Tag Archive | education

Small world ignorance

You’re walking along looking at nature and what do you see? flytipping 004

Two old sofas, a collection of cushions and a mattress. Nice!

I can never comprehend the mentality of people who do this. Who drive out to rural places and offload their unwanted junk.

Nothing identifies an uneducated ignorance more than this kind of behaviour.

Because it is ignorance. And a lack of the sort of education I meant when I said in the blog called ‘Another approach to Learning’ that education is only valuable if it’s transferable to living in responsible ways. Being educated to do that is far more valuable than any grades or GCSEs.

Children need to be educated about the natural world, how relate to it, to understand the bigger picture, understand our responsibility towards and dependency on that wider world, how that world is the essence of all that we have and all that we need for survival both personally and as a species.

Instead we seem to be perpetuating a mentality of small world selfishness; like how to get rid of junk from your own patch and sod everyone else.

Another illustration of this small minded ignorance was on the news; plant theft. Seems a bit bizarre that crimes against nature are newsworthy. But they are and the Sunday papers carried a piece about another one; stealing birds eggs.

These crimes are newsworthy because the balance and perpetuation of all species is important; it’s vital work that develops our knowledge of our world and the ecological cycles within it.

We are all dependent on the whole of the ecological balance and I would say that our children’s understanding of that is even more important than maths and English really. Our lives and survival depend upon it. But it is very easy to forget that, cushioned as so many are from the realities of nature’s world.

So surely that is exactly the reason why education about the natural world is even more essential.

Educating our children about ecological matters, about the impact humans have upon them, how we can reduce our footprint and maintain a balance between all living organisms, of which we are only one, is the responsibility of us all.

Preparing our sweet earth for next year's food

Preparing our sweet earth for next year’s food

Nature needs to be more than a walk in the park or a spider removed from kids’ lives. It’s the foundation of science and needs to be fundamental to all their learning and develop understanding that it is from nature that our lives spring, our food springs, our houses and our cities spring, where everything we own comes from. We are only one small part of that huge natural picture. One tiny, insignificant and humble part really and dependent on it for our life.

There is no understating our responsibility towards educating our children in that understanding, to instil nothing less than reverence and respect for nature and her cycles. To make sure that even though their worlds might be small, their mentality about it isn’t.

So get the kids out in nature at every opportunity, engage and learn as much as you can, then snuggle up and watch something like Autumnwatch.

And even if you don’t believe in rules in your parenting there’s s simple one that’s worth them knowing;

‘Take nothing from nature except photos and memories. Leave nothing other than footprints. Kill nothing other than time’!

I wish the wretched Fly Tippers who’d committed this awful crime had the mentality to understand why that’s so important!

And here’s a nicer view of nature – this year’s food happily harvested – to finish with.

dslr-cornfields patterns 015

Down with homework (unless you’re home educating!)

There was a piece recently in the Telegraph about the effects of homework on our kids.

All through my schooling all my senses balked at the idea of home work. Most of my senses balked at school anyway, it seemed so totally pointless, irrelevant and intrusive.

Why on earth should the government dictate what we should know?! Let alone what we should wear and where and how we should learn?

A bit radical perhaps and I’ve maybe refined some of my earliest rebellions. But homework is still something that angers me.

It angers me because I feel it’s far, far less to do with what children really need and far more to do with control and politics. Especially the politics of schools and curriculum and tick-sheets where people need to be able to say; ‘yes, we’ve covered that’ and get Big Brother off their backs, whether Big Brother is Ofsted, heads or politicians.

None of this is about what’s good for children. Unless they’re one of the kids who happen to love learning like this, and admittedly some do. It’s more likely they don’t!

What’s good for children is that they’re doing other things like playing! What’s good for children is that they’re thinking, imagining, inventing, creating. What’s good for children is that they’re out playing. What’s good for kids is that they are organising their own lives, not always having their lives filled for them by schools and nagging parents. What’s good for young people is that they’re developing other skills besides academic skills, that they’re engaging in a diverse range of activities other than school ones, that families are getting together and being out and active and happy. Not being torn apart by the dictatorial routines of homework.

And actually, would we ever look back on life and say – ‘yep, it was homework that got me where I am today’ or ‘yep – I’ve failed miserably because I didn’t do that English homework in Year 8’!

For goodness sake, can’t people see that there are other ways to learn and develop skills than sitting doing home work? There are other things to learn about life. Other ways to learn.

Researching is obviously good, and kids do it all the time on the Net, but whilst the demands of homework constantly prescribe children’s lives they are not getting the chance to develop skills needed to live purposeful, practical, responsible lives. They do that by engaging with purposeful, practical responsible life, making decisions about what to do, how to do it, what they’d like to do, for themselves. And engaging with the lives of others around them.

I fear our young people’s lives are becoming narrower and narrower, more controlled, more dictated, with less and less chance to learn about what it takes to really lead a life, make decisions, find out about themselves and how to be independent. The more we control and dictate the more we take those skills away.

Down with homework – let’s keep it in better proportion with all the other valuable things children could be doing. Unless you’re home educating of course. Then you’re doing a whole range of homework in the day!

Another approach to learning

There was a little piece about Home Education on Radio Five Live the other morning and an interview with the Meek family.

They’re taking a year to travel with their children to enrich their education. It’s fascinating reading their blog ‘Do try this at home’.

But the presenter came out with some rather daft questions, seeming not to understand a great deal about home education and how children learn from life.

It illustrated the huge difference in thinking between those who can only define education by what happens in schools, compartmentalised testable outcomes, its effectiveness measured by such, and those who know that education is far, far broader.

Education is to do with learning about life, an approach to living and learning, and about the qualities of an educated person rather than any finite outcome external to that individual.

The Meeks are living a learning life with their children (albeit for a year). As a result their children are having rich, varied and educative opportunities and experiences which develop many of the skills they need to transfer that education to real life.

In contrast a school education consists of unvaried experiences transferable only to test results and irrelevant to real life – certainly to children’s real lives.

For example, instead of sitting at a desk learning about water pollution the family is examining what happens for real. Instead of the ‘socialisation’ of a classroom, where people seem to think skills will develop from being in a confined institution, they are engaging with a range of people and their social skills are developing naturally and organically from those interactions. Instead of their learning being dully delivered by irrelevant others in uninspiring ways through a prescribed curriculum they are instead being excited and motivated by their experiences. Nothing teaches more profoundly than exciting experiences!

None of these are really testable experiences. But that’s the other misconception that many people have about education; that it’s only valuable and accomplished if it’s testable.

The truth is that education is only valuable and accomplished if it’s transferable to living in responsible ways.

Real valuable learning, that means something, will be transferable to tests and exams if and when necessary to the individual. But for now the Meeks are just living. They are educating their daughters through real living experiences from which they are learning.

Thousands and thousands of families now opt to do this, but not just for a year’s trip; for the majority of their children’s childhoods. Some home educating throughout their children’s entire ‘school’ age, until such time that they’re ready to move on.

And making a wonderful success of it too.

Living a learning life is such an inspirational way to raise and educate children quite different from the ‘school’ way. And the more the media – and presenters – understand what it is to be educated, rather than what it is to be schooled, the better it will be!

(Check out the page of home educators blogs on this site for a real illustration of how it works for each family)

Home Education and History…a guest post

Firstly, I would like to thank Ross for allowing me to publish a guest post about home education and history on her blog.  When I was forced to home ed my son (who has complex special educational needs), I was very scared and frightened by the entiredaunting prospect.  I am a professional business technologist with a lifetime of working in the City with “grown-ups”, so what did I know about teaching a child?  Especially a child with such a complex cocktail of special educational needs as my son? But Ross’s blog was a beacon of light in what could have been extremely dark and frightening months. So I’m delighted to be writing a guest post about home educating children in the exciting discipline of “history”.

What is history?
When you see the word “history”, do you instantly switch off and think “oh no, that’s so boorRring”?  Or do you think “I can’t possibly teach my child about history, it’s too academic/I’m not clever enough/I don’t know anything about history/I hated history at school”?

Well… I’d like to put it to you that history is one of the easiest, richest and most diverse of all topics you can undertake.  I can guarantee that wherever you live in the United Kingdom, there will be “history” in some shape or form all around you. Whatever is your background, culture, race, or religion, there will be “something” historical which you can explore with your children as part of a rich and rewarding home education programme.  Even if your child is like mine, a young person with severe learning disabilities, they will still be able to take part in learning about history.

Sometimes this “history” will be easy to spot: such as visiting London’s main museums.  But other times, history is not so easy and so will require more hard work from you.  For example, your local town will have its own history – some of it will be easy to work out, others less obvious, so you will have to ask questions about the subject you wish to explore.

  • What happened to your town during the industrialisation of Britain in the eighteen/nineteenth century?
  • How old is your local church and why does it look like a medieval castle?
  • Why does your village have a road called “Hanging Hill Lane”, or “Gallows Corner” or “Witch Lane”?
  • What is the history of your road? Your house? Your family?…

All of the above could become questions and projects to investigate for a home educating family.

The British Museum in London. A more “traditional” approach to including history within a home education programme?

 

Berbice Lane – a road sign on a side road near my house.  There is a historic reason why this road is thus named.  Local road names – an opportunity ripe for an project into local history by a home ed’ing family?

 Questions, questions, questions!

Questions are exactly what history is all about: looking for, and answering questions about a historical topic.  Professional historians often use the “6 w’s” to help with their historical investigations –

What happened?

When did it happen?

Who did it happen to?

Where did it take place?

Why did it happen? (This is often the most exciting historical prompt to explore and investigate!)

How did it happen? (ok, so that’s not a “w”, but it kind-of fits in!)

A famous painting of the Spanish Armada.  A fantastic home ed’ing project to investigate the “6 w’s” of this painting. What? When? Who? Where? Why? How?

School Trip Friday for the Academically Challenged
My child had been called “academically challenged” by one of his previous teachers (who should have known better). But I knew that he was more than capable and we could investigate history together.  Thus was born something we both called “School Trip Friday for the Academically Challenged” (to thumb our nose at his so-called “teacher”).  Each Friday, we went out and about on field-trips to investigate a topic or theme of historical interest.  In amongst all the “normal”  home education activities such as maths and English, our School Trip Friday became the highlight of our week.

So each term, I picked a historical topic that I thought would be good to study.  As I knew that ultimately my child would be returning to school, I decided to (very roughly) stick with the KS2 curriculum and keep to the historical topics covered there.  So some of the historical topics we studied included:

  • The Tudors.  We investigated stately homes, National Trust and English Heritage properties all connected with the Tudor kings and queens of England.  Our favourite Tudor School Trip Friday was when we made a trip to Leicester and Bosworth shortly after the body of Richard III was discovered in the local Council’s car park.  We turned that into an entire long weekend and had tremendous fun researching Leicester and its medieval king, and how the Tudor dynasty came to the throne of England via the bloody battlefield of Bosworth Field.

 

Here’s looking at you, kid.
My son came face to face with Richard III, the last truly medieval king.

  • The Romans. We headed up and out of East Anglia and into beautiful Northumberland to the area of Hadrian’s Wall, where we investigated the Romans in Britain.  This was another School Trip “Friday” which turned into a long glorious weekend of investigation.

My husband decided that we were having far too much fun on our history trips so joined us for our Hadrian’s Wall weekend. Our home education and School Trip Friday was for all the family to enjoy!

  • The Vikings. Living in Essex, we are extremely fortunate to live near one of the areas where the Vikings invaded in the year 991.  Today it is a beautiful area of outstanding beauty.  Yes, despite popular misconceptions about Essex, there are some incredibly beautiful and historic areas within our county!

The approximate location where the Vikings invaded England in 991.  History literally on our doorstep.

Dos and Don’ts of History and Home Ed
Like all things, there are dos and don’ts to history.  Here are some of mine…

  • When out and about, DO always be respectful of the historical site or ancient monument.  Bear in mind that you might be walking or exploring a monument or site whose very fabric may be extremely fragile.  No climbing on walls or touching/holding fragile objects – unless, of course, there is a sign (or a helpful warden) which explicitly states you are welcome to climb/touch/hold.  If you’re not allowed to climb that tempting wall/pile of rubble, then use other methods for engaging your child in learning.  For example, when we walked along some of the Roman forts at Hadrian’s Wall, instead of climbing the ruins (and running the risk of destroying 2,000 year old constructions!), we spent time looking at the perfect building techniques of the Romans and trying to understand how they achieved what they did without modern building techniques and equipment.
  • If investigating a historic site/building, DO engage with any staff, volunteers or helpers. Many of them will be absolute fanatical experts on that particular building/room/family and will love to spend time with you and your children telling you about their passion. For example, when we visited the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, there were some amazing volunteers stationed at each house, just absolutely dying to share their knowledge. There is nothing more captivating to a small child then being shown the marks a hob-nailed boot made on an earthenware tiled floor by countless generations of men who had come in from the fields and warmed themselves in front of a roaring fire. Or for a modern child to be shown the sleeping conditions/rooms/cupboards of children their age. Engage with staff and/or volunteers, and your child’s education will benefit.
  • DO thank any member of staff or volunteer who has gone the extra mile with your children’s education or experience.  When you have a passion for history, there is absolutely nothing like being thanked by someone – particularly a child – who has benefited from your knowledge.
  • DO age-appropriate / ability appropriate “history learning” with your children.  For example, a teenager could benefit from undertaking proper historical research using primary source materials from libraries and record offices.  Whereas a younger child could prefer a more “hands on” approach byphysically visiting sites and exploring historic buildings.
  • DO consider that history is nearly always a multi-disciplined topic.  For example, weather has had a massive impact on British/English history.  So if your child is interested in weather and storms etc, then consider how the weather may have impacted the historical theme you are studying.  Science and history can go together hand-in-hand!  Or, maybe look at geography as geography and history are also a perfect match.  For example, when I was researching my book about the town of Bishop’s Stortford, I discovered that the nearby river which runs through the town has had a massive impact on the town’s fortunes.  So, whilst I was writing my book I spent a great deal of time walking the entire length of the river and investigating the town’s industry which took place there in the 1800s.
  • DO use a variety of methods for teaching history.  For example, when driving to/from the historical sites we were investigating, we used both the Horrible Histories and Tony Robinson’s series of audio recordings about history to totally immerse ourselves in our chosen period.  We also listened to good children’s historical novels on audio recordings.  When we were looking at medieval/Tudor England, we watched the BBC’s recent broadcasting of the Hollow Crown – Shakespeare’s “take” on the medieval kings of England.  My small child, who, because of his special educational needs had been labelled as being “academically challenged”, sat enthralled watching, digesting and understanding very high-brow Shakespearean plays!
  • DON’T explore famous or popular historical sites/monuments during school holidays.  As you are home educating, you can miss these peak days and weeks, therefore creating a better learning experience for yourselves.  If you really want to visit a popular place so to benefit from school-holiday activities, then sometimes going the week immediately before or after the school holiday will be quiet but still geared up for school-aged children.  For example, we were desperate to see the Richard III display in Leicester.  I’d researched that they were increasing the displays, information and volunteers in the Guildhall during a half-term week.  So we visited on the Friday just before the half term week, with the result that the Guildhall was empty – up until that day, there’d been queues up out the door and up the road.
  • DON’T stick to a historical subject/theme/period because you feel “you have to”.   For example, part of key stage 2 is to study the Tudors but, if Henry VIII and his 6 wives bore you silly, then don’t do it!  Home educating history should involve the entire family so pick something which will excite and interest YOU.  After all, if you become enthusiastic and impassioned about a particular period/era/theme/topic, then your own enthusiasm and interest will fire up your children.

Finally, DON’T be frightened about history.  Embrace home education as a chance for you to explore something which really interests you and engages your entire family.  History is absolutely all around us – there is something there of interest for all ages and all abilities.

Hadrian’s Wall: Time to explore the science of how echoes work and how loud you have to shout to produce a magnificent rebounding sound. Also time to see how fast we could both run when we realised that we had been shouting loud enough to wake the dead. And we had absolutely no wish to wake the dead of thousands upon thousands of sleeping Roman soldiers!

 

About Kate Cole
Kate home educated her learning-disabled son during the entire academic year of 2012-2013 whilst she took her local authority to two Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals (SENDIST).  Having “won” both cases, she is pleased to say that her son is now thriving in a specialist education placement.  But her son (and her!) learnt a great deal history during their year of home education together and are still continuing to actively learn history together.

She has recently had published her first local history book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time, a pictorial history of a historic East Hertfordshire town.  She is pleased to report that, although her son was back at school whilst she researched her book, he helped her research her book by walking the length and breadth of the town with her, helping her to investigate items of local historical interest.  He appears in many of the modern-day photographs of the town.

http://www.essexvoicespast.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Bishops-Stortford-Through-Time.jpg

Kate blogs about East Anglian history on her blog, Essex Voices Past. This week, she is on a tour around various blogs talking about history and her new book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time.  Catch her on the following blogs this week:-

 

 

© Essex Voices Past 2014

What are your social skills like?

The age old socialisation question raised its head the other day.

“What are your social skills like?” a home educated young person was asked at a job interview.

What kind of question is that F*S!!!

There are several irrational things about this (the question – not my response!):

  1. Couldn’t the interviewer tell – he’d been talking to the interviewee for over half an hour by this time?
  2. What on earth does he mean exactly – I doubt he could answer?
  3. How the heck could you – or any of us – answer such a question?
  4. Would he ask a school leaver the same question?

I always think it’s rather weird that the most pressing thing on people’s mind in relation to home educated children has little to do with learning and education – it’s about social development. And even more weird to think that ‘normal’ social development would take place within the abnormal social setting of a school.

Anyway, what are ‘social skills’? How would we answer? We’d better think about it in case any of your children get asked! By ‘social skills’ is it meant:

  • That we are polite and articulate?
  • That we can converse and interact in an appropriate way?
  • That we can assess and make suitable responses to people’s (sometimes weird) questions and behaviour?
  • That we’re chatty and articulate?
  • That we show empathy, consideration and respect when with others?
  • That we can pick up social cues?
  • That we are mature and act responsibly in company?
  • That we’ve got friends?!
  • Or that we are just nice people!
  • Maybe all of the above!

Every home educated child that I’ve ever met is all of those things anyway – and more.

I wonder sometimes how many parents, when they send their children to school to mix among a population of socially inept youngsters, how they think this is going to ‘socialise’ them. How many children or parents even know what that is? How many school using parents think about it? Yet bizarrely they are the ones who challenge home educating families with such doubts and sometimes accusations.

So I’ll say it again – and home educators will probably need to go on saying it until there are so many choosing this option others begin to notice how socially unskilled many school children are – home educated kids:

  • are sociable,
  • have friends,
  • do talk to others,
  • do get out with others,
  • can mix appropriately,
  • can hold a conversation,
  • are very socially mature
  • and are usually nice people!

And they are like this because they don’t go to school; because they mix with many others out in society in the natural social clusters found in society (not the unnatural one found inside schools), with a high proportion of adults who do have social maturity.

Perhaps if you’re home educating you should go about asking ‘what are your social skills like’ to everyone you meet? This way we might get some answers that would prepare the children for bizarre and ridiculous questions like these.

Or maybe just prime them with the answer; ‘excellent thank you!’ And that will be the end of it!

Autumn….not just a prep for Christmas!

Nooooo!! – not Christmas decorations already! Not when Autumn’s blazing away outside with its own decorations. Let’srain and sun july14 003 not miss out on those because gaudy tinsel is taking over far too soon.

I know the weather’s a bit challenging but there’s still a lot to see, just keep your hood up!

There are bright little hawthorn leaves as red as the berries. Rosy hips all glossy with wet (I don’t mean mine!) and even the odd little apple. There’s an abundance of nuts to collect and baubles of berries the birds have missed still enriching the parklands. And sentinel seed and reed heads in rough patches which, when you look up close, are strung with filigree webs and bunting of wetlets.

Where I live there’s the first murmurings of wild geese as skeins of them arrive to winter here. They are looped along the horizon decorating the sky like drifting paper chains. But other places, even cities, have murmurations of starlings making far better entertainment than anything on a screen. Maybe there’s one near you. (Look here)

Let’s enjoy these Autumnal decorations a whole lot longer before considering those glittery ones big businesses are trying to con us into believing we need to start buying now to spread the cost.

I won’t be hoodwinked whatever the season.

For there is the view that if the cost requires spreading we perhaps should consider whether it’s a cost that’s essential at all. Or whether there are more ecologically sound and fulfilling ways of creating a decorated home and a festive bounteous time to come in December.

And get out and about in Autumn first and learn how she does it!

Challenging the addiction to getting

Is it just me or is there far too much emphasis on ‘getting’ in our culture?

So many aspects of our lives are bombarded with images of getting. Getting more. Getting bigger. Getting newer. Getting updated. Getting thinner. Getting the games. Getting beauty. Getting better than the next man.

If we’re not careful, even our parenting can be occupied with getting. The educational system certainly is.

It perpetuates the ‘getting’ doctrine. Get grades, get results, get higher than your peers, get further up the tables. Get better degrees or more degrees to get more wages to get more stuff. Adverts tell us that more stuff for our kids makes us better parents. Getting more grades makes a better education.

Does it? Rubbish!

Getting is addictive. Are we leading our children towards this addictive way of life? Towards a way of feeling that as soon as the quick fix from the latest thing you’ve got wears off you have to get another one. Towards feeling that we’re not as good as others if we haven’t got the latest, newest update that others have.

This way of life is a self-perpetuated treadmill driven by big industry and the politics that supports it, also perpetuated in our schools.

Schools threaten pupils with having no life without getting the grades. But that’s political, not personal about the student; the reality is that without the pupils getting the grades the schools don’t get themselves higher up the league tables and get the rewards they’re after. They never mention the fact that people can and do lead happy successful lives even without getting, by progressing through life in different ways.

One of the dangers of this getting is that it pulls us away from being good and being giving.

It would be nice to have a cultural shift away from a getting style of parenting and education, away from a getting style of learning, to a style more filled with giving.

Giving attention. Giving time. Giving respect. Giving inspiration experiences. Giving love.

Those are the things that children need both for their well being and for their education.

You can’t ‘get’ education any more than you can ‘get’ goodness. Both those things can only ever be developed in themselves. And if you’re not educated in goodness you’re not educated at all because goodness is a quality of intelligence that goes hand in hand with an educated person.

A life that is joyful and good is a life that is full of warm loving relationships, also part of a rounded educated person.

You cannot get those you can only grow them. A ‘getting’ approach won’t help. Being a warm, giving human being will.

My dream is for the emphasis in our culture to change from getting to giving, for education to change from getting to growing. Growing warm, loving human beings with a sensitive intelligence that is of value to each other and the wider world.

That’s a priority with education and parenting surely?