Tag Archive | education

Are we schooling kids out of education?

It’s the time of year when many are facing the return to school – and many are not! Many are rejoicing in not returning to school and continuing with their home education…

…I couldn’t resist reblogging this story from a while back as it explains why so many choose to do so;

There was a bright little pre-schooler running through the town the other day. She was on an adventure away from mum. She stopped suddenly, turned round and realised there was an awful lot of people who weren’t mum. Her face dropped.

Mum, watching, called out to her and she went running back happily. Despite that slight panic at mum being momentarily out of sight, she didn’t hesitate to go off and explore again. After all, there’s such an intriguing amount to learn – about everything, why would she not?

Twelve years later and learning doesn’t look so appealing. In fact most of her inclination to learn has been switched off, like for many young people.

What happened?

My theory is that schooling happens.

What happens is that we corral our wonderfully idiosyncratic and diverse children into institutions which enforce comparison and competition in their most destructive forms, judge them by a narrow set of outcomes only a particular few can excel at, lead them to believe that anything else they might be good at is unimportant, stress them witless by unnecessary testing, and expect them to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and personally within that unfortunate climate.

It has always seemed a bit ludicrous to me.

This schooling of our children is putting them off education and learning. And neglecting the education of their whole being, of their diverse potential, individual talents, and original personalities, all of which are essential to the longevity of our world.

We are chiselling youngsters down to one set of talents, one way of thinking and performing, measurable by a narrow set of definitions, invented by politicians who are ignorant of education, out to impress those parents interested only in social stature or getting the kids off their hands.

Harsh words maybe, but how many politicians know about the world outside their elite existence – let alone what’s useful for survival in it? And I’ve come across many parents who only want scores and grades for their own adult pride, or their kids minded; there are relatively few who’ve actually thought it through and reached an understanding about what’s good for their individual developmentally.

Child-minding aside, the fallacy that most believe is that kids need teachers, tests and schools to learn, develop and progress towards a fulfilling and productive life.

But in reality they don’t, as many successfully home educating families are proving.

What they need instead is to be happy, confident, interested, curious and motivated like the little girl running through the precinct. With those traits kids move themselves forward into work and life successfully, but there’s only a relative few who come out of schooling with those personal attributes intact.

And you have to define success.

Some would define a successful education from a consumerist point of view as the getting of lots of ‘good’ grades.

I wouldn’t. In fact, it’s hard to define education at all because any definition would suggest it is finite and it isn’t, it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end.

My definition of a successful education would be so interlinked with what I consider a successful life to be which has nothing to do with getting anything, grades or otherwise.

It is more to do with a practice of living that is happy and mindful and content for the most part, full of warm loving relationships, fulfilled through purposeful work, independent and responsible and that continues to build and grow and improve as we learn and educate ourselves. It’s something with encouragement young people could do for themselves – if they haven’t been put off.

Education, like life, should not be something our children have to endure till it ends so they can get on with real life, as many feel it is.

It should be an integrated part of their real lives from day one, ongoing and always accessible. It should inspire. It should be something youngsters are gagging to involve themselves in not playing truant from. And something that serves our needs as humans to develop creatively, personally and emotionally as well as intellectually. And finally, something that we should be brave enough to accept is not actually measurable as such, yet is still wonderfully successful.

Roll on the day….

Why we need to develop creative intelligence in education

I had a surprise visit from friend and artist Bob and Roberta Smith the other day.

The artwork of Bob and Roberta Smith

We were connected in our childhoods but rarely get to meet these days living in different places.

It’s a shame because we have a common quest; our desire to get people to understand the importance of creativity in education.

People often respond to that idea with the question ‘What use is painting pictures in the world of employment?’ as if that were the only interpretation of creativity. It also misses the point; creativity isn’t restricted to painting and drawing, for goodness sake!

Creativity is primarily about thinkingcreative thinking. Intelligent creative thinking.

Intelligent creative thinking is what enables us to lead our lives on a day to day basis.

Intelligent creative thinking enables us to find solutions, solve problems, rise to challenges and develop as people.

We use intelligent creativity every day even in little ways like getting the dinner, what to wear, how to fix the hole, how to best parent the children, what colour to paint the bathroom, how to make a tenner last all week. And I haven’t even touched on creating artwork yet.

But on that subject, have you ever considered that every single man-made thing you own was created and designed by someone? Someone who had to apply creative intelligence.

From the sofa you sit on, the cup you drink from, to all the technology you use, not to mention the Web, it’s all been designed by someone applying creative intelligence.

And anyway, aside from the fact that everything we have has been made by a creative, our young people will have to employ their creative thinking skills in order to fit into a job market that has less jobs than the people applying for them. They will need to be creative in tackling employers, in making their mark in whatever form or industry.

Creative intelligence is required for that self development process that puts a young person in front of others.

All these skills; mental and practical, personal and social, are developed by all kinds of creative practices, whether creating artwork, fixing stuff, making decisions, gaming, designing, or feeding yourself on a tight budget.

Creative intelligence helps you think outside the norm, outside of prescriptive academic conditioning, to more useful transferable skills that take you further.

Neglect of creative experiences, subjects and practices, is neglect of a huge part of our children’s education and personal development. Those in charge of the education system should be ashamed to call what they offer ‘education’ without it.

Thank goodness for champions like this trying to put the balance right.

Read his letter to Nicky Morgan here.

School doesn’t always equal education!

I recently met another teacher who is now home schooling.

She’s home schooling not because she knew about teaching and thought it would be easy – being a teacher doesn’t necessarily make it so! It’s because she’s seen what goes on in school and can understand why her child is unhappy there.

She won’t be ‘teaching’ her child because she knows it isn’t always required, she’ll just facilitate her further learning. But she’s yet another someone who agrees that school is not the answer to every young person’s learning needs.

We have been sold the schooling system as the norm for so long now it has become well entrenched in our thinking about educating children. In fact it’s created a commonly accepted equation: School = Education.

Now that equation may turn out to be true in some cases, with some youngsters. But it is certainly NOT true for all. And its monopoly of our thinking has masked the fact that other things are also true.

Things like:

Other approaches = Education

Learning outside school = Education

Life Experience = Education

And it is also true that children can learn without teachers and our commonly accepted notion that teaching is required for children to learn is misleading.

Children can learn from a multitude of other people who are not teachers, parents among them. They learn by themselves. They learn through experiences. They learn through their own investigation, exploration, experimentation and research. All equally effective, often more effective because if youngsters teach themselves they are often more interested, engaged, and absorb it more readily.

Teachers in schools have to adhere to prescriptive curriculum, deliver it to crowds of kids in specific, sometimes coercive ways, for the sake of narrow inhibiting outcomes.

This is not really an education. And not the most efficient or inspirational way to learn.

Every time I meet another home educating, former teacher, I see that the number of people who understand this about schools is increasing – even among these educational professionals. (See this blog here). If they are straying away from that system because of what they see happening there, then there certainly must be cause to question it. The more we question the more we might be able to convince the powers that be that there’s a need for it to change.

And the further we can spread the idea that there’s a workable, successful and inspirational alternative to school should anyone need it.

If you’re fairly new to home schooling and want to learn more check out some of my other pages. You’ll find a wealth of inspiration and tips among the other home educators’ blogs. My two books may also help; ‘Learning Without School’ is a guide and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is an easy to read story of our home educating life that will change the way you think about education for ever after!

Meet the home educated Illustrator of ‘Who’s Not In School?’

It’s always fascinating to read how other home educators do it! And this one is particularly close to my heart because he’s the illustrator of my new picture book for children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’.

James Robinson’s delightful pictures have received much praise and I couldn’t have been happier with the way in which he interpreted my story. What is particularly incredible is that he achieved this work at eighteen years of age, yet maintains the standard and dedication of a much older professional.

So I asked him about his experience as a home learner and his art work. This is what he told me:

How long have you been Home Educated and how did it come about?

I have always been Home Educated. I am the fourth in our family and my older brother and sister came out of school when I was ever so young, the rest of us never went to school. 

What kind of things did you do whilst HEing and with whom?

We live in the country, so most of our days were spent working round the kitchen table in the morning and playing outside all the rest of the time, and meeting up with other families a couple of times a week. 

We spent a lot of time on History, Literature, making things and of course drawing.

I seem to remember my parents read aloud to us a lot in the evenings whilst we all drew.

What are your personal feelings about it – or school?

I have never been to school, but live on the site of one, my Father being a teacher,

I consider it a beautiful place and I think most of the students are happy, so I don’t  object to schools, but I think I would have done awfully badly at one. I am a dyslexic and reading and writing seem arduous and never ending, I like to spend time when planning my work. I suppose I am a perfectionist…never reaching perfection.  I think that at school you are always rushing. 

I do rather love the freedom one gets from being at home.

Tell me about the social side of your HE days?

I do not feel a lack of friends, I am somewhat of a recluse (artists often are) but I do go and see people and places. 

When I was little and all of us were at home there was always someone to play with, also we were friends with several other large, home educating families, where there was someone for everyone to play with. 

We would get together with a couple of other families to share lessons, during the week and once or twice a month we would have a big get together with lots of families.

The three oldest in our family have left home now, and there are just the three youngest left, so things are much quieter, we mainly meet just with half a dozen particular friends rather than whole families, these days.

What about qualifications – are they part of your HE?

I did do exams for Art, but opted out of taking any other exams to spend my days drawing instead. 

To take responsibility for one’s own edification and pursue the subjects of one’s interest is where education really begins.

When I made Art my main subject was when I started reading and studying literature and the like for pleasure.

Now I am studying for a degree in Painting with the Open College of the Arts, I also go up to London once a week (during term time)  to the Royal Drawing School for Life-Drawing Classes, (very helpful when illustrating ) and I have started a diploma in Traditional methods of Painting at the School of Traditional Arts.

Tell me about your art work, how it developed and maybe where you want to take it.

Telling stories with pictures is, for me, inherently satisfying. 

We have all always done a lot of drawing in our family, but I did not think of it as a career until I was about thirteen or fourteen, and then, when about sixteen, a friend asked me to draw some illustrations which I really loved.

Each day coming to my desk to draw was a pleasure, pitching my intellect against the problems laid before me in translating words into line, form, tone and colour; it is so interesting and such fun. I decided that it was something I really wanted to have a stab at job wise.

What was it like illustrating a book?

It was really enormous fun illustrating the ‘Harry’ book. I really enjoyed it. I loved being able to put in details of all the Home Educating homes I know, and lots of friends and family as the characters.

The ideas for some of the pictures came really quickly and the finished illustrations were done in three or four days. Others took several weeks to do and had to be drawn and redrawn until I was happy.

I tried to spend three whole days a week working for my degree and the rest of the time working on the book. It was difficult to stop working on the book once an idea had come and to make myself do the work for my course. Perhaps people who have been to school are better at working on several things at once. Home Educating has meant I have always had the freedom to finish my projects in my own time.

Any future plans?

At the moment my plans are to complete the distance learning degree, at the same time as working on several paid commissions which help to pay the fees as well as being really interesting and exciting.  I would very much like to become a fully fledged illustrator, so to speak, but who knows, things might turn out differently.

James Robinson

 

(You can meet James at the Stanmore Home Education group in London on Thursday this week where we’ll be coming along for a chat and to sign some of the books. Contact the group for details. There’ll hopefully be further opportunities later in the year. Visit the publisher’s website for updates)

Stop trying and start learning!

Sometimes I have to go away from the study and the laptop in order to do the real work. Sitting ‘doing it’ doesn’t always deliver the right results. So sometimes I take phone and notebook and  go try in other places like here in the garden: 20150621_141508-1

Or out on a walk: 20150621_120109

Or staring out over rooves from cafe windows: 001

In winter it can be more challenging but there’s usually something to inspire: honesty 001

These situations often produce far sharper work than that I can drudge up in front of the screen. Something I’d been grubbing away at trying to produce can be scribbled down in seconds despite the discomfort of flapping pages, wet grass seeping through bottom, or clatter.

That’s the same with education, you know.

Instead of staying in and trying to ‘do’ education, the children learn much better in a different setting or environment. You can take them out anywhere and they’ll learn something. Whether it’s a place like a museum, gallery, nature reserve, or somewhere seemingly less instructional like the park, city centre, the bus, the shops, there’s always something to stimulate and interest. And the more stimulated the children are by their surroundings and the experience of learning – like choosing books or getting hands on in a museum – the more the learning will be absorbed and retained.

So like me, children learn just as well if you stop trying to ‘do’ education and just give them experiences which provoke their minds and bodies to action. Learning being the result of the activity of the learner as the famous educationalist John Holt said.

I often have to go out looking for activity in order to work. It’s the same for the kids!

The home education community constantly grows

Just had a great trip to meet a group of home educating parents in London. 20150630_155729

Although it might have been better if it wasn’t a heatwave in which to swap my usual breezy rurality for the big city. But it was worth the melting to meet more inspirational parents making different choices for their children’s education.

I met people just thinking about Home Ed and people who’d been doing it for years whose children had graduated into other life. I met parents with pre-schoolers and those with teens. Parents with children who’d never been to school and others who’d done both. There’s such a diversity of people who choose not to home educate for a diversity of reasons.

And it just seems that whatever age and whatever needs home education is catering for it all and this wonderful vibrant community is constantly growing. Both teachers and parents are reacting to the prescriptive systematic compression of our children that schooling is becoming and deciding there has to be a more pleasurable and inspiring way to learn and achieve.

There is!

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!