Schooling reminds me of Sat Navs!

It was partly the girls’ comments for my last post on the significance of home educating and partly the sad journey back to the train station as they were leaving that made me think of Sat Nav’s.

And that’s when the similarities struck me.

Sat Nav’s are very useful. But the girls’ remarks about ‘obedience’ and ‘permission’ were still buzzing around in my head, like that automated voice that says; ‘turn around where possible’!

It made me think that although Sat Nav’s have a use, the downside of them is that they can both condition us in a tendency to be obedient and inhibit the growth of our independence, if we’re not on our guard.

Think about it: you soon become a slave to the Sat Nav if you don’t have either the skills to understand a map, or the knowledge that there are other routes and choices should you wish to make them.

The schooling system does the same; it can inhibit you from knowing that there are other routes and other choices in life ahead than those the system would have you obedient to! And the system wants everyone obedient. It much easier for them. Much easier for them to perpetuate their strange ideas about what kids need. Much easier for them to perpetuate their own glorification!

Much easier for them if you have to seek permission to think for yourself, as the girls observed in some people.

Permission.

It’s one of those words that always comes up in Life Coaching or inspirational workshops and techniques? When you’re supposed to give yourself permission to do the things you love, live the lifestyle you want and not be a slave to convention. How many of us are actually unquestioning slaves to convention, so much so that we never even realise? Never even realise that we don’t make many of the choices that we could because, firstly we don’t know they’re there and secondly, we unwittingly feel we haven’t the permission to make them?

Right from being small we are conditioned to be so. Schooling certainly conditions us to be obedient to a certain way of learning, obedient to a future they would set out for us. And before you know what’s happening we’ve lost the skills and the independence to learn any other way (and there are lots of other ways), or the skills to live a life with independent thought and independent choice.

Sat nav’s can be useful. Schools can be useful. Curriculum, courses, workshops, route planners, convention, can all be useful – at times, maybe even a lot of the time.

But we must always encourage our children to see the multitude of choices – some that might be less conventional, to keep a broad and open mind, give them the thinking and reasoning skills to use it through conversations, explorations, experiences, varied activities and exposure to a range of ideas.

And show them how obedience and route planning of any sort is only useful when it is an explored and valid CHOICE.

And when you know that you do have the choice to turn things around when possible, whatever those things may be?

Does home educating ever fade into insignificance?

Thanks everyone for the comments and messages on my last post – most of them coming to me via Facebook and social media, rather than comments here. Whichever way – I always appreciate them.

family giggles!

Facebook groups have become such a fab way of instant support to many parents home educating and I think has increased parents’ confidence in having a go. It’s great for me too, to know that my posts are of help.

I know it seems such a monumental thing to home educate and leave a conventional system behind. But guess what? It does actually fade into insignificance one day. Well – almost.

This week those little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (now in their twenties) are here at home again for a rural holiday and a break from their busy urban working lives. We’ve been enjoying some of our old familiar outings – some that even date back to our Home Ed days! And we got talking – didn’t we always!

“Does home education have any relevance in your lives now?” I asked. We don’t talk about it now – it’s kind of paled into insignificance. But it was really interesting what they had to say.

“Not exactly on a day to day level” answered Charley. “And even when I’ve been applying for jobs it didn’t seem to come up much. Or the fact that I don’t have GCSEs. In fact, some of the bosses can’t have even have read the education bit on my application because they didn’t even know I hadn’t been to school!”

Then she went on to talk about applications she and her colleague are looking at now when staff apply for positions; “In fact, we often don’t look at that part of their CV even though they’re young candidates, we tend to go straight for the bit that talks about the experiences they’ve had relevant to the post. I notice with some of the staff I train that, although I know these employees are very young, they do seem to lack confidence and initiative as if they need permission all the time to do stuff – everything has to be directed so much.” She made that remark because she felt it was a noticeable difference between herself and some of the schooled children. She’d also heard in the past her contemporaries remark that they didn’t learn the useful stuff which she knew whilst they were in school, by which they meant some of the life skills and confidence that showed in her.

Chelsea also picked up on that remark about permission; “I think home education is very relevant day to day in that it taught us to be independent about stuff, in the way we think, especially problem solving, to be resourceful. And most of all I think it’s relevant because I’ve been taught to question and that’s something that seems lacking in some of the young people I come across. The people I teach at drama groups (and some of them are mature people) don’t seem to have these skills. What’s even more noticeable is that they seem to need permission for even having ideas, for being creative and straying from the norm a little. Everything has to be spelled out – as if they daren’t express themselves. Obviously many school kids do have those skills, but in some people I feel they’re less strongly embedded. It’s like they never question or think for themselves without permission. It’s second nature to me!” And she laughed.

“Why do you think it’s important to question then?” I asked.

“If you don’t question you just remain subservient and obedient to what everyone else wants you to do. And questioning is what makes the world progress; if we didn’t question we’d just stand still,” she said.

Good point!

I thought you might be interested to hear those remarks from these two grown up home schoolers.

Insignificance?

It seems, whether it is or not now, home education certainly gives them the ability to think for themselves. How I miss those independent minds – and discussions – now they’ve gone again!

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

Keep talking with the kids…

A bright orangy red beetle flew in through the open cottage door and landed on my notebook! After a good look at it I got up and took it back out to the garden. Then went and looked it up. (I think it might be this one or a cardinal but not entirely convinced – obviously didn’t study it close enough!)

It put me in mind of all the little finds we made when the girls were here home educating and how each would be a cause for study and plenty of conversation.

This was always the way of it when home educating. We discussed everything from the mundane to the mind blowing. In fact, if someone asked how we homeschooled, I’d say; we talked our way to education!

Having conversations about stuff all the time, about what we saw, what we were learning, how things worked, why things were, why people did what they did, why this happened, why that happened, and even why there were no apples left and whose fault that was (see – I did say mundane), has a really valuable effect on their personal development.

Conversations develop thinking, analytical and reasoning skills, language and comprehension, creativity and problem solving, confidence and thought processing. It develops ideas and courage in speaking and expressing them – sorely needed for those vital job interviews, and expands those social skills everyone seems paranoid about homeschooled children lacking. Young people who can talk confidently are far more appealing than those who have nothing to say or the confidence to say it. Those who can converse articulately immediately appear more intelligent and demonstrate more polished social skills, than those who cannot. Extended conversations develop intelligence far more than having reams of written work.

We didn’t do much written work in relation to conversational learning. Writing all the time puts kids off learning. Having conversations, which give the children opportunities to question and discuss in an instant and satisfying way with another adult, exercises the learning brain more effectively.

And it’s far more fun – for them and for you. As long as you’re not guilty of making every little conversation an educational one – which I think I may have done!

I’m not saying there’s never a time for not conversing. Sometimes everyone needs a bit of silence! But don’t think that just because your child is talking instead of writing they’re not learning, they’re not developing, or they not intelligent. They certainly will be. And what’s even better is that it makes them feel worth your time and attention, worth listening to, which increases self-esteem as well.

Talking matures so many of the skills needed to become an intelligent educated person. Spend time on it. Let the writing come later.

Another teacher wants out…

so many now disillusioned with school

It’s not just parents of school children who are disillusioned with the education system and moving away from it. It’s the teachers too as we regularly read about.

And you have to wonder why that is.

I was talking to another young teacher recently who, despite her ‘outstanding’ teaching, was also looking to leave the classroom behind as she’d become so disillusioned with the job.

I asked her why she wanted out. And this is what she told me:

I’m leaving after five years, firstly because of workload. We work from 7:30-5pm Monday to Friday then at least one day spent working at the weekend, plus planning at home during the holidays.

Plans are incredibly in depth for every lesson and to resource and deliver them, with children’s work then assessed and tracked continuously, becomes overwhelming. That’s not to mention the ongoing threat of Ofsted, being observed by senior leaders, the continual change of plans for various visitors and then the complete lack of engagement by parents. Plus this year funding has been cut so drastically that many teachers are spending their own money trying to resource their lessons.

Secondly, there’s just so many lessons being taught everyday that children are being inundated with so much technical information there’s little time to consolidate or reflect. All this is tricky in a well behaved class but when some children in mainstream education have specialist or mental health needs, the teacher must use even more time to differentiate or manage that behaviour which means other children are being left out. The alternative leaves those children who need the most support being looked after by teaching assistants who have the least experience.

Finally and more importantly though, I’m leaving because I just feel that mainstream education, which focuses on attainment and targets and tests, is outdated and doesn’t prepare children for today’s world. I believe that education should be child-led; that it should be brought out of the classroom, yet without another overhaul of the system. I don’t see how that’s possible. So, I can’t stay working to the bone in a system I can’t get behind and I no longer believe in.

So sad that our children are going to lose another inspirational teacher, like so many already lost. (See this article here).

It says an awful lot about the system when, not only do parents feel they want to leave it behind and provide something different for their kids through home educating, but there are so many professionals abandoning it too!

Take back learning from the bureaucrats!

Education is important. I guess all parents would agree.

But how many of you, I wonder, have really thought what education is? How many are not thinking about education at all, but are thinking instead about schooling and qualification. About the systematic and mechanical process in schools that bureaucrats tell us education is.

The majority of people I suspect. But this is not true education and it’s having a disastrous effect on the children. It’s also making education, which should be a broadening, developmental, personal experience, into a tightly mechanised priming of kids for outcomes outside the personal – like school league tables for example.

We can never truly predict the outcome anyway, for kids are never finished – and isn’t education about the kids! And without the development of personable skills, test results and qualifications are useless. Useless to the learner. A bane to teachers. And are stunting our children’s wellbeing, as more and more are heaped upon them. 

Listen to some of Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube. Here’s one. He doesn’t want reform of the old model we already have – he wants something completely different – something more personal – as our kids need. As our world needs.

And it’s time we demanded things to be different, time to make the bureaucrats listen.

Parents could make different decisions about their child’s education.

Not every parent can home educate, but every parent can vote and make their feelings known about the things that concern them in the system.

You could demand that all this testing should stop, for a start, or boycott them. Like this brave head teacher who decided not to do the SATs. Knowing as she does that SATs have little benefit to a child long term, but can be damaging to their generic educational experience.

You could think about what kind of educational experience is important and what you want the outcome to be – in your child, not in terms of qualifications. But in terms of their talent. Speak out at schools. Speak with other parents.

You could tackle your local MP and raise your concerns. Go talk to them at one of their surgeries. Write to the education minister. Join a petition for change.

And you could take a look at your political party’s educational manifestos before you vote.

Stop being so desperate about qualification and ask what qualifies you for a happy life?

Parents have an extremely powerful collective voice. Make your concerns known and take your child’s education and wellbeing back from the bureaucrats.

For most of them don’t understand children’s – or families’ – needs at all.

In sympathy for peace

A picture for peace and empathy

I received my daughter’s text around 2am.

‘We had a good time and we’re SAFE’ it read.

Big relief!

It would be this weekend she chose to be in London for a big gig!

Luckily I hadn’t watched the news before I went to bed last night, otherwise the restless, sleepless, hyper night I occasionally have (hence how I saw the text) would have turned into a living nightmare of worry – my own piece of terror – as the events of the attacks unfolded.

I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the grief parents feel – anyone feels – at losing loved ones in these horrnedous attacks in London and Manchester recently. It must be well nigh impossible to come to terms with the injustice and brutality of the needless loss of those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or understand how anyone can have such disregard for the innocent?

The loss and desperation families must feel is too great to conceive. Their sorrow too huge to contemplate.

Whilst I remain almost guiltily grateful we have been spared, I feel the collective grief and sympathy towards those who were not. Mine, though, must be miniscule in comparison.

How crass and irrelevant it seems to even be thinking about things like blogging, or the election, or education for that matter. Except that you hope that through these means of communication and change we are able to build a better world.

Raising and educating our children in the ways of peace, non-violence, care, love and empathy for others each and every one, regardless of race and beliefs, and for the earth on which we all depend despite our creed, must surely be the abiding core of everything we teach, everything we believe, and above all we practise.

And surely, this practice must be a commitment that is greater than any curriculum, any religion, any political party, greater even than ourselves.

The way we parent and educate is where it starts. There is nothing more important to teach than that.