Tag Archive | education

What do you do in the holidays?

Since it’s that time of year again I thought I’d bring up the subject of holidays and term times, with this story from ‘A Home Education Notebook‘.

Even after Home Educating for a while I could still be influenced by them even though I knew that education didn’t have anything to do with term times at all.

They were usually brought to my attention by the children – and the fact that most other families are controlled by them.

“Mu-um?”

Even this one word could make me feel I was about to be manipulated, probably by something I may not like.

“Ye-es?” I’d reply suspiciously.

“Ruth’s breaking up from school today; it’s end of term.”

“Oh, is it?” I’d feign ignorance knowing full well what was coming.

“Can we break up too?” She’d give a big sheepish grin.

I’d give the usual answer. “Well, I wasn’t aware we had anything to break up from.”

Another grin. “But can we?”

I’d pause, keeping the suspense and the pretence going a little longer. Then; “Yea, go on then – let’s.”

And she’d bounce off to go and do the same things she would be doing anyway, ‘breaking up’ or not.

We’d sometimes go through this little ritual when the schools finished their terms and my children knew their school friends were available for play during the day.

It was partly that, but also because our children did spend some time in school earlier on in their lives and, although freed from it, they still wanted the sense of celebration and release their mates were feeling.

And why not? We all need a change and a celebration. A release from that constant feeling that we perhaps should be doing something more educational than just having fun. It took quite a while for us to get over that idiocy and realise that education just went on all the time, term times, learn times, fun times and holidays.

We educated our children in a mostly autonomous way, with them deciding very much what they worked on but we’d still motivate them to be busy doing something. We’d encourage them to try new things, make and invent, play actively, be engaged, to read, we’d go out, meet others, whatever.

But it was good for all of us, adults and children in the family, to have a break from all that motivation. To switch off the driving force for a while and stop looking for activities or projects that would stimulate, and searching the internet for active learning sites.

We could drift. Do things that merely took our fancy and I could stop looking for an educational slant.

So, on one ‘end-of-term’ occasion, I thought I’d observe what the kids did instead.

The eldest took a heap of books, magazines, sketch book and pens out into the garden, spread herself out on a rug and designed all day, researching her books for inspiration, studying other people’s work and incorporating and adapting their ideas into her own work.

The youngest decided to build a den out there. This required searching out suitable materials within her environment, putting them together and solving the problem of making the structure strong and upright in discussion with me or whoever else was available. Then she spent the rest of the day in creative play, making up stories, reading to her toys, imaginative ideas passing through her faster than hot biscuits passed through her mouth.

In other words the children, ‘on holiday’, covered these skills; reading, research, writing and use of language, drawing and hand eye coordination skills, problem solving, estimating, analysis, use of materials, investigation, construction, exploration, interpretation, discussion, development of imagination and ideas and creativity. All those skills that teachers had to force reluctant children to practice in schools, usually in a boringly academic and repetitive manner, because the children had been removed from the natural opportunity to practice them anyway.

My children had been busy with all this simply because their minds were freed up from the confines of ‘doing education’, a trap we sometimes find ourselves falling into how ever autonomous we try and be.

It was a good reminder that we don’t always have to be forcing everything in order to further a child’s education. And just because there are not set schedules, timetables, term times or regulated practice, it does not mean there will be no learning taking place.

So, just in case you’re wondering what to do in the holidays, just back off and see what happens. Encourage them to develop their own ideas to relieve the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome, and keep these five simple daily practices in mind:

  • Be physically active at some point everyday.
  • Get outside, in green spaces if you can but playgrounds and streets are just as good.
  • Observe the wonderful world around you – on your doorstep – by giving time to looking deeply and mindfully.
  • Plan, shop for, prepare and cook meals or bake together.
  • Encourage them in their own projects beyond the usual screen based ones!

All will develop important life skills without you even realising – trust me. And even better, they will enhance your well being too – an important skill for all.

What ever projects they want to work on they will always be learning

A little bit of a Twinkl

There are some amazing online resources for home educators these days! Well – for anybody really; anybody who wants to learn anything, at any time.

How cool is that! And something we didn’t have when we were first starting home education way back, when access to others was through phone calls only via Education Otherwise‘s members book, or the very slow and painful (and sometimes not at all) process of ‘dial up’! (For those of you too young to remember ‘dial up’, read the history here)

I remember when we first had that exciting new facility out here, right at the end of a very long lane in the middle of nowhere and we waited in excited anticipation for our first web page to load only to discover we had inadvertently dialled up a prostitute, (You can read the amusing story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’) Then my overriding concern was not download speed but getting off the internet as fast as possible.

Now, almost a generation later, we have this incredible learning resource that provides immense support to those who want to home school; both support morally as well as educationally and knowledge wise. There is so much to investigate.

Along with specific learning resources, like ‘Twinkl’ for example, there are amazing sites linked to museums, programmes, films, educational games, video clips for learning how to do just about anything, along with limitless knowledge and ideas for the kids to explore.

I’m not in the habit of promoting any specific resource – I can hardly give them a test run now can I? But I know that Twinkl is a renowned resource used by schools as well as many home educators, which I consider a great endorsement. So when someone from the home education team there got in touch to ask for a chat and potentially a podcast about our home educating days, I thought it might be of help to people. For I also know that Twinkle has a huge and supportive home school community, and it’s community and the moral support it provides which is of enormous value to parents who are home educating.

Apart from panicking about making a horrible cock up I actually thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Alastair Lawson from the Home Ed team at Twinkle. And I think the farther the spread of ideas about alternatives to a school approach to education, the more children will be saved from wretched outcomes that sometimes result from a learning approach that doesn’t suit them. So I’ve asked him if it’s okay to share it here in case you weren’t able to access it through the Twinkle Facebook page.

Here it is, hope you enjoy it: https://rss.com/podcasts/twinklhomeeducators/220753/

And for extra support look up their Home Ed Facebook community, it’s growing and growing and being connected to others helps keep you balanced through those tricky moments!

Education and Bullying

Something which often comes up in relation to schools and learning, is the subject of bullying – in more ways than you think! So I thought I’d post this exclusive exert from my ‘Home Education Notebook‘, Chapter 31:

I have a terrible admission to make – I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. I bullied my child into cleaning her teeth when she was little. I’m thoroughly ashamed. But at the time I just couldn’t think of another way to get her to do it and I knew the longer term consequences were important.

I’d tried reason. I’d explained, tried to make it a fun game, I left it for some time in the hope it would correct itself, her older sister cajoled as she cleaned hers. In the end I got cross on occasion and ‘made’ her – or bullied her is another way of looking at it.

She says now, in her twenties when I asked if she remembered, she felt it was a terrible intrusion into her person having me clean her teeth, but she forgives me, we even laughed about it. But although bullying is an intrusion and an abuse, sometimes like with this example, we feel it’s justified.

That is of course questionable, depending on our parenting philosophies. However, I think we all can end up ‘bullying’ our children at some point. We’d certainly grab and drag our kids back from running under a car. It’s a gut reaction on our part even if it is bullying. (I’ll return to that gut reaction in a bit).

Many of us will have been on the receiving end of bullying far more severe than this, both as children and adults, perhaps in the home, more often in school. Bullying in school is a common reason parents turn to home education.

Dr Paula Rothermel who conducted some extensive research into home education found over half of the parents she interviewed turned to home education because of school related problems, bullying being among them. And bullying by others in school is a common subject on home education forums where parents discuss their child’s school experiences.

Sometimes the children manage to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t. Often, what’s even harder to talk about is the subversive type of bullying that isn’t quite so visible inflicted on a child through abusive teaching in the form of sarcasm, humiliation, orders, or so-called banter. Young people are circumstantially powerless to deal with it.

It’s a very difficult, sensitive and emotive subject for children to cope with on their own anyway, wherever they are. It can make them feel utterly powerless. The effects last far beyond the actual events and inhibit self-esteem, confidence, the ability to function socially, even going out of the house. The consequences are so harmful they can influence many aspects of their normal lives and the decisions they make.

What’s even more insidious is cyber bullying which can still be influential when a bullied child is taken out of a school situation, or is home educated from the outset. Most home educated children participate in other out of school activities so it’s possible they’ll come up against bullying in some form at some point.

The Bullying UK website (www.bullying.co.uk) has plenty of tips and advice for parents about what you can do if you’re concerned and, although most of these are school related, there is also a section dealing with cyber bullying and what to do about it. Any minority group, particularly if they’re doing something different to the mainstream like home educated children, can be a target. So it’s worth taking a look; the site gives you signs to look out for and how to help.

If you’re new to home education, and you’ve turned to it because your child was bullied at school, you will probably want to focus on your child’s healing and well being for some considerable time, rather than any intense academic activity. Don’t worry if you’re approached by the LA requesting your educational intentions, you can remind them of what your child’s been through, that it will take some time for your child and your family to adjust and building your child’s confidence is your priority for the time being. On the excellent website www.edyourself.org it says that the law supports families in doing this. The Authority are certainly not allowed to bully you (the FAQs on this site show what they can and cannot do) and if you familiarise yourself with your rights on this issue you’ll be able to stay on your child’s side and do what’s best for them.

Another effect of having being bullied is to make the young person anxious and uncomfortable in social situations so it may take a while for them to overcome this. Although all the home educating groups I’ve been involved with were welcoming, inclusive and friendly, they will probably feel very daunting to a youngster who has been bullied. So it may be some time before they are confident in integrating – it takes a while for them to rebuild their trust. It’s not something that should be forced.

We met youngsters who had come from school who were very reserved and unable to mix, but in their own time were able to rebuild their confidence in others and went on to be happy, confident people. So if your child has been through bullying and you’re worried about them ever integrating again, be patient and have faith. In the right company I’m sure they will – it takes time.

Bullying from others is usually how our children experience it. But there is another common link between education and bullying that may not be so apparent. And that is through the way in which children are ‘made’ to learn.

We all have Dickensian images of teachers wielding canes and forcing children to learn. The canes or enforcement may have gone out of scenario but there is no doubt that other more subversive forms exist; we tread a very fine line between coercion and encouragement, authority and guidance, and our sometimes obsessive desire for our children to achieve.

Teachers have been known to adopt subtle bullying tactics at times, but I think our parental anxieties about our children’s achievement out of school also present a danger of us sometimes inadvertently moving towards a subversive form of bullying if we’re not careful – we may even think it’s justified like the teeth cleaning example above. However, we don’t want ‘making’ children learn become our gut reaction to educating.

So it’s worth us taking a critical look at our behaviours and our approaches to our child’s learning to make sure we’re not guilty of forcing our children to learn through coercion, bribery or threats, which are slightly bullying approaches even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, rather than giving them good reasons or explanations for what we ask.

When home educating we have the opportunity to spend the time doing this – something not available in a school setting. Teachers have to meet often unrealistic targets and with the constraints they’re under can sometimes resort to bullying behaviours to get the children to perform.

We have to see we’re not doing the same. Never would there be justification for bullying parenting – and much of our home educating depends on our parenting. What we can do instead is take a much more relaxed approach.

We can keep an open dialogue with our kids about their education, what we do and why, increasing their understanding of why be educated at all.

We can regularly discuss their activities and what benefit doing them is, from the point of increasing skills and understanding and therefore opportunities.

We can listen and observe what the children’s interests are and use these as starting points for learning, so the learning comes from them rather than being thrust on them. This also helps minimise resistance and possible conflict by keeping them engaged.

We can let go of forcing outcomes and trust in the process of our child becoming educated and arriving at the outcomes they will need as they mature.

In our home education groups we can raise awareness, talk about and establish a policy to protect everyone from bullying – both from parents and from other children, decide how it’s going to be tackled, and include older children in these debates perhaps.

By our own actions we can imbue an atmosphere of inspiration, communication and calm around our learning activities. And make learning a shared and pleasurable experience rather than something we force children to do.

We can encourage them to take charge of their own activities, which creates an independence with learning and the motivation for them to educate themselves for themselves, rather than it being something done to them by others, which is often how many children feel about education in the system.

These actions create a climate of respect around our children and their education. And it alleviates the danger of us resorting to bullying our children into learning – usually through our own tensions and anxieties – but for which there is no excuse.

And this approach also has the added advantage of creating good relationship and communication habits, which will help our children communicate with us should they ever be bullied by others.

Read more stories and tips in the book.

Published by Bird’s Nest Books and also available from Amazon

Clear out those Home Ed worries

I came across some of my old home education diaries and files the other day whilst having a clear out.

Goodness, didn’t I worry about everything and anything! And there’s nothing like a diary for an offload of all the concerns and glums that hound us day to day. I think I need to burn them because they’re not a true reflection of the pleasure and inspiration home educating gave us.

I kept worries mostly hidden in my public writings because I wanted to encourage and support and that might have given a rosy impression. But underneath I worried just as much as anyone.

Now I’m through it I thought I’d share some of them because I bet they’re familiar, and you’ll be able to see how they resolved.

I suppose the biggest over riding worry is; ‘am I doing the right thing?’

Ironic we rarely ask that question when we send the kids off to school!

The only thing you can do to combat this concern is trust your guts at the time. Review regularly. And rest assured that thousands of families and young people who have grown up and moved on from their home educating days are contributing to the growing body of proof that it is the right thing for many. And it does work.

After that I worried about whether the children would learn anything. But it didn’t take me long to notice them soaking up knowledge, skills and abilities much faster than when they’d been in the classroom where learning had been so restricted and inhibited. The internet has almost every learning resource you could possibly need, both for you and for them, along with group support. The kids can access this learning for themselves, and do so, without teachers or anyone giving them permission. Of course they’ll learn – just try and stop them!

I also worried about mixing and friends. But as soon as we began to forge relationships with the home school community I realised how unhealthy, restricted and unnatural were the relationships forged within a classroom. I also remembered how many times the kids came home from school upset by others – children and staff! As we were out and about experiencing normal social interaction, and as pre-home ed they continued with the same groups and clubs they’d always done, their friendships were just as broad as they’d ever been. In fact, they were more secure, built as they were on healthy respect and common interest, not age or desperation. The kids grew in confidence and social competence and seemed more socially advanced than many of their school peers; a comment often heard about home ed kids.

I’d forgotten this but it seems I also worried about their day to day progress. However, as I watched them learning all the time I saw that learning doesn’t progress in that steady upward gradient the professionals like to monitor, but in fits and starts, surges and plateaus, and that’s okay. They still end up in the same place as their contemporaries by the time they’re grown! And of course I worried about whether they’d be able to formalise this patchwork learning into standard courses or qualifications if they needed to at a later date. But they did so easily, finding that their ability to study without direction far exceeded the other students they met at college and Uni, to the point of them wondering why others went there since they didn’t seem to want to learn!

And embedded among all this was the nagging concern as to whether we’d still be friends at the end of it all and whether they’d still be speaking to me for subjecting them to such an unorthodox way of educating. And of course they are. (Odd that I didn’t ask if they’d hate me for sending them to school!) We are best friends and have as strong and as loving a relationship as we ever did.

So my advice to you is to put worrying on hold, enjoy your time with your young people for they won’t be with you forever, enjoy your learning experiences. And most of all; stay with the moment you’re in and make it the best it can be at the time. (And quit worrying about that too; it won’t be the best all the time – it isn’t in school either!)

Then all those enjoyed moments will piece together to make a happy home ed life whose influence will extend far beyond this time now.

Give your Home Ed time to grow slowly

I think I’ve discovered the reason I could never really get into gardening in my earlier life!

You’d think I would be. I love nature and plants. I love to be outside and look for any excuse to be so. I walk whatever the weather.

But I can walk briskly, I can cover ground, accomplish distance quickly and then tangibly see how far I’ve come.

Can’t do that with gardening; it takes too long for the outcomes to bloom. I’m just too impatient!

With that admission you’d be surprised I was able to home educate. Many parents say they haven’t the patience for it.

I like to think I had lots of patience with the kids. They tell me I did. Discounting the occasional tantrum which I describe in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and I think bad days come up in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ too!

But to home educate wisely you have to practice patience. Because education, like plants and gardening, is a slow growing process. Not that you’d guess that with schooling.

The trouble with institutional education i.e. schooling, is that they try to turn it into a fast forced process – if a process at all. It’s very much based around quick and instant results. About ticking objectives, neglecting time for deeper understanding, and rushing onto the next bit. In fact, our whole culture is increasingly like that; a driven culture that wants instant results, with little time for deeper, mindful development.

However, that isn’t how education works.

Educating is about the gradual development of real people, not just output. And that’s a long term, slow grown affair involving the maturation of skills and personal attributes that become whole through all manner of diverse ingredients and experiences over a long period of time. How those integral skills all influence each other is not something that is readily apparent or successfully forced.

Like plants; forced plants are never as healthy. And you have to wait a long time for a garden to mature into something wonderful and lasting. Patience and time are required.

Education is the  same. It’s not something to be rushed, not if you want it to mature into something meaningful and sustainable and serviceable for life.

And, contrary to what the schooling system has us believe, you CAN give it time. The system promotes the idea that you have to accomplish certain objectives within certain time frames or you’ll fail. That’s balderdash!

You can take time with your home education. Step back regularly. Have patience. Stick with your own tailor made approaches however long they take. If they’re right for you, they’ll be successful – whenever!

Gardens, kids, education, need no rushing.

Maybe I’m a better gardener now because my patience quota isn’t being used up on home schooling any more – who knows. And maybe the small amount of growing and gardening that we did together taught the kids a good life lesson along with the science; that life isn’t about quick fixes and short term highs. Some elements of life require long term maturation to achieve their full potential!

Home educating is one of them.

Ken Robinson’s new normal for education

Have you seen this brilliant and thought provoking video by Ken Robinson? (see below)

I have long been a fan of his ideas and I thought this one was definitely worth a special mention.

He talks about the way in which the Pandemic has shifted our concept of learning as everyone has had to do without schools and to confront learning – and life – without them.

Our way of life has certainly been disrupted by not having school in it, although some would argue that has been a good thing! Ken suggests that this blip Coronavirus has caused, has given us the chance to look at things a bit differently and decide what new normal we want with regard to learning and education.

First though, he takes us back to the development of industrialisation and how this demanded an emphasis on yield and output, which in turn hampered diversity, both environmentally and in lifestyle. This also gave rise to the development of monocultures which supported mass production. And this is where he draws the parallel with education.

The education system we have now focusses its attention on mass output, in the same way industrialisation does. It concerns itself only with test data, scores, grades and other pointless and unsustainable outcomes. As mass production is ruining the culture of the environment and the planet, mass education has ruined the culture of diversity among our young people. Yet it is diversity which will produce thinkers and movers, creative ideas and the broad intelligence needed for our species and planetary survival.

It’s a fascinating parallel.

Ken goes on to say that in order to have a successful learning system, it cannot disregard the things we need to flourish like diversity of culture and community. We need to recognise individuality, strengths and diversity among our children by creating a mixed culture of these things within schools, to replace the monoculture of the output-obsessed environment there. One that values science, arts, technology and individual talents. Which heralds collaboration, compassion, community, and depth – rather than output.

Perhaps it’s the Pandemic which has really shown us how essential these are for our well being, with isolation being the hardest thing to bear. Yet sometimes schools create a similar isolation and exclusivity when they are based upon glorifying result getting.

Joining together for collected projects creates a better community than having the exclusivity of high scores and beating the competition as sole goals.

Ken suggests that the most successful examples of learning without schools recently seems to be where parents have not felt the need to replicate school at home and he discusses the difference between learning, education and schooling, something parents may have come to understand better whilst their children’s learning has taken place at home.

The problem, he believes, is that many have come to recognise and accept school as something similar to the standardisation of factory life, as if that’s okay. But is this what we want to return to, for it hasn’t served our kids, our culture, or our planet, very well?

This is an opportunity Ken says, now we’ve started to question school and been shown another way of learning, to reinvent school, revitalise education, and reignite the creative potential of real communities, instead of going back to the way schooling was before.

He believes there is a comparison between what we need to do for the environment and what we need to do for education. Both require urgent change because our children are actually the grass roots of both, and real change comes from the ground up – the power lies with the people – both environmentally and educationally. With you who are involved in it.

Ken finishes by saying that human beings have always had boundless creative capacity, unlike the other creatures on the planet, which allows us to think about and change the world around us. This needs to be cultivated, not corrupted, and used to create a new kind of normal that is sustainable both environmentally and educationally. They are part of each other.

Hurrah for Ken for saying so. And grateful thanks to him for inspiring this blog. His ideas will be sorely missed. Watch below. Or here.

Using opportunities for meaningful learning

We’re house hunting at the moment. This is an enormous learning curve – not curve actually, a mountain that we are climbing! A new experience for us, having inherited the house we’re in so didn’t search for it.

It puts me in mind of when we did the transition to this house, following a bereavement of course, and what a huge, if shocking, life learning opportunity it all was at the time for the kids. And indeed a good illustration of what home education can fundamentally be; an education steeped in the rich opportunities life throws at us that are such valuable learning experiences, far more educative than sitting in a school doing meaningless academics like frontal adverbials or improper fractions.

Using opportunities for real life learning

Our story; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, is an illustration of how this life learning happens and how we used even this experience of loss of a loved one, also uppermost in the news recently with the death of Prince Phillip, as a basis for developing understanding and meaning, giving learning a purpose. (If you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page you’ll find more on the book)

Life learning, that is using life experiences to develop various skills, gave the children a real reason for learning about the things they did; the historical, scientific, environmental, creative and mathematical concepts associated with everything; even death is scientific. And concepts like these run through everything we do if you just notice and explore them. Endless academic practise is not necessary for all learning, isn’t the only approach, and certainly doesn’t motivate children to learn as it has no visible purpose for them.

Even skills which have been made seemingly complex by the school style, objective led, test burdened approach, like reading for example, can be woven organically through the things kids naturally come into contact with.

For, if you think about it, why would kids not want to learn to read when they see us doing it, see us texting, messaging, using written communication through various keyboards. (Recent post on reading here)

In fact a home schooling friend said to me once that she believed her son, who hated any kind of formal English exercises, had learnt to read and spell through Gaming, by communicating with other gamers via messaging them, and the desire to be able to read the things he encountered on the computer. He’s successfully doing a degree in higher maths now so it obviously worked and I know for a fact that the family did very little formal academics at the time. Their learning was based around life experiences and building the skills they needed from what they encountered along the way.

Years ago, in Teacher-Training colleges, it used to be called ‘project based’ learning. You choose a topic to study with the kids and incorporated the basic skills they were required to accomplish at the time within those fun projects.

This approach has mostly disappeared now within the intense drilling for testing that occurs throughout the basic subjects, other projects like the arts or environment, just treated as add-ons. And the real purpose of basic life skills buried under the silly useless analysis and naming of various academic structures, like the parts of a sentence, just so they can be ticked off.

Who cares what the parts of sentence are called? Knowing that doesn’t make you a good communicator. And it’s communication which makes you human – life skills make you human, whether that’s understanding  what’s appropriate to say, how to be, or even bereavement. The current Royal loss presents a huge opportunity for understanding the life cycle, the politics, beliefs and traditions, the history associated with it, etc. etc.

Whatever happens to you at the time is an opportunity to learn, whether that’s knowing how to care, grieve, and empathise with others, read and decipher your messages, or use your technology well enough to move house!

All life presents opportunities for real learning, learning for the purpose of living a life, not learning just for ticks.

Creating an environment in which kids can learn

Have you heard the saying; ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink’?

Simple when you think about the concept behind it, and absolutely true. Whatever you think something or someone else needs you cannot control outcomes!

And whenever I think about schooling and learning and education this saying comes straight to mind.

I used to think about it a lot when I actually worked in schools, before home education came into my life all those years ago. For it is absolutely true that you can lead a kid to school but you cannot make them learn. I saw the evidence!

And I thought about it loads when we were home educating because it is the same when educating out of school: You cannot force a child to learn (as I posted about last year here).

You cannot force a child to learn just facilitate the right environment for their innate desire to learn to flourish

What you can do is facilitate the right environment for them to do so. But that environment is less about the physical and more about the emotional one. That’s one of the big failings in many school environments, the emotional climate is too strained for some children to thrive well. And that matters, I think.

The physical environment is important obviously. Children need shelter, to be fed, and be warm and relatively comfortable. Some need quiet, others need hubbub, some company, some isolation, we’re all different. And various accessories naturally facilitate and support the learning process; access to internet, materials and equipment, books, paper etc.

But the emotional environment is as equally important as any of this, goes hand in hand with achievement and success. And it’s us who provide that by creating the right emotional space in which a child can thrive.

We do this simply by the way we are. By the way we behave, the way we support and encourage the children, by our own positive attitude to learning – for learning anything – and the value we place on personal development which is what education is, of course.

In this emotional space we provide the children are never undermined, patronised or bullied. They are respected and listened to and included in discussions and decisions about what happens to them. They feel safe and loved. They can express their views about their own learning – and feel that this learning is theirs, is for them, and is not something imposed upon them by others, which they have a duty to endure. If they feel that, their learning will not last life-long.

We should never betray them.

This all happens through the way we and others relate to them. It comes through our conversations; one of the best ways to show they’re respected is by the way we listen to them, as well as asking that they listen to others.

Conversations are such a valuable part of the learning process, as valuable as writing and studying, however since there’s not usually anything tangible to show after a conversation, parents often underrate them. But children glean so much from being able to converse, ask questions, delve deeper, be curious in an environment where they are not put down. Conversations also develop language, social and emotional skills, understanding and mental agility, and promote maturity. You may not have got anything down during a day learning at home, but through conversation and engaging with your child they will have learnt much more than you think!

You may not be able to tick sheets now, but you will see the proof when they are older and seem to know so much that you don’t remember teaching them

That’s the point – you didn’t! You lead them towards education and allowed them to drink of it for themselves. That’s the best you can do!

School is just no good for some kids

Since Lockdown put home schooling back in the spotlight I’ve heard of several parents thinking about making the change from school to home educating permanently. So I thought this would be a good time to re-share this post of old…

The leap to home schooling is always a big decision, but I often hear parents saying how uplifting it was to see their children returning to being the happy contented little people they were before they started school. One specifically reported that the many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

Yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected to on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

From the archives; our happy children back enjoying ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

It’s something I hear frequently and they are not the only parents to experience this. It happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, they have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and yet feel qualified to disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who now have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach its success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst; unwell.

Yet, I’ve never found a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important there’s a post here

I readily admit that school works for many. But not all, so should you wish to make the switch permanently to home education be bold and go for it. It’s a great decision and one which we and others like us never once regretted!

Missing out

There’s been much talk of ‘missing out’ with the children out of school during lockdown. And for most a sense of relief now that they’re back.

I cringed at the use of that terminology at the time because it’s extremely unhelpful and, after all, just a point of view!

Yes – the kids might have missed out on the school type of stuff, but we could change attitudes and look at what the children might have gained instead; new experiences for one – always educational.

Let’s face it, for the kids, school is as much about mates as anything. And we’ve all been missing our mates – still are in the way we’d normally be meeting, during these final days (hopefully) of covid restrictions. We’re missing those real life, in the same space, meetings like mad. Even if we can’t hug the person just to see them for real is wonderful. The kids want the same, course they do, that’s what they’ve really been missing out on.

The home educators are still missing out on that, until their larger groups can get together again. However, most of their educational activities at home have been going on just the same.

The irony is that many home educating parents, when they get together for all the educational, social and experiential activities that make up a part of a home school day, consider that it’s the school kids who are ‘missing out’ by being in school. Especially when the home school kids are enjoying things like field trips, museum visits, use of historical, geographical and environmental sites and resources first hand which facilitate their learning at a range of different venues, and which support the smaller amount of sit down, formal academic learning they do. Home educators’ view is that the school kids miss out on this wealth of learning inspiration when they’re stuck in an institution nine till three, day after day.

The school children also miss out on the opportunity to forge real life relationships, instead of school life relationships which aren’t always so healthy being structured and inhibited chronologically and institutionally by the limitations schools inevitable construct.

Whereas there are so many families home educating now it’s so easy, thanks to social networking, to be in touch. Home school kids have as vibrant a social life and interactive learning life as they choose. They don’t ‘miss out’ on that either.

It depends what you’re used to, life wise and learning wise.

We all have different lives, priorities and things that are important to us. Sometimes though we fail to see the reality, so immersed are we in institutional thinking. (Great book here called ‘Unsafe thinking’ by Jonah Sachs – full of ideas)

When we make one choice we obviously miss out on another. And we always have decisions to make about choices. There are misses and gains with any choice. The scare mongering in the media about school kids ‘missing out’ was all about academic measurement and failed to acknowledge the gains that could be had by a change in experience which is always educational and developmental. However since it can’t be tested these gains tend to be disregarded – but they will have happened.

Anyway, despite all that, I wish all the children and their families, who’ve have been pleased to get back to a school routine, health and happiness.

And I wish all home educating families the same, whether you’re well established or just starting out. And hope that the restrictions continue to lift so you can get back to your normal learning life.

You will have missed it!