Tag Archive | children’s learning

Have you the skills to home school?

It often surprises me to hear parents, who’ve made a damn good job of being a parent, say they haven’t got the skills to home educate.

I’m surprised because at a simple level, home educating is really just an extension of your parenting skills. It’s just most haven’t seen it like that.

Of course, parenting isn’t exactly simple – we know that. But since you’re already on your way with it, you can extend what you’ve already learned about parenting into home educating with relative ease as it contains all the same elements; conscious attention to your child, trial and error approaches, patience and empathy, understanding and encouragement. And research – as much as asking your friends, other parents, home educators and through online forums as academic stuff.

Encouraging learning is simply an extension of your parenting skills

It’s a bit like what you were forced to do when your baby came and up-skittled your recognisable world. What a steep learning curve that was! But you did it. You didn’t teeter or waver or hang indecisively about on the edge of parenthood, wondering whether you should parent or not. You were thrown in the deep end and learnt as you went along. You connected with other parents, read, went online, shared problems, found solutions. When your baby’s born there’s no should-we-or-shouldn’t-we, you just got on with it. And you’ve grown enormously I would guess, certainly in experience. Experience teaches and develops confidence.

You can do that with home education. You can jump right in – probably after a little preliminary research as you no doubt did before the first baby, learn as you go along, connect with others and find the answers you need.

There is such a treasure trove of information and support in online forums, blogs, websites, social media sites which also lead to physical groups and meet ups. Like with parenting you can sift advice, copy what others do, try out approaches, review, modify and adapt to make things work for you. The more you’re in it the more you’ll understand about it, how different learning approaches work and what works for you.

We develop many skills as we parent our 0 – 5 child. We teach them many skills too. You don’t need ‘qualified’ parent status to do so.

The simple truth is we don’t need a ‘qualified’ educator status to extend those skills into facilitating our child’s further learning. We can begin with the skills we have already that are based in our parenting; care, encouragement, communication, curiosity, inspiration, respect, interest in learning. These are the skills we need more than any other. From these all the more complicated stuff will grow and develop.

Any interested parent who is caring and engaged and respectful can extend their parenting skills into home educating skills. It’s as simple as that.

So, if you think you’re one of those that believe they haven’t the skills to home educate, maybe think again!

An exclusive reading…

There are new families joining the thousands who already make up the Home Educating community all the time and many have messaged me to convey their thanks for the books I’ve produced to support them. I am so grateful. Thank you. I’m especially moved to know they’ve helped.

In grateful thanks and in support of all those who want to know a little more about home schooling as it’s more commonly known, or choose an alternative to going back to school in September especially in these difficult times, here’s an exclusive reading from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’.

Read more about the book on the My Books page on this blog and find it at Eyrie Press or on Amazon. And do feel free to share so if there are others anxious about going back to school they too will learn there are choices!

What’s the point of education?

I suspect that millions of parents send their children off to school without ever really asking that question. Or believe the accepted view that education – and school – is to teach kids the stuff they need to pass exams, get good grades and consequently a ‘good’ job.

That’s how most see it, without ever stopping to examine the details, or define what a ‘good’ job is within the context of a fulfilling and happy life with warm loving connections – the best bits.

When you home educate and remove yourself from predetermined approaches to predetermined outcomes which is how the system operates, you have to think really deeply about those details. Because the children’s education is in your hands, in their hands, and you can literally design your own. And I suspect current circumstances have made parents question quite rightly what exactly schools are educating for. (Earlier post here)

But any time is a good time to question.

Question what is the real point of education, of school, tests, grades, or home education – whatever you’re doing. Because the real point of it all doesn’t discriminate between school or home education – it’s all LEARNING – that’s the point, not all the other systemised stuff.

And it’s the learning, and what you do it for, that matters.

So, what do you do what you do for? What’s the point?

I reckon:

What do you reckon? Something to think about over the holidays. Do let me know in the comments below.

And share or use the poster as much as you like!

Play, learn, research – it’s all the same to education!

A friend and I were talking about playing. This is not about the children you understand, they’re all adult now, we were talking about us and what we’d been playing at!

Play gets a bad press. Our target and objective obsessed culture – and education – leaves little room for play. It’s increasingly squeezed out of our lives, squeezed out of childhood, definitely squeezed out of learning.

The crime of that is that play is a very profound and valid way of learning.

But at the risk of being accused of ‘wasting time’ most of us don’t do it any more.

My friend and I are both branching out into new realms. And both of us need to put in a huge amount of hours to develop the skills needed. Much of this is experimentation and trial and error. Basically we need to play around our subjects to learn and become practised at them.

Me playing with ways of presenting words! Encourage your children to play with materials, tools, ideas.

But the label of play – to describe our associated activities in that way – gives us the shivers. For we’re supposed to be ‘working’ aren’t we?

And that’s where the confusion lies. Play is valuable work too.

You rarely come away from playing with various materials (think cooking, becoming proficient with your latest gadget, or all kinds of creative activities) without having learnt something.

Playing is an extremely useful form of research. Many important discoveries have been made by accident, and some of our most renowned genius’ like Leonardo Da Vinci for example, have come to greatness through playing around with ideas.

By making less and less time and opportunity in children’s lives – and education – for them to play, we are denying them valuable chances to develop their minds and skills. Whether that’s tiny tots playing with what’s around them as a form of discovery, children playing with bricks, books, junk, tools, utensils, household stuff, art and crafts materials, or teenagers with their gadgets, games and technology; understand that this is how they are learning and developing.

It’s all valuable research into the stuff of life. The stuff of work. Development of the mental as much as the physical. Development that will enhance their capacity to learn.

Play, learn, research; they are all inseparably interlinked. (Interesting article on the benefits of play here)

So we should encourage our youngsters to play as much as possible. It is never a waste of time.

And as my friend and I discussed; that applies to us adults too. We’ll just call it research from now on!

Don’t be put off Home Educating; it’s not the same as school at home!

The school closures have completely changed family life. And made it very hard for many I imagine. Must be challenging trying to get the kids to do school work at home. Like permanent homework and I know how hard some parents find that!

As a former home educator you’d think I could offer some advice on how to tackle it. But I can’t really, apart from what’s in the last few blogs, and that’s because home educators rarely do school-at-home.

School-at-home; i.e. following a prescriptive set of tasks set by schools designed to do in a school environment, is wildly different to the learning life you get into when you home educate. Even the title home education, as opposed to home school, defines a difference. (Explained here)

Home Educating has a completely different ethos of learning, educating and raising a child. Basically it’s a DIY education, not one doing school work hand outs, which is what many are doing now and think of as home educating. And contrary to what people think about the kids being tied to apron strings it makes for a more self directed, independent and diversely thinking learner and adult and is something the whole family can get involved in which in no way represents the prescriptive teaching of a classroom.

However, if this period of doing without school has made you want to reconsider home educating – and you can do that whatever age your children are – then there are three of my books that take a deeper look at it.

Learning Without School Home Education’ answers all of the common questions about it; how to start, what it’s like, how kids learn, what about socialisation, what about tests and exams etc.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is an autobiographical story which illustrates the journey into and through the home educating life. It’s an easy, fun, family read, rather than an educational tome of a book no one wants to read, but still has lots of tips and thought provoking ideas that’ll set you thinking. This is the book that many have told me convinced them they wanted to home educate. Some lovely reviews on Amazon!

A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’ is a collection of pieces which again address all the common issues that home educating families face as they progress into it, with reassuring tips and stories from one who’s been there and how they dealt with it. A Home Ed bedside book it’s been called!

The ‘My Books’ page on this site gives more details and snippets from the books too. They’re all available on Amazon.

Meanwhile you might also find my little YouTube talk interesting.

So take a look and let me know what you think – and what you decide. If you message me in the comments below I always try and respond. I also have a Facebook page which I respond to when I get round to it!

Meanwhile, I hope you and the kids are doing okay and finding ways to survive! It’s just as tough for current home educators not going out as, also contrary to what people generally think, home education is more out of the home than in it!

So we’re all waiting for a lift in Lockdown!

Another kind of educational mainstream

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

A peep into the Home Ed Notebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do homeschool kids learn?

Following on from last week’s post I thought it might be helpful to talk about this.

It’s such a huge question. How does anyone learn? How do you learn now you’re a parent?

Discounting any specific academic courses you may be undertaking I think you’ll agree your learning otherwise, (say about your new technology, or looking up how to fix, cook, parent), has little resemblance to the way schools do it – you probably do most of it online and by asking around too. Yet it will be just as effective.

School learning structures are the way they are because the learning there has to be measured – not because they’re the best way to do it!

However, learning doesn’t have to be measured in order to be successful. And for most home educators it isn’t measured – it’s just experienced. Families just encourage, prompt, provide resources and engage with what their learner wants to learn, along with essential skills to do so, and find ways to facilitate it, practically, physically, mentally and most importantly interestingly!

They do it through a multitude of ways; online, out and about, through meetings and sharing learning with others, in the local community, museums, galleries, sports and play centres, libraries, workshops, visits to various sites, nature reserves and places of interest, all so the learning experience is as first hand as possible, along with practice of academic skills and study at times.

But it’s very hard to get your head round those unfamiliar approaches that home educating families take to their learning. So I’ve written a whole chapter about it in my guide to home education; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ which may help you get to grips with it. (For more details scroll down the ‘My Books’ page above) If you haven’t got a copy and prefer not to buy, you can request that your library do so, then others will be able to access it too.

The chapter looks at both a traditional view and a broader view of how children learn, what they need in order to do so, how they learn without teaching from everyday experiences including play, and then goes on to look at different approaches families use in more detail, the pros and cons, along with some suggestions on how to choose an approach that’s right for you. The chapter also talks about motivation and about children having charge of their own learning which may be a really radical idea for some, but is still doable and effective.

From the book; Learning Without School Home Education

Learning and educating are such a personal experience – although schools tend to generalise it – every learner is different and everyone’s circumstances are different. But despite these diverse and idiosyncratic approaches which families take to their home education the young people all seem to end up in the same place; intelligent, articulate, socially skilled, and mostly with a portfolio of qualifications in line with their school contemporaries.

Don’t be daunted by an unfamiliar approach to learning that’s so different from the traditional. Traditions always need challenging to see if they’re still worth hanging onto, although I guess you know that already or you wouldn’t be challenging the tradition of schooling! By opening your mind about how children learn you will be able to give your youngsters a much more pro-active and enjoyable experience of learning that will set them up for life.

Ideas to get the learning out!

Wherever they went the children found things to experience and learn about!

There is an accelerating drive to take more learning outside. Many schools are trying to practice this as much as they can, not always with the support of parents some of whom think that kids should have heads down at desks ‘getting on’ rather than mucking about outdoors, as they see it.

At the start of a home educating journey, when the only familiar approach to education is that heads-down indoors one, it’s difficult to imagine other ways. But home schooling gives you the perfect opportunity to get the learning out!

We found, very quickly, that the further you move away from the structured and oppressive approach to learning that schools adopt, the more you understand that the children learn just as much (more probably, because they’re enjoying it) outside of these restrictive structures. They learn by experiencing as much as by study.

But how do you get away from the studious, often workbook and curriculum led, indoor, schooly type of learning that’s familiar?

By focusing on the experiencing first and letting the study be the follow up – if at all! And you can use facilities in your locality to do this, with a little imagination.

Experiences of science, literature, mathematics, history, geography, all forms of the arts etc are around us all the time if we spot the opportunities.

Take history, for example. A visit to your local church may start if off. Look at the dates on the gravestones, wonder (and later research) what life was like for those people, the age they died, the social history of the time, the type of headstone a clue to their wealth, ask questions, discuss and speculate with the kids. This often leads to some googling, documentaries, films, about the period, historical dramas as educational as a documentary if discussion is involved. Along with museums there will be other historical evidence in your neighbourhood among the architecture, industries, memorials, constructions like bridges, railways, tunnels etc all to be explored. So take your history out. Explore.

Science is another example. Science is around us everywhere, whether biological (gardens, parks, nature reserves, plant centres, woodlands, etc), chemical (from the make up of the food we eat to the fuels and substances we use etc.), the physics of the universe and atmosphere and climate science a major current issue that combines it all. Get out and explore the world from a scientific point of view – for real – even if you need the ideas in a curriculum related workbook to start you off!

Make use of what’s out there like: libraries not just for books but local resources, groups, clubs, activities and so on; galleries, art centres, exhibitions, buildings, riverbanks, estuaries, streams, ponds, lakes, local museums, theatres, community centres, sports halls, swimming pools, playgrounds, tourist information centres, all provide educational opportunities and physical activities, if you go out there with an investigative and questioning mind. Even the food shop brings learning opportunities; the weights, measures, costs, contents, countries of origin, transport and time, growing food, the labelling design and wording…the list goes on.

Basically your children learn all the time when out and about if you’re observant. So use imagination to take your learning out and have faith, they WILL be learning because they will be engaged.

Which cannot always be said for sitting passively at a table over a workbook!

An inspiring take on learning

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

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

Unschooled’, is a book about that very concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well worth a read!

Your questions about home education answered

It is true what’s written in the poster! Although many parents don’t realise, or begin to comprehend how this would work, conditioned as we are to believe that formal, school-style approaches to education are the only ones worth doing.

They’re not!

The more you home educate the more it becomes apparent that diverse, incidental and informal activities, like play, investigation and experimenting for example, educate as much as formal academic exercises do.

To help understand how this happens there’s a whole chapter devoted to it in my book;  ‘Learning Without School Home Education’.

The contents of this book are based around the general questions parents ask all the time about home education:

What is home education and why do people do it?

How do parents start home educating?

How do home educated children learn?

How do they find friends and become socialised?

What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

What about tests, exams and qualifications?

What is life like for a home educating family?

What about children with ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’?

Where do home educated families end up?

The chapters answer all the above questions in detail and the answers may well surprise you. And, as one teacher reported, may inspire many ideas about education in general that you’ve never thought of before!

So don’t let the schooling style of learning monopolise your thinking about education. Don’t let the system make you believe that testing, classrooms, teachers, curriculum are required or your child won’t learn. That’s untrue. Or make you believe that school is needed for socialisation – it’s not. (Read this about weird social behaviour and baked beans!)

Schooling is one way of doing it – a very unsuccessful way for many – which is why thousands of families are choosing home education as an alternative and making a grand job of it!