Tag Archive | books

In celebration of ‘Who’s Not In School?’

The cover illustration by James Robinson – the toy features throughout – if you can find it?

I really cannot believe it is five years since the first Little Harry book came out. But the publisher, Eyrie Press, assures me it is.

Little Harry evolved because I felt that home educated children needed a book about children like them, who didn’t go to school, illustrating an ordinary family in an everyday kind of home educating life.

‘Who’s Not In School?‘ was the first of these. Followed next by ‘The Wrong Adventure’ again featuring little Harry.

Although welcomed by most home educating families, and I’m told the children loved it especially looking again and again at the beautifully detailed illustrations by young home educator James Robinson (instagram @jamesrobinsonart), it also caused a bit of controversy!

This was because some felt it portrayed home educated children and consequently their parents in a bad light, particularly with reference to the illustration of Harry climbing on an exhibit to see what was inside. In his eyes and in the eyes of many children he was just making an innocent investigation, even if his behaviour was totally unacceptable to us. But it was that picture that caused upset by suggesting, some felt, that home educating parents would let their children do such things.

Of course, they wouldn’t, any more than any other parents however they’re raising their children. But the most well behaved still do things they shouldn’t when you inevitably take your eyes off them for a moment.

However, I was sorry to have riled the feelings of many home educating parents when my only wish was to support.

I do wonder if those same parents have seen the ‘Horrid Henry’ books (far worse behaviour than Harry!) and feel accused of bad parenting by those!

My intention was to create opportunities between parents and children to discuss behaviour, discuss the reasons why certain types of behaviour are desirable and others are not – like Harry at the museum, discuss the reasons behind all that he did and what reasons are justifiable.

Children need all sorts of examples, good and bad, to understand how to behave and more importantly, why it’s of benefit to them to behave with respect. It boils down to them developing a basic understanding that if they want to be liked and popular and respected in turn, they have to behave in certain ways – as we all do – and some behaviours have to be curbed however justified they they think they are.

Most kids love to learn, Harry certainly does, but it is still not acceptable to do so in the way he does at the museum!

I do hope that controversial picture won’t spoil your enjoyment of the book, and your kids have fun reading about a family like them, or learning about a Home Ed life. But I also hope they spot the ways they are not alike too! And the book raises lots of discussion in your house, which is after all a valid approach to learning!

Another Illustration by James Robinson

You can buy the book direct from the publishers or from amazon.

Another kind of educational mainstream

It’s been enormously heart warming to recently receive a flurry of compliments about my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’, after it became a best seller in its section on Amazon. I am so uplifted and moved most particularly to know, through your kind comments, that the book is achieving what I intended in reassuring and supporting home educating parents everywhere.

A peep into the Home Ed Notebook

I always felt that while we parents are busy encouraging, facilitating and supporting the education of our children, we need exactly the same support to keep going with it. Moral support more than anything; to step off that mainline track, to stick to our convictions that school isn’t necessarily the best for our child, to withstand the doubts, fears and often unpleasant negativity coming from others, often even family, and hold true to our course.

No mean feat! That’s why I want to support you all – it’s truly an amazing and courageous thing you do.

But I also want to broadcast the fact that HOME EDUCATING WORKS.

As home education or home schooling becomes more well known (there’s an article about the difference here), and perhaps more understood as more and more home educating families are becoming visible, I sense that a new kind of profile and respect for it is growing. And maybe one day we’ll have a new kind of mainstream. Or is that wishful thinking? The Internet is certainly changing the face of education.

But whether that’s wishful thinking or not, there is now no denying that home educating works because of all the young people who are proving it. Young people are now graduating from their home school years, making their independent contribution to the wider mainstream world in a multitude of ways despite not being educated in a school. We have that generational proof now.

This blog and my books have been my contribution to changing that profile of it, along with supporting all those coming new to home educating. Around it you’ll find posts that deal with all the common concerns, like the socialisation issue for example, the family doubters, common worries etc. But I appreciate it’s time consuming to trawl through here which is why I placed them all in the notebook, making them easier to find.

And this post is not only to say a grateful thanks to all who’ve supported me, some over many years, and who’ve sent such lovely compliments and bought the book. But also to reiterate again: HOME EDUCATION WORKS. It’s doable, it DOES develop intelligent, social, educated, conscientious, hardworking and employable adults, and most of all is an enjoyable approach to those years that are often less so in school and the education of young people. Their broad, inclusive, independently thinking minds are making a wonderful contribution to society as they find their way in the adult world, providing the living proof.

So be reassured! And don’t let others’ fears and negativity dissuade you of that proof.

(The book is published by Bird’s Nest Books and available directly from them or from Amazon)

Radical Home Education

There’s a splendid new book on home education by home educator Susan Walklate to add to your library! I read it at the end of last year, shortly after it was published, and am hoping to post an interview with the author here soon. Meanwhile, let me tell you a little about it.

Titled ‘Radical Home Education – discover home education through the true accounts of five families’, it’s the personal stories of a group of home educating families, including words from the young people, now grown.

It is compelling reading; I was fascinated by the stories of the home school lives and how they progressed. Most particularly because most blogs and forums tend to feature families who are currently home educating rather than those who have been through it and are ‘coming out the other side’ for want of a better phrase. So it’s always reassuring and uplifting to read about the lives of older children who were home educated and what they move on to. This book illustrates just that and how it happens.

The second part of it looks more closely at details like; how to work it out at home or out and about, places to go and use, the diversity of activities it’s possible to get involved in, how academic pursuits are integrated into it all and how the incidental is just as valid as the planned. It moves on through various approaches and includes the subject of exams, finally looking at interesting learning styles and tools.

I know the idea of ‘radical’ home education seems a daunting to prospect to some families, particularly those new to home schooling, but don’t be put off by that. This is an inspiring read which, although short, will be very reassuring to those families who are still on their home educating journey, whatever approach you’re taking.

Offer a bit of reassurance to your home educating friends

I’m not in favour of manic gift buying or trashing the planet all because of Christmas. But a thoughtful gift or two never goes a miss and if you’ve a home educating parent on your list, or a parent just considering it, then my books might be an idea.

‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is a book that makes you laugh and feel normal that you decided to home educate – as one reviewer put it. A warm family story with Christmasses by the cottage fire, so a perfect easy read to give a friend. Available through Amazon where you’ll find many positive reviews.

‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ is full of reassurance as well as tips and ideas about home schooling and how it can work so well. A book to dip into for those doubtful times! An ‘insightful, reassuring, informative and uplifting book’ one kind reader says on Amazon so just the book for a friend who has the occasional wobbles as we all do. Also available from Eyrie Press.

And not forgetting the littlies, there’s a story here about kids like them; ‘Who’s Not At School?’ with antics and experiments to make them laugh!

If you pop over to the My Books page (see above) you’ll be able to read more about these and others.

I wished there had been books like these when we were starting out on our home educating journey – which is exactly why I wrote them!

An inspiring take on learning

Most of us have been deeply schooled! And that’s not just through being at school. We are schooled by our parents, by communities, culture, social media. Schooled to think, feel, act in certain ways and it’s very hard not to stick to these default biases (see this post), even when they don’t work terribly well. Consequently we obediently accept the school model of learning.

And for some, even those who are familiar with home education, it can be hard to get our heads round the idea that children can learn and become educated adults without this schoolish approach, or fully understand the concept of unschooling. This is an approach to parenting and raising youngsters in a way that allows them to engage with purposeful educational activities without being ‘schooled’ at all.

Unschooled’, is a book about that very concept.

The author, Kerry McDonald presents fresh and inspiring ideas about the way we see education and learning, how if we look beyond our traditional schooled biases and trust the learner, we can let go of the idea that they have to be schooled in order to learn and embrace the concept that learning is something that children naturally do. Like many of us, she questions how the one-size-fits-all style of schooling could possibly accommodate the diversity of the human experience, or work for all. And how, through looking at the way childhood and ‘schoolhood’ has changed, she has been led towards embracing an unschooling approach to learning and how this succeeds.

It is an inspiring and thought provoking book which will make you look at how the freedoms of past childhoods have been eroded and how this has impacted on children’s health, development, imagination and creativity – and learning abilities. And how schooling and adult-controlled learning environments have destroyed children’s natural and effective capacity for learning, creating learning and health issues in our teens – the group she believes is most let down by conventional schooling.

There are many first-hand examples of learning in the book, across subjects like literacy and numeracy, which are fascinating; eye-opening accounts of why and how unschooling works and why school-at-home doesn’t! And plenty of research and samples of other ‘non-school’ models and learning centres to be inspired by.

It also talks about how children are treated in coercive ways in our attempt ‘to educate’ them, which has always sat uneasily with me. Coercive practices destroy independence. The author shows how we build independent adults through self-directed education, in fact, we don’t need to educate young people at all – in the schooled sense of the word, they are completely able with our support to do that for themselves. If you’ve ever doubted that this is possible, this book may change your mind!

Although based in America, we can take much from it to apply to home education in the UK. It’s easy to read and each chapter is followed by a helpful summary of tips. If ever you’ve wanted to fully engage in child-directed learning, but never had the courage to go for it, this book will help you do it.

It’s an inspiring take on learning and education with thought provoking ideas on how we can rebuild a learning world for the future which abandons the out-of-date schooling system we have now.

Well worth a read!

Ten years on….

Hiding behind a stunning installation made by my instagram friend @lincolnfarmflowers

I had such a sense of déjà vu!

It was when I was recently walking round a nature reserve with my youngest beside me balancing three big dead bugs on the palm of her hand.

The only difference between now and over ten years ago when we were home educating is that she’s 25 and we’re walking back to her car! It’s her in charge of the driving now – not me taxiing about (as described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’). And she’s still interested in things around her! She’s still fascinated by bugs, by finding out what they are; we didn’t put her off learning by home schooling!

I get the same sense when I’m watching my eldest perform as I’ve done every year since she was 4! (Also described in the book). Except that these days it’s her who’s devised, produced, and directed the shows along with her project team. She has such innovation, energy and creativity just like when she was little. I somehow doubt she would have retained that in school.

They both now live and work independently and I never thought about being at this point when I started this blog ten years ago after the publication of my first book.

So this is a kind of anniversary post really.

Looking back at those first posts, I was feeling the gaping gap at their absence (read this – it describes what’ll come to you and yours – unimaginable now). And I was also hankering to be Jacqueline Wilson (as I described in this moving post about her) right at the start of my blogging days.

Since then, 800+ blogs later, we still get up to the same antics we did when they were little, only now they go back to their own pads and I only get the gorgeous loving hugs intermittently! But our bonds are just as strong – yes – even after home educating – so have faith!

And since then, I haven’t become Jacqueline Wilson but, as well as those 800+ blogs (can hardly believe that) there’s been five more books (see the My Books page) to support home educators, or parents in general – since school using parents need support with their children’s learning too as I reckon the system has become even worse. (There’s a post coming for you soon).

And I’m asking myself on the anniversary of this blog, whether it’s been worthwhile? Whether I should continue?

Your lovely messages and comments have kept me doing so, along with the feeling that if even just one family struggling down the school route, or wanting to home educate, stumbles here and finds comfort then it is!

I guess it’s unlikely but if you’re one of my wonderful readers, who’ve also been here ten years, help me celebrate by letting me know, I’d love to hear from you. This is as much a celebration of you and my gratitude for people reading my stuff as it is of blasted blogging – as I’ve called it sometimes!

Thank you for being here. You make it worthwhile!

And we looked them up like we always did – Dor beetles we think. Huge excitement! Like there always was in discovery, as any education should bring.

Feeling grateful….

I can’t tell you how grateful I was last week to recieve another warmhearted message about my book ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’:

A Funny Kind Of Education is amazing!!! I’m speeding though it with pure delight, laughing and enjoying every moment. Your book speaks to me, explaining everything I think and feel about learning and education and schooling – the humour and love explode from the pages!!!”

Wow!

You’ve really no idea how rewarding it is to receive that – unless of course you’re also one of the people who’ve sat for hours scribbling in isolation, wondering if it’s worth the bother!

So I am immensely grateful when readers take the time to let me know they’ve been moved by my books and how helpful they’ve been. This review was particularly rewarding because it saw the book as a family book – as much as a home education one – and that’s what I like to think it’s mostly about. And that it was readable; so many books about education – and this is about education – bore you rigid. I know that feeling; I’ve read a few, and even though am passionate about the subject, it’s rare to read one that’s engaging.

Although the other books I’ve done to support home educating families; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘Learning Without School’ (see the Books page for more details) contain more general information and tips, this seems the most popular and certainly was my favourite to write.

If you’ve read and enjoyed it, (or any of them) and have a moment to leave a review of it on Amazon or around your networks I’d be most grateful. Not just because I’ve got a big head and like to feel reassured I haven’t been wasting my time! But more importantly because it helps spread awareness of this approach to educating and supports others who may be struggling in the system looking for an alternative. And if you’re a new mum, you might find my ‘Mumhood’ one helpful too!

But whether you review or not, this is still a VERY BIG THANK YOU for having supported what I do by reading my books.

The home education bedside book!

Before ‘A Home Education Notebook’ was completed a friend and fellow home educator said to me that they kept their other home education books  of mine by their bed. This was so that, if the day had been a little tough, they could dip into my words and be inspired again. Remember why they were doing it.

from the intro…

I was delighted to hear that. Made my day!

“Perhaps I should call this next one the home education bed side book then, “I laughed. “For that’s exactly what I’m hoping it will do.” And that’s how it was referred it when I was working on it.

I then decided this perhaps wasn’t a strong enough title for publication and changed it to what it is now; ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

A year or two after publication of the Notebook another home educator writes to me: “The children tease me that my copy, which I keep by my bed, is like my “bible “ of home education!!! I refer to it when I need to be uplifted.” Maybe I should have left the title after all! I am so moved.

I’m always so grateful to you for letting me know that the stuff I write is doing the job I set out for it to do. It makes it all worthwhile. Delighted to know it brings comfort when you need it – I know I certainly needed it at times!

So thank you for sharing that with me. And for the encouraging reviews. I appreciate them so much.

If you’ve read the ‘Notebook’, or any of the others, and could find a moment to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you hang out that would be incredible. Because what this does is spread it further around so that any others also needing comfort may come across it too.

Thank you for all your support – it brings me comfort too. And wherever you keep your copy, bedside table or not, I hope it helps you ease your worries and sleep better!

A present for a home school family

I hate to mention Christmas but it is getting that time of year and if you need a gift for a home educating parent one of my books might be an idea.

Home educating is an inspiring and uplifting choice of lifestyle and learning. But not without its challenges especially if you’re doing it longer term. ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire‘ is to support parents through the wobbles that all families face at times, with tips on how to manage them. A book that has driven even those who never write reviews to do so on Amazon – I’m most grateful for the wonderful words there. There’s many a homeschool family would appreciate having one by their side. See the My Books page for a fuller description.

And for those who are curious about the homeschool life or who just want a warm funny family read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is the one.

One reviewer describes it as “…a home education reassuring hug”. It’s easy to read and full of ideas about learning and new ways of seeing it, told in humorous ways. It may even change your mind about education for ever! Again, there’s more on the My Books page.

And if you’ve read one and enjoyed it do leave me a comment here, or review. Always so warmly appreciated. 🙂

Learn for personal excellence – not for beating others

I’ve been reading the work of Alfie Kohn recently. In particular ‘The Myth of the Spoiled Child’. 

I applaud his ideas, especially those about education where he, like me, finds the obsession with competition, grading, testing and trophies for winning rather distasteful.

He says:

“When we set children against one another in contests—from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read—we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health.”

It illustrates something many people misunderstand; the difference between personal excellence for personal excellence’s sake, instead of for the sake of winning.

I’ve always abhorred the idea of competition in an educational climate. Competition is not about personal excellence or individual growth which education should be, it is about beating others. And in today’s school climate very much about league tables and the big commercial and political business education has become.

Some people are fine with that; it’s a competitive world, I hear people cry, and kids have to be taught how to cope. But Kohn has his own strong arguments against that position and why it’s of benefit to no one. Namely that driving our kids to learn and excel because ‘it’s a competitive world’ doesn’t have as much impact on their achievement or do a lot for their mental health as encouraging them to excellence because it is fulfilling. And also avoids making others feel bad – unlike competitive practices.

And isn’t that part of the idea of education? To learn how to live together and contribute with compassion?

He goes on in his book to talk about ways of parenting that revolve around ‘working-with’ the children rather than ‘doing-to’. That can also be applied to the way we educate and is probably the position that most home educators adopt within their approach!

And I love his idea, as the book draws to a close, of encouraging ‘reflective rebelliousness’ where young people are encouraged to question rather than practice mindless obedience, and we should as parents support their autonomy in a way that complements concerns for others.

Certainly sounds a bit like home educators to me! It’s well worth a read!