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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Motherfriends are the hardest... or are they?

I read this post on today, it was being shared in my social networks, and I have to say it triggered me, on many levels.

First, I want to share a little of my own story. Sure, I have 'lost' friends over my years of parenting, though I have to be honest, that's more because of our constant moving as expats and personal choice then it is because of being a parent. Certain friends did not chime with our lifestyle anymore, so we stopped paying attention, which is just a normal part of evolving and growing.
But I have also made countless new friends over my nearly eight years a s a parent. A whole new circle in every country. Given that we've lived in 6 different countries since we've become parents, that's A LOT!
Now, am I still friends with all of them? No, but I am with some, and that's ok.

As a fellow work-at-home mom, like the author of the post I referred to, I can relate about parenting being lonely, but for me, it's more a needs and geographical thing than it is about me being a *bad* friend (more on that later) or a parent. We just live in a fairly remote area, local friends are quite rare.

I can also relate to the authors lack of depth in relationships, but again, I wouldn't blame that on my parenting or *bad friend-ness* so much as on our moving, and my own reluctance to give in to a relationship. For me, it takes time to get to the depth where I can be upfront about my deepest feelings, time I have so far lacked, because I have been moving every year or two.
I also feel that culture plays a big part in this, as we see it as failure when we as parents admit that it's not all rosy and rainbowfart. To top this, there is a culture of responsibility, probably a result ofbirth control and family planning, where parents are held responsible for having children. And since we are  the sole responsible, we cannot complain. Ever. We brought it on ourselves, didn't we? It was our choice after all to have (all of) these kids. Community feeling around parenting is very lacking, to say the least.

Here's my theory: I think most moms are kind of terrible friends and we can't help it. Try as we might, even the most spectacular women can only do a few things really, really well. And with kids to raise, a romantic relationship to tend to, a career to juggle and housework to manage, being a kick-ass friend almost always gets pushed to the back burner.
I think there has not been an age where it was easier to be a friend. We are connected in so many more ways. But it is up to us to use that. Yes, as a mom, it may be harder to plan things in advance, and yes, there may be cancellations. But that does not make you a bad friend.
Even with continents separating us, I still check in with my friends back home. I'll send them an email, a Facebook message, o even an old fashioned letter. Sometimes, we skype.
I have close friends that I only see maybe once a year. Friends that go way back.  These friends accept when we cancel and reschedule, even at the last minute. Because they are human too, because they care, because they understand.
If a friend does not understand the fact that your a human, responsible for other, small and dependent humans, then that friendship is not worth pursuing.

When we moved back to Belgium, I reached out to a mothering group that was local to the area I was
moving back to, and that shared a lot of core values. I am still close to these women, even though they are a world apart. I have been able to connect to them (well some of them at least, there's about 20) on a deeper level. I can reach out to them when things aren't going well. But that's something I have learned to do, and it is easier because we're all in the same boat.

I will always choose to be a bad friend over being a bad wife, mom or employee and I think this is true for most moms.
Now this was the sentence - out of the whole article - that triggered me most. Does it make you a bad wife to take time for yourself to hang with a friend? A bad mother? I think not.
I think mothers who spend time to pamper themselves are probably better mothers than those who forget themselves and claim martyrdom. There is no need to completely put your own needs aside. Obviously your need for company depends on your character. I'm quite extroverted, so I need a lot of company.

Becoming a parent will make relationships less easygoing, it will mean becoming dependent not only of yourself, but it doesn't make it impossible to connect to other humans aside from your kids.

I have to say, most of all, I feel sorry for this writer, that this is what she is feeling. That this is the culture we live in that separates mothers from the rest. And that even though I have felt this way, it is possible to fiend friendship within motherhood.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Unschooling: How Does a Child Learn to Read Without Instruction?

One of the Inevitable Questions you'll get as an unschooling parent is "But how will your child EVER learn to read, if you're not teaching them?".
The answer is actually quite simple: a child in a written culture will learn to read - and write - just as he or she learned to walk and talk. By being exposed, we soak up and integrate that this is an essential skill.

But often, this answer proves to be quite unsatisfactory. We've all been so indoctrinated to think that reading and writing needs to be taught. Heck, we've all been taught reading and writing ourselves, when we were little? Or haven't we?

First of all, I want to address teaching reading to children. Many of us who have been taught to read in school, could actually read before this skill was introduced. I could read when I was four, in several languages by the time I was a little over five. I - and children who can read before teaching occurs in the regular curriculum - was an early reader.
Natural reading, as it occurs with children who are unschooled, happens between the age of 4 and 14.

With reading being taught at about 6 (but earlier and earlier nowadays, called reading readiness *sigh*), you can quickly see that this does not come at the right time for most kids. Hence, lots of kids having to "catch up", getting extra lessons and what not. And the early readers, being bored and frustrated, because they're ahead and don't understand why there's so much emphasis on a skill they already master. SO already at this early age, you get division and people falling out of the boat - either way.

But back to the question: "How do kids learn to read".

As I described in an earlier article, learning isn't linear. As an unschooling parent, you won't know where exactly your child is in the learning curve of reading. It doesn't easily build up one block on top of the next. You might at times think your kid is nearly there, and then the next week, they don't seem to remember anything or aren't the slightest bit interested. That's ok, that's how natural learning occurs.

Children have very diverse approaches to learning, and the same goes for reading.

My daughter is now close to 8 and can't read. Not in the way we intend with mastering the skill of reading. She does recognise letters, she can spell out words, she can write some letters. But her interest rises and wanes...
She's also highly perfectionist, and prefers to hide her learning as long as she doesn't really master it. She'll get frustrated at doing writing or reading related exercises, even though she's interested, but because in doing so, she shows she isn't there yet.

Another child might actually like reading exercises and follow a more comprehensible path. And yet other kids just pick up a book and begin reading.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Importance of Global Citizenship

In 1974, only 3 percent of Americans had a passport, according to Road Warrior Voices. Now, 38 percent have passports. While the 35 percent increase is laudable, it still is small in comparison to citizens in other countries. For instance, 60 percent of Canadians and 75 percent of people in the United Kingdom have passports.

Does this mean that Americans are not interested in being members of the global community? Not necessarily. Fast Company explains that technology is enabling people to lead more global and connected lives. The study shows that Americans are more willing to adopt social technology and interact with people in different countries.

What Is Global Citizenship?

While people technically can’t be citizens of the world, global citizenship transcends the standard definition of citizenship. It is more about social justice and how people treat everybody in the world, regardless of their nationality. People being aware of the world around them is global education; however, a global citizen is not only aware of world issues, but is also concerned and involved with those issues. It’s about action, even if it is just a tweet or Facebook post.

Technology and Global Citizenship

Updated smartphones with strong connectivity, like the latest Samsung Galaxy S7, and worldwide social media platforms, like Twitter, are leading the charge in helping youth become global citizens. Technologically savvy individuals are leading more globally connected lives because they use social media confidently to engage with others around the world and to promote face-to-face communication. They believe that the online presence promotes bonds between people from all over the world.
Connecting with people on social media is similar to the idea of writing letters to other students within the United States or in other countries. These used to be handwritten letters that necessitated envelopes and stamps. But now, even teachers in underfunded schools can connect their classrooms to those around the globe through social media networks and video conferencing. Students can friend and follow people from every corner of the Earth, enabling them to keep in contact with a slew of international associates 24-hours a day. This is a drastic change in how kids can learn about global citizenship from just a few years ago.

Global Products and Global Citizenship

Branded products provide another path to global citizenship. An article published in the Journal of International Marketing claims that branded products promote “cultural openness and consumer ethnocentrism.” For parents and teachers looking to lead young minds to becoming global citizens, global brands offer many teachable moments. Kids can study the brand's origins, controversies surrounding the product, the manufacturing of the product and how the product fits in with the culture and politics in the United States and around the world.

Global citizenship is important and needs to be instilled in future generations. It connects people to the rest of the world and keeps them engaged with world issues, many of which directly affect the United States. It also helps citizens think more critically about their place in the world, pushing them to become better as a whole.

Image source


Friday, March 11, 2016

Can a Pet Help an Autistic Child?

Pets bring joy into our lives in so many ways. If you have had a bad day, a dog is always there to

greet you with a wagging tail and lots of excitement. Cats are less demonstrative, but as many cat owners will attest, cats can be very affectionate and loving with their owners too, and it is lovely to have a cat to cuddle up to on a cold winter’s night.

Children and pets usually go together like peanut butter and jelly. One compliments the other and children get a great deal out of pet ownership, not least a sense of responsibility. But autistic children are different to other kids. They dislike changes to their routines and often lack social skills. So can a pet help an autistic child adjust to the world?

Research into Autism, Pets and Kids 

Research in the field of pets for kids with autism is fairly limited. A lot of the research carried out to date has involved dogs, but a study in Australia looked at how autistic children interacted with guinea pigs. Of the studies that have taken place, preliminary results are positive, and researchers found that introducing a pet was a positive experience.

Unconditional Love 

As we know, pets love us unconditionally. For an autistic child who struggles to find acceptance from his peer group, this is a very positive thing. Pets help build a child’s self-esteem and confidence. The child can spend time with their new friend without fear of ridicule or bullying, which for older children is very important.

 Reducing Anxiety Levels 

Autistic children are very affected by external stimuli. They hate loud noises, lights, people, and all these things can produce a stress response. When a pet is introduced, the child is distracted from the things they don’t like and concentrates on the animal instead. This reduces their anxiety levels because stroking the animal is comforting to them.

 A pet at home can help an autistic child develop a sense of responsibility. Even the smallest of pets require careful looking after. Allowing an autistic child to take care of a pet (under close supervision of course), will teach them empathy and responsibility. These are both skills autistic children will benefit from learning.

 Every Child is Different 

Not all autistic children respond well to a pet. Some find the experience frightening or react in an aggressive manner. Others can’t cope with the extra sensory stimulation being with a pet entails. The important thing is to do what’s best for your child. Have a trial run by taking them to a petting zoo or round to a friend’s house that has pets to see how they react. If the reaction is not what you were hoping for, persevere and let them watch the animal quietly for a few sessions before you suggest any petting.

 Pets such as Dorkie puppies from can really help autistic children in so many ways, so it is worth arranging some low-key contact sessions to see if your child is receptive.

Image: Cia de Photo