Tag Archive | education

Recognising mainstream codswallop for what it is!

When I listen to parents stuck in the mainstream education system and hear how concerned they are about their young people I really feel for them.

For when I say ‘stuck’ it really is like that; the systems binds them with a glue that not only keeps their education mainstream but also clogs up their thinking. And they end up believing the propaganda about how doomed their kids will be how if they don’t achieve in the same way everyone else is achieving and at the same time.

When did we stop believing in individuals or possibilities and start believing cloning, I wonder? For isn’t this what we’re doing?

I think about all the home educating families in comparison who have managed to break out of this sticky approach and see education as it should be; the all round development of an individual that equips them with skills to learn – for life, not just between the ages of five and eighteen, in individual ways if needed.

The trouble is that by gluing people to beliefs about achieving GCSEs or A’ Levels by 16 or 18 for example, it’s led everyone to believe that if these results haven’t been achieved by these ages then there is something wrong with their kids and they’ll never have a life!

I want to shout very loudly that this is utter CODSWALLOP!

And even more codswallop comes in the form of making youngsters believe that they are failures without these results and they’ll never work or achieve other things.

If this is what you believe then you need to examine your thinking very carefully and unstick it!

The reality instead is this:

  1. Anyone can take GCSEs at any time of their life if they wish; courses, opportunities, tutors, facilities are there for youngsters to do this if you look.
  2. Equally, it is the same with A’ Levels, other qualifications, degrees, whatever.
  3. These can be achieved in a range of ways and within a range of time frames the only downside being there will probably be a fee.
  4. NO ONE need ever be doomed for doing it differently. Youngsters can add to their achievements any time they’re ready. Some people are not ready until they’re much older. This is their right and is absolutely fine.
  5. It is not necessarily better to have done it early – it just suits others if it happens like that! We all develop and mature at different times and that’s allowed.
  6. There is no law that says that anyone has to do any of this anyway. These are merely convenient hoops to pass through to get places – some of us don’t want to go those places or by those means!
  7. Having exam results is not always a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of whether you can pass exams or not. You can be just as intelligent and educated without them.
  8. There are all forms of intelligence and most of the useful ones, like emotional intelligence for example, are not examinable anyway. An educated person is not merely a qualified person, it is a person who can behave in an educated and responsible way. Many qualified people don’t!

So even if you don’t want to break out of mainstream schooling you can still break out of mainstream thinking and decide what’s right for you and your young people.

There are all sorts of ways to progress and all sorts of pathways to do so. Mainstream is easy if it’s working. Dire when it’s not. Don’t stay stuck in mainstream glue if it’s not working for you and yours!

Don’t worry about the SATs!

 I’m feeling for parents of school children at the moment. The complete hash up over the SATs lately must be really freaking them out.

I know most home educators don’t have much to do with tests, SATs and League Tables etc, but I remember when the girls were in school for that short time how anxiety about what was happening there was all consuming. Especially when it didn’t seem to be happening right. I gave daily thanks we’d made the decision to home school – a decision we didn’t regret for one single second – and get away from those invalid processes.

When we are young green parents though, wanting to trust that the big establishment which the schooling system has become is getting it right for our kids, it’s devastating to know that there’s a possibility – let alone proof – that it’s not!

So this is my attempt to offer you a little bit of reassurance.

Whether using school or home educating parents needn’t worry about SATs.

Not doing them is not going to impair your child’s education for life – as propaganda leads us to believe.

Most home educated children are educated to a good standard without ever knowing what SATs are, let alone being subjected to the stress of them.

SATs are just a way the government’s devised of setting a standard bench mark on children’s attainment in schools (which doesn’t work anyway). They are supposedly a way of monitoring teachers and schools and consequently making the politicians look as if they are doing something useful. They are of no use to a learner’s education whatsoever.

Many will argue that they are; desperate as people are to stick to institutional thinking. And argue that, as a result of them, provision will be improved.

But that rarely happens. And tests rarely reflect true ability anyway. What’s standard, for example? And just what are we testing – all questions that I’ve asked in other articles.

There have been some alarming reports in the press recently about what these tests are doing to our children’s mental well being. It’s probably also having the same effect on the parents and teachers! So I think there’s a case for boycotting the whole darn SATs system, let alone a one-off boycott like recently.

But if you’re one of the parents who is worried that your child’s education is going to be damaged by yet another drastic mess up of papers I shouldn’t be. It won’t. Your child’s education is the result of a whole plethora of influences and experiences over a long period of time, not the odd result.

And if you’re new to home educating I shouldn’t let the time wasting procedure of standard testing mess up the opportunity of a delightful learning day of discovery and experience – as education should be!

Don’t stick with what it says on the box – or in the school!

There were some interesting comments from Ben Fogle in the press recently as he drew an analogy between the development of Lego and the development of the education system, both of whom he feels had become increasingly prescriptive.

He says that once upon a time you bought boxes of random Lego bricks and created models yourself, now children are frustrated over prescriptive kits that require you to stick to instructions. And this sounds very like schooling which has become so prescriptive kids have little opportunity to build the skills, or learn the subjects, that interest them but have to stick with within restrictive boundaries dictated by others.

Thank goodness for the choice of home education where we can step beyond those prescriptions about learning and approach it another way.

But we also have a choice with the Lego don’t we? And isn’t the issue really about training minds to exercise choice and not stick always with what it says on the box? To be brave and imaginative enough to try other approaches – either with Lego or learning? Lessons or life?

This is indeed what home educators do all the time. And the knock on effect of this creates something else; for once you’ve broken out of the idea that everyone has to go to school in order to learn anything, I believe we develop the skills to see possibilities in breaking out of other frameworks of thinking that can hold us imprisoned if we don’t examine them.

No one has to be imprisoned by Lego kits! Child or adult (apparently there’s a huge Lego cult among adults now too – I watched a fascinating programme about it). And the more we encourage the children to look for possibilities beyond the preconceived or prescribed the more this develops their intelligence, creative thinking and mental aptitude. So equally no one has to be imprisoned by other aspects of life either.

So whatever activities we buy for the kids or encourage them to do, we can also encourage them to consider other possibilities.

We can do that with Lego and we can do that with life; we can encourage vision beyond what we think are boundaries but may not be so at all. Both require innovative thinking. And innovative thinking is as useful a skill for living as being able to follow instructions!

The gift of weblessness and the wonder of ‘wasted’ time

DSC06009

Typical spring; sunlit blossom against a stormy sky

We call Spring a fickle bitch in this house! That’s because it’s brazen and hot one minute and blasting your face off with gales and ice the next.

It doesn’t take much bad weather where we live to put the internet off – there are several times a year it disappears. And of course the landline phone.

Who needs a landline phone in these days of mobiles? People like us who live in places of no signal!

I can pace about in anger and frustration – again – it happens quite often. Or I can just be stoic and remind myself that I did actually happily exist without the Internet at one time. And do other things like reading, or walk – always available, always free.

Since I couldn’t work I drove to town, partly to get enough signal to ring BT, mostly to have a long browse in the library, an oft forgotten pleasure. I brought home a stash of books. And did some writing with pen and paper, ready to be blogged when service was restored. It was quite nice really – once I could get my mind turned in that direction and stop fretting over time wasted.

Time ‘wasted’ is a state of mind I reckon. I could look at it as time ‘gifted’ instead.

My mum, the loving character you may have met in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ Untitled-1 copywould have considered time on the Net as time wasted, in complete contrast to how we view it now. In her lifetime it wasn’t the facility it is now, more of a hobby. And anyway, time wasted is a point of view – she could spend/waste hours by her fire with a good book and a cat on the knee. Wasted? She enjoyed every minute, how is that a waste? But she wasn’t sucked into a lifestyle that depended on the Net and an image obsession of busy-busy on Social Media like we are today.

When we first came to this old house of hers, which we now occupy, I was a child in the seventies. It had no electricity, no phone of course. No heating except the coal fire. And it was NO problem – it was just how it was. And I consider myself lucky that I have memories of that because it reassures me that life can exist without it when necessary. And I have the skills to cope for a while.

It pays to have this kind of resourcefulness. Will our kids have it, so pampered and cosseted are they? Resourcefulness is a life skill that is invaluable. Can you imagine, we even started home educating without the Net? But the access it gives us to information and community now means parents can home educate with confidence.

There were some great programmes recently called ‘Back In Time for the Weekend’ that showed life in a family pre-technology, did you see any? They’re not available at the moment but similar programmes about existing without it are, that provoke some great historical discussions with the kids about this concept, which enriches their education. (Bit alarming to find I’m now history!)

Meanwhile, I kept reminding myself that the Internet would only be off for a while. It’d be back. Work would be back. Networking would be back. So instead or ‘wasting’ my time and energy fretting I decided I might as well turn my attention to the other things I value and enjoy this little gift of Weblessness.

So later that evening I visited a friend instead of being on the Net and had an evening of happy natter which I’d never have done if the Net had been available.

Gifts indeed!

Have some fun on May 3rd won’t you!

Testing – not something home educators do much! 

Yeah – that’s right – most go through the whole of their child’s education at home without doing any school style tests. Yet those children still go on to pass exams at a later date and most of them end up where there school peers get to; qualified, intelligent, competent, some at Uni, some in work.

So it does beg the question what really is the point of all those tests in schools? They’re not for the benefit of the children that’s for sure. (I’ve often blogged about it)

The obsession with testing and measuring the children’s education throughout their school life is often a reason parents give for choosing to home educate instead. But it seems that home schooling parents are not the only ones who are sick of this regime. Parents of school kids and teachers too are all adding their support to a campaign to boycott the tests to be taken on 3rd May.

Maybe we should join in?

For I guess the group Let Our Kids Be Kids would probably welcome your support too.

Since we are all in support of a real living education I thought I’d mention it. And although many in the home education community have no time for schooling I do believe we share some of their values; to challenge government policy, deplore high stakes testing which gives schools no choice other than to teach to the test, to see a curriculum full of joy and wonder… not overwhelmingly focussed on grammar and spelling which makes lessons dry and limits curiosity, and allow children to be children again – playing, being outdoors, painting, singing, dancing, learning through fun.

Sounds fairly akin to home educating values don’t you think?

I think that’s what we all want for our kids, isn’t it? So maybe you could support their campaign, sign it, and hopefully lighten the days of some of the kids in schools who are not lucky enough to be enjoying the opportunity of home educating as our children do.

Shot for wanting to be educated!

malala 001I’ve just read the book ‘I Am Malala’ about the girl in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for going to school.

That’s mostly all we know of her, as per the news coverage at the time. Read the book which details some of the political and religious climate that led to the event and you discover it’s far more complex than that.

It’s both disturbing and enlightening reading, unsettling and inspiring. And unimaginable in our comparably cosy world of educational freedoms in the UK.

Dedicated to the education and opportunities for schooling, both she and her father would find it hard to even contemplate why some of us would not want to take advantage of the opportunity to go to school, and home educate instead, as they were fighting for that right during the time leading up to the shooting. But the point is all about learning – rather than schooling – and who has control over it and how it is approached.

In the book I read about her father, who believes that ignorance has inhibited people from seeing education as a broadening of minds and development of ideas and consequently a way forward out of their troubles. And it has also allowed their politicians to fool people; I feel we perhaps think alike on that one!

For I suspect that in this country schooling may be doing the same, even if not to the same degree. Institutionalised schooling keeps people thinking how the establishment wants them to think and that’s becoming as much as a political tool, I feel, as the propaganda Malala describes in the book, where truth is distorted through the leaders’ interpretation of knowledge, stats, and who qualifies to access it.

As the process of schooling in the UK continues to squeeze creative and practical activities out of the curriculum, making it more and more focussed on rote academics for measurable purposes, then it also squeezes broader, independent and individual development, particularly thought development or a questioning mentality that encourages people to challenge. I’d guess politics wouldn’t want that.

In no way am I equating our system with the oppression Malala’s people suffered. But the opportunity to develop free thinking, questioning and independent individuals, able to think and learn for themselves, was high on our list of reasons to home educate. For I’m not convinced that schooling, as it is now and increasingly becoming, does that job terribly well.

The ignorance of some of the educated!

The fight or flight response kicks in automatically now. Palms sweat, breathing goes gaspy, limbs shaky. I brace myself for an onslaught.

This is what happens every time I listen to another piece about home education on the news. For it’s often laced with an attack.

LBC radio featured a piece about it the other night with callers chirping in. (Sorry – can’t find a recording!) As well as a few positives there was a right barrage from an angry teacher (surprisingly it’s often teachers who feel the need to attack) who obviously felt threatened. But it wasn’t from directly offensive remarks the like of which we get, she was threatened by us mere parents assuming they can do what teachers do, without all their training, and educate our own kids. She was incensed at the thought!

It’s odd that teachers should feel threatened by homeschoolers – why would that be? And it also displays the depth of the misconception they are under.

For parents don’t assume they can do what teachers have to do because they’re not teaching in the way teachers have to teach and they’re not doing it to a system which requires them to teach it. They are educating completely differently from what teachers understand as teaching.

And ironically it is those professionals’ narrow minded view of teaching and learning that prevents many from understanding the true nature of education in the broader sense, as opposed to simply institutionalised schooling.

The other thing we were wrongly accused of in this particular discussion – and another common one – was of preventing our children from mixing and inhibiting the children’s chance to gain qualifications. Our kids have as much opportunity as they choose to go where they want to go, be with who they want to be with and get what they need to do it – how is that inhibiting? It’s school which inhibits those choices surely – for they should be choices.

With all the work so many of us do to raise awareness and understanding of home education you’d think people were becoming a bit more enlightened. So I find it totally ironic that whenever home educating parents are accused of being ignorant of educating – usually by someone in the teaching profession – those professionals making accusations do so from a position of their own obvious ignorance of home education – without direct experience usually. Is that not a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black as the saying goes?

When these ignorant people are being so insulting, they should perhaps remember they are also insulting all the EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL, HARD-WORKING home educated ADULTS who are now already grown up, already out in the WORKPLACE, who never went to school.

So despite panic attacks I keep on saying how it is when I can, as many other brave parents do, in the hope of lessening this ignorance about a positive and successful approach to children’s education.

And on a more positive note I’d like to bring your attention to a more enlightened piece here in the papers asking why so many parents feel the need to give up on school and home educate.

Marta Drew and her children home educating featured in The Guardian

The question could also be asked – why are so many teachers turning to it too? For they are. Is it because they’ve seen what happens to kids’ in the conveyor belt system? Is it because they don’t want their individuals on that conveyor belt either?

I wonder?