Homework

Homework – how many of us parents dread this? It hangs over me from the minute we get home from school and as the sun goes down the invisible ticking clock gets louder in my head, but my emotional wherewithal is severely compromised by this point. I always think a glass of something might help, but actually I know that really it is the reward for getting through homework, supper, bath and bed without losing my temper with the children. With a year 3 child, homework is at a low level yet the fireworks it creates can be spectacular. Often I feel like the only mother losing her marbles over this long held institution but I know it’s not just me. What intrigues me is that everyone has a different way of dealing with this particular joy.

The let it go house

This house has a laissez faire attitude – no one sits down to do homework if they don’t want to. There’s no bribery, pleading or shouting. But there is a lesson learnt here – take responsibility for your own actions. If you don’t do it then you have to answer to your teachers and your peers. I really respect the parents who follow this through.

The keep calm and get it done house

This is what I aspire to – I actually think these houses are urban myths but some children seem to come in and just get on with their homework. I can’t work out if that’s because they are actually robots or drugged. Or maybe they are heavily bribed. I mean seriously, how many children actually want to do homework? These homes also have a calm and serene feel and seem to be tidy, ordered and organized.

The shouty house

This is where every day a mother starts with the aspiration of a calm, cool and collected post-school afternoon, but after the third request to ‘please do your homework’, resorts to shouting which takes us quickly to meltdown mode. Hello my house. I still fail to understand why I have to ask more then 8 times before shouting to get any response.

And let alone my children, how do I cope with homework! Much is done in the car which means that I forget to write in the diary what has been read. So my reception year child looks seriously unsupported as his reading diary has next to no comments from me. My vision of serenity is always fractured by tea time, as is theirs and I struggle to stay calm while organizing tea, emptying kit bags, feeding the dog, packing things for the next day and refereeing the warring factions I acquired at school pick up.

What kind of homework mother are you? Do you hover, correcting every mistake as it occurs; or do you wait until it’s completed then tear it apart? Do you test their knowledge after completion or just assume that the mere act of completing it constitutes some sort of understanding? Is it just me that seriously questions the point of homework at times? Yet, I understand its value. The teachers rely on us to back up what is being done in the classroom, the children need to learn, gently, that most work requires some sort of extra input outside of school hours – it’s just a taster for most people’s working lives after all. (How many of you will check work-related emails, read articles or do some research outside of your formal work hours and place?) and I know that the more something is repeated the more we understand it.

I also know that it’s an opportunity for us to see what our children are doing and to make sure that we can support their learning at home in a calm and measured manner. But I also love that my year 3 still wants a ‘play bath’ and a bedtime story and that is what gets lost in the tantrums (mine and hers) over homework. It’s another juggling act. And one that I seem to lose more often than not.

So to try and bring some order to the chaos, I have introduced buttons in our house. Essentially it’s like a currency: good behaviour, kind deeds, getting things done, table manners, helping with chores etc. all earn buttons. The children save their buttons and then convert them to a treat or a ‘thing’ depending on what we have discussed.

Then there is the coveted gold or silver button. This takes some serious work to achieve. (We are talking Blue Peter badge type achievement.) I liken it to my glass of gin on a Saturday night – I’ve worked hard (really, really, REALLY hard) all week and that is my reward, as is the gold or silver button their reward for something outstanding.

Homework is on the button hit list. And I’m not ashamed to say that I am deploying button currency at full throttle. As it’s only started this week I can’t yet tell you how effective it is, but there has been significantly reduced shouting, which must be a good sign surely?

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How important is accreditation?

Let’s start with the phrase we all know is bound to appear in this blog: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” from the Roman poet Juvenal, which means: “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

A democratic society, such as that in which Juvenal lived in approximately 55-127AD, should have a system of checks and balances.   In 21st century Britain almost every area has an organisation that purports to maintain the standards of its practitioners, and this is definitely a good thing. It ensures people working in that industry are maintaining standards of best practise, following guidelines that are (or ought to be) regularly updated and operating within safe parameters so that their clients or customers can be assured that they are not going to be ripped off or taken for a ride.

In the childcare industry there are many organisations that offer accreditation to companies providing training courses; they will ensure that the courses have content that is supported by current research, that the teachers themselves are properly qualified and trained, and they will even provide certificates so that the attendees can be confident that their new-found knowledge is of the highest standard.

All of this comes at a cost, of course, and to gain accreditation is expensive. Most of the recognised accreditation agencies require annual subscriptions in addition to a payment per course. They will send out a representative to attend your course once a year, and this person has to be paid too.

So what do you do if you are a new agency, trying to fill a hole in the market by providing continual professional development in niche areas that are not covered by these agencies?

At Born To Parent we rely on our reputation and word of mouth. We have been teaching training courses for different organisations for nearly 20 years before we decided to do it for ourselves and set up our own company. We wanted to offer short courses to busy professionals working with babies and children; there are so many areas where research is ongoing so that parameters change and parents are confused by articles contradicting each other on a weekly basis.

Our courses are based on rigorous, up-to-date research thanks to Emily, who doesn’t let me write a single word without wanting to know where it came from and who has endorsed it – “Who says?” rings out across the office whenever we are writing a new course.

The courses are written in response to requests from the professionals themselves, who know where the gaps in their own knowledge occur, but who don’t have the time to sift through the alternative opinions and the mass of information online and elsewhere in order to be able to support the parents who rely on them for guidance.

And they are delivered in a friendly environment where the focus is on drawing out what the students already know and building on it, on teaching them in an interactive (and therefore more memorable) way. This again is thanks to Emily whose Montessori training and ethos permeate all our courses. And her dyslexia, which leads her to frown when she reads the handout I’m writing. At which point I know I’ve written too much and need to illustrate more!

So if a course isn’t accredited, how can you tell how good it is? How can you judge that your money is being well spent and that you will get the quality of training that is promised?

Ultimately it comes down to a question of trust and gut instinct on the side of the purchaser, and integrity and reputation on the side of the seller. And in childcare, it’s not the accreditation that is the most important thing, it is using the knowledge you’ve gained, feeling more confident than before, and developing as a person and a professional.

And for Emily and me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – Emily, like Mr Kipling, makes exceedingly good cakes, but I’m sure that’s not the only reason people keep coming back to our courses!

GB

The procrasta-list

I don’t know about you but when I sit down to write another blog (which you’ll notice is not a frequent happening, although I am trying to change that!) my mind goes blank. All those ideas that swim into my mind while on the school run or stomping across Salisbury Plain on a dog walk or while persuading a 3 year old to do his business on the loo seem to somehow disappear the minute a new word document appears on the screen in front of me. Then my strongest life skill of all kicks in – procrastination.

Which made me start thinking – are we too quick to dismiss the art of procrastinating? Or could we actually embrace it as a life skill if we just utilize it more successfully? As a busy mother my mental ‘to-do’ list is so long I honestly don’t see how I could ever get to the end of it before the children leave home. And yet I often find myself with mini time-holes, 5/6/10 minutes before the school run or waiting for the dishwasher to finish; I find myself looking for things to do and yet so much on my list needs hours, not minutes and my time gets lost.

So I’m introducing the ‘procrasta-list’ – my never-ending list that is hanging on the inside of my cupboard, in no specific order, it’s just there. I am not using it to remind me of all I need to do, but as a way of utilizing my time more successfully. I’m introducing the power of positive thinking; instead of fearing my endless procrastinating I’m going to harness the creativity that procrastinating apparently brings me and use my list to get ideas for what to do in those mini time-holes.

All of which is very interesting but still doesn’t help me harness my blog ideas – so I’m also adding a blog list to my wall – a random collection of words and ideas that may one day become something more. I’m not sure if it’ll help me or not; it maybe that it remains a random collection of words because after all, what all these things need is time and as a busy mother time is something I lack…….

 

ER

Starting school…

My youngest child started in reception last week. I have found it both exciting and rather sad. It is yet another milestone in the journey of his life, a life which seems to trickle through the hourglass at an unfathomable rate sometimes. I can’t help but look at my 4 year old on the brink of so much and yet I want to hold on to this miniscule human and stop this march of time for just a while longer. I want to relish the tiny moments, the missed words, the big ideas and the innocent adventure of life. I love the feeling of tight arms around my neck or the ‘I love you’s’, the way he snuggles up in bed next to me when he has had a bad dream, the way he bounces out of school full of stories and excitement about life. I want to press pause and hold on to him, to protect him from life, from hurt, from sadness and to protect his innocence.

Then I look at my elder child. I felt equally bereft when she started school three years ago, but I still had a tiny bundle of babyness in my arms and was reassured that I didn’t have to worry about losing him for a long time. And now I burst with pride looking at my daughter – she loves school so much and I adore our endless chats and sharing time with her. It reminds me that the inevitable passage of time has an evolving joy about it. One stage is simply the stepping-stone to the next one so that without even realising it a subtle stage change has occurred.

So as a parent how can we help to make the little milestones count, to mark the memories and yet not hold our children back? Maybe just being present more often. Take time to watch, to listen and to be part of their lives. When you ask ‘how was your day at school?’ really listen, ask questions and be interested. To them it is their whole world; bills, work and other commitments mean nothing to them and nor should they. Just be present. Put your phone down; turn off your computer and listen.

Try having golden time every day, even just 10 minutes when you focus exclusively on them whether it’s preparing a meal, reading a story or gazing at the stars; allow them to sometimes choose what this golden time is and go with their flow – be excited by what excites them, allow yourself to be led by them and let yourself live on the outskirts of your child’s life.

Make a promise to turn off your phone at weekends to have family golden time.  Allow each person to have a weekend when they choose what to do. Maybe there is an epic board game battle, or hot chocolate on the trampoline, perhaps it’s making pizza all together. Allow everyone to have a turn – including parents! It only needs to be a short time but fun and together.

So try not to hold on to one time but to relish all the time, not to look back but embrace the future. Being present is the greatest gift we can give our children; after all, that’s what memories are made of and no one can take away our memories.

 

 

Skinny looks best in a latte!

So you start a blog with someone you think you know really well, and she comes out with a brain dump about losing baby weight as her first offering!
That was my first reaction to Emily’s blog. But with a moment’s reflection, I realised that beauty is not always in the eye of the beholder; when Emily looks in the mirror, she obviously doesn’t see what I see.  

When I look at Emily, I see a Mummy who has waited a long time for this role, and whilst waiting she has poured her heart and soul into helping other parents achieve the very best for their children. I see a patient, thoughtful, loving Mummy running a slightly chaotic household where there is always a warm welcome and a freshly baked cake on the table. And when that one has been eaten, there’s another one in the freezer!

She manages that tricky balance of motherhood and businesswoman, but I don’t think her children really know that she works, they feel they are her priority and they know that if they need her, she will be there.

What none of us sees is the spare tyre that Emily agonises about. Apart from a weakness for the above-mentioned skinny latte, she doesn’t have her nose permanently in the fridge. She walks the dog every day, plays with the children, swims with her family at the weekends …

And I imagine that the description above could apply to almost any Mummy reading this blog.  

So what I’d like to suggest is that there are more important things in life. Most women think they could lose a bit of weight – it is a First World problem which, in a way, we could say we are lucky to have. Our perfect body image is imposed on us by society, we take the message on board and beat ourselves up about it.

But if you are lucky enough to have people who love you just the way you are, BE the person who they love. Don’t change.

 

Post baby weight loss

It’s been 21 months since my son was born. That’s 649 days to be precise, as I sit here writing this. Almost two years since he came crashing into our world. It was a bumpy start for both of us, separated in different special care units. He was due in July but my blood pressure was becoming increasingly unpredictable and difficult to stabilise so after various hospital admissions it was decided to get him out at the end of May. A 4lb bundle of loveliness was delivered. We both battled and eventually came home a few weeks later.

It was far from the idyllic pregnancy and birth that I would have requested had I been able to, but nonetheless it was MY birth of my baby.

So why am I telling you this when the title is about weight loss? Well because I am struggling to lose my baby weight and yet people are still saying to me ‘you’ve just had a baby’, ‘it’s not been that long since you were pregnant’ or ‘you have young children’ and other similar platitudes. When I point out it’s been almost two years since he was born the emotional card is thrown back at me – ‘but you had such a terrible time’, ‘you were both so unwell’, ‘give yourself time to recover’.

So when is it time to lose the baby weight? I’ll warn you now, I don’t have the answer here, but what I am learning is that although every mother is different, weight loss knows no differences. The weight issues that have dogged me all my life are still here. Pregnancy, birth and motherhood haven’t ridden me of them, in fact they seem to have exacerbated them … they are still there. It is my daily battle and my night time demon.

But can I still use the baby weight as an excuse? And for how long? Two years? Three years? Ten years? Forever? Is it right to put my insecurities at the door of my pregnancy, which produced my two incredible, magical, amazing, challenging, perfect and imperfect children?

My mother did that. Unintentionally, but she did and I don’t want to repeat that pattern. It’s all too easy to blame past generations, my challenge is not to try to be the skinny mother I’d so like to be, but to try not to let those age old demons manifest themselves in my children – their freedom from them would be my success, a success not measurable in dress sizes and on scales.

So somehow I need to ditch the excuses and simply move more and eat less.

If only leaving a lifetime of issues behind were that easy….

 

ER

Setting the scene….

B2P logo Web

Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many Born To Parent blogs.

Where do you start? In time, we aim to inform, inspire, question and laugh with you through these blogs, but this one is a scene setter.

What is BTP? In brief, it’s Georgie and Emily but really it’s about a partnership (and friendship) built around a passion for working with parents from conception, through pregnancy, birth and into childhood. With over 35 years of experience in childcare between us, we realised our unique yet complementary training and experiences would give us an exceptional platform to work together and with parents to help them be the best parent they can be.

So let’s introduce ourselves. First, Georgie. I’ve got two children in their teens, I’ve run a company providing sleep solutions to parents of newborns since 2001 and I’ve been teaching about sleep issues to professionals for over 10 years.

Next, Emily. I originally trained as a Montessori teacher, then a midwife, doula (birth and post-natal), baby & toddler swim instructor and an ante-natal teacher. I’ve got two children under five, a bonkers spaniel and a house rabbit.

Hopefully this is the first (and most boring!) of our blogs, but it’s given you a flavor of who we are.

Do follow us on Twitter @borntoparent and feel free to comment on all our musings. You can always contact us via our website too – http://www.borntoparent.co.uk

 

GB&ER