Tag Archive | home schooling

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!

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!

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!

What do you want for your children?

What do you want for your child in education? Whether you’re home educating or they’re at school, what do you want for them? What do you want them to end up with?

I’m asking this because there’s such a cross section of ideas on this one.

When I’ve asked before most people just mention qualifications, only measuring education by those outcomes.

Some people see education as not having an outcome but rather as an ongoing process, not answerable to grades, but a personal development and achievement which is not measureable.

Others don’t need it measured, they just want their children to grow, progress, thrive and be happy. A forward flowing process that works towards creating happy, productive people who are a pleasure to be with.

And that’s what I always wanted for my children. For I reckon they needed to be happy in order to achieve and build confidence. Children who are unhappy rarely reach their potential.

Having happy children doesn’t mean they never face up to challenges, or overcome difficulties. It’s not those things that stop us being happy. It’s being disrespected.

So whatever learning environment they were in I wanted them to be respected. This way they would know how to build respect for themselves and others, you cannot develop confidence if you’re in a climate where you’re disrespected and have no say.

That’s another thing I’d want – for them to have charge over their education, with guidance perhaps, but certainly some control over what happens to them. This is the only way they build independence. Keeping them bound to a prescribed or spoon-fed educational path over which they have no influence is no way to nurture independence.

And nurture is maybe one of the most important aspects of all. Education needs to nurture them. Nurture them as people as much as learners who are gaining knowledge and skills. Nurture them personally so they in turn understand what that feels like and how to pass it on to others. Nurture their individual needs and personalities, weaknesses and strengths, gifts and attributes.

And finally I’d want them to have inspirational experiences that make them even hungrier to learn about the world, to go out into it and make their own little difference, by being productive and proactive, loving and kind, respectful and responsible. Nurturing, inspirational, exciting, varied experiences and opportunities are what do that.

So I wanted their education to be the same; nurturing, inspiring, varied and experiential, knowledge and opportunity rich.

With the development of all those things, other outcomes like qualifications perhaps, fall into place naturally.

What do you want for your children? Do leave me your thoughts.

Finger painting and the champions of resourceful

poppies and girls 6-14 033Think your little ones are going to grow out of finger painting?

Not necessarily – when you forget your paintbrush fingers stand in nicely. As my grown up little one found out when we went out to do some photography and artwork. Being the resourceful girl she is, she tried grass heads and stems too.

There’s never a more valuable skill than resourcefulness. Being able to find answers, to turn whatever you have to hand to good use and to think out solutions in ways you’d never have imagined if you’d had the ready-made answer, is a skill that stands by you for life.

We can become used to money supplying a ready-made answer. We so often buy a solution instead of creating one. But with this increasingly challenging economy that option’s becoming less available. And many home educating parents, deciding to manage on one income whilst they create an education more suitable to their child than the one provided in school, become the champions of resourcefulness.

Resourcefulness is an education in itself.

When you have the skills needed to seek alternative solutions very little can stop you. Resourcefulness demonstrates to your children a mentality of not stopping at a hurdle. Of asking what could be done to get round it. Of seeing life as a surging force of possibility rather than a blocked drain.

We all get stuck at times, admittedly. But we can get unstuck and get back into the flow if we don’t take ‘stuck’ as the final word.

For example, if the budget’s a problem just take a look at all the things you actually don’t have to buy; paper towels for one – use and reuse cloths. You don’t have to buy more clothes and accessories. Or junk snacks and drinks. We don’t have to use money to give us a lift – try ‘doing’ rather than buying to get the same result. And sometimes we’re just in the habit of shopping whether we need to or not – it’s amazing how much richer you can make yourself by breaking this habit!

Another example, do you need some new shelves or storage for all your home educating bits and bobs? Don’t buy them, make them. Paint boxes you can get from markets for free. Build shelves with bits of wood (we used the slats off an old bed) and bricks, tins or jars to prop them up. Make display shelves by stacking orange boxes on their sides.

You can grow things even without a garden – any container will do; food tubs, old pottery or pans, a leaky wellie! You don’t have buy expensive planters. Use Freecycle more often and you’ll be doing the earth as well as your purse a favour.

If you make resourceful, inventive solutions part of your way of living and learning with your children you will give them skills for life that will be as useful to them as anything academic!

Not forgetting when yours are painting that even some of the most admired artists have used various body parts in their work!

And if you’ve got some resourceful ideas you’ve come up with, do please share them in the comments – I’d love to hear.

The insanity of home education?

I found this story from a while back – it’s just one way of seeing it I know – but thought I’d repost for new visitors as there are so many now doubting the school way of educating……

….There he stands all smart and sparkling in his new too-big uniform, looking too small for school but with a sparkle of enthusiasm also in his eye.

He’s excited; everyone’s told him what an exciting place school is with lots of nice people and great activities he’ll love doing. He’s very keen – everyone’s been so nice each time he’s visited…

A few lessons in and the sparkle goes out his eyes faster than it goes off the uniform.

His first lesson is that not everyone is so nice, not even some of the people who smiled before. They’re too busy. Too concerned with having to do other things like keep control and make kids sit still.

His next lesson is that you rarely get exciting things to do. In fact, you never learn about things you want to learn about because you have to learn what the learning objective says. He doesn’t get what a learning objective is but writes it down in his book like he’s told to do.

And the third lesson he learns is that, despite the fact his mum shouts and gets cross sometimes, it’snothing compared to being humiliated by the teacher. And the worst thing of all is that at least he knew what mum was cross about. The teacher just seems cross all the time and about things he doesn’t understand.

And he begins to learn that he doesn’t actually like school that much but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Over the years he learns a lot more about school but only a little about the world outside.

He learns that test results and grades are more important than learning about the world outside. In fact, they are so terribly important that if you don’t get the right ones, he’s been told, you won’t have a life. They are so important it makes him and some of the other kids ill trying to get what the teachers want them to get. They try so hard but still some of them don’t manage it. Those kids are disregarded.

And the grade getting does something to the teachers too. Where once there was a glimmer of something warm in their eye, this is wiped out by getting grades and by the word Ofsted.

Ofsted makes the teachers very impatient, very tense and very stressed. Except the day when someone sits in the classroom and watches them. Then they behave differently. They’re not impatient or humiliating that day.

As time goes on and the sparkle is long erased something else becomes erased too; parts of his personality.

He no longer has a personality truly his own. He has a school persona, one that enables him to fit in.Fitting in means not being who you want to be but being the same as everyone else.

Not fitting in means braving an emotional and physical pain far, far worse than falling off your bike or Gran dying. This pain is intensified every day by the group you don’t fit into sticking knives in the wound of who you are and twisting them. Telling the teachers makes it worse because some kids have control over the teachers too.

Even human kindness is secondary to fitting in.

Fitting in is the only way to survive. Fitting in with the teachers. Fitting in with peer groups. Fitting in with what you’re supposed to learn however irrelevant it is to your normal life. And fitting into the big institution that is school which to him, now he’s studied Aldous Huxley, is worryingly similar to ‘Brave New World’where everything is for the greater good and not the good of the individual. Where everything is manufactured, even people.

You have to fit in with that. If you don’t, you won’t get an education.

But finally he realises that even fitting in doesn’t guarantee an education because, on the whim of an adult who sometimes abuses their position of power, you could easily fall out of favour and fail to get the scores. He’s seen that happen to his friend. His friend’s done for. He won’t have a life – he’s been told.

So he doesn’t think about being an individual. In fact he doesn’t think at all. No one wants him to. They just want him to do the work, fit in and get the grades, whatever the cost…

Home education insane?

Well, everything is relative, and compared to the insanity described above, it seems to me to be a relatively sane, natural and appropriate way to educate our kids!

Bare house, bare minds

untidy 002You know the days when the house is strewn with children’s debris? When you have to unbury the kitchen table from the latest craze of paints or gels, sticky bits or building sets, in order to eat? When you have an entire mini-brick city across the living room carpet? Or there’s not a foot of floor to be seen?

Well, I know it can seem a bit desperate sometimes, when you crave for the bit you tidied just to remain so for a while, but untidy does have its uses.

As a home educator you get a double dose of this marvellous mayhem. The kitchen can become the nearest thing to an art studio or science lab and the garden a space for the messiest of experiments, often with disgusting components. And the living room? It’s constantly disrupted by the latest den of the furnishings, or a growing community of characters that are living out the latest imaginary adventure and cannot be moved.

“Oh mum! Can’t I leave it up – just for today?”

“Well….!” You waver.

A month later, your feet still sore from treading on sharp things and longing for a sit on a normal settee not some kind of cushion construction, you feel inclined to try and tidy again. Or not!

Best not really. And the reason being that while all these things are going on your children are stimulated, developing skills and most important they are learning. And when there’s stuff around they’re likely to want to do something with it creating mental activity as well as physical.

They need all sorts of things around them to do that, to spark their imagination. When their imagination is sparked their brain is functioning, they are increasing their thinking skills, their language will be developing and their intelligence growing.

Nothing switches that off faster than terribly tidy environments.

There’ll be plenty of time for tidy when they’ve grown and the house is empty.

My kitchen table has been acutely bare of late, apart from that stain from experiments with dye and the odd sparkle of glitter glue. The carpet has been naked except for a black patch where some sticky substance got spilled. And the settee has been vacant of those constructions, little bottoms and cuddly toys.

Not any more as student comes home for summer and there is paraphernalia all over again. The table strewn with more mature experiments – in bleaching this time, various camera equipment, fabric and sewing stuff is dotted about, there are threads all over the carpet and even teddy has emerged from retirement for a quick hold.

And I’m loving it! Loving the busy. Loving the clutter, after months of aching tidiness even I got bored of! My mind is also buzzing with the busy of it.

So although you might long for that decluttered look they go for in magazines, be patient; reassure yourself that clutter means busy and busy means stimulated and stimulated means development and learning going on.

A bare house can mean bare minds and we want children with minds so full they cannot help but grow!