Tag Archive | education

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!

An invitation…

Will you come and say hello? It would be lovely to meet you.

In celebration of my new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ the publisher is holding some public events so we get to meet. And the first is in

BEWITCHED Coffee Shop

Bridge Street in PETERBOROUGH this coming SATURDAY

20th June 2 – 4pm

Others will be held at home education groups around and about, but this is the first of the public ones and anyone interested in children and books can attend.

I’d welcome your support if you’re around…believe me, I’m more shy than you at meeting new people; something I had to bluff my way through when I was with the children in the hope they grew competent and confident in social situations! I think it’s worked a bit – Charley says she’ll come along to this one too and hold my hand. It was once the other way round!

But you don’t have to be a home educator to come and enjoy a coffee and natter with other parents sharing thoughts about their children’s education and books and that’s what these events are for.

So do see if you can make it.

And if it’s too far for you, get in touch with the publisher at Bird’s Nest Books and arrange for one over your way. If you check in regularly with their website or sign up for their newsletter you’ll keep abreast of other events too.

Meanwhile…I hope to see you!

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.

 

Encouraging an educated mind

I have shamelessly used both my children as inspiration for my new book ‘Who’s Not In School?’

Charley exploring an art installation!

Charley exploring an art installation!

It was Chelsea I caught one time putting a bug in her mouth. And Charley was always looking for adventures beyond my line of vision. Chelsea could create artworks from anything in the cupboard, grated wax crayon included, and Charley who would toss herself into deep water despite not being able to swim.

Ironically Charley went on to become a scuba diver and Chelsea vegetarian. I often wondered if the bug had anything to do with it! (You’ll see why I mention these things when you read the story).

Although it made our hearts pump six times as fast as normal with all these experiments and investigations, it was always something we encouraged.

Most parents have a tendency to discourage it. They either think that it’s just kids being naughty and behaving badly. Or they want to keep them so suffocatingly safe they never have a chance for exploration.

But they’ll also never have the chance to learn about the world. And that’s what they’re doing; finding out about the world and testing to see what happens if..

Obviously children need to be safe and I admit that some of the experiments and explorations need moderating before they go too far. Certainly climbing up museum exhibits like ‘Little Harry’ does in the book is OTT and to be discouraged – you have to be ever watchful! But their experiments and investigations are demonstrating an active, interested and intelligent mind. And that kind of mind is a mind that has the potential to become a learning mind. To become an educated mind. So that aspect wants encouraging.

Within the limits of sensible vigilance the more your children explore and test their world the more they’ll learn, the more stimulated their minds will be, the more motivated to learn they become.

Which is the precursor to education after all!