Bank holidays are always better outside

I just had a short trip to Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire recently. Nice to be in the hills after the flatland walks I usually take. My poor legs were totally shocked when I took them for a clamber. It was snowing and sunny at the same time but it didn’t stop me – I love a good clamber! And it’s just so good to be outside.

As you walk round there are lots of little prompts for activities for you to do with the kids – such a great idea as I know it’s hard to think up activities all the time. And this is what prompted me to prompt you to get outdoors with your youngsters this bank holiday whatever the weather. Because whatever mood they’re in it will be improved outside – even if you’re all a bit reluctant.

You also don’t have to be in a specific reserve to enjoy many of the activities that were suggested; you’d be able to engineer some of them on your doorstep. Things like:

  • building a den
  • rolling down a hill
  • climbing a tree
  • searching for creepy-crawlies
  • making an insect home
  • looking for treasure from feathers to stones to owl pellets to bits of pot

And you also don’t have to be rural to find paces to enjoy them either; a park will do, or riverside, – most cities have a river going through. Or a wood or a bit of wasteland. And you can find all sorts or wildlife in a churchyard or cemetery!

Just be spontaneous, get outside and go to whatever places are local to you and get some space, some weather, some learning about the environment and some physical activity. And if you can do it on foot you beat the bank holiday traffic too!

You’ll come back feeling better – trust me!

The gift of weblessness and the wonder of ‘wasted’ time

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Typical spring; sunlit blossom against a stormy sky

We call Spring a fickle bitch in this house! That’s because it’s brazen and hot one minute and blasting your face off with gales and ice the next.

It doesn’t take much bad weather where we live to put the internet off – there are several times a year it disappears. And of course the landline phone.

Who needs a landline phone in these days of mobiles? People like us who live in places of no signal!

I can pace about in anger and frustration – again – it happens quite often. Or I can just be stoic and remind myself that I did actually happily exist without the Internet at one time. And do other things like reading, or walk – always available, always free.

Since I couldn’t work I drove to town, partly to get enough signal to ring BT, mostly to have a long browse in the library, an oft forgotten pleasure. I brought home a stash of books. And did some writing with pen and paper, ready to be blogged when service was restored. It was quite nice really – once I could get my mind turned in that direction and stop fretting over time wasted.

Time ‘wasted’ is a state of mind I reckon. I could look at it as time ‘gifted’ instead.

My mum, the loving character you may have met in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ Untitled-1 copywould have considered time on the Net as time wasted, in complete contrast to how we view it now. In her lifetime it wasn’t the facility it is now, more of a hobby. And anyway, time wasted is a point of view – she could spend/waste hours by her fire with a good book and a cat on the knee. Wasted? She enjoyed every minute, how is that a waste? But she wasn’t sucked into a lifestyle that depended on the Net and an image obsession of busy-busy on Social Media like we are today.

When we first came to this old house of hers, which we now occupy, I was a child in the seventies. It had no electricity, no phone of course. No heating except the coal fire. And it was NO problem – it was just how it was. And I consider myself lucky that I have memories of that because it reassures me that life can exist without it when necessary. And I have the skills to cope for a while.

It pays to have this kind of resourcefulness. Will our kids have it, so pampered and cosseted are they? Resourcefulness is a life skill that is invaluable. Can you imagine, we even started home educating without the Net? But the access it gives us to information and community now means parents can home educate with confidence.

There were some great programmes recently called ‘Back In Time for the Weekend’ that showed life in a family pre-technology, did you see any? They’re not available at the moment but similar programmes about existing without it are, that provoke some great historical discussions with the kids about this concept, which enriches their education. (Bit alarming to find I’m now history!)

Meanwhile, I kept reminding myself that the Internet would only be off for a while. It’d be back. Work would be back. Networking would be back. So instead or ‘wasting’ my time and energy fretting I decided I might as well turn my attention to the other things I value and enjoy this little gift of Weblessness.

So later that evening I visited a friend instead of being on the Net and had an evening of happy natter which I’d never have done if the Net had been available.

Gifts indeed!

Interview on Radio Suffolk

Presenter Etholle George from Radio Suffolk

Up early on Friday to contribute to a programme on home education. Not without trepidation as often when I’ve done them in the past it’s been more the case of defending myself from attack – and ignorance. This time it was a real pleasure to respond to genuine interest. So thank you to Etholle George for the opportunity to talk about it, share information and for being so interested.

Home schooling is increasing dramatically – not surprising with the worrying debacle in schools lately. It would not suit every family obviously. But for those who enjoy being with their children and helping them learn about their world, which is after all what education is for rather than just learning for tests, it is an inspirational way to facilitate their education. Not once did we ever regret our decision – although we often regretted not doing it sooner!

You can listen to me talking about it here on Radio Suffolk at 37:37 and later in the programme an interview with home educator Jax Blunt and her family who blogs at Live Otherwise at 02:08:40

The community continues to grow!

Have some fun on May 3rd won’t you!

Testing – not something home educators do much! 

Yeah – that’s right – most go through the whole of their child’s education at home without doing any school style tests. Yet those children still go on to pass exams at a later date and most of them end up where there school peers get to; qualified, intelligent, competent, some at Uni, some in work.

So it does beg the question what really is the point of all those tests in schools? They’re not for the benefit of the children that’s for sure. (I’ve often blogged about it)

The obsession with testing and measuring the children’s education throughout their school life is often a reason parents give for choosing to home educate instead. But it seems that home schooling parents are not the only ones who are sick of this regime. Parents of school kids and teachers too are all adding their support to a campaign to boycott the tests to be taken on 3rd May.

Maybe we should join in?

For I guess the group Let Our Kids Be Kids would probably welcome your support too.

Since we are all in support of a real living education I thought I’d mention it. And although many in the home education community have no time for schooling I do believe we share some of their values; to challenge government policy, deplore high stakes testing which gives schools no choice other than to teach to the test, to see a curriculum full of joy and wonder… not overwhelmingly focussed on grammar and spelling which makes lessons dry and limits curiosity, and allow children to be children again – playing, being outdoors, painting, singing, dancing, learning through fun.

Sounds fairly akin to home educating values don’t you think?

I think that’s what we all want for our kids, isn’t it? So maybe you could support their campaign, sign it, and hopefully lighten the days of some of the kids in schools who are not lucky enough to be enjoying the opportunity of home educating as our children do.

Shot for wanting to be educated!

malala 001I’ve just read the book ‘I Am Malala’ about the girl in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for going to school.

That’s mostly all we know of her, as per the news coverage at the time. Read the book which details some of the political and religious climate that led to the event and you discover it’s far more complex than that.

It’s both disturbing and enlightening reading, unsettling and inspiring. And unimaginable in our comparably cosy world of educational freedoms in the UK.

Dedicated to the education and opportunities for schooling, both she and her father would find it hard to even contemplate why some of us would not want to take advantage of the opportunity to go to school, and home educate instead, as they were fighting for that right during the time leading up to the shooting. But the point is all about learning – rather than schooling – and who has control over it and how it is approached.

In the book I read about her father, who believes that ignorance has inhibited people from seeing education as a broadening of minds and development of ideas and consequently a way forward out of their troubles. And it has also allowed their politicians to fool people; I feel we perhaps think alike on that one!

For I suspect that in this country schooling may be doing the same, even if not to the same degree. Institutionalised schooling keeps people thinking how the establishment wants them to think and that’s becoming as much as a political tool, I feel, as the propaganda Malala describes in the book, where truth is distorted through the leaders’ interpretation of knowledge, stats, and who qualifies to access it.

As the process of schooling in the UK continues to squeeze creative and practical activities out of the curriculum, making it more and more focussed on rote academics for measurable purposes, then it also squeezes broader, independent and individual development, particularly thought development or a questioning mentality that encourages people to challenge. I’d guess politics wouldn’t want that.

In no way am I equating our system with the oppression Malala’s people suffered. But the opportunity to develop free thinking, questioning and independent individuals, able to think and learn for themselves, was high on our list of reasons to home educate. For I’m not convinced that schooling, as it is now and increasingly becoming, does that job terribly well.

The ignorance of some of the educated!

The fight or flight response kicks in automatically now. Palms sweat, breathing goes gaspy, limbs shaky. I brace myself for an onslaught.

This is what happens every time I listen to another piece about home education on the news. For it’s often laced with an attack.

LBC radio featured a piece about it the other night with callers chirping in. (Sorry – can’t find a recording!) As well as a few positives there was a right barrage from an angry teacher (surprisingly it’s often teachers who feel the need to attack) who obviously felt threatened. But it wasn’t from directly offensive remarks the like of which we get, she was threatened by us mere parents assuming they can do what teachers do, without all their training, and educate our own kids. She was incensed at the thought!

It’s odd that teachers should feel threatened by homeschoolers – why would that be? And it also displays the depth of the misconception they are under.

For parents don’t assume they can do what teachers have to do because they’re not teaching in the way teachers have to teach and they’re not doing it to a system which requires them to teach it. They are educating completely differently from what teachers understand as teaching.

And ironically it is those professionals’ narrow minded view of teaching and learning that prevents many from understanding the true nature of education in the broader sense, as opposed to simply institutionalised schooling.

The other thing we were wrongly accused of in this particular discussion – and another common one – was of preventing our children from mixing and inhibiting the children’s chance to gain qualifications. Our kids have as much opportunity as they choose to go where they want to go, be with who they want to be with and get what they need to do it – how is that inhibiting? It’s school which inhibits those choices surely – for they should be choices.

With all the work so many of us do to raise awareness and understanding of home education you’d think people were becoming a bit more enlightened. So I find it totally ironic that whenever home educating parents are accused of being ignorant of educating – usually by someone in the teaching profession – those professionals making accusations do so from a position of their own obvious ignorance of home education – without direct experience usually. Is that not a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black as the saying goes?

When these ignorant people are being so insulting, they should perhaps remember they are also insulting all the EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL, HARD-WORKING home educated ADULTS who are now already grown up, already out in the WORKPLACE, who never went to school.

So despite panic attacks I keep on saying how it is when I can, as many other brave parents do, in the hope of lessening this ignorance about a positive and successful approach to children’s education.

And on a more positive note I’d like to bring your attention to a more enlightened piece here in the papers asking why so many parents feel the need to give up on school and home educate.

Marta Drew and her children home educating featured in The Guardian

The question could also be asked – why are so many teachers turning to it too? For they are. Is it because they’ve seen what happens to kids’ in the conveyor belt system? Is it because they don’t want their individuals on that conveyor belt either?

I wonder?

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.