It seems unlikely that schools will reopen until March. For many of us parents that means -continued, pandemic, parenting, problems.
Home-schooling’s one daily grind we’re all struggling with and our frustration is at its breaking point. Many of us feel like giving up but its best to stay involved and take baby steps.
They’ll learn a lot more from little and often than from not at all.
So, here’s some pointers to help guide us when helping our children to learn;
Every child will have a preferred way of learning. Identifying their preferred method or modality will make learning more interesting and fun.
Listening—this is called ‘Auditory learning’.
Watching— ‘Visual learners’.
Others prefer a more, hands-on approach— ‘Kinaesthetic learning’ also known as ‘tactile learning’ by doing.
There’s always more than one way to learn, that’s why there’s no need limiting our children to ‘the right way’ thinking. Allow them to explore all the options and to choose one that feels right to them. By doing things differently to the norm, our children become more flexible and comfortable in new learning endeavours.
RELEASE THE PRESSURE AND HAVE FUN
Pressure to perform and achieve is what causes children anxiety and what sucks all the ease, fun, and enjoyment out of learning something new. When children are having fun, it doesn’t feel like learning, and If they don’t have any obvious expectations imposed upon them, they become free from the burden of being perfect and relax. Relaxation is the key to creativity and clear focused thinking. Having fun in the process makes things easier for us and more enjoyable for our children, so try playing games as opposed to lecturing or just reeling off answers.
LET THEM LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES
It’s natural we want our children to do well but if we become too involved and take over, we miss the point of what the learning objective is. When children are set school work, the whole point of the exercise is for our children to learn from their mistakes by doing it themselves, and enjoying the process.
Our children have to have a why.
Why do I need to know this?
The answer to that question becomes their motive, which is vital because the key to motivation in life is having a motive.
Why? What? Where? When? And How? All are incessant questions of our young. If we can just keep answering these, they will be constantly learning something new every day!
DON’T BE AN OBVIOUS TEACHER
If they are disinterested in learning activities, we need to ask ourselves the following questions;
Is this appropriate for my child’s age or stage of development or am I reading such a simple book, my five-year-old could read it to them-self?
Is the content/activity interesting?
Am I engaging my child enough?
Am I actually interested myself, or am I bored and disinterested?
Do they think there’s a purpose to the activity other than having fun or spending time together?
Have I taken them away from another activity or toy that they were enjoying playing with?
The biggest influence that we can have is our own enthusiasm and interest. When we are engaged, learning comes to life and stimulates them more.
so many of us get frustrated easily when teaching our children, particularly when we’ve already taught them how to do something and they get it wrong. Let’s say they’re learning how to read. Just because they could read the word ‘dog’ yesterday, doesn’t mean they’ll remember it automatically today. They may still get confused and call it ‘bog’ the next day, d and b are the same as learning anything else, they take time, and are easy to mix up and confuse.
We think it’s easy because we can read already, and have more than likely read daily for many years, which adds up to a lot of reading practice.
Reading is still new to our children though. It’s like us learning a second language such as German, and someone expecting us to know and recognize words straight away. Then whenever we forget or get a word wrong, they get annoyed with us. I doubt we would still feel encouraged to carry on learning the language then?
Nothing is easy for our children, unless they can do it, in which case, they wouldn’t need our help in the first place.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ; “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
Our world has suddenly turned into an uncertain place recently, causing a lot of anxiety for everyone but how will that impact our children both now and in the future?
The early messages our children receive will determine whether or not they grow up in a friendly or hostile world.
Life is not all doom and gloom, but if our children are being exposed to bad news every day, then they may start to believe it is.
We should take care to protect our young, innocent children’s impressionable minds. Regular exposure to such negativity could cause nightmares, and some sensitive children could become fearful, sad, or depressed.
We do not, however, need to hide the truth from our children or try to protect them from hearing about anything unpleasant. Quite the opposite, it’s actually beneficial that they are aware of both the good and the bad news.
Yes, bad things happen in the world but so do good things too. We just need to give our children a more balanced outlook and show them what’s good about life more often than highlighting the bad news, and inform them of the dangers without leaving them feeling fearful.
Recently I was asked how we can help explain ‘Stranger Danger’ to pre-schoolers without causing anxiety. You can find the full article in the autumn issue of mums and tots’ magazine. https://www.mumsandtots.ie/
But one of the best ways I’ve found to communicate messages to young children is through books. Being an author myself I may be biased but stories and picture books are more relatable to young children.
As parents we want our children to be able to relate well to others but we hear so much bad news that, we fear them being out of our sight for a second. And this fear can transfer onto our children. But this blanket fear can do more harm than good. If we tell our children strangers are dangerous, they will quite literally believe every stranger is and this can cause separation anxiety.
Most young children are naturally cautious of strangers, because they fear they’ll be taken or come to some harm when their parents are not around. This can become extremely difficult when they come to start childcare, nursery or school, and can often cause sleeping problems if the child has to sleep without the parent.
We can help our children overcome these fears or we can reinforce them. How we react and how we proactively prepare them for the unthinkable -they go missing, is also is key.
If on their return we panic, scream and shout or worse physically and emotionally punish them, we increase their fears. As Parents we may want our children to get this message so they don’t repeat the behaviour and go missing again but what happens when we need them to go to strangers without us, such as a new babysitter or starting childcare, nursery or school?
Then we will ask them to go to a new, unknown place or person, full of unfamiliar strangers. We may know it’s a safe place, but our children may not, so we have to communicate this to them. This means being careful not to project our own anxieties, worries, or fears onto our children.
Stranger danger is a difficult topic to portray to pre-schoolers, so we have to approach it in a light hearted manner, even if it’s a heavy issue for us. We are so transparent to our children who pick up not only on how they see us behaving but also on how they feel our emotions (yes, our energy radiates outward and our young children pick up both our good and bad vibes) The best way to do this is to use stories, songs and rhymes that are age and stage appropriate for your child. I love the old classic Never Talk To Strangers (Little Golden Books)by Irma Joyce
Because it has pictures that are of animals which young children love and it’s also a rhyming book with the vital repetitive message ‘Never talk to strangers.’ which children love to join in with as I read it. It helps to encourage conversation on the topic of stranger danger too.
Another simple way to try and explain stranger danger to a pre-schooler I found was, using a dog analogy using the example of a friendly dog they like, that’s familiar to the child and comparing that dog to a strange dog in the playground.
So, a typical example would be;
‘Well Zoë, you don’t need to be afraid of all strangers but you shouldn’t go anywhere alone with them or let them touch you. It’s a bit like Benji our dog, you know Benji… well, he’s friendly and wags his tail and jumps up to greet you to play, he never hurts you. But if you see another dog you don’t know, say in the playground when you are playing, he may not be friendly like Benji is, he may hurt you, so it’s best not to touch him or let him touch you. Not all dogs are unfriendly but not all dogs are like Benji, some do bite and it’s the same when you meet a stranger.’
There are many good children’s books out there, that can relieve children’s fears and increase their self-confidence and esteem, written by positive, motivational authors such as the late Louise Hay’s, The Adventures of Lulu or inspiring books by Dr Wayne Dyer such as Incredible Me or No More Excuses. All of these portray positive, life affirming messages. They also help our children to deal positively with the real problems in life too.
I recently read all the children I care for a wonderful new picture book, that encourages children to find their special talent called, Big Splash Circus by Karina Choudhrie. It is a beautifully illustrated and designed picture book that all the children ranging from 10 months to 8 years loved. It’s an adventure in a fun-filled undersea world, full of characters and with a heart-felt message for young children about inclusion and using your special skills.
Big Splash Circusis a place of inclusion, where everyone can take part and discover what makes them special, from acrobatics to music to making people laugh. The sea creatures in the circus are like a classroom full of children – where they all get a chance to shine! (Big Splash Circus is published by CandyJar Books and is available in hardback (£11.99) and paperback (£5.99) at all good bookshops and online retailers.)
As parents we have the power to direct our children’s attention positively. To help relieve anxiety at this unsettling time, instead of electronic devices and the media exposing our children to what’s happening in the world, we can counterbalance those messages by sharing positive books with heart felt messages in. You can read more about this in my book – The Powerful Proactive Parents Guide to Present Parenting
I love the 2nd part of this home-schooling, success story of how stepmum Amy, inspired 7-year-old Archie to become a mini entrepreneur. Last week we chatted to little Archie about his experience of home-schooling during lockdown, this week we get a grown-ups perspective.
PART 2-AMY’S STORY
It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.
Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, a business was born selling eggs and his lessons solidified about the importance of local food. He even set up a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.
“I needed to find a new way to get Archie excited about maths whilst also helping him understand how it could be transferred to real life. Archie loved the chickens we had recently introduced to our home, so we decided to run a home-schooling project about the hens. For example, we wanted to teach him what they need to survive, how many eggs they can produce in a year, why it’s important to care for the chickens with kindness and love, and the difference between ‘free range’ and battery hens. I felt there was an enormous amount of education surrounding just this one project.” explains Amy.
What’s been wonderful about sourcing the local produce is meeting new people, and how enthusiastic and helpful they have been about helping us to educate Archie about how they grow, produce, and make the food. Many have been kind enough to show him around and demonstrate how they work. We hope to bring that education to all our customers in the future.”
“Many locals couldn’t get a delivery at the height of lockdown and were left relying on neighbours to do their shopping, so although not financially viable at the start, we made a conscious decision to deliver to a wider area so that people were not left without food. If they asked, we delivered, even if it was outside ‘our area’.” explains Mark.
“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community – from suppliers, customers and even other local businesses. We have customers sharing our website with friends and neighbours and buying produce as gifts, we have suppliers who have sadly lost so much of their catering trade during Covid and are open to working with start-ups like us, and then we have other local founders who are sharing their equipment to help us grow.
After hearing Archie’s story we were curious to find out more, so here’s what Amy had to say to the questions I asked her recently.
EMMA) What was your initial thoughts on home schooling?
AMY) We were excited about the opportunity to do home-schooling. Although it seemed daunting at first, Mark and I felt we had an opportunity to really get involved with Archie’s learning. It was clear when home-schooling began that we had never really fully known what Archie was learning at school. For example, we had always been told the subject matter, but never the tasks, which made helping and supporting Archie with homework relatively difficult. So as soon as the home-learning tasks began being sent through, we were thrilled to finally be able to understand what he was learning at school and we felt much more informed to be able to support him at home.
EMMA) Where did you get the idea to buy chickens to help Archie and what did you initially set out to teach him?
AMY) Our decision was based around taking him out of the ‘classroom’ environment of the kitchen table, and creating projects that were more hands on and lifestyle based. Archie is great with his school work but his focus became all about sport and he was starting to disengage with the daily subjects of maths and literacy, so we felt that doing something totally different like learning how to look after the chickens would teach him animal husbandry, along with using the eggs to learn his multiplication, adding and subtracting. We had already tried to incorporate sports with his maths learning, such as ‘Maths Tennis’ where we would shout out the times table for every ball we hit, and he learnt his 3’s and 4’s doing this, but as with anything when teaching children, we needed to keep it fun and different.
Our little Chicken Care project developed into a wider range of education that has now taught Archie so much from a ‘school’ sense but has also developed his confidence massively. For the first time he stood in front of 8 children, whom he didn’t know, and led a talk on looking after his animals. This was all through choice, he wanted to explain to them why looking after animals is important. Prior to Archie starting this project he wouldn’t have felt confident doing that.
EMMA) That’s amazing, children feel more self-confident speaking about something they feel passionate about. Do you think schools should offer this more hands on, real life approach to learning, as opposed to sitting in classrooms being taught from text books or media?
AMY) I absolutely believe in children being given the opportunity to have experiences which aid their development. Taking Archie to a local lettuce supplier where he can see, feel and smell the lettuces, speaking to the farmers who educate him on how the food is grown and what happens afterwards, and then in turn completing a project about his experiences which he shows to his family and friends, all supported his memory of the education and ignited a passion inside of him. Maybe it was more fun because it wasn’t the norm, but by using all his senses, experiencing rather than just reading, he took more onboard, listened and learned.
I have worked with many young adults who have been afforded the opportunities to experience working in businesses and on farms for therapy and counselling, but it seems we are not teaching young people life skills to really support them in their adult life. Nor are we giving children the opportunity to have experiences which can teach them, in the early years, important facts which will help them make their own choices as they grow. For example, we have used Archie’s Produce to teach Archie nutritional benefits of food, what is healthy and what is not, what he can feed his chickens and what is bad for them, in the hope that he can make informed decisions based on his own knowledge rather than being told what not to do.
EMMA)I absolutely love that, I even write in my book-The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child- (CHAPTER 9 – FOOD- MAKING A MEAL OF MEALTIMES) about the fact many children these days think that their food originates from a supermarket and about the benefits of children being involved in growing their own food and learning about nutrition. And I also agree that children need these therapeutic experiences too, to help them learn in new, more relaxing and enjoyable ways. Some children are not academic but hands on learning can help us overcome so many barriers to our children’s success.
AMY) Emotionally these experiences have taught so much, including confidence, empathy, care and to think about subjects, which prior to this, he had not considered. We must bear in mind that Archie is only 7, nearly 8, so the level to which he is learning now is very different to a teenager, however I strongly believe that there is a huge advantage to experiencing learning in a varied environment to keep children engaged and initiate alternative and question-based thinking. It’s certainly worked for Archie.
EMMA) What advice can you share with other parents who are home-schooling to help make the home-schooling experience feel more creative, fun and enjoyable?
AMY) Oh Goodness I’m not sure I’m qualified to offer advice! Many of our friends put an immense amount of pressure on themselves and their children to complete all the tasks set by the school and to keep their children up to a ‘level’. At one point I also felt that pressure and worried that by doing home-schooling slightly differently, were we letting Archie down. All I knew was that I wanted Archie to have fun, after all, school is supposed to be fun! However, we’re not school, so we broke the rules a little:
We played music whilst we drew pictures and made plans, we played the bongo’s and danced when doing music practise, we had reading practise when researching types of food chickens can’t eat, for the most part, learning together and not putting a time limit on tasks really helped. We had regular snack and treat breaks, we added in some enjoyable tasks such as bike riding and football as part of the project. So, once we relaxed about the administrative tasks and took out the pressure of having to learn, or write, or read, those three factors happened naturally.
EMMA) Wow I love this approach so much, again it’s something I’ve covered in my book mentioned above (in chapters 10 – LEARNING FUN FOR EVERYONE and 11 – THE SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS.)
Do you feel home-schooling has brought you and Archie closer together?
AMY) Yes absolutely. I’m really lucky that we have such a wonderful relationship, but without a doubt having the opportunity to be able to home-school has enabled us to learn so much more about each other. It has also allowed us to be creative and share new experiences together.
EMMA) It would seem lockdown has had hidden blessings for many of us regarding growth, development and contributions to society, what impact has that had on you all?
AMY) The growth of Archie’s Produce has really opened up a series of conversations from where our food comes from and healthy eating, to the way we school our children and educate each other. Little did we know when we started this project how incredible the impact would be and we are extremely grateful to be able to have a little input into hopefully some major future shaping. We genuinely are a lockdown business and were born in a time when most of our suppliers had lost over 90% of their customer base overnight. The catering sector had closed, the only avenue left for them was retail and most local shops were unable to open. So, we felt a huge moral obligation to both our customers, who couldn’t leave the house to get to the shops, or shops were empty, and suppliers who had no outlet to sell their products. The support of the local community is why so many local businesses have survived, and why customers could eat, so as we are now coming out of lockdown, and trades and businesses are re-opening, it is even more imperative that we continue to support the local businesses, producers and farmers, for they are the ones that work tirelessly to save us when crisis hit, and they more than deserve our continued support.
EMMA) Amazing, well thank you so much Amy for sharing with us your experience of home-schooling. I think there’s lots of great nuggets of advice and insight there to help us all be more proactive as parents.
If you’re a parent who would like to know more about proactive parenting or who enjoys blog interviews, you maybe interested in an interview that I had this week with – The Shelf Life Book Review
Now children are returning to school, there’s a sigh of relief in the air for some that home-schooling’s over- Hooray! 🙂
But for others, it’s been a real opportunity in many ways.
I spoke to one Mum, Amy and her step son 7-year-old little Archie, about their experience of home-schooling during lock down. This week’s blog is part one of that interview. What an inspiring story from little Archie’s perspective.
PART 1- ARCHIE’S STORY
Here’s how 7-year-old Archie went from home schooling, to pint sized entrepreneur.
The 2020 lockdown changed most people’s lives in one way or another but one seven-year-old went from home-schooled little boy to pint-sized entrepreneur over the course of a few months. And, for Archie, the chicken did come first!
It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.
Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, his entrepreneurial journey began as he decided to sell them locally. With the country in lockdown, eggs were difficult to get, and very soon Archie had a waiting list of 30 people wanting his eggs.
Next, he did his maths, and persuaded Amy to buy 6 more chickens. Still he struggled to keep up with demand, and then customers started asking if he sold other local produce too!
Rather than sticking just to eggs, Archie was inspired to expand his venture and look around for more local produce to sell. Together he and dad, Mark, and stepmum, Amy sourced a variety of local products, starting with Alderholt Flour – straight from the local historic Mill. And Archie’s Produce was born.
Having learnt his lessons well about the importance of local food, Archie was keen to get his produce from local producers only, and that gave the business the local edge it needed to succeed. Within a few days the young man had a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.
“It was Archie who suggested we try to find other families who keep chickens and see if we could buy from them to fulfil the customers!’
Here’s what else he had to say when I recently interviewed him.
HERE’S WHAT LITTLE ARCHIE HAD TO SAY TO SOME OF THE RATHER GROWN-UP QUESTIONS I ASKED HIM.
EMMA) What did you first think about home-schooling?
ARCHIE) It was fun and I got to play. My favourite subject was P.E because I played lots of football. Then ‘Tennis Maths’ because it was outside and I like Tennis. I like writing poems so we made up songs that were funny. It was fun. Then I learnt about the Hens and I could do lots of arts and crafts making boxes for them and stamping the egg cartons!
EMMA) That sounds like lots of fun, not (school) work at all! When did you realize that you were onto a good business venture and how did you persuade your parents to buy more chickens and expand the business to other produce, such as flour?
ARCHIE) When I had run out of eggs to sell, but lots of people still wanted eggs, I needed more hens and so daddy bought 6 more, but that wasn’t enough. Then I said we should find someone who also has chickens, buy their eggs and give them to our customers. Customers asked for extra food like flour. I was happy adding things to the shop because then we can deliver the food they can’t get.
EMMA) So entrepreneurial yet considerate at the same time. How many different types of produce do you supply now and are you looking to add any more to your list?
ARCHIE) I want to be the biggest shop and sell everything! I have lots of different food; salad, meat and vegetables to New Forest Shortbread and Fordingbridge Fudge. The cows down the road make the best milk and have won awards! They are the best!
This week we added the children’s milkshakes from their milk called Meggy Moos. Named after the little girl called Meghan. I want to keep adding different food so everyone can buy something they like.
EMMA) Wow that’s great ambition you have Archie, I hope you always think big! And I’m sure you’ll have something for everyone, that fudge and shortbread sounds divine. Why do you feel its important today to support local producers and source locally grown food?
ARCHIE) All the people who make the food have families and work very hard making the food.
EMMA) That’s so very true. You’re wise and have a lot of understanding and gratitude for your age Archie. I’ve always wanted to have hens and produce my own eggs, what advice can you give someone like me that’s never done it before?
ARCHIE) The girls are friendly and love cuddles. They must have lots of water and special food called Pellets. They need to eat Grit so the shells are hard and they like to be free, not in cages, but sometimes they dig holes in the grass because they like ‘mud baths’ so Daddy has to fill them in with other grass.
EMMA) Aww cuddles… I love the image that just conjured up in my mind of me cuddling hens and the thought of them roaming freely. You give us a real sense of how wonderful and so alive these hens are, not just there to fulfil a purpose for us humans but to live a purpose that’s worthwhile to them too. Can you explain to readers what the difference is between ‘free range’ and battery hens?
ARCHIE) Chickens like mine that live free outside and can run around are ‘free range’. Some chickens are stuck in a small house and never get out, they have no feathers and are very sad, they are ‘battery hens’
EMMA) That’s very sad ☹ I hope you sharing your knowledge with us today will encourage more of us to opt for the free range variety in future. How can we find out more about your produce and where you deliver to?
ARCHIE) I’m not allowed to deliver because of Covid, so Amy delivers for me all around Dorset, Hampshire and parts of Wiltshire. You can see everything in shop on my website www.archiesproduce.com
EMMA) I do hope someday delivery will be extended to Wales too? 😉Do you have an entrepreneurial role model you aspire to be like?
ARCHIE) Not really, I want to be a footballer like Ronaldo.
EMMA) Well that’s very possible Archie, I’m sure whatever you put your mind to you will achieve. What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt from this home-schooling business venture?
ARCHIE) To look after things and to help people makes you feel good.
EMMA) Two wonderful lessons that prove that, home schooling can teach our children some of the most important lessons in life. Can’t wait for part 2 next week when, I chat to Amy, Archie’s stepmum and get her thoughts on home-schooling.
Do you have a home-schooling success or horror story or do you have a parenting in lock down experience you’d like to share with other parents?