Tag Archive | Bird’s Nest Books

Education and Bullying

Something which often comes up in relation to schools and learning, is the subject of bullying – in more ways than you think! So I thought I’d post this exclusive exert from my ‘Home Education Notebook‘, Chapter 31:

I have a terrible admission to make – I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. I bullied my child into cleaning her teeth when she was little. I’m thoroughly ashamed. But at the time I just couldn’t think of another way to get her to do it and I knew the longer term consequences were important.

I’d tried reason. I’d explained, tried to make it a fun game, I left it for some time in the hope it would correct itself, her older sister cajoled as she cleaned hers. In the end I got cross on occasion and ‘made’ her – or bullied her is another way of looking at it.

She says now, in her twenties when I asked if she remembered, she felt it was a terrible intrusion into her person having me clean her teeth, but she forgives me, we even laughed about it. But although bullying is an intrusion and an abuse, sometimes like with this example, we feel it’s justified.

That is of course questionable, depending on our parenting philosophies. However, I think we all can end up ‘bullying’ our children at some point. We’d certainly grab and drag our kids back from running under a car. It’s a gut reaction on our part even if it is bullying. (I’ll return to that gut reaction in a bit).

Many of us will have been on the receiving end of bullying far more severe than this, both as children and adults, perhaps in the home, more often in school. Bullying in school is a common reason parents turn to home education.

Dr Paula Rothermel who conducted some extensive research into home education found over half of the parents she interviewed turned to home education because of school related problems, bullying being among them. And bullying by others in school is a common subject on home education forums where parents discuss their child’s school experiences.

Sometimes the children manage to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t. Often, what’s even harder to talk about is the subversive type of bullying that isn’t quite so visible inflicted on a child through abusive teaching in the form of sarcasm, humiliation, orders, or so-called banter. Young people are circumstantially powerless to deal with it.

It’s a very difficult, sensitive and emotive subject for children to cope with on their own anyway, wherever they are. It can make them feel utterly powerless. The effects last far beyond the actual events and inhibit self-esteem, confidence, the ability to function socially, even going out of the house. The consequences are so harmful they can influence many aspects of their normal lives and the decisions they make.

What’s even more insidious is cyber bullying which can still be influential when a bullied child is taken out of a school situation, or is home educated from the outset. Most home educated children participate in other out of school activities so it’s possible they’ll come up against bullying in some form at some point.

The Bullying UK website (www.bullying.co.uk) has plenty of tips and advice for parents about what you can do if you’re concerned and, although most of these are school related, there is also a section dealing with cyber bullying and what to do about it. Any minority group, particularly if they’re doing something different to the mainstream like home educated children, can be a target. So it’s worth taking a look; the site gives you signs to look out for and how to help.

If you’re new to home education, and you’ve turned to it because your child was bullied at school, you will probably want to focus on your child’s healing and well being for some considerable time, rather than any intense academic activity. Don’t worry if you’re approached by the LA requesting your educational intentions, you can remind them of what your child’s been through, that it will take some time for your child and your family to adjust and building your child’s confidence is your priority for the time being. On the excellent website www.edyourself.org it says that the law supports families in doing this. The Authority are certainly not allowed to bully you (the FAQs on this site show what they can and cannot do) and if you familiarise yourself with your rights on this issue you’ll be able to stay on your child’s side and do what’s best for them.

Another effect of having being bullied is to make the young person anxious and uncomfortable in social situations so it may take a while for them to overcome this. Although all the home educating groups I’ve been involved with were welcoming, inclusive and friendly, they will probably feel very daunting to a youngster who has been bullied. So it may be some time before they are confident in integrating – it takes a while for them to rebuild their trust. It’s not something that should be forced.

We met youngsters who had come from school who were very reserved and unable to mix, but in their own time were able to rebuild their confidence in others and went on to be happy, confident people. So if your child has been through bullying and you’re worried about them ever integrating again, be patient and have faith. In the right company I’m sure they will – it takes time.

Bullying from others is usually how our children experience it. But there is another common link between education and bullying that may not be so apparent. And that is through the way in which children are ‘made’ to learn.

We all have Dickensian images of teachers wielding canes and forcing children to learn. The canes or enforcement may have gone out of scenario but there is no doubt that other more subversive forms exist; we tread a very fine line between coercion and encouragement, authority and guidance, and our sometimes obsessive desire for our children to achieve.

Teachers have been known to adopt subtle bullying tactics at times, but I think our parental anxieties about our children’s achievement out of school also present a danger of us sometimes inadvertently moving towards a subversive form of bullying if we’re not careful – we may even think it’s justified like the teeth cleaning example above. However, we don’t want ‘making’ children learn become our gut reaction to educating.

So it’s worth us taking a critical look at our behaviours and our approaches to our child’s learning to make sure we’re not guilty of forcing our children to learn through coercion, bribery or threats, which are slightly bullying approaches even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, rather than giving them good reasons or explanations for what we ask.

When home educating we have the opportunity to spend the time doing this – something not available in a school setting. Teachers have to meet often unrealistic targets and with the constraints they’re under can sometimes resort to bullying behaviours to get the children to perform.

We have to see we’re not doing the same. Never would there be justification for bullying parenting – and much of our home educating depends on our parenting. What we can do instead is take a much more relaxed approach.

We can keep an open dialogue with our kids about their education, what we do and why, increasing their understanding of why be educated at all.

We can regularly discuss their activities and what benefit doing them is, from the point of increasing skills and understanding and therefore opportunities.

We can listen and observe what the children’s interests are and use these as starting points for learning, so the learning comes from them rather than being thrust on them. This also helps minimise resistance and possible conflict by keeping them engaged.

We can let go of forcing outcomes and trust in the process of our child becoming educated and arriving at the outcomes they will need as they mature.

In our home education groups we can raise awareness, talk about and establish a policy to protect everyone from bullying – both from parents and from other children, decide how it’s going to be tackled, and include older children in these debates perhaps.

By our own actions we can imbue an atmosphere of inspiration, communication and calm around our learning activities. And make learning a shared and pleasurable experience rather than something we force children to do.

We can encourage them to take charge of their own activities, which creates an independence with learning and the motivation for them to educate themselves for themselves, rather than it being something done to them by others, which is often how many children feel about education in the system.

These actions create a climate of respect around our children and their education. And it alleviates the danger of us resorting to bullying our children into learning – usually through our own tensions and anxieties – but for which there is no excuse.

And this approach also has the added advantage of creating good relationship and communication habits, which will help our children communicate with us should they ever be bullied by others.

Read more stories and tips in the book.

Published by Bird’s Nest Books and also available from Amazon

Book offers: Celebrating ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and others

Back from the delights of Brighton Fringe and stunned as ever by Chelsea’s performance, not to mention production of the whole darn show along with her partner. Feeling in awe of their achievements and a little bit celebratory! Tearful stuff!

And this week also sees a celebration of another kind, along with Eyrie Press. 

It is three years since my first children’s book ‘Who’s Not In School’ was published by Bird’s Nest Books. I can hardly believe it, remembering back to when we were first discussing putting this book out there seems like only the other week!

It features Harry a home educated child who gets into all sorts of trouble because his desire to learn about and investigate his world is so strong it leads to inappropriate behaviour. So it was quite controversial and raised a few arguments. But he is basically like any other kid – schooled or not – full of the curiosity we parents need to manage, but not subdue!

In celebration of the anniversary of its publication the publishers have a give-away going on this week end so pop over here and take a look. And check out the 99p offer on kindle editions. You might get a great deal.

And enjoy your weekend.

Sibling conflict and The Wrong Adventure

 

Have you come across Harry? He’s the star of the story ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and he gets up to all sorts of adventures in a typical family week with kids at home.

In book two; ‘The Wrong Adventure’, he decides to tunnel out. Why? Because he wants to get away from his older brother and sister as everything he does seems to annoy them. He’s not doing what he does specifically to annoy, as all older siblings seem to feel, but because he’s curious. and it gets the better of him. He ends up exploring things he shouldn’t!

It’s typical in most households and was loosely based on what happened in this one, when the youngest was constantly fascinated with the activities of the eldest and wanted part of it, or hands on it, or to do the activities for herself however inappropriate. And however much I tried to involve both in activities at their own level there were times it seemed impossible, times when the eldest just wanted to absorb herself in what she was doing without having to guard against little fingers grabbing stuff all the time.

You have to be careful how you react to this scenario, I discovered. You can find yourself involved in a sibling competition to get you onside.

You have to be canny. You have to try and resolve it without that happening. Better still, you have to lead them to resolving it themselves to the satisfaction of both – but this can only happen with a certain maturity and there are times when they’re just no old enough.

I tried talking, explaining, compromise and keeping respectful and if all that fails distraction and diversion. And have to admit sibling rivalry could become quite wearing. But all would be resolved in the end, togetherness restored, even though I got it disastrously wrong at times as all parents do, so don’t worry, it’s not just you! And they’ve forgiven me!

And the only fights they ever get into now is united, side by side, in fierce loyalty against any challenges to it – together! It’s been lovely to see and not something I could ever have imagined when crayons were flying across the room!

So, why is Harry on the wrong adventure? Well, if you haven’t guessed by this post, I’ll leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. Read it together with your little ones and it might give you an opportunity to talk about how siblings treat each other and how it could be improved in your household when everyone is at loggerheads. For what’s required is to see each other’s point of view and hopefully this story will help that.

 

‘The Wrong Adventure’ is published by Bird’s Nest Books and is also available on Amazon.

Home Education inspiration and support on Kindle

 I’m excited to tell you that my newest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to Encourage and Inspire’ is now available in Kindle. I know some of you have been waiting rather than buying the hard copy. If you still wanted the hard copy it’s available from Bird’s Nest Books at a really good discount.

I’ve had some lovely messages about this book, especially what a comfort it’s been to parents on the long, sometimes challenging, road of home education. I’m delighted to hear that, as it’s just why I wanted to write it. I know how you sometimes long for a hand to hold on that journey and this was intended to be just that.

Home education works, there’s plenty of evidence now, but since it is usually so invisible it can be hard to trust in ones convictions. This book is full of reminders to help maintain that trust. Keep it beside you for wobbly times.

If you pop over to the publisher’s website you’ll also find a couple of my children’s books written especially so the little ones have someone to identify with instead of only reading about school kids! The character ‘Harry’ is a mischievous, inquisitive soul; his behaviour will give you much to talk about with your children! It also illustrates the day to day lives of home educating families.

And thanks for all the personal supportive messages about this work. Writer’s, like home educators, are often invisible too, so it’s nice to know the work’s appreciated.

Enjoy your home educating journey and may you be blessed with the joy we experienced.

Find the Kindle version on Amazon.

New book news!

I had an exciting meeting with the publisher this week.

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

We’ve got two more books in the pipeline; the first is the continuing adventures of Little Harry and the home educating family you met in ‘Who’s Not In School’, written especially for children. And the other is a collation of my posts and articles about home schooling from all the years we were home educating our two children, written especially for the parents!

I’ve written so much about it over the years, some even pre-date this blog. And the Home Education posts which are here are scattered among general parenting stuff and my forays outdoors. So if you’re looking for home educating tips and encouragement, rather than you having to trawl through all of that, I’m collecting it in one book.

For I understand that need for a bit of comfort sometimes as you tread this unconventional path as I felt it too. Or some fresh viewpoints, reassurance, or just the feeling that someone understands, so now you’ll know where to turn. There’ll be new material in there too, especially written for the book.

Hopefully this will be out in time for Christmas (dare I say that word?).

Harry’s adventures may take a little longer, though, as you can imagine that those beautiful pictures take the illustrator a while.

But I’ll keep you posted here. If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be able to get updates on the progress and news of when it’s available. You can also sign up for the publisher’s newsletter to get updates on their site too.

Meanwhile; perhaps I could just say how much I appreciate the support shown for my work so far. Home educators are not the only ones who need encouragement – writers do too! Your kind words are always uplifting, either here or on Amazon. And all ‘Likes’ on my Facebook Author page, most gratefully received.

Thank you!

And in return I hope you find support in the forthcoming work.