Tag Archive | beyond classrooms

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!

Education – a matter of heart!

Valentine’s Day. It seemed a good day to say this again because it’s all about a HEARTfelt education and why happiness is so important to it…..

….But what’s happiness got to do with education?

Well, everything:

Unhappy children do not learn well. What’s worse is they begin to develop an unhappiness about learning itself. An unhappy association with learning can become a stumbling block that can carry on throughout all of a life.

To have that happen is a true impediment or handicap. And it is truly sad for it doesn’t have to be like that.

We all need to learn, grow, develop, and change constantly throughout our lives. Life throws at us constant challenges most of which require us to learn and change in some way, even if the tiniest ways. If we cannot do this comfortably, if we cannot do this learning and changing comfortably and happily, it sets us up for unhappiness on and off all through our lives.

For really that’s all education is despite schools having us think otherwise; it’s simply about learning and growing and changing. For all learning changes us a little as we assimilate new ideas and skills into our lives and let go of old ones. Education is as much about growing and changing as it is about academic learning. And it starts from the minute we are born (probably even before) to the minute we die. We learn and change throughout the whole of our lives.

So education and learning do not only start and end with school. A child learns enormous amounts before he even goes to school. He even learns one of the most complicated skills of all – the use of language through speech. And how many times have you heard people say that they learnt more when they left school than they did when they were there. We all certainly learn more of the valuable stuff outside of school – the stuff that gets us through our real lives.

Think about this for a minute. Dynamic thought isn’t it? The fact that education is taking place in our lives long before school years start and after we finish as well as during that time inside it. It’s so obvious really but many people never even think about it. And that pre and post school education takes place without teachers or classrooms, tests or curriculum or schedules, and even without being between the ages of four and sixteen.

Being comfortable with the idea of learning and changing throughout your life is one of the most important things that will make your life happy and successful. The two go hand in hand. For I don’t call an unhappy life a successful one however wealthy one becomes.

And to be happy with learning should be a crucial part of any education.

Education is actually the mainstay of our whole lives but the academic education that takes place in schools is the only one people tend to focus on and value. And sadly it is the one that seems to have the most devastating effect on all our learning after it and that is going so disastrously wrong for some children. And I believe the reason it’s going wrong has to do with one vital element; happiness.

It’s because education in schools is tending to make children unhappy with learning. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is making them unhappy in themselves, as well as with learning.

If our children are not happy in school they do not learn well. They do not realise their best potential. They do not have happy lives or begin to understand what will make their lives happy in the future. And that’s really important because our children are our future, both personally and globally.

I’m not interested in happiness because it’s all twee and rosy and unrealistic. I’m very, very realistic and down-to-earth. And realistically I know that happy people make a much better society than unhappy people. Because generally speaking happy people do not violate or abuse one another, they do not commit crimes or vandalise, destroy or disturb. Happy people feel good enough about themselves to care for one another, care for the community, their environment, the planet. This is why happiness is so important. Happy people make the world a better place in all respects, corny though it sounds. And happiness is a matter of the heart.

My heart, and the hearts of many other parents and some teachers too, tells me that education in schools is not working because, despite what schools tend to make us think, education is a matter of heart as much as it is of head. But education in schools has become only that – a matter of the head.

The only concern the educational system seems to have is children’s heads. Most particularly what they can stuff into them, without any regard for their hearts.

I’m not saying that all schools are unhappy places. What I am saying is that there seems to be an awful lot of unhappy, unwell, disheartened, unmotivated, academically failing, even suicidal children between the ages of four and eighteen.

What happened to these children I wonder? What happened to their hearts and their heads? For I bet they started as bright and happy toddlers, investigating everything, into everything, intrigued by everything, nosy and inquisitive and desperate to learn as all children are.

We watched it fade in our children. I’d already seen it fade in some of the children I taught in schools. I saw it in the boredom on their faces. I saw it in the resentment in their eyes. I see children who are humiliated and shamed by a curriculum that isn’t suited to them and staff bullying to teach it. I see children who are disruptive from not having their educational needs met. I see children who are withdrawn and depressed from not having their hearts attended to. I see children who are apathetic with lack of fulfilment. And I see children who truant from a system and environment that is totally inappropriate for them.

I see it in all these children who are having their heads stuffed without regard for their hearts.

It seems that what happens to children is that once their learning gets controlled by the politics of our current educational system they no longer receive the heartfelt education with which they started their lives.

You will probably have given your baby and child a heartfelt education when they were at home with you. You will have nurtured and taught and encouraged and developed skills within them without even realising, that will have suited their needs and their characters, their gifts and their strengths. You will have made them feel important and loved and valued. You will have done this simply by parenting them in an attentive and respectful way.

Then they go to school.

All of us all of our lives need, and have a right to, an education that is close to our hearts. That develops our heart’s desires as well as our heads. That starts from our individuality and builds on it. That values us as people for who we are and what we can do.

It is not really possible to achieve this with a tightly prescriptive National Curriculum which requires targets to be met or an institution with an agenda that has little to do with an individual and a lot to do with political popularity.

It is possible to do it through home educating though.

Education is essentially about people, the development of individual human beings, who should have their individualities respected. Not disregarded.

To enable this to happen for our own children we removed them from school, just so they could continue the type of education with which they started their lives, before they were totally and irrevocably switched off to learning for the rest of their lives like so many young people that I see.

During the time they were learning out of school we were forced to think very hard about education. For once our children’s education was no longer wrapped up in curriculum and tests and outcomes and strategies and exams, that someone else designed for some other need rather than those of our individuals, then we had to think what we wanted it to be without all that wrapping. We had to think what education really was, underneath all that.

We have learned and changed much throughout our children’s education. For as I’ve said education goes on throughout our lives, both ours as well as the children’s. What we learned most of all was that

education is for life – not just for schools.

 Now that our children – or young people as they have become – have been involved again with the education system, albeit higher education, I see that ugly agenda of politics and grade winning overtake the real important education. But being older – and wiser – they can manage it better.

Younger children can’t.

If you want to consider educating your children’s heart as well as their heads, if you want their education to be a happy one as well as an academic one, then think about home educating as the serious and successful option it is. And join the community of thousands of others who now believe that happiness has a lot to do with it.

Or fight for something better in schools.

Whichever path you choose, your children deserve it.

My book ‘Learning Without School’ has lots of information about home education starting with help in making the decision.

For a real life look at what it’s like in a home educating family try ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’ Listen to an extract here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7PRuMTYP8E&feature=youtu.be 

Click on the My Books page for more…

the Best Things about Home Educating…

The world becomes our learning ground

The world becomes our learning ground

What are the three best things about home educating would you say?

I was thinking about how I would answer that question the other day.

Having home educated our children and watched them blossom out into the wider world now, I think my answers now would be very different from when I first started out.

Back then, the answers would have been short and sweet: –

– JOY at watching them develop.
– FREEDOM to do so much.
– NO MORE petty school policies and politics causing family rifts.

Now, with those years of having experienced it and watched their education develop before our eyes, I’ve learnt a lot and may have more considered answers – even if they are a bit of a mouthful: –

– the chance it gives to use any approach to learning that pays attention to the complete child; health and well-being included.

– the delight at the world being our learning ground (home education being a misleading term), rather than just one narrow institution.

– the wonderful opportunity for our children to be themselves, get to know themselves, extend their intelligence and knowledge, confidence and capabilities for use in the real world, beyond the oppressive culture of a school.

So, what would your three best things be?

Do leave a comment. It would be wonderful to make a whole collection here, both from new and the seasoned home educators. Then others thinking about the option will have such a variety of delights to read and they may be tempted to go beyond just thinking!