Sunday, 29 July 2012

Toxic childhood- Detoxing Childhood...... Part 3- Detoxing Childcare and Education

   It's been awhile, but I wanted to continue the series for all my readers waiting for the next instalment! I've had one or two emails asking when I will continue...... here goes!

For a quick recap, check these previous posts.

Learning V's Education
For a Home Ed Mama this is a subject I could chew over for a long, long time! Is education in the formal sense how children learn? Is life all about learning??? In Sue's book she discusses how learning takes place from birth, day to day activities are learning. After all, babies learn about the world around them, how to control their bodies, then how to walk, talk etc. It happens naturally because the child wants to, through natural curiosity, imitation and repetition. Adults don't teach babies how to sit! We encourage them, praise them, provide opportunities for the skills to be practised, but we don't educate them on the art of sitting!
However, this said, not everything can be left to this natural process. Take social skills or toilet training these skills need to be taught. The child needs to be shown what to do. But is this education??? Or is it merely a process that happens as part of the care for a child?

Part of choosing suitable childcare for your child should be about choosing a setting that values these aspects of care, not just the 'education' they provide. According to Sue 'child raising requires a lot of time and attention, as well as establishing habits and behaviour, providing real food, real play and real first hand experiences.'

Attachment and Communication
'Attachment is the scientific name for the deep bond between a child and the person who cares for it.'- Sue Palmer.
Attaching to the main care giver is important for a child's emotional stability and growth. Good childcare should allow for attachment. A child's personality, behaviour and learning all depends on secure attachment. If you would like to read more attachment I can recommend a book by Sue Gerhardt.

In Sue's book she discusses how a securely attached child will find it easier to form strong relationships and long term emotional resilience.

If you choose a childcare setting for your child where staffing is not stable, or the care giver is different everyday the process of attachment can not take place.

Language skills come from this same bond. Often a mother will sing to her baby, talk to them or play with them. This provides the child with an example, a role model for language. Eventually, the child will imitate and copy this language. It is worth noting that bad examples of language eg swearing, poor sentences etc are also copied and imitated by children exposed to this. In my experience of being around children in Reception class (as a teacher), children who were not talked to, sang to, played with as a babies often have poor language and communication skills.

Childcare- a valued career?
Childcare in the UK is not (in my opinion) valued as a career. It started life as 'womens work'. Women stayed at home to care for their children. As times changed women wanted to earn money and wanted the same opportunities as men, so they went out to work! This then provided a need for childcare. But women themselves saw this type of work as low status, as it was exactly this that they were trying to escape by going to work. However, if you think about it, childcare is hugely high status! As a childcarer/provider you are shaping the future of a child, raising the next generation! The status of childcare workers needs to rise!
After all, problems in today's society pointing back to parenting issues have made it clear just how important that 'women's work' is!

Sue explains how she feels ' our booming consumer culture has added to the toxic brew. Parents are happy to invest money in their child's future but since they don't see the value of childcare they spend it elsewhere.'
'But good quality childcare in the early years is probably the most significant investment parents can make.'

Primary Education
Sue gives three reasons behind the issues with primary school education.

  1. Too much is taught too soon
  2. To much pressure- tests and targets
  3. The learning turn-off- overloaded curriculum
It's quite difficult for me to be objective because the above reasons are exactly why I chose to home educate!!!!! All I can say is what is important to you as a parent? Do you want a rounded child? Or is it really more important that your child is top of the class? 

Sue outlines in her book, for the rest of this section, about how to ensure the most from your child's time in primary education. It's definatley worth a read if your parent with children in school. 

I'll end with this quote which I find quite poignant!

'Teachers and parents come from different corners, and have different goals. Parents want red-carpet treatment for their children; teachers want to keep their classroom show on the road. Parents get fustrated when schools don't take them seriously; schoold get hostile and defensive when parents make demands they think unreasonable.' Hilary Wilce, Educational Agony Aunt!

My readers have been quiet lately so I challenge you to leave me a comment! I want to hear your thoughts! 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Lazy, Hazy, Sunny Days......................

Yayee! The sunshine is finally here!

We can mostly be found outdoors! Park, stream, beach or garden! We're not fussy!

Here are some snapshots Jacob would like to share with you all.

                    Bouncing, jumping, giggling and squabbling mainly happen on the trampoline!

                                          Odiham Castle, stumbled upon while walking the dog! Queue impromptu history lesson!
 Awaiting the stunt show. An amazing show that really inspired Jacob! He wants to learn to drive on two wheels!
 Awaiting the Olympic Torch relay. Lots and lots of waiting! The torch went by in a flash! But Jacob really loved the sense of occasion.
 Making cars and trucks out of wood. Look carefully, they both have the 'concentration tongue' out!

                                                            Legoland! Atlantis ride! Fab!

 Milestones museum. Riding the tram. Jacob was really keen to listen to the recount of 'life as a tram driver'.

Great times with great friends! Jacob's at the age were going out for the day with friends (and their parents!) and without me can take place. He loves this sense of freedom and I always get a great recount of the adventures that have taken place!

Finally, I'd like to share a link to a really great, in my opinion, post about how learning takes place in a home ed environment. Take a look................How do you know they're learning???

Friday, 20 July 2012

Is cleaning teeth a battle in your home??????


All of these kids seem perfectly happy cleaning their teeth! So why, oh why is it such a battle for me?! 

Sound familiar??????!!!!

Since starting this blog I have had quite a few emails from despairing parents about teeth cleaning. Each email read the same- 'My child refuses to clean their teeth', 'It's such a battle when it comes to cleaning teeth', 'What tips can you share about cleaning teeth?'. 
My son will clean his teeth, but he is not keen on me supervising as I 'nag' him to clean for longer, brush more intently, use more/less toothpaste etc. This is when a battle can break out! 

Also, recently, I have found it increasingly difficult to get Jacob to recognise that the things he eats and drinks can damage his teeth. He is well aware of the concept of 'Healthy Eating'. He knows that too much of certain foods can make you 'fat', but he is far less excepting of the fact that fizzy drinks can damage your teeth and that some fruits contain sugar that can harm your teeth. 

So, in order to meet the needs of my readers and to find my son hard and fast proof that I was right about fizzy drinks I began to trawl the web! 

I came accross 'Little Learners Publications'-   their website can be found here

Little Learners publish two handy booklets for kids and parents explaining 'How to clean your teeth' and 'What to eat and drink for healthy teeth'.

I contacted Ian Aguado-Bush, one of the creators to find out more.

Ian was quick to admit he could not take full credit for the idea! His 7 year old son deserved credit too! Ian explained how his son had asked him to 'show the best way to keep his teeth clean' (very wise young man!). Ian was more than happy to show his son, but they both wondered how this process would be remembered for next time??
Ian roped in his arty friend- David Foreman (the illustrator of the the booklets) and they came up with a series of pictures designed as an aid to Ian's son. Realising they were onto something good, in terms of providing kids with a clear and direct way to remember how to clean their teeth, they enlisted the help of the British Dental Health Foundation and the booklets sprung to life! These booklets can now be found in dental practices accross the country!


Jacob was really excited to receive his booklets in the post! He wanted to read them immediately as they are bright, colourful and very appealing to children. Jacob initially opted to skip the 'How to clean your teeth' booklet, stating 'I know how to do that'! At this stage I left it and let him move on to 'What to eat and drink to keep your teeth healthy'.

What to Eat and Drink for Healthy TeethAgain this booklet is bright, 'child-enticing' and fun looking. Bearing in mind Jacob and I have been having an on-going battle about certain foods being harmful to teeth, he was keen to read this aloud to me, in order to prove me wrong! The chosen font made it clear and easy for him (age 6) to read it unaided. Also the pictures  captured his imagination. He really liked the 'machine producing the acid'!
As we read through, we came to the page about fizzy drinks! Let's just say he suddenly changed tune! 'If the booklet says its true mummy it must be right!!!' I had to resist the 'told you so!'.

I decided to read the 'how to clean your teeth' booklet to myself, knowing Jacob needed to read this, his technique was far from perfect! A few seconds into me reading he slinked up beside me and chimed in! 'Look mummy it says you should brush in circles, I didn't know that!'. That was it he was hooked and wanted the booklet in the bathroom so he could 'use it' in the morning to check he was 'doing it right'. Amazing that having something written in a booklet like that is all a child needs to be convinced that it is 'the law' so to speak!                                                                                 How to clean your teeth

I was really impressed with the 'interactive' nature of these booklets. Not only can they be read together with parent and child, but they allow for interesting discussion (about cleaning technique, toothbrushes, toothpastes, food that is better for teeth etc) Jacob likes to check the labels for sugar contents now!
Best of all these booklets retail at £1.99 each. A family-friendly price, for a great child-friendly product!

Little learners will be featured on ITV Meridian news on Monday 23rd July or Tuesday 24th July, look out for them!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

THANKFUL THURSDAY....................

This week has been hectic! But it's the reason I love the summer holidays! Summer holidays for us mean time to visit friends and time to be a family. 

So today being Thursday (and Thursday's at The Learning Journey is the day we are thankful) I am thankful for the times we can spend as a family having fun, smiling, laughing and making memories. 

 This week we have visited Milestones Museum, our local 'living history' museum, been for a dog walk/bike ride and been to Legoland!! Fabulous week so far! 

Jacob is tucked up in bed tonight after declaring he is 'sooooooooo tired and could sleep for a week!'. 
  My evil plan worked!!!!!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

New Facebook Page!!!

Find The Learning Journey on facebook!                                     

Our facebook page will be the place to find giveaways, offers and tips!

Find us and like us!


Craft Cafe.............. Left-brain...Right-brain......

Last week  I accompanied Jacob to 'The Craft Cafe', a fabulous crafty session for kids, held in Grazeley Village Hall (website can be found here).


The Cafe is the brain-child of Debbie. Debbie is a lovely, calm natured and child friendly lady, with a heart for seeing parents interacting with their children. When chatting with Debbie she explained how, although she can see the place for them, she has come to 'loathe' indoor play spaces. I have to agree! Although they are great for running off steam, they can be loud, over stimulating and crowded. But most of all they encourage parents NOT to interact with their child. Often children are hurtling around the equipment while mum sips coffee and checks her emails! Now I'm not saying this should never happen! But following on from the post about 'Detoxing Parenting'- we have learnt how important it is to have time for your child and interact with your child!
Debbie previously worked in the textile industry, is a nanny and is passionate about art, crafting and creativity. She took time to explain to me how important it is for us as parents to spend time engaging our child's 'right-brain'

The right brain-left brain theory grew out of the work of Roger W. Sperry, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981. According to the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory, the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks. Some of the abilities that are popularly associated with the right side of the brain include:
  • Recognizing faces
  • Expressing emotions
  • Music
  • Reading emotions
  • Color
  • Images
  • Intuition
Taken from Psycology. 

So with this in mind, she created 'The Craft Cafe'. 

At the cafe children from aged 2 to 11 (although no age is turned away!) can chose a pre-packed craft kit. The kits range in price from £3 to £5. There was a wide range of choice from puppets, candles, kites to colouring and painting. 

The idea is that you help your child to create their chosen item while enjoying a lovely cup of tea or coffee (served in the cutest china tea cups!) and a delicious slice of home-made cake! Cupcakes available for the kids! 

Jacob chose a 'kite kit'. He was really enthusiastic about making his kite! The kit didn't contain instructions, which as a less than creative, more definite left-brain moma, seemed daunting! However, it gave Jacob the freedom to really 'create' his own kite! He loved this aspect, an absolute winner! Plus Debbie was on hand to offer Jacob words of advice and a helping hand. 

The setting for the cafe was tranquil and peaceful. This helped create an air of calm about the place, certainly much more relaxing than an indoor play centre! There is a garden area outback, fenced off for safety! This allowed the children to run around in nature while waiting for sticky glue to dry or wet paint to set. 

For anyone local to Grazeley, Berkshire the Cafe is open every Friday 9.30am-11.30am. Entrance is free- payment is for craft sets and refreshments! 
 A website for the cafe is being set up and details will follow, but if your in the neighbourhood why not drop in and say hello...............

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The 'Bored Box'

School's out and it's officially the summer holidays!!! 

                                           'YEAH' scream the kids!  'HELP' yell parents! 

Jacob is quite good at occupying himself, it's not often I hear those 3 words every parent dreads..........

                      MUM/DAD I'M BORED!!!!!!!!!!!


 Today's post is my solution to this dilemma!

The 'Bored Box©'                                  

Here's the idea. 
  1. Create a box containing slips of paper. Write on those slips of paper your child's toys or games. For example, 'Lego' or 'Dollshouse' or 'train set' etc. You could include specific activities such as 'paint a picture of...' or 'find 5 things in the garden starting with...' 
  2. Whenever your child utters those dreaded words, pull out the Bored Box© and have your child randomly choose a slip of paper! 
  3. The only rule is they must stick at that activity until it's complete or if it's a toy they must play with it for a set amount of time, say 10 mins. 

For more ideas of what activities to write on the papers see my resources page! 

Let me know how it works out for you!!!!!

Happy Summer! 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Toxic Childhood..... Detoxing Childhood Part 2......

What Children Need For Healthy Development On The Fingers Of One Hand
Photo credit- Sue Palmer

Picking up from last weeks post, in which I introduced Sue Palmer's idea of 'Toxic childhood', I will be digging deeper into 'Detoxing Parenting'.

The image above was created by Sue to demonstrate what a child needs to grow up and develop healthily. In order to achieve this you need to think about your parenting style and the way yo choose to interact with your child.

On Sue's website she has a great video explaining how to meet all five points!

Take a look- Five Finger Exercise

So we all know our kids need good, healthy food, a good nights sleep in a warm and safe environment and to be communicated with by others.

And yet the biggest issues relating to poor parenting are poor diet leading to obesity, children suffering with sleep deprivation and children with poor social skills. How is this happening?????

Is it because life seems to busy it's quicker to pick up a takeaway than to cook? Is it the price of fresh food causing parents to choose a cheaper less nutritious option? If so, how do we overcome this? I'm not convinced all of the thousand of 'parenting' manuals out there are the answer.

 At the end of the day we all know that certain foods are unhealthy, so if we choose to feed them to our children they won't be getting the most nutritious options. We don't need a 'parenting' strategy to deal with this.

We just need to take a long hard look at the choices we are making and decide if they are the absolute best choices for our child. Does it have to be a takeaway everyday, can one day be 'veg' and 'fruit' day? As parents we make the choices.

Same goes for forming healthy sleep habits. As adults we can choose to go to bed late, knowing we will feel tired and grumpy the next day. Our focus will be off, we won't be able to concentrate and our ability to retain information will be severely limited. Children suffer in the same way when they are sleep deprived. If we allow them to go to bed late, by not setting boundaries and bedtimes, we know they will feel this way the next day.

Again it is about our choice as a parent, not about a 'parenting' strategy or intervention.

'What about my child who just won't sleep?' I hear you cry! The answer is simple. It's about a choice you made somewhere along the line. Maybe you chose not to instil the importance of a bedtime routine when your child was younger, maybe you chose to allow your child to stay up until they fall asleep on the sofa and now that's become the norm, maybe you chose not to put your child back to bed every time they came downstairs. Whatever the 'maybe' you chose the outcome!

However, the problem arises when parents choose to make the 'wrong' (socially perceived as wrong not my  personal opinion of wrong!) decisions. How do we tackle this?

Better  parenting information to new, young parents?  Parenting classes for teenagers as part of a 'lifeskills' course?

But can you force people to make certain choices? It's safe to say most humans know what the basic needs of another human are. After all they are their own basic needs! But if people choose not to meet them, what then????????????

Sue's book 'Detoxing Childhood' does have sections outlining the need for healthy food, good nights sleep etc and has, in my opinion, good strategies for ensuring these things happen. But I'm still overwhelmed by the simple fact some parents choose not to meet these needs....................................................

Thursday, 5 July 2012



  SURPRISES!!  Life is full of them! 

We are back round to Thankful Thursday already! 

This week I am thankful for the element of surprise that life can spring on us! 

Times have been hard lately for us, in terms of finances. This morning the usual envelopes containing the usual bills dropped through the letter box. I can't say I rushed to open them! So after lunch I scanned the envelopes, noticing one stamped with HMRC. 'Great! A tax bill' I thought. 

Opening the envelope I noticed it contained a cheque??!!!! 

A TAX REBATE!!!!              WOOHOO!!!!            FAB!!! 

Ok, so it's not millions but it's enough! 

My initial reaction was to burst into tears! You see our luck has mainly been of the 'bad' variety lately so I was totally and absolutely taken by surprise! 

My day was completed smiling :-)

Seems our luck could be coming in the 'good' variety..................

Romans 8:28- 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.'

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Homeschool Journal........

                                     School is officially over, for the summer, for Jacob!

Although it seems we have just found our feet and created a rhythm, part of the reason I chose home education was to change the way Jacob's education was delivered. I wanted to move away from the traditional  school 'terms' and educate Jacob based on his needs and ability to focus.

Summer is here (despite the weather) and for us summer is about being outdoors, experiencing nature and learning new physical skills.

That said! We have started a 'homeschool journal' in order to record some of the best parts of our summer. Also as a way to keep up the writing practice. Jacob seems keen so far!

So what is a 'homeschool journal'??
For us it's a bound notebook with lined pages in which Jacob will record, daily his memories of the day. We have decided to record a day in hand. Meaning on Monday we would write about the weekend, on Tuesday we would write about Monday etc. There are no real 'rules' about content. I leave it totally up to Jacob to decide. But I do insist on entries being written in sentences, so capital letters and full stops! And before Jacob begins writing I ask him to 'think out his sentence'.

'Thinking out a sentence'-
Have you heard of this method? In a nutshell it is when you say out loud what your going to write. For example- 'I went to the beach today, it was fun!'. I would then ask Jacob to count how many words are in his sentence. So 9 words. Next I'd ask Jacob to write the first word with my help. I would then let him continue unaided. When he says he is finished I would ask him to count the amount of words he has written, saying 'remember there are nine words in your sentence'. If he counts nine, great! If he doesn't can he figure out which word he missed out?
I have found this a really effective way of helping Jacob gather his thoughts and then     record them successfully.

Journal Ideas-
If you have younger children, who are not yet writing, it might be an idea to let them record their memories in picture form. This could be pictures they create or pictures they take during the day with a camera. You could them ask them to tell you about their picture and record this underneath.
For older children, you could ask them to write entries in different styles. For example, record the trip to the Zoo as if your writing a guide brochure. Or write about our cooking session in the style of a recipe. This helps them to get to grip with different genres and reasons for writing. it also makes it more fun!

Below is a selection of links to blogs and sites I found useful when researching journals.

Happy Journalling!!! I'd love to know how you get on, leave me a comment below.....................

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Toxic Childhood..... Detoxing Childhood.....

I first heard of 'Sue Palmer' when I attended a conference, in London, in 2004 - Modern Parenting. Sue was a keynote speaker. She was talking about parenting and raising children in the 'Modern' world.At the time I didn't/couldn't really relate to the overall issue as I had no children of my own. But her descriptions of how children are be labelled more readily (ADHD/Autism etc.), are obese at a young age and know little about the world around them shocked me. I guess I stored away these thoughts in my sub-conscious hoping I'd dig them out when I became a parent. Fast forward to 2006, pregnant and eager to read all I could on 'parenting' I stumbled across a book 'Toxic Childhood' by Sue Palmer 
                                                  See full size image

Those thoughts stored away came flooding back and I enjoyed reading every page! But also as an expecting mother it panicked me a lot! How could I make sure I gave my child the best start? How could I be sure I didn't expose my child to this 'toxicity'? ARRRGGHH!!!!

Six years on, many books read, many theories thought through and I still agree wholeheartedly with Sue Palmer's research and theories. That's why I have chosen to share some of that research, advice and theory with you here! Over the next few Sundays I will try to review Sue's book 'Detoxing Childhood'. Her follow up to Toxic Childhood, an 'antidote' to toxic child syndrome! 

So here we go. 

Let's start with exploring the idea of 'Toxic Childhood'. I don't know about you but when I think about the word 'toxic' I think of chemical spillage, nuclear waste, poison, harmful...... just yuck! But put this with 'childhood' and it just doesn't compute! However, when you look hard at the modern world and what children are exposed to it is 'toxic'. 

Children's brains are 'developing' rather than 'developed'. They can not keep up with the fast pace of modern life. Life today is so switched on, it's 24 hours, seven days a week. Think back to the time (probably only 20 years ago!) of just 4 (UK) channels on the TV. Channels that 'switched' off at a set time in the evening. A time when most homes had one or maybe 2 phones (attached by a cable to the wall) and writing letters was the norm! Often women were at home with their children too. Now I'm not trying to aggravate feminist with this statement, just noting facts.

Children's needs haven't changed in these 20 years. They still need real food- not junk, real play- not electronic, exploration of the world around them using their senses- not TV stimulation and they need real interactions, with real people. Think hard about the modern world, are these needs wholeheartedly being met???

School work is more formal from an earlier age. Responsibilities are given earlier,  children dress like mini adults who send emails to friends rather than talk, chat on MSN rather than play with toys and 'can't do homework as they are using up their free minutes on their Iphone'! 

The result?

Children's emotional intelligence is being damaged and their social needs left unmet.  Does it shock you that in 2007 a UNICEF report found that 'British children are the most unhappiest in the developed world'? WHAT??!!!! How did that happen???? So we are 5 years on, but has that statistic really changed?

We call our country part of the developed world. Developed as in; 
  •  It's 'great' that a 3 yr old can send a text? (as seen on a Facebook status lately!)
  • A 6 yr old was sent home from school for wearing 'fake' nails and high heels.
  • Many children label 'chicken nuggets from McDonalds' as a healthy food.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm! Let's not respond just yet!

 Below is a clip from Sue Palmer explaining her take on 'Toxic Childhood'.  Have a watch.......

Over the next few Sunday posts I will look at the three areas Sue outlines in her book (Detoxing Childhood) that need addressing. 
1- Detoxing parenting
2-Detoxing Childcare and Education
3-Detoxing the Electronic Village

Why not grab yourself a copy of the book (details on my recommended books list) and read with me!