Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The consequences of being openly judgmental

Because when people feel criticised they won’t hear the good ideas anyway.

Most people don’t like to be criticised, especially if they feel an element of guilt about their actions.

I’ve been on the receiving end of it. One shuts down, emotionally and mentally, and just tries to get the criticiser to shut up, however right they are.

There is an art in offering advice/criticism/suggestions - and it often involves saying nothing at all when one judges that it will not be well received. If people want one's advice, they'll ask for it (and even then the best response might be to say nothing at all)

So many people mistreat their children. They complain about them, they send them to school against their wills. They leave them crying in the night. They complain that they cannot sufficiently control them, as if they were radio cars, not autonomous humans.

But what they want to hear is not “apologise, pick yourself up, strive to do better by yourself and by your child.” Instead they want to hear “you’re doing your best, girl. It’s a really hard thing being a Mum. You have to be cruel to be kind. They’ve got to learn. They all go through it. (S)he'll be fine soon, tears all forgotten”

There’s a part of me screaming “those children have to have someone advocating for them” but maybe it does more harm than good – maybe it sets the mothers on a self-defensive path of following the consistency principle. It certainly gets one seriously flamed. And being flamed is good for getting the adrenilin flowing, but less good at stomach-ulcer-avoidance.

I wish I’d read this:

“To so many parents, stopping a child crying by cuddling it will spoil them and
no research will persuade them otherwise unless they repeatedly see
real-life examples. I wish I could package up all that I’ve been lucky
enough to learn and experience and hand it to other parents, but I
can’t. All parents have to make their journey themselves and I have
to just hope that the small exposure they may have to how we do things, and
to how our children turn out, might add to any other exposure they have to
similar families and might, just might, give them the confidence to trust their

before setting off on yet another doomed crusade on the mainstream boards. It’s right. Small steps, Ellie, small steps. Just live your life, and treat the children you meet yourself as fully human, and let the ripples spread in their own time.

Better to look to learn rather than to convince or teach. Whether others are doing the same or not is their responsibility. If there are spaces where one learns little of value, avoid them. There is an arrogance in going to those of different beliefs and values and saying "here, try mine, they are much better". One will always be convinced of the moral superiority of one's own position, or one wouldn't hold that position, but that does not mean that it is infallibly better, and nor does it mean that explaining it to someone else is going to be helpful to them. Much better to find spaces in which one can challenge and refine one's own ideas than to attempt to teach others.

'Sfunny, I've taken to the idea of unschooling as the ideal for children like a duck to water, but have had this big blind spot in my dealings with other adults...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reasons to Consider Home Education #10

I merely mentioned the story of the guy who is prison because someone else
suggested that 'all' HE adults were well adjusted individuals, which is not
true. ALso, on that topic, someone also said that most people in prison would
have been sent to schools - but that is another point which is hardly worth
mentioning, since most people go to school. Therefore, you cant compare it. Its
not about where they were educated that makes them a criminal or not.

Absolutely. Now I see why you mentioned the story it makes more sense.

I think we should all be concentrating on what our children want and need to be happy and fulfilled now, and equally what we ourselves need to be happy and fulfilled now. Put our creative problem solving into that rather than worrying about whether this particular educational path will stop our child becoming a rocket scientist one day or whether either HEing or schooling our children is more likely to make them heroin addicts - it's going to be much more complex than that, but being unhappy is a good indicator of future self harm one way or another...

I'm not saying anyone else isn't concentrating on happiness of all members of their families, it's just a little unrequested homily for you.

Did I ever tell you the story of my childhood friend who read English at university, then swopped to theology, then went off to become a monk, then decided not to do that yet, then did 3 science A levels in a year aged about 25, then did a medicine BA, then changed his mind about becoming a missionary doctor in south america, then went into a Dominican seminary, and eventually became a priest?

That's what life is all about - doing what is right for right now, and finding ways to chase your dreams wherever they take you, and even if the road is not straight.

If a child will be happier not going to school today, send them tomorrow, or next week, or next term, or next year, or in 5 years - send them when it makes them happy.

I just feel that I dont want to deprice my child of any of the skills she
will need to cope in the real world, and I think the classroom is the
safest place to expose them to situations that will teach them these skills. Its
not foolproof, of course people get bullied and so on. But you gotta do what you
think is best, and I think that as a parent my first option will be to send my
child to school, and if that doesn't work out, then I will consider other
options. HE being on the list, but definitely not the only other

I think the real world is the best place to learn skills you need to cope in the real world. It's all the real world, but the subsection of it within the classroom is an artificial and arbitrary environment with codes of behaviour completely different from those one encounters in society at large. What you get good at in school is learning how to be good at being at school. A glib answer, but a heartfelt one.

Maybe its about independence? Is that part of the subtext here? That children are going out and coping alone without Mummy/Daddy's apron strings to hold on to? Again - I have an unusual philosophy on this one. I was brought up to believe that independence is something you take, for yourself, as and when you are ready. This is one of the reasons I have no idea when I left home. I gradually spent less time there, I gradually moved beloved objects to my other place of residence. My mother says she remembers vaguely a time when I said "oh, feel free to chuck them out, I'll never wear any of the clothes in that wardrobe again" and that for her was the moment when she thought "Oh, I guess her actual home is where all her clothes she actually wears are, now!" but I'll have been in my mid-20s by then and largely living independently for 5 or 6 years already. I have never regretted leaving home, there was no wrench, and I know it's still there whenever and if ever I need a place of refuge. That's unconditional parenting, that is. And, from the inside, let me tell you that there is nothing like the confidence engendered by choosing for yourself how and when to take steps towards independence, small and large.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #9

I don't think HE is the best option for every child or every family. Nor do I think it is the only option. But it is a legal option, and I think far more of us should at least consider it seriously with our children, get ourselves informed and think about the pros and cons.

At school-choosing time, it'd be "this CofE primary, or the one round the corner which we are in the catchment for, or do we feel like a Steiner-WAldorf, or are we going to be sending our children to a very posh prep school or can we get into this RC primary, or shall we home educate?" Just one on the list.

it simply isn't seen as an option by many families, and they don't offer it as a possibility to their children even if their children are clearly unhappy about starting/continuing school. I think they should, because happy children learn better and live better than unhappy ones.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #8

I became a mother before my working life had barely started, therefore I haven't
experienced that spectrum of my life. Just because you have no ambition to
pursue anything else, does not mean its wrong for mothers who do wish to pursue
something. Im a very good mother, always there for my child and will still be
there for her when she goes to school. I feel for me, its very important to
maintain an identity which is seperate from my children, but which doesn't harm
them and if possible, which can help them to become better people. Me going to
university sets an example to my children, and especially to my daughter that
woman can do and be what they want and should not be bound by the confines of
motherhood and homemaker.

I support your actions and goals 100%, both in carving your own path and setting an example. If your children were suicidally unhappy at school, you'd be able to find a way to achieve your own goals AND to HE your children. I'm not hoping for that, obviously, and indeed school may well be the best solution for ll of you. But there is choice, there is always choice, given optimism and imagination.

Its no good the parents teaching the child that bullying is wrong, that's as
good as saying 'Dont touch the stove, it will burn you.' The only way a child
will find out these things is if he experiences them for himself.

I don't believe that direct personal suffering is the only way to learn. Think about the implications of that possibility for a moment... there are children who kill themselves in this country every year as as result of school bullying. It still exists, and it can be life threatening. No one at any age should get used to bullying. In school you have to deal with it day in day out with the same bullies for years. You'd leave a workplace where that was the case. Zero tolerance is the way forward, like I said before. I think a HE child would encounter bullying, but they would never have to live with it - there would always be an escape. "I don't like the way you are acting towards me. Goodbye". Child learns a lesson in power and self respect. Bully learns a lesson too.

To answer your question about having ever met a HE'd adult. I have. He's
currently serving time in prison for possesion of herion. Guess he was never put
in a situation as child where he was put under pressure to do something and had
to learn to say no
urgh. What an awful story. Thing is, of course, that most of the drug-use jailbirds most people come across went to school... so it can't really be used as an argument against one or the other, can it?

Reasons to Consider Home Education #7

HE children might only be exposed to activities which interest their parents
Yes, an HE familiy would need to be careful to expose children to a wide range of activities and opportunities. It would certainly be possible to live in something of a bubble, and HE families should guard against that so child can discover their own interests.

I want my children to learn to compete against other children

I'd rather parents taught their children to compete against themselves than against other people. To strive to do their best, and to achieve all they are capable of rather than to beat Sally on a test.

There are HE children out there achieving the most astonishing things, which anyone competitive minded would regard as "winning", but they weren't necessarily competing against anyone else to get there. Maisie, Angus and Travers MacNeice spring to mind (published a best-selling biography called "The Lion Children" about their life on an African research station before they'd all hit teen-dom).

And there's nothing stopping a HE child engaging in competitive sports, and engaging seriously in them, if that's their thing. I know lots of parents do want their children to compete against other children, those just aren't my values.

You need to go to school to learn about teamwork

Heh - I think a half hour visit to HESFES or to any of the weekly home ed meets would explode that myth and the big difference is that HE children learnto cooperate with children of all ages, to help the little ones and accept help from the big ones, not everyone the same age. Much more what they'll find in adult life.

I want to reclaim my own life, which I can start to do when the kids go to

[what I didn't say in a public forum: so you thought having a child was a 5 year commitment????? Or 3 year, if you're starting with pre-school????? I know a mum who always says with that hint of self sacrifice under-ridden with deep pride at continuing to be useful that "being a parent is a life sentence"]

Yes, I can see that too. But I have to say that I see mums come to the end of maternity leave and go back to work with a sigh of relief just as their child starts to communicate, to have interests, to grow slowly into independence - just as things start to get a bit more interesting.

And similarly, children at 3 going off to preschool, or at 5 going off to school at just the age where they don't need the parents' undivided attention 24/7, but happily get on with their own thing for periods of time. The age where they just begin not to need constant supervision when playing with other children - it gets more and more fun to be around children as they grow, IMO, but most of us miss out lots of the god stuff.

It's seriously hard to complete a degree with a tiny baby in tow (I know people who've done it) but with a 5 year old or a 7 year old, you'd be able to do your coursework while they are busy colouring or writing stories or whatever, and you could probably even take them to the library with you as they got older (now what an educational experience that would be!) I know many lecturers who wouldn't mind having a child in their lectures in the slightest, so long as they weren't disruptive, and in fact I know a woman (single mum) in the unenlightened 1970s who used to take her toddler to lectures when the child care fell through, and have the little one doing colouring in a corner. The mum was the lecturer!

Also worth asking: why should it be the mum who is at home full time (when there are 2 parents). Many men LEAP at the chance to go part time or stay at home entirely for a few years, jumping out of the rat race with a great sigh of relief.

It's all just a question of finding ways to maximise a family's happiness, and if that involves school, then wahoo. But it needn't necessarily.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #6

There is a lot more to say about this mixing-with-all-strata-of-society-at-school issue.

This country is about as non-socially-mobile as it has ever been. The situation was probably better in the late middle ages, when a bright boy could become a priest (which is how Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, son of a butcher, became the most powerful man in England,apart from the king).

Things were much more mobile even 30 years ago - talent could rise academically and economically. What made that possible within the education system? Grammar schools (almost all gone in the last 30 years), the assisted places scheme, whereby bright children could go to the best private schools on government assisted scholarships (now abolished), a well-paid, intellectually-independent and socially honoured teaching profession mostly staffed by graduates of good universities who helped their brightest pupils aspire high, whether they were from leafy Berkshire or a sink estate in Newcastle.

That has been progressively undermined by the working conditions of the last 20 years (centralised government deciding syllabus and teaching styles, centralised testing every five minutes, mountains of paperwork, abusive treatment at the hands of pupils and parents... I know lots of bright and inspiring and subject-passionate people who go into teaching. Some of them have even done a year beyond the NQT year before they've had enough and go to private schools or leave the profession altogether. Those who are left are those with a real vocation, but their job is damn tough. They have my undivided admiration, but I still think the majority of parents can do better for their children than the teachers can manage given their working conditions).

The abolition of the university grant and introduction of student fees didn't help either.

The truth is that we live in a class-ridden society and perhaps the best way to opt out of its prejudicial structures is to opt out of some of its institutions - like schools, for example.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #5

I WANT my child to have to deal with different and complex relationships
everyday, and not just people that i choose to socialise her with. I mean, lets
be honest, an HE parent gets to choose which kids their child mixes with -
rather than letting their child come across many different people from many
different cultures and classes, and choose their own friends.

An honourable HE parent supports their child in exploring their own interests, and within that the child will meet children of all sorts of backgrounds, with the same interests (e.g. football or swimming lessons or whatever).

It is worth thinking about the degree of social mobility within schools - not really an issue in primary school, but by secondary school, children pretty much sort themselves according to socio-economic status (I have a reference for that - it's in John Holt I think or maybe in "School is Not Compulsory"). And how much does socio-economic status affect parental school choice? When middle class parents say "Billy's got a place at a good school" they aren't just talking about OFSTED reports, they are talking about people Like Us on the PTA and at the school gate.

Sending children to private schools or faith schools accentuates the ghettoising even more.

I don't see the challenge of social mixing as being peculiar to HE, or even a particularly big deal, because HE families come from all sorts of backgrounds and from rich to poor, and because there are fewer of them, children will tend to get to know most of the ones in their area, either well or casually, so there's plenty of social mix going on.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #4

Socialisation is the thing which ALWAYS gets thrown at HEers as the reason not to do it.

HE parents do not keep their children locked in cupboards. At least, none that I know. Like I said before, there are active HE groups almost everywhere in the country. Take a random local area: perhaps an under-7s learning group once a week, an under-7 playgroup once a month and under-5 meet-ups in people's houses once a week, an all ages social get together at an adventure playground once a week, ice skating once a week, swimming once a week, climbing wall once a week, and once a week a whole bunch get together for foreign language classes. Pottery, needlework... it's all happening.

That's before you take into consideration the families who post on the local list that they are going on a nature walk at X on tuesday, and everyone is welcome to join, or that they have set up a tudor day at a local museum cost £5, only 25 places available. And of course families have informal get togethers all the time which no-one knows about because they aren't posted on a list anywhere.

Did I mention the summer camps? As far as I can see, half the HEers in the country spend most of June and July camping in fields at HE festivals (HESFES is the famous one) which are a big mix of social and learning and having a blast.

It's a whole glorious subculture, and it's growing FAST.

HE children still make friends at the park or at cubs or swimming or sunday school or wherever.

The difference for HE kids is that if they don't get on with someone, they don't have to spend 6 hours a day with them 5 days a week...

So, what precisely is it about the social milieu for HEers which bothers you? It's different, for sure, because it's not being in that bizarre and artificial environment of being in a room full of 30 people the same age (name a single situation in adult life where that would happen). But rich and varied and as social as the child wants - yeah baby.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #3

I think HE is a good idea as long as the people doing it are educated
themselves enough to be able to teach, and self disciplined enough to ensure
their children learn sufficient life skills for their adult life.

Actually, I think it is a lot more important that parents should be prepared to FACILITATE than TEACH. People are not buckets - knowledge cannot be poured into them - people learn what they are interested in learning, whatever the best intentions of the teachers and the National Curriculum devisers.

Parents do not need to know everything about the life cycle of a newt themselves, but they need to be prepared to find out with their child, or help their child find out, if their child needs/wants to know (and I'm thinking: library for books on newts, a 10 second google fest, visit the zoo and meet the newt keeper, ditto at local nature reserve...)

Life skills for adult life - absolutely - that is the parents' responsibility, for HE parents just as for parents who send their children to school. (In fact, you could say that HE parents are taking that responsibility even more seriously, since they don't entrust it for 6 hours a day to a school teacher looking after a room full of children all at once)

I also feel that some children can be pushed into doing it when they would love
to be at school and as and when that happens, the childrens needs should come
first and they should be allowed to attend.

I agree 100%. If a child wants to go to school, they should certainly be allowed to try it (and to stop it if the whole asking-permission-to-go-to-the-toilet and waiting-for-teacher-to-spot-your-hand-is-up-before-you-talk behaviour code is too much to handle)

Also i know some dont allow/teach their children along the same lines of schools
and their children do not take gcse's etc, and i feel that is wrong as those
exams are vitally important for a good education/grounding for college/uni etc
and its all well and good the parents saying that qualifications dont mean that
much/are not necessary, but again they are making that decision for their child,
instead of giving them informed choices..

Teaching along the same lines as schools would be a pretty poor second to what is possible. I mean, truly, so much of what is done in schools is make work (like doing pages and pages of maths problems when you understood the principle 2 hours ago). And there's so much time wasting while little Dennis the Menace tears the classroom to bits and the teacher can't tell the other children what to get on with because (s)he's too busy dodging flying chair legs.

HE can be truly responsive to the child in a way that schooling cannot be. There can be a much more holistic approach, a much more flexible approach. Learning can take place anywhere, in all sorts of mediums.

GCSEs - how important? Honestly? School qualifications are not the be all and end all, partly because of grade inflation (25% get As at A level now. It just doesn't differentiate between the brightest students so the better universities pretty much assume anyone applying to them will have at least BBB at A level). And GCSEs are completely irrelevant as long as you've got A levels under your belt.That's for the university aspiring types.

For others - employers want maths and english GCSEs and really aren't that bothered about exactly what else.But it's not just GCSes and A levels is it? It's SATS every five minutes from the age of 7. Any of you with school age children know how stressful those are for children (and do they help them learn? No. They measure what they have learned, within a very narrow range. So naturally, the teachers teach them to be as good at possible at that narrow range of things, leaving little time for other learning in the classroom. They have to, to look after the school's position in the league tables). It's like pulling up potato plants every 2 days to see if they've grown potatoes yet. Doesn't give the plant much change to get its roots down and actually grow some blo*dy potatoes.

Reasons to Consider Home Education #2

All fine and dandy but how can you HE AND go out and work to pay the bills?

two part time jobs?

One parent working from home? (or both?)

One parent working, the other not?

Reasons to consider home education rather than schooling #1

Child can learn at own pace. They never get left behind. I know SO MANY PEOPLE who didn't understand some concept in maths aged 6 or 7, and never ever got the hang of it after that it just wouldn't happen to a HE child. There are so many people who come out of school functionally illiterate. They weren't ready to learn in year 1 or 2, and after that it gets more and more difficult to keep up with everything, because so many instructions are given in writing, and so much of the educational product is expected in writing. This wouldn't happen with an HE child - learning can happen perfectly well through conversation and image until child is ready to learn to read, but you can't do that with a room full of 30 kids.

Similarly, HE children never have to wait. I have vivid memories of a teacher taking me aside and giving me a right royal telling off because of my "attitude" problem in a particular subject, when actually what happened was that he'd spend half an hour every lesson going through the homework ALL OF WHICH I HAD GOT RIGHT. Of course I was bored rigid. What was the point in listening to him? I'd understood this stuff, and he knew it because he'd marked the homework. That never happens to a HE child.

HE families don't have to follow the national curriculum. They can follow the interests of the child. If it's all about dinosaurs this month, it can be all about dinosaurs, and that can come into maths and writing and art and science and history and old uncle tom cobbley and all. You can catch the questions of your child when they happen, whereas a physics teacher faced with "why do clouds stay up?" will have to say "er... actually today we are doing ticker tape timers" and the moment is lost.

HE families do not have to cope with bullying. They can truly have a zero tolerance attitude. In adult life, if someone bullies you, you get out of the situation. HE children similarly have freedom of association, a basic human right denied to all school children who, by definition, have to mingle with a given group of people whether they like them all or not.

HE children have true socialisation. Instead of being with a group of people whose birthdays all fall within the same school year (think about it - how many good friends did you have at school outside your year?) they have a much wider cross section of ages and abilities and classes and experiences to be friends with. Just like adults have, in fact (because, let's face it, not all my friends are within a year of me in age, and neither are yours). They are out there in society, mixing with check out ladies and bank clerks and other children and the gas meter man and bus drivers and that old man who walks his dog round the block everymorning at 1043 precisely, at one mile an hour, and everyone else who makes up local society.

HE children make friends with other HE children of all sorts of ages. A 15 year old has so much to offer a 12 year old. A 6 year old has so much to learn from an 8 year old. And that's normal, natural, accepted in the HE community.

HE children do not have to live on an externally imposed timetable (unless their parents mimic the school day). They choose their commitments and they learn to keep them (brownies or football or recorder group or whatever it is). They are well prepared for the independence of adult life.

HE children get to go to all the cool places when they are not jam-packed in the school holidays Not only museums and zoos and parks and swimming pools, but also cheap holidays in June or September - because HE families don't have to follow school terms

HE children go to true experts when they get passionately interested in something. Where a schooled child is pretty much reliant on Mrs Bloggs the Teacher, a HE parent faced with something beyond their ability or knowledge will either get knowledgeable (everyone is learning in HE) or use their networks of friends and family to find someone with real expertise who can help. I know HE children whose parents knew some who knew someone who knew a really famous scientist, who was delighted to spend an afternoon discussing evolution or astrophysics or whatever it was.

HE children get to socialise just as much as they want. In most local areas there are active HE groups, and truly, if you went along to all of the joint learning and social occasions, you'd never spend any time at home at all.

You can stop whenever you want. If your child wants to go to school at 6 or 8 or 13 or 16, that's fine. Quite a lot of HE teens go to 6th form colleges for A levels or other higher qualifications. A LOT do Open University courses in their teens. There's nothing holding them back, you see.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Watch What You Eat

The UK government is introducing food grants for pregnant women to try to get them to eat healthily. No kidding, this is real.;jsessionid=KRLQTTMJLI2C1QFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/09/09/npreg109.xml

It seems to me that it is a somewhat short step from such a grant to a system where all pregnant women are required by law to eat 2 meals a day in government-registered cafeterias, where their food intake is carefully monitored by nutritionists and the number of spoonfuls is counted by new public sector employees.

Oh yes, tax me a little more please in order to pay for such madness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My child won't finish her dinner

Not my child: someone on a parenting forum was worrying that her child wouldn't finish her dinner.

I would back right off.

It's such an anxiety, isn't it, when we don't think our children are eating enough? But by trying to force our children to eat we risk them losing any understanding themselves of when they are full, when they are hungry, what foods they do and don't like (and when we stop understanding that we are full or hungry, we open the door to being overweight later in life, or being unhealthily thin). One of the most important things your child can learn is how to self-regulate their food intake and, by definition, you can't make it happen, you have to LET it happen. (there was something about this in the papers just a couple of days ago - about parents trying to get their children to eat another spoonful and how harmful it can be in the long run)

Reassurance: no 4-year old is going to starve themself, as long as you provide food they like.

1) some people are grazers, not big meal eaters. You could try just letting go of the expectation of big meals, and providing healthy snacks for child to eat during the day.

2) I would mix up the family meal time for a bit - it can be such a big deal, yk? My feeling is that once adult meal time conversation is interesting to a child, they'll come and take part - there's no need to "train them" up to it. Have carpet picnics, TV dinners, breakfast in bed - just let go of that whole everyone-sitting-together-and talking-and-eating-together thing, because sometimes it's much easier to eat when there aren't two or more adults watching your every move.

3) can child say what she wants to eat? Go with it. You'll find it's beans on toast 3 times a day for a week, and then suddenly there'll be a day when it's all about apples or all about bananas, or it's chips with everything until suddenly rice is flavour of the month. Or maybe it'll be just chocolate for one day (I don't know many people who'd do that for more than one day, but you have to do it once to realise how icky you feel at the end of it. No lecture needed, just offer something bland like yoghurt to help the poor tummy recover!!!) Left to themselves, people don't eat a balanced diet every day, but when you work it out over a week or a month, actually all the right stuff is going in.

The more you worry, the more you will communicate your tension to your child, and the more she'll pick up that food is something to be anxious about. So you really have to chill out, if you possibly can, and then food will become more fun for everyone for many years to come!

Oh - and where did we get this thing about finishing our plateful? It's so arbitrary! My parents' generation will have picked it up in the days of rationing, and passed it on to us with new justifications. When I was little it was all about the starving children in Africa (well send them my ruddy left-over mashed potato then, I'm FULL UP!!!!)

It's taken me a long time to learn to stop eating when I'm full. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my tummy. Sometimes the eyes of the person serving up for me are bigger than my tummy (if that makes any sense).

If you don't want to put leftover food in the bin, then
1) put it in the fridge for your own breakfast
2) only have a tiny helping yourself and then clear anyone else's plate
3) yes, tiny portions. Or maybe the meat in one little bowl and the rice in another, so if child only eats one sort of food, the rest can pop in the fridge.
4) get chickens or pigs to eat the scraps
5) start composting, and think about all that goodness going to grow next year's peas

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sibling rivalry

I wonder why and how siblings develop a competitive edge? Many many of them do.

Perhaps it goes right back to mama soothing the baby when older child also needs attention and touch?

Rivalry can spill over into the rest of life.

Some people I encounter only know they want sometihng when they hear that someone else wants it or is having it. Some people will happily have a small piece of cake until they realise someone else is having a larger one. Some people prefer to be the fastest swimmer in their lane. Some people want to read the book I just started rather than any of the other 20 lying around the room.

I have no idea how one combats it or engages with it with small children, except perhaps to encourage them to find happiness and fulfillment through their own actions rather than by comparison with the actions of others (this is a place where only children have a real advantage over siblings, I think - I rarely encounter onlies minding other people playing with their toys, or comparing helping sizes or whatever; I see it all the time among those with siblings).

- have toys and spaces which are really one person's, and if they say "leave" or "let go", their wishes are respected, in the same way that if the shopkeeper says "I'm closing now, please finish up, pay and go" you have to respect and adhere to that.

- having more parallel play going on, where one is baking cakes and the other is painting or something, so that the comparisons are irrelevant?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

...and mothers are people too

One of the big factors in women stopping breastfeeding seems to be blocked ducts, and then often mastitis.

A friend just had a bout of full-blown antibiotic-requiring mastitis, so I emailed her all the advice I could think of which I had ever encountered. I think if women were given good advice about blocked ducts, lots of them would feed for much longer than they do.

Please add further anti-blockage ideas in the comments...

Sometimes one can clear the blockage by pushing the milk through with a hand while baby is suckling (pushing from the armpit past the place where it hurts all the way to the nipple, or from the torso all the way, if it's a blockage right on the front. They often seem to be in the armpit though).

Avoid wearing a tight bra, or anything else which constricts the flesh on or around the breasts. A tight t-shirt can be enough to induce a blocked duct for some women.

It often helps to have the bottom of the baby's mouth (the bit which does the real sucking) on the same side of the breast as the blockage. Prepare for some odd contortions...

It might help to lie the baby on their back, and have mama go on hands and knees over baby while breastfeeding to clear the block. It looks very odd but the gravity helps. Mooing is optional.

If your breast is hurting, the moment important thing you have to do on that day is to clear that blockage. Hot towels, cabbage leaves, lots of nursing on that side, maybe try a breastpump - whatever it takes. If you go to sleep with it still blocked, you risk infection and fever.

The most outrageous advice I have heard (but also, anecdotally, the most effective) is: your baby is not the only person in the house with a mouth. I've often heard of people enlisting the help of their nursing toddlers to clear a baby-induced blockage - they suck so hard that it takes seconds. And if there aren't any of those available, a co-parent is also an option. They'll save you 5 days of illness for a few moments of cultural dissonance, in the complete privacy of their own home. And remember, they can always spit not swallow if the whole idea is utterly revolting to them (though the breastmilk would probably do their immune system the world of good ;-b )