Tag Archive | children

A funny way to find out about home education

It’s hard to describe what it means to me when people let me know how inspired they’ve been by my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘ (see the My Books page) And how it gave them the courage to abandon schooling and change how their child learns.

I feel both humbled with gratitude for the kind words and the fact that folks take the trouble to let me know (if you enjoy a book – how often do the authors get to know that?) And am elated and delighted that the book has succeeded in its aims to help families find the courage to make changes to something that wasn’t working for them.

I remember when we were in that situation. When our dull-faced children (who weren’t like that pre-school), became switched off, unmotivated and uninspired by the world around them as time in school went on. And how they developed an ingrained sadness – often illness – that also switched off their smiles as well as their desire to learn.

Thank goodness home education switched it all back on again.

When I began to meet other home educating families I heard similar stories about their child’s altered behaviour more dramatic than ours; stories of tantrums, aggression, frustration and anger leading to shouting and violent moods. All changed once removed from school.

For the short time our two remained in school I deliberated with the decision, weighed the pros and cons, looked at what little info was available at that time (hardly any), until the climax described in the book pushed my decision to go for it. We felt nothing but jubilation as a consequence. I wished I’d done it sooner.

For most people I know that home schooling appears to be an unimaginable step, so unimaginative are we at seeing other approaches to learning having any kind of success.

Such have we been conditioned!

So I wanted to tell our story of educating in a lively, enjoyable way in the hope that not only could parents begin to imagine how it actually does work, but also introduce different ideas about alternative learning approaches which can be just as successful, but which parents rarely come across. Who’d ever read a book on education, after all? I knew I needed to make this book on education – for that is what it is – more readable.

So when I read how the book has achieved those aims I set for it I am immensely moved.

I hope it continues to do so. And I hope I continue to hear about it!

And to all those who’ve already let me know; a Great Big THANK YOU!

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A plea to drivers – slow down for children

I’ve been out on my bike several times this week. This is to take care of my mental fitness as well as the physical. (There’s a good article about it here)

It works for the kids too as I describe in my ‘Home Education Notebook’, lifting moods and discharging niggles that build up like static if we spend too long inside. (See chapter 24 ‘The Outdoor Miracle’ and chapter 30 ‘Exercise for Education’s Sake’ where I talk about how it impacts on intelligence).

I have cycled round these narrow country lanes and enjoyed the feel of the wind on my scalp, since I was a youngster. So I have to admit to neglecting to get a helmet yet. Luckily, I no longer have to set an example to little kids; there’s none to see this bad practice. And thankfully, my daughter who cycles in the city, has the wisdom to wear one – glorious gold it is – unlike her mother!

But I need to update my habits. Because rural cycling is not like it used to be with the odd vehicle pottering slowly by. Cars come racing by on the narrow country lanes as fast as they do on the main roads. Faster in fact, as they use the back roads to avoid the speed limits on the major ones and consequently I’m sprayed with mud, stones and the wind rush of a car doing more than 50 miles per hour, pushing far too close in attempts to get by rather than wait for a wider stretch of road. When did people get so impatient? And when did people become so ignorant and disrespectful of other road users? Perhaps riding a bike for a week should be a standard part of the driving test.

It was just this type of behaviour that killed one of the children in the school where I was teaching at the time. This was the days before helmets were standard. The lorry raced past far too fast and far too close, without any regard at all for the fact cyclists wobbleespecially children – even without the wind rush. The child didn’t stand a chance and went under the rear wheels. A helmet wouldn’t have saved him. But a careful driver would. We all grieved for weeks. I can’t even begin to think how the parents felt.

We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool. But we can teach them to be wise, understand what using the road entails, be careful and of course wear a helmet.

And as drivers, we must always SLOW DOWN and give plenty of SPACE to cyclists, particularly CHILDREN. Remember that we are not the only road users and make sure that we are not one of the careless bastards who passed me today who put people at such risk.

 

A song for comfort

At this time of year I love to hear the blackbird song. He’s singing his rights to territory and of course serenading a potential mate. His song is the most delightful – up there with the more famous songsters the Nightingale and the Thrush.

I find these moments connected with nature immensely comforting and enriching – whichever I need at the time.

It was the Blackbird song that also prompted a short story from me which surprise surprise won a little competition at the time – not something I normally do. (Copied below)

And following a recent bereavement I was put in mind of how important it is to build these strategies to overcome tricky times in our lives and encourage our children to do the same. Life never runs smooth. There are smooth currents at times obviously, but also rapids, waterfalls and undercurrents to continue the analogy! And part of our duty as parents and educators of this next generation is to be honest about them and help the kids find ways to negotiate them too.

Some find music helps, some use gaming, some use art or social media. Some throw themselves into work. Or running or walking. Or writing – as I do at times. Love from others always brings solace. We are all different and all need different strategies that will help us do this; child or adult. I’m aware in my adult children how they have begun to develop their own. But more importantly how they do not take their spiritual and mental well being for granted but treat it seriously, acknowledge that it needs serious attention at times, and this is something we continue to talk about.

Looking after oneself, mentally and emotionally is as an important part of any education as the academic. We have to see that side of it is not neglected – not easy in schools I fear. In fact, many parents turn to home schooling for that very reason. But however your children are educated make sure some time is spent understanding and nurturing the spirits as well as any other part of the curriculum.

As for the story:

When I was little my mother would take me with her on her walk round the city’s evening streets. The reason she went was to listen to the Blackbird sing.

I felt a bit odd just standing there, unaware at the time that this was my first experience of the power of nature to feed our spirits. What I was aware of though was a special aura of peace upon her face as she stood upon the grey pavements and listened.

Growing up I began to learn a little more about this power. Freed from the taunts and terrors of schoolgirls that were my daily diet I’d spend hours walking the marshes where I could be alone in a completely natural environment. Here the traumas of adolescence were released into a feast of distance and solitude. When I was in a natural place, I could be myself, naturally. No need for artificial smiles, bravado, or attachment to gang behaviours you didn’t believe in. You could just stare at the horizon and be peaceful. You could simply be – although I wasn’t aware it had anything to do with the spirits just then.

But that practice has stayed with me always and now I know differently.

Now I know that in order for us to be well; body, mind and spirits, we need to check in with the natural universe from where the spirit comes. We need contact with ourselves and contact with the earth and the wider universe. Simple awareness will do, meditation, call it what you will, but it won’t be denied.

As long as I have that, a pain in the hip or a twinge in the joints can all be eased. It just takes a moment of appreciation in the way the sunshine can lick the fields into loveliness and I am well. A walk in the raging winds can whoosh deep rooted storms away from both the land and the soul. The song of the rising Lark can pick up my spirits from my boots and lift them high enough for me to see the light all around and beyond the oppressive troubles we attach ourselves to so deeply we become consumed. The lesson in my mother’s face taught me that early on.

When my mother died I felt crumpled and consumed with grief. I lay on the soggy bedcover not wanting to face the world. Yet something told me to get up and open the window and seek the solace I have always found in a breath of fresh breeze, the smell of soil or sea, the touch of nature’s palm. So I did.

And I do not believe that it was coincidence that, at the very moment I leaned from the bedroom window, the sweetest shrillest blackbird began to sing!

An ‘Easy Peasy’ approach to parenting!

I’ve recently been in touch Jo Carter, Home Educator and author of the book Easy Peasy Parenting. Knowing that parenting certainly isn’t easy I was fascinated to know more, so I invited her here to talk a little about her home education, and her parenting philosophies.

This is what she says:

Could we have imagined how it would feel to be a parent? Even if others tried to explain it to us we couldn’t really understand until we experienced it for ourselves.

I was going to be the best parent ever and my children and I were going to have a beautiful relationship. The reality was much different. Oh, there were good times but far too many unhappy times for my liking.

I home educate because I want my children to learn what they want, when they want. There is so much potentially to learn and I believe my children are best equipped to know what serves their needs best. I describe myself as a facilitator. I love that we don’t learn in order to pass arbitrary tests. I love that we spend lots of time together having fun and this has made us close as a family. I love that my children get to choose how to spend each day and with whom.

But as home educators we also have the added responsibility of providing the best education for our children. Of course this will mean different things to different people but if things don’t seem to be going to plan for our child then we can’t even blame the school for failing them. The buck stops with us.

The responsibility of being a home educating mum could mean that I might neglect my own needs in order to give my children what I believe to be the best start in life. In fact, this is what I used to do.

Feeling overwhelmed by this responsibility, I came across a philosophy that radically changed my life and the way I approach home education and parenting.

I heard the theory, ‘We are meant to be happy’ and it resonated with me. I learned that our feelings are created by our thoughts about a situation rather than the situation itself. Rather than demanding circumstances to be a certain way in order for me to be happy I learned to find happiness in the current situation by changing my thoughts. The irony was that as I learned to accept and find the joy in the moment, my circumstances began to morph.

My mantra became, ‘The best thing I can do for my children is be happy.’ This simple philosophy has been a game-changer for me.  When I am feeling negative emotion in the midst of a busy family day I recognise that my thoughts are unhelpful. (I categorize thoughts as helpful or unhelpful rather than true or untrue.) My first priority is to find better feeling thoughts before I carry on with the task at hand.

Of course this is often easier said than done. Maybe the beliefs I hold run too deep to deal with in a short amount of time. Maybe I can’t stop what I’m doing in order to do one of the processes I share in my book, ‘Easy Peasy Parenting’. In times like these, I remember that my feelings are a result of my thoughts, rather than being caused directly by a person or circumstance. This keeps the focus of attention away from them and hopefully results in damage limitation until I can process the event, and my thoughts about it, more fully.

The philosophy is ‘Easy Peasy’ as all I have to do is be happy and everything else will fall into place. Putting it into practice though is often hugely challenging as we are forced to explore and challenge our, often deeply held, beliefs in the search of better feeling thoughts. I have found (and still do at times) the process to be simple yet soul searching. I imagine the goal of feeling better as my anchor or beacon as I manage the mammoth task of raising and home educating my children.

I share all the strategies and techniques I use on a regular basis to create the joyful family life I always dreamed of, in my book, ‘Easy Peasy Parenting’. Available on Amazon in paperback or kindle version.

Thanks to Jo for her thought provoking piece. Do explore her book and website for further tips and support with your parenting.

 

Making kids feel significant

Don’t you feel small and insignificant sometimes!

Three weeks of no internet at home, despite endless phone calls with our provider full of unfulfilled promises, lies and still not reconnected, and that’s how I’m feeling.

Somewhere to blow cobwebs away – between downpours!

Our problem is that we are just one insignificant customer, at the end of an insignificant lane in the middle of nowhere, with antiquated cabling full of shotgun holes it’s not worth their while replacing, whilst they have big commercial corporations who make them big fat profits to attend to.

Always the case, I suppose.

It takes all my will power just to feel calm – I don’t always manage it. I turn to my usual antidote; getting outside, but that’s a weather challenge at the moment!

At least when I am online (at friends’ houses and when I have enough signal for mobile data) you, my dear readers, make me feel a little less invisible with your warm responses. So thanks for those – always much appreciated. It’s lovely to connect.

It’s amazing to think that when we first home educated we weren’t properly connected to the wonderful web at all. And our first investigations into it led us to a prostitute! (You can read the amusing story in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

But what an amazing resource it is for home schoolers now. How connected to everything home educating families can be. You can get instant access to knowledge, curriculum, answers to just about anything, resources – loads of which are free, teachers and tutors, and best of all instant connection to those doing the same as you, consequently instant support. Makes you wonder how we ever did anything without it. (Although I’m rediscovering that at the moment)!

It’s probably had the biggest impact on parents’ decision to take this approach to education and accounts for the enormous rise in families doing so. It also means that home education need not be the isolate experience that people worried it might be at the outset. Minority groups need not be marginalised any more.

Of course, wonderful though the internet is, it cannot provide the most important resource a child could have for their education; the time and attention of another human being.

You can view others online, obviously, you can even read facial expressions.

But someone in the room, by your side, holding your hand and physically encouraging a learner by their presence and attention is the absolute best. It tells the kids they are worth it, they are important, that they are significant enough for us to give our adult time to.

Unlike I’m feeling at the moment!

So however much learning and educating we do online, however global our classrooms progress to being, with thousands virtually learning in front of a screen at the same time, let it never be the case that children are denied that warm humane presence as part of their education.

It’s what shows them how to be humane, the understanding of which is surely part of being educated. And is what shows them that they are significant.

Happy Easter!

I always think of Easter as the gateway through which spring passes.  

I love it – more importantly for me because the equinox has passed and, although the weather still can throw up some challenges yet, at least we have more light than dark in a day. After long dark winter days that also darken my moods, it’s a blessing to have that.

It affects the children’s moods too, did you realise?

I relate a story in my ‘A Home Education Notebook’ when, having got pretty much to the end of my tether with the children (my mood’s fault as much as theirs) I bundled them up despite conditions and we went out for a walk. This wasn’t without protest – but I pressed on determinedly.

And I’m so glad I did. For everything changed. Their moods picked up, bickering was forgotten, spirits lifted, the grumpy tweenager even started singing! And when we got back with sniffy noses and blazing cheeks everyone was calmer, more peaceful, more tolerant! It was an antidote to doldrums I could always rely on.

Have you tried it?

There are many studies now that show the benefits of time outside everyday – most importantly for the children, both physically and mentally. And it’s so uplifting anyway.

There’s much to seek; buds bursting – look out for the sticky ones, birds carrying twigs for nests, bulbs blooming, primroses, lambs, the first butterfly/bee/ladybird. And the time when the sun actually feels warm on your face.

Turn yours up to it like sunflowers, cure your family gripes, run off all that chocolate; get yourselves outside.

Have a Happy Outdoor Easter!

Rewards to come

Chelsea and I were having a giggle on the phone the other morning. We speak most days – treasured times!

Chelsea performing on International Women’s Day

We talk about all sorts of things usually starting with current irritations, concerns and recently the bloody weather. And we talk about creative pursuits, finding solutions and sometimes even more philosophical ideas that inspire us; that really make us think.

Sometimes of course we just rant!

This time we were talking about delayed gratification. The skill more usually associated with the development of children but which, we noted, some of the adults around us don’t seem to have matured enough to acquire!

Being able to delay gratification is important. It means, when necessary, we are able to put off immediate rewards for longer term benefits. We need it for saving perhaps – by not spending now we will benefit by being able to afford something later on. Or for health as another example – by resisting too many pieces of cake I’ll benefit health wise in the longer term. Tricky one that!

The need for instant gratification in little people is sometimes desperate. They want it and they want it NOW. And no amount of reasoning will enable them to see otherwise if they are not at a level of maturity to have experienced the gains. And that’s what gradually enables them to practice the skill for themselves; by actually experiencing it. For example, by seeing how resisting frittering away those pounds whenever they’re in the sweet shop, made it possible for them to buy that Game later on which was much more expensive. They need to have benefitted from it to really understand gains.

Each child is different and each child matures at a different rate – so don’t sweat over it!

But it struck me how this applies to us too. That we, as parents, most particularly home educating parents, have to practice letting go of the need for instant gratification where education’s concerned.

To really grit our teeth sometimes, in order to keep faith in our conviction that by risking moving away from the instant reassurance of educating our kids in a proven mainstream way with proven outcomes, we will instead earn later gratification by seeing them enjoy a happier route to education outside of mainstream by a different approach.

Because they all do!

Many home schooled kids who’ve graduated before yours are proof. And if you can delay your need for that familiar mainstream reassurance now, and stick with the approach your gut tells you is right for you and your family, you will be rewarded.

Just like the children, in order to do this you need support, you need to exercise patience and faith, courage and confidence. When you wobble you need distraction or reassurance from those who’ve done it already. As you’d encourage your children to keep their eye on that Game or whatever they’re after, you should keep your focus on your longer term goals. And remind yourselves regularly of the principles behind your choices. Write them down. Post notes round the house if you need. Read what others say about their journeys. And my books may help.

And remember what it feels like when your child wavers from their course of a longer term goal and have a little wobbly, be kind to yourself when you waver too. It’s a natural part of the process!

I watched my little girls, of ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ fame, grow from the need for having it and having it now to the skill of seeing a wider view and manage to practice restraint in order to manifest later rewards. And I have watched them develop away from the need to always do what they want when they want, into intelligent, social, caring and hard working members of society who can make wider contribution beyond themselves.

As no doubt yours will.

And one day you’ll also be getting phone calls that really make you think!