Circle Time with Ms. Monica - A review

We have a new fun channel that both my 2 year old and 4 year old love! It is Circle Time with Ms.Monica.



I found this channel as part of my drive to ensure that my children actively see specifically black people in all aspects of their life. I have the advantage of growing up in Kenya where pretty much everyone was black like me and I never limited my thoughts on what I wanted to be or do because of the colour of my skin. Now that we are living in UK, I am very aware that racism is a major issue and it is my view that it is necessary for all children and especially black children to be aware that they can do anything they want to. In some cases this will require them to be trail blazers but in other times they CAN see and study the examples.

At first glance

The first comment my 2 year old had was, 'Mummy she is brown like you!' An interesting note is that my kids refuse to say that I am black because the colour of my skin is brown. As my 4 year old said, 'Bing is black (please google Bing - a cartoon character), Mummy you are brown.' I understand what they are saying and to be honest I have come round to the idea of race being a social construct because of reading the many wonderful books by Angela Saini, but that is a conversation I will have with them another day!

The review

Back to the review! The girls were fully engaged in the class and it was truly like Ms. Monica was in the room. They also kept repeating the lessons through the day and when I asked my 4 year old what she wanted for her writing practice later in the afternoon, she said words that sound like F, again from the lesson.

In summary, the class is really well structured for young learners. Monica is well prepared and interactive which is amazing given she doesn't have actual kids in the video but my girls felt like she was talking to them. I would say that as the parent, I encouraged them to focus and participate, if you have an active 4 year old like I do, you may find that when excited, she can start jumping or talking, so much like an actual class, I do support the learning by getting them to focus again. My 2 year old has an unusually high concentration level for her age, so she did not tail off at any point.

Homeschooling for me is not about shunning traditional teaching but rather looking for teaching techniques that allow children to engage in the material. Ms. Monica fits the bill and is a firm part of our routine now.

Why don't women in UK breastfeed their babies?

I have just finished having a 'conversation' on twitter where I was called a lactivist and a nipplenazi (google their meaning, I had to!). The basis of this abuse was because I responded to a tweet where a woman said she had witnessed a pregnant mother being worried about having to breastfeed her child because she could not find formula in the shop. The background to this is that we are currently in the COVID19 crisis where people are panic buying supplies as they are uncertain as to if they may be forced to quarantine themselves and for how long.

So what offensive thing did I say? I said that the pregnant mother should not be worried, breastfeeding has its challenges but it is really easy once you work through them. I also said that is the best site for evidence based advice as sometimes the doctors, midwives and healthvisitors in UK give poor advice for example
1. Using growth charts for combifed babies (breastmilk and formula) for exclusively breastfed babies
2. Not being able to provide latching advice
3. Not telling women that in the first few days, milk may not appear but the baby needs to be continually put on the breast in that time to stimulate the milk production.
4. Offering formula in hospital to settle a newborn instead of encouraging breastfeeding and advising that the baby may be unsettled due to the birth process and new environment.
5. Not having had experience of breastfeeding or supporting breastfeeding themselves to fully understand its difficulties (endless wake ups, tiredness, possible pains due to mastitis or poor latch, oversupply and nipple changes generated by pumping) or its benefits (fully biocompatible, adjusts to the baby's needs, always available, food and comfort all in one).

Finally I also said that once presented with the research and evidence, it is the woman's choice to do whatever she likes. A fed baby is the most important thing, breast or formula or both., it does not matter, feed the baby.

The vitriolic response from a minority of people does underline why UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world (Source - UNICEF).  An NHS survey showed that 81% of mothers start breastfeeding but within 3 months that drops to 17% and by 6 months it is 1%.

My argument is not one that is against formula feeding it is rather one that says breastfeeding is normal and natural BUT (in bold and all caps) requires a lot of dedication to master and a lot of good support from family as well as clinicians and health workers. Mammals large and small give birth to their young and the mothers then feed the young with milk that is naturally biocompatible for the young baby. We as humans are mammals, we are built to do this.

Is it really offensive to say that breasfeeding is natural or that babies should be fed regardless? My very rational mind says no.

Additional Sources:
1. Image Source - Wikimedia Commons

STEM for Toddlers - Tropical Butterfly House

Lorikeet at Tropical Butterfly House

If you are looking for a great place for kids to interact with nature, then Tropical Butterfly House in Leeds is for you! Here is the synopsis.

Entry Fees: 13.75 per adult 12.50 for kids(2+)
Time Spent: Full day (11am to 4pm)
Activities: Monkeys including lemurs, Various Birds, Various small mammals - meerkats, porcupines, Bird show including contact with owl, Dinosaur walkthrough and pretend fossil hunt (huge hit with kids), Butterfly house with birds, reptiles, and of course butterflies! Chances for children to handle wild animals including massive cockroaches and snakes.
Activities Missed: Otters (only because the kids saw a playground and rushed to play in it when we were trying to get to see the otters towards the end)
Food: Usual English stuff (jacket potatoes, sandwiches), reasonably priced
Toilets: Old but plentiful and clean
Would we visit again: Definitely!
STEM topics for Toddlers: Taxonomy (teach them about the birds in the butterfly house, the flying owls in the display, the quails and peacock that wander happily in the grounds. Teach that some need warmth and others can survive without it. Teach them about the varying size and colours. Teach and encourage questions about the food birds eat whether meat, vegetables, nectar or foraging). I personally focussed on the birds as my kids are aged 2 and 4, so their attention span would not necessarily allow them to retain detail of the other animal groups. However, when we go back, I would definitely repeat the lessons and include the other animal groups.

I am not a big person for zoos in general as I grew up in Kenya and our wildlife is truly wild and free. I do also understand that some animals do end up in captivity and have to be housed somewhere and I prefer to visit zoos that are keen on conservation.

Visiting a place like this is a chance to discuss why animals end up in captivity and what is being done to rewild nature (specifically in this case for England given that is part of the mission of Tropical Butterfly House)

The true highlight of the day was visiting and feeding nectar to the lorikeets.  Here is my youngest little girl (and her sister's hand in the background)

Feeding nectar to the lorikeets
There was one little straggly parrot who was missing the vast majority of his/her feathers. Much to my delight, the kids decided that we should buy some more nectar to feed this particular parrot so that he/she feels better (yay for raising good humans!).

I am still filtering through the outtakes, there are more photos to come!

Have you been there, would you go? What do you think about teaching while having fun in a zoo?