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Education Parenthood

20 reasons to home educate your kids (and 5 reasons not to)

You’re probably asking yourself “Are there really 20 reasons to home educate?” and my answer to you is no, there are more! Home Education was on my radar since I was a teen, I was determined to home educate my future children.

Unfortunately, life didn’t turn out as I expected. Being a single parent I felt forced to put W into primary school which was a disaster. I pulled him out after one term to Home Educate. What followed was: two terms of home education; one academic year in a Moroccan Maternelle (nursery, for the French); one academic year of flexischooling (2 days at a co-op, 3 days at home). The plan is that in September they will start attending a French/Arabic bilingual school nearby. Home education is definitely on the cards for the future. I want to travel more, but Covid19 has highlighted the importance of putting down roots and having a family home. So I’m working on that first. That way if there’s another global pandemic we have a base to come to from our travels.

I wouldn’t claim to be a spokesperson for Home Education, there are more qualified/experienced people out there. But until our education system is given the shake up it sorely needs, I’m an advocate. So without further ado here are MY top 20 reasons to Home Educate (and 5 reasons not to).

20 Reasons to Home Educate

  1. Your child’s learning will be tailored to them.
  2. Flexible daily routine – no more early mornings & rushed breakfasts.
  3. Your child will make friends from different age groups.
  4. There are many ways to facilitate learning.
  5. Your child may be happier and more confident.
  6. If your child has any diagnoses, you can better cater to their needs.
  7. Your child can enjoy self-paced learning.
  8. Family time is a part of everyday life and no longer a luxury.
  9. You can take as may breaks as you need.
  10. Time to focus on any learning areas that require extra support.
  11. You may learn something yourself.
  12. Education isn’t limited, the world is your classroom.
  13. It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are lots of free resources.
  14. Some SEND children can be better supported to learn at home .
  15. Learning takes place in the ‘real-world’.
  16. Delve deeper into subjects with no bell telling you when to stop.
  17. Your child can follow their interests.
  18. Children can take charge of their own learning.
  19. Learning can take place whenever and wherever you want.
  20. You can take learning outdoors.

5 Reasons NOT to Home Educate

  1. If your child’s school tells you to. This is call off-rolling.
  2. You just want to have a child genius. Hot housing can be detrimental.
  3. If you just want to recreate school at home and think you know everything.
  4. Your children don’t want to be home educated, then don’t do it.
  5. If you don’t enjoy spending long periods of time with your child(ren).

If you’re a Home Educator, is there anything you would add or take away from my lists?

Disclaimer: Home education refers to the term used in the UK. Homeschooling is a term used worldwide. If you do not reside in England & Wales check local laws. Home Education is illegal in some countries. Always seek advice and information before taking any action.

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Activity Ideas

5 Summer Learning Activities for Children

I don’t know about you, but my brain has turned to mush over lockdown. With Covid19 not looking to go anywhere and any international travel plans having to be postponed, I’m looking at a staycation and simple activities to keep the children busy. These 5 summer learning activities do just that and as each focuses on a different area of learning, you don’t need to fill any mum guilt for neglecting to attend the last few weeks of Zoom school before the holidays!

1. Start a Nature Journal

A few years ago, I bought the Exploring Nature with Children Curriculum and I never used it! I figured we spent enough time out and about in nature throughout the year, that it was sufficient. However after 3 months of lockdown life – I’m ready to inject some semi-structured nature experiences into our lives with nature journals. If you’re not sure where or how to start, howwemontessori have some great tips!

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

2. Summer Reading Challenge

If you’re in the UK, you can sign up to the Summer Reading Challenge. If not you’ll have to look locally to see what’s on, or make up your own! I try to pick one main book for the week that we focus on and build activities around it, that will address areas the boys need help with or they have shown an interest in.

For example, W is really starting to enjoy reading for pleasure and is reading a chapter of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe each night before bed. Activities I can do around that would be designing a new book cover, writing a book review, drawing a map of Narnia etc. what you do is completely up to you! If you want to use this opportunity to diversify your child’s bookshelf, you can check out my 10 book recommendations over at The Motherload.

3. Maths Scavenger Hunt

We use maths on a daily basis, from counting how many cups of coffee we need to wake up, to counting down the hours until bedtime. Enter your email below to receive a FREE everyday maths scavenger hunt printable!

4. Homemade Ice-Cream

This is a tasty treat for the whole family, and it involves some pretty cool scientific concepts! We try to do this every summer, you can add toppings or try to make other flavours if you want. You can find the recipe and the scientific concept behind it here.

Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels

5. Foreign Language Film Night

If you have Netflix, this one is easy. Pick a film that you’ve watched before, then switch the audio to any available foreign language. Stick English subtitles on and they’re reading! This is one of the ways my children keep up with their French and Arabic over the holidays.

Don’t forget to take photos of your child doing one or more of the 5 summer learning activities listed above. Share them with us on Instagram either by tagging @littlelondoners or using #littlelondonerscommunity.

You can also check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!

Categories
Books

I wrote a book!

I wrote a book! I can’t stop saying that. It might only be a short ebook aimed at parents to read to their children BUT I wrote it. Little Londoners started as a way to show people there’s more to life in London than concrete and commuters.

In the last 2 years we have been evolving into something else, expedited by our move to Marrakech. I’m still working out what that is, and I’m still finding my voice. We don’t have the following I would like, in part due to my lack of confidence to push forward. I suffer from severe imposter syndrome – an overhang from years in an abusive relationship. However I have been fortunate enough to be a contributor for online blogzines such as: The Motherload, gal-dem and cultursmag. I’ve been invited to speak on radio, appeared in TV documentaries and YouTube skits.

Over lockdown, a few things happened that made helped me reach an epiphany. I stuck up my middle finger to anxiety and this is the result. I wrote a book. A short ebook about what happened when it was time to leave lockdown.

My book is available on Amazon. Happy reading!

Did you read my latest blog, 7 Strategies for Parenting Sensitive Children?

Categories
Parenthood

7 Strategies for Parenting a Sensitive Child

Parenting a sensitive child is no easy feat, trust me. I have one. B (5) is the kindest, sweetest child and I often ask everyday what I did to deserve a child as amazing as him. He will often write me little notes, or bring me gifts from the garden. Always looking out for W (7) and striving to be as helpful as possible when the situation arises.

BUT he cries. He cries A LOT. He cried from the moment he was born and he hasn’t really stopped. Okay, a slight exaggeration but he would cry as a toddler when he didn’t want to walk and I ‘fixed’ it. B is now 5 and today alone he has cried about 8 times, over what I feel are small, easily solvable situations, and I am yet to ‘fix the problem’. He doesn’t know why he cries, I don’t know why he cries. He just does and it can be frustrating, which is why I have put together the 7 strategies I employ for parenting a sensitive child.

1. Keep Calm

Have you ever heard of the phrase “adding fuel to the fire”? My parenting approach is to NOT do that. I’m maybe successful 97% of the time, I’m only human, but it works. Shouting at a child who is crying or upset, is not going to help the situation at all. In fact, research shows that shouting at a child can raise their stress levels and cause changes in their brain structure. These sorts of changes can lead to mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood. Read more here.

By being calm and lowering the temperature of the situation, I find that it can be resolved a lot more quickly, easily and calmly. That’s a win in my book!

2. Work Together

This depends on the situation/child, but as an educator and a parent I’ve noticed that children cry when something goes ‘wrong’. This is an opportunity to work with them, showing them how to fix the problem or clean up the mess. Or provide a learning experience on the logical consequences of crying. I would near more hands to count the number of times B has missed out on an activity/experience due to crying. Where I have maybe had to remove him from the room/session in an attempt to calm him down. Only for him to realise that he’s missed out and the crying to start all over again! He is still grasping the idea that the harsh reality that the world will keep on turning, and it won’t stop just because he is crying. It is also an opportunity to…

3. Provide Reassurance

In my experience, sensitive children are anxious children. They can be the sweetest, kindest child you ever meet and yet extremely anxious about anything and everything. B is a complete perfectionist, he wants everything to be exact, following the rules and if it’s not…the frustration unleashes (mainly onto his brother). Providing a child with reassurance and building their confidence is key for any parent, but it is imperative for sensitive children. The older B gets, the quicker he is finding his voice (several weeks vs. several months) and so this is my bit of reassurance for you: it won’t last forever.

4. Explore Emotions

Help your child learn all about the different emotions we can have. As a home educator we actually made it into a mini-project. We watched Pixar’s Inside Out, wrote film reviews and played an interesting version of musical statues. We explored emotions in a fun educational way, so that the children can recognise the emotions they are feeling themselves and also recognise them in others.

I also use our magnetic mood board, that allows a child to change the expression of the character to match theirs and then we talk about it.

5. Talk Together

This is a chance to talk about the WHY and the HOW, with your child. Note I stress the ‘with’. You need to talk together, to find out what works for them. NOT what works for your.

  1. WHY are they upset/angry/anxious/distressed etc.?
  2. HOW could they communicate that differently in the future?

Crying because they can’t reach a favourite toy, ask what they think they could do instead? Perhaps ask an adult for help. Maybe delve deeper into why they didn’t ask an adult for help, or why they didn’t feel able to ask an adult for help. Do they need a confidence boost? Did they actually attempt to ask for help, but you were distracted/busy and dismissed them? This is also an opportunity for you to work out how you could do better for your child.

6. Be Proactive

You should know your child by now, you know what triggers them. For example, I know that B LOVES to sing. But if anybody asked him to sing, or looked at him while he was singing, he would start to cry. He really, really hates the feeling of having a spotlight on him. Knowing this, I would be doing him a disservice if I didn’t notify his teachers beforehand. It would be unfair on him to feel singled out, and it would be unfair on his teachers and peers to have to ‘deal’ with his tears in an avoidable situation.

7. Give Space

My goal has always been to raise independent, autonomous children and that sometimes means allowing them to be in control of the situation. They can talk to me when they’re ready, instead of being forced into a conversation when they are still emotionally vulnerable. By giving them space it also means they can contribute more meaningfully to a conversation as they have been given the time to work out their feelings and what’s triggering them.

Yesterday, I made a pun with B’s name and he cried. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me as he was sad and needed some space. A few moments later he asked for a cuddle, he still didn’t want to talk but he needed comfort. When he was ready, he explained that he didn’t like his name being made fun of or changed. I apologised, because I believe in modelling behaviour and treating children as unique individuals with thoughts and feelings. The issue was resolved as he was able to take the time to reflect before confidently expressing himself.

These are all strategies for parenting a sensitive child. You may find articles on discipline, punishment or control (the parent/adult having control over the child). However, I personally believe that when a baby or child is crying they are trying to communicate something. Instead of punishing or silencing the child, we should encourage them to work through the feelings. Help them to recognise their emotions and express themselves confidently. However, if you have concerns that there may be something else going on with your child, then you should contact your doctor.

Categories
Parenthood

Respectability Politics aka The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Respectability politics – “the set of beliefs holding that conformity to socially acceptable or mainstream standards of appearance and behavior will protect a member of a marginalized or minority group from prejudices and systemic injustices.” – dictionary.com

‘Respectability politics’ the ultimate form of gaslighting or the lies we tell ourselves. If only we behaved ‘better’, looked ‘better’, spoke ‘better’ then we wouldn’t be subjected to racism and injustices. It can rule the lives for people of African descent and negatively influence our parenting experience.

Parenting Problems

Image credit: @momfully.you and @_happyasamother

When I first saw the image above, it resonated so deeply. While I may not be mothering black children, I am a person of African descent. I am never made more aware of the colour of my skin than when I am parenting my children. From the way I dress them, to their behaviour and the world around them.

In 2017, W started attending a state primary school. The majority of the pupils came from South East London’s Afro-Caribbean community. The staff did not. There was a startling lack of diversity, and an unwillingness to acknowledge Black History Month. When I removed him to be home educated at the start of the second term, I gifted books with diverse characters to the school library.

When W was on the ASD diagnosis pathway, most of the doctors I met referred to the statistics of being a boy from a single-parent, black ethnic minority family. I am hypersensitive to the fact that any slip up would not be looked upon as favourably as their peers from white British families. I often hear myself telling the boys that “I don’t want anybody talking to me about your behaviour.”. And nobody does. Oftentimes friends will compliment on how well-behaved and polite the boys are. Gushing with enthusiasm as to what a pleasure they are to be around and they press me for details. What’s my secret?

Neurosis and paranoia.

And these extend beyond parenting, these concerns influenced my naming choices before they were even born.

What’s in a name?

I love the boys names and I wouldn’t change them for the world. They completely fit their personalities and I have no regrets. However, I was conscious of the negative impact a typically BAME name could have on their future. I had to take the potential consequences into account when naming them, before I even knew what they looked like. W has a deliberately unisex name for this reason, and B’s could easily be the name of a child from a white middle-class ‘crunchy’ family.

I’m reminded of the episode in Black-ish when Dre argues to name the baby DeVante and he says to Bo “The only reason we’re not naming our son DeVante is so people won’t know right away that he’s black. I hate the fact that when something is black, the world sees it as bad.”.

I don’t know if I will ever have more children. But as the world is starting to wake up, I am determined to reclaim my heritage and my history for myself and my children. Given the opportunity, would I opt for a ‘black name’? I honestly don’t know. While I have shunned every opportunity to conform to society’s standard of ‘acceptable’ – namely in the education of my children and the parenting methods employed (hello attachment, autonomous supportive, gentle parenting!) – I seem to be unable to shake the shackles of respectability politics.

Categories
Parenthood

Life after lockdown

As lockdown restrictions ease around the world, I’ve been reflecting on the things I have learned during lockdown. However, I can’t help but wonder what life after lockdown will look like.

Earlier this week New Zealand announced success in their strategy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Last week schools in England ‘reopened’ to nursery, reception Y1 and Y6 pupils, despite government advisors saying and test and trace system needs to be in place before allowing pupils to return.

While Morocco has extended its state of emergency to July 10, with limited ease of restrictions. I look to other countries in search of what life could look like after the lockdown is lifted. I’m almost certain, however, that it won’t be returning to ‘normal’.

*schools have been open to children of keyworkers and vulnerable children. As well as providing online lesson and educational support for home learning throughout the lockdown.

Life after lockdown: What about the kids?

As parent of course, my focus is on what’s next for the children. As a parent I am perhaps mindful of outcomes for children during this global pandemic. After 3 months of complete isolation, and with limited contact to the outside world. I am extremely concerned about the mental health impact on my children.

I myself collapsed in exhaustion after a brief (necessary) meeting. I was out of practice. Smiling, laughing, actively listening – and it drained me, a neurotypical adult. So who really knows what the isolation and sudden reintroduction to society will do to our children? We won’t know immediately, but we can know what it could look like for our children. We can look to countries in Europe and Asia, that eased restrictions already.

Back to School?

Heartbreaking images of a French primary school playground, shocked parents all over the world. In China (where the virus was first identified), clear partitions separate students from their peers during lunchtime. Face masks are mandatory and students sit feet apart. This is not the educational future any parent imagines for their child. Separated from their peers, isolated but not alone.

What about the home educators? Or the parents who have decided to give home education a go after their experience during lockdown. Where will we go and what will our children do while large social gatherings are banned? We are instead forced to consider our options and weigh up the pros and cons, under government guidelines.

Socialising after lockdown

Before the lockdown, the children were attending a small homeschool co-op, just outside the city. It consisted of around 5-6 other families, depending on the day. A very small social circle which is now a health risk (numbers wise). I have been considering the best way to reopen our social circle once lockdown restrictions allow us to do so.

Do we create our own social bubble and trust that eveybody will stick to it? In the UK, gatherings of no more than 6 people are advised. Meeting up with families with 2 or more children would quickly bring us over the limit. We also have to consider where we are meeting and how we are travelling (public transport carries risks). As well as how long should we meet for before introducing others into our social bubble? All of these will depend on your government’s guidance and I have created a handy little checklist (below).

For me, I will of course wait for lockdown restrictions to be eased. I will take my time reopening our circle, encouraging my children to reconnect with their friends via Zoom or WhatsApp. Initial meetings – I imagine – will be relatively short, fraught with cires of ‘don’t touch!’, as well as copious amounts of hand sanitiser. I am actually at this moment (through a friend) getting reusable fabric masks made for the children. While I’m not sure if face masks for children will be a legal requirement. I am always nervous about anything that affects the lungs. Both boys have suffered in that department, and as a result don’t deal with viruses too well. They are improving with age, but it’s not worth the risk to me.

Regardless, while I cannot say for certain what life after lockdown will look like for everybody. I have no doubt that you will do the best for your family by:

Categories
Parenthood

Lockdown life: 5 things I learned during lockdown.

6 months has never felt so long! With lockdown and everything else that’s going on in the world I almost forgot I was meant to be taking a reflective break from the blog.

We have been in lockdown for nearly 3 months here in Morocco and the government may be considering a third extension! I’m trying to stay optimistic and hope that we will come out of it this week (June 10) as the children haven’t been outside our front gate since Friday 13th March (eek!). So to kick off our return, I’m proud to present the five of the many things that I have learned during lockdown….

How to play

B (5) loves board games, I never had time to play with him. I would play one round and then go back to doing whatever I was doing before, IF that. Now I can sit down, play and enjoy myself. I’ve taught them Blind Man’s Buff and other fun playground games from my childhood.

I can cook

I won’t be earning any Michelin stars, but I’ve always said I couldn’t cook. The truth is, I didn’t have the time to cook. When you’re a single parent and your choice is change the nappy before the baby starts screaming and stick something quick in the microwave OR cook a gourmet meal from scratch. Of course I went with the easiest aka quickest option! Now that everything is on pause and the kids are older, I have time to try out new recipes and grow in confidence.

My kids are great

All kids are great of course. But mine have really taken everything in their stride, I’m awaiting the enivitable meltdown when life returns to semi-normal, but for now I couldn’t be more proud of the way they have just dug in with helping out around the house. From keeping their bedroom tidy, to watering their plants (and each other).

I don’t read enough

As a kid, I used to read 10 books at a time. I would stay up under the covers with a torch reading, getting lost in fantastical worlds. I could recite my favourite books, word for word, front to back but during lockdown I realised I couldn’t remember the last book I had read, I then realised with horror that I hadn’t picked up a book in 2020 at all!

What do I want from life?

Well, that’s for another blog post…

Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself or your children during lockdown?