I am a life learning Mama and this page is where I like to share things that resonate with me in some way along this wonderful life journey we are on ♥

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Slow Down

I just want to say having homeschooled my son through to the end of year 12 he is now coming to the end of his degree in software engineering at the University of Queensland.  We got there without any homeschool support groups, nor extra curricular classes.  It was a time before facebook connection and it was a much slower pace, but we got there all the same.  I say this not to critique what we have now which is a vibrant and buzzy community that has on offer a multitude of classes, groups and experiences for us all but rather to ease the minds of some who may feel overwhelmed with it all and I know from messages I have received that many are.  I certainly feel that way at times when so much is coming at us at breakneck speed, that often we wonder how are we ever going to fit it all in let alone afford it all.  The thing is you don't need to.  If you worry that you cannot find the time, money or indeed mental and physical energy to keep up I know that having been through it before with my son that you really don't need to do it all and they will still get to where they want.  Life is a continuous journey of learning.  My son didn't do any formal science classes until he was in year 11 and he still coped fine.  He had massive gaps in his maths according to some but he learned it as he needed it and ended up completing both maths B and C in year 12 as well as physics and computer science (having never attended a formal class before year 11 but just teaching himself online and from books).  When it had a purpose for him it clicked.  We are so very lucky and blessed to have what we have these days but just know that if all you do is hang out with your kids and learn stuff together from online classes, books from the library, chatting to friends, playing at the park and just tapping into the community at large you will get a rich education.  Don't feel pressure from these groups to do it all.  Happy Homeschooling lovely people <3 Xx

Blessed ❤️

You know one thing I love about our life is not being governed by the school timetable. If we want to go down and watch the sun rise on another beautiful day we can and often do. We don't have to rush back to get to school. I don't take this gift for granted. I treasure it and the amount of time I get to share these precious moments with my children. I know this lifestyle choice is not for everyone but it is for us and I feel so very blessed to live the life we do ❤️

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Do we need to teach children to write?

A reflection on children and writing for me today. Well actually not all children, but more specifically my child.  Last year my daughter was 7 and she told me she hated writing.  This year she is 8 and today she told me how much she LOVES writing. What a difference a year makes in the life of a child.  We have not done anything particularly different this year, but it just seems that she has found writing when she was ready to.  She was diagnosed with dyslexia at the end of last year and has had struggles with learning to read that had been a frustration to her.  I hated to see her struggle and her upset and we talked about ways we could support her. She wanted me to help her learn to read and I told her that I would find some things that were specifically designed to assist those with dyslexia and see how it went.  It turned out that the programs we tapped into were fun and the little bit of scaffolding I have given her has helped her immeasurably over a relatively short period of time.  She is able to decode words and read them by herself which is exactly what she wanted to be able to do.  Systematic phonics have really supported her and she feels empowered which is great.  I am wondering if this has had a knock on effect with her writing, or could it just be that she is surrounded by books, sees her Mummy writing and more importantly we have lots of conversation every day.  We are just through our everyday lives immersed in rich language and cannot escape it if we tried. We listen to many audio stories, she is read to, she reads what she can herself, she does drama classes, watches films and television, sings songs and from here she is able to imagine her own stories based on all of her own personal life experiences.  

We don’t focus on spelling.  It comes up when she asks and when we do Nessy which is a specific online reading program for those with dyslexia. Nessy helps us learn the rules of spelling which in turn can be very helpful to those with dyslexia.  Sometimes we forget the rules and sometimes not.  Dyslexia is a funny thing.  One day you can have a word's spelling seemingly concrete in your mind and the next it is gone or you can read a word on a page but not translate that written word to paper.  My daughter spells phonetically, which is very common with dyslexia and my son who is also dyslexic, still at the age of nearly 20 spells many words in the same way.  Does that matter?  Not for me. I have dyslexia too and spelling can be difficult for us. If someone can read it and it makes sense enough to understand then that is all that is important to me.  Sure support your child to learn the correct spelling but don’t make it a big deal if it is not something that comes easily to them.  Judgement of my spelling and writing really damaged my self esteem as a child and I don't want that for my children. I like to focus on what they can do.  Not what they can’t.  Their strengths are what may lead them on a path to their future careers.  My son is an amazing computer programmer and my daughter is a gifted musician for her age.  Whether they are great writers or not is not what is important to me but their love of learning what interests them is.  We do not do rote learning and I do not expect my child to learn spellings unless she asks.  What is interesting for me is that she does ask when it’s important to her and this has occurred whenever she is writing, so I don’t see the need for separate spelling tests.  

Recently it has become important to her to write her own narratives and she has been doing it non-stop all morning today.  It started with her enthusiasm for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that she has been learning at her Musical Theatre class and she then decided that she wanted to write her own version.  It has made my heart sing seeing her enthusiasm for writing and her joy in sharing every single sentence she has written with me.  She reads and re-reads each time she adds to her story and she comes to share with me in whichever place I am in the house.  I am followed by my own little story teller.  She writes wherever she finds herself, her bed, my bed, the kitchen table and the study.  It has really made me stop and think today. Do we just over time become writers if we are interested in writing and are surrounded by rich language in all its forms?  No specific teaching but just as and when the want arises in the child and just from observation, hearing and doing.  That is what seems to have happened for my own daughter and I am wondering if I had forced her to write when she wasn't ready would I have turned off her desire to ever learn to write?

So many children in school hate writing and they get forced to do it every single day as part of the curriculum.  Sure writing is important in life.  It is a good skill to have but is that worthy of forcing it on a child that is not ready to learn it?  I have never taught her handwriting either.  She has just learned as she has gone along and I think her writing is lovely, especially her little curls on her y and g and the butterflies she draws above her i.  Her handwriting is a reflection of her.  A little piece of her individuality. The more I lead this life of natural learning, unschooling, child-led, life learning or whatever you wish to call it the more I see that it works.  It worked for my son who is now 19 and whom I removed from school when he was 9.  He is now in his final year of University studying software engineering and doing well. It also seems to be working for my daughter who has never been to school.  

I cannot help but question the need for all that is “taught” in school and of its necessity.  My daughter is showing me her growth in learning to write all the time and without the use of curriculum, coercion and bribes.  She has paper, a pencil and her imagination readily available to her.  She has access to the computer to type if she wants and she has me to support her on her path and to listen to all her questions, observations and ideas.  Not force her and not follow what someone else has said is the right way to teach writing and certainly not to make her write when she doesn't feel like it, nor critique her spelling and grammar ever step of the way.  I have often questioned whether I am failing my children in not covering all that they do in school but I can see that I am not and it makes me smile. A lot.  Her happiness is what is most important to me and damaging our relationship in the name of academics is not worth it for me. She is happy just the way things are and so am I.   

Monday, 6 April 2015

I want to shout it from the rooftops! He found his way without school ❤️

Proud Mummy Moment! I just want to shout out about my son Samuel who has just phoned me with some wonderful news. Many of you know of him and his early struggles in school and that we ended up unschooling after a long and often hair raising journey to get there. He is now at 19 in his final year of his software engineering degree at the University of Queensland. As part of the work for one of his papers he has been going into industry to interview people and after one day he received a call from a company that said they had an internship going and they thought Samuel should apply if he was interested. He was not looking for work but the sound of it was something that really interested him. The date of application closure was the day they called him. He furiously filled the application and sent off his CV (which for someone with his executive function issues is huge to get himself into gear and organised to do this!) and was then called for an interview with 40 other applicants and he being the only homeschooler. He went for the interview and felt that it had gone well but was up against some other very talented young programmers. However, he got a call last week and was told that he was wanted for a second round of interviews. The interview happened on Tuesday and he was called last night offering him the internship!! Tears of joy from this proud Mama! He will be going in one day per week paid and taught all that they can teach him and then at the end of his degree has the offer of a full time position. My out of control (to others!) boy diagnosed with ADHD/ASD/ODD/Gifted and with learning difficulties (namely dyslexia and severe dysgraphia) who was suspended from every single school bar one (and he went to quite a few schools), who we were told needed serious psychiatric help by one school principal and who left the school system crushed, depressed and with little to no self esteem has just proved them all how wrong they were about him! I always knew that they were wrong but he didn't! He came home and was allowed to be the wonderful, smart human being that he is and always was. It was just that school didn't always see that and tried to "fix" him when he was never broken! To all those parents who worry about their children - please have faith. I know sometimes it is a huge leap of faith but Samuel was allowed to follow his passions and do things HIS way and I am so very proud of the young man he has become and his achievements today. He has proved to me that you don't need others to teach you, tell you what you need to or should be learning. Having a passion, interest or aptitude in something and being allowed to follow it really does work - well it has for my family anyway and I am sure it will for most heart emoticon

Thursday, 26 March 2015

What does unschooling look like for us?

Some people really don’t seem to understand what unschooling is all about.  I once went on television with my family and was filmed in my home and our lives were discussed and quite frankly ridiculed by many, including a Dr of Education who felt that unschooling was putting a child at a disadvantage and that their interests would become too narrow if we just allowed them to dictate what is was they wanted to learn about.  He felt there was a real need for a national curriculum to give a child a broad and valid education.  I disagreed with him.  I think the way we live our lives is valid and that my children get a very broad education.  What is unschooling like for us? Every day is different but today it went something like this and to be quite honest I don’t even like to be called an “unschooler” – we just live our lives and learn along the way:-

My daughter Poppy woke early and had got herself some breakfast. It was a beautiful morning so we decided to take her dog for a walk and Poppy would ride alongside on her bike. Her Daddy slept on so she wrote him a little note to leave on the breakfast bar to let him know where we had gone and off we went to watch the sun rise and take in the waking morning together. On our walk we met so many lovely people that Poppy somehow managed to strike up a conversation with. She has such a knack for doing that!  She has no problems with social skills, communication and relating to people of all ages. It is actually a joy to see her in deep discussion with someone maybe six times her age with no inhibitions, just passing the day as she would with anyone whether old or young. Talking about her dog, their dog, the beautiful sunrise that we witnessed or whatever else captures her thoughts.

This morning was interesting as on the path as we walked along (well she cycled and I kind of ran/walked!) there was a top to tail procession of hairy caterpillars crossing in front of us. Where they had come from we did not know and where they were going we didn't know either, but they caused a real and captivating interest to us and others who happened to stumble upon them this morning.  They became another thing of interest to Poppy that we would have to find out more about later.  We continued on our way stopping to take photos of the majestic sky and marveling at its colours and the cloud formations. On we went, chattering all the way until we came to our favourite cafe where we stopped for a drink. Whilst I was inside ordering our drinks, Poppy waited at a public bench with Lily and her bike. I could see her through the window chatting away to a fisherman both animated and enjoying each other’s company. When I joined her we sat for a while watching the ocean enjoying our drinks and taking in the start of this day as the swallows swooped in front of us with their wing tips just skimming the ocean before sweeping with speed back up into the sky again.

Now for our homeward journey we set each other goals on how fast we could get from point to point. Lessons learned about time and distance and all with purpose and meaning to Poppy. When we got to a park Poppy had a play, swinging from monkey bar to monkey bar, soaring high into the tree tops on the swing, before joining me laying down on a bench to gaze through the branches at the clouds above and describe to each other what we saw in them. There were bears, dragons and dogs all moving with speed and elegance in the deep blue sky. Shimmers of sun flecked our faces as we sunk into the day happy and content. The last leg home involved more chats with fellow dog walkers, watching silver fish leap from the water and scurrying crabs across the rocks as the heat from the sun increased with the hands of our watches stretching to 8 o'clock. 

When we got home Poppy and I juiced some oranges and shared it between ourselves in tall glasses with lots of ice. We noticed that we were low on fruit so Poppy wrote out a shopping list of things that we would need to buy and then she fed the dogs and guinea pigs before heading off downstairs to play some music. Poppy is very musical and it is a big part of her life and I love that she can play her music whenever she likes and for however long she likes. I love the sound of music that fills our house - beautiful melodies drifting up the stairs whilst she plays her piano - it really lifts your spirits. She calls me down to listen to what she has composed. I sit in awe of her creativity, self-belief and confidence of which I was so lacking at her age. I watch her little face deep in concentration and at one with the music as she played. She asked me if I would like her to teach me what she has been playing and I smile knowing that my 8 year old will do that for me and do it well and that I will learn something new with her guidance. She may not have a graduate diploma in teaching because she doesn’t need one.  She just knows stuff and so she shows me and I learn from her passion and interest and it works for us in the same way as if maybe I know something she doesn’t and I share it with her if she wants me to.  We spent a couple of happy hours messing around making music together before our stomachs growled for food. We didn't need a bell to tell us when to eat.  We just listened to our internal body clock and off we went making lunch together as a team. Poppy deciding how much pasta we would need for us both, filling the kettle to boil the water and setting it upon the stove. We ate our lunch together in happy company with always something to chat about. Today it was Spain and how she would like to visit there.  She has been learning Spanish and she was testing out her little phrases on me and seeing how far she could count.  

As I washed up afterwards Poppy listened to Brainpop on her iPad learning so many interesting things that launched discussions on Greek Gods, Homer and poetry. I was amazed at how much she knew from listening to an audio story in the past of Troy and the Greek Legends.  She has dyslexia and does not read these books in the traditional way but ear reads them and it sticks for her.  That is how she learns best.  Her strength is in her auditory ability and her memory.  Being at home she can learn in the way that suits her best, unlike at school where she wouldn't have access to all these wonderful stories in an audio format.  From her listening about poetry she decided she wanted to write a poem herself so off she went and wrote one.  I didn't need to teach her how.  She just did it.  She asked about rhyme and this led into more discussion and reading of other poems that rhymed.  We talked about the descriptive words in her poem and how they were known as adjectives.  We looked at the form poems can take and the different kind of poetry and she was alight with it all and engaged and wanted to write more.  I scribed for her and she then typed it out all by herself.  She wants to continue with it and illustrate it with a view to writing more and putting them together in a book.  All of these are her ideas and not from any set curriculum or schedule that I have imposed.  It is just interest led learning coming from her and therefore it has meaning for Poppy and in doing so is more likely to stick in her memory.  On top of the bulk of our day I heard her playing Nessy on the computer which is a reading program for children with dyslexia, I heard her playing the steel drums on an iPad app, I heard her playing with her dog, I saw her doing some knitting and to end her day we went off to the pool where she played with a bunch of other kids and afterwards full with a day of rich and wonderful experiences she fell asleep still talking about her poem to me and what she wanted to do with it tomorrow.  

Does this unschooling way (if that is what you like to call it) sound like she is not learning? Does it sound like she is neglected or that I am not involved in her learning?  Does it sound as though she has narrow interests? Not in my eyes and I would be surprised if others thought so.  This is real living and learning and it works and we are happy with our life choices and for those who doubt it then I have to think that they are the ones who have not truly lived it and nor do they really understand what this way of living and learning is all about.  We all of us cannot help learning just by being alive and this was just a typical day in our lives amongst many loving, living and learning together and I wouldn’t change a thing ❤️

Sunday, 22 February 2015

We need to be who we are...

Every time I read this story I feel emotional. It resonates with me so much. I was that child and I too wish someone had intervened. I am so glad that I have been able to intervene for my children and let them fly with the things they want to fly with. Let them follow their passions and be in their "element". That for me is what school crushed. I am sorry if some people think that I go on about this too much but I feel so passionate about it! We all have our gifts, likes, passions, interests or whatever else you wish to call them. Maybe if schools focussed on allowing children to follow them we would have a lot less disaffected kids with low self esteems coming out of the education system. I do not make this stuff up. It is real for many, many children and I know lots of these kids and their families and hear their frustrations and hurt. I only have to read the huge number of stories in support groups to do with children diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, Gifted, Dyslexia (the list goes on!) to know that school for many is just not working. Diagnosis or not many of these children are struggling in the system and feeling like failures when maybe all they need is to be allowed to shine in whatever it is that lights their fire. Many of them would not need these lables either. They just are who they are and if allowed to be just that there often are no problems. My son was one of these kids. In so much trouble at school. Meeting after meeting, specialist after specialist to "fix him" when he was never broken. Just misunderstood and caged. Unschooling for him was a lifeline. He got to follow his passion which was computers and programming. At the age of 19 he is in his final year of a software engineering degree and happy. School did not get him there. He got himself there.....  

Gillian was only eight years old, but her future was already at risk.  Her schoolwork was a disaster, at least as far as her teachers were concerned.  She turned in assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly.  Not only that, she was a disruption to the entire class, one minute fidgeting noisily, the next staring out of the window, forcing the teacher to stop the class to pull Gillian’s attention back, and the next doing something to disturb the other children around her.  Gillian wasn’t particularly concerned about any of this – she was used to being corrected by authority figures and didn’t really see herself as a difficult child – but the school was very concerned.  This came to a head when the school wrote to her parents.
The school thought Gillian had a learning disorder of some sort and that it might be more appropriate for her to be in a school for children with special needs.  All of this took place in the 1930’s.  I think now they’d say she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they’d put her on Ritalin or something similar.  But the ADHD epidemic hand’t been invented at the time.  It wasn’t an available condition.  People didn’t know they could have that and had to get by without it.
Gillian’s parents received the letter from the school with great concern and sprang to action.  Gillian’s mother put her daughter in her best dress and shoes, tied her hair in ponytails, and took her to a psychologist for assessment, fearing the worst.
Gillian told me that she remembers being invited into a large oak-panelled room with leather-bound books on the shelves.  Standing in the room next to a large desk was an imposing man in a tweed jacket.  He took Gillian to the far end of the room and sat her down on a huge leather sofa.  Gillian’s feet didn’t quite touch the floor, and the setting made her wary.  Nervous about the impression she would make, she sat on her hands so that she wouldn’t fidget.
The psychologist went back to this desk, and for the next twenty minutes, he asked Gillian’s mother about the difficulties Gillian was having at school and the problems the school said she was causing.  While he didn’t direct any of his questions at Gillian, he watched her carefully the entire time.  This made Gillian extremely uneasy and confused.  Even at this tender age, she knew that this man would have a significant role in her life.  She knew what it meant to attend a “special school”, and she didn’t want anything to do with that.  She genuinely didn’t feel that she had any real problems, but everyone else seemed to believe that she did.  Given the way her mother answered the questions, it was possible that even she felt this way.
Maybe, Gillian thought, they were right.
Eventually, Gillian’s mother and the psychologist stopped talking.  The man rose from his desk, walked to the sofa, and sat next to the little girl.
“Gillian, you’ve been very patient, and I thank you for that”, he said.  “But I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient for a little longer.  I need to speak to your mother privately now.  We’re going to go out of the room for a few minutes.  Don’t worry; we won’t be very long”.
Gillian nodded apprehensively, and the two adults left her sitting there on her own.  But as he was leaving the room, the psychologist leaned across his desk and turned on the radio.
As soon as they were in the corridor outside the room, the doctor said to Gillian’s mother, “Just stand here for a moment, and watch what she does”.  There was a window into the room, and they stood to one side of it, where Gillian couldn’t see them.  Nearly immediately, Gillian was on her feet, moving around the room to the music.  The two adults stood watching quietly for a few minutes, transfixed by the girl’s grace.  Anyone would have noticed there was something natural – even primal – about Gillian’s movements.  Just as they would have surely caught the expression of utter pleasure on her face.
At last, the psychologist turned to Gillian’s mother and said, “You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick.  She’s a dancer.  Take her to a dance school”.
I asked Gillian what happened then.  She said her mother did exactly what the psychologist suggested.  “I can’t tell you how wonderful it was”, she told me.  “I walked into this room, and it was full of people like me.  People who couldn’t sit still.  People who had to move to think“.
She started going to the dance school every week, and she practiced at home every day.  Eventually, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School in London, and they accepted her.  She went on to join the Royal Ballet Company itself, becoming a soloist and performing all over the world.  When that part of her career ended, she formed her own musical theatre company and produced a series of highly successful shows in London and New York.  Eventually, she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and created with him some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
Little Gillian, the girl with the high-risk future, became known to the world as Gillian Lynne, one of the most accomplished choreographers of our time, someone who has brought pleasure to millions and earned millions of dollars.  This happened because someone looked deep into her eyes – someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs.
Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.  But Gillian wasn’t a problem child.  She didn’t need to go away to a special school.
She just needed to be who she really was.

From the book “The Element – How finding your passion changes everything” by Ken Robinson

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Self trust....

Oh I just love this. I think for so many of us doubts, insecurities, arguments against what we are doing, fear and a whole load of negativity can sometimes creep in when we choose to take a less mainstream approach to life. It is sometimes hard to go against the tide. It has been for me at times when the rest of society looks on as though you are a little crazy for taking the path less travelled and also to take a path so different to that indoctrinated in you from your own childhood, but it is at those times that I really try to listen to my inner voice, the one that knows that this path is the right one for me and it really is like taking my own hand and acknowledging that all is well. I don't need other's approval - I just need my own and to listen and trust in that voice - it has guided me well thus far heart emoticon

Free to Shine

Just wanted to share with you something beautiful that my daughter did. She drew this a couple of months ago after watching a YouTube tutorial - no help from anyone just quietly did her thing (at the age of 7) before coming and showing me. Today she found her drawing, took a photocopy of it and added some colour and made it into a card to send to her penpal in Kenya. What makes my heart sing is how unhindered she is in what she wants to do and she continually shows me that children can do great things without us continually guiding them or telling them what they should or need to be learning. She has been diagnosed with dyslexia and reading is just not her thing (although audio books and being read to are ) grin emoticon If she were at school I know her spirit would be crushed as she no doubt would be measuring her reading and writing ability against others her age rather than just enjoying what she enjoys and what she is good at (which is art and music). For me this encapsulates what unschooling is about - letting your child follow their passions and never feeling crushed under the weight of other people's expectations - just being free to shine in whatever way makes you happy - isn't that what all our lives should be about? heart emoticon

Leap of Faith

This unschooled young man took a 14000ft leap of faith just before Christmas and I just feel like sharing it here. I post on my facebook page, but always forget to share here!  I am so very proud of him and the journey he has been on from a very unhappy, misunderstood little boy at school who really struggled to find acceptance to a boy who left the school system at 9 years of age and he has never looked back... He is 19 now and in his final year at University and I love him to bits - a very proud Mummy moment - that smile on his face lights up my heart <3

Frenzy, worry and stress

Over time I have noticed that many of us get into a frenzy of worry and stress about things. It seems to be rife in homeschooling circles! We all worry about whether we are doing the right thing. We see that others are using different curriculum, doing more or less classes than us, doing more hours of school work, doing less. We feel that we (or more importantly our children) are missing out and life turns into a frenzy. Frenzy is the word too!! Sometimes for me I have learned to step back, breath and do nothing. It helps bring clarity and let's me work out what is really right for my family and I - stepping back and sometimes doing nothing and just letting things calm down has stood me in stead over the past 10 years of homeschooling. Things really do work out whether you join 101 different homeschool groups, classes, events or not and your children will be fine - just saying lovely people wink emoticon xoxo

Peace and Love

Tis a fact that some people dislike school and it is also a fact that some may love it. I am someone who for a whole host of reasons do not find school fits with me nor my ideals at all. It did not serve me well as a child and it has not served my children well. I respect the opinons of others if they are pro school but my page SunnyHomeschool/Unschool is a reflection of where I am on this life journey. I post things that resonate with me. I may not agree with everything I post but it has touched me in some way for a reason hence my sharing with a view to it maybe touching another. If you do not like what I post or if it does not resonate with you then I respect that and suggest that either you scroll on past or unlike my page. Thank you to all my likers and those who support me in what I do. If my page helps just one family see that there are other options outside of school then I have achieved what I set out to do. Most people know about school, many do not know about homeschooling and especially unschooling. My family were in a place of darkness with my eldest child when he was at school and coming home saved him and me. That is a huge part of my life journey and the reason behind some of my views. Home worked and still works for us. School may work for you and that is great but I continue to follow the path that we have found ourselves on and we are now far from the gates of a school but I sincerely wish everyone peace and love wherever you are in your own journey and I hope that you wish the same for me - yours in gratitude, Heather xox

Over prescribing medication to children

A little while back I posted an article on my Facebook page about the over prescribing of prescription medication for children. Not just any medication but anti-psychotic. I shared with a comment about how very sad I was to read the figures and how wrong I felt it was. 100,000 scripts for children alone in Australia seem astonishingly high and I question whether all children prescribed these meds actually need them. I have been in the ADHD/ASD/Gifted/Specific Learning Difficulty arena for over 20 years now and have done much reading and research around this topic. I was married to a man diagnosed with ADHD, I have a nearly 20 year old diagnosed with ADHD/ASD/Gifted and with specific learning differences, namely dysgraphia and dyslexia (a lot of unnecessary labels me thinks and one has to beg the question why?! - but hey that is whole other discussion!) I have also taught in schools where children have similar diagnosis (or not) but are medicated and I have formed some strong views on it. They are merely my views woven from the journey I have been on to find me where I am now with my thoughts on all this and that being that there are far too many children being prescribed strong medications, with little research into the long term effects on the developing brain and those said same medications often having some quite extreme side effects that I have heard about through friends and from my own observations whilst teaching.  I chose not to medicate my son after doing extensive research, soul searching and discussion with him over the years. I loved my son as he was. As a child he shone to me like a beam of light, always happy, fun loving and kind. What were his issues? He had bucket loads of energy (some like to say hyperactive), he did things his way, questioned authority when he did not see a reason for something and questioned most things in life and the universe from how milk got from a cow to how a wheel turned to how one might travel in time - insatiable and never ending his quest for knowledge. His brain was a dynamo, always exploring and enthusiastic about everything! Why would I mess with that? He was 3 or 4 when he was first diagnosed with ADHD.  He had stood out as being different from when he started at nursery when he was 2 and I as a single Mum went to University to study for my degree.  I was often called in for "chats" about my sunny boy. They did not always have the same upbeat view of my son that I had.  They found him hard work. So hey why not medicate him? The interview where this decision was made took about 1/2 hour where I had to fill some questionnaires, (as did the nursery he was in at the University I was studying at) and they had a chat with me. They diagnosed him with ADHD (after hearing that his Father was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and was on Ritalin until the age of 16). I accepted the diagnosis but I rejected the need for medication. It actually filled me with horror. Why would I give me beautiful perfect child an amphetamine (with similar effects on the brain as speed and cocaine?) He was 3!! The response to my decision from the psychiatrist was that what I was doing was "an indirect form of child abuse as I was not offering my son the window of opportunity to realise his full potential" Wow! What a burden to put on a Mother's shoulders and on my shoulders it fully sat as I had no support being a single Mum and little family support as my Mother had died the year before the birth of my son. There were no support networks like there are now.  No forums.  No Facebook.  Nothing.  I cried an ocean of tears and toiled with what they had told me but my instinct was to say no to drugs. So I did. We continued on enjoying our life but with many phone calls from nursery, child care or whoever was looking after Samuel for me - mostly telling me what he had done wrong and how they could no longer look after him. It was a very stressful time for me and I questioned my decision often but that deep instinctual protective maternal force kept me on the path I had chosen for us. I have never said no to medication as I know it can help some children immensely but I felt for us there were other things I wanted to try. I looked at his diet and eliminated all artificial additives, natural siliciates and basically did an elimination diet where you take the diet back to basics and slowly introduce foods back in to see if there are any side effects from those foods. Food definitely did affect him but it was not a miracle cure. I also took him to a naturopath and we also added some vitamins, omega 3, minerals and they too helped but again it was not a "cure". And I say "cure" because that was often the word used about my beautiful boy. I started to question this and ask what was it they wanted to cure?  An insatiable curiosity and need for answers, a busy body that needed to move to learn, a self-motivated investigator who did not want to sit and do what others expected of him but wanted to seek out his own interests (and yes this was evident from the get go - which I think is the same for all children but maybe those with these diagnosis are a little more extreme in their behaviours).  I loved being with Samuel and he lit up my world. The heavy load came from others views and expectations of him and I was unwilling to medicate to appease them.

I had other reservations for the use of medication. I had been married to a man who was diagnosed with ADHD. I had not even heard of this condition until I met him. He was exciting, vivacious, interesting, fun, kind and thoughtful and I loved him very much. However, amongst the good, there was a darker side. He had a problem with drugs. When we first met it was only marihuana but then things seemed to spiral and once he had moved to the UK from Australia (where we had me) his drug problem had grown to include heavy use of ecstasy, speed and cocaine (amongst other things that I dared not know). His life crumbled. We were very young and his problem was out of control. My beautiful Mum had been diagnosed with cancer and neither of us particularly coped with the stress from that. He became erratic and violent and we were known to the police and a number of restraining orders were put in place after I had been the victim of domestic violence on a number of occasions. Our lives were crazy and completely dysfunctional. I was mourning the death of my Mother and he was dealing with his unresolved childhood issues of being a kid that was totally misunderstood and self-medicating turning him into a danger to himself and us. This was a beautiful human being who I saw as being damaged by a system that deemed he did not "fit". He was punished for being himself. He was always in trouble in school and spent much of his time outside the principal's office. He was also medicated with Ritalin. He said he hated it. He felt a lack of control and he hated the way it made him feel. Those memories of what he had told me and the tears I had seen him cry propelled me even more to walk a different path with our son who had been given the same diagnosis as his Dad. I wanted to rewrite history, not repeat it and right a wrong for Samuel's Dad, even though he was no longer in our lives having moved away and us not seeing him ever again from when Samuel was about 3. This was so important to me. His story scared me. He scared me. My son's diagnosis scared me. I wanted a different story for Samuel, so I chose a different path and thus began my feelings about the use of medication.

I also met a couple of other Mums whose children had similar diagnosis and they trialed medication and it was not the magic cure that so many touted. They had no fewer problems than my son who was not taking it. I also in time met another child again with a similar diagnosis and he was on a cocktail of medications and he was actually doing no better but worse than my son. I saw medication as being something that promised you the world and let you down over and over again. I also started working at a school as a teacher aide, working with 5 year olds. I always remember one dark haired little boy with the palest skin and sad eyes. He had been put on Ritalin to help bring him out of himself and to focus. What do you want a boy of 5 to focus on? Sitting at the table struggling to read because he is not ready or letting him play and play all day until his cheeks become flushed with joy and his eyes light up? I would choose the later. He would cry to me that he did not want to go to the office at lunch time for his little white pill. He would cry to me that they made his head hurt. I so wanted to stop that for him. I wanted to scream at the school. I wanted to scream at his mother for listening to those Drs who no doubt made her feel as guilty as they had me by saying that if she did not give him those little pills she would be offering him no window of opportunity in his little 5 years of life! What had gone wrong with the world that we find ourselves in a place that we feel the need to give drugs meant for grown bodies and brains to babes with precious minds that are still forming? It was all so hard for me to understand but again cemented my feelings that giving Samuel no little white pills was the right choice for us. I did not want to see my boy clutch his head in pain or cry with a complete lack of control over this decision. The powerlessness of childhood is something I struggle with. That little boy had no power over his destiny and I felt powerless to help the little man in my care at school other than to hug him wipe his tears and hear his feelings, but I could help my own son and I would and I did – drug free.  I am not touting this as being the best way but it was the way for us and in the same way that others don’t like to be made to feel guilty for medicating their children I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for choosing not to.  My son is 19 now, in his final year of a software engineering degree, has a girlfriend, part-time job and is a happy human being who likes himself as he is.  If the powers that be had had their way he would have been medicated and I think that where he is now shows that it just wasn't necessary.  So yes, sorry to those who got angry with me for posting the article that stated those stats and had the need to justify why medication is the answer for their children but this story is my reasoning for my big questions on why so many children are being medicated and most often than not to stay in an education system that cannot cope with difference.  Something is very wrong in that for me but hey we are all entitled to our own opinions and for the story of success that I give here about my own son I know there are others that will show how medication was right for them.  Life is never black and white but many shades of grey and one person’s truth is not the same as another’s and that is ok but at least try to be open minded and just accept that every opinion is just someone's perspective and their truth and every bit as real as your own..