The Wrong Adventure!

I’m delighted to tell you that Harry’s off on another adventure.

Illustrations by James Robinson

Illustrations by James Robinson

If you haven’t already met him he’s the adventurous little homeschooler in ‘Who’s Not In School? who wants to learn about everything.

But his adventures in trying to do so often lead him into trouble as his curious investigations – particularly into the more interesting things that belong to older siblings – end up annoying people. So Harry decides to go off on an adventure on his own where he can’t annoy anybody.

See how he does this in ‘The Wrong Adventure’ which will be out at the beginning of August. It’s illustrated by James Robinson, a home educated young man himself with incredible talent.

If you pop across to Bird’s Nest Books to pre-order your copy you can receive a discount. Enter this code RMTWA at the checkout and your copy will only be £7.50 instead of the usual price of £8.99

It’s the perfect story to read outside with your youngsters this summer.

Term end – sad or sweet?

School term ends, summer hols begin and so does the usual media coverage on the good, the bad, and what to do with the kids all day.

I know it’s a challenge for many parents, especially those who work out the house. But it’s sad if it reflects on the children, making them feel they’re perhaps a nuisance in grown up lives.

We were lucky enough to never have that problem – we were with the kids all day anyway, home educating. A choice we made that meant having to do without a lot of stuff that money can buy to give our kids something money can’t buy – our company.

Holiday time!

Holiday time!

And I say ‘lucky’ but I sometimes feel it’s a kind of luck many don’t want. The choice to be with their children is not one everyone relishes as much as we did.

We all have the right to have our choices respected. But maybe we should make them with deeper consideration of the consequences, even the choice to have children at all! We managed on very little, which meant we didn’t have expensive holidays, top-of-the-range brands and constantly up dated technology. We didn’t want to perpetuate that culture of consumerism as being desirable anyway. We thought about what was truly of value to us and made a choice.

Our culture is based around that consumerism and it’s bred an expectation of a right to have; have far more than we ever really need. And although I respect and empathise with those who have the real challenge of just maintaining a roof over their heads and paying the bills, there are equally as many who expect to maintain a standard of consumerism for the sake of their image, not because it’s a value that’s been deeply thought about and prioritised.

The rewards for us choosing to have less (and I mean real thrift here – no frills at all in our case) in order to have more time for the kids outweighed any amount of disposable income we may have had and was a sweet choice we never once regretted.

We realised that giving time and attention to our kids at that time in their life was of irreplaceable value.

And thinking out our values is something we all have a choice to do.


Find out what our home education life looked like in a fun and easy read with my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. A book for laughter and learning – the two should always go together!

The value of the Quiet Ones!

My treat for the weekend is to take a book outside and read. DSC06096

Doing it outside makes it less of a busman’s holiday for me. Since I’m concerned with words all day, it feels less workish to do it under birdsong, roses and the lullaby of the breeze, with the occasional annoying fly just keeping me from dozing off.

With some books I don’t doze off. ‘Quiet’ has been one of those.

It’s full title is ‘Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and it’s a fascinating observation of the valuable personality traits of Introverts. (TED talk here)

In fact, it’s a celebration of Introversion; of all it’s valuable attributes, and how it should never be seen as something wrong with us that needs to be corrected – as it is in many social climes, particularly with reference to children. The author Susan Cain talks about shyness (which I’ve blogged about before) and how it’s often tied up with Introversion yet is quite different.

We are all different, and we need that diversity for our species to survive, but it is often only the loudest that get revered, overlooking the quiet ones and the huge contributions they make to progress with their reflective and considered thinking and the fact they spend less time polishing their image and partying and more time in deep thought and invention. Whereas extroverts need a high stimulation environment, introverts feel most stimulated and do their best stuff in low key environments. The ‘key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that works best for us’ says Susan in her TED talk. Sadly most school environments fail to provide a low key environment for those who need it. no wonder so many kids fail to thrive there.

The last chapter contains some important ideas with regard to raising and educating our children with respect to the fact that many children need smaller social environs in which to learn and grow. And this is okay. We do not have to force them ‘to get out there’ as some parents believe, in order to socialise or succeed, but respect their preferences and grow their confidence within that respect.

I have always believed, back from when I worked in classrooms and through the contact I’ve had with a diverse range of home educating families, that many children fail in school simply because the climate of crowd and buzz does not suit them. But this does NOT mean they have a character defect, any more than someone with blue eyes has a character defect, it’s just our inability to accept differences between us and provide for the needs of those quieter children.

In our image conscious, Facebook crazy, media driven culture we have to sometimes stand against it to be who we need to be and respect our personalities for what they are, rather than try and be all the same. That goes for our kids too. Particularly important is to recognise that they are not us, are different from us, and should be respected for who they are, even if they are quiet, require alone-time, prefer smaller interactions and dislike crowds.

That’s perfectly okay. Quiet people are just as successful and don’t need to be made into anything else.

I know it’s my quiet reflective times, often with my books (often in the garden), that has made me who I am; able to work, parent, home educate, write, and develop two reflective home educated beings who as adults still have a vibrant social life, loving friends, and a successful life out in the fray without ever being forced!

Ignorance is not academic

Following last post’s funny comment on qualification and intelligence here’s a story about a gateway!


Attractive concrete block!

I call it gateway but there is no longer a gate – it’s been trashed again. It was completely destroyed. The wooden bars smashed through as if someone had rammed it with a vehicle, the cross pieces jagged and splintered and most of it lying on the floor. It must have taken a lot of effort to do it – it was no thin gate but a sturdy five-bar one, needing posts as thick as railway sleepers to hang it.

There was no reason for this that I could see, other than vandalism. It could hardly be the work of militant ramblers as there’s a completely adequate stile for us to cross so we can continue along the footpath. And it’s not a particularly well used footpath, just one the locals and dog walkers know that runs between the cultivated land and out onto the marshland pasture where the cows graze. Land that is owned by farmers trying to make a living, allowing access to others to enjoy it, yet having to foot the costs of this damage.

They’d put some wire across the opening after the destruction of the gate to keep the cattle in, but that’s been vandalised and cut too, so they’ve put a concrete block there now.

It’s probably vandalised by the same ignorant people who leave their beer bottles, take away packets and shitty bits of tissue after their evening’s activities.

I say ignorant because that’s what it is; it’s ignorance that makes people choose to behave like this. People who don’t have the intelligence to make other choices or see the bigger picture beyond their own selfish pursuits.

Many generally think that intelligence is to do with schooling and how many exam passes and grades and degrees you have. But that is only a small part of intelligence. Academic prowess is not a guarantee of intelligence, although often a sign of it. And ignorance is not measured by a lack of it but by a lack of something else; a lack of connectedness.

It is connectedness, the way you connect with all things other than you and consequently the way you choose to behave, that is a sure sign of intelligence beyond academic qualification.

The person who smashed this gate may have qualifications, forced on them by schooling no doubt. Yet still they act in ignorant ways. For what they don’t have is the intelligence to see the connection between their act and its consequences. They don’t have the intelligence to feel the emotional consequence their actions will be creating in others just because they have no connetedness to those others, only to their own indulgences.

True intelligence is relative surely. Human intelligence anyway, that part of our human brain that enables us to have empathy, acquire understanding, to feel, to think, to choose reactions other than those driven by base instinct. The intelligence to engage with others and see beyond our own egocentric little worlds.

This is the kind of intelligence that needs developing alongside the academic. The kind of intelligence that is being neglected by prescriptive schooling solely focused on grades, and parenting that neglects to give time to making human connections, humane connections.

Which do we value most? We can make choices.

Ignorance is never solely academic. It is about our humane intelligent ability to know and also to use what we know in our relations with others. That is as vital a part of our children’s education as anything academic.

An educational phallusy (yes – I meant to spell it like that!)

Charley and I were having a conversation last week just before my book event at Waterstones.

She’d wanted to come along and support me but I thought it maybe best not. For home educated young people tend to get viewed as exhibits really. They provide an opportunity for others to see whether they’ve grown two heads or turned out weird or not.

And they always get quizzed about exams; ‘How many GCSEs have you got?’

This question seems to be the panacea for measuring a successful education and intelligence unfortunately. For it isn’t at all accurate to assume results show that.

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

She didn’t bother with GCSEs. But went ahead with other qualifications that interested her and onto Uni that way. So what’s intelligence anyway? Not something that can be measured by GCSEs alone, although they’re mostly used as such. And that’s the big sad confusion that many parents are under; being told that their child’s future is doomed without them. Qualifications have their uses obviously, but doomed without them? That’s just a fallacy.

We ended up having one of our inevitable conversations about education and what makes you an educated person which is very different to merely being a qualified person

‘It’s not only to do with what you have – as in qualifications,’ I said. ‘It’s about what you do and how you behave as a result of what you have’.

She was thoughtful for a moment.

Then she said; ‘Measuring people by how many GCSEs they’ve got is like measuring men by how big their penis is. It’s not what you’ve got that’s important, it’s what you do with it that matters’.

How we laughed!

What a wonderful analogy; just couldn’t resist sharing!

Home schooling in the spotlight?

A warm thank you to all those who came to our event at Waterstones last night to celebrate the new home education book. Lovely to have your support and to meet Home Educating friends from a while back. 20160705_191958

I know some home educators feel reluctant to put home schooling in the spotlight like this. They don’t want too much attention, especially from the Local Authorities and consequently the government, who might interfere with this successful and alternative approach to what’s on offer in schools.

Some of the contacts from authorities who visit home educating families has in the past ranged from less than helpful to downright ignorant and insulting at times. Their remit seemingly to bring us all in line. And the call for registration of all home educating families, and consequently monitoring, is a constant threat we want to avoid as long as possible. (See this post). So, many like home schooling to remain fairly hidden and to get on with it in the own quiet way uninterrupted.

But the trouble with that is; if it’s hidden, those who need it can’t access it. And I like to think optimistically that the authorities’ attitude is changing.

I spoke to a couple of people last night who’d had helpful and supportive visits from their LA. The LAs are becoming more enlightened and aware of what their role is, thanks to the work many home educating parents do to maintain a dialogue with them. And they’re more aware of the successes of home educating families as the numbers increase.

And although I understand that some like to home educate on the quiet, I look at the work I do to raise awareness from the point of view that many parents are so grateful to discover this as an option, to find the support they need, so they can choose an alternative for a child who is failing to thrive in school. Some are worse than that; school makes some of the kids ill and family life an utter misery. I get messages of gratitude quite frequently from people who were desperate and thankful to find my blog and books. And it’s only by home education becoming more widely understood that these families can choose something different for their kids, some who were almost suicidal.

So, perhaps we have to be brave – even braver than we already are in home educating. As the home educating community grows, perhaps we have to risk being noticed, club together to resist intervention when the time comes, confident in the knowledge that the growing number of home schooled children graduating successfully into the wider world, are living proof of how well it works – even though it’s not school! Education is our joined goal – educating by approaches that work for the child rather than the government, whether that’s in school or out of it.

And this is really what my work to raise awareness is for. To increase understanding of this workable and successful option. And show parents that children do not have to suffer for an education.

And in turn, I greatly appreciate those who support me in doing so. Thank you!

A little taster of the new book

AHEN-THUMBNAIL-200It’s always extremely daunting to publish a new book. You never know how it’s going to be received. So I’m really heartened by the lovely messages I’ve received so far in support of ‘A HOME EDUCATION NOTEBOOK to encourage and inspire’ which was recently published.

I wrote it in support of all you home educating parents for I remember myself what it was like on days when you had a mega wobbly and needed a bit or reassurance. That’s what I’m hoping to supply with this.

So if you’re feeling that right now consider getting a copy of your own to have to hand. Meanwhile, here’s a little taster:

There’s no doubt that some days we lose the plot!

Parenting can definitely make you lose the plot regularly. Being a home schooling parent there’s times you begin to wonder if you ever had a proper plot in the first place.

This book is intended for those very times.                 

Firstly, don’t worry. We’ve all felt like that, even the most experienced, matured home educators whose grown up young people seem to be the epitome of success. And secondly, don’t be put off by them, thinking you’ll never get there – success comes in many forms and you can be successful too. Thirdly, don’t feel plot-less alone; talk about it with others and you’ll be able to swap stories that help you get back on track.

Meanwhile, the stories here are intended to bring comfort and support till you do and hopefully remind you what the original idea was.

When you decide to home educate you probably already had the idea that school wasn’t going to be right for your family. Or you may have tried school and discovered that as a result. There are so many different reasons parents home educate; some to do with their child’s well being and happiness, others to do with approaches to learning and education in general. But although you may know what you don’t want, your plan about what you’re doing in place of school can wobble on occasions.

Now, this isn’t a book to tell you what to do with the kids all day. The best way to find that out is to connect with all the others who are already doing it and those who have done it, research, (maybe read my other books) and adopt others’ ideas until you establish your own.

Instead, this book is more to help bring you back to your core intentions when you’re wobbling. And give you some company and encouragement until you do…

Becoming sucked into the way schools do education is often is what causes us to lose sight of our own core intentions and plot and make us forget what we want for our children within our own individual circumstances. And I guess you wanted something different from what schools provide or you wouldn’t be home educating.

With so many following that mainstream path you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get seduced into thinking you ought to be doing school too. You can also feel alienated from the ‘real world’ (a term school users will often use as an accusation – disputable which ‘real world’ is the most real), and wonder sometimes why on earth you’ve chosen to home educate.

Well, this is to remind you that you’ve chosen this path because you thought that was best for your child – and you do know your child best.

It’s also to remind you that HOME EDUCATION WORKS. You chose this route because you thought it would be better – and it is in many circumstances.

It’s been going on long enough now for there to be home educated adults out in the ‘real’ world working, living productive, happy lives, contributing to society, who have ‘normal’ social lives and plenty of friends. And as someone once said to my daughter; “you couldn’t tell” they’d never been to school. We weren’t sure how to take that at the time, but we had a good laugh over it.

There’ll be quite a few things you need to laugh over. It’s often the best response!

I’ve shared many of these home education moments along the way, some on my blog, some even pre-date it, before my books were published. But as it’s so time consuming to trawl back through all that to find comfort and reassurance when you need it, this is a collection of them in one place with edited and added material. My home educating friend and publisher told me that she had a book on her bedside table for those wobbly moments so she could dip into it and feel reassured. And that’s what we wanted to produce. It’s set out in fifty two stories, one to dip into each week of the year.

I know how lonely it can feel sometimes stepping away from the mainstream, even with the wonder that is social networking which we didn’t have when we first started. I know personally how you can doubt, worry, wobble, cry, lose the plot and feel you’re losing yourself sometimes even though you love home educating, love your kids and on the whole love what you’re doing.

I’ve been in that situation too but there is one absolute truth I can tell you for certain; it was bloody WORTH IT! I have no regrets, not one single one…

Hope you find that as encouraging as I have found your supportive comments. Thank you!

And if you live in the vicinity of Boston in Lincolnshire do come along to Waterstones next Tuesday evening and say hello, it would be lovely to meet you.

waterstones poster