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Open eyes to the school establishment

Looking forward to reading this

I try my hardest not to resort to school bashing. But I still get accused of it. Just because I won’t stay silent about all the things wrong with the school system.

And if that’s school bashing then I’m sorry for it. It’s just that parents need to have their eyes and minds opened beyond the conditioning the establishment perpetuates, especially the idea that school is right for all.

It isn’t.

Take testing for a start. Kids don’t really gain anything from being tested. They’re just being used as pawns in the game of one-upmanship played by politicians, institutions of education, between professionals and commercial enterprise. Test results are not what education is about. Few home schooled kids are tested throughout their learning lives yet still go onto to achieve qualifications when the time comes.

Take the idea that all kids have to achieve the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, or they’ll be failures. This is a form of emotional blackmail that is totally untrue. Kids doing things in this way is for adult convenience and has nothing to do with personal success or failure. Thousands of home educated kids learn in different time frames, their needs and competence at the time dictate when, what and how. And generally end up in the same place as school contemporaries.

Take a look at the curriculum. A school curriculum is not designed to be educatively enlightening. It’s designed to be measured. Thus increasingly neglecting essential subjects like the arts, the practical and sports. At the same time negating skills in these areas and a huge percentage of children who would be good at them.

Take the idea of going to school for the socialization. What a joke! Nowhere post school is the social model inside one replicated. The model where you’re clustered together in groups of same age, with people who are as social inept as you are, where friendships are enforced and where there is a hierarchy of respect rather than a mutually earned one. Thousands of home educated kids go onto Uni, interviews, work with a such high standard of social ability, conversation and initiative, it’s often what wins them the place.

Take the idea that school dynamics, bullying, crowds, unhealthy competition, and the shame of failure makes you stronger. Complete balderdash! Most kids are weakened by those experiences and often made desperate. Home educated kids who don’t have to endure such indignities – for that’s what they are – become strong, confident, competent and motivated people.

And finally, take the idea that the children need to be told what to learn, when to learn it, and how good at it they are, in order to become an educated person, which is an idea the school establishment imposes. Another load of tosh. Thousands of home schooled children take charge of their own education and are motivated to go on learning throughout their life which sets them up effectively for the diversity of the working culture this generation will be facing.

School is one way of doing things. A way sold to thousands by the establishment. But it’s also political. And politicians wants us to be obedient to the establishment for it makes their life easier.

But the establishment doesn’t have the monopoly on education.

Schools and teachers do the best they can with the job they’ve got. Schools and teachers work well for thousands of families. Many children achieve and are happy there. But that doesn’t mean all will or can. This isn’t about school bashing. It’s just about opening parents’ eyes to an alternative ideas.

Do what works for you. But don’t do it with your eyes shut!

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Feeling daunted

Goodness you’ve no idea how scary it is writing!

Well – not writing perhaps. The creative part of it is the nice bit – when it’s working of course. But the creative writing is only a very small percentage of a writer’s life these days. You need to be part of the marketing, selling and publicity all which I find as excruciating as being drilled at the dentist. More so actually because it’s public and at least you’re hidden in the dentist’s chair and you can dribble in private.

But far worse than the dentist is the drilling you can get from readers. In fact, the minute you put your writing out there, you feel immediately exposed. Naked. vulnerable. That is quite terrifying. Few are brave enough to do it.

Many people write. Many people say – ‘oh, I was going to write a book’. Many people are forever engaged in the process of doing a book. Many people will even get to the brave point of reading that work to others – usually in the safe confines of a writers’ group.

But that is quite different to going properly public and only the bravest actually get to that point. It is the exposure to all and sundry – even those who think you’re writing’s crap and say so – as well as those who are encouraging, that is the real test of courage.

Everyone suddenly is a critic, those who know about the job and those who don’t. (A bit the same as Home Ed really!) And they can make that as public as they like.

Thankfully, most of my critics and reviewers have been delightful. I am eternally grateful to all those who’ve taken time to review my books and say kind things. For I know there are faults with them – I don’t need reminding, my shame does that every day. And like with most writers, I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone’s going to like my stuff. Of course not.

It’s just that, like with most writers, I do it to inspire, to share, to hopefully give a little boost to someone else’s life. Writing is the medium I chose to do that by. Others choose other media.

My work happens to be to support a minority community. I don’t write to grab attention – that’s the excruciating bit for me – I write to quietly encourage. Encourage those courageous people choosing more challenging routes through life.

And that’s just what I need, as we all do, to help me overcome the fear! To start writing something new again.

It is your encouraging reviews that keep me going. Thank you so much. And if you’ve read one of my books recently – or anyone’s actually – think about taking the time to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you hang out and share a bit of love and encouragement around.

Encouragement, rather than criticism, makes the world a far, far nicer place to be – it’s good for the human race. And is a wonderful style of parenting and partnering too.

Pass it on!

Thanks Nadia and family

I shared this uplifting video on my Facebook page but for those who don’t do Facebook I thought it was of value to share here

I love Nadia Sawalha. She sounds so down-to-earth for someone in the celeb-sphere. She still feels like an ‘ordinary’ parent, despite that, dealing with the ordinary issues we all face like her children’s unhappiness at school. I can relate to much of what she’s saying here about home education, her comments about testing, etc. And you should definitely check out her videos on bullying.

Of course, she isn’t ‘ordinary’ as the rest of us know it, she being a celebrity. She will have a life far removed from the rest of us, being constantly in the limelight. That will have it’s drawbacks as well as it’s benefits. But we shouldn’t take the view that it’s all right for her to home school, she can afford it – or whatever – and I couldn’t! Because, as she states in the film, true education is not about what you can afford or not. It’s about engagement with the children.

She happens to like being with her children, she says, clearly thinking about those you see who don’t seem to, as we all do too. Which is exactly what makes home education such a great success. Because the most important resource a youngster could have for their education is not wealth, it’s an interested, caring facilitating adult – who hopefully inspires too. who has time for conversation, answering questions, encouraging a fascination with the world and of learning itself.

Nadia chooses to use tutors as part of her home education provision. But she clearly states that not everyone does, it’s just their choice. and it certainly isn’t essential. Other parents make provision in other ways. For being tutored is not the only route to learning, or becoming an educated person.

Educative experiences are what educate – in whatever form.

I’m so grateful to Nadia and her family for sharing their experiences of home schooling. It is a such valid contribution to helping raise awareness of the choice and understanding of the fact that school is not for all. And it shouldn’t be necessary for kids to suffer for the sake of education.

Alternative approaches are there and work extremely well.

Thanks Nadia.

Two books:

I thought these two little books that came my way this summer might be of interest.

The first is The Music Man’s Songbook by Jon Lawrence. This is a charming little book of song scripts, with a CD to go with it, that will get the children learning, thinking, moving, counting and finally sleeping! They can use it either with mums and dads or on their own. The author says that he was particularly interested in getting the children moving and the songs are open to as many physical interpretations as you like! Anything to get the kids active! It’s published through Bird’s Nest Books and is available directly from them or through Amazon. Find Jon’s website here.

The second is Katy Elphinstone’s book of advice for parents of autistic children: ‘Dos and Don’ts Autism and Aspergers, Advice for Parents and Carers’. Having read it through I find it full of common sense for parents of any children as well as those on the autistic spectrum. It’s contains the most down-to-earth ideas; ideas that we sometimes completely forget when in the throes of dealing with difficult challenges. A short book, well worth dipping into. You can find more about it – and buy it – here; http://www.dos-and-donts-autism.com/ and on Amazon.

Katy is another home educator, finding it was the best choice for her children and is going to do a guest post here in a little while. The illustrator is Matt Freidman of Dude I’m an Aspie fame.

Seeing educating differently

“But how will the children learn anything if they’re not in school being taught?” is a question often asked by those new to the concept of home education.

The reason they ask is usually because, like most, they’ve been taught to think about learning in institutional ways – as the education system conditions us to do.

But when you step out of that institutional thinking, that conditioning, and acknowledge and understand the thousands of families raising and educating their kids without school, you begin to see something different.

You see children:

  • Learning for themselves. Yep – they can, and do, take charge of their learning, (if they’re not put off), right from being small when they’re interested in everything and are given the opportunity to develop those interests further, thus picking up the skills for learning as they go. To maturing into seeing how the world works, how they want to fit into it, and how education will enable them to do that, either through becoming qualified at something or polishing up skills needed for the workplace.
  • Acquiring learning skills, through a wide experience of learning, by being engaged with topics for their own sake and consequently motivated, by applying themselves in practical ways, getting out and seeing things, doing things, experiencing the real world and the people in it and learning from them as they go along.
  • Learning from the people around them, not necessarily teachers, through mutually respectful relationships rather than hierarchical ones. By making their own assessments about the people who can help them, where they can find these people, by discussion and questioning, by having time for conversations, by interacting with them in beneficial ways.
  • Developing mature social skills by being around a high proportion of people who have social skills themselves, rather than a bunch of kids their own age who still don’t. And by healthy, unforced, interaction with a wide range of children from tots to teens in a more natural setting across the ages like that found in the real world, unlike the unnatural clustering in schools.
  • Learning through a diverse range of approaches from the structured, course-led type of approach, through the practical, experiential, trial-and-error way, to a completely child-led, creative, personal investigative, autonomous approach that can be equally successful.
  • Becoming educated without ever being tested on it!

There are far more ways to approach education than the institutional way that has become the tradition through schooling. Schooling was a great idea at the outset. It’s not such a great way of doing things now that society, parenting and families are different and now that politics has trashed it by twisting it into something that’s got to be constantly measured.

Measured people aren’t always the best people, or the most intelligent either. So don’t be conditioned into thinking that measured schooling will be the best either. Think it out for yourself!

A sentimental celebration

It’s my eldest’s birthday today. It makes me all sentimental and nostalgic as a parent, especially since we cannot be with her to help her celebrate. So, round the phone calls, I’ll have to be content to celebrate it in my own way with a dear friend who I met through her baby being born exactly one month previous.

We are of course together in spirit and always have been since the day she was born. Besotted doesn’t describe it as I drooled over that tiny being. I wouldn’t let the nurse put her in that plastic fish tank thing they like babies in to keep them safe.

Safe? Who wants safe when there’s love to be expressed in the holding? It’s part of the same institutionalised thinking that dominates society, schools, institutions. I’m all for Indie thinking; (you’ll no doubt have guessed with all I write about home education).

Thankfully I got my besottedness under control – it’s hardly healthy – for either of us. But our connections remain strong, supportive and as loving as ever, after twenty odd years, after home educating which sometimes makes people think the kids are going to hate you, and after all the mistakes we make as parents. And even though we have to let go and allow them space to go out into the world and do their thing.

Very necessary!

But the important thing about our connections with our children, the way we attend to them when needed, the way we relate and behave towards them, rather than tossing the random ‘I love you’ their way to make up for the times we don’t, is that it makes them feel worth something.

A child who is made to feel worth something is a child who is more likely to give something of worth to the world.

Her worth is immeasurable, as I’m sure your child’s is to you. Make sure they feel it.

Today I shall be celebrating her being in the world, already giving something of worth to it with her presence.

And as well as her presence the other thing I gained through her birth was that special friend to go out and eat cake with in her honour!

An alternative to going back to school

Learning out of school

As the beginning of the school year approaches I thought it might be helpful to repost this. For many parents think about home education but have so many fears about it they dismiss it as impossible.

It isn’t; it works incredibly well for thousands of families, even though they had fears at the outset too. This post talks about some of them.

I prefer the term ‘home education’ to ‘home schooling’ because it better describes it since 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. Get Googling; you’ll discover a whole community.

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. 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 parents who home educate rarely fail their child because generally speaking 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. That’s what prevents failure.

Or maybe you’re concerned about being with the children all the time? 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. Through these respectful communicative relationships 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 of 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! And here’s my little talk telling why you can do it too!