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.