Tag Archive | children

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.

The decision to Home School

Decisions! Decisions! Parenting throws so many at you. Home education (a term much preferred to home school – here’s why) throws a load more!

But don’t worry; it’s all going to come right in the end. And if it’s not right, whatever you’re doing, you can change it. That’s the beauty of Home Ed; you can do what works for you. But just for now be reassured that this decision to Home Ed or not, is the hardest one you’ll ever have to make. The rest follows naturally.

It was about this time of year, this time of term – even though it wasn’t the start or logical time wise, that we finally made our decision all those years ago. I remember it clearly. The idea had been gestating for ages. Having worked in schools I was already dubious about what went on there; some of the practices were highly suspect and downright unhealthy at times. Then, after our children had been there a little while and I watched their health, happiness, personality and zest for life, and even more alarming their enthusiasm to learn, falter and fade, I felt we had to do something different.

Surely, I thought, there has to be another way, a better way.

There is. Thousands are proof of it, having done it and come out the other end with intelligent, educated, sociable, employable young people. Thousands are still proving it in the doing. Thousands now know that you can become educated without school.

And I think thousands would also agree that, like us, it’s a decision that was never regretted. The only thing that I personally regretted was not doing it sooner.

There are, of course, many considerations. But there’s a whole chapter to help with this in my book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’. It’s also part of the story of our home educating days told in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘.

I also ask the question ‘can I really homeschool?’ in this little talk here

There’s a blog here about your worries concerning the decision to home educate that might help.

There’s also a blog with tips for those new to home education here.

Once you start researching and Googling you’ll find all sorts of forums for advice and support and help with your decision….Be brave, home educating is not as scary as you think!

So if you’re teetering on the edge of making that decision I hope some of this helps. In the end, like with any monumental change in lifestyle, you have to jump right in and see how it fits. And you might find, as we did, that it’s the best decision you ever made.

Considering home schooling instead of back to school?

With the return to school looming on the horizon I thought it would be a good time to repost this blog which asks;

What do you really know about home education?

The reason I ask is because there are still so many stories surrounding it. Including less than accurate stuff in the media often based around untrue myths. Add on to that the debacle of school-at-home style of home schooling that was forced onto parents during the pandemic and the concept of real home education has become quite blurred.

So I thought I’d put a few ideas here in case you were considering this approach to your child’s education in preference to school.

Firstly, did you know that there are thousands and thousands of families now successfully and happily home educating?

And did you know that most home schooled children go on to make a success of their education, career, life in the same way school children do, despite not having been in school for all those years?

Did you know that home educating doesn’t have to cost the earth and parents on very low incomes, including single parents, still manage to do it? Throwing money at a child does not make them educated!

Did you know that home educating children make friends, have friends, build excellent social skills, have a vibrant social life and socialise just as others do?

Did you know that there is a huge wealth of learning resources, lessons, curriculum, courses, printouts, both free and otherwise, available on line? You can literally find out anything.

Did you know that families never home educate in isolation (unless they choose to) and that there are broad networks of others to connect to that share resources, concerns, to learn from and find support via social media and other organisations which also lead to physical meet-ups and groups to get together with? Many of whom will probably be getting together for their annual ‘not back to school’ picnic right now!

Did you know that as much home schooling takes place outside the home as in it and your community is full of resources to facilitate it? You’re not at home day after day, on your own, not knowing what or how to learn.

Did you know that contrary to what many parents may worry about, being with the children all the time tends to improve their family relationships?

Did you know that parents are free to choose whatever approach to education suits their child’s needs? This could involve following a curriculum – or not, following age specific targets and objectives – or not, adopting either a structured or completely autonomous approach, or proceeding with complete flexibility according to your individual’s interests and the way they work best. And that parents find that home educating gives them the opportunity to successfully overcome any difficulties children encountered with learning in a school setting.

Did you know that it is completely legal, in fact it is the legal responsibility of the parents to see that their children are receiving an education suitable to their needs (see the law here), it’s just that most parents hand that over to schools? (I wonder how many schools get away with breaking the law in failing to provide that for some children?)

Did you know that most home educating families never use testing in their approach, yet home schooled children successfully go on to achieve a good educational standard, go on to further and higher education, including exams, or work without having done a test at all, and cope competently within those more formal settings? Testing does not make an education.

And finally consider this; home educating families are not weird or different or unable to participate in mainstream life, just because they don’t do mainstream school. They are just the same as any other family wanting to do the best for their children and that best may take a myriad of different forms yet all the home educated youngsters I’ve known have progressed into the working world just the same as their school contemporaries and once there you wouldn’t know they hadn’t been to school.

So if you want to know more, take a look at my books, Google some of the home educating blogs and groups (Facebook’s a good place to start) and connect with others to find out how it happens. And you can read our own story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which will give you an idea of a home educating life and hopefully make you warm and giggly!

A reminder of THE most important subject

A short pictorial thought this time to remind you, whilst you can get out and about during the holidays, what’s THE most important of all subjects for your child to learn about. You’ll see why when you read the original post here.

Do let me know your thoughts!

You’d never imagine…

I’ve just been to my daughter’s wedding! Can you imagine?

Yes – that little girl in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ who made things and created things and had ideas beyond those I’d ever taught her.

Can you imagine your littlies getting to that point? Or doing any of the everyday life things that everyone ends up doing like working, driving, living and earning independently beyond home educating, having their own place, getting out into a world other than ours?

I couldn’t. Still can’t believe it really. It’s a scenario unimaginable to all parents whether the kids are in school or not.

However, it’s perhaps more concerning for parents who home educate, who are not following a well trodden and tested path, who inevitably worry whether not being in school will inhibit the building of skills the youngsters need as well as their education, like life skills, workplace skills, social skills particularly.

This is to reassure you that of course they do.

And there, at the only-a-covid-little restricted, DIY, jolly, happy wedding were a wonderful group of people whose background education didn’t come into it at all. Also hard to imagine when you’re so wrapped up in the details throughout those home ed years. People whose warm loving connections were far deeper than the relevance of home schooled or not home schooled. Irrelevant as it is in life anyway really.

Hard to imagine that all this home ed intensity you may be going through now will become so diluted as to not matter a jot.

And what was even better was that for the most part nobody looked at their phones. An even bigger delight. We were busy sharing the occasion face to face.

It seems sad that staring at these soulless gadgets has become a strategy for avoiding looking at and engaging with others which can be less comfortable, especially if they are strangers. Phones have become a technological dummy to suck on, to escape the challenge of social skills. Ironic isn’t it, that ‘socialisation’ – or lack of it – is thrown up as a down side of home educating, when no one ever mentions the damage to the development of social skills created by staring at a phone rather than engaging with the person next to you; the behaviour of so many. I would say phones are a bigger threat to building social skills than home educating!

It was a glorious day. A delight to enjoy the happiness after so many thwarted plans, to wallow in the warm loving connections with family and friends that had nothing to do with school or not. Even though I continued to be freaked out wondering how my two lovelies ever got to this point when I’m still remembering life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ as if it were yesterday.

How did they ever get to be so old, to be so grown up?

It’s a good job I’m not ageing at the same rate, I always say!

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

A curriculum for kindness

It gets harder and harder, doesn’t it; coping with the restrictions in life during this Lockdown, without the simple community and social pleasures we’re used to, never mind the distancing from loved ones.

There’s a whole range of challenges right from those who’re suffering total isolation, to the irritations of being clustered continually with those you could do with some space from! All that’s hard enough to deal with never mind the worry and anxiety about becoming ill. Add onto that the children’s progress and it’s enough to tip anyone managing to keep sane over the edge.

I hate to see these awful sensationalist headlines about youngster’s lives being ruined because of this ‘gap’ in their education. It’s so unhelpful and is basically about using our currently delicate emotions to sell news, regardless of the truth of the situation. It’s totally immoral.

This time now is not necessarily a ‘gap’ in education, it’s just a change; potentially an opportunity.

It is, however, a ‘gap’ in the meaningless measurement and box ticking process that the system has made of learning. And media coverage, like suggestions of kids’ lives being ruined, contributes to this sensationalist ignorance about learning.

The children will be learning, even though it’s different. They’ll be learning different skills, educational and practical, developing personally – you cannot stop that process despite what academics you do or don’t do. They’ll also be learning how to learn for themselves perhaps. Learning about life and living with kindness and compassion, and appreciation for those in tougher places than themselves.

This makes them grow into good, caring people and responsible, productive citizens, as much as anything academic will. Ironically, that was one of the reasons behind the setting up of this schooling system all those decades ago; to create literate, productive citizens in the industrial sense of the word. And that’s what the government agenda is right now; citizens who’ll contribute to the economy – that’s their main focus.

Contributing to the economy is desirable, rather than being a burden on it, obviously.

But there is a more important aspect of education that also needs to be contributed to, but which the government doesn’t bother with as it can’t be measured;

the wealth of kindness, empathy and compassion that is necessary in order for us to live happily and without harm alongside each other and upon this planet.

This starts at home and it should be perpetuated through any educational approach.

We’re seeing prompts for kindness all over the place currently. As if we need reminders. Perhaps we do.

In this business of building an industrial and consumerist life, which is what the system educates for, we have side-lined the essential fact that in order to survive, both as a species and in harmonious wellbeing, we need kindness and compassion as well as academic learning.

Do we educate for that?

Would it not be better currently to set exercises in living together with kindness, rather than leaving it as a by product of maths, English and science? Surely that’s what’s needed right now? To help children learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, both those in the house and out of it. Learn how to consider everyone’s hardships not just their own. Help youngsters see beyond their own difficulties to a wider picture. Build resilience. Practise everything and anything to do with kindness. Do anything we can just to get through these hard times.

These would be better targets for the day: How can we make this day better? This hard time easier? How can we accommodate all the different temperaments and needs in this household? How can we turn today’s procedures into kindly ones, rather than gruelling ones?

We’ve got to get through these hard times. A curriculum for kindness will make them easier to bear.

And I reckon the general educational progress will be the better for it!

Comforting thought: Everything always changes

Sometimes, looking after your children and their education is absolutely all consuming. I remember it!

Add the worry of the pandemic into the mix and it’s overwhelming. And overwhelm can mask a fact that can be really comforting at times like this: Everything always changes.

This time of challenge will change. Your children will change. Your circumstances will change. Your house will not always be full to claustrophobic as it may feel now. Hang onto that!

My house has long since emptied. Not only of the youngsters but of the clutter that inevitably accompanies home educating. And I still miss it!

The kitchen table, which was buried to unusable under bits, books, works of art, works of unidentifiable inventions and suspect experiments, is now bare. Even some of the glue, paint and ink patches are wearing off although the indentations from various craftwork will no doubt always remain.

Along with that are the empty beds, empty toy cupboards, empty bits and bobs drawers and empty shelves that not only housed books, boxes of pens, paper, tools, but also the other varied junk that you acquire for experiments, creations, investigations and constructions.

All gone. If any clutter remains I have to take the blame. But that busy homeschool time for us has passed. As yours will. We can never really imagine what lies ahead. Uncertainty is more common than the opposite with kids, even more so now with the pandemic.

And I have a double whammy at the moment as we also prepare to move on from this house. What timing?!

If you read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ you’ll know the story of our move into this funny old place. I inherited it along with dubious critters in the roof and quirks of character that could make life very challenging. But the kids didn’t see all that, they just loved it. It was where their grandma lived. And although its dream location offered distant moonlight on the sea, unimaginable helpings of sky and sunsets and endless space across it’s adjacent marshes perfect for mud slides, it also meant we spent much time on the road accessing the facilities the kids needed for a broader educational experience.

This old house nestled in it’s trees from across the fields on one of my wet walks!

I’d never have thought I’d leave, but then, nothing is certain, remember. It’s been a monumental decision, and I’ve no idea where we’ll end up, but time and needs always change, as I said.

It may not be as monumental as moving house but things will change for you too. These circumstances we’re in right now, that are so difficult and overwhelming, will become different.

Just because you can’t imagine it, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

And although it’s hard to look forward right now, if we can deal with the times we’re in and excavate the good bits, be grateful for any good fortune that comes our way, things WILL change. Some organically, some you’ll engineer. But be reassured, they will.

Hang in there while they do.

Together and Apart

It may be more challenging home educating during these times of corona crisis and all the anxiety that goes with it. But at least your kids are with you!

I know there’ll be times when you could do with more space when they’re with you 24/7 and managing that can be the more challenging part of home educating – and parenting for that matter. (There are some tips on that in this post here) Even more so since your options for getting out and about have become so limited.

But the other side of that is the fact you are all together and have more control over the youngsters exposure and contact with others.

Parents of older children and those off to Uni don’t!

When I think of the teenagers starting Uni this time, it must be fraught with worry, for kids and parents. It’s hard enough them moving out of the family home, without the added stress about how they’re mixing. I feel for you!

I still worry about mine, who’ve been living apart in the working world for many years now, and how they’re keeping safe.

It was many months this year before we got to see our eldest and once we managed to be all four of us together again it was insanely sweet. But there’s still that background niggle of ‘should we be doing this?’, and even expressions of love feel inhibited.

It’s all very hard for families, for friends, for us all. And we daren’t even think about Christmas!

But that’s possibly the best way to deal with the situation we’re in; not to think about things that far ahead. We cannot possibly have any certainty about it, best to stay with what we do have certainty about – this present moment!

It was inevitable when we were all together recently that the four of us talked about Christmas as it’s already coming into the politics of the situation. But only momentarily. We agreed that there are only hypotheses to be had, and these tend to induce worry and spoil the pleasure of being together at the time; the important thing.

And we had some lovely moments together when we managed not to think about the crisis, focus on the lovely things we could do, were doing; picnics, chats, walks, just being together. Even diving into a pub during a thunderstorm. The first time I’ve done that since last winter.

It seems the best way to cope with current times; to stay with the good moments you have, cope as well as you can with the troublesome ones and cherish having your children close whilst you can. It won’t always be the way of it.

I did some reckoning the other day and got a shock. It’s nigh on ten years now since both our youngsters were at home full time home educating. But they’re still educating themselves even if not at home because home educating showed them the possibility of self-educating however old they are and wherever they are. And that’s what they continue to do, particularly with the time they had during Lockdown, knowing that education doesn’t just mean academics, there are new skills to learn and things to research and try all the time.

So whatever you’re doing at home with your youngsters during these challenging times, appreciate that they are at home and safe. And understand that you’re not only home schooling them, but showing them a DIY approach to an educating way of life that will set them up for the future and help them cope with whatever is going on around them. Both now – and then.

And take it from me; you’ll miss being together one day!

Home education…never once regretted

September melancholy!

It’s a while since our home education days, even longer since my youngsters were at school in the early days, but that doesn’t stop that sense of melancholy come September. It has a sense of ending; ending summer; ending holidays; ending of freedom from school, it seems entwined with our culture.

When home education came into our family life it brought with it a whole new sense of joy about September, about our continued educational freedom, albeit tinged with a sense of sadness for those who were going back to school.

I know not everyone feels this. But when we started home educating after a brief spell doing school it was nothing but joy that ours weren’t among them.

So if you’re standing on the cusp of making that decision yourself, or having a bit of a wobble about it, I wanted to share the fact that we never once regretted it.

Of course, that’s not to say it was without wobbles and doubts at times. But then, don’t we always have those throughout our parenting over all the things we do?

Some of our wobbles are described in our story ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. But I also describe the antidote to some of these. And that was to remember how you got here and why you want to make the decision in the first place.

There are so many reasons parents choose to home school – almost too many to mention. They range from the philosophical distaste of the systematic and prescriptive style of learning in a school, the one-size-fits-all approach to make the child ‘fit’, lack of attention to individual learning needs, to the more personal like disrespectful relationships (and I include the adults in that), bullying, too much noise and hubbub (and there’s nothing wrong with children who don’t like that!) and the destruction of personality and the desire to learn, sometimes the destruction of good health and well being too.

Education and learning should be a liberating and life-enhancing experience. Schooling has made it into the opposite for many learners. That’s not because of a ‘fault’ with the child as the powers that be would like us to believe, it is because of a fault with the system and its blindness to a broader, variable approach to learning.

So if you’re having wobbles and doubts just remember that.

Also remember that were your children in school you would also be facing dilemmas and challenges and worries, they’re not just exclusive to home educating. You have no more chance of ‘ruining’ your children than schools do. In fact there is less chance because you’re keeping your eye on your individual who can become lost in mass schooling. You can review and adapt your style of learning to suit your child’s and family’s (ever changing) needs (schools don’t do that). And you can make education a broad and life enhancing opportunity for your youngster to grow, life long. Which is what education should be.

With all the online facilities and opportunities to network and connect with others now, and with Covid concerns, home education is growing and growing. Real home schooling is not the same as school-at-home (post here). It is a successful and liberating approach to learning and educating in it’s own right which thousands have been practising for years – long before Covid.

And as well as ourselves, I didn’t come across anyone else who regretted doing it either. The only thing I did regret perhaps, was not doing it sooner!

What do you really know about home education?

What do you really know about home education?

I ask this question because there are so many stories surrounding it. Including less than accurate stuff in the media often based around those untrue myths. Add on to that the debacle of school-at-home style of home schooling that was forced onto parents during the pandemic and the concept of real home education has become quite blurred.

So I thought I’d put a few ideas here in case you were considering this approach to your child’s education in preference to school.

Firstly, did you know that there are thousands and thousands of families now successfully and happily home educating?

And did you know that most home schooled children go on to make a success of their education, career, life in the same way school children do, despite not having been in school for all those years?

Did you know that home educating doesn’t have to cost the earth and parents on very low incomes, including single parents, still manage to do it? Throwing money at a child does not make them educated!

Did you know that home educating children make friends, have friends, have a vibrant social life and socialise competently just as others do?

Did you know that there is a huge wealth of learning resources, lessons, curriculum, courses, printouts, both free and otherwise, available on line? You can literally find out anything.

Did you know that families never home educate in isolation (unless they choose to) and that there are broad networks of others to connect to that share resources, concerns, to learn from and find support via social media and other organisations which also lead to physical meet-ups and groups to get together with?

Did you know that as much home schooling takes place outside the home as in it and your community is full of resources to facilitate it?

Did you know that contrary to what many parents may worry about, being with the children all the time tends to improve their family relationships?

Did you know that parents are free to choose whatever approach to education suits their child’s needs? This could involve following a curriculum – or not, following age specific targets and objectives – or not, adopting either a structured or completely autonomous approach, or proceeding with complete flexibility according to your individuals’ interests and the way they work best.

Did you know that it is completely legal, in fact it is the legal responsibility of the parents to see that their children are receiving an education suitable to their needs (see the law here), it’s just that most parents hand that over to schools? (I wonder how many schools get away with breaking the law in failing to provide that for some children?)

Did you know that most home educating families never use testing in their approach, yet home schooled children successfully go on to achieve a good educational standard, go on to further and higher education or work without having done a test at all, and cope competently within those more formal settings? Testing does not make an education.

And finally consider this; home educating families are not weird or different or unable to participate in mainstream life, just because they don’t do mainstream school. They are just the same as any other family wanting to do the best for their children and that best may take a myriad of different forms yet all the home educated youngsters I’ve known have progressed into the working world just the same as their school contemporaries.

So if you want to know more, take a look at my books, Google some of the home educating blogs and groups (Facebook’s a good place to start) and connect with others to find out how it happens. And you can read our own story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which will give you an idea of a home educating life and hopefully make you giggle!