Tag Archive | A Funny Kind of Education

Home Educating and just needing a little bolster?

I well remember how daunted you can feel when home schooling. It’s incredibly exciting and inspirational but daunting just the same!

So I thought I’d repost this; knowing that is often the most simple – but less obvious – advice that helps the most, hoping it will bolster you up whether you’re starting out or been doing it awhile.

–          Keep light and flexible.

We are almost conditioned to get heavy over education. Worried. Intense. Objective led. Future obsessed. That’s how education has been seen throughout the decades. This isn’t the best way forward because whilst we are intensely pushing to specific objectives, we are often wearing blinkers and missing incidental learning that is happening all the time, here and now. Learning is just as effective when it happens by incidental experience as it is when it was planned. For example; did you need intense objectives to learn how to use your mobile? No – you just experienced it. Could other things be learnt the same way? Definitely! Focus as much in the here and now, making it a good learning experience.

–          Be patient.

You cannot force an education any more than you can force a child to grow. You have to nurture it instead. This takes time. Just because your child cannot grasp something now doesn’t mean they’ll never grasp it. Ignore the concept of achieving things by certain ages – kids will get there in the end. Time needs to pass by. Sometimes you have to leave it alone.

Relaxed and happy approaches work very well!

–          Relax and enjoy.

Who says education has to be all hard work to be effective? It doesn’t. Conversely, an enjoyable education is very effective. A child who learns in an environment that is relaxed and happy will achieve far more of use to living a successful life than one who is hung up about learning. If you’re hung up about learning, it hampers your whole life. Enjoy your children; enjoy showing them this wonderful world and the skills they need to live in it. That’s what education is for.

–          Remain open minded.

The traditional practices associated with learning in schools are so ingrained in us it’s hard to believe that any other approach could work. It does. Lots of approaches work. Learning through play being one of them (think phone again). Another simple example: children can learn maths on the settee, lying on the floor, in the car, in the chip shop, going round the supermarket, just as well as sitting at a desk. It’s only adults who think they can’t!

–          Remember why you’re doing it!

One sure thing that gave me big wobblies about our home educating was focussing on schools and the way they did things, instead of focussing on why we were opting to do something different. Most HE parents want their children to be happy, learning, achieving – if yours are doing so you don’t need to worry what other school children are doing. For example; there will be thousands of children who went to school during the years my two and their HE friends were home schooling, but they and ours have all ended up in roughly the same place at the same age. Different pathways; same results…although it turns out the home school children seem to know a lot more despite not sitting in classrooms all day.

Funny that!

Read just how terrified I was, how we got through our first few years and exactly what is was like living a home educating life in my story ‘A FUNNY KIND OF EDUCATION’. See the Books page for details.

Don’t be put off Home Educating; it’s not the same as school at home!

The school closures have completely changed family life. And made it very hard for many I imagine. Must be challenging trying to get the kids to do school work at home. Like permanent homework and I know how hard some parents find that!

As a former home educator you’d think I could offer some advice on how to tackle it. But I can’t really, apart from what’s in the last few blogs, and that’s because home educators rarely do school-at-home.

School-at-home; i.e. following a prescriptive set of tasks set by schools designed to do in a school environment, is wildly different to the learning life you get into when you home educate. Even the title home education, as opposed to home school, defines a difference. (Explained here)

Home Educating has a completely different ethos of learning, educating and raising a child. Basically it’s a DIY education, not one doing school work hand outs, which is what many are doing now and think of as home educating. And contrary to what people think about the kids being tied to apron strings it makes for a more self directed, independent and diversely thinking learner and adult and is something the whole family can get involved in which in no way represents the prescriptive teaching of a classroom.

However, if this period of doing without school has made you want to reconsider home educating – and you can do that whatever age your children are – then there are three of my books that take a deeper look at it.

Learning Without School Home Education’ answers all of the common questions about it; how to start, what it’s like, how kids learn, what about socialisation, what about tests and exams etc.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is an autobiographical story which illustrates the journey into and through the home educating life. It’s an easy, fun, family read, rather than an educational tome of a book no one wants to read, but still has lots of tips and thought provoking ideas that’ll set you thinking. This is the book that many have told me convinced them they wanted to home educate. Some lovely reviews on Amazon!

A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’ is a collection of pieces which again address all the common issues that home educating families face as they progress into it, with reassuring tips and stories from one who’s been there and how they dealt with it. A Home Ed bedside book it’s been called!

The ‘My Books’ page on this site gives more details and snippets from the books too. They’re all available on Amazon.

Meanwhile you might also find my little YouTube talk interesting.

So take a look and let me know what you think – and what you decide. If you message me in the comments below I always try and respond. I also have a Facebook page which I respond to when I get round to it!

Meanwhile, I hope you and the kids are doing okay and finding ways to survive! It’s just as tough for current home educators not going out as, also contrary to what people generally think, home education is more out of the home than in it!

So we’re all waiting for a lift in Lockdown!

To all mums everywhere

I guess there’s a few disappointed mums not getting to see their precious ones today because of the virus – I’m the same.

But it’s made me realise I have been so blessed!

Not only was I blessed with my own mum with whom I had such a wonderful relationship, but I also have a joyous relationship with my own children. Yes – they still speak to me even after being home educated! 😉

In addition to that I feel blessed because I know it’s a joy that not everyone has the opportunity to feel. I’m doubly lucky.

My relationship with my own mum whom you may have read about in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (see the Books page for more details) was filled with non judgemental friendship, warmth, love and unfailing support, with a helping of unorthodox fun thrown in. And respect too, which is of course manifest in all of those.

And through that relationship with her I had a good insight into how to be that kind of mum to my own children, how to grow that kind of unity, build the same strengths. I feel we’ve gone far in doing that, my grown up children tell me regularly, their loving and respectful actions speaking far louder than anything they may tell me.

Mumhood is incredibly tough – which is why I felt compelled to write a book about it. (See the Books page)

If you were to write a job description it would be nearly a book in itself. And probably no one would apply! It’s the longest job you ever do and in my eyes all mums are incredible for doing it. All mums are incredibly important – even though most don’t feel like it. But the whole world depends on them and I show exactly how in my ‘Mumhood’ book.

But to paraphrase that; it’s mostly the mums (and I acknowledge many dads do too), who are doing the basics of raising the next members of society, the next custodians of the planet, the next Ghandi or Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough, or maybe some small insignificant and unheralded being (in those terms), who will make just as significant a contribution as those more well known, who can send ripples of good we can’t foresee across the pool of the human race. That’s what mums have the potential to do.

And this blog is in celebration of that work which mums do which for the most part goes unnoticed and unrewarded yet is the most important job in the world. It’s in acknowledgement of the sacrifices mums make, the strength they have, the love they bring to the world, as they do their stuff.

So whether you’re treating your own mum, or being treated by your own children, think on that! And use it as an opportunity for you to celebrate the worth of all mums everywhere.

Enjoy it. Commemorate it. Pass it on! And I wish you all the joy and blessings that I have had.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Driving Home for Christmas

I’ve got Chris Reas’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ blaring out, creating a bit of atmosphere whilst I try and wrap pressies. I say try, because it’s a case of smoothing out all the old paper I’m reusing and jiggling the salvaged bits together round the parcels. It’ll be either brown paper or newspaper next! Magazines can be quite colourful. Fabric also works.

I know I’m good at wrapping parcels because my cookery teacher told me back in the day when I was self-consciously sixteen and painfully at school.

“You’re making sausage rolls not wrapping parcels” she admonished snootily and very loudly – to degrade me in front of my mates. My face flamed. Now there’s a lesson in how not to teach for you! I still don’t know how to make sausage rolls – never do – don’t care much. But being canny with pressies – now that’s an art!

Moving on; I used to have this tune playing in my car when I was doing just that; driving home for Christmas. Now it’s my girls who are doing the ‘driving home’; yep driving, in their own vehicle. Who’d have thought it? Bet you never think that far ahead!

During those home educating days it was tricky at Christmas. You don’t have those hours when the kids are out of the house at school, like other parents do, to keep the Christmas secrets. We became quite resourceful and I described many of the funnier moments in my joyful memoir; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ along with one season when I had to grapple Santa’s trousers…but I’ll leave you to read the book to find out why! Happy Home ed times which have made our memories!

Now they’ve moved on, I have the opportunity every day to wrap pressies, secrete surprises, and easily keep Christmas secrets, no trouble. And they’re the ones driving home for Christmas this year.

As no doubt yours will be when this wonderful home edventure is done and they’re all grown up. Unimaginable I know, but happens to us all.

Like we did you’ll currently be busy making your own wonderful memories, filled with love, that will keep the adult kids forever driving home (Train or bus does just as well :))

Insulting!

Still giggling! Lovely to be with those girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ again!

It’s always so lovely to spend time with the girls. Those two lovely beings I’ve blatantly used as material in my books and blogs about home education!

My saving excuse is that they did know I was doing that, so kind of gave their permission, and I did it with good reason – to support all the other families coming along the home schooling road behind.

Your kind hearted comments tell me that it does. Thank you!

One story that I told was when Chelsea was about 14 and at her drama group along with other youngsters who were in mainstream school. (Ironically, she teaches it now!) Someone commented, after hearing she was home educated, that ‘you couldn’t tell’ and we had a laugh over that! Mostly at the suggestion that she wasn’t weird or double headed as some people seem to think home educators are bound to be. She was home educated and still ‘fitted in’; surprise, surprise! So in a sense I suppose that was reassuring.

However…

Recently we were able to spend time all together again. Now in their mid twenties, we still have the giggles and the fun, although the conversations are a lot deeper. And the content of that story came up again, as it’s a comment still commonly received even in adulthood, but Chelsea has a very different attitude to it now.

In the light of so many minority groups who are different, like those who come under the LGBTQ+ umbrella for example, she feels very strongly that none of us should have to either defend or justify the way we are – home schoolers included. Everyone should be more open and inclusive.

And in relation to the fact she was home educated, she finds it offensive to equate that with an expectation of someone being ‘weird’ just because of it.

She says she is a person who may be described as different to many others in that she is very creative, confident, fairly feisty and chooses a entrepreneurial working lifestyle, which is unlike the mainstream lives many others choose, often lacking the courage to do so. If that makes her weird, so be it. But she finds it insulting to imply that home education is to blame.

She looks at it this way; there are plenty of ‘weird’ people who have been through school yet no one thinks to blame their educational past – i.e. school – as a reason for it. And this attitude is more a reflection of people’s discriminatory narrow mindedness, and is in complete contradiction to the inclusiveness society is aiming for. It’s incredibly insulting and she’s not prepared to put up with it.

Consequently she puts people straight!

We thought we’d share that with you in case you’d like to use the argument if ever you needed to!

Feeling grateful….

I can’t tell you how grateful I was last week to recieve another warmhearted message about my book ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’:

A Funny Kind Of Education is amazing!!! I’m speeding though it with pure delight, laughing and enjoying every moment. Your book speaks to me, explaining everything I think and feel about learning and education and schooling – the humour and love explode from the pages!!!”

Wow!

You’ve really no idea how rewarding it is to receive that – unless of course you’re also one of the people who’ve sat for hours scribbling in isolation, wondering if it’s worth the bother!

So I am immensely grateful when readers take the time to let me know they’ve been moved by my books and how helpful they’ve been. This review was particularly rewarding because it saw the book as a family book – as much as a home education one – and that’s what I like to think it’s mostly about. And that it was readable; so many books about education – and this is about education – bore you rigid. I know that feeling; I’ve read a few, and even though am passionate about the subject, it’s rare to read one that’s engaging.

Although the other books I’ve done to support home educating families; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘Learning Without School’ (see the Books page for more details) contain more general information and tips, this seems the most popular and certainly was my favourite to write.

If you’ve read and enjoyed it, (or any of them) and have a moment to leave a review of it on Amazon or around your networks I’d be most grateful. Not just because I’ve got a big head and like to feel reassured I haven’t been wasting my time! But more importantly because it helps spread awareness of this approach to educating and supports others who may be struggling in the system looking for an alternative. And if you’re a new mum, you might find my ‘Mumhood’ one helpful too!

But whether you review or not, this is still a VERY BIG THANK YOU for having supported what I do by reading my books.

Read the real truth about home educating

There are still so many misconceptions about home education so I thought it was worth another airing as some might find it reassuring. And often over school holidays there’s renewed interest in this alternative educational option:

You can feel people’s resistance come up like a prickly shield when you mention home education. It seems to provoke the same fear as if you’d suggested jumping off Big Ben – ‘couldn’t possibly do that’!

Which is actually where many home educating families start too, but they’re forced to move from a position of ‘couldn’t possibly do that’ to ‘we’ve got to do something’. Because despite the government conveniently labelling home education as ‘elective’, for most parents it isn’t. Many parents they are forced into trying anything to save their children from dire circumstances in school, both personal and academic.

Most home educating families are just ordinary families trying to do the best for their kids. Most are not elite, or alternative, extremist or ignorant. But the government obviously thinks we need watching because they’re desperate to collect us all on a register and confine us within the same school-style boundaries and systems that made us home educate in the first place. And they do it because of fear. Because of the same outdated ignorance many folks have towards a learning style that thousands of families are now finding extremely successful.

I’m hoping that some of this ignorance will be eradicated. It needs to be because many children need the choice of this alternative to school. For some, home educating changes academic failure into success. It changes nil self-esteem into confidence. And in some desperate cases it probably even saves lives.

Learning can occur in a myriad of different ways not just the way they do it in school. It’s about time the success and value of home education was recognised. It’s about time ignorance was replaced with some of the true facts. Facts like:

  • Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work or businesses like other children do. Their academic, social and personal skills are reputed to be in front of those of their school peers.
  • Home educated children are not isolated or invisible. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills.
  • Thousands of families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
  • Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
  • Home educating families are as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
  • Home educated children usually achieve the same outcomes, if not better, than children in schools.
  • Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
  • In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

Feel free to share around as much as possible, most particularly to those who continue to lack understanding!

And to see how it works at family level, check out my home schooling books.

 

Don’t let curriculum suffocate creativity

There’s an exhibition about the work of Quentin Blake touring the country at the moment and I was lucky enough to see it.

If you’re not sure who he is just think about your Roald Dahl books, as most of us are familiar with his work through his illustration of them – the BFG or Matilda being among them. Quentin Blake also produces his own books in collaboration with John Yeoman.

I suspect most parents who’ve read a Roald Dahl book to their kids will be familiar with Blake’s beautiful scribbly drawings, the characters and their expressive faces clearly displaying the emotion and telling parts of the story the writer cannot with simple words! He is extremely clever.

The beauty of his drawings when you consider them as art works, particularly as an example to our children, is that they’re not exact representations of what people actually look like. They’re better than that – and showing so much more as such.

And why that’s important is this: people get so hung up about drawing and trying to make something actually look like the object being drawn – rather than making their own personal representation of it, their own art work. And this inhibits so many creatives, puts a stop to many people being creative when they’re feel their work is no good. When they’re judged.

Our daughter was seven when she was told that by a teacher in school; that she’d drawn something badly, (?!! at 7 for goodness sake!!!) and it took her a long time to recover from that and begin once more to practise her creativity in its many forms, as part of her home education. (The tale is told in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

No art work is wrong or bad! Any art work or creative endeavour in whatever form is incredibly personal, and incredibly individual. That’s the whole point of it and why it’s so special – no one else could do it the same as you. ‘Wrong’ doesn’t come into it!

Although skills can be learnt through studying technique or understanding materials and marks, the raw creativity and imagination needed to produce drawings and artwork of any kind is unique to an individual and should never be made to ‘fit’ or ‘look like’ anything else necessarily. Original expression is inherent in each of us and needs to be nurtured as such not inhibited by comments such as my daughter received. And that’s a great flaw in curriculum in relation to creativity; if we’re not careful curriculum can be the death of it. Curriculum diktat ruins originality. It can stop you being creative and thinking outside the norm with your education too!

Children and young people need encouragement to create. Especially when these days they’re more practised at holding a console than a pencil. But essentially creativity is the foundation of many valuable skills that can be transferred across education, and enhances brain development far more broadly than learning times tables for example.

Anyone can learn times tables – they already exist. But creative endeavours are unique to each individual, who knows what will be created, and they play an essential part in the perpetuation of our species and our planet. Read this to see why. We need creative skills like we need air! It’s an irreplaceable part of the educational process.

So drawing, painting, modelling, telling stories, drawing stories like Quentin Blake, scribbling, doodling, all develop part of our children’s intelligence in a way nothing else can. Along with being creative in how you curate education!

I suggested our daughter spent some time ‘drawing badly’ to get over those remarks!

And I suggest you encourage your kids to draw in whatever style suits them, like Quentin Blake draws in his own distinctive style.

You never know, you might have another Blake in the making!

The longest job…tips for surviving!

Being a mum was the longest job I ever had. (Still is!)

It took me a few years to realise the implications of this, when a degree of restlessness was making me twitchy and at times less than happy.

This was absolutely nothing to do with my devotion to my role as a mum, nothing to do with the unconditional love I had for the children (still have), and absolutely nothing to do with the honour and value I attach to the role of being a parent and home educator.

It’s just that before, as an employee, when I got restless in a job I could look to change it, either apply for a new job, a new role, a new venue or some other rethink that refreshed my working life and renewed enthusiasm.

Can’t do that with being a mum! Once a parent always a parent. There’s no changing jobs. And it’s the same with home education – most are in it for the duration.

Of course, we don’t ever not want to be parents or home educators – I’m taking that as a given. But like with any job, it’s inevitable that at times you get bored. But that’s not the fault of parenting or home education, it’s just to do with the human psyche and our own personal needs requiring some attention.

It’s something I do harp on about regularly and I’m not apologising because it’s important; that we should pay attention to our own personal development and fulfilment as much as we are attending to the children’s. Mostly, though, we don’t, we let constraints of time, busyness, budget, practicalities, get in the way. There are so many reasons – or excuses!

So how to change that dissatisfaction that can build up with this long-term job? I found a few ways over the years:

  • Firstly, acknowledge that being happy and satisfied all the time is not achievable. That’s not the reality of life – again thanks to the human psyche. Once we accept that this is the case, we can pause a day or two, accept that this is the case today and nurture ourselves through with gentleness, instead of beating ourselves up about it as we sometimes do!
  • Happy and satisfied are also not finite objectives, but an ongoing changable process of development with ups and downs, moods, and mishaps and mistakes we have to learn how to deal with.
  • We can learn to deal with them by trial and error with things like distractions and contrasts; relaxing activities versus busy activities, creative activities, getting outdoors, using green spaces, sports, watching a good film, meeting others.
  • Then plan some time that is exclusively devoted to your own personal activities/work/pursuits that do not involve the children, where you develop a mutual respect between you of time to be left to your own business and they have to get on without you. (There’s a funny scenario where I start this described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘) This is not neglecting the kids, it’s teaching them the valuable skill of getting on independently.
  • Look at ways of changing your home education routines. Look at the bits that work. The bits that don’t work. Kids grow and change all the time and we sometimes don’t notice that everyone’s needs have altered since we started and so we need new approaches to accommodate them. You might need to back off more these days!
  • If you’re fighting with the kids all the time, change how you approach them and their learning. It also may be you’re simply just tired. Check out your reasons – rather than theirs!
  • Remember that circumstances always change with time. Difficulties pass. And if you can find ways to navigate the tricky restless times you will be passing on that valuable skill to your children too.
  • Don’t blame either yourself, your parenting, or home education. Blame is being reactive. Instead investigate pro-active ways to make changes and discuss it with the kids and others.
  • So make exclusive time where you get to go out without youngsters and talk about your dissatisfied bits and share ways of getting through them with other adults. Find out what others do to fulfil their needs and their time management that enables them to do so.

    Make something – even if it’s just an impression!

  • I once read that a day always feels better when you’ve made something. That’s so true – try it – whether a loaf or a cake, a photo or a painting, a difference – by changing a room round perhaps or different habit/routine, a discovery, or even footprints in the mud! Try it!,
  • Remember that the kids are learning all the time, whatever you do – or don’t do.
  • There is a whole chapter devoted to looking after yourself in ‘A home Education Notebook‘. It’s that important.

In our rapidly changing culture we rarely stick at anything for long. Parenting and home education is something that we have to stick at for years and years. However, there will many changes that occur throughout those years, some naturally, some through the course of time, some you can implement yourself. You just have to pay attention to the need for them. Restlessness and dissatisfaction is often a sign you haven’t!

If you’ve developed strategies others might find helpful please share in the comments below.

Raise your voice…

I didn’t realise I liked to chat so much!

I recently spent several days trying to but I had no voice due to a nasty infection. Trying to say anything was a struggle.

It’s amazing how much you want to say when you can’t. And it’s very funny being out and about in the shops. I tried to avoid saying anything, just whispered the occasional thank you which often went unheard and people thought was very rude judging by the looks I got. But when I did manage to whisper a request they leaned in closer and started whispering back!

It reminded me of a day’s teaching I spent without a voice. I sat the children close, looking at me in amazement and somewhat apprehensively – kids hate you to be different in any way. Then, when I got their attention, I proceeded to whisper the predicament I was in and how I needed their help, how they’d have to be extra quiet to hear me and keep their eyes on me so I could wave, rather than raise my voice, in order to say something.

They were wonderful. And it was the quietest day I ever had in the classroom. They were soon all whispering too.

And it taught me a valuable lesson about learners; kids don’t have to be shouted at in order to learn. Shouting isn’t required in the learning relationship.

It’s also an important lesson for parents too – shouting isn’t required for parents to parent effectively, although judging by how some behave you’d think it was.

In fact, shouting isn’t required in any relationship. And if your kids are seeing you shout – at each other for example – then they’ll think it’s okay to shout in the relationships they build. No relationships require shouting. Relationships need communication in respectful ways in order for them to flourish. And shouting at the kids causes stress and can even affect their health.

If you drop something heavy on your foot, or your phone in the toilet, by all means have a good shout. And even though it doesn’t solve the problem it’s supposed to be therapeutic along with a flurry of swear words!

From ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ chapter 19

But if the kids are winding you up and you feel your own personal tantrum coming on, take some time to go elsewhere and have a good shout, where it’s not directed at anybody, certainly not at them. (You can read about my own tantrum in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ chapter 19 – not pretty).

If you don’t shout your household will generally be the quieter for it. And as adults we should be finding other ways to defuse our pent up frustrations and anger.

Otherwise raise your voice only in song! Shouting in family life isn’t required.