Tag Archive | children

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

Take back learning from the bureaucrats!

Education is important. I guess all parents would agree.

But how many of you, I wonder, have really thought what education is? How many are not thinking about education at all, but are thinking instead about schooling and qualification. About the systematic and mechanical process in schools that bureaucrats tell us education is.

The majority of people I suspect. But this is not true education and it’s having a disastrous effect on the children. It’s also making education, which should be a broadening, developmental, personal experience, into a tightly mechanised priming of kids for outcomes outside the personal – like school league tables for example.

We can never truly predict the outcome anyway, for kids are never finished – and isn’t education about the kids! And without the development of personable skills, test results and qualifications are useless. Useless to the learner. A bane to teachers. And are stunting our children’s wellbeing, as more and more are heaped upon them. 

Listen to some of Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube. Here’s one. He doesn’t want reform of the old model we already have – he wants something completely different – something more personal – as our kids need. As our world needs.

And it’s time we demanded things to be different, time to make the bureaucrats listen.

Parents could make different decisions about their child’s education.

Not every parent can home educate, but every parent can vote and make their feelings known about the things that concern them in the system.

You could demand that all this testing should stop, for a start, or boycott them. Like this brave head teacher who decided not to do the SATs. Knowing as she does that SATs have little benefit to a child long term, but can be damaging to their generic educational experience.

You could think about what kind of educational experience is important and what you want the outcome to be – in your child, not in terms of qualifications. But in terms of their talent. Speak out at schools. Speak with other parents.

You could tackle your local MP and raise your concerns. Go talk to them at one of their surgeries. Write to the education minister. Join a petition for change.

And you could take a look at your political party’s educational manifestos before you vote.

Stop being so desperate about qualification and ask what qualifies you for a happy life?

Parents have an extremely powerful collective voice. Make your concerns known and take your child’s education and wellbeing back from the bureaucrats.

For most of them don’t understand children’s – or families’ – needs at all.

In sympathy for peace

A picture for peace and empathy

I received my daughter’s text around 2am.

‘We had a good time and we’re SAFE’ it read.

Big relief!

It would be this weekend she chose to be in London for a big gig!

Luckily I hadn’t watched the news before I went to bed last night, otherwise the restless, sleepless, hyper night I occasionally have (hence how I saw the text) would have turned into a living nightmare of worry – my own piece of terror – as the events of the attacks unfolded.

I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the grief parents feel – anyone feels – at losing loved ones in these horrnedous attacks in London and Manchester recently. It must be well nigh impossible to come to terms with the injustice and brutality of the needless loss of those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or understand how anyone can have such disregard for the innocent?

The loss and desperation families must feel is too great to conceive. Their sorrow too huge to contemplate.

Whilst I remain almost guiltily grateful we have been spared, I feel the collective grief and sympathy towards those who were not. Mine, though, must be miniscule in comparison.

How crass and irrelevant it seems to even be thinking about things like blogging, or the election, or education for that matter. Except that you hope that through these means of communication and change we are able to build a better world.

Raising and educating our children in the ways of peace, non-violence, care, love and empathy for others each and every one, regardless of race and beliefs, and for the earth on which we all depend despite our creed, must surely be the abiding core of everything we teach, everything we believe, and above all we practise.

And surely, this practice must be a commitment that is greater than any curriculum, any religion, any political party, greater even than ourselves.

The way we parent and educate is where it starts. There is nothing more important to teach than that.

Your child is different from you!

I was born and grew up in the city of London. Right in the centre as far away from rural as you can get.

But all of our childhood holidays were spent in the countryside, so I was aware of these two contrasting worlds. And it didn’t take

A glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on

much growing up for me to recognise from a hunger within which of these two environments was right for my soul. I soon understood that my spirits wilted when surrounded by concrete, buildings, noise and crowds without a glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on. Yet the surroundings of greenery, fields and solitary quiet gave my spirits wings and a sense of relief I still require to thrive.

Even though I live in the countryside now and these things are common place I still experience the sudden sense of imprisonment, when shut inside too long or under laptop. Hence why I can often be found scribbling in the shelter of a hedge bottom with my bum in damp grass, or on my daily walk (as you see from Instagram). I’m just letting my spirits heal from the onslaught of contemporary life.

Of course not everyone feels this. Or feels it this way round. Ironically my eldest is the complete opposite.

We made many, many excursions into cities whilst we were home educating here in the country. And as her teen years kicked in I began to realise that, unlike me, it was the city that made her spirits come alive.

I can clearly remember the time when I suddenly spotted, with shock and empathy, that familiar look on her face one day that described that same feeling I’d had when I was stuck somewhere that did nothing for my spirits.

In contrast to me, she needed the city for hers. And that’s where she’s lived since Uni.

That is not to say she doesn’t relish her trips home and the rural things we do like picnics and walks and encounters with wildlife and flowers. And when I’m visiting her we often find park walks to do from the city.

But we both know and accept what we each are, what each needs to thrive, and that those needs are completely different from the other.

It is SO important, I think, to know and accept that our children are NOT us. And allow them to be different. Allow them to be separate.

Allowing our children to be who they need to be, without judgement, and loving them for who they are without conditions, is a fundamental ingredient to being the parent we should be, a parent that all kids need. And inevitably one of the hardest parts!

But we get over it.

The most wonderful result, though, is that from that respect and loving acceptance the relationship can grow stronger despite the independence.

Independence means allowing our children to be who they need to be and loving them just the same – allowing their independence from us, and consequently practising our own independence from trying to keep them like us.

In fact, this is true of all relationships.

So love your children the way they are and in such a way which affords them the opportunity to discover who they need to be, whatever age they are, wherever that is. And make sure you’re not hanging onto keeping them like you.

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!

 

How home educating helped our autistic son

A little while ago Gina commented on a post on my blog.

I was so moved by her remarks that I thought her story needed a post of its own. Her comment related to a post about Daniel Radcliffe (read it here), who was also told he was stupid, which prompted her to write this about her autistic son:

Gina’s two happy boys!

I have an 11 yo whom we removed from school in the first term of year one. He was six and had picked up the idea he was stupid and didn’t try hard enough. 

They had stopped teaching him anything but social skills so he would be prepared for the local special school and he was allowed to play and do what he wanted all day.

They gave up on him because he was ticking none of the horrendous Ofsted boxes. I am sure they wanted to do it differently with him but there was no time for all (or any) of his needs to be met.

They told us to concentrate on his life skills so he could aim for living in a group home, that was the best we could hope for. They really didn’t like us much and I think us constantly trying to support our child in a system that essentially had no room for him did not improve their willingness to try.

Within weeks of taking him out of school as a child who could not recognise his letters he read a chapter book, by eight he had read an entire adult spider encyclopaedia. Most importantly he was happy and had stopped crying. He has recently learned how to join in with games and speak to his friends. Two days ago he played with a strange child in a playground with other friends. This is a huge milestone and totally unexpected.

He becomes kinder, braver and happier all the time away from school. Like Daniel Radcliffe said my son was also labelled and would have been discarded had it not been for home schooling. He loves learning and life now.

When Gina related to me a little of their family background it contained several other appalling instances of the treatment of their children in school, details of which I won’t go into here except to say they’re sadly very familiar; bullying, disregard of child’s special needs, blatant lying on the part of the school, which all culminated in them making that choice to home educate.

She went on to tell me:

We haven’t looked back, they are just over five years out of school and thriving. The stomach issues he had at school cleared up when they stopped going. They are in groups, making friends and just happy, life is good now.  They remember school and don’t want to go back and feel really sorry for school children who get stuck in doors all day every day!  They still have issues related to autism but we can deal with that as a family at home.  There is time and space for that. 

As a family we are a bit nerdy! We love Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons, we make loads of things and we love science experiments – especially with explosions or fire.  They seem a lot less worldly than school children we know and are able to play longer and use their imaginations so much more.  They’re just growing at a slower and more gentle pace which suits their needs better. They live the stories they read and movies they see through their games.  We make sure to build boredom time into the day so they have to go and find something to do, even if they need help.  We also make sure there are at least a couple of hours for just playing.  They have chores, we cook and clean together and we play together. 

We are looking at maybe doing Forest School with them once a week.  They do sports, trips, play dates, crafting, drama and Parkour with their friends; friendships they have been building for a very long time now.

We are really close and I think that is one of the very lovely side effects of home education. 

Many, many thanks Gina for sharing this with us. Wishing you continued happiness.

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂