Trusting your child

Why do kids have to learn to behave like an (boring) complying adult?

Do you think it will take them years and years to figure out that sometimes they might simply have no choice but to pay attention? Do you really think they have to be drilled to be able to become a ‘valued member of society’?

But their childhood is sooooo important… Let them play, let kids be kids!

Those are comments you hear but in practice the kids get one message: act like us.
What a contradiction!

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School(work) vs Play

Can work be play? What’s wrong with enjoying every part of your life? Is it possible?

When I was going to primary school I didn’t particularly enjoy it. But you weren’t supposed to enjoy it anyway. It was just something that you had to do. Enjoyment didn’t really play a role in the whole process. When I moved on to secondary school it became a bit more fun, but that had nothing to do with the school in my opinion. The social aspect was better and there was a bit more freedom because you had various teachers. Still I didn’t enjoy the majority of the subjects. I only really liked the practical Art lessons (NOT art history) and Maths. But saying that, I liked maths but not the lesson itself nor the teacher! I liked the material and worked ahead throughout the book, until I was told that I wasn’t allowed anymore, because when I did, I wasn’t paying attention in class. This is something I recognised in B’s behaviour when he was still in school as well 😉

Anyway, I suppose what I am getting at is that for me being in school for about 5 hours a day with only 2 hours of art lessons per week to look forward to, seems such a waste of time. And if you think about it, this ‘waste of time’ continues all throughout people’s lives. How many messages don’t you see online about people not enjoying their work. Not happy that its Monday. Very happy that it’s finally Friday. How sad is that? Living only for the weekend? Why not find a job you love? I don’t think that doing a job you love is that idealistic if you weren’t brought up with the idea that the sole purpose of working was earning money. This perception might also suggest that doing anything that you don’t get paid for cannot possibly be counted as work.

Does something have to hurt to be beneficial?

Bringing this thought into the subject of education, is this maybe the reason why school is seen By many people as the default. Because after all, if it’s to easy and enjoyable how can it possibly be worthwhile? If this is actually what you think, then how do you explain all those people who were home educated themselves and have well paid jobs that they enjoy? Are they are exceptions? I don’t believe so! Don’t wait until you finish your journey of life and reach the (final) destination, because we all know what that is.

Instead enjoy the journey in as many ways as you can!

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Babies don’t get bored

Two days ago I watched a programme on tv, where they were discussing how happy a lot of parents are that the summer holidays are (almost) over and that the kids are finally going back to school. They were talking about how bored the kids were and that the parents ran out of ideas to entertain them.

It made me think about how I felt when my kids were still in school. I cannot remember ever being happy that the holidays were over. I was always looking forward to their holidays because that meant that I finally had time to ‘just hang out’ with them again. No more school runs, no more making lunches in advance, no more moaning from the kids about homework or being too tired to get up and everything else related to school. In the holidays they mostly were doing their own thing or we would just do ‘stuff’ (which could be anything). I’ve always loved spending time with my children, and still do. Now that they are not in school anymore, we are all together most of the time, but they don’t need me to entertain them constantly.

So what is the difference?

Children who go to school will be told what, when and how to do things all the time so when they are on holidays they are suddenly free from this. This feels good for a few days (like in the weekends) but after a while they probably start to feel awkward. They will crave planned activities, because that is what they are used to. They will probably do very well when you plan something for them, but they won’t (learn to) think for themselves, because that is not what they do day in and day out in school. The child says: ‘I’m bored’, so the parent tries to fix that by planning an activity for him. But does that actually help him in the long run? Of course it will fix the problem for the moment, but it won’t teach him how to deal with his boredom the next time it happens. I think it would be much better in the long run for the child to learn how to entertain themselves.
And if you think about it… They used to be able to!

Babies don’t get bored.

Every child is born naturally curious. Every experience is a new one, so therefore interesting. If you’re interested in something you cannot be bored. If a child would be allowed to explore their world without adults interfering with their natural curiosity about the world around them they won’t ever be bored. And the longer a child can enjoy the exploration of the world through endless curiosity the longer their attention span will be.

So why do we interfere?

Maybe it is our perception and expectation of the child. Maybe it is because we cannot stand the sound of the baby crying. But if it is the crying, is it fair to assume the child needs to be entertained because you can’t figure out what is bothering him? (I say this assuming that the nappy has been checked and the baby is fed and cuddled etc.) Is the parent only entertaining the baby to stop the crying (momentarily)? Will it actually fix the problem? I believe it won’t, because the reason is not boredom.

It is hard to put yourself in the child’s situation, without your own experiences and preconceptions influencing your thoughts. It is hard to stare, play and truly admire a little label on a piece of clothing for more than a few seconds. But a small child can. We process the fact that this is a label, know what it’s for and how it feels in milliseconds. The child doesn’t have this experience yet and might have tons of questions in his head while trying to make sense of it. Similar to how we might deal with a (to us) unknown object. We will look at it from all sides, feel the shape, squeeze it to see if it is hard, wonder what it’s for etc. etc. If we haven’t seen this object before, we take a lot longer to make sense of it. This works the same for a small child. And as the world for a baby consists mostly of unknowns and new experiences this will go on and on.
When a baby is being entertained all the time, eventually the natural curiosity will become less. The child will grow older and will go to school, where again he will be ‘entertained’ by teachers who tell him what, when and how to do something. Children are often not seen as complete individuals and their opinions and wishes are often not respected, because they do not have the experience. But where should they have gotten the experience if they have no or little say in what is going on in their lives?

Before you know it they become teenagers. And at this stage they might feel that they can make their own decisions. We now expect them to take more responsibility and be figure things out for themselves. But if they are more or less spoon fed up to this point, is that fair on them?

No wonder they rebel!

The need to control your child is your need, not that of your child.

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Why I don’t look after myself…

Maybe it is the feeling of self importance, which sounds like a contradiction. But what I mean is the feeling that I am irreplaceable, that I (and nobody else) have to be there for others, with the unfortunate result that I am last on the list. It sounds quite stupid, even to me, but I think it is the case in my sub conscience.
Physical help for my family, things like looking after the washing, making food, cleaning and tidying etc. and then the emotional help for my 3 boys and my husband but also for anyone who needs it, it seems.

I like to care…

But can it be misdirected? Can it be too much?
People like others to care, to listen, to look after them in some way, to be appreciated and respected, but should I really take this ‘job’ on board? It all comes down to balance again!
And finding a balance always seem so hard.
I feel by taking time for ‘just me’ I neglect others, and that doesn’t feel good.
Do I want people to approve of me? And why, if this is so important, don’t I follow the herd?
They call me strong, but why? I don’t feel strong at all. There is a lot I can’t handle, but then I am good at hiding that (most of the time).

Let’s look at what people find positive characteristics (as far as I know):
Caring, loving, nurturing
Helping others
Not being selfish (still figuring out what the hell they mean by that exactly)
Good looking (again…so subjective)
Being able to listen
Being knowledgeable
No drama (just getting on with it)
Giving (as supposed to receiving or taking)
Offering help (in stead of asking)
Being polite (this seems to be quite subjective as well)
Being confident (but not cocky)
Having and making time for others (when it suits them)
Being wise
Admitting your mistakes (and not always be right)

The list seems to go on with lots of stuff and it seems impossible to be all of this all of the time, so why am I trying so hard? Why do I feel so strongly that I have to be ‘perfect’, even though I don’t have those expectations for others?
If a friend of mine would come to me with those questions I’d probably tell her that she is being very hard on herself. That she shouldn’t forget to look after herself. That it is ok to care but not to the extend that it affects her own wellbeing.

Why is it I can’t just listen to my own advice?

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What do you expect?

In the last view days I have been thinking about expectations. After getting a lot of (positive) comments on my previous blog I started to get a little nervous about what to write next. Was this last blog just a fluke or did I actually have a proper skill here? Again, like I said in my first ever blog, I finally decided it didn’t matter. I am just going to do my thing and there will always be people who like it and people who don’t.

It did however get me onto a line of thought. I wondered if the expectation of producing a blog that was similarly interesting was the one of the readers or was it me who set those expectations? I decided that they were my expectations, as I am very aware of the fact I cannot change someone else’s view of me, neither would I want to.

Thinking of expectations, what about the expectations you set for your children? It seems to me that a lot of people have ‘high expectations’, they are bragging about a 10 month old child that has made her first steps, a school going child that has good grades or any other achievements. But does that mean that if the children didn’t accomplish those things ‘early’ or at all, that they would be a disappointment? I hope not, but I think the child might feel it.

Keep expectations where they belong. if you feel you need to have expectations than only apply them to yourself.

I wonder: are expectations based on assumptions?

Assumptions, prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination

Why can’t people just accept differences?

All people have assumptions, but they all deal with those differently. Some see an assumption as a fact, but forget that without proof (which makes it an assumption) it might as well be fiction.

It can become dangerous when people act on assumption without trying to find proof, either by doing research of some type (for instance simply ask the person in question or look up some facts in books or on the internet) or just wait and see what happens (before jumping to conclusions and making a judgement).

If someone makes a comment, than that comment (in most cases) can be interpreted in different ways. The interpretation of the listener will be based on his experience and thought process. But at the same time the person who made the comment will go through a similar process, even though they will most likely dismiss any assumptions that put their comment in a different light than it was intended (and therefore they become unaware of what the other person might thinks).

So here we are: one comment, two different interpretations. Who is right?

An example of one, which happened on my fb groups:

There was a lot of talk about the ins and outs of the Olympics. In one of the posts there was a question: ‘When are the Olympics finished?’

A fairly simple question that (again) could be interpreted in different ways, like:

1. ‘When are the Olympics finished, because I am just curious’

2. ‘When are the Olympics finished, because I would like to still go there but I haven’t arranged any tickets yet’

3. ‘When are the Olympics finished, so the comments on this page about the Olympics will stop, and I can read the posts that are more relevant to me again’

4. ‘When are the Olympics FINALLY over, because I am getting sick of it’

The comment that followed wasn’t actually the answer to the question, but a reaction to the assumption that the question was meant in a criticizing way (assumption 4).

Why do people automatically go for the most negative assumption? And why do they take this so personally? It didn’t seem like a personal attack to me, so why was it perceived that way to someone else?

It seems to me that assumptions can do more harm than good. Why do we assume things anyway? Is it because we cannot possibly have all the facts and it is easier to then make up our own so-called facts so that our mind can process it? Maybe so. Maybe a lot of assumptions cannot be proven by actual facts but by believing whatever someone else is saying.

Another example:

A: ‘What’s wrong?’ (assumption: there must be something wrong, because she slammed the door)

B: ‘Nothing’ (thoughts: Why would she ask? Could it be that I did something wrong? What signals am I giving? Should I change my behaviour?)

This could be followed by A asking ‘Are you sure?’, which means that the assumption game continues. Better would be to ask a question (to attempt to find out if the assumptions were correct) like ‘If nothing is wrong, why did you slam the door?’ If that question is asked then B understands why A asked his initial question and can explain what happened. (In fact, it was a warm day and all the windows were open. B didn’t actually slam the door; The wind did) This conversation could have ended up with both parties being frustrated with each other and possibly leaving them in self doubt.

Obviously this is only an example, but if you look at it on a bigger scale, how dangerous is it when countries (ie governments) assume things. And they do! Is that how wars start?

Coming back to the slightly smaller scale (even though ‘smaller scale’ is debatable), think about your daily life. How many assumptions are you making? When in doubt, do you choose the positive or negative assumption? It’s your choice, but to be left content after making an assumption, would it not be nicer to go for the positive?

I believe that assumptions, prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination are all connected. Take the example of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. If everybody started off with the assumption that there is no difference, then prejudices about whatever sexual orientation you might have wouldn’t exist, therefore there wouldn’t be any stereotype, like gay, lesbian or bisexual, and discrimination would not be based on sexual orientation alone. Same with other groups that are still being discriminated against (in one way or another), people who look different, people who have a different religion, people who have a different lifestyle (like home educators) and I am sure the list is endless.

Maybe before looking at others, we should have a look at ourselves first. I can tell you that I come from a family where homosexuality is accepted (as far as I know). I have one aunt and two female cousins who all love women. I have a good male friend who loves men. Who cares! I seriously feel it is not up to me to tell them how to live their lives, just as I don’t want them to tell me how to live mine. We all want someone to care for and them to care for us.

I don’t like judging people, but of course I make assumptions too. And sometimes I am wrong, but that’s ok. I don’t think I am jumping to (negative) conclusions, simply because it doesn’t make ME feel better. It might sound naive but I still like to believe that all people are nice and good creatures, unless proven otherwise. But I do need the proof (for myself). If there is no proof and a person comes across as negative and grumpy, I prefer to think that they are having a bad day. If it continues, then the proof (of this person not being for me) starts accumulating until I have had enough. And even then I don’t necessarily think they are nasty people, but they are just not for me. But of course this is just my opinion.

Differences between people make the world so much more interesting!

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‘I don’t teach, they just learn’

How important is your child’s future?

If you ask any parent, I hope, you get an answer something like: ‘very important!’

I also expect that you’ll get the same answer if you’d ask how important their child’s education is, yet people seem to assume that that the answer to those questions is different for home educators.

Why does nobody ask: why are you sending your children to school?

Since we started home educating, I have noticed there are a lot of prejudices on home education out there and that most negative opinions are based on ignorance.

As I mentioned in my previous blog I asked some home educating families about comments and reactions there were getting from people around them about the fact that they were home educating and I decided to have a look into this.

Sure, it is easier to go with what ‘everyone else’ is doing, but is it the right thing to do? I think a lot of people don’t even question it.

For us, the idea to home educate our boys initially came from my husband. I didn’t even know it was a legal option! Maybe it was because I am Dutch and in the Netherlands it isn’t really an option, unless you have ‘exemption from the requirement for school enrolment (or attendance)’.

Dutch law states that exemption will only be approved under certain circumstances:
  • Unsuitability for schooling due to physical or psychological disability (this will be assessed every year; the fact that the child is unhappy at school or being bullied does not in itself a ground for exemption in the Compulsory Education Act.)
  • Having reservations about the direction of education in all schools with adequate education at a reasonable distance of the house (meaning that the parents cannot find a school that embodies and promotes their religion or belief in teaching)
  • Any disability, but the fact that the child is unhappy at school or being bullied does not in itself a ground for exemption in the Compulsory Education Act.
  • When the child is registered in the Netherlands, but resides abroad and attends a school there.
  • You are a traveler.
(I did have to translate this from Dutch, so there could be something missing – but I did my best)

As this is all fairly complicated and explained to the general public mostly as illegal (unless your child has a ‘problem’), I think it is reasonable to say that, generally speaking, exemption is not really an option.

Living in the UK now (where home education is definitely a legal option) I have now learned that my ignorance about home educating was not solely down to me being Dutch. It is not just people in countries where it is difficult (and sometimes illegal) to home educate, that are so judgemental and ignorant about having their children learn outside of the school environment. I have to admit that I was quite shocked!

How can you judge something if you don’t know the facts? And if you are not interested in knowing more about it, why bother forming an opinion on it in the first place?

I understand that people might be uncomfortable with other people’s choices, but do you seriously believe that I am comfortable with all the choices you make? most likely not!

Why do people make it their business to even comment on the fact that a child is home educated, as if home educators are doing something wrong (which we are NOT!)

How would you feel if I asked you ‘why are you sending your child to school?’

Some of the things people mention are more common than others. I have noticed that the most common responses seem to be about Social life and Curriculum.

Social life

The social aspect seem to be very much on people’s minds when it comes to home education. Why though? Home educated children have so much more time to socialize. Their social life is different than that of a child that goes to school, but in general more varied. They do not spend most of their days in school, where the options to have social interaction are limited and where the choice of people to interact with are chosen for them.

Do they really think that sitting in a classroom, asking permission to talk or only interacting with your schoolmates in the lunch breaks is the ideal social setting?

(And then I am not even mentioning the bullying that seems to be accepted as part of school life.)

In comments to home educators, people seem to use words like socialisation and socialising as one and the same thing. so just to clarify:

socialise: take part in social activities; interact with others;

This is what a child does when playing with others in a playground or club, but it also means talking to your neighbour or the lady in the shop.

socialisation: a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity learns the norms, values, behaviour, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position;

This is what every child learns by simply living, and it doesn’t stop when he becomes an adult.

So I am still not quite sure how people ask home educators questions like the following, (unless they believe that the children are indeed lock up in the basement):

  • What about socialisation?

We could be answering this with the question: ‘what about it?’.

You might then get an answer explaining what they are actually referring to, or the conversation is finished. You might have to point out that: Socialization doesn’t mean ‘the opportunity to make friends’

  • Doesn’t he miss out on the social side?

Are you referring to the bullying? or the times they are competing in school?

One answer I received on my quest to find comments was: ‘school was making my son suicidal!’. How is that for a social side?!

Some people even go as far as thinking home educated children are or will be social misfits and would be unable to make or have friends. But again what is this ‘knowledge’ based on? Home educated children are not locked up in the basement, in stead they are out in the world learning from all experiences and this includes interaction with people of all ages. They tend to be more confident and able to communicate with anyone they meet.

Curriculum

It is widely assumed that education can not be followed without one. This however is very untrue. As a home educator you don’t have to follow, much the same as a child in a private school, or an academy, who don’t follow ‘the’ curriculum either.

Some comments/questions (and answers) I received on the subject:

  • How are you going to follow the curriculum? ‘I’m not’
  • How are you going to teach all the subjects that he needs? (This may well be a genuine question, but they are probably talking about a curriculum)

The answer could simply be: ‘He is!’. If you feel the need to explain: ‘he decides what and when he wants to learn something. And when he decides, he will learn it, because it is important to him.’

  • But in secondary school and university the teachers will have specialized in a subject, are you able to compete with that? (Teachers are mostly trained to deal with a group of students/pupils who are not interested in the subject. They are under pressure to have them pass exams, not to have them remember the knowledge in 10 years time)

I don’t need to compete. Besides you no longer have to be qualified to work in an academy, so your child might well be taught by an unqualified teacher.

Not all teachers that specialize in a particular subject teach that subject. I know a science teacher who had to teach Religious Education, but because he didn’t specialize in Religious education he got the kids to do their science homework in his Religious Education lessons instead.

But my general response is that if either of us feels the need to call in someone with a particular experience (I’m thinking things like language and music tuition in my case) then there are lots of opportunities to do that.

Then there are people who think that, if you don’t go to school you will not be able to receive any qualifications.

The fact is that children who are being home educated can start courses or go to university, if that is their choice. They will have lots of time to figure out what they want to do and also have the opportunity to experience the job for real as an apprentice or volunteer. When they decide to go to university it will be their choice and they will have thought about it long and hard, which as a result has turned them into very motivated students, who want to learn and not just pass exams.

  • Your child won’t be able to have a job where they have to follow rules. (Why not? doesn’t life itself has rules as well?)

A response from another home educator was: ‘Why do you want your children to be employees?’ (why not have their own business instead?)

Selfishness

Also comments about ‘being selfish’ were made:

  • You are damaging your child when you don’t send him to school (How is living and learning in real life damaging?)
  • You are being selfish and handicapping your child for future jobs (This comment is probably based on the child not following ‘the curriculum’)

My answer would be: He can focus on what he really wants to know and he is able to learn more intensively, than if he was in school. Therefore he is more likely to end up in a job that he loves and be happy.

  • Forcing my political beliefs and lifestyle choices onto my kids (Seriously???)

I understand that home education is possibly not for everyone, but it works for us and for a lot of other people, but why is it seen as a problem by some (or maybe a lot of) people?

Some people are automatically fearful and suspicious of people who do not follow the herd and maybe that is why they react badly or seek to ridicule them.

Apparently people who home educate or are home educated are seen as strange. Some are called an oddball and a hippy. One person mentioned that when she was being home educated as a child, she was seen as a problem child (which reminds me of the Dutch attitude I have come across).

A mother of a child (who attends school) responded to her son, when asked to be home educated as well, with ‘but he has problems and you don’t’

Well, maybe we are strange…. but what does that mean? Who decides what is strange? Yes, we might be going against the grain, we might not follow the herd, but we actually think about what is best for our child and his future, we are making a conscious decision to be active and take responsibility for our child’s education. And you know what?! If that makes us strange, what does that say about all the parents who send their child to school with the assumption that it will all work out. Sending the child to school without looking at all the options, and not questioning if school is the right thing. Of course there are people who send their child to school after having considered all the option and that is fine, but the majority hasn’t. And I reckon that those who haven’t are the ones who react negatively, simply because they are ignorant.

  • Life is NOT about doing what YOU WANT to do so get used to it! (Why not???)

This comment can only come from a bitter person in my opinion. Why would you not be able to do what you want to do? Sure, there are things that you might not enjoy as much as the next, but why do it just for the sake of it. For example, who likes tidying up? not my hobby, but I do it because if I don’t I can’t find my things, I will trip over stuff and my life will become uncomfortable for me. So there is a reason for me to do something I don’t particularly enjoy. The same goes for learning. If you need to gain certain knowledge or qualifications to be able to apply for your ‘ideal’ job, you will want to do whatever it takes to get to your goal. This won’t always be easy, but with the goal in mind, you know why you are doing it. But ultimately it is still your choice!

  • I couldn’t HE because I’m not smart/clever enough (Does this imply that I am smarter than you, or that you think I am not capable to home educate my child? When in doubt, choose to see it as a compliment!)

As this is not a question, you could just not respond, but if you feel the need you could ask them: ‘Do you think your child’s teacher knows everything?’ or explain to them that you don’t teach (like a teacher) but facilitate.

Judgement based on ignorance

  • People who ‘just don’t agree with it’ (but are not able to explain why not)

Someone responded to that comment with:”Oh, do you know someone who is home educated? No? Have you read about it? No?”

How can you agree or disagree with something if you don’t know anything about it?

  • Losing friendships

Some mum told her child (who attends school) that home education is illegal, but of course the child didn’t fall for that one, because they have a friend who doesn’t go to school, quite legally.

It looks like the easiest thing for their parent to do, is stop the friendship or make up lies, in stead of investigating the truth.

(Now, who is being selfish here? what are they afraid of?)

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How strange are you?

Strange
adj. strang¡er, strang¡est
1. Not previously known; unfamiliar.
2. a. Out of the ordinary; unusual or striking.
b. Differing from the normal.
3. Not of one’s own or a particular locality, environment, or kind; exotic.
4. a. Reserved in manner; distant.
b. Not comfortable or at ease; constrained.
5. Not accustomed or conditioned: She was strange to her new duties.
6. Archaic Of, relating to, or characteristic of another place or part of the world; foreign.

Maybe I AM strange. After all, to many people I might live an unfamiliar and unusual lifestyle (1 & 2.a.), I don’t necessarily make people comfortable with my actions or comments (4.b.), being Dutch, I am a foreigner to most (6.) and on top of all that I don’t send my kids to school, which still seems to ‘differ from the normal’ (2.b.).

So let’s agree that I am strange…. I don’t feel bad about that, it actually makes me kind of proud, because it confirms that I am unique and at the same time means that I don’t have to worry about ‘fitting in’, which is quite lovely.

‘A peaceful thought’

In general, things that are unfamiliar, unusual, striking, exotic or foreign are seen as interesting and people try to learn more about them. Yet when it comes to people who are different, it suddenly isn’t seen as a positive, but some sort of threat. Strangeness is there to broaden your knowledge, but it seems to also be frightening.

‘Scared of the unknown’

People seem to be most comfortable with things and environments they already know, yet they send their small child into the crèche, play school or school no later than age 5. Imagine how scary that must be! How would you feel, as an adult (with far more life experience than a 5 year old) if you’d be put in an institution, where all things are decided for you and you have no say. You try and do your best to do everything ‘right’, but it’s never good enough. Even if you are doing the work without any mistakes, you talk too much, you don’t work neat enough, you are forced to ‘be nice’ to all the others even though you were being called names by one of your so-called peers
If this happens, at the end of the day it is not unknown anymore, but now you have a ‘valid’ reason to find it scary. Little do you know (as a 5 yo) that this situation will continue for years, day in day out.

Even though this is just my opinion, but when I asked some home educating families, I realised that I am not alone. I asked them what comments and reactions there were getting from people around them about the fact that they were home educating and from the responses I was getting it became quite clear that there are a lot of prejudices going around, which are (in my opinion) solely based on ignorance.

Why don’t we just learn and respect each other’s differences.

Let’s all be strange…. and proud of it!

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