My darling girl turned 8 this week. 8!?! I have no idea where that time has gone, everyone was so right, time really does fly.

She seems to have changed overnight. No longer is she a fragile little girl, but a fierce tween, with strong opinions on her life. She is developing a crazy awesome sense of style, dyeing her hair all the shades of the rainbow, experimenting with make-up, and listening to indie rock music. But at the same time, playing with her dolls, obsessing over Harry Potter, being fascinated with Egyptians, only wearing the colour purple, and playing make believe small worlds with her sister. She dreams of travelling the world, hunting fossils and discovering archaeological gems. I imagine her like some kind of rebel Lara Croft.

I am so proud of who she is, I have never been surer of our decision to home educate, enabling her the freedom to make her own choices. Free from academic testing, peer pressure, bullying and negative body image.

The path between now and her teenage years is a perilous one. Her emotions are delicate, her body changing, her sense of self emerging. As parents it is our responsibility to nurture, to support and to listen.

So these are the ten life lessons her daddy and I want her to learn now more than ever.

1. Don’t judge. Pretty strong message here, but don’t judge anyone ever and don’t ever let anyone judge you. The girls are pretty awesome at the empathy part, and are respectful of others and their choices. We have stopped giving a damn about what people think about us and our choices. Which anyone who home-educates will know, you get judged often. We want the girls to be strong enough to keep their chin up and walk on by if anyone ever gets “judgey”. I know this attitude is rubbing off on them because they often say things like “It’s my life, I’ll make those choices!”

2. Be honest. Don’t lie to others, and don’t lie to yourselves. Lies hurt, lies ruin trust. We are open and honest with them so they’ll have the courage to be honest with us.

3. Never give up. Sometimes stuff gets hard. We teach the girls to persevere no matter what. Big Bean has really been struggling at rock climbing, overcoming her fears is a big one. But she keeps trying, pushing herself week after week.

4. It’s OK to cry. Sometimes Big Bean can bottle everything up then erupt in a burst of anger. We show her that it’s fine to cry, it’s ok to be hurting, there will always be someone there to guide you through it.

5. You are Beautiful. Everyone is beautiful. Taking words from Cinderella herself. “Be Kind and Have Courage”. That’s what makes you beautiful. I am always telling my girls they are beautiful, I want them to see it and believe it for themselves so they never have to rely on another to feel that way.

6. Music is good for the soul. We play music every day in the house, in the car, in the street (via headphones). We listen to a huge variety, and we turn it up LOUD! We dance around the house together, we sing together. There is nothing better for our mental health than a good boogie!

7. Eat the Cake. Yes, we teach our children to eat healthily, and yes they know all about good nutrition. But we also teach them to eat the damn cake. I never want them to feel guilty about eating anything, ever. I will never talk about, or go on a diet. Being healthy is more than a dress size, woman’s bodies are more than a vessel for people to ooh and aah at how good their body looks. Food is awesome and I want them to enjoy it. I never want them to feel pressured to starve themselves to conform to unrealistic standards. Which brings me nicely to the next point.

8. Be You. Don’t ever change who you are for anyone. Don’t be embarrassed about the things you enjoy, the books you read, the music you listen to or the clothes you wear. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, ever. You are your own person. Do whatever makes you happy, if people don’t agree, who cares. Some people are just mean, you can’t change that, so walk on by with your head held high!

9. Speak up. Stand up for what you believe in. Fight for what is right. Change the world for the better. The girls are really concerned about Plastic pollution and Palm Oil in foods and are making real effort to change our consumer habits to help. They care about real things, out in the real world.

10. Memories are the greatest treasure. When we’re old and grey it’s all we have really. We spend as much time as we can with each other, creating wonderful, joyful memories. Travel the world, see all the sights, do all the things. But my main lesson is that life is happening right now, even in the most boring, mundane of moments. Those are the times to find the joy, to see the stars.

I can already see our bright, bubbly, courageous girl living our lessons, following our lead and living a free, joyful life.

I hope she continues to grow and develop her individuality, sharing her strong opinions, and being bold in a world that constantly drags girls down.

Growing up is hard, I can only hope we are giving her the tools to confidently navigate her tricky tween years.

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