Tag Archive | A Home Education Notebook

Why should home educating always be positive!

I was sharing some tweets with Kate @kateonthinice recently as she reported a positive home educating day on her blog. 

She’d fallen into a trap common with many home schooling families. The trap that makes you believe that just because you chose to home educate, every day should be positive. And actually there’s two traps, the second one being that if it isn’t you start to feel guilty about it!

I did it! I bet many home educators reading this have done it too – are doing it now perhaps? But now I know that this is absolutely crazy thinking.

Regularly check in with the things that make you feel good

Crazy in the first place to assume that you can make every day positive when in fact, you’re just human and some human days are totally crap, home educating or not! And crazy to overlook the glaringly obvious fact that, whatever you are doing, it is never always positive.

Life isn’t like that! Why would we assume home educating is one hundred percent positive all the time?

Get real!

Ironically, I’ve been reading lately about keeping happy. (I needed a booster after a recent bereavement). And there was quite an amazing idea in this book along with the usual notes about checking in with the small things, understanding your bad habits, getting exercise, etc.

The basic idea in conclusion was that generally we are born happy. We generally do not come into the world negative. But as we grow and experience difficulties and challenges which are inevitable if we want to do anything, we encounter things that makes us unhappy. What happens then is that we easily get into the habit of becoming tense about these things, then these habits become our default and before we know what’s happening we’re practising negativity all the time.

What we have to do to counteract this is to remember to put our default switch back to positive – remember the things that make us feel good and act on them. Remember that challenges sometimes get in the way of feeling positive but they can be overcome. And remember to return to our positive default when they have.

Nice idea!

In relation to home educating the same thing can happen. After a while we can easily become too serious. We can become bogged down with comparing our pathways to school ones (which is what we wanted to abandon remember). We can sometimes get too heavy with our youngsters. We can get over burdened on occasion with the magnitude of what we’re doing in stepping away from mainstream.

What helps on these occasions when you feel a bit negative and worry whether home educating was a positive decision after all, is to remember; 

  • life is never one hundred percent positive and schooling would equally be throwing up a whole bunch of negatives
  • to seek out others to talk to
  • to keep a balanced perspective on it all by remembering why you did it in the first place
  • to step back and see the bigger picture!

And stop feeling guilty if your days go askew for a while – totally understandable – parenting often goes askew whatever you’re up to. Don’t blame home education.

Life often goes askew. But guess what?

You can change it!

 

(Don’t forget; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ may help with some of those times too). Available  Eyrie Press. or Amazon. See the My Books page for more details.

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Beyond home education

Okay, I’m going to do something I rarely do; put up a mugshot!

This is because when you start out home educating, or think about it as an option for the family, you rarely imagine that one day these littlies will be grown ups. What you normally think is OMG, what are we doing; how will it all turn out?

And this is to show you that it will all turn out okay – the kids will be fine and they’ll still love you!

Our home education took place in many venues and many forms. Charley left, Chelsea right.

If you’ve been reading this blog recently you’ll know I’ve just spent some time in Brighton watching Chelsea’s production in the Fringe – that’s what she’s doing now. She has her own production company which she runs with her partner producing shows (it’s Edinburgh Fringe next), as well as employment to keep the roof over her head and fund some of her enterprises.

Happily Charley could get time off work and come with us – it’s rare we can get all together at the same time. She’s an assistant manager with a big retail company now but also building an independent craft business at the same time.

They are hard working, intelligent, social and competent young women making independent lives for themselves and I’m immensely proud. But in those early days home educating I could never have predicted any of this. You just parent and guide and suggest and encourage and actually – with that support – they do it for themselves.

So, our two have chosen those routes, but other home educating families we knew have done other things, took degrees, are in various professions and self-employment. All busy. All independent. All social. All living their own succesful lives – but successful has a very personal and individual definition anyway. Just like with school kids – you can’t really predict how things will turn out. Both require an amount of faith and trust – school gives no guarantees of success or happiness.

So I thought I’d just put these pictures here as you may well have read about the girls when they were little in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and they feature in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’, to reassure you and encourage you to quit worrying and just get on with the very important business of enjoying your home educating time with your littlies because there will come a time when you only see them in snatches and only rarely get a pic! And it’s so lovely when you do, so just this once I’m sharing it with you!

Happy times with the girls in Brighton recently, Chelsea left, Charley right!

Book offers: Celebrating ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and others

Back from the delights of Brighton Fringe and stunned as ever by Chelsea’s performance, not to mention production of the whole darn show along with her partner. Feeling in awe of their achievements and a little bit celebratory! Tearful stuff!

And this week also sees a celebration of another kind, along with Eyrie Press. 

It is three years since my first children’s book ‘Who’s Not In School’ was published by Bird’s Nest Books. I can hardly believe it, remembering back to when we were first discussing putting this book out there seems like only the other week!

It features Harry a home educated child who gets into all sorts of trouble because his desire to learn about and investigate his world is so strong it leads to inappropriate behaviour. So it was quite controversial and raised a few arguments. But he is basically like any other kid – schooled or not – full of the curiosity we parents need to manage, but not subdue!

In celebration of the anniversary of its publication the publishers have a give-away going on this week end so pop over here and take a look. And check out the 99p offer on kindle editions. You might get a great deal.

And enjoy your weekend.

A plea to drivers – slow down for children

I’ve been out on my bike several times this week. This is to take care of my mental fitness as well as the physical. (There’s a good article about it here)

It works for the kids too as I describe in my ‘Home Education Notebook’, lifting moods and discharging niggles that build up like static if we spend too long inside. (See chapter 24 ‘The Outdoor Miracle’ and chapter 30 ‘Exercise for Education’s Sake’ where I talk about how it impacts on intelligence).

I have cycled round these narrow country lanes and enjoyed the feel of the wind on my scalp, since I was a youngster. So I have to admit to neglecting to get a helmet yet. Luckily, I no longer have to set an example to little kids; there’s none to see this bad practice. And thankfully, my daughter who cycles in the city, has the wisdom to wear one – glorious gold it is – unlike her mother!

But I need to update my habits. Because rural cycling is not like it used to be with the odd vehicle pottering slowly by. Cars come racing by on the narrow country lanes as fast as they do on the main roads. Faster in fact, as they use the back roads to avoid the speed limits on the major ones and consequently I’m sprayed with mud, stones and the wind rush of a car doing more than 50 miles per hour, pushing far too close in attempts to get by rather than wait for a wider stretch of road. When did people get so impatient? And when did people become so ignorant and disrespectful of other road users? Perhaps riding a bike for a week should be a standard part of the driving test.

It was just this type of behaviour that killed one of the children in the school where I was teaching at the time. This was the days before helmets were standard. The lorry raced past far too fast and far too close, without any regard at all for the fact cyclists wobbleespecially children – even without the wind rush. The child didn’t stand a chance and went under the rear wheels. A helmet wouldn’t have saved him. But a careful driver would. We all grieved for weeks. I can’t even begin to think how the parents felt.

We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool. But we can teach them to be wise, understand what using the road entails, be careful and of course wear a helmet.

And as drivers, we must always SLOW DOWN and give plenty of SPACE to cyclists, particularly CHILDREN. Remember that we are not the only road users and make sure that we are not one of the careless bastards who passed me today who put people at such risk.

 

An exclusive from my home ed notebook…

‘…No Prizes For Getting There First’

Have you ever been on the London Underground? 

No doubt those of you who live in London have and I used to when I lived there.

But even though I know what it’s like, even though I grew up there and therefore you’d think I was used to it, I am still amazed when I go back. Amazed by the rushing.

Everyone, whatever the time, is always rushing.

You go into the station and everyone’s rushing past you on the stairs to get to the platform, even though some of the trains run regularly so if they miss one there’ll be another coming along soon. And when you step off the train and leave the station everyone is still rushing. Rushing past you as they head in a rush to the ticket barrier as if it were some kind of race and there’s an invisible finishing line they’re all desperate to get to.

As everyone rushes past – and we’re not exactly dawdling yet we’re still being rushed past – and leaves us behind it does make us feel exactly like that; exactly as if we’re being left behind, despite the fact we usually meet them all again seconds later standing waiting on the platform.

But with everyone rushing past I start to get anxious. I start to feel like I ought to be rushing too, in case we’re missing out on something. What that something might be I have no idea but I definitely feel there must be something I’m missing otherwise why is everybody rushing? Why is everybody surging forward at a stressful pace? What’s the point in legging it down the tunnels only to stand waiting because the train’s not here yet, fiddling with phones that have no signal?

And do you know what?  It’s catching. It’s compulsive. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m rushing along too. It’s downright unnerving, as infectious as it’s stressful. And I really have to get a grip on what I’m doing if I don’t want to become contaminated by it. If I want to avoid dashing towards that non-existent finishing line as if I was part of that hypothetical race too. And I have to ask myself the question – do people know there is no race, no finishing line and no prizes for getting there first?

I expect the question you’re asking right now is what’s this all got to do with education? Well, the reason I’ve described this scenario is because I see exactly the same race happening in education.

Just like me in the underground, it’s easy to feel a certain amount of tension and anxiety if we are not all rushing along the same mainline route, towards the same result as everyone else. And not only that we also tend to feel very, very anxious if we’re not doing it at precisely the same time as all the other children, if we don’t get off the marks at the same age, reach those imaginary milestones at the same time, and cross that imaginary finishing line at the same stage of maturity.

Whenever I hear parents talk about their child’s education, they talk about it exactly as if it were a race and a rush. Certain stages must be gained by a certain time. And if that doesn’t happen, like me in the underground, the child will be ‘left behind’. In schools this feeling is very real. Heavily unpleasant.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. And actually – there is no ‘left behind’. You can achieve anything at any time you want to. And many have.

Education isn’t a race. You don’t have to achieve in certain time frames. You can actually never stop with education – you can take it as far as you want to, when you want to.

There is no point in rushing children along when they’re clearly not ready, developmentally, to achieve something. Nothing dire will happen to them if they don’t all do the same things at the same time or reach them in the same way.

Another important point to remember is that there is no finishing line and there are no prizes for getting there first, wherever ‘there’ may be. There is nothing to be missed out on and the feeling that there maybe is simply that; a feeling, not reality. Just like my feeling in the underground.

You have the choice to plan an education that suits your child’s readiness, which will be far more successful than one you’d pushed them through at an unsuitable pace to ‘keep up’. You don’t have to pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing. The race everyone else is in needn’t concern you. Your child’s own particular needs do.

Racing and rushing has nothing to do with education. In fact spending more time usually gains an education of far more quality and meaning than one that has been rushed through in attempts to meet other people’s deadlines that have no personal value to your child.

That is probably part of the reason that we chose to Home Educate. Because we didn’t want our children stressed by the thought that it was a race to get somewhere, or to have them feel stressed if they didn’t keep to a particular time.

Time is something we wanted to give them. Time to pay attention to quality and depth of experience rather than experience education as something which, as it rushes on, they must keep up with.

It’s best not to let the sight of others racing to this imaginary finishing line in a mad lemming-like way distract you from what you believe is right for your children. If rushing and racing isn’t right for you – don’t get caught up in it.

Just like the folks in the underground, mainstream education can seem a bit lemming-like. I watch families racing towards the eighteen year old bench mark worrying themselves sick about when they’ll have to toss themselves off the educational precipice. And I think to myself – do they know there’s another way? Do they know that education actually doesn’t have to be rushed, have a time-limit, or a precipice?

Home Education provides the opportunity to give children a different educational experience that is not a race. Keep focussed on the way you want to do it; on your children, not mainstream children or systemised education, and move along at a pace that suits your family where they can fully appreciate the quality and depth of it. Many home educated children I know have achieved what they wanted to achieve, whether qualifications, businesses or work, without sticking to the mainline route or the mainstream timing.

And they did this because they understood that whether in the underground, or in life, even without rushing you will all get where you want to go in the end.

Taken from ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ For more details see the My Books page.

 

Happy Easter!

I always think of Easter as the gateway through which spring passes.  

I love it – more importantly for me because the equinox has passed and, although the weather still can throw up some challenges yet, at least we have more light than dark in a day. After long dark winter days that also darken my moods, it’s a blessing to have that.

It affects the children’s moods too, did you realise?

I relate a story in my ‘A Home Education Notebook’ when, having got pretty much to the end of my tether with the children (my mood’s fault as much as theirs) I bundled them up despite conditions and we went out for a walk. This wasn’t without protest – but I pressed on determinedly.

And I’m so glad I did. For everything changed. Their moods picked up, bickering was forgotten, spirits lifted, the grumpy tweenager even started singing! And when we got back with sniffy noses and blazing cheeks everyone was calmer, more peaceful, more tolerant! It was an antidote to doldrums I could always rely on.

Have you tried it?

There are many studies now that show the benefits of time outside everyday – most importantly for the children, both physically and mentally. And it’s so uplifting anyway.

There’s much to seek; buds bursting – look out for the sticky ones, birds carrying twigs for nests, bulbs blooming, primroses, lambs, the first butterfly/bee/ladybird. And the time when the sun actually feels warm on your face.

Turn yours up to it like sunflowers, cure your family gripes, run off all that chocolate; get yourselves outside.

Have a Happy Outdoor Easter!

There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.