Home education has brought me closer to my teen!

Back in January a parent got in touch with me about her fourteen year old, the effect that school was having on her, and their desire to home educate. After swapping advice and encouragement at the time, I hadn’t heard from her until recently when she sent me an update.

It’s so inspiring to read how others have progressed that I asked her permission to post it here in the hope of inspiring you all too.

This is what mum Jacqui said in January:

I deregistered my 14 year old daughter Katie who is in year 9 at the end of last term. Katie simply wasn’t coping well with the upcoming exam pressure and found the way things are taught these days was unstimulating and she was constantly comparing her work with her peers and feeling downhearted.
She had begun to have panic attacks and we came to a joint decision that home ed would be better for her.
I replied to the LA when they asked for a form to be filled in and a visit. I declined to fill in the form as it didn’t seem applicable to where we are at the moment and I asked for a six month settling in period and told them I would use this time to follow Katie’s interests and get out and about.
The only problem is I have a constant nagging voice(my own), telling me we need to get going with something more structured, although I think this may turn Katie off. I guess I fear that when the LA do get back in touch I will have little or nothing to show to them.
We are hoping that Katie can do level 1 photography and GCSE maths and English at a local college in September, at the moment she is ok with this.
I have read both your books; A Funny Kind of Education and Learning Without School and would very much value your thoughts on a possible way forward.

(I responded to this letting her know her rights with regard to the LA and what they’re not allowed to do, and suggested that she allowed Katie to follow her interests and try and ignore her nagging voice!)

And here is her update this month:

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

I was just looking back to when we began home educating Katie and read through my original comment on your Blog page and your kind, encouraging response.
I just thought I would send you a quick update on how things have progressed for us. We began with quite a structured approach as Katie said she was used to working to a timetable and felt better knowing what to expect each day. Well this didn’t last for very long and over time we have found ourselves much more Autonomous and it’s been lovely to see Katie’s creative juices start to flow again.
During the year we have visited the beach, Eureka, local historic halls, The Beatles experience in Liverpool, Nature reserves, paddled in rivers, parks, attended a Classical concert, the cinema and lots more. We have also consumed huge amounts of cake, hot chocolate and milkshake in too many coffee shops to mention!
Katie has taken a real liking to baking, photography and playing the Ukulele and Keyboard (all self taught).
Another positive to Home ed is how much closer we have become, and I truly believe that because of the extra time we’ve spent together we have a greater respect for each other and our separate interests, we have of course had our fair share of disagreements too (mostly because of my anxiety over having to be ‘doing something productive’ to collect as evidence for the LA).
One of the funniest moments was when I saw an ad for a local minibus company offering ‘local days out’ I rang and booked us on a trip to Whalley Abbey, only had to pay half price for Katie and they said on the phone they offered a door to door service, all seemed too good to be true. Well the day arrived and we were kindly ushered onto the bus, to find there wasn’t a passenger under the age of seventy and I’ve never seen so many zimmer frames in one place in my life. Katie’s face was a picture and she hasn’t let me off the hook yet!
If you remember I was rather concerned about the upcoming visit from the LA. I gathered together lots of photographs, my diary and a small amount of Katie’s work, we chatted for a while and I explained that Katie isn’t a fan of writing anything down unless she can see a point to it, which he seemed to understand. Anyway in the end he said “Well I think I’ve seen quite enough and taken up enough of your time.” He seemed quite satisfied and is happy to leave us be for another twelve months.
Katie has begun a photography course one day a week at a local college and so far so good. Many thanks again for your earlier advice. I have added you to our FB page ‘Lost in Education’ Congratulations also on your new book ‘A home education notebook’,  I had it on reserve on Amazon and it sits by my bed ready for me to dip into at anytime.

Grateful thanks to Jacqui and Katie for sharing their story with us.

Let’s meet at the Home Education Fair

I’m excited to be going to the Home Education Fair in London this year.

It’s on Sunday 2nd of October from 11am till 3pm, and offers an opportunity to meet home educating parents, get some information, listen to talks and even have tea and cake!

The full details are on their website here: https://sites.google.com/site/homeeducationfair/

If you’re in London and want to learn more about home education and meet some of the lovely people doing it, do come along. And come over and say hello to me on my book stall too! It’d be lovely to meet you.

London 2016 poster

Picture from edyourself.org

When your Home Ed child wants to try school

Some children thrive well in school. Schools are a valuable and necessary route for many families.

You may be surprised to hear me say that given that I’m all for home education and work to raise awareness of it and support parents wanting to home school their children.

But I’m not one of those home educators who’s dead against school whatever. It’s the systematic, conveyor-belt style of schooling offered to us as education, which attempts to make kids all the same and expects them all to perform all the same, that I’m against. And I personally abhor some of the methods used by generalised school approaches (like recent backwards move to grammar selection) to reach targets that seem nothing other than political. But that’s just a personal opinion.

The idea of schools as a place to go and learn in inspirational ways with inspirational guidance from enthusiastic others, alongside friends, is a good one. It’s just that this idea doesn’t manifest itself as reality in many cases, thanks to an obsession with measurement, testing, politics, ignorance and disregard for individual learning preferences.

Watching our children wilting in happiness, health, and motivation to learn anything at all when they’d been such inquisitive little beings before school, was what drove our decision to change.

But it was only ever our intention to home educate as long as they enjoyed it. And as they grew older there was always the choice for them to go back and learn as their friends did. Mostly they decided not to, but there was one point where we were thrown by our youngest’s announcement that she fancied trying it, even though she was the one who’d wilted most of all. You can read what happened in the book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’.

Like many home educating parents in this position we saw it as a failure on our part to fulfill her needs.

That was daft; it’s unlikely we could fill all their needs – just as schools cannot – there is no one experience that answers as education. And her curiosity about school (and that’s all it was) showed her intelligent and inquisitive mind which we had nurtured and developed as part of the educational process. And curiosity and a willingness to try things out is a good thing – even if it is school they want to try. We should rather be congratulating ourselves than bemoaning it.

If your child is going through a stage like this you have to keep an open mind of your own – hard though it may seem. And congratulate yourself on your intelligent child and their ability for curiosity and decision-making. The decision may well be reversed again – as ours did, as did other Home Ed children we knew who wanted to try school too. Many families use school for one and homeschool other children effectively But it’s important to respect their ideas, keep on talking about it with them, learn what you can about what they’re thinking, discuss their options, and hang in there!

For being rigidly against school can be as institutionalising an attitude as the one which school users sometimes display towards home educators when they’re having a go, isn’t it? The rather bigoted one we sometimes come across among those members of the public who don’t really understand home schooling or how successful it is.

All decision making as parents is hard. We need to share concerns, find support, and make sure we have a cross section of opinions, to guide us as parents. And meanwhile be brave enough, and open enough, to go with the flow of our children and respect that they will come to grow and know their own minds through experience. Whether that involves school or not.

And though thick and thin we must always stay on their side.

(Do dip into my books for more support and information)

Help with Mumhood and why it matters

“Oh! Have you written a motherhood book too?” said a new friend in surprise.

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‘Mumhood…’ Find it on Amazon; see the link below or read about it on the ‘My Books’ page

I suppose she wasn’t to know I had as we’d made the connection through home educating. And parents visiting here may think home schooling is my first love.

But actually, it isn’t. Parenting, and how important it is, must really be my first love and home education is generally an extension of that. (See my previous post). Therefore championing mums and the essential work they do is very close to my heart.

Mums are among the most important people on the planet. Although I think few acknowledge that fact. But mums do essential work.

What’s that then – some still ask?

Well; it’s only raising the next custodians of the planet, the next generation of scientists or surgeons who may well find the cure for cancer – who knows what their children will do. They may be raising the next politician who’ll find the answer to world peace. Or the next creators who’ll invent a facility as great as the Internet has become. Equally important are the mums raising the children who’ll do other vital jobs like caring or cleaning or teaching or farming, all of whom play a necessary and valid role in our lives. Not to mention the other essential roles mums play in showing children how to care, communicate, be considerate, grow respect, so that those children in turn will contribute to creating caring, respectful societies.

The role mums play in doing that requires time and attention and an example of love. Only by receiving those things will children learn what it they are and how to pass them on. And despite our enlightened age of equality, the truth is that it is mainly the mums who play the biggest part in that.

That’s what mums do. Fantastic or what?

Mums’ roles are constantly changing, as societies and culture and consequently human beings constantly evolve. So we need to be regularly updating our roles as mums and how we want to play them out within the new family group we are creating.

This is something we rarely give a thought to, dropping into our mumhood life, sometimes a little shocked after the birth and often so infatuated with this beautiful new being there’s no time to think! And sometimes, through neglecting to think that stuff out, we lose some of the satisfarction of being mums under the weight of hidden roles that come with it like; laundry maid, cleaning lady, skyvy to partner, general carer and dog’s body. All of which can conspire to make us less than optimistic about this lovely new mum job.

This book investigates these feelings and roles, poses some questions to ask yourself, and makes suggestions in the hope of leading these important mums towards experiencing the most fulfilling and love filled time in our life that being a mum can be!

Find it on Amazon here

Extend your parenting towards home education

If you want to home educate and are not sure you have the skills consider this; home educating is simply an extension of your parenting skills.

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.

Like you were forced to do when your baby came and upskittled 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

A rather grainy one from the archives!

A rather grainy one from the archives! Charley and I pond dipping and you can read how the wellies got painted in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

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 taught them many skills too. You didn’t need ‘qualified’ parent status to do so.

The simply 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, 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, interesting and respectful, can extend their parenting skills into home educating skills. It’s as simple as that.

Surely not grammar schools again?

I’ve got a heavy heart this morning. This is because of the recent news about the government’s desire to take us back into the darker ages of divisive education again, via the grammar school system.

Pupils at Altrincham grammar school for boys.

Can Grammars ever be inclusive? Click on the pic for article.

If ever there was anything so segregating then this is it. I cannot see how it is of any benefit to learners. Only of benefit to those who would be elite – feeding the adult snobbery surrounding education that I’d hoped we were moving away from.

Read the articles here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37311023

For children to learn and succeed they need to be comfortable, encouraged and inspired. That should be happening in all schools. All schools should offer the opportunity for children to flourish whatever background they come from, whatever home, street, cultural climate. Anyone at any time should be able to facilitate the learning they need in order to achieve the ‘social mobility’ they desire, whatever school they are in, whatever part of the country.

Some children are academically able. Some are not – they have other skills and attributes. But are no less intelligent. This is harping back to the days where we didn’t acknowledge these differences and will widen the divide between the academically elite and those whose strengths lie in other skills. I see this as no better than clustering all those with skateboarding skills together in elite schools, just because they have skateboarding skills, and disregarding all those with other skills – it’s as narrowing as that. Put like that you can see how stupid it is. Academic skills are just one set of skills and not the only ones necessary for leading a successful and happy life. We need a range of skills – particularly practical skills – and all skills should be equally appreciated.

All schools should be equal. That should be a given. Area, wealth and circumstance are already vastly unequal – we all know that. Surely, surely, all institutions of education should be places where that’s not relevant, where children will all be treated to the same opportunities for growth.

I see the elitist politicians, living in their elitist enclaves, untouched by the challenges the majority of the rest of us face and I recoil in the face of their ignorance and oblivion and their decisions based in their elitism.

This is just another blatant example of that.

Sad, sad times!

Five common worries parents have before they home educate

Many parents tell me they’d like to home educate but don’t do so because of the same common concerns. Here’s five of them and how to view them differently:

1) I’m not clever enough to teach my children anything.

If you’re clever enough to raise your child past toddler stage, toileting stage, eating stage, speaking stage, you are clever enough to extend those skills you have to their further learning. Because that’s what they’ve been doing with you so far – learning. Everything you’d need to know and understand is online. Every fact your child would need to know is online. The support you need is also online and can lead you to groups and physical meet-ups. You don’t need to be clever. You need to be skilled; as in kind, encouraging, willing to learn and research and happy to give some time to your child. You are probably that already!

2) I worry my child will have no friends

All the home educated children I know and have met have friends. Schools DO NOT have the monopoly on friendships and are not always the healthiest place to forge them. Children make friends at school because they happen to be there. Children make friends wherever they happen to be; park, football, music groups, cubs, gaming, and similar activities and online. They also make friends among the home schooled community through regular meet-ups, family swaps and social events.

3) I’m afraid of leaving the mainstream and feeling isolated.

An important fact: just because you’re leaving mainstream schooling it doesn’t mean you’re leaving mainstream life! You do all the ‘normal mainstream’ things all parents do and integrate with other mainstream families whilst you’re doing it. Isolation comes through lack of communication and connection and is not to do with physical isolation which doesn’t happen anyway – you’re so busy connecting with others. Some of your connections may change – you’ll make new ones. But if the people you are with are making you feel isolated because of your choices or beliefs then I suggest you choose different friends!

4) I’m afraid my kids won’t learn anything

Look at your kids. They’ve learned loads already, without you, without school, without teachers, testing or targets. I bet they know how to game, use their technology better than you do. Kids learn anyway, wherever they are, all the time. give children experiences and they learn from them. They can’t help it. With your guidance and direction they’ll learn even more as you take them places, show them things, talk endlessly about what you’re doing, observe, bring awareness to the world around them – there’s so much to learn about they’d never have the chance for in school. They learn more through conversation than any other way. So chat about; where you’re going, what you’re buying, the route you’re taking, the advertising, produce, budget, work, climate, waste, traffic, whatever. Observing, questioning, discussing is an enormously valuable learning approach that can be formalised with research and study skill practice at a later date. Their brain is an amazing self-organising computer that stores it all away for future reference and extended understanding. Stimulate them and they’ll learn – it’s as simple as that.

5)I’m afraid of how it’ll turn out and the kids failing.

Another important fact: kids fail in school all the time. With home education you cannot fail because if anything isn’t working you can change it. You will learn from other families how to approach it. You will also learn that everyone approaches it differently and that’s okay for we are all different anyway, so we can adapt good ideas to suit our own individual kids and family circumstances. That’s the beauty of home educating. When the children start school we tend to look at it day to day. We don’t really look too far ahead to them being teens, or exams, for example. In fact this is unimaginable when they’re small. It’s best to adopt that view when you start home educating. Take one day at a time. Make it the best you can (and there’ll always be days that are not the best, but that happens in school too doesn’t it!) There’s no point in worrying too far ahead as children constantly change – as does the rate at which they change – but one thing is certain; they never stand still and they never fail to learn.

So relax. Keep in contact with others. Review. Adjust. Keep flexible. Progress with your child. Trust in yourself as an intelligent caring person. That’s all you need to be.

And enjoy it. that’s the best approach of all.

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Buy it at a discount from birdsnestbooks.co.uk this month

(There’s a lot more about worries and wobbles in my new book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Available through the publishers Bird’s Nest Books who are offering a discount on their home education titles this month).