A successful alternative to school

Just reposting a few points about home education for those who might be considering this option.

-          Contrary to what many parents believe learning can occur in a myriad of different ways not just the way they do it in school. Through home schooling you can successfully use those alternatives.

-          Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other children do. Their academic, social and personal skills are reputed to be in front of those of their school peers.

-          Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills.

-          Thousands of families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.

-          Some parents never send their child to school right from the outset. Others opt to home school because their child didn’t get a place in the school of their choice.

-          Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education. Learning differences do not need to become learning difficulties.

-          Home educating families are as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.

-          Children can learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the prescriptive style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches, experiential and practical, there are to learning, time use, activities, to opportunities, qualifications, to becoming educated.

-          Children do not need to be continually tested in order to learn.

-          Much valuable teacher time is wasted in schools with objectives and targets and tick sheets and such like admin which is of no value to the child. Children at home get one-to-one help and your time is your own to organise.

-          There is plenty of opportunity for different pursuits, interests and sports because you can achieve and learn much more quickly in a home environment. This results in well rounded children with multiple skills and interests.

-          There need by no more cost involved than with schooling. Ideas, printables, learning resources and support are readily available online.

-          Your child never, ever, needs to suffer bullying or abuse of any kind, physical, mental or emotional.

Search round this site for lots more. And if you want to read a story of how home education really works try my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. It’s great for a giggle too!

Missed my chance…

Well I completely messed up on the radio this morning.

I’d been asked to contribute a little on home education on Radio Berkshire this morning. Instead of using the opportunity to tell people about the wonderful opportunity to raise your children in an inspiring educative way, which home schooling is, I went all reactionary to the suggestion that we couldn’t be as professional. I suggested some of what went on in schools wasn’t professional either. I expect hate mail now!

And I’m kicking myself over the missed opportunity to tell people what a positive and uplifting experience home education is. How you can show your children the world, starting with the one on your doorstep, how it works, what’s in it, how they fit into it, the wonders of its quirks and systems, life and beings, its history, science and geography and how you can expand the children’s knowledge and skills out from there.

Okay, so you may well want to start with the school style approach we’re all familiar with through our own schooling, using academic exercises, workbooks, courses and programmes. But as you begin to explore resources and approaches, mix with others who are successfully home educating, see how they do it, you’ll begin to realise that everything is potentially educative and the world becomes your learning ground.

Your children’s education can be that broad. How amazing is that!

That’s what I really wanted to say!

So if you’re visiting here following that programme, looking for a bigger picture of home education, explore my site and stories and check out the list of other home educating family blogs listed here, as they give a far better and realistic picture of home education than I’m able to on the radio!

And you’ll be able to read all about the things I neglected to say!

Mean mummy or just the hardships of parenting?

My daughter’s sense of relief was enormous. The exhibition was over and she was ready to celebrate. So I’ve come home again to leave her to it.

One of the few perks of them being away from home is that you don’t get to witness the parties. Or clear up the consequences!

I think that’s the only time I felt really mean; when I made one of them clean up their own vomit! I’d had to fight to resist the urge to make it all mummy-nice, but that wasn’t part of the bargain.

The bargain had been that I’d pick up my eldest from the party because then she could drink and I also didn’t have to worry about her driving home. As long as she didn’t throw up and leave me to clean it up, we joked!

I waited in the dark and she tottered out on her high heels with a happy smile and a kind of vacancy about her in allowing a friend to hold her arm. Or was that hold her up? I thought that was a bit funny. Plus the fact she’d rung me much earlier than expected.

‘You okay?’ I asked. She looked a bit strange.

‘Yea. Drank too much too soon….and work the next day,’ she said, smiling sickly sweetly.

I drove home and as I did so her head lolled a bit and I had that sudden painful wave of motherlyness I’d had when she was first born and equally helpless. My maternal violin strings thrummed round my heart and I wanted to stop the car, sweep her in my arms and cradle her head upon my shoulder and let her sleep there, face in mum’s neck, like she used to. Protect her from the pull of the world and reattach the cord that strips her of her independence.

But of course I couldn’t. She was eighteen. And I was driving. And she wasn’t my baby any more.

She staggered up to bed and the bathroom door went regularly in the night. I knew…I was alert and listening.

The bedroom was full of vomit by morning, although she’d had the presence of mind to get some of it out the window!

She reckoned someone spiked her drink. She had indulged sensibly, as ever, but the impact of it was devastating. And it took a lot of cleaning up, not that I did it because that was the bargain after all.

But I felt very mean.

It’s hard to allow your children – who are not children really and not yours – to learn these tough lessons and be wise for the future. But she knew this was not something she was going to go back on her word and ask of me, I saw it in her face, and she bravely stuck it out.

But I don’t know who it was harder for. For her to have to do it? Or for me to stand back while she did? Both are hardships of growing, her and me, of mother-and-daughter-hood, of being a parent.

And I know the symphonies of heartstrings plays itself a lot longer than it takes to do the clearing up. The memories of childhood and the tugs and pulls of growing independence are troublesome for both of us. Whether that’s when they’re toddlers or twenty, home or away, then or now.

But we have to have respect; the respect that keeps a bargain. The respect to let them learn and let them go.

And the beauty is that the ultimate consequence of respect is the deepest imaginable love which I have now.

Mud walls and exhibitions

In our garage there was a little ship and other models, some Lego and K’nex constructions, some pottery, lots of paintings and drawings, some hand-made jewellery and sewing, other craftwork, and the word ‘welcome’ chalked across the entrance.

This was for our ‘Gallery’; an idea we had for one of the get-togethers for home educating families we held at our house. It was to collect together all the things the children in our group had made recently and display them in an ‘exhibition’.

If your children were anything like ours you can end up with masses of things they’ve made and constructed and children love showing each other. Seeing other people’s work is such a great way to stimulate them, and copying ideas the highest form of compliment! We made many trips to other galleries and exhibitions so I thought; ‘why not have one of our own?’

It was a great day. Weather was kind. ‘Oooos’ and ‘ahhhs’ floated around and the children were really interested. They love to show their creations beyond their usual family circle, that’s if your family circle is open-hearted enough to support your home education. I know some aren’t! So support from those who get what you’re doing is especially welcome when you may not have lots of other opportunities to show and tell.

Another aspect to this is the fact that making things is such valuable educational practise; it teaches all sorts of skills that aid children’s learning in ways you might not think. Reasoning and problem solving skills, hand-eye skills, research, use of tools, patience and achievement, motivation and independence. These in turn help academic achievement. And creativity develops the ability to think things out and be resourceful – both valuable life skills. We allowed no end of time for the children to exercise their minds and be creative.

At one point in our Home Ed lives there was a rocket taller than the girls were at that time, body sized paintings, and a roundhouse we were attempting to construct in the garden with whatever we had to hand as an exercise in learning about history, local resources, building materials etc, etc. Our youngest was dying to get to the stage where the walls were plastered in mud. Although we decided against using cow dung as part of the mixture so it wasn’t going to be entirely authentic!

It does get to the point where you have to demolish some of these creations otherwise you’d have to move house, so we started a photographic record of them, dated, and I still have those folders full of all the wonderful things the children made.

But I was just reminded about that exhibition today because I’m going off to Uni to see an exhibition of second year students’ work. And that little girl who wanted to make mud walls is one of them!

Sea shells with motherhood

shells 035 I’ve revisited a book I discovered when in the midst of small child motherhood and looking for answers.

I think many mums reach a kind of questioning about their life, a need to resolve the many pulls that tug us off centre, off target and out of sense with what we believed ourselves to be. There we were thinking we were proceeding towards clear intentions and goals when suddenly they are consumed in a fog of changed thinking, changed feeling, and the goal posts have moved anyway.

Did anyone else feel like that? Please say it’s not just me?

This book was one of many I dipped into about the spirit of motherhood. What was so astounding about it was not so much that it described so recognisably the challenges modern mums face, but that it was written in 1955! Updated 1980. And yet still it resonates. Makes you wonder how much we’ve actually moved on since then?

Here’s some of it that may sound familiar:

For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive…..How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of all these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives….The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls….The problem is not Woman and career, Woman and the home, Woman and independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces pull one off centre; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.’

(From ‘Gift from the Sea’ by Anne Morrow Lindberg)

Through analogies with the shells she finds on the beach (hence the title) Anne goes on to explore the different relationships within our families which we have to adapt to as they grow and change.

Mothering can be one of the most transformational times of our lives. It changes our perceptions and perspectives. It changes what we thought we believed. It changes our whole life.

The changes can be beautiful and inspirational, uplifting and exciting. But all change is challenging and takes a while to grow into. Then, when you think you have some answers, it changes once again.

So is there ever an answer?

Not if you’re looking for one elsewhere.

But yes; in that you observe and absorb all changes, keep an open heart and mind, have patience and flexibility, and you’ll finally grow your own.

For only your own will do.

(‘Mumhood. How to handle it. Why it matters’ was written to support you in finding some of your own answers. Hope it helps).

Forget testing – start trusting!

Why does my heart sink every time I read another report on testing our kids?

Read the latest in the Telegraph here.

It sinks because testing doesn’t do much good but can do a world of harm:

-          Because educating for results, which inevitably happens, is disruptive, destructive and not about the broad world of learning at all.

-          Because although it’s supposed to be a way of making adults accountable and improve, it inevitably reflects back on the children usually in coercive and unpleasant ways.

-          Because it pollutes the whole purpose and process of education which is about ongoing individual development, not chasing short term outcomes.

-          Because it creates labels – usually inaccurate ones – about the ability of a child which can entrap them for life.

-          Because the need to measure and have statistics is an adult obsession which only fulfils parental and political objectives and is of no value to a child.

-          Because every character and personality, every genetic and environmental influence is different in every child, but tests test as if these were all the same.

-          Because testing doesn’t make children cleverer or more educated, it puts them off and wastes their time.

-          Because it makes a farce of education, turning it into a grade grabbing race that leaves too many failures in its wake, rather than being an uplifting process and approach to life – for all – that carries on throughout life.

-          Because it assumes every child is the same and will grow in the same way in the same time and same climate which is totally wrong. Children are all very different and change radically as they grow.

Think about growing plants – the educational process has often been compared to that. When we set plants we know different ones need different approaches; different soil – sandy or peat, acid or alkaline, they need different climates – warm or cool, light or shade, open or protected. And however much you go out there with your ruler and measure how much your plant has grown, it’s not going to make one little tiny bit of difference whether that plant will thrive or not!

Same with education. As the famous educationalist John Holt said; nobody grew any taller for being measured.

Raising and educating children is a long and unpredictable process that is at the mercy of all sorts of intangibles; everything changes constantly as it happens. We cannot control it most of the time. We can just make it the best we can as we go along.

Constantly measuring it will not help the process one bit, but it will certainly hamper it through focus on outcomes which are outside the child, rather than focussing on the needs that are within.

What we need to do is trust, review our approaches and our parenting constantly, create a climate that is warm and encouraging, stimulating and supportive and our children will grow and become educated. Constant testing and measuring, and the unpleasant outcomes that result from it, are not necessary. They are not to do with the child, but are to do with our own adult failings.

We should sort out our adult inadequacies and have more respect and faith in our children than that!