Monday, 24 August 2009

Books I've been reading

Well, I've read, in fairly quick succession: The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff
and The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson and Winning Parent, Winning Child by Jan Fortune-Wood which was quite an interesting juxtaposition.
I know many people Tom Hodgkinson's style rather annoying, but as I truly think his earlier book How to be Free should be required reading for everyone, I think I would recommend it, taken with a pinch of salt. It does sound like he enjoys a bit of lying down in the sun with a beer in his hand while the kids run wild, but, hey, that's not such a bad ambition. His 'message' is quite similar to Deborah Jackson's in Letting Go as Children Grow, ie, not to get in your children's way as they go about their business, only with more drinking and ukelele-playing. It is also similar to Liedloff's account of how the Yequana Indians treat their children (and Hodgkinson recommends The Continuum Concept). I enjoyed Hodgkinson's book without it really telling me anything new, and some bits I disagreed with. But I reckon he wouldn't be too bothered about that if you met him in person. He comes across as quite affable.
I was surprised that I didn't really like The Continuum Concept. Having read many books based on its ground-breaking parenting methods, and agreed with many of the concepts within Attachment Parenting, based partly on Liedloff's suggestions (such as long-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing), I actually found this original work rather annoying. I found her style awkward and I wasn't at all sure that she had anywhere near enough evidence to back up some of the claims and assumptions she made. Other people (including Deborah Jackson, Margot Sunderland and Sue Gerhardt) have since provided plenty of hard evidence for the benefits of these things and were the basis for my adopting them, as well as my own instincts backing them, but the evidence presented in The Continuum Concept only supported her assertion that something was different about this tribe compared to Western culture - it could have been the diet, the weather, the environment, the lack of pollution, a combination of these things that made this difference, not necessarily the way children were brought up.
I also was rather uncomfortable about the apparently idyllic and 'natural' lifestyle of Liedloff's Indians (a criticism which was incidentally shared by Jan Fortune-Wood) - in that their culture was patriarchal and seemed to suppress any innovation or deviation from their culture's norms. I wondered what happened to gay people in their culture, or those who did not want or could not have children? The whole set-up seemed to be purely consisting of extended families, with women doing repetitive domestic work and men hunting. I also wondered what happened to anyone who did transgress the norms of this society? In my reading of other anthropological works it seems that the threat of being cast out of the tribe is a rather effective one in this kind of culture, and keeps people toeing the line rather well.
I was also rather ambivalent about Winning Parent, Winning Child. This book is about the consensual approach to bringing up children, also called autonomous or Taking Children Seriously (TCS). Obviously I agree that bringing up children consensually as much as possible is a good thing, and should be everyone's aim. However, I don't go as far as Jan Fortune-Wood in this book, in that I *do* have a bottom line past which I will not be pushed, as far as children are concerned, and I also *do* consider myself to be in charge. We don't go in for punishment in our household, and we do a lot of talking, explaining, reasoning and finding solutions, but there are also some (loving) rules. Fortune-Wood asserts that coercion of *any* kind, including the approaches I have just mentioned, damages children, possibly beyond repair. I find this very depressing, even though she presents no evidence for it. She also asserts that there are always solutions to every problem, even if they are only theoretical. Call me mad, but I don't find a theoretical solution remotely helpful. And now I feel a total failure in every situation in our family in which I cannot find a solution. Obviously my creative thinking is limited, as she says. And maybe I have damaged my children, but they (like adults, in my experience) are not always rational beings who will engage with problem solution. Sometimes, they are selfish, angry, grumpy children who only want what they want and will not budge an inch. Are mine the only ones? Surely not...
However, I do also recommend this book as it's always good to reminded what we should be aiming for, and challenged in our thinking.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Stuff we've been doing

The last few posts have been rather full of my thoughts, concerns, worries and hopes, so I thought this one should be a quick catch-up on the stuff we've actually been doing just in case I have given the impression of wafting around wringing my hands like Lady MacBeth!
So, houses:

My son's 'work' laid out for Granny to see (this was totally his idea!):

My daughter's work:

And finally, those Houdini caterpillars:

Some of them seem to starting to pupate now. I think a box of chysalises should be easier to look after!
Junk modelling at Home Ed Group today, so it should be interesting getting the results home on the train afterwards!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Weird head space

I feel like my head is in a very weird place right now. We've had a lot of challenges recently - my daughter is needing a lot from me, some of which neither she nor I can quite identify - and I'm finding that very draining and very difficult.
I've also been getting involved in my town's fledgling Transition Initiative and I've been finding that challenging too, on several different levels. I find it hard meeting strangers and going amongst people a lot. I also find the ideas underpinning Transition to be very scary - peak oil and climate change are presenting a huge challenge to us all right now - and now I know more about it all, I'm finding it even scarier. Transition Initiatives are all about finding a positive response to these challenges and making a better future as a result of them, but I can't help also finding the solutions a bit challenging as they involve a lot more dependence on neighbours and community, a lot more shared stuff and working together, which though I'm attracted to, I also find difficult. I'm also finding the process difficult - I can see what needs organising with our group, but I'm reluctant to take charge and organise stuff because I already feel over-extended with everything else I'm doing and really don't think I can cope with anything more right now. And yet I'm torn as this is so imortant. (When I finish reading The Transition handbook, I'll post up a more detailed discussion of its ideas)
I'm also finding our Home Ed group more work than I anticipated, in that now that it's set up I'm still organising lots of the sessions, finding new stuff for us, liaising with the local museum, checking out local scrapstores, hoping our bank account application will go through smoothly now after an intial hiccup, and lots of other stuff. Which is fine, it's still very new and other people will join in more as it all beds down, but it's just bad timing s far as the rest of my comitments go.
Not to mention my own studying, the shopping, baking, cooking, allotment etc... I need more hours in the day and much more calmness in my brain.

Friday, 14 August 2009


I've been having very mixed up thoughts on community recently. I wonder if I'm just odd or if many people have very ambivalent feelings about community and this is why people are finding it so hard to form communities these days. I find myself keen to make friends and get involved, but then suddenly it's all too much and I have to withdraw. I have a great need for space and not to feel 'invaded' and this can really conflict with my longing to belong and feel part of a community.
Recently, while thinking all this through, I had a bit of a revelation about wanting 'community', not 'communal', but I think this is only part of the story. I think I have much stricter boundaries than many people and often I've found people I don't know well making me feel under siege because they don't or can't understand my need not to be overwhelmed. Obviously we're all different, but I find many social things much harder than many people seem to, and really need to retreat to my own space or can get very depressed. I guess to find true community or even true friendship, there has to be give and take, but people's differing needs for limits and boundaries also need to be respected and therein can lie the problem.
Can anyone relate to what I'm rambling about here, or am I just going bonkers?

Sunday, 9 August 2009


So, what's with the tomatoes this year? Ours are all still green. We've got loads but they're not ripening. No blight or blossom-end rot so far (touch wood), but no ripe ones either. Other people at our allotment seem to be having the same experience, but this is very late for tomatoes to still be green. How are other people in other parts of the country doing tomato-wise?

Monday, 3 August 2009

Thoughts on Lammas

Well, here's our Lammas Loaf for this year:

And very tasty it was too. But I have been having contradictory thoughts on Lammas this year. The closer we get to the earth and the more of our own produce we grow, the less I 'feel' Lammas - at least on the set date anyway. I feel the spirit of Lammas every time I pick another courgette, make more jam, use another of our homegrown and strung onions, but I can't feel Lammas on 31st July because that is tied to the wheat harvest and we don't grow our own wheat. Obviously, it's good to remember that the wheat we eat is grown and harvested, albeit by other people, I can't feel Lammas as anything other than a reminder at the moment. My heart is with our own crops and the constant harvesting and preservation of those crops.
I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on Lammas, especially as regards their own crop-growing.