Good luck to the home schooled kids!

It’s not just school kids taking exams at the moment!

 So what I want to say is this: Good luck to all the home educating families involved with exams too! What an achievement to have got this far – without school.

It’s an aspect of home education that many people don’t even think about even at this time of the year – that homeeducated kids will be doing exams too. Pretty ironic really, since ‘what about exams?’ is always one of the major questions parents and journalists ask when they’re researching home education.

Most home educated families study for GCSEs just the same as all the school kids do – yep there is life and learning outside a classroom! They use courses – usually associated with examining bodies, sample papers online, coursebooks, and the Net of course – they just don’t do it in a classroom. And they learn very much from their own study, parental help and encouragement, online facilities, and occasionally tutors (although that’s quite rare actually). They sit the exams in independent exam centres dotted around the country, the snag with that is the have to be independently paid for – extremely unfair – the home educating community is working on getting help for that.

And just as other kids do, most of the home educators go on to achieve good grades.

So I wanted to take a moment’s thought for them. So often home educating families are disregarded, or worse; the victims of bigoted, biased judgements usually by those who are ignorant of the experience, like this one which appeared in the media recently about a young home schooled graduate.

What we rarely see are the grades and the achievements. I reckon if a study were done of the percentage of homeschooled candidates who achieved good grades compared to the percentage of school candidates the former would be the higher!

Most home educating young people are motivated and achieving, they go on into work as easily as anyone else (not that it’s easy for any in today’s climate), often beating off competition.

So I wanted to wish all those families and young people whole hearted good luck with your exams! You deserve a mention too!

Important stuff about Home Ed

I was wondering the other day what would be the most important things I could say about home education. It’s so difficult to identify because there are so many. But here goes:

  • It confirms that it is possible to learn in a broader, less restricted, enjoyable and uplifting way than that which we’re familiar with in school, which can take account for individualities, preferences and diverse learning styles
  • The different and diverse approaches that home educating families adopt can turn learning failure into learning success, thus eradicating the concept of ‘learning difficulty’ and proving that the difficulty lies with the system not with the child
  • It develops a warm, communicative, articulate and a worldly useful set of social skills that are transferable to the real world and the workplace
  • It means that learning, and personal development – which after all is what learning is – becomes part of family life and not segregated from it as schooling tends to be
  • It liberates children’s education from being institutional and makes you realise that learning takes place any time – without time constraints, anywhere – without room/place constraints, anyhow – without method constraints, which keeps kids motivated and engaged
  • It allows children to be in charge of their learning destiny and therefore makes them independent learners and independent life livers who have intiative, intelligence and purpose
  • It can be a much more hands-on, practical, experiential process, not dependent on a narrow range of academic skills which not everyone has from the outset, although strong academic skills are often the outcome
  • It gives more time for conversation, inquiry, personal pursuits, and activities which develop character, personality and lifeskills, often cited as lacking by employers
  • It’s bloody good fun!

If you want to know how – my books will show you.

And please do add to my list…

Something to consider when we vote!

I’ve been looking back at some blogs written a while ago now – wondering if I’d changed my mind about schooling!

But when I spotted this I realised that, as more and more parents turn to home education seeking an alternative to what’s described here, I sadly feel just as cynical. It was written when I went back into school for a little while as I missed contact with kids. And also wanted to see the workings of a classroom again after all these years; maybe revise my rather cynical view. Did that happen?

Sadly not – this is what I see: –  we take immature little beings who are still developing a delight in their world and are keen to learn about it in explorative and experiential ways. We remove them from their self motivated investigations and tell them that way of learning is invalid. We stick them in a structured institution which disregards their desire to learn about the things that interest them and tell them what we adults want them to learn which we misguidedly think will make them cleverer. We enforce learning tasks upon them in such a way it takes away all the delight they had in learning thus destroying their motivation. We heap far too much over complicated, prescriptive and academic stuff on them far too soon, when they are far too underdeveloped to get anything from it. And we do this in the confines of such a rigid timetable that they don’t have time to formulate understanding, reinforce knowledge, or develop skills. Thus setting many of them up to fail.

Then, when they do fail, which in these circumstances many of them are bound to do, we tell them it’s their fault because they are stupid since they seem to have a difficulty with learning.

Cynic? Moi?

Now I know schooling works well for many, but for others not only does this too-much-too-soon scenario destroy our children’s potential for learning, it also destroys things that are much more precious and life damaging; their faith in education, their self belief and their aspirations. There is nothing to be gained except for a select few who can cope. But it’s at the expense of many.

Of course, the politicians gain. Forcing too-much-too-soon and winning a few academic points for the more able kids wins votes for the politicians. They can say they’re making children cleverer. But they’re not; as they sit in their elitist little empires making policies for people whose lives they know as little about as I do the queen’s, they’re switching many kids off to learning anything.

Meanwhile in schools teachers despair of not only having the finger of blame for academic failure pointed at them, but also at having to deliver an inappropriate curriculum and force inappropriate learning targets on the children in their class. And parents despair with worry as to why their child is not ‘achieving’.

So as I try and help some poor little eight year old understand a grammatical concept that’s so hard it used to be on a GCSE paper I wonder what is to be done. The only way I can see it changing is for both politicians and parents to put a stop to this enforced, dull, academic hothousing, and start demanding a more personal and developmental education for the sake of the individual and not for the sake of the politics.

Here’s a piece that sets you thinking about how that might be achieved; https://www.self-directed.org/tp/what-does-it-mean-to-be-educated/  by Blake Boles the author of ‘The Art of Self-Directed Learning’

And a little clip from it to watch – I’m not advocating summer camps – aren’t they just another institution? But this holds some valid ideas for education. And some things to think about when we vote!

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!

 

Please pay your writers!

I was so happy to read in an article last month that folks are still turning to books – the physical kind. It seems there are still people who want to hold, to own, to turn pages and browse through a paper book.

I’m not saying the ebook doesn’t have a place. It equally has advantages. But the downside of it is that it can be easily pirated which means people can access all your hard work without paying for it.

I happily accept that books get passed around and shared – I do the same with mine. But at least I buy one in the first place and it has a life. And although we may think ebooks are more environmentally friendly I wonder if they are in the long run, I wonder what will happen to the planet when it’s buried under discarded technology, whilst books are more recyclable.

As a generalisation it takes about a year to write a book. A year of unpaid work basically – for it is work – and very few writers get paid in the realms of the six figure numbers bandied about the press. Many of us write about minority issues that would never be published by a commercial publisher only interested in big bucks. And earn minority pay – far less than minimum wage. So it comes doubly hard when our ebooks are pirated. And saddening to think that there are people who think that if they can get something for nothing then they’ve got one up on the system. But whilst they get one up – the writers lose out. I wonder if those people would like to do their job without being paid for it?

Without niche market writers writing about minorities as many of us do, without Indie publishers (like Bird’s Nest Books) who struggle against the big publishing giants, we would never get to read some really important stuff. Home educators for example would never get the support I’m offering through the books I write.

So, if you enjoy books, please consider buying them, in whatever format – and I don’t mean just mine, I mean any subject. Books mostly cost little more than a magazine, less than a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine and are better for the waistline!

But far more importantly it means the writer (and the publisher and illustrator) get paid! Perhaps you could consider this when you next need a book to support you.

I thank you!

🙂

How home educating helped our autistic son

A little while ago Gina commented on a post on my blog.

I was so moved by her remarks that I thought her story needed a post of its own. Her comment related to a post about Daniel Radcliffe (read it here), who was also told he was stupid, which prompted her to write this about her autistic son:

Gina’s two happy boys!

I have an 11 yo whom we removed from school in the first term of year one. He was six and had picked up the idea he was stupid and didn’t try hard enough. 

They had stopped teaching him anything but social skills so he would be prepared for the local special school and he was allowed to play and do what he wanted all day.

They gave up on him because he was ticking none of the horrendous Ofsted boxes. I am sure they wanted to do it differently with him but there was no time for all (or any) of his needs to be met.

They told us to concentrate on his life skills so he could aim for living in a group home, that was the best we could hope for. They really didn’t like us much and I think us constantly trying to support our child in a system that essentially had no room for him did not improve their willingness to try.

Within weeks of taking him out of school as a child who could not recognise his letters he read a chapter book, by eight he had read an entire adult spider encyclopaedia. Most importantly he was happy and had stopped crying. He has recently learned how to join in with games and speak to his friends. Two days ago he played with a strange child in a playground with other friends. This is a huge milestone and totally unexpected.

He becomes kinder, braver and happier all the time away from school. Like Daniel Radcliffe said my son was also labelled and would have been discarded had it not been for home schooling. He loves learning and life now.

When Gina related to me a little of their family background it contained several other appalling instances of the treatment of their children in school, details of which I won’t go into here except to say they’re sadly very familiar; bullying, disregard of child’s special needs, blatant lying on the part of the school, which all culminated in them making that choice to home educate.

She went on to tell me:

We haven’t looked back, they are just over five years out of school and thriving. The stomach issues he had at school cleared up when they stopped going. They are in groups, making friends and just happy, life is good now.  They remember school and don’t want to go back and feel really sorry for school children who get stuck in doors all day every day!  They still have issues related to autism but we can deal with that as a family at home.  There is time and space for that. 

As a family we are a bit nerdy! We love Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons, we make loads of things and we love science experiments – especially with explosions or fire.  They seem a lot less worldly than school children we know and are able to play longer and use their imaginations so much more.  They’re just growing at a slower and more gentle pace which suits their needs better. They live the stories they read and movies they see through their games.  We make sure to build boredom time into the day so they have to go and find something to do, even if they need help.  We also make sure there are at least a couple of hours for just playing.  They have chores, we cook and clean together and we play together. 

We are looking at maybe doing Forest School with them once a week.  They do sports, trips, play dates, crafting, drama and Parkour with their friends; friendships they have been building for a very long time now.

We are really close and I think that is one of the very lovely side effects of home education. 

Many, many thanks Gina for sharing this with us. Wishing you continued happiness.

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂