Tag Archive | home schooling

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!

Show, don’t tell

Let them discover the weight of things

Let them discover the weight of things

Whenever I read a book about writing it says the same thing; ‘show don’t tell’.

That’s all very well and good but I wish they’d show me what they mean rather than telling me!

I tried to do that in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’; tried to show through story how home schooling can work within a family setting rather than just telling like I did in the first book. It’s not an easy task but I’m hoping I might have managed it in places.

We need the same with education.

This is one of the fundamental flaws in traditional schooling. It generally just ‘tells’ kids about the real world. It rarely ‘shows’ them.

The ‘real’ world is what goes on outside the school gates. What goes on in the classroom is just a representation of it. Sometimes a dull, dreary, throat gagging representation of it so obscured by targets, tables and bureaucracy the real world is unrecognisable.

But I didn’t want to start ranting on about the system here. What I wanted to say was that through home educating, or any time you spend with them, you have a wonderful opportunity to SHOW your child the world, rather than just tell them about it.

You can show your children what real numbers look like, what real quantities look like, what weights feel like, time time passing, and what metres are when you walk them. You can show them so many mathematical concepts, that in schools are just represented by symbols that mean nothing to a young child, by physical means; how to divide something up (a bag of sweets or a cake) how to multiply (sit in the park and use the stones), what measurements we use in the real world, for what. And it’s EXPERIENCING these concepts by being shown that develops real understanding learning.

Don’t just tell them science SHOW them. (Lisa’s got some great ideas on her website here). Don’t just tell them about history, experience it through museums, field trips, investigations, discussions and even films and programmes, which although a representation have more impact than just being told. Same with geography, places, people, communities, settlements, etc., get out and explore.

And involve them as much as possible in all the ways we use language and enjoy stories together, communicate in whatever form – most particularly through conversation, and they will really see how valuable language is, what it can do for them and want to unlock the secret of those symbols for themselves, whether written, typed or text. Don’t be conditioned into thinking they have to write and read really young. They have to understand the point of language first and then they’ll want to use for themselves.

And through all this showing they’ll have a rich experience and understanding of how the real world works and be well equipped to put it into its symbolic form when the time comes to represent it for more academic purposes perhaps.

Home education, or any time you spend with your kids out in the real world – school holidays included, gives you the chance to show your kids this wonderful world and it is after all the real world that matters, not the one that’s represented in the classroom.

We are all teachers and educators really

I reckon it’s a shame we have the title teachers! Not that I think we don’t need them or that I want to devalue the hard work, skill and dedication many teachers have.

It’s more that it tends to exclude people without that ‘qualified’ label from believing they are teachers too.

Schools and strategies and silly systems of politics have stolen away the simple fact that actually education begins at home and parents are teachers too.

This notion came up with a parent worrying that she wouldn’t be able to home educate because she wasn’t a qualified teacher. Not true!

Quite often, a qualified teacher is not what kids need. In fact it is often because of some less-than-professional qualified teachers, and the gamble of getting a good or a bad one in school, which makes parents consider home education anyway.

The thing is; we’re all teachers. We are all educators. Because the biggest impact on our children’s education comes not from teaching, but from the demonstration, attitude, and personality of the people our children come into contact with. That starts with parents.

All of us, particularly parents, have an equally important role to play in the education of children, a role that doesn’t need to be ‘qualified’, or is necessarily improved by training. Because it comes more from who we are and how we behave, than what we ‘teach’.

What matters in our children’s education is our attitude to it, how we act towards our kids, our demonstration of respect, our own learning journey – and that isn’t one that is ever complete but is ongoing, the support we give – and I mean humane support not priming our kids parrot fashion, the way in which we allow our children to develop all aspects of their own personalities through the variety of experiences we provide.

All these things impact on our children’s education more than anything we could ‘teach’ them. Because it impacts on them as people. And we tend to forget that it is people we are raising, not box-ticking, test-passing robots primed to regurgitate useless facts and figures.

To enable our youngsters to develop as human beings they need a humane being cheering them on. And there are no qualifications in humane.

Children learn far, far more from who we are, the values we demonstrate, our personality, our ability to communicate, the way we react to challenges, the way we tackle the new things we have to learn – which we do all the time.

And what will aid them in their learning is our patience, understanding, encouragement, inspiration, stimulation, kindness, awareness of their needs, our own learning growth and our attention to all those little details that make a person lovely.

You can’t get qualifications for those attributes. They are personal.

But we can all grow them and be the ‘teachers’ we need to be. In fact, it is our duty as an adult to all the other little beings in the world, to do so.

School; so wrong for so many

book coverSchool is very right for so many too, although you maybe wouldn’t expect a home educator to say that.

However I readily acknowledge that for some it works extremely well. But I thought I’d repeat this post because of the sudden increased interest in Home Education as parents don’t get places for their children in the schools of their choice. And also as some don’t understand that school doesn’t have the monopoly on learning.

We’ve been sold school for so long as the only way to an education. But, actually, it isn’t and it isn’t good for many children – and that’s just the climate I’m talking about never mind the learning – and some children don’t learn much of value there anyway. They are educated for something else instead; how to survive in a school setting and pass tests. Which is a bit of a waste as once outside the school setting life’s nothing like that, had you noticed?

For example; what if when you went into work you were only allowed to work and mix with people who were the same age as you? What if you had to endure the disruptive, frightening and bullying behaviour of your peers, which bosses could do nothing about, and you had NO POWER to do anything about either? What if your work was considered of no value unless it put the company up league tables? And what if you were told you had to endure it for the next ten years or so – for your own good apparently even though it may make you ill – and you had NO VOICE in the matter whatsoever? No CHOICE at all? How would you feel about working in a culture like that?

Yet this is the culture in which many children find themselves in school. For some kids it’s okay, some are lucky, others it doesn’t seem to bother, or they’re in schools which are more respectful of children. For others it’s hell.

When I worked in schools I saw much that wasn’t doing kids any favours. It was the wrong approach to learning for many. Some failed to thrive in that environment. The emphasis was on scores not on people. It was an unpleasant and threatening atmosphere at times. But no one seemed bothered about the impact on the kids.

After we started to home educate a GP friend of mine said that he was seeing an increasing number of school-stress related illnesses among children, so much so that he did sometimes make the parents aware of the choice to home educate.

And that’s where the crux of the matter lies – in CHOICE!

In our lives outside school we always have choice. We think we don’t but it’s really that some of our choices are far too difficult to contemplate! However, the choice is always there. But choice has its drawbacks; you have to make decisions all the time. You have to take charge.

Children are so disempowered by the choice-less system of schooling that they have no ability to take charge – of anything. Sometimes they don’t even get a chance to in the home. Then parents and employers moan that young people have no common sense, no motivation, no initiative, no ability to make decisions, little understanding of what’s required of them outside school.

Is it any wonder really? When do they ever have the chance to learn to use their initiative, their common sense, to make decisions? And why would they understand about life outside school when school is nothing like it?

Schooling is SO prescriptive now that it takes away all opportunity for children to develop these kinds of essential life skills. But because we are so used to it, because we are threatened with the misinformation that without grades our kids won’t have a successful life and that justifies any means to get them, because it has become so ‘normal’ to subject our kids to this and call it education, little changes for the better.

What we need is less prescription, more people to care. And to understand that school isn’t that ‘normal’ in comparison to a working life outside, and parents to really think about what it’s all for and what it’s doing to their children.

This is what home educators do. Home educating parents are just ‘normal’ parents who have begun to understand that school isn’t the only answer to educating children. And the more there are of them choosing that route the more it will provide proof that other ways work too for those who want them. And maybe even schools can learn from that.

School is so wrong for so many. Thanks to home education we can choose to make a difference.