Tag Archive | education

The gift of weblessness and the wonder of ‘wasted’ time

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Typical spring; sunlit blossom against a stormy sky

We call Spring a fickle bitch in this house! That’s because it’s brazen and hot one minute and blasting your face off with gales and ice the next.

It doesn’t take much bad weather where we live to put the internet off – there are several times a year it disappears. And of course the landline phone.

Who needs a landline phone in these days of mobiles? People like us who live in places of no signal!

I can pace about in anger and frustration – again – it happens quite often. Or I can just be stoic and remind myself that I did actually happily exist without the Internet at one time. And do other things like reading, or walk – always available, always free.

Since I couldn’t work I drove to town, partly to get enough signal to ring BT, mostly to have a long browse in the library, an oft forgotten pleasure. I brought home a stash of books. And did some writing with pen and paper, ready to be blogged when service was restored. It was quite nice really – once I could get my mind turned in that direction and stop fretting over time wasted.

Time ‘wasted’ is a state of mind I reckon. I could look at it as time ‘gifted’ instead.

My mum, the loving character you may have met in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ Untitled-1 copywould have considered time on the Net as time wasted, in complete contrast to how we view it now. In her lifetime it wasn’t the facility it is now, more of a hobby. And anyway, time wasted is a point of view – she could spend/waste hours by her fire with a good book and a cat on the knee. Wasted? She enjoyed every minute, how is that a waste? But she wasn’t sucked into a lifestyle that depended on the Net and an image obsession of busy-busy on Social Media like we are today.

When we first came to this old house of hers, which we now occupy, I was a child in the seventies. It had no electricity, no phone of course. No heating except the coal fire. And it was NO problem – it was just how it was. And I consider myself lucky that I have memories of that because it reassures me that life can exist without it when necessary. And I have the skills to cope for a while.

It pays to have this kind of resourcefulness. Will our kids have it, so pampered and cosseted are they? Resourcefulness is a life skill that is invaluable. Can you imagine, we even started home educating without the Net? But the access it gives us to information and community now means parents can home educate with confidence.

There were some great programmes recently called ‘Back In Time for the Weekend’ that showed life in a family pre-technology, did you see any? They’re not available at the moment but similar programmes about existing without it are, that provoke some great historical discussions with the kids about this concept, which enriches their education. (Bit alarming to find I’m now history!)

Meanwhile, I kept reminding myself that the Internet would only be off for a while. It’d be back. Work would be back. Networking would be back. So instead or ‘wasting’ my time and energy fretting I decided I might as well turn my attention to the other things I value and enjoy this little gift of Weblessness.

So later that evening I visited a friend instead of being on the Net and had an evening of happy natter which I’d never have done if the Net had been available.

Gifts indeed!

Have some fun on May 3rd won’t you!

Testing – not something home educators do much! 

Yeah – that’s right – most go through the whole of their child’s education at home without doing any school style tests. Yet those children still go on to pass exams at a later date and most of them end up where there school peers get to; qualified, intelligent, competent, some at Uni, some in work.

So it does beg the question what really is the point of all those tests in schools? They’re not for the benefit of the children that’s for sure. (I’ve often blogged about it)

The obsession with testing and measuring the children’s education throughout their school life is often a reason parents give for choosing to home educate instead. But it seems that home schooling parents are not the only ones who are sick of this regime. Parents of school kids and teachers too are all adding their support to a campaign to boycott the tests to be taken on 3rd May.

Maybe we should join in?

For I guess the group Let Our Kids Be Kids would probably welcome your support too.

Since we are all in support of a real living education I thought I’d mention it. And although many in the home education community have no time for schooling I do believe we share some of their values; to challenge government policy, deplore high stakes testing which gives schools no choice other than to teach to the test, to see a curriculum full of joy and wonder… not overwhelmingly focussed on grammar and spelling which makes lessons dry and limits curiosity, and allow children to be children again – playing, being outdoors, painting, singing, dancing, learning through fun.

Sounds fairly akin to home educating values don’t you think?

I think that’s what we all want for our kids, isn’t it? So maybe you could support their campaign, sign it, and hopefully lighten the days of some of the kids in schools who are not lucky enough to be enjoying the opportunity of home educating as our children do.

Shot for wanting to be educated!

malala 001I’ve just read the book ‘I Am Malala’ about the girl in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for going to school.

That’s mostly all we know of her, as per the news coverage at the time. Read the book which details some of the political and religious climate that led to the event and you discover it’s far more complex than that.

It’s both disturbing and enlightening reading, unsettling and inspiring. And unimaginable in our comparably cosy world of educational freedoms in the UK.

Dedicated to the education and opportunities for schooling, both she and her father would find it hard to even contemplate why some of us would not want to take advantage of the opportunity to go to school, and home educate instead, as they were fighting for that right during the time leading up to the shooting. But the point is all about learning – rather than schooling – and who has control over it and how it is approached.

In the book I read about her father, who believes that ignorance has inhibited people from seeing education as a broadening of minds and development of ideas and consequently a way forward out of their troubles. And it has also allowed their politicians to fool people; I feel we perhaps think alike on that one!

For I suspect that in this country schooling may be doing the same, even if not to the same degree. Institutionalised schooling keeps people thinking how the establishment wants them to think and that’s becoming as much as a political tool, I feel, as the propaganda Malala describes in the book, where truth is distorted through the leaders’ interpretation of knowledge, stats, and who qualifies to access it.

As the process of schooling in the UK continues to squeeze creative and practical activities out of the curriculum, making it more and more focussed on rote academics for measurable purposes, then it also squeezes broader, independent and individual development, particularly thought development or a questioning mentality that encourages people to challenge. I’d guess politics wouldn’t want that.

In no way am I equating our system with the oppression Malala’s people suffered. But the opportunity to develop free thinking, questioning and independent individuals, able to think and learn for themselves, was high on our list of reasons to home educate. For I’m not convinced that schooling, as it is now and increasingly becoming, does that job terribly well.

The ignorance of some of the educated!

The fight or flight response kicks in automatically now. Palms sweat, breathing goes gaspy, limbs shaky. I brace myself for an onslaught.

This is what happens every time I listen to another piece about home education on the news. For it’s often laced with an attack.

LBC radio featured a piece about it the other night with callers chirping in. (Sorry – can’t find a recording!) As well as a few positives there was a right barrage from an angry teacher (surprisingly it’s often teachers who feel the need to attack) who obviously felt threatened. But it wasn’t from directly offensive remarks the like of which we get, she was threatened by us mere parents assuming they can do what teachers do, without all their training, and educate our own kids. She was incensed at the thought!

It’s odd that teachers should feel threatened by homeschoolers – why would that be? And it also displays the depth of the misconception they are under.

For parents don’t assume they can do what teachers have to do because they’re not teaching in the way teachers have to teach and they’re not doing it to a system which requires them to teach it. They are educating completely differently from what teachers understand as teaching.

And ironically it is those professionals’ narrow minded view of teaching and learning that prevents many from understanding the true nature of education in the broader sense, as opposed to simply institutionalised schooling.

The other thing we were wrongly accused of in this particular discussion – and another common one – was of preventing our children from mixing and inhibiting the children’s chance to gain qualifications. Our kids have as much opportunity as they choose to go where they want to go, be with who they want to be with and get what they need to do it – how is that inhibiting? It’s school which inhibits those choices surely – for they should be choices.

With all the work so many of us do to raise awareness and understanding of home education you’d think people were becoming a bit more enlightened. So I find it totally ironic that whenever home educating parents are accused of being ignorant of educating – usually by someone in the teaching profession – those professionals making accusations do so from a position of their own obvious ignorance of home education – without direct experience usually. Is that not a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black as the saying goes?

When these ignorant people are being so insulting, they should perhaps remember they are also insulting all the EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL, HARD-WORKING home educated ADULTS who are now already grown up, already out in the WORKPLACE, who never went to school.

So despite panic attacks I keep on saying how it is when I can, as many other brave parents do, in the hope of lessening this ignorance about a positive and successful approach to children’s education.

And on a more positive note I’d like to bring your attention to a more enlightened piece here in the papers asking why so many parents feel the need to give up on school and home educate.

Marta Drew and her children home educating featured in The Guardian

The question could also be asked – why are so many teachers turning to it too? For they are. Is it because they’ve seen what happens to kids’ in the conveyor belt system? Is it because they don’t want their individuals on that conveyor belt either?

I wonder?

I love Michael Rosen!

 It’s because he comes right out with it. And the ‘it’ he’s been coming right out with lately is about the punctuation and grammar expected of primary school children.

Here’s a piece I shamelessly lifted from his Facebook page;

To summarise this morning’s adventures in SPaG-land: a) many teachers are teaching that ‘fronted adverbials’ are ‘adverbial phrases that come before the main verb’ as with, ‘In a great hurry, he left the house’ and these are not ‘clauses’ because they DON’T contain a verb. 2. On this morning’s mock SPaG test, my son had a sentence that contained a clause (i.e. with a verb) that came before the main verb and he was asked to choose if it was a conjunction, a relative clause, a noun phrase or a fronted adverbial. The only feasible one is ‘fronted adverbial’ BUT it contains a verb.

So now we have the possibility that we have two overlapping categories, ‘fronted adverbial’ and ‘subordinate clause’ i.e. a ‘subordinate clause’ coming before the main verb would be a ‘fronted adverbial’ along with an adverb, or an adverbial phrase. If a subordinate clause came after the main verb, it would not be ‘fronted’.

That piece of useless information, used to terrorise 10/11 year olds and their teachers is today’s bit of wisdom from Rosen. Thank you.

Poor kids! Have you ever heard such a load of English codswallop? Have you any idea at all how this is supposed to enhance a child’s experience of writing or encourage them to do it?

Neither have I. He talks about it again on his blog.

Now I know I’m not in the same league as Michael Rosen and his wonderful poetry and writings, but I think I can get my messages across fairly okay, but I have had absolutely no idea what fronted adverbials look like even if they leapt up and hit me in the face like wet fish! I have actually managed up till now without knowing. And even more amazing people read and like my stuff!

Connoisseurs of English will no doubt revel in these types of language recipes – but let’s save it for the connoisseurs, for when they’re older, and not push it on poor little kids who don’t give a fronted adverbial and would rather be out playing football, which incidentally would serve them a lot better.

Thank goodness for Michael helping to show this current idiocy in education for what it is.

And thank goodness there’s home education for those who want to opt out of it!

You won’t ruin them on your own!

Chelsea’s working so hard at the moment. She’s initiated a new production for the Brighton Fringe

A bold and thought provoking production

this year and is working on it with friends. It’s an impressive undertaking and I so admire her, tinged with concern of course at how busy she is.

I look at our two young adults now and wonder how they got to be the wonderful people they are – it’s something you always worry about as a parent, particularly a home educating parent.

I know all our experiences shape us; from childhood, school, home education, family, work, whatever. And although we can control some of the experiences our youngsters have we’ll never control all of it however much we want to keep them sweet. And we certainly can’t control how they respond to those experiences – that response is inherent in them. We won’t be able to determine that entirely.

For it is never nurture (or nature) in isolation, as the debate leads us to believe, it is the interaction between the two that determines the people our kids become. It is the youngsters’ reaction to their experiences which determine how things turn out. So that is never entirely the parents’ fault. A lot is genetic.

That’s a comforting thought when you’re parenting, particularly if you’re a home schooling parent and worrying you may be ruining the children.

Be reassured; if you are ruining them – you won’t be ruining them on your own!

In fact, I’m sure you won’t be ruining them at all, it’s far more likely that by parenting with care and respect – and I guess you care and respect otherwise you probably wouldn’t be the type of parent visiting here and reading this – you will be developing those qualities in them. And this will in turn nurture caring and respectful responses to the world from them, thereby influencing a little how they respond and what they will become.

But mostly they do it for themselves, even if they make decisions based on our attitudes.

Chelsea is inherently who she is on her own. Maybe with snippets of attitudes she grew up with here in her early years, but mostly she’s chosen what she reckons are the best of what she’s seen for herself. That’s what they’ve been educated to do.

And seeing the choices she is making I can only be proud!

Give yourself a Home Educating birthday!

Someone told me on social media recently that they were celebrating six years home educating. 002

I know there are families who’ve been going a lot longer than this but just one – or any number of years –  is an incredible achievement. Worth celebrating I’d say! Congratulations if you’ve come that far.

When you’re living the home educating life the days and events seem to drift on by in a daily bread sort of way with no particular benchmarks, so it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing is something to celebrate.

When we were tied up in school routines there were little regular achievements that marked the passing of time and events like grades or end of terms, which acted like benchmarks for celebration.

Although, as my faithful followers will know, I have no respect for test results and it was as much a feeling of relief as celebration when the end of a term came along. But there was no getting away from the fact that they brought the state of progress to our attention, marking either transitions or achievements. And this is something we can overlook when we home educate.

So it’s worth marking a date to celebrate in some way the mammoth achievement that home educating is. A year’s home education birthday is a great opportunity to do so. Have a cake. Congratulate yourself. Celebrate with friends.

When will you be celebrating yours?  Do share your celebrations, what you celebrate and how, I’d love to hear.