Saturday, December 13, 2008

Many a true word is spoken in jest

The asonishing thing about this clip is quite how accurate a prediction it is of government bureacracy in NuLabour Britain. Don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or both. Only in this skit the prime minister is on the side of the angels.

"Do we really need 2000 civil servants to funnel money from A to B????"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Upsetting the normal hierarchies

I've always rather admired the medieval practice of appointing a boy bishop for the Christmas season. Somewhat holds back the abuses of the powers-that-be when they know that for a month the lowliest of their underlings will be in charge. There's a modern take on it here

Although, actually, I'm not sure exactly how much power the medieval boy bishops really wielded - probably more symbolic than anything. Still, a symbol can be a useful reminder that the hierarchies of human society have an arbitrariness to them. Am wondering how it would be in a conventional family if the roles were reversed for a few weeks a year. There's definitely a Channel 5 reality TV show in that...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Computer games can be really engrossing

video here

Well duh, of course they can. But does this make them bad for children?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

home education among the safari animals

This is an absolutely glorious story about a girl whose first decade was spent with her parents (wildlife photographers) in the wilds of Africa.

After this decidedly unconventional start, she passed her baccalaureate and is starting university - formal schooling essential from age 4? I think not...

Friday, October 31, 2008

random thoughts about UP and TCS

In Alfie Kohn's UC parenting method, my understanding is that when children want to do something which challenges your notion of what is "normal" or "right", you have a really good think about whether it really is a problem or not. And if it is a problem, then you make it clear that while that thing is not ok to do, you still love them unconditionally. So the mode of discourse isn't the kind of rewards and punishment thing where parental approval and love is connected, either explicitly or implicitly, to the child's behaviour.

I may be confusing the matter somewhat because I am not a UP parent, but I see that whole authoritarian trump card as making the whole method just a touchier feelier version of the conventional discipline paradigm, which I don't buy into.

Me, I think that when our children want to do something that we initially think "NO!" to, the best options are

1) to persuade the child, verbally or non verbally, that they'd rather do the thing you had in mind

2) to re-examine that "NO!!!" and see whether it really needs to stand and, if not, to back down

3) to work with the child to find alternative possibilities that both they, and we, and whoever else is affected by the action, are happy with.

4) and if inspiration fails, either the child wins or the parent loses, or the parent wins and the child loses, and both those outcomes suck - there isn't anything to choose between them morally.

It sounds all so convoluted written down like this, when what I'm really talking about is something like

Mum: "D'you want an apple?"
Child: "no. Chocolate".
Mum: "Hmmm. We don't have any. Banana?"
Child: "oh ok". or maybe "let's go to the shop and get some chocolate"
Mum: "Hmmm. It's only 6am and the shops aren't open yet. Shall we make chocolate cake instead with cocoa powder in?"
Child: "oh yeah"

and everyone is happy. Covered in flour and cocoa powder but happy.

I also believe fervently that the more our children get accustomed to the fact that we are not trying to thwart them, that we are trying to help both them and us and the people we encounter to be happy in our interactions, the more they trust that on those occasions when we say "I'm sorry, I just can't get you the moon on a stick" that we really cannot alter the laws of physics for them, and that we understand their disappointment and that we will do our best to help them find other cool things on sticks, also that we aren't stopping them from reaching for the moon, it's just that we can't reachc it for them, and not because we don't think that's an "appropriate" thing to do, or it's just "not ok" or it's "bad" or "naughty" or "silly".

Although I do think that the UP method might have a lot of merit, I still think there's so much leeway for someone to say "ah well, I'm UP but X is absolutely out of the question" when X might well be something which needn't be out of the question necessarily, like going out of the house in pyjamas. There is an escape clause for us parents not to re-examine our entrenched theories. I think one of AK's examples was that children simply mustn't have cake before supper. To which the answer from some might well be "er.... why is that a self-evident given, Mr Alfie? Why can't supper be cake on certain occasions? Will the world stop spinning? Will the FTSE fall to a record low? Will our children's legs fall off?"

I totally agree that "children need to be able to engage with society in a way that is acceptable", and that's all part of the guidance that we should be offering (and do offer, of course) our children. I think to say to a very small child "oh no, we just don't do that, let's think of something better" is perfectly acceptable - it's not that the behaviour is wrong in the abstract necessarily, but in the current context it is going to make all sorts of people uncomfortable, so let's not do it. And doing it might well mean we don't get invited back or we don't feel comfortable coming to this place again. I also think it's important when we are complicit in stopping (or attempting to stop) a child do something because that's the rules of that particular place, to make it very clear where the rule is coming from. "That's not our china cabinet, and Aunty Mavis says no thankyou, please do something else". Or "the librarians say no thankyou to children ripping up all the books" or "Gran says please don't draw on the walls of her house, but we can draw with chalk on the walls outside if we want, or we can wait till we get home". Ownership is an important concept to be learning early.

It can all be done without being set boundaries, just the circumstances in which we find ourselves - exactly the same as the moon on a stick e.g. I gave before. And if the child is determined to go ahead and do it anyway, well then the parent has the choice of going with that and dealing with the fall out, or stopping the child and dealing with the fallout, or suggesting something everyone would prefer.

I think the big distinction between TCS and the UP method is more one of mental approach than necessarily of how it looks from the outside. This is kind of duh, but if a family are walking happily chatting along the street talking about what they see and not running into the road, as you pass by them, you have no idea whether the children are not running into the road because it has been drummed into them that running into the road Is Bad, or whether the parent just had to say once "no running into the road rodney!" or whether they did the whole science experiment bit around it, with watching cars go by and feeling the big wind, and seeing how big they are, and seeing how they totally mash up the coke can someone else dropped in the street, and being aware of how much they could hurt you. Or whether the children are about to step out idiotically into the path of a juggernaut because their parents have neglected to guide them in this matter. You just can't tell from the outside.

But there's a deep moral and philosophical difference between a parent who sees themself as a trusted advisor to their child, and one who sees themself as just a pal, and one who sees themself as needing to Teach Their Child Right Behaviour by force, threats and punishment if necessary, and one who sees their child as a little prince who can do no wrong etc etc. And I haven't even touched on the ways that I'm sure most people would conceptualise their roles with their children because silly stereotypes are much easier to categorise.

There also is a huge difference between the kinds of things one does in one's own home and the kinds of things one imposes on people outside the nuclear family, and children are very very quick to pick up the idea that different actions are appreciated in different places. In one place, the chalks are used only on a blackboard. In another place, they can be used on paving stones. In another, they can be used on external house walls or in the bath or internal house walls or wherever it might be. But when our children are very very keen to do something and it is only OUR judgement that that's not the right thing to do - noone else is involved and noone else's property is involved, then those are the moments to be thinking really carefully about the likelihood of us parents being wrong.

With very small children, I see a lot of the parental role as being to guide children in multi-person interactions so that everyone stays happy - running a lot of interference - and then as they get older, they get the confidence to manage more and more complex social interactions without an interpreter and assistant (as if they are learning a foreign language, which much social discourse is, of course, when you are 0 years old)

random thoughts about consentual living

I believe that there are mutually agreeable solutions to family conflicts, which often involve everyone involved changing their minds about what outcomes they would like as whatever situation goes on. That good ideas for problem solving are good ideas whether they come from the adult or a child or through the actions of a pre-verbal child or from a completely anonymous stranger on an email list. That we are all fallible so that parents laying down the law might well be wrong, and in knowedge of that potential wrongness it's imperative to take our children's ideas into account just as much as our own.

And I also believe that such a non-coercive and optimistic family dynamic is in a positive feedback spiral - as families get more practice at consent-based living, they get better and better at it.

And I also believe that sometimes the people involved can't find a solution to a particular problem in real time and someone gets hurt. But everyone knows that it wasn't because anyone was being Wrong or Naughty necessarily, it's just that the people involved couldn't think fast enough that time. Which gives one the optimism for next time to a) [shrug] and b) have a think about non-coercive ways out of similar situations in the future.

I'd much rather expend my energies with my family on finding mutually agreeable ways to act than on laying down the law.

"My Child Refuses to Put Their Clothes on in the Morning, What Do I Do?"

IMO, every time one forces clothes onto a child who does not want them, it makes it harder next time. Maybe some people have children who easily cave under being forced to do something, but my experience of human interaction is that forcing someone to do something is a great way of ensuring that they don't cooperate well with you in the future. For sure, you win today's battle but at what cost to your future interactions?

There's also a problem with a parent saying "this is a boundary which simply must not be crossed. Children must wear clothes and the matter is not up for discussion". The problem is that for that parent, going out semi-dressed or not at all dressed until child is willing to put clothes on is a complete nono, but this opinion is not universally accepted by other adults, let alone necessarily by the person's children. For pretty much any moment where a particular parent says "but what if they want to do X [insert unspeakable taboo here]???" another parent somewhere will be able to say "oh yeah, we had that. We resolved it amicably by doing X, or by doing Y, or by going to the cake shop or whatever".

Every time a parent is saying "NO! That goes beyond the pale", they need to be aware that they could be wrong and their child could be right. Even if they plough on and force the child into snow suit and gloves against their will, they should have the humility to realise that they may be imposing this suffering out of their own entrenched theories about the world rather than because they are correct in their interpretation of what is possible. Even "child wants to walk on narrow wall over 8 foot drop onto concrete" could be possible with foresight and the right equipment. It might not be possible today, but it might be possible to come back later with the right kit (and yes, I am descended from mountaineers :-D)

My child wants to write on all the walls and windows

Might be quite important not to keep permanent markers in the house for a while then.

Pen on walls is not self-evidently wrong, although a lot of people are uncomfortable with it. It might be seen as a muralling opportunity, or the child's own choice about how to decorate certain areas of the shared living space, or as not really different from covering the walls higher up with children's art work and stuff.

But if parent is uncomfortable with the idea, for whatever reason, then there are highly attractive alternatives. Pen on windows and wipe off with a cloth is a great game. Another good one is going to one of those print and colour pages on a children's website, and do the colouring with felt tip on the computer screen, then wipe off with a damp cloth. Drawing on white bed sheets is also really fun. That's a biiiiiig canvas. And it all comes off in the wash. Colouring in a frozen screen on a DVD, or attempting to colour as it goes along is fun too, and cloths work equally well for cleaning the screen later. (heck, how often do many of us clean our screens or windows without such motivations?!)

Crayola washable pens are your friend :-)

I think the question at root of all this is whether you want your house to look like a civilised adult centred house or a child centred space. If the latter, then have at it with the drawing implements. If the former, then you need to work out carefully which aspects of the house you'd rather weren't written on, and how to make the ok bits really attractive for colouring, so that the chippendale furniture just isn't an issue in the "where shall we draw next?" stakes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

days of the week

My friend says "can we come to play on Tuesday?"

I don't really want her to.

In scenario 1, I say "yes ok", and resent it a little.

In scenario 2, I say "no. That's impossible. We don't socialise on Tuesdays. You must come round on Thursday or not at all"

In scenario 3, I say "hmm. How about Thursday" She says "not so good for me." one of us says "hey how about wednesday?" the other says "oh wow, that would be even better because our mutual friend Mattie will be in town".

scenario 1 is the self-sacrificing parent, raising a child who is not learning about taking others needs into account.

scenario 2 is the authoritarian parent, sure that their way is right

Consent based family life is scenario 3. I want my life to be all about finding Wednesdays, and getting better and better at it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

most British 5 year olds are "failing"

Well, either children are being desperately let down by parents, teachers, society in general and, most of all, themselves (linky: )

or, possibly, these early years targets are misguided...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Children Missing Education Consultation

I have done my response. It is a right old muddle, but then the consultation itself is a right old muddle and so are the consultation questions, so I feel fully in unity with the style of the consultation as presented to me.

The consultation is here:

My response identifier was only 25, so the HE troops need to get their loins girded to respond! (I remember this from the last consultation, that many of us did last minute responses to it... let's hope that happens again this time).

Please feel free to take anything useful from my response and use it yourself.

The short version of the response, for those without the patience to read the whole darn document and respond to each question:

"This proposed guidance is discriminatory, internally contradictory and out of step with previous education-related legislation and guidance. It is unpublishable without extensive redrafting and consultation with stakeholders and lawyers".

1 Based on your experience of local authorities implementing this duty since it was introduced in 2007, does the guidance make clear the actions which local authorities are expected to take to help them comply with the duty?


Before making any further comments, I should say that this guidance in its current form is so contradictory and muddled that it is hard to provide a coherent response to it.

It is not at all clear how LAs should comply with the Education Act 1996, s436A, and there seems to be a conflation of their duties under that section with their duties under S437, which adds to the confusion.

My local LA does not seem to be following the 2007 EHE guidelines at all. In this document: (deleted to maintain my incognito haha) we see several mentions of visits, either annually or more frequently, despite there being NO legal basis for this assumption; we also see undue emphasis on potential drawbacks of home education (the level of responsibility, the financial implications, possible social drawbacks).

There is an undercurrent in the draft guidance of suspicion of those who choose to discharge their legal responsibility to educate their children themselves rather than delegating it to a school.

2 Does the guidance make clear the role that implementation of this duty has in the wider programme of work led by local authorities to improve outcomes for children and young people, including promoting their safety and well-being?


As the law stands, it is parents rather than LAs who are responsible for outcomes for children and young people. The safety and well-being of children and young people needs to be carefully disentangled in the guidance from their educational needs.

If LAs wish to take on responsibility for educational outcomes of children and young people, then of course the law can be changed to reflect that. Are they ready, however, to be held legally accountable for failures to provide education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of every child in the country? The bill will be large.

There is nothing here about supporting and helping EHE families, simply suggestions of how they might be policed.

Why are HEed children being included in these "vulnerable" groups? It is massively offensive not only to home educating families, but also to so many minority communities! It might even border on discriminatory - you will want to have your lawyers check very very carefully before publishing such a list. (and you may recall that the references to traveller/gypsy/roma families were massively toned down before publication of the 2007 EHE guidelines)

3 Does the guidance accurately describe the range of circumstances that put children's safety at risk and puts them at risk of not receiving a suitable education?


Children are not at risk because they are home educated! It's clearly stated in the law (it's even in your draft at one point) that EHE is NOT a welfare issue. And yet, on every other page of the guidance, EHE so clearly IS being regarded as a welfare issue.

If you want to describe the range of circs which puts children at risk of not receiving a fulltime education suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any SEN they may have (and please, what is this "suitable" which keeps cropping up? Who is defining "suitable"? You might have been able to come up with a more ambiguous term, but you would have had to work hard at it. Sticking to the law would be better), then you need to look at children in ALL educational settings: private schools, state schools, HE and alternative provision. Look for the failing schools, for the children being bullied, for the children whose SEN are not being adequately met. It is pretty offensive to those HEing families who have, with great financial and personal sacrifice, removed their children from state schools in which their safety was so clearly being put at risk and their educational needs so abjectly unmet, to start HEing, and now to discover that, in the eyes of the State, it is their children who are now particularly "vulnerable"!

EHE really does not belong in this list (a list which reflects the prejudices of the drafters) - surely State officials would be better concentrating on the needs of individual vulnerable children rather than resorting to this check box approach, particularly when several of those boxes are disriminatory.

4 Does the guidance show effectively what steps local authorities should take when children are living in difficult circumstances that put them at more risk of not receiving a suitable education?


Firstly, how is being EHEed a "difficult circumstance"?! WHY are home educated children seen to be particularly vulnerable? Is there any reason to suppose that they are more at risk than schooled children of forced marriage or abuse? Why has forced marriage become integrated into this guidance? There are surely already powers in place to prevent forced marriages? What do they have to do with where children are educated? Similarly, Social Services already have powers to investigate suspected abuse and to take action to prevent it further occuring. What has suspected abuse to do with place of education?

Authorities get no clear guidance here about their statutory duties. If they follow this guidance, they will inevitably fall foul of the 2007 EHE guidlines. In fact, if they follow parts of this guidance they will, by definition, be contradicting other parts of it...

There is an invitation here to the LAs to practice high levels of intrusion into the private lives of lawfully EHEing families. Are we expected simply to surrender our right to privacy (European Convention on human rights Article 8) when there is NO reason for the State to believe that anything untoward is occuring in our homes except for the fact that we are educating our children ourselves rather than trusting the State to do it for us?

There is currently no duty or power for LAs to routinely monitor elective home educators. I am aware that many LA officials are unhappy about this. This guidance opens the door to abuses of their current powers - unless the intention is to change the law by an underhand route. But if changing the law is the intention - are LA officials aware of the responsibility they will hold if they become responsible (rather than the courts) for determining a child's educational needs? This would override the 1996 Education Act (section 9) and will inevitably make the State vulnerable to litigation when their assessment of a child's educational needs is mistaken.

5 What are the key challenges local authorities could face to implementing these guidelines effectively?

The fact that this guidance is in complete contradiction to the 2007 EHE guidelines, published after a full consultation process with over 900 responses is one massive problem.

The question of how ContactPoint works with CME, especially given that ContactPoint isn't even in operation yet.

The fact that this guidance apparently overrides the legal rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit, and indeed, overrides the legal responsibility of parents for ensuring that their children receive an education suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any SEN, at school or otherwise.

6 Does the guidance make clear the duties and powers that local authorities have in relation to home educated children when parents are not providing them with a suitable education?


How can any authority follow both this guidance and the 2007 guidelines, which DID make clear the duties and powers of LAs (much to their chagrin, I understand).

Again, what is a "suitable" education? This guidance really should stick to the legally accepted terminology, however distasteful that is to the LA officials.

The guidance does not summarise clearly the law as it stands

7 Does the guidance contain all the 'signposts' to other relevant guidance; sources of support and advice for local authorities that will enable them to implement this duty effectively?


The guidance is not built on the current legislation and guidance, but is apparently an attempt to massively increase the duties and powers of LAs. The signposts to the 2007 EHE guidelines are particularly laughable since, as I have already mentioned, there is no way that an LA could be in harmony with both.

There are no signposts here to the experts in the area of EHE. The HE support and information organisations, for example.

There are also massive and under-considered data protection issues in this proposed bonanza of data sharing. They are going to need careful advice on that.

8 Beyond the publication of the guidance, what would be the most effective means of communicating the importance of implementing the new duty, and the processes that will help its implementation, to professionals working with children?

LA officials need training in EHE. They are mostly inexperienced and massively ignorant. As an absolute minimum, they should be expected to read the most recent research on UK-based EHE (Paula Rothermel, the recent Alan Thomas book "How Children Learn at Home", for example). They should be introduced to the different educational philosophies and learning styles of home educating families, and it should be absolutely impressed upon them that EHE is legally, educationally, socially and morally the equivalent of school-based education. They should approach their work with humility. Here, the experts and professionals are the families who home educate their children, and those experts and professionals should be treated with the respect they deserve, unless they give good reason to indicate that they are NOT educating their children.

The attention of LA officials should be particularly drawn to the research of Paula Rothermel which shows that educational outcomes for working class children are better at home than at school. There are discriminatory assumptions underlying so much of the proposed guidance which reflects the prejudices of LA staff.

In my opinion, the proposed guidance is completely unworkable in its current form, so that publication of the guidance would be a most ineffective means of communicating the importance of implementing any new duties. (when you say “new duties”, are we to understand that this does indeed constitute a change to the law?)

9 Have you any details of good practice that would be useful to include in the final version of the 'guidance'?

Yes Hey! A yes! Not entirely a negative response then!

LAs could try following the existing Education-related legislation, perhaps including the 2007 CME guidance and the non-statutory 2007 EHE guidelines? Perhaps the final version could summarise the law accurately rather than this hysterical conflating hodge-podge of educational and child-protection issues?

10 Did you find the draft guidance clear, unambiguous and easy to follow?

On the contrary, I found it contradictory, disorganised, ambiguous, discriminatory and bordering on ultra vires.

Truly, this needs to go back to the drawing board, and needs the eagle eye of a legal team before it goes anywhere near publication.

Full consultation with stakeholders is also essential before this goes to publication, and that means proper consultation with the ethnic minority groups, groups of immigrants, Home Education groups, religious minotiries, travellers, gypsy and roma communities and so on, who are seen as particularly "vulnerable". This certainly has not happened yet with the Home Education community.

11 a) We have developed standard data definitions at Appendix 1 of the guidance. These were developed in consultation with several local authorities. Do you agree with these definitions?


Disciminatory against EHEed children. If the quality of education is to be part of the CME remit, then that must apply to all settings - state schools, private schools, EHE and alternative provision.

And where was the consultation with other stakeholders?

11 b) If not, what amendments would you suggest and why?

The CME team needs to have a field in its database which says

"place of education known/unknown".

If unknown, then they make enquiries about the location of the education.

If known, then the duty of the SME team is discharged.

Then the EHE team on the LA look at any children noted on the database as being educated at home, and follow the existing 2007 guidelines in any further action (which may well be none, if they have no reason to suspect that an education is not taking place)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Reluctant to read and write?

I feel so sorry for children where the school is "worried" about their progress in reading and writing, and sends them home with extra work books and flash cards and lord knows what else for the summer holidays. So the pressure never drops off.

The parents feel under pressure because their 5/6/7/whatever year old is not at the same stage in literacy as the rest of the class. First assumption: We Have Done Something Wrong As Parents. Second assumption: There is Something Wrong With Our Child (whether that is disciplinary or developmental or what). I wish more would jump to a third assumption: Our Child is Fine. He/She is Just Not on Exactly The Same Tram Tracks as the National Average.

But that's a hard business, backing off, when schools are, by definition, places in which reading and writing are so central to the daily functioning of the institution from a really early stage.

Here's what I wrote somewhere else:

Reading and writing are the most glorious human tools. I mean, really. They make so much possible in terms of knowledge creation and storage. And we can access beautiful language and stories by people who aren't living in the same place and time as us.

But different children are ready to embrace that tool at different times. Some are ready at 4. Some are ready at 5 (they are the lucky ones, because that's when the UK schools are assuming they are up for it too) and some aren't ready till 7 or 8 or 10 or even later. Nothing to do with intelligence, just to do with being ready to begin using this particular tool of human communication.

We can force our children to learn to read and write before they are ready, we can even try to persuade them that it's a marvellous tool, but until they themselves are wanting to read a particular story THEMSELF or access a certain type of information INDEPENDENTLY, or communicate in writing to someone THEMSELF, then it's all just a rather pointless circus trick really, isn't it?

The old Unschooler's 5-step method of teaching a child to read is:

1. read to them
2. read to them
3. read to them
4. read to them
5. read to them

and it sounds like you're doing that. So I'd back off, take off the pressure, try to persuade school to take off the pressure, and let your child take it at their own pace. when she's ready, you won't see her for dust.

[climbs off soap box and puts it into backpack]

The Sandra Dodd page on reading begins: "You can't make her read or write. But you can make her not want to"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Don't let your child eat too much

... or they'll get taken into care.

Times article here

I become more and more persuaded that the State in the UK sees itself as responsible for the well being of all the children within its borders, with parents only allowed to play a role in the children's upbringing as long as they do not step out of the State Approved line.

I'm not saying that serious childhood obesity is a good thing. But removing children from their families as the solution???

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I just posted links to all sorts of UK Home Education groups/information sites/ campaigning organisations, because I am sick and tired of forgetting what is out there.

Are there others I should know about?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Moving away from being the constant presence

This was a messageboard conversation. A mother of a 16 month old who co-sleeps and still breastfeeds a lot is feeling the classic attachment mama burnout.

Without judging whether she was right or wrong to get into the position of being burned-out AP mother, what advice would you give her? (I'm sure at least one of my regular commenters will have something to say!!!)

This is what I said so far (criticism welcome)

If you want a longer gap between day-time feeds, and less of an assumption that breastfeeding is the default I'm-bored activity, try pushing the envelope so you are away a little longer than 3-4 hours in the daytime but the child isn't distressed. Beginn to find more interesting things to do than breastfeeding a lot in the day time - it might take a lot of some favourite food to be more attractive than the breast (chocolate mini milks?! Lots of good calcium in there!)

And then for the night time, if you are wanting to escape from being the only parent who will do at night time, I would think first in terms of giving a huge feed about an hour before bed time, and then disappearing to a cafe around the corner with a book so that your Dh can help your child go to bed. I'd recommend him lying down with the baby, and reading lots of favourite stories and then singing lots and lots of lullabies, giving as many cuddles as needed. No pressure on the little one to fall asleep, but just Daddy being there to help. And if it goes wrong, you can be called home to help, and try it another day! It would be a lot of work for your Dh to start with, but needn't be distressing for your child.

Same with the mornings - do whatever normal feeding happens at night and then any morning when you wake before your child, you just slip away, leaving water and biscuits or something even nicer to eat, and Daddy snuggled next to the baby, and see how Daddy does. Are there any foods which your child would take in preference to milk? Chocolate buttons? (this is at breakfast time, after all, you can always clean their teeth afterwards) And something to help them get out of dozy dozy mode really fast (a favourite DVD on a portable DVD player, maybe?)

All of this requires a lot of creativity on your husband's part. It might be that daytime naps would be a better place for him to start learning how to help your child to sleep rather than the night - get together with your husband and brainstorm like mad about things which are really comforting which aren't your breasts.

And Attachment Mama burn-out is really really classic. The big thing is to learn how to absent yourself so the Daddy can learn how to do some comforting and soothing.

I think the I-am-the-only-parent-who-can-comfort trap is particularly dangerous for SAHMs with WOHDs, because the breasts become the be-all and end-all so easily. It's much easier for those of us whose circumstances have meant that other care givers (the father, or a grandmother, or whoever) have been an accepted part of the comfort-giving landscape from the start.

Does anyone have any other wisdom about ways in which other care-givers learned to offer comfort without the magic breasts (while I still think that breastfeeding is the best possible start for a child, and that it should continue as long as both the mother and child are happy, I do think it's important to develop those other comfort options, and it can be harder for the wearer of the magic breasts to think of those options, since the magic breasts are always there in times of stress)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Here we are - linkage about opting out of EYFS

Spread the word among those with concerns...

nursery/preschool settings and childminders can apply for a temporary exemption (not sure what kind of timescale)

Parents can apply for an exemption on grounds of religious or philosophical conflict

the government site where you can get details

the EYFS lot, who are somewhat unimpressed

I think that concerned parents of children who are going to be affected by this need to start deluging Beverly Hughes and her Whitehall mandarins with requests for exemption...

Friday, August 08, 2008

An important Youtube from OpenEYE


The only bit I didn't like was when they wheeled out wossname Sigman to tell us that TV, DVDs and computer use are harmful for small children and stop them being able to concentrate for extended periods of time (has he never watched small children playing video games?)

But it's a professionally made film.

People in the mainstream seem to be just now waking up to the threat of EYFS, which is the new compulsory curriculum for under-5s in the UK, which must be followed by all nurseries, childminders and pre-schools. Montessori, Steiner/Waldorf and other "alternative" pre-schools are completely up in arms about it, of course, and there is growing discontent about the compulsory nature of EYFS among childminders and early years practitioners (I think they call themselves) more widely.

By the age of 5, did you know, British children should be writing simple sentences using punctuation.


Recent encounters with "potty training"

I recently encountered two stories.

1. Child, aged almost 4 I think, is "potty trained" and has been out of nappies for 6 months. But pees themself, every single day, several times a day, and the mother was wanting to get ideas about getting the smell of old urine out of the child's nice shoes. Mother did not want to go back into nappies because the child's pre-school setting is not supportive of children of this age not being "potty trained"

2. Child, aged 4 and a bit, I think it was, is also "potty trained" and has been for a long time, but every day hides themself in a corner of the house/pre-school in order to do a poo in their underpants. Fine to use the toilet for peeing, but not for pooing. Mother wanted advice about stopping it happening.

My apologies if these stories are somewhat TMI. I was horrified to encounter them. What would either of these children have to do to persuade their parents and carers that they are not in fact ready to use the toilet? The competitive agenda which seems among some parents to begin at birth (oh, what did (s)he weigh? Our little Jimmy was 8.8lb!!!) moves on, in matters like elimination, to extreme coercion and presumably humiliation for the children who just aren't ready at the "average" age, or the "competitive mum's moment of thinking it's time" age. Or maybe these are parents who are overwhelmed by What Will People Think.

It seems to me that having pull-ups either full time or to put on when needing to pee/poo would be a much more respectful solution. And taking the whole process at the child's pace rather than rushing them, since these particular children clearly aren't doing brilliantly well with the rushed approach.

It also struck me as very interesting that when people say confidently "ah yes, little Billy was completely potty trained at 18 months", they might not mean by that what I think they mean. I always thought that "completely potty trained" meant that a child knew when they needed the toilet, and would take themselves off to the toilet/potty, and then would shout for loo paper assistance if necessary. But actually, it is becoming clear to me now that a mainstream "potty trained" child is simply one whose parents have removed their nappies. Some of them are indeed "completely potty trained" in my sense of the word, and others are absolutely not. *deep shuddering sigh*

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Shouldn't (s)he be weaned by now?"

I hear of people having this conversation with mothers of nursing 3 month olds, let alone mothers of nursing three year olds.

I've recently worked out a potentially wonderful response which I am calling the Mona Lisa response.

When people say challenging things about breastfeeding, I think it is worth quietly continuing to breastfeed, and breathe calmly, and just feel the tension. Because the person challenging you is the one with issues, and they are trying to tranfer their anxieties to you. So take time just to feel their tension, not to act on it, but being aware and conscious and fully present in the moment. It's not your tension, it's just crackling around in the atmosphere of the room. You don't have to engage with it in any way.

And when they have finished their rant, smile, like the Mona Lisa, and say "ah well, horses for courses, it's what suits us for now" in the tone of voice which signals clearly that the conversation is now over.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A messagebaord post of which I am feeling proud

I'm not sure it's ok to say

"HEing is fine but you are HEing for reason X, and I don't think X is a valid reason for HEing"

because in conversation one has to simplify, and reason X might just be the thing which is uppermost in one's mind at this precise moment


because reason X might just have been the thing which incensed the person in their conversation with grumpy old Life is Tough git


because you don't HAVE to have a "valid reason" to HE any more than you have to have a valid reason to send your child to school. They are equal before the law in the UK

No-one gets to decide about whether or not a family should or should not be home educating their children except for, ultimately, a court of law. Not me. Not you. Not even an LEA. They can put a case in court if they have good reason to believe that a particular family is failing to educate a child, but it's still up to the court to decide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Life is tough and children need to learn how to deal with it"

I really really hate that sentiment. It's not even so much the "Life is tough" bit because, indeed, life does throw challenges at people and those challenges are sometimes difficult. It's the "Children need to learn" sentiment which has my hackles rising.

Because behind "they have to learn" is an implied "and it's going to hurt them" and somehow the speaker is just RELISHING the fact that they are going to suffer, and that suffering is Good For Them. Whenever I have encountered it, there is an edge to the tone of voice, an entire world view which believes that That Which Does Not Destroy Us Makes Us Stronger, and You Have To Suffer To Be Beautiful. The person saying it subscribes that well known magazine The School of Hard Knocks Weekly.

But I believe that they are wrong. People learn least well through suffering because the brain does not function as well under stress. The things people learn in stressful situations are not necessarily at all what those trying to teach them (parents, teachers, peers, whoever) are trying to teach.

Not all people who send their children to school are "Life is Tough and you have to learn to deal" people, and not all HEers are the opposite. Although the quote was brought to my attention by a HEer being criticised for her family's choice because "Life is Tough blah blah", I don't actually think the quote got anything particularly to do with school vs. HE at all.

The kind of person who says "You have to send your child to school because life is tough blah blah" is just as likely IMO to say "you have to leave your child to scream themself to sleep because life is tough blah blah" or "the rot set in when they stopped national service because life is tough blah blah" or whatever they happen to think you are being too "soft" with your child about. In the context of this original quote it happened to be school/HE. If the child in question was going to school, the criticism would be of helping the child make their sandwiches which was not teaching them that "Life is tough", or allowing them to wear a coat on a chilly day even if the clocks have already changed. The problem is with the Life is Tougher, not with whether anyone's children go to school or not.

By the way, I think that if school is horribly stressful for a child, they'll be better off out of it educationally and socially, long and short term, rather than self-harming or committing suicide or anorexic or waiting to see if the last lot of bruises heals before the next lot arrives or weeping every Sunday night as the new week begins.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Going all political - a letter to my MP

Dear XXX,

I note that you have signed Early Day Motion 1886 about
Breastfeeding in Public.

While I applaud your support for mothers feeding their infants, I feel
very strongly that this proposed law does not go far enough.

As I am sure you know, the WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively
until 6 months, and then mixed breastfeeding and solid foods until at
least two years old. What precisely is proposed in this Early Day
Motion for babies and small children over the 6 month limit?
Putting the age limit on tends to lend validity to the prurience with
which women's breasts being used for their naturally intended purpose
is viewed in this country. Women whose breastfeeding children are over
six months, or appear to be, will be at increased risk of being
challenged, bullied, and asked to leave public places, since the law,
if it passes, will clearly state that breastfeeding in public is only
alright up to this magic limit.

Before you contribute to the house of commons debate on this matter, I
would urge you to get in touch with breastfeeding women in your
constituency - La Leche League or NCT coffee mornings are the most
obvious place - and consult breastfeeding women about this. I believe
you will find that they would prefer no law to a law with an age limit,
and that they would prefer a law with no age limit to no law at all
[Parliament could always just lift the Scottish wording...]. Further,
just because weaning begins at 6 months doesn't mean that babies show
very much interest in solid food for a long time after that;
exclusively breastfed babies will often have absolutely NOTHING to do
with a bottle either of expressed breast milk or of formula; and few
mothers find it preferable to deny a screaming baby or child breastmilk
just because they are not safely behind closed doors.

As it stands, this early day motion really isn't going to do any
favours to the people for whose benefit it seems to have been drafted.

Yours sincerely,

Inspired by this petition

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sharing (that old chestnut)

Child screams if other children tries to play with her toys. Holds as many as she can.

I might actually try it the other way around. Pass her lots of toys if she wants toys. As many as she can hold. Make it a game. Balance one on her head. Make it so there are so many toys floating around that there is room for someone else to use one without her even noticing.

Having doubles of favourites can be a good ploy - not expensive things, just soft toys or cars or whatever ("there's one for you to play with and one for Freddie.")

Suggest that visitors bring toys with them, to act as collateral, or as things for them to play with if she'd prefer not to share hers.

Make sure that her favourite toys are put carefully out of sight when people are visiting - of course she can ask for them if she wants them, but it means the visitors don't even know those toys exist and avoids the conflict.

Make activities for visiting children which don't involve sharing against anyone's will. Bubbles. Paddling pool. Lots of balloons to blow up and bat around. A mattress or cushions to jump on.

Remember - the toys at your house are her toys. You don't lend books unless you feel like lending them. She shouldn't have to lend her toys. I think respecting our children's property is an important starting point, personally.

It will pass, but it is so so so much easier to talk about lending and the concept of X playing with a toy and then they'll give it back and in general the concept of ownership when her language is more developed - around 2.5 or 3 I guess. I'd be finding ways of managing things as they are at her developmental stage just now rather than trying to get sharing to be ok (it's like this magic word isn't it? the adults say "share share share" and the children hear "give away your toys, give away your toys". They just don't understand it as an ok thing at this age. We have to wait for them to be ready)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My parents always sent me to bed at 9pm, whether I liked it or not, and I turned out fine.

I think this idea can be summarised as "Adults know better than children what is best for them"? That message is completely counter to TCS philosophy.

I assume instead that children will work out how best to live in society, with parents offering guidance where tolerated. What are the alternatives? That a child is incapable of learning how to interact successfully with the world around him unless someone forces them to? Or that a child must be forced to comply with societal norms because they won't see them as worth while in their own right. Child as stupid? Child as wrong headed? Child as insufficiently provided with information? (then provide the information for them to make their own reasoned decisions, don't keep making the decisions on their behalf!!)

One cannot assume that all children of certain ages need the same amount of sleep. Or even that the same child will always need the same amount of sleep - it's going to depend on what sort of day they've had. In fact, the only person with sufficient information to know that a child needs to go to sleep is that child themself, and the very best gift their parents can give them is to read their own cues of tiredness. And you don't do that by overriding those cues and sending someone to bed at your own parental convenience.

The lucky children have parents who have let them sleep whenever they want from a very young age. When tired, they lie down and go to sleep. Those parents who have forced bedtimes over the years have to step back at some point in order for their children to learn for themselves what their cues are. And parents can do that stepping back when their children leave home, perhaps to go to college. That's the classic where students stay up really late and miss classes, not because they don't want to be at the classes ,but because this, aged 19, is the first time in their entire life when the only thing telling them to go to bed is their own cues of tiredness, and they are having to learn to read those cues. The bedtime imposing parents have done a pretty rubbish preparation for life course for their children there, wouldn't you say?

The "you have to go to bed because you have to get up for school" argument doesn't wash. If one's own activities at home in the evening are much more interesting and engrossing than school, then it should be a question of finding ways not to have to go to school, or not to have to go to school full time, rather than curtailing those activities. It is quite common, I believe, for children of TCS families not to go to school - because so much learning on someone else's agenda is simply not effective or efficient. And there is no freedom of association in a school. If there are better things to do tonight than go to school tomorrow, then the problem to solve is how to get your parents to allow you to be home educated, not how to motivate yourself to get into bed and shut your eyes.

"I turned out fine" boils down to "I was coerced and it never did me any harm", which is the same in spirit, though of course not in seriousness, as "my father beat me with a belt strap every Friday night and I turned out ok". It's not a question of "how much can we coerce our children and still have them turn out ok?". It's a question of "what is the morally right way to interact with our children?". Respecting their wishes about when to go to bed, and taking them as seriously as our own, is a good starting point.

It all comes down to parental limits, with bed time as one of the classic boundaries not-to-be-pushed. But parental "limits" are parental blind spots, where there is no acknowledgement of parental fallibility, and are thus inimical to consentual family living.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How exciting

One of the wisest women I know

Ask Nawny

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Independence Agenda

The ideal: for children to take independence rather than to be pushed into it

#1 challenge: the aspects of life that the parent has baggage about with independence. For one parent it might be wanting child to be in own bed asap, for another it might be wanting child to start using toilet asap, for another it might be wanting to stop breastfeeding asap or send child to school asap etc etc. How to step back from the irrationality of one's response to a particular area of offspring dependence? Advice please.

#2 challenge: advice wanted for when an area in #1 correlates with an area that friends or relatives are concerned about. Not only is a parent anxious about child not doing X yet, but others are communicating their anxiety about it too. What to do? Easy to deflect such anxiety in others when it is in an area about which the parent is not anxious for independence asap themselves.

#3 challenge: how to balance making opportunities avaiable to a child versus pushing them into something before they are ready. If a child never sees a bike, they'll never know they might want to ride one. But if parent tries to push them onto a bike before they feel happy to try it, they'll put the process back by days/weeks/months. This is not about bicycles, they are a silly hypothetical. How to judge the difference between making something available and pressuring someone? How to find ways of making something (which has been a pressure point in the past) available without pressure?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Just another ordinary day

I just read this short story


Go read - it's just a story about an ordinary school day...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Hairdressing without tantrums. Or at Tantrum. Or something.

Nice video here

I just wish they hadn't called the shop "Tantrum" since the whole point, surely, is that this is a place one can take a child to have a haircut which they will really enjoy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The revolving door of school exclusion

this article caught my eye.

The solutions I see to this problem are certainly too out there for our society.

Stop having schools being compulsory (to all intents and purposes) to the majority of children.

Stop having state funded schools. If people want to run schools, and children want to attend them, let them reach their own arrangements as to the financial recompense and the code of behaviour to be accepted by all parties concerned.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

what did you do today?

I enjoy reading examples of things HE families do. Sometimes it is presented as "what subjects did we cover today?" (I'm thinking of a Mumsnet thread, where this is crossposted)

But there are a couple of things which bother me, so I thought I'd put them out there to be gunned down or mulled over.

There might be a danger in cataloguing the "subjects" our children cover that we buy into the mythology that activities have to be cataloguable in terms of school subjects to be worth doing, to be educational. For school-at-home HE, it's kind of easy and obvious: "well, we did 30 minutes of our reading scheme and then 30 minutes of maths worksheets, a bit of our history project and then off to the HE science group after lunch" (I am oversimplifying just to make the point).

But for autonomous home educators, the activities of our children may well not at all look like school subject-specific activities.

1) there is the danger of focusing on, emphasising, noticing the activities which fit the boxes. Of breathing a sigh of relief when a child does something which we can present to the in-laws as educational and within the realm of what they'll recognise as such. Of interacting with the expectations of wider schooled society on their terms rather than ours.

2) we don't know when our children are learning or in what form. Someone recently said something about their children spending all day playing computer games. And it's accepted generally in society that that would Not Be Educational. But there is a stage in a person's life when they first learn to use a mouse alone. In what universe is that not a major thing to have learned? There is a stage when they first learn to navigate icons to their favourite games and activities. Again, how are they not, gloriously, learning? And the learning continues; computers are just a medium like any other, which can be educational depending on what is going on inside someone's head.

It might be in the "down-time" computer games that our children learn the most in a day. Or in the building of a large lego structure. Or in who knows what - it needn't look like school, it needn't be good LEA-report fodder, and maybe we as parents will never know what our children learned from colouring in 47 pictures of the Teletubbies one day aged 2 (that's a hypothetical).

There's a wonderful HE video on Youtube called "Learning all the time" which portrays some of that - that you can even make a video of unschooled children doing their thing, and there are glimpses of all sorts of wondrous learning going on, but it still can't be grasped and quantified. Poor old OFSTED, maybe that's why they tried so hard to shut down Summerhill.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Does (s)he sleep through the night yet?

I have always thought this a very odd question.

I do not sleep through the night myself. Sometimes I wake to go to the loo, or I wake because I am thirsty or need to blow my nose. Sometimes a particularly vivid dream will wake me, and I have to waken enough to realise it was only a dream before I can sleep again. I am aware that some people are deeply, log-like, unconscious right through the night, but most are not (just about any men over about the age of 50, for example, with their prostate-related need to pee)

So really the question is

"Does your child still disturb you when they wake in the night?", with the implication that being independent at night time is something to strive for as quickly as possible, with sleep training manuals to assist one in achieving the glorious goal of not being disturbed by one's offspring for a solid 11 hours every night.

And my response to this would be: at what times of day is it acceptable to ignore a child's needs and desires? If they want comfort or company or nourishment or help, is there a time after which a parent should be thinking "nope, that's your lot till 8 a.m."?

I would always help a child in the night if they needed help. In that help, I would be hoping gradually to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage whatever the thing is - going to the loo, having a drink, whatever - on their own. But that would occur when they were ready, not when I suddenly decided on their first birthday that that's it, no more broken nights thank you. As I have said before, being a parent is a 24-hour job.

And just to put this in context. I have several recurring dreams, which I generally get if under stress for some reason. They might occur several times a year, or may disappear for two years at a time. When I awake from these dreams - which are frightening, involving precipices or poisonous snakes or similar - I continue to hallucinate. It can take up to an hour for the hallucinations to subside entirely, and it is very much helped if someone is with me, holding me, comforting me, turning the light on, reassuring me that I am not actually on the edge of a cliff.

When we refuse to help our children if they cry at night, how can we be sure that their dreams are not as vivid and terrifying as mine?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

THe old "I don't home educate but I know exactly how it should be done" conversation

A child I know who is HE educated is 10 and has the unformed writing of a 5
yr old, he is a bright boy,he simply doesn't have the practise because he hardly
ever writes!

How important is beautiful handwriting in adult life? How often do any of us write nowadays?

And if the answer is yes, it's important, then a person will want to learn when it is important.

My handwriting was terrible as a child, but one year I decided to enter a Post Office handwriting competition (back of a cereal packet or something) and learned calligraphy and GOT A CERTIFICATE. Nothing to do with school.

And if handwriting becomes important in adult life? You learn to write beautifully then.

He had finally learned to read, but he has missed hours of joy with all the
books that he has outgrown and missed because he couldn't access the code
earlier.He had to have someone read to him or a story tape which is not the

I know children who can read but prefer to be read to, children who don't yet read and are exploring it, running their fingers along the words as a parent reads, children who can't yet read but tell themselves the story, word perfectly, because they know it so well.

I am gloriously happy when I see a child learn to read, but I am also weirdly sad - because they can never see a picture with caption through just their own eyes again, because they will never again truly appreciate the shape qua shape of an A or an H - because interpreting it as a signifier always intervenes. I'm not saying I would stop a child reading, but saying it has to be done fast and young for the best value childhood is an unsubstantiated assertion.

I am also much much happier when I see a late-reading HE child than a late-reading schooled one. The schooled one has been a failure since the age of 5. School is a literate culture. HE needn't be.

There is just so much of oral-culture value that we lose when we become literate aged 5, whether ready or not, on the conveyor belt of broiler eduation. (some children are ready at 5 or earlier. fine. But don't assume it's right for everyone)

Maths needs to be every day, unless you are mathematically gifted, purely
for the practise in dealing with numbers.

formal sit down maths? pffft. Numeracy is a way of life, and it needn't involve pens, pencils, paper, workbooks or lesson plans. I actually find it hard to believe that any parent gets through a whole day with their children without doing heaps of age-appropriate maths aloud or through gesture or by using objects. But legislating for it?

And if there's a day when noone happens to have mentioned anything to do with maths, that would be a disaster?!

IMO the 3rd most important thing to give a child ( after love and security)is a
good education.
I agree entirely. THat's why I have no intention of devolving my responsibility to educate my family onto overworked, underpaid teachers who are bullied and browbeaten by politicians and their cronies and who can never give a child the one-to-one personalised education their parent can.

Things need to be taught

Actually, you are wrong. Read some John Holt or other autonomous eduation literature and we'll talk again.

People are not buckets. Knowledge cannot be poured into them, however diligent the learner and however enthused and enthusing the pourer.

How is a child challenged?

define "challenge". a 2 year old learning to jump is challenged. They are frustrated. They might ask for help. they learn to jump, you don't teach them.

Skills like scan reading and note taking need to be taught.
Nonsense. The idea of teaching them in schools is relatively recent. anyone my age taught themself, when they needed the skills.

What do you do with the lazy child who doesn't want to make an effort?

Define "lazy".

And... if a child is in charge of their own mind, their own learning, their own life, then they make an effort at what matters to them (and however mcuh you try to force children to learn, they'll only remember and understand and retain that which is important to them at that time).

Are you thinking that these naughty HE children will just lie around all the time?

Or is this the protestant work ethic/the devil makes work for idle hands meme?

Life is hard-everyone has to do things they don't want to
You only have to do things you don't want to if you accept other people trying to force you to do things you don't want to.

Really - I'd much rather raise children who DON'T think it's normal and acceptable to do something they hate, or to do something just because an authority figure has told them to. I'd much rather raise children who will pursue their happiness whole heartedly and never settle for doing things which make them unhappy because "life is hard".

Yuck.I hate that philosophy. It is so Dementor.

the real world is tough
Oh - that's ok. I beat my children every day just to prepare them for when they get mugged. (er... not really...)

No. The real world is what you make it.

The whole point about HE is that you can sidestep that whole schooling culture, that whole Doing To thing of the educational establishment, you can essentially bypass your way to the intellectual freedom most people only gain in adulthood and, weirdly enough, children revel in it, are happy, interested, motivated, self-directed.

this is maybe coming across quite aggressive, but I'm sharing the frustration of other posters, that someone who has no idea what HE is about either practically or philosophically is quite so sure of how it should be done.

Mothers and ancient child birth memes

I've been thinking about Candlemas. This is because the Mexican mother-in-law of a friend of mine made an epiphany cake, and I got the little plastic baby Jesus in my slice, and the forfeit is that I have to bake it in to my Candlemas cake. Ah yes, the Candlemas cake which I make every year (except not.)

Candlemas is of course the celebration of Mary taking Jesus to the Temple for her ritual cleansing after the impurifying act of childbirth. And it's when Simeon says the Nunc Dimittis, because now he's seen the Messiah he can die in peace. Oh, and Baby Jesus meets Baby John the Baptist. (Not that I'm buying into the narrative, but that's the story)

Anyway. So I was thinking about this ritual purifying of women after childbirth, 40 days after a son; 80 days after a daughter.

My immediate response was the knee jerk feminist "how dare They have decided that childbirth makes women impure?" but I've been thinking a bit more.

The period before the purifying was called the "gander" month, and the husband was responsible for everything domestic until the ritual purifying. It was a way of making sure women were able to rest and focus on bonding with the baby in the first 6 weeks.

They wouldn't be expected to go out in public - again, a way of ritualising the babymoon (and does anyone else get really distressed at seeing a tiny tiny baby still furled up but out in noisy surroundings?)

And then the practical things: postpartum bleeding takes about 6 weeks to stop, so it would be just about over when the purification ceremony would take place - and that post partum bleeding does take it out of you, and you don't want to be too far from home.

And 6 weeks is just about when milk supply calms down, so again, women stop being likely to spray milk all over everyone (I could hit people on the other side of the room if I wasn't careful in those first weeks). And they'll have got latch sorted.

There used to be the old adage about not having sex for 6 weeks after childbirth - is that still in operation? I can't remember - so it might also have been a way of getting men to leave their women alone for those first weeks.

And actually, there are still resonances. Statutory maternity leave in this country is 8 weeks. Even if you're only on the State maternity pay (200 pounds a week or something) you aren't allowed to go back to work until 8 weeks post partum, whether you want to or not. So there's an interesting secularisation of the same thing.

Yet again, it's one of those things which at first glance is patriarchal and despicable, but beneath the surface are subtle and woman-centred machinations.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


When you got pregnant, did you sign a contract with the universe guaranteeing you unbroken nights' sleep when the child hit 6 months/1 year/ 3 weeks (delete as appropriate)?

If no, then stop considering leaving your poor child to scream alone and BE THE PARENT. It's a 24 hour job.

Thank you.

That is all.