Tag Archive | kids

Are you walking unconsciously through life and teaching your kids the same?

Gone walking!

Gone walking!

I got up from the computer and wandered outside. I was immediately aware of the soft caress of breeze and birdsong. The swish of stems and leaves sang with them and I inhaled the scent of fresh mown grass with every breath.

I just stood and absorbed it for a while. A much better break than going on Facebook! And part of the practice of being mindful which I’ve been trying to invest in after reading about it recently.

My first thoughts about mindfulness were; we certainly have to be mindful as parents. Mindful of what we’re doing, how we behave towards our kids, what messages we might be giving them through our attitudes and responses to life and to them, what kind of people we might be steering them towards being – by how we’re being!

But then I thought; maybe that’s also a reason to be mindful for ourselves. For our own restorative well being, so we can be supportive and calm people as well as parents!

Practising mindfulness is just practising consciousness, in ourselves, of ourselves, so that we keep ourselves centred and strong and not knocked about by outer things – like Facebook!

Usually once during the day I go out and walk. This is to stretch my limbs as much as the dog’s. But I’ve noticed, since reading about mindfulness, how although my body’s taking a break my mind isn’t.

I’m charging along, usually churning over some concern and missing the time to give my mind a rest. What I thought was an opportunity for mindfulness had become as stressful as sitting at the computer. Body was out there – brain was still at work.

How often have you done that?

I’m going to try and change that as I practice mindfulness more consciously for if it isn’t conscious – then it’s not mindfulness. And stop filling moments that could be song filled and soft with raging, tossing warfare between issues all vying for attention. Issues need attention, but to be resolved wisely, we need to put them aside sometimes too.

Instead, I’ll allow concerns that inevitably muscle in to flow on through with the breeze, concentrate on what my body and senses are doing and receiving, refreshing my mind. Which is, after all, what I was walking for in the first place.

So many of us walk unconsciously through life, not only missing half of it and then wondering when life went and stress came, but also inadvertently teaching our kids to do the same. And now our kids are becoming so stressed that schools are finding they need to make time for this practice. How bizarre is that!

Surely the practice of mindful, conscious living should come from home?

Better get started! A holiday weekend the perfect time!

Rain and perfect lifestyles

rain and sun july14 004There’s a lake in the garden that shouldn’t be there. Goodness – did it rain!

It was like driving through walls of wet. The lanes were streams and the garden and fields awash. The gulls are floating round the cabbage crops.

And there was me wanting a few drops to water the parched soil. The torrents were even too much for me to go out in.

I usually like walking in the rain. There’s a shared sense of community with others huddled under hoods, uniting in the challenge you all face; to dodge the raindrops. And lovely scents and sights, or droplets on stems that remind you it doesn’t have to be a perfect day to be enjoyed.

It’s easy to get obsessed with perfect. The media, especially advertising, barrages us with images of perfect skin, perfect bodies, perfect germ-free cleanliness, perfect homes and cars, and perfect kids, it can make us feel inadequate if we’re not careful to guard against this insidious conditioning.

It can also make us think perfect is always the best to strive for – but is it?

Maybe there’s something else to strive for; the wisdom to know and appreciate yourself for who you are even without being perfect. Human is better than perfect surely?

Our bodies, skin, lifestyles will never be the media’s idea of perfect. But they serve us just as well, don’t they? And it’s how well you feel and how well they serve you, how good life is that matters most.

Anyway, who wants kids so inhibited by perfection (you’ve been in those homes haven’t you?) that they, and you, are unable to have relaxed and happy times.

We strive for certain goals, obviously. We strive to maintain certain codes too; codes of consideration for others, kindness, responsibility, etc.

But to be a wonderful person you do not have to be perfect. To raise wonderful young people does not require perfect parenting. And to have caring, loving children who are great to be around is far more valuable than anyone else’s idea of perfect!

All life has its flaws and raindrops. They pass by, floods recede, the garden will flourish again.

We do not need it not to rain for life to be good just as it is.

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.

Sod genius – it’s kindness that matters most!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Nurturing confidence – the best objective of all

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Letters to move the mind….

The Sunday papers are great for lighting the fire. There’s plenty of it, although the magazines aren’t that flammable with their shiny perspectives and shiny paper; they’re better for lining the dustbins.

It’s rare we buy them as I generally don’t read them; far too much ego stroking claptrap to make the good bits worthwhile. But The Sunday Times found its way into the house this last weekend and I had a flick through it.

I stopped at the Editor’s letter in one of the shiny bits, not sure why. It must have been the word ‘creative’ on the first line. Her piece was a good little take on being creative which, as anyone who visits here regularly knows, is one of my mini obsessions in education: that it is not education without it!

Tiffanie asks what we do to be creative?

And there’s a lovely bit where she even describes shopping as creative; it’s a ‘way of curating your life’ she says. Fabulous phrase – I’m sure my eldest will be glad to read that!

But she also goes on to quote Richard Wurman of TED fame who says that most of us don’t know how to question and that the foundation of the word question is quest and so few have a quest in life. He says that creativity comes from a quest.

I would add that creativity also comes from questioning. And that questioning is not only the foundation of creativity, it is the foundation of scientific progress and discovery and the foundation of education.

Education is surely a creative and scientific quest to fulfil our innate curiosity and thirst to know about life and create the best lives we can.

I also believe that school is increasingly disabling youngsters from doing that.

I’m backed up in thinking that by the artist Bob and Roberta Smith. An old friend who popped up on The Culture show like a blast from disconnected pasts. Our connections are linked to childhoods, and although not well maintained, do sometimes cross the tangle of life and ignite shared values. And I rediscovered his fantastic piece of work directed at Michael Gove, a man who understands children’s educational needs as much as I understand infant heart surgery. Bob explains why creativity is important and says that it is beaten out of children by the stagnant system, even by taking away their control of their own art.

Their insatiable curiosity, inherent from being born, also disappears along with their desire to question and discover. It takes away control of their own life too and their own quests. Without a quest they have no motivation, or direction when finally spewed out of institutionalisation with little understanding of the world outside.

This is what results from lack of creativity, lack of questioning, lack of life-lust. No education should result in that.

So we should perhaps all be writing our own letters to papers, to ministers, online, to try and get them to see there is another approach to life and education through creative, questioning thinking. The approach most home educators tend to use.

One that creates ideas that do more than just line dustbins.

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!