Tag Archive | beyond classrooms

Doing the human race a favour!

Charley sat picturesquely on the bridge with the dog! 

It seems ages since she was small enough to wade through the tunnel without bending over! And ages now since the adventures she had doing so, described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we’d take off into the countryside for the afternoon, with picnics and usually granma too.

She and I were revisiting one of the favourite places for our homeschool adventures recently when I snapped this.

They always learnt so much wherever we went, especially when they had the opportunity to explore, talk about, investigate and discover. The simple experience of the afternoon was educative enough – it doesn’t always have to be formal.

That’s something missing from a formal education which takes place in institutions day after day, keeping the kids busy with a predetermined curriculum. It leaves no room for imagination or personal discovery. It masks the fact that informal activities can be just as educative. More so perhaps because along with their own investigations comes the opportunity to think for oneself, making a far more independent learner than one that is regularly spoon fed and who is constantly led to believe their own ideas are invalid.

A more investigative approach keeps the children’s curiosity alive – their wonder at the world intact – and this keeps them motivated to go on learning because it is far more engaging. I’m not saying there’s no room for formal activities sometimes – when they serve a purpose. But many school activities don’t – other than ticking political boxes.

Schools have to keep kids busy. But keeping them busy within formal prescribed structures does not guarantee learning is taking place. Equally the reverse is true. Informal activities do not mean there’s no learning taking place.

And I wish people would understand that just because the children may be learning informally, it doesn’t mean the parents are not taking it seriously. We took the children’s education very seriously, as all home educators do, whatever approach they adopt. Would anyone ever take this decision lightly? Doubt it.

People are conditioned to think that a school style approach to education is the ‘real’ one and the one that matters because that’s all they know. Their own education has failed to show them that there are all sorts of ways to learn! They fail to comprehend anything different.

But random learning, however diverse, promotes the ability to learn randomly – or diversely. And the ability to think diversely. We could certainly do with more of those types of people. Diversity is essential for the perpetuation of the species so Darwin said!

So getting out like we did, and giving your kids a range of experiences as you educate, will actually be doing the human race a favour. And even though it may be informal, don’t be fooled into thinking that there is no serious education going on!

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Good luck to the home schooled kids!

It’s not just school kids taking exams at the moment!

 So what I want to say is this: Good luck to all the home educating families involved with exams too! What an achievement to have got this far – without school.

It’s an aspect of home education that many people don’t even think about even at this time of the year – that homeeducated kids will be doing exams too. Pretty ironic really, since ‘what about exams?’ is always one of the major questions parents and journalists ask when they’re researching home education.

Most home educated families study for GCSEs just the same as all the school kids do – yep there is life and learning outside a classroom! They use courses – usually associated with examining bodies, sample papers online, coursebooks, and the Net of course – they just don’t do it in a classroom. And they learn very much from their own study, parental help and encouragement, online facilities, and occasionally tutors (although that’s quite rare actually). They sit the exams in independent exam centres dotted around the country, the snag with that is the have to be independently paid for – extremely unfair – the home educating community is working on getting help for that.

And just as other kids do, most of the home educators go on to achieve good grades.

So I wanted to take a moment’s thought for them. So often home educating families are disregarded, or worse; the victims of bigoted, biased judgements usually by those who are ignorant of the experience, like this one which appeared in the media recently about a young home schooled graduate.

What we rarely see are the grades and the achievements. I reckon if a study were done of the percentage of homeschooled candidates who achieved good grades compared to the percentage of school candidates the former would be the higher!

Most home educating young people are motivated and achieving, they go on into work as easily as anyone else (not that it’s easy for any in today’s climate), often beating off competition.

So I wanted to wish all those families and young people whole hearted good luck with your exams! You deserve a mention too!

There’s no single ‘right’ way to educate

Yet more families are deciding that the school approach to their children’s education is not for them and choosing to home educate.

Having been through it ourselves people often ask what advice I would give to those just starting out.

My answers often change with whoever’s asking; there are so many different ways to approach learning and every family is different and come to it with different needs and circumstances. So maybe that’s a good place to start;

–          There’s no single right way to do education! People home educate because the needs of their child are not being met in school so a good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best – at the forefront of your thinking. Think first of what you child needs to donot what you want to teach them!

–          Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’re likely to change your approach to their learning as they do so, as you review and adapt, gain understanding yourself, meet new people and try out their ideas. So keep your eyes and mind open. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.

–          Discard the idea which schooling upholds that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and it won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do.

–          And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight! Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown! Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you grown’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.

–          And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow – it just stresses them. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics! I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at!

–          Education is a long-term thing. Like a tree it takes a while to grow and there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.

–          Another aspect of time use is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. In fact these are educative in themselves.

–          And something else to remember: Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to learn something.

–          Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite!

–          Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be learning. Academic learning is only one small part, best left till later.

–          Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education!

You’ll find more ideas in my books; ‘Learning Without School’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. And the final part of ‘Mumhood’ also shows how you affect your child’s education right from the start. Scroll down the My Books page for details and extracts, or find them on Amazon.

Autumn and I get all misty!

031Autumn always filled me with joy.

But it turned into dread when the kids were in school and they had to go back and have their souls shuttered down again after the freedom they’d had all summer.

I had thought school was supposed to be an inspirational and liberating experience. It became more like an oppression – an oppression of everything children needed to be and the way they needed to be it, especially learning wise. Oppressive educational regimes as far from the uplifting experience education should be as I am from living in a mole hole. That’s how I think of it a bit; kids being shunted along narrow dark tunnels of curricula instead of being shown the world outside.

Come that wonderful Autumn when they were six and nine we decided to bring them back out into the sunlight.

This is what I wrote in my diary at the time…

Wednesday: Today we have been liberated! The girls are no longer going to school – for the time being anyway – a democratic decision. And they obviously feel liberated too and have suddenly become so busy, rushed and got maths books out when I didn’t want them to do maths! I haven’t felt such joy about anything since they were born. Such joy and excitement coupled with the nausea at the thought of the monumental step!

Thursday: Been for a swim on this our first day of liberation! And this afternoon making some beautiful art. It’s almost as if their inspiration and motivation has suddenly been released. I regret so much that I didn’t do it years ago!

It wasn’t all plain sailing as those who’ve read A Funny Kind Of Education’ will know. But then, parenting is never all plain sailing wherever your kids are educated, it certainly wasn’t plain sailing for us in school.

But the best thing about it we discovered was that when the boat got blown off course we could always find another approach rather than accuse the child of ‘failing’. If the waters got choppy a discussion and reappraisal usually calmed them again, rather than a child’s needs being ignored and creating bigger problems. If they got sick we could give them time to mend without worrying we were ‘missing something’ like schools make you feel. Funny but they rarely got sick after they stopped going to school!

And everything became a learning experience, had potential for learning, everything taught them about life; about living it, earning it, managing it, making it productive, creating a happy one.

And every Autumn we rejoiced that the children, rather than be buried back under dull, unnecessary, institutional regimes that are more about politics than people, could instead just continue with their happy learning lives out in the world of misty fields or vibrant cities. There was always something to learn wherever we were.

And Autumn was reignited as my favourite time of year!

10 little known truths about home schooling

We used to feel people’s resistance come up like a prickly shield when we mentioned we home educated. It often provoked the response; ‘couldn’t possibly do that’!

But I think that attitude is changing with more and more parents considering home education as a real option as they become unhappier with schools’ provision. It often happens at this time of the year when their children, just started back in school, show dramatic changes in their behaviour and well-being due to the stress of it.

Right back when I started this blog I did a post outlining some little known facts about home education. So if you’re considering it yourself, I’m posting them here again in case you missed them:

– 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. They just needed an alternative to school which they feel is not right for their child or where their children were failing to thrive or reach their potential. 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 as thousands of home educators are now proving.

– Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work 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. 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 have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy as all parents. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.

– 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 book, I have never come across an incidence of abuse which sadly is the only time home educating ever gets talked about. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

– Thousands and thousands of home educating families are now proof of how children can be educated successfully without school.

A little bit of magic in the day…

The earth weaves us magic all the time

The earth weaves us magic all the time

Just when you think life is dead ordinary you read something that springs a bit of magic into it:

“I believe there is a certain magic to life…an element that is beyond reason and which packs our experience here on earth full of mystery and enquiry. Things happen all the time that we cannot intellectually explain, yet we all too readily dismiss them because we can’t scientifically prove them, as if we humans had reached ultimate knowledge and understanding…

I have found that happiness often comes in the acceptance that there are things that we will never understand in life; instead of relentlessly trying to explain them, we could just sit back and wonder at their majesty.

Passionately and relentlessly following your own beliefs in life, without worrying exactly how it will come together, is often enough to bring whatever you envisage into existence…”

This is Mark Boyle talking in his book ‘The Moneyless Manifesto’ which is about how money pollutes and how we can show the greatest respect possible for the earth by living in other ways.

(visit http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/ where his book is available for free – how magic is that!)

Immediately I read this bit I thought of home educators – and all parents actually. We have to be a bit like that.

When we raise kids – and we home educated our two children – we have to believe as we watch their development evolve because growing and becoming educated is not something that you can always intellectually predict. It has so many intangible aspects to it like personality and circumstances. And parenting.

Although Mark is not a parent he has more to say on generic education:

“It goes without saying that education is crucial to our wellbeing and happiness. But what type of education is best? Before we can answer that question we have to first consider and define what exactly we are educating ourselves for. If it is for a life in the wage economy and the repetitive conveyor belts of industrialisation, administration and consumerism, then our current education system has a lot of merit… In contrast, if education’s aim is to give us the best opportunity to live happy, deeply connected, sustainable, creative, free, holistic, compassionate and adventurous lives, what form would it take and how would it look?”

I know which kind of education – and development of my children – I would choose every time; the latter.

And I also know that to achieve it takes belief and trust in that bit of magic he talks about, which goes beyond our current established systems and rule books into the unexplainable!

Home Education – from someone who knows….

Yay! She did it! So pleased…

You see, I enlisted the help of my lovely daughter to present a little film I scripted.

I’ve wanted to do one for ages. Just to help increase understanding of home education. To try and trample on those grimy myths, misconceptions and judgements from people who really don’t know anything about it, never have experienced it, yet are so quick to criticise.

And to allow the public to ‘meet’ a now-adult who was home educated in the virtual flesh. Because when thinking about home schooling folks only ever seem to think about children and seldom imagine they turn into ‘normal’, well-adjusted, working adults who contribute as much as anyone else.

See what you think.

Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eej9PxRw_P0

If you’ve got people in your life quick to judge, or you’re just thinking about home schooling your child and you want to ‘meet’ one perhaps you might find this helpful.

You can help too, by passing it on, ‘Liking’ and posting it on Facebook, or mums’ and parents’ networks regularly and extend understanding beyond the home education community.

Thank you!