Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Motherfunker's Guide to...... Groovy Kids albums: Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of Motherfunker's Guide to Groovy Kids albums! There are so many that we love and I wanted to share some of them with you. Over the coming weeks, you'll be taken on a musical journey and hopefully come across some music you hadn't come across or might enjoy listening to with your kids. There's going to be a whole bunch of different styles and sounds from around the world going on here. A right old eclectic mix up.

I would really love to hear about your favourite kids albums, and why you love 'em. What do you boogie to together? What do you sing at the top of your voices? Please share! You can send me your own review which I will include here on future posts in the Motherfunker's Guide to Groovy Kids albums in a Readers Faves section of all future guides. You can send your review to me at onelittlebuffalogirl@hotmail.com

Let me begin with a few of our favourite albums.

'See you on the moon'. is a fantastic wee indie compilation. A big old mash up of styles and sounds and moods and subjects. Folky, punky, electronic, harmonious and even downright chaotic tracks, all mixed together on this genius piece of recording. LOVE it. The opening track is called 'Be nice to people with lice'. What's not to love? Sufjan Stevens, Kid Koala, Hot Chip... it's all good. Don't buy this if you only like your children's music to be quiet and sweet, you'll be disappointed. There'll be some gorgeous albums being reviewed here that tick that box on my later guides. Promise.

Snacktime, by the Barenaked ladies is a wonderful, silly journey of songs for children with heart and humour from a bunch of Canadian fellas. I especially love the snacktime trio of songs, which crease me up every time I hear them. Irreverent and lovable stuff. There's even a mini Pink Floyd moment on one track, which is always good with me.

Now then, now then, now then. Here's another beaut, and British this time. Hurray!

'Colours are brighter' was dreamed up by Belle and Sebastian, the proceeds go to Save The Children, and the tracks are stonkingly good. Tracks from Belle..., The Flaming Lips, Franz Ferdinand, Ivor Cutler Trio, Divine Comedy, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Barcelona Pavilion, to name just some of them but... by 'eck they're ALL good. Really, they are. Here's a rather groovy vid to go with the song Go go Ninja Dinosaur, which I didn't know existed until just now! Love it.

Happy listening folks! By the way, I wrote a piece on the importance of music in education, you can read it here:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Give an Earthly: How to be a Super Woman: Meet Motherfunker!

Feeling very honoured to do this for Mama Earthly :-)

Give an Earthly: How to be a Super Woman: Meet Motherfunker!: "1. Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself I'm a home-educating mama to four boys, aged 2, 5, 8, and 9 and my real name is Paula Cleary. A few yea..."

Saturday, 25 June 2011

What do they do all day?

I often wonder what people make of our alternative lifestyle. I mean, there's one thing homeschooling, it's another thing to do very, very, little "schoolwork". To outsiders, I wonder if the big vision is unseen, hidden out of view. Whether it just looks like chaos!

Well it actually is chaos a fair bit of the time! Brothers will fight. Boys will be boys. They get mad at each other, jump on each other, get in each others hair. They don't have loads of opportunity to escape from each other, so they tease and wind each other up and poke and annoy. As a girl who was raised with one sister, and lots of female cousins, there wasn't a lot of testosterone action going on when I was their age, so I find the outpouring of emotions quite extreme sometimes. The boys get really mad at each other. They have to raise their voices to be heard above one another, they vie for mine and each other's attention in frustrating and often LOUD ways! Pete was the youngest of three boys, and in spite of mindfully peaceful parents, they fought and pinned each other down and wound each other up too. I guess its just a boy thing.

But this is of course not all they do all day! Inbetween wrestling and so on we have packed in quite a bit this year.

* Had archery lessons

* Attended a course of 6 Ukulele lessons

* Been camping

* Been to several home ed Sports Hall sessions with 30 kids at a time

* Planned and grown a veg plot, mostly from seed

* Been on loads of farm visits, including a ride on a tractor/trailer

* Joined a lovely new Home Ed group in Ely

* Had friends to stay for a few weekends here and there, some with children, some without

* Been on theatre trips to see Private Peaceful, Ruthless Romans (Horrible Histories Live), Awful Egyptians (also HH live), and Science Museum Live

* Starred in a play at Bewilderwood, playing lead parts

* Had a family 'holiday at home' with Granny and Granddad and their uncle on vacation to us from the USA, including a further trip to Bewilderwood (lucky so-and-so's!)

* Had a few sleepovers

* Hung out with our teenage friend Nicole once a week every week. She has taught science lessons to the children, they have grown crystals, dyed chrysanths, made bath bombs and massage bars, experimented with home-chemistry ingredients

* Spent the day at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, where BBC's 'Springwatch' is filmed.

* Visited our local Butterfly and Wildlife park

* Played independently at the park with friends

* Visited Norfolk Lavender/Farmer Freds Play Barn a couple of times with a large group of friends

* Been away for a weekend to Brighton, where we visited the Sea Life Centre, met up with family and friends, and were treated to sunday roast at other friends on our journey home.

* We've had various friends round to play for the afternoon or day.

* We learnt about Etheldreda on an Ely Cathedral trip.

* We attended a Commemoration service for Katharine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral, with readings in Spanish, songs and costumed re-enactors, and were lucky enough to have a 1:1 lesson in Tudor costumery and custom.

* We celebrated our friends life and mourned her death.

* We welcomed the arrival of a new baby girl in our friendship circle.

* We have played and built and made and sung and danced and laughed and cried and listened and read and fought and painted.

* Walked our dog for miles and miles

* Had to be extra patient waiting for our van to be fixed when it went into the garage for more 2 months. It was hard!

* Spent a bit of time being cared for by Granny, whilst I did Doula training, whilst Pete and I went to a wedding, and also whilst went to Norwich for a weekend.

We've had some great days so far this year, some ok ones, and some rotten ones.

And still to come...

* Finn is going on a 'Young Inventors' holiday for a whole 7 days, away from all that is safe and dear, very grown up! He doesn't know anyone on the holiday and isn't fazed in the least!

* We are going camping in Somerset for iccle Miss. Betty's (our God-daughter) 1st birthday party weekend.

* Going to HESFES, a home educators week-long festival with a staggering amount of really cool workshops and activities for children.

* Going camping in Autumn in Norfolk with a group of friends.

* The ***possibility*** for a french student to come and live with us for a couple of weeks this summer to improve her English. TBA.

* Summer sports classes

* Who knows?

Our life is difficult to measure in terms of tick-boxed curricula. The children's education is broad and spread out over a myriad of activities, encounters, conversations, contrived set-ups, accidental happenings, and out-of-the-blue opportunities that present themselves to us. We might have maths lessons at 9pm one evening, perhaps born out of a conversation or practical/logistical problem we need to solve. We might have an intense geography lesson before breakfast which comes about as a result of an interesting conversation or line of questioning by one of the children, and ending up as a "lets get the atlas out" moment. The children surprise us by choosing to listen to history, by never tiring of certain things (lego, or Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter on audio). Learning happens ALL THE TIME.

How do your homeschool days look? If you have boys maybe you have some great strategies you can share to minimise the boy-fights?! Would love to hear your ideas/thoughts/experiences!!!

Friday, 24 June 2011

There's only one everything!

Have you ever listened to They Might Be Giants music for kids?

They do an album called Here come the 123's.

It's a mathematical journey, a little like Schoolhouse Rock. It's a whole load of cheesy in some respects and yet, beautifully simple and profound in others.

One of my favourite songs is this one right here. It's called 'One everything'

Philosophical ideas aren't exactly what you would usually encounter in a counting song for kids, yet this seems to beautifully embrace just that - the concept of oneness, the concept of the interconnectedness of the everything, the fact that " If you go out and count up everything, it all adds up to ONE". How many maths albums have you heard that contain the words "We share the same omniverse"?

And I think this fact gets a little lost on us on a daily basis. We divide ourselves by class, by status, by jobs, by how we dress, what music we listen to - by a myriad of choices. We are so busy with our little cliques, distinguishing ourselves from THEM or THE OTHERS, defining ourselves as being like these guys or definitely not like those ones!

How easy to forget the accident of our birth. That we could have been born into a different family, class, part of the world, religion. That we could have been born to movie stars, murderers, sports personalities, queens, or beggars. And yet under our veils we really are all potentially the same, made of flesh and blood and emotion. We breathe the same air, drink the same water. We have the same potentiality, given the right cocktail of ingredients or circumstances we too could have turned out beggars, queens, sports stars, murderers or movie stars.

Recently I was with two other homeschooling families at a local park, and between us we have a bunch of boys who have hair ranging from short short to shoulder length. We had been happily enjoying a picnic and the children were all playing on the large skate ramps. When school finished, a wave of boys arrived in the playground and the tone completely changed as a string of abuse began, right in front of us, to our surprise and (mild) horror.

They were shouting stuff along the lines of "Hey gaybos. You must be girls 'cos your hair is long. Are you gypsies? Bet you're really stupid 'cos you don't go to school. Bla bla bla... (c*nting this and c*nting that)"

In short, OBNOXIOUS, jumped up, horrid little mouthy brats.

And they seemed very perplexed that we were obviously so different to them in how we dressed (ie, colourfully and not in uniform of any kind), and that we didn't fit into their worldview. One kid in particular just couldn't get his head round us at all, especially as our boys were polite, didn't say c*nt every other word, and had longish hair. Finn got so wound up with them in the end that after being taunted for a good 1/2 hour he whopped his pants down to prove his manhood!!!

I felt pretty sad that our guys had to suffer the abuse of these kids, and after letting them sweat it out some, we adults reluctantly got involved. But mediating didn't help either.... they just got even more cocky and sweary. We tried to say "hey, why does everyone have to look and do the same thing? Can't you accept that the world is made up of all sorts of people?"

Maybe those kids went to bed that night and thought about it a little. Maybe they realised they'd been arrogant and rude. Maybe their parents were neglectful, or swore constantly at them, or were very emotionally distant middle class folks who don't ever swear or hug their kids. We'll never know.

But walking away from that situation made me aware that our kids do share the same world as others who will be spiteful, who maybe aren't so fortunate as them, who won't see that it takes all sorts.

It really does take all sorts, and showing empathy and love to others who are rude and hurting is a hard lesson to learn. Any of us could be rude or hurting or afraid of otherness like these boys, we all have that potential.

I hope that my kids will feel able to empathise with folks from all walks of life, wherever they've come from, however horrid they may behave towards them, as there really is only one everything, and we're all part of it together!!!

Since this song is also about our interconnectedness, I thought it would be a nice one to leave on for tonight


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Love is all around

Ah hello, long time, no post!

How are you?

We have been soaking up a week with our brother-in-law who has been over to see us from his home in St. Augustine in Florida, and basking in the afterglow of our lovely lovely friends wedding down in Brighton at the weekend. Four days of staying in hotels with a large bunch of old pals, happy happy people, glad to be together.

Now when I say happy happy, I don't mean we are all walking around in a delirium all the time. Or that sad stuff doesn't happen to any of us. That we don't have our own heartbreaks and tragedies. Of course not. But for me, such occasions are magic times.

Four days of hugging and smiling, laughing and drinking are just what the doctor ordered, for me, anyway! But it goes deeper than that.

I am lucky enough to have some of the most fantastic friends you could ever wish for. Joyful. Forgiving. Hedonistic. Loving. Creative. Funny!

And for me, life doesn't get much better than enjoying my crazy brood and having some time out with old pals to share secrets, shed tears, hug and dance like loons, and simply appreciate our brief time on this planet together. We hold each other tightly and very loosely at the same time. We dance in and out of each others lives rather than cling to one another. We are very close, but with BIG breathing spaces between us.

I was talking to one friend about home education at the weekend and about what kids need to know in life. He laid it out very simply.

Keep a smile on your face and be nice to everyone.

And that is the plain truth, condensed into those 11 magic words.

I was going to do a 'debating whether to homeschool or not' post for mrs Dreaming Aloud, but I think she has answered that question for herself.

All our kids need, all any of us needs, really, is love. Everything, EVERYTHING else is fairly inconsequential....

Love conquers all things.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Out of the closet


Thanks for being here. You guys keep coming back to read my blog and I'm thrilled.

I see you checking me out in Australia, Alaska, America, Czech republic, Poland, Spain, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy and Russia, besides here in good old Blighty.

I know a whole bunch of people who are reading my blog, cos I see them in person, but as for the rest of you, well I'm feeling really happy that you keep coming back, whoever you are, in spite of my unsophisticated blogginess. I am still faffing with trying to find the right camera leads to upload more pics.... and you are still reading anyway.

Thank you. I love you all. I appreciate your silent support and readership, even if you don't feel up to leaving a comment. It's ok, I don't mind. I can see from my stats that you are coming back for more, so I must be getting something right.

I want to do some more posts about stuff that really matters to you, and would love to open things up and get some of your ideas and input.

Maybe you have some burning questions about home education, or want help with identifying more resources or authors?

Maybe you'd like to hear more on the Doula thang?

What matters to you? What do you wanna talk about?

How about you come out of your closet and lay some questions/ideas on my table?

Go on!

Possible posts:

* Motherfunker's completely biased list of the best indie music albums for kids.
* What is unschooling?
* What does a Doula dou?

I thought I'd give you folks an option, but I'll go ahead and do one/all of these anyway at some point or another!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The circle of life...

Ah, what an emotional day.

Today I held a very special bundle in my arms, a beautiful girl, new and tiny and at the start of her life on this earth.

And on this very same day I had a dream in the night. I dreamt of my friend Brenda, that we embraced and in doing so a river of pink light came from me, a river of pure love and life force energy, and it rose out of me and flowed right into her. She was smiling and thanking me for giving her some.

This morning I heard she had died in the night.

I want to tell you about Brenda. She was very special. A kind, listening, human touch kind of GP, who for years ran a holistic practise from her own home till her partners went all mainstream on her. They couldn't cope with her hippy ideas of healing love and energy. After battling with ovarian cancer whilst still a young woman, she had a hysterectomy. She was given a few months to live. She thought that cancer away, I swear. Later on in her life, she got leukemia. She was told the same. Again, she just thought it away, and did lots of energy work. In her early 60's she had a double mastectomy, and again, was told she only had a few months to live. I have never met anyone so stubborn or strong in my life.

She was a lady who believed strongly in god. And yet she also had a witchy streak and believed in the power of crystals, and did all kinds of energy work. She was a journey worker, helping many friends by phone for hours on end in the small hours, and in person. She radiated passion, and lived fearlessly. And she died with such grace in the end. She just got too tired this time round.

All day I have been waiting for a text from her. I just knew there was one. I don't know HOW, it was in my gut. And sure enough, it came.

She wrote the following:

"Don't cry for me. I am only in another room. Rather seek comfort from all who love you and care for you in the unconditional love you all share your comfort. We will meet again beyond this time and space. All blessings and love and thanks for what we shared this lifetime. X. Brenda."

The doctors do not know how she lived this long, since her entire body was absolutely riddled with cancer. They kept saying it wasn't possible for her to walk, that it shouldn't be possible. Yet her heart and mind never became poisoned, right til the end. She believed in the impossible. She was never bitter. She did not do self-pity. She was just an angel, bathed in pink light when I last saw her.

She was very much in my thoughts when I wrote my post about rebirth and renewal, and she read it and said she loved it. I wrote it about my life but was mindful about her next journey, the next chapter on her path. Her new threshold was death. She faced it bravely.

I hope I can live and die so beautifully, with such grace. Farewell, my beautiful friend. Thank you for everything. You helped me more than you can know. XXXXX .