Tag Archive | education

What influences our children’s learning?

I was playing with the idea of children’s learning the other day and drew myself a little picture. This is because the system has taught us to think in a very linear way about how learning happens and it helps to think about it a little differently – especially if you’re home educating.

When you’re home educating you can abandon misconceptions about learning happening in a very unwavering linear way, because it doesn’t.

I think the government wants us to see it like that because it suits the systematic teaching they want to provide. But learning IS NOT the result of teaching, like it’s some kind of App that teachers can stick on what they consider to be hAppless kids! It’s nothing like that whatsoever.

Learning is instead an intrinsic part of who you are, of the influences around you, and how you respond to them.

My picture describes it like this:

learning 001

All these factors influence the way children learn – and achieve. And interplay with each other and every day – every year – will change and be different in the way they influence learning, some stronger than others at varying times and the children constantly changing in the way they respond.

Learning is an extremely fluid process. How could it ever be linear?

Systematic schooling disregards so many of these influences, seeing educating as this one track conditioning rather than the blossoming of an individual, responding to the climate in which they’re developing.

But I think it’s more helpful to keep this picture in mind. Because then you can forget the idea of learning as a simple set of single-track scores and see it instead as the result of complex influences, some of which you can impact on, some of which you can’t, and all of which have to be taken into account and negotiated in order to develop a well educated person. Wherever there’s a problem; one of these influences will probably be the cause.

And this applies wherever they are educated!

Another little word on worry…

People considering home schooling are often stopped by thinking it’s going to be too much of a worry! So I thought I’d repost some ideas here to try and put some of those to rest.

The worry that comes attached to parenting makes life pre-children look like a picnic. Add home schooling into the picture and it doubles.

However, if you think about it, there’s just as much worry attached to schooling isn’t there? There was for me.

The daft thing is; worry is pointless. It doesn’t help anything, it warps reasonable perspective, it wears you down and becomes counter-productive. So you might as well stop it.

The million dollar question is; how?

I’m a worrier and had to work hard at dealing with it so as not to spoil being a mum. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; perhaps they’ll work for you.

–          Look at your concern realistically. Usually worry is nothing more than us imagining the worst scenario. It’s not something that is actually happening. So try and switch your imagination off and focus on the reality now. Or…

–          Imagine instead the best scenario. Imagine how it looks when it’s positive – what you want to happen rather than thinking about the worst case. This is visualisation. It’s very powerful, but it’s ironic that we rarely imagine the best. Visualise what it looks like when everything is working perfectly, your children being angelic!

–          Worrying is nothing more than your thoughts – not events – just negative thinking. The best antidote to this I found was to stop thinking and start doing. Take action to change whatever is bothering you. Or if that’s not possible involve yourself in an activity that takes your mind off the worry and onto something else. This refreshes you, dilutes the worry, brings a new perspective.

–          Another point; worrying is about future events. You’re not there yet and you cannot predict what future is in store anyway – everything always changes. So stop living for the future, start making this moment the best it can be.

–          Obviously we want to do the best we can to secure our children’s future, whether that’s in the way we raise them or the way we educate them. But nothing can be secure really and sometimes we’re so busy doing that we forget that right now is what matters. Love matters. Happiness matters. Interest and fun matter. Putting those in place now is the best way to build a fulfilling, successful future – I don’t think fulfilment and success can happen without them.

–          There is no guarantee you can make for your child’s future except that. By doing that each day, but being aware of the way you are, by being relaxed, attentive, busy and FUN you can show your child how to build a life the same!

–          Worry also occurs when we’re focussing intensely on the smaller picture. Often a blinkered picture – an inaccurate one. Like your child not being able to achieve something that others can like sharing for example. It’s easy to get obsessed about it – this puts pressure on which makes it worse, creates an intensity which communicates itself to the child which prevents them from sharing because they know it’s something you’re worried about …etc…etc. To stop this take your mind’s eye out from the intensity of this small picture to the whole of your child’s life– I bet your child will be as considerate over sharing as anyone else by the time they’re twenty. So be patient – children are all different and are allowed to be. Look at the bigger picture.

–          Keep contact with others to help your perspective. Talk about your concerns – then stop and talk about something else – something positive! Don’t measure your child against your friend’s. If you must, measure instead against the millions and millions of children who started out with these noticeable differences then by adulthood have become insignificant.

–          Look after yourself! Worry is increased by tiredness, frustration, stress, unhappiness. Your needs as a parent are as important as the child’s. Happy parent equals happy child. Some of the things I did to help myself with this were; reading inspirational books, regular exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty, meeting with others,  avoided too much junk food (food affects your mind), attention to my mental/spiritual wellbeing.

–          If your child sees you doing this you’ll be teaching them how to look after themselves as they grow which is a far better lesson to be teaching them than how to worry!

I’ve suggested other ways of looking after yourself as a mum in my new book ‘Mumhood How to handle it Why it matters’. And there are ideas about dealing with worry if you’re a home educating parent in ‘Learning Without School’. But for a read to give you a giggle and a lift away from it all try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. All the details are on my book page.

cafe books 005

Talking rubbish again!

I’ve had to pop into town today. Errands to do, a bit of shopping to get, and a bag of clothes to drop off at the charity shop.

We donate stuff every time we have a clear out – I thought everyone did. Apparently not.

In fact I was totally shocked to find out how much people don’t do it on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme ‘War On Waste‘ which I watched on Monday night. That people put good clothes that could still be worn into their dustbins. And even more shocking, supermarkets, who profess not to, put good food in theirs.

I know we care for clothes. I know we are a consumer society. But I’m still shocked to discover just how little we care for the planet. How little responsibility some show towards the way they waste the planet’s resources. And how little care some show in passing that onto our children.

Environmental issues are part of any education wherever that is happening. And education is surely a forum through which we can teach the following generations about the planet they’ll inherit. Yet there are still so few adults attuned to the idea that what each of us does matters. 

It matters enormously that we all take responsibility for the amount we buy and the amount we throw away and our clothes are part of that.

Hugh’s says that British people throw away ten thousand garments every ten minutes. Is that not a criminal statistic when there are an abundance of charity shops and even clothing banks in many supermarket car parks? Is it lack of care or snobbery that prevents people from using them?

With a little bit of care NO clothing need be thrown in a bin. I’m feeling that NO clothing should ever be thrown in a bin when there are so many who could make good use of it. NO clothing should ever be thrown in a bin out of respect for the many resources used in creating it.

Food waste is another shocking issue and supermarkets are much to blame. However, we all play a part in this too because supermarkets are answering the needs of over fussy consumers who won’t eat a parsnip or an apple with a blemish on. This pathetic cosmetic standard we’ve driven up is creating tons of waste and putting tons of farmers out of business. Whilst we’re being picky about food we’re destroying the income of those who grow it for us. And we’re wasting resources of the already over stretched earth. Did you see this news?

Are we really so uncaring?

Learning about our planet and its diversity is an essential subject to study. But we as parents must also put into practice our own war on waste in our own households, demonstrating to our children that is the responsibility of us all. For if we don’t, the future we’re educating our children for, may take the form of a dying planet.

What kind of future do you want to leave for yours?

Another bit of me shrivels

I’m shrivelling from reading the new proposals from the education minister. I initially had hope but now reckon she’s no better than Gove with a handbag after hearing yesterdays news on her intentions.

Read the report here.

These people have about as much insight into the needs of real people and real children as my dog. Actually, I think that’s maligning my dog; she seems to know when things aren’t right and is more attuned to human beings than those in Westminster appear to be.

Those in Westminster appear to have no idea what it is that human beings (and all those who live in the rest of the country) need in order to develop and learn.

How can they disregard the professionals, disregard research and disregard the growing body of people like home schoolers who are abandoning the schooling system because it stinks? Are they blind?

More tests and more rigorous academics is not the answer to helping children learn because these things don’t. Inspirational humans do. And even the idea of more ‘good’ teachers makes me cringe because their definition of ‘good’ refers to nothing humane, but is about how ‘good’ they are at forcing children to perform like robots churning out robotic results for the good of the establishment.

The answer is and always has been people with time to inspire and care.

Give any child a caring humane adult who can inspire them in their innate desire to learn and they will. Stop testing them then we can stop prescribing what they learn and their desire to learn won’t then be trashed as the system is doing. And give every teacher no more than ten kids and freedom to inspire them then those kids would probably flourish. Stop treating kids like a product in mega industry that’s to be moulded into industrial shape and we will have young people who have something individual and creative of benefit to the developing world.

As home educators are. Home educated kids are rarely tested yet they still get grades and develop into productive members of society. Testing is just a tragic waste of everyone’s time.

The educational system is designed for its own perpetuation and not for the good of real people.

If you look at every policy recently made that becomes glaringly obvious. The elite who make the decisions are perpetuating the elite. And trashing the education – and lives – of all the rest of the population in doing so.

And another bit of me shrivels at the blatant ignorance and arrogance of it.

Un-learning? What’s that got to do with education?

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Funny to have a title un-learning on a blog that’s generally about learning, self-development and home education.

But the reason is that’s exactly what you have to do in order to learn. You very often have to un-learn something else. Adjust something you thought was true. Update your information and ideas. Often your values and principles.

For example, I had to unlearn quite a lot of stuff I thought I knew in order to home educate. I had to unlearn the things I thought were true, like;

  • Learning only happens in school
  • Teaching and teachers are always necessary
  • Schools satisfactorily socialise children
  • Children need to be tested
  • Graded schemes, curriculum, daily structure, workbooks and lots of writing is essential
  • And if you’re not ‘doing’ education the children won’t learn anything

Instead I learnt that;

Learning can happen anywhere, at any time, any place. Teaching and teachers are not always necessary. The school climate does not reflect the social climate of our society and you cannot learn social skills from other youngsters who don’t have them. Testing does not help children become educated. Lots of academic exercises don’t guarantee learning outcomes. And the children can learn even when they’re not doing anything seemingly educational.

What you will learn as you home educate is that there are a multitude of approaches you can adopt to facilitate your children’s education and the more you see how they learn by being engaged and active and stimulated the more you will realise that there are lots of things you have to un-learn about education in order to progress.

Parenting is the same. As a parent I had a load of stuff fed to me about parenting. Some of it was true. Some of it definitely needed un-learning. And the most important thing I learned was to keep an open mind and remain flexible – which works far better than any hard and fast rules people tried to push on me.

And we think it’s just the kids doing the learning! We all learn all through our lives.

So perhaps the most significant thing both you and the children can learn is the idea that the more educated we become the more we realise there is to learn. And this is true whatever and forever!

Self education – the only sort that matters

girls roses how to be wild 001 I’m still a home educator – even without the children still at home! Although the youngest is back here again for a while and I still do the Home Ed role; ‘come see the moon, it’s fantastic’ or ‘want to come for a walk?’ Or, when I’m really irritating; ‘seems a shame to be stuck in front of that screen on such a beautiful day’…

My daughter would be rich if she were paid every time I slipped in a bit of advice. She’s very tolerant – she knows I’m on a learning curve too; learning to let go!

But these little regresses aside, the home educating I do now is not really for them, it’s for me. It’s self education and much of it still takes place in the home and it’s still ongoing.

Because that’s the way we’ve always seen education. Not as something that happens between the ages of five and eighteen. But as an ongoing, lifelong process. One that integrates into all aspects of life and work at any time. Throughout life. And is not confined to ‘doing’ education. But is just the way life is led – continually learning.

Learning can extend or develop you personally whatever stage you’re at, six or sixty, whatever you are doing or want to do, change, or develop, whether it’s dexterity with your latest device or cooking something new, drawing, driving or gaming, learning business or new job skills.

Education is not just for kids. We can all do it, parents included.

And, if you can view you child’s education like that, in that bigger context, it puts into perspective those little worries about whether they can read yet, write yet, understand long division or the periodic table. For just because they haven’t got it now, doesn’t mean they’ll never get it – you have an ongoing chance at learning, a lifetime’s chance, it doesn’t have to be confined by time or age.

You don’t need to do GCSEs at sixteen for example or a degree at twenty one. Or coding at four, or spreadsheets at fourteen, not unless you want to. You can take up anything anytime – there are ways.

And it’s so often the case that once you stop worrying, pressurising and trying to make learning fit into certain time frames (often dictated by a system that doesn’t work that well anyway), learning becomes more natural and easy and gradually clicks into place.

Think of your child’s education as part of something much bigger than this age now, as part of a learning life that can be updated at any time. Take the pressure off your children and focus instead on giving them a wide, diverse and enjoyable experience with learning. This way they’ll feel able to continue with it whenever they need to, to get where they want to go. Whenever. Which sets them up for life far better than anything else.

Both my daughters learn new skills constantly, in their twenties; I envisage that they always will.

And I’m learning the new skill of backing off and allowing them to!

Look and Learn!

Did anyone here ever get to see the magazine for children; ‘Look and Learn’ or are you all too young?

I remember my brothers having it and being absorbed by the pictures, images being an expensive medium you didn’t get to see much back in the day before the Web and image rich media like Instagram and Pinterest.

I got a memory jog when copies of it came up on EBay. They look really retro now. But it was fab to have something so illustrated when books where so expensive.

And it’s also struck me what a fabulous title and approach to learning it was; looking and learning.

Looking, as in observation, is an integral part of becoming educated. Not that schools have that much time for this activity. But parents and home educators do.

We’re actually quite bad at observation, I think. It’s not something that we do much. Looking at things intently has had a poor reputation, not to mention stigmas attached like Nerds who do plane spotting or Twitching!

This needs changing, for observation is the foundation of science; of learning and education. The magazine got it right when they called it ‘Look and Learn’.

Encouraging children to look – really look at the world around them – initiates all kinds of responses and learning opportunities. Whether you’re looking at things near hand in detail, looking to the wider world, looking at others and how they behave, or observing anything that you see, it creates opportunities to talk, question, wonder, maybe find out, research, and it stimulates motivation to take things further.

You could base a whole education on observation. By observing the world and how it works and finding out about it as a result, how it links to other things and what you need to do as a result is a sure foundation to becoming educated.

Look and Learn is a brilliant tag and reminder of such a simple approach to learning you can use at any time, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

So I reckon that it makes sense to give plenty of time for looking and observation. Learning is bound to be the result!