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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The posts I most want you to read

Well, here we are at the end of 2011 and I see that the blogosphere is alive with lists of my favourite bloggers' 'most popular posts of the year'.

You'll find my most popular posts in the sidebar of my blog, so I'm not going to point you to them again. I think I'd rather point you to the ones that I feel matter the most. Sometimes I write a post that I feel is really important, that I wish to the heavens everyone would read, and it sinks without trace. Other times, of course, it gets picked up and shared and that's great- I think sometimes it's just a matter of timing and luck. Anyway, here are some of the posts that I wish you'd read if you missed them first time round.

The first one is my opening statement in this blog- my childcare philosophy.  It's really important to know what someone's underlying philosophy is before you start taking their advice!

Next up is my post on talking to babies. How I wish young mothers and fathers would read this one! It's the beginning of treating your child with respect.

Another that I wish you'd read is how to say no respectfully to your child. There's an art to it, you know, and it can help you to sidestep the confrontational battle of wills that leads to adolescent dramas.

This next one actually is amongst my most popular posts, but it's important enough to be worth another outing. If every parent in the world started to defuse eating issues with their children, I swear this world would be a healthier, happier place with less obesity and fewer eating disorders.

Are you thinking of enrolling your child in some out-of-school activities? Have your children have turned you into a cab driver because they're doing so much? PLEASE read this . You don't have to be a slave, and it's not good for your children anyway.

One of the great things about writing a blog is that I can make my past mistakes work for the future good of others. So many of us have to go through the pain and drama of a family break-up; here are some posts that might help you not to make the same mistakes as me, so your children are less traumatised by a relationship bust-up:

Fighting with your ex

Modelling happiness in an unhappy relationship

How not to be a wicked stepmother

And finally, here are some posts to help keep you feeling strong.

Coping with criticism

Staying resilient as a parent

Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Useless words to strike from your vocabulary

Teacher Tom has written a great post today about a 'magic word' he's found to use with children. It made me start thinking about the other side of the coin- the words that cause nothing but trouble, the words that I'd love to strike out of every parent and carer's vocabulary.

There are certain words that promote guilt and blame without giving any positive momentum at all. These are the words that aren't helpful to anyone. If you use them yourself, you're either being mean or judgmental to someone else (consciously or subconsciously), or you're beating yourself up, or you're setting yourself up for failure. If someone else uses them at you- and I do mean AT you, because they can be like a weapon- they're not going to stir you into action, they're just going to make you feel crushed or worthless.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where does the 'I' go in 'parenting'? -Thoughts on 'To Train Up a Child' and other misplaced methods

The more I write about young children and how best to care for them, the more I realise that the crux of the matter is not the way you deal with your child, but the way you deal with yourself. It's the 'I' in parenting that is the source of the most trouble; the way that you place yourself into your child's world is crucial to the way they will develop.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why do children lie?

A few weeks ago when I was coming up to my 100th post, I asked some of my friends if there was anything in particular they'd like me to blog about to mark the occasion. In the end, of course, I blogged about something completely different, but one young mum's suggestion stuck with me. She wanted to know why her 5-year-old son had made up a story of one of her relatives physically abusing him, and presented it to her ex-partner as gospel truth.

Now, I have to say at the start that my friend KNEW this was a lie (because her child hadn't had any contact with that relative within the time frame suggested, and had had no unaccompanied contact with him at all).  Let me affirm that children's accusations of abuse should be assumed to be true until proved otherwise, because children rarely lie about those things.

So- in a case like this one, where you're sure your child is lying, why does it happen?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Standardised tests are dodgy

There's a link to this article about the idiocy of standardised testing flying around Facebook at present.  And yes, I agree: standardised tests are a form of idiocy.  I never met a standardised test yet that gave accurate assessments of ALL children's relative ability- yet governments want to judge both students and teachers by them, in order to make major, game-altering decisions to education? Give me a break. 

I have a few little anecdotes to share on this subject... you may find them enlightening too.

Excursions in Early Childhood: a reality check

A few months ago, I was asked for my views on excursions in Early Childhood Education, as Rattler Magazine was preparing an article and wanted some input from practitioners about excursions and the Early Years Learning Framework (that's our new national curriculum, for my overseas readers).  Here's my response.

'Engaging with the wider community' v 'what actually happens in childcare'
I think it's important that both the people who created the new curriculum (and so understand their intent intimately) and the people who write about it, but who are not daily practitioners, understand the huge gulf that exists between aspiration and reality.
At this stage, what I see is not practitioners being pushed to rethink their practice on engaging with the larger community- I don't think it even occurs to them that they should. Practitioners are mostly struggling with what the EYLF means in terms of what they need to do that's different from before, and what will affect their accreditation if they don't do it. It's very basic. It's 'how do I record something flexible? Will I fail if I do this the way I've always done it?'
The aspirational intent has not reached ground zero, except in terms of more play-based learning and fewer designed and highly structured activities, and the aspirational challenge is more about some practitioners throwing out intentional teaching and calling a lack of structure 'play-based learning'- and some refusing to change at all or keeping their heads in the sand- so there's a bit of a tug-of-war going on. That's not statistically based, but just what I see in some of the centres I visit.
Perhaps in the long term, when we are more comfortable with what the EYLF means in terms of our documentation, daily practice and pedagogy, we might come around to seeing a need for change in the negative attitude to excursions and interaction with the community, but I doubt that this will happen for the sake of fulfilling an imposed outcome. If you took an Early Childhood practitioner off the street and asked how the children should engage in civic living while in childcare, she'd probably look at you as though you had dual craniums- because in the whole scheme of daily survival, that's the least of our concerns. Many practitioners would question whether that's actually what the outcome means. It's just so far from our day-to-day world to consider the role of very young children in the wider community.
Anyway, my view is that until the issues I mention in the following writings are addressed, excursions will continue to be avoided by most centres.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Tis the season to be... a little more thoughtful about Christmas

Last month my blog feed was full of posts about Thanksgiving, which is one American festival I wholeheartedly applaud (and wish we had here in Australia).  We spend far too little time being grateful for what we have in our highly privileged countries, and far too much time whinging about what else we wish we had. The World Vision ad telling about a small girl who has to walk alone for 8 hours a day to get water for her family, each time risking death at the hands of wild animals and rape at the hands of unscrupulous passers-by, says everything we need to know. (Yes, World Vision put in a water supply for her community, but that's just one community of many.)

This week, of course, my feed is flooded with posts about Christmas, and I feel like hiding under a rock.

Ah, Christmas. It starts out purporting to be a season of fun, generosity and celebration, and so often ends up as a nightmare of alcohol-fuelled family feuding over lunch, while tearful, overstimulated kids beg for just one more present or whine about what they didn't get.

This is followed by mind-numbing parental panic when the credit card bill arrives.

'Tis the season of greed and excess.  'Tis the season to join the red and green dots the same way we've always done it, and then repent at leisure- the way we always do it.

Is Christmas good for our kids? Have you ever asked yourself that? Is how YOU do Christmas good for your kids?