The one where I confess I’m indoctrinating my friends kids…

…because it’s true. I really am.

Those who don’t share my faith beliefs may think I’m about to confess to forcing them to read the bible, go to church, Sunday school, bible camp!


It’s in a different way. I’m encouraging them into becoming fully fledged bookworms.

Granted, I’m not around them as much as their parents and teachers. So you know, my influence is fairly minimal. But yesterday I was thinking about my two awesome godsons – the eldest of which will be NINE (yes, I’m freaking out about that) next year. The other will turn 1. Elastaboy loves a book, and though it’s tough to tell at 4 months old, it seems the Grand Duke is heading in the same direction.

"Don't let them buy anything" said their Mum. "Ummm....books don't count right?" said I.

A day out so their Mum could pack for surf camp in 2014 without ‘help’ from their youngest son (out of shot climbing on a wall). “Don’t let them buy anything” said their Mum. “Ummm….books don’t count right?” said I. (You can’t go through life without having read Charlotte’s Web in my opinion).

One of my favourite things to do with all my friends kids is read with them. It is by far my favourite part of babysitting getting to do the storytime part of the bedtime routine. I did this with my little sister who I also created stories for, and my little brother, who was so good at memorising every.single.word of his favourite books he would correct you if you didn’t get those bedtime stories word perfect. Then I had about a 10 year gap before I really got to do it again, and that was for Miss Sweetroot. It’s no secret that I was overjoyed when she fell in love with the books of Jacqueline Wilson – my favourite author as a kid. Through Miss Sweetroot I fell back in love with Children’s Literature, and took no shame in borrowing her books after she’d finished them. Because quite frankly I wanted to find out how they ended (this is the problem of only doing some bedtime routines – you miss bits of the story!). Every time I visited Elastaboy and Mr Teapot they would drag out books for me to read. And pretty much every Christmas and Birthday my friends’ kids get a book from me. As I mentioned the other week, I read to my newest godson (the Duke) and as he sat peacefully and didn’t cry I’m going to take that as a good sign.

Miss Sweetroot, now a high school student has developed the same tendencies of being found to be reading way past her bedtime, and having a constant stack of unread books because she buys more than she has time to read. Can’t think where she’s learned those bad habits from, but I fear calling her out on this would be hypocritical. Last few times I’ve seen Elastaboy, he’s opened up the book I’ve given him and completely ignored well…everyone…as he immediately started reading it. Last time I saw him in October, he got told off by his Dad for reading a book while we were sitting in a restaurant. I used to do exactly the same thing when I went shopping with my Mum – I would end up doing things like finding a spot underneath a rack of clothes or some other random corner where I could cosy up and just start reading. She also had to curtail my book buying for holidays because we

1) couldn’t afford all the books I could get through in a 2 week holiday

2) needed space in our luggage for clean clothes and beach towels.

And I’m pretty sure when I was his age, I probably got bored halfway through the meal and pulled out a book too, and hoped that by sitting at the end of a table no one would notice that I’d checked out of the grown up’s conversations.

So beware if you let your child communicate with me. They just may need a bigger bookshelf soon…




Quote of the Week 38 – Learning from the kids


I haven’t actually read The Little Prince. I remember going to see the film with my school at the Filmhouse (I think?) many moons ago. But I love this quote.

Grown-ups rarely understand anything. And it is tiresome for children to always be explaining things to them.

Children just have this way of seeing things from a unique perspective. Becoming sarcastic, jaded, prejudiced…these are all things I think that children learn. A few months ago I watched my friend’s wee girl make a friend in a bookshop cafe. The girls were from different cultures, spoke different languages, had different skin tones. They didn’t care. They just shared admiration for the ‘special toys’ that they’d been allowed by their mothers to bring with them and shared them with each other. They didn’t need words – they communicated without sharing a language and proceeded to chase each other and play around the cafe.

There are times in the last year where I’ve been down in the dumps. And usually the only people that have been able to bring me out of my funk without even trying are my friends’ kids! Whether it’s Miss Sweetroot sending me a picture excited about the teeny koala she got free in the latest edition of the Jacqueline Wilson Magazine, the Jambino making me go down the slide designed for under 10s at the Zoo, Princess Monkey crowning me with a pink sequinned cowboy hat, Mr Teapot showing me his newest gymnastics tricks or the Mini Kahuna telling us he doesn’t think he can be the next Jon Foreman because he plans to be a Power Ranger…yep. Kids are just awesome.

I’ve lost count of the times their wisdom has thrown me. Miss Sweetroot and Elastaboy have always been particularly gifted at catching me off guard with their questions or commentary on the world. It does not shock me to see how people are learning from Robby Novak (aka Kid President) and his guide to being awesome. Nor does it shock me to see how much people are learning from a frank and articulate wise teenager called Malala Yousafzai (I wonder if Malala grows tired from all the explaining to the “grown ups” she is still having to do).

So often, we can look at kids and think what they are doing is crazy. Yet we watch and wait and somehow it can all end up making perfect sense once we stop looking at it from our weary adult perspective and look at it from theirs.

Something we should maybe do a lot more often…



BK’s YouTube Picks: The Pinky Show

Last year while studying educational theory, one of our lecturers showed us this video. Ivan Illich’s book Deschooling Society was probably one of the few uni books I actually read from cover to cover last year. At first I was defensive, but the more I think about how institutionalised education has become the more I agree.

Now about once a term one of my Rangers or Guides has to stop coming because of the amount of homework they have to do. After spending 7 hours at school. Part of this is that learning that would be far better done outside of a classroom situation is now being expected of teachers on top of teaching their subjects. Part of it is the ridiculous government assessments that are expected all year round which take up so much of teacher and pupil time.

Non formal learning is so important, it makes me angry that our government don’t give space for kids to take part in it. Why can’t school be left at school?!

Apart from the fact that so many children don’t have the support they need to do work at home. Yes, the ability to learn is important, but so often it is dependent on the resources at home and it puts privileged kids at an unfair advantage.

I have had so many young people come through school education believing they are destined to be unsuccessful because their skills and gifts are not developed in a classroom situation. They are the kids who struggle to read or are terrified of public speaking. And the most worrying part is that education has become about learning a list of facts decided by government workers and achievement is assessed on ability to memorise, agree with and spew back facts taught to them. Children are not taught that they can have a different opinion or that other people may have a different take on things. Perhaps the only exception is Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies, and even then they try and get kids to learn ‘facts’ about religions and worldviews that are simplistic and not representative of reality.

Surely, this is a problem. And I wonder how we solve it…a new take on learning and education needs to be found.

Because stating that what a words a kid should be able to recognise or which times tables they need to memorise by a particular age is not education.

(In my opinion).