Monday, 6 June 2016

#30dayswild day 4 - lunchtime walk and walk home York-style

It isn't always easy finding time to get out and about especially if you are working. I am in the planned/lucky position of home educating my children but I do work very part-time at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York as a Receptionist every other Saturday and I sometimes cover when the weekday receptionist is on their hols.

I have endeavoured whilst working here to take my 30 minutes lunch break and get out in some fresh air. The College is on Micklegate so a walk around or along the City Walls is often my walk of chose. So today that is what I did and here are some of the things I noticed!!!

I am not a particularly observant person so it was great as part of #30dayswild to actually have a reason to slow down and take in the scenery and how much green there really is even in the centre of York.

It was really lovely to notice that even when there are loads of roads and houses that there is still loads of greenery like here ->

I have fallen in love with York City Walls though because there is always something new to see as part of  the nature that grows near it.

I was really pleased to get this picture of a blackbird pecking along a wall and I noticed that there was a lot of birdsong which I could hear even above the noise of the constant traffic.

It is really important that these green spaces and trees are here because York is one of the cities that has very recently been names as one of the cities that breaches the pollution levels of fine particles in the air (read about it here.)
I also sometimes walk home (rather than cycle) and here are some of the fab places I can walk near, through, round on my way home from the centre of York up the A59.

Saturday was the first time I noticed this lovely path that has been mown through the flower meadow area near The Fox pub.

 It was lovely to be able to get off the concrete path even for a few minutes to walk through the long grass and admire the flowers.

It was then on to Holgate Business Park where I always walk through the park so I can admire this plant. I discovered from the Which Hedge website today that it is a Photinia 'Red Robin'

I then found this lovely purple flower which I think is a periwinkle although I could be wrong.

Again it was great to take the time to actually stop and see some of the fantastic wildlife that runs through the City of York.

#30dayswild day 3 - Moorlands Nature Reserve

We always love going to Moorlands Nature Reserve which is a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust place just outside York near Skelton.

It is a lovely place, full of rhododendrons, with a pond, some lovely sitting areas with carved mushrooms, other lovely carvings, a bird hide and a circular path to walk round.

My Dad had gone to the woodlands 2 days previous to this and had come back all enthused about how lovely all the colours were looking. I didn't think I could fit in a trip but decided that if I was going to it would have to be soon so I didn't miss the colours.

So we went on day 3 of the #30dayswild prompted by being a part of the #30dayswild!!!  Thank you and appropriate to go to one of their places.

My Dad was right - the colours were amazing and the smells and the songbirds. Watching my kids climbing; playing; smelling all the flowers and choosing their favourites and loving all the different colours was fab.

I even managed to get a couple of photos of my adorable ds and a fab one of his bare feet climbing!!

This picture was awesome because I took it at the prefect moment whilst I was using the MSQRD app. We had a lot of fun taking selfies of us as various animals in the wilderness.

Fun was had by all.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

#30dayswild days 1 & 2 and my future plans for the month

On day 1 of the #30dayswild challenge run by the Wildlife Trusts I decided to take my new knowledge from my time at the Bushcraft Show 2016 and decided to try making some nettle cord.

I harvested my longest nettles from the bottom of my garden; stripped the leaves and left the stems to dry out in the sun. I will be coming back to this task some time later in the month.

I saved the newer leaves to dry out and use for tea and the older leaves I used as a mulch round the bottom of my fruit trees.

All in all a productive 1st day of the #30dayswild challenge. And even if the cord doesn't work I have some lovely leaves drying for tea and I love nettle tea!!

If you want more information about making nettles string read my blog post here (the string section starts at 16.00) or there are loads of videos on YouTube like this one by Ray Mears.

Today I was considering what I wanted to do as part of the #30dayswild that would also have benefits beyond the challenge. I decided I wanted to get to know my rather overgrown garden a bit better. I want to document the plants in my garden as well as getting to know more of the wildlife - birds, insects, etc.. I am not particularly green fingered - in fact I tend to kill plants quite easily - however as part of my Diploma in Permaculture Design I am trying to make my garden more productive. My design is based around the idea of a forest garden.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you more about Permaculture. Permaculture is an ethically based, integrated system of design for human habitation that is in harmony with the natural world which Bill Mollison and David Holmgren co-developed (worth googling their names to find out more.) There are many other definitions of permaculture and every person or article that talks about it will tell you something different (watch Kevin Hunn's fab videos of people giving their own definitions including me in this video!!!!).

Another simple explanation or permaculture is that the name is taken from permanent agriculture or permanent culture (or both):

permanent - something stable and enduring and that can continue indefinitely e.g.. regenerative systems like renewable energy, perennial vegetables or forest gardens

culture or agriculture obviously refer to food growing systems and people/cultural systems

What everyone agrees on regardless of their definition is that permaculture is underpinned a set of principles (read more here and here or look at the tabs at the top of my blog) and by the 3 very simple but important ethics:
Earth Care - permaculture works with natural systems rather than against them
People Care -  all people have the right to access the resource they need to exist
Fair Shares - a recognition that the earth's resources are finite and need to be distributed fairly so set limits and redistribute surplus

Bill Mollison believed that "the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production. Even if only on a small scale in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this there is enough for everyone." So one of my plans for the #30dayswild challenge is to observe what is happening in my garden; learn more about what is growing and flourishing in my garden and start planning how to make it more productive whilst also taking the opportunity to learn more about garden wildlife.

Luckily at this point in writing my blog post my Mum arrived. She is a keen gardener so I thought why not get her to help!!! I took her around the whole of my garden videoing and recording what plants she could name.

I also took the opportunity to refill my bird feeder, make a note to get more bird feed, construct somewhere to put my bird feeder using a branch that was lying around and eat some sweet cicely. Over the next few days I will be looking up what can be done with the various plants and planning what to do next in my evolving forest garden.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Bushcraft Show 2016 - part 2

After getting my fab gingerbread latte from the fab Camperccino van it was time to get to class!!

10.45 Maasia lessons
This was a really interesting talk given by Jason Ingamells of Woodland Ways who's Family Survival Course we did 4 years ago. Having indulged in the wonderful chapatis made my Maasai lady Anne yesterday, I wanted to know a bit more about the work that Woodland Ways does with the Maasai. Jason sensitively explained firstly how long it took the woodland ways team to be trusted by the Maasai people and then what he has learnt from all the trips he has taken out there over the years. One of the interesting points was about the ill conceived ideas implemented by NGOs who have no forward thinking about what happens when funding runs out or how easy it is to get ripped off if you aren't actually over in Africa overseeing the work. Jason showed up a derelict hospital and a water tower which is no longer used because it is full of salt. He also explained that one of the Maasai elders predicted that within 20 years the Maasai culture will be lost. In an endeavour to stop this sort of thing happening and to support the Maasai in other ways the Woodland Ways Bushcraft Foundation is recording elder stories.

After a bit of perusing of the stalls to see the work of the talented leather workers and carvers it was time for more learning.

13.00 Small game preparation
On the Woodlands Way course mentioned above dh, ds and myself prepared a pigeon for our evening meal whilst dd watched. It was very tasty but we have never needed to use that skill since. However a few years ago we were lucky enough to buy a portion of woodland through so dh in particular wanted to go and see how to prepare rabbits for eating. I managed to watch a bit of the talk before I had to return to the tent to get my poor ds painkillers due to him overheating in the blistering 20 degree heat. Dh said it was a fab demonstration though and he was reminded how to prepare a pigeon as well.

14.00 Basic Leatherwork
Another fantastic display given by Lois (Ben and Lois Orford mentioned in part 1) but this time showing how to make a sheath for a knife. I have always wanted to have a go at leatherwork so it was great to actually watch someone go through all the steps. I am a very visual learner so I got lots of pictures.

What was great about Ben and Lois was that their passion for their work really came through every time they gave a talk even if it was the 3rd or 4th time they were doing the same talk.

Dh attended their bushcraft tool demo earlier in the day and said that again it was fantastic.

I feel inspired to have a go at leatherwork at some time but what I did notice was the amount of equipment Lois had to make this sheath so it might be a while before I get around to it. However at least I now know what DOES go into making beautiful leather goods and that is always a good perspective to have when looking at leather goods and the prices.

14.40 Off Grid spoon whittler
Having visited Giles Newman's stall walking around the show and marvelled at the intricate work he does I had to go and listen to his story. His spoons are amazing!!!! And all made without power tools. In fact the only tools he uses to make these amazing spoons are:
1. a small forest axe - not even a carving axe
2. a Mora 120 knife
3. a Hans Karlson hook knife
That's it. Those are the tools he uses to make the spoons pictured above. He is self-taught and optimises the permaculture principles of:
work with nature not against it - he works gently around the knots found in wood
small and slow solutions - understand the wood and work slowly around knots, the end grain, etc
using biological resources - he works with any wood he finds and deals with the character of that wood as he goes
and probably many others. I am definitely going to have a go at spoon carving and so is dh. We bought the Mora 120 and a hook knife and are awaiting the axe's arrival any minute. Then we just need to go to the woods and start having a go.

15.30 Bushcraft - How to improve your health and well-being
I had to go to this talk because it was by the wonderful Dr Surita Robinson. 'Dr Survival' had the following things to say:
1. stress is now the number 1 cause of staff absence
2. teenagers get stressed - touching on the relatively new surge in self-poisoning amongst teenagers as a form of self-harm
3. stress still has a stigma attached to it thereby meaning people don't talk about it
4. she showed some groovy graphs showing how the cumulative strain on the body (allostatic load) is damaging
5. psychoneuroimmunology shows that there is conclusively that there is a link between stress and health
6. how do we go about stressing less

  1. exercise - 3x30 minutes per week
  2. get good sleep - 8 hours ish
  3. eat a healthy diet
  4. do relaxing things

7. our environment does not help us - offices with no windows and air conditioning & in the Western world we tend to live indoors and are physically inactive
8. having more green spaces around leads us to exercise more - more exercise means we increase the number of brain cells we have (neurogenesis) and anxiety is reduced
9. bushcraft provides exercise in green spaces
10. sleep disruption is a problem - light bulbs, 24/7 phones and tablets affect melatonin = bad
11. multi-tasking is not great and can be mentally draining / mono tasking is better but needs practice
12. bushcraft encourages mono-tasking e.g.. lighting a fire, building a shelter, knife work, natural navigation
13. eating healthy decreases anxiety
14. gut-brain axis -> healthy gut flora is helpful for mental as well as physical health e.g.. probiotics shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression
15. bushcraft can reconnect us with natural food - foraging
16. social support is good for mental and physical health
17. bushcraft allows for time with friends around the fire or working together
18. bushcraft builds confidence and self-esteem

Dr Robinson thinks that more peer-reviewed research needs to be done into the long term benefits of bushcraft for children and adults and looking at the comments in bold above you can see why.

That evening we watched a fantastic sunset and then enjoyed a great fire show. I also tried a bison burger which I loved. I will definitely be getting bison in the future from Bouverie Lodge.

10.00 Many faces of Bushcraft
Dave Watson gave a really informative talk about the benefits of bushcraft:

  1.  it can cut across language and cultural barriers e.g.. wild food, making fire, making natural cord is the same anywhere
  2.  it gives you a good set of values (as opposed to culture which can give a very skewed set of values) - "we can hide in society - we cannot hide in the woods"
  3.  it makes you face up to reality in that it  is your skill or lack of it which makes all the difference to your situation
  4. the competition is against yourself in the wilderness
  5. it can be used to teach science such as pot hangers using fulcrums and levers or water filtration
He also pointed out that treating everyone the same is not treating them equally. His analogy was that of logs looking similar on the outside but having totally different uses and being useful for totally different tasks. It is the same with children: they have different skills even though they look similar - they are not all the same.

12.15 Happiness through Wilderness Living
 A common theme through all the talks over the weekend was the fact that the mental health of adults and children alike in this country is not great (and is getting worse if my previous blog post on mental health is anything to go by). Andrew Price recognised that there is a poverty of self-esteem and happiness, especially in young people. He then told the story of some of the people he has helped through his buschcraft company Dryad Bushcraft on the Gower Pennisula. Just the plain fact that people are learning through movement, using their hands and only need 2-3 hours to make rope, identity some trees: just that achievement makes people feel better and improves their self-esteem.

Bushcraft also has a greater chance of reducing anxiety because doing bushcraft can use all the senses - a lot easier to do outdoors. I learnt this at a talk I went to a while ago about mental health. When you are anxious or stressed it helps to engage your senses to calm down (How to Use All 5 Senses to Beat Stress.) This is a lot easier to do in the great outdoors where their are sights, smells, wind blowing through your hair, the sun warming your face, trees to hug, twigs to whittle, fire to feel the warmth of and the many noises of nature. All the senses can be used to help calm the parasympathetic nervous system.

It is only having written these 2 posts that I have realised how much I have learnt from my few days at the Bushcraft Show. I am inspired to look further into leatherwork, spoon making, cord making, different techniques for fire lighting and constructing cooking facilities in the woods. It has reassured me that the education that I am allowing my children to have means they encounter less stress and anxiety whilst improving their self-confidence and general survival skills. All in all the Bushcraft Show was a thorough success!!!!

As a bonus for me alone during the weekend I managed to walk over 250 steps for every hour from 10am up to and including 11pm.

It was a relatively new feature added to the fitbit app and the best I had managed up until May 29th was 13 of 14 hours.

I was so thrilled to get 14 of 14 hours!!!!

Bushcraft Show 2016 - part 1

Just returned from my first ever time to the Bushcraft Show and dh, ds, dd and myself all had a great. Having bought the tickets back in September and having had no correspondence since that time I was a bit nervous about the organisation behind the event. There was an email attached to the ticket and a web address directing you back to the booking page but navigating to find the sat nav address; timetable, etc was convoluted. Even a few days before the event the daily timetable wasn’t available. I wondered if this was some sort of test to see if you could find our way to the event ‘bushcraft style.’

Anyway we got to Beehive Farm Woodland Lakes with no problems whatsoever having found the sat nav postcode rather than the address postcode. We set up camp and I (in my usual organised way) set about trying to make sure that everyone got to do what they wanted out of the packed program. 

Luckily there wasn’t much happening on the Friday so we got to orientate ourselves by navigating around the grounds and viewing all the tantalising food stalls (crepes, hog roast, scampi van, ice cream, jacket potatoes) and various stall holders.

The photo is of the main stage which was made of 3 interlinked tipis.

10am - Surviving the Apocalypse @ the stage
I fell in love with Dr Sarita Robinson pretty much straight away just because of the title of her talk.  She is from University of Central Lancashire and is a psychobiologist. This talk was about the psychology of survival and the crossover between psychology and bushcraft.
She covered a lot of really interesting information in a very short space of time:
1. about how stress affects the body’s production of cortisol
2. how quickly the brain falls over when dehydrated
3. How gender affects our ability to survive
4. How dispositional optimism can affect our ability to survive
5. We need to get over our disgust at the idea of eating things
6. Some interesting barriers to survival eg. trying to save your pets

2016-05-28 10.38.57She recommended some great books which I am going to look into getting.
Lewis Dartwell - The Knowledge: How to rebuild our world after the apocalypse
Juliane Koepcke - When I fell from the sky
Martim Seligman - Learned Optimism

She also got us to try freeze-dried meal worms and they were all right. Insects are a fantastic food source and we need to get over our disgust at considering eating them.

dd and I went to watch a demo of Maasai cooking which was great. We watched as Ann made chapatis. There is no weighing or measuring and all the cooking was done using the senses:

  • Taste - to check the salt content of the water mixture
  • Touch - checking the texture of the mixture when kneading or the weight of the wrapped dough in her hands when making the chapati swirls (photo?)
  • Sight - the mixing bowl being clear of dough around the edges or thickness of the dough when rolled out
The way she kept an eye on the stove when the chapatis were cooking - continually turning them over and oiling them so they were all cooked evenly - was almost hypnotic to watch. The chapati was great to taste as well which is always a bonus!!!

How to grow a spoon at Ben and Lori Orford’s fantastic stall. 

These folks were amazing all the way through the whole weekend and we all learnt a lot of stuff from both of them. If you ever get a chance to see either of them in action take it. 

I have been totally inspired to try and make myself a spoon ASAP because of watching this demo. 

We even got loads of information about what trees to use for which type of thing such as goat willow for feather sticks; silver birch or wild cherry for spoons, or how to hold the knife when doing close work.

15.00 Ray Mears
What can I say about Ray Mears? I have never watched him on TV mostly because I haven’t had a TV licence for over 12 years. I have read one of his books but other than that I had no idea what to expect. 

The man was awesome and a total gentleman. The main things I will remember from his talk were nothing really to do with bushcraft or his survival/wilderness bushcraft. 

It was rather his dislike of being seen as a celebrity where he said he teaches to impart his syllabus NOT to be loved. Or when he mentioned that as a nation we are losing our decorum. This was in response to someone asking him if he liked Bear Grylls!! In response to whether he had ever had a spiritual experience on an expedition he simply said yes and said that we could all find our own if we wanted.

Next I went by myself to a session on making your own string where I learnt about how to make cord out of nettle. This was great because I have a wild section at the bottom of my garden next to my chickens and it is mostly filled with nettles. I already harvest them for nettle tea so now I know what to do with the stem.
  1. Cut 5 foot lengths of nettle
  2. Take the leaves off the length
  3. Use a cutlery knife to separate the square stem
  4. Flatten out the stem, bend and peel out the middle
  5. Let it dry
  6. Now take the 4 main fibres and turn 2 round so that the taper isn’t all one way
  7. Fold in half and hold a loop at the top
  8. Twist two strands to the right and then go over the right

16.30 The last thing of the day before the evening entertainment of fire poi and music was Ffyona Campbell talking about the Hunter Gatherer Way based on her book of the same name. 

The talk was a summary of the book which is about living seasonally, for example, living by the sea in the summer and consuming seaweed, wild carrot, etc. to escape the humidity of the woods. Her book is a very challenging and interesting read about how we are separated from nature which  means we are suffering as a species and what we can do to change that.

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!!!