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This is a brilliant idea!
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I first read about it in a Guardian article here. I had a quick look at Oliver James’ website. Then I went ahead and bought the book.
It’s a very simple idea: you take one child away for a special holiday where they can do pretty much whatever they like. You follow up with half an hour of special time each day where the child can do pretty much whatever they like.
It is incredibly hard to do!
Firstly, you have to arrange the big holiday. This doesn’t have to be a massive trip, but it does take planning. If you have several children it takes even more planning.
Last year I took the other children to my parents for the weekend and my husband did the Love Bombing from our house. This year, he’s taking the boy being ‘bombed’ away and I’m staying home with the other children.
For the sake of fairness, we give Eldest and Middly a turn each. Last year we managed consecutive weekends. This year there’s a couple of weeks between them.
It is expensive. ‘Special times’ tend to be more expensive than every day times, though you can – obviously – limit how much you spend.
The daily half hour is a massive commitment. Last year we kept it going for two months before we gave up (or ‘rearranged the timetable’, as I put it to the boys). It takes serious effort and a fair bit of luck to be able to give each child half an hour each day. I used a combination of threat (‘if you ruin your brother’s special time, what do you think he’s going to want to do during yours? You need to be careful.’), bribery (child not having special time can take a snack and an electronic toy to his room) and distraction (bags of stickers for the baby, desperately trying to get his nap in sync).
We open the time with a phrase borrowed from filial therapy: ‘this is your special time. You can do almost anything you like. If there is anything you can’t do, I will let you know.’
Then we try – as far as is safe and sane – to say ‘yes’ to everything!
Of course, we have to set a few limits. I refused a bath full of custard, for example! And Middly is still not allowed to watch Game of Thrones! But, hours of TV, sweets and an impromptu cinema trip is all fine. It’s surprising how little the boys really ask for during these times.
Last year Eldest chose to sleep in a tent for his Leopard-Otter Weekend, and was sick three times in quick succession. All over himself, his Dad, the tent and then his bed.
But, we’re doing it again!
We’re doing it again because it worked. It worked wonders for us!
As well as loving the weekend, the boys became much calmer and happier. They made amazing progress as a result of last year’s Love Bombing. And that progress has remained!
I am a bit worried about explaining the other benefit, I don’t think it reflects well on me! But, as a result of Love Bombing, I felt more affection for the boys and more joy in their presence. It definitely made me a better mum. So, we’re doing it again, starting with Eldest’s ‘Treasure Time’ (in the book James encourages you to get your child to give the time a name, part of marking it out as being Not Like Normal Time) today and tomorrow.
Middly and Baby are staying home with me, and we’re having Special Time, which is like Love Bombing, but with the added distraction of Baby.
Of course it probably wouldn’t work for all families (what does?). But it is one of the best things we do and we plan on continuing.
One of Middly’s sweeter requests today was that we painted each other’s faces:
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(I’m a tiger – Baby helped!)

Language!

Eldest was five when he came to live with us. He already had an impressive range of swear words in his vocabulary. And he made great use of these words at both appropriate (as far as it is ever appropriate for a small boy to swear) and inappropriate moments. He dismayed my husband by yelling ‘you took my f***ing queen’ when he was learning to play chess.
What he didn’t know, however, were the childish ‘rude words’ that I might have expected to hear. He delighted me by coming home from school one day and asking why the teacher had told off a child for shouting ‘welly’.
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I don’t tend to swear really, and nor does my husband, so Eldest’s bad language sort of wore off over the years. Of course, in many cases it was replaced with more antisocial behaviour: physical aggression, destruction of property, taking and hoarding of various things.
He still shouted sometimes, but he mimicked me and began to shout long rants rather than bad language. Very memorably calling me a ‘naked mole rat who walks backwards’.
(Um . . . I don’t call people rats of any description, actually, but I have been known to shout ‘why are things moved when I don’t want them to be moved so I can’t find them when I need them, yet when I want things to be moved because they’re in the wrong place nobody moves them for days on end?!’ I’m not saying it’s inherently ‘better’ than swearing. It’s just my style of stressed shouting.) Though it is probably very silly, I rather liked Eldest being so like me.
But just recently, over the last fortnight, the bad language is back! Real torrents of abuse are hurled at all and sundry. He has – just like he did at five – a surprisingly broad range of words. He has added a few new ones, though. So now he intersperses f**k and d*ck with poop and butt. The effect is rather comical.
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I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this new phase. I prefer unpleasant words to unpleasant actions, definitely. But a part of me is sad to hear that he hasn’t forgotten any of them. This kind of language sounds out of place in our house, it is a reminder of how different his childhood has been from my childhood. My son is the only person who has ever spoken to me like this, which just shows how lucky I have been to be surrounded by kind people all my life.
I am sorry that he knows these words and I am sorry that he feels such strong anger at such a young age. I wish that I could give him back his innocence, but, of course, that’s impossible. Eldest’s past is a part of him, and it always will be.

The Strength that Comes From Peace

We are always on the look out for ways to tame the monsters inside our boys.
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What with one thing and another, the boys can have very Hulk-style rages.
Some things are helpful, like routines and lots of fresh air. Some things don’t work so well.
The latest tool we have turned to is meditation. I was hoping that practising calming themselves would help the boys.
I found some guided meditations for children on line here.

These sessions are very short, starting at just three minutes. It was a low intensity introduction to meditation.

We also bought this book and CD combination online: Sitting like a frog
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It’s been wonderful!
Admittedly, I sometimes reward the boys for ‘good meditating’. I made a big fuss the first time and now do so periodically in an attempt to keep enthusiasm up. But, I think they do enjoy it.
They have always gone to bed pretty well, but a short meditation together is a lovely way to end the day. It’s also a nice way of setting a calm tone in the morning.
Since we do the meditations together, I am benefitting too. I am not exactly known for my wonderful sense of calm, so anything that helps me be a bit more mindful is a very good thing indeed.
Best of all, the language has spread. I can remind the boys to think about ‘the strength that comes from peace’ (a line from the web based meditation on Peace) when they are getting a bit out of hand, and it means something to them. I have even got Middly to ‘sit like a frog’ when he was getting hyper, and it actually settled him back down.

Like most great things, it probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but it has surprised me. I never imagined that I would have daily meditation sessions with my children. The boys have brought me into a whole new world.

Great Lesson Three: People

The latest Great Lesson draws on the Wallbook of Natural History and the What on Earth Wallbook. I love these books. They are packed with details and they make a valiant attempt at tying history together. There are brilliant touches like a series of illustrations of the globe at the top of the page to show how the world has changed. As I talk to the boys, they are poring over these books and reading all sorts of extra facts, as well as seeing pictures illustrating the story I am telling.

We stopped our last Great Lesson about five million years ago in the Pliocene Era. There are lots of familiar animals by this time: the giraffe, the bat, the blue whale. But, I want to look now at a very special line of animals.

There’s the Sahelanthropus, an early hominin which might have walked on two feet, rather than four. It is around this time that chimpanzees and humans split into two separate species.

We looked at the Great Wall Book, while I talked. The boys interrupted a few times to point out other things they could see or to ask questions.

The first humans were hairier than us and had smaller brains. This Austalopithecus had a brain that was about 400cm2.

About three million years ago, in the Pleistiocine Era, Homo Habilis emerged, their brains were about 600cm2, you can see that they look more like us and less like apes.

Homo Erectus came along about two million years ago, with brains about 900cm2. They shared the Earth with animals like mammoths and giant sloths.

We think that humans began to control fire about one and a half million years ago, can you imagine the change this must have made!

I lit a candle and asked the boys to think about what fire would have done for early man.

This would have allowed our ancestors to scare bigger animals away, to keep warm in winter, even to start cooking food.

About one million years ago, Homo Neanderthalensis evolved with brains about 1,400cm2. They survived an Ice Age, probably using their new knowledge of fire and clothes to keep themselves from freezing. At this point I gave the boys a model of a stone age tool to examine.

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Neanderthal grave sites have been found and some have contained stone tools. So we know that people were making tools by this time. They probably made other tools from wood and bone, but – because these rot away – we don’t have evidence of what these tools were like. This period of time is commonly referred to as the Stone Age, though it can be split into the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Eras.

I also showed the boys some stones with flint in them. We talked briefly about how flint can be shaped into tools.
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Homo Sapiens (which is the species that we belong to) evolved about 195,000 years ago. We think that people first evolved in Africa and – from there – spread out until they lived all over the world.

As you know, humans are mammals. We are warm blooded, we have babies and we feed them milk.

I had a poster to show the boys at this point.
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We think of our bodies as being made up of these systems:

the skeletal system, which holds us together,

the digestive system, which processes our food and produces waste,

the nervous system, which helps us to sense things and sends messages to our brain,

the cardiovascular system, which transports blood around our bodies,

the muscular system, which gets our bodies moving,

the reproductive system, which makes new people,

the respiratory system, which gets air in and out of our bodies,

the integumentary system, our skin, nails and hair – all the bits we can normally see,

the lymphatic system, which returns fluid to our blood and helps keep us healthy,

and the endocrine system, which produces hormones to control how our bodies work.

The earliest cave paintings that we have found date from about 50,000 years ago.

The earliest Bronze artefact found dates from 8700BC. So about that time people must have worked out how to smelt copper ore and produce copper. That’s when the Copper Age began.

We returned to the Wallbook, and the boys became very animated as they began to recognise facts they already knew.

At that time people were also hard at work developing agriculture. People began to cultivate plants rather than just going out and looking for things they could eat. Different parts of the world are suited to different crops, so in China people developed rice, while in America people grew potatoes and sweetcorn.

Around 3000BC years ago, people realised that they could smelt copper and tin together to make bronze – which is harder than copper and so useful for all sorts of weapons and tools.

About this time the Egyptians began building pyramids.

The Iron Age began about 1300BC when people began to smelt iron ore and produce iron, which is very strong and allowed people to make ever more creative tools.

The Roman Empire lasted from 900BC until 500AD.

When the Roman Empire ended, the world entered the Medieval Era. That was the age of castles and knights.

The Vikings were around from 800AD until 1100AD.

The Normans were the last people to conquer Britain in 1066.

The House of Normandy ruled for a while (William I, William II, Henry I), then Stephen Blois, and the House of Anjou (Henry II, Richard I, John), followed by the Plantagenets (Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II).

Then the House of Lancaster took over (Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI).

Then they were briefly ousted by the House of York (Edward IV)

But Henry VI came back for a second reign, only to be thrown off by Edward IV again!

The Yorks held the throne with ( Edward V, Richard III).

The Yorks were followed by the Tudors (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth II).

The Renaissance happened all over Europe from 1500 until 1800, that was when people started looking back to the Romans and the Greeks, copying and studying their art.

The Stuart House were next on the throne (James I, Charles I – who had his head cut off – Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne).

From here on we regularly refer to time periods by the name of the King or Queen of the time.

The Georgians were ruled by Georges I to IV.

The Industrial Revolution lasted from 1760 to 1840, which was when inventions happened in a sudden burst: engines and telephones and controlling electricity. This was also the time when the British Empire conquered huge areas of the world.

Then William IV ruled from 1830 until 1837, when Victoria took the throne and the Victorian Age began.

The Victorian Age was followed by the Edwardian Age from 1901until 1910 (Edward VII).

George V ruled from 1910 till 1936. Edward the VIII ruled for part of 1936, but abdicated.

The First World War was from 28th July 1914 until 11th November 1918.

The 1930’s are often referred to as the Great Depression. Almost every country in the world suffered poverty and a great deal of unemployment.

George VI took the throne in 1936.

In 1939 the second world war started.

World War Two ended in 1945 and – since it was ended when the American Air force dropped two atomic bombs on Japan – it led rather neatly into the Atomic Age, which is one name for the time in which we live now!
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After the talk, we looked at all the equipment available. Eldest chose to study Stone Age Tools and Weapons. Middly chose to study The Heart. Then they ran outside to try and make flint weapons!
Here are their first attempts.
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