Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille

Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille
An excerpt from page 84...

"Helping mode parents attend to their chidlren's emotional development by listening with empathy to their children's expressions of need. Children's unrefined and spontaneous expressions of feeling and need are validated as never before, and this process begins at birth. Increasingly, we are coming to believe that babies know when they are hungry, how much they need to consume, when they are tired, when they need to be held, and when they need engagement or attention. A baby's cry, no longer thought to be capricious or meaningless, is warmly attended to without delay. It is the baby's natural biological and emotional cycles, not the clock o nthe wall, that govern the ebb and flow of nurturance- and the carer is led by the baby's cues. For this reason, the newest mode is often referred to as 'natural parenting'.

Toddlers and older children are benefiting from a greater tolerance for their expressions of feeling, opinions, wants and needs. In contrast to the censure of earlier modes, they are more likely to encounter empathy. What motivates helping mode parents is the desire to allow adn support the natural unfolding of each child's unique individuality."

This is a very important book, I'm not finished yet but would like to encourage you to pick up a copy. Please be warned, it will probably make you cry.

The Difference a Friend Can Make...

We've made friends with an unschooling family here...hooray. Suddenly everything seems a little brighter. They are fabulous people, and I just know I will learn a bucket-load from this lady and her amazing garden and home.

Our children all got along well, which is not always a given, but definitely always a bonus! They played together happily for hours, and just to top it off- we'll be going there again later this week.


On Saturday we drove to Whangarei (about an hour and a half south) so that I could go to an Home Education Symposium. DH

took the children to the local library, then for (homemade) lunch in a park, before meeting friends at the wave pools. The friends used to live in Auckland, and had moved north nearly 2 years ago- it was wonderful for the kids to get together again.

Meanwhile, at the HE symposium, I got to meet several other home educators, including a large number of unschoolers.

Actually, it might have been the largest gathering of unschoolers I have been a part of (irl).

I got to meet one lady who's online posts I have enjoyed for many years. It was a real buzz meeting her at last, and attending her talk on Unschooling: Learning in Freedom. There was a lot of chance for discussion, and I got a bit carried away. For one thing, I find it hard to keep quiet about the wonders of unschooling at hte best of times, but in that setting I felt so comfortable, and I guess so starved of stimulating conversation for the last several weeks- I rattled on far too much. I felt terrible about it, but then I also had 3 or 4 people come to me afterward to discuss a matter further or to say they had appreciated what I had said.

I also know, alas from personal experience, how nutty radical unschooling can sound on first hearing of it. While unschooling for academics made enormous sense to me, having seen how much J-Man had learned without teaching...when I first heard of people who let their children choose their bedtime, or their breakfast, or how much television to watch...well, I honestly thought they were crackers.

It also took me a very long time (about a year, if I recall correctly) before I came to see that if I could trust my child to learn reading and writing and mathematics, I could trust him to care for his body as well.I still wish I hadn't banged on so long and taken over someone else's talk (not that I meant to do that!).

I got to meet Karen (waves to Karen), a closet blog-reader, and that was encouraging in itself that there are people who read my blog, and somehow the muddle of words inspires the odd one or two (very odd...joking, lol).

I went to another talk about "Letting Go", which was also very interesting. It was by an unschooling (solo) father, an ex-science teacher, and the process he went through- from intending to broaden young people's minds, to realising his naivete and seeing that being a teacher was no way to show love to children, to realising his own children needed him. It was terribly touching, and again there was a lot of great discussion.

I chatted to many different ones, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I loved, at the end, speaking to a teenaged home-educated girl, and realising with a shock that while I am (nearly!) 21 years older, I felt no different to her. She was awfully mature, and I wondered what I would think if I met myself at age 14. How can I be such a lot older than someone, but not feel it at all? Oh, yes, there is a mild crisis I guess- I am 35 this week! 35!!?? Ouch!!

dh and the kiddos picked me up soon after the symposium wound down, and we headed to Pizza Hut for all-you-can-eat (their
choice), and I ate a lot. This was not good, because I finally felt like I was getting somewhere with my weightloss plan, but the look on Tombliboo's face when he saw a large (huge!) bowl of jelly babies was priceless. He made at least 7 bowls
of icecream (some with chocolate sauce) and planted jelly babies in the "bath". And no, it was not a shocking waste of ice cream- his Daddy finished every bowl. Turns out Tombliboo prefers cucumber to jelly babies.

We left, very stuffed in more ways than one, and all three children fell asleep on the journey.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Choosing School, Part 2 (long)

Friday was Princess' second day of school, and J-Man's third. I enjoyed the day with Tombliboo, as devastated as I was, and I started to see good things about school. For one thing, I had all my jobs done well before they got home- when 3pm rolled round, I was ready. I enjoyed being with Tombliboo, we went to the beach and played trains, and he helped me bake. The day went surprisingly quickly.

The kids came home bursting with school. J-Man had won a book for being the top student for the week- kind of ironic, since he hadn't been to school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5.5 years, had done no school work- just played, had fun and lived his life. Then again, dh realised perhaps it was like a bribe, since we had said a decision would be made by Monday. Princess won a book too, and then she was able to choose someone else to win yet another book- naturally she chose, J-Man.

J-Man was very sure he would be going back on Monday, Princess seemed non-comittal though J-Man badgered her about it at every turn. I hoped a couple of days at home would remind them how much fun it was with us. We played a game of Settlers of Catan (which we currently play around 3-4 times a week!). Tombliboo (2.75 yrs) likes to be the banker, though he eventually hordes all the cards, and takes them away to play with his trains. Part way through the game, I was dismayed to hear J-Man announce ,"I can't stand this- my brain isn't being used, and I need to do school work!" He ranted for a bit more, before going to his room to bring out his school maths book. This annoyed me enormously, since he seems to have done just fine with playing games for 10 years, and I said, "If you haven't been using your brain all this time, why are you top of your school class?"

The weekend was fun, and I thought- if school is how it is to be, then I guess we still have weekends, and I can make myself as available as possible for them after 3pm too. Maybe it won't be that bad...but it bugged me to think of our family being like everyone else's- outwardly...there was no way I was happy about losing them each day. I kept thinking about that saying, something like "Being a mother means that your heart forever beats outside your body"...which I hadn't really felt like before, until suddenly 2 of my children, the most important people in the world to me, were gone for 6 hours a day. In truth, and not to sound dramatic- just what I really thought. I felt like I did when I miscarried. An overwhelming sense of emptiness, and I wondered how I would ever really recover. And where did I fit now- not with radical unschoolers, the only place I really ever felt like I fitted...and certainly not with the school mums who were glad of the peace.

A (non-HE) few people told me it must be nice to have a break, but it wasn't. I got the feeling that there would be a whole bunch of people quite pleased this had happened.

After dinner Sunday night, we discussed what would happen in the morning. The kids knew they needed to make a decision about whether or not they would be enrolling in school, and I still hoped that while it looked certain they would- perhaps after a few weeks, or at least when we move to our new house, they would want to come home. Hoping like crazy that this wasn't permanent.

When dh asked, "So- would you like to go to school every day?", Princess immediately answered, "No- I'd rather stay at home." I was all ready to say, "No worries- but you can still be home-schooled again if you change your mind." I had to recover quickly, and ask her to repeat what she had said. She didn't want to go back? Really? 2 days was enough to see that while it was pretty fun, it wasn't preferable to home. Hallelujah!

Then to J-Man, who I realised was the one who was really keen. Princess had just been going along for the ride, and said that the only reason she decided to go was because J-Man wanted her to. And, yes- if he asked her to, she probably would jump off a bridge.

And, blow me down if he didn't say he would rather stay home too. He said, "I like school, but I see it's too much of a sacrifice- I would have have so much less time to be with my family and do the things I want to do if I wasn't home until 3:10pm each day." Oh boy! Is it true? Did my children just realise for themselves how school is inferior to home? With no interference from me, and seemingly a fair bit of encouragement from the school corner...and after only 2/3 days? WHOOPEE!

Suddenly the world seemed normal again...but I was still nervous they might change their minds...but then I was also pretty sure, now that we had been to hell and come out of it so quickly- that there was little chance they would go permanently. They can think for themselves, they can make informed decisions.

J-Man got upset (really upset) with a game he and Princess were playing and I held my breath. That had been the catalyst for his decision to try school. I waited to hear he had changed his mind and he would be tootling off again in the morning. But no, he went to his room for a break, and when I looked in on him, we chatted and his equilibrium was restored. He went back to the game, and I wondered how long I will hold my breath each time they argue over Lego....but then got on with my private (and texting) celebration.

My children would not be going to school in the morning. They would be home with me- and I wouldn't quickly forget what life without them was like. I would make sure to cherish them, and let them know how much I enjoyed their company, and themselves. And Monday rolled around, that's what I did.

The big kids joined us in our itty-bitty double bed for snuggles in the morning, and we all stayed there way longer than usual. It was a very happy day, an ordinary day really- nothing earth-shattering, nothing different at all really- just a normal ol' day, but everything was different for me.

Choosing School, Part 1 (long!)

So often when people have asked in a panic, "What should I do if my child wants to try school?" I have given advice...but when it happened to me, I didn't follow my own advice as well as I might have.

For one thing, I was so eager to seem supportive (of my child, not of school), that I agreed instantly. I didn't push for further information as to what it was about school that they particularly wanted to try. I have always thought children should choose for themselves, but I was wholly unprepared for it.

For J-Man (aged 10.5 yrs), he wanted friends, he wanted something else to do with his time because our lives have been tipped rather upside-down lately. He was also curious about what went on there, what it was like, would he be good at it? I knew all these things because we have discussed this before, a few times.

Princess (nearly 7) was a different story- for her, it was all about the lunch. Honestly, you wouldn't believe how many directions could be given about the preparation of a school lunch. She was terribly excited.

J-Man's first day had been very interesting. For one thing, I had been unaware how small the local school was. There were 22 children. He was in the senior class with 8 others (and 8 computers). He had even seen a show- a boy much larger than him had been playing with a matchbox car in class, and when a girl told on him the teacher snatched it, and he proceeded to have (in J-Man's words) a "tantrum like a toddler". This escalated out of control apparently, until this child was throwing furniture!

Well, nothing I didn't see myself at school- but still, quite an eye-opener for J-Man. He has been worried about the school maths, but was amazed to find it was "Princess Maths". In other words, very easy. He saw right away that everyone in the class could write better than him, but he also discovered he quite liked writing (well, that didn't last- but he was quite buzzed about it for a day or three).

They had two trampolines which he enjoyed, and when they played sports, he asked if he could stay inside and keep writing his e's (I'm not kidding). Because he was only on a trial, they allowed it. I'm not sure if he would be able to avoid sports forever, but I didn't say so.

The children were friendly, and curious about him. The teacher was kind, and he felt the work was easy (which didn't make him wish it was harder, just be glad he hadn't looked silly). When I picked him up, kids came to ask me if I was J-Man's mum, and told me he was very clever, and a very fast runner to boot.

When Princess started, she was given a worksheet to do which the teacher thought she would need help with- but didn't. In fact she completed it before anyone else, and the other children were all saying, "Wow! She's really smart!" I think that was probably wonderful for her confidence. Where J-Man has never doubted his ability (even when possibly he could have- thinking particularly of when he was small), Princess doubts herself all the time. It seems quite out-of-character considering she is a very confident, sunny, happy little girl. For example, J-Man never doubted he could spell, never asked how to spell anything. Princess, otoh, has asked me how to spell "Happy Birthday" at least a million times. It had to be right with her. She eventually did start writing words for herself, and I was pleased because to me it seemed like a step up confidence-wise.

Anyway, she enjoyed her day very much, and was keen to go back on the Friday.

Meanwhile, I was struggling. I had no friends, no computer, no phone really (though I had some fabulous friends who texted me often), and it felt like my world was falling apart. dh seemed really tickled about school, and slotted straight in to "school Dad mode", trying to get them in to bed early and mediate with the teacher about the problems J-Man had (in what seemed like an attempt to keep him there). When one friend commented I would need to change the name of my blog, I felt crushed. Suddenly I felt like we're the same as everyone else. If the kids are in school, I can hardly be an unschooling mum any longer- and because that was what I had been for so long (and indeed what I imagined I would for a long time to come yet), I suffered a bit from an identity crisis. This was all exacerbated by the fact that I didn't want my children to realise I was devastated- I wanted them to make their own minds up without feeling pulled by wanting to please me. I was supportive of them, and listened well (I think), and when I needed a moment, would go outside and bawl my eyes out as quietly as possible. Only Tombliboo saw, and asked, "What's wrong Mama- why are you sad?"

I was very encouraged by my friend Cally (ex-unschooling Mum- with 4 grown boys), who reminded me that in all her years of this, she had seen many children try school- only those with very strict homes (she calls them section 59 homes, lol), or those children with very clear educational goals stayed longer than 6 weeks or so. I also knew that our life at the moment is utterly different to what it was, and what it will be that I didn't blame them for wanting something different. But there remained a nagging doubt that maybe they would prefer school to home. I couldn't see how that could be possible- what school child would choose school on a Saturday?

There is so much that is wrong with school, and it wasn't at all what I wanted for my children. I wished (briefly) that I could be one of the sugar-is-poison-and-so-is-school/mummy-knows-best mums and insist it was not an option...but I knew that I would no more keep my children home against their will, than I would force them to stay in school.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm Back!

Well, sort of- we only have dial-up and while the whole world knwos it's slow, I think most people don't rememeber just *how* slow!

I will try to keep things brief here, and elucidate as time (and internet connection) allows.

We are still living in the little bach on the beach. It's quite lovely really, but annoying to be so far from town and people in general. Teh hosue is still at least 2 months from completion.

Ben is unemployed, but working on the hosue as often as possible to try and get us there a bit quicker. I have done 3 days work in 3 weeks, which is not much, but has helped just to get a few extra bits and pieces to make our lives a little more interesting.

Tomorrow we are heading to Whangarei for a home education symposium. I can't wait. J-Man thinks it is silly sicne we've been homeschooling for 5 years, so what do I need to hear about it. But I am excited about meeting more people, especially Kerrin from our kiwi unschooler's group, who's posts I have enjoyed for over 5 years, but never met personally.

I also hope I might be a help to somebody there- funny to imagine people with children just 5, or not even. The last conference I went to- that was me. Wondering how I would go about homeschooling with a toddler as well. It's funny to think of really. I worried about so many things quite unnecessarily.

Ben will look after the kiddos, and hopefully meet up with some friends of our's that live there.

It has been quite lonely here, but I was managing alright because I liked being with the kiddos. Also, with such a small hosue the cleaning is done fairly quickly, and I have been able to play(and be) with them so much more than when we were in Auckland. I also wasn't busy on the computer, which freed up my time- but at a cost. No friends at all is pretty draining. Well, I shouldn't say that- I've had some awesome friends texting me very regularly, and cheering me up no end.

Anyway, I was coping as I said- but it all went to pot a few weeks ago when J-Man decided he wanted to go to school. I'll talk about all the whys and wherefores in another post, but suffice it for now to say- he went! And then he convinced Princess to go too.

And now they're home. And everything seems right with the world once again.