Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Living Arrows 13/52

Ebony has a cold at the moment, and a serious case of the bad moods. I've been frantically trying to do work in the hope of not being behind on my workload when I get back from Amsterdam (eek!), and Laurie is equally as busy. In short, it's been a long weekend.

One of the worst things about trying to work from home is that I am constantly interrupted. Ebony finds excuses to come and see me, and lovely as that is, it interrupts my flow and makes it difficult to get things done. It's not all bad though. One of the best things about working from home is that I can hear Ebony and Laurie playing together, and the wonderful and weird games they come up with.

On Saturday, I went down to get a cup of tea and stumbled across two pirates in the midst of an attack. Ebony was holding a box of stolen jewels (marbles) and waving a sword (chopstick) while standing on the ship (sofa). I think Laurie is much better at imaginative play than I am, and can't help but feel a little jealous about these games they have.

Ebony wasn't very pleased when the game had to finish so that Laurie could cook tea, so I distracted her with some (not very professional) pirate-themed face painting. I've been buying up fancy dress costumes from the local charity shops, and had a pirates one hidden away so we dug that out too.

On Sunday, as I buckled down for more work, I could hear the two of them shouting and running around downstairs. A few minutes later Ebony appeared holding a treasure map. It was rolled up like a scroll, and burnt at the edges like a year 7 history project. I love how much fun Ebony has with her daddy, and how much they love playing together.
Living Arrows

Monday, 30 March 2015

Read All About It: Giving Up On Homework & Playing Instead

Thanks for stopping by the Read All About It linky. I’d love for you to link up your recent posts about news or current affairs. All you need to do is include the linky badge (below) on your post, and then share your link at the bottom of this post. This week, I decided to write about why I think we should ditch homework.

It was reported last week that a Manhattan school has stopped handing out homework to its students, and has told them to spend time reading and hanging out with families instead. The school sent a letter home detailing the change, which said they were responding to studies that found homework was linked with “children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time, and, sadly for many, loss of interest in learning.”

I think it is so wonderful to see a school responding to research in this way. And it’s great to see a school doing something unusual and taking a risk in the hope it will benefit the children. I hope that this will prove to be a great success and that it will be adopted by other schools across the world.

No homework is already the norm in a number of countries including Finland (whose educational system our politicians reportedly salivate over without ever having the balls to copy) and the Netherlands. This frees up time for children in these countries to enjoy family time, socialising and play after school.

For many families, especially where parents work long hours, quality family time is already limited. And this is made worse by an abundance of homework sent home with children. If this practice is eating into quality family time, and serving little in the way of academic success, why are we still sending kids home with work?

My daughter isn’t yet at school, so I have no first hand experience of the parenting struggles that accompany homework. That said, I live in a house with very thin walls and know that this is an area of contention for my neighbours. Instead of spending those precious evening hours enjoying our children, we are forced to badger them about whether they’ve done their homework, no matter how exhausted they are after a long day of learning. Check out this great post by Slummy Single Mummy about why she hates homework.

The school in Manhattan suggested that parents limit screen time for their kids, and I think that is an important move. They also offered advice to parents on this issue. I think many of us are spending too much time staring at screens, I know that my daughter sees me and my husband both staring at our phones or laptops for an unhealthy chunk of the day.

Ditching homework should come hand in hand with embracing play. Not on-screen play, but actual real life play. It should be about climbing trees, building dens, messing around with friends, and chatting to your family over the dinner table. Families should be free to arrive home from work and school and simply have the time to chat. We shouldn’t be checking our emails at the dinner table, rushing to finish dinner so we can work on our maths homework, or sitting comatose in front of a screen.

Our children should be able to learn through play on their own terms. After all, they spend enough time strapped to their desks at school, can’t we at least give them control of their evenings and weekends?

What do you think about homework? Do you think it’s important for learning, or would you rather children were given more time to play?

And now for the linky… Read All About It is a place for bloggers who write about news and current affairs to link up and reach out to each other. If you’ve written a post responding to or related to a news story, whether it’s local, national or international, I would love for you to join up. All you need to do is include the linky badge (below) on your post, and fill in the form below with your post details. All linked up posts will be shared on social media. Don’t forget to have a read of the other link ups.

Read All About It

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Underwater Street Children's Discovery Centre Review

We spent Friday in Liverpool so I could attend the UK premier of Breastmilk (you can read my review here). I didn’t think my three year old daughter would want to watch a 90 minute documentary about breastfeeding, so Laurie took the day off work so that he could keep her entertained. I’d heard about Underwater Street and was keen to try it out, so Laurie took Ebony there while I watched the film.

After the film was over, I headed across to meet them. It was long after lunchtime but despite being hungry Ebony wasn’t ready to leave just yet. I think Underwater Street had too much to offer in terms of entertainment.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect at Underwater Street, I know that school trips often go there but it didn’t sound much like a museum from what I’d heard. I thought it might be a bit like Eureka before we arrived, but it’s not really, it’s more focused on play than learning, or learning through play I guess I should say.

There is a row of shops to play in, with the dog parlour being Ebony’s absolute favourite. There were lots of soft toy dogs of various sizes, dog bowls, grooming toys and leads. When I arrived Ebony was happily dragging a dog round by a lead, and I gather she’d been doing this for quite some time. There was also a little play shop with toy food and baskets as well as a check out area. And there was a post office which Ebony loved, and there were letterboxes to post the letters through, so that was a big hit.

There was also a big craft table with regular craft activities running throughout the day for no extra cost. Ebony did some painting and made some slime which she was really impressed with. There was also a full size car in a messy area what you could go in and paint, which looked like a lot of fun. There was a big water play area, with lots of different toys for pouring as well as nets, sieves and pebbles.

There was an area where you could dig for fossils, and then materials out so you could do colourings of them. One of Ebony’s favourite bits was a huge bubble you could stand in. You stood in the middle of a circle, and then pulled on a rope which lifted the circle up, creating a cylindrical bubble around you. She very much enjoyed popping it.

It’s hard to remember all of the things they had there, there really was so much stuff. The ideas were fun and simple, and it was obviously put together by some very creative people. Far better than a typical play area, there was a focus on learning through play, and lots of different things to do. It wasn't huge, but you could happily spend a few hours there playing in all the different areas and exploring everything on offer. We had a really love time, and Ebony is already excited about going back one day.

My only criticism would be the food. There was a packed lunch area that was only available to schools, but we were planning on eating in the cafe anyway. This turned out to be a bad idea because the cafe menu was pretty uninspiring. Obviously, as vegans it’s not always easy to find good food in these sorts of places, but most menus will have at least a couple of options. The menu here was quite pricey and didn’t tickle our taste buds so in the end we left and found food elsewhere (at Jamie’s Italian which I was a bit surprised to discover did pretty decent vegan food).

Underwater Street Children’s Discovery Centre is on Underwater Street (of course) and is located down near the docks in Liverpool. It was £7.95 for Ebony to attend during term time, but you can find a full list of prices here. When I arrived it was pretty quiet and Ebony didn’t have to wait to play on things, but Laurie said there had been a school trip in earlier and the whole place had been pretty busy so if you have younger kids it might be worth trying to go on a quieter day if you can.

I would absolutely recommend this as a place to visit, there are so many different things to do, and little ones (and I'm sure bigger ones) will be happily entertained for hours. It was really hard work getting Ebony to leave even though I'm sure she must have been starving!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Breastmilk The Movie & How We Talk About Breastfeeding

Last weekend was the Food For Real Film Festival in Liverpool. It was a grass roots organised event where films were being shown across the city over the weekend to raise awareness of health, sustainability and food. There were lots of different films being shown over the weekend, but the one I was interested in was called Breastmilk.

I haven’t yet seen The Business of Being Born, the documentary into childbirth practices in the US, but it looks really interesting and has been on my list (of things I want to watch one day somehow) for ages. Breastmilk is the second film by the same documentary makers. Remember Ricki Lake? She’s the producer on both films, and I’ve heard only good things about the first documentary so was looking forward to seeing the new one.

The film festival was hosting the UK’s premier of the documentary, and had secured a screen at the Odeon cinema for the occasion. One thing I learnt is that if you are partial to broodiness, going to a baby-friendly screening of a documentary about babies is not a good idea. Adorable tiny babies everywhere.

The documentary was really interesting, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in the politics surrounding breastfeeding. Though there are a lot of shots of lactating nipples that, accompanied with the soundtrack, seemed sort of sexual which was a bit weird for a documentary that seemed to be about normalising conversations about breastfeeding.

Through the film we were introduced to a number of new parents who had made different decisions of how to feed their children, as well as hearing from experts and health workers. It’s a US documentary so obviously some bits simply don’t apply over here. I have to say, whenever I learn anything new about the US maternity services or maternity leave I am just so glad I live in the UK. Things are far from ideal here, of course, and there are so many things that could be done to improve things for families, but I can’t help but feel lucky I’m not in the US.

It was interesting listen to different people’s opinions on breastfeeding, and how they perceived the problems of low breastfeeding rates, and even what they thought could be done about it. There were lots of interesting things in the documentary, but I’m not going to list them all here and ruin the film for you.

One thing that stuck with me though was one woman who talked about how the way we talk about breastfeeding has a role to play in how breastfeeding is perceived. Specifically, she spoke about how we emphasise how hard breastfeeding is, and how not everyone can do it, and we refer to breastmilk as ‘liquid gold’. She felt that this language made it seem almost unattainable, and set women up to accept that they may not overcome breastfeeding barriers. The woman talked about how in other cultures breastfeeding is the norm, it’s not seen as anything special. In those cultures, women expect to be able to breastfeed because breastfeeding is so normal.

I thought that was really interesting, and it stuck with me long after I left the cinema. I have previously stressed the difficulty of breastfeeding to pregnant friends, not to put them off, but simply to prepare them for those first few days of struggle. I remember how hard those first few days are, and how much you want to give in and abandon breastfeeding, but I think I remembered what all my friends had said about how there is a learning curve, and how it gets easier, and I think that gave me the strength to persevere.

I would worry that without having that expectation of an initial struggle, that I would have assumed I ‘couldn’t breastfeed’ when it hadn’t come quite as naturally to me as I might have liked. But, how do you find the balance between preparing a woman to expect breastfeeding to be tough, and talking about it in a way that normalises breastfeeding and makes it seem like something everyone can do?

I think the problem lies in the fact that not everyone does do it, and for those of us who struggled and persevered, there is a pride that comes from that. I do think it was hard work to battle through those difficult early days, and I’m really glad I did because I feel it was so worth it and made life so much easier in the long run.

How do you talk to pregnant friends about breastfeeding? Do you think we unwittingly make breastfeeding out to be almost unattainable?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Living Arrows 12/52

All of a sudden, my little girl is a little older. She seems to have shot up all of a sudden, and is speaking more like a little girl than the toddler who wants chattered in my ear. I am plagued by the feeling that time is disappearing, as September grows ever closer and I know she will be leaving me for education. Ordinary moments suddenly seem all the more special, as the clocks tick loudly with the passing of time, a constant reminder that our time is running out. That in September we will be rushing out of the door, desperately trying to get to school on time, and the days of leisurely breakfast chats will be behind us. 

As was bound to happen sooner or later, I didn't quite manage to get my Living Arrows post in on time last week, so I'm tacking it onto the end here. 
Living Arrows


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