Tag Archive | education

Schooling our kids out of learning

There was a bright little pre-schooler running through the town the other day. She was on an adventure away from mum. She stopped suddenly, turned round and realised there was an awful lot of people who weren’t mum. Her face dropped.

Mum, ever watchful, called out to her and she went running back happily. Despite that slight panic at mum being momentarily out of sight, she didn’t hesitate to go off and explore again. After all, there’s such an intriguing amount to learn – about everything, why would she not?

Twelve years later and learning doesn’t look so appealing. In fact most of her inclination to learn has been switched off, like for many young people.

What happened?

My theory is that schooling happens.

What happens is that we corral our wonderfully idiosyncratic and diverse children into institutions which enforce comparison and competition in their most destructive forms, judge them by a narrow set of margins only a particular few could hope to excel at, lead them to believe that anything else they might be good at is unimportant, stress them witless by endless irrelevant testing, and expect them to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and personally within that unfortunate climate.

It has always seemed a bit ludicrous to me.

This schooling of our children is putting them off education and learning. Education of their whole being, of their diverse potential, individual talents, and original personalities, all of which are essential to the longevity of our world.

Instead we are chiselling them down into one set of talents, one way of thinking and performing, measurable by a narrow set of definitions, invented by politicians who are ignorant of education, out to impress those parents only interested only in social stature or getting the kids off their hands.

Harsh words maybe, but how many politicians know about the world outside their elite existence – let alone what’s useful for survival in it? And I’ve come across many parents who only want scores and grades for their own adult gain, or their kids minded; there are relatively few who’ve actually thought it through and reached an understanding about what’s good for their individual developmentally.

Childminding aside, the fallacy that most believe is that kids need teachers, tests and schools to learn, develop and progress towards a fulfilling and productive life.

But in reality they don’t, as many successfully home educating families are proving.

What they need instead is to be happy, confident, interested, curious and motivated like the little girl running through the precinct. With those traits kids move themselves forward into work and life successfully, but there’s only a relative few who come out of schooling with those personal attributes intact.

And you have to define success.

Some would define a successful education from a consumerist point of view as the getting of lots of ‘good’ grades.

I wouldn’t. In fact, it’s hard to define education at all because any definition would suggest it is finite and it isn’t, it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end.

My definition of a successful education would be so interlinked with what I consider a successful life to be which has nothing to do with getting anything, grades or otherwise.

It is more to do with a practice of living that is happy and mindful and content for the most part, full of warm loving relationships, fulfilled through purposeful work, independent and responsible and that continues to build and grow and improve as we learn and educate ourselves. It’s something with encouragement young people could do for themselves – if they haven’t been put off.

Education, like life, should not be something our children have to endure till it ends so they can get on with real life, as many feel it is.

It should be an integrated part of their real lives from day one, ongoing and always accessible. It should inspire. It should be something youngsters are gagging to involve themselves in not playing truant from. And something that serves our needs as humans to develop creatively, personally and emotionally as well as intellectually. And finally, something that we should be brave enough to accept is not actually measurable as such, yet is still wonderfully successful.

Roll on the day….

Is school really educating?

When you’ve been through school yourself and it was a successful experience you’d probably never think about it?002

And some people prefer to be silently led and feel part of an institution without challenging traditions, or ‘being difficult’ as it’s sometimes labelled!

I think I must be one of the ‘difficult’ ones. Because I’ve suspected from the outset that school doesn’t really educate as we need it too. In fact it inhibits the kind of thinking required for us to develop and progress.

Thankfully I’m no longer alone in those thoughts. And it’s really wonderful to find others who think, like I and other home educating parents do, that school is beginning to look more and more like a farming process for the benefit of the institution – and politics – than it is about the education of individuals.

Ken Robinson is another of those who also challenges this cloning of our children and their diverse talents, increasingly neglected in the laboratory of controlled experiences for a narrow set of outcomes, as schooling has become. (Find him here)

He talks about schooling in his book ‘The Element How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ and how he feels it is outdated. He raises three key issues.

Firstly, he says that schools are preoccupied with specific academic ability rather than the broader intelligences that each human being is capable of. So school can become a narrowing experience rather than an developmental one.

Secondly, he says that the hierarchy of subjects, with maths, sciences and language skills at the top, humanities in the middle and arts at the bottom, neglects the fact that it is diverse thinking developed through creative practises which help the world progress and which are at the forefront of human progress (like the Net for example). So we desperately need the creative subjects that are becoming squeezed out along with the more physical and practical.

And thirdly, the obsession with particular types of assessment, via a narrow range of standardised tests, negates the developmental progress of an individual and essential creativity of thinking.

The result is a narrowing of intelligence, capacity and talent, rather than a broadening of it, and a complete dismissal of all the more human elements like relationships, character, emotions and expression, which are an essential part of our intelligent growth.

He goes on to explain how ‘getting back to basis’ is far from a good thing because we need new ‘basics’ for our new world.

We basically need new thinking, both educational and personal, for our new world. But schools are not supporting that need as their goals and targets become narrow and political.

It makes for fascinating reading. And I applaud his ideas; it’s so comforting to find others thinking the same.

So if you’ve never looked at schooling like this before his book will ignite some exciting thinking! Excited thinking being exactly what we need to help the world progress.

The rising tide of alarm

I’m glad the weather’s calm. When I can see white horses from my bedroom window which appear bigger than the sea wall it’s a bit alarming. This morning the tide looks like the proverbial mill pond.

It’s a bit of a September ritual to walk to the sea bank that separates the marsh from the  fields to see some of the highest tides of the year. The miles of marshland which I walk upon, purple with sea lavender during the summer, gets completely submerged.

Tide out.....

Tide out…..

 

....tide in!

….tide in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently it’s smooth and bright and very calming, dotted with birds floating and flying. Unlike last winter when a combination of elements brought the tidal surge up so high it breached the wall and flooded the farmland and local town. Luckily our house which sits next to it was spared.

The seeping tide looks deceptively harmless on misty mornings like this. The reality is that we cannot take it for granted. And when you live in close proximity to the natural world you’re very aware of how things can so easily change. And very aware that the climate has already changed and everyone needs to sit up and take note, not only those who are in direct contact with it.

Of course, when you live in cities, conveniently tucked aware from contact and the immediacy of threats like the tide, you tend not to worry about it.

Yet, ironically, it is the cities which make the largest contribution to the pollution which is causing the damage.

So I would ask that today you make some small adjustment in your lifestyle habits so that you reduce your pollution and waste, you throw-away and buy less, thus helping to reduce the chances of the climate changing so much that people who live in direct contact with it like me are less likely to be submerged.

Not forgetting that your habits will become the habits that your children adopt and ultimately determine the world they live in.

Surely this understanding is an essential part of the education and responsibility of all of us?

Five good reasons to Home Educate

Just in case you’re wobbling about home educating I thought I’d repost this from a few years again. All the reasons still hold true:

Although Home Educating is not for everyone, neither is school!

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

And it’s often a little way back into the school routine when parents start to have misgivings again about what goes on inside those school walls. And a time when the thought of home educating, that you’d shoved down under the lure of promising new term beginnings, pops back up.

Just as there are lots of good things about school, there are lots of good things about home educating too, although they are less well known. So here’s a few to make you think…

  • You can nurture your children’s natural love of learning. Did you know they had a natural love of learning about and exploring their world? They do; their curiosity – it’s been there since birth, but when their learning gets taken over by schooling it often dies a death. By home educating you can develop it even more and use it to enhance your child’s learning experience.
  • You can use different learning approaches to overcome difficulties. ‘Learning difficulties’ can develop at school because schools have a rigid style of educating. Many parents who’ve withdrawn children who have these so called difficulties find that with a different approach the difficulty is not an issue. With home educating you can use any approach that works for your child. Thus children can achieve where once they failed.
  • Alongside academic skills, you have plenty of time to devote to personal, physical and creative development, often neglected by the school timetable. These areas of development contribute enormously to overall intelligence and achievement.
  • You also have time to pay attention to developing their thinking skills, personal skills, practical skills and social skills all of which make young people much more employable.
  • And if they’re struggling and unhappy in school, home educating is pretty likely to make them happier, healthier and more motivated all of which better sets them up for a successful future. And taking away the school stresses usually makes for a happier family life too!

Education and the sock drawer mentality!

I contributed to a discussion about home education on the Radio this week.

I always find it so hard – there is so much to say. And the questions fired at you about children’s learning are so embedded in a school perspective of education it’s impossible to know where to start.

Now I’ve grown away from that schoolised conditioning I know that learning and education are not exclusive to school, nor dependent on it, and have no need to be confined in that familiar structure. But trying to explain that to people who think that home schoolers are just lazy wasters trying to avoid hard work is not easy.

Schooled education reminds me of a sock drawer. You know; those tidy divided ones you see advertised where there’s a little compartment for each pair. I look at them and think life’s too short for that sort of control!

But school learning has become as comparable and controlled as that, dividing education up into little structured cells, controlled by time, age and subject and doled out to children one section at a time.

Climb out of that concept and you see the educational world more expansively and certainly more enjoyably.

For what is education anyway? Is it a set of unrelated targets that kids must regurgitate parrot fashion, irrespective of their individual needs, for the sake of measurement, grades or politics? Or is it an enriching process pertinent to living that overlaps all subjects, concepts, skills and personal development, which enables children to become competent in the ways of the world and interact with it?

The sock drawer view relates to the former!

So when asked about children’s learning and ‘doing the work’ it’s difficult to overcome the sock drawer mentality and explain in a second or two that ‘doing the work’ is not a problem because there doesn’t have to be such a great division between learning ‘work’ and living. Learning is a natural, interrelated process that is ongoing; a natural part of a child’s everyday life, not separate from it and compartmentalised.

When children are involved with life they want the skills to engage with it for themselves. For example; skills that might range from simply being able to speak, to the more complex written use of language, reading and enjoying books or the Net, to being able to use it to text and communication, or getting a GCSE in English because they grow up wanting to go to Uni to do computer programming.

This desire to learn and progress develops with the child, with encouragement and facilitation from others, with experience and contact with the real world and understanding of the real skills they’ll need to access it. When learning is a natural and enjoyable part of their life youngsters know they will benefit from, why would they not want to become educated?

If learning is as dull, controlled and structured as a sock drawer no wonder they want to climb out!

This is hard to explain in a moment or two on the radio under pressure.

It is thinking, developed over time, which requires us to accept that traditional schooled approaches are not the only ways which work. And there are now thousands of home educating families taking a less controlled approach who are proving it!

Does education have to be timed?

It felt delicious in September when all the other children went back to school and ours didn’t.

Always things to learn about

Always things to learn about

Although I felt a little sad for them shut inside on gorgeous days when the weather always seemed to take a turn for the better and we could make the most of it!

But that’s the school style education for you; timed and divided into fixed compartments as if that was the only way to learn.

It isn’t. It’s only necessary for schooling hundreds of children in the same things at the same time with as few members of staff as possible.

And it takes a while to rethink the idea of education only happening like that, to understand that children learn just as effectively when it isn’t timed or controlled by restrictive boundaries.

You might think that if we don’t time it; if we don’t ‘start learning’ at 9 and go on till 3 like a timed school day, we wouldn’t learn as much as kids do in school. However, thinking about that school day, there’s an enormous amount of wasted time when the child is not engaged. If they’re not engaged they won’t be learning.

Learning through an approach that’s integrated and engaged in real life, it actually happens that the children learn more. Life teaches us; improves our skills and upgrades our knowledge and understanding all the time as we live it and go about our daily activities.

For example, throughout the day, whatever the children are doing, there is opportunity to talk, observe, question, hypothesise, maybe research as a result, converse – a very effective way of learning with instant feedback and development of understanding. It could start with something as simple as going to the loo.

“How does the wee get in there?” my youngest once yelled through the toilet door. There followed a short explanation and then ongoing discussions at relevant times on the body, its functions, organs, the food and fluids it needs, the digestive system, with research online, pictures and games to follow up.

In other words, a continuous biology lesson pertinent to life which continued whenever it arose.

Another example; whilst boiling the kettle I posed the question ‘how would we manage without electricity?’ which sparked off more conversation, investigation into and experimentation with electricity, attempts to do without it, talking to grandma who had!

A maths example; there’s 8 of us for supper, we have 2 pizzas, how much do we get each? Doing the weekly shop involves budgeting, investigating nutritional content, countries of origin, social skills….the list is endless.

Engaging the children provokes learning and all subjects that are timed in a school setting can be covered in a natural relevant way. This approach builds understanding which is the basis for more formal academics at a later date perhaps. It doesn’t have to be timed, or age related, only relevant to the moment and the interest of the child. And the amazing self organising brain can piece this seeming unrelated patchwork of learning together seamlessly as it develops.

Home education also gives unlimited opportunity to play. Hours that would be wasted with boredom or disengagement in a school setting can be filled with play. Playing builds many essential skills, both mental and physical. It develops maturity, initiative, extends creative and innovative practises and their independence – all attributes needed for employment!

When I started home educating following an earlier career in the classroom I was stuck in timed educational thinking. But we only need that sort of timed control for institutional education, it is in no way essential for learning. And I soon realised that to contain the children’s education within unnecessary time limits was to restrict the potential for learning that is accessible at any moment.

Time control has nothing really to do with learning. It’s useful as a tool when we need it, perhaps to reach particular goals or to function round family schedules. But it is just that – a tool you are in charge of. It doesn’t have to be in charge of you. Or your child’s learning life!

So if it’s nice outside go out in it, you’ll never know what you’ll find to learn about.

Why not consider home schooling? Worried? Scared? Read on…..

garden 004

Educating out of the home as much as in it!

The beginning of the school year approaches – but why not consider home educating instead?

I prefer the term ‘home education’ to ‘home schooling’ because it better describes it as most parents don’t do school at home they educate in other ways. And they’re not at home that much either, they educate as much out of it as in, as much with others as on their own – just in case those were some of the reasons you might not consider having a go.

So why else might you not consider home education?

Worried about not knowing what to do? You might feel like this at first, but there is so much help, support, resources and information online, as well as all the network opportunities through Facebook and Yahoo groups, you shouldn’t let it worry you. And check out this post here about home ed resources to get you going.

So are you scared what others would say? It’s always a bit daunting leaving the mainstream and telling family and friends. But this can be overcome by making contact with other home ed families where you’ll gain instant support. You can boost your courage by keeping the company of people who support what you do. You can swot up your ideas and philosophies ready to answer doubters. And there will always be people who criticise or judge those who want to do things differently, after all, you’re indirectly challenging what they do and they might not want to face up to flaws in their choices! But you stick to your principles and maybe you’ll be able to show others that doing it differently is okay – it works – and you might even rescue a child from a dire situation in school!

Perhaps you are just scared you’ll fail your child? Well, I always say that nearly all parents who home educate can’t fail their child because parents who choose this route are thinking parents. Thinking parents review, assess, make changes, find solutions to challenges, and are able to overcome any difficulties by thinking them through. Some continue to home educate throughout their child’s education. Some use schools, colleges and Unis later on. Some decide it’s not for them. All are valuable decisions. The decision to home educate is not set in concrete. Like all intelligent parents you make new decisions when required.

Or maybe you’re concerned about being with the children all the time? Maybe that thought is a bit too overwhelming. Happily, most parents who home educate report a strong and loving bond. Some report that taking school out of their family life changed their relationships with the children for the better – even with teens. It also happens that the children become gradually more independent in what they do and families find ways to create space from each other when or if they need it. For most it’s never a problem.

Perhaps your biggest worry is the thought of being alone and your child not mixing? This is another myth about home educating. What we found was that we had so many home educating friends to share activities and go out with we had to make sure we planned some time to stay in on our own. There are increasing home education groups to interact with, where the children have opportunity to develop social skills, conversation, friendships – parents too! It is normally the case that home educated children are far more socially skilled than school children who are shut away from normal society.

Or perhaps you’re scared your kids will turn out weird? I know many adults out in the world now who were home educated and no one could ever tell – as someone once said to my daughter. I think it was meant as a compliment! You can judge for yourself and meet her here – she presented a little film for me.

Home education is a growing alternative to school that thousands and thousands of parents are finding successful. It’s an approach to education that means the children develop and mature, grow in competence, intelligence and independence, without suffering. And who go on to make as valuable and productive a contribution to the world as any other child.

So if you’re thinking of home schooling, maybe you should do a bit of research and then dive in. You’ll find a whole community or people just waiting to befriend and support you and join you on the route towards a completely different, inspirational and uplifting style of education.

Which is what it should be anyway!

Check out my books for lots more info and a peep into a real home educating life!