Tag Archive | home schooling

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…..

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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!

You can never predict how it all turns out

Funny how things turn out!

After leaving conventional teaching in disgust, after having my own children in school and removing them to home educate, after them graduating to college and Uni and finishing with rather a distasteful view of institutional education, my youngest had an interview for a job in a nursery.

There’s no way she’d consider working in a school environment, but this is one with a difference. It’s one where children are mostly playing – unstructured play at that. There are few toys because the managers want the children to be imaginative and inventive. And they wanted a candidate that wasn’t necessarily qualified in childcare (they’d had those before and weren’t impressed as they didn’t know how to be around children), but one that knew how to play with and inspire children, work on their own initiative and be prepared to be outside in all weathers and get muddy. Charley fitted those criteria perfectly – it almost described her home educated childhood. It certainly described some of her education.

She and I talked about that education on the way to the interview in the hope that she’d remember some of it; what the really important aspects of it were like choice, respect, diversity, experience, relevance and building confidence, all of which are so important, many of which were missing from her Uni experience! But she was really too nervous to take it in so I stopped all that and told her she should just be the honest, intelligent, articulate person she is.

It’s all we ever can be really – be ourselves. No good pretending to be something different. No good trying to fit other people’s agenda – parent’s, schools’, social media. No good avoiding truth about ourselves, our skills, our strengths and weaknesses; best to work with them. Best to be true to yourself, however much you know or don’t know. Just be strong, face up, be who we are best at and let others be as they will be. And be brave.

On the way home I tried not to grill her about the questions. Inevitably her home education was discussed.

“They had the impression that home education meant sitting at home on your own with a workbook in front of you” she told me. “But I told them it’s not like that at all. I told them a little bit about what we did and they said it was nice to meet a home educated person.”

“Well, you’ve changed their mind about Home Ed, broken through the same old myths,” I said. “Whatever the outcome, you’ve made a difference today!”

We travelled quiet. She was hoping. I was thinking how ironic it would be for things to come full circle and she to end up working with children. It’s never what she intended. But you never know how things are going to work out. You have to be flexible and adaptable, think for yourself and create your own life plan rather than staying in conventional tramlines and home education certainly prepares you well for that.

Youngsters today are facing enormous challenges in a time of too many employees for far too few jobs. They’ll certainly have to be adaptable, resourceful and resistant to the rejections they face until their turn comes along, try and keep their personal self esteem intact, confront disappointments and be persistent and courageous. However they’re educated, those are the qualities we need to nurture.

Luckily it was Charley’s turn this time and she is thrilled. They are thrilled to have her they said.

Ironically, we’d discussed previously whether it was even worth applying since she didn’t hold those relevant qualifications. Good job we didn’t stay within those tramlines of thinking for you never know how things are going to turn out!

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!