Home is where the start is

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Early childhood years, from 0-8, are the formative years. It is during these years that most is learned. Children learn about the world through their explorations. They learn about themselves through the responses they receive from others, and learn about others through these responses also. Attitudes to most things begin in the home.

Children require warm, nurturing, positive relationships that demonstrate the way life should be lived, in actions, not just words. As Anne Goodwin, former psychologist says, the interactions with significant adults will greatly influence the adult that the child becomes.

If home is where it starts, then we can’t wait until the children are of school age. By then it’s too late. It is relatively undisputed that it is difficult for children to catch up what may have been missed in those early years. Sadly, much of the intense formal work in school does more to alienate these children further, rather than improve their opportunities for learning.

Therefore, we must begin in the home, and I don’t mean with formal structured programs. I mean with fun activities that validate parents and children and provide them with opportunities and suggestions for participation and learning.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children. © Norah Colvin

It is these beliefs that informed my home-based business Create-a-way,

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

and my idea for an early learning caravan that, staffed with an early childhood educator, would

  •  go to the parents and children in their neighbourhoods, meeting in a local park or community greenspace, on regular weekly occasions;
  • invite parents to talk with, read to and play with their children using provided books, games and toys;
  • model positive parenting behaviour, explaining to parents the benefits to their children of engaging with them in activities and discussions;
  • provide suggestions for inexpensive and easy activities to do at home;
  • encourage borrowing from a book and toy library.

Of course, for many parents, such as those reading this post, nurturing a child’s development is almost second nature. They have the education and resources, and a belief in the benefits, to empower them to nurture their children’s development. They require little additional support.

Requiring most support are those without the benefits of education, resources or a belief that life could be improved. If all they have experienced through school systems is failure and rejection, they will have difficulty in perceiving any purpose in trying. It is these parents and their children that we need to reach. If they feel valued, they in turn may find value in others. If we improve the lives of those marginalised by poverty or lack of education, it must contribute to improving our society, and our world, in general. This will help us to feel safe in our homes, in our localities and in the wider world.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about homes and the importance of having a roof over our heads. The way we treat each other, especially those hurting, indicates there is a greater need for compassion and for those in need to receive a helping a hand.

In my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about home, I attempt to show that the situation in which one is raised is not always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Out of the cruellest situations, hope can be born. We, as a society, need to do what we can to give hope to many more, to help break the cycle of despair.

81

The birth of Hope

Startled by the blueness of eyes and the intensity of unfamiliar feelings, she suddenly relaxed, as if finally, home.

She’d not known home before: not locked in a room with hunger the only companion; not shivering through winters, barefoot and coatless; not showered with harsh words and punishments.

She’d sought it elsewhere, mistaking attention for something more. When pregnancy ensued; he absconded. They kicked her out.

Somehow she’d found a place to endure the inconvenience. Once it was out, she’d be gone.

But now, feeling unexpectedly connected and purposeful, she glimpsed something different —a new start, lives entwined: home.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

47 thoughts on “Home is where the start is

      1. Prior-2001

        They were too large via email – guess my pics were too grand – I am going to try a per or google drive – or might just throw them on a blog page – I will be in touch in a few – they might not be any value – but if you get one tip it is worth my while – peace …..
        Be back shortly

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        1. Norah Post author

          Oh Yvette, I’m sorry it is causing you so much angst. It’s disappointing that the files were too big for email. I appreciate your support, but please don’t stress too much about it. I already appreciate your attempts and won’t think any less of you if a solution can’t be found. Look after yourself. 🙂

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          1. Prior-2001

            Oh no angst at all!!! I promise – and i really enjoy sharing so it is my pleasure ((must be a teacher thing)) and the area you focus on with early Ed is so important – 😉
            So I am going to link you when i get them in a page – i will leave the page until you get them – cool?
            And hope you have a nice weekend !
            💕😎☀️

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  1. Bec Colvin

    That’s a lovely FF Nor, and a great post as always. I’d love to see your early learning caravan in action. And great points about home being important – I’m sure would be may who (perhaps unknowingly) consider home the space in between sessions of learning at school.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Bec. I’d love to see the caravan going too – one day!
      I think it is difficult for many working parents to juggle time for all things tugging at them. I was fortunate that I was able to choose time with my young children over work. However I joined the workforce again when they started school, and making the best choices for everyone was not always easy. 🙂

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  2. Sherri

    Oh Norah, your flash is so beautiful. You capture that moment of instant and pure love the minute a mother looks into the eyes of her newborn baby and how everything, I mean everything, changes. She was home at last. This is a subject I explore in my memoir, that of ‘coming home’ but in the conventional sense. Thank you for highlighting the vital importance of giving our children the best possible loving, nurturing and educational (informal!) in their first eight years. We are given a very short window of opportunity to do this, our children grow up too fast. I will be eternally grateful for those young years I had with my children, and for the world they gave me through their eyes. I found my home with my children and that is where I live today. Wonderful post and message. I wish you the very best with your business and hope it’s going well. My heart always leaps with joy when I read anything about your Early Learning Caravan 🙂 I’m so sorry I’ve missed some of your posts Norah, I’ve been remiss in visiting blogs for a while now, barely managing to get my own out. I hope to see you over at the Ranch as I can over the summer and very much look forward to getting back here in the autumn. Big SMAG hugs until then!! 🙂 xxx

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Sherri, Everything you tell me about your memoir offers more enticement to read it. I do hope you get to finish it soon. There are many readers waiting for it to be published.
      I agree with you that our children grow up too fast. I love spending time with young children. But then I do love spending time with the adults that my young children have become too. I guess life changes and there is nothing we can do about that, but accept, grow and learn.
      Thanks for your thoughts re my business. It has been a much slower process than I expected, but I hope it’s getting closer. Maybe by September when you return to the blogosphere it will be done! (We can live in hope!)
      Look after yourself. We’ll catch up again when the time is right. SMAG! xx

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      1. Sherri

        Thanks so much Norah, I feel so encouraged to keep writing after reading that! I’m checking in here after a week or so away, but I’m getting the writing done, one day at a time, and I’m so glad I’m taking the time away to do it as I know I will just amble along and I can’t do that anymore. So yes, let’s hope I can get it finished soon too! And yes, I love hanging out with my adult children too, the best kind of joy isn’t it 🙂 Oh I hope things go well with your business, I’ll be thinking of you and certainly hoping that we will both return to the blogosphere with good news! We need all that hope and some!! Take care my friend, and yes, we will certainly catch up in the perfect SMAG timing! 🙂 xxxx

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        1. Norah Post author

          I’m pleased you are getting your writing done, Sherri. One day at a time is all we can hope for. It sounds like a great achievement. Any journey starts with one step, and then one step follows another. Best wishes for a successful journey. I’ll be waiting for your book’s arrival. 🙂

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  3. Gulara

    Your flash this week gave me goosebumps, Norah. So very powerful. And home is where it all begins. Strangely, as a child, I was more validated at school than at home. Education wasn’t as important for girls, because ultimately our main goal in life was to get married and have children, so my family humoured my desire to learn, but there wasn’t too much encouragement or support. As someone who deeply cares about setting the right foundation for my kids’ development, one thing I’d say is we all need help. I take your point that those who struggled through education system need even more support, but generally, it’s not an easy task. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. Thank you for all you do – you are amazing!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Gulara. I am so pleased you enjoyed the post and my flash. Although I know you have struggled to deal with the lack of support you received at home, it is wonderful to see the success you have achieved through your own determination. You demonstrate what is possible, providing inspiration to others who may also be struggling. I am so pleased you were affirmed at school. It is a good thing that the attitude towards girls and their education is improving, but it still has a long way to go in some parts of the world. Supporting each other to grow in understanding is very important. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

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  4. C. Jai Ferry

    I love the sentence “She’d sought it elsewhere, mistaking attention for something more.” I’ve seen that mistake with so many people (and they never realize it while in the moment — or sometimes ever!). Intense flash!

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  5. Pingback: Home on the Range « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. julespaige

    I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of the before school life of my grands. Having a pre-school teaching background and a love for reading – I can only hope that I passed on valuable lessons to my little people.

    I’ve unexpectedly had both for a few hours twice a week in June. And just seeing how they play together (OK sometimes they do squabble – there is an age and sex difference) warms my heart.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Like you, Jules, I find it a joy to have time with my grandchildren. What a privilege it is. Not everyone gets to experience it. I’m sure your children’s lives have been enriched with your love, support and input. 🙂

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      1. julespaige

        When Mommy or Daddy come to take them home and the ‘littles’ say…’Not yet.’ Or ‘I don’t want to leave now…’ (even when I am tired …) I still smile, knowing that they have had a good time with me.

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  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Powerful flash, Norah. As you and others have said, she will need help in the coming months (or years) but that type of bonding can happen and can break the abuse/neglect cycle. It’s possible.

    Yes, it all starts at home. And early. I agree. And I’ve always loved your idea of visiting and giving tools and books and modeling behavior to parents who need it. Only one thing I wanted to say is this phrase has always bothered me: “By then it’s too late.” While I agree wholeheartedly that the earlier years are more important, I’ve always felt that this phrase makes parents stop trying. “If it’s too late then why should I bother?” That mentality is damaging. I’ve always loved the statement that it’s never too late. While parents should be educated that the early years are crucial, those with older children should be told that it’s never too late. 💗

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for pulling me on up that phrase, Sarah.I agree with you that it’s never too late. My intention wasn’t that it’s too late to learn or improve. We continue to learn until we die, or we die (stagnate) if we don’t learn, or something. But those years are crucial for learning that is difficult (perhaps not impossible – neuroplasticity would tell us that) to regain if not nurtured. It’s not the parents who I fear may give up on hearing that phrase, but teachers who use it as an excuse for poor teaching and children’s lack of progress at school. I think any parent who wants to make a difference to a child’s life can, and any teacher can too. But the work with older children is much more difficult if they haven’t been stimulated and encouraged in the early years. I admire anyone who can take on a child who has not received proper nurturing in the early years and turn her or his life around. Finding that love and support can heal a lot of wounds. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        I agree. Didn’t mean to call you out on it. It’s true. It really is crucial those first years. And I agree teachers could feel that way, too, but hopefully they won’t become teachers with that attitude. (At least of older kids.) I’ve taught older children, younger children, college-age “children”, and children (teens) with backgrounds you don’t want to hear about. Trust me. It’s never too late. It’s extremely difficult, disheartening, and damn near impossible, but NOT impossible. I’ve seen it. 🙂 I hate the thought of parents/teachers thinking that someone is too damaged to bother with because they’re past a certain age.

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        1. Norah Post author

          As I said, I’m pleased you did. It’s always good to have someone else interrogate the message that is being shared. I agree that it’s not impossible, and I’d also hate for someone to give up without making an effort. You bring a richness of experience to the conversation, and I am grateful for it. 💕😊

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  8. Susan Scott

    Thanks Norah – I ditto everything that has been said. It’s not a given that a mother will immediately bond with her baby for all sorts of reasons, post natal depression for one, exhaustion etc. Fortunate are those who do bond and want only the best for their child and have the resources to help them through this time – like having their own loving mother and/or family on stand by – and a father too! And economic security and on and on and on … plus a willingness to do their best at all costs. Loved your flash fiction 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for joining in the conversation, Susan. It is very true that not all mothers will bond, and sad for those who wish to but don’t and then consider themselves failures. As you say, they need a lot of support and understanding. It is sad to think that this lack of bonding will influence the life of the younger, perhaps even more than the life of the mother.
      Thanks for your kind words about the flash fiction.

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  9. TanGental

    really engaging and interesting post and comments – Anne’s especially on people blaming themselves for failings outside their control. The flash too has a nice line of hope through it like marbling in rock!

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  10. Annecdotist

    Thanks for the mention, Norah, and I found this post very moving overall.
    While education must help, we need to be wary of assuming that the better educated will know how to nurture a child. I think it’s the kind of knowledge that comes best from one’s own experience, which is how the lack of it can be perpetuated across generations. Also, the more intellectual types might struggle – I know of people who have not been able to use baby talk, finding it condescending, but that singsong tone is so reassuring to the child.
    While it’s nice to think of the mother in your flash finding herself through finding a connection with her baby, as you might expect I’m a little less hopeful. How is she going to feel when that beautiful child is red-faced and screaming at four in the morning?
    As for what gives some the resilience to move on from unfortunate beginnings, I’d speculate that there was someone somewhere who gave them at least the taste of security, even if they weren’t the primary attachment figures. Rather like the teacher who helps Marnie in some of your other flash fiction stories.
    Reminds me of a lovely article I read in the paper this weekend about adult fostering for young mothers at risk of neglecting their babies:
    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/25/only-about-half-the-mums-who-come-through-my-door-leave-with-their-baby
    It’s so annoying that so much of what you identify in this post as in others to support parents to care for their children in the early years is rarely prioritised or resourced.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Anne. Your words of support mean a lot to me. It may surprise you to know that when I write posts like this one I always feel you looking over my shoulder and I consider what you would be thinking or would say. The psychology of it all is definitely more your alley than mine. The post was twice as long when I began and included more about poverty. It was too much, and too little space to deal in depth with such a complex issue.
      You are absolutely right that neither level of education nor income determines the quality of parenting. It is just more difficult for parents living in poverty to find the energy or resources to think beyond surviving each day. Many, of course, do a wonderful job, but we need to do more as a society to make it more equitable.
      I know the situation in the flash is probably rare, but definitely possible. If she had seen others parented in positive ways and knew that the way she was parented wasn’t ideal, perhaps that would be incentive enough to attempt to break the mould. Reading Sasha’s story in the Guardian (to which you provided a link, thank you) confirmed this, though she had support. As you say the mother in my story will need that too. I saw her situation as similar to Marnie’s but I haven’t considered motherhood for Marnie yet.
      I really enjoyed reading about the fostering program for mums and their babies. What a wonderful initiative. There should be more of it. I cried when I read Sacha’s story. I don’t know why I cry at happy endings. Maybe you can tell me! I’d love to know who got the program going. Perhaps I should investigate ways of establishing a fleet of early learning caravans. Maybe once my website is up and running I may have a little time to think of others things. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and enriching the conversation.

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      1. Annecdotist

        I do hope you experience me as a positive presence sitting on your shoulder! I know I can be critical.
        But I also find you such a support when our opinions chime (and even when they don’t). While I know a lot about the theory and how things can go wrong for people at the start, I have no experience of prevention, and nor would I have the temperament to implement it.
        Maybe you cry with relief? I think I do. I’d love to see you implement that fleet of caravans. I think you’d have the wisdom and patience to make it a success.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I do, Anne. I enjoy our conversations and I find your expertise in this area very beneficial. I learn a lot from you. I have spent a lot of time with a lot of hurt people and seen a lot of different responses to neglect, abuse and shame. None of it is pretty but some seem to survive and make a better go of it than others.
          I appreciate your words of support but fear that missed the queue on both wisdom and patience. I do try to pretend that I have a little of each but more often than not the cracks show through the mask. 🙂

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  11. lucciagray

    I agree. From my experience as a teacher and in life in general many people’s unhappiness and lack of self esteem stems from difficulties in childhood, especially homes and families. However, I’m a firm believer in growing up, moving forward and not blaming others for what we do or how we feel. You have to take charge of your life and emotions. Like the child in your flash; once it was out she’d be gone. We get the feeling she’ll be all right. She has the courage to survive. For those who don’t I hope they find supportive friends, teachers, and psychologists.
    I need to get back to Carrot Ranch. I dropped out due to work overload and I haven’t yet found my blogging rhythm.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment during your busy schedule launching the third book of your trilogy. I agree with you about moving forward, but it’s not always an easy thing to do. Some can get caught in the trap, and there are many reasons for it being so. When someone is able to escape and turn their world around, it is an amazing thing. I’m sure there will have been studies, and Anne will be the one who knows, but I’d love to know what makes the difference. Why some can move out and on, and others remain trapped in the vicious cycle.
      We’d love to see you back at the Carrot Ranch. Sometimes it’s impossible to maintain the momentum in all areas at the same time.
      Wishing you success with your books. 🙂

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    2. Annecdotist

      I agree, Lucy, that it’s annoying when people blame others to avoid taking responsibility and moving forward. But I’ve actually seen much more of people feeling responsible for failings that are outside their control. They see others apparently rising above adversity and blame themselves for not doing likewise, but don’t realise that they actually don’t have the same resources to draw upon. For better or worse, the early years have a strong influence on our emotional capacities as adults and some people just don’t have a secure enough start.

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      1. Norah Post author

        I think I’ve said this a few times before – it’s not fair that others get a chance to stuff up our lives before we get a chance to do it for ourselves! Some positives occur for those of us who can see where we are failing, or have been failed, and do what we can to improve. Others fail to see that there are other choices they could make, or other doors they could open. It’s very sad.

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          1. Norah Post author

            Thanks, Anne. I’ve just been over there! Sorry to sound like a cracked record, particularly when we can’t do anything about it!

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