Friday, 20 May 2016

Permaculture Principles

Messing around with different ways to show the 30 permaculture principles that are going to appear in my Applied Permaculture Diploma and be tagged in my blog posts so going to be messing around with word clouds, pages, sidebar widgets etc to see which works best!!!

1. Observe and interact
2. Catch and store energy
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
5. Use and value renewable resources and services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from patterns to details
8. Integrate rather than segregate
9. Use small and slow solutions
10. Use and value diversity
11. Use edges and value the marginal
12. Creatively use and respond to change
13. Work with nature rather than against it
14. The problem is the solution
15. Make the least change for the greatest possible effect
16. The yield of the system is theoretically unlimited
17. Everything gardens (or modifies its environment)
18. Relative location
19. Each element performs many functions
20. Each important function is supported by many elements
21. Efficient energy planning: zone, sector and slope
22. Using biological resources
23. Cycling of energy, nutrients, resources
24. Small-scale intensive systems - plant and time stacking
25. Understand and use accelerating succession & evolution
26. Diversity
27. Understand and use edge effects
28. Understand and use niches
29. Everything works both ways
30. Permaculture is information and imagination-intensive

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Mental Health in Young People

I am in love with Natasha Devon after reading her Guardian article about being sacked as the Mental Health Tsar because it led me down the path of watching her TEDxYouth talk here and then her conference talk here.

She is someone who obviously really cares about children’s mental health and knows that things need to change.

This is something that is very dear to my heart as a mum with 2 children and mental health problems in my extended family.

What I was shocked by reading the Guardian article was that rates of childhood depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are up by 600%!!!! 

Within the last year I have been attending training courses around youth work and the first one I attended last year was about mental health. I was shocked that evening to learn that people in their early 20s were glad that they weren't growing up as teenagers now. Only just not teenagers themselves, at least 2 of the participants said that things are changing that much for teenagers that they were glad they were out of it.

Here are some of the main things about that I learnt on that course:
  1. stress lasts 20-60 minutes: that is that its effect on a human body lasts 20-60 minutes. As opposed to ducks who flap to get rid of excess energy, humans have no automatic way to reduce the impact of stress.
  2. Human beings need to feel they have choice otherwise they feel trapped.
  3.  Emotional resilience, which allows you to bounce back, DOES NOT come from being stressed or under pressure.
Looking at the statistics in the Guardian article and remembering the points above, it seems that things are getting out of control for our young people. The problem is that even though Natasha and many others (e.g. Ken Robinson) have been saying for ages that things need to change, it seems that many of the changes that have been implemented recently are going to make things worse NOT better. 

Over the last decade of home educating, I have seen the result of changes in schools as part of the home education community in my area. It seems that there are people taking their children out of school in ever-increasing numbers because they don't like the stress that their kids are put under at ridiculously young ages. This can't be right. 

As Ken Robinson said in his TED Talk - Bring on the learning revolution! - children are one of our natural resources and we are cannot afford to waste our young people's talents. Again this is one of major reasons I home educate and I have written about it in previous posts (here and here): I want my children to grow up with passion, and knowing their passions

Ever since Ken Robinson's - Do Schools Kill Creativity TED Talk back in 2006 (still the most viewed from TED ever!!) things don't seem to have shifted much although ironically schools now test more then they did back then.

Around the same time as that TED Talk Natasha created a body confidence lesson based on her own experiences with bulimia and depression which she talked about at the TEDex talk here and summarised below:

"They [eating disorders] would not happen if we didn't live in a culture that told us that if we looked different our lives would be better"

"We live in a world that provides fertile soil where low self-esteem can flourish."

"Loving yourself has to come from within"

The self-esteem team and Body Gossip education program are definitely things that I am going to be looking into and discussing with my both my ds and dd.

The talk that Natasha did at the Conference in April was about the mental health issues of young people and what a massive problem they are. She stated that at the crucial developmental stage of our children's young brains where they need:

  1. safety
  2. nurturing
  3. valuing
  4. a creative outlet to express their emotions in a positive way
  5. space and time to think
  6. time to play
  7. support
  8. someone who will listen to them without judgement
they are getting academic pressure and stress: "the education system is giving with one hand and taking away with the other."

She states that school is an environment that de-constructs self-esteem and low self-esteem is the key diagnostic criteria for the 4 most common mental illnesses in children - anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders - the ones that have increased 6 fold in recent times.

Our children don't need stress or academic pressure to be able to deal with it or acclimatise them to it for later life. They aren't adults yet: their minds aren't ready for that. 

Mentally healthy and resilient adults are grown out of children who have such traits as: self-esteem, a healthy body image, positive self-belief, empathy for other people and the planet, a passion for life, an ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes, accountability for their actions, etc.

As Natasha says "well-being needs to be at the heart of any curriculum and education does not mean anything unless it happens within the context of a healthy mind." I hope someone starts listening but if history is anything to go by, I am not holding my breath. However what we can all do is let our children know that their mental health is way more important than any test result.

I have never told my children that they cannot go to school. They are free to choose every day of their lives. A fair number of their home ed friends have chosen to go at various times of their academic careers and they have always done really well. When you choose to take charge of your own education whether it be at home, at school, whilst travelling, later in life, etc. it is amazing what you can do. 

Passion + desire + freedom = whatever you can dream is possible

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Lying, empathy and doughnuts

You can tell that there is a lot going on in my life at the moment because I seem to go in these waves of writing loads of blog posts and then nothing for months and months. The weird thing is that I tend to write more when I am busier. Maybe it is so that I get my thoughts down on a page so I don’t forget in the mad rush of life. Well whatever it is, here is another rambling of mine.

It seems that as parents we are really (and I mean really) bad at telling when our children are lying. A recent new study mentioned in the Daily Mail here and discussed in the Guardian here says that parents are only likely to spot their children lying 1/5th of the time as compared to other adults and even other adults are pretty bad at stopping a lie, getting it correct only half the time. I find this fascinating and scary all at the same time as I wonder does this follow up into adulthood where we still can’t tell when we are being lied to.

I only wonder this because again recent experiences with my friends and family have made me wonder how we overcome this idea that we have to always take a side in disagreements, arguments or any sort of dispute/break-up, etc. As a Mum of two children of different genders I suppose it might be easier for me to understand from both sides:

1. how would I feel if my daughter came home and said that something awful had happened with her boyfriend?
2. how would I feel if my son came home and described the above situation but from the point of view of my daughter's boyfriend?

Luckily my dd is still quite young and although older my ds does not have a girlfriend but this obviously doesn't have to a girlfriend/boyfriend scenario, it could be any disagreement or falling out.

The lying study clearly shows that as parents we always want to believe that our children are telling the truth but not only is there the fact that we are so rubbish at spotting when they are not BUT there is also ALWAYS at least 2 sides to a dispute and we are NEVER going to know the full story.

This is where we, as parents, can learn to be supportive but also be aware that we are flawed in spotting lies and not great at holding ourselves, and therefore others, accountable for their actions. I love this video by Brene Brown about accountability and blame. I used to be a blamer (more about this later!!) There is always a place for accountability for everyone but this involves communication: if you don’t communicate your feelings and just allocate blame everyone loses. The problem is that speaking up can be really difficult for some people (see my previous post about minimisers and maximisers) and so there needs to be an awareness of this in every relationship.

This is the type of education we can give our children growing up but also we can support our grown up children by providing a safe environment where they can be heard when things are not going so well in their relationships. We can help by maybe pointing them in the direction of tools/techniques for better communication, accountability and space in which to have healthy relationships where they can help their friends/partners grow rather than blaming, belittling and dysfunction and as parents wer can do this with love and compassion.

If we can do this with empathy rather than sympathy (another great Brene Brown/RSA short video) then even better. Empathy drives connection (feeling WITH someone) by allowing the following:

1. Perspective taking - ability to take the perspective of another person (as mentioned above)
2. Perspective taking - recognising their perspective as their true
3. Staying out of judgement
4. Recognising emotion in others and communicating that

Obviously all these things can be really difficult but helping someone find these qualities when what they really want to do is blame someone for something is never going to help in the long run. Believe me, I have tried to remove the part I played in a difficult relationship on a fair few occasions. I liked to blame so I didn't have to take responsibility for my part. However I am always 50% responsible for anything that happens in any relationship and so are you. Owning that fact and being accountable for that will help you grow as a person and is such an important lesson to tell our children, young and old.

It isn't easy: I am still someone who tends towards blame as a modus operandi but I now have the knowledge and tools to help me to find a different way and realise that blaming works for a while but like eating a whole bag of doughnuts in one go, it seems a good idea at the time but after a while it doesn't feel so good. One of the easiest techniques for this is putting myself in someone else’s shoes (or number 1 above.)

Such an easy technique but so effective (and I always like the easy solutions!!) With my dispute idea wouldn't it be great to really feel how it would be to hear the other side. To wonder (if it is your son who has told you their tale of woe) how it would feel to hear the side of the other person (imagining they are also your child) who is telling their version of the same tale of woe. Would you do things differently? Knowing that you are never going to know the whole truth would you be more kind, gentle and hold your child more accountable for their own part in the tale? Also knowing that you probably aren't going to know when you are being told a lie would you be more compassion to ALL concerned?

There are always at least 2 sides to every story and those 2 sides can be from very different viewpoints. This is something I have come to realise listening to my own children talk about a disagreement they have had. Dd’s version is always TOTALLY different to ds’s much as my take on an argument with dh is always different to what I thought had occurred. Again this is something I try to model to my children on a regular basis in the hope that as they grow into adulthood they will own up when they have been complicit in some behaviour that wasn’t wholly healthy.

Luckily they have two parents who are very different who are very active in explaining this type of thing. I am always telling people that they only thing I “educate” my children in as a home educating parent is social situations and how to be authentic, accountable and empathetic in all their dealings with other people. Even more lucky for them they also have a multitude of fantastic role-models in their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends’ parents and people that I work with. Home education also means that they can spend a lot of time with all these extra people when they would normally be at school.

Anyway here is an interesting post by Alfie Kohn author of Punished by Rewards. This book is well worth a read if you want to know why rewarding children for doing stuff either with money, stars or whatever other system TOTALLY doesn't work in the long run. However the blog post is about types of motivation and love. Quite relevant to my last blog post about getting the love you want or not!!

And here is the great Doughnut parody by Dustin & Genevieve who are awesome. Enjoy the light relief!!!