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
1
Tap Shoes
I don't use and them and never will. They have gone to a good home where the kids do dance.
2
New Rock Shoes & Keyring
These are now on ebay here.
3
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.
4
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.
5
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. 
6
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. 
7
Wool
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.
8

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. 
9
Open University course books
Put on ebay here.

10

Oracle cards and sets
Again I have too  many sets of these so I picked my favourite and these are now on ebay.
11
More Open University course materials
These are now on ebay now.
15
Empty bottles and Bach Flower remedies
These are not getting used in my house so have been offered on freecycle
30
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.
31
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.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Designing Health the Permaculture Way

Part 1 - Movement

Over the last year I have yet again, through lack of time and losing my favourite exercise activity of Ceroc, gone beyond my comfortable size.  I have an uncomfortable "my belly looks like I am pregnant" phase I hit which always results in my taking stock of where I am health-wise and what I am going to do to tone up a bit.  I then found that I was officially obese with a BMI of 30.5, which is probably the heaviest I have ever been in my lifetime,.  I am sure this is a result of many factors such as:
  1. my relatively recent foray into the "diet" industry AGAIN
  2. the aforementioned lack of Ceroc classes in York
  3. my recurring back problem which occasionally stops me exercising
  4. my weekly kick-boxing classes being cancelled
  5. my liking of chocolate
to mention but a few.  With regards to point 1, like many others, I always end up feeling lousy about my lack of willpower to stick to a restrictive diet and I end up heavier/fatter than when I started. It always seems such an ingrained, natural thing to do though - to diet. I always vowed after having children that I wouldn't diet because I don't want my children growing up with the idea that diets are a good thing. Anyway I am resolute that I not going to restrict my eating like that again and I will be looking at my eating habits as a separate issue to this one.  So having vowed that I would never again restrict my diet or try to be unrealistic about what exercise I am going to do, I was left with a bit of hole as to what to do next.  This void, together with no sign of Ceroc classes returning to York, left me in a bit of a quandary.

So I started thinking about designing my health and I thought that using Lobby's Design Web mentioned in her book Permaculture and People would be a great place to start.  What I liked about this Permaculture Design Process was that it is more geared towards acknowledging me as a person and I felt it would help me overcome the obstacles which have hindered my health in the past. There were also many aspects of the ideas within this web which resonated with processes which I have put in place in my life since attending the Hoffman Process and training as a Shamanic Practitioner (more of these realisations may appear in other blog posts and Permaculture design write-ups.)  Here is the write up of that design so far using Looby's Design Web:


Ideas

Growth Phase
Vision To be healthier.
To continue to enjoy life and find more ways to integrate body movement (I hate the word exercise) into my way of life.
To find a balance between time away at classes and time with my family.
To protect my back (which has been problematic since I was 16) by increasing my core stability.
To have fun.
Incorporate more movement into my everyday life to counteract the amount of time spent at a computer.
To be realistic.
Learn more useful skills.
Build on what I already know.
Helps My geeky nature - I could potentially incorporate some apps and goals so I can see my progress.
The resources of the internet.
My stubbornness and willingness to try anything once.
Finding activities which are fun and/or useful in my life in other ways.  
Limits Cost (financial, equipment, time.)
I get bored easily.
The need to feel that the time/cost is worth it.
My tendency to be unrealistic.

Exploratory Phase
Patterns 1. I get bored easily.
2. I don't like spending money.
3. I don't like going out in the evening as that is when I see my husband.
4. I fear I won't stick to any program if I have to do it alone.
5. If it's not fun I will not want to continue.
6. Worrying about my appearance.
7. I find it difficult to do exercise at home because I forget as there are always other things to do and distractions.
8. Overdoing it and not realising when I need a break
Ideas 1. Find an activity which progresses in some way or where improvements are easily noticed.
2. Use my time-bank hours to pay for classes or find something where the benefit of the class outweighs the cost. Realise any investment will be of benefit to me.
3. Include the family in my workouts or find during the day classes which don't get in the way of evening family time which is what we did with kick-boxing.
4. Find classes where there is extra motivation to participate or find some goal-orientated way to give me staying power to keep going.
5. Find classes I really, really enjoy like Ceroc.
6. Continue to work on the reasons that I don't like my appearance and realise that these are not size-related because they have always been there.
7. Find activities I can do at home and find a way to remind myself.
8. Make sure I evaluate regularly and re-design when needed 
Principles 1. Observe and Interact - taking ideas from nature - I have always liked the idea of natural movement (see blog posts here and here) but I find it really difficult incorporating these ideas into my life (point 7 in patterns.) I need to find ways to have the space, time and inclination to does these things and I need to integrate them into my way of life so that I think about it, they are just things I do as naturally as breathing, eating, etc. I also need to be aware of when I am resisting any changes and analyse what this resistance means.

2. Catch & Store Energy - maybe my geeky nature would be a good way to capture the energy of my finding new ways to move and get healthier e.g.
revisit websites I have used before to track my activities e.g. endomondo, mapmyfitness, myfitnesspal and investigate other activity apps/websites which incorporate goal setting; connecting to others and forums for advice; in the past I have taken photos along the way which I might do again to keep me motivated; getting my kids involved could also help.

3. Obtain a Yield - feeling healthier, losing the "pregnant" belly feeling, incorporating natural movement into my life so it is seamless, learn what feels good to me, increase my range of body movements and become more somatically aware.

4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback - if I don't enjoy the activity I need to find something else as I refuse to do exercise for the sake of exercise as it makes me feels bad and my emotional well-being is as important as my physical well-being. Maybe finding classes which are flexible would benefit my life-style in that I very often cannot stick to a set time and day. Pay-as-you-go is therefore better than any pre-paid classes. Revisit how I feel about what I am doing every month or so to check that I am happy; my kids are happy with any time away as is my dh. My feedback needs to be about how I feel physically but also emotionally, spiritually and mentally about my health. Although I am talking about activities and classes if I am not feeling better in all aspects of my life then my plan is not working so I need to find a way to monitor these 4 areas each month.

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources and Services - I will be using my own power to improve my health and one of the reasons I am planning this design is so that I remain a viable renewable resource for as long as possible.

6. Produce no Waste - over time I have accrued all the workout equipment, DVDs, clothing and shoes that I need to try any type of activity necessary. I will endeavour where possible to find local activities and will evaluate why (if ever) I need to go further afield. Again I will balance using my car to get to classes over time away from family and other considerations.

7. Design from Patterns to Details - being clear about why I want to be healthier and how to balance my health with family/time/finances.  Combat any negative patterns about my health and create healthy patterns. Evaluate my monthly feedback from (4) and redesign if necessary. Celebrate any break in negative patterns as well as any new healthier ones.

8. Integrate rather than Segregate - having made a space in my bedroom (see here) for exercise which already includes a climbing wall, punch-bag, various exercising paraphernalia and a playstation 2/TV combo and now enough floor space for most types of activity this gives the kids and I the chance to engage in whatever movement activity takes our fancy. This area is nearly perfect from a theoretical point of view but we need to start using it so that it becomes an integral part of our lives for fun movement activities including keeping up with our kick-boxing skills in case we ever get to go back to our classes.

9. Use Small Slow Solutions - I am being realistic here that anything I do is not going to make my "pregnant"-like belly disappear overnight or my BMI suddenly be reasonable. I haven't had a BMI within normal range for over 12 years and I am not even sure I agree with it as a measurement anyway. This design is focussing on how I feel about myself from all four aspects of my "quadrinity" (as the Hoffman Process calls the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves) and so my reflective writings about how I feel will be my overall guide as to how the design is going. Integrating different ways of being in my body will be slow because anything that doesn't work will be dis-guarded and new things tried and evaluated.

10. Use & Value Diversity - I need to look at this "integrating movement into my life" design holistically and as mentioned earlier need to include different types of movement in different places e.g. outdoors, indoors, natural movement, cardio, strength work, martial arts, etc.

11. Use Edges  & Value the Marginal - over the last year there have been changes in my life which are worth considering with regard to edges. For example, my parents moving to York and my getting a Saturday job. Both these things can integrate using my body more into my life if I chose them to. Sharing some activities with my children and husband can acknowledge the edges between us and help me in my endevaour to improve my health.

12. Creatively Use  & Respond to Change - I am going to be 42 in January so I need to incorporate strength work as well as cardio as my muscle mass is in decline. I have an opportunity to include natural movement now we have a woodland where we get the fuel for our wood-burning stove so I can carry logs from garden to house regularly over winter and pile logs all year round at the woodland. I recently started working so relying on walking and cycling wherever possible saves money (+ve.) I also have an opportunity to include my children in anything I do as I home educate and want them to have a positive view on how moving their bodies makes them feel good. Most of all though I need to find activities that take over from Ceroc and kick-boxing.


Productive Phase
Integration
Thoughts via hackpad
Action Measure various parts of my body and take a photo on 1st January 2015
Use misfit acticity tracker everyday and sync with app so it gets picked up by mapmywalk
Trial Monday swimming with the kids at least once a month
Keep going to MFT classes on Tuesday (or Thursday if I cannot do Tuesday)
Trial Tai Chi classes on Wednesday morning with the kids, once a month maybe twice - review in 2 months
Friday - attend Jitsu class (move to Monday if I cannot do Friday)
Friday or Saturday once a month to every 6 weeks go climbing with at least Dave
Try out various activities with the kids eg. 7 minute workout on my phone; DVDs; trampolining; kettlebells; natural movement; etc. - start small
Incorporate more things as I get more time
Momentum Review on the 1st of every month. Add this date to my calender as well as a weekly check in when I have time.

Reflective Phase
Appreciation Take photos and measurements at my monthly review and celebrate my achievements regardless
Reflection Monthly review. 
Pause If I need time off, take time off.

That's it for now. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Finding a rhythm and the minimalist game

Looking back at my post from August and especially the one from the start of 2014 here it is fascinating to see what things have changed since then. I am now employed at the Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA).  It is a blessing to work at such a worthwhile place even if it is only very part-time. I hoping that my computer programming skills might help here as well because the NCA are considering changing their client database structure.

I never got round to adding alarms to my phone for reading books and doing crafts because I wasn't organised enough at the time. I also realised I was too busy finishing my Shamanic Practitioner training, my Permaculture Association Trustee duties (where I was made official administrator back in July) as well as the needs to my immediate and wider family. However I have now started using google calender, google tasks, google keep and their associated apps on my phone so I am wondering whether, once my OU course is finished in July, I will add these things to my to-do-list if that is what I think is the best use of my time.

Anyway over the last year I have started finding a much-needed rhythm to my life. I feel this has been partially due to my Shamanic studies as well as my continued learning about Permaculture design methodology and how it can help design all areas of a person's life. I have started surveying and assessing the way my house works for us as a family. As a home educating family and my occasional need to work from home we have a myriad needs of our house from accommodating large numbers of children and parents to my needing a place to tutor students or work as a shamanic practitioner. This has led to my contemplating designing a number of rooms in the house and de-cluttering as a by-product of the design implementation. I am going to continue this de-cluttering and am thinking of doing the Minimalist game with my dd in the New Year as a way to maintain and tweak the design. Starting from the 1st January we are going to throw things out or ebay them every day. The challenging bit is that on the 2nd we have to throw 2 things out, 3 on the 3rd, 4 on the 4th, etc.

As part of evaluating my bedroom design over the last few weeks I have already made some changes which have resulted in at least the 6th January being sorted as I found 6 bags I don't need. Whether I will manage all the way through January will be interesting but I like the SMARTness (see below) of this game and if it works I will be implementing it more than once as a fun SADIMET tweak to my de-cluttering designs.  My bedroom was my first design within my house but I have my dining/kitchen area that also needs designing as well as potentially my loft, garage, Shamanic room and porch.  Let's see if this game works or not!!

Specific - follow the instructions
Measurable - I follow the instructions or not
Achievable - 496 items = a lot but I have many things I don't use so hopefully it is do-able
Realistic - see above
Time-bound - this is the best thing about this game.  It is very specifically time-bound.  By the end of January 2015 I will have 496 less things cluttering my house. 

The other great thing about this game is the fact that I am limited on time at present but I want to keep my momentum from the Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering going.  I have put on hold starting any further designs (I have an "exercise" design that I need to write up) whilst I concentrate on finishing my OU course and settling into working at the NCA.  I am however wanting to continue de-cluttering and finding more rhythm in my life.  If anyone wants to join me in the game let me know!

Monday, 1 December 2014

PA NDG - Sensational, Awe-inspiring, Design-filled, Interlacing, Moments, Everyone, Together

Sensational
Action-packed
Design-filled
Inspirational
Moments
Everyone
Together sums up my first National Diploma Gathering organised by the Permaculture Association (see what I did there - using a Permaculture design framework acronym to explain how the weekend went!!!).

I am just back from an awesome weekend at Casleton YHA attending the Permaculture Association's annual National Diploma Gathering 2014. It was my first time at this event and although I have always had in the back of my mind that I might try to achieve my Permaculture Diploma I haven't really properly considered it. Also as part of my role as a Trustee for the Association I have been exploring (with other Trustees) how best to explain what Permaculture is to the masses. As part of my thought processes over the last few months I revisited what permaculture means to me including re-reading my Transition Town competition winning entry about my PDC (Permaculture Design Course). I wanted to galvanise those thoughts with real connections to other people who are implementing permaculture in their lives whilst also attending workshops and generally being nosey about what happens at these weekends. As a Trustee I get to be nosey with impunity and I am so glad I did!!!

All the workshops were interesting, helpful, thought-provoking, inspiring and a great reminder that Permaculture Design principles can be applied to ALL areas of everyone's lives. The three accreditations which happened during the weekend were awe-inspiring, motivating and fantastic examples of permaculture design having fundamental effects on people's lives. Visit the individual sites here for more information -> Nicole VosperNiamhue Robin and I will add Cathrine Dolleris' site when it becomes available.

In true Permaculture style there were also magical moments at the edges of the event. For example,
  1. I had fortunately flung a few extra crochet hooks into my crochet bag with my latest crochet project and I offered to teach others if they wanted. I got two takers who valiantly battled the crochet handhold and both took home their first pieces of crochet.  
  2. I (and others) were given instruction into how to barefoot run safely and it was such fun to have our running recorded and analysed; be shown exercises to stretch and strengthen calf muscles and various other tips. 
  3. A fab guy called Kev was recording during the weekend to capture the essence of "what is permaculture" from as many people that he could and I did my part by sharing my thoughts (see below *)  
  4. All the conversations with fellow attendees on a whole range of topics from home educating to the benefits of linux over Windows as an operating systems.  
  5. Being visible as a Trustee to the members and touching base with 3 fellow trustees who were also attending. I had wondered whether being a Trustee would mean people would take an opportunity to talk to me in that role and it was a wonderful example of stacking that I could be there as a Trustee and as a potential diploma student.
As someone who has struggled with insecurities in the past it was fab that these types of interactions occurred and that I was also approached for my expertise in shamanism, home education and crochet. I even had someone commenting that they had found my blog posts about home educating useful. I know I write this blog for my own benefit but it always satisfying to know that it is being found, read and been useful to someone.

With regards to my short time with Kev (mentioned above*) it was great for me to realise how much "permaculturing my life" is what I want to do because it is a versatile system which can be used in all areas of life. This has really helped me re-evaluate my ideas around my permaculture projects and some changes will be happening to my website sevenstrands.co.uk over the next 6 months because of the weekend. I will also be adding content to this blog and getting back to documenting "permaculturing my life!" in an attempt to streamline and effective-y (I so wish that were a real word) my life by using permaculture design.

So here's to a great weekend jam-packed with inspiring workshops and accreditations; useful discussions about all areas of life; crocheting, making new friends, joining networks; being an effective trustee; re-engaging with permaculture design, doing yoga at 7am in the morning (if you know me you will realise what an achievement that is); re-classifying permaculture as a verb and generally having a fun time. Roll on next year as I will definitely be attending another Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering and I now have a vested interest because I am new member on the Diploma Working Group!!!!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Zoning the areas of the house helps with decluttering


Over the last few years our house has been in an interesting state of upheavel.  As part of my Permaculture Applied Diploma I have been re-designing our house and trying to zone it so that things are in the right place, easy to find but most importantly easier to keep tidy.  This is not an effortless feat seeing as I am messy and I tend to have at least 5 craft projects on the go which seem to spread themselves around the house.  I am trying to find a dedicated craft area but at present we are still trying to finish the kitchen before we can work out what to do with the old dining room, before I can then work on the rest.
However, I have managed to majorly re-design my bedroom!!!  It isn't totally sorted but it is working really well.  Observation in this area indicated that having all the resources around the edge of a long, thin room was making the room thinner and minimising what could be achieved within the left-over space.  In the future the room could be split into two decent sized rooms but this isn't wanted or needed at present.  There was also a need for a space in the house in which to exercise.  Putting all these needs together I evaluated that using the furniture to make a border down the middle of the room (above) could create more usable space whilst splitting the room into two distinct zones: the dressing/clothes area (to the right) and the exercise/study area.


The study/exercise area needs work but it is a start and the implementation of these changes and the creation of a separate dressing area has resulted in a less messy space and has also led to de-cluttering of clothes and bedding.  It seems that zoning has a knock-on effect in that it makes it easier to sort, de-clutter and cyclically makes it easier to maintain. Result!!  This design is a great example of using the OBREDIM permaculture design process.  All this sorting and tidying in one area also had a ripple effect across the whole of the house.

Above there is a new shelf put into the living room for the kids new craze of loom-banding.

Another thing in the house which is in the process of being redeveloped and redesigned after major building work is the kitchen (read about the renovation here.)  This has been a long and drawn out process because resources meant that we could pay for the building changes but couldn't afford to pay for the decorating or new kitchen design.

This has meant that progress has been slow. However this has allowed time to see how the space is used by family and visitors to the house. 


Surveying and analysing in this way has been productive and enlightening and has meant that the design for the kitchen has been re-evaluated and re-designed at least 3 times over the last year.

The implementing of the new design is going to take a while and there is more evaluating that needs to take place but one thing I have been able to do is work out a new way to not waste food.  I have designed a simple cataloguing system for the fridge and freezer using magnetic tape.




It started (as can be seen above in the bottom half of the picture above ) by just using whiteboard markers. They are not easy to wipe off and made the system awkward.  Magnetic tape may also end up having cons as well but is working so far.  The freezer (above) is divided into drawers so people know where the various foods are.  This also means that energy use is lessened because the freezer doesn't need to be opened for as long whilst someone tries to find the right food.



The fridge has a space for the food actually in the fridge as well as a consider buying section.  The space for the magnets which signal the food stuffs which have been used but don't need re-stocking as yet, are at the bottom of the freezer door. Anyway progress is being made using various design techniques and I am very happy with results.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Don't justify...just be happy!!! My home-educating and breastfeeding experiences...

My son and daughter have been educating themselves for nearly 13 years and 9 years 7 months respectively and I am one of the very few home educators who hasn't really had to justify why I think home educating is more natural than school.  The same way I didn't ever really have to justify breastfeeding even though my children both breastfed for between 3 and 4 years.  

To be honest I am not sure what I would say now if I was questioned about breastfeeding and home educating.  I know it would be different to what I would have said 9 years ago or even 5 years ago.  What I do know is that I really sympathise with people who write posts because they are so fed up of having to justify why they home educate without offending anyone, that they just get fed up and tell you the real reasons why they home educate. 

So here are some of my thoughts

Resilience
Children learn resilience from everyday life and learn it much more deeply when they are actively involved in resolving conflict or in dealing with whatever difficult situation faces them.  Bullying will NEVER fall into the category of building resilience unless it is resolved.  Seeing others get bullied will also not help children learn how to deal with conflict.

Maths - oh maths - don't get me started on maths.  I am a maths tutor, I love maths, I am a total geek but even I don't understand what the obsession is with maths.  All kids love to count.  It seems like it is built into their DNA: this desire to count steps, sort coins into like groups, collect stones and sort them into colours, or sizes or whatever.  Sorry to break it to you all but the maths your child learns at school seems pretty pointless to me unless they want to teach maths or go into a mathematical discipline at which point you are taught how to do it properly.

The fact that the powers-that-be keep changing the way maths is taught is very telling.  So is the fact that most of the time maths is taught as a separate subject taken out of context.  This makes it confusing and annoying to anyone who doesn't get maths.  Ken Robinson in his talk about Changing Education Paradigms sums it up well.  "Schools are still very much organised on factory lines...specialise into separate subjects.  We still educate children by batches.  Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are."  Watch the full talk here and he goes into much more depth than I do.  But you do have to wonder how can we have taken such a great universal language that ALL children love and turned it into a subject where more than half of children who leave school hate maths?

How children learn
The same goes for socialising and is mentioned by Ken above.  We batch children by their date of manufacture.  Why do we do this?  Why not height, physical ability, mental ability, social ability?  Why not batch them by different things depending upon what you want them to learn?  It is already well known, and has been for years, that children learn best from people who know just a bit more than them so actually do we really need to batch children at all or could we just let them be with whomever they want to be with?  That would be more natural: letting children pick who they want to be with, like we do as adults.  You need to be around people to learn how to socialise and unless you are keeping your child in solitary confinement they are socialising whether you want them to or not, whether it be at school (where they are batched by date of manufacture) or not (where they socialise with anyone they come in contact with.)

Going to school is just one way of being
I have never come across the idea that children miss out on opportunities if they don't go to school.  But turn that on its head - what opportunities are children missing out on by going to school?  The chance to learn what they want, when they want to and when they are ready to enjoy it?  The chance to really absorb themselves in an activity without having to break or move to another subject?  As far as I am concerned our education system is out of date.  Teaching facts, especially out of context, is pretty pointless. We have facts at our fingertips every day because most of us have smartphones.  The internet holds all the facts and computers do calculations really well.

This factual, shallow learning does our children a huge injustice.  We need to be teaching our children creative thinking, conflict resolution, permaculture design, sustainability, survival skills, typing, physiology (how their bodies work), etc. NOT just facts.

We need our children to have the opportunity to find their "element" as Ken Robinson calls it and we need to be aware that we don't know what the future holds with regards to what skills we need.  I am pretty sure though that we can all agree that facts are not skills.  Edward De Bono says that schools only teach reactive thinking which is also not going to serve our children into the future.  We need design thinking, creative thinking not critical, analytical and reactive thinking and we need our children to know how to treat each other with respect.

When she was younger, my daughter was occasionally being told (by some of her "friends") that she is stupid because she doesn't know maths facts or stuff that is learnt at school.  Or that she wasn't liked any more because she has done something that has been classed as "bossy."  I tell my children about the difference between a person's actions and a person themselves.  One of the foundations of many communication systems like NVC or PET is the idea -> judge the action, not the person.  These are fundamental ideas that ALL children should know.  "You did something mean" NOT "You are mean."  Then there is also the idea of communicating your wants and needs from a friendship instead of name-calling and manipulation.  Again NVC has a great set of "rules" as to how to communicate your needs:

"<name of child> I experience you as bossy.  What I need from you is to understand that I want to be heard in this game situation and want to have my ideas listened to too"

or in my child language

"<name of child> in this game you are being bossy.  I need my game ideas to be heard too before we play"

NOT

"<name of child> you are bossy and I don't like you any more" -> in this scenario no-one gets their needs met, people get upset and someone has been unfairly labelled as bossy.

These are things that I model to my children as best I can as I am sure others do, but this is not something that I am aware of being taught at school as is evident by my daughter's interactions with some of her school-going peers.

Here's the Factual stuff.
WRT home educating, watch the Ken Robinson video here, do some of your own research but most of all don't judge home educators without knowing the facts.  

  • You don't need to go to school to learn to read - my kids taught themselves to read at 11.5 and 5.5 years old
  • You don't need to go to school to socialise - socialising is most easily learnt in a natural setting where life is lived.  
  • You don't actually need to learn geography, science, maths, English or any of the subjects that are taught at school - someone else decided that curriculum and they decided it a long time ago
  • School doesn't teach you anything that you cannot learn at home

Most of us just want to left alone to bring up our kids our way without having to justify it or make you feel better about the way you are bringing up your kids.  If you don't want to know the real reasons why we do it (school is out-dated, school is 40% a waste of time, school forces kids to learn stuff too early, exams have become so dumbed down that they are pointless, etc) then don't ask because one day you may come across the person who wrote the blog I mentioned at the top or who thinks those things in the brackets and you might get more than you bargained for.

But please whatever you do, do your research.  Be happy that what you are doing with your children is the best thing for them and the right thing for you as a family.  And if you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else or trying to get them to justify their decisions about their kids to make you feel better, then you might be doing something wrong and should maybe consider re-evaluating your decisions.

None of this is meant to offend anyone although if that is your bag go forth and be offended (although also feel free to read my blog post about not being offended instead!!)  

WRT breastfeeding, breastfeeding is natural and anything else is a substitute with varying degrees of health benefits from expressing, wet-nursing, using other's breast milk via a bottle, organic formula downwards.  Breast milk is the only thing your baby is meant to have nutritionally speaking.  Less than 1% of people cannot breastfeed for medical reasons.  The rest either didn't want to or didn't know what to do because they were given bad advice by professionals, didn't research it properly, we're not given decent support from friends or family or didn't know where to access decent support.  The best way to be successful at anything is research, support and practice.  Breastfeeding is just the same.  

Again I was lucky.  Breastfeeding hurt like hell but then it got better as it usually does at around 6 weeks. But don't be fooled.  You are a mammal.  Mammals have mammary glands for feeding their babies.  If you want to know more facts go here and if you want decent advice about breastfeeding go to La Leche League(LLL), Association of Breastfeeding mothers(ABM) or NCT.

My reasons
If you are actually interested in why I full-term breastfed or why I home-educate here are just some of my reasons:

I breastfed my kids because:

  • I am lazy
  • It was easy
  • It gave them comfort
  • It was designed for them
  • It helped me lose weight
  • It stopped me getting my periods back so soon
  • It was free
  • It is why I have breasts
  • It means I am less likely to get breast cancer
  • It has numerous health benefits for my children
  • It would make my children more intelligent
  • I don't like feeding my kids from a plastic bottle
  • It was a great way to get them to sleep
  • It can be done anywhere

I home educate my children because:

  • I wanted their natural curiosity for the world to continue uninterrupted.  They learnt to walk, talk, feed themselves and go to the toilet by themselves so I believed they could teach themselves other stuff too.
  • I wanted them to learn at their own pace where I believe deeper and more profound learning occurs.
  • I think the National Curriculum is a waste of time.  The focus on English (which we all speak); Maths (most of which we don't need to learn) as opposed to mental arithmetic (which I think is quite useful) and Science as opposed to physiology, proactive thinking skills and sustainability (or any other skills) makes no sense to me. 
  • I think exams are pointless especially now when you can only really be judged exam-grade wise against the people who did their exams in the same year as you.  The marks, boundaries and subjects just keep changing too much to give a decent comparison so making them useless to employers and academic institutes alike.  
  • I wanted them to mix (socialise) with people of all ages for the most part of their day because I feel it gives a more realistic feel of the real world.
  • I didn't want them forced to learn things they are not interested in or are not ready to learn such as reading.  I felt that I was forced to read at school when I wasn't ready and it made me dyslexic.  
  • They only have one childhood and I would like them to have fun
  • If they want to go to school it will be their choice







Friday, 8 August 2014

Connecting via the weather

I had a strange but lovely time this morning.  Needing to go across town to collect a mended tent pole before going for a massage, I decided that I would also visit the tip to justify using the car.  Lovely hubbie loaded the car with wood and metal that is not needed any more and off I went.

Just after I turned up at the tip the heavens opened.  The guy next to me jumped into his van and I asked if I could join him so that I could keep an eye on the weather.  He said yes and offered me tissue to dry my hair as I was already dripping.  We talked for a bit about both of us being on a deadline - he had windows to fit (LOL) and I needed to retrieve my tent pole and get to my pre-booked sports massage.  The rain was not easing so we both went to it and continued our sorting and tipping.  I got smiles from at least 2 people who were safely sitting in their cars.  I felt connected to those strangers just for a fleeting moment  - a shared grin over the madness of the British weather with them maybe thinking "I'm glad I'm not out there" or "you're mad to be getting drenched" or whatever else...

The downpour was so heavy and so quick that it flooded streets and shops in Acomb -> see here

Anyway by the time I got back in my car my underwear was wet from the rain constantly running down my back.  I reckon I could have wrung my trousers out and filled a small glass quite easily.  I zoomed off though, retrieved my mended tent pole (got some funny looks in that store as I squelched my way to the checkout) and drove to my massage appointment.  Along the way through York though I saw so many people not so much enjoying the rain but embracing the fact that they could do nothing about the suddenness of it.  So many people like me had gone out with just a t-shirt on or with no waterproofs or had just got caught out whilst out and about, there was an air of joyful abandon that was refreshing and fun to see.  I noticed at least 3 separate cyclists who were grinning as they splashed through the puddles even though none of them had waterproofs on.  I saw a family just walking along all drenched and smiling.  I saw a lad jump across a massive puddle at the side of the road and smile as he made it safely to dry land and all those people made me smile.

I love connecting with people in those ways that are never planned and I love seeing the joy that the unexpected brings.