Tag Archive | parenting

Taking the switch to the child

Can you imagine it? Can you ever even conceive of taking a stick to your child as punishment for some errant behaviour?

It makes me feel quite sick to think about it, but this is what happens in some cultures – there’s a controversy about it in America now which Hugh Muir talked about in the Guardian last Sunday (read the article here).

As he says in his closing statement our ‘cultural baggage’ can impact on our own parenting. We are inclined to pass on what was passed down to us if we’re not thoughtful and considered.

There was never ever any kind of violence in our parenting, despite what was doled out to us. I find the concept quite disgusting and no different to assault. And it’s certainly not good parenting; there’s another approach that works in guiding our children’s behaviour without any kind of horrendous ‘corrective’ measures.

It’s the power of demonstration.

The most powerful parenting tool we have is our own behaviour. This is similar to passing things on as Hugh Muir suggests, it’s just that we pass on the idea of ‘good’ behaviour to our children instead of passing on the punishments we received!

A child’s natural instinct is to learn by copying. So basically, we can parent and teach by the way we are.

We ‘teach’ our children how to behave by the way we behave.

Show our children how to learn by the way we learn.

Show them how to treat others by the way we treat them.

Show how wonderful the world is by our own interest and reactions of wonder.

Show them how to interact, make responses, be polite and caring and considerate by the way we do.

Show them how the real world works by engaging with real things and encouraging them to do so.

Show them how useful technology or language, or maths or science is to us every day as we use those things in our every day lives.

We teach them how to respect by the respect we show.

We teach them what’s acceptable by acting in acceptable ways.

And above all we show them what it is to love by the way we love.

Our actions are the most influential parenting of any sort, the most influential way of educating. Because ‘actions speak louder than words’ as the saying goes. Our actions will be a far more powerfully guiding influence than anything we might say.

Besides, anything we dole out to our children we are endorsing as something acceptable for them to dole out to others.

So whether we are parenting or teaching our own at home it’s worth examining our actions and deciding what it is we want to pass on!

Challenging the addiction to getting

Is it just me or is there far too much emphasis on ‘getting’ in our culture?

So many aspects of our lives are bombarded with images of getting. Getting more. Getting bigger. Getting newer. Getting updated. Getting thinner. Getting the games. Getting beauty. Getting better than the next man.

If we’re not careful, even our parenting can be occupied with getting. The educational system certainly is.

It perpetuates the ‘getting’ doctrine. Get grades, get results, get higher than your peers, get further up the tables. Get better degrees or more degrees to get more wages to get more stuff. Adverts tell us that more stuff for our kids makes us better parents. Getting more grades makes a better education.

Does it? Rubbish!

Getting is addictive. Are we leading our children towards this addictive way of life? Towards a way of feeling that as soon as the quick fix from the latest thing you’ve got wears off you have to get another one. Towards feeling that we’re not as good as others if we haven’t got the latest, newest update that others have.

This way of life is a self-perpetuated treadmill driven by big industry and the politics that supports it, also perpetuated in our schools.

Schools threaten pupils with having no life without getting the grades. But that’s political, not personal about the student; the reality is that without the pupils getting the grades the schools don’t get themselves higher up the league tables and get the rewards they’re after. They never mention the fact that people can and do lead happy successful lives even without getting, by progressing through life in different ways.

One of the dangers of this getting is that it pulls us away from being good and being giving.

It would be nice to have a cultural shift away from a getting style of parenting and education, away from a getting style of learning, to a style more filled with giving.

Giving attention. Giving time. Giving respect. Giving inspiration experiences. Giving love.

Those are the things that children need both for their well being and for their education.

You can’t ‘get’ education any more than you can ‘get’ goodness. Both those things can only ever be developed in themselves. And if you’re not educated in goodness you’re not educated at all because goodness is a quality of intelligence that goes hand in hand with an educated person.

A life that is joyful and good is a life that is full of warm loving relationships, also part of a rounded educated person.

You cannot get those you can only grow them. A ‘getting’ approach won’t help. Being a warm, giving human being will.

My dream is for the emphasis in our culture to change from getting to giving, for education to change from getting to growing. Growing warm, loving human beings with a sensitive intelligence that is of value to each other and the wider world.

That’s a priority with education and parenting surely?

Body bother!

Glad it's not for me!

Glad it’s not for me!

I’ve been giving friends lifts to hospitals recently. Accidents seem to go in batches.

They’ve not been too serious; broken wrist, wrenched back, that sort of thing. And sitting chirping away in waiting rooms trying to take their mind off it I can’t help a sneaky feeling of gladness that it’s not me. How bad is that?

I suppose it’s good in one way. It’s good from the point of view that it makes me sit up and take note of good health, instead of only noticing when it’s the opposite.

Throughout our life we tend to ignore good health. We certainly don’t bother to appreciate it much, or the miraculous machine that our bodies are. When did you last get up I say ‘My body feels great today’? But I bet you often do the opposite! It’s the classic case of only noticing when we’re not functioning properly rather than gratitude when we are.

Even worse – we tend to treat our bodies with a complete lack of respect sometimes. We over fill them with toxic substances – smoke, alcohol, sugar, fat, we under use them with lack of exercise, we ignore our motherboard – i.e. the brain – when it’s sending us warning thoughts and emotions, and then we wonder why we’re not operating properly. Ironic, but I think we take more care of our latest technology that we do ourselves, yet it’s the technology which is replaceable!

I mull this over as I sit beside the broken wrist. I watch others being wheeled past looking more sickly than my friend did when she broke it and was incoherent with the pain and shock. Knowing that there are also many other awful diseases that cannot be set right with a plaster cast or wheel chair.

And I’m thinking what a wonderful piece of human technology our bodies are, with our micro-chip of a brain and how I’m going to maybe look after it all a little better from now on in. Unlike technology, it has to last me a lifetime. It deserves monumental respect for that surely.

Perhaps if I do this, if I take a little more care and appreciation, not only will I benefit but I’ll also be demonstrating to my family and others how to do the same. Especially to kids: the body is the best biology to study with children; encouraging them to understand that they are actually the ultimate in technology and it’s worth coming off the other kind regularly to pay that some attention!

The rising tide of alarm

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

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

Tide out.....

Tide out…..

 

....tide in!

….tide in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five good reasons to Home Educate

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

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

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

One grown up home educator still enjoying her world

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

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

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

Does education have to be timed?

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

Always things to learn about

Always things to learn about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

garden 004

Educating out of the home as much as in it!

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

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

So why else might you not consider home education?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is what it should be anyway!

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