Tag Archive | confidence

Helping your Home Ed household

After the post I did recently about the not-so-little girls who starred in the book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ I had several super messages. It seems people are reassured to know these grown-up home educators turned out okay and thereby find comfort in knowing there’s a good chance that theirs will be the same one day.

It is hard to believe, I know. I remember having that feeling myself. We’re so all-consumed by the parenting stage we’re at, by the age our children are, it’s impossible to see anything other.

We can never see the future, obviously, but equally it seems downright scary to conceive being parents of adults. Or to imagine things other than how they are; kids as grown ups being one of them.

However, I know now that you don’t really need to worry about this. All you need to do is concern yourself with your children now, with their needs now, with making their learning life a good one, now. Just making ordinary life good now; for ordinary life is where learning happens as well as ‘doing educational’ stuff. And it creates a life that helps them grow and develop in ways you can’t imagine now – trust me – it does.

It’s not something you can control or force. I did try forcing, misguided soul that I was, but whenever I set about ‘doing’ education I failed disastrously, we often fell out disastrously. And we probably learned nothing useful, except not to do it that way perhaps.

It was these silly mistakes that could cause the most wobbles – wobbles that didn’t need to happen really. And the lessons I learned from them are what I hoped to pass on through my latest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook‘. Because anything to appease those wobbles and keep us strong has to help a Home Ed household. Our strength is the children’s strength.

A peep inside A Home Education Notebook

A peep inside A Home Education Notebook

Home educating is a long term job. Parenting is a long job, come to that. To endure that we have to find and practice anything we can to give us the confidence to keep going. And I found it helped to:

  • keep contact with those who support you and minimise contact with those who don’t
  • never measure yourself with school benchmarks
  • share your concerns, but only with those you trust
  • join the Home Ed networks like those on Facebook (e.g home education uk) where you’ll find reassuring lists of what grown-up home educated kids are doing now
  • have faith in your intelligence and your children’s intelligence, it’ll get you there!

You won’t have made the decision to Home Ed lightly – don’t let others sway you from your intelligent considerations of it. Your considered intelligence will see you through long term – trust it.

Take care to focus on what you’re doing now, that’s where you’ll find your confidence, then you’ll also find that the long term will take care of itself!

And it’s your lovely feedback which gives me confidence too – thank you.

Kids and comfort zones

The recent storms were challenging weren’t they!

And I don’t even have to work out in it like some of the people I see on the land.

I can go out in it if I wish – or not. My work is otherwise snug and comfy at the computer in the warm.

However, I did dash out in it at times, pushed myself out in the ripping storms and battalions of wet that blasted across the flatlands, one after the other. I ran from hedge to hedge whilst the worst passed over, coveting a bit of shelter for a while like the rabbits do judging by the droppings. The dog has got wise to this strategy and butts up to a bush with a miserable face, not understanding the value of pushing past the comfort line sometimes.

But I know it’s the best remedy for Indooritus. That disease which sludges up the soul when I’m shut inside, inactive, inert, for far too long.

Pushing beyond always being comfy develops so many parts of us we wouldn’t give it credit for, even confidence. It gives us different experiences, stimuli, sensations, which arouse parts of us which may go unused. You know what they say; use it or lose it. That goes for brain, muscles, heart, all organs and all senses.

And pushing ourselves through a bit of challenging discomfort is an example to the children that it is sometimes worth it. For, as parents, we spend quite a lot of our time following the opposite path.

It is the nature of our parenting to care and cherish. Feed and shelter. Protect and provide. Always look to their comfort, naturally, since they were babies, from their warm fed tummies to their shiny shod toes. We see to their needs, answer their demands, pander to their whims. Of course we do. Mums are genetically primed to do so; we almost can’t help it. We want them to be safe, happy, snug. Why on earth then, should we ever make them uncomfortable?

Well, the reason is that uncomfortable is going to be pushing their boundaries a bit, showing them parts of themselves that they maybe hadn’t known. Giving them opportunities for achieving things they never thought they could. And the consequence of achievement – whatever it is and however small – is feeling good. Building confidence.

It may not seem like it at the time. But sometimes we have to do the deeds for the feelings later.

It doesn’t have to be going out in a gale, although that’s very stimulating. It could be eating different

Nipped out at a time of day I'd usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a sight I normally miss - moonrise!

Nipped out in the descending dark when I’d usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a stirring sight that made it worth it – moonrise!

food, trying a new activity or exercise, meeting new people, going out at a time you wouldn’t normally, walking a different route, switching off the technology for a day! Examine your comfort routines and break out of them on occasion.

My cheeks were chilled and my clothes were wet by the time I got back in – and I was certainly glad to do so. But my soul was singing and excited. I rarely feel like that when I’m still. Or doing the same thing in the same way, day after day.

And it’s so worth showing your kids that pushing out from comfortable will on occasion make their soul sing too!

Do children need forcing over shyness?

Charley and I had a jaunt out together the other day. She’s a lovely young adult now and we share grown up things together like art centres, charity treasure seeking or walks. And I always enjoy the opportunity to chat – and listen. How did she become so intelligent and astute? Sometimes I feel I’ve been overtaken!

Quite randomly we got to talking about shyness, particularly in children. She was painfully shy; pulling hat down over eyes rather than engaging with people. Hated crowds, hated people noisy places, and generally had a serious frowning face as a baby. It was a good job our first child was beaming as I might have thought it was me making her miserable.

Her Gran could get her giggling though and when she did crack out a smile the sun shone. But she was never one for leaving my legs and joining in.

Yet she recently managed a very difficult conversation with a boss. How did she get from being the shy little girl, shy big girl as well, to someone who could deal with situations like college, Uni, colleagues and bosses? As a home educating family, whose children don’t experience the affray of school, you’re often accused of failing to push them out into the big wide world. ‘They have to get used to it’ you’re told. Is this true?

It’s a dilemma for parents: How much do we push interaction and how much do we leave it to develop naturally?

Not being a parent who was comfortable with any kind of enforcement, and being shy myself, I felt very strongly I shouldn’t push. That in the right environment, with the right encouragement and a consistent demonstration, with exposure that a child feels comfortable with, you don’t need to push interaction it will develop naturally through developing confidence. And confidence comes from support and experience.

This is what Charley says about it; ‘I hated it when people approached me when I was little. I felt sick and like I wanted to cry. I was so grateful to have you as a shield if I needed it and I can look back and see now that you let it be alright if I didn’t want to talk to people. If you’d pushed me out before I was ready I would have thought you were ganging up on me as well, as that’s what it felt like. Instead I had the choice to interact or not and very young children need that protection’.

I knew that sick feeling well, so I was determined that she shouldn’t suffer the same. We are all different and all have different characteristics.

However, I knew that Charley did need to become confident in dealing with people. And I thought about certain strategies to pass on as she grew to help her over those difficult situations. I remember telling her that sometimes all you have to do is look people in the eye, say hello, then look away and they’re satisfied with that and leave you alone. I made sure that I approached people with confidence so she could copy my example (I was bluffing but she didn’t know that!) and told her about ice-breakers, where you talk about something that’s common between you – even the weather. And smiling always helps! Little tips like these she could put into practice and gain experience from using.

As we were chatting about this Charley went on to say; ‘As I got older I realised that being shy, and not being physically able to speak to people, wasn’t going to be help me progress and get where I wanted. So I had to get over it so I took courage and went for it as my confidence grew. I also wanted people to think I was approachable. Looking at people and smiling changes their responses to me and helps them relax’.

And now you wouldn’t know she was shy and she seems very good at putting people at their ease. Better than her mother probably! She certainly does when she’s photographing them – there’s no worse subject than me, but she managed it for my blog.

Yet this was a child who was not taken to toddler group, contrary to the advice of health visitors who think it’s a way of ‘socialising’ them. (That’s rubbish and you can read why in my book ‘Mumhood’). She was not sent to school. She was not forced into group situations before she was ready. She was not forced to party, mix, engage, unless she chose to, just came along as we did it, but whether she interacted was up to her.

And I wanted to write this here in support of all those painfully shy children who are forced to ‘get over it’. And all those parents who worry or who think they should be forcing their children to mix – you shouldn’t. Or that home education is going to compound the problem. It doesn’t.

You don’t have to push them out there – they want to get out there for themselves when the time is right. And they will do – Charley is proof.

Not scary, honest!

I’m not scary honest! But judging by a couple of messages I’ve received lately some people obviously think I am. They’ve said that they needed to ‘pluck up courage’ to message me, usually to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the books and blog! How lucky am I?

It’s so wonderful to have your messages of support. Please do go on plucking up courage!

I feel enormously grateful and humbled by people letting me know how I’ve helped or given them a giggle. Writing is such a shot in the dark, for I’m only guessing what I think might help and could get it so horribly wrong.

So to know I’ve hit the mark on occasion for some people some of the time is extremely rewarding. That is of course what I do it for, as well as putting a crust on the table. My primary aim has always been to offer a bit of encouragement and support to others, especially those who feel alone in doing things differently. Remember – you’re not! But I know what it feels like!

I also know, having done it myself, that the thought of home educating – or doing anything off the beaten track – can appear to be scary along with the people doing it! I remember looking at long term home educating parents and feeling daunted by the thought of going up and speaking to them. They must be so clever, so wise and brave and confident.

As if!

Guess what? We’re no different to anyone else. We’re just as scared and daunted and confidence? – goodness, few have confidence. We just do it anyway, like all parents do as they muddle through trying to do the best for their child.

And another revelation; you’re not the only one plucking up courage. Writers have to do that too. We’re always scared that we’re going to be found out as terrible frauds, because after all, we’re just ordinary people like you, who don’t really know if we can write or not. We’re afraid we’re going to laughed at or ridiculed. And it’s enormously daunting exposing yourself to public criticism as you have to do to get your work out there.

But we just have to try and get over that, for there’s no good wanting to help people if they can’t access that help and it’s that desire to support or inspire others that pushes us on. Like all those wonderful bloggers who offer so much too.

I write basically in support of others; writing is just the medium I use to offer it!

So you see, I’m just as cowardly underneath – hardly scary at all!

Nurturing confidence – the best objective of all

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

Children need all kinds of experiences to build their confidence

Nurturing, inspiring, varied and experiential, knowledge and opportunity rich. That’s what I said I wanted education to be in my last post.

Because that gives the children what they need to live successful and productive lives. It makes them happy, it makes them healthy and most important of all it gives them confidence. Confidence must surely be an objective for education.

Have you looked at your child’s education recently and considered what it’s doing for them?

You can’t build confidence in a system that gives you no choice. When you have no choice it is easy to become a pawn or a victim and fail to develop the skills needed to lead later life for yourself.

You won’t become confident from being unhappy, you won’t stay well either. You need to feel fairly content with what’s happening in your life, even if there are challenges, but challenges make you happy too. When there’s no choice about those though, there’s little happiness.

You can’t develop confidence if you’re continually undermined by lack of respect for your personal preferences. Confidence is built from being respected, whatever you are like.

It doesn’t make you confident when your ideas and opinions are disregarded and there’s little opportunity to express what’s important to you.

It doesn’t make you confident when no one trusts that you are able to learn for yourself and take some charge of your education.

It won’t enhance your well-being when no one seems to have any regard for you as a person or interest in nurturing your personal skills and strengths.

It’s hardly inspiring to be squeezed into someone else’s prescription of education towards objectives which have no meaning to you. That hardly keeps you motivated and happy. You need to understand your own objectives.

And it hardly keeps you motivated when your experience of education is dull and lack-lustre, year after year, with little variety in approach or experience.

What’s your child’s education like? Is it giving them confidence? If not, you might like to consider changing it!

Home schooling – where do you find the courage?

People say to me sometimes ‘I’d like to home educate but cannot find the courage to do something so unusual and out of mainstream’.

My answer: You usually get to the point where you feel so strongly there’s no choice; you’re moved to do it, usually by strong gut feelings and principles – they’re worth listening to.

But if you’re considering home education and are looking some rational ways to make the leap here are some tips:

–          Research. Find out as much as you can about it. Home schooling approaches vary as much as parenting approaches so it’s a good idea to look at a variety of sites. There are formal ones giving information and statistics and there are home educating family blogs that give a mass of ideas, approaches and activities which build up a picture of how it works. Having information and understanding is the first step to removing collywobbles! (Start with the ‘Home education blogs and helpful websites’ page above)

–          Community. One of the biggest fears about home schooling is the thought of stepping away from the mainstream community and feeling isolated and ostracised. What many parents don’t realise that there is a huge community of non-school-users which is growing even as we speak. And I’m talking thousands and thousands. Once you tap into that via the web (Facebook, Yahoo Groups, etc) you will have a sense of community. I was thrilled to discover that there was this whole community of others who thought like I did, as if there was a parallel universe operating successfully all the time I’d been unaware of it. Communities give support.

–          Support. We all need support in some form or another and most have it from family and close friends. However, home schooling scares many which makes them less than supportive at times. If you don’t have support from your loved ones then look for it in other places. Through the groups, friends, online, or community of people who think like you. We had very doubtful family members to start with. But once they saw our kids blooming and achieving they were more supportive of our approach. Home schooling FB groups are great for instant support.

–          Discussion. It is essential to talk about it. The best people to do that with are your supportive community. Talking can bring perspective to irrational fears. But don’t discuss them with people who have no comprehension or understanding of home education. They will try and lay their own ignorant fears on you, and it is ignorance that distorts rational thinking.

–          Practise. We can imagine all sorts of worse scenarios that diminish our courage. Best not to do this. Instead, stop thinking, take action and be practical. Practise, do, act, on all of the above suggestions rather than wallowing in distorted thinking. Action provides the antidote to irrational thoughts and builds confidence.

–          Be reassured that any decision you make is not for life. That’s the beauty of home educating; whatever is not working you can change. That hardly ever happens in school! Whether you decide not to send your child to school from the beginning or remove them from school later, you can always make different decisions if need be. We’ve known parents home school throughout their child’s life. We’ve known parents who’ve home schooled just through primary, parents who have home schooled for one term, children who have gone into school at sixth form. It all worked!

–          Confidence. Be confident in your decision. It’s worked for thousands. It can work for you.

One final thought about the courage to home educate; it’s no difference from the courage to risk school.

Home schooling doesn’t suit every family or every child. School doesn’t either. There is no one answer to every child’s needs. But I reckon you’ve got as good a chance of fulfilling them with an individual approach as with the institutional approach of schooling. Take courage!

What’s your objective for your child’s education?

You tend to ask yourself that when you’re watching your kids wilt in school.

“What’s your objective with your child’s schooling?” I asked a parent of a school going child looking for the answer.

“Oh! I haven’t ever thought about it,” she replied.

Really? Why not?

“What’s your objective for your children’s education?” I asked a home educating mum.

“Well, I want them to have confidence and the skills they need to lead life. With confidence they can do anything,” she answered.

Sounded like she’d thought about it a lot.

We had similar kinds of conversations with ourselves constantly once we’d withdrawn the children from school plus; ‘What is it about a person that makes them educated?’

Is it knowledge?

Not only; no amount of knowledge is worth anything in isolation. Knowledge is only useful if you have the skills to transfer it to living. No amount of qualifications are any good to you if you don’t know what to do on your first day of work, how to make decisions, interact with others, converse and adapt. Those are skills.

So skills development, especially social ones, must have a lot to do with being educated then? How do you get the kind of social understanding you need to live life?

By interacting with those who are living real lives and not just living school lives. No where outside school will you find such a limiting social experience, where you mix with so few adults, particularly not in the work place. And only by living real life can you build life skills.

Then there are life’s challenges, what equips you to deal with those?

Well – qualifications may show you’ve succeeded at something. But the biggest challenge you have to face in life is what you do when you don’t succeed. What you do as a result of failing, when you have to pick yourself up, confront the problem, deal with difficulties, maintain your self esteem and keep applying yourself.

To do that you need what my home educated friend said; confidence. Plus courage, the ability to think laterally, diversely and with a sensitive intelligence. The wisdom to see broadly, to care about and communicate with others, to have strength of character and self belief.

That’s what we decided a truly educated person needed as well as knowledge and through the process of living and learning together and educating our kids out of school we worked towards it.

You can read how it happened in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’.

And the little girl in the story, who was forever making things or performing or cheering us with her giggling, is now grown up and surging forward with work, her own businesses, making films and performing with that confidence. Hard to imagine!

Here’s her blog: http://alanna-somuchlove.blogspot.co.uk/

If you live in Brighton and you’re free tomorrow you can go meet her, see what she’s doing. She’s holding a little stall outside Snoopers, as part of the promotional work she’s been asked to do for Snoopers Attic in North Laine, (See some of the pictures here: http://snoopersattic.tumblr.com/) She’s selling her own customised items as well but she wants people to go along and show her what they’re making and wearing, make a bit of an event of it – shopping with a difference!

For there’s nothing like home educating for making kids think differently; for giving them the confidence to go for what they want, and the life skills with which to achieve it.

It makes them pretty nice people too!

As, we also decided, any education should.

And, incidentally, I’m telling you this about Chelsea, not because I want to brag – although course I’m proud, but because if you’re starting out on your home schooling journey you’ll need some proof of just how well other approaches work to give you faith!