Does the Classroom Really Prepare Kids for Real Life?

This week an interesting article came to my attention. Written by an American school teacher in North Carolina, Anthony Johnson, it details how he creates a year long real world simulation for his fifth grade students. His results are insightful, and not remotely surprising to most British home educators. Many of us are, either intentionally or by result of trial and error, practicing one of a range of similar approaches with our children.
does classroom prepare kids for real life?

Johnson’s “simulation of adulthood” provides his students with “an interactive city where all projects intertwine to create an ecosystem of businesses and homes.” While I’m sure there are home educators who follow the National Curriculum, or other structured systems broken down by subject, it seems that the vast majority of us do not. Rather, we take a holistic approach, nurturing the whole of the child’s natural curiosity and facilitating an education that is more natural. The world isn’t neatly divided into categories that are unconnected. One thing links to another, and another. Economics, housing, health, culture, art, city planning, gardening… all are connected.

This is also how our brains work. Thoughts are not isolated. One leads to another, sometimes seemingly totally unconnected thoughts will surface in unexpected ways due to subconscious connections.

For many home educators, this is the ultimate benefit of this lifestyle choice: our children are free to follow their thought processes through to completion, which is ultimately more satisfying and learning is enjoyable and memorable.

Johnson has found that the relevancy of his simulation, which he calls “Johnsonville”, has an overwhelmingly positive effect on his students. Because they can relate their classes to the real world, to events in their own lives and those of their parents, such as finding a home, paying for it, doing a job, managing projects and so on, they remember the content of their lessons much more effectively. As a result, their test scores are well above average. The average for his school on the state science exam is 58%, while his class averages 85%.

His students are in control and have freedom to explore different elements at their own pace. He facilitates, rather than teaches, exactly as many home educators do. I remember once someone suggested I go into teaching. I grimaced and gave a firm reply in the negative. She was surprised “but you teach your own!”

“No, I don’t. I parent them. I’m a parent, I facilitate their education, sure, but I am NOT a teacher.”

This was a number of years ago, and while nothing has changed at home, as it happens, I do now “teach” a creative writing group for other home educated kids. But I strive to be a facilitator there too, giving the group discussion points and room to be creative. But I no longer shrink away from the mantle of “teacher” the way I once did.

Reading Johnson’s article, as I said, there were no surprises. I felt a great deal of agreement with his approach and there were a few “well, duh” moments, where home educators have known these things for a long time. Project based learning is extremely popular among British home educating families. Children direct their own learning, choosing what topics interest them, and parents give their child/ren opportunities to explore that topic until they exhaust it and move on to something else. We are not constrained by an arbitrary bell that tells us to switch from English to Maths. We don’t have a limited number of hours in the week in which to cover everything the National Curriculum demands of us, for no good reason.

creativity, education

While Johnson’s approach is rare in state funded schools, on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is certainly a vast improvement on standard classroom offerings, it is still a simulation. Its benefits are therefore limited too. For some of us, education is not separate from life at all, it is part of it, maybe even the ultimate purpose of life itself. We don’t separate learning from living. Our children don’t “play” at being adults… well, they do if they choose to, but they aren’t experiencing a simulated real world within a controlled environment, they are actually living real life all day every day.

For instance, my eldest is keen to be a YouTuber. He has played at making his own videos over and over again. He now has his own channel, for real, and is in the process of planning out the series he wants to produce. He will be filming the videos, learning to edit and upload them, how to add graphics and animations, music and other elements. He will experience publicising his channel and connecting with other kids who have their own channels. It’s all real, and it all prepares him for independence. As his parent, I obviously take his safety online seriously and will help him find the resources he needs, but it is his project to run with.

When people raise their concern that home education may be a barrier to anything, especially “socialisation”, I have to stop myself from laughing. People’s misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather than being segregated from society in the artificial construct of school, my children are in the world, interacting with a mix of people they simply wouldn’t if they were in school. They get to socialise with people of all ages, in a range of situations, with varying degrees of closeness. My children get to choose when they want to see friends, and when they need alone time to recharge (as introverts, this freedom is invaluable to the three of us). They are developing genuine relationships based on mutual interests, rather than the forced association that is so often the case in the classroom.

This isn’t to say that school children don’t form real, strong friendships, of course they do. I have a few friends now who I was at school with. We see each other a few times a year to catch up. Some children thrive socially at school. But not attending school isn’t the barrier to friendship that many seem to think it is. What often seems to be the case when you dig a little deeper with people who believe the socialisation myth, is that what they were really thinking of was conformity and facing adversity. It’s true that home education allows children to assert their independence much more than school does. But that’s a good thing, in my opinion. I’m not interested in having children who blindly conform, I want them to be themselves.

Peer pressure and bullying are virtually non-existent, because throughout the primary years, children do the bulk of their socialising in the company of adults, who are on hand to iron out disagreements before they escalate. Families then have the freedom to choose more carefully who they spend time with. If bullying does crop up, the two families can easily avoid one another. In my experience, and that of a huge number of home educating families, schools are utterly incapable of handling bullying. Often, the bully is not dealt with at all, and the victim must continue to endure being in the bully’s presence every day.

In the real world, in adulthood, we have a stronger word for this: abuse. Or harassment. Both are illegal and treated seriously. If either occurs in the workplace there are usually systems in place to handle it. Adults can often adjust their lives to remove the abuser from daily life. This can be incredibly difficult at times, and many victims need support, but society as a whole does not condone this behaviour. Yet in children it is accepted, sometimes even held up as a rite of passage required in order to “toughen up” a young person to prepare them for “real life”.

But is that what happens? Not in my experience. Most often, victims of childhood peer abuse are psychologically traumatised by it and this then leads to problems in their adult lives. Current research agrees with me.

Anthony Johnson’s approach is truly commendable, and I applaud him for it. But I can’t help thinking how lucky we are to have another choice.

We aren’t simulating life, we are living it.

educational freedom, creativity, outdoors, learning through living

 

For more information on different home education approaches, please check out the following links.

http://www.educationotherwise.net/

http://eclectic-homeschool.com/what-kind-of-homeschooler-are-you/

Change Your Visual Diet & Learn To Love Your Body

This year I’m going to learn to love my body. These are my top tips for anyone else who wants to break the bad habit of negative self-talk and poor body image.

visual-diet

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing a 30 Days of Yoga challenge. This particular challenge is really great because each session is really short, just 10 to 15 minutes, so it’s super easy to fit into my busy day. I aim to do one session each morning as part of my hacked Miracle Morning (more on this in a later post!)

The first two weeks or so were so great. I had taken a long hiatus from really any kind of exercise, so this was a beautiful way to introduce some movement back into my day. I’ve always loved yoga and for some periods of my life I have taken regular classes and gotten into really strong and flexible shape through it. But I started to struggle with this challenge once the novelty wore off and I started getting into the habit-forming part of the challenge (2-3 weeks in). I’m still doing it daily and will see out the 30 days, because it’s important for me personally to finish what I start. But after that, I’m going to be finding a new virtual instructor.

My struggle with this challenge has nothing to do with the difficulty, although parts of it are very physically challenging, but hey, it IS a “challenge” after all, so there is no problem inherent with that. No, unfortunately the struggle I am having is with my size. I am now by far the biggest I have ever been. Luckily I’m still pretty flexible, but there are definitely some yoga poses that simply aren’t achievable for me because my belly, for example, gets in the way! Basically any twist where I need to cross my arm over my body and bring my elbow to meet the opposite knee. Not gonna happen.

yoga-frog

The instructor, while adorable, perky and encouraging, is pencil thin. I mean this in the nicest possible way and am in no way trying to body shame her AT ALL. We are all different and beautiful and that’s great, but I’m finding it really difficult to look at the screen and see a svelte instructor with a thigh gap the same size as one of her thighs. It’s totally MY issue, and nothing to do with her, really. It’s my body issue, my unhealthy mindset. I look up at the screen and get upset that my reflection looks nothing like the person I am aiming to copy.

Yesterday I did something new… after my yoga practice I collapsed on the floor, feeling defeated and negative about my size, on the brink of giving up, when I remembered something. At the start of this year I set myself some goals, not resolutions, goals, real and achievable with detailed action steps. One of those goals was “This is the year I learn to love my body”. I had started putting some of the action steps into practice, doing the yoga challenge itself was intended to be part of it. Having discovered that the challenge was hindering my development in that area, I looked at the other steps. The very first one hadn’t been touched yet: Change My Visual Diet.

Visual Diet

Visual diet is simply the images we consume in day to day life; in the media, on social media, in entertainment and so on. In modern, developed society, we are fed a visual diet heavy in the same kinds of bodies; slim, athletic, styled. When you flick through a clothing catalogue, what do you see? Do you see your body type represented? Even so-called “plus size” models are comparatively slim and tall. They still have flat tummies and smooth thighs, they’re just a couple of dress sizes bigger than mainstream fashion models.

I came across the idea of changing my visual diet about a year ago, when I saw this video of a Tedx Talk by burlesque performer, Lillian Bustle. It’s well worth a watch, but if you only have a few minutes, this one is also great (only if you don’t mind profanity!). Despite discovering the importance of visual diet, I didn’t do anything about it. I kept on consuming a diet of thinness. And I kept on hating my body because it didn’t measure up to what my brain kept being told: THIN IS NORMAL. FAT IS BAD AND UGLY.

So yesterday, when I recalled this action step, I did something about it. I immediately turned to YouTube and searched for “plus size yoga”. What I found was a real eye-opener. There are women my size rocking yoga! They are strong, supple and have great balance. They look like me, there is epic diversity out there!

I had stumbled upon this short video a while back, but had forgotten it and needed the reminder. Apologies, it is an ad, but my link goes to doyouyoga.com where there is an interview with the fantastic yogi in the video.

Anyway, I ended up sitting watching inspiring videos for ages and fed myself a healthy dose of alternative body types. I’m going to make sure I keep feeding myself a varied diet, because research has proven that the more you see a body type, the more likely you are to have a preference for it. If I want to learn to love my body, just as it is, then I can start with seeing more bodies like mine.

Now, as it happens, I do also want to lose some weight and that is high on my priority list right now, but I think it’s so important to love my body whatever size it is. My mental health is even more important than my physical health right now, so I’m tackling that too. The beautiful thing is, in learning to not only accept but love my body as it is, I should also see a side benefit of breaking some unhealthy habits that are causing me to gain weight; such as emotional eating. Research has also shown that the more shame and negativity a person feels around their weight, the harder it will be for them to lose weight. This is a big part of why fat-shaming is so wrong. Not only is it fundamentally unethical, it is totally counter productive. You can’t shame someone into changing their behaviour to tackle weight loss. Shaming them is one way to make sure they DON’T lose weight! Some fat-shaming is disguised as “concern”. I have seen comments on social media that seem well-intentioned, but are actually fat-shaming in disguise. The comments can come across as incredibly patronising and ignorant, even if the commenter genuinely does mean well.

One of the best ways to change your visual diet, is to check out #effyourbeautystandards on Instagram or Facebook. A hashtag created by model Tess Holliday intended to open up people’s minds to what “beauty” is and can be.

Change the Voices

I’m a huge fan of P!nk, crazy huge. I adore her. There are various lyrics from her songs that have inspired me over the years. On this subject, there is one that stands out:

Change the voices, in your head,

Make them like you instead

~ F***ing Perfect

For as long as I can remember, the voices in my head have been telling me things like “you’re so clumsy”, “you’re so stupid”, “you’re so fat and ugly”. It would so totally unacceptable for me to talk to another person like that. So why do I let myself talk to me that way?! It’s awful. I’ve been working on that for a while now. If I catch myself saying those things, I check myself and stop it. I say something affirming immediately. I do daily affirmations as part of my Miracle Morning too, often including something about my body, such as “My body is filled with energy”, or “I am beautiful”. I’m finding it incredibly powerful and my mindset is changing. It’s obviously a slow process to undo 30 years of negative self-talk, but I will crack it. I will make those bullying voices in my head go away for good.

Gratitude

One of my other daily actions is to practice gratitude. Every day I write down something I am grateful for in my bullet journal. I’m finding that focusing on things that are actually important stops me worrying about the more trivial things and things I simply can’t control. Also, accepting that no matter what I feel about my body right now, it IS amazing and something to be grateful for. Just pause for a moment to think about all of the functions that your body performs automatically; breathing, circulating blood, memory. Then add in the rather extraordinary feat of growing another human life! My body has done that twice! And nurtured said new lives once born, having breastfed both my children – the Bean only stopped nursing this month. All bodies are incredible and should be acknowledged as such. So today I am grateful for a body that is living and (more or less) healthy and functioning well.

love-yourself

So this is truly the start of a new journey for me; the destination: self-acceptance. I hope you find these tips helpful in your own journey. I love to hear from readers, so leave a comment below if you have any further suggestions on learning to love your body.

If you want to hear more from me, please do connect on social media.

@SMamaBlog on Twitter, & Facebook.

Bullet Journalling Can Seriously Level Up Your Life

Bullet journalling can streamline your life and help you live more intentionally.

This is my introductory post to the wonderful world of “bujo”, how I found it, how I’m implementing it and how it has improved my life in just a few weeks. I believe it can help you level up your life too!

This post includes some affiliate links. I may earn a small commission on purchases made through these links. I will always be honest about products I use and never recommend something I have not personally used.
Bujo Bullet Journal Title

I first encountered bullet journalling last year and my first impression was pretty much “Soooo pretty! What a lovely way to procrastinate!” I dismissed the idea, believing that it couldn’t possibly help me be more productive as it would suck my time too much.

Then last month I came back to the idea. I’m not sure what drew me back now, I don’t recall. I finally watched the Ryder Carroll video, then went on Pinterest and started searching functional spreads. Yes, many bujo enthusiasts certainly do make beautiful spreads, but that’s the extra sweet topping on the cake, it’s not the main point.

For those totally new to the concept, the bullet journal system was created by Ryder Carroll as a means of organising life in one central notebook. You number the pages and keep an index in the front so you can easily find the page you are looking for later. You create a future plan, which is several months or a year’s worth of important dates all on one spread. You can add to it throughout the year as new events appear on the horizon.

My Future Planner

Then you zoom in a bit with a monthly view. There are infinite ways to create this spread, but in the basic system, you list the days of the month on the left hand page and note here any key events or appointments. On the right hand page you keep a running list of tasks for the month. For my monthly spread, I like to have a traditional calendar view on the left, then the right page has my goals, tasks and trackers.

bujo-monthly-spread

Next you zoom in even further and keep a log of your tasks for each day. Once you complete a task, you turn the bullet point into a cross, or whatever set of symbols works for you. If you don’t complete the task that day, you either cross it off as no longer relevant, migrate it to the next day, or schedule it in your future planner for another date in the future. Every task must be dealt with in one way or another. When you migrate a task, you write it out again in the next day’s log. You keep doing so until it gets dealt with.

bujo-key

The system is so simple and easy to pick up, it can work for anyone. You make of it what you want. I quickly decided I needed a weekly spread, as well as the monthly and daily ones. This gives me an overview of my week ahead, because you only write out the dailies one day at a time, so that they take up as much space as needed, and I like to be able to see everything I have going on so I can plan accordingly. I track all the promotions I am signed up to for my books, home education groups and socials, work time, appointments, date night and so on.

You can add anything you like to your bujo, it’s a totally customisable planner and notebook. Fancy doodling? Doodle away. Want to track your weight loss? Go for it. I’m doing a few challenges and self-development programs, so I track those too.

There are some truly gorgeous examples of spreads out there on Pinterest and Instagram, so if you want further inspiration, don’t hesitate to have a look there. You’ll want to search for “bullet journal” or “bujo”. The best thing about getting into this has been joining an amazing, global community. There are so many bloggers and YouTubers doing this, not to mention the groups on social media! I’m going to pop a few recommended links at the bottom of this post for you guys to check out.

leuchtturm1917-staedtler-triplus-finelinersThe next best thing for me has been the ability to indulge my obsession with stationery! While you absolutely can bujo (totally made that a verb) with any old notebook and writing implement, there are some items that make this a truly enjoyable and creative experience. I use the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, favourite of a great many bullet journalists. I use the dotted version, as it makes drawing lines and tables really easy but is less obvious than the full grid version. They also do a lined one and it comes in loads of gorgeous colours.

I also absolutely love the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. They are dreamy to write with and come in sets of various quantities. The colours are really bright and don’t bleed through the pages. There is some ghosting, where you can see a little of what is written on the other side of the page, but once the second side is full you hardly notice.

I was half right when I dismissed bujo as a distraction. It does take a lot of my time now that I was previously spending doing other things. But you know what? It’s the procrastination that I’m sacrificing. I’m choosing pen and paper and my creativity, over sitting staring at Facebook or mindless TV, and I spend waaaaay less time faffing about on my phone. I am so much more productive, actually tackling my to-do lists, rather than ignoring the mental list doing circles inside my head. I feel so much more balanced and mentally well now that I have not only this amazing organisational tool, but also a creative outlet and warm community to be part of.

Here are a few more of my spreads. I hope this post inspires you to join the bullet journal community.

bujo-bucket-list

 

bujo-health-spread

 

bujo-miracle-morning

 

bujo-writing-tracker

My Writing Tracker – I track the number of words written and hours spent each week

Other blogs and Channels you MUST check out!

Boho Berry – BlogYouTube

Christina 77 Star – BlogYouTube

Tiny Ray of Sunshine – Blog

A Wild Rumpus – BlogYouTube

Sublime Reflection – Blog

That’s all for now, folks. Be sure to hit that “follow” button and connect with me on social media. Thanks for reading. If you want to recommend any other blogs or bujo resources for other readers, please leave a comment below.

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How to Simplify and Authentically Grow Your Blog Without Spending Money

I LOVE this post by Suzie Speaks. In this crazy bloggosphere it is easy to think “I should be doing ALL.THE.THINGS.” This post reminded me that being human and social is the best way forwards.

Suzie Speaks

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Blogging is now a viable career option and there are endless examples of bloggers who have monetised their site to the point where they can quit their 9-5 job and live the dream.

Consequently, the bloggosphere (blogisphere? blogosphere? There really should be some clarification on this) is filled with ‘Earning Reports’ (which I often ignore), along with a bajillion things that we should all be doing to optimise our traffic and increase engagement to our sites. I apparently need an email list, in which I should offer incentives. I should be part of an Instagram pod or tailwind tribe. I should be self-hosted and have a professionally designed site, I should have paid advertising across all of my social media. I should be building up my social media accounts by following and then unfollowing people.

Nonsense.

No wonder so many bloggers are feeling overwhelmed or disappointed with the fact that…

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2017 So Far…

This is just a super quick post to update my fabulous readers! This year has been amazing so far and I wanted to let you know that although I haven’t posted much yet, there is soooo much coming!

2017-goals-and-planning

Bullet Journal

The big thing is that I started bullet journaling. There is going to be an epic post on this coming up very soon, so stay tuned (or hit the “follow” button!). If you don’t know what this is, very briefly, it is a planning system that turns a simple notebook into a diary, planner and journal. The key component is that you place an index at the front of the notebook, number your pages, and list everything you put in there in the index so you can find it again later. You keep to-do lists, plan for the future and track whatever you like in the book. I highly recommend you check out the Bullet Journal website and watch the intro video by Ryder Carroll, the guy who first created the concept. Then head to Pinterest and search for “bujo”….

So that’s been taking up a great deal of my attention for the last month.

Kids, Birthdays & Birth

I’ve been running creative writing workshops for local home educated kids, which I am LOVING so much and am figuring out ways to do more of that.

img_2841-2It’s been a very Minecraft-focused period for the Munchkin and the Bean, they are obsessed and learning so much. I am bowled over constantly by how creative they are becoming. The Bean also turned 5 a couple of weeks ago! How crazy is that?! Of course, he had to have a Minecraft cake, and I confirmed, yet again, that cake decorating does not come naturally to me!

I did a lot of reflecting on his birth around his birthday this year, it being the fifth anniversary of an event that completely changed my life in so many ways. You can check out my post about his incredible birth here, and the contract I used to get the lotus-caesarean here.

Coming up, I am going to be blogging about what’s going on in the midwifery world right now, with bizarre and potentially discriminatory action by the NMC.

Living Life On Purpose

A few weeks ago, I decided to set myself a couple of challenges. One is a 30 days of yoga challenge, which I am actually sticking to and loving! The other, is to stop yelling at my kids. I’m not the perfect unconditional/gentle parent, I admit that and when tensions run high, I resort to yelling. I became really aware of how frequently I raised my voice and have made a conscious effort to stop, cold turkey. No yelling at all. I have messed up twice. I’ll post a more detailed account of that, the reasons for it and how I’m handling it.

intentional

The first page of my bullet journal

My main focus for 2017 is to live more intentionally. I’m aiming to be productive and present in the moment, not letting my time disappear with no real recollection of what I’ve been doing, which is all too easy to do as a busy mum at home with two crazy kids. The no yelling is part of that, as is the bullet journalling. But the most significant thing is the de-cluttering. I signed up to a course late last year and got all inspired. Hubby and I did a massive purge in December and took two carloads of stuff to a charity shop. But we have loads more to do, so I’ll be posting updates on that as we progress. There might even be “before” and “after” photos!

That’s all for now, folks.

TTFN

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