Tag Archives: toddler

12/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Hurrah for Spring!

For warmer days and shorter nights, for grass running and tree climbing, for sunshine smiles and muddy knees.

Living where we do, it’s pretty hard not to get out and about all year round. Still, though, this time of year makes everything into an adventure.

I love nothing more than following the lead of my little explorer, and watching him absorb and embrace so much more than he could a year ago. His world is just buzzing with potential: and that means mine is, too.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

11/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Looking back over my photos from this week, it is the ones of me and Arthur together that stand out the most. I know it’s cheating a little bit to call this a portrait of him, but in my defence he still, even as a confident and independent three year old, feels in many ways like an extension of my self.

I wonder if it always feels like that, being a mother? There’s a quote it brings to mind:

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” Elizabeth Stone

For me these toddler years, with all of their wonder and challenge, are a critical moment in this. Perhaps it is because I have chosen a route through parenting where we are very much attached, but it is only now that I am really starting to feel us begin to articulate our separateness. Him as an incredible bundle of energy and potential, me as a whole new creature to the one I was before I bore him.

It’s exciting, but it brings with it too a sense of loss.

The cuddles help with that though. And this week we have loved exploring our together-yet-apart bodies through yoga. By which I mean mainly me attempting to rediscover well-worn poses whilst he clambers delightedly all over me.

I pretend to be annoyed that it makes it near impossible to practice how I used to, but secretly I love it.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

The box started out as a robot costume, and soon became a spaceship.

Arthur loves all things space at the moment: he dreams of flying to the moon and floating amongst the stars.

And on his way he loves to listen to his stories.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

2/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Playing the drums in the kitchen, in his pyjamas. It wasn’t as early or as late as that may make it sound – just one of those days when the rain was beating down relentlessly and getting dressed, especially for a potty training toddler, seemed highly over-rated.

For months now Arthur has been drumming on anything he can get his hands on, so for his birthday we decided to take the plunge and get him a kit. And he loves it.

We may yet come to regret our choice; it is pretty noisy. But so much fun! I’m sure the neighbours will forgive us… One day…

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

 

Unschooling a preschooler

I am fascinated by learning. What ignites the first spark, how knowledge and understanding become embedded, the directions these can take people in as their lives unfold. As a teacher, this informed my whole pedagogy. I didn’t want to stand at the front of a silent classroom and speak, filling supposed empty vessels with the fruits of my superior intellect. I wanted to inspire, to start the young people in my charge on a journey of discovery which would hopefully take them way beyond the walls of the school. So much of education, it seemed to me, was about fitting square pegs into round holes – and I just didn’t want to be part of that.

If as a teacher, though, the constraints of our education system were frustrating, as a parent I find them positively frightening.

I look at my unique, bright, inquisitive boy and I can’t quite comprehend how he will benefit from being subjected to rigorous standardised tests. Whilst I have every faith in the intentions of the vast majority of teachers to bring out the best in each of their students, I worry about how their resolve will hold in the face of ever-increasing external pressures. Fundamentally, my fear is that the government do not want to foster a populace driven by individual thought and opinion. And I do not want to do my son the disservice of reducing him to being merely a cog in the machine.

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It is for these reasons that, after years of being a passionate supporter of state education, I find myself reluctant to begin the process of enrolling him in one of our local schools. He is a while off compulsory education, but at three years old he is already unusual amongst his peers in that he does not attend nursery or pre-school. He will be more unusual still if I follow through on my instinct, bubbling just below the surface, to keep him out of formal education until he is at least seven. By this age, I would hope, he would be resilient enough to navigate school as an informed and engaged individual. Many educational experts believe that this is the age at which children are best suited to enter formal schooling – a theory born out by successful education systems all over the world.

I am mindful, though, that there is an awful lot I am trying to do with my days: writing novels, representing my community on my town council and as a school governor, acting as a subject consultant for Ofqual. The question of how I am going to find time to provide meaningful learning experiences for my preschooler has not passed me by.

Except… My experience as a teacher has taught me that much of the school day is spent managing a large volume of children rather than focusing on individual learning – I can only imagine that this is even more pronounced in early years than it is in Secondary. And my aspiration with my son, just as much as with the pupils I have taught in a school environment, is to be a facilitator rather than a font of all knowledge. I want his learning to be driven by his natural inquisitiveness, not constrained by what I feel he needs to know and understand.

And it is this that has led me to unschooling. As an advocate of child-led parenting in the baby and toddler years, and student-centred learning in the secondary school, it seems the logical path for me to follow as I look to foster a love of learning in my son.

With this in the back of my mind, I am beginning to see the play that unfolds in our everyday lives – both self-directed by Arthur and shaped (loosely) by me – in a new light. It is my intention to begin to document this, for my own reflection and maybe to inspire others too. I will never be able to capture every aspect of his learning, but what I can do is focus in on some little key moments from our weeks and reflect on them as a sort of learning journal: an unschooling journal, if you like.

It was that I had intended to do when I sat down to write this post, but thought I should maybe take a little time to explain my approach – something which took a little longer than I’d thought it might. As with many things, though, I’m much more convinced about what it is I am actually doing having taken the time to write about it: so the first instalment should be coming up very soon!

Now you are three

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Dear Arthur,

So now you are three.

How did that happen?

I remember when you were tiny, in those first magical, mystical days, I used to stare at you through the fog of sleep deprivation and try to imagine what you would be like when you were this age. How you would look, how you would sound, what you would do.

I never could have imagined you.

The way you draw in your breath and clap your hands in glee when something exciting happens: from the suggestion of a train ride to your first sight of snow to me making it home from an evening meeting in time to kiss you goodnight. You are excited by life, and I love that.

I love how you quickly make your way to the dance floor when a song you like comes on, throw your hands in the air and shake your booty with a huge smile on your face. I love that the dance floor is whatever you decide it is in that moment, from a clearing in your toys in the lounge to the rug in your bedroom to a select few tiles in the kitchen marked out by something only you can see.

Your imagination is spectacular. Inspired by story books and movies you create all sorts of people and scenarios to take you through your day. Wherever we are you can conjure up your own entertainment – and as your vocabulary increases you can share it with others too, making up stories for us just like we do for you.

And what a vocabulary. There was a moment recently, when you were once again telling me the story of The Polar Express, when you described the train arriving outside the window with its ‘hissing steam and screeching brakes’. Several times a day I am astounded by the words that have found a home inside your head.

You absorb everything around you, and if I stop and pause for a moment I can watch you do it. Almost hear the cogs in your brain turning as you focus in on new little details you haven’t noticed before. You ask about things of course – ‘why?’ is an increasingly common refrain, and I always try to answer you the best I can, even if the level of understanding you are seeking is beyond me.

You don’t just rely on other people for answers though. You are fascinated by how the world works, and are constantly experimenting, trying it all out. Sometimes your methods are a little frustrating – the throwing, the tasting, the taking things apart. But I know why you’re doing it, so it’s ok.

Don’t ever stop exploring, my little bear. Don’t ever stop seeking out the truth and trying to make sense of the world, even when it seems completely unintelligible. Especially then.

There is so much about your emerging personality that I hope you hold on to as you grow.

I hope you will continue to try to understand your emotions, and those of other people. When you look up at me with your big blue eyes and say ‘I’m sad’, and together we try to work out why, a part of my heart aches for my inability to protect you from the darker feelings that will inevitably engulf you from time to time. But I’m glad you want to talk about it. Know that I will always be here when you are sad or angry or afraid: my love does not need you always to be happy.

Though of course when you are my heart sings. Your laughter is, hands down, the best sound I have ever heard. I think you like it too. If there’s a lull in conversation you’ve started saying “Let’s laugh! Will you laugh with me?” It is impossible not to agree, and usually I’m giggling before I’ve even had time to answer.

You bring so much joy to my world.

There is nothing sweeter than hearing you say, “Can I give you a toy, mama?”

You say it when we’re in the midst of playing, when I’m distracted by my work, when we’re talking about something you’ve done that’s made me cross. And when I say yes, which I try to always do, you go and pick out one of your favourite cars or creatures or maybe even a train and carefully hand it over with a smile.

I think what you’re saying is “I love you, mama.”

And I love you too. Very much.

All my love for always, Mummy xxx

1/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Arthur loved his first experience of snow: its slipperiness between his fingers, its stomp beneath his boots, its iciness on his tongue. I love how he threw himself so wholeheartedly, as he does, into the new sensations, soaking it all up with glee and concentration.

We had all thought that snow was pretty much guaranteed on this trip, but the weather had other ideas. 18 degrees celsius on Christmas Day in New York anyone? It didn’t let us down entirely though, and for that I am very grateful.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project.