Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Cozy Time - what is it?

When I first heard of the concept of "circle time" as they might have in a preschool environment I wondered if I could turn that into something we'd like.

It took a bit of jiggling around to find a comfortable fit, and I took on board advice from another mum who'd tried it and found it raised her blood pressure too much trying to get her children to join in.

But here, in case it sounds like something you'd like to try with your children (all ages, just adjust it to suit) is what we have been doing on and off for a few years now.

Cozy Time

First we sing a song to mark the beginning of Cozy Time - just a little ditty I made up.

Then I launch straight into some finger plays, poems, songs etc.  Something like this:

Here is a tree with its leaves so green
(stretch arms out)
Here are the apples that hang between
(clench fists)
When the wind blows the apples will fall
(drop arms)
Here is a basket to gather them all
(pretend to hold a basket on your hip and gather apples)

(Mime appropriate actions)
High in the tree a little nest
Climb up softly, look inside
Hungry baby birds with their beaks open wide
I'll watch the little birdies grow, day by day
Until they spread their wings and fly far, far away

A little brown rabbit popped out of the ground,
(right index fingers pops up)
Wiggled his whiskers and looked all around.
(right index finger wiggles)
Another wee rabbit who lived in the grass
(left finger up)
Popped his head out and watched him pass
(right hand hops over left (wrists crossed)
Then both the wee rabbits went hoppity hop,
Hoppity, hoppity, hoppity, hop
(both fingers hop forwards)
Till they came to a wall and had to stop
(both fingers stop suddenly)
Then both the wee rabbits turned themselves round,
(hands uncross)
And scuttled off home to their holes in the ground.
(hands hop back and finish in pockets)


Five little peas in a pea-pod pressed
(clench fingers on one hand)
One grew, two grew, so did all the rest
(raise fingers slowly)
The grew and they grew and did not stop
(stretch fingers wide)
Until all of a sudden the pod went POP!
(clap loudly on POP)

(Heaps more fingerplays, songs and game ideas can be found in my soon-to-be-published book "Adventures In Natural Learning - Handbook")

This morning we were having Cozy Time and I watched our 18 month old toddling around the room, participating when he wanted to/ when he could.    I noticed that the children needed something they could move around to, stretch their legs and arms, so I started to sing "My pigeon house I open wide and set my pigeons free ..."   Our toddler  was suddenly very interested and watched two other boys who decided they'd join in with that one.   I was reminded once again how easily and joyfully a little child can learn things when there is no EXPECTATION on them to pick it up.

We often play some very simple games such as "Touch the ..." where I will name perhaps four or five items in the room, the child must repeat each item and then go and touch it.  Great for the brain.  This game can be extended by saying "Touch glass, wood, metal ..." etc or colours.    It truly is a game - not trying to force teaching.  And if the children arn't enjoying it, then it stops.

Another favourite game is when I gather random items from our junk drawer and put them on a tray.  I point to each item in turn and name it "scissors, glue stick, paint brush, wooden bead, little horse ..."  and then each child has a turn to close their eyes and guess which one or ones I have taken away.

So we play a few games - maybe a bit of baby sign language, or NZSL, a bit of French or German ... easy stuff, then I wind up by singing our final song, and a saying a prayer.

Something may come up when a child asks a question or shares a thought they've had - quite naturally, nothing forced.

So that's our Cozy Time - it doesn't always work, and it doesn't always run smoothly, but I bring it in from time to time because it's actually quite fun when the children co-operate.

If your children have neurostruggles and neurochallenges then Cozy Time can be rather a stuggle and a challenge for a mummy.  

If your children are neurotypical then Cozy Time would be fantastic and rather easy and fun!

When I finished Cozy Time this morning I somewhat wearily went into the kitchen where our 20 year old was making himself a snack before returning to his work.  "Well done" he said quietly.  xxxxxx  Love him.



Early Childhood Education - or NOT

When our firstborn was 1 year old my Mum suggested that I start thinking about preschool options.  At that time she worked in a preschool, and she knew many of them had a waiting list.

The thought of my little man being away from me, under the care of someone else, doing things I knew nothing about, filled me with sadness and emptiness.

Then I heard about home education.

Could it really work?   It sounded so lovely?  Surely there was a drawback?   HOW could it work?

My mum knew someone who had taken her foster son out of school for a few years and home educated him - I rang her.

She gave me a few more names of ladies to ring, which I did, and the first question I had for them "Do I really have to send my son to preschool or kindergarten?" *

I hear the same question now from new mums starting out, and I know why they ask.

The reason preschools and kindergartens were started were not natural.  Look it up yourself.    They were trying to do the best they could for children who needed extra help.

Just recently I heard from a mum who had withdrawn her son from an in-home childcare situation where the little boy seemed very unhappy.  Since being at home he'd managed to share with her some very sad things that had gone on.

Another mum commented that in looking at Early Childhood Education providers one is really choosing a "proxy parent".

The truth of this term hit me hard.

A "proxy parent" may be necessary if a parent, or family member is ill (mentally or physically) and the child needs love and guidance from someone other than a parent.

A "proxy parent" may be necessary if a parent is in such a dire financial situation that it is absolutely imperative that the parent work.

But a "proxy parent" is not necessary in the life of a healthy child from a healthy home.

Since when, then, did childcare or Early Childhood Education become VITAL to the life of a child?

Since when did a birth parent have to feel "less than" when it comes to raising their little ones?

And when did a parent feel that their child would be missing out on a CRUCIAL part of their life if they stayed home during their early years?

"Oh, but Debbie" I hear you say "You don't know my child - he drives me mad - always busy, rushing around, doing things, gets bored, picks on his little sister, I can't keep him busy - I'd go mad if I had to have him at home."    Or you may say "I can't take my children shopping with me - they're too much to handle."

Well - I understand.  I really do.  Don't ask how I know - well you can if you like, but I was introduced to the world of "High Need Children" about 3 weeks into parenthood.  And then followed  lessons on "the child who throws a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket - even on a wonderful trip out with his grandparents ..."  and now "the child with extreme sensory processing disorder who PULLS on the pushchair when he becomes overwhelmed in shops, YELLS for something to buy thinking that will fix the "not right" feeling inside him, and bounces, bangs and vocalises his way through the day ...

I really understand.

And even though, in the last four years I've contemplated preschool for one particular child of mine, I knew deep down it was not the right choice for us - it would not make things "better" or "easier" in the long run.  And I am grateful that I haven't had any pressure from outside do put him into preschool.

So if you are receiving that pressure, and you'd like permission to have your little children home with you please read this:

You have permission to keep your children at home with you.  They are YOUR children, you make the decisions for them according to what is best for all of you, and you will not let people make you feel like they are missing out, or that you are being a bad, lazy or non-caring parent by having them with you.  If other people choose Early Childhood Education - either through an informed decision, or because they think that's just what you do,  then that's their business and it should not put any pressure on you.


*The answer the mums gave me about whether it was ok to not be involved in a preschool or kindergarten was more or less "If you don't want that, or if you child is unhappy in those situations then DON'T DO IT!   You can do everything a preschool would do, but even better.  Your child will have a more settled, unrushed, natural life and you will have a more solid relationship with them if they stay home."

And that is the message that I'm PASSIONATE about sharing now!!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What is "Natural Learning"?

This is an excerpt from an article I have written.  I can email the whole article to people if they're interested.



 If you ask ten different people what “natural learning” or “unschooling” is you may get ten different answers. So this explanation is just how I see natural learning.

When a child is confidently given permission to learn through their own discoveries, to joy in using their imaginations, running down rabbit trails and soaking up every interesting topic they come across on the way, developing a sound and godly worldview, honing and their logical and philosophical thinking skills, educating themselves and welcoming education from sources they trust – that's natural learning.

For us natural learning could also be called unschooling, or delight-directed learning, or child-led learning – and most definitely ECLECTIC learning. I read, and take information from many different educational styles – just those that suit us. We have freedom to do this with natural learning.

One of the ways our children learn things is when I am familiar with various skills and I keep those facts and figures at the front of my mind, bringing them out very naturally when the child discovers the subject by themselves.

For instance just recently one of my children was making a card for Daddy, and asked me how to spell TAKE. This particular child doesn't get angry if I ask him how he thinks it goes, so I asked “How do you think it goes?”

“I think T and A, then is it C?”

“No – K and then E”

“Ah, ok” And he was very happy.

Later on, when he had finished writing his card, and we had a quiet moment I showed him about how adding E to the end of words changes the sound of the vowel in the word. He was intrigued by this information, and wanted more and more examples. Some days later, out of the blue, he came to me with more examples. So - I was teaching him something – natural learning does allow room for TEACHING – but it has much to do with the attitude and expectation of the one doing the teaching, the attitude and readiness of the one listening, and how far the lesson goes before it can be ended on a good note. I only learned this skill when I went through a Learning Language Arts Through Literature book when an older child asked to do some exercises from that series. 


The article goes into more depth about natural learning, but for now, I'd just like to add that "natural learning" is whatever is NATURAL to the child/family.    Does the child love piles of books to read through?  Workbooks to fill in?  Questions and answers?   If so, then provide those - that's natural.   This particular child may not learn MORE than a child who prefers to be read to, time to ponder and pontificate, a child who is hands-on, or even seems rather lazy at times - they may learn the same amount in different ways, but if you find a way that is NATURAL for the child they will delight in learning, and most likely continue learning throughout their whole life without it seeming a drudgery or struggle.

Sunday, 12 June 2016


I have created these beautiful little doodle colouring postcard books for adults and children.

Some designs are intricate and fiddly, other designs are easier to colour - all are GREAT FUN!

They can be purchased via my facebook page : Doodles By Debbie Ball, or if you are not on facebook I have them listed on trademe too - search for Colour & Send Doodle Postcard Books.

Outside of New Zealand please leave me a message on this blog post with your email address and I'll contact you with our PayPal details.

 There are two books - each with 18 different images to colour.

If you are sending the card to someone who likes to colour - then leave it uncoloured!!

Just pop a stamp on the back, write their name and address and send!!

These postcards are printed on delightful card that makes colouring them a breeze!

Cost:    $12 for one book
or   $20 for a set of two books

Postage within New Zealand $3 for one or two books
or $4 for three or more books.

I look forward to receiving your orders!

Compartments for Learning

Real life learning is not put into compartments.

I guess they need compartments in teaching institutions (i.e., schools) because there would be chaos without it?  Perhaps?

But at home, with natural learning - no compartments please!!

"We haven't done any history for days - oh no!" a mother may panic.

"What about when your 8 year old wanted to know about Concorde planes and you had to look at the footage of people in the late 70's and he asked you about the cars in the background ... that's history."

"Well, ok, but we haven't done any maths that I'm aware of."

"How about the time your 6 year old was holding a fistful of truck and digger toys and someone asked him "What have you got there?"  and he said  "trucks - three in this hand, and three in this hand - that's six." 

"Well ... I suppose ... but .. ah ... have we covered social studies - do they call it that anymore?"

"Whatever "they" call it, I bet you've covered it.  Weren't you just sitting with the children at the table at lunchtime talking about mandarins and how it can be hard to keep the trees alive in this climate because of the frost, but people create micro-climates and grow all sorts of things that normally only grow in warmer countries, and you talked about those countries, and the lifestyle of those peoples and then they went back to other things that die in the frost and you talked about building frost-cloth frames ..."

"So, was that all Social Studies?"


"Oh no!  Then what CAN I teach them for Social Studies - do you know any good resources I could buy - worksheets for them to complete?"

"I meant - no - it wasn't ALL Social Studies.  It was about 20 subjects rolled into one conversation.   That's entirely normal for home educating families."

"Hmm   I guess it is ...."

That was an entirely fictional account, based on some real-life situations, prompted by something I just read.

A mother wrote "I don't let my son open his laptop in learning time." 

And once again, I realised that some people think learning only takes place in a prescribed, compartmentalised way.

Perhaps she meant "forced learning time".    Maybe she's aware that of course he learns other things at other times.   But I would caution her to change her language then - not call "I am teaching you right now" time "learning time".

Mainstream has BRAINWASHED many, many people in SO MANY WAYS about how a person learns/who can teach/how they should teach etc.

Take off the blinkers people - mainstream has got it WRONG!!!!

Better end this rant there.

Thanks for reading.