Tag Archive | environment

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.

How do you appreciate your daily bread?

This isn’t a religious post. I’m in no way religious.

But the thought came to me as I did my daily walk how important is the consideration of it.

As I walk round the corn and vegetable fields, past cows and trees, plants and birds and the tiniest of living things I cannot even see, I ponder upon how essential to our daily bread it all is, especially the land beneath and how everything plays a part in providing the food we eat.

At the moment my daily exercise includes many of these rural elements described above, along with some rather battering weather at times. But I actually grew up in the city, have spent much time there and am likely to be moving less rurally sometime soon.

And it is when my feet are on those urban pavements, about as far removed from the earth as it’s possible to get, that reminds me how difficult it must be to educate children about the importance of the land that’s buried deep beneath, of species, of nature. For even though most children may not have it in their daily round as I do, they need to understand that it is as vital to their existence as the air they breathe.

It is, after all, what gives them their daily bread. It doesn’t just grow in Asda!

Last season’s harvest which made our daily bread

There’s been a major shift over my lifetime. When I was very young the largest part of the population lived and worked rurally, so more people had the land in their consciousness. Now that’s shifted to the largest proportion of people living in towns and cities.

Along with that shift there’s also been a shift in attitudes, in politics, in awareness. Most people are now just aware of the countryside as recreation, oblivious to its essentiality. Oblivious to the fact that the land and the species it supports, supports our life as well, gives us our daily bread and our daily breath too.

And somehow we have to get the seriousness of that concept into children’s education even when they are as far removed from it as many are.

So how do you educate about and look after the land from the city?

You do that through your lifestyle because even though you may be miles from it, your habits have an impact on the land.

There are regular reminders in the media and sites like ‘Sustainable-ish’ of things you can do – and not do – to look after the earth.

But essentially discuss with your children and focus on a lifestyle that prioritises:

  • Limiting your consumption of disposable stuff (consumerism creates landfill)
  • Shopping second hand
  • Travelling with conscience
  • Decreasing the chemicals used round the home (be aware of your cleaning products)
  • Being careful with what you put down the drains (odd I know but contaminates water and land)
  • Always minimising your waste (think before you buy)
  • Avoiding plastic as much as possible
  • Making changes however small
  • Making sure the kids get contact with the working land not just parks
  • Talking all the time about the reasons behind your lifestyle choices
  • Living the idea that more stuff doesn’t equal more happiness!

Never forget that the land, the countryside, the birds and the bees are not just for fun. They are for real, the reality of life and health and sustenance – yours and mine.

We depend on all of it for our daily bread.

I thought maybe it’s a good time of year to reflect on that!

A reassuring gift for home schoolers

December has crept in and I guess I’m going to have to face up to it; Christmas is coming!

It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just with pandemic restrictions we haven’t dared look forward or hope that our loved ones will get home to spend it with us. And that for me is what is so special about the season. It’s a season of love and togetherness, but the coronavirus could restrict that this year.

I also like giving gifts. I don’t enter into the manic and obscene crap buying and bin-bound accessories for Christmas that companies tell us we must have or we won’t do Christmas proper! I hate all that and cringe for the burden the earth has to bear for our indulgences. But I do like to give a meaningful present that someone wants, needs, or can enjoy, as a token of our loving and appreciation, two purposes of the festivities that can easily become obliterated by consumerism, throwaway tat and the misguided belief that more stuff is better.

It isn’t. Love and appreciation are the priorities, surely.

Anyway, if you do want to give a meaningful gift to a fellow parent, especially one who is dissatisfied with schooling, how about a story of a family doing it differently.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is a warm, funny, family story, with Christmasses and summers and all sorts of adventures in between. It’s easy to read, yet with plenty of thought provoking ideas about learning. A great fireside read – actually where some of it was written! And a good insight into a real home educating life. Do let me know if you read and enjoyed it!

And for those already home educating you could give them a bit of reassurance. That’s what readers tell me they get from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. On days when they’re having a massive wobble, they can pick it up and feel calmed.

There are some super reviews on Amazon for both, where you can buy them. If you want more of a ‘How To…’ which answers all the common questions about home educating choose ‘Learning Without School’. You’ll find more details on the My Books page on this site, including two books for those home educated littlies who like to read about someone like them who doesn’t go to school.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your Christmas preparations, despite the obvious restrictions, keeping in mind the needs of the earth as well as your own, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for being together.

Educating: for Halloween?

No part of education is more essential than learning how to live sustainably, surely?

I guess it’s not something we’ve prioritised in education up until this point, most folks still living with the antiquated idea that education should only be about academic learning.

It used to be – when academic learning could only be accessed and practised in academic premises such as schools, colleges, unis and the like, back in the day when there was a large percentage of the population who couldn’t read or write. And the powers that be decided it would be better for civilisation if they could.

Well time it changed; we need something even more important for civilisation now, we need to understand how to live sustainably on the planet. And practice it.

As Halloween approaches and I see the bin-bound crap that’s advertised as a necessary part of celebrations, I cannot help but cringe.

I’m also gobsmacked as to how on earth so called ‘educated’ people can buy it, succumb to the emotive blackmail that suggests we should!

It’s partly ignorance. But also partly a decision to be blind to the consequences of buying consumerist tat, blind to the climate crisis. It’s also partly our past demand that has created a situation that has educated people into habits of shopping as a recreational activity!

We need to re-educate ourselves to do it differently.

Because it boils down to a simple equation: if we’re shopping as a recreation we’re trashing the planet as a recreation.

Hardly acceptable, is it, when put like that? Or the behaviour you’d expect from the ‘educated’. Find something else to do!

How about instead we think creatively about how to re-habit our lives away from buying stuff for landfill, towards ingenious ways of making changes that reduce it.

That we re-educate ourselves, and build a new style education for the youngsters, that has love as a priority; love for the earth that is, rather than love for more stuff – and what actions could support a different way of being.

That any shopping we do, whether for Halloween, Christmas, or whatever celebration, is done through charity shops, car boots, Ebay or similar sites, and avoids as much stuff as we can that isn’t necessary, is single use, and destined for landfill!

That needs to be our educational priority as much as any other surely?

An education not just for Halloween!

(Have you discovered Jen Gale’s realistically doable approach in the Sustainable(ish) Living Guide? Great for ideas and support in making change)

What mark are you making with your parenting?

The programme ‘Extinction – the Facts’ was hard to watch. I admit it took me a few days to screw up my courage and catch up with it. Face the inevitable bad news and desperate images and update my own education on the issue. But it ended with hope, I think. And bless Sir David – what a mark he’ll leave on this planet. (YouTube link here) But it’s on Iplayer too.

Of course, we’re all making a mark of one kind or another. Sadly, most of us a less positive one than his as we consume our way through our lives . And sadly we’re leaving a mark that will cost our children dear.

I guess most folks reading this will have children, will be parents. And another sad fact; it’s often the parents who are the worst offenders when it comes to consumerism, one of the worst causes of planetary destruction – needless consumerism that is.

I’m not only talking about the endless throw away baby products, wipes, toys etc. but the misguided belief that some parents have that the more they buy their child the more they demonstrate their love for them. They use consumerism as an expression of love. Much of it through plastic. And they are hoodwinked by the emotional blackmail companies use to suggest we are less of a parent for not doing so.

It’s an insidious form of blackmail when we see images that insinuate that our kids are better, best, superior if they have the latest trainers, phone, tech, or are losers and inferior if they don’t. These are the lessons children learn not only from the advertising but by parents’ attitudes falling prey to it, thus perpetuating the lesson.

Instead we should be teaching them something quite different. Teaching them that the better, best and commendable are those who resist the pollutive effect of this type of consumerism, resist the throw-away culture that pervades everything. Teaching that we don’t need to update all the time. We don’t need to always buy new. Teaching them that this is the kind of behaviour that is contributing to the mass extinction talked about in the programme. And we can love without doing that! Even better – it’s FREE; doesn’t cost money or the planet!

Each one of us is probably guilty of doing it in some small way. But each one of us can make valuable changes however small.

Our children are going to pay the price of our ignorance in these matters and we need to educate them to behave differently; but only by behaving differently ourselves. By updating our own attitudes and habits and seeing that we are not falling foul of subversive messages embedded in some of our cultural behaviours.

We need to start a change. Educate our children to behave with conscience. Make sure they feel loved and cared about not by what we buy them but by what we do, by the principles we uphold and the things we place value upon. That they understand through our actions that love is not connected to money or consumerism.

And one way of starting that is by thinking about, and talking about with your children, what kind of mark you’re going to make – or not – in pollutive terms!

You don’t have to be Sir David to mark your own special difference!

How the education system is contributing to the climate crisis

I’m absorbed in a wonderful book. ‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide’ by Jen Gale. It’s a practical look at the things we can do to to help lessen our damage to the planet.

I know; you’re sick of hearing about the climate crisis!

But this is full of real doable things we can all do, we must do, in order to help make changes. That responsibility lies with us all. It is part of our own life learning, part of being an educated intelligent person. Got to be part of any child’s education.

We like to think that education is an answer to the climate crisis. And of course it is; people need to become informed about the earth, what impact we’re making and how to minimise the damage we make.

But education, and the education system, are different things. And it’s the education system that’s contributing to the problem. Because we have a system that is educating people to be consumers.

It does this by making education big business. By training learners and their parents to be consumers of it; passive recipients. And by making education all about an end product, i.e. results, grades and qualifications and more is better, rather than an enlightening process of learning that develops educated people who see themselves as part of something much bigger – the planet. And more is not always better.

The system leads people to believe that education is about what you can get in a narrow, consumerist, grade-grabbing way, rather than education as part of understanding a world upon which we all have impact, qualified or not.

Youngsters are trained to believe through this system that they’re only worthy if they get the most and highest grades possible. Because this, they are told, will lead to higher salaries – in other words, getting more.

Rarely are job satisfaction, humane qualities like kindness, well being – personal or planetary – mentioned.

Or the fact that the higher your salary, the more likely you are to be buying stuff and wasting stuff and jetting off in a blaze of pollution. Let’s face it – it’s not the poor or the homeless who are doing this; a fact that doesn’t get much coverage!

And seldom is it mentioned that consumerism, materialism which is a political issue, and bog standard buying endless stuff is the real cause of the problem. Or that the businesses thriving on conning us into having stuff we don’t really need, contributes to it. And I believe that the education system perpetuates this by its immoral and discriminative, high stakes obsession with testing, getting exams and qualifications and teaching people to be consumers. Which, after all, furthers its corporate and political cause.

If we want to save the planet we must stop incessant and unnecessary consuming. We must stop educating people to be consumers within a system that subversively suggests you’re a better person for doing so. For that’s what this corporate education system dictates, although few seem to spot it.

I’ve heard said that the education system is broken. The planet is certainly breaking. Perhaps the two could be mended hand in hand.

It’s no good blaming the politicians and doing nothing, neither with regard to the planet nor the education system which is contributing to ruining it. We must change our consumerist habits and change what we expect of education.

What we need is not a system or a political game plan that ensures the rich get richer and the poor to stay where they are. Not an education to make more money but to educate us to use the money we do make to live more wisely. What we need are learning experiences not based around winning or getting or high stakes, but based around learning to live with each other and the planet without detriment to either. Something I see home educators do all the time.

There is no higher stake than the health of the planet. Don’t need a qualification to tell us that.

Do make the book part of your family’s education!

Happy Christmas!

I have such pangs of guilt making and sending cards. Guilt for the environment and its resources. It’s so hard to change habits. And I love making.

I’ve tried to compensate in many other ways. Cut down enormously on buying stuff – especially that single use crap none of us need. By keeping the card design simple and even, heart-rendingly, given up using glitter glue on them, which I so love; but glitter makes the cards non-recyclable.

And my love for the earth tops even that!

As does my desire to wish all of you here, my faithful readers, followers, messengers, likers and tweeters whose support has also meant so much, a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS. And THANK YOU. You make it worth the while.

So this is my wishes to you for a Christmas filled with love and blessings in all different guises.

Have a happy one!

Where does meat come in your children’s education!

I was already aware that eating meat is having a detrimental impact on the health of the planet.

But I was totally uneducated as to why or the scale of it until I saw this programme: ‘Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?’ on BBC1.

Read the review in inews

This amazing and disturbing programme has put me right and probably should be part of everyone’s education. Well worth a watch.

We know our eating habits have a huge impact on our individual health. But perhaps we’ve all been less aware how those habits impact on our planetary health and our CHILDREN’S FUTURE because of it.

Encouraging the youngsters to learn about and know themselves should be part of any education and understanding where their food comes from and how it affects them is part of this. This is the only way they – and you – can make informed choices about enjoying food and nutrition in ways that are SUSTAINABLE and of least threat to the planet, as all of our lifestyle habits need to be. So help them learn what this really means.

After all, it is the children who will be living on it when we are gone. So it is nothing less than our duty to establish habits and understanding as families now, that protect the planet from growing threats. There cannot surely be any part of education more important than how to sustain life; theirs, all others, and the planet on which they all depend.

We’re all making important changes, like reducing our use of plastic for example, but this is a change that receives less coverage and the programme helps us see other valuable changes we can make to help keep the planet going for our children.

More important than Maths and English!

Why is it more important than Maths and English?

Because without you and your children taking care of the earth and understanding its needs as well as theirs and how to live sustainably, there won’t be a planet earth for them to learn maths and english on! Read more on this blog post here. This WILL affect your grand-family. It’s urgent!

Here’s an inspiring student who gets it: Greta Thunberg. She’s worth listening to: Her TED talk is here.

And there are other important side effects of taking care, discussed on this post here.

All worth thinking about and acting upon!

Please feel free to share the material here as widely as possible! The more who understand the better.

Feel the green

I find it hard to stay in and work when it’s so glorious outside.

Not having young children here any more I don’t even have them as an excuse to get outdoors every day! But I still do – I know how it affects me, or rather how I am affected by its absence.

Walking along the local footpath towards me the other day was a young family getting their littlies outside.

“They love to be out here,” Dad said, as we stopped to chat. “Don’t want to be in much at all.” The children were about three and eighteen months, exploring everything around them while we spoke, far too restless and curious to be still for a minute. they reminded me of our two.

We were lucky to have rural space on our doorstep for ours to help themselves to, everyday if they wanted. And they did seem to want to, the eldest loving flowers and often taking drawing or books out there, the youngest with her curiosity about creepy-crawlies or experiments with mud – as described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

And even now in their twenties and living in urban places for the work, they suddenly feel the need to go seek out green spaces, hungry for the healthy, calming inpact it has on them. They sip of it like nectar, knowing

The footpath above the city

what it feels like.

In fact, on a recent visit to the city where my eldest lives and is immersed at the current time in a stressful working schedule, we climbed up a footpath out of the city to seek the benefits – her choice for her few hours off. She recognised her need. So many don’t.

I shared this with the family on the footpath.

“You always return to your roots,” mum commented.

But I replied; “I hope not; mine were in London and I’ve no desire to return there!” We laughed. But I knew what she meant – she’d been away and returned to her rural roots too. I needed to escape my concrete roots to something that suited me better. Not everyone’s the same, I acknowledge that. That’s why kids need a diverstiy of experiences, to find out about themselves and their needs. Ours were able to experience concrete living too and actually our eldest thrives in the city – but she still needs to touch green sometimes.

However, I thought how lucky ours had been, as this young family is, to have had that experience of green spaces just as a reference in their lives. A reference to making them feel good, naturally, because it inherently does. It impacts on our physical and mental health in ways we’re only just beginning to really understand. So even if we don’t live rurally we need to seek out contact with nature to remain wholly well. And I worry about parents bringing up families in places where it’s hard to access that. Because it’s vital that you do.

Vital that you make contact with green things; growing things, the range of species and their needs alongside ours, green space to run about in if possible, on a daily basis. Because the habits that you adopt now will be habits that demonstrate a way of living that encourages and promotes their well being and health. Our own habits are the most important teacher of all. Not forgetting that this contact is essential for raising their understanding of the earth and why we need to look after it.

Finding green, feeling the green, understanding the natural benefits of green spaces, is a vital part of any education.

There are some great outdoor projects to get involved in on Springwatch – check out their garden survey. here