The home education community constantly grows

Just had a great trip to meet a group of home educating parents in London. 20150630_155729

Although it might have been better if it wasn’t a heatwave in which to swap my usual breezy rurality for the big city. But it was worth the melting to meet more inspirational parents making different choices for their children’s education.

I met people just thinking about Home Ed and people who’d been doing it for years whose children had graduated into other life. I met parents with pre-schoolers and those with teens. Parents with children who’d never been to school and others who’d done both. There’s such a diversity of people who choose not to home educate for a diversity of reasons.

And it just seems that whatever age and whatever needs home education is catering for it all and this wonderful vibrant community is constantly growing. Both teachers and parents are reacting to the prescriptive systematic compression of our children that schooling is becoming and deciding there has to be a more pleasurable and inspiring way to learn and achieve.

There is!

Missing Home Ed – so it’s great to meet you!

I do miss those home educating days with little ones. When there were children here full of curiosity and inquisitiveness about their world – like Little Harry in ‘Who’s Not In School’. It’s often misinterpreted for booklaunchnaughtiness when it becomes inappropriate! He’s the kind of child you take your eyes off for a second and his curiosity gets the better of him and he’s doing something he shouldn’t. I had one of those.

I also miss the company of other inspiring home educating parents and the excuse to have a good chinwag about our kids in general – oh – and education of course. My friends have heard it so much from me now I see their eyes glaze over.

So I have enjoyed meeting some of you at recent book events the publisher arranged.

These events are always a challenge for me. I prefer to hide away in natural places (where I write this now) rather than be public. But I’ve been so uplifted by the warm responses we’ve had so far I’m up for some more. So if you want us to visit your group do get in touch here.

I love meeting inspirational people and as home educators you’re definitely inspirational – it’s an inspirational thing to be doing. I never tire of hearing your stories and if we can pass something onto the next set of parents wanting to home educate, then it’s a double advantage.

So if you fancy coming along to any of the events I hope we get to chat.

Or come and let me know what you think of the new book – if it’s kind of course! As I used to say to the children; if it’s not kind or it’s not helpful, don’t say it! I think some of the people who go on forums could do with adhering to that rule! ;)

Otherwise your feedback is what keeps me writing – and emerging from my hiding place. Hope to see more of you soon.

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!

A humble thank you!

I’ve been so lucky recently. I’ve been invited to various groups of parents who have read my books and I have been made so welcome.

I’m completely humbled by your support and appreciation – humbled to know that people are even reading my stuff!

So many came up and thanked me for the reassurance and encouragement they find in my books and blog, but it also works the other way round. So I’m taking a moment to thank you for telling me.

For you’ve reassured me that my work is doing what I wanted it to do and worth going on with. You doubt that sometimes with writing being such a solitary workload. It’s heart-warming to know that I’ve helped a few folks find the courage to do what they want to do with their children’s education and try alternatives.

That’s what it’s always been about – encouraging people to think outside the mainstream and show that there are successful alternatives to school. School could never always be right for every child, just like one size or style of knickers couldn’t be right for every woman! It would be ridiculous to think they could be! We’re all different. And as well as all needing different knickers we all need different approaches to learning.

It’s been a delight to meet such inspiring parents. The warm support I’ve received is so uplifting.

And as if I wasn’t humbled enough by your lovely praise I go out to the car and it won’t start and a super bunch of supporters have to push me to get it going! Thank you to all of them. And, guess what? I was humbled again later to discover a massive chocolate stain down the front of my white top – I shouldn’t have been so greedy with the chocolate chip biscuits!

So however high we climb, and however much our differences, we are still all mere mortals you and I, who wear knickers and have food stains on their shirts. Now you know!

Thank you all, my treasured supporters, to all those who told me that they wouldn’t have rescued their child from a difficult situation in school if it hadn’t been for my work. Well – that works both ways – I wouldn’t go on writing without you!

Thank you again.

If you’d like us to come visit your group, get in touch with the publisher at Bird’s Nest Books.

An invitation…

Will you come and say hello? It would be lovely to meet you.

In celebration of my new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ the publisher is holding some public events so we get to meet. And the first is in

BEWITCHED Coffee Shop

Bridge Street in PETERBOROUGH this coming SATURDAY

20th June 2 – 4pm

Others will be held at home education groups around and about, but this is the first of the public ones and anyone interested in children and books can attend.

I’d welcome your support if you’re around…believe me, I’m more shy than you at meeting new people; something I had to bluff my way through when I was with the children in the hope they grew competent and confident in social situations! I think it’s worked a bit – Charley says she’ll come along to this one too and hold my hand. It was once the other way round!

But you don’t have to be a home educator to come and enjoy a coffee and natter with other parents sharing thoughts about their children’s education and books and that’s what these events are for.

So do see if you can make it.

And if it’s too far for you, get in touch with the publisher at Bird’s Nest Books and arrange for one over your way. If you check in regularly with their website or sign up for their newsletter you’ll keep abreast of other events too.

Meanwhile…I hope to see you!

The curious challenges of an Aspie

You touch him and he screams. You hug him and he lashes out at you. He never looks at you. You have to word everything carefully because he takes your words literally; if you said it was raining cats and dogs he’d expect to see cats and dogs coming down and if there weren’t he’d accuse you of lying.

And his days, life, must have predictable patterns and routines so he knows what sensory bombardment to expect, otherwise he can be reduced to a curled up huddle there’s no communicating with. 

Yet he’s brilliant mathematician and can store data like a computer.

Such is the character in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’, the wonderful book written by Mark Haddon, told with the voice of a lad with Asperger’s Syndrome.

And I’ve been lucky enough to go to see the stage production too – a truly amazing experience.

And I say experience because that’s exactly what it was. Even more so than the book, you truly experience some of what it must be like living with a teenager with Asperger’s and the difficulties it presents.

It is so easy to judge and condemn as we sit smug with our ‘normal’ children, behaving in ‘normally acceptable’ ways, and think how we would do something about the behaviour of others we observe but know nothing about.

If you haven’t lived it, you can’t know what it’s like from the inside. You can’t know what’s best to do and certainly aren’t qualified to judge. Some parents have challenges to face we cannot even conceive.

Stories like these go a long way to helping those of us in ignorance to live it and thus understand and appreciate that not every person reacts to life in the same way as our own children do. Everyone has challenges to face. Everyone is different. Some extremely so.

A story can reach an audience in ways a factual text cannot, like this production reached me, because it promotes not only understanding, but ignites compassion too.

And it is compassion we need to practice in order to live alongside one another and all our quirky differences in harmony and acceptance.

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.