Tag Archive | achieving

Seeing educating differently

“But how will the children learn anything if they’re not in school being taught?” is a question often asked by those new to the concept of home education.

The reason they ask is usually because, like most, they’ve been taught to think about learning in institutional ways – as the education system conditions us to do.

But when you step out of that institutional thinking, that conditioning, and acknowledge and understand the thousands of families raising and educating their kids without school, you begin to see something different.

You see children:

  • Learning for themselves. Yep – they can, and do, take charge of their learning, (if they’re not put off), right from being small when they’re interested in everything and are given the opportunity to develop those interests further, thus picking up the skills for learning as they go. To maturing into seeing how the world works, how they want to fit into it, and how education will enable them to do that, either through becoming qualified at something or polishing up skills needed for the workplace.
  • Acquiring learning skills, through a wide experience of learning, by being engaged with topics for their own sake and consequently motivated, by applying themselves in practical ways, getting out and seeing things, doing things, experiencing the real world and the people in it and learning from them as they go along.
  • Learning from the people around them, not necessarily teachers, through mutually respectful relationships rather than hierarchical ones. By making their own assessments about the people who can help them, where they can find these people, by discussion and questioning, by having time for conversations, by interacting with them in beneficial ways.
  • Developing mature social skills by being around a high proportion of people who have social skills themselves, rather than a bunch of kids their own age who still don’t. And by healthy, unforced, interaction with a wide range of children from tots to teens in a more natural setting across the ages like that found in the real world, unlike the unnatural clustering in schools.
  • Learning through a diverse range of approaches from the structured, course-led type of approach, through the practical, experiential, trial-and-error way, to a completely child-led, creative, personal investigative, autonomous approach that can be equally successful.
  • Becoming educated without ever being tested on it!

There are far more ways to approach education than the institutional way that has become the tradition through schooling. Schooling was a great idea at the outset. It’s not such a great way of doing things now that society, parenting and families are different and now that politics has trashed it by twisting it into something that’s got to be constantly measured.

Measured people aren’t always the best people, or the most intelligent either. So don’t be conditioned into thinking that measured schooling will be the best either. Think it out for yourself!

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Is this all that matters to parents?

So schools are doing their best to get punters before the term starts again.

I’ve just seen this banner hanging outside a school on my travels.

I found it incredibly sickening.

Are exam results the only thing kids go to school for? Are they the only thing that is the measure of an education or an educational establishment? Are results the only things that parents care about so the only thing that will ‘sell’ the school to them?

Is this all there is to sell?

Where does it say what EXPERIENCE the young people are going to have there? Does that not matter at all? Would you not as a parent want to know about your child’s LIFE in school while they are learning?

Okay I’ll stop ranting now and instead put my brain to answering the question; what would I like to know about a school that would induce me to consider it?

Here’s the five things that I came up with to put on a banner:

  • the widest range of inspiring activities your child will ever experience with a high proportion of adults to help them
  • encouragement of individualism, independence in learning, and choice making, irrespective of age
  • development of respectful relationships between ALL, regardless of age, stage or hierarchy
  • equal importance placed on ALL subjects including the practical, physical and creative and the freedom to choose between them
  • NO testing or publication of any results, emphasis instead on personal development

If schools don’t want to be considered as factories, as some are accusing them of being, then they should stop measuring themselves on a factory style output. Education is about developing young PEOPLE. Not producing commodities. Or percentages!

Tell me; what would your five most important things be?

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

A little bit of championing!

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

But the thing is I do get asked.

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

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

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

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

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

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

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

Charley having a chuffed moment

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

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

I said ‘quite’! 🙂

 

Room to learn?

When school term starts again there’s always a flurry of new interest in home education. As well as the usual questions about exams or socialisation (read this) there’s another one that always gets asked:

“But where are the kids going to learn?”

The thought of learning without a classroom seems to make people anxious, as if without this ‘school’ room the children wouldn’t be able to learn at all.

It’s based, of course, on the familiar view we have of learning only ever taking place in a classroom in a school. But just because that’s the way it’s done in the system, it doesn’t mean to say that it is necessary, or the only place a child can learn, or that learning can’t happen effectively without it.

Like any studying we’ve ever done at home, any space can be adapted to fit a purpose, we just have to get creative with it. We can use whatever is available from the kitchen table, bed, living room floor, sofa.

Most home educating families live in a family house and use general family spaces for learning activities. Some start out with a routine that involves grouping round the kitchen table for example, but soon find that in reality, learning can take place anywhere.

For children learn best when they are stimulated, interested and comfortable. That could just as easily be on the floor or in the garden, as in a more formal setting with table/desk and chairs involved. Reading together on the sofa is as effective as upright at the table – probably more so because the child associates it with a pleasurable experience and pleasurable experiences are usually ones that they remember and want to repeat. E.g. maths is just as effective whether it’s on the sofa, on the floor, or chanting or doing quizzes in the back of a car.

In some ways, different settings and experiences can aid learning, stimulating memory. A more formal setting that’s repeated day after day can become boring and easily forgotten.

Many home educating families who have seen their children learning in a variety of settings would go so far as to say that the world is their classroom, finding that they learn as much when they’re out, wherever it is, as they do at home. Valuable learning can happen incidentally from an everyday outing, field trip or visit, stimulating conversation, inquiry and investigation. Even a trip to the park can provoke that. Travel or new stimulating experiences are more examples and offer subjects to research further.

But it’s also the case that formal learning can be conducted outside or in different settings as much as incidental learning can. Just because it’s more formal learning doesn’t mean it needs a more formal space. You can take study anywhere you’re prepared to do it – a library for example, or cafe. One of the essays with the highest marks I ever attained was put together sitting in a field where I was undisturbed and enjoying the quiet surroundings.

Dedicated learning spaces are not a guarantee that effective learning will result. So don’t always stick with formal learning spaces and routines. Get creative – the more stimulating they are the better. It is often the most unlikely situations that stimulate the most lasting results.

And do let me know if you’ve had some unusual and crazy ones – I’d love to know!

Brain training is better done by playing a recorder

I’m often on about the need for diversity in children’s lives. I do hope not too many of them were sat in front of a game all half term.

Of course, gaming is a relevant part of children’s lives now, but like with everything, they need diversity of experience in both their recreational lives and education.

The education system continues to put the squeeze on that diversity, particularly within the Arts subjects, despite the fact that numerous studies show the benefits both to education and mental and personal development that these subjects have.

Music probably does something unique. It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.’ Illustration: Sophie Wolfson

Music probably does something unique. It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.’ Illustration: Sophie Wolfson

I spotted a report lately that talks about the benefits of musical training in children – although perhaps ‘training’ is a bit of a worrying word. It would sit more comfortably to think that kids picked up a musical instrument and wanted to play it of their own volition and, more importantly, were given the opportunity to do so. But that opportunity is dwindling in schools despite the fact that playing a musical instrument helps children’s all round learning skills and educational development.

The article in the Guardian tells how learning to play an instrument is one of the most effective ways of developing brain function that there is, far exceeding the benefits of Brain Training Games, despite their claims. Learning an instrument can have a good effect on memory and language development which endorses the fact that we should not see subjects in isolation but as collectively good for the intellect and personal development.

It’s not about being good at one particular subject. It’s about embracing many subjects which will impact on children’s all round progress. Diversity of subjects supports diversity of brain function.

Other creative subjects are equally important, (see my post on creative intelligence here) as is sport and physical activity, also increasingly sidelined in schools for the more measurable subjects. Read this one on art in education.  And another on the influence of physical activity on brain function. Of course, these measurable subjects feed league tables which makes them more popular than those which don’t!

It is criminal that schools are forced to lose these subjects to the demands of a narrowing curriculum

Another of the beauties of home education is that you can give the kids the diversity of experiences they need for healthy all round development.

Gaming, sports, arts, or learning an instrument need as much attention as the subjects you’d consider more academic, as they have an equal role to play in children’s development.

Our own too come to that – so I’d better get off Instagram and get the guitar out!

What’s it really like to home educate?

In case there’s a few parents out there wondering what it would be like to home educate instead of restarting school after half term, here’s a post from when ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ was published which will tell you!

It’s collected some super reviews on Amazon since then so if you’re one of the wonderful parents who left one a massive THANK YOU! If you haven’t and you’d like to I’d be eternally grateful, as I am to all my readers.

For those who haven’t read it yet, it’s basically the story of an ordinary family.

Make a good present for someone!

Make a good present for someone!

Yes – ordinary. Not extreme, or alternative, academic or religious because we’re not necessarily any of those things. We just felt that we could no longer watch our kids becoming unhappy, unwell, and switched off to the learning they’d always been so keen on before they went to school. So we decided to withdraw them from the system and do something else; home educate. And we built an extraordinary happiness doing it.

It wasn’t all roses – course not! No family life is. But it wasn’t as hard as you might think either. What it was – or turned out to be – was a continued joy and something we never regretted for one single instant.

If the idea of home schooling freaks you out this will help you realise it doesn’t need to. Because, if you think about it, you will have already been home educating your child. You just weren’t aware of it. But you will have been teaching your child no amount of stuff pre-school; how to walk and talk, use tools and the toilet! Get dressed and use technology. All sorts of things.

It’s just that this little family returned to that full time, educating through every day life, through all the little dramas all families go through, from indecision, bereavement and moving house, to what to cook for tea and how to think about the future. It all has the potential for learning – even going to the loo!

So, if you’ve ever wondered what a home school family life was like, this will give you a peep. A peep at the learning and laughter and love all rolled into one, that home educating turned out to be.

Read an exert or two on the MY BOOKS page.

And for more tips and insight into the home educating life see my newest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’