Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On the seemingly impossible task of gently raising tough kids

     When my teenagers were little, I surrounded myself with like minded moms. Moms who co-slept, who baby carried, who fed on demand and let children self wean. We didn't spank or shame or isolate our children. Many would go on to homeschool. We were going to build more peaceful homes, and a more peaceful world.

     Ideals are a great thing, until reality sets in. I do not, for a second, regret any of the above parenting choices.But guess what? My kids still fought, and the world is still not gentle and kind. I still wanted to raise my kids peacefully and send them out into the world able to make it better, while recognizing the world I would send them out into might not return the favour. I did not want them to be hard, but I wanted their protective outer shell to be.

   This was anathema to the proper attachment mom. My kids were preschoolers when I started noticing that most of the kids around me were "very sensitive", and this only increased when we started joining homeschooling groups. I know some people *are* just born more sensitive, but it almost seemed like a point of pride with some of these moms that little Starshine was so sensitive that "Wallace and Grommit" gave her nightmares, or that Moonbean couldn't stand to have his hair washed and could only wear sweatpants and rainboots. It seemed like these other moms were purposely creating kids who would fall apart the first time the world was cruel to them, and I didn't want to do the same.
     Without compromising my base principles, I started raising them for the world they would inherit, rather than the one I wanted them to.

     Because I knew the world *would* judge them based on what they could produce, I didn;t settle for anything less than 'A' work in their schoolwork. Many assignments went back 2-3 times for improvement.
     Because the world would value their independence, they had to start riding public transit-alone- at about 12.
     Because "letting them be kids" sounds nice but I didn't know how to do laundry when I left the house at 18, my kids started chores as soon as they could walk. By the age of 5, they all helped with dinner, did their turn handwashing dishes, and did their own laundry from start to finish.
     Because someone out there might try to hurt them physically, I stopped getting in the way of their fights. We bought practice swords and took them to ken do. I'm a pacifist, but my kids can defend themselves.
     Because I knew the world might not be kind and kids verbally abuse each other to the extreme,we raised them with a healthy dose of sarcasm that allows them to laugh at insults.

     I wanted to raise kind, compassionate kids, who would in at least small ways, work to make the world better. And they are those people. They give blood, go on mission trips, volunteer with the homeless shelter and with Northwest Harvest. But they're tough, because the world isn't padded with cotton fluff and wallpapered in trigger warnings.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ready for Preschool? 4 things more important than numbers and letters.

It's the time of year when teachers are going through their back to school lists, planning our lessons, our classroom set up, and contemplating how we're going to do it all. Parents of first time preschool students are working to get their little ones ready for school, and I've learnt over the past two years that that usually involves drilling them in the alphabet, colours, and numbers. Most children are naturally curious about how we label the world around us, and it should be a topic on conversation with our little ones. Too often, that's the main focus, leaving some important skills unaddressed. Here are four skills to work on before preschool starts:

Eating at the table: This may seem basic to some and unnecessary to others, but if your child goes to school, they will probably eat there. Snack time at preschool is not just important to maintain blood sugar levels, but to teach children social graces. Many small children are used to grazing at home. While small, frequent snacks are healthy, walking around with a baggie of crackers is both a choking hazard and a hygiene issue. Your child's teacher will thank you if she doesn't have to spend three months reminding him that we eat at the table.

Queuing: When I homeschooled my own children, the emphasis brick and mortar schools placed on standing on line was often decried as part of making our children into mindless drones. But knowing how to stand on line is an important part of living in society. As tempting as it is to keep your little one strapped in the cart or run errands when they aren't with you, gently teaching them how to line up to pay for things will make them better citizens. We all know those people who never learnt the lesson, and who wants to raise THAT person?

Fine motor strength: Before your child is physically and intellectually able to write, her little hands need to be strong enough. Cutting playdough (with real scissors!), using tongs,eating applesauce and yoghurt with a spoon (rather than from a pouch) and these squeezing activities will make sure than when your child's brain is ready to write, her hands will be too.

Sitting through a story, in a group: Hopefully, your local library has preschool story time. If so, taking your child is one of the best things you can do for them: perhaps one of the most important. Sit with them and gently redirect them when they start to move all over. Aim for sitting through one story, at first.

Bonus: Teacher's Coffee Order: Just joking. Maybe. Depends on your child's energy level.