Teachers of Today

The teachers of today have changed.

Teachers are everywhere in every form.  Teachers are not just those people found in schools, colleges and universities.  I encourage you to look around and find the teachers that exist within our world.

I am a teacher. I teach my boys about life.  How to live according to how we believe is a good way to live.   They learn a lot from me.  I pass on what I know when they are interested.

Their computer are teachers too.  As are the many games they play.

The stranger on YouTube is an amazing teacher too.

Books can teach a thing or two as well.  Not just the words, but the process of reading and discovering too.

My iPad is a teacher to my 2 year old – the current theme are numbers and letters.

A trip to a shop becomes and education.

And we soon discover that a forest, a falling leaf or a trip to the beach can teach us wonderful things too.

All of these things (and many more!) are our teachers.  Once we realise this as a society, then the sooner we can let go of our obsession that only ‘qualified teachers’ can tell us what we need to know.

Unsubscribing

I realise what I’ve been doing recently is slowly unsubscribing ourselves from *things*.  Really this is unschooling ourselves as a family from everything that we don’t need, but I kind of like the term unsubscribing.  Maybe more people will understand what I mean when I use this term.

As a society we are overwhelmed.  There is so much to deal with and we think it is all important and essential – yet often it is only until we unsubscribe that we realise life is better.

Those that live in the tech space will recognise this with information overload through email, news, marketing, apps, etc whilst forever keeping your skills up to date or face being out of the loop (unemployable) within 12 months (or people like to make you believe).

There is overload at home too. So much to mange. Household. Food. Money. Bills. Schedules for each person of the family.  Places to be. Errands to run. Mouths to feed.

And there’s the world of business too.  I’ve seen it too many times…people building businesses in the wrong way because they are subscribing what others are telling them to do. Push for sales. Go for growth. Take on that office. Employ people. Borrow money. Take investment.  Whatever it is – there is so much pressure to ruin business by subscribing to something for the benefit of someone else.

Then everywhere we go there are people overloading our lives. Get this. Or that.  On the streets. In cabs. Buses. TV. Marketing. Adverts. In your face, constantly.

This is nothing new.

But there are things we subscribe to without thinking (too much) about it either. Schools as an education. A job. Work till you retire. Pensions. Commutes. Government (and therefore societal) standards. Parental and society expectations. A mortgage…

…and a dream that is not really yours.

I can’t help but feel that when we are born we are all automatically subscribed to this stuff.  We get pressured and spammed to follow life through how others (typically society/government) think we should live our life.

We are not given the time and the space to discover who we are and how we can become happy individuals.  We are pushed through this wheel.  We get churned as numbers. Thinking we have to continue through it, but little do most people know that there is an unsubscribe button.

We’ve been unsubscribing. You could too!

Unsubscribe today.!

Playground Fitness

[I published this last year on another blog, but have been doing some tidying up and feel it is better placed here].

codieandiI’m a mother of 3 boys, currently aged 2, 8 and 10.  I now home school them too.  This means my personal free time is usually very limited – this doesn’t stop me wanting that ever elusive balanced life.

I’m no role model, but I want to have a balanced life. Get back into my old jeans. Get fit enough. Eat good, real and mostly unprocessed food.  Whilst raising a family and making a living alongside my husband.

My 3rd son took a toll on my body.  I always suffered during pregnancy with SPD, but my 3rd was the worst.  I could barely walk for half of my pregnancy.  It was painful.  I thought it would all go away post birth, but no.  Whilst I could walk, it was often painful. Short walks and simple trips into town were hard work, full of hurt and they left me knackered.  Chiropractors visits were helpful, but the results never lasted.  I knew deep in my heart that I needed regular exercise to help me get better.

It was hard to get started because anything faster than a walk really hurt my hips.  I truly felt like I had the hips of an old woman :(

As my youngest was approaching 2 years I decided I need to take action.  There had been some improvements, but for goodness sake – 2 years of SPD was driving me nuts. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and get in shape.  I started by running.  Over a course of a month I worked up to running for 30 minutes – I didn’t manage more than 5 minutes on my first attempt.  I was so proud of myself!  For me this is great progress!

But then life got busy and I struggled to find the time to do the running on my own.  I didn’t stop exercising though.  I was making sure I did things with my son(s) 2-3 times per week.  It has been a mixture of playing tennis, basketball, football, rollerblading and hanging down the skate park.  My main focus was to keep my body moving.

Throughout this time my hips got so much better.  This made me happy!  I still have a lot of work to do, but I know that what I am doing are having positive effects on my body.  I just need to keep it up and make it a habit.

I didn’t do exercise for a week and my hips started hurting again. :(

One morning I went to a playground with my 2 year old.  We were the first ones there or so I thought.  I spotted a man there working out, using the playground as his gym.  Now I’m sure I’ve seen this before, but something clicked in me.

“I should be doing that!” I said to myself.  Infact, why haven’t I seen other mothers doing this?  We’re always down the park, yet we all tend to stand and watch or sit, chatter and sip on coffee.

So I started working out at the playground (after the man left).  I ran. Did press ups. Played on the monkey bars. And did some tricep dips.  It was a proper work out, I even got hot and sweaty!  And my boy joined in with the squats and the running!  I can confirm that I run faster than him, but he squats much better than me.

I love this idea of working out at the playground and I’d love to make this a habit of mine.  I’ve done a bit of research and have come up with a list of exercises that can be done.  I’m not really going into detail about how to do each exercises, there is google for that.

Most times I go down the park now I make sure I have the right clothes and shoes to do some exercise.

Perhaps use this as a guide to build your own routine, that’s what I’m using it for. And just because I have mentioned something here it doesn’t mean I am quite fit enough to do them (yet)!

Running Exercises:

  • Run around the playground
  • Try a mixture of walking and running
  • Try quick sprints
  • Running on the spot
  • Running on the spot whilst lifting your legs up high in front

Monkey Bars:

  • Hang and hold
  • Hang and L Hold (life your legs up to be horizontal)
  • Swing across the monkey bars
  • Chin/pull ups
  • Hold your chin above the bars for 10-15 seconds
  • Hanging knee tuck – whilst hanging tuck your knees towards your chest
  • Hanging crunch – hang upside down, use your abs to pull your top body up

Bars:

  • Tricep dip
  • Assisted pull ups on a low bar (with body at a near horizontal angle, get under a bar and pull your body up whilst feet are touching the ground)
  • Can you do body planks on any low bars?
  • Press ups on bars

Swings:

  • Just swing!
  • Push ups with feet on swings
  • Hold on to swing with hands, lean back then pull yourself back towards swing
  • Try to do a plank with arms on swings, great for strength and balance
  • Suspension lunge – rest one foot behind the body on a swing and do a lunge
  • Swing crunch – feet on swing, hands on ground, crunch towards chest, repeat

Slides:

  • go up and down the slides!
  • lie on the slide and do a sit up (head at the bottom of the slide!)
  • run on the spot on the slide (whilst holding on the sides)

Open space:

  • Running as above.
  • Jump!
  • Jump and try to tuck knees towards chest
  • Legs: supported lunges, knee towards ground
  • Bring a jump rope, or play imaginary rope jumping!
  • Jumping jacks
  • Body squats
  • Hip extensions – lie flat, arms on the ground, lift hips up into the air and hold for a few seconds.
  • Hip rotations – standing up straight, lift leg up, then move out then down, then up and back around
  • Leg swings – swing leg back and forth
  • Side leg swings – swing each leg sideways
  • Spiderman steps – in a pushup position on the ground, bring one leg close to your hand then move back down. Repeat.
  • Are there any beams, low fences or barriers? Trying balancing on them.

Benches:

  • Step up on to benches, lifting the leg not on the bench towards your chest
  • Jump up onto benches
  • Press ups on benches (do at different heights according to your strength)
  • Reverse crunches – lie flat on bench, lift legs up towards chest
  • Straight leg reverse crunch – lie flat on bench, lift legs up until vertical

Things We Do: Pair Programming

My boys love computers, but my eldest is also keen on taking it further.  He’s been working through the Khan Academy programming course.  He gets stuck quite alot, so what we’ve started to do is work through the problems and activities together – also known as pair programming.

Last week we hooked his computer to the TV and we both took turns working through the problems.  It meant we could easily see what was going on. I think it helped that I’m not a programmer myself and he could see the things I was trying out to solve the problems.

It’s good fun! The best part for me is the working together bit.  I can really feel it strengthen our relationship – which is really what I was hoping for and expecting from unschooling in general, but I still feel like I need to be pinched when these connecting and special moments happen.

Unschooling FTW!

Unschooling – uneverything-ing

The more I am homeschooling in an unschooling way, the more I find that it’s really not just about unschooling. It’s about applying the unschooling ehtos to every part of our life.

I do not know what the right word is for this. Hence the use of ‘uneverythinging’.  That sounds so wrong!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to live a different kind of life that what society tends to feed us for quite a few years now. We are getting there one step at a time.  I feel like unschooling has helped us take it to the next level.

From a personal level I’m figuring out things that really make me happy, then doing more of it. If I don’t like something I try to figure out how to be-gone with it. I don’t whinge, I don’t complain. I just try to come up with better solutions.

My kids are understanding that I need to work, just like they need to do their work.  As a family we constantly re-balancing our life so that we all maintain a not so stressful life.

I love to my work and my business is growing.  It’s exciting. Yet at the same time I’m very aware that my kids are around alot of the time.  It’s a constant juggle.  We’ve recently got a live in aupair to help us with this.  It is helping me to find that bit of time I need to focus on my work, spend some one-to-one time with the boys and actually have the occasional night out with my husband!

I’m also very aware that I do love spending time with my boys.  I love being there for them. Hanging out. Doing stuff.  Not much in the world can beat that.  Some may think that means I sacrifice alot, but the reality is I don’t think I do.  Me being out all day and not being there for my boys would be sacrifice!

I find that I’m becoming a better parent and I’m really listening better to what my boys want and need.  When you combine that with supporting them in finding interesting things to do then it turns into something special.

It’s so encouraging to see the real happiness and satisfaction of life that my boys are experiencing.  They don’t always show it, but I can see it.

It’s no bed of ros(i)es.  There are some days where I just want to bang my head against the wall, but overall I feel like we are heading in the right direction.  Our old way of life is increasingly looking like a distant memory!

 

Doing Things Differently With Maths

I’m developing a bit of an obsession with how to teach maths and I’m using this blog to take notes as I go.

I’ve been spending countless hours researching better ways of teaching. I’ve convinced myself that the way school teaches math just isn’t much fun. Not only that, it’s totally (or mostly) irrelevant in today’s world. This whole thing calculating things by hand feels pretty boring and irrelevant to the real world. I haven’t (really) done any of this hand calculation since, erm, school.

I realised this when I had to re-learn (or remind myself) how to to long addition/substraction/division/multiplication. I had honestly forgotten how to do this. I kept getting little things wrong. Perhaps I’m thick for forgetting this, or perhaps I’m like most of the rest of the world.

Here’s Conrad Wolfram talking about how schools are teaching math in the wrong way.

The Maths Approach

I’ve been experimenting with how to approach maths with my boys and to be honest none of them have stuck.  Often they would get on with what I had challenged with them, but there was something really niggling at me that it just didn’t feel right.  I’ve tried books. I’ve tried a couple of online sites.

The latest one I tried was IXL.  I chose it partly as a comfort factor that the boys would be practicing the curriculum topics.  It keeps track of their progress and achievements which gives me the ability to prove to the ‘education authority’ that they are doing ‘work’.  But the more we used it (over the past month), the more I disliked it.

It reminded me of school. (It was boring). It was incredibly repetitive. Their scoring system was incredibly frustrating too – one wrong answer would take away a bunch of points, meaning they would have to do even more questions to reach the ’100′ goal.  I found the frustrating the small amount of times I helped them through some questions.

It just didn’t feel right. So I asked them if we should ditch IXL.  And they said yes. So we have!

In it’s replacement we are going to be using Khan Academy.  The great thing here is that the technology and videos are so far ahead of anything that IXL or similar could achieve.  It also covers much more than maths.  We started using it with much fun last week – exploring the games and programming.  My boys successfully managed to manipulate numbers to get the characters in already created games (in this case DarkJumper) to do different things – like jumping faster, higher, lower, etc.  Along the way they figured ways of hacking/cheating to get the highest score and managed to crash the application (by using numbers in the program that were too big).

There are awards/points/badges in Khan Academy too though I think they are implemented in a much nicer way.  It’s also great that Khan Academy is free. Yay.

Our first experiences are good and the plan in the new year is to make this a daily habit.  Ideally spending 1 – 2 hours on Khan Academy.  The rest of the day is then free to do *whatever*.

I also plan to get stuck into it.  Doing activities they are doing and also learning more about programming.

After making my decision to go with Khan Academy I also happened to come across this video where the founder of Khan Academy talks about his story.  It makes my decision to use it feel even more right.