White people, particularly in the UK, have been too complacent in the face of racism. White people should never have been complacent.
I, as a white person, was complacent but I am not going to say that we should no longer be comlplacent because that implies there was a point where there was no race issues. However, my life has allowed me to be complacent and it pains me that it is the death of yet another black man in America at the hands of the police to finally and fully open my eyes.
Who was George Floyd?
George Floyd was a man in his 40s working as a security guard in a new city when he was killed by police officers, . He was described by loved ones as a gentle giant and a friend to all. One officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck while three further offices stood by, listened and watched as Floyd pleaded for his life. All four officers have been fired, but that is not enough.
Victims of Police Violence
White people should never have been complacent because there have already been deaths of more than 35 black people at the hands of police in America in 2020. I say more than because the data has over 100 victims of police violence where the race data isn’t available.
White people should never have been complacent because we ask black parents how they teach their boys to stay alive rather than teaching our white children not to kill. White people should never have been complacent because if you think the ‘race’ problem is ‘just’ an american problem you are not Looking close enough at your own country’s history.
Colour blind is privilege
Complacent White people who “don’t see race” or “aren’t racist” or “would never condone violence against anyone” are as culpable in their silence as the perpetrators of hate crimes. And if you’re a white person reading this and thinking, that feels a bit much, then check your prívele h.
I’ll be honest, as I wrote in my post only last week, race is not my comfort zone when it comes to social justice advocacy. But you know what? My discomfort is not worth more than someone’s life and nor is yours. So we are going to raise our kids to be better… and our white kids will learn how not to kill so that black kids don’t have to learn to stay alive.
I am scared I am going to get it wrong, but I also know that my silence is more harmful. So we are reading those books, we are going to discuss police brutality in an age appropiate way and we are going become a refuge for any person of colour who needs it.
Do the Work
If you want more information about this do the work. Find The Hang Your Heart Project, make reparations by donating to black led organisations fighting for social justice, read Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. Do the work.
DO NOT slip into a black person’s DMs asking what you should do. DO NOT just offer thoughts and prayers, absolve yourself of guilt and move on. DO NOT raise your kids to kill black people. BE BETTER.
A Found Poem
I wrote a ‘found poem’ using some of the things I saw being said about the situation on Social Media.
I want my kids to be respectful, tolerant and an ally. I am a feminist, a disability activist and an equal rights campaigner. I live my life based on the truth in my heart that every person on this planet is worth of love, acceptance and integration. I truly believe that everyone’s unique differences are their strengths. But I am also aware of my privileges. I am a white person living in a predominantly white area of the UK. At the moment my I just do not know enough about race inequality to be as active an ally as I would like … and that means I also know I am not yet doing everything I can to ensure my children grow up as allies. So, I decided to use this quarantine time to do a little digging and a little teaching. Having a structure for our homeschool provided the perfect basis to begin this work. (You can see what else we have been up to here and here)
How I was going about allyship all wrong
So first up, I was shocked to discover that raising ‘colourblind’ children was not the way to go. It could, in fact, be causing harm. I know, there’s my privilege at work. So, what do I do? Thankfully, I stumbled across Rebekah Gienapp’s excellent blog which gave me a start in my thinking.
Next, I had to think about the ways my kids learn. So, I know my boys respond well to stories. Therefore, I needed to be more proactive in promoting those books that touch on race and other social justice themes. Unfortunately, a couple of my favourites (like Julian is a Mermaid) have been quarantined along with my mum about 15 miles away. A quick googling brought me a few others but I don’t want this to turn into a shopping list. Check out this blog, and this one, to find my inspirations.
How do you start to raise your kids to be allies?
Okay, okay. Books are a good start. BUT studies show that reading alone isn’t enough. We need to actively discuss differences to raise your kids to be allies. So, where to begin?
We started with Aesop’s Fables – the story of the Lion and the Mouse. I found a simple version of the story that was about three paragraphs long. I edited it to make it a little more child friendly. In order to help 6er better engage, I was inspired by the storytelling style used in Godly Play. Godly Play utilises images, objects and other devices to help children engage with the story. I made a few simple devices to help them visualise the story. I used images of a lion, a mouse and a few strips of paper for the net.
I would recommend you read the story out loud at least once to get used to speaking aloud. In the version below, you will also find instructions for moving the pieces in italics. Have a little go moving the pieces around as you speak to see what works best for your technique. I also urge you to really get into character, roaring and squeaking. Sometimes storytelling feels a bit silly, but I usually find thats when it is most engaging for the small ones.
When we reached the end of the story, 6er had great fun helping the mouse remove the net.
Once we had finished the story, I used the lion and mouse pictures and the word cut outs. I asked 6er to place the words beneath the animal he felt they applied to – strong under the lion, quiet under the mouse etc. We had a brief discussion about the fact that it was not the appearance of the lion and the mouse looked that helped them in this story. I asked 6er to tell me some things that did help the mouse and lion in the end. He came up with lots of ideas including kindness, ingenuity, compassion etc.
The Family Connection
I didn’t want to just leave it there though. I then placed out some family photos. Unfortunately, there was more than one person in each photo, so I had to tell him which family member to focus on in each photo. I’d recommend using singular portraits. Then I pointed to all the words and said that they could be applied to different members of our family. I asked him to put a word under the member of the family he thought it best described. I then lead 6er in a discussion about what each of the characteristics might be an advantage. For instance, being physically weak meant that other people did jobs so Grandma was always available for hugs and chats. Although, my favourite response was
“Uncle Ben is big so he can hide his sweets where people can’t reach”.
Now, I’m going to get real with you. I’ve found this really hard to write. Talking about difference hasn’t come naturally to me. However, I also recognise how important it is for me to become more comfortable. When 6er was a baby, I read the NSPCC guidance on teaching the scientific names for body parts. BUT, like many people I was uncomfortable with lots of those words. I didn’t want my little to pick up on my discomfort. Genitals are not dirty words. To become comfortable with saying ‘vulva’, I said it to out loud every day until it didn’t feel weird.
Race and allyship are obviously more complex than becoming comfortable with the word ‘vulva’. It requires much more self reflection and work, in order to raise my children to be allies. But I also know that my children will pick up on my attitudes as I discuss these things with them. I feel I gained a lot of positives from this session but I know we have a long way to go. I intend to continue working through Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, alongside our lessons.
Below you will find the FREE resources I created for this session. There are images for storytelling, alongside a quick version of The Lion and the Mouse. I wrote the version of The Lion and the Mouse, so you can all finally benefit from my professional skills. If you’ve learned from my struggles, or would like to come on this journey of allyship alongside us, please sign up to the mailing list.
How do you cope if you’re having a ‘bad’ day? If you are part of the ‘crip community’ a “bad day” has different connotations to those with ‘able’ bodies. In my world, a bad day is a day where I am feeling betrayed by my body. My body isn’t doing what I want it to, despite my best efforts. This may be because my mental health has taken a turn. My pain could be flaring. The fatigue has hit my like a train and every movement is as if I am walking through tar. Or on lucky days, all three at once.
In those prechildren days the response would be to stay in bed, or at least my pyjamas and do very little until it passed. But, clearly, I can’t call in sick with my small ones like I could with my work. With these things I find barrelling onwards with a “bad-but-not-too-bad day” leads to more worse days and longer recovery. So what’s a crip with kids to do? Or a parent with the flu, or a hangover?
How to Cope with a Bad Day Using Mantras
Firstly, I mentally chant two mantras
Just Get Through the Day
My focus is on everyone having their basic needs met throughout the day. If everyone is fed, healthy (relatively), hygienic (relatively) and sleeping roughly when they need to be, then it’s a win. More on how to achieve this later.
This too shall pass
This is the mantra I discovered in a La Leche Group for when your breastfed child is going through a particularly trying time. Yes, you may feel awful right now. Your condition my be chronic and slowly degenerative. However, there are always days that feel better than others and those days will come round again . Sometimes you just have to practice patience.
Getting Through the ‘Bad’ Day
So we’ve got your mental mantras to remind yourself of throughout the day. Now, how do you ‘just get through the day’ and cope when you’re having a ‘bad day’? There are a couple of elements to this, which involve some preplanned elements and some not requiring as much preplanning. So let’s recap the things we need to get through the day: food, hygiene, sleep, and play. These are the four elements I focus on on a bad day.
So the preplanned version is when you are well to make a couple of premade meals and freeze them for days like this. However, if like me you have a slight aversion to frozen meals, an alternative is to ensure your freezer is stocked with easy meals (chicken and chips anyone?) Or your fridge and cupboards have grab snacks.
However, sometimes this isn’t possible. Maybe you never freeze anything? Or like we are during quarantine, you can’t get hold of your usual go to groceries. In that case, I embrace the takeaway. Yes there is an expense involved. We tend to find if we go big, then we can get 3 meals from one takeaway which outweighs the monetary cost for me.
So the preplanned version is a relative or loved one agrees to come over and do bath time on these days. Or, you have a stash of baby wipes/flannels/wash cloths that can be used to clean you all.
However, there are times when getting someone to help, or a flanel wash cannot be achieved for any of you. On those days, IT IS OKAY if no one is washed. IT IS OKAY if teeth are only brushed once. IT IS OKAY if hair is pulled into a quick ponytail rather than styled. Remember mantra two? This too shall pass. This isn’t your new normal. This is about trying to cope with a bad day.
A caveat. I know that on some days, even brushing teeth seems like an unclimbable mountain. For me one of my anxieties runs to dental hygiene, and so I have to have everyone’s teeth clean more than any flare of symptoms I have had (so far). But I can’t see how one missed brush is going to have long term effects on your oral health, as long as a schedule is returned to quickly. Disclaimer: I am not a dental health professional.
Sleep for the Kids
The preplanned version might be the old grandparent sleepover, or staying at friend. But that is not possible at all in these Covid-19 times, and there are many reasons it could not happen even when we aren’t all quarantined.
So, what if you have children like mine, who don’t sleep. Who won’t sleep. Who need endless hours of me sat on the floor in their bedrooms to sleep. How do you cope with this on a bad day? In my case it is three things. Firstly, my husband is banished to the bottom bunk of 6ers bunk bed. Secondly, the children are in the bed with me. Thirdly, the tablet or screen. There are arguments against screen time close to bed time. However, both my wiggly-bottomed-small-people, need tthe screen to force them to sit still long enough to get sleepy.
I abandon my idea that they need to be asleep by a certain time. I abandon any idea of having an ‘evening’ I might have. Thank God for smart phones. I can scroll endlessly while they gradually drift off. It’s a very imperfect plan, but sleep is a big issue for us, and we definitely follow the needs must. Having them in my bed, means any bedtime waking can be dealt with without me having to even sit up. So, everyone goes back to sleep quicker. And more sleep is the quickest route out of a bad day, it is the clear winner in our house.
Play for the kids
The preplanned version involves a box for each child, full of secreted away toys, and activities. It is important they only come out to help cope on bad days. They need to feel special. In ours there are pencil crayons, a little notebook, a couple of toys that they like but won’t miss on a day to day basis, a book and some play dough. I recently bought some little plastic eggs which I can put some of the things in. Bonus surprise toy excitement. The novelty of the box usually gives a couple of hours of play with very little interaction from me. Intersperseplay with Netflix and most of the day is done.
However, sometimes these things hit us unexpectedly. Maybe you haven’t got the time or resources to put a box like this together, or maybe it just hasn’t worked for them this time. This is the point where you enter full on crisis mode. Chant “just get through the day” over and over. Screen time. I know there are people averse to too much screen time but at one point they thought too much reading would “addle” people’s brains too.
I read the research summarised here. I decided that if we are allowing our children to self regulate their food, drink, play, sleep then why am I not doing it with screen time? The thing is we just don’t know what the long term affects are but that doesn’t automatically mean bad. Some of the longer term studies equal good. But, if you just can’t bring yourself to break your screen time rules … I get it and that’s your choice as a parent to make. Here are some other things you can do that are low energy on your part but high energy on theirs.
Games and Activities
Go count the windows
This game came into being in my mum’s three storey town house. There were no grown ups with the energy to ‘exercise’ the small folk. As a joke, I told my 6er that I needed them to go up to the third floor and count how many windows there were. To my surprise they ran up to do it. And the 4er followed his sibling! We were able to repeat the running up to the top of the house a further four times, before both children were “too knackered” to continue. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be windows, but think of something as far away from where you’ve sat that you desperately need them to inspect. Most children under 7/8 want to ‘help’ and so you can help them burn some energy this way. You have to act very grateful though or they will quickly get on to the ruse.
These games involve you lying on the sofa under a blanket while the children either ‘treat’ you or bury you under a mound of cushions. The suitability of these is totally based on your personal circumstances, pain etc. I tend to find they are games that require very little interaction from me by way of talking. And, personally, when I’m coping with a bad day not talking is only a good thing.
Lego Challenges. Google lego challenges and you will find a plethora of challenges that your small folk can use to occupy them with building for a while.
Colouring. Get the kids to select some of their favourite characters to colour in. I find my kids are more engaged with the colouring process when they have picked the ones they want.
Chalk On the Ground Outside. This one is great for getting some fresh air. Don’t worry about mess because the rain will eventually just wash it away. The kids love it though because they feel like ‘rule breakers’. We have used activated charcoal mixed with water and a little vinegar when we didn’t have chalk to hand.
Sometimes I can sit with a pile of books, and just read through them with my two littles. It doesn’t feel like too much but sometimes I don’t have the concentration. We recently invested in a few kids audiobooks (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Several Paddington books, How to Train Your Dragon and Fortunately the Milk if you’re interested). We play this on our speaker and it keeps 6er occupied for an hour and 4er half an hour.
I have spoken in past posts about my use of presentation software to make simple point and click games for my children. I have a few of these ‘spare’ that I can load up keep them occupied for a few minutes.
Leave the House
It’s not as possible now with quarantine, but I find sometimes the energy or effort I put into a change of scene makes the rest of the day easier. Soft play or grandma’s house in days of old. Nowadays its getting the mobility scooter out and taking them for a yomp in the woodlet near our house. I emphasise using the car and/or mobility scooter because I am not worrying about fitness here. I am worrying about getting through the day.
Resting for you
Some of the things I’ve already mentioned are in order to optimise rest for yourself when you are feeling grim. And the only thing I am really going to do is give you permission. You only have to cope with a bad day. You just need to get through it.
It is okay to leave the cleaning and tidying until you feel up to it. Hire someone to help if you never feel up to it.
It is okay to eat the same meal for a several days in a row – even if it isn’t particularly nutritious.
It is okay to not shower for a couple of days.
IT IS OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP (and to keep asking until you get the help you need and to accept state social security to give you financial assistant).
You are not ‘less than’ for needing help. Everyone needs help.
If you’ve found this helpful, I am really glad, and I hope you’d considering signing up to my mailing list. I won’t spam you, I swear. I will send you the occasional email with some ideas about things to do with the kids. And I have a FREE ‘paper games template’ which will get delivered to you whn you sign up … I hope. If not, contact me and I will check what is going on.
Teaching and learning when you’re not qualified. I’ve been scratching my head for the last week or so. I knew I wanted to talk to you all about growth mindset. I want to encourage you all to pick yourselves up again. Thankfully, because parenting is one endless learning experience, it hasn’t taken long for me to live a growth moment. As you may remember, in my inaugural blog post I talked about how successful my first teaching Japanese session with my 6er went. If you didn’t catch it, its here. I think I maybe even detect a hint of gloating in the post – I jest of course, but I finished our first lesson on a complete high.
And then …
The wind was knocked out of my sails. The rains rolled in. So I had this amazing idea that we would learn lots of Japanese through the medium of Pokemon … and so we started with a session all about Pokemon. Second session, I decided learning some words for clothes would be useful, and also easy to reinforce during the course of an average day.
“I know!” said my quarantined brain. “Why don’t we design a Pokemon trainer who can represent us as we continue our language learning journey?”
So, we sit down. I have a paper doll template that I have created for the session (which you can receive amongst all my other paper blanks if you sign up for my email list). Now, the Japanese colours rap was a big hit and so I thought, “Easy! We’ll just roughly follow the format of the last session, bob’s your uncle”…. Can you see where I’m going with this?
I could NOT find a blooming Japanese clothing song anywhere. But I did find a compelling young woman talking through some of the clothes, and it was late the night before I knew we would be doing some Japanese and I thought – what the hey!?
My Big Mistake
When I played the video, 6er immediately panicked. They could’t understand anything she was saying, and in their panic, their higher brain function switched off so even with guidance they weren’t able to glean meaning from the video. From that point on, the lesson was doomed. Although we continued with a few activities and built our paper dolls, every time I tried to say any Japanese words about what we were doing they would whine.
We instantly went from them begging me for more Japanese every hour of the day, to putting away all of their Pokemon things, and them walking away from me if I tried to broach the subject.
How do I fix this hole I’ve made for myself?
So what’s a homeschooling during quarantine Momma to do? I regrouped. I put on the breaks and took the pressure off. We went back to Spanish, and were able to video chat abuelo and show off our new skills to him. For me, it is more important to encourage my children to find joy in learning and acquiring new skills.
And so, I began to think about the games we used to play when we went to Lingotots. I tried to remember which ones really engaged him. I wondered whether I could utilise one of those games, to reengage 6er in the Japanese learning journey. Enter the parachute (like this one but 6ft). I figured, family of four? Easy we can play together…. Except I didn’t factor in that two legged parent having an off day and not being able to help. I didn’t think about 4er being “too tired” to jiggle a parachute for more than three seconds at a time.
Palm hits face.
But, 3 minutes of jiggling a pair of trousers on a parachute while chanting “zubon, zubon, zubon” did engage sixer.
So, I’ve got him back onboard with Team Japanese Learning, but how do I teach the new vocabulary? Luckily for me, something, I’m not quite sure what, triggered a memory of my high school maths classes (I know, weird, right?). Bear with me. So, at my first secondary school, we had a maths teacher who was nerdy but excellent. So each lesson we would have a powerpoint presentation on contemporary pop culture – Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc. And the presentation was basically an extended maths game. It was so fun because you just answer and click. Then there’s has enough immersion to make you feel like an active participant in an adventure.
Making a Presentation Software Game For Learning Japanese
So that’s what I made. I gave 6er the opportunity to ‘play’ as a new Pokemon trainer, getting ready for his first catch. I framed the Japanese learning this way in order to reintroduce some of the old vocabulary whilst introducing new vocabulary. And because the vocabulary was integrated into the storytelling, they were forced to engage with the meaning. So, hopefully, the words are retained better. Wahey!
I used to be very tech-literate but in the past few years, I haven’t really had the time for anything more than basic. I mention this because what I’m doing is kind of basic programming. It uses the logic skills of coding to make it work. And if I can do it, I’m certain anyone can. For those not familiar with presentation software, this process involves using the “link to slide” feature. I used Keynote this time round, but I have done it with Powerpoint in the past. Now, because all you can do is a click feature, not dragging and dropping, you need to keep the adventure to multiple choice questions.
Before I talk us all around in circles I think perhaps an example is necessary here.
So, I want 6er to learn the word for ‘trousers’ and ‘shorts’ (zubon and hanzubon respectively). I create a slide that contains an image of both, labelled with the romaji Japanese word and a question. I wanted to 6er to feel like they were making active decisions that affected the outcome of the game. So on the slide I asked them to pick trousers or shorts, with the guidance that it was ‘cold outside’.
So, you then create two further slides. One congratulates the player on making the right decision, and the other asks them to try again. Then it’s a case of linking each image to the relevant slide, and linking those slides back or onwards. Are you following? I hope you are, but if you aren’t get in touch and we can have a more in depth explanation, or you can even sign up to my email list to hear when my presentation skills are up for purchase.
The Final Verdict on Learning Japanese This Way
I thought I’d finish this blog with a review from the source, 6er. Their response when I asked how they liked their Japanese Learning this week.
“It was good. I really enjoyed being able to go to different places but next time? Can we go to an electric factory, a volcano, and the ocean for my second catch. Coz we’ve already got a grass type, haven’t we?”
It is at this point I am going to stop scribing what they say because it turned into a very long conversation. But, they are, clearly, very impressed.
Have you ever felt you’ve ruined something your child loves? Were you able to take a deep breath, forgive yourself and then carry on? It’s tough and I see you. If you want access to some of the resources I mention in these posts, sign up for my mailing list. You’ll get a free paper games resource, including the paper doll sheet.