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