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A cuddle on the sofa like we used to do!

She and I having a cuddle!

You know when you’re with the little ones a hundred percent of the time, most particularly when home educating? And you know how you sometimes long for a bit of space for yourself, even though you love them to bits and love home schooling?

Well, I’ve just been with my eldest (Chelsea, from A Funny Kind of Education) one hundred percent of the time, for the last few days, and now I’ve left her in her grown up life again and returned to being one hundred percent of the time without and one hundred percent missing, until it wears off again! And I never imagined that would ever be the case.

One day it will be like that for your family even though it is unimaginable whilst they’re tiny – I know some of you are already reaching that point; when they’re launched into their working lives, living independently with conscience and responsibility, as you raise them to do.

Hard to believe isn’t it?

I’ve had a lovely holiday doing – surprisingly – much of what we did when they were here full time home schooling; picnics, walking, looking at nature, observing things, beach, meeting friends, endless chatting and sometimes just sitting on the sofa having a cuddle like we used to do. I’m glad that neither of us are too old for that!

But instead of that chatter being about infant things, it’s adult chatter, yet just as lovely, better even as we have long, in depth conversations about all sorts of things from clothes to politics, philosophies to mindless giggles! But then I suppose we always did that. And it’s perhaps no surprise at all.

So you see, home education DOES work! These children that learn without school go on to being independent, working people just the same as those who’ve been in school, same as young people everywhere. Thought I’d say just in case you were wobbling today, or someone was criticising you for it.

And I also wanted to tell you that with home educating, there are continual pleasures to look forward to, even when they’re grown.

Making my mouldy bits shiny!

 I’m off on a little holiday. And looking forward to refreshing and rubbing the mould off my stale bits!

It’s easy not to notice it growing. But when I get so bored that complacency and loss of love of the nice things sets in so bad that I realise I’ve even got used to life looking grey and fuzzy, I know I need to do something about it.

New experiences recharge and polish up those rusty complacent bits.

It’s the same for the kids. they seem to come alive in new places.

Far from switching off their brains, new experiences boost their development and education in ways we sometimes fail to appreciate. New experiences bring new opportunities for discussion and questions, consequently new language (even if still English), new imaginings, development of new neural pathways and growth of intelligence. It’s all good stuff.

So whenever you have the chance to get away and take the kids with you rest assured you’ll be developing their mental agility as you develop their horizons – yours along with them. And enjoying yourself meanwhile. Holidays are as educational (if not more) as studying at home.

Home educators have the chance to do that all the time, funds allowing. Anyway, cheap holidays (we used the relatives in different parts of the country mercilessly) are as valuable as exotic ones. It’s the newness that counts.

It’s such a shame that schooling inhibits so many families from doing the same, pretending it disrupts the child’s education. It doesn’t really. What it more accurately disrupts is ticks on sheets and stats on tables, but I’ve never considered that true education anyway.

True education takes place in true life – not necessarily school life. And it takes place any where at any time, as most home educators discover, whether on holiday or not.

So wherever you take yours, may it be a happy and restorative (if educative) one and make your mouldy bits shiny again! More whenI’m back.

What would your word be?

I was thinking about LOVE the other day.

mind mapping doodles

Not particularly the love between two partners. Or the love parents have for their children, although both are precious and were involved in it.

I was thinking about it in respect of the work I was doing.

When you work for yourself, and by yourself as most writers do, you’re often looking for help and support wherever you can find it. there are no colleagues or work mates to see each day, bounce ideas off, solve your problems, or give you a morning’s encouragement. So I was looking for that through reading. And I came across this question: What is the word that describes what you want in life and which would drive your decisions?

Someone had quoted ‘freedom’. But that wasn’t my word, I reckoned. So what would my word be?

It took some thinking about before I came to the conclusion that my word would be LOVE.

Love is what fuels our focus, binds us to our important people, drives our purpose and weaves threads of pleasure to hold our day together with something other than work. Whether that’s love for each other, loving to care, love for our homes and our sanctuary in whatever form, love for our lifestyle and  work indirectly as it may seem hard but helps us buy the things we need. Even with the imperfections that there inevitably will surely be, there is still love.

But sometimes it gets buried.

When you’re a parent you get anxious. It’s impossible not to really. When you’re a home educating parent that anxiety can get doubled. Although it shouldn’t be; home educating is no more of a threat to our kids’ well being and education than school is! But going against the groove of convention doesn’t often ignite feelings of confidence, and sometimes we need confidence to love.

The trouble with anxiety is that it can mask love.

So this post is just a reminder to say; remember the LOVE as you parent and home educate.

You had children because of love. Your parent practices evolved because you love your kids. And you home educate because you wanted to do what you thought was right by them.

But don’t let an intensity over education mask the real important gentle love that you need to give time for. Do things some days just for love. See what transpires.

I know that there were days I got too intense and messed up because I lost touch with the important love.

So I thought I’d just bring that to the forefront of your thinking.

Have a lovely day!

And do let me know what your word would be!

Where do manners fit into modern parenting?

I’ve been wading through Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’.

I think I’m a bit of a literary philistine really; these long classics don’t do a lot for me. The great long convoluting paragraphs nearly had me tossing it across the room with boredom. Good job it’s summer for it may only be the fact of enjoying some long weekend reads in the garden that kept me at it.

But Oh the frustrations at the reserves and inhibiting manners. Sometimes I wanted to slap Fanny Price for being so correct and ‘proper’!

However, I may be a rebel occasionally (not really), but I do see a point to some moderation of behaviour. Not for the sake of polite convention, in an old fashioned sense. But for the sake of consideration of others.

I think this is a point that some parents don’t get about manners. Manners are not about unquestioning convention or suppressing the kids. They are about consideration.

It’s not about old fashioned habits that don’t really matter like not putting your elbows on the table. And nothing to do with the frustrating conventions I’ve just read about that were so restrictive.

Manners are just little considerations for others. Like perhaps not speaking with your mouth full so you avoid spitting food at others! And you don’t speak when others are speaking generally (unlike the example of folks shouting at each other on Jeremy Kyle), because you’re giving others the consideration of listening to them first.

The point is that you understand and respect the circumstances you’re in.

For example; there were some little ones tearing up and down and round and round in an outdoor cafe the other day, in a space not made for tearing round despite being outside. It was full of other people, unsteady elderly and staff carrying full trays of crockery and hot food. The parents obviously thought this was okay, despite the fact that it was disruptive, inappropriate to the circumstances – there was a massive park space all around for running in – and lacked consideration and respect for others.

And that’s where manners come in – that’s what they are: Consideration and respect for others.

But manners have bad press in some circles. Some believe they are oppression and inhibit a child’s self expression.

We all want to express ourselves. However, we all want to be liked too. Acting out of respect and consideration for others has to be in balance with our desire for self expression.

It’s not like we’re imposing the kind of restrictive behaviour of Jane Austen’s time! We’re just making simple, considerate, useful rules (for want of a better word) for living – and loving – together.

If we want the privilege of enjoying company, good friends and relationships, then we need to act in ways that not only expresses respect for them, but earns respect from them too. Manners are lifeskills; little considerations and empathy for others that help us to achieve that. They’re a two way dialogue of living together.

You might think it’s important not to restrict any kind of self expression like running round in cafes or picking your nose in public. But don’t expect your kids to be liked or admired for it. They need some guidelines on what’s appropriate, so they can observe how others behave and see how they fit into it. Or how will they learn?

A little guidance and explanations of what manners do for us, until they make their own choices, is all that’s needed without resorting to anything as authoritarian as the Austen era.

We all choose our rules, obviously. But that’s always going to be within the climate of wanting to enjoy a warm respectful community, surely.

What you give out you get back.

We enjoy a much more liberal period than I’ve been reading about thank goodness. But consideration for others will always play some part in our living together however modern we are.

Home educating just feels so normal!

May using her map

I was recently contacted by Anja, the author and creator of these super little story maps for children: http://taletrails.co.uk/what-are-tale-trails

We were in touch because she and her husband were researching home education and had recently read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. She told me that once they read it they both made the same comment at the same time: ‘it feels so normal’!

I was delighted – as I’d wanted to show home education as a natural way of raising and educating children. Good to hear it’s doing its job.

Following their research, they’ve decided to home educate their daughter May, who’ll be four in July, rather than starting school. So I took the opportunity to ask her about their decision. And about her work creating the Tale Trails.

Anja told me that it was after May started at nursery and never really settled there that they began thinking about it in earnest.

School has been a bit of a stressful topic for the last year and so we started to research other options.

I have always been aware of home education but being an ex-teacher had never considered it. I initially watched YouTube videos that other home educating families had posted online and came across Ross’s. (Click here)

I asked Anja what kind of reactions they’ve had from family and friends about their decision to home educate and how they might approach it.

We have recently told close friends and family that we will be home educating for May’s reception year and that we will take each year as it comes after that. Everyone we have told is supportive and understanding so far. 

I think day to day life will be similar for the first year. We may start introducing some basics if the opportunity arises. May loves baking so weights and measurement always seem to pop up. She already helps me with the maps and children’s stories that I create for Tale Trails so I am sure she will continue to enjoy that! 

Myself and my husband both work part time so balancing family life and work is already well practiced, although it can be tricky at times. Berni is a mountain leader and I write story walks. May often comes out with me to help create maps and stories for Tale Trails and we often go with dad in our campervan and park up beneath the mountain he is guiding on! 

We are planning on moving to an area where other folks are home educating but we will certainly be taking each day as it comes and hope to enjoy living in the moment as much as possible”.

That sounds like a perfect way to approach home educating – with that kind of flexibility and connection with real life and learning which basically happens all the time. It’s clear from the activities May already does with her parents that’s she’s already learning many skills. It’s not necessary to make the sudden dramatic change in style of educating, as occurs when children begin formal school. Education happens continually and organically through an engaged approach to parenting and family life!

The Grumbletrog

Take a look at some of the Tale Trails and see if there’s one for your area. They’re a perfect resource for home educating days out in the field, the children will love the stories and be intrigued by the adventure through the map reading!

I asked Anja what inspired her to do them. She said; “I actually got the idea one day when I was walking with my husband in the Lake district and felt disillusioned with work. He said to me ‘what is it you actually enjoy doing?’ and I said ‘I love exploring new places and creating stories about them’ and he said ‘well just do that then!’ and that was it! I am doing one for Walney island in Cumbria at the moment and wherever folks ask me to do one if it’s a suitable environment. I mainly just do commissions now and I love seeing who contacts me!”

Many thanks to Anja for sharing their story.

Schooling reminds me of Sat Navs!

It was partly the girls’ comments for my last post on the significance of home educating and partly the sad journey back to the train station as they were leaving that made me think of Sat Nav’s.

And that’s when the similarities struck me.

Sat Nav’s are very useful. But the girls’ remarks about ‘obedience’ and ‘permission’ were still buzzing around in my head, like that automated voice that says; ‘turn around where possible’!

It made me think that although Sat Nav’s have a use, the downside of them is that they can both condition us in a tendency to be obedient and inhibit the growth of our independence, if we’re not on our guard.

Think about it: you soon become a slave to the Sat Nav if you don’t have either the skills to understand a map, or the knowledge that there are other routes and choices should you wish to make them.

The schooling system does the same; it can inhibit you from knowing that there are other routes and other choices in life ahead than those the system would have you obedient to! And the system wants everyone obedient. It much easier for them. Much easier for them to perpetuate their strange ideas about what kids need. Much easier for them to perpetuate their own glorification!

Much easier for them if you have to seek permission to think for yourself, as the girls observed in some people.

Permission.

It’s one of those words that always comes up in Life Coaching or inspirational workshops and techniques? When you’re supposed to give yourself permission to do the things you love, live the lifestyle you want and not be a slave to convention. How many of us are actually unquestioning slaves to convention, so much so that we never even realise? Never even realise that we don’t make many of the choices that we could because, firstly we don’t know they’re there and secondly, we unwittingly feel we haven’t the permission to make them?

Right from being small we are conditioned to be so. Schooling certainly conditions us to be obedient to a certain way of learning, obedient to a future they would set out for us. And before you know what’s happening we’ve lost the skills and the independence to learn any other way (and there are lots of other ways), or the skills to live a life with independent thought and independent choice.

Sat nav’s can be useful. Schools can be useful. Curriculum, courses, workshops, route planners, convention, can all be useful – at times, maybe even a lot of the time.

But we must always encourage our children to see the multitude of choices – some that might be less conventional, to keep a broad and open mind, give them the thinking and reasoning skills to use it through conversations, explorations, experiences, varied activities and exposure to a range of ideas.

And show them how obedience and route planning of any sort is only useful when it is an explored and valid CHOICE.

And when you know that you do have the choice to turn things around when possible, whatever those things may be?

Does home educating ever fade into insignificance?

Thanks everyone for the comments and messages on my last post – most of them coming to me via Facebook and social media, rather than comments here. Whichever way – I always appreciate them.

family giggles!

Facebook groups have become such a fab way of instant support to many parents home educating and I think has increased parents’ confidence in having a go. It’s great for me too, to know that my posts are of help.

I know it seems such a monumental thing to home educate and leave a conventional system behind. But guess what? It does actually fade into insignificance one day. Well – almost.

This week those little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (now in their twenties) are here at home again for a rural holiday and a break from their busy urban working lives. We’ve been enjoying some of our old familiar outings – some that even date back to our Home Ed days! And we got talking – didn’t we always!

“Does home education have any relevance in your lives now?” I asked. We don’t talk about it now – it’s kind of paled into insignificance. But it was really interesting what they had to say.

“Not exactly on a day to day level” answered Charley. “And even when I’ve been applying for jobs it didn’t seem to come up much. Or the fact that I don’t have GCSEs. In fact, some of the bosses can’t have even have read the education bit on my application because they didn’t even know I hadn’t been to school!”

Then she went on to talk about applications she and her colleague are looking at now when staff apply for positions; “In fact, we often don’t look at that part of their CV even though they’re young candidates, we tend to go straight for the bit that talks about the experiences they’ve had relevant to the post. I notice with some of the staff I train that, although I know these employees are very young, they do seem to lack confidence and initiative as if they need permission all the time to do stuff – everything has to be directed so much.” She made that remark because she felt it was a noticeable difference between herself and some of the schooled children. She’d also heard in the past her contemporaries remark that they didn’t learn the useful stuff which she knew whilst they were in school, by which they meant some of the life skills and confidence that showed in her.

Chelsea also picked up on that remark about permission; “I think home education is very relevant day to day in that it taught us to be independent about stuff, in the way we think, especially problem solving, to be resourceful. And most of all I think it’s relevant because I’ve been taught to question and that’s something that seems lacking in some of the young people I come across. The people I teach at drama groups (and some of them are mature people) don’t seem to have these skills. What’s even more noticeable is that they seem to need permission for even having ideas, for being creative and straying from the norm a little. Everything has to be spelled out – as if they daren’t express themselves. Obviously many school kids do have those skills, but in some people I feel they’re less strongly embedded. It’s like they never question or think for themselves without permission. It’s second nature to me!” And she laughed.

“Why do you think it’s important to question then?” I asked.

“If you don’t question you just remain subservient and obedient to what everyone else wants you to do. And questioning is what makes the world progress; if we didn’t question we’d just stand still,” she said.

Good point!

I thought you might be interested to hear those remarks from these two grown up home schoolers.

Insignificance?

It seems, whether it is or not now, home education certainly gives them the ability to think for themselves. How I miss those independent minds – and discussions – now they’ve gone again!