Tag Archive | environment

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.

Decry the tidy – it’s not educational!

He’s one of the Marmite people. Someone who either provokes love or derision! Whichever, it’s usually a strong emotion towards the presenter, author and naturalist, Chris Packham. I’m not sure which it is from me except that I do have immense admiration for someone who’s stuck at his cause despite the difficulties and challenges he’s encountered.

I’ve been sitting outside reading his book ‘Back to Nature’, co-authored by conservationist and environmental activist Megan McCubbin. And it’s brilliant. It talks about how our need for nature was exacerbated by the Covid crisis and Lockdowns, bringing people back in touch with the natural world which too many have neglected for too long. But this very readable book is also a stark examination of the harm we do nature, much of it clandestine and political, dotted with facts and figures many of which I wouldn’t have believed possible, and exposes the many flaws in our conservation practices which most of us are ignorant of.

But we can make changes for the better in our own small, day-to-day ways. And one of these is to do with being tidy!

When you’re a home educator you need to learn to live with untidy!

An untidy house, with materials and resources, projects and creations strewn about, is far more likely to stimulate children’s brains into action than a bare a tidy one. And action, of whatever sort, gets the kids’ brains learning and developing, is good for their bodies, minds, spirits and education. (Read more on this in Chapter 25 of ‘A Home Education Notebook’) Basically, where there’s stuff about and things going on, there is stimulation and busyness and skills being learned as youngsters cannot resist the temptation to touch, handle, investigate, explore and use, all pre-cursors to learning. Untidy has enormous developmental potential and value. Far more than show-case, manicured rooms. They are as boring as Chris says manicured lawns are!

For it’s untidy in nature that Chris says we also need. We need little untidy patches, however big or small and wherever they are, to give nature hidey holes, and foot holds, and feeding stations in our concrete and commercial worlds. We need to encourage our kids to grow things, even if it’s a pot outside the door with weeds in. (Weeds are nature too). We need to observe and celebrate those bits of green growing out of cracks in pavements and walls. We need to get away from the idea of tidy gardens and environments and make any little space, garden or otherwise that we’re lucky enough to have, wildlife friendly rather than manicured. Leave leaves, stalks and stems, let old sticks and logs lie, and neglect little corners and scruffy places for these will all give some wild critter a home. And never spray your dandelions!

What this will also provide are opportunities for you and the family to explore and investigate what happens and who lives there, and ensure that your child’s educational understanding is of the fact that every little creature, plus all the invisible ones that will be part of their food chain, matters in the balance of all things, matters for the food we eat, for the homes we have, for the sustenance provided by the planet that we all depend upon.

In the bigger picture of nature and education untidy doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you can in these small ways make a contribution to the natural world. Understanding it is an essential element of any curriculum, of any educational process. It’s not just the big things that big conservation pioneers do that matters. The small things that you and the children do – and do without – matter just as much.

Love or hate Chris Packham his book is an examination of the world you’re potentially leaving your children and how you as a family can make it better for them. You might like to give it a read!

A reminder of THE most important subject

A short pictorial thought this time to remind you, whilst you can get out and about during the holidays, what’s THE most important of all subjects for your child to learn about. You’ll see why when you read the original post here.

Do let me know your thoughts!

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!