Tag Archive | family life

A Home Education Notebook is now back on Kindle

It’s taken a while but finally I’ve sorted it; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is available again on Kindle after a short absence.

The reason for the delay was because my focus got stolen by moving house, which is all consuming as anyone who’s ever done it knows.

Moving house means establishing new routines (like where the nearest food is), getting to know new people (builders, plumbers, tech gurus and fixers) and of course new friends and communities.

Meeting new people, who always ask about your life so far, means more explanations of home educating and I receive a variety of responses, mostly in the form of a barrage of questions; do you do lessons, do they have teachers at home, do you have a timetable, what about friends, tests, curriculum, GCSEs etc?

Whilst the Lockdowns made the concept of ‘Home Schooling’ more familiar, the more seasoned home educators among us knew it was nothing like home educating, it was just doing school stuff within the four walls of home. Completely different. (Expanded in a post here)

However I still find it difficult to explain those differences even now, how education is not necessarily about lessons, or tests, or teaching, or exams. To explain how children learn without lessons, or teachers, or tests and timetables, they can actually learn for themselves (Shock! Horror!) That learning can actually happen in an organic, holistic, autonomous, interest-led way from the things children are naturally curious about, by being out, observing, engaging in, analysing and involving themselves in finding out about the world and building the skills needed to do so, even without age-related structures usually imposed upon education. Along with all that how home educated children also have friends, develop social skills, and mix happily in company (see this post about socialisation).

The stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ written as it happened, demonstrate that the best. Along with ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. The articles themselves are an illustration of how the everyday experiences we had encouraged and developed children’s knowledge, skills and understanding of learning quite naturally. And how – even more surprising to some – this happens because children want to learn.

Children don’t necessarily want to be schooled. But they mostly want to learn, if they’re allowed to in their own way, in their own time, through subjects that matter to them in their worlds. The success of this has been shown time and time again by all the home educated youngsters who’ve grown up and out into the world, making their own decisions, incorporating any structure and traditional approaches and outcomes as and when (and if) needed to get them there. And so proving that home education really does work and adequately prepares young people for the ‘real’ world. The real world being the one outside that bizarre world of school!

This new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ concludes with a chapter about all those home educated young people we grew up with and what they’re doing now post-twenty, who are proof indeed!

So if you’ve been waiting for the Kindle version of this new edition, it’s back again. It’s the book readers have told me that reassures and inspires them the most. Hope you enjoy it.

Kindle edition available now
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Merry Christmas

I can’t believe it’s got round to Christmas again already.

What a weird couple of years we’ve had, but here we are again.

Hopefully there’s a little more certainty about seeing our loved ones than there’s been over the last couple of years (not counting train strikes). But I’m not taking anything for granted because there are no guarantees – of anything.

That’s how life is.

No guarantee of Christmas going according to plan. No guarantee that home educating will go to plan. Equally no guarantee school would go to plan either, if you were using it.

So sometimes it’s just best if you stick with the smallest and nearest of times, make them as good and as enjoyable as you can. Then all these times pieced together will make a good and enjoyable life. And education!

Home education isn’t going to be enjoyable all the time. Or good all the time either. We’re none of us saints or robots, neither parents nor children. Or teachers come to that! Home educating has its stresses and upsets – inevitably – that’s what life’s like, that’s what human nature is like. Unpredictable.

So how an evenly mapped out and prescribed education like they attempt in the system could ever be guaranteed to work I have no idea.

The best plan I feel as you home educate is just to accept that unpredictability. Be flexible – it makes a big difference. Do what works at the time. Be open to the changing needs of your child. And let nature take care of the rest.

That works for Christmas and it works for home educating.

Take care of the small things and the small times.

And talking of nature, please be conscious of the needs of the planet as well as your children’s, for the small things you do towards easing the planet’s burden this Christmas will make a big difference, as do the small things you do for the kids.

Wishing you a very happy and love filled Christmas full of all the small things that make it so.

And thank you so much for reading this. Thank you to all who’ve shown support for my work over all the long years I’ve been doing it and through the small here and now times too. It has always been appreciated.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Only the curious can learn

Christmas and birthdays were tricky in our house. The children were always there so keeping secrets was a challenge. Especially since they were so incredibly curious and had eyes that didn’t miss a thing.

“What’s in that bag?”

I’d scurry upstairs furtively with some secret shopping and call out, “nothing.”

“What’s the postman brought?”

I’d stuff the parcel under my desk quickly and respond. “Nothing. Only some bills.”

“What’s in that box?”

Sometimes there was no getting away with it and I’d just have to say; “Your present, but you mustn’t look.”

I knew this would have the same effect as requesting a thousand word essay on the law of gravity and get the same result; the opposite.

So I’d search for a hiding place that would be big enough to conceal it and that they wouldn’t think of looking. I’d settle on their dad’s drawers, they wouldn’t dare look in there for fear of coming across his boxers.

That’s just the trouble with bright children, isn’t it? They’re more curious than the proverbial cat. But it’s our fault really; we’ve encouraged it because that’s exactly what we want; curious and questioning children.

Have you ever thought what curiosity is? It’s basically children wanting to know things. And wanting to know things also interprets as wanting to learn things. Children want to learn about the world around them – your secrets included. But curiosity, when it’s not focussed on your secrets, is as valuable an asset to motivation, to education, as you can get and wants encouraging.

Curious and questioning children cannot help becoming educated. It doesn’t even have to be curiosity about the subject in hand. Or about any specific subject come to that. Because having a generally curious attitude to life is the same as having a general eagerness to learn. Curiosity has the effect of inspiring children to learn for learning’s sake, without even realising it. And it makes the children not only interested in learning but also come to understand, again without realising, that learning itself is interesting. And this attitude is a precursor to becoming educated.

Children are born naturally curious. They’re born reaching, grasping, tasting. Put any infant in any room and they’re into cupboards, opening drawers, fiddling with switches and particularly fascinated with the contents of the dustbin. They are desperate to do these things because they are curious and want to find out.

In other words; they want to learn about their world.

They plague their parents with questions, get themselves bruised, grazed, and into trouble for their curiosity. In fact they are pure, unashamed, curiosity-led learning machines. Even as they get older. Unless of course they get their curiosity killed.

Unfortunately that happens a lot.

It’s easy to do. Most adults are driven to distraction by their child’s curiosity and most particularly by their questions. And the children more often than not get told off for it.

‘Don’t touch’. ‘Put that down’. ‘Leave that alone’. ‘Mind your own business’. We’ve all used those statements at some point I would guess.

But most particularly, I feel, children tend to get their curiosity killed when they go to school. Unfortunately the approach in most schools, the way in which they implement the National Curriculum, and the inevitable peer pressure, leaves no room for curiosity. In school it is not cool to ask questions, or to want to know more, or to be interested, or keen. And teachers don’t have time to answer thirty questions a lesson – and that’s only one per child – of course they don’t.

No one does curiosity. There’s no time. It’s more likely to get you ridiculed or snubbed. And there’s nothing worse than humiliation for killing curiosity dead.

This is one of the sad things about the way the schools educate children. The teachers don’t have any time to make use of one of the best opportunities available for learning; answering and encouraging the questions. Through your child’s curiosity and their questions you have the perfect opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding, encourage conversation and thus language development, provoke thinking skills and mental development.

I looked at our insatiably curious toddlers hell-bent on learning about everything, then I looked at some of the uncurious switched off adolescents that I saw and I’d think; what happened to your curiosity and interest in the world?

It probably got snubbed somewhere down the line. It probably got well and truly switched off. How sad is that?

For just think; wouldn’t it have been a loss if Isaac Newton had his curiosity snubbed before he wondered about the apple falling down? Wouldn’t it have been a loss if Darwin had stopped being curious about the origin of species?

I’m not advocating that we run ourselves ragged dropping everything to answer all our children’s questions there and then, pandering to their every curious whim. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. Children have to fit into society and live with others and understand that adults are not simply question-answering machines. And they have to understand when to be safe instead of curious, and when it’s not appropriate to ask questions – especially loudly, as one of my children did one day as we sat on a park bench next to a complete stranger.

“Is that man wearing underpants, mummy?” I’ve never seen anyone cross his legs so quickly. He walked off adjusting his fly.

All I’m saying is that if we could be a little careful with our child’s curiosity we will perpetuate their desire to learn rather than destroy it. Even though there’s a time for answering questions and a time not to do so, curiosity is still desirable. Curiosity needs nurturing. If we can be frugal with, ‘don’t’, and ‘leave that alone’ and ‘for goodness sake stop asking me stuff all the time’ (yep – that was me one day), we can avoid the danger that they stop being curious about their world.

It helps to remember that those endless questions and irritating behaviours like eating earwigs (one of mine) and posting things in the CD player (the other one) are really them just learning about their world.

Curiosity means they’re motivated to learn and is one of the most invaluable assets our children can have for their education. A curious attitude has a knock-on effect upon all their learning. It develops an educated mind. And is something to be encouraged as much as possible. A curious mind cannot help but learn.

This story first appeared in my Home Education Notebook, where you’ll find plenty more to help you along your home education journey.

Share your story?

I’m a bit rubbish at communicating on Facebook these days. It seems to be less frequented or valuable than it was, full of adverts, and now there are many other forums we can use to connect.

Fb wasn’t a thing when we started home educating – I bet you can hardly imagine that. But it soon became an invaluable tool for parents to connect through, share ideas and resources, arrange meet-ups and reassure one another, making home education feel more doable than some people first thought.

It was the chance to so easily connect with that support which made home educating a less scary and isolating prospect than it potentially could be. Stepping away from the mainstream path millions of others were heading along can be daunting. Thanks to social media no one needs feel cut off, unsupported, or without anyone to turn to now.

And actually it’s been very supportive for me too, to receive your lovely messages and comments and see how my work and words get around and find their way to those who need it. And I feel so blessed when folks have taken the trouble to connect with me and let me know how my books have helped. If you’re one of those and I didn’t reply personally please know that your comments and messages have meant so much.

Meanwhile I recently had such a nice comment from a Fb friend, along with a potted version of her story, I asked her permission to post it here because I know many of you won’t see it on there and it’s most uplifting to read.

Here’s what she said;

It was your books that finally gave me the confidence to believe what I really already knew in my heart- that our youngest would be better off out of school. His older brothers were in a specialist residential school for very able boys with Asperger syndrome but he didn’t quite qualify for diagnosis, so mainstream-or not- was the only option.

After we took our son out of school in yr 5, I remember walking past the back to school signs and rows of uniform hanging up in the shops and just grinning because I knew I’d never need to buy any of it, ever again! The relief of knowing he wouldn’t be going back into that hellish place where he learned nothing except to feel that he was stupid and weird and generally rubbish, was immense and I just wanted to celebrate. It was definitely the best decision we made for him. He went to college for A levels because he chose to, a year ‘late’ and is now taking a gap year to work and save money before doing his degree. I’m certain that school would not have put him on this path. He’d have left as soon as possible, hating the idea of learning anything because he was ‘too stupid’. His confidence still isn’t great but at least he has ‘proof’ from his results that he is capable of learning anything if he chooses to and sufficient life experience to see the benefit of hard work to get where he wants to be. He also has friends!”

I think it’s these shared stories that make for the best support for parents starting out because they’re straight from the horse’s mouth. We can have faith in them as they are the reality of home education and consequently they are the ones that give people the confidence to go for it themselves. I know when we started out, hearing the stories from those further along were the most valuable, inspiring and reassuring. Although without the internet then we rarely heard them. Very different now!

So if you have a story to tell, or would like to share yours, maybe you’d like to get in touch and I can post it here and we can go on supporting each other in this wonderful alternative to school.

Thirteen years of writing this home education blog later…

And thank you once again to all of you who’ve been in touch over the many years I’ve been writing this blog. It is truly appreciated and I’m always so delighted to hear how my books have helped. Bless you!

Processed education can be as unhealthy as processed food

An exclusive exert from ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Some days I got so tired I wondered how I was ever going to get the dinner. And it was those days that packaged and processed food I normally abhor looked really appealing.

One particular day springs to mind where my youngest made mint creams which took a bit of supervision, mostly in the form of keeping her fingers out of it especially when they’d been other places. And the eldest made fudge and just needed an occasional question answering but then went onto maths which she was struggling with and needed explanations. This was much more demanding than anticipated as I couldn’t remember how to do half of it and had to look it up. Then the youngest was on a website trying to research something it wouldn’t and getting more and more frustrated. And I just seemed to seesaw between the two of them like this all morning. By afternoon I decided we needed to get out for a swim before I was torn in two, but that finished me off. So I admit to resorting to the easy option of opening a packet for dinner.

At least I thought it was the easy option.

Sometimes I think the packaging designers must sit in their studios laughing as they think up the most complicated arrangements of plastic and cardboard just to annoy tired parents at the end of a demanding day.

We rarely ate packaged or processed food. I like my meals to have ingredients as near to their natural state as possible – that’s where taste and nutrition comes from.

But when I’m beyond scrubbing potatoes or cooking anything inventive we resort to it at times, even though I never relish it. For processed and packaged food tastes like … well, it doesn’t taste of much at all. It is limp, lifeless, tasteless – apart from salt, suspiciously full of unknowns and mostly totally uninspiring.

And it was that day I thought; this is just like education really. Education has become so processed and tightly packaged it is almost unrecognisable as education.

Just like how hard it is to recognise nutritious ingredients in processed food, education has become so over processed it too is losing some of the value of the original ingredients. It has become as unpalatable as eating forced and cling-filmed strawberries in the middle of winter. There is no taste. There is nothing to arouse the senses and the effect doesn’t last.

Isn’t that like systemised schooling?

I used to think my mother was a bit of a nutcase insisting on buying dirty carrots. Now I know why she did it. Carrots with the soil still on them keep without rotting for ages. Those washed and plastic-packaged ones from the supermarket just turn gooey and stink like mad.

Packaged and processed education doesn’t last forever either. And I reckon it turns the children gooey.

I read of an experiment someone once did on a class of school children. They were told they were going to be tested on a certain subject at the end of the week and given information to learn for it. The children sat the test and the expected number did well. A few days later the same children did the same test without warning and hardly any of them scored well. The learning they had processed for the test didn’t last – just like the carrots.

Education like food needs to be as near as possible to its natural experience in order for it to be lasting, inspiring, arouse the senses and be worth having. Experiences are the basis for all learning, for meaningful learning. Learning packaged into tightly restrictive curriculum or second hand learning in workbooks, removed from the original experience, loses its appeal just as much as food. Learning and education need unwrapping.

It is natural for children to learn. During their everyday lives at home pre-school children learn loads of things. They acquire skills. They pick up knowledge. They do this naturally, experientially. Just as we all do all of the time.

All experiences teach us something. Our interests and pursuits broaden our minds. So do books, Internet, telly, ordinary every day interaction with people and things. And also our work, our outings, anniversaries, celebrations, social gatherings. Learning is natural. And learning from first hand experiences in this way is meaningful, rich, stimulating, and retained. Children learn naturally from this all the time.

Then they are removed from that natural learning environment just before they’re five and shut away from it in schools. We’re told that the only valuable learning is that which comes from teachers, packaged into a National Curriculum and contained in expected outcomes and objectives.

So children are processed through this type of learning and adults are conditioned to devalue learning outside of that. And what happens? Children begin to lose their ability to learn anything that isn’t neatly wrapped for them. And I see an awful lot of teenagers who have about as much enthusiasm in doing anything as I have in eating those out-of-season packaged strawberries.

In both the strawberries and the teenagers the zest has gone.

With food I have options. Mostly I buy food in its natural state. I am deeply suspicious of processed pies, potato alphabets, pasta shapes in suspect sauce and the infamous turkey Twizzlers! But sometimes at the end of a hard Home Educating day I’m as pleased as anyone else to open a pizza. When I can get it open that is.

But I do have the choice and you will probably know which is better for me. I suspect you might also be thinking that I would be a better parent for giving my child a natural potato that’s been baked than a processed pizza.

Yet it’s funny how people don’t seem to have the same view of education.

Everyone seems to think that a packaged and processed education is better for children than a natural one.

I got more criticism for allowing my children a natural education than I did putting them through an unnatural educational process. Yet if I continually gave them processed food instead of natural food I wouldn’t be considered a good parent at all.

Odd that!

Years ago, children didn’t have much opportunity to learn. They didn’t have opportunity to learn skills or access information like they do now. And many children didn’t live in homes where education was valued more highly than earning a crust of bread. Children were needed to mind siblings, pick potatoes, crawl along factory floors in between dangerous machinery and sweep chimneys.

Well I don’t know whether folks have noticed but that’s changed. Most of our kids today live in an environment where education is available, where there is access to information, where skills can be learnt. Naturally.

They are surrounded by people using skills and accessing information. And quite naturally they will learn from that.

But we as a society have been led to believe, as education has become more packaged and processed over the years, that this processed type of education is the only valuable one.

Our attitude to processed food is changing, thank goodness. We’re beginning to value unprocessed meals. We’re even beginning to see how processed food can make us ill.

I’d like to see our attitude to processed education changing too. For not only is some of it meaningless, unfulfilling and un-lasting, it too can make our children ill.

Like with unprocessed meals that I actually peel and prepare, I tried to give my children an unprocessed experiential education as near to its natural state as possible. If we were learning about plants – we had plants to hand that we dissected. If we were learning about history – we did it in a historical setting like museum or castle. Get the idea?

This way, just like fresh picked, in-season, unprocessed strawberries, the flavour of the educational experience we gave them was meaningful and stimulated all their senses in a way that is still lasting.

You can read more supportive stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. And the new edition has a new added epilogue which tells the stories of the children we home educated alongside now that they’re grown up!

Moving stuff!

I’ve finally moved!

My life seems to have been in boxes forever!

It’s taken over a year, (I first mentioned it here ages ago) a painful, no-man’s-land year of negotiating, form filling, anxiety and emotion and waiting, waiting, waiting. And a hell of a lot of learning. I feel I’ve been home educating myself – educating myself about moving house and building a home again. And trying to keep calm the meanwhile!

The last time we did this the youngsters were twelve and nine – we did it whilst home educating. (You can read the story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’) They learnt a lot. It was an exciting adventure for them and we kept as positive about it as we could. That was almost twenty years ago. And although they no longer live with us I want to make sure I rebuild their own ‘home’ for when they come and stay. It feels important. Because we are so close, even if not in miles.

It’s something I’ve heard new home educators worry about; how home educating will affect their relationship with their children and more importantly when the children are adult.

But I would say this – and I’ve heard other home educating parents say it too; that home education made our relationship all the stronger. Rather than everybody hating each other with being together so much as many parents fear will happen, the opposite is nearer the case. You grow a new kind of respect and empathy for each other, you find ways to make space from each other when you need it, you can treat each other well and get to know each other deeply without the distancing school sometimes creates, they begin to understand that you are on their side, that all relationships are give-and-take, and they learn how to be together with understanding, how to communicate, how to manage their feelings and moods, that parents are people with needs too, not just people who shunt them off to school.

I think these skills are all a direct result of home educating, and other families seem to find the same. I also think that it is sometimes hard to build worthy relationships in a school setting where kids are pitched against each other most of the time.

The relationship we have now with our young adults is one I absolutely cherish – and they seem to too! I feel so blessed. So blessed to have had the opportunity to home educate, to have had the opportunity to build such strong bonds.

And wherever we are I feel that will remain.

And I’m just looking forward to putting together a new home as a venue for those loving bonds to be expressed.

Help for the Home Educating long haul

When I meet home educators, it’s often those who are new to it and starting out. To them it seems very scary and daunting and feel they need lots of support. I’m very happy to give it.

But I’m also aware, having done it, that there is another challenging side to home education; sticking with it for the long haul. That needs supporting too. So I thought I’d repost this article for those of you doing just that.

Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or change something, make a break into something else. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are adults now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad bits. It takes a lot of grit to keep at it. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or worse; a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence and an expression to match. Even expressions can be critical!

It was these kind of times exactly which prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need negotiating too. Knows that bad bits are not an indication that it’s going wrong. Knows that you need to look after yourself too (whole chapter to cover that in the book). And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to help you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. But keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does! You’ll be doing a grand job. I salute you!

After a home educating long haul you end up with lovely intelligent educated adults like we did!

So if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because there’s new edition. And, even better, in this new edition is a special epilogue that tells you how successfully it all worked out for those we home educated alongside. The best kind of reassurance of all.

It’s been unavailable a little while but it’s back now on Amazon if you’d like a copy. It’s been called a home educating bible and comforting bedside book, so I hope it feels like that for you and brings you the encouragement you might need both for today and for the long haul.

Happy Easter and a reminder to be outside

I think of Easter as a time to celebrate the marvels of the earth through this season of rebirth, regrowth and the nature’s burgeoning vitality. When days of longer light can make my own sap rise along with that of the trees and plants as I suddenly feel more energised!

What better time than this to commit to more time outside, experiencing and learning about our essential connection to the earth first hand. Learn along with the kids how all species are connected to the lives of others and imperative for the longevity of the planet, for our own health and well being and that of our children.

Article here suggests children need at least two hours a day outside.

And this one goes into more detail about the benefits to both physical, mental and spiritual health and its impact on our immune systems.

So what better time to take a serious look at increasing your outdoor time than Spring, when it is so pretty and inviting and downright dramatic with its April showers!

The perfect time to educate for increased understanding of the planet, how to live upon it with more respect and less impact. The more the children know, the more their respect will grow.

Go out to witness and experience:

  • Birds – with bits in their mouths, either for nest building or for baby feeding, or singing their Springtime songs, migrants that have recently arrived
  • Emerging insects – from creepy crawlies in the crevices to the first bee or butterfly you’ve seen this year
  • Rain – appreciating the fact that it is essential for survival. How often do you consider that? And consider also ways in which you can economise with your water usage – waste less of this essential resource. In fact, there’s lots of varying weather to experience during Spring
  • Young – the best time for seeing newborns, especially lambs. There may be a farm or a centre nearby you can visit, a river for ducklings, or listen out for baby bird cheeps in roofs, trees and hedges
  • Plants, shrubs and trees that are beginning to leaf up or bloom. If you have a garden get the kids involved in growing things, in pots if you don’t, in order to learn about the vital elements needed in order to grow; nourishment, light, water – which we need too! Along with health giving contact with soil!

You may live in a concrete environment, but that is all the more reason you need to teach the children about the earth that lies underneath and to find ways to get them back in contact with it. Otherwise how will they know it’s there, grows our food, supports our lives, and that it needs our attention? Use the occasion to celebrate this earth and the abundance of life bursting around us, on which all ultimately depend, however city central we live.

Have a Happy Easter and springtime!

Spring amid the concrete

A perfectly imperfect approach to your Home Education

Happy New Year, and a happy new start to your home education!

As a fresh approach to it, which we were always ready for when we got back down to it again, how about adopting the philosophy of Wabi Sabi?

What is that, I hear you ask?

Well, I’m not going to be able to give you a clear definitive answer, basically because there isn’t one. I’ve read it’s as difficult to define as love; we all have ideas about love but to express what it is in words is almost impossible. It’s more a matter of feel than of definitions.

And it’s the same with Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese approach to life which holds within it lessons about letting go of trying to make everything perfect, of letting go the idea that life can only be happy if we meet our expectations of perfectionism – many blasted at us through social media, and of accepting and appreciating things as they are in order to get the best from life. Acceptance of the fact that things don’t have to be perfect in order to be good.

If you’re anything like I was you’ll probably be worrying about making your home education perfect. You feel the responsibility of living up to this decision you’ve made to do it, of making it better than school, along with the inevitable comparisons and weight that subsequently brings. Worrying over the judgements made about you if you’re not getting on perfectly. Heavy weights indeed.

Having been through all this my advice to you would be to stop that immediately. All that will do is create tension and anxiety, stress and conflict none of which will be good. Certainly isn’t helpful in making a good learning environment.

Far better instead is to approach it with the wisdom this concept of imperfection brings. Understanding that imperfections are still experiences and all experiences teach us something; often show us the way forward, even when they’re the wrong ones!

And understand this about the educational process:

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect to be valid
  • Learning approaches don’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile
  • Each day doesn’t have to be perfect in order to usefully contribute to the overall development and progress of your youngster
  • Becoming educated is a diverse, sometimes messy, varied and experiential journey that has as many imperfections, as life does, and which never ends.
  • There is no perfect time frame, no perfect approach, no perfect outcome, no perfect strategy, no perfect answer.
  • But a perfectly imperfect education still works!

Many of your days at home will be less than perfect. Many days at school will be less than perfect. We wouldn’t actually expect them to be so, so why put that pressure on your home educating days?

And of course, children are not perfect either. Thank goodness for that, for all our diverse idiosyncrasies. Diversity is essential for our perpetuation. Accept your children as they are, where they are; they will change. Wabi Sabi embraces the concepts of impermanence, imperfection and incompleteness. As things are in all nature; as are we – children particularly!

So go gently with your days. Ditch any ideas about making them perfect.

Enjoy the good days. Accept and move on from the difficult ones. Take each day as it comes.

And allow imperfections to be naturally part of the rich pattern of home education.

Wishing you a happy new home educating year

(The book I read was ‘WABI SABI Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life’ by Beth Kempton)

Christmas tales…

A little Christmassy extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – the heartfelt story of our family’s learning days at home, when the girls were roughly nine and twelve:

“…With it being our third year of kids at home full time around Christmas you’d think we’d have engineered a plan for secrets. We decided we’d try honesty and appeal to their mature natures now that they were eleven and eight.

“Your dad and I are just going upstairs for a while and it’s important you don’t disturb us. Have you got things to do?”

“What for?” There was a little twinkle in Chelsea’s eye as she asked which reminded me distinctly of mum.

“It’s a secret,” I said smiling.

“A Christmas secret?” asked Charley also grinning now and knowing exactly what we were up to.

“Maybe,” said their dad. He tried to be mysterious but the girls are too clever for him. “So you won’t disturb us, will you?”

“Maybe!” returned Chelsea copying him and Charley smirked.

We went upstairs and de-hid all their presents from our various drawers.

“Do you think they’ll disturb us?” said Charles, cutting paper on the slant and wrestling to find the end of the sticky tape.

“I don’t think so, but look, we’ll turn back the bedcovers then if they come up whilst we’re wrapping we’ll throw the duvet over everything.” You have to be inventive when you’re a Home Educator.

“Do you remember doing this when they were at school,” I said.

“Yea, life was easy then,” he said grinning and spitting sticky tape from between his teeth.

“What? You think tears and illness every day were easy?” We laughed. I wrapped. He stuck. If he was in charge of the wrapping all the presents would look like parcels of fish and chips.

“No, it was awful. I can’t believe we’ve done this as long as we have. It just seems so ordinary now. You should hear the others at work going on about homework and packed lunches and stuff. Not to mention Christmas concert practises. They’re complaining the kids aren’t getting on with their learning” He stuck my finger to the parcel.

I extricated it and reached for some ribbon.

“I can imagine. Do they say anything about ours then?”

“Only how they can see why we do it.” He put his massive thumb on the delicate bow I created, squishing it. I tied his thumb down.

“Not enough for them to have a go though!” I laughed. Then the stairs creaked. Charles leapt off the bed, smacked his head on the sloping ceiling but still managed to toss the duvet over the presents as I stuffed the paper under the bed. We sat there and listened. Sniggering was coming from the landing.

“Go away,” Charles called.

“We’re not coming in, we’re only going to our rooms.” The giggling got fainter. We exchanged looks. Charles sneaked a peek through a crack in the old planked door.

“What they doing?” I whispered.

“They’ve gone into their bedrooms but their doors are open.”

“Let’s carry on. I don’t think they’ll come in. They wouldn’t want to spoil their Christmas surprises. Besides, I think Chelsea’s becoming aware of other things that go on in bedrooms!”

Charles raised his eyebrows in glee. “In that case, perhaps we should make good use of it.”

“What? You think you could enjoy sex with giggling going on at the bedroom door and creaking floorboards?” We laughed like naughty kids but continued wrapping.

“What you laughing at?” came from right outside the door. We bundled the duvet back over everything once more.

“Never you mind. Go back downstairs,” I shouted. I crept over and peeped to see if there was any peeping coming from the other side the crack. None.

“Come on, let’s get it done before they come up again.” The rest were wrapped in haste and I fear my parcels looked like fish and chips too.

Charley looked shocked and uncomfortable. Her face was full of both thunder and distress and very red. Her eyes looked like they were going to fill up any minute. She turned her head away and would not look at Charles or me either.

Chelsea just folded her arms across her chest, adopted her most disdainful position and stated emphatically “If anyone asks; you are not my dad.”

Charles couldn’t help it. All the staff were told to dress up for the Christmas market for charity but the girls weren’t impressed. And Charley absolutely hated anyone dressed up in costume.  I got a bit of a shock myself seeing this large rotund red fellow with two cushions up his jacket and his face adorned with a mass of flowing white stuff. It’s very off-putting seeing someone who you are as familiar with as your own body parts taking on another persona. He was sweating so much the bits of his face you could see were authentically shining as Santa’s does in all the pictures. It did the trick. A good crowd had gathered at the store and money was being thrown continually in the charity bucket.

“God, I keep losing my trousers,” he said grabbing a handful of red bottom and hoisting it up. I couldn’t help laughing.

“I knew you’d laugh,” he said.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just your trousers.” I tried to help. But grappling with Santa’s trousers seemed even funnier. Obviously everyone else thought so too as two more pounds went in the bucket. It’s not every day people see Santa being groped.

“Do you have to behave like that?” demanded Chelsea, standing holding Charley’s hand a little bit distant whilst we tried to control our hysteria. She still wouldn’t look at him.

“Have a sweetie,” said Charles holding out the bucket to her.

“No!”

“It’s only a bit of fun,” I said.

“You look stupid.”

I didn’t care, I was in the Christmas spirit. I had a quick snog with Santa and left him to his collecting.

“We’ll go look round the Christmas Market. See you later.”

“Okay. See you later girls.” They ignored him and pulled me away. But Chelsea called back over her shoulder.

“Save us some sweeties, dad.”

We bought a few Christmas presents and then had to get some new wellies for Chelsea. Charley just got the hand-me-downs but she was still at the stage where anything of Chelsea’s was revered. Wellies had taken on a new persona of their own in the shops. They were more pictorial than the efforts we see in the Tate Modern and a hell of a price. I refused to be ripped off, plus the fact we had tight budgets. But Chelsea ogled the bright ones wistfully.

“I’m sorry darling, these will have to do. The others are just too expensive,” I said picking up the plain green ones, the cheapest we could find. I felt a bit wretched about this. In order to Home Educate, time isn’t the only thing we sacrifice and all I ever seem to say is ‘we can’t afford it’. But she’s so intuitive she must have picked up on it.

“It doesn’t matter mum. I’ll paint my own with the paints we got from the recycling centre.”

I was so grateful for her magnitude I cuddled her up. “What a brilliant idea! And I bet they’ll be better than any in the shops.”

“Yea, and no one else will have any the same,” she said looking at a girl wearing some we’d just seen in Woolworths.

“Can I paint mine too?” asked Charley.

“Sure. We’ll have a wellie painting session. We could even paint your dad’s,” I said winking at them. They really liked that idea.

When we went back later Charles looked his normal self again. He opened his arms to Charley and she leapt into them with clear relief. Chelsea lobbed her arms round his waist.

“Is that better now?” he asked carrying Charley to the car. She inspected him slightly doubtfully. Chelsea smiled happily up at him holding the free hand.

“You did look daft, dad,” she giggled.

“Did you remember the sweets?” asked Charley.

He put her down and produced a packet from his pocket. Finally Charley grinned at him too. It was definitely better now.

“Mum! You can’t go out like that,” Chelsea said as I tied tinsel on my shoes ready for a Christmas party.

“Why not? It’s Christmas isn’t it.” I looked at her in feigned indignation. She’d got that suffering look on again.

“Doh! What do you look like?” She was getting to be a right Tweenager.

“I think you look nice,” said Charley clasping my leg in a cuddle from the carpet where she was building a structure with our logs.

“Well at least put some lipstick on,” said Chelsea still trying to make something out of me. She rummaged in a make up bag so extensive it would be the envy of Julian Clary. “How about this?” She produced something nearly black.

“Black?” I shrieked. “It’s Christmas, not Halloween.”

“It’s not black, it’s plum.”

“I’ll have some,” said Charley hopefully. She was ignored. I sneaked a look in the bag of sticky powdery tubs and jars and pencils. It staggered me how she loved it so, I wasn’t into it at all. But I humoured her and found a jar of lovely sparkly glittery gluey stuff with sequin stars in.

“Ooo, this is nice.” I opened the pot and smeared some across my chest. It made grubby stains as if I hadn’t washed for a week. “Oh!” I looked in the mirror, disappointed.

“Oh, mum, not like that.” Chelsea took over and I had the sense our mother and daughter roles were reversing. She wiped it about and the smudges disappeared leaving a myriad of glistening sparkles. Then she added the sequins.

“Can I have some?” asked Charley again, thinking her sister had softened her attitude.

“No!” was the emphatic retort.

“Can I have some then?” asked Charles.

“NO!” they both shrieked together. And give us their parents-are-prats look.

We finished getting ready.

“So do we look alright now?” I asked.

“Yes.” They smile united. But I couldn’t help a last word.

“You know it’s not how you look, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“Yes, we know!”

They know too much, my kids.

Christmas continued sparkly all the way through.

The best thing about it was the painted wellies. They were works of art fit for exhibiting in The Tate themselves, with swirls and colours and rainbows. If I’d bought the coloured ones we never would have had such creativity. Being on a tight budget certainly makes you think creatively so maybe I shouldn’t worry after all. Charley painted gold stars on hers. But she painted straight over the mud so the stars had a brown tinge.

Charles and I used the ‘holiday’ from education to ignore the children and just live life. But it didn’t work. We didn’t want it to really. We were a family, we were a team. Life and education were as indistinguishable from one another as our family and love. I suspected it always would be.”