Why Walking to School is So Important

Why Walking to School is So Important

We’ve been looking at moving house and deciding how close to the school we actually need to be. Move further out and you get more for your money. Be within walking distance and well, you definitely get less but what you do get is difficult to put value on.

Our walk to school is perhaps my most favourite moment of the day. When it’s not fraught with chaos and shouting to get us all out the door on time, it is a walk that takes us past some of the most beautiful parts of London- narrow canals lined with house boats, tree-lined streets, green spaces and multi-coloured houses offering us all sorts of treasures along the way.

At the moment, I take my three girls to school and nursery via pram, buggy board and scooters. It’s a 15-20 minute walk and often at a brisk pace. But the thought of giving it up for a bigger place, and a commute by car, well, it just can’t be worth it.

When I think of how much learning our children get just by being in the outdoors, I’m grateful that we have this space… this time that captures the girls’ imaginations. Walks become adventures to find secret passages, the biggest leaf…seeds that look like acorns, sticks, squirrels, foxes and cats along the way litter our path. Pidgeons who raid the bins on the corner and ants, ladybugs, worms and snails that stop us to examine each and every one.

If you think about it, every moment in nature offers a different opportunity to learn and to teach our children.

I had a bee on my leg yesterday. Of course, my instinct was to flick it off but (luckily it didn’t sting me), we got the kids over to show the pollen it had stuck down its leg to carry back to its hive. Ants who march all in a row following a trail of sticky ice-cream, squirrels scurrying to and fro in the autumn trying to gather as much food as they can before winter.

My daughter even had a dead mouse left in her nursery playground! Disgusting yes, but instead of tossing it straight away, the children’s fascination led the teachers to tell them about the cats who might have caught it, why and the cycle of life.

Though I’ve not got a green thumb, I’ve appreciated the many opportunities planting and growing and maintaining greenery our children have had and continue to have both at school and elsewhere. My two year old knows how to plant a seed, dig up a potato and pull up carrots when ripe.

Physically, our walk to school offers opportunities to practice balancing along the walls, learn about traffic safety, point out tree types, birds and flowers, with the chance to pick up flowers that have fallen for craft-time later.

It’s 15 minutes of peaceful joy as we start and end each day. It’s a wind down before we get home to make dinner, finish homework, bathtime and bed. It’s short but it’s physical activity and fresh air that makes me feel less guilty at the end of the day if we’ve not had time to go to the park. And it’s a chance to talk about our days, holding each other’s hands as we go. Singing songs and laughing at each other’s knock knock jokes. I don’t always appreciate it as much as I should but when I’m faced with giving it up… I hope not.

Mixed Race Book Review: Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown is the second in our mixed race book review series by Mixed.Up.Mama.

This is one my daughters’ favourites (and mine). Inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage, Monica Brown has won numerous awards and starred reviews for her Marisol series which, incidentally is also written in Spanish.

Marisol McDonald is a wonderful book about a Peruvian-American girl named Marisol who loves to be different. She loves to wear green polka dots and purple stripes, eats peanut butter and jelly burritos and tells her cousin off when he tries to tell her her skin colour (brown) does not match her red hair. Simply said, she loves who she is. When everyone, including her teacher, tells her she should match, she decides to change herself and the next day, she wears a matching outfit, plays pirates with her friends how they like it and writes her name in printed letters as her teacher says she should. But soon, she discovers how boring it is and how proud she is to be a mismatched Marisol.

The illustrations, done by Sara Palacios and the fact that it is written in Spanish beside the English are bonuses to the lovely story behind author Brown’s loveable character. For bilingual children as well as kids that come from more than one culture, this is a fantastic choice.

Another recommendation if you want your child to be proud of their mixed heritage!

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS WHEN YOUR KIDS ARE BACK AT SCHOOL

For millions of kids around the world, it’s the start of the school year.

And for just as many mums used to knowing every detail of our children’s lives, we are now left standing at the entrance of the school gate wondering just what the heck they get up to for those 6 hours away from us.

It’s a new year, a new class and for some, even a new school so it’s normal for parents to worry about how their child is faring and what the teacher is like?

The transition from reception to Year 1 for us has been especially challenging as the kids have reported feeling like there are more rules and definitely less playtime.

It’s been hard knowing we’re entrusting our kids with teachers whom we know very little about and how they interact with our children. Hence, the end of the day debrief is so important.

If your kids are anything like mine, getting them to tell you about their day is exhausting. I’ve tried everything- from bribery to punishment (yes, I said it!) just to get some answers!

But I’ve found that if you ask the right questions, you can get something… Just don’t make the rookie mistake and ask them about their day. Even I can answer that one. “Fine, Mum. Can I go play now?”

So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite questions which have gotten somewhere with my daughters.

  • What was your favourite part of your day?
  • What didn’t you like about today?
  • Did you get into any trouble? What did the teacher do?
  • Was anybody mean? What did you do?
  • Did you do anything extra nice today?
  • Was anybody else extra nice to you today?
  • Who did you play with at lunchtime? And what did you play?
  • Did anybody else get in trouble today? What did the teacher say?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  • What did you have for lunch? And who did you sit beside?

For me, I love to hear about the social dynamics at school as well as what they learned. I want to know that my child didn’t feel bullied, what the teacher’s approach to bad behaviour might be, who she plays with and how she relates to others…

If there is something you want to know about such as how the phonics lesson was taught, think of a way to ask it that isn’t, “what was your phonics lesson like?”

Just remember, keep it short because your kids will lose interest pretty fast so get the key questions in there fast and save the rest for later. Vary it up each day if you can and add your own!

I’m trusting you, my faithful readers to come up with much more ingenious ways to ask your kids about their day. Please share them here in the comments and I might even write a follow up later in the year!

Seven Reasons Why I Love My Mixed Race Family

Why I Love My Mixed Race Family

When I started this blog, I was surprised at how much there is to learn and write about the mixed race experience. I’m excited but also encouraged that more and more people are waking up to the idea that mixed does not mean half-caste, or confused or some or all of nothing. Although there are the struggles that mixed race people feel when out in the world battling to ‘fit in’ and identify themselves in the carefully chosen boxes that exist, there’s so much more that our mixed race kids will experience and can explore because of their multiple heritages. Here are a few of my favourites:

Exotic and Amazing Holidays (with the excuse of going to visit family)

Like any family, after we had kids it became that much more important for us that we have our families (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins) close by. We want our children to not only know their extended families but also to know where they are from, where their parents grew up, their family histories. The fact that our families live on different continents makes for some amazing holidays and a cultural experience that we may not have anywhere else- the food, the celebrations, dare I say it- the fuss made over us- all make it better than any other holiday abroad.

The Ability to Blend In

With exposure to so many different cultural norms, our kids can easily blend in anywhere. I think they get, on a gut level, that different families, countries and cultures have different sets of greetings, languages, food and celebrations. They get it because they’ve been exposed to it from such a young age. They know that when they see their Nigerian grandparents they should kneel to greet, when they see their Bababozorg (on their Iranian side), the adults greet with three kisses on the cheek and their English Grandma will give them a hug. They’ll know about respect for elders, removing shoes, different types of food and ways of behaving. For them, it’s normal to look for the signs and follow their parent’s lead. This should get them far in life when they’re visiting new countries. They’ll expect that different cultures will do things differently and, who knows, with their myriad of cultures, they may even be familiar with some cultural practices that span different countries.

The best of both worlds

This is perhaps one of the best things I love about our mixed family. As we’ve travelled more and lived and experienced the benefits of so many different cultures, countries, climates, and histories, I’ve realised that when people ask the question, where do you prefer to live the most? I’m stuck. I love the mountains and outdoors of Canada, the beauty and history of England, the richness and intensity of Nigeria, and the proud culture of Iran. My girls can proudly lay claim to all of these and call each one of them home.

Open minds= Tolerance

With so much exposure to difference and sometimes conflicting ways of getting to the same end, it’s no wonder that people say that being mixed lends itself to careers in diplomacy, politics and foreign relations. Being mixed brings with it an inherent sense of tolerance and an open mind to ‘others’ because of who they are. Even where cultures and countries are at war, children born of an interracial relationship can be the healing and tolerance families and countries need.

Multiple festivals/ holidays and celebrations

With multiple excuses to celebrate and feast, this is by far the greatest advantage of a mixed race family. From an entirely greedy and fun-loving perspective, we get twice the number of festivals and celebrations as anyone else! For my family, we go from Nowruz (Persian New Year) to Easter in one week! If you’re Chinese, you get to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year so close together you might as well permanently eat chocolate! With so many festivals and celebrations bringing together family, friends, food and often music, your kids will get to experience the richness and diversity of multiple cultures. And that’s never a bad thing.

An Inherent Globalised World View

My family’s everyday is splattered with jokes and comments that are indicative of a family that comes from multiple cultures. When there’s a power outage in Canada, my daughter is asking, “Did Nepa take light?” (Nigerian’s way of describing the frequent electricity failures that plague the country). When winter comes in England, my daughters want to know if they can go shovel the snow like we do in Canada. And when we have rice, the girls want to know if they can have the biggest piece of tahdig (Iranian crunchy bit at the bottom). People we meet and their behaviour they see are always accompanied by questions about where they’re from- near Nigeria? Close to Canada? Or “look Mum, they’re speaking farsi!”

Unique (Standing out)

Whether you believe in all the hype about mixed race kids being especially cute is irrelevant because one thing that you can’t argue is the look is interesting. Pictures of brown skinned kids with blonde curls is interesting because it breaks the mold of what we’re used to seeing. Blue eyed black girls or Asian boys with a mixture of black and Asian features stand out. Apart from the look, I met some Asian mixed kids speaking fluent farsi with their Persian father coming home from school. It made me do a double take but it made me proud as well that mixed families come in all shapes and cultures and from everywhere. That it’s not just races that blend but cultures, languages, heritages and histories. What a world we will live in in 20 years time if this continues!

As featured in the Huffington Post….

ARE MULTIRACIAL FAMILIES THE NEW NORMAL?

The other day I found myself on a 45 minute bus ride with my 3 kids and 4 of their friends. We were all sat at the back.

Their conversations were fleeting, from the lyrics of the wheels on the bus to more serious subjects like what they might order at McDonalds.

At one point, one of the girls turned to the other and they were comparing skin colours- three 5 year olds arguing about who was lighter, hoping, each in turn that they were the darker one.

It was all so innocent but lovely. Lovely that they hadn’t been touched by any of our pollutant societal thoughts about skin colour bias. Lovely that they referred to skin colour as they might any other body feature- like they would the hair on their arms or whose hands might be bigger. And lovely that they were all insisting they were darker so they could match.

Within minutes, a woman on the bus turned to me, as I wiped their mouths, told them off and cuddled the littlest on my lap. “They must keep you busy”, she said.

I smiled. Grateful to hear that in 2016 a family of multiple different skin tones and races can exist in someone’s eyes and be normal.

And although I have somewhat frequent encounters with people who ask whether my children are my own because of our different skin tones,  this experience has given me hope.

As I pondered the woman on the bus’ comment, I thought about correcting her. “Only three of them are mine”, I was going to say. But I stayed quiet, content in the knowledge, that the new ‘normal’ is us.

A Mixed Race Daughter’s Journey From Straight Envy to Curly Pride

Just over a year ago I posted about my oldest daughter’s sorrow coming home from school and crying over not having straight hair like her friends.

Of course I was heartbroken and I knew that I had my work cut out for me.  As her mum, I was/ am her biggest role model and although looks shouldn’t matter, the fact that we (a multiracial family and therefore more pronounced than most mother-and-daughter combos) look so different, it can be painful.

On top of my skin being a whole shade lighter,  my hair is dead straight. And with media, magazines and friends sporting this same look, sometimes the curls can just feel too much.

If only she knew, I kept saying to myself… to others. She is the object of so many admirers when we go out.  Her hair can attract comments from strangers everywhere and yet she doesn’t want unique hair. She wants straight hair.

My daughter’s journey doesn’t end there. I made it my mission not just to subtly show her curly haired role models but I point them out everywhere we go. Beautiful white, black, brown skinned women with short, long and all types of textured curly hair. Her books, music artists and the shows she watches all sport curls. I talk to her about being unique, about having the confidence to be different, to be proud of how God made her. And to be more than just her curls. To be unique in every way because it’s better to be a leader than a follower.

And then…

Today she told me in no uncertain terms she doesn’t want straight hair.

Otherwise she’d be like everyone else. She said she likes her curls and can’t wait to be able to grow them and twist them and try out new hairstyles. She said she likes herself the way she is.

I smiled and knew she is beginning her journey to understanding and loving herself. Curly hair and all.

There is no prouder moment for a mum than when your daughter can look in the mirror and say she loves who she is.  My daughter is ultra sensitive and, I’d like to think, mature for her age. So perhaps it was an early internal switch that just happened at the age of 5. And perhaps she was already on this journey without any intervention. But for any girl, all girls, it’s so important for them to know, love and accept who they are.

Diversity in the Classroom: Why We Need to Go Deeper

It’s become popular and, indeed, a must in most primary schools and nurseries worldwide to have some sort of diversity woven into the curriculum. From black dolls to books featuring kids in wheelchairs, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find diversity in the classroom.

My daughter has now entered primary school in inner city London- a much more ‘diverse’ school in terms of its student population. And yet, sometimes I feel their nod to diversity is just a box-ticking exercise. When it came to a superhero theme in her first year, visiting ‘heroes’ from the community including a local policeman, a vicar and a doctor were all white and male. Really? I thought. When asked about it, my daughter said “I’m not a superhero, that’s for boys”.

When it comes to teaching, perhaps the odd nod in the direction of diversity in the classroom is sufficient but if we’re talking about understanding and making a difference… we need more. Because we are a multicultural family living in a diverse society, valuing and understanding difference is not only part of our being. It is essential.

But just because we as a family wear our diversity on our sleeve, why shouldn’t other families understand it in the same way? Children should know that difference is not bad… it is interesting and it is worth learning about…

This piece was first published on Multicultural Kid Blogs website. Read the full post here….