Tag Archive | achieving

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’

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.