Educating: for Halloween?

No part of education is more essential than learning how to live sustainably, surely?

I guess it’s not something we’ve prioritised in education up until this point, most folks still living with the antiquated idea that education should only be about academic learning.

It used to be – when academic learning could only be accessed and practised in academic premises such as schools, colleges, unis and the like, back in the day when there was a large percentage of the population who couldn’t read or write. And the powers that be decided it would be better for civilisation if they could.

Well time it changed; we need something even more important for civilisation now, we need to understand how to live sustainably on the planet. And practice it.

As Halloween approaches and I see the bin-bound crap that’s advertised as a necessary part of celebrations, I cannot help but cringe.

I’m also gobsmacked as to how on earth so called ‘educated’ people can buy it, succumb to the emotive blackmail that suggests we should!

It’s partly ignorance. But also partly a decision to be blind to the consequences of buying consumerist tat, blind to the climate crisis. It’s also partly our past demand that has created a situation that has educated people into habits of shopping as a recreational activity!

We need to re-educate ourselves to do it differently.

Because it boils down to a simple equation: if we’re shopping as a recreation we’re trashing the planet as a recreation.

Hardly acceptable, is it, when put like that? Or the behaviour you’d expect from the ‘educated’. Find something else to do!

How about instead we think creatively about how to re-habit our lives away from buying stuff for landfill, towards ingenious ways of making changes that reduce it.

That we re-educate ourselves, and build a new style education for the youngsters, that has love as a priority; love for the earth that is, rather than love for more stuff – and what actions could support a different way of being.

That any shopping we do, whether for Halloween, Christmas, or whatever celebration, is done through charity shops, car boots, Ebay or similar sites, and avoids as much stuff as we can that isn’t necessary, is single use, and destined for landfill!

That needs to be our educational priority as much as any other surely?

An education not just for Halloween!

(Have you discovered Jen Gale’s realistically doable approach in the Sustainable(ish) Living Guide? Great for ideas and support in making change)

As important as the home educating bit – a little reminder!

Home educating was a joyful and inspirational period in our family life.

Most of the time.

There were times when it was downright gruelling and bloody and I struggled to stand another day of it!

But that wasn’t because I didn’t like it, regretted our decision, couldn’t handle it, or wished the kids were in school. Especially not that.

It was because of a simple but overlooked fact: I wasn’t looking after myself adequately!

I wonder how many of you reading this have been guilty of the same?

It’s hard enough home educating. It’s been made much, much harder by the circumstances the pandemic has thrust upon us. It’s stressful, makes us anxious, inhibits our activities and will make even the joyful things seem like hard work sometimes. So there is even more need for you to be:

Looking after yourself as well as the kids!

This makes sense because not doing so is counter-productive. It doesn’t do anyone any favours. And it’s not best for the child either.

Look at it this way, a parent who is stressed, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, is less likely to be able to deal with the challenge of parenting and home schooling than one who’s rested, relaxed and happy. So it’s in the child’s interests too, to pay attention to our needs.

It’s also in the child’s interests for another reason. A parent who is sacrificing their own needs is giving the signal to their child that parents don’t matter. Parents matter enormously – that’s what children need to know – everyone needs to know it.

Children also need to learn how to look after themselves. Your demonstration of how a person does this, through the way you do it, is going to teach them this.

Another thing; neglecting yourself constantly just gives them licence to disregards others’ needs to fulfil their own. And although very young children do that, as they grow they need to learn differently. We all need to relate to others.

You will want to be the best parent you can be. The best way to do that is to look to your own wellbeing too. For all your sakes.

You want your kids to have respect. Respect for others and certainly respect for themselves. They learn that from the respect that you have for yourself – so what demonstration of that are they getting through the way you look after yourself?

So, now I’ve given you some reasons to, how can you look after yourself?

Take time for the things you love to do
  • Prioritise time to do so.
  • Get out by yourself as well as with them.
  • Borrow time or do time swaps with others.
  • Remember to work on things that inspire you, at your level, not just the children.
  • Keep contact with friends and others for some adult chats.
  • Feed and exercise yourself well for your sake, not just for theirs’ (essential lesson for the kids in there).
  • Do things you love, just for you, not always tagging it onto something they love!
  • Rest and relax at times, letting them know that it’s a way of fulfilling your needs too.

Whatever form your ‘looking after yourself’ takes it’s as invaluable a lesson as anything academic, so don’t neglect it. And I reckon it’s doubly important during these challenging times we’re going through right now.

(A previous post about time away from the children and why it’s necessary)

Random scary thought on education!

This may sound scary and radical, but it isn’t really.

That’s because everyone starts out with a creative mind. It’s just we’re generally educated out of it – did you realise? (The inspiring Ken Robinson explains in his talk here)

When I say ‘creative’ here I’m not necessarily talking about artworks; rather the creative thinking we all employ – and need – all the time, for living and surviving and being resourceful, one of the most important skills we can have. We’ve certainly had to do that lately! And I worry that the system is squeezing that out of our youngsters. (More on why creativity is so important in this blog here). It’s numbing them with endless irrelevant tests and targets and political objectives that have no use in personal development and are making failures of intelligent children.

Parents should pay attention.

You can build your own family education, aside from what schools do, by taking charge of what you do – randomly – whether you home educate or not. By encouraging learning of random things at random times, instead of succumbing to numbing media-festing or confining learning to the usual objective-led academic things. By paying less attention to academic results and more attention to ongoing personal development, creative thinking included. By learning stuff just for fun. This can happen whatever age you are.

A creative mind is the best tool to have for that. It helps develop resourcefulness and resilience – ever more needed in current climes! It’s likely to be creative minds who save the planet, find the Coronavirus cure. Minds who can think in diverse ways, rather than be squeezed into conventional boxes.

So have a think about what it says on the poster, about developing an ongoing and personal education through interests and activities. And don’t let traditional education condition you or your family out of your creativity.

Not forgetting that home education gives you the ultimate opportunity to do so!

Together and Apart

It may be more challenging home educating during these times of corona crisis and all the anxiety that goes with it. But at least your kids are with you!

I know there’ll be times when you could do with more space when they’re with you 24/7 and managing that can be the more challenging part of home educating – and parenting for that matter. (There are some tips on that in this post here) Even more so since your options for getting out and about have become so limited.

But the other side of that is the fact you are all together and have more control over the youngsters exposure and contact with others.

Parents of older children and those off to Uni don’t!

When I think of the teenagers starting Uni this time, it must be fraught with worry, for kids and parents. It’s hard enough them moving out of the family home, without the added stress about how they’re mixing. I feel for you!

I still worry about mine, who’ve been living apart in the working world for many years now, and how they’re keeping safe.

It was many months this year before we got to see our eldest and once we managed to be all four of us together again it was insanely sweet. But there’s still that background niggle of ‘should we be doing this?’, and even expressions of love feel inhibited.

It’s all very hard for families, for friends, for us all. And we daren’t even think about Christmas!

But that’s possibly the best way to deal with the situation we’re in; not to think about things that far ahead. We cannot possibly have any certainty about it, best to stay with what we do have certainty about – this present moment!

It was inevitable when we were all together recently that the four of us talked about Christmas as it’s already coming into the politics of the situation. But only momentarily. We agreed that there are only hypotheses to be had, and these tend to induce worry and spoil the pleasure of being together at the time; the important thing.

And we had some lovely moments together when we managed not to think about the crisis, focus on the lovely things we could do, were doing; picnics, chats, walks, just being together. Even diving into a pub during a thunderstorm. The first time I’ve done that since last winter.

It seems the best way to cope with current times; to stay with the good moments you have, cope as well as you can with the troublesome ones and cherish having your children close whilst you can. It won’t always be the way of it.

I did some reckoning the other day and got a shock. It’s nigh on ten years now since both our youngsters were at home full time home educating. But they’re still educating themselves even if not at home because home educating showed them the possibility of self-educating however old they are and wherever they are. And that’s what they continue to do, particularly with the time they had during Lockdown, knowing that education doesn’t just mean academics, there are new skills to learn and things to research and try all the time.

So whatever you’re doing at home with your youngsters during these challenging times, appreciate that they are at home and safe. And understand that you’re not only home schooling them, but showing them a DIY approach to an educating way of life that will set them up for the future and help them cope with whatever is going on around them. Both now – and then.

And take it from me; you’ll miss being together one day!

Home education in these restricting times

What an educational year it’s been! For all parents whether you home educate or use schools.

I’m not sure now, whether education will ever be the same again, but I’m sure we’re all learning from it, both individually and with respect to the education system. (Certainly room for that not to be the same!)

Be assured; the children will certainly be learning, as everything is an opportunity to do so and they’ll be fascinated by all the goings on. And it’s important to make it all something to be curious about, rather than scared of. Difficult when we all no doubt have our concerns and facing people with masks on is hardly settling – being out is sometimes not that much fun. But we have to be sensible, not obsessive, in the way respond to the challenges the coronavirus situation throws at us.

It’s probably difficult at the moment to home educate in the broad, out going way most are used to, especially if you’d normally be meeting in groups larger than six! The restrictions on getting together, a normal and vital part of most home educators’ routine, will be challenging. It’s no doubt very inhibiting; it will require a new kind of resourcefulness and a balancing act between keeping safe and keeping sane.

Perhaps when meeting others you can do so outdoors rather than in. I know many groups meet at play centres, pools, sports centres and places like them but now’s the time to switch to being out door types! Children generally enjoy the outdoors even when it’s raining. There’s a saying; there’s no bad weather – only the wrong clothes!

Maybe you’ll have to split into smaller groups, or one or two families, until the size restrictions lift again. Smaller groups can be nicely intimate. However the guidance here suggests you can meet in groups of more than 6 for educational purposes: see para 2.10 Although advice changes regularly!

If some of the museums and galleries, libraries and arts centres you usually frequent are closed, visit them online instead. The big museums have some amazing interactive sites that are fascinating to explore.

I recently posted a blog of ideas for activities if you’re a bit home bound and stuck for things to do.

Wherever you live – you can walk daily!

However restricted you have to be there is always the opportunity to get out for a walk wherever you live. Doesn’t matter where you walk; it changes the moods and spirits of everyone and helps maintain overall wellbeing, along with the other benefits of exercise. Make observations and conversation as you go to stimulate minds.

And don’t forget the planet in all this; I fear for its burden of throw away masks and plastic hand sanitiser containers, and the abandonment of environmental issues whilst our focus is elsewhere. Yet it is perhaps the lack of that focus that has caused the virus in the first place (see the programme following) Educating the children in their responsibility towards planet is as important as their social and academic one. Did you watch the Attenborough programme ‘Extinction – the facts’?

I appreciate the distancing, hand washing and masks are necessary precautions, but as I said above we need to be sensible with them, not obsessive. We have to learn to go on living our lives within these unfamiliar parameters. And as I also said; children will be learning and developing from all these experiences, particularly skills not prioritised by the National Curriculum like being adaptable, resourceful and socially responsible, all essential to the overall development of the human race – part of what education is for anyway.

Let me know how you’re managing and what you’re up to in the comments below and share your ideas, I’d love to hear. And it’ll inspire others.

Meanwhile, enjoy your learning as you go. Life learning skills set the children up for life, not just for now. An enjoyable one does it better!

What mark are you making with your parenting?

The programme ‘Extinction – the Facts’ was hard to watch. I admit it took me a few days to screw up my courage and catch up with it. Face the inevitable bad news and desperate images and update my own education on the issue. But it ended with hope, I think. And bless Sir David – what a mark he’ll leave on this planet. (YouTube link here) But it’s on Iplayer too.

Of course, we’re all making a mark of one kind or another. Sadly, most of us a less positive one than his as we consume our way through our lives . And sadly we’re leaving a mark that will cost our children dear.

I guess most folks reading this will have children, will be parents. And another sad fact; it’s often the parents who are the worst offenders when it comes to consumerism, one of the worst causes of planetary destruction – needless consumerism that is.

I’m not only talking about the endless throw away baby products, wipes, toys etc. but the misguided belief that some parents have that the more they buy their child the more they demonstrate their love for them. They use consumerism as an expression of love. Much of it through plastic. And they are hoodwinked by the emotional blackmail companies use to suggest we are less of a parent for not doing so.

It’s an insidious form of blackmail when we see images that insinuate that our kids are better, best, superior if they have the latest trainers, phone, tech, or are losers and inferior if they don’t. These are the lessons children learn not only from the advertising but by parents’ attitudes falling prey to it, thus perpetuating the lesson.

Instead we should be teaching them something quite different. Teaching them that the better, best and commendable are those who resist the pollutive effect of this type of consumerism, resist the throw-away culture that pervades everything. Teaching that we don’t need to update all the time. We don’t need to always buy new. Teaching them that this is the kind of behaviour that is contributing to the mass extinction talked about in the programme. And we can love without doing that! Even better – it’s FREE; doesn’t cost money or the planet!

Each one of us is probably guilty of doing it in some small way. But each one of us can make valuable changes however small.

Our children are going to pay the price of our ignorance in these matters and we need to educate them to behave differently; but only by behaving differently ourselves. By updating our own attitudes and habits and seeing that we are not falling foul of subversive messages embedded in some of our cultural behaviours.

We need to start a change. Educate our children to behave with conscience. Make sure they feel loved and cared about not by what we buy them but by what we do, by the principles we uphold and the things we place value upon. That they understand through our actions that love is not connected to money or consumerism.

And one way of starting that is by thinking about, and talking about with your children, what kind of mark you’re going to make – or not – in pollutive terms!

You don’t have to be Sir David to mark your own special difference!

Have you the skills to home school?

It often surprises me to hear parents, who’ve made a damn good job of being a parent, say they haven’t got the skills to home educate.

I’m surprised because at a simple level, home educating is really just an extension of your parenting skills. It’s just most haven’t seen it like that.

Of course, parenting isn’t exactly simple – we know that. But since you’re already on your way with it, you can extend what you’ve already learned about parenting into home educating with relative ease as it contains all the same elements; conscious attention to your child, trial and error approaches, patience and empathy, understanding and encouragement. And research – as much as asking your friends, other parents, home educators and through online forums as academic stuff.

Encouraging learning is simply an extension of your parenting skills

It’s a bit like what you were forced to do when your baby came and up-skittled your recognisable world. What a steep learning curve that was! But you did it. You didn’t teeter or waver or hang indecisively about on the edge of parenthood, wondering whether you should parent or not. You were thrown in the deep end and learnt as you went along. You connected with other parents, read, went online, shared problems, found solutions. When your baby’s born there’s no should-we-or-shouldn’t-we, you just got on with it. And you’ve grown enormously I would guess, certainly in experience. Experience teaches and develops confidence.

You can do that with home education. You can jump right in – probably after a little preliminary research as you no doubt did before the first baby, learn as you go along, connect with others and find the answers you need.

There is such a treasure trove of information and support in online forums, blogs, websites, social media sites which also lead to physical groups and meet ups. Like with parenting you can sift advice, copy what others do, try out approaches, review, modify and adapt to make things work for you. The more you’re in it the more you’ll understand about it, how different learning approaches work and what works for you.

We develop many skills as we parent our 0 – 5 child. We teach them many skills too. You don’t need ‘qualified’ parent status to do so.

The simple truth is we don’t need a ‘qualified’ educator status to extend those skills into facilitating our child’s further learning. We can begin with the skills we have already that are based in our parenting; care, encouragement, communication, curiosity, inspiration, respect, interest in learning. These are the skills we need more than any other. From these all the more complicated stuff will grow and develop.

Any interested parent who is caring and engaged and respectful can extend their parenting skills into home educating skills. It’s as simple as that.

So, if you think you’re one of those that believe they haven’t the skills to home educate, maybe think again!

Home education…never once regretted

September melancholy!

It’s a while since our home education days, even longer since my youngsters were at school in the early days, but that doesn’t stop that sense of melancholy come September. It has a sense of ending; ending summer; ending holidays; ending of freedom from school, it seems entwined with our culture.

When home education came into our family life it brought with it a whole new sense of joy about September, about our continued educational freedom, albeit tinged with a sense of sadness for those who were going back to school.

I know not everyone feels this. But when we started home educating after a brief spell doing school it was nothing but joy that ours weren’t among them.

So if you’re standing on the cusp of making that decision yourself, or having a bit of a wobble about it, I wanted to share the fact that we never once regretted it.

Of course, that’s not to say it was without wobbles and doubts at times. But then, don’t we always have those throughout our parenting over all the things we do?

Some of our wobbles are described in our story ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. But I also describe the antidote to some of these. And that was to remember how you got here and why you want to make the decision in the first place.

There are so many reasons parents choose to home school – almost too many to mention. They range from the philosophical distaste of the systematic and prescriptive style of learning in a school, the one-size-fits-all approach to make the child ‘fit’, lack of attention to individual learning needs, to the more personal like disrespectful relationships (and I include the adults in that), bullying, too much noise and hubbub (and there’s nothing wrong with children who don’t like that!) and the destruction of personality and the desire to learn, sometimes the destruction of good health and well being too.

Education and learning should be a liberating and life-enhancing experience. Schooling has made it into the opposite for many learners. That’s not because of a ‘fault’ with the child as the powers that be would like us to believe, it is because of a fault with the system and its blindness to a broader, variable approach to learning.

So if you’re having wobbles and doubts just remember that.

Also remember that were your children in school you would also be facing dilemmas and challenges and worries, they’re not just exclusive to home educating. You have no more chance of ‘ruining’ your children than schools do. In fact there is less chance because you’re keeping your eye on your individual who can become lost in mass schooling. You can review and adapt your style of learning to suit your child’s and family’s (ever changing) needs (schools don’t do that). And you can make education a broad and life enhancing opportunity for your youngster to grow, life long. Which is what education should be.

With all the online facilities and opportunities to network and connect with others now, and with Covid concerns, home education is growing and growing. Real home schooling is not the same as school-at-home (post here). It is a successful and liberating approach to learning and educating in it’s own right which thousands have been practising for years – long before Covid.

And as well as ourselves, I didn’t come across anyone else who regretted doing it either. The only thing I did regret perhaps, was not doing it sooner!

What do you really know about home education?

What do you really know about home education?

I ask this question because there are so many stories surrounding it. Including less than accurate stuff in the media often based around those untrue myths. Add on to that the debacle of school-at-home style of home schooling that was forced onto parents during the pandemic and the concept of real home education has become quite blurred.

So I thought I’d put a few ideas here in case you were considering this approach to your child’s education in preference to school.

Firstly, did you know that there are thousands and thousands of families now successfully and happily home educating?

And did you know that most home schooled children go on to make a success of their education, career, life in the same way school children do, despite not having been in school for all those years?

Did you know that home educating doesn’t have to cost the earth and parents on very low incomes, including single parents, still manage to do it? Throwing money at a child does not make them educated!

Did you know that home educating children make friends, have friends, have a vibrant social life and socialise competently just as others do?

Did you know that there is a huge wealth of learning resources, lessons, curriculum, courses, printouts, both free and otherwise, available on line? You can literally find out anything.

Did you know that families never home educate in isolation (unless they choose to) and that there are broad networks of others to connect to that share resources, concerns, to learn from and find support via social media and other organisations which also lead to physical meet-ups and groups to get together with?

Did you know that as much home schooling takes place outside the home as in it and your community is full of resources to facilitate it?

Did you know that contrary to what many parents may worry about, being with the children all the time tends to improve their family relationships?

Did you know that parents are free to choose whatever approach to education suits their child’s needs? This could involve following a curriculum – or not, following age specific targets and objectives – or not, adopting either a structured or completely autonomous approach, or proceeding with complete flexibility according to your individuals’ interests and the way they work best.

Did you know that it is completely legal, in fact it is the legal responsibility of the parents to see that their children are receiving an education suitable to their needs (see the law here), it’s just that most parents hand that over to schools? (I wonder how many schools get away with breaking the law in failing to provide that for some children?)

Did you know that most home educating families never use testing in their approach, yet home schooled children successfully go on to achieve a good educational standard, go on to further and higher education or work without having done a test at all, and cope competently within those more formal settings? Testing does not make an education.

And finally consider this; home educating families are not weird or different or unable to participate in mainstream life, just because they don’t do mainstream school. They are just the same as any other family wanting to do the best for their children and that best may take a myriad of different forms yet all the home educated youngsters I’ve known have progressed into the working world just the same as their school contemporaries.

So if you want to know more, take a look at my books, Google some of the home educating blogs and groups (Facebook’s a good place to start) and connect with others to find out how it happens. And you can read our own story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which will give you an idea of a home educating life and hopefully make you giggle!

You cannot force a child to learn…

I’m working on sharing ideas with pictures right now – I know it gets boring wading through print all the time!

Here’s my latest thought:

It’s something that most people never think about, as they threaten dire consequences to force kids to learn with sayings like; you’ll never have a life if you don’t do exams, or; you’ll fail in life if you don’t do your school work, or; if you don’t learn this now you’ll never have another chance. All complete balderdash – I’ve seen the opposite happen!

And anyway threats like this don’t work because, although children may be giving the impression of taking it in, it’s absolutely true that:

All you can do is provide the right environment, nourishment and encouragement; physical, mental and spiritual, give their roots and limbs room and time to expand and grow and connect, and let go….