Tag Archive | A Funny Kind of Education

There’s no ‘right’ way to educate

Children learn best from experiences

Having home educated our children I’m often asked for advice.

I’m no expert – there are many who home educated longer than we did, but I thought I’d offer this post again in the hope you might find some useful tips.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be actively engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be developing. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re collated in one book; ‘A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’, so check it out when you need another lift. And the fun story about the home educating life; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ also has plenty of tips.

The Home Educating Families’ Festival

How many of you are going to the Home Educating Families’ Festival this time? Isn’t it amazing to think that there are so many families out there home educating now they’re the size of a small festival! Even without the many who don’t go!

Not being a festival kinda girl I’ve never been before. But one of the organisers approached me last year with a charming ask so I have agreed to go over and chat to people about home education, answer any questions you’d like to ask and talk a little about the books – especially A Funny Kind of Education and how it came to be. I’ll take a few books across with me too, so you’ll get the chance to buy a slightly cheaper copy!

I’m really looking forward to meeting new people and maybe some of you who have connected with me already. We’ll be able to see each other in the flesh; much better than online! That’s the bit I’m looking forward to most.

Many people get in touch with me and tell me so kindly how I’ve inspired their family’s choices. Well that works both ways; you inspire me too. Every time I meet new families on the home educating path I am inspired also.

So do come and say hello, especially if you’ve connected already and bring any questions you’ve wanted to ask as that’s the kind of session it’s going to be. Although I’d better apologise up front if I don’t remember your online handle and recognise who you are. But even under those circumstances I’ve always so appreciated your warm support.

I’m around on Monday afternoon, between 2 and 4, stage 2. Any concerns; bring them along.

A cuddle on the sofa like we used to do!

She and I having a cuddle!

You know when you’re with the little ones a hundred percent of the time, most particularly when home educating? And you know how you sometimes long for a bit of space for yourself, even though you love them to bits and love home schooling?

Well, I’ve just been with my eldest (Chelsea, from A Funny Kind of Education) one hundred percent of the time, for the last few days, and now I’ve left her in her grown up life again and returned to being one hundred percent of the time without and one hundred percent missing, until it wears off again! And I never imagined that would ever be the case.

One day it will be like that for your family even though it is unimaginable whilst they’re tiny – I know some of you are already reaching that point; when they’re launched into their working lives, living independently with conscience and responsibility, as you raise them to do.

Hard to believe isn’t it?

I’ve had a lovely holiday doing – surprisingly – much of what we did when they were here full time home schooling; picnics, walking, looking at nature, observing things, beach, meeting friends, endless chatting and sometimes just sitting on the sofa having a cuddle like we used to do. I’m glad that neither of us are too old for that!

But instead of that chatter being about infant things, it’s adult chatter, yet just as lovely, better even as we have long, in depth conversations about all sorts of things from clothes to politics, philosophies to mindless giggles! But then I suppose we always did that. And it’s perhaps no surprise at all.

So you see, home education DOES work! These children that learn without school go on to being independent, working people just the same as those who’ve been in school, same as young people everywhere. Thought I’d say just in case you were wobbling today, or someone was criticising you for it.

And I also wanted to tell you that with home educating, there are continual pleasures to look forward to, even when they’re grown.

Home educating just feels so normal!

May using her map

I was recently contacted by Anja, the author and creator of these super little story maps for children: http://taletrails.co.uk/what-are-tale-trails

We were in touch because she and her husband were researching home education and had recently read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. She told me that once they read it they both made the same comment at the same time: ‘it feels so normal’!

I was delighted – as I’d wanted to show home education as a natural way of raising and educating children. Good to hear it’s doing its job.

Following their research, they’ve decided to home educate their daughter May, who’ll be four in July, rather than starting school. So I took the opportunity to ask her about their decision. And about her work creating the Tale Trails.

Anja told me that it was after May started at nursery and never really settled there that they began thinking about it in earnest.

School has been a bit of a stressful topic for the last year and so we started to research other options.

I have always been aware of home education but being an ex-teacher had never considered it. I initially watched YouTube videos that other home educating families had posted online and came across Ross’s. (Click here)

I asked Anja what kind of reactions they’ve had from family and friends about their decision to home educate and how they might approach it.

We have recently told close friends and family that we will be home educating for May’s reception year and that we will take each year as it comes after that. Everyone we have told is supportive and understanding so far. 

I think day to day life will be similar for the first year. We may start introducing some basics if the opportunity arises. May loves baking so weights and measurement always seem to pop up. She already helps me with the maps and children’s stories that I create for Tale Trails so I am sure she will continue to enjoy that! 

Myself and my husband both work part time so balancing family life and work is already well practiced, although it can be tricky at times. Berni is a mountain leader and I write story walks. May often comes out with me to help create maps and stories for Tale Trails and we often go with dad in our campervan and park up beneath the mountain he is guiding on! 

We are planning on moving to an area where other folks are home educating but we will certainly be taking each day as it comes and hope to enjoy living in the moment as much as possible”.

That sounds like a perfect way to approach home educating – with that kind of flexibility and connection with real life and learning which basically happens all the time. It’s clear from the activities May already does with her parents that’s she’s already learning many skills. It’s not necessary to make the sudden dramatic change in style of educating, as occurs when children begin formal school. Education happens continually and organically through an engaged approach to parenting and family life!

The Grumbletrog

Take a look at some of the Tale Trails and see if there’s one for your area. They’re a perfect resource for home educating days out in the field, the children will love the stories and be intrigued by the adventure through the map reading!

I asked Anja what inspired her to do them. She said; “I actually got the idea one day when I was walking with my husband in the Lake district and felt disillusioned with work. He said to me ‘what is it you actually enjoy doing?’ and I said ‘I love exploring new places and creating stories about them’ and he said ‘well just do that then!’ and that was it! I am doing one for Walney island in Cumbria at the moment and wherever folks ask me to do one if it’s a suitable environment. I mainly just do commissions now and I love seeing who contacts me!”

Many thanks to Anja for sharing their story.

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!

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂

 

What do you do with family skeptics?

You’ll know who this lady is if you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

One form the achives of our most cherished supporter

One from the archives of our most cherished supporter

She featured large in the story and the children’s lives. And accompanied us on our educational rambles and expeditions; the regular purveyor of hot chocolate and biscuits as I recount in our story, teamed with twinkle and mischief!

She was the girl’s only grandparent, my mum, and our most ardent supporter, inspiration and comfort. What love and support she brought to our home school days. We were truly blessed.

I’m very aware though, especially as I get asked about the issue, that not everyone gets this support from family when they decide to home educate. And that must be the hardest thing ever.

We did experience skepticism from some family members but it was muted with their respect for us (okay – they thought we were weird and risking it, but they kept those opinions mostly to themselves). But it was nothing to the hostility some families experience and it’s difficult to know how to deal with it. You have to be strong to ride it out.

This is where the home education community, both physical and online, are a lifeline. For basically you’ll need them to be your ‘family’ for the time being. We can’t choose the relatives, but we can choose to create another kind of ‘family’ support and my experience of most other home educating families was that they’d be happy to offer that.

Some other things you can do to keep strong are:

  • Keep your priorities and principles based firmly in what YOU think is best for your family and don’t be persuaded by the scaremongering of others
  • Consequently, do what you do for your child’s sake and not to please others
  • Do some research and arm yourself with informative arguments. If it doesn’t work, ask people to reserve judgement – as you don’t judge them for their life choices
  • However, you don’t have to defend, explain or justify your choices. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing and smile knowingly!
  • There’s no right or wrong way (not counting abuse here) to parent or to educate. Everyone is different and responds differently so you can only do what you feel is right for your circumstances. There are lots of individuals in schools who silently suffer their circumstances
  • Family members may want you to stay with mainstream simply because they are ignorant or afraid of other approaches. That’s not a good enough reason to stay with a system that’s failing your child. Don’t let them push their fears onto you
  • Establish a good group of firm supporters you can turn to when you need it
  • Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re up against with family and how much you welcome their support
  • Witnessing you standing up for what you believe is right is a great example for your child. It will help them stand up to unsupportive family members in their future, if they ever have the unfortunate need to
  • Home education WORKS. There is much proof of that now. Doubters really have no argument!

My mum was surprised-cum-shocked when we told her what we were doing. But she could see the possibilities, could see the kids so unhappy in school, and was willing to wait for the proof. We were the first in our family to do such a radical thing and clearly some didn’t approve at the outset. But as the children flourished their doubts turned to admiration – the wait paid off.

If you’re experiencing family opposition, hang in there, stay strong and here’s wishing you’ll experience admiration eventually. But also remember that some will never give their approval – but that’s their problem, don’t make it yours!

And if you have a way of dealing with family doubters do leave your experiences in a comment here so we can help each other.