG, is it annoying!! But, are they really fighting it, or is there something else going on?

My oldest daughter would have been dumped in the category of one who ‘fights sleep‘. Honestly, from the day she was born, those beady little eyes would pop open and STAY open for way longer than I thought was humanly (or newbornly) possible. She’s 8 years old and she still has the tendency to want to know what’s going on at every moment of the day. She would rather walk around with her eyes hanging out of her head than admit she’s tired. Aren’t a lot of kids this way? But… when she gets like that I know there’s something going on.

Sleep is a natural phenomena and it can should happen easily, without any tricks or training.

There are a few things that a child needs in order to easily drift off to sleep. Sometimes, our modern life does not lend itself to good sleeping. By trying to make our kids independent and through overstimulating, etc. our kid’s sleep can suffer. Read the rest of this entry

What’s With Kids These Days?

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You know what’s the problem with kids these days?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

People can cry all they want about the technology, kid’s exposure to this and to that. How kids disrespect their parents and teachers (I know about the second one first hand).

Well, I’m not saying those things help. But, you know what? Kids are the same today as they were 50 years ago. They’re the same as they were 500 years ago.

Kids are all born amazing. They’re smart. They’re creative. They’re naturally friendly and cooperative (REALLY! more on this later). They’re free thinkers. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in history when we’ve had so many free thinking adults in our society, and those free thinking adults all used to be kids who one day grew up. Oh, and kids also all have the ability to drive us insane.

I bet you think YOU are a free thinker and reasonable adult, right? Yet once upon a time, some adult was sitting there thinking about your generation and wondering what was wrong with the kids from your era. The same people calling the kids of today ‘entitled brats‘ are the same people who were being called ‘entitled brats‘ 30 years ago.

So, then it’s the parent’s fault, right? That’s what’s making kids so rotten.

Wrong.

Parents today are also the same. The same mother who stresses because she can’t brush her 3 year old’s teeth, is the same mother whose 3 year old kept getting too close to the fire 5,000 years ago. Of course, now, parents are so much more stressed and often don’t have the time or resources to help their kids the way they want to.

And this whole, you have to ‘be a parent, not a friend‘ (barf) thing needs to go.

A  few hundred years ago, in a bid to make children more cooperative, the parenting trend in Europe was to punish children severely, to keep them in line. The idea was that children were trying to rule their households (sounds familiar to some of today’s woes). And if we can train our children when they’re little, they’ll learn to be respectful and behave. Then they’ll grow up to be law abiding citizens, right? Well, that didn’t work, because if it did, the prisons would have been empty for hundreds of years!

See, being tough didn’t work… And, actually, parents today are probably better than they ever have been in western society.

There’s no need to be more strict and less friendly with our children. There is such a thing as a loving limit.

In today’s world, we have all this research available that tells us that being tough on kids doesn’t really work. We can show more compassion and we can try to understand our children’s behaviours and why they do certain things. This will help the most.

A kid throwing a tantrum, is not because a toddler is trying to manipulate a parent. A tantrum is because a toddler is searching for understanding and connection. A tantrum is a cry for a help. Whether it’s a 2 year old throwing a tantrum or a 12 year old throwing a tantrum or an adult throwing the tantrum, there is a need that’s being unmet. A child repeating the same misbehaviour over and over is looking for understanding and trying to make sense of some very painful feelings.

Kids need to feel loved. They need to feel accepted and their emotions, desires and ideas need to be validated. Parents need to feel loved. Parent’s feelings need to be accepted and their emotional needs and desires also need to be fulfilled.

There’s nothing wrong with kids these days. There’s nothing wrong with parents these days! But, a little education about why our children act the way they do, can really make our world a better place.

 

If you are having trouble with a child’s behaviour… For parents with kids under the age of 8, I highly recommend reading the book ‘Tears and Tantrums’ and “Helping Young Children Flourish’ by Aletha Solter. If your child is older, I recommend reading another one of her books, “Raising Drug Free Kids”. I’m not being paid to say that either… you can’t complain without offering a solution. These books are a good start to a solution. And also, never be afraid to ask for help. 

That Time We Packed Our Bags and Left America Forever

 

Ok, it wasn’t forever… we’ve been back twice to visit.

It’s hard to write a post like this without sounding like I’m bashing America. But, given the political climate of the USA at the moment, I feel compelled to tell our story and it’s gonna sound like bashing no matter how nicely I say it. It’s important to keep in mind that when comparing one developed western nation to another, it’s sort of like comparing apples to apples. They’re all nice, just some are a little better than others, depending on what you prefer.

And, we did NOT prefer the cold American winters!

This is our experience of moving to Australia ten years ago.

Before having kids, my husband and I came for a ‘short‘ year and half stay for me to study, until we realised that we loved it so much here that we wanted to stay.

At first, it was scary.

We arrived in 2008, with two suitcases and two surfboards each. My husband and I pretty much left everything behind. Maybe secretly inside I knew we would never move back, because I got rid of almost everything I owned, even though we were only supposed to stay for 18 months.

I was 25 years old. Even though I had traveled around the world, I still felt like living long term in another country was scary… because, after all, wasn’t America the ‘best‘? I mean, that’s what we had always been taught at home and at school. Being born American was the greatest privilege… right??

One big thing that threw me off was the Aussie accent and a million different words for everything. I assumed we would easily fit in because of the shared language, but in reality I often couldn’t understand what the Australians were saying, especially the professors! Also, ‘back then‘, internet here was like the worst in the world and a lot of other things were still developing. So, yeah, it felt really scary at first!

And, we felt like we were missing the party. 

Although we were happy to be on an adventure, it seemed like EVERYTHING was happening back at ‘home‘. All the movies, all the politics. All the action. Being on the other side of the world, in a country with a tenth of the population, and crappy internet (it’s great now) felt a little… well… boring or something (at first). But, then, as time went by, we started realising that there is plenty of action everywhere! And sometimes… it’s not good to be at the center of the action. Of course, we missed our family, and that part can be a little hard, but that’s where Skype comes in handy.

We were nervous… you might not be able to tell, but I can! This was before selfies were cool.

At first, we missed the food… until we realised the food in America was actually crap.

We really missed Trader Joes… and Whole Foods. And the pizza and the bagels. And, the vegetarian food from Taco Bell… bwahaha! (Still sort of miss that in emergencies). And, ugh, it seemed like in Australia, we had to make everything from scratch. And, we felt like we missed the food for a long time. Until… we went back for a visit after being away for 2 1/2 years. And then we discovered something profound! We discovered that our favorite foods weren’t what we had remembered! And, they were way more expensive than we remembered! And, why the hell, was high fructose corn syrup in EVERYTHING?! And, all the stuff that we bought, even at Trader Joes and health food stores, was really not even that good for you!

We went back again, this time at the 7 year mark after moving, and we confirmed that the food was gross. The fruits and veggies in the grocery stores were sad and out of season, because they were imported from thousands of miles away! I gained 5 pounds in 5 weeks! It was insane (granted, it was over Thanksgiving time). When we came back to Australia, where we have some of the freshest seasonable fruit and vegetables in the world, and even the pe-packaed stuff isn’t that bad, we were so relieved! You can’t buy a mango in the middle of winter here and that’s a GOOD thing.

In Australia, even the junk food isn’t too bad. You can even buy a pack of Oreos and the ingredients are pronounceable. And, they only come in one small sleeve… not in a pack of 800. And, now, you can even buy decent bagels in the grocery stores… so phew.

Our first visit back to the homeland.

We slowly started to realise that America is a great country, but it’s not the best. 

I feel a little embarrassed to admit, and I laugh at myself now, but when I first moved to Australia, I definitely felt like when I told people I was American, it was supposed to be something special. Like, people were supposed to say, “Ohhhh… wow… you’re American.” So, the people I was telling I was American, might have wanted to strike up a conversation with me about their sister who lives in New Jersey (everyone seems to have a friend or relative in New Jersey), but, to them, it really was no big deal. After all, America has a really big population, and even though the vast majority of Americans don’t hold passports, we still get around a lot. In most places, Americans are no more a novelty than any other person from any other country… actually, maybe even less so.

America is defiantly one of the nicer countries in the world to live in, but it’s certainly not the best. The USA has almost every convenience you could easily get your hands on (except for electric kettles for some reason). But, America is certainly not the safest. It’s not the most educated, nor is it the happiest, nor is it the wealthiest. It’s not modern, it’s not cheap… and minimum wage is a joke (not funny for the people earning it)… and the weather in most of the country is really rotten. And, currently, it’s NOT a safe place to send your children to school…

What we learned that surprised us most was that the standard of living in America is actually quite low compared to other developed western countries. Until I moved away, I never knew that as Americans, we had less access to affordable health care, less paid parental leave, more expensive higher education. And, those college degrees we earn, if we’re lucky, often only lead to low paying entry level jobs that require us to work our tushies off for peanuts AND enjoy it because that’s just life and life is hard. Barf.

Also, we learned that generally speaking, Americans have this idea that learning a trade is not as prestigious as going to university. Then, we learned that the vast majority of Americans earn lower wages and get little to no help from the government in terms of rent and childcare, compared to their western counterparts AND they hardly get any paid holiday time (um, hello why living in a semi-socialist country is awesome!)…  yeah, those things just don’t do it for me! Last but not least, the gun laws in America leave most of the develop world baffled…

All these things I never realised until we moved away for a few years. I can understand why most Americans believe their country is the best. Because without ever leaving the country for a considerable amount of time, how would you know? And… most Americans don’t hold a passport so… most of them don’t know.

We realised that Americans are pretty conservative, and I’m not just talking politics… I remember my high school Latin teacher (who was a world traveler) told us that Americans had a hang up with the naked body. I didn’t quite understand what she meant… until I had kids of my own and let them run around half naked or naked and wild and free on the hot summer beaches (careful of the sun, of course). Meanwhile, my mom told me a story how an American lady got a ticket for changing her kid’s diaper on the beach… and then my friend in New Jersey told me how she was asked to breastfeed her baby in the toilet stall! Once, on an international facebook page, I talked about how my kid peed in the bushes at the park (like we do a million times), and the Americans were like, “WHAT?! That’s gross!!”  And most Aussies are like, “Kids peeing in the bushes?” *crickets chirping* Of course, I’m grossly generalising because I do vividly remember swimming naked with a bunch of friends in the freshwater pools, among the bamboo forests, in Hawaii… but you know what I mean. *Most* Americans are pretty conservative with a lot of things.

Then, AMERICA seemed like the weird foreign country!

Probably around the 5 year mark of being away from America, was when we realised that Australia was our home. Everything here felt familiar and normal. There was so much stuff to do! And, awesome stuff. Museums, art galleries, markets, shopping, beautiful places (which are all over the world)… you name it! When I would hear the news from America, it honestly sounded like reading about some crazy foreign country… Yeah, it’s bizarre when the place you called home and the place that felt ‘normal‘ to you for so many years, starts feeling like a distant planet! And now, when I read comments on the internet, even without being told, I can almost instantly tell if an American has left the comment. It’s so funny how much American culture sticks out now!

A rare surf together like three years ago. One hard part about no family… no free babysitting!

And now we LOVE our new home!

So, after a shaky few years at the start, we honestly love our new country so much. We’re grateful for getting to raise our three kids in this country. We’re happy because Australians like to complain about their country! It’s hilarious for us, coming from America, the things that Australians complain about. But, it’s good that they complain, because most things keep getting better (but you can’t tell that to an Aussie). Once we got used to everything and it wasn’t scary and confusing anymore, life here became so awesome!

And really, the whole world is your home! And, all people should feel comfortable being with other people in different countries as well as in the country you live in! America was a nice place to grow up and I’m grateful for my life there, but there are so many places in the world that are beautiful and amazing and safe and FUN, I just never believed it could be possible! From when I was a teenager, I really felt called to move to Australia. I only miss a few things from living in America, and it’s mostly the people. But, we’ve made a new home here, and we love it. I’m so glad I made that scary leap 10 years ago, because there’s nowhere else I would rather be! If you’re thinking of moving to another country, look at the logistics of it, and go for it! You can (usually) always go back.

At our citizenship ceremony.

Thinking of Moving? Be realistic…

After writing all this, I have to also say that you have to be realistic, because America may feel like the only place you feel like you’re at ‘home‘. I know right now a lot of people are considering moving away because of the current ‘situation‘… but keep in mind that things are always changing. The problems you feel are problems now, won’t be the same in ten years. Also, you may feel like moving away, but you may end up missing your family and the lifestyle too much. For us, missing family was a fair price to pay to be able to live in what we felt was paradise.

 

 

I’m Not Trying To Replicate My Childhood for My Children

My childhood was great. It was American as apple pie (Sort of, except I was always a bit of the odd ball, but aren’t we all).

I played a lot outdoors, rode my bike everywhere. We lived in a tiny cookie cutter house, we had a yard, a cat, (a dog at some point). I played in the snow. Kids picked on me at school and I ‘toughened up‘ to get past it. I had plenty of friends, I went to school, (school that I wasn’t sure if I hated or liked, but there was no other option so I never even thought twice about it). I had friends, and with the friends came the drama and gossip. I played soccer, we played man hunt with the neighbourhood kids. I played the piano (barely). We ate pizzas on Fridays. As we got older, we were all encouraged to do well in school so that we could go university so we could get a job… There was no mention of an alternative.

And, it was fine! My childhood was perfect because it shaped me into who I am today.

But. my kid’s childhood looks radically different. And, although I had a great childhood, there’s no way I’m going to try and recreate my childhood for my own kids.

Not only do we live 10,000 miles away from where I grew up, but we do things different. And, this life for them, is perfect for them because it is what it is. The nostalgia of my childhood doesn’t mean anything to them and it doesn’t have to mean anything to them! My childhood is my story, it doesn’t have to be theirs.

As of now, my kids have only been homeschooled. They haven’t be part of a ‘group‘ at school. And, that’s fine. They’re off doing other adventures in life. Just because I went to school doesn’t mean they have to experience the same thing!

They don’t have a yard, we live in a unit. I spent enough hours of my teenage years mowing the lawn to know that mowing is nothing I want to waste my time doing now! We don’t have pets, even though I had a billion when I was a kid. We just have a different life and there’s no time for pets.

My kids don’t have snow, they don’t have skiing, they don’t have ice. It’s fine. Of course, they beg to see the snow, so I guess I’ll have to take them one day! But, they have the beach, they have rainforests. They don’t have Twinkies and Tootsie Rolls (thank God), they have vegemite instead.

And, I’m happy that I’m not passing on certain things, like my fears!!! When I was a kid, I was terrified of doing gymnastics and never really felt interested in it at all! When my daughter asked to sign up for it, I remembered all those scary thoughts and also the thoughts that I’m not crazy about gymnastics, but I pushed those thoughts aside to make way for HER experience. Now she loves gymnastics and its really quite good at it and I love to watch her do what she loves. They also do dance which is nothing I ever had an interest in doing!! But, it’s what they love, so how can I say no?

Lots of things are the same, and these are the important things. Having strong morals and human values are the non-negotiables. Valuing knowledge is important, not so much the way we learn.

I often think of my husband’s grandmother, who came from Russia to America in the early 1900’s, and of my ancestors who escaped Europe in the late 1800’s. How radical there childhood would have looked to that of their own children. And back then, the world was bigger, you couldn’t just hop on a plane in Brisbane and be eating a slice of New York pizza 24 hours later. Of course, some things are always carried over from our childhoods, and that’s good! Especially if it’s some cultural or heritage thing, but it’s also ok if some of it is lost. Keep what’s important and drop behind what doesn’t really matter.

The human race knows how to adapt. We know how to let go and move on. We know how to survive and thrive! I’m so happy that I see my kid’s lives as unique and I’m not trying to force them into enjoying things that I did as a kid. If they want to do something I enjoy, then that’s great. But, if not, well, then we’re off on a brand new adventure to learn and explore together!

5 Easy and Powerful Tips For Helping Siblings Adjust to a New Baby: Aware Parenting

When my oldest daughter was almost 2 1/2, she became a big sister. Everything seemed perfect for a little while… but then, the acting out started. So, I needed to act! Luckily, I was already on the path of aware parenting. I found some really powerful solutions for helping create harmony in the new-baby family dynamic. The things I learned how to do with my daughter were not tricky or time consuming either! The following tips are easy to implement and can be big game changers for when a new baby enters the family. The only trick is remember when to do them!

1. Cut down on unnecessary activies.
I made the mistake of NOT doing this after the birth of my second. For some reason, I felt like it was my duty to run my toddler around and keep her busy. Trips to the park can wait. Maybe they can skip swimming for a term and take it up again in a couple months? If they’re school age, maybe just do less extra curricular activities for a little while. Not only is running around not good for you or your new baby, it will run your older kids down too. Remember, your ‘big kids‘ are experiencing a HUGE upheaval in their lives, so staying close to home and doing less, will really help everyone to adjust.

I remember being older, 7 and 10, when my brothers were born and ANXIOUSLY waiting to get home from school because I missed them so much and I worried about them! Of course, it’s nice for the big kids to get out of the house and carry on with some normal activities, but it probably doesn’t need to be as much as you think. And, sometimes, constantly going out because the big kid seems to have cabin fever can be a sign of pent up emotions, and going out will only serve as a distraction… which leads to the next point… Read the rest of this entry

So, When Do You Do the ‘Lesson’?

When I tell people that we homeschool, one of the first things they ask me is, “So, when do you do the ‘lesson?
 
What they mean is, “When do you sit down at the table and make them read and write?
 
The way we do home education in our family, there is no ‘lesson‘. Learning is incidental. We learn everywhere we go. At the grocery store, while we’re baking brownies, while we’re driving in the car (so many good conversations in the car!) walking to the park, sitting on a comfy couch while I read them library books and yes, occasionally sitting down at the table doing some written stuff (although that’s the rarest activity we do!).
Here’s how one conversation went in our house or you could say, this is how one ‘lesson‘ went, since lots of people want to know.
 
Margo (7) looks at her undies that have a big four leaf clover on the front: “What’s the day after my birthday called again?”
 
Me: “Saint Patrick’s Day”
 
Margo: “And, what’s the day before my birthday?”
 
Me: “The Ides of March.”
 
Margo: “What’s the Ides of March?”
 
Me: “It’s the day Julius Caesar died. The ides means the middle of the month, so the 15th”
 
Margo: “Who was Julius Ceasar?”
 
Me: “He was the emperor of Rome.”
 
Margo: “What’s Rome?”
 
Me: “Well… Rome is a city in Italy today. But, once upon a time, the people of Rome conquered a huge part of Europe and that called that whole space The Roman Empire. They had a very complex society. Should we watch a Youtube video on it?”
 
Margo: “YES!”
 
*watch video*
 
Margo: “So, I wasn’t born on a special day, I was born between two special days. Goldie (her younger sister) was born on a special day! She was born on Krishna’s birthday!”
 
Goldie (age 5): “Oh, so me and Krishna are the same age?”
 
😂😂😂
 
Me: “Krishna was born about 5,000 years ago, and you’re only 5!!!” We all laugh!
 
Margo: “When did that emperor guy live?”
 
Me: “About 2000 years ago.”
 
Margo: “So, is he as old as Jesus?”
 
Me: “Well, sort of, they lived around the same time.”
 
Like that… It’s nothing special and it’s fun! And it’s so easy, just not what people think of as real ‘learning’ because it doesn’t look like classroom learning. And, I didn’t go and ruin the experience with quizzes on what they learned, checking for comprehension. It’s quite easy to see when a kid gets it or not. And, if they didn’t get parts of it, it will all tie in later. This conversation could happen in any family at any time. The only thing we do different is record it and at the end of the year, present it to the department of education person as ‘proof of learning‘! Life is the lesson!

What Not To Say To Your Child Instead of Saying Anything

Say this.

Don’t say this.

Say _____ instead of ____.

Praise like this, not like this.

Memes, lectures, blog posts, books, videos.

It can get very confusing!!

At the height of self proclamation that I was an unschooler, I started questioning EVERYTHING I said to my kids. And, you know what happened? I started getting confused. I started getting permissive (mostly because I had no idea what to say that sounded more evolved than what I was used to saying.) I started getting resentful (because I wasn’t listening to my needs). I started getting STRESSED! So, I had to stop with all the crazy ‘word watching’

And, I admit, I’ve written a few articles about how we speak to our children! Because, it’s true that we should be mindful of what we say. For example, I was saying, “Be careful” like 800 times a day… So, I became more aware of how I used ‘be careful’, because I realised my kids were going to have to learn their limits under reasonable safe circumstances.

It’s important to speak with awareness, yes!

But when does it get to be too much?

When we feel guilty and confused about everything that comes out of our mouths… that’s when it’s too much.

Oops! Did I just use a mild threat to get my kid to brush her teeth? Well… yes, yes, I just did… But, do I always use threats? 99% of the time, no!

Oops! Did I just tell my daughter that I loved her painting because it’s beautiful?! Why yes, what a shallow empty crapload full of praise! Haha! But… it’s the first thing that came out and it felt true and it felt authentic and she was happy. And, then we hung the picture on the fridge and we moved on with our day.

It’s all about being natural with our children and realistic with ourselves.

It’s one thing to be mindful of what we say and to try and break that record playing of things that come flying out of our mouth without any awareness, but we also have to relax and be kind to ourselves.

A few months ago, there was a meme about what to say to children instead of ‘stop crying‘. While the post was really thoughtful and helpful, it also didn’t offer any suggestions for parents who struggle to listen to crying. And it didn’t explain that sometimes you just can’t have a crying child because it’s not the right time or place. I wondered how many parents were feeling guilty and stressed by that meme? That sometimes it’s really ok to get a child to stop crying, if there are other more urgent issues at hand. That sometimes crying in our children triggers something so deep and hurtful in us, that we can’t handle it and that we need a lot of inner work to be able to listen to crying.

All we can do is do our best. Children like when we act natural around them. They don’t want artificial words coming out of our mouths. Being authentic is something that our children love about their parents! At any given moment, there are the million variables in life! Sometimes it’s ok to say one thing, and other times, we have to say another thing. And, sometimes, I’ve found that saying no words at all is the most powerful thing I can do for my kids.

So, before you get too confused about the right way to communicate with our children, just relax. There is always imperfection in words! ALWAYS! Words have the ability to spoil everything, so don’t worry too much if you’re saying right or wrong! Just relax, be natural and have fun!

Photo: Art Baltrotsky

Gentle Parents Lose Their Sh*t. It’s Ok.

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We all lose it differently. Some of us want to curl up in a ball. Some of us disengage on screens. Some of us cry. Some of us yell. Some of us explode. Some of us get aggressive. Some of us curse. Some of us use threats and bribes and say hurtful things that were said to us when we were children. Some of us do a combination of all of the above. It happens I tell you. Even professionals in the field of helping parents and children, react in ways that seem hypocritical of everything that they teach and value. It happens…

I was joking with my husband the other day, saying how young children can be like drunk people. Irrational, intensely irritating, incoherent at times, unable to do the simplest of tasks, etc. It made me laugh talking about it… but it also made me feel enormous compassion for myself and for other parents trying their hardest to be gentle, aware parents. Because it’s easy to go on parenting in ‘react‘ mode. It’s a challenge to become aware of our tendency to react, and if you’ve taken the challenge, you’re already doing amazing things!

Kids have the ability to unintentionally push every single one of our buttons and can trigger, in us, our absolute worst reactions! Read the rest of this entry

You’re More Qualified to Homeschool Your Child Than You Think!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard people tell me they would like to homeschool, but they don’t think they’re capable of teaching their children…

I was a classroom teacher for about 5 years and spent the past 3 years working at a university teaching teachers how to teach. We’ve been homeschooling our children for the past few years, they’ve never been to school and only one briefly went to day care. I feel like I’m in a unique position to say this, because I’ve seen so many aspects of the teaching and learning spectrum, and I can honestly tell you that most people are way more qualified than they think they are to homeschool their children.

You learn while they learn.
I do have a masters in education, but I was trained to teach high school! So, while I knew how to teach writing a chemical equation, I had no idea how kids learned to read and write. So… when my oldest was about 5, I researched all the methods of reading and writing. And, I researched how home educated kids learn to read and write. It only took an hour or so to wrap my head around the theories and now I can read a bit here and there about it and just sit and watch how it all unfolds.

The internet.
Seriously… the world wide web. If you have Siri, or you have Google, anything you don’t know how to do, you can look it up or ask. For example, my 5 year old dragged home a whole pile of vines from the beach and she asked me to make a basket. What the hell… I’ve never made a basket! So, I found a quick tutorial on youtube on how to weave a basket, and voila! We made a basket.

You have more time than schools do.
I know, I know… you  may feel like you have zero time. But, trust me, cut out the morning and afternoon school run, and you have way more time than a teacher who sees anywhere between 20 and 100 students per day, who also has to fill out paper work and do administration roles. Even if you give your child less than 10 minutes per day of one-on-one instructions/help/attention, that still could be more one-on-one instruction time than a child gets in school on an average day.

You know your child better than anybody.
This doesn’t need much explanation… you know when they’re over something. You know when they get it. You know when they’re ready to move on. You know when they’re hungry, tired, upset… all their little nuances.

You have the ability to truly make learning authentic.
Teachers in training learn all this stuff about making learning ‘authentic‘ and ‘meaningful‘. In other words, teachers are taught to try and make the day-to-day topics relevant to a child’s interests, hobbies and life. But, teachers are bound by time and the ‘lesson‘ topic, and it’s literally impossible to make a lesson authentic to 25 students all at the same time. If you’re teaching about floods on Tuesday… perhaps little Johnny doesn’t want to learn about floods on Tuesday, even though he was interested in floods the day before… it’s difficult!

On, the other hand, homeschooling ‘lessons‘ can stem from every day life and often lead you off on a tangent (I say lesson, but we do natural learning, so the topic comes up in the form of natural curiosity and life experience).

For example, the other day, we started off on a conversation about my 7 year old’s undies, which had a 4 leaf clover printed on them. Half an hour later, we were watching youtube videos on the Roman Empire. 4 leaf clovers –> St. Patrick’s Day –> Ides of March –> Julius Cesar –> Roman Empire. Like that… This stuff happens in the classroom too, but there’s less room for spontaneity. Imagine 25 kids going off on their own tangent… not gonna happen. Home education can truly be authentic because the learning revolves around every day living, and the topics don’t need to be fabricated, like they often are in school.

Visiting art galleries when most other kids are at school, is a bonus!

You have your own interesting background to bring to the table
What school teachers bring to the classroom, are their own set of beliefs, experiences and attitudes. You also have those! Every parent has something enriching to contribute to a child’s education.

It’s not hard to be trained as a teacher, you’re not missing much.
After working for three years with teachers in training, and teaching their courses, marking their papers, I can honestly tell you that it’s not that tough to become a teacher. Depending where you live, getting into teaching programs is not that difficult, and they often only take a year or so to complete. Part of the application for an education degree is not that you need to have an amazing personality or genius practical skills. Even when we teach students at uni new and interesting ways of teaching, they can still walk away from the programs closed minded and doing things the old way. And, anyway, most teaching skills that teachers in training learn, are about classroom management and getting kids to learn in large groups, which is something a homeschooling parent does not have to worry about!

That’s not to say that there aren’t amazing and super talented teachers out there!! There are many!! But, there are also many average teachers. Teachers are just regular old people, with a little bit of experience. If you want to learn about different types of pedagogy, and how children learn, there are plenty of resources on the internet. Otherwise, your good old observation can work pretty well to see what works and what doesn’t. Actually, many home educators, myself included, would say that there is very little, or even nothing, that you actually need to ‘teach‘! Learning will happen effortlessly in an environment where children are supported and encouraged to pursue their interests. There are many education theorists out there who believe that maybe even one day we’ll make the role of a teacher redundant.

Believe in Yourself
If you really want to homeschool, and the thing that’s holding you back is that you think you’re not qualified, think again! You’re probably way more qualified than you think!