RSS Feed

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! Read the rest of this entry

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?”

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Posted on

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!

Setting Loving Limits Can Prevent You From Blowing Up At Your Kid

Setting loving limits means simply you say ‘no‘ (as respectfully as you can), when a child’s request is unreasonable and/or you sense they’re asking for something as a sort of distraction when they have some pent up emotions. I have to use today’s example as a perfect case of how settling a loving limit would have prevented me from getting angry at my kids.

———

We were out all morning, swimming, in the sun and running around and suddenly, I realised I was HANGRY!! It was lunchtime, the kids were hungry, but they had been eating snacks, and I was super crazy hungry (breastfeeding does that to me).

We ate out at a shopping centre food court. I ordered our food and I didn’t want to spend any more money that what I had just spent. Then, while we were eating, the middle one complained the food was too spicy and she wanted something else. She had already eaten a little and there was DEFINITELY food there she could have had, like plain rice.

I said “No.” She complained. She kept fucking complaining. It was annoying. I wanted her to shut up so I could eat my food! I could feel a headache coming on because I hadn’t fed myself in time.

She wanted another sushi roll.

I didn’t want to spend the money.

She kept whining.

I said, “Fine, ok, just get another one.” Read the rest of this entry

I Permanently Ditched My Uncomfortable Clothes and I’ve Never Felt Better!

I picked up the last pair of jeans I own and contemplated either sending them to goodwill, or chopping them up to use as fabric for craft projects.

I started noticing how much I disliked wearing tight clothing about 15 years ago. But, for some reason, I still kept buying the same tight uncomfortable clothes for years! I especially justified clothes that looked good, but didn’t feel good, for work and big events. What was wrong with me, I have no idea. Even at my skinniest, I still never felt comfortable wearing tight clothes. Thankfully, I’ve come around to my senses now.

Tight, awkward or uncomfortable clothing restricts the prana (energy flow) in our bodies. It makes us move our body in awkward ways and keeps us from stretching and moving to keep ourselves limber. Over a time, wearing uncomfortable clothes, restricts the body from moving in certain ways and can cause stiffness and inflexibility. I remember feeling TIRED from wearing jeans! The tiredness was lack of prana in my legs and lower regions of my body. Even though these were stretchy jeans, they still literally sucked the life out of me.

And, who remembers the story of the girl who had to go the hospital because her jeans cut circulation off from her legs? Ok, for most of us, our jeans are not that tight, but they still form a sort of compression that makes it hard for the blood to make its way around.

How many times in my life, was I wearing uncomfortable clothes for the day, and the second I got home, I would rip them off! Oh, the relief to be able to move and be free again! I did that for the last time a few years ago before I said to myself, “Kate, don’t you ever buy uncomfortable clothes again!!!

And, I haven’t.

I know, I know, there are *comfortable* jeans out there. All those jean defenders will all cry. But, no… there are not. There are jeans that are *relatively* comfortable to other types of jeans or tight clothing. But, jeans are tight and stiff. They’re designed to keep their shape and be worn a few times before you need to wash them (eww, by the way). And, they’re annoying. If they’re tight enough to not slide down your waist, then they give you rolls where you had no rolls before. You can’t sit cross legged without your butt crack showing and you can’t just move around as easily in them. If they’re not tight enough, you spend all day hiking them up. For years, I tried to convince myself that I liked them… but I can’t anymore.

Short or tight skirts are the same. You can’t walk properly in them or move around in them without fear of flashing your undies to everyone. Underwire bras, oh.my.God. Get them off of me! If you put a wire, let’s say, around your leg, there’s no way in hell you would think that’s comfortable. But, put a wire under your boob to push it up and somehow that’s ok? Nope… just nope. And, I think high heels are so far off the comfort radar that they almost didn’t make this post.

Even some stretchy material active wear type clothing can be tight and restrictive! I bought some 3/4 length black exercise pants and I actually couldn’t do yoga in them properly. The fabric felt so icky and they were sliding down my butt! I put on my Indian cotton baggy pants and it felt sooooo much better.

Plus, if you have any body insecurities, you feel better in clothes that fit and are comfy! There are physical and psychological benefits to wearing comfy clothing!

Kids, especially, should never wear tight clothing, restrictive clothing.

So, aside from the fact that the clothing has to look good on me, my rules for buying clothes are very simple.

1. Can I sit cross legged easily?

2. Can I squat?

3. Can I breathe easily?

4. Can I cross my arms across my chest?

5. Can I reach my arms up?

6. Can I move in all directions without boobs, cleavage, crotch, buttcrack showing?

7. Is the fabric breathable (always check the tag for the fabric type) and does it feel good against my skin?

If the clothes don’t meet any one of those criteria, I won’t let myself buy it.

Now, my clothes are so much more comfortable! Yes it is a little harder to shop. But, I no longer have to rip uncomfortable clothing off the second I get in the door! I can move and I can breathe and I feel so comfy throughout the day! And, feeling comfortable helps me from getting tired because the prana is free to flow around my body. And no, I don’t wear a burlap bag everywhere I go! There are plenty of gorgeous and comfy clothes. You just have to look and be a little more picky when trying clothes on. I hope you all ditch your uncomfortable clothes, so you can be free too!

Don’t Just Survive Being a SAHM! The Thriving SAHM Checklist

I like to think that 50 years from now, somebody will be reading this and think how outdated this list is… But for now, it’s reality. We don’t need to just survive, we need to thrive!

Being a SAHM, is hard work, it’s never ending hours, often thankless and undocumented (expect for now we have social media as an outlet for our day to day woes). I once had some lady tell me I was lazy for being a SAHM, and I think my eyes almost fell out of my head! Not only is being a SAHM challenging, but often our pride and dignity get squashed when we compare ourselves to mothers who work. When we see photos on social media or know what our money making friends are up to, it can make you feel pretty worthless somedays. Here you are calling it a triumph of a day for wiping poo off the floor and baking some cookies… and what other people are doing at work, might seem much more glamourous.

And, there are lots of reasons why one parent ends up staying at home with the kids!

But, no matter what our reasons for being a SAHM (stay at home mum or SAHD, stay at home dad), or part time SAHM, these are the things over the years (going on 8) that have helped me thrive. After giving a short poll to my readers, they resonated with a lot of the same… Read the rest of this entry

Children Under 7 Have No Concept of Time: Helping Kids Understand ‘Time’.

Have you ever said to your kid, “We’re leaving in five minutes!” The time comes and they totally blow you off? Or, they legitimately ask you 399 times in the car “are we there yet?” even though you told them that the GPS says 10 more minutes?! Or, thirty seconds before you leave the house, they get involved with imaginary play? Even though you’ve been telling them all along that we’re leaving “in a few minutes“?

It’s because young kids have a very limited concept of time. For babies and young toddlers, you can just about forget about it. They live so much in the present moment, every moment to them is new and fresh. This is why kids can be crying one minute and laughing the next. It’s very beautiful, but can be super frustrating for us adults who are stuck in the world of time!

Don’t you remember, as a kid, how long everything felt? I remember summer vacation feeling like an eternity! And long car trips were torturous because I thought I might die of old age before we ever reached our destination. Or, the reverse. I would go out to play in the backyard, and get lost in time, playing with sticks and leaves and mud. Read the rest of this entry