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An Educated Guess – Why being a mum today is hard

For mothers, sometimes parenting is just an educated guess. Parenting can be very difficult, and at times we make decisions because we believe that that decision is the best.

And why is it so difficult? Was it easier for generations before us? Was it easier before technology? Was it easier when families were more connected?

My theory (and when I say theory, I mean thought process) is that back in the hunter gatherer days, back in the farming days, families and communities stuck to each other. When children socialised, it was with the communities that were already well established; parents, grandparents and friends already knew each other. The level of trust was already established prior to children being brought up. Information was handed down from father to son, from mother to daughter. Sons followed their fathers (and the wider male communities) whilst they hunted and learnt the skills. They had their meaning, they had their belonging. Daughters followed their mothers to catch small lizards, gather nuts and berries or prepare the food. There was a sense of connection and identity here.

Parenting was easier in this setting as the men were able to socialise with the men, the women socialised with the women (don’t you always feel energised in a group of chatting mums!) and the kids could run around like mad. If you have ever been in this setting and thought to yourself, “What a fabulous day”, maybe we can finally see how life was always suppose to be.

However, when I listen to parents and children these days, I hear about things like the generation gap. I hear about how ‘back in my day, things were harder/simpler/nicer/not as easy’, basically indicating that this generation doesn’t connect with theirs.  And in these very fast moving times, sometimes it is very difficult to pass on information that might be useful, because in fact, it simply is no longer relevant… or so we think.

In a short 120 years, we have had many wars. Two World Wars. The generation that raised children during the war, did it for survival. For these children, it must have been difficult to live without your parents, with little money and security. As these children grew up, they raised a generation wanting that security. These children are now our baby boomers. This generation is amazing. They lived in poverty as children, in a very insecure world, and as adults, they work hard, they invest and save, to ensure their future and their children’s future.

However, now comes something very tricky. The baby boomers gave extraordinary opportunities to their children, sometimes because these opportunities were not presented to them. This X and Y generation had lessons, fantastic schooling, toys, holidays, the latest this and that, friendships and above all… the freedom to focus on themselves. The frequent rhetoric of ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up?’ made children think that they could actually be anything they wanted to be.

But suddenly, we no longer knew our identity. And frequently as I was growing up, I felt people say to me that I would discover my identity when I was 15, then 18, then 21, then when I got married… But I continued to think, as with many young people today, “Who am I?”

What has happened to family connectivity? Why is it common place that we hear teenagers separating themselves from their parents, not wanting to be with them anymore and wanting to socialise more with their friends. Why do we hear teenagers speaking badly about the two people on earth who love them more than they love themselves? How did it ever get to this?

Is it because of all the advances in technology, in materialism, in the opportunities in life, or possibly, does the separation of children from their parents at a very early age, AS WELL AS the extraordinary pressure to succeed, fit in and ‘survive’ life mean that parents no longer matter.

Only in the last 30-40 years have we seen a surge in Aged Care. Yes, this is because of a very well cared for population who are living longer. But more than that, we are seeing people not being able to care for their parents any longer. We have become a society that is so busy and too caught up in doing well and giving our ‘future’ and children the best, that we must separate the care for our parents.

How did this ever happen?

So back to the title of this blog. An educated guess. It is difficult to get a sense of how our mums did life. If you are fortunate to have had a stay at home mum as your mum, you may have had more time to see her cook, see her take care of you and your siblings, you may have also had the pleasure of her guiding you through the hard times. And even if this was your best case… it still may not have been able to set you up for being a mother today.

Because today, there is the internet, society early sexualisation and certain social acceptabilities that come with this, there is dis-connectivity through TV, screens, there is heightened pressures on kids to ‘not miss out’ and be their best, drug related issues. What happens when you have a child who simply isn’t just naughty, but might have a behavioural problem or a learning disability, who just doesn’t fit in? When kids can’t hear well, or can’t speak well, when they aren’t hitting milestones, growing too slowly, growing too fast, what’s that lump, do you vaccinate, is panadol enough, should I go to hospital now, did they eat any veggies this week, what do you mean it’s PE day today, your stuffs in the wash…. Mums have to follow rules from play group, kinder, school, soccer clubs, ballet lessons, the right shoes, uniform, the right time, the right food, nude food, reading lists, dress up days, volunteer on behalf of your children, PTAs, some of us work, keep a clean house, be a good wife, a good daughter in law, be a good contributor to society…

There is so much pressure on us mums, too.

So sometimes when people ask me if what I am doing for my child is right. How do I know if homeschooling is right for my family.

The truth is, I don’t. I will never know 100% if homeschooling is right for my children. It is an educated guess. And I am prepared to wear the guilt, and to power through because I love them more than all the sacrifices that could ever be made. Because sending Mr. 6 to school when he simply does not want to be there is something I just could not do.

So lets start to be a bit less judging of our fellow mums, because mums these days have to make VERY BIG decisions for their children. Do you work really hard and long hours to send your children to private school? Well done. Good on you. It means you love your children and you want the very best for them no matter what. Do you send your children to the local primary school so they can be with their friends and you can pick them up and spend time with them, or take them to karate class? Excellent.  You are a brilliant loving mum who wants to connect and show your children you care. Do you homeschool your children because you want them to learn freely? You are amazing. You care so much for your kids that you are willing to give up your time (and additional income) to give that to them.

See we all love our children. And we are guided by what we have learnt through our upbringing. And in a world that is changing so fast, where generations do not quite understand each other as well as they did in the past, lets us mums stay connected and help each other bring the village back and raise our children together.

Hopefully somewhere in this educated guess, we can have teenagers that know how much we love them, we can raise young adults who not only respect and serve themselves, but also serve and respect their families and community, but most of all, we can raise self-assured and confident people… who could never doubt that their mothers love them.

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Sometimes, words hurt

[Not a homeschooling blog post]

Have you ever read that book “Mary Elizabeth’s House” by Pamela Allen?

It’s a book about a beautiful little girl, who tells a bunch of boys that there’s a monster at her house. They laugh at her. They tell her, that they don’t believe her. After a while, she gets increasingly frustrated by this, and on the fourth day, proceeds to invite them home to prove them wrong. Monster jumps out. Boys don’t laugh anymore. They run. And the last line of the book says, “Now they believe me” as she’s walking hand in hand with her monster, smiling together.

I like this book.

And the reason why I like this book, is because its my daughter’s favourite book.

She first liked it because the main character has the same name, Elizabeth. But after a while, there was something about the book that made her feel stronger.

Because sometimes, inside my little girl, there is a little monster, and this monster’s name is courage. It’s name is strength. It’s name is bravery. And every now and then, she has to tell people that that monster is there. But sometimes, there are  the children who gather around her, and tell her… that they do not believe her.

And they laugh.

Unfortunately, when this keeps happening, unlike a real monster living in a red home, sometimes, our little children can start to believe that these beautiful ‘monsters’ do not actually exist.

Because sticks and stones may break my bones, but words REALLY HURT.

And I have tried my hardest as a mother to build and instil strength in my little girl. But just sometimes, those triggers have been triggered so many times, her walls break down and she believes their words and not the inner courage, strength and bravery that is the truth.

My little girl is little. She is very little. And to most adults, she is adorable. To other girls, she is simply divine. But to a few boys, she is a target.

These boys are young, and quite frankly, happy human beings. But after 10 months of seeing my darling girl, they now know how to get a reaction. And last week, the reaction was too much for me. Her monster was no longer there to protect her. She believed their words, and felt that ‘short’ and ‘little’ was a bad thing. She cried and I could feel throughout the year, her resilience breaking down. This week was her last straw.

Today, I went to the hospital with my little girl. My little girl has medical issues. She has had treatment. She is looking at ongoing life treatment due to her medical issues. She can’t have too much sugar. She needs to move and be active. Today, she got sick like any other child, and we are always advised to overreact. She had a fever today. Medicine didn’t work so we rushed her little fragile body to hospital. After a while, she slept and had fluids, she felt better, and she is home.

As soon as I was on the car driving home, my mind flooded with thoughts on how to make her life better and fulfilling. What books would she like? What toys would she like? What can I say no to, so I can spend some time with her? So I asked her how I could make her smile tomorrow. And she says these words…

“Make the bad words go away, mummy.”

She had been worried about these words… all. this. time.

I know these boys are just little. I know kids need to learn social graces by themselves and help each other be strong and know what is right and wrong. I get this. I know what the rhetoric is. Apparently it builds strength and resilience.

But she is my little girl. Who has the most beautiful personality, a life that sparks when she thinks about singing and dancing, and a keen interest in everything pretty. She loves dandelions, dressing up and reading. To me, she is beautiful, brilliant and cares for others.

I cannot fathom my little girl having to fight her battles on her own right now. To me, it doesn’t seem right. She needs to know that she is important, and that I will be there for her and hold her. When your little girl asks you to make the bad words go away, that she doesn’t want to be called “Eliza-dumb” anymore, and doesn’t want to be called a ‘baby’ anymore, and doesn’t want people to laugh at her because she is simply fighting her her own dignity… I will fight for my child.

I will do all I can to help your ‘monster’ grow. May your strength, bravery and courage grow as I stand by your side, my daughter.

The Curriculum and The Plan

It seems to be part of my personality to write lists. I think I was born with a post it note pad in hand, because I live off them, and I live off lists, lists and more lists.

So, in order to have 2017 ready, I’m writing down my thoughts, my plan and the curriculum so that I can share my journey. It may seem like a lot, but from what I have experienced, homeschooling has allowed this family to explore a world opened up by a learning style that knows no limits or bounds.

The aim of all this is to provide Mr. 6, Miss 4 and Mr. 2…

A nurturing, gentle and beautiful environment whereby they are able to have their eyes opened to the world, but also explore the world inside them.

God, family and the community will drive this homeschool. Self awareness, self acceptance and self discovery will be important factors in creating our daily rhythm. 

So, mainly for Mr. 6, here is the plan for 2017, which incidentally begins after Christmas so we can go on holidays in February… when most people are at school – Yay!

Daily Plan:
After Breakfast and a slow start…
1. Worship, Devotion and Prayer together as a family
2a. English – Writing, Reading, Grammar and Spelling (not all in one day, this is the section for it)
2b. Math – Saxon Math Grade 1 and Grade 2
Snack time and rest
3. History or Science (Today, Mr. 6 was interested in the Gunpowder Plot and we are still on Whales)
Lunch
4a. Reading Together – Fun Reading
4b. Active Listening – Lying down and listening to a novel story
4c. Active Listening – Classical Music Song for mindfulness and relaxation
Free Play for 2 hours
5. Park, Run, Sporting Activities
6. Cooking with mum
Dinner
Downtime
Read, Read, Read before Bed

Housework will be worked into this mix and performed together with the children. To aid them to learn about money, they will be paid 50 cents for each time they help.
House work tasks can include:
1. Emptying dishwasher
2. Hang up, gather and fold washing
3. Washing and wiping down benches, sink tops, windows
4. Vacuum and steam mop

Weekly Plan:
Monday – Homeschool Coop
Tuesday – Daily Plan Above
Wednesday – Daily Plan Above
Thursday – Daily Plan Above and 3DArts Class
Friday – Daily Plan Above and Family Night Out/Movie Night
Saturday – Sports/Dance Classes and points 1. and 2a/2b above, Catch up with friends
Sunday – Church and family day

Field Trip List:
1. Melbourne Zoo
2. Melbourne Museum
3. Sherbrooke Forest
4. Scienceworks and Planetarium
5. City Community Walk (homeless and soap vans) (4 times a year at least)
6. Nursing Homes (4 times a year at least)
7. Symphony Orchestra Children’s sessions
8. Sporting Events (Tennis, Football etc)
9. Immigration Museum
10. Healesville Sanctuary
11. Farms and Farm Stays
12. Interstate or Overseas Travel

Free Time List of To Do’s:
Usually Mr. 6 won’t need any assistance in this area, as he loves making things from our recycle box, but here’s a list of fun activities I have planned for, and also planned for Miss 4 and Mr. 2 as I try and educate Mr. 6 on topics that may not be interesting to them:
1. Play dough, Goopy Goop, Kinetic Sand
2. Sensory Play with rice, sand, pebbles and other pretty things
3. Paints, water colours, oil paints, pastels, pencils
4. Wooden Construction with real nails and tools
5. Free play in our garden with their own gardening patch
6. Supervised Water Play
7. Puppet Play
8. Basically, free time to do whatever they want!

The Curriculum
English
Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading
First Language Lessons 1
Writing with Ease 1
Spelling Workout A

Maths
Saxon Math 1 (nearly complete at November 2016)
Saxon Math 2

History
Kingfisher History Encyclopaedia
DK History
Story of the World – The Ancients
D’aulaire’s Book of Green Myths

Science
DK First Human Body
Green Thumbs
DK The Animal Book

Composers for Classical Active Listening
Beethoven
Mozart
Chopin
Bach
Anyone else that strikes our fancy

And get this. Mr. 6 wanted a uniform. I told him he could have anything he wanted! So we went to the local shops and bought him blue button shirts, grey trousers and a blazer!

I will admit to you now that this above scenario is the best case scenario. I am not delusional. I know that completing this week as is, will be miraculous. But I am excited by the possibilities of learning with my children, travelling this journey with them as they grow each year. And I know that every fibre of my being will be dedicating to loving them, nurturing them more than I know how.

And I pray that I will do right by them, but giving them everything I have.

 

What I don’t want

Why have I decided to homeschool? Well heres a list of things I don’t want.

I don’t want my children to change who they are to fit into a system that has to standardise subjects and and teaching methods to ensure the majority is favoured.

I don’t want my children’s learning to be based on tests, and only learning that there is one answer to every question, and every other attempt is not only looked down upon, but wrong. Failures and mistakes are a necessary for the successes to be realised. Creativity should be celebrated, not discouraged.

I do not want my children to miss happy, fun and sunny days outside because of a classroom and time tables. Children should enjoy these times and naturally learn how to make one’s soul, happy. Mental health is so important to children. Why deny them of this to teach them something through rote?

I do not want my children to have to face very tough emotional battles inside them when they are so young, on their own. I want to hold them, guide them and help them feel safe, until such time they are ready to face these battles on their own.

I do not want my children to ever question the fact that I love them more than myself. When they grow older, face difficult situations and tough times, I want them to know that I was always there for them, and know that I am not chasing any other ideal than for them to know who they are, have centred-secure confidence and know their path to their own happiness.

My children are not a number on a ratings system. I did not decide to have children because I wanted a smart kid, or a doctor or the best child in this or that.

My children are here because I wanted them to be. Because I was blessed enough to conceive a child, grow them, give birth to them… then hold them through life, seeing them face their fears and celebrate their wins, only slowly letting go of them when they were completely ready. When they were ready to sleep on their own (my 2 year old still isn’t), ready to crawl, walk, independently do many things… But at every single moment to feel supported and loved by the one who created them… me. Because only then will they know they can face this world, and grab life by the horns and create a very fulfilling life…

Now that’s what I want.

Did you picture this life?

Today at our church, our pastor spoke about something that resonated with me.

When you were 12, did you picture the life you currently have, as the life you would be leading? When you first entered year 7 and had dreams…

How about when you were 15? When you were choosing your VCE/HSC subjects?

How about 17, when some of us had to make a very secure and hard choice about which university degree to pursue? When you were cramming and studying so hard you felt your brain exploding with information and questions of whether you were good enough…

Are you currently doing what you thought you would be doing, way back when?

And I can’t say that I am.

I am not an opera singer. I am not a singer/dancer travelling the world being famous. Then, I am also not the forensic CSI scientist that I felt I wanted to be when I applied for my science degree.

But what was planned for me, was this beautiful life, and it is such a beautiful life.

Because I wake up to 3 very cute and funny children, begging me to get out of bed, but surrounding me with cute cuddles and kisses, allowing my day to start with love and happiness.

I start my homeschool days slowly, and breakfast is slow, filled with conversations and serving one another at the breakfast table. We take our time, and enjoy each other.

Because prayer is not neglected in my walk through life. And I am able to share that prayer and spiritual life with my children.

Slow and steady learning takes place not just 6 hours a day and without me present, but WITH me beside the three children I care most about. Learning different things that interest them, but also guiding them through things that they may not know about, and sparking interest.

Watching, observing, learning and nurturing my children every single moment of the day, and seeing them grow… fulfils me more than I could possibly imagine.

I have a 6 year old who wants to be a scientist/explorer/discoverer/inventor/astronaut.

I have a 4 year old who wants to be on stage/singing/dancing/acting/talking.

And there’s my 2 year old who will probably win pizza eating competitions but also be a very compassionate person, and a comedy legend.

My life is filled with make believe space travel, make believe about mars/pirates/samurais and bow head whales, singing songs from Broadway musicals, Disney shows, learning Wiggles dance moves, dress ups and puppet shows. It is filled with craft and arts, reading, reading, reading and more reading. It is filled with sitting with my child and helping them through times when they may struggle through something like how to read a certain word.

This is not where I pictured myself 20 years ago.

But I am so happy that this was planned for me. And I am so happy to help my children through their lives, directly, personally and for every moment that they need me.

Because at 35, I have arrived, and I am very happy with where I am. There have been ups and downs. There have been extremely tough times and some really nice times. But to finally come to a time in my life where I am happy, settled and together… what a rare find.

But I don’t want my children to have to ‘arrive’ anywhere. I want them to be happy… right now. Every day. Every moment. And I want them to share in these moments with me, when they are beautiful little children and only need, crave and require me for a time…

Ultimately, what do I picture for my kids when they grow up?
A great career? Nice, but not quite.
Successful and fulfilling life? Again, nice…

But I want my children to know that they have a mum and dad that love them so much, that nothing in our lives is worth more to us… than them. And I am going to spend every moment of my waking day, making sure that they know I love, cherish and treasure them, in all their unique ways.

I want my children to know that there is a God that guides them through life, and that life isn’t always wonderful. But there is a God who will always be there to hold you as you pray, to listen to your prayers, and a God you can grow a connection with every single day.

I want their lives to be complete and whole… because they always knew that they were loved, respected and held to the highest ideal in every aspect of life, convenient or not, by the people and God that created them.

 

The Best Private School

Passerby: So which school did you enrol your son into?

Me: Oh, the best school. These teachers see their students as their own. They focus on them 100% and allow them to follow their own interests, but also give them a firm foundation of which to make their choices. There is no set schedule however, so the children aren’t rushed out the door first thing in the morning. The school begins when they are ready. They can start the day slowly and take their time.

Passerby: That sounds like an unusual school. How could they possibly not have a schedule? Which school is this?

Me: The best private school. It costs so much but it’s worth it. They begin their day by waking up slowly and taking their time. Then their environment is set with classical music, as they enter a comfortable homely room to sit, meditate and reflect. After this, they can draw, play lego, whatever takes their fancy until breakfast is ready.

After breakfast, there is a quiet and leisurely walk to the park, where the kids are allowed to run (some want to run as fast as they can, some want to jog), learn to catch a ball and hit it, and have fun with the dogs that they see from their neighbours. There is a nice little play in the park, as they enjoy time with each other.

As they walk leisurely back to school, the teacher dedicates time to their reading, writing and general learning, but the teacher has also altered the curriculum to fit in any personal interests the children have. And it is tailored to each student. So if one student wants to learn about planets, and another wants to learn about ballet, both are catered for individually.

Passerby: Wow. How does the teacher get time to do that? Isn’t that difficult to do?

Me: Most definitely. Most teachers care for their students, but this particular teacher cannot stop dedicating time, effort and love to her students. Mind you, this school is so exclusive, this teacher only has three students to concentrate on.

Passerby: Wow. The school fees must be extensive then.

Me: Yes they are. Where was I? After the learning element, the children are allowed to indulge in free play… for about 4 hours. If they are interested in any particular sport or music activity, then the teacher takes them to individual classes. Two days a week is purely for socialisation. These days, no official teaching takes place, and the children get to play and socialise freely with their friends. Their friends are not just friends of their age, but all across the ages.

Passerby: This sounds so unusual. How about testing? Are the children tested?

Me: Not unless it is a topic that they want to excel in. If one of the children is interested in excelling in dance or piano, then exams are necessary, however, not if the testing takes away from the joy of learning that topic. The main aim of this school is to ensure the children have a heart for the community and enjoy learning.

Passerby: Heart for the community? How?

Me: Well, the children are taken to see the homeless, the elderly in nursing homes, at least once a week for the entire  year. Several mission trips to overseas third world countries are scheduled to open the eyes of the children to the world-wide community.

Passerby: How much does this cost?

Me: It costs an entire career. It costs the salary of one full time working career. It costs all the spare time you have. It costs you free time.

Passerby: … I don’t understand. Why would it cost you that?

Me: Because this exclusive school can sometimes be looked down upon, when you call it homeschool. But in fact, it is an exclusive private school, so exclusive that only my three children can be a part of it.

See your homeschool as more than “just” a homeschool.
It is an elite, personalised, private school that only allows very few children to enter.

Keep going…

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