Tag Archive | education

The value of the Quiet Ones!

My treat for the weekend is to take a book outside and read. DSC06096

Doing it outside makes it less of a busman’s holiday for me. Since I’m concerned with words all day, it feels less workish to do it under birdsong, roses and the lullaby of the breeze, with the occasional annoying fly just keeping me from dozing off.

With some books I don’t doze off. ‘Quiet’ has been one of those.

It’s full title is ‘Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and it’s a fascinating observation of the valuable personality traits of Introverts. (TED talk here)

In fact, it’s a celebration of Introversion; of all it’s valuable attributes, and how it should never be seen as something wrong with us that needs to be corrected – as it is in many social climes, particularly with reference to children. The author Susan Cain talks about shyness (which I’ve blogged about before) and how it’s often tied up with Introversion yet is quite different.

We are all different, and we need that diversity for our species to survive, but it is often only the loudest that get revered, overlooking the quiet ones and the huge contributions they make to progress with their reflective and considered thinking and the fact they spend less time polishing their image and partying and more time in deep thought and invention. Whereas extroverts need a high stimulation environment, introverts feel most stimulated and do their best stuff in low key environments. The ‘key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that works best for us’ says Susan in her TED talk. Sadly most school environments fail to provide a low key environment for those who need it. no wonder so many kids fail to thrive there.

The last chapter contains some important ideas with regard to raising and educating our children with respect to the fact that many children need smaller social environs in which to learn and grow. And this is okay. We do not have to force them ‘to get out there’ as some parents believe, in order to socialise or succeed, but respect their preferences and grow their confidence within that respect.

I have always believed, back from when I worked in classrooms and through the contact I’ve had with a diverse range of home educating families, that many children fail in school simply because the climate of crowd and buzz does not suit them. But this does NOT mean they have a character defect, any more than someone with blue eyes has a character defect, it’s just our inability to accept differences between us and provide for the needs of those quieter children.

In our image conscious, Facebook crazy, media driven culture we have to sometimes stand against it to be who we need to be and respect our personalities for what they are, rather than try and be all the same. That goes for our kids too. Particularly important is to recognise that they are not us, are different from us, and should be respected for who they are, even if they are quiet, require alone-time, prefer smaller interactions and dislike crowds.

That’s perfectly okay. Quiet people are just as successful and don’t need to be made into anything else.

I know it’s my quiet reflective times, often with my books (often in the garden), that has made me who I am; able to work, parent, home educate, write, and develop two reflective home educated beings who as adults still have a vibrant social life, loving friends, and a successful life out in the fray without ever being forced!

Ignorance is not academic

Following last post’s funny comment on qualification and intelligence here’s a story about a gateway!

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Attractive concrete block!

I call it gateway but there is no longer a gate – it’s been trashed again. It was completely destroyed. The wooden bars smashed through as if someone had rammed it with a vehicle, the cross pieces jagged and splintered and most of it lying on the floor. It must have taken a lot of effort to do it – it was no thin gate but a sturdy five-bar one, needing posts as thick as railway sleepers to hang it.

There was no reason for this that I could see, other than vandalism. It could hardly be the work of militant ramblers as there’s a completely adequate stile for us to cross so we can continue along the footpath. And it’s not a particularly well used footpath, just one the locals and dog walkers know that runs between the cultivated land and out onto the marshland pasture where the cows graze. Land that is owned by farmers trying to make a living, allowing access to others to enjoy it, yet having to foot the costs of this damage.

They’d put some wire across the opening after the destruction of the gate to keep the cattle in, but that’s been vandalised and cut too, so they’ve put a concrete block there now.

It’s probably vandalised by the same ignorant people who leave their beer bottles, take away packets and shitty bits of tissue after their evening’s activities.

I say ignorant because that’s what it is; it’s ignorance that makes people choose to behave like this. People who don’t have the intelligence to make other choices or see the bigger picture beyond their own selfish pursuits.

Many generally think that intelligence is to do with schooling and how many exam passes and grades and degrees you have. But that is only a small part of intelligence. Academic prowess is not a guarantee of intelligence, although often a sign of it. And ignorance is not measured by a lack of it but by a lack of something else; a lack of connectedness.

It is connectedness, the way you connect with all things other than you and consequently the way you choose to behave, that is a sure sign of intelligence beyond academic qualification.

The person who smashed this gate may have qualifications, forced on them by schooling no doubt. Yet still they act in ignorant ways. For what they don’t have is the intelligence to see the connection between their act and its consequences. They don’t have the intelligence to feel the emotional consequence their actions will be creating in others just because they have no connetedness to those others, only to their own indulgences.

True intelligence is relative surely. Human intelligence anyway, that part of our human brain that enables us to have empathy, acquire understanding, to feel, to think, to choose reactions other than those driven by base instinct. The intelligence to engage with others and see beyond our own egocentric little worlds.

This is the kind of intelligence that needs developing alongside the academic. The kind of intelligence that is being neglected by prescriptive schooling solely focused on grades, and parenting that neglects to give time to making human connections, humane connections.

Which do we value most? We can make choices.

Ignorance is never solely academic. It is about our humane intelligent ability to know and also to use what we know in our relations with others. That is as vital a part of our children’s education as anything academic.

An educational phallusy (yes – I meant to spell it like that!)

Charley and I were having a conversation last week just before my book event at Waterstones.

She’d wanted to come along and support me but I thought it maybe best not. For home educated young people tend to get viewed as exhibits really. They provide an opportunity for others to see whether they’ve grown two heads or turned out weird or not.

And they always get quizzed about exams; ‘How many GCSEs have you got?’

This question seems to be the panacea for measuring a successful education and intelligence unfortunately. For it isn’t at all accurate to assume results show that.

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

She didn’t bother with GCSEs. But went ahead with other qualifications that interested her and onto Uni that way. So what’s intelligence anyway? Not something that can be measured by GCSEs alone, although they’re mostly used as such. And that’s the big sad confusion that many parents are under; being told that their child’s future is doomed without them. Qualifications have their uses obviously, but doomed without them? That’s just a fallacy.

We ended up having one of our inevitable conversations about education and what makes you an educated person which is very different to merely being a qualified person

‘It’s not only to do with what you have – as in qualifications,’ I said. ‘It’s about what you do and how you behave as a result of what you have’.

She was thoughtful for a moment.

Then she said; ‘Measuring people by how many GCSEs they’ve got is like measuring men by how big their penis is. It’s not what you’ve got that’s important, it’s what you do with it that matters’.

How we laughed!

What a wonderful analogy; just couldn’t resist sharing!

Home schooling in the spotlight?

A warm thank you to all those who came to our event at Waterstones last night to celebrate the new home education book. Lovely to have your support and to meet Home Educating friends from a while back. 20160705_191958

I know some home educators feel reluctant to put home schooling in the spotlight like this. They don’t want too much attention, especially from the Local Authorities and consequently the government, who might interfere with this successful and alternative approach to what’s on offer in schools.

Some of the contacts from authorities who visit home educating families has in the past ranged from less than helpful to downright ignorant and insulting at times. Their remit seemingly to bring us all in line. And the call for registration of all home educating families, and consequently monitoring, is a constant threat we want to avoid as long as possible. (See this post). So, many like home schooling to remain fairly hidden and to get on with it in the own quiet way uninterrupted.

But the trouble with that is; if it’s hidden, those who need it can’t access it. And I like to think optimistically that the authorities’ attitude is changing.

I spoke to a couple of people last night who’d had helpful and supportive visits from their LA. The LAs are becoming more enlightened and aware of what their role is, thanks to the work many home educating parents do to maintain a dialogue with them. And they’re more aware of the successes of home educating families as the numbers increase.

And although I understand that some like to home educate on the quiet, I look at the work I do to raise awareness from the point of view that many parents are so grateful to discover this as an option, to find the support they need, so they can choose an alternative for a child who is failing to thrive in school. Some are worse than that; school makes some of the kids ill and family life an utter misery. I get messages of gratitude quite frequently from people who were desperate and thankful to find my blog and books. And it’s only by home education becoming more widely understood that these families can choose something different for their kids, some who were almost suicidal.

So, perhaps we have to be brave – even braver than we already are in home educating. As the home educating community grows, perhaps we have to risk being noticed, club together to resist intervention when the time comes, confident in the knowledge that the growing number of home schooled children graduating successfully into the wider world, are living proof of how well it works – even though it’s not school! Education is our joined goal – educating by approaches that work for the child rather than the government, whether that’s in school or out of it.

And this is really what my work to raise awareness is for. To increase understanding of this workable and successful option. And show parents that children do not have to suffer for an education.

And in turn, I greatly appreciate those who support me in doing so. Thank you!

The glums and the excitement!

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The delightful daughters!

I’ve just spent a lovely few days with these two beauts! So there’s not really any way I want to face getting back down to work, when I’m feeling a bit glum post holiday!

I’ll just have to concentrate on the excitement of my new book coming out today (details here). It’s there to support parents through their home educating wobblies; I recall a few of those!

And next week, on Tuesday evening, I’m hoping some of you will come along to my evening at Boston Waterstones in celebration of its publication and cheer me up! I’d so love your company.

So, I’ll have to make do with this excitement for now, until we’re able to be together again.

And I suggest you enjoy your children while they’re around for, although hard to imagine that it is, they won’t always be!

(Copies of the new book are available from the publisher Bird’s nest Books, Amazon, Waterstones and other major booksellers).

Come and say hello

Very excited to meet with the publisher today – it’s only one week to go till my newest book is available.

Both of us having home educated we know that, despite it being the most uplifting thing we ever did, it can also be challenging sometimes. Not necessarily the learning bit, but more those days when you start to wobble and doubt, when the force of the schooling institution and what millions of others are doing suddenly feels overwhelming, when you’re feeling a bit down, or when you forget your original intentions to provide something different for your children that focuses on their rounded development rather than results.

So we thought we’d publish a book to support those moments, to collate the words of encouragement and support I’ve written here and elsewhere over the years into one, immediately accessible, book so you’ve got it to hand for an instant fix. Hope it helps. I know how much I could have done with it at the time just to help me keep on track!

You can order your copy here.

In celebration of its publication I’m hosting an event in Waterstones in Boston, Lincolnshire where I’ll be chatting about my work and answering any questions, so do come along if you’re in the area. It’s on Tuesday 5th July at 7pm. It would be lovely to meet you. And do please share this info around so those who need it, find it. Home educating can feel daunting at times; this is to support you!

waterstones poster

The shite surrounding Home Ed registration!

The issue of registration is back in the news again. I sense the whole of the home education community cringing in response.

Not necessarily cringing at the thought of registration – that’s not the real issue. Rather, cringing at the barrage of inevitable accusations about us failing to provide ‘adequate education, or potentially abusing our kids, or generally neglecting their progress by not giving them tests every five minutes.

In other words all the lame and totally inaccurate and ignorant excuses those in high places trot out each time as justification for trying to regain control of what is a fairly uncontrolled but nevertheless SUCCESSFUL approach to educating thousands of children in this country. Children who are turning out to be intelligent and productive members of society; the graduating home educators are proof of that.

So why do we need to control home education if it is already working? Other than for state dictatorship of course!

The ironic thing is, home education is working well exactly because it is not controlled; not controlled by idiots in councils and parliament who are ruining education in schools by their obsessive, stats-driven desire to monitor, measure and standardise and present league tables. The success of home schooling is based in its flexibility, one that’s in tune with the child’s learning needs, needs often neglected in the system.

According to this recent report  Local Authorities are calling for laws that make it compulsory for parents to register their home educated children, citing safeguarding as their main concern and suggesting that parents who don’t want authorities to know what they’re doing should be watched.

In my experience it is not that home educators particularly want to keep what they’re doing from the authority; most of the genuine parents who choose home education instead of school are open and deeply conscientious about their child’s welfare and education.

However, what they’re trying to avoid, by being shy of the authority, is the type of interference from the dictatorial approaches to education that is ALREADY RUINING IT IN SCHOOLS. That is clear from the constant flurry of articles from those in the profession like this one which says that children are treated as statistics.

And this one that suggests the child is the lowest priority.

And this one which illustrates teachers’ feelings that testing is so inappropriate we should boycott them.

Further irony surrounds the fact that the practice that’s doing the ruining is exactly the one Local Authorities want to put in place via registration: the monitoring.

But monitoring Home Ed would be a disaster, for who’s going to judge and what? And how are they qualified to judge if they have no experience of home schooling from beginning to end? And on what grounds will they judge, with what benchmarks? And how can ‘standards’ be applied to the individualistic and SUCCESSFUL range of approaches home educating families use to facilitate their children’s learning? You have to have done it to understand. It would be like trying to monitor and grade the diversity of parenting – of course that may be next!

I am totally convinced that the call for registration has LITTLE to do with the good of the children, just as the teacher in the article suggests children in school are little more than useful statistics to LAs and politicians. (No disrespect to the hundreds of caring teachers intended here – it’s just I know your hands are tied).

The call for registration is instead all to do with authorities gaining control over something that is beyond their comprehension, because most are ignorant, blinkered, institutionalised pawns, who have no first hand experience of home education, and who are subservient to the bigger establishment. An establishment that is becoming increasingly afraid of home educators because they indirectly challenge their failing policies by their very success in choosing to do without them.

The monitoring, measurement and testing of children and schools is RUINING the educational experience for many – children and teachers – that is increasingly clear. It may work for some, but not for all. Thankfully there’s the option of home education for that minority. But if we try and measure home education with the same benchmarks that’s ruining schooling, we’ll ruin that too.

No wonder home educators don’t want that.

Most home educators are intelligent people – we can make assessments for ourselves and see beyond political manoeuvres and don’t want our kids used as pawns in a political game. We care deeply for our kids – why else would we opt for such a demanding choice – has no one thought to ask that question?

Einstein is often quoted as saying that ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’, an image that marries so well with the system’s monitoring systems. 

Apart from the wider issue of the state wanting control over all we do, this is what the registration and consequential monitoring of our kids would do, as it is doing to children in schools, where many come away believing they are stupid not because they are, but because of the system’s stupidity in measuring every differing individual’s ability with a benchmark as singular as climbing a tree.

And this is exactly why many home educating families want to choose an alternative. And in most cases like to remain private about it.