Tag Archive | education

Educating Outside School

Just in case you need something to read while I’m not here so much why not check out the excellent Education Outside School magazine.

It’s full of ideas and activities for times not at school and a valuable resource for all those families thinking of staying that way and home educating, or those doing so already! The community grows all the time, especially at this time of year when school term looms and doesn’t look that attractive!

You can read some back copies for free to get a flavour. And look out for the new edition coming soon.

Another good place to get a feel of what it’s like to home educate for real, if you’re thinking about it, is the family blogs – also great for tips, ideas and activities. (See the page above)

And if you want a warm easy story for these final summer days, try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (see page for an exert) – you’ll not get through without tissues I’m told – some for tears of laughter!

More from me soon…..

Have you got your children back?

So much to learn out of school

So much to learn out of school

It was during the school holidays that we got our children back! I don’t just mean their physical presence, I mean their personalities.

It was when we noticed they were suddenly the happy, smiley, easy-going and cooperative little people we’d known pre-school. Those people who disappeared in school term times and were replaced by fraught, difficult and chewed up little bundles of frustration, and sometimes even aggression, that we didn’t recognise.

I know we all change a little during holidays. Of course we’re more relaxed and have work pressures taken off. But the effect on our children’s personalities in school was more fundamental than this and it was a result of them finding the whole school package distasteful; the unnecessary and rigid control, the dull learning activities, pressure from other not-so-nice children and clear disrespect from some of the adults. Not something they’d been used to.

And why should they get used to it? If we suffered this in work we’d be able to do things about it. We could make ourselves heard, rather than put up with abuse or disrespect. We have opportunities to make choices. We can usually implement changes, even changing jobs if necessary.

Children are stuck. And in many cases are not even listened to. When they are listened to – usually by some adult paying lip service but quite clearly having their own agenda of making the child fit – it’s rare anything changes things for the better.

If I was in that position I wouldn’t want to carry on going to school either.

Yet many people just accept the school environment as the ‘normal’ place for children to be. They think it’s okay for children to put up with unpleasantness, thinking wrongly that it’s something ‘they have to get used to’. And some people even seem to think that we don’t have to listen to, or take into account their unhappiness.

I think we do. And I also think that’s it’s probably fairly intelligent of children to recognise that school is not always the best place for them. They are capable of making judgements and are capable of reassessing them as they grow.

What is also certain is that school is not the only place for education. Children can thrive, achieve and learn outside school too. There’s so much to discover; about the world, about themselves. And for increasing numbers of parents school is the last place they would want their children to do that.

The more home education is known about and the more home educating families that people meet, the more confident parents are about supporting their children and choosing alternative to school.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the child who doesn’t want to go to school. There is something more wrong in the adult community believing that school works for everyone.

A child who does not want to go to school has their reasons. It’s not that they don’t want to learn. Or they’re weak or shy or lazy. It just means that the climate in which they’ve been forced to do it is not good enough. And sometimes it’s so unsuitable it changes their personality.

Kids can make decisions about what’s good enough as well as adults!

That’s one of the major reasons we home educated ours, before school not only changed them into people we didn’t want them to be, but also put them off learning for good.

What are the five best things to teach your children over the holidays?

Will you be teaching yours over the holidays? Whether they go to school or you home educate, will you still be keeping their noses to the educational grindstone?

I hope you won’t be continually forcing academics on them. For they do need other things as well and there’s nothing like overkill to completely put a person off learning.

But have no doubt you will still be ‘teaching’ whatever you’re doing. Because parenting in itself is teaching. And parents affect education as much as teachers do, by the way we raise our children to be interested in the world, observe and be curious about it, talk and interact with it.

This is the real education – the academic bit is just – well – academic! And not a complete education in itself. No point in being able to do sums on paper but have no idea how to budget or save your pocket money!

So what you do as parents over the holiday, all the things you do at home and out of it, all the things they see you do, are the things that broaden your child’s curriculum of life and impact on those academics when they get down to them. And we will be ‘teaching’ them most of it through our own example.

So I was trying to identify the best things we can pass on to our youngsters as we raise them? Things that are just as useful if not more than writing and maths. So these are the things I would hope to ‘teach’ them:

  • To be confident and think of themselves well; as loving caring people important in themselves and how they contribute, not just rate themselves through the things they might be measured by (like grades).
  • To understand how to look after themselves well. To encourage them to build a healthy lifestyle that keeps them fit as in how much they move or don’t, what they eat and don’t, and understanding of what nurtures their general emotional and mental wellbeing as well as the physical.
  • To be happy in their own company as well as the company of others, as it is in time for yourself that you begin to understand yourself and what feels right for you as well as through the perspective others bring.
  • To achieve, resolve and create things for themselves rather than always relying on passive or pre-packaged entertainment or solutions that can fill in time and lives, often letting it slip by unnoticed and eventually unfulfilled.
  • To understand that independent and informed choice fulfils us far more than accepting institutions and mainstreams and trends (and Facebook is an institution as much as school is!) and that we need to make conscious decisions about what we think, what we do and how we behave

What can you add to my list? It’d be lovely to have your thoughts below!

Sod genius – it’s kindness that matters most!

I can’t bring myself to watch the child genius programmes on channel 4. Even the trailer is enough to put me off.

I cannot bear the mass acceptance and propaganda that genius is so worthy we have to parade our kids across the telly as tools for our own self gratification.

Makes me cringe! (Read what Charlotte Runcie says in the Telegraph)

As does yet another annoying mathematical puzzle on Facebook asking ‘How smart are you?’

Interesting how ‘smart’ is measured by maths. Couldn’t it equally be measured by our ability to create an artwork?

Well that depends on how you define smart, or genius, doesn’t it. And the way in which we’ve been told to define it. We also have to decide on what matters most.

What matters to me over smart is kind. In fact, kind is smart anyway – one is no good without the other, because it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you’re not kind with it you don’t have access to what makes our life ultimately happy; relationships with others. You have to be smart enough to work out that ‘kind’ is as useful as ‘smart’.

We never see a challenge on Facebook asking ‘How kind are you?’ But then, how could you measure that? And therein lies the problem.

Everybody wants testable evidence. And we’ve been conned to think that testable evidence must be the truth. It isn’t, as anyone who manipulates data will testify! Data can be construed to make out what you want it to make out. Politicians use this strategy all the time. The telly programme isn’t testing genius, it’s making viewing. And making the producers a lot of money with very little outlay, such a good drama would cost! Basically, they are using our kids for cheap telly.

I don’t mean to be unkind to the youngsters taking part in the programme. But I do want to point out that kindness is as valuable an attribute as genius, more valuable I would say. But how will our children learn that if the only thing we appear to admire is testable genius? When I see those kids squirming with the pressure they’re under to be genius I wonder if somewhere along the line they’ll learn to be kind. They might not if unkindness has been the methods used to put pressure on them.

Shouldn’t we be educating towards good, kind people and allowing genius to naturally follow on through?

And shouldn’t we be applauding many, many other attributes of human nature as well as smart?

We need to be applauding our children for the people they inherently are, not whether they can answer questions or not!

Rural living: it’s not only roses

outdoorsMay2014 005It’s Countryside Awareness week. And the beauty of it is that it’s as much about the people who live and work in rural areas as it is about countryside in itself – beautiful though it is.

We don’t often think about them, other than they’re lucky bods and it’s all roses. Few understand that at times it can be the opposite of roses, it can be downright thorny. Not that you’d get that impression through the media or from the politicians who unwind in second homes without any of the hardships country living brings, making policies from the comfort of their city towers that stick in the throat of those who reside there all the time.

For example, in their campaign to get everyone using public transport, putting road and fuel taxes up, they forget that this absolutely cripples those who have no public transport on their doorstep. Who are dependent on their cars to get to work, get their kids to school/college/activities, fetch shopping, get to surgeries, etc. They don’t face that reality on a daily basis as we do.

Another example, in supporting everyone getting online to do business, banking, pay bills etc. they forget that for some their download speeds are so low it’s well nigh impossible to conduct any kind of business without lengthy waits, never mind bothering with Youtube! Mobile signals are just as bad – what use an App when you’ve no signal?

And when people moan about services being disrupted because of leaves on the line or the buses are late they should remember that they at least have services. Getting about in snow, ice, gales, fog, floods and living on a daily basis with exposure to the same is no joke. The only service we have here is our bins emptied and that doesn’t always happen.

It’s all relative of course. And our rurality also brings us a deeply tranquil connection to nature instead of city stresses – unless we’re stressing because the car won’t start!

But we should remember that there are 12 million people living and working in the countryside and it isn’t all tranquillity. In fact the suicide rate among farmers is one of the highest. Employment is sparse to non-existent and working on the land can be an extremely hard way of life with the minimum of wages in return. Yet as Robin Page says in a comment in the Telegraph last weekend the coverage rural living gets is stacked in favour of urban living dismissing issues of country dwellers as less important.

But without those who do work the land, there would be NO FOOD! The land would not be managed as it needs to be to sustain our life. And there would be no land to give us all the resources we need to support our city lives.

Life does all come back to the land and the people who look after it.

So maybe you could pay that some respect as you organise a walk with your kids in support of people working hard  in rural areas. And teach them to understand that the land beyond the cities and the people who work it are equally important.

The dog on the advert and your view of education!

There’s a clever advert on the TV at the moment (yea – I know – I need to get out more!). It fools us into thinking we’re seeing something from another viewpoint. (Watch it here)

It does happen sometimes that we’re not sure what we’re looking at – until we get our ‘eye in’ as the saying goes. This is a good example of it. It makes you think.

Our brain is taught by past experiences to think we’re seeing something different to what’s actually in front of us sometimes and it struck me that home education is a bit like that. It’s difficult for some to see how it could possibly work because we’ve been taught to see education in certain way – a school way.

To see things in new ways we have to abandon our old views. And that’s the same with learning. To learn, you have to change; often change what you thought was true. And it’s something we have to do in order to be able to take advantage of the huge flexibility we can have with education – home education in particular.

Our school view tells us that children have to be in schools to become educated. Not so – they can become educated just as well in other places out of school. Where better to learn about the world – which is what education is for – than out in the world?

Our school view holds that education requires things like uniforms, masses of other kids, qualified teachers, curriculum, tests and inspections for it to be successful. Not so – many families home educate successfully without these things.

Our school view tells us that education is about teaching children to pass exams. Not so. Education is much more than that; passing exams only one small part of it. It also leads us to believe that children need daily repetitive practise in order to learn anything or pass those exams. Not so – if it’s inspiring they’ll learn and retain it anyway.

Our conditioned view has led us to believe that children have to be disciplined in order to learn, disciplined by adults who know better. This is not the case. Not all adults know better and their role is to guide more than anything. Guide children to understand that the only discipline that is of any use to us is self-discipline and to help them understand why that is the case.

And the systemised view makes us believe that children have to be coerced into learning. But the truth is that children are born wanting to learn and it is the system that switches them off. Learning is something that happens naturally for them from the moment they are born and we can extend this learning desire quite naturally into the educative process.

Finally, the most bizarre thing of all when you begin to think about it differently, is that in order to learn about the world we shut children away from it. That’s like shutting them in a room and telling them about swimming – then throwing them in deep water. The best place to learn about our world is out experiencing it.

Challenge your view of education and see if you can transcend what you think you know. Maybe you’ll be able to see things a little differently too!

The success of failure!

Who’d equate success with failure?

Not many perhaps – except all the successful entrepreneurs; they’ll have failed many times in order to finally achieve but we don’t often get to hear about that background to their success.

One of the most important ways to help our children to succeed is to encourage them to understand that failure isn’t a negative thing. It is a natural part of the learning and achieving process from which we learn. And those people who succeed are not necessarily the cleverest, the luckiest or the richest. They are the people who didn’t stop when it didn’t go right, but went on trying and trying until they finally got there. And that if you can maintain enough resilience to do that, you are bound to succeed.

Think about it; we can only fail when we stop at a failed attempt.

Our children will have failed many, many times in their tiny lives even before they get to the age of five when everyone suddenly starts talking about succeeding or failing in school. Although no one measured it and no one made their early attempts into failure.

For example they will have failed to walk, fallen over many times, but just kept on getting up again. They will have failed trying to balance their food on a fork or get it in their mouths. They will have failed to catch a ball, do up laces, build a tower, climb up something, ride a bike, master the things they want to say. But none of those failures mattered so they just kept on going, learned from trial and error, until they achieved what they wanted.

And that’s the important part of it – they hadn’t been taught by the others around them that those failings mattered. So why teach them later on – particularly in relation to education? Why teach them that failing makes them into failures, as we tend to in schooling?

If we told our toddlers that they were failures and made them feel shame when they were trying to walk and talk then maybe they wouldn’t keep going.

Our negative attitude to failing is something that children learn – usually from adults. Wouldn’t it be great if that was something they never learned?

Maybe we should be careful not to teach it!

Perhaps instead of hidden signals of negativity towards failure we should be boosting their resilience. Supporting their confidence in their intention to achieve. Showing them how to learn from the things that don’t go right first time. Helping them understand that failing is positive in that it makes us extend ourselves and grow.

And that failing is only a failure if you stop there – and you don’t have to! If you keep going you can eventually turn your failure into a success, even if by deciding you need to take another route.

That’s how failure creates success. And that’s what our children need to know about it!

Holding babies – could it be the beginning of their education?

prickles and flowers 001I always held the baby in my left arm. I thought this was to automatically free up my right, being right handed, to carry on doing the essential jobs – like put the kettle on!

Apparently though, it isn’t to do with that at all.

I’m reading a little more about how the brain works at the moment. I’ve always been fascinated about how the brain affects the way we feel and what we believe, as well as how we grow and learn. I’m forever intrigued by the question; are we just the result of our brain activity then?

Ruby Wax’s book ‘Sane New world’ is the result of her own voyage of discovery in managing her depression through mindfulness. So she’s studied the brain and writes about it in ways lay-folk like me can understand. She shows how its growth and development influences who we become and what we feel.

Simply put, brain development is about electrical impulses and connections which develop from the moment we are born. And if there was ever any doubt in your mind about the important reason why parents should be engaged with their babies, she dispels it in a lovely little paragraph about holding them:

“The memory of how Mommy is with Baby influences the baby’s physiology, biology, neurology and psychology. How the brain grows is affected by how she put you down, held, smiled, ignored or forgot you; she is the uber-regulator, the big boss of brain development. The neural clusters for social and emotional learning are sculpted by Mommy’s attunement with Baby. She grows these neurons in the baby by making direct eye contact with her left eye to Baby’s right eye. This is why Mommies usually hold babies in their left arm so this eye contact is made easier. When they gaze into each other’s eyes, their hearts, brains and minds are linking up. These face to face interactions increase oxygen consumption and energy. Also holding the baby in this position means it can hear Mommy’s heartbeat. Seeing her loving face looking down on Baby triggers high levels of endogenous opiates so he experiences pleasure in later social interactions by the positive and exciting stimulation form Mommy.”

 She also says that the linking up of the right and left hemispheres of the brain are accomplished through mum and baby ‘eye contact, facial expressions and speaking goo goo’. In fact, all of a child’s early brain development is based on interactions with mum. And new research shows that even genetic development can be influenced by parental behaviour and changes continuously.

So if ever you needed a good reason to forget the jobs and hold your baby remember that in doing so you are enhancing their mental, emotional, and even genetic development and tendencies.

I never needed another reason – I just loved it anyway. And wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But to all those who doubt the importance of mums (or dads) being at home they need to remember that they are doing a vital job of developing a new member of the human race.

And there’s no substitute for holding!

Parenting, education and prickly issues

prickles and flowers 003

prickles to get through – but blue sky waiting!

Parents get plenty to deal with. Home educating parents get plenty more!

There are always concerns and prickly issues to mull over, options and alternatives to make decisions on; how to handle one issue, how to get through the next. Is there ever a smooth pathway to follow?

At times, maybe! But smooth all the time would mean that you’re making no changes, you’re not setting challenges which promote achievements, and life would get dead boring – or just dead.

At least when you’re overcoming prickly issues as a family you know you’re alive and living, choosing and evolving and, most important of all, learning and growing.

When we’re buried in concern though it’s often hard to see a solution. Yet it’s quite often the simplest solution that is the most workable. We also want a solution straight away and in real life that rarely happens – we need to be patient.

So I’m offering five tips today that I found helped to ease the way through – patiently:

1)      Stop picking at it and give it some time and do other things. Allowing some time to pass always helps dilute the intensity of problems and it’s the intensity that can prevent us from seeing simple solutions.

2)      Talk about it with someone not involved. People who are not involved can give a more objective perspective rather than the emotional one we can be wrapped up in.

3)      Take it for a walk. Or take yourself for a walk. It’s amazing how time outside, with wider horizons, can calm and widen our mental horizons too.

4)      Beware of over thinking. Try to stop thinking and focus on actions you can take for the time being. Even action not related to the issue helps.

5)      Try and make some small changes remembering the simple saying; ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’! If you want a different outcome, you’re going to have to do it differently! That’s true of parenting, education, life in general.

We cannot always find an immediate and ready made solution to prickly issues. But be reassured that they will be resolved. And finding ways to deal with the uncertainty mean time not only helps you – it’s also a great set of skills to pass onto your kids!

Nurturing confidence – the best objective of all

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

Nurturing, inspiring, varied and experiential, knowledge and opportunity rich. That’s what I said I wanted education to be in my last post.

Because that gives the children what they need to live successful and productive lives. It makes them happy, it makes them healthy and most important of all it gives them confidence. Confidence must surely be an objective for education.

Have you looked at your child’s education recently and considered what it’s doing for them?

You can’t build confidence in a system that gives you no choice. When you have no choice it is easy to become a pawn or a victim and fail to develop the skills needed to lead later life for yourself.

You won’t become confident from being unhappy, you won’t stay well either. You need to feel fairly content with what’s happening in your life, even if there are challenges, but challenges make you happy too. When there’s no choice about those though, there’s little happiness.

You can’t develop confidence if you’re continually undermined by lack of respect for your personal preferences. Confidence is built from being respected, whatever you are like.

It doesn’t make you confident when your ideas and opinions are disregarded and there’s little opportunity to express what’s important to you.

It doesn’t make you confident when no one trusts that you are able to learn for yourself and take some charge of your education.

It won’t enhance your well-being when no one seems to have any regard for you as a person or interest in nurturing your personal skills and strengths.

It’s hardly inspiring to be squeezed into someone else’s prescription of education towards objectives which have no meaning to you. That hardly keeps you motivated and happy. You need to understand your own objectives.

And it hardly keeps you motivated when your experience of education is dull and lack-lustre, year after year, with little variety in approach or experience.

What’s your child’s education like? Is it giving them confidence? If not, you might like to consider changing it!