Tag Archive | family life

Applauding our children’s achievements

Are we there yet?

Look back to see how far you've come

Look back to see how far you’ve come

Is there a parent who hasn’t heard that on long journeys?

But it’s maybe something we’re also guilty of thinking as parents; about our children’s progress. And missing the ‘journey’ because of it. Wondering if they’ll ever ‘get it’ or ‘get there’, especially in regard to their education.

And therein lies the problem; ‘getting there’ can be a false concept, because life doesn’t always happen like that, or to order. There isn’t always a ‘there’ to aim for. And whilst you’re striving you can sometimes miss the little things that have been achieved.

It’s like hill walking; I could bet my boots that as soon as I reached the top of one summit there’d be another one waiting just beyond that was even higher, diluting the achievement of climbing the first one. Unless I looked back and acknowledged how far I’d come.

We can do that with our children sometimes, always pressing them for more. Missing what’s achieved and what is now.

Yet now is where life resides.

There may be many days when you feel there’s no progress. It certainly can feel like that when you’re home educating long term. You may feel that your days are boring and pointless, the children haven’t gained anything. That you have nothing to show – no progress.

Life can be like that whatever you’re doing, whether it’s raising babies, or doing a tedious job day after day to feed them and keep a roof over your head, life may feel stagnant.

But; progress isn’t always measurable in tangible terms. 

And each day IS a progression in itself, even the dull days.

If you have lived, that is progress. Because each day however mundane supports us in some way, however small and insignificant. Each day is a demonstration to the children about living a life, will have taught them something. Each day makes up a life, so each one has it’s value as such even if you can’t feel it at the time.

If you look back to years gone by, or when your children were little – good excuse to get the photos out – you’ll see a huge progression and many achievements.

Life is a long journey. Life with kids is a long journey. A journey of learning and experience. Each day is another footstep on our way. And we mustn’t devalue a step because of a false concept of not being ‘there’ yet. Or it not being as you first imagined.

And each day is worth, even if not applauding, simply blessing for what it is. We don’t have to be ‘there’ to acknowledge that. And the children don’t need to be ‘there yet’ for us to cherish their achievements so far.

They may not be glamorous or measurable, but they are still achievements. And can always be appreciated.

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

There’s no single ‘right’ way to educate

Having home educated our children people often ask what advice I would give to those just starting out. So with the surge in interest I thought I’d repost some ideas for those who are new to it.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be practically engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be learning. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re going to be collated in one new book; ‘Tales From My Home Education Notebook’ – hopefully out in the Spring. If you sign up to the publishers newsletter here you’ll get first news of when it’s due.

 

Even Celebs are choosing to Home Educate!

Nadia and her lovely girls

Earlier in the week there were several papers covering the news about Nadia Sawalha revealing that she was another parent who home educated.

It was lovely to have some positive coverage among the ignorant dross that’s usually trotted out by people who’ve no experience of home schooling. (Like the other presenters on ‘Loose Women’ who discuss it here all of whom are under the usual misconceptions like; kids who haven’t been used to getting up in the morning won’t be able to go to work!)

But it will help to raise awareness of this option for families whose children are not thriving in school.

And there are all sorts of reasons for that; for not thriving. Most of which generally have nothing to do with learning and education, and much to do with the school climate, the prescriptive nature of enforced learning matter and means, the obsession with testing and measurement – not particularly helpful to the learner themselves, and the neglect of individual intelligence in favour of a generic cloning.

And another thing – many, many of us would not thrive or reach our potential in a school atmosphere with masses of others where we feel threatened and put down, where despite government promises needs are not met. They can’t be, simply because of the corporate business that a school is, with so many to cater for. And the vote hungry politics which makes it so.

What’s so deplorable about this is that parents are made to feel there’s something wrong with children who need a different kind of atmosphere from that horrid hubbub of school in which to learn. School is fine if it suits – horrendous if it doesn’t. These kids are not necessarily cowards, softies, introverts or ‘special’ as they’ve been called – they are discerning! And many of the home educated kids who I know, who were removed from school because they hated it for that very reason, have gone on to be productively working adults with better social skills than many school grads.

After watching the Loose Women clip, particularly the suggestion that kids without structure won’t get up in the morning, my youngest who was home educated from the age of 6 commented that it was always the school kids who were late for college or lectures at Uni where she was always punctual despite this ‘lack’ of schooling structure. As Nadia said; home educated children take their learning on board for themselves unlike than those who’ve had it imposed on them and have therefore no idea how to be independent.

What I find most interesting about the idea of celebrities choosing home education (Emma Thompson another one) when they could presumably afford a ‘really good’ private school, is that whatever a ‘really good’ school may be these parents find their children need something different from a school experience. And it is the schooling that most want to get away from. Usually so they can get on with the real business of learning in an uplifting, inspiring and life-enhancing way.

Which is fundamentally what education is about.

Oooops – gender stereotyping alert!

20151231_120846Nothing like getting out on a decent day and sawing up the branches I’ve acquired on my walks through the trees.

It engages me with something basic that modern life removes me from. I like foraging for free fuel and sawing it up for the open fire. Wood being less pollutive than coal or the oil of the central heating.

The physicality of it, the accomplishment of it out in the elements, the contact with the outside, replenishes the wellbeing in ways other perhaps more sophisticated or sedentary pursuits do not.

I admit, I only do the small bits. Charles gets the chainsaw out for the big chunks (could be more pollutive, I know). But he likes his machines and the sounds of satisfying revving, where I like the silence.

I think it might be a man thing. Or is that just a gender stereotypical thing to say?

It put me in mind of our philosophy group’s last discussion which was a bit of a surprise. The chair posed a question as a warm up which was about gender: ‘say something positive about the opposite sex’ he posed!

Dumb silence ensued. Just a bit significant I thought!

Then, one by one, the males piped up and said nice things, but the females seemed at a bit of a loss. Which I also thought was significant. I couldn’t tell whether this was because they couldn’t actually think of anything or they thought the question a bit inane.

Finally, one woman said; ‘Well, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say here but one thing I’ve noticed is that they’re good at sawing wood’.

A giggle passed round the group. This was the last thing anyone was expecting. Yet I thought it summarised it quite nicely. We appreciate the physicality of men, providing a nice strong comforting arm.

Yet equally a female offers a strong comforting arm, don’t they?

This came back to me as I was sawing. That, and how difficult it is not to gender stereotype as I’ve done here, and more particularly as parents.

These days the traditional male and female roles (as we saw them) overlap, both the physical and the comforting, the providing and the caring. And I believe we all need elements of all in our lives whatever gender we are. We need to be self observational and mindful in order to fulfil our own basic needs and those of others, and physical, emotional, cerebral, strong, sensitive, whatever’s required – whatever gender.

And make sure the kids get a demonstration of that; the choice of playing any role that suits.

And how ironic that I should be thinking all this when this news item reports a call for more female role models across the curriculum. Curriculum, politics, manual or academic, both women and men need to be there to balance the skills, strengths and sensitivities each can bring.

It’s SO important that no one is denied opportunities because of gender stereotyping or traditional roles, and we as parents don’t inadvertently impose either on our boys or girls; just value each for who they are.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

The sun goes quietly down on the shortest day

The sun goes quietly down without ceremony on the shortest day

What’s my Christmas look like? Warm and crackly with time by the fire, celebration that the shortest day is passed, walks and chats with my gorgeous girls all grown now, opportunity for a welcome rest from work for us all. And moments of complete peace, probably out where the wild wind blows and the sun settles its shoulders into a burnished horizon.

So before that happens am taking this opportunity to wish you all a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS. And to thank you once again for your treasured support.

x

Wild in the UK

Ben Fogle; ‘Lives In The Wild UK’

I’m totally loving the new Ben Fogle programmes; Lives in the Wild UK on channel 5.

I’m not especially an admirer of his but I love what the people featured in the programme are trying to do; trying to live their lives a little differently and not bow to mainstream pressure to do it the same as everyone else.

When you listen to the interviews with them during the programmes their heartfelt values and principles come shining through and I always admire anyone living by their values, even if it’s going to be challenging. For many of them it certainly is.

As a former home educator I know all about challenging. And I also get to meet some incredibly courageous people also living by their independent values, courageous because they have to step away from mainstream thinking and other mainstream lives, as home schoolers do.

Looking at these programmes it is comforting to see others, not necessarily home educators, but others who are upholding values outside the mainstream thinking of a heavily consumerist society, that tends to judge people by what they have rather than what they do or what values they uphold.

People who are finding that others ways of living, that are not to do with the treadmill of wealth adulation, are turning out to be more fulfilling than even that. Who are returning to their connection to the earth, in fact to ways in which we all must have first lived, living as much with their hands as with their computers, in order to restore something that modernity tends to be neglecting; our need for something other than big wealth, technology and a consumerist treadmill.

Collecting fuel for warmth, raising crops, farming and feeding and keeping a physical roof over your head can be just as much a treadmill as the commute to work to earn enough to buy it. But these people are finding that doing it for yourself sometimes, instead of always buying it in, can be satisfying in ways that buying cannot.

It’s making me look at my life and see if I can think more creatively and find little ways and changes that help me do the same, rather than always opting for the mainstream way, which so often seduces us by default. And the more we do this as parents, the more we encourage our children to question and examine their own ways of living, rather than always opting for the norm without questioning if it’s right for them or the damage it may be doing them.