Tag Archive | children

Education is a parenting issue!

It’s always struck me as odd that one of the judgements people make of home educators is that they don’t care about their kids’ education and that’s why they don’t send them to school!

Instead, the real truth that the rest of us know, is that homeschool parents care so much they don’t feel they can risk leaving it to the system. They take on full responsibility for their kids’ learning themselves – which leads me to post again this article from way back. Because actually;

every child’s education is every parents responsibility

Did you know that? Or did you think it was all down to schools?

It isn’t, but it is mostly only home schoolers who know this.

The law says; “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. (Notice the ‘otherwise’ bit – that gives parents the legal right not to send their children to school by the way. See the Ed Yourself website; http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php)

However, the majority of parents opt to hand the education of their children over to schools as they are encouraged to do, believing that to be best. It is sometimes (only sometimes). But that still doesn’t mean all responsibility lies with the school.

For the fact is that, however children are educated, the outcome is very much dependent on the parents; on parental support, parental encouragement, parental outlook, parental involvement, and love has a good deal to do with it too. Children achieve so much when they are loved and respected.

But I suspect many parents of school children tend not to involve themselves with their children’s education because they think a) they can’t – they’re not clever enough, or b) it’s not their concern – it’s the school’s.

Neither of these reasons is valid really. Because despite you thinking you may not know stuff or it’s the school’s job to educate, it is parental involvement that has the biggest impact on what children achieve, most importantly parental attitude.

One of the things that influences children’s learning is the value that is placed on it.  They learn which things should be valued and which not bothered with from their parents. In fact at the start of their life they learn all their values and attitudes from their parents.

Children of parents who do not display a positive attitude towards education will find it hard to have a positive attitude themselves. Children who are not encouraged will be less motivated. Children whose parents are not interested in the things they do at school will have no interest in doing them. Children whose parents cop out of it by saying they’re not clever enough (when often the reason is they can’t be bothered to learn themselves) will make their kids think they needn’t be clever either.

You don’t have to be clever at maths or necessarily understand the science your kids are doing you just have to show an interest. You just have to be positive about it. Take positive approaches to overcoming challenges (finding out yourself maybe) and make your child feel that you are on their side and you’re in it together – as a team. And it’s worth doing well.

Through your attitude to them they will begin to see education as valuable – which it is.

Although you may need to really sort out what you think education is – or should be – what it’s for and in what way it’s valuable, as this is also part of your responsibility as a parent.

There is no excuse not to think about it, or just abdicate all responsibility to schools.

Because education is also a parenting issue. And as parents, whatever educational path you’ve chosen for your child, you definitely need to remain involved.

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An imperative lesson

Some are starting work out there, even before it’s light

It is beautifully quiet where we live now. So quiet you notice the slightest noise; a fox’s bark, an alarmed pheasant, or the tiny scamperings of the mouse who has found its way into the roof space above the ceiling.

So we’re really sensitive to the rumblings of heavy machinery past the cottage at 5am.

The vegetable cutters start early. Some work through the night. I’m woken by the clanking of the rigs and trailers. I also have a sudden sense of gratitude that it’s not me turning out in the freezing cold and rain that I hear hammering down.

The gangs of workers are dropped off for their working day in dark, cold, muddy conditions, no shelter, no heat, cutting the cauliflower and broccoli that’ll be ready for you in the supermarket later today.

Surrounded by growing food, it was easy for our home educating children to learn where food comes from and what’s required for it to grow, that this doesn’t happen in super markets, but out on the earth.

And that it needs certain conditions; dependent on the elements of the earth. And it’s important that we all know how those elements are sustainable – if we want food to be sustained that is!

Stuck in a city centre, as far removed from the earth as I am from the Houses of Parliament, I worry that this essential part of education will be neglected. And families these days might not want contact with the earth and the elements, cosied as city dwellers are by the convenience of pavements, transport, concrete, shopping under cover and easily accessible eats!

So how to get across the importance of understanding the precious resource that the planet is – the only resource actually, for everything comes back to what it gives us – and how not to pollute it so much?

We need to learn to exist without creating the waste our lifestyles produce; by not subscribing to the hypocritical politics that ignores the real issue of consumerism, not be seduced by the commercial hype that continues to suggest that it’s okay to keep buying plastic bottles, disposables in any form, pollutive cleaners like wipes and chemicals. And remember that all our consumerism wounds the planet, contaminates the place we’re dependent on for our food.

Part of any child’s education should be to understand this stuff. Part of our duties as educators is to prioritise this understanding – to get kids back to the earth and caring for it as part of their everyday existence. Along with the simple idea that everything manmade that we buy will eventually pollute in some way, or has already done so in the manufacturing of it and that might come back to haunt us through the food chain (one example here)

A sombre lesson – worth the learning.

What small change can you and the kids make to your family lifestyle to stop your contribution to it? (Here’s an inspiring contribution from one family)

Learn to love the earth, buy less plastic for a start!

Why birthdays?

The lovely Charley

It’s my youngest’s birthday later this week – youngest adult that is – all grown up now!

We’ll be getting together at some point to celebrate…years later from those birthdays I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we started home educating and everyone found it suddenly necessary to give the kids ‘educational’ presents instead of toys!

People fail to see that toys (and playing) are ‘educational’ anyway – whatever that is, and many toys sold as educational simply aren’t!

Anyway, it’s not about the presents, is it?

So what are birthdays about then?

I always said that a birthday is not just a celebration of the day they were born (bit of a trauma in the back of the car with this one – as I describe briefly in the book). But more a celebration of the person, of them being here on this earth, and of the wonderful contribution they make, to our lives, to society, to being here.

And that’s what needs to be kept at the forefront of birthdays – the reason we are here – the contribution people make on a wider level. I guess many small children wouldn’t yet be aware of that concept. But as they grow, knowing they can make a contribution makes them feel valuable. When people feel valuable they feel loved and respected and consequently return that; they act differently, they act with responsibility and respect, they up their game. Those who are cared for, care more.

I always wanted my kids to feel valued. To feel that they make a difference too.

And that’s the best thing to celebrate birthdays for. The fact that these little people are here. The difference they have made. The difference they have to potentially make to so many as they grow and become the people they need to be.

Birthdays are so much more than presents. Birthdays are the day to celebrate a being, being here! And an opportunity to really appreciate that there are. I’m so looking forward to celebrating the presence of ours!

What’s a good start to education?

A similar event in a Suffolk library

There was the sound of giggling and tiny tots voices coming from the children’s section. I was in the library returning books and couldn’t help having a peep to see what was going on.

The toddlers and parents were sat in a circle on the floor having such a happy time together doing rhymes and actions and songs etc. Lovely to see. Fab to see parents engaging and interacting with their kids (no phones anywhere). And full marks to the library for initiating it to help them achieve it.

It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone; engaging with tiny beings, pre-conversation, especially when you’ve only been used to adult chat. I remember wondering what to do with the littlies sometimes – not being a great chitterer myself it didn’t come naturally. So groups like this are great to help those of us who are less inspired in that department to get going.

Because it’s really important that we do. For the simple reason that all the chat, chant, song and engagement with the youngsters we have, at whatever age, is the foundation of education. 

This contact, connection, interaction in whatever form is the pre-cursor for essential skills on which education is built – communication being one, as well as listening, observing, responding, thinking, vocabulary development, the basic skills needed for learning to progress. All founded in those simple little sing-songs, chats with your child, constantly reading to them, engaging in whatever way. They are the building blocks from which the mastery of language, communication, mental agility and other skills for wider learning can grow. Just from the stimulation of these types of activities when they are young. Well – it should continue throughout childhood really.

Parents think that getting kids reading early or writing their name, recognising numbers etc will give them a good start to their education. It does.

But the reality is that it starts much, much earlier than that. A good start to education is you!

(For more, check out the last section; ‘How you influence your child’s education’, in my book ‘Mumhood. How to Handle it. Why it Matters’)

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

How long can you put your technological comforter down for?

A city centre poster causing a stir

Now I’m going to say something some might not like; put down your technology and listen.

I know; you’re going to need your technology to read this! And anyway – I don’t actually mean listen to me – I mean listen.

Really listen. To others. To your own thoughts. To the world around. Most especially to your children.

I think it’s rather ironic that society looks down on babies and toddlers with dummies stuck in their mouths as slightly distasteful or inferior. Yet many of the adults I see use their phones and tablets as little more than something to emotively suck on and bring them similar comfort. Most especially to overcome discomfort, particularly of the social kind!

Few can look another in the eye. So they stare at their technological comforter instead.

I know these gadgets are useful – we couldn’t function without them now. But has our attachment to them crept beyond being useful, to being an addiction?

I suspect it is for many people. And I also suspect it’s impacting on relationships.

Whilst we connect to our technology so obsessively we’re neglecting something far more important: human connection. Humane connection.

We’re losing communication skills. We’re losing observation skills which help us understand each other. We’re losing time engaging with each other – really engaging, which helps us learn about human relationships and practice the skills required to make them successful, whoever they’re with.

We’re neglecting time that we could be engaged with our kids.

It is human engagement that nurtures relationships, builds care and empathy, grows love. I fear some folks are becoming desensitised to what it is to be together socially, lovingly, meaningfully, especially with regard to parenting.

Some of the human connections we encounter make us uncomfortable. So what – we have to learn to deal with that, to get over it. And to stop turning to our dummies when it gets a bit awkward. Be more courageous. And consequently build the skills for strong relationships within our families, with the wider world of people – even those we don’t know that well.

People matter. Connecting meaningfully with people matters.

Strong relationships make us happy. With each other. With our world. With the earth.

Strong relationships save the day.

Technology just keeps us busy and keeps us dummified.

How long is it acceptable for a child to suck a dummy for? How long is it acceptable for grown-ups to suck on theirs?

It’s worth talking about in your family! It’s worth building healthy habits in the family right from the start!

Education along the yellow brick road!

I was looking back in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and reflecting. I hear so many parents wavering on the brink and was thinking about starting out.

“Learning can be full of fun…”

When you start home educating it seems an enormously big deal. You wobble and waver about all those decisions. You wonder where it’s all going to end up. And you also wonder if you’ll all stay sane until the end – actually you cannot even imagine the end. If you’re anything like I was that scenario is just beyond any imagining at all!

But I was revisiting my thoughts at the beginning of the book to see whether the things I talked about actually came to fruition.

Here’s one particularly poignant piece that I found on page 17 when I’d dashed out along the country lanes at dusk for some exercise soon after we’d started this joyful life with the kids out of school:

I cycled along smiling like someone with a guilty secret. Around us was this beautiful world and I just wanted to show every little bit of it to the girls. I wanted to show them that learning about it is beautiful too. That learning can be full of fun and full of love and not the dull, dreary days shut inside that they’d come to expect through schooling. I will take them places; museums, galleries, nature reserves, cities, exhibitions, zoos. We will enjoy real life relationships across a wide spectrum of society, not those unnaturally cloistered within the confines of age groups.

They will be respected.

My legs turned the pedals as my mind turned the ideas. Our first week of Home Educating was through and it’s been like living along the Yellow Brick Road. Education has become a golden opportunity in our lives now as it truly should be, instead of the awful drudgery it had become.

I must have pedalled five miles without noticing. That’s how I want their learning to be.

And did it turn out like that?

I think I can honestly say it did!

To find out how we got there – you’ll have to read the book for yourself. I hope it’s a story of family love and learning you’ll enjoy. There are some lovely reviews on Amazon.

And if you need something to calm those wobbles see ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

Meanwhile, I wish the same road for you!