Recognising mainstream codswallop for what it is!

When I listen to parents stuck in the mainstream education system and hear how concerned they are about their young people I really feel for them.

For when I say ‘stuck’ it really is like that; the systems binds them with a glue that not only keeps their education mainstream but also clogs up their thinking. And they end up believing the propaganda about how doomed their kids will be how if they don’t achieve in the same way everyone else is achieving and at the same time.

When did we stop believing in individuals or possibilities and start believing cloning, I wonder? For isn’t this what we’re doing?

I think about all the home educating families in comparison who have managed to break out of this sticky approach and see education as it should be; the all round development of an individual that equips them with skills to learn – for life, not just between the ages of five and eighteen, in individual ways if needed.

The trouble is that by gluing people to beliefs about achieving GCSEs or A’ Levels by 16 or 18 for example, it’s led everyone to believe that if these results haven’t been achieved by these ages then there is something wrong with their kids and they’ll never have a life!

I want to shout very loudly that this is utter CODSWALLOP!

And even more codswallop comes in the form of making youngsters believe that they are failures without these results and they’ll never work or achieve other things.

If this is what you believe then you need to examine your thinking very carefully and unstick it!

The reality instead is this:

  1. Anyone can take GCSEs at any time of their life if they wish; courses, opportunities, tutors, facilities are there for youngsters to do this if you look.
  2. Equally, it is the same with A’ Levels, other qualifications, degrees, whatever.
  3. These can be achieved in a range of ways and within a range of time frames the only downside being there will probably be a fee.
  4. NO ONE need ever be doomed for doing it differently. Youngsters can add to their achievements any time they’re ready. Some people are not ready until they’re much older. This isย their right and is absolutely fine.
  5. It is not necessarily better to have done it early – it just suits others if it happens like that! We all develop and mature at different times and that’s allowed.
  6. There is no law that says that anyone has to do any of this anyway. These are merely convenient hoops to pass through to get places – some of us don’t want to go those places or by those means!
  7. Having exam results is not always a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of whether you can pass exams or not. You can be just as intelligent and educated without them.
  8. There are all forms of intelligence and most of the useful ones, like emotional intelligence for example, are not examinable anyway. An educated person is not merely a qualified person, it is a person who can behave in an educated and responsible way. Many qualified people don’t!

So even if you don’t want to break out of mainstream schooling you can still break out of mainstream thinking and decide what’s right for you and your young people.

There are all sorts of ways to progress and all sorts of pathways to do so. Mainstream is easy if it’s working. Dire when it’s not. Don’t stay stuck in mainstream glue if it’s not working for you and yours!

37 thoughts on “Recognising mainstream codswallop for what it is!

  1. I have one ‘ex-home-ed’ 17 year old daughter at college wondering why the other kids on her course have no respect for the tutors, one about to be ‘ex-home-ed’ 14 year old son about to start skool (his choice), one part-time home-ed (he rarely joins in anything) 12 year old son who finds his older brother’s decision hysterical and one very involved home-ed 9 year old son buckling under the pressure of his olderst brother to check out the local primary skool. What larks!! It will be interesting to see how my ‘never touched a pen until a year ago’ 14 yo makes of skool – will he find it codswallop or fascinatingly exotic? At least he knows he can get up and walk out if he chooses and we’ll be fine about it – it’s the kids who feel trapped that I feel for. But he (and my daughter) both have tribes of skooled friends who all seem perfectly happy – who am I to tell them they’re all wrong? They’re not. But unfortunately we have heard from/met so many for whom the system WAS wrong. THEY weren’t wrong – the one-size-fits-all system was wrong for them.
    The message that there IS an alternative if this doesn’t work for you is the most important thing – (why do so many people think we’re trying to indoctrinate their kids into a cult of naval worship – yawn… )
    Not that I would ever encourage anyone to skin a cat (hands off my 3-legged fluffy beauty) but indeed there would be many ways in which to try – that’s life – if something doesn’t work for you, try something else… Why can’t kids be allowed to navigate their own lives? Hey, we might just have a more creative world folks. And no you don’t HAVE to have pink hair or wear pyjamas outdoors… (but hey it works for me…)

    • I love your comment – thanks so much for taking the time to leave it. Fascinated by the diversity of your family’s education and your message to try whatever works, however varied. After all – it is diversity that helps the perpetuation of the species! Many thanks again.

  2. Thank you once again for your brilliant posts. You always put into words so eloquently how I feel about home education. I have one child in school who chose to go back to school after 3 years at home and navigated the gcse’s brilliantly and kept his balance with it all (amazing I think) and the other who has no interest at the moment in academic pursuits but is intellingent and curious and learning in other ways. It has been interesting holiding the space for my children to navigate such different paths but I think seeing each other walking a different path and thriving, gives them both choices to do it differently. I feel that my son who goes to school is mostly able to observe the whole system for what it is and keep his individuality and use the system to his advantage.

    • What a super story Frances. that’s the best way to use education to your advantage – to pursue the path that suits the individual yet still learn from others. Wish everyone was so open minded! Thanks so much for posting and for you kind compliment. x

  3. Pingback: More on codswallop… | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  4. No one is deluding themselves here. I am shocked at the response that you evoked from a person who chose Home Education for themselves. No-one is making comparisons on your blog. In fact I would point out something interesting that happened this week.
    My Grandaughter is completing a child care diploma course at the same college that my youngest Daughter (her aunt) took her A levels. The lesson of the day included the subject of home education at which the tutor pointed out that that group of children do not do so well academically than schooled children. That was based purely on statistics, there are all sorts of reasons why people chose the home education route after all and they are not all in competition with schooled children in terms of academic grades. However my Grandaughter felt the need to defend her Aunt who obtained exceptional grades in that very same college.
    This is not a competition, no one is being arrogant.
    I could spend the rest of my life defending our decision and hiding my daughters light under a bushel because she did so well with her exams but then again she is a devoted career academic and this is her choice in life.
    I find that people who attack others and call them arrogant have their own demons which they need to deal with.
    Keep up the good work Ross. You are only spreading confidence in others who are bucking the trend and sometimes coming up against the most ridiculous comparisons about school versus home educations which miss the point entirely.
    I have had to learn to grow a thick skin, as has my daughter, we have found that here in the UK we do not really and truly applaud academic success…unless it is your child, then you have to learn to keep quiet about it. Whereas in other parts of the world people congratulate other young people for academic success instead of grinding their teeth because their kids did not do so well.
    Just my take on what I have learned.

  5. This is a very one sided view of life. Parenting either main stream or home based is either a matter of priveledge. If you can afford to home educate and have the skills and money then OK.

    However lets not delude ourselves that home education is the solution that is a free choice for every parent.

    to say say that systems bind them with a glue and clogs up their thinking is insulting and arrogant.

    I did what I thought was beast for my children. One went mainstream and one went home parenting, I agree with both it is not my right as apparent to judge my children.

    All I know is that mainstream education and wealth assets enabled them to have the freedom and priveledge to choose their own lifestyles.

    If they did not have the freedom to choose they may have had to rely on the mainstream options.

    You assumptions are codswallop and not available to everyone and the outcomes are not necessiarly beneficial to those children forced into the educational environment decided by their parents. Parents or the state does their best for children they will blossom whatever sooner or later as you suggest.

    What you suggest is not available to everyone and arrogant to suggest that mainstream parents are inferior for their thinking or parenting.

    • I’m so sad to hear you felt I was suggesting that any parents are inferior for their choices. I was just trying to help those who wanted to try it feel confident in making choices outside of mainstream. I try my best to keep a balanced perspective when putting other ideas out there and have never suggested that those who want or need to choose school are choosing a lesser option. Each to their own.

    • I would just like to point out that as home educators we are often in a position where we’re letting people know that home education is a viable option. There are several people that go through mainstream education without any problems, but their are also an increasing number of young people desperately unhappy in school and need to have the information that people like Ross are sharing. When I first started home educating several years ago Ross’s articles in the EO’s newsletter were something I looked forward to, they gave me hope and a sense of relief that I hadn’t chosen the wrong path and Ross is still managing to do that now. I for one am very grateful to Ross for that. I’m sorry that you felt insulted John, but all Ross is trying to do is help those that need the help that I once did and to let people know that people can succeed and live a happy life after being home educated.
      I would also like you to know that I am a single parent, working and home educating. One of my children is now an adult, successful and happy and I have two younger ones.
      You do not have to have money to home educate, although naturally it helps, but I know many people home educating on a rather tight budget. You just have to trust and believe in your children. My children also have the choice to go to school if they wish and I think you’ll find many home educating families with the same choices available to them. So I could quite easily be a parent with a child in mainstream education and if they were happy then that would be wonderful, but I would still be moaning about the dreadful education system we have available to us in the UK. Schools could be amazing places for our children!

      • Thank you so much for your kind words in support Theresa. I have to say I’m a bit shocked by John’s response even though he missed the point I was making about people being made to feel bad about their kids, rather than the system itself being bad. I know it works for many and have always tried to maintain a balanced perspective on that. I’m so grateful for you taking the time and effort to leave your response and am encouraged again knowing that you’ve found my work a help. Thank you! x

      • You’re very welcome Ross and yes you’re right, he really did seem to miss the point of what you were saying.
        I used to look forward to EO’s newsletter just so I could read ‘The diary of a home educating nobody,’ it always seemed to come along at a perfect time; in those days we had no computer and just a small group of us meeting each month and having days out sometimes, so it was wonderful to feel that sort of connection through the newsletter, I’m sure you’ve helped many. Thank you. X

  6. Hi Ross,
    I’ve ‘pressed’ this over at with the intro: “Does the word codswallop originate from the practice of slapping someone around the head with a big fish? An activity not altogether different from the methods of mainstream schooling thenโ€ฆ”
    Kerry x

  7. Pingback: Pressed: Codswallop! by Ross Mountney – Aspernauts

  8. Great reminder! When my son took some iGCSEs last year, he was shocked by the really wide age range of the other candidates. There were a few people taking the exams who looked to be at least four times his age. I’ve always told him there’s no time limit for getting academic qualifications, but he found it really liberating to see for himself.

  9. Pingback: A great reminder about Codswallop. | julesmarriner

  10. So true Ross. Our current education system removes a lot of perspective. Having said that, I am just about to re-take my English Literature (O level as it was then), THIRTY years on!! Just for the fun of it. I figured if I managed a D last time round without doing any work other that reading the books, I should pass this time! I now have a ‘wha’eva’ attitude – I know I enjoyed the work, so that is the most important thing for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Ross,

    This is such a perfectly timed post for me to read as I have been blogging about how awful I find homework. I am in the same tricky position as many parents I know, of having to make our children suffer school so that we can work. I hate it and at least weekly consider pulling my son out and home educating him. At the moment I have an application into the school to flexi-school but I am not hopeful that they will agree.

    My blog post about homework is available to read here

    Thank you, Laura

    • And thank you too Laura for leaving your comment – I always appreciate parents taking time to do so. I don’t like the idea of homework either and think it can scupper relationships among family dreadfully! But I appreciate there are good things to be had in school, so I’m glad if I was able to alleviate some of the pressure parents feel in the system if they’re having to use it!

  12. Brilliant article, thank you. I spend so much time saying this to young people, but it’s really hard for them to hear… maybe next time I’ll signpost people here too!

    • Thank you Fran! Much appreciated. Hope the young people begin to see it differently, but it’s very hard in a system that only praises specific results!! It’s everyone else’s attitude which needs to change too!

  13. Ross, This is so very true! I finished my degree last year at the age of 27. I was a stay at home mum of two almost three. My eldest is due to start school in September but I am going to homeschool/unschool. I feel she is too precious and unique (as every child is) to send forth into such a harsh, boring sausage factory where they might not truly understand her!

    All the way through school, I never knew what I wanted to do, just driving towards the next exam. I never found my passion (I have now as an adult). I want to nurture my children’s interests and passions and I’m excited to see where it leads them in life.

    My cousin ..who was an ‘academic failure’ is an electrician/tinkerer/inventor currently touring NZ with his girlfriend living in a van they converted (with a hot water shower!) and installing solar panels on houses/vans aswell as other random odd jobs! …he is living and still learning…not stuck in a boring retail job he cares nothing for because that’s the only place his ‘qualifications’ could carry him. He is lucky my auntie encouraged and supported his interest in taking things apart to see how they work =)

    • What a super comment Amie. Thanks so much for being here and taking the time to tell us your story – much appreciated. Wishing you a lovely time home educating. x

  14. Our middle daughter is currently doing an OU degree and had a weekend exam, missing going to a BBQ with her boyfriend. Everyone was sad for her as it was a beautifully sunny day….. they commented on the cruel timing of exams and were rueful about all those lost springtimes of their youth. Their empathy for our daughter evaporated when they discovered that this was the first time she’d ever sat an exam – and it was her choice! She’s 33 and never had a single day in regular school/college/uni. She’s never been without a job and has been head hunted for her proficiency in hospitality, catering and retailing. She’s currently working for a mental health charity as a recovery worker ….. they initially employed her to run their cafe and then recognised her abilities as a nutritionist and life coach. Her decision to enrol in the OU was to experiment with a structured approach to study. Doing a humanities course ties in with her other “job” – working with her dad as a secondhand bookseller!

    • What a fabulous and encouraging story – thank you so much for taking the time to post it here Barbara – so very much appreciated. It will inspire may others i’m sure. x

  15. Thanks again Ross for making me smile and reminding me of how I really feel about home education and how important it is to trust in our children. I even feel the pressure of exams with my 11 and 13 year old and we’re not in school, plus I have a 20 year old who is already at uni and most certainly chose her own path throughout her autonomous childhood. You would think that I wouldn’t have doubts and feel that pressure, but I do, and more so than I did with my daughter; possibly because life was more simple then with just a few home ed families and a sense of things flowing at a slower pace, where now with the on-line connections we are aware of so many educational groups etc and life can get rather hectic and lose its natural flow. If I can feel like that then I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in a school.
    Thank you so much for your inspiring posts, they always make me feel better and help put me back on track when I’m close to wobbling off. ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care. xx

    • Thank you so very much for your delightful message. That’s a lovely story to hear and a lovely comment to leave, I so appreciate it. I wholeheartedly agree about having to pull ourselves back into the natural flow at times. i think that applies to all life – not just home educating! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yes that’s very true Ross, it’s so easy to get caught up in busy routines, schedules and watching the clock in all aspects of life.
        Take care and keep writing, it keeps many of us connected. Take care. X

  16. Any tips on funding a way into employment / training for a girl who has no GCSE’s? She is interested in art (16 year old), but cannot do a college course appropriate for her high abilities because they all require 3 GCSEs. Those that don’t, only offer year 7 equivalent work, which is well below her capacity.

    • There are distance courses through the Open College of the Arts (OCA) but they do require funding like OU. Did you actually try applying to FE college? We just applied for courses at FE college ignoring the fact we were supposed to have GCSEs, were interviewed, discussed it, and were taken on – they even recommended going straight to Level 2 because l would be too easy! I think it very much depends on the college and how they consider individual cases, and how you approach them! You could phone them direct ‘for advice’ about provision for your learner, or go to an open evening to talk to someone and approach it that way. Theoretically, at 16, she’s still eligible for a course suited to her needs – however high they are! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • the fact we all have 24 hrs in a day to nurture the whole person for me means I would rather dedicate this precious time tending to emotional wellbeing over any academic score, it’s a matter of what we give in exchange for ‘good’ grades at a certain age (as you say why the rush) that swings it for us… skills are changing, technology is changing, mindset over a piece of paper means I don’t need to stress that my son has no plans to sit GCSEs ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thank you – that’s a very valuable reminder – so glad to have it posted here. Grades may be a part of our education, but let’s keep it in proportion with nurturing the whole person as you rightly say. x

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