Google+ Authentic Parenting: 2016

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


Monday, February 15, 2016

5 Life Skills Your Child Needs Before Leaving for University

If your child is preparing to leave for university, this is a really exciting time for everyone involved. But before your son or daughter heads off to live independently for the first time, there are certain life skills that he or she should have.

 Good Driving Skills 

Provided that your child plans on traveling by car, he or she will need to pass the driving test and get plenty of practice on the road prior to leaving for university. This will give you the peace of mind that your child will be safe at all times behind the wheel.
 The good news is that your son or daughter can take advantage of Top Tests to fully prepare for the driving test and pass it with greater ease. But if your child won’t be driving on his or her own, learning how to use public transportation is imperative.

 How to Cook 

Cooking is yet another necessary life skill required of every university student who will be living on their own. This will ensure that your son or daughter eats healthy foods rather than junk foods, and that your child can save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on foods prepared by the university and by restaurants.
 Make sure your child knows not only how to shop for food, but also how to prepare a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get all of the nutrients necessary to remain healthy, energised, and focused.

 Knowing How to Manage Money 

Prior to leaving home, your son or daughter should also know how to properly manage money. In this way, he or she won’t end up overspending on unnecessary things or activities, and will know how to save money for the future. These skills will be valuable not only while at university, but also throughout the rest of your child’s life, so it’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to be financially responsible with both cash and credit.

 How to Do the Laundry 

Another necessary life skill that your university bound child will need is a full understanding of how to do the laundry.

 Your son or daughter should know that light clothes should be separated from dark clothes, and that the clothing should be folded right after being taken out of the dryer in order to prevent wrinkles. He or she should also know how to iron clothes, and should know some basic sewing skills to repair hems, buttons, small holes, etc.

 How to Set Priorities 

Because your child will be living on his or her own at university, you won’t be there to constantly make sure that priorities are being met. Therefore, teach your child how to organise his or her to do list in a way that puts top priorities front and centre. This will ensure that work comes before play and that your child will be a successful, responsible student.

 By implementing the five tips above, your child will definitely be ready to live on his or her own.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Propaganda, Indoctrination and Pop Culture

Recently, Beyonce caused quite the stir with the release of her 'formation' video and subsequent performance on some large US event (superbowl?). Now I won't get into the racial themes this video and performance sparked, I am an nzungu (white person), and this is not my place. Plus, there's plenty of that conversation to go around, so if you're interested, read here and here.

What I do want to talk about in the light of the controverse around Beyonce's video and performance is modern culture's use of pop starts/pop culture to indoctrinate, brainwash and spread propaganda.

Sounds a bit heavy? Let me break ik down for you.


First of all, Beyonce is not a person, she is a product, a billboard, a puppet at best. The product that is Beyonce is owned by large corporations, who aside from Beyonce's records, have other things to sell. And those things are obviously not Black empowerment, but we'll get to that.

These corporations want to make money. So what do they do?

They find a trending hashtag on Twitter that says #blacklivesmatter and know this causes quite the commotion on social media.

So, they use black empowerment related imagery and thematics to brand and market their product, Beyonce. Very ingenious, as whichever the way the pendulum swings, it will be talked about, extensively (see, even I am doing it). Talked about products create viral content, generate sales and increase the bottom line. Kaching!

But this isn't where it ends. If only.

Earwurms, science and the brain

Science has made huge leaps in brain research, figuring out what makes tunes catchy, how exactly to repeat and alternate to make things 'work'. So now we have recipes for writing songs that stick in our brain, even if we'd rather not.

We also know that repeated messages in the brain will alter behaviour; eg mantras and affirmations. Psy studies confirm this over and again.

By entering a catchy tune into the brain, something the 'carrier' can't get rid of easily and ends up constantly repeating, we can alter a person's mindset. Influence them and make them veer towards certain modes of behaviour.


Enter the Beyonce song and performance:
First, you make a product that will surely be talked about, watched and rewatched on youtube, enough to stick into peoples heads. You scatter it with seemingly activist catch-phrases such as "I like my nose with Jackson Five nostrils",  just enough to grab people's attention. You bombard them with controversial, "activist" imagery.
But your main message isn't activist.

It's never activist if the bottom line is all that matters. Activism doesn't pay. Controversy does. Consumerism does.

some lines from "Formation"

"Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess" - don't question the Status quo
"I'm so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces" - consumerism
"Earned all this money but they never take the country out me" - throw in some patriotism so y'all Americans stay convinced of your Grand Nation (chuckles)
"I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it
I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it" - all is well if you work hard and keep your head down and keep buying them useless things. 
"Okay, okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated
"- almost militaristic, isn't it. Military isn't about anarchy, it's about following rules of the hierarchy, exactly the opposite of activism... or you get eliminated!
"When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster," - let's throw in some more controversy. Y'al Americans get your panty in a knot when there's fucking involved. And meanwhile let's attach the age old woman = food = sex adagio, very little feminism in there
Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper" - as per above

So now you're stuck with THAT as a mantra.

You're all being played.

Rock on!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life Skills for Teens: College and Beyond

Before your children leave the house for college or a job in the workforce, acquiring certain life skills will set them up for success. Some you can teach them, while others they may learn in the digital world. The following are just a few skills you can teach them:

Advanced Cooking

Everyone knows ramen is the platform of the college student's food pyramid. But it doesn't have to be. While a well-prepared meal is something your teens have taken for granted, teach them how to prepare some of their favorite meals, and they'll thank you for it in the long run.

Make sure they know their way around a kitchen and how to use specialized kitchen tools like a heavy-duty slicer for meats and cheeses.
Teach them how to sear, braze and season with precision. Make sure they know how much they can save if they pack their own lunch with home-prepared sandwiches compared with purchased food from cafes. If your teens know their way around a kitchen, they'll also be able to land a job at a restaurant or deli easier than if they live off ramen in their dorm room.

Second Language 

The United States is quickly becoming a multilingual country. Whether you know a second language or not, make sure your kids study a second language throughout school and into college. Those who enter the workforce with proficiency in a second language can expect a 10 to 15 percent pay increase.
An estimated 25,000 jobs in interpretation are estimated to be created between 2010 and 2020, a growth rate of 42 percent, according to CNN, and this market doesn't include the military.
Sixty-six percent of recruiters in North America agreed that proficiency in a second or third language will increase in importance over the next 10 years. People who are bilingual have more opportunities and typically make more money than those who aren't.
Give your children a head start and encourage them if they enjoy linguistics and languages.

College Isn't for Everyone 

Some jobs don't require a second language or even a college degree. W
ith the digitization of everyday life, social media managers, marketers and freelance writers have more opportunities than ever before. Well-written content and concise messages are in high demand.
You don't necessarily need a college degree for a job as a freelance writer or a social media marketer. However, you do need writing skills for both jobs.
Some writers are better editors than others, but freelance writers and social media gurus should at least be decent editors of their own work. A love of writing is essential for this career path. If your teens have a love for the written word, encourage them to research either of these jobs.
While Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can seem like a waste of time, many businesses and corporations pay good money for a well-managed account and concisely written copy.

image: Moyan Brenn


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Learning isn't linear

Whenever I talk to people about unschooling, I get the question: “but how does that work”. Really, what they mean is: “How do people learn”.

Over our 7 years of unschooling, I must say that learning does not - not even closely - resemble the way the schooling system believes it does.

In a traditional system, learning is believed to be linear. You do reading 101, regularly, then pile it up with 102 and so on. You continue this practice for about 14, 16, 18 years, depending on where you live, and in the end you’re accomplished.

Now, just from observing my own children, and conversations with other unstopping parents, learning isn’t linear AT ALL. If I have to define it with some ‘shae’, I’d say the spiral comes close. It’s cyclical, it moves away and back to the ‘core’, and it’s ever continuing.

My eldest has a taste for the written word. She’s 7 and can only read and write her own name. In Belgium, that’s quite the shock. But she loves the written word. She loves pretending to write, look at words, and be read to… As much as possible. We’ve been reading chapter books for quite a while now and have covered many classics and half the Harry Potter books.

Yet she doesn’t read yet.

Her interest in words started about when she was two. We’re a heavy reading family, so even early on I would read to her. Anything really. She’d point at words and ask me what that word is. I’d tell her, point to similarities… Then she lost interest, the pointing out words game wasn’t frequent anymore.
A while later, when she was about three, I know for a fact she could recognise some letters or at least letter groups. Pa and Ma for example.

She went through a phase where she did lots and lots of pre writing exercises.
Then at about 6, she did a lot of very scholarly early reading and writing.
Now, at 7 and a half, she talks about learning to read again. It comes and goes.

Now, my daughter is a perfectionist and like to get things ‘just’ right (wonder where she gets that from), I figure she probably recognises some letters, or later sequences, but is too proud to meddle. She’ll probably be one of those kids who one day picks up a chapter book and just reads it. And astounds us all.
And that’s ok.

Now, I am her mother and I observe her closely. I have been with her nearly every day of her life. I see her effort, I see her achievements, I (sort of) see her progress. Some things are small and escape me at first.

Other people don’t notice these small things because they aren’t as closely involved. “Can she read yet,” is all they ask. Reading, however, is a process, not a possession. She’ll get there, but in people’s linear view of learning, there’s just no understanding how exactly this is happening, or where she is on her path. She could very well read tomorrow. Or in a couple of years. I don’t know. But I don’t worry.

To cast the full picture: I myself, was an early reader, so the not reading, learning to read process has been very much one of learning to let go for myself. For a long time, I was anxious about it. I had read extensively about unstopping and knew that children learn to read at very diverse ages. Somewhere between 4 and 14, quite a vast span. But I was somehow confident that my children would be early readers, too… How could they not be? I’m a writer, we read, and I was an early reader myself.

Comes to show that unschooling is all about deschooling yourself and putting your assumptions to the test.