Tag Archive | A Home Education Notebook

Processed education can be as unhealthy as processed food

An exclusive exert from ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Some days I got so tired I wondered how I was ever going to get the dinner. And it was those days that packaged and processed food I normally abhor looked really appealing.

One particular day springs to mind where my youngest made mint creams which took a bit of supervision, mostly in the form of keeping her fingers out of it especially when they’d been other places. And the eldest made fudge and just needed an occasional question answering but then went onto maths which she was struggling with and needed explanations. This was much more demanding than anticipated as I couldn’t remember how to do half of it and had to look it up. Then the youngest was on a website trying to research something it wouldn’t and getting more and more frustrated. And I just seemed to seesaw between the two of them like this all morning. By afternoon I decided we needed to get out for a swim before I was torn in two, but that finished me off. So I admit to resorting to the easy option of opening a packet for dinner.

At least I thought it was the easy option.

Sometimes I think the packaging designers must sit in their studios laughing as they think up the most complicated arrangements of plastic and cardboard just to annoy tired parents at the end of a demanding day.

We rarely ate packaged or processed food. I like my meals to have ingredients as near to their natural state as possible – that’s where taste and nutrition comes from.

But when I’m beyond scrubbing potatoes or cooking anything inventive we resort to it at times, even though I never relish it. For processed and packaged food tastes like … well, it doesn’t taste of much at all. It is limp, lifeless, tasteless – apart from salt, suspiciously full of unknowns and mostly totally uninspiring.

And it was that day I thought; this is just like education really. Education has become so processed and tightly packaged it is almost unrecognisable as education.

Just like how hard it is to recognise nutritious ingredients in processed food, education has become so over processed it too is losing some of the value of the original ingredients. It has become as unpalatable as eating forced and cling-filmed strawberries in the middle of winter. There is no taste. There is nothing to arouse the senses and the effect doesn’t last.

Isn’t that like systemised schooling?

I used to think my mother was a bit of a nutcase insisting on buying dirty carrots. Now I know why she did it. Carrots with the soil still on them keep without rotting for ages. Those washed and plastic-packaged ones from the supermarket just turn gooey and stink like mad.

Packaged and processed education doesn’t last forever either. And I reckon it turns the children gooey.

I read of an experiment someone once did on a class of school children. They were told they were going to be tested on a certain subject at the end of the week and given information to learn for it. The children sat the test and the expected number did well. A few days later the same children did the same test without warning and hardly any of them scored well. The learning they had processed for the test didn’t last – just like the carrots.

Education like food needs to be as near as possible to its natural experience in order for it to be lasting, inspiring, arouse the senses and be worth having. Experiences are the basis for all learning, for meaningful learning. Learning packaged into tightly restrictive curriculum or second hand learning in workbooks, removed from the original experience, loses its appeal just as much as food. Learning and education need unwrapping.

It is natural for children to learn. During their everyday lives at home pre-school children learn loads of things. They acquire skills. They pick up knowledge. They do this naturally, experientially. Just as we all do all of the time.

All experiences teach us something. Our interests and pursuits broaden our minds. So do books, Internet, telly, ordinary every day interaction with people and things. And also our work, our outings, anniversaries, celebrations, social gatherings. Learning is natural. And learning from first hand experiences in this way is meaningful, rich, stimulating, and retained. Children learn naturally from this all the time.

Then they are removed from that natural learning environment just before they’re five and shut away from it in schools. We’re told that the only valuable learning is that which comes from teachers, packaged into a National Curriculum and contained in expected outcomes and objectives.

So children are processed through this type of learning and adults are conditioned to devalue learning outside of that. And what happens? Children begin to lose their ability to learn anything that isn’t neatly wrapped for them. And I see an awful lot of teenagers who have about as much enthusiasm in doing anything as I have in eating those out-of-season packaged strawberries.

In both the strawberries and the teenagers the zest has gone.

With food I have options. Mostly I buy food in its natural state. I am deeply suspicious of processed pies, potato alphabets, pasta shapes in suspect sauce and the infamous turkey Twizzlers! But sometimes at the end of a hard Home Educating day I’m as pleased as anyone else to open a pizza. When I can get it open that is.

But I do have the choice and you will probably know which is better for me. I suspect you might also be thinking that I would be a better parent for giving my child a natural potato that’s been baked than a processed pizza.

Yet it’s funny how people don’t seem to have the same view of education.

Everyone seems to think that a packaged and processed education is better for children than a natural one.

I got more criticism for allowing my children a natural education than I did putting them through an unnatural educational process. Yet if I continually gave them processed food instead of natural food I wouldn’t be considered a good parent at all.

Odd that!

Years ago, children didn’t have much opportunity to learn. They didn’t have opportunity to learn skills or access information like they do now. And many children didn’t live in homes where education was valued more highly than earning a crust of bread. Children were needed to mind siblings, pick potatoes, crawl along factory floors in between dangerous machinery and sweep chimneys.

Well I don’t know whether folks have noticed but that’s changed. Most of our kids today live in an environment where education is available, where there is access to information, where skills can be learnt. Naturally.

They are surrounded by people using skills and accessing information. And quite naturally they will learn from that.

But we as a society have been led to believe, as education has become more packaged and processed over the years, that this processed type of education is the only valuable one.

Our attitude to processed food is changing, thank goodness. We’re beginning to value unprocessed meals. We’re even beginning to see how processed food can make us ill.

I’d like to see our attitude to processed education changing too. For not only is some of it meaningless, unfulfilling and un-lasting, it too can make our children ill.

Like with unprocessed meals that I actually peel and prepare, I tried to give my children an unprocessed experiential education as near to its natural state as possible. If we were learning about plants – we had plants to hand that we dissected. If we were learning about history – we did it in a historical setting like museum or castle. Get the idea?

This way, just like fresh picked, in-season, unprocessed strawberries, the flavour of the educational experience we gave them was meaningful and stimulated all their senses in a way that is still lasting.

You can read more supportive stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. And the new edition has a new added epilogue which tells the stories of the children we home educated alongside now that they’re grown up!

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Help for the Home Educating long haul

When I meet home educators, it’s often those who are new to it and starting out. To them it seems very scary and daunting and feel they need lots of support. I’m very happy to give it.

But I’m also aware, having done it, that there is another challenging side to home education; sticking with it for the long haul. That needs supporting too. So I thought I’d repost this article for those of you doing just that.

Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or change something, make a break into something else. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are adults now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad bits. It takes a lot of grit to keep at it. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or worse; a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence and an expression to match. Even expressions can be critical!

It was these kind of times exactly which prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need negotiating too. Knows that bad bits are not an indication that it’s going wrong. Knows that you need to look after yourself too (whole chapter to cover that in the book). And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to help you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. But keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does! You’ll be doing a grand job. I salute you!

After a home educating long haul you end up with lovely intelligent educated adults like we did!

So if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because there’s new edition. And, even better, in this new edition is a special epilogue that tells you how successfully it all worked out for those we home educated alongside. The best kind of reassurance of all.

It’s been unavailable a little while but it’s back now on Amazon if you’d like a copy. It’s been called a home educating bible and comforting bedside book, so I hope it feels like that for you and brings you the encouragement you might need both for today and for the long haul.

A little bit sad…

It is absolutely wonderful that we have the opportunity to educate our kids independently. I thrilled at the chance to do so, to home educate, to de-systemise the educational experience of my children. And go on to support others who are doing the same through my writings.

I think of home education as I think of independent shops in comparison to supermarkets. Supermarkets and chain shops feel all the same whichever one you go into. They don’t cater for differing needs! Indie shops and home education can, and cater for a minority in doing so!

I also think of bookshops and publishing similarly.

You go into any Waterstones, whichever town they’re in, and you can expect all the same books, pretty much displayed in all the same way – as they’re paid to be. Most people don’t realise that in this way these book ‘supermarkets’ even control what you read by ignoring the more minority titles and staying with the big commercial ones. But go into the independent bookshops, like Heffers in Cambridge for example, or Foyles in London, plus all the smaller less well known ones, and you’ll see what I mean as you come across all kinds of books you never knew existed.

I understand that many smaller towns wouldn’t even have bookshops if it wasn’t for chains like Waterstones. And that businesses have to make money, so the bookshop chains have to stock what sells the most. But the downside is that we don’t get to see minority books, like home education books, on shelves very often.

And it’s also the reason why so many smaller independent publishers and bookshops eventually close down. They cannot compete with the mass market through the niche books they may want to publish.

Books about home schooling are niche. And I have been totally lucky to have had an Indie publisher to publish three of my books, in fact, I was there at its conception with ‘Who’s Not In School?’ I will be eternally grateful to the team at Eyrie Press who enabled me to get my books out to the people who needed them. Because of them, there’s been access to the support readers have told me they find so valuable during their home educating journey.

But sadly, as with so many other Indie businesses like them, they can no longer keep going and are having to close. This may mean that ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and the ‘Harry’ Stories for children which feature a home schooled child may no longer be available.

Through your messages I know that many home educating families have found these books a comfort, support and entertaining too. And it seems such a shame that the world of business and living is set up to always put the squeeze on the little people and it’s often the minority communities, like home schoolers, which suffer.

As a new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ has just been published I’m looking at alternative ways of keeping it available for those who need it.

But just for now, this is an opportunity to say a great big THANK YOU to the team at Eyrie Press, and CONGRATULATIONS on all they have achieved. There are probably many more people than they’ll ever know who have found support because of them. And a great big THANK YOU to you too for the support you have shown in buying the books, which has kept us both going in different ways.

If you still want any of their books – and they have a much wider catalogue than just mine which is really worth an in depth look – then some are still available. Or you might even like to message them personally if you’ve found the books a help – I’m sure it’d bring cheer at such a difficult time for them. So if you have a moment in your hectic home educating days get onto their website or social media and tell them.

Meanwhile, I’ll let you know what’s happening next with my books when I can.

Home School Wobbles?

Home educating is a glorious experience.

But it’s also no picnic – well – not all the time anyway. Although most if it for us did feel like a joyful romp away from the restriction of mainstream, with an expanding horizon of liberated learning all the way.

Even so, that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t lose the plot on occasion; have wobbles and tantrums (mine mostly) and doubts and bad days.

We did.

They passed!

Someone messaged me recently to tell me that whenever that happened to them they just picked up my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and could find comfort and reassurance. That’s good to know. For that’s exactly why it came to be written.

Because I knew exactly what those moments, or days, felt like and I wanted to offer something to help. In fact a reader of another of my books (Learning Without School), which came before the Notebook, said that she kept it on her bedside table for just those occasions. And that nearly became its title; the home education bedside book!

Having been right through home education, and those little children in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ living and working independently now, it’s as if it never happened. It certainly isn’t really relevant to their days any more. You ‘couldn’t tell’ if they went to school or not – as someone once offered as a response to being told they were home educated. We did laugh over that! But it might reassure you to know that although it feels like an enormously unorthodox and controversial step to you now, come the future it will all even out into mainstream life.

So don’t panic.

When you’re panicking and wobbling and losing the plot – which is downright natural anyway, we’re only human – consider some of the following:

  • you would be worrying just as much about your child in school
  • bad days are natural – whatever you’re doing
  • remember all the wonderful opportunities it gives you and why you did it in the first place
  • you might just be tired – back off and trust
  • not every single moment of every day needs to be filled with work and learning. It wouldn’t be in school. You achieve things quicker at home with individual attention, so your kids have more free time which is equally valuable to their development
  • being a thinking and intelligent person as you must be to do this in the first place, you will not spoil your child. None of my contemporaries who’ve also come out the ‘other side’ have spoiled theirs – I don’t know a home educator who has
  • love and happiness are as important to educational development as academics
  • being social doesn’t come from being in school
  • test results don’t equate to being an educated person
  • learning ‘difficulties’ often disappear outside of school
  • everything is always easier when you get outdoors – use that opportunity you have
  • consider what you think an educated person is and aim for that, as much as ‘results’!
Just one of the chapters from A Home Education Notebook

All of these topics and more are covered in my ‘Home Education Notebook’ so it might help you to have one handy to dip into on such occasions as these when, like us, you lose the plot.

But always remember that whenever the plot is lost – you can always find it, or renew it, or recharge it, and get going again!

Meanwhile, enjoy your home education. It won’t be there forever!

Oh – and a little head’s up; keep your eye on this space – there’s a new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ coming soon with a completely new chapter which revisits many of the young people we home educated with to see what they are doing now! Always a subject everyone wants to know about!

Best moments of home education

What are your best moments home educating?

Don’t know about you but I always found that a tricky one to answer – that’s because there are so many. And during all our years of home educating these matured and changed with the children.

When we started, as well as being a teeny bit terrified at the enormity of the decision, there was a much stronger sense of liberation. Not liberation from school as much as the liberation to learn, the freedom to learn, without the obsessive restrictions regimented schooling imposes. It was quite a moment when I realised the potential that offered. We quite literally could learn any time – schedules not always necessary, anywhere – wherever we were, anything – whatever and whenever it came up. So some of our best moments were seeing the children blossom and develop as their curiosity (often quelled in school) expanded the subjects we studied. The possibilities are endless.

Following that was witnessing their health and happiness recover (school was detrimental to both). Why is happiness important? See this blog here – it’s vital!

One particular moment I’ll always remember. It was whilst we were out and about learning, the kids absolutely absorbed by the world around them, and as I watched them satiating their need to know with endless questions, inquiries and explorations I realised how absolutely ‘right’ this was. The moment. The home education. The approach to learning we’d adopted. It felt so good.

Anything, anywhere, any time can provoke learning.

Then there was the laughing moments. Yes – you can laugh and joke and mess around and still learn stuff! Not something encouraged in school. There’s a funny story here which shows what I mean. Education doesn’t always have to be serious!

Other best learning moments came when a concept, skill or understanding that had escaped them suddenly clicked. I wasn’t one for keeping to time frames or age frames or battling on with stuff that clearly was beyond them at the time. It was better that they came to stuff when they were ready; far better to leave it a bit. Then, quite often when we came back to it at a later date, it all fell into place. And their eyes lit up.

You miss those moments when they’re in school, especially when they’ve been made to feel a failure when they didn’t get it first time.

Then there were the social moments. Watching a group of home educated kids, who have no reason to compete or to bully, to ostracise or exclude, to do another down for there is no threat about who can do and who can’t, is an absolute delight. Age becomes unimportant. Kit is unimportant. Cleverness is unimportant. The whole ethos of the home educating groups we were involved with was one of support, care, looking after and helping one another without much segregation between parents and kids either, although this occurred naturally. No one ‘had’ to do, or to mix in any way they felt uncomfortable with and no one was forced. I describe a Christmas party in my ‘Home Education Notebook’ that really opened my eyes to what ‘social’ truly is. It is not what happens in school!

And the very best moments I think, were about us. Our togetherness. Our unity. Our bond. Our respect. The wonderful relationship which grew between us and the kids, us and the grown ups they are now.

What are your best moments? Do leave them below – they’ll make such lovely reading for anyone who might be looking at this and wondering whether they should home educate or not, or just a reminder to overcome a tricky day.

And besides I’d love to read about them!

Education and Bullying

Something which often comes up in relation to schools and learning, is the subject of bullying – in more ways than you think! So I thought I’d post this exclusive exert from my ‘Home Education Notebook‘, Chapter 31:

I have a terrible admission to make – I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. I bullied my child into cleaning her teeth when she was little. I’m thoroughly ashamed. But at the time I just couldn’t think of another way to get her to do it and I knew the longer term consequences were important.

I’d tried reason. I’d explained, tried to make it a fun game, I left it for some time in the hope it would correct itself, her older sister cajoled as she cleaned hers. In the end I got cross on occasion and ‘made’ her – or bullied her is another way of looking at it.

She says now, in her twenties when I asked if she remembered, she felt it was a terrible intrusion into her person having me clean her teeth, but she forgives me, we even laughed about it. But although bullying is an intrusion and an abuse, sometimes like with this example, we feel it’s justified.

That is of course questionable, depending on our parenting philosophies. However, I think we all can end up ‘bullying’ our children at some point. We’d certainly grab and drag our kids back from running under a car. It’s a gut reaction on our part even if it is bullying. (I’ll return to that gut reaction in a bit).

Many of us will have been on the receiving end of bullying far more severe than this, both as children and adults, perhaps in the home, more often in school. Bullying in school is a common reason parents turn to home education.

Dr Paula Rothermel who conducted some extensive research into home education found over half of the parents she interviewed turned to home education because of school related problems, bullying being among them. And bullying by others in school is a common subject on home education forums where parents discuss their child’s school experiences.

Sometimes the children manage to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t. Often, what’s even harder to talk about is the subversive type of bullying that isn’t quite so visible inflicted on a child through abusive teaching in the form of sarcasm, humiliation, orders, or so-called banter. Young people are circumstantially powerless to deal with it.

It’s a very difficult, sensitive and emotive subject for children to cope with on their own anyway, wherever they are. It can make them feel utterly powerless. The effects last far beyond the actual events and inhibit self-esteem, confidence, the ability to function socially, even going out of the house. The consequences are so harmful they can influence many aspects of their normal lives and the decisions they make.

What’s even more insidious is cyber bullying which can still be influential when a bullied child is taken out of a school situation, or is home educated from the outset. Most home educated children participate in other out of school activities so it’s possible they’ll come up against bullying in some form at some point.

The Bullying UK website (www.bullying.co.uk) has plenty of tips and advice for parents about what you can do if you’re concerned and, although most of these are school related, there is also a section dealing with cyber bullying and what to do about it. Any minority group, particularly if they’re doing something different to the mainstream like home educated children, can be a target. So it’s worth taking a look; the site gives you signs to look out for and how to help.

If you’re new to home education, and you’ve turned to it because your child was bullied at school, you will probably want to focus on your child’s healing and well being for some considerable time, rather than any intense academic activity. Don’t worry if you’re approached by the LA requesting your educational intentions, you can remind them of what your child’s been through, that it will take some time for your child and your family to adjust and building your child’s confidence is your priority for the time being. On the excellent website www.edyourself.org it says that the law supports families in doing this. The Authority are certainly not allowed to bully you (the FAQs on this site show what they can and cannot do) and if you familiarise yourself with your rights on this issue you’ll be able to stay on your child’s side and do what’s best for them.

Another effect of having being bullied is to make the young person anxious and uncomfortable in social situations so it may take a while for them to overcome this. Although all the home educating groups I’ve been involved with were welcoming, inclusive and friendly, they will probably feel very daunting to a youngster who has been bullied. So it may be some time before they are confident in integrating – it takes a while for them to rebuild their trust. It’s not something that should be forced.

We met youngsters who had come from school who were very reserved and unable to mix, but in their own time were able to rebuild their confidence in others and went on to be happy, confident people. So if your child has been through bullying and you’re worried about them ever integrating again, be patient and have faith. In the right company I’m sure they will – it takes time.

Bullying from others is usually how our children experience it. But there is another common link between education and bullying that may not be so apparent. And that is through the way in which children are ‘made’ to learn.

We all have Dickensian images of teachers wielding canes and forcing children to learn. The canes or enforcement may have gone out of scenario but there is no doubt that other more subversive forms exist; we tread a very fine line between coercion and encouragement, authority and guidance, and our sometimes obsessive desire for our children to achieve.

Teachers have been known to adopt subtle bullying tactics at times, but I think our parental anxieties about our children’s achievement out of school also present a danger of us sometimes inadvertently moving towards a subversive form of bullying if we’re not careful – we may even think it’s justified like the teeth cleaning example above. However, we don’t want ‘making’ children learn become our gut reaction to educating.

So it’s worth us taking a critical look at our behaviours and our approaches to our child’s learning to make sure we’re not guilty of forcing our children to learn through coercion, bribery or threats, which are slightly bullying approaches even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, rather than giving them good reasons or explanations for what we ask.

When home educating we have the opportunity to spend the time doing this – something not available in a school setting. Teachers have to meet often unrealistic targets and with the constraints they’re under can sometimes resort to bullying behaviours to get the children to perform.

We have to see we’re not doing the same. Never would there be justification for bullying parenting – and much of our home educating depends on our parenting. What we can do instead is take a much more relaxed approach.

We can keep an open dialogue with our kids about their education, what we do and why, increasing their understanding of why be educated at all.

We can regularly discuss their activities and what benefit doing them is, from the point of increasing skills and understanding and therefore opportunities.

We can listen and observe what the children’s interests are and use these as starting points for learning, so the learning comes from them rather than being thrust on them. This also helps minimise resistance and possible conflict by keeping them engaged.

We can let go of forcing outcomes and trust in the process of our child becoming educated and arriving at the outcomes they will need as they mature.

In our home education groups we can raise awareness, talk about and establish a policy to protect everyone from bullying – both from parents and from other children, decide how it’s going to be tackled, and include older children in these debates perhaps.

By our own actions we can imbue an atmosphere of inspiration, communication and calm around our learning activities. And make learning a shared and pleasurable experience rather than something we force children to do.

We can encourage them to take charge of their own activities, which creates an independence with learning and the motivation for them to educate themselves for themselves, rather than it being something done to them by others, which is often how many children feel about education in the system.

These actions create a climate of respect around our children and their education. And it alleviates the danger of us resorting to bullying our children into learning – usually through our own tensions and anxieties – but for which there is no excuse.

And this approach also has the added advantage of creating good relationship and communication habits, which will help our children communicate with us should they ever be bullied by others.

Read more stories and tips in the book.

Published by Bird’s Nest Books and also available from Amazon

A reassuring gift for home schoolers

December has crept in and I guess I’m going to have to face up to it; Christmas is coming!

It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just with pandemic restrictions we haven’t dared look forward or hope that our loved ones will get home to spend it with us. And that for me is what is so special about the season. It’s a season of love and togetherness, but the coronavirus could restrict that this year.

I also like giving gifts. I don’t enter into the manic and obscene crap buying and bin-bound accessories for Christmas that companies tell us we must have or we won’t do Christmas proper! I hate all that and cringe for the burden the earth has to bear for our indulgences. But I do like to give a meaningful present that someone wants, needs, or can enjoy, as a token of our loving and appreciation, two purposes of the festivities that can easily become obliterated by consumerism, throwaway tat and the misguided belief that more stuff is better.

It isn’t. Love and appreciation are the priorities, surely.

Anyway, if you do want to give a meaningful gift to a fellow parent, especially one who is dissatisfied with schooling, how about a story of a family doing it differently.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is a warm, funny, family story, with Christmasses and summers and all sorts of adventures in between. It’s easy to read, yet with plenty of thought provoking ideas about learning. A great fireside read – actually where some of it was written! And a good insight into a real home educating life. Do let me know if you read and enjoyed it!

And for those already home educating you could give them a bit of reassurance. That’s what readers tell me they get from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. On days when they’re having a massive wobble, they can pick it up and feel calmed.

There are some super reviews on Amazon for both, where you can buy them. If you want more of a ‘How To…’ which answers all the common questions about home educating choose ‘Learning Without School’. You’ll find more details on the My Books page on this site, including two books for those home educated littlies who like to read about someone like them who doesn’t go to school.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your Christmas preparations, despite the obvious restrictions, keeping in mind the needs of the earth as well as your own, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for being together.

Educational blackmail

It’s all getting very intense. Covid, Lockdown, work, education. It’s such a jumble of worries for people.

Working at home, which may have had it’s attraction at one point, is pretty intense too as many are discovering, without it’s lighter distractions, interchange between colleagues, and even just the briefest ‘good morning’. Not to mention the change in environment the commute brought.

This is the same for children in education. Home educating, or doing ‘school-at-home’ if that’s what you’re doing, is also intense. Something home schooling families need to adapt to, some thinking that perhaps children should be ‘getting on’ every minute of the day.

I think many parents fall into this trap, assuming that children are busy ‘working’ at their education throughout the school day. But the reality is quite different. Probably a child in a classroom is only concentrating on making a concerted effort for a few minutes within an hour’s lesson session. The rest is filled with preps, teacher talk, chat and the other distractions of a classroom. And the end productivity is far less than parents might imagine. So, to take away the intensity, it’s best to be more realistic in what you hope to achieve whilst learning at home. There is plenty of time for other things.

This doesn’t mean that children are not gainfully employed. For all the other activities children are engaged in are just as valuable to their development as formal heads-down stuff, including play.

I remember that when we backed off a bit from the push to ‘educate’ over the summer months whilst the other children were off school and left the children to their own devices two things happened.

Firstly, things hardly changed. The kids were always busy, always wanting to do things, always asking questions, curious and learning. And secondly, when we got back to practising those skills we’d consider more formal and I expected a drop in their ability, there wasn’t one at all. In fact, they had developed in many ways. (See chapter 16 in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ where I tell the story of; What About Term Times, Learn Times and Holidays?)

There is much emotional hype about kids missing out on their education, both now with the Covid restrictions and also levelled at home educating families.

The real truth is that most are not missing out in terms of learning, they’re just doing it differently and this threat is no more than emotional blackmail on the part of educational politics.

You’re unlikely to be harming the children’s education long term by them either doing their learning at home for the time being, or by opting to home school. What you will be harming however is the political statistics which of course politicians don’t like and can disrupt school league tables!

Children learn all the time, from all the things they’re doing, even from the challenging circumstances we have now. All are opportunities for discussion, enquiry, conversation and questions. All of which increase learning skills.

But we don’t have to be intense about it. Neither do we have to be intense about doing school type work in these times that are so difficult and challenging.

An intense approach to work, a demand that the kids should be working non-stop from nine till three is unrealistic. Worse than that it is damaging. Damaging to their education as intensity is more likely to put them off learning, whereas learning is potentially such an exciting and inspirational thing. (I wonder how many teens in High school think that?) And even worse, damaging to your relationship with them.

Remember, politicians want kids performing as they prescribe because it keeps their political stats on track. But this has nothing to do with real learning and education at all.

And if you’re working at home too, go easy on yourself and dilute your own intensity with a bit of fun – play with the kids from time to time!

Tips for tough homeschool times

Here we go again; another Lockdown and worries about where this is all going to end.

It can make for tough times, especially if you’re home educating and worrying about the children’s learning.

Just remember you survived the last Lockdown and the children will be learning all the time from whatever you’re doing. I’m sure they still will despite more Lockdown restrictions.

And if you’re worrying whether they’d be better off in school you should also remember that there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life. So don’t worry about that as well as everything else!

Just carry on without guarantees. Put in whatever’s needed to give home education your best shot.

The best tips I can offer for that are:

  • Listen to your intuition. If a home educating activity or style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
  • Do whatever’s needed to help you all cope whether that’s education wise or personal; actually, it’s all education anyway. And remember there’s no rush, take your time. This won’t last forever.
  • Look to the Now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. Lockdown will change – just do what you can, much will have to be be virtual at this time.
  • Keep in virtual contact, learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently. Kids learn from everything!
  • Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school!). Use it to build a workable and happy Lockdown learning experience. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave. Create space from each other within the boundaries of your home so you can keep relationships sweet. Be inventive about room use.
  • Keep talking things through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge, have ideas. Lots of conversations are extremely educative.
  • Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. It should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember! And it doesn’t happen overnight – be patient. times are tough.

You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience, however you’re managing it at the moment. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s tough for everyone. Let go the bad days – they’d have them at school where absolutely nothing would have been learnt. Some homeschool days will be like that too! Quit worrying!

There’s lots more tips and reassurance in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the concerns people have when they home educate – whether in Lockdown or not. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in, along with a little laughter which is what we all need right now. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the FAQs. See the My Books page for more details.

An exclusive reading…

There are new families joining the thousands who already make up the Home Educating community all the time and many have messaged me to convey their thanks for the books I’ve produced to support them. I am so grateful. Thank you. I’m especially moved to know they’ve helped.

In grateful thanks and in support of all those who want to know a little more about home schooling as it’s more commonly known, or choose an alternative to going back to school in September especially in these difficult times, here’s an exclusive reading from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’.

Read more about the book on the My Books page on this blog and find it at Eyrie Press or on Amazon. And do feel free to share so if there are others anxious about going back to school they too will learn there are choices!