Slow Progress is Better than No Progress

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Since writing my last post, and reflecting on how I’d finally managed to break down a gargantuan task into smaller actions, I’ve gotten myself a new mantra: ‘slow progress is better than no progress’.  I realise this is already a well worn adage, but these past couple of weeks I’ve found this phrase SO surprisingly motivating.

I can be a bit ‘all or nothing’ and will get waves of productivity which I ride enthusiastically until they ebb and I jump out the water for a lie down.  With my new mantra I’m finding it easier to paddle in the shallows until the next wave of energy hits,  thus retaining some momentum.

Remaining gently active changes my psychology completely.  Where there would ordinarily be stultifying procrastination, there now remains an energetic flow. This is so much better for the soul.  It’s like keeping myself limbered up so it’s not such a shock  to the system when I need to really kick ass on a task.

Recently Vince was working hard on a literary competition submission and for two weeks I was picking up as much of the slack as I could to give him maximum writing time.  Ordinarily this would have meant I lapsed on some of my stuff, thinking along the lines of ‘there isn’t enough time for me to give those things my full attention so might as well ignore them for a bit’. This time however I kept my stuff ticking along.

To give you an example, I noted that since joining the gym a couple of months ago, I was struggling to commit to my former >30 mins of yoga every day.  So for a short while I was skipping the yoga or doing it sporadically or squeezing it in at the end of the day.  By applying my ‘slow progress’ mantra I’m now just doing 10 minutes of yoga on my non gym days and I’m finding that far easier to commit to.  Yes it’s less than I was doing at my peak, but I wasn’t going to the gym for three hours a week then.  10 minutes is better than no minutes, and I’m maintaining a positive connection with the mat.  I’m seeing these 10 minutes as my gateway into longer sessions in the future when time allows.

What has been interesting to note is how what I’ve been learning about mindfulness meditation has informed the decision to scale back the yoga.  The lovely Joseph Goldstein talks about how it’s okay to have aspirations, the problem comes when we hold on to expectations.  I aspire to exercise at least 6 out of 7 days of the week, but I’d set an expectation that I needed to do at least 30 minutes of yoga every day when I wasn’t at the gym.  As I noted my resistance and tuned in to what my intuition was telling me, I realised that 10 minutes of yoga a day felt just right, for now.  I’d removed the struggle (dropped the expectation) and it’s become a pleasure once again.  There’s a whole lot to be said for tuning in to the authentic flow of what feels good and discovering which actions sit just right, rather than forcibly implementing an expectation.

Likewise with Item #1 on my Mr Worry List: my big mountainous ‘glob’ of a project (complex property reconfiguring), I’ve found that by releasing myself from the expectation that I need to tackle it as a whole or have a final solution mapped out before I take any action, I’m really enjoying focusing on the first couple of steps. Modifying my approach by making sure that even when I’m too busy to tend to something fully,  I still move things forward a little, has been a breakthrough for me.  Knowing the pot is simmering gently on the back burner stops it from becoming something oppressive and heavy hanging over my head.  It maintains some life, lightness and forward energy.

I can be impatient, once I have an idea I want to make it happen NOW, but in the last couple of weeks I’m discovering there’s a quiet joy to be had from inching along and letting ‘now’ take it’s time to arrive.  There is beauty in the process and it seems a shame not to enjoy that part of the ride.

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Photograph copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_juhku’>juhku / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The Mr. Worry List

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A couple of weeks ago during our pre-bedtime wind down, the Little Chap and I were curled up together reading my old Mr. Men books, many of which I’d not read since I was a kid.  We came upon ‘Mr. Worry’ which, for the uninitiated, is a woeful tale of a round, blue man riddled with anxiety about everything you could think of (assuming a rise in global terrorism and a decline in our ice caps aren’t in your purview).  A truly troubled soul was poor Mr. Worry, and as we read I kept everything crossed for an upturn in his mental wellbeing.

Not to be disappointed, [SPOILER ALERT], he meets a kindly wizard who tells him to write down every single worry he has.  Mr. Worry is to then bring him the list so he can weave some Mr. Men magic and ensure none of those things ever happen.  The next day Mr. Worry turns up at the wizard’s house with a long snaking list of all his penned worries.

With bedtime successfully implemented, followed by a lightning fast costume change into my jim-jams, I got to thinking about the story and it occurred to me that, just like Mr. Worry, there were a few things on my mind; things that had been kinda keeping me awake at night or generating a low hum of anxiety during the day.  So I decided to put pen to paper and make my own ‘Mr. Worry List’.

I wrote down eleven things.  And do you know what?  I instantly felt better, even in my wizardless state.  My initial observation was to note they were all pretty benign things and I took a moment to gratefully acknowledge that I was lucky to have such an innocuous list.

Nine of the eleven things simply required some effort and graft on my part to reach a resolution.  These were practical tasks, with tangible solutions, such as the creation of a new spreadsheet before I could tackle my business accounts, booking an oven cleaner as clearly I couldn’t face doing it myself, making a technical call to sort out a tenant dispute.  Slightly tiresome and certainly dull jobs but totally fixable and really nothing to lose sleep about.

Only two of the eleven things were trickier and more daunting (in terms of finding solutions that is, certainly none were of life and death importance).  And even looking at the two tricky things, I realised one of them could actually be broken down into a series of smaller practical steps (albeit lots of them, probably over a good number of months) but it could, in essence, join the ranks of the other nine practical tasks.  Until I’d actually written this particular worry down, I’d just seen it as a huge, complicated mess that would fry my brain every time I tried to think about it.  Writing it down was key to breaking that negative cycle. It just shifted something. Helped me get my pragmatic on.

It’s so strange how many of us can worry about unattended tasks and allow them to become shapeless, gelatinous globs of anxiety.  It’s only when we face them head on, one at a time, that their form becomes clear again and the unease lessens as we see a way forward.

So my friends, I urge you to take a quiet moment to write down your own Mr. Worry list, get it out of your head and onto paper and I’ll bet you’ll feel a hundred times better just having a clearer perspective and getting back in the driving seat.  If your list feels overwhelming (hell, Mr.Worry used a whole roll of till receipt paper), tackle one of the easier items on the list first to help gather some motivation; there’s nothing quite like ticking things off for gathering momentum.  Or see if any of them can be broken down into smaller, more manageable actions, this has made ALL the difference for me.

I’d love to hear how you get on; what insights you glean from the process.  There may not be a kindly wizard offering to take care of all our worries, but facing our fears and taking positive action has got to be a close second?  I think there’s a special kind of magic in that.

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Header Image: Copyright Roger Hargreaves 1978

 

Gliding

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Vince and I like to GLIDE.  We plan ahead and we don’t like to live life by the skin of our teeth; for some that’s exciting, for us it’s stressful.

One of the things we’ve identified that helps with the glide is to automate as much of our lives as possible.  This creates a structure around certain areas which in turn facilitates flexibility in others.

For us gliding is about figuring out which actions bring us closer to a sense of peace and ease, and which take us further away.

Some of the positive actions we’ve integrated into our days are:

Positive Actions: ‘Fully Integrated’ (these are actions we’ve been doing for a year+):

Positive Actions: ‘Work in Progress’ (these are things that don’t yet feel fully integrated but are well on the way):

Positive Actions: Next on the list:

  • Diarise a block of time each week for taking care of admin, ‘to-do’ list items, chores (approx 3hrs).

To back track a little, I noticed a big dip in my energy and motivation levels towards the end of March this year following a relay race of family colds.  For a good 2-3 months after that I continued to feel sluggish and let some of my established positive actions slide.  It didn’t feel good.  I needed to take responsibility for my energy levels and not just self-medicate with sugar and mindless trawls through Facebook.  As a result I’ve been taking the Ayurvedic supplement ‘Ashwagandha‘ which certainly helped reignite my spark.  The effects are super subtle but I noticed a welcome brightness and clarity of thought much later into the evening than I had without it.  After a few weeks of taking the tablets, alongside daily yoga I admitted to my reluctant self that I needed to introduce some cardio <insert fountainous crying emoji here>.

You see, I’ve always told the story that ‘I have a poor relationship with exercise because I never really saw my (naturally slim) parents exercise and I was terrible at sport’, but when I thought about it I was actually able to identify several pockets of time in my post-school life where I have had a good relationship with exercise. I needed to ‘flip the script’ and start telling a different story.  I’ve since joined our local gym and have committed to an hour three times a week. My energy levels have continued to increase along with my productivity, and motivation to ‘get shit done’.

One of the prompts in my Daily Greatness Journal is ‘What is going well and why?’ Consistently the ‘why’ is: ‘X is going well because I’ve made it a priority and I’ve psychologically committed to doing it’.  It really does come down to that.

I’ve mentioned here before that a great trick for me is to schedule these positive actions into my diary ahead of time, so for example I have decided I will go to the gym Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings first thing.  By making this decision in advance I’ve helped remove that internal negotiation each morning of, ‘shall I go to the gym today?  I’m feeling a bit tired, I could go tomorrow and then I’ll work REALLY, EXTRA, WONDER WOMAN-LY hard because of course I’ll feel less tired tomorrow…’  Without that pre-commitment I’d be extremely susceptible to talking myself out of it, kicking that can down the road.  Instead I’ve identified those slots in my week, and consider them set in stone.  The night before I also write it in my schedule for the next day to further commit.  When I wake up it feels like a done deal, I just get up and go with no shilly-shallying. It really seems to be working for me.

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One thing I’m trying to square is just how long it takes to fit in all the good practices into my day.  Much of it means time away from the Little Chap.  1hr of exercise + 20 minutes meditation + 5 minutes diary writing + 10 minutes YNAB update + 20 minutes on laundry – that’s around 2hrs a day.  For a while I was feeling like I must ‘get through’ those tasks so I can get on with my day but slowly I’m realising those things are my day, that they deserve the time required and that actually the positive effect will benefit the Little Chap.  I have more physical energy for play, meditation is making us calmer and more patient, I’m demonstrating the life skill of setting positive goals and tracking them in a journal, he’ll grow up knowing how to manage his finances, and in the meantime we won’t be overly stressed about money, he’ll see the benefit of keeping on top of things like laundry to avoid that clothes mountain overwhelm.  Of course some of these things can also be done when he’s in bed!  A major revelation to me was looking at how long I could spend on Facebook, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  I’m sure across the whole day it could easily have been an hour.  That’s THIRTY HOURS A MONTH!  What could you achieve if you had THIRTY HOURS A MONTH to play with? Our introduction of a daily meditation practice was a no-brainer swap.  Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to prioritise new things and invest in the glide.

When we consider implementing a positive action we usually have to accept an initial sense of loss.  If we want to lose weight we will mourn those times of over-indulging , if we want to fit in exercise we may have to forfeit that delicious extra time in bed, sorting out our finances may mean we have to forego holidays, new clothes, meals out.

Of course ALLL the positive actions don’t magically weave a protective bubble around us and things do go wrong from time to time.  Just recently our car, fridge freezer, a wall of shelves and our loo all broke in the same week.  In the past we’d have felt like the Universe was against us but because we have our YNAB budget we had already, month by month, set aside money in several emergency funds to cover these things.  Of course we’d rather not have had to spend all that money but as it had already been given that specific job it really didn’t sting that much to get repairs and replacements sorted.

Before we make a mental commitment to introduce positive changes, all we can picture is that no-man’s land of restriction but without the benefits those positive actions will ultimately give us.  That looks like a sucky place to be, zero fun.  Emotionally we can be extremely resistant to taking up residence there even if we know it’s only for a while; this is where I’ve found it helpful to ‘fake it ’til I make it’, over-ride emotion by getting practical and make a concrete plan, put things in diaries, walk confidently past our whining doubtful selves clinging on to the takeaway menu like it was a jackpot lottery ticket.

Make deals with yourself on the really tough days:  don’t even think about getting on the treadmill, just focus on getting into your gym kit. Once you’re in your gym kit you might as well drive to the gym.  Once you’re at the gym you might as well do a few belligerent minutes on the treadmill. Before you know it you’ve done your hour and the virtue just drips off you (yesiree that’s glowy virtue I’m wiping off the machines after I’ve used them).  Keep showing up to the task, find your inner grit, accept you’re not gonna love it at first but trust that eventually you will (well you’ll love the after-effects at the very least).

Before you know it you’ll no longer be faking it,  you’ll feel that glide and then YOU’RE OFF…

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Header pic: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_anagram1′>anagram1 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Clock pic: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_james63′>james63 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

No Man’s Land pic: courtesy of: http://tomtunguz.com/

The On-going Magic of Tidying Up

A fellow KonMari-er requested I turn a recent Facebook post into a proper blog post so here it is Maria..!

A couple of days ago I walked into the craft room and found this:

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Instead of feeling a little shocked to find the bookalanche, I was more disturbed by the volume of stuff that had been spewed forth.

This time last year we completed a year-long KonMari (KM) de-clutter of the whole house so I didn’t think clutter was too much of an issue here at Chez Murphy but it appears I was wrong.  It’s amazing how seeing ones possessions from a different angle (in this case in an unceremonious heap on the floor) can jump-start a fresh engagement with your things. Stuff on shelves has a tendency to become invisible after a while but when it shifts physical position you can see it again (this is why Marie Kondo invites us to gather all items belonging to the same category into a pile; changing location shakes them up a bit). And thus I saw the contents of my shelves with fresh eyes. ALLLLL of it.

This unexpected event prompted a revisit of my books ‘category’ and I let go of quite a stack that I hadn’t been able to bring myself to discard before.

All my old diaries written from age nine and into my mid-twenties had been on the top shelf (the one that seemingly tipped the balance!) and even though I have very mixed feelings about them – so much angsty content and FAR too much detail –  I’m not ready to get rid of them, not yet anyway.  Not least because they could contain more lucrative ideas like this beaut from 1996 which could lead to untold riches:

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One thing I realised is I don’t want them on view, and whilst looking online for some sort of vintage trunk to stash them in, I suddenly remembered my dad’s old boarding school tuck box which I’d had restored earlier in the year. This is part of the KM magic; when you need a solution, the perfect one often presents itself from what you already have, and just to add to the magic, the box is the perfect size to house them all snugly together AND it’s lockable!  The shame will be contained.

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In amongst the strewn items I also found three VHS tapes that’d escaped the KM cull, titled: ‘Village Show 1983’, ‘Village Show 1984’ and ‘Family’.  They’d obviously made it through Round #1 of KM but what struck me upon seeing them again was how dormant and pointless they were in their current state.  I don’t have a VHS player, hell we don’t even have a TV, so today I’ve packaged them up ready to be converted to DVD.  It’s not that expensive and then at least they can be viewed.  I remember at the time feeling I ‘should’ keep them as there are lots of people still living in and around our village who were either in the shows or who helped organise them and I’m pretty sure my dad was the only person who recorded them.  I felt a responsibility not to just toss the tapes as they have irreplaceable content and other people might be interested in them, but without converting them and sharing the footage with ‘local folk’, the tapes had a bit of a negative psychological weight to them just sitting on the shelf, unwatched.

I also came across several strips of black and white negatives from photo’s I’d taken at art college over 10 years ago.  It was just from an experimental roll and I never got round to processing any of the images as soon after taking them my lovely mum died and, well processing negatives was taken to a whole new level. I know why I kept them…partly it felt like an incomplete project but mostly it’s because there is one negative, unintentionally double-exposed,  where one half of the frame is of a tree and the other is the last photo taken of my mum before she died, plaster-of-paris’d arm held aloft.  The same realisation hit me…there was little point in holding on to them without ever processing them.  So to that end I’ve also parcelled them up ready to be scanned.

I already feel lighter for having tackled these dormant items, hopefully breathing some new life into them.

This is why I am an exuberant advocate for the KonMari method, the process continues to provide endless opportunity for insights, it’ll be a life long relationship for us.  It’s been a revelation to me to be conscious and mindful of what we own and what we bring into our home;  to carefully choose those items and to revisit and review from time to time.  And I can’t think of a much better yard stick than to ask ‘does it spark joy’?

 

 

Breathing through fear

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This morning I woke up at 5am from the most awful, awful dream about a terrorist attack in my town.  I won’t give all the gory details but let’s just say it paralleled with the recent London Bridge attack.  In the dream I was with Vince and Spike and other locals trying to hide and protect ourselves.  As a mother it was gut wrenching to have to be protecting our sweet child from the horror.  When I woke up I went into the bathroom to try to shake the dream but I couldn’t and for the first time in over 20 years I felt the first flurries of a panic attack.  The root of the fear that was trying to take hold was the realisation that, unlike nightmares I’ve had in the past where Vince has left me for Juliet Binoche, when I woke this time I didn’t have that comforting realisation that it wasn’t true, that it was just a silly dream, that all was well in the world.

The truth is that my nightmare has been many people’s reality and, sad to say, will be likely be a reality for others in the future.  This was where I started to panic. My bad dream was to some extent true.  The bogey man does exist. I knew I needed to somehow put my existential dread back in it’s place, and I did.   I was able to stop the attack from taking hold by yoga breathing and repeating the mantra: ‘There are so many good people in the world, there are so many good people in the world‘ and as I did this I could literally feel my heartbeat slowing down, the swirl of fear in my brain subside and a level of calm descend.

It’s an awful feeling to know I have no direct control over preventing awful things from happening to me or worst of all my family; and the responsibility I feel for bringing a sweet life into this world weighs oh so heavy on my heart.  The future, as it’s ever been, is uncertain but I believe we will always be able to count on the fact that there will more good people in the world than bad, legions more, and what we can do on an individual level (short of joining MI5) is live good lives, actively seek positive connection with others, create communities even on a small scale and live as fearlessly as we can.

The well used meme has it that television’s children host Mr. Rogers said his mother responded to scary news by telling him ‘look for the helpers’ which is a beautiful idea, but let’s not wait for the disasters before we look for the helpers, let’s actively look for the goodness in our every day.  Let’s draw it in and beam it out, all the good people of the world breathing our way through the fear as one.

 

Photo credit: https://tinyurl.com/ybp6jevl

My Mother’s Love Runs Through Me

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May 20th will (quite unbelievably) mark the tenth anniversary of my beautiful mum’s death.  As is so often the case when it comes to time passing, it simultaneously feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago that I last saw Anne Wardrop, held her hand, plumped her pillows, held my breath as she took her last.

She’s missed so many major events in the lives of my brother and I; we both met and married our partners since she died, developed our careers, moved houses but the thing I find hardest is she’s never met any of her three lovely grandchildren.  She would have adored each of them, and they her. We call her ‘Granny Anne’ when we speak about her to the children, which is often, but the truth is we never got to ask her what she’d like to be called so we had to decide on something we thought she’d approve of.  No teacups have mysteriously been hurled across the room so we take that as tacit consent.

Of course I miss her for my own sake; as my life unfolds there are constantly new conversations I’d like to have with her, ones we couldn’t have had when she was here because I hadn’t reached that particular stage of my life yet.  But at least I was fortunate enough to have almost thirty three years with her. The Little Chap will only have our stories and photos to know her by, and I suspect she may be not much more than an abstract figure for him, just as was my maternal grandfather to me, as he too died before I was born.  I’ve lamented my mum and the Little Chap’s lack of physical knowing of each other, no hugs, kisses, playtime, mealtimes, her cool hand on his poorly brow but it’s felt futile dwelling too much on that as there’s nothing to be done to ease that sadness…or so I thought…

The other day my wise and intuitive friend Wendy told me an incredible fact which concurrently blew my mind and brought me unexpected comfort; namely that when I was inside my mother’s womb, I was already carrying the egg that would go on to create the Little Chap.  This means my mum carried within her a physical part of my son. There was a physical ‘holding’ of him by her, just not the one I’d pictured.  I love that thought so damn much. Of course it doesn’t replace the daydream of them actually spending time together but that piece of information has given me something in place of the nothing I previously thought I had.

Over the last forty-three-and-counting hours I’ve been with the Little Chap around the clock as he’s had an awful vomiting bug poor love.  Of course it struck the night before I was due to see a friend in London, my first overnight trip away from the small one in TWO YEARS!!  But while I was really sorry to have to cancel our plans, there is nowhere I’d rather be than by his side when he’s ill.

He’s by nature a stoic vomiter.  No fuss. Which makes us love him all the more.  But I really understand why my mum used to say she ‘wished she could be ill for us’, as you would take their sickness away in an heartbeat if you could (instead we just take it in turns to pass it between the three of us, just so we can ALL suffer.  Not quite the deal my mum was after, Mother Nature). Although my mum is long gone, it’s at these times of intense care-giving that I notice that the way I show love and care for the Little Chap has the same quality as the love and care my mum showed me. I truly feel a flow from her, through me, into him and this also keeps a feeling of connection between her and my son alive.

I know how lucky I am to have known a mother’s love like hers, it’s a great foundation from which to build a life and plenty of people aren’t so fortunate, so the least I can do is create the time and space to share that love with my own son and hope it continues to flow through to future generations.  There is a law of physics which states ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can transferred and transformed’…

I like to think the same applies to love…

 

Educating with Freedom

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Last month many of our friends found out which primary schools their 4 year olds had got in to. We, in theory, will be doing all that next year.  I was struck by tales of mums in tears because their child did (or didn’t) get in to their first choice of school.  There is so much anxiety around education and schooling in this country and I worry about how that transfers onto our children, the last thing we want is for their place of learning to become associated with anxiety.  I also worry that the school system is so rigid and test based that parents feel disempowered to take the lead in their own child’s education.

From way before we even became parents we’ve long admired the Finnish model of education with the ethos being to wait until the child is 7 before introducing formal education i.e. numeracy and literacy. In the early years the focus is on play-lead learning and developing social skills such as caring for others, empathy and self-care.  It’s also worth noting Finland has some of the best education outcomes in the world.

As the UK is not set up for a delayed start we would either need to ‘home educate’ or find the funds for something along the lines of Steiner so his early learning is play- / creativity-based and child lead. Every fibre in my body feels we start formally educating children far too early.  I also feel culturally there is a rush for our children to hit every milestone as soon as possible, when there is much to be said for letting their childhoods and achievements unfold at a natural pace, lead by them and facilitated by us.

In terms of our approach to parenting our instinct has been to sit back, and let the Little Chap take his time in discovering his capabilities and the world around him. For our family this has worked very well.  For example he stopped wearing nappies a couple of months after he turned 3.  Some of his male peers were considerably earlier than that.  But what I can say is that we never had any tears, there were no battles, and pretty much nothing in the way of ‘accidents’ because we gave him the time and space to do it when he was ready, there was no ‘training’ involved.  We had no need to rush that transition.  It’s been totally stress free, and actually a real pleasure to tune in to his pace and watch him succeed in his own right.  And I want to offer him that same approach to his early years of education.

There seems to be a huge shift between how our infants learn and how our pre-schoolers and beyond learn.  We didn’t sit down and formally teach our chap to roll over, to reach out for toys, to crawl, walk, say his first word. These things happened naturally through us playing together, him watching us, through his own biological imperative, through him testing things out in his own time, through us gently encouraging and facilitating.  None of his progress has happened as a result of us sitting down and making a lesson out of it. It was his own curiosity / frustration which lead him to try to roll over (and fail) and try again until he figured it out.  And then suddenly this style of learning stops and learning through play becomes ‘learning to the test’ and little fidgety children are expected to stay seated, to focus on one topic; and just as they are in the flow, the topic changes and they’re expected to switch gear and with it their focus.

Currently Little Chap is in the very common phase of asking a million questions every day; How is the sky made? (ask your father). When I’m bigger can I fly my helicopter up to heaven and bring Granny Anne down? (if only!), How is poo made?  Do foxes eat poo? Does anything eat poo? (I googled that one, it’s a surprisingly large list).

A recent non-poo-based question was ‘how are volcanos made?’.  I’m not even sure how he got to hear about volcanos but it prompted him and I to sit down and watch some videos on volcanos.  Vince went out and bought a book on volcanoes and a volcano making kit which they made together. In that one project they got to learn about mould making (by using plaster of Paris to create the volcano), they did some painting to make it look realistic and then some chemistry in the form of mixing store cupboard ingredients to make the erupting lava.  The Little Chap also asked his Uncle Grant to tell him about the time he was filming at a Volcano and they sat together and looked at the pictures of that trip as the stories unfolded.

None of these activities felt like ‘education’ to any of us, they were fun, we all learned stuff and we had the time to follow these activities through until he was ready to shift focus.  But the point is he expressed an interest, he chose the topic and therefore he was totally engaged.  This is what I want for his early education.  I want him to be able to immerse himself in a subject, an experiment, the creation of a piece of art until he’s done.  I want him to freely follow an ever unfolding thread of learning.  I want him to learn to learn for the love of it and not because he’ll be in trouble with the teacher if he doesn’t.

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I know there are benefits to going to school and for some children it’s a place where they thrive but it’s not for everyone.  One of the most common things I hear when I tell people we’re thinking of home educating is ‘but what about socialising him, won’t he miss out?’  Well yes and no.  He will miss out on seeing the same people every day and forming friendships (and potentially enemies) on that basis but home educating doesn’t mean staying at home all day.  We would meet up with other children (of all ages) being educated outside of school.  He will have playdates once school is finished for the day with his friends who do go to school. He will hang out with his beloved cousins and the whole host of adults he encounters in his life.  He’s currently not in school or even pre-school and yet already he’s one of the most social three year olds I know.  He instigates conversation with his peers and adults alike.  I don’t think his socialisation will be a problem.

For the sake of super easy access to 25-30 other children his age on a daily basis I’m not prepared to accept unquestioningly the structure and ethos of school.  Why are primary school aged children getting homework when research shows there is little benefit and a very real risk of negative psychological effects?  The school day is long enough, I believe they should be playing, or doing recreational activities they love, spending time with their families.  And yet I regularly hear parents talk about the nightmares they have getting their child to do their homework, how there were tears, tantrums, bedtime anxiety over homework not completed, how the parent spent the evening finishing the homework etc.  As the young people say: WTF?? The more empowered amongst my friends send the homework back to the school, unfinished, with a note to say they are not putting their child through that level of stress aged SIX, and I applaud them for this.  Why are we doing this to our little children?  If primary aged children want to continue working at home then happy days, let them do it with joy in their hearts, but at this tender age, and where there is resistance and anxiety, we run the risk of turning our children off learning completely if they feel forced.  There is plenty of time for them to develop self-discipline around study when they are mature enough to understand the benefit.

And why are we testing them so young?  It is absolutely not for their benefit.  Teachers are saying they don’t want to be doing it, it’s box ticking, it’s for the stats, not for the healthy development of our children.  These tests aren’t measuring a child’s self confidence, self-esteem, creativity, wellbeing, love of learning, ability to engage in a topic of their choice, life skills, social skills, vocational skills, empathy, dexterity, and these are some of the vital skills we need for a healthy, happy adult life.

Not all children are destined to be academic so what about them?  Where do they get their educational and personal validation from if all the tests are about academic ability and demonstrating you can commit a bunch of facts to memory?  We each have our own set of valuable talents and abilities, and when we emerge from the school system (for many of us) that is where we begin to learn who we are and how to be who we are with confidence (I’m still learning), how to figure out where we belong, what we are good at outside of whether or not we know how to do quadratic equations.  It’s a worry.

School never suited me, I did well enough academically but even in primary school I used to look at the cars driving past the school and long for the freedom of those drivers…I was eight!  It’s therefore little surprise that I’ve spent most of my working life as a freelancer or self-employed.  I find institutions stifling.  I never wanted to be a sausage in a sausage factory. The current school model is based on the early days of British industrialisation when children were being primed for life in a factory.  That is just not the future our children are facing.  With the rapid growth of Artificial Intelligence taking over the human workforce we are going to need to get creative career-wise.  And therefore we need to be teaching our children how to be adaptable, free-thinking, self-directed, entrepreneurial individuals with a life long love of learning.  This way they will stand a chance of finding their place within a fast changing world.  I simply don’t feel confident our school system is going to do this as well as we can, for our specific child, particularly in the earlier years.  As a side note, some years ago I came across an exciting alternative to mainstream secondary school (unfortunately as is always the case the fees are ££££) but the style of learning they offer would have suited me to the ground.  I’m certain I would have flourished there and I would love the same for our Little Chap.  I highly recommend a watch of their video.

We will certainly visit our local schools, we’ve by no means made up our mind (although having written this post my gut tells me I may have!) but I will remain open to what our local schools can offer.  Taking the unconventional route feels both liberating and daunting, taking the conventional route feels societally simpler but at right angles to our values and how we choose to live our lives.  We’re a way off needing to make a decision, thankfully, but these things creep up and I want us to glide into this decision feeling well informed, and not rush it because a deadline is snapping at our heels.  So watch this space, I will post an update once we are clearer about the path ahead.

Hey friend,

I am aware this may be an emotive subject for some, and this post is not designed to be a critique of your own choices around education, we are all striving to do the best we can for our own children.  I’m still trying to figure this stuff out and I’m choosing to do it here because if I’m honest I have been fearful of negative reactions and people telling me we’re going to fuck our child up or turn him into a weirdo so I needed to walk through that fire and put my thoughts out there.  Fear can be a crippling voice in one’s head, but my gut tells me we’ve got a lovely boy so we’ve done a good enough job so far, and there’s nothing to say we can’t continue to do so.  I’m inclined to listen to my gut over fear.  I can see pros and cons about both routes and I would love you to share your thoughts and experiences, whatever your choices have been.

Header image courtesy of: www.homeschoolersanonymous.org