Bedtimes & Control

A neuro-typical human (in this case a child) is capeable of doing away with arbitrary bedtimes.

Pretty bold huh?

Not really, you are a human and you know when you are tired (wether you listen to your body and get off the internet at 3am is a choice you have to live with). Babies can self regulate their sleep too (it’s super annoying, but they still do it). Parents are encouraged to follow the baby, rest when they rest, demand feed etc. I’m still wondering why it is that parents switch from following their baby to controling their child in really arbitrary ways at the most random of times… its kinda weird.

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This bedtimes thing is a really good example. (Meals and eating are too, but will save that for another day ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) here are some questions to ponder if you are in the headspace of controling your childs sleep;

Do you see your child as a whole human in their own right or part of an adult?

What drives you to decide on an arbitrary time to force a child to become tired and fall asleep at?

Do you fear they cannot self regulate sleep?

Were you sleep trained as a child and struggle with sleep as an adult?

Do you feel sleep training is needed by your child or would they eventually work it out?

Do you have the patience to wait that out?

Do you feel you are needed when it comes to regulating your childs sleep?

Do you enjoy that feeling to the point where you could be subconsciously seeking it?

Do you really need them out of the picture in the evenings or could they be left in a quiet space with books or a few toys to relax in their own way before falling asleep naturally in their own time?

Do you see controling bedtimes as part of a trusting relationship with your child?

If yes, is that true or are you justifying your need to control?

Do you genuinely believe trust is important in that relationship or are you comfortable without or with less trust?

If no then do you believe it is worth the deterioration of trust in your relationship to force your child to be going to bed “on time”?

Is that control satisfying your needs or theirs?

Do you feel you know when your child is tired before they do?

Do you think condition a child out of their natural sleep cues via sleep training, controlled crying or school age bedtimes only to end up having to manage it for them for their entire childhood is beneficial to your child?

Hope that has given some food for thought.

Me ‘n’ My Lazy
I do have some small inclination to self interest. I’ve heard people say things about natural parenting along the lines of “this is making a rod for your own back” …I’m 99% sure it is the other way around, I’m lazy, I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t make it easier in the long run, the effort of letting my children work this all out is in the quantity of patience it requires initially to get a workable solution. Once that is done. Bingo! Less work for me hehe. It’s a win win.

Cues and Tiredness
Tiredness changes depending on the quantity of activity for that day and how someone is feeling at the time? I’m a human just like my kids and that’s how it works for me. Even whenย one is a working adult tiredness can vary so using school wake up time to control when a child sleeps really doesn’t make sense unless you have already removed self regulation. A child may be conditioned to rely on someone else to name the feeling of tired and act on it for them (basically so they don’t have to think for themselves) but deep down they instinctively know what it is. This doesn’t mean they like the idea by the way particularly if they are also conditioned to think anything other than rest is very much needed by your body. (It’s actually a whole scope of trust that leads to a successful no bedtimes life but it’s a good place to start trusting your child again.)

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Learning Self Regulation
So if you remove the controls, how do they learn? First up, they already know, their natural body clock just needs a reminder and this can take a very long time to get back. I’ve heard that camping or doing away with unnatural levels of light can help but I haven’t tested the theory. Aside from that, there are consequences to not having enough sleep, generally speaking people learn from consequences if they are allowed to freely experience them. The aparent privileged of going to bed when they choose helps them be aware of the logical consequences of their actions through trial and error over years of practice. Parents tend to be a tad impatient and don’t like the idea of kids taking the time required to work this out again, especially if they have kids who naturally are ok with less sleep. (We have one night owl out of three, life is a little different when one child is still up past mummies bedtime.)

Control and Fear
The mainstream view in the western world is one of control over other humans by placing their worth as greater than another’s, kids are just an easy target, we call that childism and just like every other form of prejudice, it’s immoral. It may be a survival instinct from our detatched culture. Though it really doesn’t make sense, it is much harder working against the child’s nature than with it. Control seems so counter productive when they are capeable of solving it themselves. Sleep control, food control, education control, even controling how others spend their precious hours on the earth… It’s all unnessassery, maybe that is the fear, your parental control is unnessary, you are not needed for such things, logical consequence is a far better teacher than another humans control and your lack of necessity to the situation is playing on your need to be needed. When you attempt to control another human they will resist, trust will suffer andย  they will suffer, you will too with guilt eventually. People die regretful of this misunderstanding of love. When you stop trying to control another’s time in their life and just love them unconditionally they will return the favour and forgive others for being human without resentment. Wouldn’t that be a nicer world?

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Do unschoolers hate schools?

Some do and some don’t. I’m in the camp in between, it depends on the learner more than anything else, I dislike the lottery parents feel they are forced to play when selecting a school (if they even have that choice) and ending up with teachers that may or may not be kind to children. It can work beautifully (for the few who fit in or desire to be there) or it can be a disaster. Most of the time, the risk of disaster is just too high for unschooling parents because they remember their own not so groovy experiences.

MY STORY
I hated primary school, the teachers were babysitters for the most part. Plenty of my questions went unanswered due to being off topic. I only remember feeling like an idiot for remedial English classes and feeling like I was above others for advanced math classes. The in between was pathetically boring, hopelessly uninspiring, the rewards and real life uses for our education were distant and unseeable, it felt like make work for gold stars, (woo hoo! so useful those gold stars were, why do we belittle kids effort like that?)

High school was different, my overall nerdy was valued and I had some amazing teachers and mentors;
One who though classes outside for geography were the way to go (by far the most excursions happened in this class).
A tech drawing teacher that included visits to the wood and metalwork classes to see designs being built, our schematics being used.
A biology teacher that was more like a friend, (I remember ice pops in the science office and just chatting about random stuff).
A physics teacher who hung out with us during breaks chatting theory and encouraging us to mess around with real life physics… with cars in empty car parks!
A chemistry teacher who let me mix stock solutions for the labs of other classes, helped me find my work experience placement and trusted me to mark younger students papers when she was tired and pregnant.
A math teacher who told us the most hilariously lame math jokes and crazy riddles.

TEACHERS
This brings me to the idea of teaching. What is a teacher? To me it is simply someone who passes information between generations, much like a human version of a book or the Internet. They are a generalized or topic specific mentor. However, to others they are figures of authority. They have power over children. They are the perpetuators of the educational system’s indoctrination. Teaching isn’t loaded for some and is for others. It’s down to personal experience with that concept.

Power struggles and resentment never came into my school life with my teachers once I hit high school, fear was only around exams which is above the schools control (something I believed was a necessary evil at the time) and the people I talked to consisted of teachers, administrators and other students of all ages, without any issues. But I’m not so blind to think it was or is like that for everyone.

SCHOOLS
There’s bullies, arbitrary controls and peer pressure built into that system. Confidence can get broken in a moment and not return for years, there’s friendships and relationships, there’s distractions and emotional investment, there’s exams, grades, assignments and heavy textbooks, there’s lots and lots of lost sleep with study. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it can break people. I think I was just lucky.

Unschoolers (and home schoolers in general) challenge the notion that kids need this environment to learn. To be honest, looking back on it, schools are not ideal places for absorbing the most information even if you are lucky and survive it. You study, you pass and you move on to the next exam. It’s too stressful to retain all that information with everything else that is going on.

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Schools are also false communities, they take one age, one demographic children and pit them against each other for grades and other extrinsic rewards, they pay no thoughts to the realities of how varied learning can be and the much higher value of intrinsic reward in the learning process. They disrupt flow with change in classes which can make the absorbed learner quite frustrated. (I suffered from this a lot all through my schooling.) Even in the more communal classrooms, students are expected to all behave in the same way. What if your kid is quiet? What if they are the loudest? What if they like or don’t like groupwork? What if they need to move to think? What if they want to stand up or sit on the floor to learn? What if they learn best by doing, not taking notes. What if the content of the curriculum is of no interest to them? Will it ever be of interest to them? Will they need it in a decade or two’s time when they enter the adult world? Who decides what they need then and do they even care if they are wrong?

Handwriting class is a good example, why? We scrawl notes that only require a few to read, print is required on forms, we type or voice almost every other form of communication so being forced to learn perfect letter formation on the lines in Victorian cursive is wasteful yet schools all over Australia dedicate plenty of time to teaching it. In essence, schools fail students because they put classroom management and current economic climate over the needs of the individual learner preparing for adulthood many years into the future.

THE ACT OF TEACHING
The obvious follow on question from there is does one need to even be taught if current schooling methods are so far from learners needs?

Humans can absolutely survive without it in a schooled sense. The concepts everyone seems to care about, (reading, writing and basic math) come in their own time to children who have their intrinsic motivation intact and are immersed in a learning rich environment. It just happens, they can’t avoid it much like learning to talk or walk, it’s part of our daily lives. But if we think ahead, those skills are not where humanity is unique. We are uniquely creative beings, those skills are merely tools to express that. Creativity is something kids are born experts at.

Kids may not need to be taught but some might want to be to master more complex tasks. It’s like a useful shortcut. It’s convenience. Like any convenience it has a cost, (a decrease in respect of what one learns in this case.) Being taught is like a sometimes food for learning. One wouldn’t eat convenience food all the time for your health, teaching is the same for learning, it can (if used all the time,) damage intrinsic motivation which is part of a healthy learning diet. On the flip side, we only live so long, if we want mastery of something then standing on the shoulders of others to attain it is the path of least resistance to successful mastery.  That is where teaching comes in along with any other tool used to access information faster than figuring it out individually. Teacher, mentor, facilitator, static information access and learner are all part of the one movement of information, I don’t think they can even be separated,  It has been like this for most of humanity in one format or another, we would all be sitting here discovering wheels without that process.

We often also feel the need to teach, I believe this desire stems from our genetic memory, to pass on to the next generation. The entire animal kingdom does this, humans are no different. The how for us is what is askew. We would do it naturally but that would look nothing like what mass society describes as teaching in schools.

UNSCHOOLING AND SCHOOLING
Unschooling is defined by John Holt as living as if school doesn’t exist. That isn’t necessarily the institution itself, it’s just a building after all, and humans can be natural learners anywhere. It’s more about the mindset of modern schooling and the motivations behind that system of mass indoctrination.

This mindset is as follows:
Adults forcing (denying them an exit) a child to learn (by being passive in their education) a particular set of facts (designated by someone unknown as important for their life 15-20 years into the future) in a particular way (likely not suited to their individual learning style) inside an institution (a false construct of a community where segregation is based on birth date, demographic or even gender) via a teacher (whom is from the learners perspective, an arbitrary individual that has power over children and their life choices) for particular hours of the day (which may or may not align with the learners natural capacities to absorb information) while adhering to behavioral standards (which pay no heed to culture or individual personality.)

So after all that, can an unschooled child attend school and still be an unschooler?

This might sound contradictory but yes they can, provided there is an exit strategy and they have made that well informed choice themselves.

An unschooling parent would first ask the child why they wanted to attend. They would then actively listen to the answer. Based on that answer a parent could then try to satisfy the child’s needs via alternate means, with anything from after school classes, more or less group activities to on line study. If the child still feels they wish to attend there is no real change in trust or respect, every effort has been made to allow them the freedom of that choice. The parent must then allow them to choose and if school is where they are at so be it. They are living as if the schooling mindset does not exist and by their own choosing are willing to take on the constructs of that system knowing they can stop at any point.

That freedom is theirs continuously. They are trusted in their actions and they are respected to do as they please with their own education. This is why I can say it depends on the learner more than anything else with regards to my like or dislike of schools as an unschooling parent. It isn’t my place to decide that for my children. That’s pretty much it.

Thanks for reading, from Becca.

Unschooling means your child is the boss right?

The extremely short answer is no. But I’m also not the boss of them either.

Something that not many get until it smacks them in the face is that unschooling is a family way of life, I don’t think it ever should have been associated with the phrase “child-led” because it isn’t the kid is boss scenario, that would be like reinventing the wheel over and over.

We guide and mentor our young for a reason and have done so since the begining of our existence. Having said that, there is no better teacher than experience.  Decision making needs practice and unschooling to me means you are on equal footing with your child in the decision making process to give them practice at using their opinion, thoughts and instincts for the greater good wherever the opportunity arises. That process works best if it is excecuted with very honest needs from both parties that are not founded in a schooled, controlling, manipulating or any kind of conditioned mindset. Some things need to be done, some things we generally don’t like doing, very few of those things with a bit of creative forethought cannot be solved to the point where both parties are comfortable with the outcome.

So how does one achieve this?

What unschooling families need, (just as much as the rest of society I guess,) is the time and space to think creatively. Rushing is the enemy of honest, clear and concise decision making in everyone. When we are rushed through that process we find ourselves either manipulating and controling to get a quick answer or being manipulated as is the case for children most of the time. It’s such a waste of natural trust which is a perfect tool for natural learning as it feels safe, it means our kids can get on with their job without that worry.  There is no need while they are learning the ways of the world to put that extra pressure on them, they have plenty of time. Unschooling provides a flow of trust and encouragement in their primary relationship without that need to rush through life.

Humans are not as grand as we think we are. The rest of society could probably do with a dose of slow down too, especially if we want the inner voice of ourselves and of our children to show through the high speed crazies of the world. We no longer have the upper hand on speed or time so there is no point pursuing that end. The digital age has surpassed us, we must focus instead on our creativity with passion and purpose, that which makes us us. That takes space to think and time to process. The rewards are worth the wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The Sharing Debate

My gosh I find it so facinating that there are so many ideas about sharing and young children.

On one hand there’s the idea that learning to share should be forced from a young age. Then at the other end of the spectrum there is this idea that forced sharing is entirely damaging.

I don’t agree with either. As always we run a middle ground.

For us sharing is sometimes a necessity as well as a giver of happiness, I don’t buy three packets of the same coloured pencils even though I have three children who use them, I can’t afford to do that. There’s experience in it for my kids to learn to take turns and share at any age, even I share respectfully with them. We all do art together and share those supplies, it’s more fun that way. Aside from impractical things like underware lol, almost everything in this house is shared like this.

My 11 year old shares his tech with his three year old sister. He doesn’t have to but he likes to see her happy so he does even though she’s a bit rough and he knows we can’t replace it if it breaks. He trusts her and holds her happiness over the value of a possession, new or otherwise. When friends come we share, and if we have the capacity to help a stranger with something, we share then too. (Shirts off backs to strangers have happened in our family.)

I’m the weirdo that would loan out literally anything to a friend. Car if they needed it, money if we had it, food I have given plenty of times. The perceived value of this stuff is not equal to another’s happiness and a dear relationship.

Sharing is caring. If you care for the other human, to make them happy you share and experience things together, if you do not have an unhealthy attachment to possessions this would make you happy too. I find encouraging attachment to possessions is the same as encouraging materialism. Stuff is not precious, people are.

As adults we share public transport, libraries, roads, parks, hospitals, police services, schools etc, you pay for those so you could claim part of it is yours. (It’s roughly 11 km per aussie person for roads if anyone is interested) If you recieve government payments you are even sharing money. I’m wondering why it is that even though that is forced sharing we are ok with it if ownership and autonomy over stuff is so important? I think because it works out better that way.

Sharing usually works out better. One can help others, its less of a burden because of its inclination to minimilisim, one can find joy in giving, it can strengthen friendships and entire communities, lotsa warm n fuzzies. When a parent allows (and seperate themselves from the learning opportunity of) a child who feels justified that their possessions are of higher value than a friendship. It does the reverse. They decide on their own that it’s ok not to help others, they decide on their own that people are less if they have less, they decide more is better and in the long run they decide community comes after autonomy with regards to possessions.

Is it possible for a small non-coerced child to share possessions? Yes. It is. It’s a learning curve but provided non excessive attachment to possessions is modeled consistently, it is possible. Excessive fear of loss of possessions isn’t something one should humor in good faith that it will change. It’s just stuff, not the end of the world, that is the reality, just go look at a dump at how much we consume that disappears from our lives daily. It doesn’t really disappear. Less is more.

I also find it really hard to either force/guilt any one of my children to either share or deny a sharing opertunity to them. If I can give or share it I will and they, more often than not, do the same because we encourage them to do so.

I remember I tried to set up a shared science toys library for homeschoolers in the area. I got the idea from the shared and gifting economy books I was reading at the time. Some people got it others missed the point. “Where did you get that and we need one” was the most common response to the idea… not what I was going for.

Minimalisim lends itself to sharing, intentional communities are based on sharing but it seems that the majority miss the point just like this. You do not need one of everything, you need trust and relationships in your community. This starts when you are very small. Practice is as always key.

Iโ€™d also like to add that possessions are not the same as ones own body. Bodies are not objects. That difference should be made abundantly clear to a child well before pretty much anything else. I used to ask my children if I could change their nappy or put warm clothes on them. Respect of the body is not the same as generosity of possessions.

Possession are not alive, they don’t need you and the vast majority of times you don’t need them all to yourself.ย  I believe this is what should be modeled by parents for their children. Hopefully they catch on in a sharing saturated environment.

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Green Tree Snake Adventures (Dendrelaphis Punctulata)

Stupid cat just caught this poor lil guy in our backyard. Thankfully he didn’t seem injured. Due to Kiall’s quick ID (who has been on the lookout for this species for a while) he was scooped up and we all got a closer look before letting him go back to the tree tops (sans cat outside!)ย  These guys rarely if ever bite and are not venomous so it was safe to handle him.

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Anyone who knows my middle child gets that she absolutely adores snakes. She was just as stoked as daddy to handle this little guy who didn’t want to let go when it was time to say see ya later. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I’m very grateful to Kiall and his quick identification skills, the kids would have missed this learning opportunity if it wasn’t for that. Go daddy ๐Ÿ™‚

Subtleties of the unschooling mindset – (part 3) Labels

Labels create expectations beyond natural human capacity. They exist in the world of perfect. In the club of if I obey these rules I can put on that labels and embody it. Be proud of it. Flaunt it and judge others by it. Exclude because of it. All manner of elitist attitudes stem from labels. As you can probably guess, it causes some problems, one of which is burnout.

One experiences burnout when they tried and failed to meet unrealistic expectations. The catch is that the unrealistic part is different for everyone.ย  Burnout shows there is something out of balance, your conscious isn’t settled. It’s not natural to experience burnout over parenting. Over commitments elsewhere, particularly for time, yes, but not parenting.ย  It’s probably the most natural thing we do. Guilt over parenting is the same. Who but yourself is applying unattainable standards, prophetic internet no-faces? You can’t logically feel guilty if you are doing what you are actually capeable of, it’s what you can do at any particular point in time, nothing more or less within the circumstances. It’s not practical to hold ones self to external standards of someone else’s label of ‘good’ parenting who knows nothing of your situation. Or worse, attempt to hold yourself to the standards of parental playground judgement amongst each other over which way is the right way, that has changed every decade and guarenteed it will do so again with the next fad label.

Practical, logical parenting dictates that every situation needs to be considered seperately. Differing personalities even within the same relationship over time, differing circumstance in and outside of one’s control etc. These are the only things one can use as a parent to determine an appropriate course of action. No one parenting style rules apply across the board. No one else knows your situation and your capabilities better than you so guilt is useless self imposed emotion. Perhaps you feel guilty towards your child, for not putting your best foot forward? Then change, don’t feel a useless emotion, just do better next time, get on with it. Trust me, you being human will help your kids feel it’s ok to be what we actually are, we don’t belong in the world of perfect so stop pretending that it even exists for our species. You are the only one who can look at your expectations with the understanding that we are imperfect and beautiful messes of creatures. You are the only one who can see how useless guilt and these counter productive perfect labels are.

Please just do what you do, think lots on things, apply what works, dismiss what doesn’t and go from there. People get way too caught up in labels and rules. They really are pretty useless when trying to categorize such an intellectually varied species as humans much less in one of our most complex relationships.

(Part 1) Coercion vs Suggestion
(Part 2) Personal Voice

Subtleties of the unschooling mindset – (part 2) Personal Voice

Many may disagree with my stance on this particular mindset shift but I am one to believe in personal voice as far as that concept can be utilized. I wait and see before jumping into sibling debate. I don’t readily interfere with playground tiffs unless it is clear someone is being hurt, (then I will mediate between the two parties rather than solve the problem for them.) That and modeling healthy debate is the extent of my responsibility. I let my children work through things using their own voice as far as it is possible. This may sound hands off, neglectful or permissive to some, that’s ok, each their own. I feel differently, particularly as a child grows older, wiser and more mature.

Children resort to undesireable behaviour when they feel they are not truly heard, they do not require a heavy hand of discipline, they require personal voice encouragement and an active listening participant who was involved in the disagreement. To me it is trust in children’s voice to express their opinion clearly to others and opportunity to practice the fine art of debate without my adult (who is removed from the actual situation) opinions interference. I’m close, I’m listening, I can mediate if that is their desire and I will even use this experience later to discuss the finer points of disagreement solutions with my child.

Mutual truce (when a solution cannot be reached due to external influence) and mutual agreement are playground skills that will help children make better decisions as adults. It is an exercise in empathy. Actively listening out for the needs of others, knowing and expressing ones own needs and creatively incorporating them into a workable solution for all involved is something many adults can’t even accomplish. One group of people can though, these are the entrepreneurs. Individuals capeable of creating empathic need and want solutions for groups of people beyond those that satisfy their immediate needs.

Entrepreneurs are also people who succeed in some way that is important to them and their success is worthy of admiration from others in some way. Here’s the catch though, no one succeeds alone. Others help, sometimes in not so obvious ways. Having the charisma to meet others needs as well as your own and succeed comes from those playground negotiation skills and decades of active practice. Removing the opportunity to hone those skills does the child a disservice. They learn instead to rely on others to create solutions or simply forsake their own needs in place of another’s to keep the peace, a perfect reflection of the adult fear of offence. Children are not born distrusting their voice. They start off throwing tantrums in public and asking fat people all the time if they are having a babies, there’s no fear of offence. Then slowly they move away from their inner voice they tattle tale on other kids or lie to get out of trouble. During the teenage years and beyond they self harm either physically or via self imposed mental sabotage because they distrust their own voice so much that they feel as though they don’t even hear themselves let alone anyone else hearing them… That distrust comes from roots of modeled fear of offence and the denial of learning opportunity and personal voice.

(Part 1) Coercion vs Suggestion
(Part 3) Labels

Subtleties of the unschooling mindset – (part 1) Coercion vs Suggestion

A short series of ramblee musings that I’ll build on as I think of them, cause I’m vague like that ;). Some of these we are total ninja like experts at others we fail miserably though inevitably we get up, dust off and keep trying.

(Part 1) Coercion vs Suggestion

Coercion has the end goal of doing as one says via manipulation into accepting reward and it’s false perceived value. It is power struggle based and arbitrary in the message it creates. It ideally ends in one party being deceived by another though as more knowledge is gained, it becomes more difficult to enact. Trust is damaged by coercion.

Suggestion is autonomous. It has the goal of the receiving party doing what they know makes sense. Its main component therefore is the transferance of practical knowledge. In essence, practicing what one preaches and modeling success in a task to reinforce the ‘why’. It’s purpose is to encourage one of less knowledge to recognize an alternate course of action that works for others already. It ends in either understanding and logical action or logical consequence. This personal consequence can be a self regulator of further related actions. The opportunity to fail is accepted as part of the learning process. Trust is not damaged by suggestion.

(Part 2) Personal Voice
(Part 3) Labels

Sylvanian families/Calico critters DIY – Crochet adult dress

Dress is made from the shoulder working down to the feet with crochet cotton twine (I havent pulled one apart yet so dont know how much twine is needed but it aint much,) and a size 3mm crochet hook. Please do forgive me for the format as I have never written a crochet pattern before.

Row 1: 19 chain stitch.

Row 2: 19 single stitch in all chains.

Row 3: 3 single stitch in previous row, 4 chain stitch, 4 single stitch with a 5 stich gap from previous row, 4 chain stitch, 3 single stitch in previous row with a 5 stitch gap. (Total of 17 stitches) and one join into round.

Round 4, 5 & 6: 2 chain stitch, 1 double in first stitch of previous row, 1 double in each stitch of previous row x2. Then continue the 2x 1x 1x double stitch around in previous rows for all three rows, (offset the 2 double every round by one stitch to make it fan evenly).

Round 7: 3 chain joined to every second stitch in previous row. Finish with sewing on a bead for decoration. ๐Ÿ™‚

image Note the tails are just pushed between posts in the double crochet section or left under the dress. I have also left the back of the torso open for easy on and off for a three year old but you could just as easy add a press button, sew on a strip of elastic or add some velcro. It doesn’t need it though.

If anyone would like me to make one or a few for them please do contact me, happy to sell for (AUD) $2 each in whatever colour plus postage via Australia post. Otherwise… get to making! ๐Ÿ™‚