Saturday 22 August 2020

Let's go fly a kite

 This week we had one lovely, blustery day.  I took the boys up to the local playing field with a few kites and the intention to fly them.   After a rather dodgy start with one kite whose string frayed through and another that refused to fly at all, we finally got one up in the air and flying beautifully.  The boys eventually lost interest and went off to play in the playground whilst I continued to hold meditatively onto the handle of the kite, enjoying the sensation of the gentle tugging, the feeling of being connected to the wind high above me and the sight of the coloured kite swirling and twirling in the air like a party streamer.  I imagined the kite was trying to free itself from the tether of the string and fly free across the sky.

This idea got me thinking.  Am I like a kite that feels tethered and wants to be free?  What is tying me down and stopping me from swooping and flying?  It would be easy to imagine that when I committed my life to God as a Christian, to following Him only, I tethered myself like the kite.  Initially this thought felt awkward and restricting and I had to wrestle with it for a moment, but then came a divine flash of insight.  I imagined myself letting go of the kite to allow it to fly free, I imagined what would happen to that kite....

It would be blown chaotically across the sky, it would no longer hold its shape, it would swoop off in random directions, we wouldn't be able to see it's beautiful colours, the string would get tangled and wrapped around itself, it would likely get stuck in a tree or else drop to the floor still and lifeless, tumbling across the playing field like an abandoned crisp packet.  The kite was free, but was it able to show its best?  Could the kite live it's best life untethered?  I realised with clarity that no, it couldn't. 

For me in that moment this was very much an analogy of life with God. When we tether ourselves to God, it can appear like we are no longer free, like we are restricted, tied down, but in fact when we tether ourselves we can become the best version of ourselves possible.  With God holding the string our beautiful colours show, we can swoop and twirl in the wind in a beautiful and intentional display as the wind fills us and allows us to fly as high as possible, bold and bright against the sky, tail and ribbons dancing joyfully in the wind. This is not the chaos and collapse of life without a tether. What's more, with God we are protected, he keeps us safe from blowing away, we cannot get lost and are less likely to get stuck in a tree, he tucks us under his wing during a storm. Of course sometimes the wind drops and we flop, but we can always trust that God is holding us in the low times and if we do get tangled in branches, when we are tethered to God we can trust that he is going to climb that tree to us and get us down when we call for help. 

I am so thankful to live a life tethered to God, I am thankful that because I have asked him to, and invited him into my life, He has hold tight of me and won't let me go.  I am thankful that I can be my best self when I trust in His word and love and I am thankful that He is my protector in times of trouble, the one who is always there for me, whom I can always turn to, who shares in my joys and sadness and cares for me as a perfect father who cares for His child. The exquisite freedom that is granted when I am being tethered to God is far more beautiful, joyful and satisfying that any supposed freedom the world has to offer.  

But the amazing thing about God is that he doesn't force us to be tethered, he doesn't make us be held, he gives us ultimate freedom to choose to be tied to him or not.  And there is one thing that I am coming to learn, not just from flying kites but from understanding God and it is as Thomas Watson says: "To serve God, to love God, to enjoy God, is the sweetest freedom in the world."

Monday 17 August 2020

You've decided to home ed, now what?

Post contains affiliate links

In my last post I posed two thoughts for you to consider if you have been thinking about home educating.  Now you have decided to take the leap, what next?
In this post I will discuss some steps you need to take next and some steps that you might like to take as you begin your home education journey.

If you child is currently enrolled in a school you must inform the school that you intend to remove them from the school to home educate them.  A simple letter stating your intention should be enough to satisfy the school and they are legally obligated to remove your child from the school roll and inform the local authority that your child is no longer enrolled in the school. 

And now you are free, and the adventure begins.  No curriculum, no timetables, no school bells, no tests, no deadlines.  The world is your oyster.  The only stipulation is that the education you provide be efficient (meets it's goals) is full time (the government does not specify how many hours are "full-time") and is suitable for your child's age, ability and aptitude (you are the best person to know this).  

This can be both exciting and daunting, where do you begin now?

With this newfound freedom and excitement comes the discovery of a whole new world of learning possibilities:  Home ed Forest School, music classes, science clubs, sports sessions, home ed rock climbing and gymnastics, home ed maths and literacy, group classes, playground meets, online classes, big box curriculums, and any other kind of activity you can think of set up just for home educated children.  These are just some of the many options out there that will help your child ,make progress, meet other people and fill up your diary. 

Of course all these things are good and important, but if there is one thing I have learnt over my years of home educating, it is to SLOW DOWN!  You'll probably want to sign up for every group possible, but the groups will still be there is a month, 3 months, 6 months time, put away your FOMO (Fear of missing out) and embrace your JOMO (joy of missing out).  Groups and classes give us a sense of security because it feels like we must be succeeding if we are busy, and we feel reassured as we pass on some of the responsibility for our children's learning onto someone else.  But remember you know your child better than anyone. You don't need to know everything in order to be your children's teacher, you can learn together based on your child's interests and pretty much all the learning resources you could possibly want or need are available to you online often for free.  Remember you were your child's first teacher and your ability to facilitate their learning didn't stop when they turned 5.

So take some time to really get to know your child again, spend time in nature, read some really good books together, find out what their passions are outside of the social pressures of school, find out what "subjects" they love and which they despise, find out what motivates them and what leaves them disinterested, discover if they are kinaesthetic, auditory or visual learners, find out what their love languages are, go for long walks and talk, watch movies together, get up in the middle of the night just to look at the stars, dance in the rain... Enjoy all the little things in life that you were perhaps too busy to appreciate when you had places to be. 

Don't rush, just enjoy.

As your home education journey begins to grow, you might like to think about recording some of the activities you get up to, this could be photographically or written notes or diaries, scrapbooks or journals. This will be useful for you to look back on and see your child's progress and as a way of gathering memories. There is no legal requirement for you to do this, but if there is ever any doubt as to your provision it is something you can whip out for the local authority to demonstrate that the home education you are providing is full time, efficient and is suitable to your child's age ability and aptitude.

Finally to quote Meryl Street in Death Becomes Her "now a warning!" But don't be worried, it's nothing to be afraid of:  You might receive a letter from your local authority asking for a home visit to check on your provision.  There is no obligation for you to accept this visit, no obligation for you to meet in your home, for them to meet your children or for them to see your child's work. You could meet elsewhere, such as in a library or playground or politely decline a visit altogether citing your knowledge and understanding of your home education responsibilities as a reason for not requiring a visit and that you'll let them know if you need any help.  It can be useful to provide an educational philosophy explaining some of the activities you take part in and some of your general plans, but it would be wise not to be too specific with these as if you end up not following through with your plans this could be considered a failure to provide an "efficient" education. Keeping communication in writing (i.e. email) means you will have all your communications with the LA on record. 

Home education can be a really beautiful and unique journey, remember you know your child better than anyone, you don't need to know everything before your child does, you learn together.  I'd love to hear how you are getting on or if there is anything else you would like to know and I will do my best to help, I wish you all the best on your journey. 

Here are a few links to websites providing free resources that you might find helpful:

And some books that may be of interest:

Saturday 8 August 2020

Some words for International Breastfeeding week

This post includes affiliate links.

It's International Breastfeeding week!  Hurrah! I hear you cry! 

Except I don't hear this cry very much at all. What I hear a lot of is "Breastfeeding week makes me feel bad because I couldn't breastfeed for xyz reasons".  

Now as an ex breastfeeding volunteer for the Breastfeeding Network (I had to give up due to childcare responsibilities) I have a huge amount of empathy for women who have struggled to reach their breastfeeding goals.  I understand the challenges women face, breastfeeding if often HARD, that is one of the reasons why only 24% of women are still breastfeeding at 6 weeks post-partum and only 1% of women are still breastfeeding at the WHO recommended minimum of 6 months. This is not because 76% of women didn't care, decided that breastfeeding wasn't for them after all, or didn't try hard enough. Studies reveal that as much as 80% of women wanted to breastfeed. The reason is a lack of support.  

This lack of support has myriad facets, here are a few:

  • Lack of access to support,
  • Lacks of funding for support,
  • Lack of support and encouragement from family,
  • Lack of breastfeeding role models,
  • The sexualisation of breasts in the media,
  • Financial power of the formula industry,
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding about breastfeeding from medical professionals,
  • Pressure to return to work,
Women are unsupported by family, friends, medical professionals, their employers, the media, and society generally, we are shamed for breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding without a cover, breastfeeding beyond what society considers an acceptable age, told we are disgusting told to breastfeed in toilets, and even told we are sexally abusing our children, (when it comes to being a woman and breastfeeding you're damned if you do and damned if you don't and I talk more about this in my Patreon post HEREit's a wonder any women meet their breastfeeding goals.   

And right there is our reason for celebrating those women who did make it.  They made it in the face of adversity, they are the minority, and that should be celebrated. Most women didn't breastfeed beyond the first few weeks, formula feeding is the norm, (it's infant formula adverts we see on TV not breastfeeding adverts) just like most people didn't run a marathon and jogging round the park or even sitting on the sofa is the norm.  But this doesn't stop us celebrating those who did run the marathon. The same should apply to breastfeeding mothers.  (I realise this isn't the best analogy as breastfeeding isn't a race or a competition where there are winners or losers, but it's the best this sleep deprived mama could come up with!)

International Breastfeeding week isn't about shaming women who couldn't, wouldn't, didn't reach their breastfeeding goals for whatever reason, any more than Black Lives Matter is about saying that other lives matter less,  It's about acknowledging the massive obstacles women faced and overcame in breastfeeding their child. 

And breastfeeding week isn't just about celebrating the amazing achievements of those mothers who reached their breastfeeding goals, it's also about raising awareness about the lack of support, and demanding better, it's about acknowledging that mama who gave her baby colostrum, that mama who managed a week, the mama who sought out donor milk, the mama who pumped for 6 weeks or longer, that mama who used a SNS so her baby could get as much breast milk as possible, and it's about saying we (as a society) should be doing better, we (as a society) should be trying harder. Trying harder to help mothers who are struggling, trying harder to normalise breastfeeding and trying harder to flip the sexualised message the media sends us about breasts.

So if you breastfed, no matter how long for, breastfeeding week is for you (because any amount of breastmilk is a wonderful gift), just as much as it is for those women who did reach their goals. It's not the time to justify personal hang-ups, guilt or grief, it's about supporting, celebrating and educating. 

In a society where you are more likely to see a breast in a push up bra than with an infant attached, let us have one week to celebrate our amazing bodies.  Now is the time to celebrate our stories, to shout our achievements from the rooftops without worrying about making someone feel guilty. (Should those who finished the marathon not celebrate their achievement for fear of making those who didn't finish, or didn't take part feel guilty?) Do you think men would think twice about celebrating their breastfeeding goals if they could breastfeed? Not a chance, yet we women minimise our achievements to try to prevent others from feeling bad and it has to stop. We have to stop minimising our biology (again, I talk more about this in my " Embrace or Erase" series over on my Patroon HERE).

In International Breastfeeding week I want to celebrate that I have breastfed three children, two through pregnancy, through mastitis, through poor latch, pain and years of sleepless nights, that I pumped milk for a friend's baby and that I am currently still breastfeeding my four year old.  I don't want to feel like celebrating my achievements might make my friends who didn't reach their goals feel guilty and resentful, I want to feel like they are standing right beside me, celebrating with me for their own achievements no matter how big or small as well as mine, and fighting for better with me.  And I want to fight all of the things I mentioned above that are barriers to breastfeeding so that more women can achieve their breastfeeding goals and feel like International Breastfeeding week is for them too.

If you're interested in reading more about how our society views women's breasts and how this affects breastfeeding, I would encourage you to visit my Patreon page HERE  and read my post called "Embrace or Erase part 1".

If you are looking for support to breastfeed you can contact The National Breastfeeding Helpline which is open from 9.30am till 9.30pm daily on 0300 100 0212

If you would like to understand more about breastfeeding, here are some books that I highly recommend: