Tag Archive | education

A Home Education Notebook is now back on Kindle

It’s taken a while but finally I’ve sorted it; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is available again on Kindle after a short absence.

The reason for the delay was because my focus got stolen by moving house, which is all consuming as anyone who’s ever done it knows.

Moving house means establishing new routines (like where the nearest food is), getting to know new people (builders, plumbers, tech gurus and fixers) and of course new friends and communities.

Meeting new people, who always ask about your life so far, means more explanations of home educating and I receive a variety of responses, mostly in the form of a barrage of questions; do you do lessons, do they have teachers at home, do you have a timetable, what about friends, tests, curriculum, GCSEs etc?

Whilst the Lockdowns made the concept of ‘Home Schooling’ more familiar, the more seasoned home educators among us knew it was nothing like home educating, it was just doing school stuff within the four walls of home. Completely different. (Expanded in a post here)

However I still find it difficult to explain those differences even now, how education is not necessarily about lessons, or tests, or teaching, or exams. To explain how children learn without lessons, or teachers, or tests and timetables, they can actually learn for themselves (Shock! Horror!) That learning can actually happen in an organic, holistic, autonomous, interest-led way from the things children are naturally curious about, by being out, observing, engaging in, analysing and involving themselves in finding out about the world and building the skills needed to do so, even without age-related structures usually imposed upon education. Along with all that how home educated children also have friends, develop social skills, and mix happily in company (see this post about socialisation).

The stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ written as it happened, demonstrate that the best. Along with ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. The articles themselves are an illustration of how the everyday experiences we had encouraged and developed children’s knowledge, skills and understanding of learning quite naturally. And how – even more surprising to some – this happens because children want to learn.

Children don’t necessarily want to be schooled. But they mostly want to learn, if they’re allowed to in their own way, in their own time, through subjects that matter to them in their worlds. The success of this has been shown time and time again by all the home educated youngsters who’ve grown up and out into the world, making their own decisions, incorporating any structure and traditional approaches and outcomes as and when (and if) needed to get them there. And so proving that home education really does work and adequately prepares young people for the ‘real’ world. The real world being the one outside that bizarre world of school!

This new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ concludes with a chapter about all those home educated young people we grew up with and what they’re doing now post-twenty, who are proof indeed!

So if you’ve been waiting for the Kindle version of this new edition, it’s back again. It’s the book readers have told me that reassures and inspires them the most. Hope you enjoy it.

Kindle edition available now
Advertisement

Merry Christmas

I can’t believe it’s got round to Christmas again already.

What a weird couple of years we’ve had, but here we are again.

Hopefully there’s a little more certainty about seeing our loved ones than there’s been over the last couple of years (not counting train strikes). But I’m not taking anything for granted because there are no guarantees – of anything.

That’s how life is.

No guarantee of Christmas going according to plan. No guarantee that home educating will go to plan. Equally no guarantee school would go to plan either, if you were using it.

So sometimes it’s just best if you stick with the smallest and nearest of times, make them as good and as enjoyable as you can. Then all these times pieced together will make a good and enjoyable life. And education!

Home education isn’t going to be enjoyable all the time. Or good all the time either. We’re none of us saints or robots, neither parents nor children. Or teachers come to that! Home educating has its stresses and upsets – inevitably – that’s what life’s like, that’s what human nature is like. Unpredictable.

So how an evenly mapped out and prescribed education like they attempt in the system could ever be guaranteed to work I have no idea.

The best plan I feel as you home educate is just to accept that unpredictability. Be flexible – it makes a big difference. Do what works at the time. Be open to the changing needs of your child. And let nature take care of the rest.

That works for Christmas and it works for home educating.

Take care of the small things and the small times.

And talking of nature, please be conscious of the needs of the planet as well as your children’s, for the small things you do towards easing the planet’s burden this Christmas will make a big difference, as do the small things you do for the kids.

Wishing you a very happy and love filled Christmas full of all the small things that make it so.

And thank you so much for reading this. Thank you to all who’ve shown support for my work over all the long years I’ve been doing it and through the small here and now times too. It has always been appreciated.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Only the curious can learn

Christmas and birthdays were tricky in our house. The children were always there so keeping secrets was a challenge. Especially since they were so incredibly curious and had eyes that didn’t miss a thing.

“What’s in that bag?”

I’d scurry upstairs furtively with some secret shopping and call out, “nothing.”

“What’s the postman brought?”

I’d stuff the parcel under my desk quickly and respond. “Nothing. Only some bills.”

“What’s in that box?”

Sometimes there was no getting away with it and I’d just have to say; “Your present, but you mustn’t look.”

I knew this would have the same effect as requesting a thousand word essay on the law of gravity and get the same result; the opposite.

So I’d search for a hiding place that would be big enough to conceal it and that they wouldn’t think of looking. I’d settle on their dad’s drawers, they wouldn’t dare look in there for fear of coming across his boxers.

That’s just the trouble with bright children, isn’t it? They’re more curious than the proverbial cat. But it’s our fault really; we’ve encouraged it because that’s exactly what we want; curious and questioning children.

Have you ever thought what curiosity is? It’s basically children wanting to know things. And wanting to know things also interprets as wanting to learn things. Children want to learn about the world around them – your secrets included. But curiosity, when it’s not focussed on your secrets, is as valuable an asset to motivation, to education, as you can get and wants encouraging.

Curious and questioning children cannot help becoming educated. It doesn’t even have to be curiosity about the subject in hand. Or about any specific subject come to that. Because having a generally curious attitude to life is the same as having a general eagerness to learn. Curiosity has the effect of inspiring children to learn for learning’s sake, without even realising it. And it makes the children not only interested in learning but also come to understand, again without realising, that learning itself is interesting. And this attitude is a precursor to becoming educated.

Children are born naturally curious. They’re born reaching, grasping, tasting. Put any infant in any room and they’re into cupboards, opening drawers, fiddling with switches and particularly fascinated with the contents of the dustbin. They are desperate to do these things because they are curious and want to find out.

In other words; they want to learn about their world.

They plague their parents with questions, get themselves bruised, grazed, and into trouble for their curiosity. In fact they are pure, unashamed, curiosity-led learning machines. Even as they get older. Unless of course they get their curiosity killed.

Unfortunately that happens a lot.

It’s easy to do. Most adults are driven to distraction by their child’s curiosity and most particularly by their questions. And the children more often than not get told off for it.

‘Don’t touch’. ‘Put that down’. ‘Leave that alone’. ‘Mind your own business’. We’ve all used those statements at some point I would guess.

But most particularly, I feel, children tend to get their curiosity killed when they go to school. Unfortunately the approach in most schools, the way in which they implement the National Curriculum, and the inevitable peer pressure, leaves no room for curiosity. In school it is not cool to ask questions, or to want to know more, or to be interested, or keen. And teachers don’t have time to answer thirty questions a lesson – and that’s only one per child – of course they don’t.

No one does curiosity. There’s no time. It’s more likely to get you ridiculed or snubbed. And there’s nothing worse than humiliation for killing curiosity dead.

This is one of the sad things about the way the schools educate children. The teachers don’t have any time to make use of one of the best opportunities available for learning; answering and encouraging the questions. Through your child’s curiosity and their questions you have the perfect opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding, encourage conversation and thus language development, provoke thinking skills and mental development.

I looked at our insatiably curious toddlers hell-bent on learning about everything, then I looked at some of the uncurious switched off adolescents that I saw and I’d think; what happened to your curiosity and interest in the world?

It probably got snubbed somewhere down the line. It probably got well and truly switched off. How sad is that?

For just think; wouldn’t it have been a loss if Isaac Newton had his curiosity snubbed before he wondered about the apple falling down? Wouldn’t it have been a loss if Darwin had stopped being curious about the origin of species?

I’m not advocating that we run ourselves ragged dropping everything to answer all our children’s questions there and then, pandering to their every curious whim. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. Children have to fit into society and live with others and understand that adults are not simply question-answering machines. And they have to understand when to be safe instead of curious, and when it’s not appropriate to ask questions – especially loudly, as one of my children did one day as we sat on a park bench next to a complete stranger.

“Is that man wearing underpants, mummy?” I’ve never seen anyone cross his legs so quickly. He walked off adjusting his fly.

All I’m saying is that if we could be a little careful with our child’s curiosity we will perpetuate their desire to learn rather than destroy it. Even though there’s a time for answering questions and a time not to do so, curiosity is still desirable. Curiosity needs nurturing. If we can be frugal with, ‘don’t’, and ‘leave that alone’ and ‘for goodness sake stop asking me stuff all the time’ (yep – that was me one day), we can avoid the danger that they stop being curious about their world.

It helps to remember that those endless questions and irritating behaviours like eating earwigs (one of mine) and posting things in the CD player (the other one) are really them just learning about their world.

Curiosity means they’re motivated to learn and is one of the most invaluable assets our children can have for their education. A curious attitude has a knock-on effect upon all their learning. It develops an educated mind. And is something to be encouraged as much as possible. A curious mind cannot help but learn.

This story first appeared in my Home Education Notebook, where you’ll find plenty more to help you along your home education journey.

Share your story?

I’m a bit rubbish at communicating on Facebook these days. It seems to be less frequented or valuable than it was, full of adverts, and now there are many other forums we can use to connect.

Fb wasn’t a thing when we started home educating – I bet you can hardly imagine that. But it soon became an invaluable tool for parents to connect through, share ideas and resources, arrange meet-ups and reassure one another, making home education feel more doable than some people first thought.

It was the chance to so easily connect with that support which made home educating a less scary and isolating prospect than it potentially could be. Stepping away from the mainstream path millions of others were heading along can be daunting. Thanks to social media no one needs feel cut off, unsupported, or without anyone to turn to now.

And actually it’s been very supportive for me too, to receive your lovely messages and comments and see how my work and words get around and find their way to those who need it. And I feel so blessed when folks have taken the trouble to connect with me and let me know how my books have helped. If you’re one of those and I didn’t reply personally please know that your comments and messages have meant so much.

Meanwhile I recently had such a nice comment from a Fb friend, along with a potted version of her story, I asked her permission to post it here because I know many of you won’t see it on there and it’s most uplifting to read.

Here’s what she said;

It was your books that finally gave me the confidence to believe what I really already knew in my heart- that our youngest would be better off out of school. His older brothers were in a specialist residential school for very able boys with Asperger syndrome but he didn’t quite qualify for diagnosis, so mainstream-or not- was the only option.

After we took our son out of school in yr 5, I remember walking past the back to school signs and rows of uniform hanging up in the shops and just grinning because I knew I’d never need to buy any of it, ever again! The relief of knowing he wouldn’t be going back into that hellish place where he learned nothing except to feel that he was stupid and weird and generally rubbish, was immense and I just wanted to celebrate. It was definitely the best decision we made for him. He went to college for A levels because he chose to, a year ‘late’ and is now taking a gap year to work and save money before doing his degree. I’m certain that school would not have put him on this path. He’d have left as soon as possible, hating the idea of learning anything because he was ‘too stupid’. His confidence still isn’t great but at least he has ‘proof’ from his results that he is capable of learning anything if he chooses to and sufficient life experience to see the benefit of hard work to get where he wants to be. He also has friends!”

I think it’s these shared stories that make for the best support for parents starting out because they’re straight from the horse’s mouth. We can have faith in them as they are the reality of home education and consequently they are the ones that give people the confidence to go for it themselves. I know when we started out, hearing the stories from those further along were the most valuable, inspiring and reassuring. Although without the internet then we rarely heard them. Very different now!

So if you have a story to tell, or would like to share yours, maybe you’d like to get in touch and I can post it here and we can go on supporting each other in this wonderful alternative to school.

Thirteen years of writing this home education blog later…

And thank you once again to all of you who’ve been in touch over the many years I’ve been writing this blog. It is truly appreciated and I’m always so delighted to hear how my books have helped. Bless you!

Processed education can be as unhealthy as processed food

An exclusive exert from ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Some days I got so tired I wondered how I was ever going to get the dinner. And it was those days that packaged and processed food I normally abhor looked really appealing.

One particular day springs to mind where my youngest made mint creams which took a bit of supervision, mostly in the form of keeping her fingers out of it especially when they’d been other places. And the eldest made fudge and just needed an occasional question answering but then went onto maths which she was struggling with and needed explanations. This was much more demanding than anticipated as I couldn’t remember how to do half of it and had to look it up. Then the youngest was on a website trying to research something it wouldn’t and getting more and more frustrated. And I just seemed to seesaw between the two of them like this all morning. By afternoon I decided we needed to get out for a swim before I was torn in two, but that finished me off. So I admit to resorting to the easy option of opening a packet for dinner.

At least I thought it was the easy option.

Sometimes I think the packaging designers must sit in their studios laughing as they think up the most complicated arrangements of plastic and cardboard just to annoy tired parents at the end of a demanding day.

We rarely ate packaged or processed food. I like my meals to have ingredients as near to their natural state as possible – that’s where taste and nutrition comes from.

But when I’m beyond scrubbing potatoes or cooking anything inventive we resort to it at times, even though I never relish it. For processed and packaged food tastes like … well, it doesn’t taste of much at all. It is limp, lifeless, tasteless – apart from salt, suspiciously full of unknowns and mostly totally uninspiring.

And it was that day I thought; this is just like education really. Education has become so processed and tightly packaged it is almost unrecognisable as education.

Just like how hard it is to recognise nutritious ingredients in processed food, education has become so over processed it too is losing some of the value of the original ingredients. It has become as unpalatable as eating forced and cling-filmed strawberries in the middle of winter. There is no taste. There is nothing to arouse the senses and the effect doesn’t last.

Isn’t that like systemised schooling?

I used to think my mother was a bit of a nutcase insisting on buying dirty carrots. Now I know why she did it. Carrots with the soil still on them keep without rotting for ages. Those washed and plastic-packaged ones from the supermarket just turn gooey and stink like mad.

Packaged and processed education doesn’t last forever either. And I reckon it turns the children gooey.

I read of an experiment someone once did on a class of school children. They were told they were going to be tested on a certain subject at the end of the week and given information to learn for it. The children sat the test and the expected number did well. A few days later the same children did the same test without warning and hardly any of them scored well. The learning they had processed for the test didn’t last – just like the carrots.

Education like food needs to be as near as possible to its natural experience in order for it to be lasting, inspiring, arouse the senses and be worth having. Experiences are the basis for all learning, for meaningful learning. Learning packaged into tightly restrictive curriculum or second hand learning in workbooks, removed from the original experience, loses its appeal just as much as food. Learning and education need unwrapping.

It is natural for children to learn. During their everyday lives at home pre-school children learn loads of things. They acquire skills. They pick up knowledge. They do this naturally, experientially. Just as we all do all of the time.

All experiences teach us something. Our interests and pursuits broaden our minds. So do books, Internet, telly, ordinary every day interaction with people and things. And also our work, our outings, anniversaries, celebrations, social gatherings. Learning is natural. And learning from first hand experiences in this way is meaningful, rich, stimulating, and retained. Children learn naturally from this all the time.

Then they are removed from that natural learning environment just before they’re five and shut away from it in schools. We’re told that the only valuable learning is that which comes from teachers, packaged into a National Curriculum and contained in expected outcomes and objectives.

So children are processed through this type of learning and adults are conditioned to devalue learning outside of that. And what happens? Children begin to lose their ability to learn anything that isn’t neatly wrapped for them. And I see an awful lot of teenagers who have about as much enthusiasm in doing anything as I have in eating those out-of-season packaged strawberries.

In both the strawberries and the teenagers the zest has gone.

With food I have options. Mostly I buy food in its natural state. I am deeply suspicious of processed pies, potato alphabets, pasta shapes in suspect sauce and the infamous turkey Twizzlers! But sometimes at the end of a hard Home Educating day I’m as pleased as anyone else to open a pizza. When I can get it open that is.

But I do have the choice and you will probably know which is better for me. I suspect you might also be thinking that I would be a better parent for giving my child a natural potato that’s been baked than a processed pizza.

Yet it’s funny how people don’t seem to have the same view of education.

Everyone seems to think that a packaged and processed education is better for children than a natural one.

I got more criticism for allowing my children a natural education than I did putting them through an unnatural educational process. Yet if I continually gave them processed food instead of natural food I wouldn’t be considered a good parent at all.

Odd that!

Years ago, children didn’t have much opportunity to learn. They didn’t have opportunity to learn skills or access information like they do now. And many children didn’t live in homes where education was valued more highly than earning a crust of bread. Children were needed to mind siblings, pick potatoes, crawl along factory floors in between dangerous machinery and sweep chimneys.

Well I don’t know whether folks have noticed but that’s changed. Most of our kids today live in an environment where education is available, where there is access to information, where skills can be learnt. Naturally.

They are surrounded by people using skills and accessing information. And quite naturally they will learn from that.

But we as a society have been led to believe, as education has become more packaged and processed over the years, that this processed type of education is the only valuable one.

Our attitude to processed food is changing, thank goodness. We’re beginning to value unprocessed meals. We’re even beginning to see how processed food can make us ill.

I’d like to see our attitude to processed education changing too. For not only is some of it meaningless, unfulfilling and un-lasting, it too can make our children ill.

Like with unprocessed meals that I actually peel and prepare, I tried to give my children an unprocessed experiential education as near to its natural state as possible. If we were learning about plants – we had plants to hand that we dissected. If we were learning about history – we did it in a historical setting like museum or castle. Get the idea?

This way, just like fresh picked, in-season, unprocessed strawberries, the flavour of the educational experience we gave them was meaningful and stimulated all their senses in a way that is still lasting.

You can read more supportive stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. And the new edition has a new added epilogue which tells the stories of the children we home educated alongside now that they’re grown up!

The health benefits of Home Education

“Her eczema has all cleared up. She’s been plagued by it for years but there’s no longer any sign of it now that she’s not going to school” he said.

This dad had stopped me in the lane he was so excited to tell me. He’d leaned out of the truck window to flag me down.

“And both the children have been so happy – and busy,” he went on. “They’re like different children. We can hardly believe it!”

I can!

I have heard the tale so often. About children who’ve had minor conditions and illnesses and health challenges, even behavioural issues, which remarkably disappeared once the children had been out of school for a while. It’s a tale often told among the home educating community.

It was the same for us. Our eldest, who suffered endless infections to the point of needing anti-biotics during her few years at school, hardly seemed to get any during our yeas of home educating. Despite the fact that our children were still in almost daily contact with mainstream groups through regular mainstream activities, clubs and classes that other children attended and as such exposed to all the usual germs.

Our home educating contemporaries remarked upon the same thing happening with their children. One child who was regularly hospitalised and missing school, to the point where the parent was being suspected of being the cause, ceased to have her condition once she came out of school to be home educated.

One of the most marked differences which parents reported was in their children’s behaviour. Tantrums, anger, migraines, bed-wetting, melt-downs over little things, disruption, withdrawal, lack of motivation, dwindling mental health, – all manner of issues – seemed to settle once the children no longer had the stress of being in school in their lives.

There is an argument that children will have to suffer stress later in life so they should get used to it in school. But it’s a poor argument for the simple reason that later life is nothing like school. Nowhere are the circumstances of school replicated, where you have absolutely no choice or autonomy in managing the stressful situations we find ourselves in. Unlike youngsters in a school scenario where they’re just expected to shut up and suck it up, regardless of whether it’s disrespectful or even harmful or not. Later in life we have a voice – and a choice, even though those choices may be extremely challenging or limited. And I think it is the voice-less helplessness that children feel in school, which gets to them, never mind the noise, crowds, threat and hubbub which many find overwhelming.

When schooling affects children’s wellbeing it affects their potential and their learning opportunities. Happiness is as important to their education as health is – the two are intertwined. (Read this article here on why happiness is important for education).

School should come with a health warning. Or better still it should be organised so it isn’t a health hazard at all! Because facts need to be faced – some children are just Not Fine in School or this organisation wouldn’t exist.

And we should not be treating this as if it doesn’t matter, as many parents and politicians would treat it. As the politics says; every child has the right to an education. It follows then that every child should have the opportunity of good health, as the two are intertwined, and if the government are providing institutions which cause the opposite by their pressured policies and structures, both on kids and teachers, then the politicians are denying the children that right. No question.

If you’re a home educator, let us know if your child’s health was affected by school and if home educating changed it.

Meanwhile, the dad above continued to regale me of their happy home educating adventures so far and I was delighted to listen. Another set of kids who no longer have to suffer for their education.

Beware contracting comparison-itus

What a indispensable tool social media has become. How lonely and isolated we would have felt during the Lockdowns, if we hadn’t been able to connect in this way. It offers us comfort and support, communication and connectivity, inspiration and help when we need it, the facility to share and exchange ideas. To feel less lonely. And of course to learn and educate.

It also provides the opportunity to show off, seek endorsement, criticise and slang off others, bully and torment, and become addicted to unfortunately. Plus the danger of perpetuating a disease as harmful as Covid; Comparisonitus!

Social media wasn’t a thing when we very first began home educating. In fact there was hardly any opportunity to see what others were doing. Support and communication with other home educators came through joining one of the support groups like Education Otherwise and then it was a question of cold calling someone listed in the organisation and finding local meet ups.

What a long way we’ve come since then and what a plethora of amazing supportive forums, groups, resources and facilities there is now to dip into and connect with.

But it needs managing. Because, as with all communities, there is a risk. The risk of comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re not good enough.

You have to remember that sometimes a rosy cameo of perfection, which is how photos and shares on social media sometimes appear, can mask the reality of day to day grind and the tricky bits everyone always goes through. No one will be doing it perfectly whatever images on social media show. Whatever anyone else would have you believe.

In fact I have also been accused of it; of writing about home education so positively it gives the impression of never having got it wrong. I did (as illustrated in my books). And I’m truly sorry if anyone felt inadequate as a result of reading anything I’ve written. But I do want to be encouraging too. It’s hard to find the balance sometimes. Finding your balance through social media in relation to your home education is just as important.

Nothing is ever as perfect as it seems – a quiet studious moment among the majority of others not so!

Another thing to remember is that many Apps are designed to be addictive. And it can become an addictive habit to be constantly seeking endorsement about what you’re doing, notching up Likes and approvals. Beware that’s not what you’re using social media for in relation to your home educating.

Outside of the home school community there’s also the risk of comparisonitus with schools and their approaches. School approaches to education are designed not with the child’s welfare in mind but with results in mind. Schools have to produce measurable outcomes. And in the pursuit of them real learning and growth and development of the individual can be lost, often along with their potential. Not to mention their health and mental wellbeing.

Forget what schools are doing. forget what ‘results’ other kids and parents are bragging about, or tests they’re being put through as if that was a valuable part of their schooling. Don’t doubt yourself because of other kids ‘going back’ to the school regime and fitting in with that norm. Get on with educating your way.

Look and learn from others – that’s important. Share and support one another. But keep it all within the perspective of the fact that no one is doing it best, better, or any more perfectly than you are. This will help immunise you from comparisonitus. Check you’re not addicted to constantly seeking approval. Be bold and confident about this amazing thing you’re doing and hold your nerve – true to what you’re doing it for. Keep real.

I’m always saying, yet still finding it needs saying again; we’re all different. No one will be home educating like you do, no child will be like yours, learn like yours, or other parent do it the way you parent. You do not need to compare yourself with anyone else. You only need to keep your integrity with what you think is right for you in your circumstances, keep researching and connecting, keep your eye on what’s working and what’s not, keep flexible and open minded.

This is the way to keep yourself well – well away from comparisonitus. You need that dis-ease about as much as you need Covid!

Take care!

Why home ‘schooling’ doesn’t fit!

I get really taffled up with words sometimes. Being a writer I know the power – or confusion – they cause.

The word home-schooling is one such term.

I’m loathe to use the term and much prefer to go with home-education as it far better describes what I think most home educators are about. As I’ve blogged about before, here.

But does it really matter?

It seems it certainly does. A friend and fellow home educator has recently pointed out to me why we should avoid using the term home-schooling for deeper political reasons that we should perhaps be aware of.

She is one of the members from the initiative of ‘National Community Learning Hubs‘ who have come

together to provide a holistic, nurturing, self determined approach to learning, within environments that enable everyone to thrive and achieve in a way that suits them best. And she related to me a discussion within their groups about the use of the term home-schooling and how it may affect our right to home educate in the future. She’s kindly given me permission to copy part of the discussion here:

HOME EDUCATION is the correct term in the UK, the reasons why some of us long term Home Edders battled to ensure that it was the term used by the DfE are many, but to give a few: Schooling is a very different thing to education. Mothers and Fathers or educators are the ones who educate the learners. ‘Home schooling’ implies a school at home. LAs increasingly try to force school at home and that will destroy the ability to home educate. ‘Home schooling’ can be a block to moving from a school mindset. ‘Home schooling’ is picked up by the media and used to compare home education (currently) to school children educated at home. In so doing, home educators are being pushed toward being lumped in with them. The public body narrative and that of those who want to regulate us has been INTENTIONALLY used over the last several years to move the idea of home education in the mind of the public closer to school, how better than to wholesale change to ‘homeschool’ wherever and whenever they can. The media follows and circulates that narrative. Why would this be used? Easy, because by changing the narrative in subtle steps, public bodies make it easier to persuade MPs to vote to regulate and the public to cheer them on. If members of the home educating ‘community’ follow suit and use the term, we assist the narrative to grow and we support the subtle version of the huge attack on home education freedoms. Why do it? To bring it home more personally: ONE word changes lives. In September last I took some time contacting education psychologists to ask their experience of home education. Every one of them claimed to have plenty of such experience, but none was aware that home education was not EOTAS (education provided by the LA, often in the home) and that was where their experience lay. Each one of those experts had no expertise in home education, yet any one of them could have ended up in a court room as an expert in home education. Lives damaged by a word. Do you want your child to be judged against school standards? If not, remember home EDUCATION.

This has certainly made me think and question and I’m grateful to have those points brought to my attention. I actually feel quite shocked at my own ignorance about the effect these terms have.

Personally, I have never been comfortable with the term (or the concept) of schooling – it certainly doesn’t fit with my idea of true education. However I was aware that home-schooling was a familiar term that could also help people find support, so have used it quite liberally in balance with home-education.

Perhaps I need to rethink, since it has such a political impact.

I know that not everyone sees it in political terms or wants to be involved in the politics of it. But there are many who are fighting politically to maintain your right to home educate and we should support them by being aware of that and by the terminology we use.

What’s your view?

Moving stuff!

I’ve finally moved!

My life seems to have been in boxes forever!

It’s taken over a year, (I first mentioned it here ages ago) a painful, no-man’s-land year of negotiating, form filling, anxiety and emotion and waiting, waiting, waiting. And a hell of a lot of learning. I feel I’ve been home educating myself – educating myself about moving house and building a home again. And trying to keep calm the meanwhile!

The last time we did this the youngsters were twelve and nine – we did it whilst home educating. (You can read the story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’) They learnt a lot. It was an exciting adventure for them and we kept as positive about it as we could. That was almost twenty years ago. And although they no longer live with us I want to make sure I rebuild their own ‘home’ for when they come and stay. It feels important. Because we are so close, even if not in miles.

It’s something I’ve heard new home educators worry about; how home educating will affect their relationship with their children and more importantly when the children are adult.

But I would say this – and I’ve heard other home educating parents say it too; that home education made our relationship all the stronger. Rather than everybody hating each other with being together so much as many parents fear will happen, the opposite is nearer the case. You grow a new kind of respect and empathy for each other, you find ways to make space from each other when you need it, you can treat each other well and get to know each other deeply without the distancing school sometimes creates, they begin to understand that you are on their side, that all relationships are give-and-take, and they learn how to be together with understanding, how to communicate, how to manage their feelings and moods, that parents are people with needs too, not just people who shunt them off to school.

I think these skills are all a direct result of home educating, and other families seem to find the same. I also think that it is sometimes hard to build worthy relationships in a school setting where kids are pitched against each other most of the time.

The relationship we have now with our young adults is one I absolutely cherish – and they seem to too! I feel so blessed. So blessed to have had the opportunity to home educate, to have had the opportunity to build such strong bonds.

And wherever we are I feel that will remain.

And I’m just looking forward to putting together a new home as a venue for those loving bonds to be expressed.

Help for the Home Educating long haul

When I meet home educators, it’s often those who are new to it and starting out. To them it seems very scary and daunting and feel they need lots of support. I’m very happy to give it.

But I’m also aware, having done it, that there is another challenging side to home education; sticking with it for the long haul. That needs supporting too. So I thought I’d repost this article for those of you doing just that.

Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or change something, make a break into something else. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are adults now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad bits. It takes a lot of grit to keep at it. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or worse; a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence and an expression to match. Even expressions can be critical!

It was these kind of times exactly which prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need negotiating too. Knows that bad bits are not an indication that it’s going wrong. Knows that you need to look after yourself too (whole chapter to cover that in the book). And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to help you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. But keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does! You’ll be doing a grand job. I salute you!

After a home educating long haul you end up with lovely intelligent educated adults like we did!

So if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because there’s new edition. And, even better, in this new edition is a special epilogue that tells you how successfully it all worked out for those we home educated alongside. The best kind of reassurance of all.

It’s been unavailable a little while but it’s back now on Amazon if you’d like a copy. It’s been called a home educating bible and comforting bedside book, so I hope it feels like that for you and brings you the encouragement you might need both for today and for the long haul.