Tag Archive | books

Deformalising learning to read

It’s so exciting to find researchers who acknowledge that home educators’ approaches make a valuable contribution to ideas about education. Harriet Pattison is one such person.

She describes herself as an erstwhile home educator still puzzling over the meanings of education, childhood and learning.  She continues to fly the flag for the alternative as a lecturer in Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University.

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

But all the while she’s been researching the way in which home educated children learn to read and from those examples considers how all educators could do with rethinking, and perhaps deformalising, their approach to it.

She told me how her research for her new book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ came about:

Education is supposedly about opening up children’s minds.  I think those of us who home educate might say actually it is about opening up adult’s minds.   Certainly home educating made a great start on opening up mine.  It’s amazing watching children; just watching them – not watching them learn or watching them develop but just watching them live.  Therein for me has lain an on-going puzzle.  The living is crowded in with an adult agenda and what was just being becomes doing and doing becomes learning.  But learning is what the adult sees because that’s what we are looking for; what the child does is be.  The puzzle reached its crescendo over learning to read.  How can children just live their way into reading?

Stories about children who ‘just started to read’ always fascinated me.  I wasn’t prepared to find it going on in my own house though.  I wasn’t prepared for the different ways in which it manifested itself.  The more I saw and the more I thought about it, the less I seemed to understand what it was all about.  When I couldn’t get out of the dead end of my own thinking, I started asking everyone else.  All home educators it seems have a tale about reading and I was lucky enough to share some really mind-blowing ones; ones that really rattle the cage of educational convention and demand some heavy re-thinking.

311 families with 400 children contributed to the research, answered my questions and shared their  stories and insights.  What emerged was a kaleidoscope of experiences, shimmers of similarity that turned away from each other, reflected but unsettled each other.  Beautiful, certainly but also unknown and, maybe even for that dangerous.  This was a rough ground of real life; tangled and complicated and wild – not something over which a neat frame of ready to hand theory could be tidily laid.  The stories, the wilderness, the puzzles demand that reading be re-thought because, somehow, our children have lived their way into a new territory of meaning.

‘Re-thinking learning to read’ is my foray into that wilderness.  I take with me a back pack of questions from the old world – all the things we worry about, the educational cares but also a strong desire to take nothing for granted, to begin again,  to rethink.

I’m reading the book at the moment and shall do a longer post about it soon.

Harriet is also co-author of the book ‘How children Learn at Home’ with Alan Thomas which researched the way in which children who are home educated learn through their experiences outside school.

A word of thanks & to whet your appetite for Monday

Thank you so much to all those who supported my blog tour. It has meant so much. Thank you also to the wonderful host blogs; I’m so grateful to you for letting me gab on over on your blogs about education from all different angles! And to Bird’s Nest Books for organising it.

If you haven’t discovered these brilliant blogs yet click the links on my previous post. They’re worth a visit; it’s always inspiring to explore new ideas. Did you check any of them out – do let me know? Today (Thurs) is your last chance to win my latest book over at the Home Education Podcast. 

Meanwhile, another thought provoking book; ‘Rethinking Learning To Read’ has just come my way, which the author is going to talk about on Monday’s blog. Even its introduction got my educational juices going. It tells us how there is historical evidence to show that people learnt to read quite successfully through informal approaches long before schemes and schools came on the scene! (Just like many home educators do!)

Can’t wait to read the rest. Pop by Monday and listen to what the author has to say.

‘Home educating can’t be that bad!’

Louise Walters is a friend and fellow writer who lives with her husband and five children. She is also a home educator so, always keen to showcase others, I asked her if she’d tell us a little of how it works out for her.
Her honest account reminds us that nothing is ever all roses – but can still work!
Here she is:
Two years ago I decided to home educate my then six year old son, Finn. He was such an unhappy child, it was difficult to witness. It took me a long time to make the decision (I had wondered about it even before he started school. He is August-born and quite “young” for his age, and looking back on it now, it’s clear he really should not have started school aged just 4). The annoying thing is, I wasn’t new to HE. My oldest child, now 21, spent time in and out (mostly out!) of school and in many ways I was an “old hand”.
But I didn’t feel like that. I always worried; how can I teach all the subjects? How will Finn get his qualifications when the time comes? How will I find the time to work? That last, if I’m honest, was (and remains) my main concern. However, I know enough about HE nowadays to understand that not a lot of “teaching”, in the school-sense of the word, is needed.
Finn learns organically, using all the means available to him: books, internet, museums, field trips, libraries, pens and paper, paints, Lego, cinema, theatre, home ed groups… anything and everything, essentially. And we actually spend no more than a couple of hours a week doing anything that resembles “school learning”. We have literacy and numeracy workbooks. They are incredibly boring. Really, they are for my benefit… I have something to “show” for their learning when the Local Authority makes its annual request for info regarding my educational provision.
I’m a writer, but have little time for that. The big advantage is I am my own boss. I don’t watch much TV and try to work for an hour in the evenings (not always possible). I also occasionally negotiate writing time during the day with the boys (Oh, did I mention I later took Finn’s brother out of school too?! Home educating can’t be that bad, can it?) Negotiations go like this: “Boys, you do these two pages in your maths workbook…” Grumble, grumble… “Then you can play with Lego/watch DanTDM/colour/dress up/split the atom for an hour and I will write.”
The truth is I love writing and I love home educating (most of the time), so it’s up to me to make it work. I have days when I fervently wish they were back in school, even if it was for just a couple of days a week. That would be perfect, and perhaps when they are a little older, that’s a route we’ll explore. In the meantime, I know I’m doing the right thing, and the boys are learning with such little effort. My youngest just started to read as if over night. I hadn’t been actively teaching him to read. So there seems little point in bringing all this to an end. (They do spend Saturday mornings in  a school, attending lessons at a music school that hires school premises. So they get a nostril full of that school smell once a week. And I get a couple of hours alone in the house. Bliss!)
I haven’t mentioned socialisation, mainly because it’s not an issue. It amuses me that people who have not encountered HE before often ask, “But what about socialisation?” first… kind of a compliment, really, when you stop and think about it. Socalisation is one of the easiest aspects of the whole thing: I don’t keep the kids locked up all day. We are out and about, meeting all kinds of people, of all ages. Finn is less shy now than he was in school. His little brother has never been shy, full stop.
I’ve ran out of time to write. We are off to a home ed play rehearsal. It will be noisy, chaotic and fun. I wonder if I could sneak in my laptop…?
Louise is the author of ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’, published by Hodder in 2014. better-uk-paperback-pic-2
albu-web-ready Her second novel, ‘A Life Between Us’ will be out in March 2017 from Troubadour Publishing. She is working on a third novel, which is about a struggling single mother who decides to home educate her autistic son.
Find her site here; http://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/

Less stuff – more love

December already and I’ve only just started my Christmas shopping. 20161129_103846

I don’t like to make a big thing of it. I don’t do present overload. I prefer to give less stuff, but more love.

Love is more important than shopping – more important than stuff. The best present you can give is your time and attention. Time to be engaged.

Nothing worse than being with someone who is only engaged with their gadget. Hope you’ll remember that this Christmas! As parents;  remember it for all the times you’re with the kids. There’s times for gadgets and times for kids; exclusively.

Talking of love, if you’re short of a pressie for a Home Ed friend this Christmas you might like to give them my newest book A Home Education Notebook. Because I wrote it as an offer of love and support for all those home schooling families since I can’t be in the room giving them a hand. This is my hand of help. Reviewers tell me it really does the job when they’re feeling wobbly! (Read some reviews here)

And if you are looking for a loving family read for a mum you know, you might like to offer them my story; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ guaranteed to bring tears and laughter, folks say! (Lots of lovely reviews on Amazon)

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to my own small Christmas list. Always hoping I’ll get a book for Christmas!

All for a pound!

When I decided to stop teaching in schools (way back in the dark ages) I planned ahead how I was going to manage without income and a mortgage to pay. Of course, that’s a lot easier as a single person without family.

But I got a job waitressing on weekend evenings and gave riding lessons in the day. I worked every day in order to save.

I remember thinking as I served suppers in a posh restaurant that, even with the stress of getting hot meals out on time, even with customers who treated waitresses like dirt, it was amazing to earn money doing a job that seemed so easy compared to the same hours in a classroom!

There was an occasional embarrassing moment like when I served the parents of the kids who were in my class. But dad just laughed it off saying ‘Blimey – I didn’t realise teachers were so badly paid’.

‘Well, now you know,’ I said plonking his plate down and scurrying off.

How we have any teachers at all putting themselves through they crap they endure for the pittance they’re paid is what amazes me now. According to the news, they increasingly leave.

But I miss the teaching and the children. So am hoping to involve myself in some tutoring soon, maybe helping those who struggle through a system which neglects their learning differences, or those who don’t fit into schools’ narrow little targets.

However, it’s also because writers, like teachers, are so poorly paid. You wouldn’t think so because it’s only ever the high-earning writers that you get to hear about like Dan Brown or Stephen King for example, who earn thousands. For lesser writers like me, every book I sell makes me less than a pound. And with the pirating of e-books, I don’t get paid at all.

Back to the bookshop!

Obviously books get passed around. And I’m very happy that they do. But when you next stand in a book shop and think you’ll get the book in ‘other ways’ perhaps you’d spare a thought that if you’re not paying for it, the writer won’t get paid for their hours of hard work either! And it is hard work. Hard as teaching – I should know – I’ve done both full time.

Hence I find myself back working in the book shop for Christmas, mostly so I can treat the girls, turn the heating up (I’m writing this with mitts on!) and maybe have something a little sumptuous for us all too.

I admit it also does me good in other ways; it can be very reclusive writing all the time. And although I revel in your delightful appreciative messages (thank you – do keep them coming, it keeps me going), real human connection is also needed and I get to see what people are reading and chat about books.

So, if you didn’t know that ordinary writers like me were so poorly paid, now you do!

And now you also know why we are so grateful when you buy our books rather than getting them in ‘other ways’.

THANK YOU!

Five tips for worriers!

I was a bit overwhelmed really, said she understating it!

Overwhelmed by all the kind people at the Home Education Fair in London recently who came up and told me how they’d enjoyed the books, found them helpful.

One lovely parent said how my latest book (A Home Education Notebook) was like a hand to hold and she gave me a hug. Created a big lump in my throat that did. And is certainly succour to my writer’s soul; reward for the days spent here alone writing it. Another said that whenever worries became too all-consuming, she dipped into it and read something that helped them settle again.

Delighted to hear that.

Coping with worry is a question that always comes up at these dos. As if home educating is more worrysome than being in school. We didn’t find it so!

And it’s also reassuring to look at it this way; worry isn’t exclusive to home education.

Potential worry lurks in all aspects of parenting – in all aspects of life really. It’s not because of home education, and home education isn’t going to be the only thing you’ll worry about as a parent. So if the thought that home education is going to make you worry more is stopping you from doing it, you might as well do it anyway, as you’d worry just as much about your kids in school! It’s part and parcel of the education scene.

Actually – scrub that last remark – for it doesn’t have to be. And finding ways to overcome worry and not let it get the better of us is a valuable skill to have for life, to pass onto your kids, and a healthy mental attitude to cultivate.

Each of us has different responses to worrying scenarios and stresses depending on our natural personalities. But whoever we are the most effective way to deal with worry is to understand something important about it; worry is simply the way we are thinking about stuff. Worry is just thinking or imagining things ahead in a negative unproductive way. Worry is not the real event. Stop the roller-coaster thinking and you stop the worry.

Easier said than done – I know! How do you stop thinking?

You get a grip on yourself and try out some of these tactics:

  1. Replace negative imaginings with positive ones. For example, if you must imagine up front imagine the best possible scenario and how you’d like things to work out perfectly and what that looks like.
  2. Keep your focus in the present. You can’t predict what will happen – you don’t know how your kids are going to grow anyway. Focus on creating a good day now. Take care of the present and the future takes care of itself, I found!
  3. Distract yourself with joy; with music, magazines, films, books, Instagram, whatever engages your mind. Although beware – social media and constantly flicking through stuff can become more frenetic than calming sometimes. Spot what calms you and turn to it when you need to.
  4. Take some time every day to devote to mental time and space – plan some unwind moments. Even a simple
    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    second alone to focus on something calming, (for example; tea in hand, staring out window, breathing deep three times), works wonders.

  5. Get tough with yourself so that you can pass on these important lessons to your children. Worry is just a mental habit you’ve practiced, so practice something else and you can change it. Catch yourself doing it, engage one of your tactics, change your habit. Free yourself and your kids from this destructive trait.

Overcoming worry and stress is a life enhancing skill that’s important whether we home educate or not. Home schooling doesn’t necessarily add to worry – sometimes it even takes it away.

Let me know what works for you. And if you’ve got any tips then please do leave them here.

And check out ‘A Home Education Notebook’ for further support – and possibly even a ‘hand to hold’!

Help with Mumhood and why it matters

“Oh! Have you written a motherhood book too?” said a new friend in surprise.

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‘Mumhood…’ Find it on Amazon; see the link below or read about it on the ‘My Books’ page

I suppose she wasn’t to know I had as we’d made the connection through home educating. And parents visiting here may think home schooling is my first love.

But actually, it isn’t. Parenting, and how important it is, must really be my first love and home education is generally an extension of that. (See my previous post). Therefore championing mums and the essential work they do is very close to my heart.

Mums are among the most important people on the planet. Although I think few acknowledge that fact. But mums do essential work.

What’s that then – some still ask?

Well; it’s only raising the next custodians of the planet, the next generation of scientists or surgeons who may well find the cure for cancer – who knows what their children will do. They may be raising the next politician who’ll find the answer to world peace. Or the next creators who’ll invent a facility as great as the Internet has become. Equally important are the mums raising the children who’ll do other vital jobs like caring or cleaning or teaching or farming, all of whom play a necessary and valid role in our lives. Not to mention the other essential roles mums play in showing children how to care, communicate, be considerate, grow respect, so that those children in turn will contribute to creating caring, respectful societies.

The role mums play in doing that requires time and attention and an example of love. Only by receiving those things will children learn what it they are and how to pass them on. And despite our enlightened age of equality, the truth is that it is mainly the mums who play the biggest part in that.

That’s what mums do. Fantastic or what?

Mums’ roles are constantly changing, as societies and culture and consequently human beings constantly evolve. So we need to be regularly updating our roles as mums and how we want to play them out within the new family group we are creating.

This is something we rarely give a thought to, dropping into our mumhood life, sometimes a little shocked after the birth and often so infatuated with this beautiful new being there’s no time to think! And sometimes, through neglecting to think that stuff out, we lose some of the satisfarction of being mums under the weight of hidden roles that come with it like; laundry maid, cleaning lady, skyvy to partner, general carer and dog’s body. All of which can conspire to make us less than optimistic about this lovely new mum job.

This book investigates these feelings and roles, poses some questions to ask yourself, and makes suggestions in the hope of leading these important mums towards experiencing the most fulfilling and love filled time in our life that being a mum can be!

Find it on Amazon here