Wednesday, 4 December 2013

November's Novel Nuances

Watch this optical illusionary video here

I was part of a The Future of Libraries day here in York - watch the video here and see if you can spot me in a few places!!!  Read more about the day here and it looks like York libraries have an exciting future ahead.

Absolutely brilliant video by a veteran about who the real enemy is and it isn't Iraqis.  Watch here

A beautiful video here of how we can affect people - watch Whoopi Goldberg get thanked for her role in Star Trek here

Brilliant satirical write up of the British weather over winter here

Speech by Matt Damon about the state of America.  Impressive stuff here

Brilliant wind-powered creations here

Hear what crickets sound like slowed down here

Friday, 1 November 2013

October's Oscillating Observations

Watch here for fantastic practical examples of how to stay young, fit and mentally agile.  Stephen Jepson is a great example of a guy who likes playing and is enjoying life and "never leaves the playground".

How about a piano playing elephant here

Great rap about money and politics but a fab young man here

Fantastic porject helping Africa get its green land back by simply digging ditches - watch here

Radical teaching discoveries - read about it here and then watch the "Hole in the Wall" guy talk about the future of teaching via this TED talk here

Absolutely brilliant comic about finding the life you want (Bill Watterson) - see here

How about the idea that there is a prejudice against stay-at-home-mums which should be taken seriously.  Read more here

Great poem about perceptions of women getting older versus men - listen here

Great story about how being nice and helpful actually makes a difference - watch here

Watch a fantastic video here showing an amazing ant colony

Powerful video about rape "7 cowardly words on a bus" - watch with caution here

Another example of how the images that we see daily of "beautiful" women are not real - watch here

Fantastic video about teaching children pointless things.  David Allen at his best - watch here

Let's be the best we can.  This guy (Shane Koyczan) is awesome and the violin (Hannah Epperson) just adds more - watch here

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Before home education

There are so many reasons why we decided to home educate our children in the end but the starting point was reading The Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloff.  Jean spent time in the South American jungle living with Stone Age Indians (who were relatively untouched by the outside world.)  There she experienced how this tribe stayed attached to their babies but also let their infants gain the skills to be active members of the tribe as they grew.  Her experience turned her Western preconceptions of how we should treat our children on their head and gave her a radically different view of what human nature really is.

It was a life changing book that echoed how I felt about being a Mum and how I wanted to treat any children I had and so when my ds was born I carried him in a sling, breastfed him, he slept in bed with my dh and I, he started solids when he could pick food up himself and we taught him to use garden tools, kitchen utensils safely from the moment he was interested.  We never had a stair gate and he learnt to climb the stairs before he could walk.  [At this point I would advise that if you decide to let your children learn to climb up and down stairs themselves you don't watch because I reckon that took about 5 years off your life because they always look like they are going to fall!!!!!!]  He never cut himself with sharp knifes and he was a proficient hedge trimmer at age 2.

Watching him learn all these things with little effort made my dh and I wonder whether there is a need for a formal education or whether children, as natural learners, can master education in the same way as all the things ds had learnt and mastered before the age of 3.  There are theories out there that suggest that boys really don't fare well in formal education because they are designed to be moving - preferably climbing trees, chopping things down, building things and generally living  physically - and schooling just cannot accommodate that as is needed.  Maybe that is why there are so many diagnoses of ADHD, ADD and dyslexia?!?!?  Maybe some children's brains are not ready to 'learn' stuff and so baulks against being filled with educational stuff before it is ready.  Watch Ken Robinson's short video here about ADHD - very interesting thoughts.  If you want a longer video that says even more about ADHD and education generally then this is a fab Ken Robinson video.

Anyway my dh and I decided that below the age of 7 was too young to go into formal education for ds and so our home education adventure started.  Children younger than 7 need to be physical and using their imaginations and any activity that stops that from happening has the potential of affecting their brain development.

Anyway 12 years on I definitely wouldn't go back and change the decisions we made then.  I am one of the lucky few who made the decision to home educate before putting my children in school.  There are loads of home-educating families out there who wish they had done what I did but put their children in school and then feared taking them out.  When eventually taking them out they regret that it took them so long to do so.

Anyway my son still loves climbing trees, being physical but also has his own youtube channel here where he uploads his minecraft videos.  I am here purely as a facilitator for anything he needs which isn't a hard task as he is a pretty self-reliant boy and my dd has followed suit.  I can totally see how idle parenting mean happy children and that is not something that can ever be achieved the way that our schooling system currently works.  As a home-educating Mum there are days when as a threesome my ds, dd and I don't have anything planned and the day just unfolds and it is a wonder to see where the mood takes us either together or separately.  And those days when I leave my children alone, are magical because they have the space to discover who they are and as a bonus they often discover they like making me bacon (ds's speciality) and egg (dd's speciality) for lunch so life's pretty good!!!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

September's Sparkling Cintillations

A great diagrammatical depiction of time here

A brilliantly argued reason as to why no-one should have a mobile phone here

A great article about children needing to play to learn and that school is not the correct place to do that sort of learning - read here

Interesting article about research into children starting school too early - been totally ignored by the Government - no surprise.  Read more here

Now that schools are back and there is talk of the getting rid of long summer holidays here is an interesting take on why that would be a bad idea.  Read here

August's Awesome Augementations

A bit late but that is the way it rolls in Viv's blog land!!!

A great reminder on our mortality and how we can help others with theirs whilst acknowledging our own - read here

Finnish schools are where we should be looking for how to reform our school systems.  Reckon Mr Gove won't pay attention to this either though.  Read about it here.  More interesting stuff about Finland's education system here.

Great article here about finding peace by embracing flaws and releasing judgement

Fab list of edible plants here

Busyness is laziness article here

Breast feeding just is - it's nothing special, every woman can do it and should have the right to do it wherever they want - but for some reason this is still happening which is weird when you read this.

Stephen Fry's plea to not have the Winter Olympics in Russia here and another article here

George Saunder's Advice to Graduates - well worth a read

Some great cheap recipes here

Great read here about loving your body and particularly your butt

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

July's Gigantic Gems

Great quote to start this month.  The Dalai Lama says "Everyone wants a happy life without difficulties or suffering. We create many of the problems we face. No one intentionally creates problems, but we tend to be slaves to powerful emotions like anger, hatred and attachment that are based on misconceived projections about people and things. We need to find ways of reducing these emotions by eliminating the ignorance that underlies them and applying opposing forces."

Brilliant top with dance moves depicting maths graphs here

Blog post about the errosion of children's freedom here

Dustin Hoffman realises that he has been brainwashed about women and beauty here - talking about being a woman in the film Tootsie.

Fab article about accepting our bodies for being our fantastic, fab bodies here

Funny moment in Canadian Parliament where they talk about Zombie invasion here

More serious politics.  Just watch this amazing 12 year old talk politics here

Easy removal of splinters here using epsom salts

Brilliant logo fails here

Why banning pornography is the start of a slippery slope - read here

Sexism is still rife in the world.  Let's make sure we band together to help anyone who needs it.  Watch this TED talk to see how one women fared.

A great advert about connection and how we are losing out.  Watch here

Monday, 29 July 2013

To learn or not to learn....

I have been thinking a lot recently about home educating.  This has mostly been because my 11 year old ds taught himself to read about 4 months ago.  This is one of the fears of many of my fellow home edders who take the autonomous route of education where we don’t actively teach our children but facilitate them learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it..  It is well known that an average self-taught reader will be anything between 3 and 14 years old but most seem to start showing an interest around 9 if they haven’t before that.  11 and a half seems old!!!  I don’t know why we have this obsession with reading and that is what got me to thinking.  Why Maths and English?  As an English nation we all know English: we all speak it.  So why after we have been taught to read and write does it go any further than that?  We abstract the ability to read from all the reasons we need to know how to read.  Most of the other subjects taught at school involve the ability to read, write and sometimes speak English.  So why force children to read books if they don’t want to read books?  Why abstract the ability to read, write and speak as part of natural life and have a separate subject that involves skills that you don’t need to be a valuable member of society?  You wouldn't force a child to dance when they don’t want to dance especially not to GCSE level even though I reckon the ability to know how to move your body and finding enjoyment from it is a way more valuable skill than the sedentary activity of reading fiction.

Again with maths.  Mental arithmetic I totally get.  A useful skill to have although I don’t believe you need that skill at the age of 6 or even any time before you are going to need to use it say in a shopping scenario.  Financial acuity on the other hand a wholeheartedly worthwhile skill that needs to be learnt before taking out your first credit card, loan, mortgage, etc.  The area of a circle however is a fact that anyone can look up on the internet.  It isn't a necessary fact to teach 9 year olds: the ability to regurgitate that area = pi * radius ^2 does not 'maketh the man.'  I know that Martin Lewis has managed to get financial skills into the curriculum but I have a feeling that many children will have been put off actually listening to this vital information by the way that numeracy and maths is taught in the earlier years.   Again most children learn to count before going to school – how is it that we turn the beautiful simplicity of maths into something so sterile and to many so confusing and/or boring?

The sad contradiction here is that kids love to learn.  Try and get a child to stop doing something they are absorbed in and you know what I mean.  My children will forget to eat, forget to go to the toilet and forget to go to bed when they are absorbed in what they are doing.  This is when the deep level learning occurs: the learning that stays with you years later.  And that learning can occur through random play, social interactions, or as Archimedes discovered whilst taking a bath or as Newton discovered sitting under an apple tree.  The shallow learning of facts for the sake of it however tend to fade because they are not backed by the ability or passion of wanting to learn those facts at that time.  And that is my main reason for home educating my children.  Passion:  the human right that every person has to learn something/anything when they are either ready and able and/or have a desire to do so.  And by ready and able, I mean when mental/physically/emotionally capable. 

My ds learnt to read because he was ready and able.  Once he realised that his brain could cope with deciphering the squiggles into words and that he had the vocabulary from all the bedtime stories my husband had read to him and all the conversations he had had, he started reading.  Just like that.  He was mentally capable.  If you meet him now a few months later you wouldn't know that he hasn't been reading since he was 5.  His passion for wanting to read and his capacity to do it led to him reading and he did it all himself which has given him a sense of worth that he would never have if he had been in school.  
My dd on the other hand has been reading since she was 5, again self-taught. Her brain could decipher squiggles but telling the time (which ds could do at age 4) was a different matter for her.  Numbers didn't make as much sense as letters to her when she was younger.  Her mental arithmetic and number skills have been learnt as part of life, through playing card games and going to the shop with her brother.  She recently learnt to tell the time because it helped her know when her school friends were getting home from school.  She found it difficult but persevered because she wanted to be able to do it and her passion saw her through. 
I am hoping that dd’s passion for reading and ds’s passion for computing and maths will help them when it comes time to get their English and Maths GCSEs (if that is still what they are by then.)  You may have realised that I don’t feel that those 2 subjects are any more important than others and in fact I feel that they are stunningly less important especially in the way they are taught at school.  My children will probably jump through those hoops and a lesson in pointless fact regurgitating will be learnt and I feel that is a shame.
This isn't what I thought I would write about when discussing home ed.  I thought I would be citing Ken Robinson videos and hack-schooling (I’ll add those at the bottom just in case you are interested LOL).  

Instead I would love for everyone to empower their children because they are amazing beings.  Those little babies that learnt to walk, talk, build towers, learn to use the toilet, etc. did so because they wanted to be like us.  They don’t need to be taught facts for the sake of learning them so that they can be tested and judged.  If we have to teach them anything then at least let’s teach them real stuff that will be useful all through their lives.  We have loads of creative, passionate, resourceful teachers out there and instead of using their talents we squash them into teaching abstracted subjects and learning is fast becoming synonymous with test passing.  Let’s set our children and teachers free to explore real subjects in a creative and stimulating way and let’s give teachers the freedom to know when a child is ready, willing and able to absorb those facts and adjust their role accordingly. 

So although I believe that all learning should be self-directed I thought I would put together a national curriculum just to show how things could be different if we had a government who actually wanted to adhere to their law about education being about an “education suitable to age, aptitude and ability”.

Anatomy and movement – I reckon everybody should know how their bodies work, how to move them correctly and look after them - breathing skills, meditation, swimming, climbing, cycling, etc.  Let's also give our children a healthy appreciation for how real bodies look, not photo-shopped bodies like here

Nutrition, cooking and sustainability – what we put in our bodies affects how they work, learning to make healthy meals from natural ingredients is vital to our survival.  Looking at where food comes from, learning to grow it, learning wild food foraging, learning about permaculture and other sustainable activities, etc.

Philosophy – the ability to form an argument and not take everything on face value is a vital skill.  So much of what is in the newspapers or that we are bombarded with via the TV needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.  Let’s give our children the skills to want to check the facts and not believe everything they are shown, told.  (Watch this video about one guys attack on the daily mail to see what our newspapers are really doing to us)

Mental arithmetic and financial skills – so you don’t get short-changed at a shop or fleeced by a loans company, knowing about how statistics really work and how they are skewed to serve many purposes would also be really useful. 

Empathy and non-violent communication (NVC) type skills – let’s teach our children to disassociate a person from their behaviour so that no-one is shamed and judged as bad because of the things they have done, forgiveness, acceptance of others, self-worth, etc.  Watch this video to see how prejudice really works, watch this one for how teachers have the power to affect how children perceive prejudice and watch this one to see how forgiveness can really change lives for the better.  

I am sure there are other important areas but these were just off the top of my head.  However subjects like history, geography, pure maths, applied maths, English literature, etc. can be left for those who are passionate about them.  

Here is one of the many brilliant Ken Robinson talks about education.  This one is extra brilliant because of the added animation.  Every one in the world should watch this video!!!

Schools kill CreativityHow to escape education's death valley and Bring on the Learning Revolution are his TED talks about learning and schooling.  Ken Robinson talks about diversity in education and notes (like I have above) that children, even born to the same parents, are different and so should be treated as such.  I cannot do justice to Ken's amazing ability to tell it like it is, in a funny but stunningly perceptive way.  If you cannot afford the time to watch all the talks above then at least watch his latest one How to escape education's death valley - "Children are natural learners and it is a real achievement to be able to stifle it."

Here are some interesting videos/pages and books about education:
How Children Fail by John Holt
How Children Learn  by John Holt
Teach Your Own by John Holt
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Pedagogy of the Opressed by Paulo Freire

There are loads of other great books out there and other brilliant blogs.  Just google 'unlearning', 'home education', 'deschooling' or get in touch if you would like more info.

Here is a poem I wrote about my issues with school and our testing culture in this country:

Human Experience is not a test
Can you assess my state of happiness?
Can you score it out of five?
Can you really pass or fail a test
That tells if you are truly alive?
Is joy a quantifiable trait?
Can you plot it on a graph?
Do you score a special funny point
Every time you laugh?
Is empathy a transferable skill?
Can others give feedback?
Telling you if there are any traits
In which they think you lack?
I don't think you can pass an exam
In love or contemplation
I don't think you can get an NVQ
In passion or in meditation
Hope cannot be learnt from a book
Grace cannot be easily taught
Peace cannot be summed up in lesson
Just because you think it ought
You cannot have a kindness target
That everyone must reach
The attainment of gentleness
Is not something you can teach
The fruits of spirit andsoul
Need space and time to grow
They cannot be cultivated in league tables
Or seen in "tell and show"
Spirit cannot be marked and scored
Even if you wanted to
Because human experience is not an exam
ONLY YOU can A* you

Sunday, 30 June 2013

June's Juicy Jems

A wonderful start to the month is this fantastic TEDx moment from Jo Berry called Disarming with Empathy about how she became friends with the IRA bomber who killed her dad in the 1984 Brighton bombing.  Watch it here.  After the horrific killing of Lee Rigby, Jo's talk and the words written by Russell Brand here are really worth remembering.  Compassion rather than violence.

A great poem here about immigration

Show everyone you know how they photo-shop celebs so they are thinner, bigger boobed and don't have wrinkles.  Before and after photos here

What about a video showing how people react to different people trying to nick a bike.  Think you will be shocked by the difference due to colour of skin?  Wait until you see how they react to a woman.  Watch here

Saving energy using behavioural science?  Watch this TED talk

I agree with this one.  Our educational milestones in this country are just as wonky too!!

I do not agree that watercress soup is horrible but this article about chocolate is so worth reading.  Just gloss over the slagging off of watercress soup and read here.

To go along with the blog I did on "being wrong" here - how about reading this one about blame here - blaming (even if we have the right to blame someone) keeps us stuck, gives power to someone else and makes us negative, a victim and small.

Dance walking video here.  If you get bored with the talking still make sure you watch to the near the end.

Great story about a young boy trying to help others with great music too here

Slightly scary piece about revealing too much info on the internet here

Brill quote/story of the month - "At the end of the talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, "Why didn't you fight back against the Chinese?" The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet
just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, "Well, war is obsolete, you know " Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he said, "Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back...but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you." "

Cool bike riding film by Danny MacAskill here.  Watch the end as that is where the outtakes are!!

Read the lovely words on this blog here - just being in the moment is one of the reasons I home educate because then you can always be in the moment and so can your kids.

Contrast that with this article here how women are still being objectified.  So sad.

An article about teaching mathematics differently here.

Nine points of entrepreneurial success here

Sir Ken Robinson on discovering your passions here.

Interesting article about letting women stay at home with their kids here

Why depressed people lie in bed - an explanation here

Ever used emotional freedom technique (EFT) for anything?  Google it and you will find loads of info.  Here is the main website about it and if it floats your boat then look here for a script to create abundance.

Fab TED talk by a doctor who is wondering why people get diabetes.  A great guy who admits that maybe he got it wrong here

And last but not least another great quote of the month "Surely if West Side Story has taught us anything it's that the extremist Muslims and the English Defence League should settle their differences through interpretive dance and well orchestrated, strongly vocalised musical numbers?"  I know this was meant as a joke but wouldn't it be great if people could overcome their differences by using art, song, dance or some other way?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Kitchen renovation - so far

Been meaning to write about this for ages but have been busy with my Open University course.  I have just handed in my 3rd assignment so thought I would get the renovation documented so far....

To the left is the new set of doors.  They are concertina type doors with the single opening one on the right.  This is where the kitchen used to be which can be seen behind Iggle Piggle below.
Where the above picture was taken there used to be a wall which can be seen (just about) below as indicated by the coving going around the top edge of the ceiling.

The corner where the rug is rolled up (above) is where the open bread maker can be seen in the picture below to the left of Upsy Daisy next to the beginning of the window (which is now the concertina door).

Hope you like the comedy pictures of Upsy Daisy and Iggle Piggle.  Don't ask me where these photos came from as I don't know.  I am assuming that my dear daughter had something to do with them.  They were the only pictures I could find this evening to show a comparison though.

Where Upsy Daisy is in the photo above is about the same place as where I took the photo to the right this evening.  The hob and cooker are in the same opening that can be seen behind Upsy Daisy.  This opening hasn't changed but this is the only place we can put this stuff for now.
Below is a wonderful wonky picture of me from a fair few years ago.  I had done my back in hence the wonkiness.  The shelves behind me were removed a few years ago to make way for the woodburning stove you can see to the right.  However I did have a floor beneath me in the photo below!!!

You can see the bottom of the hob cupboard in the picture above (right).  This makes for precarious cooking in our house at present!!

Below left is a picture of Dave half hidden under the floor jousts and the boards that he is fixing to the floor jousts.  The boards are going to have the insulation put on top of them.

To the right you can see the grey Warmcell insulation in-between the floor joists.  Getting into this room is also challenging!! (see below)

The new gap - to the left - is behind where Zack and Indie are sitting holding bagels.
And to the left of Zack is the only bit of wall left (which you can see below) is eventually going to house a thin vertical radiator.

The scaffolding below is where the window (above) is now!!

And here is the new pitched roof which will eventaully be covered in sedum.  The velux are solar-powered and remote controlled.  They automatically shut when it rains!!!!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Is being "wrong" really that bad?

It’s funny how time affects memories and links things together in a strange collage of time and events.  

At the end of May last year I was up in Glasgow with my family celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday.  We arrived a few days before the celebrations to a complex break-up situation between the Mum (a long-time friend) and her partner.  My dh and I tried to create a buffer between the couple to lessen the stress being caused to the birthday girl and her siblings.  Over the few days we were there, we listened, advised as friends, reflected back feelings, listened some more and tried to help as best we could.  After the break-up both dh and I were blamed by the ex for various mistakes, and ultimately, his break up. 

Fast forward to this May and I have been embroiled in another situation where it seems blame has been directed from one individual towards many.  I understand that it isn't easy admitting that you might have been wrong or incorrect in your assumptions.  I still find it difficult - get defensive and try and justify that what I did was ok.  Although I do not think this is human nature, as such, I feel it is a deep conditioning in a lot of us on this planet.  I used to think it was great being able to blame someone else but not anymore because I know how detrimental it is to how I feel deep down inside.   

My dilemma is:
Do we have a moral obligation, or a right, to tell someone when we feel that they have got it wrong?  
If there are other people involved, especially kids, should we speak up?  
I needed to be at my friend’s 18th celebrations regardless of the circumstances.  Should I have ignored what was going on between her Mum and the partner?  Should I have just listened, tried to shield the kids from the emotional outfall but not given any advice even when asked? 

wouldn't let a friend mistakenly run in front of a car if I could stop it.  I wouldn't tell them as they lay in a hospital bed, recovering from the accident, that I thought they needed to 'learn' from their experience of being hit by a car.  So why would I let a friend (or any fellow human being) run in front of a metaphorical car in terms of destructive behaviour,  making mistakes, or let them continue to be in denial of their behaviour and its consequences?  Why do they need to learn for themselves when someone can point it out to them in a compassionate way? 

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I just know I feel uncomfortable about these two situations and they led me to write this blog.  

I am glad that I have friends and family who challenge my behaviour.  It isn't easy to hear when you have done something wrong (I don’t like that word but it will have to do).  Being told I have been overly defensive, sarcastic, or anything similar is upsetting but I, like everyone else, can 'get over' being upset.  It isn’t the end of the world and I would rather know in the long run then not know.  

No-one has ever died from being told they didn’t do something as well as they could, especially if it is delivered in a friendly way that keeps the “wrong” behaviour separate from the person.  [Non-violent communication (NVC) is very good for examples of this, as is the Siblings without Rivarly and Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk books.  You don’t tell someone that they are a bad person - you tell them that they have acted badly.] 

So here are some of my relationship facts:
  1. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated
  2. Being told something you did is your fault NEVER killed anyone.  Accept it, don’t automatically justify your way out of it, sit with the feelings for a while and see what happens.  You know what though? – the world won’t end if you did do something wrong and if you didn’t then you have to wonder why the other person thought that you did and remember point 1
  3. Not accepting that something is your fault when it might have been at some level affects your self-esteem in a detrimental way and could negatively affect your relationships – so is being right really worth it?
  4. Blaming someone else for any thing in your life is making you a victim and removing your control over your own life.
  5. No-one can make you do anything you don’t want to (other than in a very, very small set of circumstances) so accept your place in the universe, warts and all. 
  6. We all have flaws, faults, patterns of behaviour which aren’t helpful to us but again acting out on these is not the end of the world.  Apologise when you realise, try and learn from the experience and move on.  Also if someone else points it out to you refer to point 2
  7. Someone so hell-bent on being right is missing the opportunity to see where they might have been mistaken.  Sympathise with them because they aren’t really living, learning and growing (see point 4 and below)
Anyway attending the Hoffman Process a few years ago really helped me accept my “faults” without being as defensive or feeling as guilty.  I now find it easier (not easy yet – but easier) to apologise when I have made a mistake.  This willingness to accept responsibility for my actions has brought me closer to my friends and family.  It also means that every time I accept my not-so-nice behaviour I learn about myself and it becomes easier to acknowledge a mistake the next time.  Accepting my flaws and weaknesses actually makes me stronger and it seems to me that people who cannot accept theirs are more unhappy because they are caught up in a myth of who they really are. 

I don’t want to live my life as part myth and part me. 

I want to life my live part me and another part me, even if that second part:

makes mistakes (they are my mistakes)
has regrets (they are my regrets) 
hurts other people (I can apologise and re-connect with them)
lets people down (I can make it up to them and re-connect with them)

And by accepting these things about myself, I am accepting and loving myself.  Only by accepting and loving myself, can I accept and love others.  By continuing to learn and admit when I get it wrong, I give my friends and family the ability and space to do the same.  As Brene Brown would put it “for connection to happen [between human beings] we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen” – warts and all!!!

Maybe that is the answer to my dilemma.  If everyone could find a way to accept themselves for the wonderful, unique person that they are, maybe blame and the need to be right would become a thing of the past.  Until it does though, I celebrate my ability to say sorry and try harder next time and hope you will join me!!!!!

Click here to see Brene’s blog.  Click here for her "Listening to shame" TED talk and here for her "Power of vulnerability" TED talk.

"The Hoffman Process is an intensive 8-day residential course that promotes personal discovery and development."  You cannot really sum it up that easily because what you learn, experience and feel in those 8 days is potentially life-changing.  Click here to see the Hoffman Process UK website or contact me via the form on my website here, if you want to know more about my personal experience on the process.

"The key focus of NVC is - noticing the feelings and needs in ourselves and others, as a way of being in touch with what really matters to us and others.  In addition, to achieve greater clarity in our self awareness and ‘inner chatter’, and to decrease the likelihood of others hearing blame or criticism in the words we use with them, NVC brings our awareness to making factual observations without judgements and also to making clear specific requests in our dialogues with others."  Click here to go to the UK NVC website, here for the Siblings Without Rivalry book, here for the How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk book and here for the teenage version of the Talk book. 

Another brilliant perspective on a similar subject here - "There can often be many ‘right’ answers to a situation or for resolving a conflict. So the perception that there is just one  right answer  and all others are wrong is limiting."

Saturday, 1 June 2013

May's Marvellous Quotes, Videos and Stuff

James Rhodes: "Find what you love and let it kill you!!" - interesting take on passion, creativity and what makes us feel alive -strangely enough.

Freedom is freedom to quit - and everyone should have a right to quit.

Guardian Article - Leave Them Kids Alone - our kids need autonomy and freedom.

Why I take my kids running

99 brill ideas to make life easier

A different view on conflict - "Conflict offers an opportunity to learn and grow...It also enables us to understand how our thinking shapes our reality and affects us physcially, emotionally and spirituality. "

A Dad's letter to little girl (about her future husband) - "Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul - in that unshakable place that isn't rattled by rejection and loss and ego - that you are worthy of interest.  (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won.  But that is a letter for another day.)"

Fab granny square slippers. I am so going to make some of these!!!

Square and stripes slippers - crochet style

Fantastic "We're all going on a Gove hunt" in the style of "We're all going on a bear hunt" - read it here

How to wrap things and make bags the Furoshiki way shown here

I love Russell Brand.  Another great post about the killing in Woolwich.  Read here.  "We need now to move closer to one another, to understand one another.  If we can take anything heartening from this dreadful attack it is of course the actions of three women [who] looked beyond the fear and chaos and desperation and attuned to a higher code.  One of virtue, integrity and strength....To truly demonstrate defiance in the face of this sad violence, we must be loving and compassionate to one another."

Building resilience in young children - an interesting blog post about letting children have a go themselves.

If you want a laugh - click here - how to sound way more arty than you are (or is that just me?)

Lovely article about a Doctor who uses great techniques to help children deal with pain (or not even notice it) - well worth reading and watching here

Friday, 26 April 2013

April's awesome quotes and videos

“It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ― L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

"Childhood is not a race to see who can read, write and count.  Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at a pace that's right for each individual child"

I will not let exam results decide my fate - YouTube video - well worth a watch - Suli Break's views on school and exams - "why is a classroom of individuals tested by the same means?"

13 year old lad talking about "hackschooling" on TED - watch here

The art of asking - a brilliant TED talk by musician/artist Amanda Palmer about connecting with people

Let's just let our children live - fab post here 

Stop Stealing Dreams - Seth Godin talking about a new education system.

How Story telling can transform education - some interesting ideas and for a change not Ken Robinson

Friday, 5 April 2013

addiction, hemispheres and spirituality

I know Russell Brand isn't everyone's cup of tea due to his 'offensive' manner and warped sense of humour   See my blog post on 'taking offence' and you will see what but I personally think of taking offence (DON'T) and if you don't like his sense of homour don't watch him.  Whatever you think of him I think he has some very interesting stuff to say about addiction.  For example he was invited to speak at a Committee on addiction which you can view here and also I recently found this video on YouTube - Russell Brand on drugs, Savile and yoga.  I love his thoughts on drug addict rehabilitation: that addiction cannot be overcome by giving someone a different type or form of addiction but needs to be tackled by abstinence-based recovery whilst at the same time looking at our spiritual selves.  He states that
  1. addiction is a health matter
  2. people who are addicts need to be dealt with with compassion
  3. addiction is symptomatic of emotional and psychological difficulties as well as a spiritual malady
  4. abstinence-based recovery is the key
  5. all 3 areas (emotional, mental and spiritual) need to be dealt with
I know Russell Brand talks about addiction mostly from the viewpoint of drugs and maybe alcohol but I believe that a similar approach can be taken with all addictive behaviour although with some this is more problematic than with others.

Here are some of the common addictions that are known about:
sex addiction
love addiction
computer-use - game-playing, surfing, on-line gambling

An addiction is hallmarked by the impaired control over the substance (food, drink, drugs, etc.) or behaviour (falling in love, shopping, exercise, etc), preoccupation with substance of behaviour, continued use/behaviour despite consequences and denial of these behaviours.  Also the need for immediate gratification (short-term reward) regardless of the long-term costs.

Obviously abstinence-based recovery with some of these might make life a bit boring but still some of Russell's approaches I reckon would work.  For example, I know someone who is a love addict.  He has moved through his whole adult life from one relationship to another with very little time in-between to spend any significant amount of time really looking at the route cause of his addiction.  It seems from the outside that he reckons he was only addicted to one of the people he attached himself to and therefore now he isn't with that person he is 'cured.'  I reckon the analogy here would be a cocaine addict now being recovered by being addicted to methadone and so nothing has really changed at all.  An abstinence-based program would tell this man that he needs significant time by himself (not in a relationship) to really face his addiction and find the emotional and psychological basis for it.  At the same time his abstinence could also give him time to find the spirituality help that 'fills' the gap that a relationship 'filled' before.  I can see it in scenario how Russell's idea would work unfortunately denial is a great defence and that isn't what this person has done.  And I can sort of see why because no-one can know how long this person would need to abstain from 'being' with someone for it to really be long enough.  Co-dependency is a tricky thing that way and not at all like drug addiction or alcohol addiction and I feel some of the other addictions listed above could easily have the same problems.  Can you really never clothes shop ever again if you are a clothes addict, can a sex addict really abstain for ever and can a work-aholic really afford to just give up the day job?  Obviously not and this is where Russell has obviously thought it through (bless his Jesus-like hair and beard) because I believe the key here is the spiritual element.  The idea that human beings are more than just physical beings with emotions and intellect has been around for a long time.

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who realised one morning she was having a stroke and therefore paid very special attention to what was happening to her whilst the stroke progressed.  Here TED talk explaining the experience is really worth watching here because it shows us that there is more to us human beings than just a physical body with a bit of intellect and emotion thrown in for good measure.  "I am an energy-being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere.  We are energy-beings connected to one another through our right hemispheres as one human family."  She concludes the talk with the following "So who are we?  We are the life-force power of the universe with manual dexterity and two cognitive brains.  And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world....I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be."

I believe that 'running our inner-peace circuitry" means tapping into our spirit and finding ourselves there.  Brand does it via Kundalini Yoga, I do it via Shamanic journeying, my DH does it via walking through the woods and being connected to the earth, others do it via praying or meditating or just spending time by themselves.  Whatever your thing is, make sure you do of much of it as you need, when you need as often as you need and be aware that when you are 'out-of-sorts' that is probably an indication that your inner-peace circuitry needs some attention.

With regards to addicts of any kind the one thing they all have in common is the incessant left hemisphere chatter (as Jill puts it) that stops them from tapping into their right hemisphere and holds them captive to their addiction.  If you are constantly thinking about where your next 'fix' is coming from then there is no space for your spiritual side. If you are constantly finding the next 'job' to fill your time with or the next 'shag' or the next 'meal/chocolate bar/snack' or the next 'partner' who is going to make you feel ok/whole/worthy just for a little while then there is no peace and the cycle starts again.  Anything that fills your brain with endless chatter is stopping your right hemisphere having its time.

So although Brand may not be your cup of tea he is at least out there spreading the word in his own quirky way and I just thought I would add my own little thoughts to his.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

March's mad stuff

Couldn't miss up the chance to show everyone the marvellous Brene Brown talking about shame on Oprah.  Brene Brown states that those who hand over the education of their children to others need to remember that "you are not the only ones raising your kids" and she points out that there are serious concerns with the way that children are dealt with especially in the USA.  Hopefully in this country things are not as bad as Brene sates in this video but it is definitely worth heeding what she says about shame and how it affects our children and indeed affected us when we were children.  Here are some of the other excellent things Brene talks about shame or vulnerability.

I love this story as well - the idea that all the things we see are indeed affected by the preconceptions and opinions with which we view what we are seeing.

And lets finish with the wonderful Five lessons in life from Dr Seuss
1. Today you are You, that is truer then true. There is no one alive who is Youer then You.
2. Why fit in when you were born to stand out
3. You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
4. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
5. Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.

Let's finish with a great example from Einstein here.  I love this picture but I also really like some of the comments that people have added underneath such as:
"If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."  Albert Einstein
"If you judge a monkey by its ability to beat a seal, it will live its entire life believing seals are the enemy"
"In our system the bird would be penalised because he an get to the top without climbing and it would make the monkey feel bad"

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Interesting articles and why David Cameron is short-sighted

Well I seem to always do my blog posts in spurts so here's another one.

The woman mentioned in my last blog did take offense and responded to the idea that my son learns what he wants, when he wants and how he wants by saying that was ridiculous but also that a teenager's complex social needs being dependent on parental organisation and/or supervision is unhealthy.

What I find confusing here (and yes it does have relevance to some of the articles I am going to post about) is when did society lose faith in our children?  When did we decide that these magnificent creatures, that learnt to walk, talk, control their bladders without any intervention from us, suddenly couldn't learn by themselves anymore?  If we are bringing up our children to be automatons then yes, they need to be herded, their inquisitive nature needs to be quashed ASAP but then why choose a partner with whom to procreate, why not just buy a kid off the shelf because that will definitely make life easier in the long run.  I want my kids to be themselves ALL the time and that includes when they socialise, when they are learning new things, when they are with their immediate family, when they are with their extended family or with their friends.  I also don't believe that my children's social needs are complex either (as suggested above.)  Their social needs they meet themselves with a little help from me as taxi driver or secretary (so it seems today as I have passed on the phone at least 5 times to my son.)  What complex social needs are there?  Why are teenagers suddenly complex but incapable of sorting themselves out?  Also isn't there a contradiction there?  On the one hand my son cannot learn himself because that is ridiculous but on the other he cannot be dependent upon me for his complex social needs.  Well which one is?  Can he learn himself and therefore not need me for his social needs or do I have to put him in school to be fed whatever happens to be on the national curriculum menu this week and his complex social needs are met by whom?  Kids all the same age as him? A few teachers who might actual notice he is there?  Who is it at school who cares about these complex social needs of his?

My son has absolutely fantastic friends who care about him.  Those friends have parents who care about him.  One such parent watched some of the youtube videos he makes and thought he was professional and clear in his explanations and was really impressed.  Neither me nor his father have had anything to do with his decision to do those videos.  He has an extended family who think he is the best thing ever, some of whom thought that home-educating was dubious.  When he wasn't reading at the age of 10 there were more concerns but it is difficult to be concerned when you see a child who is confident, eloquent  socially adept, caring, sensitive but confident to be who he is regardless of what people think about his clothes or his long hair.  I could go on but what in this scenario is cause for concern?  He is frequently socialising with people of all ages and he is learning the things he needs to learn to do the stuff he wants to do.  He also learnt to read when he was capable of doing so.  Where are the complex social needs that aren't being met and why is it ridiculous that he learns what he wants, when he wants and how he wants?  Isn't it those self-directed learning skills and varied social skills he will need for the rest of his life?  Ken Robinson seems to agree and suggests that we need to shift our perceptions of what our children need in order to live in this changing world.  This video is well worth a look if you are interested and if you like that one then watch his others too.

Another interesting and probably outside-of-the-norm idea is that of not teaching our children to share everything.  Here is a wonderful article about it and strangely enough this was one of the first parenting examples that went against my norms and therefore started me thinking about and investigating all the things that we 'do' to our children that are seen as social norms but are wrong or a mistake.  I would go further than this article and also say that there are also positive things to do with owning possessions which filters through to emotional well-being.  The old adage that 'you cannot love someone unless you love yourself' is very true.  A person needs to be feel whole and secure before they can healthily give of themselves to others, either as a friend or a partner and either of possessions or emotions.  This life lesson starts with children and how we treat them with regard to their possessions and associated feelings is paramount in how they grow into adults.

I wonder what David Cameron would think about that then?  David Cameron insinuates that stay-at-home Mums need to 'work hard and get on' i.e. get a job and leave our children in daycare.  That is the news today but only 15 days ago there was a presentation to MPs by a Swede coming to tell us that long days away from parents is not good for our children and it is turning them into tearaways.  Was Mr Cameron absent that day?  Or was he present but not paying attention?  Or does he just not care about the long-term ramifications of his plan to get us all back to work and what that will do to our children?

I find it interesting that all these bits of information have been brought to my attention over the last few days.  So all these things seem interconnected to me.  There seems to be a growing lack of respect for our children and so for ourselves.  There are judgments being made by those who haven't researched their facts properly or who just don't care.  The Government are trying to financially coerce or bully those who do care about our children (with insinuations about how 'lazy' we are) into becoming like everyone else and leaving the welfare of our children to others.  This behaviour is being mirrored by the general public and so our children are then paying the price and learning that this is to be expected.  Those children will then think it is oik to do exactly the same to their children and a new mistaken social norm is born.  I could take offense to the insinuation that I am 'lazy' but you all know by now that I don't agree with that idea so instead I say 'David Cameron pay attention in class' and 'how about doing some self-directed research into your proposals.'  But some feel on stony ground so I will continue sharing these insights with you guys.  And I will also share these things with my children so that they don't grow up thinking that they have anyone other than themselves to fall back on when times are hard and/or people are stupid (David Cameron - I'm talking about you).

It's a good thing my kids are good at teaching themselves and are learning to adapt to the various situations that they encounter as part of their varied lives LOL (see what I did there? - ended the blog by coming full circle - clever eh?  - ok I'll shut up LOL)

Monday, 25 March 2013

To be or not to be offended....

I could take offence at a lot of things I reckon. Blonde jokes - I know they are only joking but let's be honest a lot of people, blonde or not, have blonde moments.  

I could take offence that people regularly call my son a girl because he has long hair.  The same way that I could have got offended when I was regularly called a boy as a child.  

I could definitely take offence to some of Tim Minchin's songs or the ramblings of religious zealots spouting about how gays are damned to hell.  Here's the problem though (other than the fact I cannot think of any other examples of things to get offended about!!!) - taking offence is a choice and a damn silly one if you choose to take it. 

Edited 21/06/21 - even more important is that if a person 'intended' to offend you then taking offence plays right into their hands and if they didn't then you taken offence for no reason. Either way taking offence is still pointless!!

I don't need to get offended about Zack being called a girl or me being called a boy when I was younger.  I don't need to get offended about blonde jokes or non-politically correct jokes about women.  I definitely don't need to be offended by Tim Minchin because he is just awesome and the religious nuts talking about gays going to hell are not even worth my time.  And that is it - if I choose to get offended what a total waste of time that is.

This seems simple to me but some people seem to find it difficult to grasp.

On someone else's blog today I wrote "The ‘abuse’ we put our children through when we ‘force’ them to learn stuff when they are not ready or able is appalling. Passion for learning is our children’s right and school squashes that right every single day. The joy on my 11-year-old’s face when he realised that he could read is something that I will never forget. He learnt to read in his own time and at his own pace. His passion to read needed that time and school steals that and many other passions every single day." and someone took offence.  The question I ask is why?  This is just my opinion.  These words do not hold power over anyone who has made a choice to send their child to school and is happy with and confident about that choice.  Those who are wavering about school might read them and think - oooh I hadn't thought about it like that, maybe I should do a bit of research.  What other positions are there?  This however elicited a response about how offensive 'abuse' and 'force' were as terms. Edited 21/06/21 - Gabor Mate talks about the human needs of attachment and authenticity so even more it seems that our schooling system and some early parenting scenarios actually lead to trauma - watch more here.

Here's an analogy though - if you saw a mother forcing a 9-month-old baby to walk before he was ready wouldn't you think that was abusive?  Just because that scenario couldn't really happen doesn't make it less awful an idea.  The damage that could be done to an under-developed spine or leg joints doesn't bear thinking about. 

I often wonder if my dyslexia came from being forced to read before my brain was ready.  I am very like my son who grasped the finer points of reading at the ripe old age of 11.5 years old.  He wasn't forced to try to read at 4 or 5 like I was.  He was left to work it out when his brain was ready much like babies are left to mature into walking toddlers at their own pace.  I wasn't left - I was forced to read when I wasn't ready and who knows if that abuse left my brain scarred and malfunctioning.  Scientists now know that leaving babies to cry (as in controlled crying) actually causes brain damage so who knows whether it could be discovered that our schooling system also leads to brain damage for some children.

Regardless of the reasons for my choice of words.  They are words, just words.  The same way that your thoughts about my words are your thoughts and yours to control.  So control your thoughts and don't take offence.  That is your right and a damn good one it is too.

I have to say I replied to the offence-taking woman with the following  " Taking offence is just another choice you have chosen to make along with other ones I choose not to make. None of my comments is any more offensive than your insinuations. I am not offended by your insinuations because I choose not to be. This is one of the life lessons I have explained to my children. Thanks for giving me another example to show them." I believe that she may well take offence to that and all I can say is - don't.  Life is too short so just stop taking offence.  It doesn't do you any good other than making you feel crappy and it definitely doesn't stop the offence-giver having their opinion edited 21/06/21 - whether it was meant to be offensive or not. Opinions can maybe be changed through discussion but they are rarely changed, if ever, by someone taking offence.

Anyway enough of the serious stuff.  Here are some funnies about 'stopping it', Tim Minchin probably offending someone (although there are way more 'offensive' stuff of his out there is you look!!) and a great scene from West Wing about gays and God.

And here is a great video about taking offence

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Losing Your Pounds of Pain and The Secret

Well I have finished two of my books for this year - the Horse Boy and Losing Your Pounds of Pain and am feeling rather pleased with myself.  This blog entry is about the second book (I may return to the Horse Boy some other time.)  It is a book I bought a long time ago and only realised when I added it to my list of books to read that was written by my favourite Oracle card producer Dorren Virtue.  As you an see to the left I have 10 packs of her cards as opposed to 3 that aren't and even one of those was produced by her husband and so is sort of the same.

They are beautiful cards though all of them as you can see here.  These cards are from my favourite pack Mermaids and Dolphin Oracle Cards.  Anyway if you want to see more of her stuff go and see her Amazon page here.

Anyway back to the book.  It is about breaking the link between abuse, stress and overeating.  It was a really interesting read even though it concentrates a lot on binge eaters which I don't really class myself as.  It still had lots of helpful hints for losing weight and why we carry the weight we do.  The basic premise is that when you release emotional pain from your formative years, your appetite normalises because you aren't filling an emotional void with food.  We are designed to be light in body and spirit and food is meant to be fuel for daily energy and nothing more.  If we are searching for a sense of self, peace of mind and self-acceptance and cannot find them because of past pain then this can lead to over-eating or other unhealthy habits e.g. addictive behaviours or depression.  There is the need to transform FATS - fear, angers, tension and shame (leading to over-eating), into FATS - forgiveness, acceptance, trust of self (nice acronym.)

A very interesting idea she same up with was when we dismiss any childhood pain as not really a big deal, put your own child in the same situation and see how you feel about them being treated the same way you were.  This acknowledges that intellectually remembering someone (or remembering something from an adult perspective) is not the same as emotionally remembering something.   I have done this in the past and when I replaced me with Indie at the same age my 'not a big deal' became a much bigger deal than I thought.  This type of visualisation really works.

When you acknowledge that there are reasons for your addictive behaviour it then becomes easier to take control and realise that the childhood pain needs to be felt and let go of.  There is talk of dream journals, meditation, affirmations, taking note of any memory that keeps recurring as something that needs looking at, stopping before engaging in the unhealthy behaviour, exercising every day even if only for 15 minutes.

"Treat your body and soul with compassion and kindness.  Love that little child inside of you and be understanding when she occasionally falters."  - you cannot argue with that as an idea.  Anyway because of this book I have added a whole load of affirmations to my computer screen and because of watching The Secret I have added a wish-list screen saver as well high-lighting some of the things I want in the world.  Neither the affirmations nor the screen are very clear although you can see the gorgeous feet circle picture at the top of the screen which always reminds me of the ubuntu story.  Unfortunately I believe the ubuntu story is an urban myth but I will repeat it here anyway because it is such a lovely idea.

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe   He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first won the fruits   When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together  then sat together enjoying the fruit.  When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said "ubuntu."  In Xhosa culture ubuntu means "I am because we are."

For me this picture therefore signifies world peace and the desire that we all have compassion for ourselves and all other beings.  The other pictures are all things I would like in my life.  I will see if any of this makes any difference and let you know.  

I know there are many people out there who think that films and books like 'The Secret' are codswallop but I like some of the ideas in it and it has already helped my dd be more positive and see that it makes a difference so that makes it all worthwhile.