Seriously, Just Be Quiet


One of the most valuable parenting skills I’ve learned is actually one of the simplest you could imagine. You wanna know what it is? Keeping my mouth shut. This one action has proved so valuable in so many situations. Let me explain.

Today Nookie and I were at a play centre. They had these trays of that squishy jelly stuff with a load of various animal toys in there, as well as spades, funnels, etc. I sat and watched her play in silence for quite some time, only joining in her various games when she wanted me to. Otherwise I just watched her (as I’d been asked to). Then another little girl came along to play. The difference between her mother’s parenting style and mine was immediately apparent. But I was most amazed by the amount she interfered in her child’s play!

Every few seconds she was trying to redirect her play in some way. Asking her questions about which animals were in the tray, which colours she was using, trying to get her to play some other thing to what she was. I found it quite bizarre and amazing. Why the need to constantly quiz?! Why not just sit and watch your child play? Observe the ways they’re learning and figuring out for themselves? Your child will learn the names of animals. There’s no need to constantly quiz them! Just let them get on with it.

Silence has it’s other uses. Quite often Nookie has done something to annoy me and just taking a few seconds of keeping my mouth shut, rather than being reactionary, has helped me to have a quiet word with myself, establish what’s actually going on, and think of a better solution than shouting or getting angry.

There’s also all the times where she’s trying to figure something out and I’ve been tempted to step in, but instead have chosen to remain silent and let her figure it out for herself.

Talk to your children. Have conversations with them all the time. Interact with them and wonder with them. But please, parents, learn too when to keep your mouth shut! Sometimes being quiet really is the best thing you can do.

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I Love Our Home

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.

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We live in a cheap, 1950s council house. (For my non-British readers who may not know what a council house is, basically the council owns the house and we rent it from them for a relatively small amount of money (compared to privately renting). We’re very lucky to have a council house. The waiting lists are years long.) It’s one of many houses the council hurriedly built after the second world war, and was never meant to stand longer than a couple of decades. Fast forward sixty years and these houses are still standing, albeit reluctantly: terribly insulated, badly designed and with cheap, plasterboard walls that won’t hold any weight. But having said all that, I love our home.

After years of living in a tiny bungalow with only a shared garden this place is like a palace. We have a large front garden and a huge back garden (the only drawbacks being the amount of grass to cut and that unfortunately we don’t have a garden fence). We have three bedrooms. We have a dining room! Generally, in the UK, you have to be pretty wealthy to afford a house with such luxuries, and I feel very lucky to have such a home. We’ve only lived here for ten months and I still treasure the amount of space we now have. The gratefulness I feel is one of the reasons I strive so hard to keep the place clean and tidy. After years of living in a tiny space, crammed to the rafters and impossible to keep clean, I love living in my relatively tidy, clean home (even if keeping on top of the cleaning does make me slightly crazy!).

Anyway, let me take you on a tour…

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Let’s start with the hall. The HALL! We have a hall. A proper, functional hall. A place to keep coats on hangers. Somewhere to put our bookcases with our beautiful books on show. Nookie really loves flowers, so we always have a vase of fresh flowers on a table. I can’t tell you what a difference to a home having a real hall makes.

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This is our living room, and it’s probably one of my least-favourite rooms actually. We have a lot of pets (eight cats and two large dogs), and this is where they tend to hang out. We have a massive dog bed that always smells like dogs and takes up a huge area. The sofa has to be covered otherwise the cats scratch it, and the covers are always hanging off from Nookie climbing all over the place. Even the sofa isn’t that comfortable any more after years of cats sleeping on the backs and Nookie bouncing on it. The wallpaper (which was up when we moved in and we can’t afford to change it), is that sort of textured stuff which the cats love to put their claws in, so everywhere there are scratch marks and places where it is peeling off.

Still, there are things I love. Real curtains that open and close. In our bungalow the curtain pole kept falling down so in the end we just had curtains pinned to the window that we could never open. It looked horrible. All our paintings and photographs are up in here. And I love our large, working fireplace, which is a huge novelty.

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This is our dining room, which has always been Nookie’s play room. We do have a small folding table, which we bring into the living room for dinner, but otherwise the room is completely devoted to Nookie. This is one of my favourite rooms. It’s so warm and welcoming. Her toys are spread out where she can get to them and her artwork decorates the walls. She loves it in here.

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I really have a love/hate relationship with the kitchen. It’s badly designed, with no where near enough work surface space. The thin, plasterboard walls mean we can’t have any shelves up, so even more surface space is taken up with cooking equipment. Also, the cat litter tray lives in here, which is just gross and always smells, but there is no where else we can put it.

But, the lack of space means we’ve had to come up with creative solutions for storage to maximise work surface space. We’ve squeezed shelving units into nooks and crannies and stacked high. We’ve stored things under and over. I especially love our spice rack which is screwed to the back of the lobby door. Everything is where I know it is, and it works for me most of the time (although Hedgehog finds it very stressful cooking in there).

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This is the family bedroom. We all sleep in here. Thankfully the room is big enough to accommodate a kingsize bed and a single bed pushed together, as well as enough storage for all our clothes. My favourite thing about this room is the wallpaper (it was the only room we wallpapered when we moved in), and my beautiful Banksy print. Otherwise I don’t generally favour this room. It’s always messy. Nookie loves to lay in bed watching films, and also eats most of her meals in here. The beds are always unmade, there are generally crumbs everywhere, and various drinks and half-eaten meals on the bedside table. The dogs also sleep in here at night so three large dog beds litter the foot of the beds, which isn’t great.

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And finally here is Nookie’s “bedroom” (we also have a spare room which serves as a general storage room, and a small bathroom of course). I like this room. At the bungalow we slept in a loft bed which has now been put in this room and converted into an extra play space. At the top we put floorboards down so Nookie can climb up and play up there on a large, flat wooden surface. And underneath we’ve made it into a little den complete with fairy-lights and blankets to lay on. She also has some of her favourite toys under there. She loves to play in her “play bed”, as she calls it, and it always goes down a hit with her friends.

So that’s our home. And I love it. :)

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family’s home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama’s most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn’t have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia’s nursing nest and changed room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry’s recent “home tour,” That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she’s thankful for around her home. Don’t plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family’s newly renovated home and how it’s set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen‘s life is now host to her family’s homeschool adventures and a room they couldn’t imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she’s created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

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Pregnancy: The (Dreaded) Third Trimester

29 weeks

29 weeks

That’s it. Had enough now!

I’m almost 30 weeks, I’m big and uncomfortable, my back always hurts, I’ve got chronic heartburn, and I’m constantly physically fatigued. My breasts are swollen and so sore the slightest touch is agony, and none of my bras fit properly any more. I can’t get comfortable in bed. Standing for any length of time is getting to be impossible.

I’ve had enough.

On the bright side, so far I haven’t suffered any of the more annoying side-effects of pregnancy I did with my last one (swollen feet and hands, constant itching on my feet, etc), possibly because I was clinically obese last time and this time I’m a healthy weight.

But, oh man… it’s hard work. And Nookie has chosen this period to be as difficult as humanly possible. Honestly, I don’t know what’s come over her lately. She’s like a different child again. She has massive screaming tantrums over the smallest things almost every day. She’s back to refusing to get into her car seat when we’re out, refusing to get her nappy changed, refusing to brush her teeth… basically at the moment she will argue that up is down and the sky is pink. She will not do anything I ask of her, and constantly asks unreasonable things of me. She’s driving me crazy! So many times today I’ve ended up screaming at her. I barely get anything done through the day because if we’re not sitting in bed watching films or playing computer games all hell breaks loose. She won’t have anything to do with Hedgehog most of the time and follows me from room to room. She barely sleeps… last night she had seven hours sleep and is still awake now at 10.30pm. I just don’t get a break. She’s relentless. And when I really, desperately need a break, like this morning, she just won’t leave my side. It’s incredibly difficult.

So I’m stressed. Boy am I stressed! I haven’t felt this stressed out in a long time. This morning I was shaking and breathless I felt so agitated. I did finally manage to get an hour to myself, after Hedgehog finally managed to convince Nookie to play with him, but I spent most of that time catching up on cleaning I haven’t been able to do for days because I’ve been so busy keeping Nookie from having a meltdown. I feel physically and emotionally exhausted.

Whose bright idea was this pregnancy anyway?!

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A Week of Unschooling: Wipeout and Oranges


Nookie’s new obsession is Annoying Orange videos. Totally random and bizarre, I know. YouTube leads to so many weird and wonderful discoveries. But as always learning has happened in surprising ways and not only has her vocabulary expanded through watching them, she’s also discovered new computer games, and new shows such as Wipeout, which we now have to play at the park. Great fun. :) Here’s what else we’ve been learning/doing over the last week or so:

* Putting a white flower into food colouring to discover what will happen. Talking about how plants take in water.

* Playing in numerous parks with friends. Making new friends.

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* Visiting a dinosaur exhibition with Nannie.

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* Visiting an armouries museum where we learned about armour and battles.

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* Watching Halloween make-up tutorials on YouTube. Learning how to make fake wounds.

* Watching the Scooby Doo movie “Where’s My Mummy” and talking about ancient Egypt and pyramids. Playing at being Cleopatra.

* Practising her own make-up in front of the mirror.

* Watching a YouTube video with a toy dinosaur egg with a dinosaur that grows and finally hatches when you put it into water. Finding first a toy alien that does the same, and then a dinosaur egg (at the exhibition). Experimenting with putting them in, then taking them out of water to watch the growth/shrinkage.

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* Learning about measurements by measuring how much the dinosaur toy has grown over a period of time. Playing with rulers and weighing scales.

* Playing Wipeout on the climbing frames at the park after watching videos of it. Timing her on the same run to see if she can beat her score.

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* Playing “surprise eggs” by hiding small toys inside play-doh for Nookie to dig out. Pretending to be making a video of the process (like the ones on YouTube).

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* Playing with her dolls house, pirate ships and Scooby Doo characters.

* Having a go on pedalos on a lake for the first ever time. Learning what a life jacket is and why we need to wear one when on water.

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* Adding bicarbonate of soda to vinegar and trying to inflate a balloon with the resulting gas.

* Playing snakes and ladders and other simple board games. Having a go at playing Battle Ships (and not really getting it yet).

* Playing mini-golf at a park.

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* Making “butterfly” pictures with paint and folded paper.

* Playing some new computer games online and on my phone: Happy Wheels, Splatter Up and Temple Run 2.

* Digging up our vegetables from the garden and helping me to prepare and cook them.

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Home-Ed Camp


Nookie and I just got back from the most amazing week at our first ever home-education camp. It was a first-time event organised by a member of our local home-education group at a nearby Scout camp. Going at all was a last-minute decision. When she first put the tickets on sale we couldn’t afford them, and they sold out quickly. But last week I thought, what the hell, and emailed her to see if there happened to be any remaining tickets. Luckily for me there had been a couple of cancellations, and there were a handful of tickets available. Yay!

The camp was Monday-Friday. Camping at nearly six months pregnant for four nights was a little daunting, but lots of my friends were going and I knew it’d be okay. And, oh my what a place! It was like a paradise. Completely secluded countryside surrounded by woods. Open fields galore. Trees for climbing. Hills for rolling down. It was a truly beautiful place.

Unfortunately, all wasn’t plain-sailing. A few hours into our first day I went over on my ankle (the ground was VERY uneven and covered in a thick layer of dry mown grass). It hurt a little at the time but I carried on walking and running with Nookie, climbing and exploring. But as the day wore on my ankle and foot started to hurt more and more to the point where I could barely walk. I struggled on but remaining at camp was starting to look increasingly impossible. The final straw came when I hobbled down to the Scout Hut on Monday evening to collect my mobile phone where it had been charging (a walk down a steep grassy hill). It took me a long time to make the walk and by the time I reached the bottom I was on the verge of crying in pain. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt! I rang Hedgehog and reluctantly asked him to come and collect us. Soon after the first-aider arrived (fetched by my friend Anna) and checked my foot… he agreed with me that it probably wasn’t broken, but was at least sprained and that I should rest my foot on ice.

So Hedgehog arrived and I sat in the car on the verge of tears while he and my friends packed up our stuff. Nookie was very disappointed. I had to borrow Hedgehog’s crutches to get into and around the house. At this point I couldn’t put weight on my foot at all without extreme pain. Once Nookie was in bed I cried my eyes out to Hedgehog. I was gutted. In the morning, despite my best hopes, my foot still really hurt. I tried to walk on it but it was just so painful I had to continue with the crutches. So Nookie and I spent the morning laying in bed watching films and feeling sorry for ourselves. She stood on my foot a few times climbing around the bed (ouch!), and I don’t know if that’s what did it. But by lunch time I had had enough and determined to at least get up and get dressed! And to my amazement, suddenly I could walk on my foot! It hurt, but the pain was bearable. I managed to walk around on it for a while, sit down on the floor playing with Nookie, and then I decided it was okay enough to at least try returning to camp. So we did! We went back for the day, which was fine, and on Wednesday we stayed overnight for the remainder of the camp. (My foot is now totally healed… bizarre!).

As for the camp, it was amazing. I’ve never in my life experienced such community. This was a place where you could leave your mobile phone, or laptop, charging in the shared space of the Scout hut and know no one would touch it. Where toddlers ran around naked and no one batted an eyelid. Where four year olds and ten year olds went running off into the woods together to climb trees and play games and everyone was fine with it. Nookie frequently took herself off to the Scout hut with other children, and while I soon followed after to keep half an eye on her, I knew that the only danger she faced was the vague possibility of getting herself lost if she ventured too far into the woods. As it was, she knew her way around camp very well and didn’t get lost once. It was about as safe and free a place as you could possibly get. I heard one of the parents describe it as paradise, and I agree.

The weather was glorious. The kids got to make fire and charcoal and use sharp tools with minimal supervision and maximum trust. They were free to climb trees and roll down the hill in a wheelbarrow with parents just keeping a quiet eye on things to make sure nothing truly dangerous was happening. The kids were trusted. And it showed. They were all brilliant, helpful, polite kids. The parents were relaxed. Breastfeeding mothers were everywhere. Baby-wearing fathers supervised games. People helped out with other parents’ children while they worked in the kitchen or organised activities. Everyone was friendly and more than willing to strike up a conversation or empathise with a distressed child. I really wish all of life was like that. I’d spend my life living in a tent to experience that sort of community permanently!

I was a little sad to return back to real life. And I think we all hope there’s another one next year. I don’t care that I’ll have a baby to look after then too. Within that community I know I’d manage just fine!

Still setting up

Still setting up

Exploring the woods

Exploring the woods

Being a tree

Being a tree

We did lots of tree climbing

We did lots of tree climbing

Naked tree climbing!

Naked tree climbing!

VERY high tree climbing. She's a pro!

VERY high tree climbing. She’s a pro!

Colouring rocks with charcoal

Colouring rocks with charcoal

Making medals

Making medals

Ta da!

Ta da!

Filthy... as kids should be!

Filthy… as kids should be!

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Naked hula-hooping

Naked hula-hooping

Having fun in the woods

Having fun in the woods

Climbing around the fire pit

Climbing around the fire pit

Wee!!

Wee!!

Bouncy castle!

Bouncy castle!

Spider-girl!

Spider-girl!

Raar!

Raar!

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