Tag Archive | achieving

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’

You’re not finished yet

If you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ you’ll remember me telling the story of a close friend and the terrible angst she experienced because of the neglect of her Dyslexic son in school. (Find it on the Books page)

Basically they’d written him off completely and he and a class of ‘disruptive’ others who no one cared about were told they were ‘unteachable’. Enough to make any one disruptive. As the lad said at the time; ‘what’s the point of even trying when they’ve already decided we’re not going to make the grade?’ He was willing to learn. But without support and understanding he was unable to in that climate.

She and I met for coffee the other day. Yep – we still do that together after all these years, still support each other

Trying to hide behind her glasses!

My dear friend trying to hide behind her glasses!

through the tough bits, and still swap notes about our ‘children’ now successfully out in the world despite our angst.

We were remembering the times back then when her worries were intense. Following the time described in the book  her young teen was farmed out of the school to do various other ‘activities’, none of which he wanted to do and none of which were really of any value. Except to keep him off the school stats, of course, as she sees it now. (She’s been with me too long!)

“The one thing that kept me going and kept my faith in him intact,” she said over cake – yep we still do that too, “was something you kept saying to me at the time when my doubts were uppermost.”

“What was that?” I was thinking back fast. I’ve made some terrible gaffes in the past.

“Well you were always adamant he was intelligent, even though dyslexia was hampering his results in school. But the best thing you kept saying was ‘he’s not finished yet’. It was so reassuring. And I think about that a lot now. Even in relation to myself and the things I still want to do’.

It’s a good one to keep by you for when you’re fretting over the kids or something you feel you’re not achieving. You can use it about schooling, home education or about your own personal development.

As an update, thanks to her continual support from home and working through stuff with him, her son went on to college where he received suitable help for his dyslexia, then Uni, graduated, has a good job. She kept her faith in him throughout and credits me with prompting her by say ‘what are his needs now?’ whenever she panicked about ‘the future’.

Her daughter whom she home schooled for a while (starting at the end of the book) has just completed her doctorate. That would not have been the case, she feels, if their education had been left in the hands of the system without parental help and belief.

So whether you home educate or your children are in school, if you’re wobbling over certain things not being achieved yet just remember; the kids are not finished yet. Stay on their side, keep believing and keep with their needs now.

And remember, you’re not finished yet either, whatever age you are!

Home education has brought me closer to my teen!

Back in January a parent got in touch with me about her fourteen year old, the effect that school was having on her, and their desire to home educate. After swapping advice and encouragement at the time, I hadn’t heard from her until recently when she sent me an update.

It’s so inspiring to read how others have progressed that I asked her permission to post it here in the hope of inspiring you all too.

This is what mum Jacqui said in January:

I deregistered my 14 year old daughter Katie who is in year 9 at the end of last term. Katie simply wasn’t coping well with the upcoming exam pressure and found the way things are taught these days was unstimulating and she was constantly comparing her work with her peers and feeling downhearted.
She had begun to have panic attacks and we came to a joint decision that home ed would be better for her.
I replied to the LA when they asked for a form to be filled in and a visit. I declined to fill in the form as it didn’t seem applicable to where we are at the moment and I asked for a six month settling in period and told them I would use this time to follow Katie’s interests and get out and about.
The only problem is I have a constant nagging voice(my own), telling me we need to get going with something more structured, although I think this may turn Katie off. I guess I fear that when the LA do get back in touch I will have little or nothing to show to them.
We are hoping that Katie can do level 1 photography and GCSE maths and English at a local college in September, at the moment she is ok with this.
I have read both your books; A Funny Kind of Education and Learning Without School and would very much value your thoughts on a possible way forward.

(I responded to this letting her know her rights with regard to the LA and what they’re not allowed to do, and suggested that she allowed Katie to follow her interests and try and ignore her nagging voice!)

And here is her update this month:

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

I was just looking back to when we began home educating Katie and read through my original comment on your Blog page and your kind, encouraging response.
I just thought I would send you a quick update on how things have progressed for us. We began with quite a structured approach as Katie said she was used to working to a timetable and felt better knowing what to expect each day. Well this didn’t last for very long and over time we have found ourselves much more Autonomous and it’s been lovely to see Katie’s creative juices start to flow again.
During the year we have visited the beach, Eureka, local historic halls, The Beatles experience in Liverpool, Nature reserves, paddled in rivers, parks, attended a Classical concert, the cinema and lots more. We have also consumed huge amounts of cake, hot chocolate and milkshake in too many coffee shops to mention!
Katie has taken a real liking to baking, photography and playing the Ukulele and Keyboard (all self taught).
Another positive to Home ed is how much closer we have become, and I truly believe that because of the extra time we’ve spent together we have a greater respect for each other and our separate interests, we have of course had our fair share of disagreements too (mostly because of my anxiety over having to be ‘doing something productive’ to collect as evidence for the LA).
One of the funniest moments was when I saw an ad for a local minibus company offering ‘local days out’ I rang and booked us on a trip to Whalley Abbey, only had to pay half price for Katie and they said on the phone they offered a door to door service, all seemed too good to be true. Well the day arrived and we were kindly ushered onto the bus, to find there wasn’t a passenger under the age of seventy and I’ve never seen so many zimmer frames in one place in my life. Katie’s face was a picture and she hasn’t let me off the hook yet!
If you remember I was rather concerned about the upcoming visit from the LA. I gathered together lots of photographs, my diary and a small amount of Katie’s work, we chatted for a while and I explained that Katie isn’t a fan of writing anything down unless she can see a point to it, which he seemed to understand. Anyway in the end he said “Well I think I’ve seen quite enough and taken up enough of your time.” He seemed quite satisfied and is happy to leave us be for another twelve months.
Katie has begun a photography course one day a week at a local college and so far so good. Many thanks again for your earlier advice. I have added you to our FB page ‘Lost in Education’ Congratulations also on your new book ‘A home education notebook’,  I had it on reserve on Amazon and it sits by my bed ready for me to dip into at anytime.

Grateful thanks to Jacqui and Katie for sharing their story with us.

Surely not grammar schools again?

I’ve got a heavy heart this morning. This is because of the recent news about the government’s desire to take us back into the darker ages of divisive education again, via the grammar school system.

Pupils at Altrincham grammar school for boys.

Can Grammars ever be inclusive? Click on the pic for article.

If ever there was anything so segregating then this is it. I cannot see how it is of any benefit to learners. Only of benefit to those who would be elite – feeding the adult snobbery surrounding education that I’d hoped we were moving away from.

Read the articles here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37311023

For children to learn and succeed they need to be comfortable, encouraged and inspired. That should be happening in all schools. All schools should offer the opportunity for children to flourish whatever background they come from, whatever home, street, cultural climate. Anyone at any time should be able to facilitate the learning they need in order to achieve the ‘social mobility’ they desire, whatever school they are in, whatever part of the country.

Some children are academically able. Some are not – they have other skills and attributes. But are no less intelligent. This is harping back to the days where we didn’t acknowledge these differences and will widen the divide between the academically elite and those whose strengths lie in other skills. I see this as no better than clustering all those with skateboarding skills together in elite schools, just because they have skateboarding skills, and disregarding all those with other skills – it’s as narrowing as that. Put like that you can see how stupid it is. Academic skills are just one set of skills and not the only ones necessary for leading a successful and happy life. We need a range of skills – particularly practical skills – and all skills should be equally appreciated.

All schools should be equal. That should be a given. Area, wealth and circumstance are already vastly unequal – we all know that. Surely, surely, all institutions of education should be places where that’s not relevant, where children will all be treated to the same opportunities for growth.

I see the elitist politicians, living in their elitist enclaves, untouched by the challenges the majority of the rest of us face and I recoil in the face of their ignorance and oblivion and their decisions based in their elitism.

This is just another blatant example of that.

Sad, sad times!

Important message!

No one wants to read long blogs right now. I’m not that keen on writing them whilst everyone’s holidaying. So have created another way of leaving you with an important message:

DSC06124

Feel free to pass it on!

An educational phallusy (yes – I meant to spell it like that!)

Charley and I were having a conversation last week just before my book event at Waterstones.

She’d wanted to come along and support me but I thought it maybe best not. For home educated young people tend to get viewed as exhibits really. They provide an opportunity for others to see whether they’ve grown two heads or turned out weird or not.

And they always get quizzed about exams; ‘How many GCSEs have you got?’

This question seems to be the panacea for measuring a successful education and intelligence unfortunately. For it isn’t at all accurate to assume results show that.

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

She didn’t bother with GCSEs. But went ahead with other qualifications that interested her and onto Uni that way. So what’s intelligence anyway? Not something that can be measured by GCSEs alone, although they’re mostly used as such. And that’s the big sad confusion that many parents are under; being told that their child’s future is doomed without them. Qualifications have their uses obviously, but doomed without them? That’s just a fallacy.

We ended up having one of our inevitable conversations about education and what makes you an educated person which is very different to merely being a qualified person

‘It’s not only to do with what you have – as in qualifications,’ I said. ‘It’s about what you do and how you behave as a result of what you have’.

She was thoughtful for a moment.

Then she said; ‘Measuring people by how many GCSEs they’ve got is like measuring men by how big their penis is. It’s not what you’ve got that’s important, it’s what you do with it that matters’.

How we laughed!

What a wonderful analogy; just couldn’t resist sharing!