Tag Archive | education

Angry!

Warning: I’m about to be blunt.

It’s not often I get angry. In fact parents have often said to me how patient I am. Some told me they wouldn’t have enough patience to home educate.

But the children rarely made me angry. They’re children; they’re learning and they’re not finished yet. Why would I be angry with that?

What really makes me seethe with fury is the ignorance of those who are grown up, those who should know better, those who are supposed to be setting an example for these young people to learn by.

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A definitive example of ignorance!

Walking along the footpath that weaves it’s way through the trees and hedges in a delightful tunnel, which offers shelter from the open flat landscape here and the cut of the ever present wind, I come across two plastic bags hanging in the trees.

This is not that uncommon. We all see them blowing about the landscape and caught among the branches.

These weren’t like that though. These were two bags of dog poo that someone hung there.

Now it’s bad enough leaving dog poo for others to tread in, especially on pavements. But at least on the earth in wild places it decomposes. But poo that is bagged up in plastic and then chucked down, unable to decompose, demonstrates complete ignorance. Even worse, this act of ignorant desecration beats it all. As if the perpetrator thought it was someone else’s duty to clean up after them and collect the bags – even in remote places.

What I can’t understand is why someone, who I assume wouldn’t leave bags of shit in their own environment, i.e. their home, feels it’s okay to do so in the wider one. And in a place I assume they walk because they value it; I’ve also seen dog poo bags hung on fences and stiles – is this how we treat places we value? How irresponsible is that?

For whether it’s our home, our garden, our city pavements, our countryside, or the wider world, desecrating it like this is NOT OKAY! We’re responsible for ALL of it.

That’s what folks seem so ignorant about; the fact that’s it’s ALL our world, from our personal spaces to our planet.

And this is why we need to teach our kids to LOOK AFTER their world. Their bedroom world, their home, their town, their park, their planet.

Surely this is a fundamental of any education. A habit of care and an understanding of how this serves us. And of the fact that NO ONE should be cleaning up after us – we are ALL responsible for our own shit.

We can care all we want about learning facts for exams. But how important is that in the wider perspective of not giving a turd about the places we live in which support our learning lives, about environmental issues? This is a responsibility as much as learning anything is.

Teaching our kids about the little things personal to them, teaches them also a habit of taking care that will ripple out into the wider sphere.

And it’s OUR OWN ACTS WHICH EDUCATE. It’s a responsibility every grown up has.

So hopefully the next generation will grow up with the intelligence to understand why care of our environment, personal and planetary, is important, why it impacts on us all, and why it’s not okay to hang plastic bags of dog shit in trees.

(Sorry if the language offends – it gets like that when I’m angry!)

Facing up to end of hols…

I had a lovely Christmas. The young people were home again and we were able to relax and enjoy the fire, the food and a regular foray outdoors.

Then they go again, spirits drop, January comes and there’s nothing to be done except get back to work

I sometimes find that very hard; doesn’t everyone after Christmas?

You’d think it was easier working at home. It isn’t! There’s no one to give you encouragement, to share with, or even give you a cheery ‘good morning’. You face it alone. I can soon plummet into the ‘what’s-the-point’ syndrome.

Yesterday though I was rescued by a lovely reader sending me this wonderful message about my latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook’;

My husband bought this for me for Christmas. We commenced home education of our 8 year old and 5 year old on 14-12-16, so two weeks ago. 
I’ve read the first chapter and intro and I feel like it was written by me and for me. 
I will continue to read but its magical, truly magical. 
My da has leafed through it. Supportive but not entirely convinced by home ed and rather nervous of it, the bits he has read have lit a flame and already expanded his awareness. I suspect I will be filling my shelves with your books.”

She’s made all this writing worth it again, as do all the other kind people who send me messages and tell me how the book has helped. I’m SO grateful – without you I would stop.

So, returning the favour, if you need a boost to get you going again here’s a little extract from the book that might encourage;

This book is to remind you that you’ve chosen this path because you thought that was best for your child – and you DO know your child best.

It’s also to remind you that HOME EDUCATION WORKS. You chose this route because you thought it would be better – and it is in many circumstances.

It’s been going on long enough now for there to be home educated adults out in the ‘real’ world working, living productive happy lives, contributing to society, who have ‘normal’ social lives and plenty of friends. And as someone once said to my daughter; “you couldn’t tell” they’d never been to school. We weren’t sure how to take that at the time, but we had a good laugh over it.

There’ll be quite a few things you need to laugh over. It’s often the best response…

I know how lonely it can feel sometimes stepping away from the mainstream, even with the wonder that is social networking which wasn’t around when we first started. I know personally how you can doubt, worry, wobble, cry, lose the plot and feel you’re losing yourself sometimes even though you love home educating, love your kids and on the whole love what you’re doing.

I’ve been in that situation too but there is one absolute truth I can tell you for certain; it was bloody WORTH IT! I have no regrets, not one single one.

It is an amazing thing you do in home educating your children, you are incredibly courageous in making the choice to step away from convention; it is truly an inspirational uplifting experience for the whole family.

When you lose touch with that, as is inevitable at times when you’re tired and troubled, this will hopefully help you feel like that again…

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Thought for the New Year

As the old year ends and new one begins I want to say a couple of  things. 20161230_134020

First; I want to say a massive THANK YOU to all those who’ve supported my work during this last year. Without your lovely messages, reviews, encouragement and endorsement I wouldn’t have kept going. No writer can do so without readers.

We’re all like kids really – we all need a little bit of praise and support to spur us on. Thank you for yours. It’s been heartwarming and fuel for my work.

Secondly, as time to take the decs down draws near, I thought I’d leave you an idea to mull over as you launch into your new family year:

Parenting IS Educating. 

And:

Education (in school or out of it) depends on parenting.

Obviously, parenting is not the only influence on your child’s education. But your parenting supports it. Just by loving your children, loving what they do, being engaged in what they do, gently guiding what they do, demonstrating what’s best to do – and to be, you educate.

It may not be evident in tangible ways. But the effect is immeasurable.

Parenting is the most important job you’ll ever do. (See the page)

Finally, do all that you do with your children with respect – there’s no love without it.

Wishing you a loving new year.

Short days and earth songs

The coming of today's dawn

The coming of today’s dawn

When it got to June I panicked. It’s because I then know it’s less than a month till the longest day when the daily dose of light begins to dwindle again. And light is important to me. It’s important to everyone in fact, but most don’t seem to feel it, or recognise it, as I do. Most manage city lives without this awareness of the earth’s natural rhythms.

I don’t reckon this is healthy. If we’re not aware of the earth we’re not sensitive to its needs as well as ours. When we’re not sensitive we can pollute and desecrate as if it didn’t matter.

What will we leave our kids then? The scenario from the Michael Jackson Earth Song video.

Understanding the earth is one of the most important parts of education surely. Far more important than Grammar or spelling, how many wives King Henry the Eighth had and in what order. We can live without knowing those things – we can look them up. We can’t live without awareness of the planet or there will be no food, no resources, no light, no kings and queens to learn about.

It’s essential our children respect the earth and to do that they need to be connected to it.

Connecting with it at this time of the year is not without its challenges.

But worth it, so get the gloves, hats and thermals out and get the kids out there. There is always something to be fascinated by, discover, experience. And you’ll enjoy being back inside all the more afterwards. (Here’s a site to explore) (And another)

And now it’s December we can take comfort from the fact that it will soon be the shortest day of the year. And a few days after that we’ll be blessed with more light hours each day – well – minutes to start with, but it will inevitably happen.

And it will continue to happen for as long as we are sensitive to the earth’s needs as well as our own – something to remember over Christmas.

For the most meaningful present we could ever give is remembering to be sensitive and respectful through all the present giving, dustbin-filling, wasteful practices and over eating! Help your children understand that our love for the earth is as important as our love for one another; that without it we would not be here.

Ask them how can they help it this Christmas?

Christmasses will come and go – only as long as the earth goes on forever. That’s down to us and our children and our children’s children and so on…and only if we’ve educated them to understand that the earth needs love and has its own song to sing.

A Christmas tip – relaxed engaged!

I’ve been making some cards for Christmas.

I used to always do it with the children. Now they’re not here I do it for myself as a change from wording!

I think the children’s were better!

My subject matter is always influenced by the natural world – my constant comfort and inspiration. And I decided to do a lino cut this time; was going to try woodcuts but that’s a bit beyond my skills.

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the cutting out bit, but found it was quite therapeutic carving the lino in the same way it is doing all these colouring books that are about now. It gets you involved with the craft – but not stressing, unlike other forms of work. It was more a state of relaxed engaged.

That’s the best way with everything, actually.

Absolutely the best way with children.

So that’s my Christmas tip to you; remain relaxed engaged, whether that’s The Big Day, the run up to it, or doing activities with the children. Aim for relaxed engaged.

And do plenty of Christmas crafts, for all forms of creative activity are important for the children’s educational development. (Read why here).

It’s therapeutic for you too.

And here’s my efforts just for you – have a lovely crafty time!

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Don’t weed your children’s learning!

I find the need to be outside quite hard to accommodate this time of the year. I have to sometimes push myself out in dreary or battering weather to get some daily doses of the tonic everyone needs for indoor spirits. Without it I know I go stir crazy! So I tog up most days and get a daily walk.

Summer memories

Summer memories

It’s easy in the summer. All coffee breaks can be out there. And there’s plenty of light for walking after work hours. And weekends inviting me to garden, even if the format of that is just chopping back the weeds.

I’m not a great gardener. I find it a bit confusing. I’m puzzled by the desire to nurture some plants whilst killing others. Buttercups, daisies and dandelions spring to mind – what a delightful burst of yellow they are. I have great trouble classing them as weeds and pulling them up or worse still spraying them. There’s a hierarchy of plants I just don’t buy in to.

I have the same dilemma with education. There’s a hierarchy that’s evolved around academia which puts some important subjects and skills, like creative ones for example, in the ‘weeds’ category. And I think this is more to do with snobbery than value.

I admit, there are some skills that are invaluable for kids to learn – reading springs to mind. And it is essential for living in our society to have a practical comprehension of language, numbers, scientific concepts and technology. We want to communicate, budget and cook for example and need to skills and knowledge to do so.

But outside those practical applications why should our children’s learning be controlled by what others deem as essential subject matter? Why should the Romans be more important than Evolution. Or non-essential Grammar be more important than creating a story? Or the skill of long division be more important than the skill of inventing for example?

When we home educate we can really examine the curriculum. And this leads to examining the questions; what’s really important to know? And why is it important to know it?

Within the educational system, most of the why has evolved, not from value to the child or developing adulthood, but for the convenience of measuring them and perpetuation of the system – and the politics surrounding it. A truer reason for what we ask our children to learn is that it’s relevant to the child now as well as their lifelong development – what curriculum would cater for that?

What is more important when we’re guiding our children’s learning is not so much what they know, but cultivating a desire to know, to find out, to continue to learn. In fact, that desire is already there when they’re born – our job is to continue to nurture it rather than chop it off like some do dandelions.

We can look up knowledge and facts at any time, these days. Yet we’re constrained by the idea of curriculum that started way back when compulsory education did, when knowledge wasn’t available to all. Far better to consider a curriculum of skills, experiences and a cultivated mind that can be inventive, creative, and which nurtures the desire to develop continually, rather than weeding out the child’s true interests whilst enslaved to subjects for some extrinsic curriculum and killing their desire in the process.

Or maybe not use a curriculum at all and see where your learning life takes you!

‘Unruly’ and what to do about it.

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There’s times for running and times for not!

Been for a haircut. And the inevitable ‘chat’ with the hairdresser, which I freely admit I’m not very good at. But she cut the girls’ hair when we were home educating, without judgement on what we were doing, and always asks after them.

She’s a lovely young woman who has some fairly powerful views, many of them on parenting, even though she’s not a parent herself. She sees some fairly ‘unruly’ children in the hairdressers whose parents drag them in, dump them in the chair, then leave the responsibility of them to her whilst they pop to the shops!

Even without being a parent she’s aware that this is not ideal parenting. And she’s also aware that many parents should be far more engaged with their kids than they are, then maybe they wouldn’t be ‘unruly’.

The inverted comments illustrate the fact that I’m not sure what else to call them. We know what I mean; not doing as they’re asked or knowing the point of what grown-ups ask, exploring things when it’s not appropriate, inability to understand what’s appropriate behaviour in the circumstances, none of which is a crime but needs guidance.

We all see this all of the time. I saw a child running up and down in a cafe the other day where stressed waitresses were busily carrying out plates of hot food and having to dodge round her. Parents didn’t say a thing – couldn’t even see the problem and thought their child was just expressing important needs, clearly oblivious to whether this was appropriate or not – and to the fact others’ have needs too.

Children’s understanding of what’s appropriate or not evolves in the first instance from interaction with their parents in a variety of situations, where they’ve been talked to, guided, shown, had explained, engaged with. Interaction teaches kids what appropriate behaviour is.

I know some parents feel that a child should be allowed to express themselves in any way they want without that being inhibited. That we should never suppress them in any way.

But I look at it this way, we want our children to grow up to be liked. But we all need an understanding of the fact we are not the only ones in this world, that others need consideration too, that we have to grow and develop within those considerations even whilst being as true to ourselves as possible. We are social animals and social animals operate within boundaries of respect – for others, for self. Suppression is not the point. Guidance and explanation is. If they’re asked not to play with the stuff on the hairdresser’s trolley there will be reasons!

Neglecting to teach them the understanding of this simple truth is neglecting the parental duty of guidance and personal education.

Parenting is difficult. It tests us all the time. The children test us, test boundaries and want to break rules – course they do, they’re inquisitive little beings. Mine certainly did – and that brings us challenges. But the simple antidote to some of those challenges, like how to stop them rummaging in the hairdresser’s trolley of intriguing bits and pieces, is to build a good relationship with the child at every opportunity, one that is based on respectful interaction, dialogue and guidance as to what to do when – and when not! Dialogue and conversation is an effective learning tool. And the time we devote to nurturing that is an important part of our parenting.

It’s part of education too. And even this young woman, without any children of her own, could see that as the role of a parent more clearly than the parents themselves!