Tag Archive | A Funny Kind of Education

Why birthdays?

The lovely Charley

It’s my youngest’s birthday later this week – youngest adult that is – all grown up now!

We’ll be getting together at some point to celebrate…years later from those birthdays I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we started home educating and everyone found it suddenly necessary to give the kids ‘educational’ presents instead of toys!

People fail to see that toys (and playing) are ‘educational’ anyway – whatever that is, and many toys sold as educational simply aren’t!

Anyway, it’s not about the presents, is it?

So what are birthdays about then?

I always said that a birthday is not just a celebration of the day they were born (bit of a trauma in the back of the car with this one – as I describe briefly in the book). But more a celebration of the person, of them being here on this earth, and of the wonderful contribution they make, to our lives, to society, to being here.

And that’s what needs to be kept at the forefront of birthdays – the reason we are here – the contribution people make on a wider level. I guess many small children wouldn’t yet be aware of that concept. But as they grow, knowing they can make a contribution makes them feel valuable. When people feel valuable they feel loved and respected and consequently return that; they act differently, they act with responsibility and respect, they up their game. Those who are cared for, care more.

I always wanted my kids to feel valued. To feel that they make a difference too.

And that’s the best thing to celebrate birthdays for. The fact that these little people are here. The difference they have made. The difference they have to potentially make to so many as they grow and become the people they need to be.

Birthdays are so much more than presents. Birthdays are the day to celebrate a being, being here! And an opportunity to really appreciate that there are. I’m so looking forward to celebrating the presence of ours!

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Education along the yellow brick road!

I was looking back in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and reflecting. I hear so many parents wavering on the brink and was thinking about starting out.

“Learning can be full of fun…”

When you start home educating it seems an enormously big deal. You wobble and waver about all those decisions. You wonder where it’s all going to end up. And you also wonder if you’ll all stay sane until the end – actually you cannot even imagine the end. If you’re anything like I was that scenario is just beyond any imagining at all!

But I was revisiting my thoughts at the beginning of the book to see whether the things I talked about actually came to fruition.

Here’s one particularly poignant piece that I found on page 17 when I’d dashed out along the country lanes at dusk for some exercise soon after we’d started this joyful life with the kids out of school:

I cycled along smiling like someone with a guilty secret. Around us was this beautiful world and I just wanted to show every little bit of it to the girls. I wanted to show them that learning about it is beautiful too. That learning can be full of fun and full of love and not the dull, dreary days shut inside that they’d come to expect through schooling. I will take them places; museums, galleries, nature reserves, cities, exhibitions, zoos. We will enjoy real life relationships across a wide spectrum of society, not those unnaturally cloistered within the confines of age groups.

They will be respected.

My legs turned the pedals as my mind turned the ideas. Our first week of Home Educating was through and it’s been like living along the Yellow Brick Road. Education has become a golden opportunity in our lives now as it truly should be, instead of the awful drudgery it had become.

I must have pedalled five miles without noticing. That’s how I want their learning to be.

And did it turn out like that?

I think I can honestly say it did!

To find out how we got there – you’ll have to read the book for yourself. I hope it’s a story of family love and learning you’ll enjoy. There are some lovely reviews on Amazon.

And if you need something to calm those wobbles see ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

Meanwhile, I wish the same road for you!

Bringing on the tears

It’s not my intention to make people cry! But this seems to be what’s happening.

Many parents have told me that they read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and ended up in tears.

Not in a bad way I hasten to add. And not usually because of a tragic event that happens in the story.

They are instead mostly tears of relief and emotion to discover that someone has felt the way they do, tears of joy to find their own feelings about children and their learning are empathised with, tears on discovering they are not the only one!

Two little home edders volunteering as part of their education

Here’s a message I received recently:

“We have just started out on our home ed journey and we knew in our hearts that it was the right decision – but reading a Funny Kind of Education just hit home so much with us. I cried when I read the first couple of chapters because I finally had something to relate to – this is what we were going through. My two were being crushed by the system and I have been wholly disgusted that many children so young are experiencing so much stress, and their self-esteem taking a dramatic nose dive because they NEVER feel good enough, and never ever will at school. My son who is nearly ten practically got on his knees and begged me every night and morning not to send him into school – repeating over and over again I have had enough mummy no more please. Now only after two weeks of our journey his face and his sister’s light up with the thought of what we are going to be learning about on a new day. That sense of wonderment with the world is back big time already (it came back in the holidays but left pretty soon after the start of a term) – they are questioning everything and are coming up with all sorts of ideas of their own – and I don’t care that my kitchen is a tip or the dog keeps eating the science experiments or cooking ingredients that drip on to the floor -hahaha – they are happy little bunnies and we are just going with the flow. I know I will have my wobbles too I know and moments of needing to calm down when we are having ‘one of those days’ (dipping in and out of your Home Ed Notebook also) – but we are already starting to feel part of a lovely home ed local community online and in person”.

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to receive that wonderful message and I thought it worth sharing here for ongoing encouragement!

When I shared our story I hoped that people would find comfort and support from the fact that they are not the only parent to have a child who is not thriving in school. So I’m delighted to know it’s doing it’s job. And that the ‘Home education Notebook’ is also doing its job of supporting those wobbly moments.

I say so many times that schools work well for many families. But they don’t work for all. And that’s not the fault of the child.

If there is one over-riding message I’d like to get out there among the mainstream community it is that one.

Some children need something different. And it’s about time home education was respected for providing a doable and successful alternative for those children. About time it was not looked down upon as a second rate education just because it didn’t happen in a school. And about time people stopped being so scared of it!

Doing the human race a favour!

Charley sat picturesquely on the bridge with the dog! 

It seems ages since she was small enough to wade through the tunnel without bending over! And ages now since the adventures she had doing so, described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we’d take off into the countryside for the afternoon, with picnics and usually granma too.

She and I were revisiting one of the favourite places for our homeschool adventures recently when I snapped this.

They always learnt so much wherever we went, especially when they had the opportunity to explore, talk about, investigate and discover. The simple experience of the afternoon was educative enough – it doesn’t always have to be formal.

That’s something missing from a formal education which takes place in institutions day after day, keeping the kids busy with a predetermined curriculum. It leaves no room for imagination or personal discovery. It masks the fact that informal activities can be just as educative. More so perhaps because along with their own investigations comes the opportunity to think for oneself, making a far more independent learner than one that is regularly spoon fed and who is constantly led to believe their own ideas are invalid.

A more investigative approach keeps the children’s curiosity alive – their wonder at the world intact – and this keeps them motivated to go on learning because it is far more engaging. I’m not saying there’s no room for formal activities sometimes – when they serve a purpose. But many school activities don’t – other than ticking political boxes.

Schools have to keep kids busy. But keeping them busy within formal prescribed structures does not guarantee learning is taking place. Equally the reverse is true. Informal activities do not mean there’s no learning taking place.

And I wish people would understand that just because the children may be learning informally, it doesn’t mean the parents are not taking it seriously. We took the children’s education very seriously, as all home educators do, whatever approach they adopt. Would anyone ever take this decision lightly? Doubt it.

People are conditioned to think that a school style approach to education is the ‘real’ one and the one that matters because that’s all they know. Their own education has failed to show them that there are all sorts of ways to learn! They fail to comprehend anything different.

But random learning, however diverse, promotes the ability to learn randomly – or diversely. And the ability to think diversely. We could certainly do with more of those types of people. Diversity is essential for the perpetuation of the species so Darwin said!

So getting out like we did, and giving your kids a range of experiences as you educate, will actually be doing the human race a favour. And even though it may be informal, don’t be fooled into thinking that there is no serious education going on!

Feeling daunted

Goodness you’ve no idea how scary it is writing!

Well – not writing perhaps. The creative part of it is the nice bit – when it’s working of course. But the creative writing is only a very small percentage of a writer’s life these days. You need to be part of the marketing, selling and publicity all which I find as excruciating as being drilled at the dentist. More so actually because it’s public and at least you’re hidden in the dentist’s chair and you can dribble in private.

But far worse than the dentist is the drilling you can get from readers. In fact, the minute you put your writing out there, you feel immediately exposed. Naked. vulnerable. That is quite terrifying. Few are brave enough to do it.

Many people write. Many people say – ‘oh, I was going to write a book’. Many people are forever engaged in the process of doing a book. Many people will even get to the brave point of reading that work to others – usually in the safe confines of a writers’ group.

But that is quite different to going properly public and only the bravest actually get to that point. It is the exposure to all and sundry – even those who think you’re writing’s crap and say so – as well as those who are encouraging, that is the real test of courage.

Everyone suddenly is a critic, those who know about the job and those who don’t. (A bit the same as Home Ed really!) And they can make that as public as they like.

Thankfully, most of my critics and reviewers have been delightful. I am eternally grateful to all those who’ve taken time to review my books and say kind things. For I know there are faults with them – I don’t need reminding, my shame does that every day. And like with most writers, I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone’s going to like my stuff. Of course not.

It’s just that, like with most writers, I do it to inspire, to share, to hopefully give a little boost to someone else’s life. Writing is the medium I chose to do that by. Others choose other media.

My work happens to be to support a minority community. I don’t write to grab attention – that’s the excruciating bit for me – I write to quietly encourage. Encourage those courageous people choosing more challenging routes through life.

And that’s just what I need, as we all do, to help me overcome the fear! To start writing something new again.

It is your encouraging reviews that keep me going. Thank you so much. And if you’ve read one of my books recently – or anyone’s actually – think about taking the time to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you hang out and share a bit of love and encouragement around.

Encouragement, rather than criticism, makes the world a far, far nicer place to be – it’s good for the human race. And is a wonderful style of parenting and partnering too.

Pass it on!

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.