I’ve finally managed to get the last of the Christmas wrapping out with the recycle bins last week, so you know what that means? Time to think about Valentines Day! Yay! Well, actually, I’ve not celebrated Valentine’s day in a long while, but while the shops are filling up with red hearts and bad chocolate, what better time to treat yourself (myself!) to something that no one else is likely to give me?
I get a lot of press releases in my inbox every day, and mostly, I just scan them and move on, but the NSPCC reached out this week asking bloggers to help them spread the word about their new campaign.
If you’re not familiar with the PANTS campaign, PANTS is a tool which parents can use to teach their children, in an age appropriate way, important messages, like that their body belongs to them and that they should tell an adult if they’re upset or worried.
This week the charity, launched a new mobile phone game and began running a prime time TV ad which runs until the end of the month. You can see the ad here:
When you consider that one child in every 20 (in the UK, I suspect) suffers some form of sexual abuse the importance of having this conversation as early as possible becomes so vital.
It is also important to recognise that ‘stranger danger’ now only applies in a small percentage of cases, with a third of all child sexual offences committed by other children and 90% of perpetrators being known to their victims.
The good news is that there is an easy way to talk to your child about how to stay safe without using scary words or even mentioning sex. At the NSPCC we simply call this Talking PANTS. From P through to S, each letter stands for an important rule for kids to remember – Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you, No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up – someone can help.
It’s not an easy conversation to have, and it’s not a pleasant one to have to think about, and I know I for sure hope it’s something I never have to deal with, but like many other things – prevention is better than cure.
Helping us to spread this message is Pantosauraus the cartoon dinosaur, who was recently introduced to the world with a catchy song and activity pack and now has his own game which is free to download from the iOS and Android app store.
The game features four mini challenges where children test their skills against Pantosaurus and his friends whilst learning the PANTS rule. The game enables children to have fun while learning about staying safe and what to do should anything happen that they feel uncomfortable about.
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I sometimes look at my children and am surprised by how incredibly small they actually still are. Because at any given moment, they are at the biggest they’ve ever been, and they’ll never be that small again, it’s easy to forget that on a whole, they’re still actually very small. Especially when it comes to Ameli, my 7 year old. Sorry, my 7 and 3/4 year old. An important point whenever she’s asked. Ameli is an incredibly fearless child. She could run at 9 months, before her brain could register danger, and she’s never stopped. By 2 she’d been to 20 countries, because she made it all so easy. She was fearless. She still is.
I had a fairly tumultuous early adulthood with a lot of heartache, many tears, and the extreme desolation that comes when you lose something you believed in your whole life. Sounds dramatic? It was.
Now with the insight of parenthood, I can see how hard that period of my life must have been for my parents. I remember one particular night when my dad came to the far side of the house, two floors down to wake and sit by me, and rock me back to sleep as I was bawling so loudly, in my sleep, that it woke him. I had no thought at the time for how much my pain must have hurt them.
Years later, I was going through a difficult time in a relationship, when my mom said to me, “I just want you to be happy.” I looked over at her, with the wisdom of maybe 25 years of age, and said to her “Mom, I don’t want to be happy. Happy is fleeting, happiness fades, happiness is dependent. I want to be joyful.”
My mom’s not around anymore, so I can’t ask her now what she thought of that, but she did many times after that, end our conversations with ‘I wish you joy’.
And that is what I wish for my children: joy. Read more: Why I Don’t Wish My Children Happiness
My children have been educated at home since pretty much the day they were born, and as such, we’ve always mingled with people who intend, or do, home educate their children. As a result, we’ve come across pretty much every ‘type’ of home educator known to man, I’m sure. From those who do it for religious reasons to those that do it for anti-establishment reasons, from those who do it purely while they wait for schools to come available, to those who do not intend to send their children to school, ever.
We’ve met and engaged with all the styles too, from the extreme unschoolers who don’t even like ‘themed’ activity days at the home ed groups, to those who follow a strict curriculum, from those who teach nothing at all formally, to those who have flashcards for their two year olds. We have met them all.
The biggest shock for me in the home learning networks has been the difference in parenting styles. Our first home educating network consisted mostly of the style of parenting known as attachment parenting or gentle parenting. Subsequent groups introduced us to much stricter, more regimented parenting styles.Read more: Dear Home Ed Mama Who’s Decided To Send Your Child To School
Project Mc² is back on Netflix UK with new episodes, and an accompanying new product line based on the Netflix series.
If you aren’t familiar with Project Mc², it’s a series about a team of six super-smart girls who use their love of science and spy skills to undertake missions for a top-secret, all female organization called NOV8 – or innovate – to us less acronym savvy.
The six main characters are McKeyla McAlister (Mc2), Adrienne Attoms (A2), Camryn Coyle (C2), Bryden Bandweth (B2), Ember Evergreen (E2) and Devon D’Marco (D2), and each girl has an area of speciality. McKeyla is a spy, Adrienne is a culinary chemist, Camryn is a whizz with electronics, Bryden is the online guru of the group, Ember can grow pretty much anything and Devon is an artist extraordinaire who opens up to the group in this latest series. Each girl ticks at least one of the STEM/STEAM boxes, many tick more, and while their interests are varied, they make a great time when they work together.
In the new episodes and old character returns, and the girls have to use their smarts to not only save him and save the day, but there’s romantic progress for McKeyla and Kyle Lewis too.
While the show throws out big words from time to time (mostly chemicals) there’s not a huge amount of education that happens just from watching it, and a lot just ‘works out’ for the characters, but it’s a series aimed at young girls, so you have to watch it with that filter. While I still find the girls a bit vapid-with-smarts, they’re much more interesting and much better role models for girls than many other traditional girl stereotypes I can think of.
There are some general themes that make it worth watching, if you were doing it for entertainment only, like the introduction to the concept of girls-who-love-STEM/STEAM, the value of teamwork, standing by your friends and standing up for yourself. There’s also the ‘girls can do this’ idea, which isn’t bad to start reinforcing from a young age.Read more: New Episodes & A New Line For Project MC2
Ameli was born in October 2009 and aside from a single prenatal class on breastfeeding, the sum total of my thought and planning on the subject of breastfeeding was “we’d best get in some formula, just in case”. I hadn’t considered “in case of what?” I certainly didn’t plan on becoming an active breastfeeding advocate.
As it turned out I fell in love with breastfeeding Ameli. It was so easy with her. We ended up doing a lot of things we’d never considered. The nursery remained unused as we coslept, the pram was sold in favour of a variety of slings. We travelled to 20 different countries in her first two years, and breastfeeding was just the simplest solution to everything from hunger to pink eye, comfort to ear infections. Breastfeeding worked for us. So well in fact that I had huge oversupply and ended up donating breastmilk to AIDS babies for the six months we lived in South Africa.
Breastfeeding did more for me than feed my baby. It led me to an entire tribe of mothers who were in many ways just like me. I stopped going to groups where people looked at you weirdly because you were still feeding a two year old and the first time I sat in a group of other mothers breastfeeding their toddlers, I cried, because I felt like I’d finally arrived home. Read more: Goodbye To Breastfeeding – 8 Years A Breastfeeder
I want to tell you something about this world I brought you into and I want you to remember that it’s love that brought you here. Love, and destiny, maybe, or purpose. For some reason, it was you that made it earthside. Here’s the thing I want you to know about this world:
No matter what you do, it will be wrong to someone. So whatever you do, do it because it’s right for you.
I know that I am doing the best I can in raising you. I know that I’m trying to teach you to have manners at the table, and to run barefoot through the woods. I am trying to teach you to play nicely with others, and to hold your hand up and say “stop” when others aren’t playing nicely with you. I am trying to teach you to sit like a lady and to run screaming through the woods howling like a banshee. I’m trying to teach you to clean your ears and brush your teeth and I’m also trying to teach you to camp with no ablutions for a long weekend and come out from the trees looking like a feral wolf.Read more: Dear Girls, Choose What’s Right For You
As any fan of NumNoms will know, they don’t have an official advent calendar, so when they sent us an Advent box… well, the kids were beside themselves! The NumNoms Advent box was a large box with individually wrapped presents including some sweet treats, Christmas paraphernalia, NumNoms blind bags (boxes) and most importantly NumNoms sets and the brand new to the market little gift for Christmas day.
Our first NumNom was a one of the lipgloss variety. Avi (4) walked around spreading lipgloss on her lips 10 times an hour all day long. She now also really wants the lipgloss truck. We’ll have to see what Santa can do*.
We started off doing little YouTube clips for every days unboxing, but as the festivities became more intense we had to give it up. Here’s a little taster of the contents of our NumNoms Advent though!
But you can see in this little Instagram clips how excited they were:
And a little later in the month:
A video posted by Luschka (@luschkavo) on
The NumNoms Advent calendar was a hit for us and definitely got us in the mood for a Christmas filled with excitement!
*Santa couldn’t do it. When we went to the local toyshop on Christmas Eve (yes, we only have one) they were sold out. Hey ho.
I’d be hard pressed to accept being called a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. From the 1st of December I throw myself heart and soul into it and aside from a few tough years there, we’re back on track. Last year we had three advent calendars on the go for each child (Lego/Playmobil, Book Advent and chocolate!) and this year we’ve make a big song and dance about advent, with everything from interactive movie nights to Christmas Tree Festivals to tea with Disney Princesses. We go all out and end with a lovely (hopefully) Christmas Day.
This year we did something different and new: I had each child write or dictate their Christmas letter to Santa, filled with everything their little hearts desired. This is something I will never do again.
Admittedly, previous years the children were smaller, but they also had TV which exposed them to more advertising than they have now with Amazon Firestick (no advertising) or Netflix (little to no advertising). Of course, in previous years they’ve still mentioned things they wanted, but it’s never been a formalised list, and this year, with this list looming at me from under the Christmas tree, I feel thoroughly deflated, because I know that there’s no way I could possibly provide everything on it, so it feels like I’m a failure as a parent, and I am already awaiting their disappointment come Christmas day (actually, I’m not – I told them straight out that they wouldn’t be getting everything on the list!) but they still have hope!
Ameli’s (7) list included a bunch of toys she’s obviously seen on YouTube, including the £59.99 Hatchimal (are you kidding me?) and a new camera since the battery on hers has stopped charging. There’s a request for some Dan TDM books (the girl is obsessed), so I’ve happily obliged and was pleased to find them reduced on Amazon. Bonus.Read more: Dear Santa, We Won’t Be Sending You Wishlists Again