What I’m writing – week seventy-eight

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Welcome to week seventy-eight of What I’m Writing! Thank you to everyone who linked up last week – I’ve finally caught up with all your posts (blogging-brain still on a go-slow since my break) and, as usual they were fab! I loved Rachael’s post – from ‘meh’ to motivated in six steps – (I’m currently loitering at step five) and it was great to see Cara’s new blog look along with a really fabulous poem. Jo’s ‘lightbulb moment‘ was also very thought-provoking, and hopefully fun for her too!

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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Book Review: The Pursuit of Happiness (and why it’s making us anxious) – Ruth Whippman

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“As your average cynical Brit, when Ruth Whippman moves to California, it seems to her that the American obsession with finding happiness is driving everyone crazy.

But soon she gets sucked in. The meditates and tries ‘mindful dishwashing’. She attends a self-help course that promises total transformation (and learns that all her problems are her own fault). She visits a strange Nevada happiness dystopia (with one of the highest suicide rates in America), delves deeper into the darker truths behind the influential ‘science of happiness’, and even ventures to Utah, where she learns God’s personal secret to eternal bliss…”

 

Oh, this was such an interesting book! I felt this way as I was reading it and, since then, the variety and strength of opinion I’ve seen in other reviews has only confirmed my belief. It seems it’s not really one of those ‘meh – it was alright books': some people have really taken exception to its tone while others have loved it, and even those who have disliked elements have still said it’s fascinating in places. It just is.

Personally, I loved the style, the authors observations and her description of her experiences and discoveries. Her dry, British take on things had me chuckling, often.

At the start of the book, Whippman has recently moved to America with her husband and two-year-old son. I’ve not been through such a huge geographical shift myself, but I could still relate to her struggles to find her feet (and happiness) as a mother amidst the advice and conflicting parenting styles of those around her. Parenting can feel like a strange new world wherever you are. Admittedly, I did find myself thinking “Really? is this truly what it’s like in America?!” at times and according to other reviews, I think she’s possibly describing the extreme. I also found her views on attachment parenting a bit off-putting… but a bit of disagreement isn’t necessarily a bad thing – everyone sees the world through their own lens and being aware of where my views differed from the author’s made me contemplate her experiences more than I otherwise would have done, I think.

And those experiences are well worth the extra contemplation – the book details what is basically her voyage of discovery into what makes us happy (and what doesn’t), with the (chunky) chapters exploring the different areas she looks into.

I found the section on self-help courses quite worrying: there is so much money to be made in this particular industry and the ethics, in places, are massively dubious. There’s one scene in which a sobbing audience member in a seminar has her traumatic childhood experience labelled as ‘NEVER HAPPENED’, on the basis that many of our experiences are altered by our own perception of them. While I agree that some of our history is open to interpretation, and I’m all for taking responsibility where responsibility is due, the idea that horrible life events are all down to how we see things is horrendously victim-blaming. It made my skin crawl.

The chapter on positive psychology lead me down similar paths. I understand the desire to believe that our happiness is something entirely under our own control – that if we just have the right mindset anything can be achieved. A belief like that can be empowering and there’s a lot to be said for positivity. But you can’t overlook the hardships that life throws some people, and the idea that it’s somehow just a matter of how you perceive things seems to dismiss the genuine problems people have, and puts the onus on them to ‘get over it’ rather than on us as a community to support those who need it. How the positive psychology movement (another area where there’s plenty of money to be made… ) backs up its claims also troubles me. Whippman follows the ‘scientific evidence’, does her own research and discovers a pattern of deceit I found genuinely shocking.

the pursuit of happiness

Happiness for me: reading while my son whittles a stick.

But it wasn’t all self-help exposés – the book looks at many different methods of achieving happiness and notes that religious people in the US are generally happier than non religious people, with Mormons topping the (self-attributed) happiness charts. This fact sends the author on a weekend stay with a Mormon family where she learns about their community and beliefs. I found this section enlightening and thought Whippman explored the positives and negatives well, with interviews that were both eye-opening and touching. The important role that a supportive community can play in individual happiness came through clearly in this area and made a lot of sense to me, as did the fact that talking about difficulties rather than suppressing them is vital.

As luck would have it, I was on a blogging break when I read the chapter on social media. If you’ve read my post about my week you’ll be able to understand how the author’s observations about how social media can undermine happiness really resonated with me. As a blogger and (usually… ) avid FaceBook and Twitter user, it definitely gave me cause to reflect.

Overall, I thought the message that came through the book was that – despite the focus on the idea that ‘happiness comes from within’ (which seems to form a fundamental tenet of the happiness industry) – happiness is really found in our interactions with other people. Inner resilience is important too of course, but if we can create and nurture good relationships with family and friends it will go a long way to making us happier people. Similarly, the path to a happier society is through acting as a supportive community. (I’m desperately trying not to put politics into this but goddammit David Cameron, you are getting it so wrong.)

I know this isn’t a brief review but I could have written even more! I just urge you to read the book – whether you agree or disagree with everything Whippman writes, it’ll make you think. Can’t say fairer than that.

*I was sent this book to review as part of the BritMums book club. All opinions are my own.*

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What I’m Writing – week seventy-seven

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Welcome to week seventy-seven of What I’m Writing! I must start with a HUGE thank you to Nicola at Nikki Young Writes who hosted this linky last week while I was having a break from my blog and social media – she did an amazing job and I’m very grateful! Thank you to everyone who linked up on Nicola’s blog too. I haven’t had a chance to read your posts yet (truth be told, I’m having a hard time getting back into gear!) but I will do. I really appreciate all of you keeping the home fires burning in my absence.

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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My week without social media or blogging

riverI’ve just logged back onto social media and my blog after an entire week off. It’s been a good week. Here are some profound insights thoughts that occurred to me as the week went by:

Sharing aspects of your life is addictive.

Sharing the way bloggers or avid social media users do has a compulsive aspect to it, I think. At the start of my week off, I found it really odd not to share things I’d read, or photos of what I’d seen or done, or thoughts I’d had, or funny things the kids had said, or insights into my life or… just, you know, ALL the stuff so many of us share so often. I sometimes wonder whether our generation feels that something has only really happened if it’s been shared online – that an experience isn’t really valid unless we plaster various versions of it over our social media feeds and get ‘likes’. I’ve certainly found that in many of life’s lovely moments I’ve felt that urge to capture and share. This week was like having an itch I couldn’t really scratch. There were a couple of times I sent my husband and friends texts just because “This happened!” (whatever ‘this’ was) and the urge to share was too strong, but as the days went by I started to get used to it. The itch got less itchy. Now I feel a bit weird about sharing again. Writing this feels a bit odd, actually.

Despite how often I usually check my phone for ‘likes’… I don’t really need the affirmation.

I thought I would miss the affirmation aspect of social media – the likes, comments and RT’s, the little hearts and thumbs up – don’t they make me feel better? Isn’t it good to feel that approval? Wouldn’t I miss all those little pats on the back?

Er… no. Turns out, when I wasn’t putting anything out there that people might ‘like’ or otherwise, I didn’t need it at all. In fact it was a relief because I wasn’t looking for affirmation and didn’t need to keep checking my phone for it. Not that when I normally post a photo or whatever I’m consciously thinking ‘affirm my life please, people!’ but I guess that’s basically what it amounts to isn’t it? So, take away the ‘look what I’m doing!’ element of social media and I felt free. Much more secure in myself. And that’s because…

Real life is wonderfully affirming regardless of the lack of a ‘thumbs up’ button.

The best, warmest, cuddliest affirmation comes from the people in your life who you are genuinely connected to. That’s a no-brainer, really. It certainly doesn’t preclude online friends but, leave social media for long enough and I’m betting that those people with whom you have a genuine connection will find ways of communicating with you in the real world anyway. I was really touched by the number of texts I got from people asking how my social-media-free week was going. Of course, texts did then kind of fill the gap a bit – I sent and received an awful (wonderful) lot of texts last week, but meh, I never claimed this was a total ‘no typing’ week.

Having just totted it up, I’ve also realised I had more proper, face-to-face social engagements last week that there were days in the week. And some of them were with more than one friend! Little Miss Introvert here had a rip-roaringly sociable time of it. Heavens.

Social media is a barrier between me and real life.

Ok it’s not an impermeable barrier and in fact it’s also a bridge. A sort of bridgey-barrier (look , I’ve had a week off blogging, I’ve forgotten how to express myself here clearly!) It allows me to connect to people but it also means, in the moment, I’m less present. This week both my husband and eldest son have said it’s wonderful that I’m not on social media; that I’m not always distracted by my phone. And I’m not surprised they expressed that, because I’ve felt more engaged and just, well, THERE with people. It’s been lovely.

I’m a better parent when I’m offline.

Given the time I spend on my phone normally… ouch. But it’s true. See above – I have more time for my kids. I am more present.

When I’m not blogging, I have more time (full stop).

Without having to think about blogging this week I had time for other things. I finished the book I was reading (The Pursuit Of Happiness And Why It’s Making Us Anxious – review to follow – interesting stuff!). I did some of my illustration course and started work on the first assignment. This made me very happy. I also had time to spend with my husband in the evenings – we had conversations! We even watched a Rom Com together – neither of us particularly like Rom Coms but we couldn’t find a suitable Sci Fi. Anyway it starred Ryan Reynolds (have loved him since Deadpool) and Isla Fisher (have loved her since Home and Away 20 years ago!) so it wasn’t a bad way to pass an evening.

Oh, and I cleaned the car. I. CLEANED. THE. CAR! Yep, no more melted Chewits in the glove compartment. Get in.

Phone calls are lovely

Do you remember those hours spent chatting on the phone with friends in years gone by? These days, apart from to a few family members, I don’t spend much time on the phone at all so when the phone rang earlier in the week and one of my friend’s names appeared on the screen, it felt quite unusual. He was phoning me with a question –normally he would have FB messaged me but since I was off social media, he called instead. And it was lovely to talk to him. Actually hearing people’s voices is so different to seeing their words on your screen. I could hear his wife (one of my close friends) in the background and they were kind of teasing each other and saying things to me and I it felt like a snippet of real life. There they were, my friends, just being themselves in a house not too far away – it was oddly reassuring and affirming. And if that sounds a bit soppy it’s because…

Without distraction, I’ve felt life more intensely.

I’ve very much been feeling ‘all the feels’ this week. Admittedly, this is what I’m like anyway – I’ve said before that I sometimes feel like my heart isn’t so much on my sleeve as hanging around my neck on some kind of loose chain that bounces around and catches on things as I go through life. It also has wings and has a tendency to try to fly off – it’s all a bit dicey. Well, this week it’s been that feeling times ten. And its been almost entirely positive too. I keep thinking how amazing people are. All that socialising and those lovely texts helped. It’s been a week of warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe if you put the warm fuzzys out there they get a chance to grow (fuzzier?!)?

There will always be a lot going on in my head

I have a noisy mind – a stream of constant chatter. I’m always thinking something or working something out or getting a new idea. And into this fits social media with its endless stream of other people’s lives and thoughts and ideas that send my thoughts off in seven (thousand) directions at once. I thought that without social media it would be quieter – I thought that without that input my own chatter might die down. Not a bit of it, I could just hear myself more clearly. So I’ve had to accept this is how I am. What it does make me think though, is that given how much there is going on in my head – do I really the social media input? Do I need more stimulation? Answer: big fat no. Which brings me on to…

I feel happier without social media.

I was intending to log back into the hive mind – or ‘dive back into the swamp’ as a friend (lovingly, I’m sure… ) put it – this morning but I couldn’t really bring myself to. I went onto Instagram and hurriedly shut it down. Skimmed though Facebook scattering likes then quickly thought ‘enough now’. I didn’t get as far as Twitter till after six and even then I only responded to one tweet. It’s just too full-on. Despite the constant chatter in my head, it is definitely more peaceful without social media. The nasty demon of comparison hasn’t been able to needle me and I feel better for it. I’ve just been reading a book all about happiness and the damaging effects of social media on it and this makes total sense to me now. It’s been a happy week. Why would I want to risk all that and return to my newsfeeds and timelines? Why? Well…

It has its lovely side… and I’ve missed that

A friend from my ‘What I’m Writing’ group said to me that it was noticeable that I wasn’t around because she’s used to me flitting around the group being supportive and tweeting people’s posts and writing nice comments (Thanks T!). She also said that she and others were stepping up to fill the gap though. And I thought, ‘that’s my gang – all there for each other!’. There is something wonderful about our What I’m Writing group and beyond them the other lovely people in the blogosphere too. Yes, I missed you!

And that means:

Social media and blogging play a role in my happiness.

This part is crucial. I just said I’m a better parent when I’m offline – that’s a pretty damning indictment really isn’t it? If it makes me a worse parent then I should ditch it, run away from it, leave it in the dust… surely?

Well, no (here comes the justification bit… ). The thing is, over the past few years blogging has become a part of who I am. I love the connections I’ve made (my online friends mean loads to me), and the whole experience has been vital to my writing ‘journey’ (inverted commas because I can’t take the word ‘journey’ seriously I but I also can’t think of a better word). I don’t want to just cut and run. Social media is part and parcel of blogging. Twitter also brings me #ShapeChallenge and other creative kicks up the bum which I know are good for me. Facebook can be a great place to keep in touch with real life friends, and both can be a source of intellectual stimulation.

All of that is important to me, and I want to keep it in my life. Giving it up would make me a worse parent for a whole different set of reasons.

But:

Something has to change.

That much is crystal clear to me now. I haven’t yet worked out quite what all the changes will be but, for starters, I’m not reinstalling Facebook or Twitter on my phone (Instagram is basically unusable otherwise so I’ll put that back). I’m going to have to work out a better balance for blogging too. I need to blog less. I want more time for creativity and friendship and being a decent parent. There’s no going back now.

And there’s one final thing I’ve learned:

No matter how much extra time I have in my life, I still won’t do the ironing.

I just won’t.

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And then the fun began...
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taking a break

Last week was exhausting – for various reasons, not all of which I’ve shared here. It was mostly about the kids strike though and the culmination of six-weeks of build up to it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m well and truly in need of a break.

My favourite place in the whole world.

My favourite place in the whole world.

As much as I would love to announce that I’m about to skip off to the Swiss Alps for a week spent sipping wine, hiking through flowering pastures and eating my body weight in melted cheese, that’s just not gonna happen right now. I am however, taking a week off the blog and off social media. Yes, tonight I’m deleting all the pesky, pinging apps, logging off and taking some time away from the chatter.

Instead I’m planning to spend more time reading, writing, drawing and seeing family and friends. I may also get some ironing done but don’t hold your breath. I’m kind of hoping it helps me to break my smart phone addiction too – of course, I’ll still be able to get texts and emails and even phone calls (if anyone still makes those) but without the constant humming presence of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I’ll be less drawn to my little glowing drug. And that can only be a good thing.

On the blog front, I’m putting my weekly ‘What I’m Writing’ linky into the capable hands of Nicola at Nikki Young Writes while I step completely away from the lure of stats and the pressure of posting. Please do link up over there – I’ll look forward to catching up with your posts when I’m back online!

See you soon, my friends.

What I learned from the Kids Strike

#THISislearning collage2So, May third has passed – the day of #THISislearning and the Kids Strike has been and gone. It was an epic day all about education and beliefs and passion and fun and learning. My boys learned masses. Here’s what the experience taught me:

Standing up for your beliefs feels fantastic.

I’ve always shied away from controversy – in life in general and especially on my blog. Except with close friends, I generally keep quiet about my beliefs (especially on ‘hot topics’ like politics and religion) so when I published a passionate post about education six weeks ago it was a huge leap into the unknown. The fantastic, supportive, heartfelt response I had was impossible to ignore though, and I had to follow-through, both with taking part in the Kids Strike and co-running my own parallel #THISislearning campaign. And it felt good – to draw that line in the sand and say ‘something needs to change and I’m going to try my best to make that happen.’ I rediscovered my inner activist, missing since my teenage years. Yes – standing up for your beliefs feels good.

…it also feels scary

Ok, the brave, bold types amongst you might think this is odd, but as an introvert I don’t like drawing attention to myself and as a big-time softy it makes me nervous to place myself in a position where I could get hurt. I’m also a natural law-abider – a bit of a goody two shoes to be honest. But standing up for my beliefs recently has involved deliberately trying to draw attention to myself (running a campaign requires you to say “Hey, look over here! Please join in with this!”), breaking the law (in order to join in the strike) and also putting myself in a position where I could get hurt. The trolls were out in force on the day of the strike. Luckily, I wasn’t targeted but knowing that some of my friends were, and that there were nasty comments being made, put me on high alert. Basically, on all counts I felt out of my comfort zone. It has not been a relaxing six weeks!

The mere act of the kids strike was a fantastic learning opportunity

Ok, with kids, everything is a useful learning opportunity but this point feels important to me because one of the criticisms levelled at strikers was a notion of it being wrong to include kids. I very much disagree – it was an awesome opportunity to teach them about politics, values, beliefs and the ways society works. On the morning of the strike, I took my boys to a nearby school where one of the parents had organised a friendly picket line. I say ‘friendly’ because the head teacher knew all about it and was fine about it, and the purpose was to ask parents for signatures to a letter that was being sent to our MP about the whole thing.

My eight-year-old in particular was so interested in the whole experience of being there and asked loads of questions about strikes and political action. We ended up taking about the junior doctor strikes too. I’ve never known him so interested in politics before. As a parent it felt so important to talk to him about what we value (as his parents) at a time when he was totally engaged.

Doing educational things with kids can be a huge source of joy and excitement.

I suppose this wasn’t really a surprise but the extent of the joy perhaps was. I got together with a friend and with our five kids (two eight-year-olds, two six-year-olds and a three-year-old) we did masses of activities. We looked at a real, disused mill, rambled through the forest following the pipeline to see where it had been dammed, researched hydroelectricity, designed and made our own water wheels (and tried them out in a river), made paper chromatography flowers, read the wonderful Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck books by Andrea Beaty and discussed them, wrote stories and did explosive science experiments. The older two kids took notes throughout. My eight-year-old was really enthused by everything and all the kids were so happy.

There was one point where they were all experimenting with oil, baking soda, vinegar and various other things and as I watched them work together, cooperating, trying out more and more ideas and squealing with joy and excitement, I felt so happy I thought my heart might burst. Ok, they did get a little out of control with food colouring, baking soda, leaves, ramps and bicycles (!?!) but we were outside and it was after 3’o clock so I figured, ‘whatever, let them get on with it’. At the end of the day my boys fell into bed with huge grins on their faces saying it was the best day ever. My six year old said “I give it 100%!”

I did, however, gain:

A whole new level of respect for teachers

We had five kids to keep engaged and focussed. How they cope with classes of thirty kids, impresses the socks off me. Hats off to them.

And a whole new level of respect for homeschoolers

You do this everyday?! I mean, it must be amazing in some ways but surely exhausting in others! Such a big responsibility to have to think up all the activities and keep the kids on point and also to get the balance between being totally child-led and making sure you get enough done… well done, seriously.

All sorts of random stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have done

When you spend time with kids engaging in their learning, you learn so much too! They ask questions and together you find the answers, you create things you otherwise wouldn’t have created and think in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have thought. It’s really inspirational.

That my friends are awesome

Again, I knew this already but man… from my best mate who was a fab cheerleader the whole time, drew loads of #THISislearning pictures and provided lots of inspiration for a post about activities for kids, to the friend who I spent the day with (which made striking a million times easier as I would have been on my own otherwise), to the friend who read my No, Mr Cameron, No. post and told me how proud she was of me with such enthusiasm that my face ached from smiling by the end of her email, to the blogging friends who joined in on the day and sent amazing messages of support, and the friends who’ve chatted with me and put the world (and my head) to rights over the last couple of days. Not to forget Sophie who, despite juggling a million different things, was a fantastic, eloquent, supportive co-campaigner for #THISislearning. Oh, and my husband who always has my back (I’ll start coming to bed before midnight now, promise!) I felt surrounded by a huge raft of emotional support, I really did. You guys rock.

That people are awesome

At the end of the day on May 3rd and on the following morning I looked though my social media feeds at the #THISislearning hashtag. Wow. The different activities that people had been doing with their kids, the happy faces, the brilliant blog posts, the enthusiasm and dedication to showing Nicky Morgan what real learning looks like… well it was just amazing. Again, my heart kind of exploded (remember how I said I was a softy – I wasn’t lying!) It was just wonderful to see.

And I think I’m going to end this post on that note. An enormous thank you goes to you all.

xxx

mumturnedmom

Linking to The Prompt which, this week, is ‘choice’. This whole experience came from the choice to hit ‘publish on that blog post.

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What I’m Writing – week seventy-five

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Welcome to week seventy-five of What I’m Writing. Thanks so much to everyone who linked up last week – it was another fab selection of posts! I loved Sophie’s thoughts on what really helps children’s ability to write and tell stories (clue: it’s NOT learning about subordinate clauses), and Dana’s post about comfort versus risk-taking really made me think! And I can’t NOT share Renée’s post ‘The stuff nobody tells you about blogging‘ which was, as usual,searingly honest. For more great posts, do have a read of all last week’s linkups!

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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standing up for what you believe in

So, tomorrow’s the big day! #KidsStrike3rdMay, and mine and Sophie’s parallel campaign, #THISislearning (which you don’t have to be striking to join in with!).

How am I feeling? Excited, nervous and frazzled. I have all of the feels at the moment. Sometimes I think my heart might burst out of my chest. I’m like some hopeless romantic or desperate optimist or frightened radical or, I don’t know… it’s exhausting. clouds

The last few weeks have been manic. Actually, ever since I published my ‘No Mr Cameron, No.’ blog post back in March (which ten thousand people read in a week – a number so hugely vast, in terms of this blog, that I still haven’t got my head round it!) things have been feeling slightly out of control. There’s nothing quite like writing a passionate, heartfelt post and having people respond to it in an equally passionate, heartfelt way. To be a bit navel-gazy and pretentious for a moment, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a journey. I’ve been inspired and enthused, I’ve learned masses and I’ve ended up way out of my comfort zone launching a whole campaign of my own. When people responded the way they did, I couldn’t ignore it. I had to act.

So a month ago I decided to keep my boys off school for the Kids Strike. I wrote a personal letter to their school explaining how happy they have been at their school and that the action isn’t against the school or teachers (who are fab) but against educational policy which NEEDS to change for the sake of all our kids. Some headteachers across the country are marking absences for the strike as ‘educational’ in recognition of that – how wonderful, eh? Totally in the spirit of parents and teachers working together! Still, it’s officially against the law so little goody-two-shoes, rule-abiding me is having to take a deep breath over it all…

… A deep breath while also shouting “Upon St Cripsin’s day!” a la Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (quietly to myself, I’m not THAT weird) and marching onwards.#THISislearning badge final

As for #THISislearning – our parallel campaign to spread positive images, messages and stories about real learning across social media on May 3rd – well, there’s been so much good stuff come from that already. People sharing stories, doing fabulous drawings and really wanting to make it clear to our government that current educational policy is wrong, not just by striking (although hooray for that!) but also by sharing examples of what real learning looks like. That’s what tomorrow is all about for me –  real learning and positive action. Together, a friend and I have all sorts of activities planned, albeit with enough flexibility to follow our kids’ lead. We want the day to be fun, we want them to learn and we want them to see that when it’s important, you have to stand up for what you believe in.

I would love lots of people to join in with #THISislearning. I hope they do. It means so much to me.

Ooh and by the way, another reason April was full-on:

campnano 16 winner banner

Yep. I wrote enough words last month to win CampNanoWriMo.

Phew.

Today nerves, tomorrow the world, after that a nice long nap.

Writing Bubble
And then the fun began...
Writing Bubble

What to do on 3rd May Kids Strike – #THISislearning

I decided to join in with the 3rd May Kids Strike a month ago, set up our #THISislearning campaign two weeks ago and handed in the letter to school informing them of the above, last week. So we’re good to go, all set, know exactly what we’re doing on th… oh wait!

I still don’t know precisely what we’re doing on the day (tomorrow!!!). Not because I have no idea what to do, but because there are SO MANY possibilities and they’re all swimming frantically round my head not really able to find their way to the surface. So, in case any of you are similarly-minded, I thought I’d put together a post with some options. Hopefully by the time I’ve worked my way through it, I’ll have a clearer plan and it will help you too!

Learning ideas for #KidsStrike3rdMay

Arts and crafts:

paints and pencils

  • My boys and I all love creative activities and when I started an illustration course earlier this year I found inspiration on Twitter in the form of #ShapeChallenge. Author and Illustrator Sarah McIntyre posts a shape every day and you can interpret it in what ever way you want. People of all ages and abilities join in. It’s so much easier than staring at a blank sheet of paper and you can tweet the results to a lovely little community. You can read more about our experience of it in this post and also find out more on the Jabberworks Virtual Studio website.
  • We also like Kid Can Doodle who describe themselves as “a club that celebrates creativity through drawing. We believe everyone can draw, and we hope to inspire you to find your own voice.” What’s not to love? It has all sorts of ideas and challenges and masses of inspiration for young doodlers!
  • Red Ted Art is an awesome blog, packed full of creative ideas. Having been a fan of Andy Goldsworthy since seeing an exhibition of his as a child, I particularly love this post about using items from nature to create art.
  • This lovely activity from My Green and Rosie Life involves making rainbow pictures out of leaves, flowers and petals. It also has a story which you read to kids first which adds a little magic, I think!

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

      • We love science experiments in this house. I wrote a post the other day about some we’d done using water, oil, baking powder and Alkaseltzer to pretty (and pretty-dramatic) effect.volcano experiment
      • This Rosie Revere activity looks like a great little task where kids make their own very simple helicopter (only paper and paperclips necessary) and then experiment to see what changes they can make to the blades so that it flies more slowly. Simple and fun!
      • This one from Red Ted Art about making chromatography flowers looks so awesome I want to try it now (and the kids are in bed!). Where science meets art!
      • I love this post from Handimania about building a child-sized fort out of rolled up newspapers. All you do is roll the paper and tape it into large triangles and you can make lots of different structures depending on how you attach the triangles together. Fling a blanket over the top and it’s a fort (or you could also decorate pieces of paper and attach them instead of a blanket – more time-consuming but, for arty-types, even more fun!)
      • There are some great ideas for construction activities on My Nearest and Dearest. I particularly like the look of building with dyed ice and grapes with cocktail sticks, and the glow in the dark loo roll challenge looks awesome!

Outdoor activities:

      • This post by Sophie is… shows how much fun and learning can be had with mud – painting, landscaping, and creating in so many different ways. And little Arthur is clearly having such a whale of a time I want to join in myself!
      • Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds is full of good ideas for fun learning activities. I loved this post about having fun with water and puddles – it never would have occurred to me to add washing up liquid or food colouring to them!

        puddle fun #THISislearning

        Luisa’s post inspired me to draw this cartoon.

      • Coombe Mill has loads of great ideas for activities for kids. I really like this idea for ‘fairy cakes and wizards potion‘ which involves making wands, fairy cakes and potions using all manner of natural items. The idea for making sailing boats out of milk bottles also looks fab! Fiona also runs a linky where you can find further inspiration.
      • I read this article (written by a teacher) in The Guardian about geocaching and it sounds great! It’s basically a treasure hunt in the countryside. You can go to various geocache websites and find coordinates for geocaches near you and then go off in search of them. I think my boys would love it!

History/literature:

      • There are wonderful museums and galleries all over the UK, many of which have free entry. Visit Britain details loads of them and Tyne and Wear Museums is great for those living in the North East. If you live anywhere Newcastle Upon Tyne I’d urge you to visit Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books. We went there a few weeks ago to see their Harry Potter Exhibit – it was fab!touching hedwig's wing
      • The National Trust and English Heritage have wonderful gardens and historic buildings across the country that are well worth visiting. I loved this post by Nikki from A Free-from Life about visiting a Nostell Priory – it really highlighted all the different types of learning that can take place on a day out.
      • A couple of months ago, a friend and I did a murder mystery treasure trail around our village. The trail and clues were all in a booklet on this website which has trails for towns and villages all over the country. Our treasure trail took us round the village we thought we knew well, spotting all sorts of old signs, decorations and carvings, none of which we would have normally noticed. We learned loads about where we lived and the kids all loved it!
      • Read to/with your kids. It’s always so lovely to share stories!

Games:

      • Playtivities has loads of great games which are good to do together as a family or in a group. things like threading dry spaghetti through penne without using your hands, balancing chocolate on your face (‘oh dear, mine seems to have slipped into my mouth!’) bouncing balloons and building towers with fruit. Simple but with lots of opportunities for learning.
      • There are 101 great ideas in this post by Paging Fun Mums. Whether it’s spotting shapes in clouds, blowing bubbles, decorating shells, baking or building a marble run, there’s bound to be something that inspires you!
      • Cricket, football, tennis, volleyball… whatever sport your kids are into, tomorrow is a chance to play it with them. We had great fun setting up our own crazy-golf course last year!

Social activities:

      • Check out the Let our Kids be Kids interactive map which shows you where there are meet-ups all over the country. If you want to share the day of the Kids Strike with others it’s a great place to start. The meet ups I looked at seemed to involve crafty and sporting activities amongst others.

There are also some wonderful activity ideas on our #THISislearning linky. Please feel free to add posts with activities you have there too!

Whatever you do on the day (whether you’re striking or not, and if you homeschool or have pre-schoolers too) I’d love you to share on social media using the #THISislearning hashtag. Together we can all show our government what real learning looks like!

I’m going to publish this post now although I may well add more ideas later on!

With thanks to my fabulous friend Sus for helping me compile this list.

Writing Bubble

don’t doubt, just draw.

I started an illustration course in January and, with a ‘New Year – Raaaah’ sort of energy, immediately threw myself in to a daily drawing practice. I joined in with #ShapeChallenge on Twitter, drew picture after picture and between January and March I noticed a definite improvement in my ability. I really can’t speak highly enough of doing something creative every day. No matter how limited your abilities at the beginning (or, more to the point, how limited you THINK they are because we all seem to doubt ourselves massively!), you WILL improve and seeing that improvement spurs you on to do more and get better!

So there I was, feeling quite chuffed with myself (‘New Year Raaah’ with a tangible outcome has to be something to be proud of), when in Mid-March I was hit by a whole heap of stuff that totally derailed me from my drawing. I couldn’t find time and, because I was drawing so infrequently, everything I produced on the odd occasion I tried, was rubbish. Honestly, it made me cringe. I totally lost confidence and felt quite fed up about it all.

Then last week I gave myself a huge mental shove. I’d felt like I had no time for drawing because so much of my energy was going into blogging and running the #THISislearning campaign, so I decided to combine the two. I started doing tiny daily cartoons about the sort of activities kids love. The sort where they learn masses without even realising it. Where they experiment and persevere and imagine and create. I shared my first two in my last blog post. Here are my next three:

#THISislearning maths buns

I love maths with a positive outcome. Admittedly, “0+effort = lots” is maths only in a very general sense but still…

creative #THISislearning

I had no idea what this kid was making until I’d drawn it!

puddle fun #THISislearning

This was inspired by this post from Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds: https://teachingtinyminds.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/making-a-river/

I did tiny pictures because somehow it helped my confidence. I’m not sure why… maybe because drawing big feels more risky (if it’s rubbish it’s a big pile of rubbish) and drawing small feels more safe (less of a potential mess)? Who knows, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.

And then a really fab thing happened – an awesome friend of mine –  Sus @MrsJTeaches – started drawing some #THISislearning pictures too. I LOVE them:

#THISislearning @MrsJTeaches
Since then, a couple of other people have expressed an interest in drawing something for the campaign too (thanks guys!) and it got me thinking that I’d love to put together a gallery of #THISislearning pictures on my blog (and share them on social media of course). And I would love you to join in!

It DEFINITELY isn’t a talent competition it’s really about having a go at something creative and having some fun. In fact, you don’t have to draw, you could paint or glue or photograph a tower of creatively poised bananas or something…

If you’d like to join in just tweet your image @writingbubble using the #THISislearning hashtag. Go on, don’t doubt yourself, create.

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