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 ♥

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..