"Although I speak from my own experience, I feel that no one has the right to impose his or her beliefs on another person. I will not propose to you that my way is best. The decision is up to you. If you find some point which may be suitable for you, then you can carry out experiments for yourself. If you find that it is off no use, then you can discard it." Dalai Lama...

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Slowing down...

Emily's having a hard time at present she has been very frustrated and angry and it has been hard to put it down to anything other than tiredness.
I insisted on her getting an early night tonight and after a major strop she went to bed( she had been very engrossed in a set up in her room ) after a story I lay with her and we chatted about her behaviour and how tired she was ,she could see how the two were linked but was still saying she was not tired !!! .I lay with her till she fell asleep.
I feel torn because I want to get to the place where she can decide for herself about bedtimes but for all our sakes she really needed to get an early night!!!!
I remember saying it would be an organic process and think that Xmas has just put a bit of a spanner in the works and when she gets over her exhaustion we will take a step back and take a slower approach.

Other than that I have had this horrible bug that's doing the rounds and missed going to the Pantomime yesterday.They both enjoyed it and when they got home we went straight into watching Titanic, Emily and I had read a story about the Titanic a few weeks ago and she enjoyed the Movie immensely. We had also managed to see a documentary on TV recently about the new theory of how it actually sank and we saw great underwater footage of the wreck and she was very proud of herself when she informed Al that the propellers would never rot away as they are bronze.

Today has been split between housework and playing games, we got a board game called Anatomix , it has 4 jigsaws of various aspects of anatomy Muscles organs etc and you have to win bits of the jigsaw by spinning a wheel, there are varying levels of difficulty and Emily didn't answer the questions to get a piece but Al and I did and she helped guess our answers and we all enjoyed it as well as learning a bit more about the body.Then Al and Emily went on a good long walk with Beauty.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Xmas Pics

Although Xmas did not go according to plan Emily still had a good time and seems not to have noticed too much of the turmoil I was in.
Boxing day was spent with My family and we had a lovely day eating and chatting and playing games.
I did take my camera with me but completely forgot to take any snaps on boxing day but here are a few of Emily on Xmas morning...

First a delve into Santa's Bag. Notice the paper on the coals to ensure Santa didn't get his suit dirty and flour to catch his footprint in, he took the carrot for Rudolph and the mince pie but only took a bite from the choc biscuit , Emily wondered what Santa had done with the glass the milk was in and when she found it in the sink later she was very impressed he had tidied up after himself.......

How did he know I was into Romans?....

Good move Santa, it seems a girl can never have enough Bratz.......

Now then Bratz are good but this is what makes my heart sing, soft and cuddly is always a winner.....

Emily the reindeer

Emily the Emerald fairy book

Dr who figures

Table before lunch

Table after lunch and present opening......

Friday, 28 December 2007

How far to go...

I have been thinking a lot about what happened on Xmas day and the questions that arose.

I do know that PMT and tiredness had sapped my energy and that when low on energy it is almost impossible to deal with things as rationally as you would do normally.

I also think that it is very early days since allowing Emily freedom at bedtime and she does need more time to find her rhythm again.
I was thinking back to pre school days and she always had a bedtime routine but not an actual bedtime, depending on how busy the day had been and how tired she was we would begin the routine and she would then settle down,as it happened it was around about the same time each evening, sometimes very early in the evening she would announce she was tired (one time at 5.30 when we had lots of friends and children round for a BBQ) and would head of to bed, she knew her limits then,it was only school that interfered with that happening.
We discovered Emily had always had sleep apnoea(she was born two months prematurely and had it when she was born but we didn't know it was something that carried on and just knew she had a very loud snore and woke up a lot each night!!!) and that the extra stress at school and getting so overtired meant that she could never recoup and her energy levels played a massive part in her experience at school and consequent behaviour at home, everything was magnified 100%. We would have to get her to bed by 6.30pm so that she would then sleep(with many interuptions) till 7.30am and have at least some chance of lasting the day at school.This meant no real quality of life after school for her .
She has since had her tonsils out and this has improved her quality of sleep. I suppose I have had a lot of evidence of how lack of sleep can affect her and am perhaps over sensitive and I felt guilty that as a mum I was being irresponsible in allowing her to get so tired and irritable. The reality is that now it really isn't a problem as she can find out her limitations and there is no real rush to go anywhere or do anything so during this time of adjustment we can take things slowly. Obviously Xmas got in the way and excitement played its part in exacerbating the bad behaviour, because before that she was coping well and I am sure that as the novelty wears off about not going to bed at 8.00 she will settle into a pattern that works for her.Usually by 9.00 she is going upstairs it was just in the lead up to Xmas that it was after 10.00 So I will give it longer to settle into a pattern for her, because some of Emily's best work/play has been done later on in the evening and being on the unschooling path we have taken it does not make sense to stop that flow of creativity.We will continue to talk about cause and effect and help her to see the relation between late nights and how she is feeling.

Over all I was feeling panicked and irresponsible about the fact that I was allowing her to take so many choices in her life with the freedom to do what she wants and in a subconscious way that came out in my trying to control the opening of the presents.
She has always had difficulty in controlling her impulses (part of the symptoms of dyspraxia) this occasion was no different It wasn't anything to do with unschooling it was just Emily being Emily and I should of dealt with it a different way.

Why is taking unscooling along the radical path the right thing if it is causing me so much of a problem?

I believe that for Emily free choice in what she does and when she does it will prove to be the best way for her to grow. She has already grown in confidence and with the pressure to perform off I believe she will only get stronger.Academic achievement was never going to be Emily's thing but this way she can come naturally to what her thing is !!!!

So I will have more of these wobbles,this is after all not an easy process to go through and takes a big leap of faith and trust in your child and a thick skin to keep the doubters from getting to you(I had thought I was getting a thicker skin but it seems not). I will have to spend the time analysing where my doubt comes from and will ,as I have over the last few days,log onto the very informative blogs and websites to calm my self down and carry on with renewed belief in this lifestyle.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Is it time to change traditions

When a child's behavior disappoints us, we should, more than anything else we do, "assume the best". We should assume that the child means well and is only behaving as well as possible considering all the circumstances (both obvious and hidden from us), together with his level of experience in life. If we always assume the best about our child, the child will be free to do his best. If we give only love, love is all we will receive.

I have just found this quote on the joyfully rejoycing website as I was looking for guidance on how to deal with issues that came up over the Xmas Period....

Our planned Xmas day did not end up being the wonderful relaxing day we anticipated and after alot of reflection it's obvious I handled things very badly.

It started very early at 5.00am !!! Emily sleeps on a mattress at the side of our bed and reached up to hold my hand and prod me awake. It was futile to try to encourage her back to sleep, she was up and ready to go and even in my fuddled state her excitement was contagious.
Things went well initially and we opened Santa's presents and stocking and then some from family and friends, after a while we had a rest from opening presents whilst Al took Beauty out and I made Bacon Butties. We had said we would leave some to open after lunch.

On previous Xmas days we would then have got ready and taken more presents to be opened wherever we were going for lunch but without the distraction of going out Emily didn't play with the things she had got for long and just couldn't resist asking to open presents and I said yes to a couple of requests,then I began to feel annoyed and this is where I fell into the trap of not backing down and allowing her to open more presents.
Why? well I suppose old habits die hard it has traditionally been the way on Xmas day that the children wait and don't open all the presents at once and I was so tired and Pre menstrual and I will plead momentary insanity!!!

Any how she became sulky and more and more persistent and I became more and more determined that she would not be greedy and wait to open those presents. Alan was caught in a catch 22 as he didn't want to undermine me but didn't see where I was coming from. Even more insane on my part is that I realise Emily has real difficulty with controlling her impulses and showing restraint is hard for her to do at the best of times.
Alan took her to read a book and she managed to have a nap and we woke her for lunch. Emily carried the remaining presents through to the dining room .We did open the presents after lunch, right after lunch, as in at the table !!!

The afternoon went by in relative peace but was not very pleasant and I felt so bad. I did try to talk to Milly but it was too soon and she wasn't ready to listen

Why did I do it? Why did I decide today was the day to go against everything we were trying to do? What was stopping me backing down and just opening all the presents? What was I hoping to achieve? What was wrong in opening all the presents? Is it likely that she will grow up to be a greedy and selfish person just because she got to open her presents when she wanted to?
There was a voice in my head saying your spoiling that girl, look she gets to do everything she wants and she's still not happy, how ungrateful is she? She needs to be taught some control. I was only thinking the worst of her.Where does that voice come from, well I can only assume it is that part of me that felt out of control,I was allowing perceived outside views to infiltrate!!

I had allowed her to have later nights and her control and behaviour (as with us all) does deteriorate with tiredness and in hindsight I think I was feeling I had made bad choices and that this road I was taking us on maybe wasn't the right one.I was having a major wobble and it just so happened it coincided with Xmas day..bad timing......

Seeing it written down makes me feel even worse,.
I know I could of handled it so differently ,all I really needed to do was to talk it through and to take her needs into consideration, we could of come to a compromise, I did not have to feel I had backed down rather I had changed my mind and done something to make my daughter happy.It just isn't so easy to put into practice in reality even though you are full of the right intentions.It seems so petty on my part but I realise this incident was about much more than the Xmas presents it was about my lack of confidence in my ability to follow through this very different way of life

The reality is that we have always been parenting Emily in a very different way to the traditional, we didn't do alot of it through anything other than instinct and knowing that for us it wasn't an option to leave her to cry at night and not feed her when hungry and not carry her in the sling when she needed comforting during the day, I had never heard of attachment parenting but I suppose that in effect that is what we did by default.

So why am I having such difficulty with this unschooling concept now?
Why so soon after I had been feeling so positive about things?
Is it that in my mind it gives people a way to blame unschooloing for any challenging behaviour?
Am I blaming unschooling for challenging behaviour that crops up?
Am I not as confident as I thought I was that this is a good way to go.
Am I strong enough to make the decisions to live differently and accept that others will have opinions on what we are doing and they may not be favourable?
Should I allow more time for her to settle in to knowing her limits.
Was my tiredness and PMT playing a big part?
These are some of the things I have been asking myself.Some I have answers to, others are still playing on my mind.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Visitors, openness and vulnerability....

I have had some blog visitors and that has given me mixed feelings!!!
I had an initial frisson of excitement ( not felt that for a while HA HA )which was followed by a feeling of vulnerability.I am putting my thoughts out there for anyone who is interested and I suppose I felt a bit naked, so to speak....

I do intend this to be an open account of what we are going through and I love the process of writing, it really seems to be helping to consolidate my thoughts in a way thinking alone hasn't done.I suppose it's natural to feel a little vulnerable and I imagine that will pass with time.

We are gearing up to the big day now, Milly's excitement levels appear contained but in reality she is bubbling and her behaviour is getting into the giddy realms, wouldn't it be great to feel that way again?

We went out for lunch today to a local pub and had our first Christmas lunch and then we came home and Emily and Alan took Beauty out for an hour and half whilst I wrapped like a demon and managed to get most of the presents out of the way.
They then sat and watched the Great Escape on TV,whilst I finished off. Milly got in the bath with me afterwards and said she would of liked to of helped me wrapping and I asked why she hadn't come through and she said "cos it would of hurt daddy's heart"
She had been keen to watch the film with him , it was a long film and she had got bored but hadn't wanted to hurt his feelings.She is so sensitive to hurting others and she obviously felt that he would of felt abandoned if she had left him!!!!
She has always had this caring side to her nature whilst still having a real grasp of what her needs are and being able to get them met.
School really interfered with that ability and set her back a lot.I think one of the major downsides of school for a child like Emily is that they are so sensitive to meeting the needs of others and trying to do the best for everyone that they have nothing left for themselves and they get out of balance emotionally.I am not always able to put what I mean into coherent sentences but I hope you get what I mean!!

The drawing frenzy has passed over now and the period of consolidation that seems to happen is here again. She has been watching more TV, this could also be excitement playing it's part in her inability to think of anything else to do.
She has also decided to set up a blog, (I have a link on the right if any other children would be interested) It is early days but she has enjoyed the process and thank god I had gone through some of the glitches setting this one up as we still managed to come a cropper on various things and the little (minuscule) experience I had helped to get through them easier. I don't know if she will carry it on, time will tell....
One thing that setting up this blog has done is to teach me first hand how much a person can learn about a subject when they have an interest/passion and how much easier that is achieved if it is of their own volition.I still have a lot to learn but I know that if I really want to do it I will find a way.I really don't need someone to teach me,most of the time I have learnt through trial and error keeping at it and having the time to do that ,it would be helpful to have someone just to be there when I ask for help to point me in the right direction.
As adults I think we take for granted that is how we learn and that is because usually if there is something we are interested in we are in the driving seat, so if you allow a child in the driving seat of their vehicle what happens????

I may not post again before Christmas day so to those of you that drop by,

Friday, 21 December 2007

Unschooling philosophy

Unschooling Philosophy
Sandra Dodd: “Although unschooling is often described as a homeschooling style, it is, in fact, much more than just another homeschool teaching method. Unschooling is both a philosophy of natural learning and the lifestyle that results from living according to the principles of that philosophy. The most basic principle of unschooling is that children are born with an intrinsic urge to explore — for a moment or a lifetime — what intrigues them, as they seek to join the adult world in a personally satisfying way.

Because of that urge, an unschooling child is free to choose the what, when, where and how of his/her own learning from mud puddles to video games and SpongeBob Squarepants to Shakespeare! And an unschooling parent sees his/her role, not as a teacher, but as a facilitator and companion in a child’s exploration of the world.

Unschooling is a mindful lifestyle which encompasses, at its core, an atmosphere of trust, freedom, joy and deep respect for who the child is. This cannot be lived on a part-time basis. Unschooling sometimes seems so intuitive that people feel they’ve been doing it all along, not realizing it has a name. Unschooling sometimes seems so counterintuitive that people struggle to understand it, and it can take years to fully accept its worth.“

The purpose of (discussion among unschoolers) is to move out of our own comfort zones as we critically examine our beliefs, ideas, and viewpoints about learning, and seek a deeper understanding of unschooling and more respectful relationships with our children

I found this on a website and thought it summed up the unschooling philosophy as easily as anything I have read, . This is the direction we as a family are heading in, some of it is quite a radical departure from the norms associated with bringing up children.It is not set in stone that we have to follow this religiously, we see it as a framework of ideas and we will work out what suits us and what doesn't.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

A test,a realisation,and peace within...

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I found this on a blog I read and took this test. I don't normally put much store by these things and do them for a bit of fun. This got me thinking about how I feel about myself as I read through the breakdown of each characterisric and the qualities it came up with were pretty spot on.
It came as no surprise that I am introverted, I have lived my life wishing I was more extroverted but over the last few years I have come to accept who I am and value my qualities, wish it hadn't taken me 48 years to accept myself but then the journey I have been on in this life has made me who I am and now is the right time for everything to come together and feel right.... So it feels good after all these years to be able to say I am happy with who I am.

Taking a moment to breathe.....

We have a very grumpy and tearful little girl after a very late night(I think excitement levels are getting to her and she was in bed at a reasonable time but could not settle) and a mummy with yet another bad head and too many hot sweats and mood fluctuations for anybody to bear with grace.Sounds like a recipe for disaster!!What kind of day are we going to have????

I am taking a moment to remind myself that as a further step along the unschooling path We have given her some freedom when it comes to bed times, she went to bed at a reasonable time it wasn't her fault she couldn't then get to sleep.Even though she is very narky I will try to stay calm and not take the bait and help her see the consequences of her late nights on the previous few day's without any digs or trying to score points,I will treat her with respect, the way I would like to be treated and I will be caring and not judgemental regardless of the fact I have no energy and all I want to do is curl up in ball and sleep.
The menopause has alot to answer for but it is not Emily's problem, I need to arrange the day so we can have as good a one as possible.

So step one is not to go over to the food co op in the village hall and help out. Locally produced fruit and veg is delivered and we unload it and bag it up and people come and collect it at a fraction of the supermarket cost. Luckily Emily is of the same mind as she is so tired, because she normally loves going over and playing with another couple of home eders,this week the schools have broken up and there will be lots of children with their mums and it could get abit loud which under normal circumstances would be fine but not with the throbbing going on in my head and Emily in a narky mood.....

Step two has luckily already been organised earlier as Alan is coming home this afternoon to take Emily out so I can have a rest.I have been overdoing thing's lately and need to ensure I don't end up poorly over Xmas, so that's good timing .

Step three is an easy tea with minimal cooking and that will be a sweetcorn chowder from Nigella Lawson's new book very quick and easy and I have all the ingredients in ready.Emily wouldn't touch it with a bargepole but I have some macaroni cheese in the freezer left over from last week.

So how did it all go... I think giving myself the time this morning to write/think/breathe helped me, just giving myself the chance to think through things I felt less agitated and more in control, so it went very well in the end. I had to deal with a couple of flash points early on but kept calm and spoke kindly( even though I felt short tempered with the head and all )and tried to remember that when I feel crap the last thing I need is someone making me feel worse by being condescending.

Alan came home just after lunch and they headed off to the pencil museum at keswick. They had a great time and there was a quiz where you had to find the names of various Christmas characters around the displays and enter their names on a sheet, not so long ago she would not of wanted to take part or asked us to fill it in but she did this all herself.
She won a small prize and also received a tin with 5 crayons in and a pencil sharpener as a celebration gift to commemorate 175 years. It is a small museum within a factory and does not take too long to go round but the staff are really friendly and there is a good gift shop and cafe and Emily enjoys the drawing room where you can use a selection of the various pencils made there to colour in printouts and learn different techniques from a video, Emily doesn't take too much interest in the video as yet!!

By the time they got back I had had a bath and washed my hair and enjoyed a bit of time to myself.
I adore Emily and love having her with me and we usually have a great time but there are times when you just need a bit of space for your own sanity. Especially as at the moment after seeing the Golden Compass Emily has a daemon with her at all times and I am getting a constant commentary on what it is saying and doing.
Emily doesn't go all quiet when she is tired ,it is as if she is turbo charged, she moves around constantly and her imagination is in overdrive and she likes to tell you all she is thinking...God love her.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Just another day in paradise....

I thought I would begin by showing some pictures Emily took of our family pets.
the first is of Socks the cat rescued 2 years ago.She has had her world shaken a bit by the arrival of Beauty but has stamped her authority and is now top dog.She just has to move rapidly at times as Beauty tries to pin her down!!!

This is of Beauty who is 1 year old and was rescued 8 (long) months ago.Her story is for another time and although she has caused us a lot of problems we love her and believe that in the long run we will have a wonderful companion.......

This final one is of Lizzy the rabbit, rescued 3 years ago. She poses few problems but Rabbits do need company and I am not sure she is getting enough. Emily has promised today that she is going to spend at least 10 minutes a day with her. I believe she means it but we will see over the next few days,after all it is so much easier to spend time with your rabbit when the sun is shining....
Now the obvious part of this exercise was to gain more experience in putting on photo's and I have learnt a few more thing's tonight so will try more tomorrow.

Today has been another day at home.
I woke at 4 o'clock this morning with a thumper of a headache but couldn't be bothered to get up for some pills needless to say it got worse and by the time I got up a 8ish it was really bad. I do try to treat most things homeopathically but my headaches don't seem to respond, My homeopath has given me some Sepia to take each day as these are definitely linked to hormonal changes going on.So I am hoping they settle down again soon.
I took some Ibuprofen and by the time Emily got up at 9ish I was feeling more human.

After breakfast Emily went upstairs to play.
I got on with lots of jobs and then the plan was to make some salt dough and make Xmas ornaments and then make a chilli for Friday night when Emily's friend comes to tea.
As it turned out the whole day got away from us she got really into the game she was playing and made a great setup with play mobile and my little pony's with a wonderful story to go with it.
I would normally of gone up and played with her but as my head was so bad I took the opportunity to sit quietly and do some planning for boxing day puddings and thanks to Nigella Lawsons express cook book I have two possible candidates, a spicy sponge pudding with eggnog sauce and a chocolate mousse which have the most important requirement for anything I cook, few ingredients and easy prep.There will be an xmas pudd bought as well.

Over the last few years my Parents and my two sisters and their husbands and my nephew have all got together on Xmas day and taken turns in hosting , with us all preparing and taking parts of the meal. It has worked quite well and we have had a lovely time but whoever is hosting still has a massive job to do. I did it one year and I swore I would never do it again I felt so much pressure to live up to every ones expectations and was terrified of spoiling Christmas for everyone.
I realise now I put too much emphasis on doing things how everyone else did them with choices of starters and pudd's when in reality I would of had nibbles and one pudd to keep things a simple as possible. I have learnt a bit about myself since then and think that if I ever invited everyone round again I would feel much more able to do what I feel comfortable with instead of putting so much pressure on myself.
This year we are all staying at home and getting together on Boxing day at my mum's.

Our Xmas day is going to be extra relaxed as we intend to stay in PJ's all day and Emily and I have purchased new ones especially!!!Emily will get a chance to play with her toy's instead of rushing off mid morning and we may even get a snooze if there has been a particularly early start.I am really looking forward to it.

After lunch we spent some time in the garden , we cleaned lizzy out and then came in to set about the salt dough , I can't remember how we got sidetracked but we ended up on you tube looking at music videos(oh Ive just remembered we were reading The Green House by the sea blog and then linked to leo's blog and he mentioned two songs he had performed in a music class so we looked them up as I said I liked them) and Wheatus teenage dirtbag was a hit with her and she saved it to her favourites,Emily is a bit of a rock chick she has been asking to take guitar lessons recently and seems really keen, she got a guitar for her birthday last feb. so I will see if the enthusiasum continues and see about getting lessons for her.

She then spotted the video camera and decided to film for a while, I was the star of the show in all my glory with no make up and a thumping head!!!!
We had good fun and she mentioned about editing bit's out so we may progress from just filming to editing what we do, but it will be when she is ready and at her suggestion(that's going to be another learning curve for me!!!)

After filming finished for the day she went upstairs to listen to her story tape and she invented some presents for us by wrapping wool around tubes of paper, she enjoyed doing it and as it was something that required manual dexterity the fact that she stuck to it far outweighs the end article ,lovely though they were.

Then before we knew it Alan was home and it was time for hot chocolate with whipped cream and xmas cake before tea prep and then after tea Dr who and a bit of tv......

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Some xmas photo's (in no particular order!!!!)

Now we are cooking ,I have managed to get a photo on..... I know it's sad but you have no idea how happy these little steps make me!!!!!

This one is of Emily in front of the bare tree in the living room holding a glass bead xmas tree that is one of her favourite xmas ornaments ( hopefully I can find the picture of the decorated one now and add it on) Just hope it all dosen't go pear shaped !!

I have got the picture with the decorated tree up above, what is going on ?

Now I don't know what to do about the order they come out in but I am going to try another one and we will see what happens! Here goes....

Ahh I think I see a pattern here . Dosen't help at the moment I have no idea how to edit this so they are in the right order so I will carry on just now and see how it all ends up....

Well that is a bit of a mish mash but I think I will know what to do next time . I am exhuasted tonight but I just wanted to try getting some photo's on that we took to go with yesterdays post. Learnt a few lessons and will put them into practice another time . You will probably be fed up of seeing photo' s by the time I get it right.....
Oh and I've just seen there is a long way down before the last entry why was that then??????
Ok that looks a bit better. (thanks to Alan for the tip about deleting spaces!!!)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Snowflakes, tree's and frosty relations!!!

We were housebound today,It was really frosty, Alan usually travels to work on a scooter but didn't fancy skating to work so took the car. We live in a village with a very minimal bus service.
Emily and I have had a lot on lately and had we had the car I would of been doing the weekly shop today so in many ways it was ideal not to feel we had to go and do anything and take the opportunity to chill out (no pun intended)

I am usually very good at pacing myself after all these years but this time of year things kind of take over as I am not the most organised when it comes to Christmas. Strangely I am a very organised kind of person but big events like this and birthdays or family get togethers I always leave till the last moment and then it's all a panic......

We had been out yesterday morning and bought our tree for the living room and decorated it .Today we got out the false tree I was given last year and put it up in the sun room. We always used to have a false tree but over the last 6 or 7 years have had real ones and I do prefer them, they give a different feel .Never the less we spend a lot of time in this part of the house ( this sounds grand , we don't live in a manor with loads of rooms but have extended over the years so we have an open plan kitchen, dining room and sun room) and it seemed a shame not to have a tree in here.

Emily was very keen to put it all together and Beauty also decided to join in although she wasn't as much of a help as she was trying to eat the baubles and make off with the branches whilst our back was turned!!!

The day has been really bright and it got quite hot in there as the sun streamed through the windows but it was nice to do it and although the tree is very old and a bit sparse it gives a bit of Christmas cheer.

We also spent a long time making and putting up snowflakes around the light above the dining table and in the window around our flashing Rudolph ,he isn't flashing yet as Alan has to plug him in behind a cupboard . It is not the easiest of jobs but he will hopefully do it when he gets out of his bath. He needed warming up as there has been no heating on at his office and he was frozen so he took Beauty for a walk and is now relaxing and getting warm whilst I take the opportunity to do this whilst Milly has eaten her tea listening to a story tape we got from the library and is now drawing.

We had the usual wrangle about Emily tidying her room this afternoon.

I have tried many approaches from leaving it messy to see if she would get fed up , she didn't really bother too much but after about three weeks and not been able to find the toys she needed to play we spent two whole days sorting out all the storage box's and cleaning from top to bottom. It stays clean for a short while then looks like a bomb has hit.

We have had family meetings and set contract style agreements which have been worked out with all party's happy and rewards in place, she works well for the financial reward or works toward a treat but in the end Alan and I didn't feel right about it ,it seemed too much like bribery and wasn't getting what we required which was to do it willingly and because she saw the benefit for all of us to work together as a team.

I have been reading a lot about taking children seriously and also the joyfully rejoycing website and thought I had come up with a plan. Over the last few weeks I have resisted nagging, when I have asked Emily to do something, clear a plate ,set the table etc, if she has not done it I have just gone and done it and have tried to clear away without the usual feeling of resentment and do it with love, along side this I have offered to help and to do things for her ,sounds a bit soft but that change in thinking on my part and no nagging have meant miraculously she has started to help when asked with no fuss.
I can't quite get there with the bedroom which is sometimes a mammoth task and fell into the trap of getting her to do it by herself , oh well lesson learnt it went on for a lot longer than it needed to with Emily trying every trick to get out of it and me not backing down and had I just swallowed the feeling of needing to win this battle due to my own tiredness we could probably of got it done in half the time and could of had some fun whilst doing it....

It sounds so easy when you read these things, it all seems to make sense and really clicks but add into the mix tiredness and a list of other things requiring your attention and it can all fall apart.

Must try harder cos I know it can work and it feels right to do it in this way. I think some people might see this as permissive parenting,it isn't about not having boundaries and giving in to avoid conflict at any cost, I see it much more as a case of treating Emily in a way I would wish to be treated and in doing so I think it brings out the best in both . I know for a fact that if there was a massive job I had to do and someone helped me with love in their heart I would find it very easy to help them in the future.That might seem a bit simplistic I hope you get the point. It seems to me to be about respect. Lets just say that it is a very different way to my upbringing ,it is something I feel strongly about but It is not easy.

Whilst I have been doing this (with breaks for tea and cleaning up etc) Milly has continued to draw lots and lots of different pictures and we have been chatting , she is listening to a story cd the second one this afternooon ,she has also just been doing a word search in her Felicity Wishes magazine ,she has kept asking me for help but the amazing thing for me is that she started doing it through choice .
Emily has difficulty reading and writing and when she left school she ran a mile from anything to do with either, her confidence has returned and as there is no pressure to do either and help is always on hand with no questions asked she now will do something that is difficult for her but she is stretching herself with no outside coercion.
It might seem a small step, but for us it is a huge leap and an indication for me that we are doing the right thing. Emily is to be assesed for Dyslexia, that process was started whilst at school,and it is unlikely that we will take up any specialst help , I wonder if she actually just needs to learn at her own pace and will be interested to see her progress over the coming months. We have already noticed significant changes in her spelling( she left school with a spelling age of zero) and although the words are incorrectly spelt they are much easier to work out . Again for us the encouraging thing is her willingness to give things a go and not be afraid to get things wrong.
It is 9.00 and she is tired but is working her way through her magazine , not so long ago she had a set bedtime, now things have become more flexible and she has a choice, it is in these areas that we find our lives changing . There are nights when we will encourage her into bed earlier if she has been tired and cranky , rather than an actual decision to allow her free choice I think it will happen gradually, it seems to be an organic process.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The Golden Compass and deep thinking...

I went to the cinema today with Emily and her friend ,I loved the film it was thrilling and the special effects were good , I enjoyed getting to know the characters and came away wanting to read the books. Seems I have fallen victim to a ploy by the author to hook children in to his books to then convert them to atheists!!!!

I remember vaguely hearing some part of a debate about the works ages ago but didn't remember about it whilst veiwing the film ,I saw it as a really good tale about good overcoming an evil authoritarian power and wanted to see more.

When we dropped Emily's friend off her mum mentioned about the debates going on about it being anti religion,I said I hadn't seen anything in the film to make me think that but I have to say I am sometimes a bit of a lightweight and just want to go to the cinema to be entertained not made to think too hard !!!!

Anyway when I got home It got me thinking now what had I said I didn't want to do !!!!!

I looked up (must have pressed something I shouldn't the bloody prints changed and I can't change it back oh well on we go) a few websites and read alot about supposed plots to brainwahsh our kids but found this and it seemed to answer any questions I had about whether I had seen the same film they were talking about ( haven't read the books yet but may do now) she puts into words my thoughts much better than I ever could .....

Opinion editor Josh Burek talks with Jenny Sawyer about the negative reaction to the film, "The Golden Compass."
Boston - You don't have to be a kiddie lit maven to have heard about the tempest over Friday's theatrical release of "The Golden Compass."
Those who've debated Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy since the first book's publication in 1995 will tell you they're all riled up about the author's so-called atheist agenda – and its potentially damaging effects on young, impressionable minds. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, urging a boycott, is even promoting a pamphlet called, "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked."
That's wasted ink. Because it's not religion that Mr. Pullman takes aim at, but a society in which children are raised in a spiritual and intellectual torpor. Not only does Pullman want kids to think for themselves, but he also respects their ability to do so. And this has the "authorities" on what children should and shouldn't be thinking terrified.
For those who haven't read the trilogy, here's an overview. The three books follow pre-teen protagonists Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry on an epic journey through multiple worlds, harrowing adventures, and the beginnings of puberty.
Lyra and Will undertake this journey for different reasons, but it's soon apparent that one thing is compelling them both. That thing is Dust. And what Dust is – and what it does – has Pullman's dozens of characters choosing sides and suiting up, waging war not just against one another, but for the salvation of all mankind.
Before this battle of battles is over, the Church is crumbling from within, the new Eve has succumbed to temptation, and the Authority is dead.
Fair game for theological debate? Sure. After all, Pullman, a noted British atheist, once told The Washington Post that he was trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief. And though you wouldn't be alone if you took umbrage at this agenda, be careful.
What Pullman is up to – even in his statements to the press – aren't so obvious. For example, the church in his novels may seem to be a Roman Catholic caricature, but he isn't criticizing the Vatican so much as the concept of stifling orthodoxy. Indeed, the theology that threads together nearly every page is but the mask. The face underneath is authoritarian adulthood – and misguided notions about how best to help children grow up.
Today, the process of ushering a child into adulthood generally involves protecting (and then gradually stripping away) that child's innocence by prescribing the "edgy" or "mature" messages that we adults think these pre-adolescents should encounter. Messages about sex, for example. Or darker topics such as abuse.

On some level, adults find these subjects nonthreatening because they qualify as information. The idea is that they help children mature by exposing them to some of our society's darker realities.
What these topics and messages don't do is spark the kind of rigorous, open-minded questioning that defines truly mature thought. They're group-think in disguise. That is to say, they're still what adults – those arbiters of publishing for children – have, collectively, deemed "appropriate." And sadly, what's "appropriate" often sidesteps that which can't just be conveyed as information – the deep intellectual, ethical, and spiritual issues that require children to be thoughtful participants in a dialogue, not just empty vessels waiting to be filled.
Meanwhile, Pullman compels his young readers to do the edgiest thing of all, which is to think for themselves. It's not that he rejects adulthood. Instead, he recasts his best adult characters as interlocutors. And in his wonderful concept of Dust, Pullman gives the players in his trilogy a whole universe of stories and ideas to explore and to try on and, eventually, to settle into.
What we're really dealing with, then, in the Pullman debate is an orthodoxy of thought that's as stifling in its own way as what Galileo – and countless others – have faced throughout history. It's just more insidious today because it exists under the guise of enlightenment.
Pullman himself resists this orthodoxy by speaking through metaphor, thus allowing his readers to make meaning on their own terms. And what better metaphor for set-in-stone, preapproved ways of thinking than organized religion itself?
Indeed, Pullman's God is not the God of religion, but the didactic, authoritarian voice of adulthood. It's the Authority that pays lip-service to free thought, but then limits free thought within the narrowly defined parameters of what it judges comfortable and acceptable. It is this Authority – and not the God of the Bible – that Pullman silences.
What Pullman encourages is unmediated, critical thinking – the only antidote to the mental stupor that today's culture cultivates in young people. And Pullman does so in multiple ways. For example, by turning the familiar story lines of Genesis, Narnia, and the like, on their heads – thereby prompting the reader to reimagine those stories for him- or herself.
In short, Pullman doesn't tell his readers what to think, but how to think. And to think, period. This, I suspect, is what Pullman's critics really find unnerving.
It's hard to imagine that the big-screen adaptation of "The Golden Compass" will do justice to the nuances and intricacies that make the novel so remarkable. What's not hard to imagine, however, is one contingent's reaction to it: That it's not safe for children and should be boycotted.
And to that I say, go ahead and boycott. Just don't pretend it's in the name of religion.
• Jenny Sawyer is a freelance writer and children's literature critic.

I have had to cut and paste as in preview the link didn't work Oh how I wish I knew what I was doing this is kind of frustrating (at least the font has changed back!!!!)

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Paddington and imparting unwanted information.....

Emily has had gymnastics class this morning and then home for a quick lunch and a bath before out to the Xmas party, she looked very grown up in her party outfit.

She had to wash her hair for the third time this week as she has got nits, she picked them up from her best friend. I have been slathering her hair with conditioner and nit combing then rinsing with 3 essential oils in the rinse water. It has been OK but I have read that neem oil is the best thing and will do the job quickly so today I got a shampoo from the health food shop to try.It has been a bit of a performance to get her to wash her hair so often as she detests having her hair brushed and the tantrums can be a sight to behold if her hair is really tangled. I found out a long time ago that children with dyspraxia have sensitivities to wearing clothes and things like hair brushing so I try to make allowances and stay calm and just get it done as quickly as possible .

We were given a few Paddington Bear books from my Mum and Dad quite some months ago and they got put up on the bookcases with a view to reading later. We have had a couple of story Cd's in the car and have been listening to them the last few weeks and yesterday she picked the books out and we have started Paddington goes abroad.

In the early days of Home edding I made a point to try and get what I perceived as educational benefit from any opportunity and would of brought up where Peru was etc but have learnt that in Emily's case this does nothing but hinder the process as she seems to block any kind of attempt to teach her even in a very informal way and I now hold back any time I feel the need to impart knowledge she has not asked for.

It is a fine line as there are times when we are having a conversation that things crop up naturally in the conversation that widen her knowledge, I think the difference is that they occur as a natural consequence in a conversation she is interested in and is not turned off by any facts or info that come up.

Alan and Emily love Dr who and this week there was a repeat of the one with Shakespeare , we had a chat about him and I reminded her I had got a small box set of Shakespeare books reworked for today's children to give them an introduction to his work and she chose Macbeth and although I think she chose it because of the three witches on the front and thought it was going to be about the three witches in Dr Who we read it and she seemed to enjoy it, we haven't finished but we will probably pick it up on and off alongside the Paddington one.We can sometimes have three going at one time and pick them up according to her mood.

My excitement at finding the way to add bits on down the sides of this blog has faded as although it seemed very easy to do, I have tried quite a few times to add things on to no avail. I had help from a workmate of Alan's on how to do Hyperlinks and I feel I need someone with more experience to talk me through the blog thing!!!! I think my very basic knowledge is holding me back and there is only so much I can do on my own .I managed to get the home ed blog ring on but as yet it has not been allowed I am not sure if it is normal for it to take quite a few days or if it is something I have done wrong!!!!

Anyway I will attempt to do something about it over the next couple of days if I can find time and brain space between buying the tree,decorating the tree,wrapping presents, writing cards, planning the xmas menu's, shopping for xmas food, cleaning the house and finishing the xmas present shopping.

I wish I was 8 and excited as Emily is at the moment.........

Friday, 14 December 2007

Not at my best......

The day started off well, we had breakfast then I read to Milly whilst she drew and went on the computer, all very calm and peaceful.

I then set about a few jobs whilst she played before we had to get ready to go shopping for clothes and shoes for Emily.I have been putting it off for weeks, it used to be so easy when I could go out and bring a bundle of clothes back usually managing to get her size from the local charity shops and so long as there was something pink or glittery we were onto a winner....

Things have changed somewhat and she now has very definite ideas about what she will wear, this in itself is fine and as it should be ,although I do find it a bit tedious to have 99% of my suggestions vetoed I can cope with it. She would have no problem wearing things from a charity shop but I am no longer able to get a good enough selection of her size from them.

So we have to go to the high street and the thing that winds me up no end is that she is out of age 8/9 clothes but 10/11 are usually too long/big which provided many opportunities for frustrations (hers and mine) to grow as she tried things on and we hope that they were a small fit . So things gradually deteriorated as the hours passed , I became more and more short tempered that the few clothes she would even look at turned out to be a wrong fit and she got less and less interested in the process and I knew I had to be careful as If I bought things with her saying she liked them in this mood then it was likely that when it came to actually wearing them in the future she would say she hated them and would not wear them.

So in the end I got a bundle of clothes that she liked the look of and brought them home and will just have to make the trip back to exchange or return any items that don't pass the two tests of fitting and Emily actually liking them on. It is a pain but not as much of a pain as going from shop to shop getting hotter and hotter ( layers for cold weather outside then heaters on in shops and severe hot flushes due to menopause!!!!)

I have to say that pales into insignificance next to the shoe saga. I won't bore you with too many details but because she is a 3 1/2 she is out of the children's section in most stores and although we started in Clark's they didn't do pink party shoes in her size so on we went to every other shop in the high street only to return to Clark's 3 hours later and have to make do with a black school shoe with a bit of flower detail. She was disappointed but I was proud of her she was very stoical and made the best out of it claiming she loved them and they would look lovely with her dress . It's the Xmas party for her gymnastics group tomorrow and I am kicking myself now for having left it so late to get organised.

We leave town exhausted and with a major headache brewing to get home with only an hour to spare before going out again so a quick tea for Milly and out again to her best friends house to go to her school Xmas fair. It had been a bit of a tradition that as they were at different schools they started to go to each others school fair and they both wanted to go so we went with two other mums and 5 children.

I never enjoyed these kind of things when Emily went to school and it was strange experience to be at one in a school we had taken her out of. I didn't see any of the teachers that had taken Emily in nursery year but the Head teacher was in the hall near the bouncy castle and I had to do a bit of ducking and diving as I really didn't want to get into a conversation with him at all. I was just about managing to nod to people I knew and I was not in the best frame of mind to be having any kind of discussion with him about home education in front of all the parents who go to great lengths to get their children into this top rated school!!!!! In truth I am not sure that situation was one I would of been comfortable tackling even when I am on top form.....
I have been home a while now I am too wound up to sleep ,Alan (who was out on his works Xmas lunch and has had a few drinks!!) Emily and my nephew who is staying over are all in bed now so I got a cup of tea and decided to unload via this blog and it's been very therapeutic.

Just before I finish , I have been thinking about this blog and why I am doing it and why I would want to have areas of my private life laid bare. A lot of people I know can't understand it and perhaps if I had not been reading blogs all these months it would seem strange to me as well but I feel comfortable with the information I am sharing,. I have heard about a few people having some very negative and sometimes abusive comments and my thinking on this at the moment is that if this does get read and if anyone feels strongly enough about my ramblings to post a shitty comment then that is something I will deal with at the time.I think that the initial aim of doing a blog was as a way of helping someone to get an insight into home ed but as time goes on I think I will get as much benefit from this as anyone.

Goodnight and god bless
Just noticed the time is still not right I will try again to get the right time zone thingy....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

why we home educate

I sat down to write about why we home educate but I can't seem to find the right words to explain our story (could be put down to PMT ,my brain goes to mush!!!) I will try to give you an overview.

In the end the actual decision to take Emily out only took a matter of days but before that it had been around a year and a half of talking about it and reading books, (first time putting in links hope they work!!!) Free Range Education by Terri Dowty, Educating your child at home by Jane Lowe and Alan Thomas were two that had a real impact for different reasons .Free Range education has lots of examples of real life home educators and I think I can say that it was this one that convinced me the most that we could do it.

We are two very average people ,neither of us left school with many qualifications, we went on to do quite well in our chosen professions and had no need to think about the education system at all until Emily came along.

School never really suited Emily.....

.After the nursery year at a very highly rated, high achieving school we knew that wasn't for us and took her out. We enrolled her in a lovely village school with only 70 children in the whole school .The ethos of the school was totally different, the children didn't wear uniforms and there was much more emphasis on the children being individuals.The head was a sensitive and principled man who wanted the best for the children. We thought we had struck gold.

Over the reception and year 1 Emily gained confidence and really started to bloom. It was at this time she was diagnosed with dyspraxia but she managed quite well in the more relaxed play orientated early years.

Year 2 with more emphasis on academic activities got progressively harder for her. She is very sensitive and it wasn't just the academic side it was the embarassment of having to put her hand up for the toilet,seeing others being told off and worrying in case she did something wrong and got the same treatment, panicking because she couldn't do the work and the teacher never had time to sit with her (alot of this did not come out until she had left school) her behaviour at home became worse and worse she was so angry and obviously stressed . At this time we began to seriously consider taking her out but held back because of my lack of confidence in my ability to provide her with an adequate education ,my health being so poor was also a major stumbling block.

Then in year three it became blatantly obvious that something needed to change .She was struggling on all levels and we couldn't allow the school system to damage our daughter anymore.She became ill with a bug that was doing the rounds and she was off for two weeks , during that time I had a conversation with a friend who home educates her two children and I was so upset I couldn't make a decision and she said just go with whats in your heart and that really helped me to shift my thinking and stop worrying about what I couldn't give her and focus on what I could give her.We never sent her back.

I still get emotional when I think of that time , the look on Emily's face when we told her she would never have to go back to school was priceless,the immense sense of relief that we were off the treadmill of school life and the excitement of the time ahead and to be honest the fear of the unknown......

So here we are nine months on and a lot of reading and researching later I feel comfortable with what we are doing . The changes that have happened so far have been helped along the way by the many wonderful blogs out there.They are so varied and there are so many different approaches , I have found ones that I can identify with and have read a lot of archive material that has been written in each and found answers to so many of the questions I have had that they have helped me to sort out what will work best for us .

As much as I wish we had done this earlier and saved Emily from the distress that she went through I do believe things happen for a reason and that the time was right for us to take her out and that looking on the bright side one of the benefits is that at least she has had a taste of school and now we all know without a doubt that it is not for us !!!!

In the coming months we are going to find out how far along the unschooling road we want to go . If our experience so far is anything to go by it will be quite liberating to be making decisions based on what works best for us as a family and not what society expects.

Drawing drawing and more drawing

Over the last few weeks Emily has been drawing prolifically, each drawing has gradually been getting more and more detailed.She draws whatever takes her fancy be it Harry Potter characters or her puffles from her penguin website with all their play equipment.Sometimes she draws similar things over and over again each time adding something different or refining some aspect of it .
I have been amazed at the variety of things she has been drawing and the character that is in all of her pictures.I see her personality in the art, a uniqueness ,a quirkiness that I hope continues.
We have a range of paints available watercolour, acrylic etc but at present she is using pen and crayon another time she will choose to concentrate on a different medium.
My only input has involved finding a couple of books for her she wasn't able to find . They are by Usborne called I can draw animals and I can draw people.They have simple step by step drawings .
I have in the past not been so clever and have (god forgive my stupidity!!!) butted in and made a suggestion as to what to use or what to draw!!!! You live and learn and nine months into this life I can see how that took away her spontaneity and enjoyment and stopped the self directed growth process I have seen over the last few weeks.It has seemed like a passion, every spare moment she chooses to draw and I know that when she has done what she needs to do for now that passion will pass onto something else or may just pass onto a period of reflection and rest.This seems to be how Emily works and although she will probably still draw it won't be with the same intensity.
When we first took Emily out of school she had stopped drawing and rarely picked up a pen she was frustrated with any attempts to draw and would scrunch them up and throw them away her confidence was so low. It has been a gradual change and although there may be the odd time she is frustrated with her attempt it is not the meltdown it once was.There is no pressure on her she can draw when she wants and what she wants and her confidence has grown in her own ability.
I have been around whilst she has been drawing, perhaps reading to her if she is not listening to music or a story CD . I have asked her about her drawings and on one occasion she showed me a drawing she had done of the back view of a girl with long hair , as soon as I saw the picture I was interested in where she was going and asked her and from that and with me just asking questions she began to make up a story verbally and without prompting drew the pictures to go with the story.Other times Emily will ask to do a book and I will write her words and she will illustrate, both of these things are done when she wants to not when I request them.

At times since we started home ed I have got scared about the lack of motivation from Emily to do anything, surely she has had enough time to deschool now? I questioned if an autonomous approach would work for us and I have tried to kick start things ,you know lots of suggestions about projects we could do and things I just knew she would enjoy and getting things out ready to make or do , 99% of the time it failed miserably and I felt resentful and angry that she wasn't wanting to do what I wanted , I am sad to say on occasions I would force the issue and it very often ended in tears, hers at the time and mine sometime later when I re-lived the scene trying to see what went wrong and realising I was what went wrong!!!
I needed to step back and just be there and although it took a lot of faith I now know that was the right thing to do. She has blossomed and I feel confident she will continue to spread her wings and grow at her own pace.
It is natural to have concerns and I am sure there will be more on the way, but I truly believe Emily knows best what she needs and I have to be brave enough to let her do what she needs to do. Sounds easy doesn't it? Maybe I should write that down and put it somewhere I see it regularly because it is so easy to believe it when we are going through a very visible growth period not quite so easy when she is more keen to watch TV......
This whole experience started with Emily coming out of school but this journey we are on is about so much more than her education.

Monday, 10 December 2007

I may become addicted

I didn't take a break after all, and I am proud to announce I have found the info needed to add on side bits!!! the sky is the limit now, well maybe not right now as I really need to sleep, we have a busy day ahead and I need all the energy I can muster.
Who knew how much you can learn when you are interested in it ???
just got to get the time sorted out now!!!!

It all sounded so easy !!!!

It sounded so easy when Emily looked over my shoulder as I was reading one of my regular blogs and said " we should do one of our own".

I have read many blogs over the last nine months since we started home educating ( I did not even know what they were before then and only fell upon them whilst researching home ed) and I have to say I have found many of them to be a real benefit in helping me to find information, some of them make me laugh out loud and some of them provoke deep thinking about the life we are leading and the way we go forward.

So I thought yes why not lets do it, I went onto the blogger website and in three easy steps I could create a blog...... Problem is computer speak is an alien language. With Emily's help on the colour combinations (quite tasteful, could have been very different!!)we set about trying to understand the lingo.Some things were easy , some things I made a selection and hoped for the best as I have no idea what I was selecting!!

So here we are , are you receiving me?

This is quite a strange sensation to sit and write stuff and not know who is going to see it ,what they are going to think, what assumptions about us are they going to make and have I done everything right so that anyone can even access it?

I have a lot to learn I need to find out how to add all the bits on down the sides , how to add on pictures( I like the blogs with lots of pictures)and how to make this blog look a bit more interesting!!!

I have no real idea what I am going to write about but I hope that in my own small way I can help someone who is just setting off on this home ed road to feel capable and confident that they can do it. I know from experience it can just take a single sentence in a blog to help over a hurdle and that reading about everybody Else's experiences can provide inspiration,now you may not get inspiration from me but you may just think well if she can do it I'm sure I can (Now if I knew how to I would have put one of those little smiley faces in !!!)

So here we go on the start of my blogging life, I am a computer novice and feel totally out of my depth but growth in any way isn't always painless and I am looking forward to the process regardless of the frustration of not being able to put in smileys and understand what URLs and https are !!!

As the days go on you will get to know us a bit better but for now I will say goodnight and go and have a break ,I have just clicked on to something and thought I had lost all I had written .....It's not good for me at this time of night!!!