Sunday, 18 January 2015

Minimalist January - complete - 496+ things GONE

Well I did it and more. It got to day 22 and I decided to get rid of my duplo train track which we occasionally take to home education group gatherings. Well there were over 110 pieces in that so that took me well over my target of 496 things.  I am really pleased and it went really well.

All the items sold on ebay other than Indie's dolls. Those will be going to charity as soon as I can get them there if no-one wants them on facebook.  The other things on ebay did really well and from things we sold we made £127 which is great because our dishwasher is broken and cannot be fixed :-( so we are getting a new one.

Anyway I loved this process and I am wondering when I can find the time to do another month of this some time later this year. But for now let the de-cluttering stop!!!  And marvel at some of the 496+ things I got rid of below!!

For those of you who like tables and to able to see the last few things I got rid of, here they are!!!

Day Picture Reason why

I whole load of wrapping paper, gift tags, party invitations I am nevr going to use. These were freecycled.

More knitting and crochetting magazines. These were freecycled.

More bits and pieces that I don't need. These went to charity shop and there were more than 20 items in this bag.

Musical instruments. Some went to my local community cafe, others went to charity shop and the 2 alto recorders are going to find a new home soon.

A whole load of duplo train track. This is the sort of thing I would love to keep - just in case - but I really am getting fed up of "just-in-case" or "in-case-my-children-have-children" items so this will be going on ebay if no-one wants it on facebook.

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Spark: a mother's story of nurturing genius by Kristine Barnett

The Spark is the true story of Kristine Barnett's battle to stop her son Jacob, who was diagnosed with autism, from disappearing totally into his own world .  Find the book here at Amazon.

Kristine Barnett's son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein and a photographic memory. At nine he developed an original theory in astrophysics that may earn a Nobel Prize. But Jake's story is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism.
When the experts wanted to restrict his behaviour - staring at shadows on the wall, stars, patterns - Jake withdrew into his own world. But against all the advice, Kristine decided to follow Jacob's passions - his 'spark'. The results were beyond anything anyone could have imagined.Dramatic and inspiring,The Spark is about the power of love and what can happen when we tap the true potential that lies within every child.

What I love about this book other than the remarkable story, is the fantastic struggle the family went through to allow their autistic son to develop in the way they believe he needed.  Trying to find any child's 'spark' is the main reason that I home edcuate my children.  It is much easier to facilitate a child finding their 'spark' when it isn't being squashed by going to school with being 'told' what to do and spending more time at school than at home or out and about.

Anyway here are the quotes I found the most inspiring from this book:

The typical therapy with austistic children is to focus on the lowest skills, such as, feeding a cookie to a puppet or tying shoe laces.  "So instead of hammering away at all the tasks there kids couldn't do.  I thought we'd start with what they wanted to do."  p68 (hb)

I have to agree here that is amazing what children learn when left to their own devices and also the sporadic nature of learning such skills as tying up shoe laces from learning about knots or learning reading from having to follow instructions on a computer program (both things that my children have done.)

"Harnessing the children's passions may not have been the conventional way to work with them, but it was very much the way I'd always worked with my daycare children."  Luckily Kristine Barnett's own mother mirrored with behaviour to Kristine and her sister, Stephanie.  Kristine's sister was an artist who wanted to do nothing more than draw.  When Stephanie was failing at school, her mother stayed upbeat ""If you don't do art, nobody cares.  But if you can't do math, everyone 's up in arms." she remarked once, "Why is that?"  I found the comment a little surprising, given that she as an accountant and loved numbers herself.  But she knew Stephanie."

That is the crux of the issue.  The mother knew her children.  She could see what they were interested in and harnessed that passion, knowing that finding your passion leads to happy children and then happy adults.  Kristine's mother could see that some brains can do sum and some brains find art easier to do (and school maths confusing.)  What she showed Kristine is that "everyone has an intrinsic talent, a  contribution to make, even if it comes to an unexpected form."  School doesn't always help, enhance or even nurture that talent because academic subjects only cover a very, very small section of people's talents so there has to be a different way in which to tap into that talent in each and every child.

"I have always encouraged the children in my daycare to lean into their passions, and over the years I saw how astonishing the results could be when they have the opportunity and resources to do so." She saw how the kids would flourish because of the attention they gave to the activities they loved and how doing what they loved brought all the children other skills as well.  

It is great reading a book which ends with the author reporting that a kid who she had been told would not amount to anything was told "he can do anything he wants" and that she believes that that is a ceiling that every parent and teacher can set for every child and that all of us can set for ourselves. She wanted everyone to believe that her son's story is emblematic for all children.  

"If you fuel a child's innate spark, it will always point the way for far greater heights that you could ever have imagined. It's hard to trust your child to find his or her own path, especially when we're told every day by professionals that children must fit into rigid boxes. We all want to give our kids the best opportunities we can, which is why it feels like such a disservice if we don't push them in the "right" direction. Celebrating your children's passions rather than re-directing them, especially when those passions don't line up neatly with a checklist for future success, can feel like jumping off a cliff. But a leap of faith is necessary if you kids are going to fly." 

Find the book here at Amazon

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Minimalist January - part 2

Week 2 of the minimalist challenge is going well, so well in fact that I am posting this a day early!!

I had already got up to 11 and had already done 15 so I only had 12, 13, 14 left to do but I wanted to try and do 29, 28 and maybe 27 so that I had less to do when I was away. The smaller numbers were ok but those bigger numbers - they were a challenge without really cheating and counting things like marbles or pens!!

So I really put my mind to it and I did better than I thought I would as you can see below.

It was great to get some inspiration from some great articles about minimising though like this one.

Even dd and dh got in on the action with Indie getting rid of some items which are part of day 26 below and she got rid of a whole lot of dolls which went on ebay here but aren't included below as I didn't want to include too much of her stuff.

Day Picture Reason why

I am a bit of a bag lady so there is really no surprise that I had spare bags that I really don't need and don't use. These are just some of them that I could bear to part with. They went to charity shop.

Here are some of the books I got rid of but these went to my local library because they are happy to take good quality books.

Household magazines like Prima, Good Housekeeping, etc. These went on freecycle.

Juno magazines which I had read. These went to a friend.

A whole load of various crochet magazines which I had read and noted the patterns I needed. These went on freecycle.

Bad picture (sorry) but here are our unneeded Xmas decorations. We have one box of decorations and it was beginning to overflow so it was time to freecycle some.

A set of books that went to charity and a set that went to Amazon for some money.

A bunch of seeds I had left over from the Grow Wild Kew campaign last year. Some will be sown and the rest have been freecycled.

Some games we don't use which have been taken to charity shop and a bag of dd's clothes which are too small for her. It was great getting dd involved. We totally tidied and zoned her room as we went too (see below.)

A bag full of painting stuff that we don't need any more.

A whole load of various craft and knitting magazines which I had read and noted the patterns I needed. These went on freecycle.

Another whole load of various craft and knitting magazines which I had read and noted the patterns I needed. These went on freecycle. 

My items from last week are still on ebay and don't end until Sunday but have sold already which is great. I have also freed up at least 3 whole shelves by getting rid of these magazines and various other things.

Here are the photos from dd's room
transformation. I wish I had got some before
photos as well because you can rarely see
dd's floor. I am hoping that the re-zoning of everything to where it is most useful to her
might help her keep the floor tidy but we will
Above is a photo showing that there is enough
floor space to actually lie down!! Not something you can ever do in dd's room.

Here are her newly arranged shelves with boxes
and baskets all ordered and organised.

This will not last but it looks good at the moment.
I have tried to organise her shelves so that
the books she uses more often are nearer
the bottom and ornaments she doesn't play
with are at the top.

The same with the red shelves in the
photo above. The more ornamental
things are on the top shelf and the
precious things she uses more often
are on the bottom shelf.

With the 3 sets of wardrobe shelves (to the right and above) I again tried to find out from her how she uses her toys and boxed them up appropriately. This means that she can get a box down to play with something and there then might be a small chance that she then puts it back!!

I think these will need re-visiting as her room becomes messy again. I will then try to find out what is not working and why but by this time she as getting tried of tidying and sorting.

A happy dd using some floor space for writing her book whilst listening to music.
So even when I sort out her desk so that
she can write on it she wants to use the
floor because she can!!
The 5 piles of stuff that we got from her room
which she doesn't want any more.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Empathy versus judgement (vaccinations)

I have been pondering for a while about empathy and judgement but I decided I would write something about my feelings after reading these two articles:

Comedian to retire controversial Katie Hopkins character - “I pretended to be someone so horrible that nobody could possibly believe she was a real person. I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously. How could they?”

Vaccines work - here are the facts - “in herd immunity the vaccinated protect the contribute to herd immunity by educating your community today!”

Very different articles I know but both made me think about the problem of passing judgement without compassion or empathy. It seems from what have read about and seen from Katie Hopkins that she is very good at passing judgement without even considering that the people she is talking about or she is arguing against, deserve her compassion or empathy. She is just totally sure that she is right and that everyone else is just wrong and they deserve to be educated by her superior knowledge or opinion.

The Vaccines work article on the other hand is yet again such a missed opportunity. I would be much happier reading an article about the facts of vaccines as long as it was a balanced article about vaccinations. This article states that we stopped smallpox and implies that this was done by vaccination alone (not true - Smallpox was eradicated by people going door to door.) The article also states that Andrew Wakefield did many dodgy things and had numerous conflicts of interest. But other companies and individuals have done similar things. For example read about the Vioxx recall here. And herein lies the problem. There is so much data out there that it is really, really difficult to find the truth about anything. Until recently one couldn't even rely on ALL studies associated with a scientific trial being published. If the trials didn't give the desired results there was no legal requirement to publish all the reports: you could leave out the ones which didn't back up your desired results!!!  Thank goodness that Dr Ben Goldacre has spear-headed a campaign to get this stopped in Europe - read here - but that doesn't bode well for anyone trying to find the truth about vaccines, drugs, GMO-food, etc. at present.

Another thing cited in the Vaccines article is that people wanted to keep their children "pure" by not injecting them with "chemicals" like this is some sort of weird behaviour. I like the idea that people actually think about what they are putting in their bodies including drugs, types of food, foreign bodies, sugar, fizzy drinks, etc. This is doubly important when it comes to our children because they cannot make that choice for themselves until they are  a lot older than when we vaccinate them, give them antibiotics, breastfeed or not, etc. Just look at the list of drugs that have been withdrawn over time because of adverse reactions. It is very thought provoking.

I also like the idea that people consider why they would or wouldn't vaccinate rather than blindly going along with the norm. I am all for going against the norm just to consider the possibilities. This sort of thinking is what got me into autocratically educating and trusting my children to carve an education for themselves. It is also probably a hang up from my BSc Philosophy days that I actually want people to stop and think and possible change their opinion when given reason to do so.  However, the problem is that there are very, very few people who will ever change their opinion even when proper thought is put into it. In my 42 years on this earth I have actually only ever found two people who I would say would change their opinion about anything given a decent argument backed by scientific evidence and neither of them is me!! I am more like the people written about here. I know that I am biased and as Tim Minchin quite rightly said here - "We'd as well be ten minutes back in time, for all the chance you'll change your mind" - I don't often change my mind. Luckily I am married to one of those two people I know of who can change their mind and not see it as a human failing. But he also has empathy for people who don't share his scientifically moulded brain and he accepts (although he finds them frustrating) those who refuse point-blank to change their mind even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So when it comes down to it the only thing we can really do in any given situation is have empathy for the difficult decisions that as parents we make for our children every day. In the same way that I wouldn't "blame" a parent for losing a child through not breastfeeding (see here) or for losing a child to suicide after being bullied at school and not having removed them from that environment and home-educating or from allowing a kid to climb a tree and them falling out and dying or for not vaccinating and losing a child to measles, what I can do is have empathy for all parents who do what they believe is the best for their children given the information that they think they have a grasp on. As human beings we don't have enough time, brain power or access to accurate information to investigate everything or even understand those things that are investigated and anyone who says that they do can only do so in a very, very small sphere of their life.

If someone actually wrote a decent, honest article about vaccinations which actually gave proper information about (with thoughts in italics):
  • herd immunity 
what is it?; does it actually exist?; what percentage does it work at?; do we really want to live in a utilitarian world where the greatest good of the greatest number is the most important things which means most of us should be neutered and NEVER allowed to have children
  • why and how vaccines sometimes fail 
no drug works perfectly on everyone, every single time so let's be honest about vaccines too
  • that there are trials paid for by companies who have a vested interest in the manufacture 
give us the honest truth so we can be proper consumers with all the information to make a decent choice
  • statistics about how realistically problematic these diseases are as opposed to conflated ideas about how dangerous these childhood diseases are 
measles; rubella; mumps used to be classed as mild childhood diseases with very rare problems for a very small number - when did they suddenly become so dangerous?
  • why vaccinated children get versions of the diseases that they are vaccinated against and why this doesn't seem to be reported 
why does this happen and are these vaccinated children getting mild versions of the disease reported and included in any stats?
  • shut up about Andrew Wakefield because most of the people I know who didn't vaccinate did not do so because of Andrew Wakefield 
stop vilifying people, he isn't the only one and he won't be the last
  • told the truth without resorting to over-playing it or slagging off  other people who might have a different point of view to yours
just common sense if your view is valid
  • ingredients 
  • possible side effects 
  • lots of other things I cannot think of right now
  • etc.

that would be fantastic and in the words of Tim Minchin again "I will take a compass and carve 'Fancy That' on the side of my cock" (if I had one) . But neither the pro or anti campaigners for vaccines seem to be able to do this because both have a "high-horse" stance to retain. Truly empathetic beings don't need a "high-horse" stance and would never resort to one, even when pushed. 

So let's all just start being lovely to each other and let's not resort to blaming and saying nasty, judgemental things to each other. Those that cannot do this really need to investigate why. It is a very interesting experience to actually sit with why you are so passionately judgemental about something or towards someone. Why not just have empathy, because you never know when you might want empathy back.

Useful links
A useful article about controversial statements being scientifically true.

Also if you see an article which makes claims which seem a bit off, type at the start of the web page leaving the rest of the http address as it is and see if there have been any rebuttals.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Minimalist January - part 1

I am going to play my Minimalist January game a bit strangely because I am away at the end of January and don't want to be left with took much stuff to get rid of at the end of the month when I am not even in my house.

So for the first few days of the challenge I am going to do extra later days as well as the early ones.

Let the de-cluttering begin!!!

Day Picture Reason why
Tap Shoes
I don't use and them and never will. They have gone to a good home where the kids do dance.
New Rock Shoes & Keyring
These are now on ebay here.
Wooden Fairy Village
This has found a fab new home with neighbours who I know will get lots of use out of it. I am really pleased because I really, really didn't want to get rid of this.
Jewellery that I made and some I don't need
These have been given to a friend as a present which she will really enjoy.
Socks - socks are only small so 10 pairs of socks = 5
This is what I love about this game. You start seeing everything differently. I had too many socks and had had too many socks for a long time and suddenly I am seeing opportunities to get rid of stuff everywhere. Even getting rid of 10 pairs of socks is a small step towards de-cluttering and it is becoming a habit. 
Sea glass, sea pottery and marbles
I had a lot of this stuff that was on display but I didn't need all 7kg of it so I got rid of 5kg of sea glass and 1kg of marbles and sea pottery. 
This was a tough one as I LOVE my wool. But I thought I could donate these few balls to either the new York Timebank craft group or some other crafty group.

Empty Jam Jars
We had planned to make jam and chutney but didn't get round to it so there are being offered on freecycle. 
Open University course books
Put on ebay here.


Oracle cards and sets
Again I have too  many sets of these so I picked my favourite and these are now on ebay.
More Open University course materials
These are now on ebay now.
Empty bottles and Bach Flower remedies
These are not getting used in my house so have been offered on freecycle
Books and Game
These have been given to my brother and sister-in-law for their gorgeous new baby boy. They are all learning to read books and games.
More Books
There are always more books to get rid of. I used to have a tendency to think that I needed to keep all books that the kids may at some point want to read but I now know that will more clutter they are actually less likely to read the books they want to read because of being overwhelmed by the number we have.

More next week!!!

Growing my own ginger

I came across this article and video on Facebook via a friend and thought I would give it a go. My ginger has been soaking in water for a few days and I am going to plant it today. As part of my research though I wanted to know what else I could do with ginger and came across all these uses as well as this really interesting page which went into more detail about growing ginger.

Anyway here are the uses of a ginger plant:

What part of plant Use Reference page
Ginger Root Tea - just cut up a hunk of fresh ginger (no need to peel) and pour a lot of boiling water over it.

Cooking - soup (fresh ginger, grated or pureed, brings wonderful zest to hot, creamy winter soups); with fish; in sir fries or in baking
Fresh Ginger Root uses
Ginger Leaves Ginger leaves are edible but are tough to eat or digest whole but here are some uses for them. Just make sure you chop them finely before you use them.
Eat them raw - too strong to eat on their own add them to flavour couscous or in salads.

Dry them - add as a garnish on savoury meals.

Cooking - use in cooking where the root is too much - use 2 tbsp. of freshly chopped ginger leaves in stews or soups or in stir fries.

Make tea - 1 to 2g or fresh or dried leaves per cup.
Ginger Leaves
Ginger Flowers Ginger flowers are edible too. Again though, like the leaves, the plant is very hard but cut away the hard petals and eat the bud finely chopped or blended.  Ginger Flowers
Candied Ginger Root Any leftover root can be candied and saved for later Candied Ginger

And here are more ideas about growing ginger as part of a permaculture garden. I am going to be growing my ginger in pots to start with so I can do research about whether it would survive outside in the UK.