Saturday, 25 June 2011

Clueless

When I look back to when I was pregnant with Sprout, 6 years ago now, I can't believe how little I knew about our options: options for his birth, for parenting, for healthcare, for education. For everything. Not because I didn't read or look things up or ask my midwife, but because until I started making choices different from the 'norm', I didn't realise how many choices we really had.

I had no clue that children didn't have to go to school.

No idea that vaccinations weren't compulsory.

Not the faintest inkling that I didn't, in fact, have to do everything the midwife told me I had to.

I really wish I'd known.

So in the spirit of making informed choices I've put together a page called "Or you can..." (also accessible via the tab at the top of this blog) of links to information about choices that aren't routinely presented to you, covering everything from pregnancy and birth to education. I'd love it if it was shared widely so that as many parents, and parents-to-be, as possible have easy access to see alternatives that, just like me, they didn't know were even an option.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Patience

Patience is a virtue, so they say, but is it one that can genuinely be worked towards?

Joyce of Joyfully Rejoycing has started a new project over at  I Will Always Be There For You, a window into what radical unschooling can look like, the unconventional moments we might share with our kids. You can see Sprout in her post today The King Of Flour, about the fun evening we had that sprang from Sprout's artistic (and messy!) curiosity about flour. An evening where in a different life we might have got angry, but we didn't. From our perspective, there are two facets to this: a calm reaction to what could have been a kind of 'trigger' situation, and seeing the possibility of taking a moment and making it joyful, fun, and memorable.

I already looked here this week at that second facet, the places that Sprout and Squidge's curiosities take us. So the flour post is very timely in regards to that first facet, the calmness, in a week where three different people have commented on how 'patient', or 'calm' I am. Now, it will probably tell you something that, when I related these comments to Gruff yesterday, he laughed so hard he almost choked on his coffee.

I am *not* a naturally calm person. I was brought up in a family where we were often shouted at and routinely smacked. Nature or nurture, I had a volatile temper. We have never, and will never, smack our children, but I have shouted. Lots. And then a good while ago, after watching a friend who never seems to get angry with her child and thinking how I'd love to be more like that, I made a conscious decision to try and stop. Stop shouting. Stop scaring my kids when I'm one of the two people they trust most in the world. Not only does shouting not 'work', but it damages these two amazing little people here...



...*and* damages my relationship with them.

At first I made the mistake of just trying to stop shouting, and dealing with my anger another way, deep breaths or leaving the room. This did. not. work. Doing this just left me feeling helpless to deal with whatever was going on; after all if I couldn't respond to the anger-inducing situation and really let them know I was angry, what was I supposed to do?

Instead I started looking at what I was getting angry about. Were these situations genuinely 'anger-inducing'? Or was it me? The major things that upset me were when the boys hurt each other, or went out of their way to upset each other. In addition Sprout went through a period of being very angry himself, and taking it out in a violent way on me. When I really looked at it, the things that were making me angry were symptoms of something else. One friend lent me some wise words: Remember, to a small child, hitting *is* a language.

Once that light went on in my head, it became much easier. When Squidge hit Sprout, it was because he was unhappy about something or struggling in some way. When Sprout hit me, it was because he too was struggling with some aspect of what was going on, and he didn't yet have the cognitive ability to work it out nor the vocabulary to let me know. It made it so much easier to separate their behaviour from the actual problem, then I was free of the anger and free to deal with the situations as they arose, and address the root cause, whether it was that I'd spent too much time with Squidge one day leaving Sprout left out and frustrated, or we'd had a week pottering round at home and forgotten that Squidge feels frustrated if he doesn't go a bit further afield at least once every few days. I could still let them know that it's not okay to hurt people, while at the same time looking at why they had done that in the first place, and identifying cues that *I* was missing. I found wonderful advice here on how to continue doing this in the times that I struggled with most - the times when Sprout was so angry and frustrated over something that he was repeatedly hurting me.

As I've practiced more and more being calm in situations in which I would previously have shouted, I've found even my frustration at other things has completely disappeared. Things like spilled milk that I wouldn't ever have shouted about, but would still have frustrated me inside, don't even raise an ounce of frustration any more. If something's an accident, it's an accident. My time with my kids is too precious to even worry about those ones. For anything deliberate, there's always a better way of dealing with it than getting angry, whether it's talking to them about why it's not okay to do something, or with other things turning them into a joyful moment in our time together, such as the evening of flour :)

I still do shout, sometimes, but it's always short-lived now, and it's getting rarer as the more I consciously aim to be calm the more it seems to come naturally in a given situation. Our home is noticeably calmer now. And the less time spent by me doing this...



...the more time there is to do this...





...this...



...this...


...and this...


And I think I can now say, yes, you can work towards patience. If I can do it, anyone can!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Freedom to shine!

I had the joy of discovering this post yesterday, I Am What I Am. I'd had a wobbly couple of days confidence-wise: Was it 'okay' that Sprout had foregone a drumming workshop in the park with his friends in order to play Lego Universe all day with his Daddy? Were we doing the right thing by Squidge by continuing to let him develop speech at his own rate? Etc etc ad infinitum it seemed. Anne's post helped me reaffirm why we do what we do, why we radically unschool.

We're very lucky to be journeying through life with two amazing boys. Sprout is bursting at the seams with energy and 'get up and go' (or 'jump up and go' most of the time!). He currently loves Lego and all it entails, building it, talking about it, finding out about it, telling people about it, watching stop motion animation videos of it, and playing Lego Universe online. He also loves They Might Be Giants, climbing trees, Power Rangers, make believe in the park, and making potions. Squidge is generous with his cuddles, and says thank you with a blown kiss. Currently he loves cars (and watching his Daddy fix them), watching films, looking for bees, making bread, playing music, and dressing up.

I love that wherever their hearts are taking them, we can help them go, without the restrictions of school (whether that be sitting at a desk, getting up first thing in the morning, or learning what you're told to learn) or any other type of coercion. I love that they have the freedom to set their own pace in their childhoods, however speedy or laid back that might be, and however often that might change. I love that they get to develop according to their own internal timetable, without having labels or stigmas attached. I love that if, for example, they want to see a hologram, I can help them make that happen, instead of it being the wrong time and them being made to learn about phonics instead. I love that if, at 9 o'clock at night, Sprout wants to know why elephants have tails, what sound the letter K makes, whether there's anything that can turn from a solid to a gas without becoming a liquid inbetween, *and* what a sensei is, we have the freedom to help him satisfy his curiosity.

On that note, I thought I'd share a few snapshots of things we've done over the past couple of weeks when we've followed the boys' curiosities and desires...

Being undead skeleton knights...

Boating...

Going on jungle adventures,
then playing on be funky
with the photos...

Being Power Rangers,
then playing on psykopaint
with some more photos...

Planting cacti...

Making flower snacks
with homegrown strawberries...

Investigating how to get the
ball to go highest and furthest
with a Lego catapult...

Watching the geese at Westport Lake

Looking at mosaics
and planning our own...

Spotting all different
coloured wild flowers...

Feeding the ducks...

Tackling the adventure playground...

Painting our own faces (and
then flying along the pavement
like the beautiful butterflies we were!)...

Putting the world to rights over ice cream...

Painting pottery...

Bouncing high...

Climbing trees (that little
orange spot right at the
top is indeed Sprout!)...

Blowing big bubbles...

Mavelling at prisms and
the resulting rainbows...

Creating nature art...

Playing a creatively-scored
round of mini golf...

Lots of splashing, pouring,
decanting, spraying,
and er, mess :D ...

Holograms...

Changing white flowers to
blue and red with food colouring...

Playing pool...

Finding toad homes...

Swimming ecstatically...

And building a Lego laboratory
for Lego scientists.


This past couple of weeks were by no means typical, but only insomuch as no week is typical. Some weeks we're rarely at home and have more picnics in the park than meals in our own lounge. Some weeks we're so engrossed in a game or a website or a pile of books that we hardly venture out. And some weeks we have so many meet ups with the boys' friends that I have trouble fitting everything in! But however our weeks pan out, I can see the boys shining brightly, and I'm so happy and privileged to be there alongside them.