Tag Archive | family life

Your child is different from you!

I was born and grew up in the city of London. Right in the centre as far away from rural as you can get.

But all of our childhood holidays were spent in the countryside, so I was aware of these two contrasting worlds. And it didn’t take

A glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on

much growing up for me to recognise from a hunger within which of these two environments was right for my soul. I soon understood that my spirits wilted when surrounded by concrete, buildings, noise and crowds without a glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on. Yet the surroundings of greenery, fields and solitary quiet gave my spirits wings and a sense of relief I still require to thrive.

Even though I live in the countryside now and these things are common place I still experience the sudden sense of imprisonment, when shut inside too long or under laptop. Hence why I can often be found scribbling in the shelter of a hedge bottom with my bum in damp grass, or on my daily walk (as you see from Instagram). I’m just letting my spirits heal from the onslaught of contemporary life.

Of course not everyone feels this. Or feels it this way round. Ironically my eldest is the complete opposite.

We made many, many excursions into cities whilst we were home educating here in the country. And as her teen years kicked in I began to realise that, unlike me, it was the city that made her spirits come alive.

I can clearly remember the time when I suddenly spotted, with shock and empathy, that familiar look on her face one day that described that same feeling I’d had when I was stuck somewhere that did nothing for my spirits.

In contrast to me, she needed the city for hers. And that’s where she’s lived since Uni.

That is not to say she doesn’t relish her trips home and the rural things we do like picnics and walks and encounters with wildlife and flowers. And when I’m visiting her we often find park walks to do from the city.

But we both know and accept what we each are, what each needs to thrive, and that those needs are completely different from the other.

It is SO important, I think, to know and accept that our children are NOT us. And allow them to be different. Allow them to be separate.

Allowing our children to be who they need to be, without judgement, and loving them for who they are without conditions, is a fundamental ingredient to being the parent we should be, a parent that all kids need. And inevitably one of the hardest parts!

But we get over it.

The most wonderful result, though, is that from that respect and loving acceptance the relationship can grow stronger despite the independence.

Independence means allowing our children to be who they need to be and loving them just the same – allowing their independence from us, and consequently practising our own independence from trying to keep them like us.

In fact, this is true of all relationships.

So love your children the way they are and in such a way which affords them the opportunity to discover who they need to be, whatever age they are, wherever that is. And make sure you’re not hanging onto keeping them like you.

Good luck to the home schooled kids!

It’s not just school kids taking exams at the moment!

 So what I want to say is this: Good luck to all the home educating families involved with exams too! What an achievement to have got this far – without school.

It’s an aspect of home education that many people don’t even think about even at this time of the year – that homeeducated kids will be doing exams too. Pretty ironic really, since ‘what about exams?’ is always one of the major questions parents and journalists ask when they’re researching home education.

Most home educated families study for GCSEs just the same as all the school kids do – yep there is life and learning outside a classroom! They use courses – usually associated with examining bodies, sample papers online, coursebooks, and the Net of course – they just don’t do it in a classroom. And they learn very much from their own study, parental help and encouragement, online facilities, and occasionally tutors (although that’s quite rare actually). They sit the exams in independent exam centres dotted around the country, the snag with that is the have to be independently paid for – extremely unfair – the home educating community is working on getting help for that.

And just as other kids do, most of the home educators go on to achieve good grades.

So I wanted to take a moment’s thought for them. So often home educating families are disregarded, or worse; the victims of bigoted, biased judgements usually by those who are ignorant of the experience, like this one which appeared in the media recently about a young home schooled graduate.

What we rarely see are the grades and the achievements. I reckon if a study were done of the percentage of homeschooled candidates who achieved good grades compared to the percentage of school candidates the former would be the higher!

Most home educating young people are motivated and achieving, they go on into work as easily as anyone else (not that it’s easy for any in today’s climate), often beating off competition.

So I wanted to wish all those families and young people whole hearted good luck with your exams! You deserve a mention too!

Important stuff about Home Ed

I was wondering the other day what would be the most important things I could say about home education. It’s so difficult to identify because there are so many. But here goes:

  • It confirms that it is possible to learn in a broader, less restricted, enjoyable and uplifting way than that which we’re familiar with in school, which can take account for individualities, preferences and diverse learning styles
  • The different and diverse approaches that home educating families adopt can turn learning failure into learning success, thus eradicating the concept of ‘learning difficulty’ and proving that the difficulty lies with the system not with the child
  • It develops a warm, communicative, articulate and a worldly useful set of social skills that are transferable to the real world and the workplace
  • It means that learning, and personal development – which after all is what learning is – becomes part of family life and not segregated from it as schooling tends to be
  • It liberates children’s education from being institutional and makes you realise that learning takes place any time – without time constraints, anywhere – without room/place constraints, anyhow – without method constraints, which keeps kids motivated and engaged
  • It allows children to be in charge of their learning destiny and therefore makes them independent learners and independent life livers who have intiative, intelligence and purpose
  • It can be a much more hands-on, practical, experiential process, not dependent on a narrow range of academic skills which not everyone has from the outset, although strong academic skills are often the outcome
  • It gives more time for conversation, inquiry, personal pursuits, and activities which develop character, personality and lifeskills, often cited as lacking by employers
  • It’s bloody good fun!

If you want to know how – my books will show you.

And please do add to my list…

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!

 

How home educating helped our autistic son

A little while ago Gina commented on a post on my blog.

I was so moved by her remarks that I thought her story needed a post of its own. Her comment related to a post about Daniel Radcliffe (read it here), who was also told he was stupid, which prompted her to write this about her autistic son:

Gina’s two happy boys!

I have an 11 yo whom we removed from school in the first term of year one. He was six and had picked up the idea he was stupid and didn’t try hard enough. 

They had stopped teaching him anything but social skills so he would be prepared for the local special school and he was allowed to play and do what he wanted all day.

They gave up on him because he was ticking none of the horrendous Ofsted boxes. I am sure they wanted to do it differently with him but there was no time for all (or any) of his needs to be met.

They told us to concentrate on his life skills so he could aim for living in a group home, that was the best we could hope for. They really didn’t like us much and I think us constantly trying to support our child in a system that essentially had no room for him did not improve their willingness to try.

Within weeks of taking him out of school as a child who could not recognise his letters he read a chapter book, by eight he had read an entire adult spider encyclopaedia. Most importantly he was happy and had stopped crying. He has recently learned how to join in with games and speak to his friends. Two days ago he played with a strange child in a playground with other friends. This is a huge milestone and totally unexpected.

He becomes kinder, braver and happier all the time away from school. Like Daniel Radcliffe said my son was also labelled and would have been discarded had it not been for home schooling. He loves learning and life now.

When Gina related to me a little of their family background it contained several other appalling instances of the treatment of their children in school, details of which I won’t go into here except to say they’re sadly very familiar; bullying, disregard of child’s special needs, blatant lying on the part of the school, which all culminated in them making that choice to home educate.

She went on to tell me:

We haven’t looked back, they are just over five years out of school and thriving. The stomach issues he had at school cleared up when they stopped going. They are in groups, making friends and just happy, life is good now.  They remember school and don’t want to go back and feel really sorry for school children who get stuck in doors all day every day!  They still have issues related to autism but we can deal with that as a family at home.  There is time and space for that. 

As a family we are a bit nerdy! We love Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons, we make loads of things and we love science experiments – especially with explosions or fire.  They seem a lot less worldly than school children we know and are able to play longer and use their imaginations so much more.  They’re just growing at a slower and more gentle pace which suits their needs better. They live the stories they read and movies they see through their games.  We make sure to build boredom time into the day so they have to go and find something to do, even if they need help.  We also make sure there are at least a couple of hours for just playing.  They have chores, we cook and clean together and we play together. 

We are looking at maybe doing Forest School with them once a week.  They do sports, trips, play dates, crafting, drama and Parkour with their friends; friendships they have been building for a very long time now.

We are really close and I think that is one of the very lovely side effects of home education. 

Many, many thanks Gina for sharing this with us. Wishing you continued happiness.

Treat a bad day like passing wind!

Waiting for the climate to change!

Being the best parent you can be (see last post) is exhausting. You’re bound to get a bad day. A day when you probably wish you weren’t a parent at all and had another job!

We all get them whatever job we’re doing. Whether it’s parenting, home educating, employment out the home, self employment, what ever path you’re forging you’re bound to get a day that’s totally crap. It’s a life thing – not a job thing.

It’s odd though; when you’re an employee you tend to blame the job. When you’re a parent, particularly a home schooling parent, you tend to blame yourself. And that makes a crap day a whole lot crappier!

So this is a post just to say: DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.

We all love our kids to bits and love being with them – of course we do. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t be the kind of person bothering to read this if you didn’t) But that’s not going to mean that we won’t get down about life occasionally. It’s just what happens, whatever we do, and is as natural a part of the human condition as passing wind! And – yes – everyone passes wind even those who pretend otherwise. Equally, everyone will suffer a bad day even if they pretend they’re perfect.

But that doesn’t make us bad parents or bad home educators. It’s just the way it is sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up over it. The best way to help yourselves is to ACCEPT it. It’s just life. And nurture yourself through this bit just as you would nurture a friend.

If you viewed your parenting, or home educating role, like you’d view employment, you’d accept there’s bound to be bad days when you’re giving less than you’d like. If you were employed you might even throw a sickie!

Can’t do that as a parent – but you can go easy on yourself for a day till it passes. Also remember there are teachers, nursery workers, assistants, helpers, who will be working through a bad day without giving their best either. It’s just normal having a bad day from time to time. Doesn’t make you a bad person, just because you can’t give your best today.

Make a cuppa. Sit it out. Accept it gracefully. Wait for the climate of your day to change. You’re just human. Deal with it with the compassion and gentleness that makes you humane.

This will show your children the skills to deal with bad days whenever they get them too, and help them understand bad days are part of life and not to worry – the climate always changes – bad wind always passes! So even on a bad day you’ll be teaching them something through your parenting! Take comfort from that. And if you’re suffering one right now, may your climate soon change!

Sibling conflict and The Wrong Adventure

 

Have you come across Harry? He’s the star of the story ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and he gets up to all sorts of adventures in a typical family week with kids at home.

In book two; ‘The Wrong Adventure’, he decides to tunnel out. Why? Because he wants to get away from his older brother and sister as everything he does seems to annoy them. He’s not doing what he does specifically to annoy, as all older siblings seem to feel, but because he’s curious. and it gets the better of him. He ends up exploring things he shouldn’t!

It’s typical in most households and was loosely based on what happened in this one, when the youngest was constantly fascinated with the activities of the eldest and wanted part of it, or hands on it, or to do the activities for herself however inappropriate. And however much I tried to involve both in activities at their own level there were times it seemed impossible, times when the eldest just wanted to absorb herself in what she was doing without having to guard against little fingers grabbing stuff all the time.

You have to be careful how you react to this scenario, I discovered. You can find yourself involved in a sibling competition to get you onside.

You have to be canny. You have to try and resolve it without that happening. Better still, you have to lead them to resolving it themselves to the satisfaction of both – but this can only happen with a certain maturity and there are times when they’re just no old enough.

I tried talking, explaining, compromise and keeping respectful and if all that fails distraction and diversion. And have to admit sibling rivalry could become quite wearing. But all would be resolved in the end, togetherness restored, even though I got it disastrously wrong at times as all parents do, so don’t worry, it’s not just you! And they’ve forgiven me!

And the only fights they ever get into now is united, side by side, in fierce loyalty against any challenges to it – together! It’s been lovely to see and not something I could ever have imagined when crayons were flying across the room!

So, why is Harry on the wrong adventure? Well, if you haven’t guessed by this post, I’ll leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. Read it together with your little ones and it might give you an opportunity to talk about how siblings treat each other and how it could be improved in your household when everyone is at loggerheads. For what’s required is to see each other’s point of view and hopefully this story will help that.

 

‘The Wrong Adventure’ is published by Bird’s Nest Books and is also available on Amazon.