Tag Archive | education

Who’s Not In School?

My new book on sale 27th May

Have you ever wondered what a home educating week is like?

Every wondered what a home schooling family is like and what they get up to?

Or, if you’re a home educating family, have you longed for a book that you can share with your little ones that actually has a home educated child as the star?

Later this month there’ll be one to fulfil those briefs!

‘Who’s Not at School’ is a picture book about Little Harry and his family and what they get up to in an ordinary week, from an ordinary swim to some not quite so ordinary experimentation!

Because, actually, that’s what it gets to be like when you’ve home educated for a while – ordinary! And there are so many thousands now, so many who are making such a brilliant job of educating their kids outside of mainstream school, that it’s beginning to seem an ordinary choice to be making. Especially in the light of current political events.

What’s politics got to do with it?

Exactly!

Politics should have nothing to do with our children’s learning, but I have the feeling that the education of our kids is more about political popularity and vote winning than it is about what’s good for a child. And no doubt after the next election there will be even more disruption as another wave of changes hits the system and leaves children and teachers floundering and pressured in their wake.

Home schooling gives parents the opportunity to educate their kids for education’s sake, not for politics’ sake.

You can keep politics out of it and get on with the proper job of learning. Which is probably why so many now choose to do it.

So, who’s not in school? Far more children than you probably realise!

Pop over to the publisher’s site where you can pre-order: http://birdsnestbooks.co.uk/

(And there’s also a home educating story for the grown-ups via my book; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. It’ll change the way you view education forever!)

Education is for living – not just for politics!

Is this all that education is about?

Education! I’ve been going on about it a long time, even if not the education other people think of.

When I talk about it I mean education for life, not schooling, that’s something different. And I’m still being educated now. We all are, even if we’re not aware of it.

I suppose my awareness started way back when I was in school. I wasn’t very old when thought; ‘this is crap! This is so not for me’! But I didn’t believe myself back then; after all, what do kids know?

Moving into teaching I began to see it wasn’t good for a some others either, pupils nor staff. And I also began to see that schooling was not for true education, it was just for schools. For the big industrialisation process that schooling has become.

We went on to home educate partly because we didn’t want to force our children to fit that industrialisation process. We wanted their education to be for living their lives, not for perpetuating school lives and school businesses. We saw education as the personal developmental process of an individual – not an industry. Or an establishment.

Admittedly, we wanted our youngsters to grow and develop towards living and working as part of a community. But that’s about community more than industrial cloning which the government has pushed schooling towards. Communities are about people and education is about people too.

Education is about learning how to live together, how to communicate and contribute, how to further both our individual understanding and world understanding too.

And there are many young people now who have grown their education in individual ways through home educating – or self education as it more accurately is – towards that outcome. Although outcome is the wrong word because education doesn’t really have an outcome, as in an end, it is ongoing and has continuing new, updated outcomes throughout life. This is what we need to understand about education. It doesn’t have limits.

Education is not only about schools.

Education is not only about the short space of time youngsters are in institutions, or about institutionalisation.

Education is not just a political tool which MPs are wielding at the moment to gain our votes.

Education is for life not just for politics. And that might be a good thought to keep in mind when you try and weave your way through the confusion of policies and promises politicians are bandying about in order to tempt our vote.

Education is for life, not just for votes!

What kind of education – and life – would you really like for your child?

Balancing the crazy parenting scales!

I SO appreciate the comments, compliments and messages I receive via this blog, Twitter and Facebook.

You can't force a tree to blossom or a child to bloom

You can’t force a tree to blossom or a child to bloom

THANK YOU!

They are a delight to read and help restore balance and perspective on days when I’m laying words in isolation and never hear a voice except the one in my head – which gets dead boring! Especially messages like one recently telling me how valuable my work was to their parenting life, despite not being a home educating family.

That’s nice to know. Because firstly, I’m for all parents, I’m for families, whatever route they take. And secondly it confirms such an important point; family life and education (all education not just home education) are interconnected. And the trick is to maintain the balance between them.

What a balancing act parenting always is, with decisions to make about how we parent and what to do for the best, all the time.

Even now mine are older, I constantly question how I should react, support, advise, not only as in the ‘right’ thing to do (whatever that is), but what’s right for our individuals and in the wider picture.

Looking at a broader picture sometimes can help maintain balance when we’re bogged down in concerns which seem overwhelming at the time. In the perspective of the broader picture it helps sometimes to ask; will this really matter in a week’s time, a month’s, a year’s, ten years? So it can ease a concern by balancing it with that broader time frame.

A world-view frame also helps when little dilemmas about our children’s behaviour constantly rise and we wonder how best to deal with them. Often these boil down to; should our child be doing this, should we stop them doing this, should we make them do that? And how to encourage what we want them to do?

I looked at it this way; their behaviour matters, not because I want ‘good’ little children. Neither do I want oppressed little children; that doesn’t make for good. But behaviour is about respect.

I wanted children who respected the world, who respected others, who didn’t abuse, who showed concern and consideration, and who were likeable little beings as this benefited both them as individuals and the wider world and its people. And the best way to encourage that caring behaviour is to demonstrate it.

Respect is just care really. It’s not about dominance. Or indoctrination. Or being either strict or liberal. It’s about mutual care and consideration for the world and all things and people in it. Respect for our children. And that’s why education is so important and tied up in our parenting. Because it is only through being educated about these things that children can practice them. We guide them by the way we show it, the way we behave, through our demonstration and explanation.

However, keeping that in balance; children are never finished! They need time to mature into – tidying up for example, not hitting others, not snatching, being helpful, being able to see others’ point of view, sharing jobs, stuff like that. This is where we need the balancing perspective of a time frame, and of a wider picture. We have to guide, encourage, be tolerant and consistent. They will get it wrong.

But never use that wider picture as an opportunity to compare your child with others. Although we all want to operate within a social world, we are all individuals in it, developing in individual ways at individual paces. And we all develop educationally at individual rates too. Sometimes parenting – and educating – requires us to bite our lips and wait. Be patient.

Just as you can’t hurry blossom on a tree you can’t hurry your child’s bloom either.

Another point about this balancing act is one that’s very easy for me to say now, but hard to accept when the children are little; the children are going to change! Nothing stays the same. The blossom nor the child!

The toy strewn floor will one day be empty. The fact that your child can’t seem to add two and two together right now will probably make no difference by the time they’re sixteen and competent in maths. The child who won’t tidy up will become the student who’s moaning to you down the phone about their housemate’s mess. That’s really funny when it happens!

So I found it best to maintain a balanced perspective on all these niggles, between rules and flexibility, between what really matters and what you can just let go for the sake of a good relationship, and consistently demonstrate respect for one another. Demonstration is the biggest influence of all.

And we don’t have to get it right all the time either – we’re still learning. I describe a tantrum I had in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ where I get my behaviour and perspective horribly wrong. But guess what, the children forgave me as I forgave them, and despite my mistakes we have a wonderful adult relationship now that is based in love and respect and immensely treasured.

For I had to learn too; even through the ‘unbalanced’ bits, you never stop your education – however old you get.

And just like children, we all need that pat on the back when we get it right, which is why your messages move me so!

Thank you!

What’s normal about The Emperor’s New Clothes?

We’re quite normal really. Although judging by some folks’ reaction to home educators you’d think we were aliens.

But then I suppose this is the common reaction to anyone doing things differently; suspicion, fear and walk away quickly pretending it’s not happening. Most people are afraid of different. Most like to stay within the recognisable confines of what everyone else is doing. Follow the crowd – even when the crowd might be wrong. Most don’t want to confront change.

In schools, change is foisted on staff and pupils whether they like it or not. And most of the change in educational politics recently hasn’t done the staff or pupils any good. You only have to read stories like this, or this, or this, to know that to be true. But parents till go on accepting the propaganda they are told about education, just so they can stay within the ranks of what appears to be normal.

The daft thing is that home educating parents are as ‘normal’ as any other. They want the same recognisably normal things for their children as anyone; for them to be happy and healthy, for them to work hard, achieve and reach their potential, to be educated and intelligent and to go on to find work and pay.

The only difference is that home educating families take a different route to get there. Yet despite that they all still achieve those same ‘normal’ outcomes. The grown up home schooled youngsters now graduating are proving it. They are ending up at exactly the same point as school-users; with good grades, in higher education or work, with good friends and social connections, leading ‘normal’ happy lives where it’s not even noticeable where they were educated.

The only difference was that they didn’t have to endure the bizarre educational policies foisted on them by idiots who have little professional understanding of the subject and are only interested in votes.

In fact, another home educating parent and I were talking about ‘normal’ the other day. She’d come to the same conclusion as me (and I suspect most other home schooling parents), that the longer you are away from the system and educating successfully in other ways, the more you come to realise how totally bizarre the school system actually is when you examine it.

Frankly, it is schooling which is abnormal. Not home education.

It puts me in mind of the story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

You can get anyone to believe anything is normal, like the Emperor’s clothes, if you convince them to do so however bizarre it might be.

And it requires you to look at something with new eyes – or maybe through the eyes of a child – in order to change to a new norm.

Easter – wake up with the earth!

pussy willow 007

Pussy willow coming into flower

Easter time; the season of rebirth. And if we get some warmth and sunshine so I can be outside it’ll make me feel reborn too! That’s the effect being outdoors has. It wakes me up and energises!

The Easter break surely is the best time to get re-connected with earthy things.

If you live in cities it’s all to easy to forget about the earth under all that concrete – I know – I grew up in central London. It never enters your head neatly tucked out of sight beneath those hard pavements; you never think that it sustains all life. It provides all food, all the materials we need to create our homes, machines, gadgets and clothes; everything we own originates from the earth. That thought is truly amazing.

It’s also worth considering how much we’re going to pollute that life-giving earth with yet another mound of packaging over Easter.

How about doing Easter differently? How about an experience instead of packaging! One that will reconnect you and your children with the wonders of the earth at this time of year as it emerges from its winter shackles? Visit a farm and see what food is being planted, seek out some lambs, look for sticky buds and pussy willow and go somewhere you and the children can bury your nose in spring flowers. Start growing some cress (you can do this in eggshells!) or sow some sunflowers.

This doesn’t have to cost the earth, either literally or budget wise. Especially if you don’t buy into that commercial con that Easter has become. Enjoy a chocolate egg by all means but you can get ten chocolate egg-sized eggs with minimum waste, for the same price as a massive box with hardly any chocolate in it if you compare the weights. I’ve got wise to it now and won’t let companies fool me. And like to consider the needs of the earth as well as my need for chocolate! Share that with the children, help them understand the earth, its needs and and how delightful it is.

A prettily packaged egg encased in a mass of plastic lasts a few moments on the eye and in the mouth, but will pollute the planet for years.

Memories of good times spent outdoors under the sky, watching hatchlings or touching sticky buds, lasts forever and through our connection reminds us to act in ways that will preserve them!

Play time; an essential part of your child’s development!

You don’t need a beach – anywhere, anything and any weather will do!

With the Easter holidays here I thought it was a good time to reblog this article about play. Play is essential – and not just for burning off all that extra chocolate!

The saddest thing I ever heard was a remark from the grown up, home educated daughter of a friend. She was shocked to observe children in a playground at a school that; ‘They don’t seem to know how to play’. Having had a play-filled childhood herself she found that terribly tragic. I do too.

In many households I’m aware that play has been replaced by entertaining kids in front of a screen. It’s safer. It’s easier. It’s quieter. And it makes no mess. All of benefit to busy parents. The tragedy is that the kids are missing out on the valuable influence play has on their development. (Check out this site).

Childhood play does not have to cost anything or even require toys, although they have their uses. You don’t need expensive outlays. In fact the best type is unstructured and evolves simply from a child exploring and experimenting with the things around them.

We used to collect anything with potential that came into our house – but you have to get in an imaginative frame of mind to see potential in the first place. You might not think there’s any reason to keep all those old yoghurt pots, boxes and cartons and wrappers, but give a collection of things to a kid and you’ll be amazed what they do with them. And that’s what we want to encourage – the kind of imagination needed to create play with them. That’s what gets the brain working. And it needs to start when the kids are really young so they develop a play habit. As they grow their play will become more sophisticated and skilled. They are never too old to play and experiment. In fact, some scientists have suggested that having a playful approach to science lead them to make some of their most important discoveries.

Explorative, investigative play is the most valuable kind. The ‘make it up as you go along’ type. There’s times you’ll need to be involved. And definitely times you should keep out of it even if you start the ball rolling. The less structured the toys are, the more inventive they have to be. When out one day and no toys to hand I remember our youngest ‘talking’ to dolls she invented which were nothing more than two twigs next to her that she’d tucked up in leaves.

Kids want to explore their world – its properties and how they can manipulate it – they want to explore your world and do what you’re doing too. Play gives them the opportunity.

For example – if you’re cooking, they’ll want to cook. If they’re too small to be involved give them a selection of utensils similar to the ones you’re using and they’ll ‘cook’. Let older ones invent their own meals.

If you’re using tools, give them a selection of tools to use too and things to use them on (keep the old DVD player or let them unscrew an old plug!) Don’t let silly ideas of Health and Safety put you off – just use your common sense.

Here are some things to collect for your kids to play with: plastic tubs, jugs, cartons, tops, bottles, utensils, wire, string, different papers, cardboard, bags, boxes large and small, tins, socks, (good for puppets or pairing in maths!) shoes. Old sheets, blankets, dressing up clothing (your old clothes!) fabrics, materials, braids and ribbons, magazines. Pots, tins, pans, cups and plates, books, buttons, videos, CDs and DVDs, mobile phones and other gadgets. Foodstuffs; they love playing with flour, dry pasta, lentils and dry beans etc, mixing syrup and vinegar or anything. Corn flour and water’s a good one! Outside; soil, sand, bricks, wood, twigs, tyres, stones, pebbles, screws, bolts, leaves and stalks…one man’s junk is another kids’ pleasure.

Anything can be used to inspire play. Use recycling centres and charity shops to source stuff. Keep that imagination primed. Poundland is good if you’ve got a pound to spare because materials are cheap and you can afford to let them experiment rather than worry over how much glitter glue they’re using. But don’t stop in the stationary isle, look at all the foil plates, plastic beakers, tools, garden stuff. Don’t worry if their creations are unrecognisable – we’ve been through the over painted picture that resembles a mud bath – but creations shouldn’t be structured and tidy whatever big companies try and sell you in little packets. Messy and obscure creativity will develop into refined and practised skills and mental agility. It extends understanding of language and communication, maths and science and helps them understand their world.

And get outside. Kids need play in wide open spaces as well as restricted places. They need individual play and social play. They need to experience the outdoors. Playing outdoors is where their connection to their planet starts and thus their responsibility for it.

Kids who’ve played and experimented with a wide range of materials and resources in a wide range of situations are confident, resourceful, skilled, intelligent and adept at decision making and problem solving, very necessary skills for leading a successful and happy life.

A habit of imaginative play born in childhood is one of the most valuable and educative habits they could have. It is never a waste of time. Get them playing as much as you can. It’s probably a far more educative experience than any you’ll find in a workbook, in a shop or on a screen.

Let them have fun. And don’t let yours become children who don’t know how to play. The benefits both developmentally and educationally are so worth it.

 

Mad hares and swallow moments

Bluebells to look forward to

Bluebells to look forward to

I’m excited now the equinox has passed! Now that from this time on, for six months, there will be more light than dark. Despite irritating disruptions like clock changes I shall be waking in the light and there’ll still be enough light after supper to meander outside.

Outside things are changing. Mad hares have been leaping. Birds are home making. Shoots are surging and bursting open and when the extra light shines on me I feel like doing the same. There will be bluebells to look forward to and one of these coming days I might even toss my thermals off!

Thermals are required both inside and outside this house. Apart from the fact it’s old and draughty and I get damn cold sitting writing, I also try to ration the heating for both budget and planetary reasons. I want to go on enjoying this light and atmosphere and it needs preserving for those coming along behind me so they can do the same.

Winters can be challenging and I know I’m taking conscience a bit too far when it’s so cold in the house the dinner won’t defrost. But when it’s bad I light the log fire. Or hoovering is good for a warm up – the house is much cleaner in the winter! And I have jumpers that reach my knees and plenty of woolly rugs.

Now though, with longer hours of sunshine, I can utilise natural radiation and sit by a sunny window. Sun warmth penetrates deeper and faster than any heating and although I may have grown soft with modern comforts I appreciate the sun’s heat and the turning of the season more than any fire. So I do what I can to preserve it, however little a drop in the ecological ocean that may be.

It all helps.

And whatever little action you take will help too. Never think it’s not worth it.

Because all these little actions we take, added together, not only make a difference in lessening the impact you make upon the earth and its atmosphere and sunlight, are also a message in example to others. It may influence others’ actions.

Just like everyone follows a trend, like saying ‘hey’ in greeting instead of ‘hello’ for example which changes societal behaviour, we can change people’s behaviour towards the earth by our example and create new trends and habits. A good one to start with would be not to buy wet-wipes – have you seen the damage they do?

So, yea, I’m getting more than a little excited to see that added sunshine. And if any words I write here in my appreciation of it educates others enough to change one small thing they do to help preserve it, then I’ll be well chuffed.

Just as I am chuffed to see the sun rise each day, to witness the first feathered arrow dart across the sky as the summer swallows come, or see the mad hares leap about the fields in mating games.

And after writing this I will get up and leap about just as madly in order to warm up and resist putting the heating on so that the order of the natural world is disrupted a little less by pollutive habits.

May I plead with you to do the same and make one small change in your actions today, thus setting an example to your children and future generations and showing them how important is this earth?