Let’s Get Rid of Homework

As both a parent and a teacher I have always debated the value of homework.  There have been a few things this week that have happened that have swung my viewpoint.

On Tuesday evening I casually asked my son, you know the one being treated for leukaemia if he had any homework.  His reply was, “Yes, but it doesn’t have to be in until next week, I’ll do it on Sunday afternoon”.  On one hand, I’m proud that he is able to manage his time well enough and can put aside time when he will feel more refreshed to tackle it. On the other hand, I feel sidelined that precious family time at the weekend is being eaten in to by school work.  I, of course, did not say this to him as I want him to respect education and his teachers, however, I cannot help but feel less and less supportive of the endless homework tasks which intrude our personal lives.

As a parent, it is our responsibility to nurture our child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities by helping them develop and hone the knowledge and skills they need to reach developmental milestones and progress further.  This can be achieved through directed modelling, teaching and guidance and as a product of our inherent values, behaviour and lifestyle.  I believe that as parents, we should support and encourage a love of learning and curiosity in the world around us through exploration and enquiry.

I have seen and experienced that the relentless setting of homework can obliterate this desire to learn, instead of replacing it with immense stress and pressure for the child and the family.

I met with a young man today who was concerned about an argument he had with his Mum the previous evening; the trigger was that he was unable to access the homework he had been set.  I saw a post from an exasperated parent on Facebook asking for help about a Year 7 Science homework.  Another parent in the supermarket asking how he can help his son who consistently has meltdowns about his homework tasks not being good enough – but why?  Because he sees his 5-year-old peers take in pieces of art clearly designed and made by the parents.  For him, his attempt on his own just doesn’t quite look as good no matter what his parents say.

I have worked with families where there are 2 adults and 4 children living in a two-bedroom flat – where can they complete homework?  Families with no access to paper let alone resources to make a Tudor House.  Families where both parents work who want to spend time enjoying their children rather than completing sterile and useless MyMaths tasks, or those plain and dull worksheets which are given purely to tick a box.

Homework is killing our children’s love of learning.  Are we not meant to be preparing our children for the world of work?  What other occupation, apart from teaching, are you expected to complete work beyond your hours of work?  Yet, we expect our young children to do this.  This concept of homework is even more difficult for children who are on the autistic spectrum to comprehend – school work should be completed at school right?

As a parent and a teacher, I tow the line about homework but I am becoming increasingly opposed to it.  I am more than happy to go through spellings or times tables in the car or whilst we are out for a walk.  If my children show interest in a particular topic or issue we will discuss it or research it in more depth.  We will talk about political and social issues, we will write letters and stories that have meaning, we will draw a beautiful image representing the day we have had.  This is far more meaningful than trying to recreate a Tudor House.

I do believe that work beyond the classroom becomes relevant and important as children embark on their GCSE and A Levels.  Children do need to develop skills of research and inquiry for further study and success in the workplace.  I also believe that there is an argument for determined practice but this needs to be driven from within and a desire to learn and succeed; not a product of relentless persuasion from a parent.    Children do need to develop skills of time management and meeting deadlines and this can be mastered in time, as they approach adulthood and independence.  Imagine the enthusiasm if the concept of home learning and individual inquiry started at 14 years old rather than 4 years old.  Unfortunately, by the time children reach GCSE, homework has become an arduous task with little meaning or benefit.  It is purely a task which has to be endured; there is no investment or passion.

Let our kids be kids when they are not at school.  Let our kids explore the world around them.  Let them simply enjoy time with their friends and their families.

We need to remove the unnecessary pressure and stress of homework.  We need to allow children to enjoy and relish the precious time they have beyond the classroom.  We need to liberate our children to enjoy the fun and freedom in life.

Homework

Advertisements

Life is Cruel

In the last 24 hours, another family and community have been ripped apart by the devastating news that a young girl has died from cancer.

The statistics tell us that cancer in children is rare – it feels far from that at the moment.

I had the pleasure of teaching this young lady and meeting her at an oncology review.  Her wide smile, forgiving eyes and determination told the world that she would do all she could to beat her diagnosis.  I thought she would.  Heartbreakingly, she didn’t. As is the case for so many children.

Daisy will always have a special place in my heart along with Alice and Ernie who have also passed away this year.  Their smile,  determination and passion will be buried deep in my soul.

These wonderful, special and unique children will live forever in our memories.

But they should not have gone so soon.

They will always be missed.

Life is Cruel.

#Daisy #Alice #Ernie #Jack #Ciara #Gaia

Daisy

 

 

 

Back from my Blogging Holiday!

It’s been so long since my last blog and this has been a conscious decision following Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  The response to my #ablogaday was phenomenal and thank you to everyone who contributed and all who engaged with it.  What I was not prepared for was the emotional toll that came with it.

Throughout September I was inundated with blogs from friends, family and virtual friends who all wrote enlightening and inspiring pieces straight from the heart.  Of course, I had to read and edit blogs where necessary, I hadn’t thought this bit through.  At the beginning, it was fine but as the days went on, the rawness and honesty in these blogs started to weigh me down.  It was the hurt and the pain that so many people carry round with them that hit my heart.  On 25th September #ablogday stopped.  In all honesty I think a was waiting for Mr Brown to contribute, and once he had my pursuit was over.  I needed a holiday so I packed up my Blog and spent some time away.

I’m back with a new haircut and everything!  I’m back and really looking forward to writing again.  I’m back recharged and emotionally back on form.  One thing that makes me so proud of Mrs Brown’s Blogs is the positive engagement that takes place and the supportive platform it offers others.  This is want I now want to build on.  Whilst Childhood Cancer is still part of our lives and always will be, I want to move away from it being the main emphasis of my writing.  I now want to explore the myriad of parenting and family experiences that we all enjoy/despair of each day.  There will of course be the added dimension that my son is in treatment for leukaemia but all families have their unique dimension.  And that is what is so wonderful about us all.  We can all celebrate our achievements, worries and concerns – none are more significant than others, it’s all about perspective.

I’m so pleased to be back and look forward to sharing my thoughts and feelings about the crazy and often confusing world around us.  I have plans to explore behaviour as communication, our daily routines and how we goal set for ourselves and our family.  I want to start to combine my emotional journey with my experience as an educator to explore the everyday nuances of life.

I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey.  I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to be excited again – Let’s chat about and enjoy those small things!

 

fullsizeoutput_21a1
Majorca October 2017 – A Blogger’s Holiday

 

#beinghuman by Rose Driscoll

Doing the dishes is something I hated doing, it made me feel like a non-stop washing machine I felt anything but human while doing this despised chore.  Oh, how I loathed a full sink no matter how many times I cleared it the sink would still be full by the end of each day.

Most days I did everything I could to avoid the mess, putting it off, I even thought of buying a dishwasher but even then I would still need to load them.

I thought doing the dishes was pulling me away from the things that really mattered like spending time with my boys it was also pulling me away from things I enjoyed like reading, watching tv, going out…all I could see was this never-ending full sink.

However, since Isaiah got sick my views have been changed as these few months I’ve felt like a robot going through the motions to help Isaiah survive. I’ve had to do a lot of things that I would happily rather do the dishes than doing them. Nowadays I feel the most human when I’m standing at my sink with a cloth in my hand and elbows deep in fairy liquid washing dishes beings me back a sense of normality in a very chaotic chapter of my life.
Being human is doing things you really don’t want to do even the dishes which I now embrace with welcoming arms.

#beinghuman

washing up

 

Life’s Firsts

When we’re born it’s all about our firsts.  Our first poop, our first smile, our first sleep through the night.  Then we celebrate the first step, the first word, the first day at school.  It’s all about firsts.

As we get older those firsts dwindle but they are still as important.  The first date, the first job, the first baby.  They are still there but less often.  That is until some form of trauma or loss occurs.

I now find myself relishing firsts in the same way as I did when the children were first-born.  Since Felix’s diagnosis, firsts have become all-encompassing; the first haircut, the first birthday, the first Christmas.  We are currently increasing clinic visits to three weeks for the first time, Felix got winded for the first time yesterday, we are soon to go on our first holiday abroad since Felix was diagnosed.

When we are growing, these firsts are exciting and exhilarating.  This time around I approach these firsts with caution and trepidation.  I can remember last year as the first Christmas loomed upon us – I was pleased and relieved to see it come and go.  The seconds are easier, this is now the #newnormal.

This occupation we have with firsts are apparent not only following trauma but also through loss.  Any first moment, experience or occasion without a loved one is significant and tough.  My heart goes out to all of those experiencing firsts through loss.

We all have and do live through these firsts.  When we are younger, firsts tended to be emblazoned with happiness and delight.  As we get older our firsts become shrouded in hope and resilience.  It is this hope and resilience that is #beinghuman.  In the most emotionally charged moments, we survive.  We survive because we are driven by our inner soul and our we are motivated by our mindset. We know that we have to live through these firsts before they become a last.

As our first foreign holiday approaches, I am drawing on everything that is #beinghuman so that I enjoy and relish how lucky we are to have this first.  I have to bury my worries and caution and replace my feelings with the happiness and delight that I remember from those wonder years.

I really can’t wait for the second though!

#beinghuman #doit #blogit

Life's firsts

 

 

#BeingHuman ~ A Guest Post by Sarah Burbidge #2

The Heathrow airport scene in Love Actually is what being human means to me. The hugs and the excitement of being reunited with those you care for, being loved and supported. Whenever I walk through the airport gates at a UK airport, I always feel that someone will be waiting for me, which is silly as I’ve got my train ticket booked and everyone will be working!!
I suppose the thought arises as you’ve been away and you are sure you’ve been missed or hope someone missed you.
We do need love to feel human, be this from family, friends or just having someone there to look out for you.
What if due to circumstance you don’t have that, if you choose a life of solitude, does this make you less human?  In my opinion yes it does, but a Buddhist monk would disagree.
You need positive connections to feel human.
Charities are set up to support those who don’t have support from others. If they didn’t have this then they must hate the world. Surely this is when drug abuse,  violence or/and you get radicalised into a group who latch into your ill beliefs and situation.
When I hear stories of terrorist or racist violence these people to me are not human. I’ve googled the definition of humanity many times in recent years, trying to comprehend ‘why someone would take someone’s life’. Within the headlines, bombers are often called cowards. Does this mean that to be human you need courage, I think so.
We started on this planet fighting with dinosaurs didn’t we and sending our husbands off to hunt for food for our families and fight for our country. That must have taken a lot of courage on both sides.
You need courage to feel human.
I’ve talked about terrorists, but what about bullies are they human? Yes they are, they are humans making mistakes, based on people making mistakes on them.  But if you don’t follow my moral code then no you are not human as you lack compassion and empathy.
You need to show compassion and empathy to be human.
But what if you lack the skill to show empathy. What do you become? What if you don’t have the ability to feel, see, touch. Are you less human?
No no you are still human on a different/unique scale to most.
So in summary being human is to exist with other humans and appreciate the world and beauty around you on whatever scale that may be.
Thanks Kerry for making me think 🙂 however I don’t think I’ve got an answer…..
fullsizeoutput_ea5

A Guest Post #BeingHuman #blogit #1

I was recently asked if I was interested in supplying a blog for a fellow oncology mum’s blog page. She’s a highly respected and successful blogger so it’s nice to be able to get to a wider audience and increase my own visibility, but truth be told that isn’t the reason that I chose to write. I’ve mulled over the topic for a while thinking of what angle I can take on the topic, coming up with some ideas but nothing really felt right or held any cadence, that is until 10 minutes ago when I got a text from a young chap I met at the weekend – calm down, much more harmless than you think!

You see, we were at a charity event called the LimbPower Junior Games which is an annual event at Stoke Mandeville Sports Centre. It’s a sporting event for those with limb difference, in which children get to try a vast range of adaptive and inclusive sports. We went last year, when M was just finished chemotherapy and was only just coming to terms with being an above knee amputee. The whole family participated and loved it so much that we were determined to go back again this year. It is a fab day and LimbPower really is a worthwhile and forward-thinking charity, so if you know someone who has limb difference (congenital or acquired) they are worth looking up (limbpower.com).

Danny spent a considerable amount of time chatting to M and discussing how she can communicate more effectively with our Enablement Centre in order to get the most from the provision of a sports limb. He has since texted me asking for further contact details so that he can forward information to help us in selecting limb components etc, and it was then that I had my lightbulb moment (which M will find even more amusing as only this morning as I was driving her to school she asked what I was doing with a lightbulb in the car’s centre console “Do you hold this up above your head Mum, and wait for a great idea?”, “Oh if only it were that simple Love” I replied – but I think she might have a point, so I might not remove it just yet!!).

But Danny’s text today made me realise the ‘being Human’ has what has gotten us through M’s cancer / amputation … Being human to me, is about having frailties, recognising them in yourself and seeking help, but also supporting others. There have been so many individuals who have picked us up, comforted, shown love, care, compassion and thoughtfulness to us (all started out as complete strangers – many have become trusted friends and caring advocates). These connections were often forged when we are least expecting them and probably when we most needed it. I personally don’t believe in divine intervention but to clumsily paraphrase … maybe there ‘are’ more things in Heaven and Earth than in my philosophy. All I know is when I needed strength and guidance it came to me – through human contact and interaction. It only takes a few moments looking at current global events to be reminded of the quote “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping’” F. Rogers.

I also feel that truly ‘being human’ is contagious. I see first-hand those that have been helped reaching out and helping others, through charities or trusts, bereaved oncology parents go forward with their grief and try to make a difference to those who are still going through treatment, those who are widowed set up groups to elicit further ongoing support … the list goes on. Behind every charity or support group you encounter I believe there will be individuals who have experienced pain and loss and want to assist others.

For me too it is also becoming important to contribute and support others, feeling united by our common experiences and with that aim of trying valiantly to help and support those who are going through similar circumstances. I didn’t choose to become an oncology mum, but now that I am, I have developed a skill set and experience base that strengthens my daily life. I know what diagnosis day feels like, what surgery day fears are, and how every x-ray brings ‘scanxiety’, and I have learned many techniques in coping and not coping. These have been born out of the human beings that have surrounded me through my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment and beyond.

So, my reason for doing this blog is for someone I have not yet met, but I feel to be a kindred spirit who has soul, grit, love and smidgen of vulnerability, whom has listened and counselled me and who I know will continue to do so, and therefore I feel universally lucky to have this fellow human being as my friend.

20171003_150029

 

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month ~ a daily reminder of how shit childhood cancer is.

I am emotionally drained by Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

This is somewhat ironic I know.   I have done all I can to shout as loud as I can yet it has taken its toll and we’re not even at the end of the month yet.

The honesty of the contributors and rawness of the blogs have hit hard and after 25 days I feel completely exhausted by the emotional impact.  This begs me to question the impact of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I have found the constant reminder on social and mainstream media quite difficult to bear.  At the beginning I was inspired to do all I could to raise awareness; today I feel emotionally spent.  The constant reminders of the pain, suffering and turmoil that families go through are too much.  We are too close.

We were just getting to the stage where, occasionally, I could forget that Felix is still treatment.  The intense period of treatment was turning into a distant memory and the future was looking positive.  I didn’t think #ablogaday through at all.  Every day in September I have had to revisit emotions and feelings that I had worked hard to suppress and bury.  What a muppet I am!

Therefore I am opting to end my #ablogaday today.  We did well – 26 days of back to back blogging (well apart from 16th September which was Ru’s birthday and I forgot!).  I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt contributions, comments and messages.  I think we have done what I hoped we would which is getting people talking about childhood cancer.

However, I’m done with talking about it for now for a while.  Childhood Cancer is a wretched thing which only causes trauma and grief.  I need to talk about something else.  I have loved receiving blogs from people and I hope you guys will continue to be empowered to write as I believe it can help us make sense of this world and support the healing process.  Therefore, I would like to continue to invite people to contribute their blogs for publishing on Mrs Brown’s Blogs.  With this in mind, I declare that October will be dedicated to blogging about #beinghuman.  What does #beinghuman mean to you?  Who best demonstrates #beinghuman?  Where do you observe #beinghuman?  Please share your insights and philosophy – no rules, constraints or formula – just subjectivity, relatively and creativity!  To contribute to #beinghuman, please send your blogs to mrskabrown@yahoo.co.uk.

I can’t wait to hear from you all; there is an abundance of talent and inspiration hidden in the world around us.  Please share for us all to enjoy!

Thank you for your continued support, love and compassion – it means the world!

Mrs Brown's Blogs

 

In Praise of a Bombay Badboy ~ A Guest Blog by Mr Brown

I’m not a fussy person. I tend to get on with things. Not wanting to make a fuss. It would appear, however, that I have a sort of mental ‘Room 101’ residing in my head. If the world could hear my thoughts, I think I would be banished to a small, undeveloped desert island. Population of 1. Me.

One thing I do very well is worry. I’m one of life’s habitual, perpetual, unashamed worriers. I can’t quite tell you when it came on, it’s just always been there. When I was at school it revolved around Friday spelling tests and being late. Both of these have remained with me into adult life. Thank God that Bill Gates got together with some other like-minded individuals and invented an automatic spell checker. Without which, yuu wood stugl to make aani sens of this. (See what I did there)

Lateness is another one of my pet hates, I really can’t stand it. Lateness in any form tells me one of two things. One, you are disorganised and live in a chaotic world so unpredictable you struggle to factor in simple things like ‘travel time’, ‘traffic’, ‘telephone calls’, ‘dressing oneself’ or even ‘applying makeup’. Any of which could derail a secured meeting time by at least half an hour. The second is that you simply don’t care enough.

Other things I don’t like include complicated coffee. I make great pains to order a white coffee in any coffee shop that will have me. If my request is met with complicated embellishments, I order tea. English breakfast tea for one. As for needing my name, I have no idea why. If I was planning on running from the shop, completing a half marathon and then returning, I’d leave a name and possibly reheating instructions. Oh, and an approximate time. I’d hate to be late and keep them waiting.

Hospitals also used to be on my hit list. How many times do people say ‘they hate hospitals’? I used to say the same thing. Hospitals, awful places. Needless to say, I’ve changed my opinion.  Hospital buildings appear cold, austere almost soulless in the way their erect frames dominate the skyline. I remember visiting hospitals when I was younger. Often because an elderly relative had been taken ill. I rarely, if ever had to visit a youngster. A child.

You see hospitals are for the old, the infirm. They aren’t really designed for children. But look beyond the walls and you see true miracles. Miracles being performed in an almost perfunctory manner. Not by superheroes, but by normal folk. With normal names like ‘Jane’, ‘Martin’ and ‘Jo’. They go about their everyday business with calmness, respect and passion. A passion to make a difference to young people’s lives. To all our lives.
Without these heroes, hundreds of children and hundreds more parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties and friends, would be staring into the abyss alone. Unsure about what to do next. What might or might not happen to their loved one.

If ever you find yourself complaining about the surgery running late, or the appointment needing cancelling, it doesn’t change the fact that the people who work in the NHS are my heroes. They have saved my son, on more than one occasion. They were there when all my children came into the world. They will be there for you when you need them. So don’t worry. They are ace.

I guess the title of this blog appears slightly detached from the content so far, but bear with me for just a little longer. Pot Noodles are oddly one of my guilty little pleasures in life. Simple, satisfying, warming and easy to make. It’s also fantastic how little washing up is created. I have lost count of the number and variety of these humble noodles in a cup I’ve consumed while being in hospital. It’s possible that I have consumed my own body weight in these salty, powdery treats. That’s quite a sobering thought.

From this point on I shall always associate Southampton hospital and Pot Noodles. You see, they provided a momentary respite from the ward. A time to wander to the family room, flick the kettle on and sit. They provide instant warmth. A moment of normality in a less than normal world, where blood counts and lumber punctures are the norm. The humble pot gives up its flavour, its sustenance by design, to fill that gap. To fill both your time and your stomach. It provides a connectivity between you and the other parents who sit, drained, almost motionless over their microwave meals for one. They often signified the end of a long day. Preceding a fractious night of broken sleep and piss pots. But for those 5 minutes, I felt comfort.

To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend making them part of your next diet plan. Otherwise, you too could end up on a ward. Psychologically they were delicious. Nutritionally, questionable. It’s funny what you associate with different times in your life. I’m already thinking about which one to celebrate with when Felix gets the all clear in a little over 18 months. Maybe just one more ‘Bombay Badboy’, or I could go all traditional with a ‘Beef and Tomato’. Or then again maybe a just a tea. Decisions, decisions. Mr B.

fullsizeoutput_20a5

It’s just a blip ~ An Anonymous Guest Blog for #CCAM

Is this a flippant comment? Naively, I didn’t think so! On hearing the shocking news of Felix’s diagnosis this was the sentiment I wanted to pass on. At the time I firmly believed Felix’s cancer story would be but a couple of tough years which would eventually become shadowed by a lifetime of love and laughter.

“Why on earth?” I hear you mumble in disbelief. Well ironically until today, this was my raw personal experience of cancer. At 16, I watched as my beautiful Mum had her tumour removed and suffered the discomfort of radiotherapy. However, during the process, she evolved into a fearless creature that insisted my sisters and I became fiercely independent because life is not to be taken for granted. This attitude still persists!

My caring and fearless husband has overcome his blip an astonishing four times. I occasionally wince as I witness the poor junior doctor’s arms shaking under the weight of his medical file, but each painful but genius treatment has worked. We’ve even beaten the odds and have two beautiful, boisterous boys to love. So up yours cancer, we win!

My determined sister also took on her blip. The cancer was cut from her leg; she completed the gruelling 26 mile Jurassic coastal walk!

With each of these blips I’ve cared, comforted, cleaned lines and cut up food. I’ve felt anger, frustration and isolated. However, the dark 3am stints eventually dissipate and before you know it you’re planning holidays and making memories, whilst exuberantly holding onto one another and breathing a sigh of relief.

This weekend changed everything. I wept as I watched my brave and loving Mother-in-law breath her last ragged sigh of relief…with it my ideology about cancer also dissolved.
As I experience the strongest of families, struggle with their desperate waves of grief, I believe it is incontestable that we need more research, because my children need their Grandmother, Father, Nana, Auntie and friends.

Therefore I apologise, it’s not ‘just a blip!’ Naivety carried us so far but in the end, the violent reality of cancer crushed us.

IMG_3041