Tag Archive | A Home Education Notebook

How kids learn from living – more than from schooling!

Another exclusive from ‘A Home Education Notebook’ that illustrates so well how home education works:

…Sometimes when we were home educating I got the feeling that education was taking over my life.

I remember one incident when I felt rather near the end of my tether. (There was more than one; but this sticks in my mind because of the poo).

Not only was the meal late and everyone starved to the point of tantrums, but also I was eating it with a fork covered in wax, I’d had to drain the pasta in a sink which was purple with dye and eat off a table with bird poo on it.

It wasn’t fresh bird poo I hasten to add. Actually it wasn’t poo at all; it just put me in mind of it.

It was an owl pellet lovingly carried home like treasure, to be dissected and examined and crooned over after the boring exercise of having dinner was out the way. But bird poo or not it was the last straw and I wasn’t enjoying looking at it while I sat chewing in moody silence, trying not to give in to the feeling of mounting irritation.

My youngest gobbled hers down as fast as possible so she could get her hands on it. She was just itching to take it apart, she wriggled about, shoving pasta down her throat like there was no tomorrow.

“Finished!” she exclaimed. “Can I do it now?”

“No!” the rest of us shouted in unison with our mouths full and our plates only half empty.

“Dohhh!” She sat and sulked, her impatient eye flicking between our dwindling meal and the pellet. “She’s deliberately taking a long time,” she said of her sister. We ignored it and kept on eating.

The minute we’d all finished she whipped our plates away in a whirlwind of rare helpfulness and pounced on the pellet with a pair of tweezers.

We gave up. We’d gone off the pudding anyway and everything seemed to taste of melted candle wax. (We were doing batik earlier). The rest of the family drifted away from what they considered to be the most disgusting member of the household and she and I started the dissecting.

The pellet was indeed a treasure. My irritation was forgotten and I became as absorbed in the examination as she was. It was fascinating.

There were stones, shells, bones, fish scales, bits of shellfish, a beetle – in pieces, putting it together was fun, fur and hair. We were so enthusiastic that the others came back and took part and we were soon fighting over who was going to excavate the next gem. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Who needed pudding when we’d got the excitement of learning and discovery going on?

How often did learning get this exciting in school?

The trouble with organised education, conducted by people who are bound by so many constructs, is that so many wonderful but incidental opportunities to engage and educate during every day life and interactions are completely missed.

For children don’t always need teaching or schooling  – they learn anyway.

Education and real life do not need to be separate from one another. Most learning does not come from teaching.

Much valuable learning cannot be timetabled

Learning really does go on all the time. All of life is important to a child’s learning and education. And much is lost when people try to compartmentalise learning into neat little outcomes, as schools have to do, and force children to be taught rather than trust that they can learn anyway.

Also, many children are put off learning completely by schools and institutions like them trying to fragment education away from real life and force it into different strait-jackets in order to teach and measure.

They fragment by subject and content, by levels and ability, by age, by standards and testing, by time and period, and by clustering people together. They segregate it from life by the very action of removing children from real experience and experimentation and confining them in a situation that has no equivalent in the real world outside at all. And we are made to believe that learning cannot happen without teaching, which is not the case at all. Home learning can and does happen successfully without all these restrictions.

Out in that real world learning and education takes place by the simple act of living a life and being exposed to all manner of things, bird poo and owl pellets included.

What a loss it would have been if we hadn’t collected the owl pellet when we were out on our walk simply because it wasn’t our objective; we were supposed to be having our exercise. Or if I’d said we couldn’t dissect it because it wasn’t on our timetable and we had to do reading right now.

All right, I admit I did want my dinner first and so did the other members of the family. There may have been a more appropriate time and place for this activity. But my point is that restricting learning to what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing at the time, in other words compartmentalising it with rigid rules, misses out on so much. It also devalues the learning the children are interested in and suggests that it is only taught learning that is of value.

What an excellent and valuable learning opportunity would have been lost if I’d dismissed this activity just then because it wasn’t what I wanted to teach them. Not only the opportunity to learn about science and the life of a species, but the opportunity to develop in the children something very special; a love of learning and finding out just for the pleasure of it.

This is what learning without teaching and schooling becomes; learning simply for the pleasure and fascination of discovery and knowledge.

What a loss it would be if I didn’t answer at the time those inquisitive questions that come at me constantly; in the car; in the supermarket; at bedtime; even when she’s sitting on the toilet, just because that subject wasn’t on our timetable just then. Or if I stopped the natural curiosity by saying the child was too young, or too old, or too slow a learner. Or even more bizarre; wasn’t wearing the right uniform; or in the right room; or sitting in the right position. Or if I withheld information because another bit hadn’t been learned yet and I was in charge of the teaching.

How much education would not go on if I restricted it to so many constructs, regulations, teaching, schedules, subject divisions and age segregation? How ridiculous that all seems in comparison to just living an educational life. As all life surely is.

I am not saying there is no place for any kind of structure. Of course there is. Most people have some kind of self-imposed structure in their day, in their Home Education, and for successful interaction with society.

But to separate children from real life experiences and opportunities for incidental learning, and to impose so many restrictions on what they should do, how and when, is to miss out on a wealth of opportunity and at its worst to kill their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning stone dead.

It’s their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning that produces educated young peoplenot teaching or schooling. So on days when you’re having a wobble about you not teaching them anything, or them not learning anything, it helps to keep this in mind.

By living a busy life, learning happens all the time. This is education with real meaning. For all of us; children and adults alike.

Education wasn’t taking over my life – it was my life, still is and always will be and that’s also true of my grown up young people who enjoy learning about stuff just as much as ever, even though they’re both over twenty now and never had learning rules imposed. They’re always looking up stuff on the wonder that is Google just out of curiosity and know far more than me.

Although, I do admit to feeling at the time that there may have been one rule I would have liked to apply: no bird poo or owl pellets on the table while I ate my dinner!

(For the rest – and more support for your home education see the My Books page. Or you can buy this book from Eyrie Press or Amazon)

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!

Is there ever a break from home education?

Learning, whatever they’re doing

Whenever we approached the time of year associated with school holidays we always got asked in relation to being home educators; “Will you stop educating for the holidays?”

Which just goes to show how most people are still conditioned to think that education only ever happens within certain times and structures like timetables and terms.

Of course; it doesn’t!

We witnessed proof of that regularly throughout all the years our children were learning out of school. And the longer you home educate the more you’ll see that happen in your house too. How learning takes place all the time, through all activities, even sitting on the toilet we discovered one day when a little voice pipes up from behind the bathroom door;

“Mum, how does the wee get inside?” And we have a short biology lesson at night before bed.

These are the little ‘lessons’ the children remember the most. And despite seeming a terrible hotch-potch style of learning, the amazing computer that is the brain pieces the bits together into a coherent body of learning and knowledge that contributes to the children becoming educated. Consequently, holidays don’t mean the children stop learning – so you can cease to worry about that!

However, there is another aspect that you home educating parents might like to consider and a question that regularly arose in my exhausted mind early on – do we have to do ‘learning’ all the time? Is there ever a rest?

Well the answer is this; although children never switch off from learning – it’s just a natural part of how they live their inquisitive lives. (See the chapter ‘What about term times, learn times and holidays’ in ‘A Home Education Notebook’). But as parents you have to occasionally switch off from the incessant drive to make use of every learning opportunity (like the toilet incident). And you have to also switch off the feeling of guilt if you don’t!

If you step back from it occasionally nothing terrible will happen! Okay – you might have missed an educational opportunity, but this will not scar your child for life and there will be other opportunities. More importantly, if you don’t, you’re the one who will be scarred from not giving yourself a mental break and keeping it all in balance.

Balance develops healthy individuals; children and parents.

I thought this was worth a mention because like the saying; once a parent – always a parent, it is also the case that; once a home educator – always a home educator. In both cases you have to find a healthy and balanced way to proceed through it all.

Don’t ever fret that your children are not learning whilst you step back a bit. They actually need you to back off a bit as much as you need to. And never feel guilty. Just because you home educate, it does not mean that you have to utilise every second. Kids at school wouldn’t. Teachers wouldn’t either.

So you could use the term time holidays as an opportunity to step back, or you could just try and create a generally balanced family life and approach to learning and resting whatever you’re all doing and whenever you’re doing it, and disregard what the school lot are doing and the term times associated with them!

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.

 

Thinking about Home Education instead of going back to school?

Whenever there’s a new school term starting there are a flurry of parents trying to decide about home educating instead.

If you’re one of those you’ll no doubt be wavering through nagging worries and doubts. Quite natural – all conscientious parents worry. It’s a condition of responsible parenting!

But look at it this way – you’d worry just as much if your children were in school. I know I did before we home educated. All home schoolers worry about the same old things:

  • Will the kids turn out okay?
  • Will they be able to make friends?
  • Will they achieve anything?
  • Will they be intelligent?
  • Will they still be speaking to me when they’re older?
  • Will we be able to enjoy a happy relationship?
  • Will they be able to fit into ‘mainstream’ life afterwards?
  • Will they be able to become independent?

I’d like to reassure you with the answer to those questions: YES!

Yes to all the above.

All the young people we knew who were home educated have grown into adults who have achieved, (many the same qualifications as their school contemporaries if that worries you), have all learned and developed their intelligence and knowledge (often exceeding that of their school contemporaries!), have good friend networks (and better social skills than many of them), have all integrated successfully into work, higher education, employment, the ‘real world’ for want of a better term. And have all continued a warm loving, respectful relationship with their parents.

So I hope you find that reassuring.

One way to manage inevitable worries is to focus on the NOW rather than the future. All worries are about the future and most of the educational approaches in schools are geared towards ‘the future’. The daft thing is no one can predict that, can predict how kids grow and change, learn and absorb, develop interests and intelligence. They change all the time in unpredictable ways. So trying to educate for some unforeseeable future is a waste of time.

What you can do is make the childrens’ educational experiences good ones at this moment in time. This way they’ll want to take over the learning for themselves, and will go on doing it until they see what they want and go for what they want. That’s what most home educated young people end up doing. Their education, which has been independent from an institution and decided upon through democratic discussions together, naturally leads them towards an independent life – not the opposite as some doubters would suggest.

So trust in yourself, trust the example of thousands of ‘graduated’ home schooled young people now successfully ‘out’ in society (they always were really – that’s how home education works), and be brave about deciding what’s right for your family.

Our two children are now in their twenties and out making their valid contribution to the working world and put me in mind of the things that were said about us which I wrote in ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Hope that helps!

The home education bedside book!

Before ‘A Home Education Notebook’ was completed a friend and fellow home educator said to me that they kept their other home education books  of mine by their bed. This was so that, if the day had been a little tough, they could dip into my words and be inspired again. Remember why they were doing it.

from the intro…

I was delighted to hear that. Made my day!

“Perhaps I should call this next one the home education bed side book then, “I laughed. “For that’s exactly what I’m hoping it will do.” And that’s how it was referred it when I was working on it.

I then decided this perhaps wasn’t a strong enough title for publication and changed it to what it is now; ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

A year or two after publication of the Notebook another home educator writes to me: “The children tease me that my copy, which I keep by my bed, is like my “bible “ of home education!!! I refer to it when I need to be uplifted.” Maybe I should have left the title after all! I am so moved.

I’m always so grateful to you for letting me know that the stuff I write is doing the job I set out for it to do. It makes it all worthwhile. Delighted to know it brings comfort when you need it – I know I certainly needed it at times!

So thank you for sharing that with me. And for the encouraging reviews. I appreciate them so much.

If you’ve read the ‘Notebook’, or any of the others, and could find a moment to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you hang out that would be incredible. Because what this does is spread it further around so that any others also needing comfort may come across it too.

Thank you for all your support – it brings me comfort too. And wherever you keep your copy, bedside table or not, I hope it helps you ease your worries and sleep better!