Tag Archive | family

School is just no good for some kids

Since Lockdown put home schooling back in the spotlight I’ve heard of several parents thinking about making the change from school to home educating permanently. So I thought this would be a good time to re-share this post of old…

The leap to home schooling is always a big decision, but I often hear parents saying how uplifting it was to see their children returning to being the happy contented little people they were before they started school. One specifically reported that the many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

Yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected to on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

From the archives; our happy children back enjoying ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

It’s something I hear frequently and they are not the only parents to experience this. It happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, they have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and yet feel qualified to disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who now have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach its success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst; unwell.

Yet, I’ve never found a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important there’s a post here

I readily admit that school works for many. But not all, so should you wish to make the switch permanently to home education be bold and go for it. It’s a great decision and one which we and others like us never once regretted!

A wider educational perspective beyond school propaganda

I’m really feeling for parents.

Whatever your youngsters are doing; school-at-home, home educating, further or higher education, or working, it’s worrying. For all of us. Everyone is suffering from anxiety over the unprecedented crisis the pandemic has caused.

So I kind of feel it’s unhelpful to suggest that one group, whether that’s the tiddlies or the teens, are suffering more than anyone else. It’s hard for all in different ways, adults included. Each group has their challenges. Everyone needs compassion right now whatever stage we’re at in parenting or education, work or family.

However, I do have particular compassion towards those parents who have dutifully invested in an education system via schooling, now taken away, that had become increasingly flawed. And that was before the pandemic and school closures even started. For those flaws are showing up now more than ever, the rigidity of it most of all.

Parents have been driven to believe that schooling is the best for their youngsters’ education. Urged to believe that a rigid structured approach to learning, with targets, tests and continual measurement is the only way to educate. In fact they’ve been hoodwinked into believing that, without it, their children will be failures with no hope of a successful future. Sold the idea that without endless grades their young people will never be employable.

Parents have been sold these ideas through powerful educational politics and emotional propaganda that keeps parents subservient to a system that suits the government. This is not because it’s best for the learners. But because a subservient population is easier to manage.

And currently parents are bombarded with statements about how this time without school will have a dire effect on their youngsters’ long term future, especially if they don’t do what the school wants.

None of this is helpful. And not actually true anyway.

Let’s face it; this crisis is going to have an effect on everyone’s future, not just the school kids. Whether it will be dire or not depends on how we respond to it. It will be different certainly, but different doesn’t necessarily mean dire.

However, I can understand parents’ anxiety about it.

Maybe what would help is to take a step back from this emotional bombardment from schools and see it from another perspective.

Firstly, success does not necessarily depend on grades. There are both employees and entrepreneurs out there who are proof of that, Richard Branson among them.

Secondly, education is not only about schooling, curricula, how many worksheets or work books you’ve filled, about targets, academic exercises, test passes, graded subject matter and the rest of the school strategies used to so-called educate. It is about developing a broad, cultured, inquiring mind that is curious and keen to develop the skills to learn. It requires far more personal skills than the academic – skills which are equally dependent on being learnt out of school, like motivation, communication, intuition, responsibility, independence, for example. (How can school kids develop independence when they’re constantly coerced into shutting up and doing as they’re told?)

And, thirdly, if you take a wider perspective, success is not confined to what happens between the ages of six and eighteen. Not confined to qualifications. It is a life-long, ongoing process that can be constantly developed and updated – independently of an institution – as much as in it. At any time.

Fourthly, youngsters are not necessarily going to be scarred for life by this disruption to their traditional, systematic schooling any more than any of us are. In fact, you could argue the opposite view, that they may benefit from it, as I hear on social media that some are.

We are all having to diversify, be inventive, manage our well being (particularly tricky with being so confined), whatever group we’re in, to get through this. But they’re good skills to practise!

So it may be wiser to adopt strategies to calm the worrying about how to prop up a system that is outdated, consumerist, blinkered and damagingly conservative anyway, ignore these horrible emotive threats from schools, keep in touch with other parents so that you can question and rebel against the abominable practise of fines against those parents not keeping in line. They can’t fine you all. And besides, how did threats and fines and bullying ever become an acceptable approach to education?

Be bold. Do what your intuition tells you is best for you and your family. Question why schools ask of you what they do. And develop a wider perspective on this out-of-school time, the most difficult of which, for the time being, is looking after your mental well-being.

Learn to look at education differently. Look up how experienced home educators have done it so successfully over many years, resulting in intelligent, productive, qualified and successfully working young people, who mostly ignored school practises and did it their way. Look at their approaches and philosophies (Read mine by scrolling down the ‘About Home Education’ page on this site) and develop a different perspective. Take charge of your children’s education for now. Your child doesn’t need to be fodder for school stats.

Try to encourage your youngsters to be busy with a wide range of activities which interest them, which they may never had time for before. Variety develops intelligence and skills far more than a narrow curriculum does. Hang in there until better times are here.

I very much doubt that in twenty years time anyone is going to look back and say I’m a total failure because I missed a year of schooling. Because by that time they won’t be total failures anyway, they will have adapted, updated, found other ways forward, made a different success. Your child’s success isn’t determined by their school years alone. Have faith. Success is a long term thing often based in an ability to diversify and be resourceful, just as we are doing now.

Better times to come!

Then, maybe, as Spring approaches and parents question and demand changes, not only will you see bulbs blooming, but also the burgeoning of a better education system than the restrictive, inhibiting, coercive, political one we have now, a new one that is not just there to serve the politics, but that actually serves our learners well.

Comforting thought: Everything always changes

Sometimes, looking after your children and their education is absolutely all consuming. I remember it!

Add the worry of the pandemic into the mix and it’s overwhelming. And overwhelm can mask a fact that can be really comforting at times like this: Everything always changes.

This time of challenge will change. Your children will change. Your circumstances will change. Your house will not always be full to claustrophobic as it may feel now. Hang onto that!

My house has long since emptied. Not only of the youngsters but of the clutter that inevitably accompanies home educating. And I still miss it!

The kitchen table, which was buried to unusable under bits, books, works of art, works of unidentifiable inventions and suspect experiments, is now bare. Even some of the glue, paint and ink patches are wearing off although the indentations from various craftwork will no doubt always remain.

Along with that are the empty beds, empty toy cupboards, empty bits and bobs drawers and empty shelves that not only housed books, boxes of pens, paper, tools, but also the other varied junk that you acquire for experiments, creations, investigations and constructions.

All gone. If any clutter remains I have to take the blame. But that busy homeschool time for us has passed. As yours will. We can never really imagine what lies ahead. Uncertainty is more common than the opposite with kids, even more so now with the pandemic.

And I have a double whammy at the moment as we also prepare to move on from this house. What timing?!

If you read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ you’ll know the story of our move into this funny old place. I inherited it along with dubious critters in the roof and quirks of character that could make life very challenging. But the kids didn’t see all that, they just loved it. It was where their grandma lived. And although its dream location offered distant moonlight on the sea, unimaginable helpings of sky and sunsets and endless space across it’s adjacent marshes perfect for mud slides, it also meant we spent much time on the road accessing the facilities the kids needed for a broader educational experience.

This old house nestled in it’s trees from across the fields on one of my wet walks!

I’d never have thought I’d leave, but then, nothing is certain, remember. It’s been a monumental decision, and I’ve no idea where we’ll end up, but time and needs always change, as I said.

It may not be as monumental as moving house but things will change for you too. These circumstances we’re in right now, that are so difficult and overwhelming, will become different.

Just because you can’t imagine it, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

And although it’s hard to look forward right now, if we can deal with the times we’re in and excavate the good bits, be grateful for any good fortune that comes our way, things WILL change. Some organically, some you’ll engineer. But be reassured, they will.

Hang in there while they do.

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.

Random scary thought on education!

This may sound scary and radical, but it isn’t really.

That’s because everyone starts out with a creative mind. It’s just we’re generally educated out of it – did you realise? (The inspiring Ken Robinson explains in his talk here)

When I say ‘creative’ here I’m not necessarily talking about artworks; rather the creative thinking we all employ – and need – all the time, for living and surviving and being resourceful, one of the most important skills we can have. We’ve certainly had to do that lately! And I worry that the system is squeezing that out of our youngsters. (More on why creativity is so important in this blog here). It’s numbing them with endless irrelevant tests and targets and political objectives that have no use in personal development and are making failures of intelligent children.

Parents should pay attention.

You can build your own family education, aside from what schools do, by taking charge of what you do – randomly – whether you home educate or not. By encouraging learning of random things at random times, instead of succumbing to numbing media-festing or confining learning to the usual objective-led academic things. By paying less attention to academic results and more attention to ongoing personal development, creative thinking included. By learning stuff just for fun. This can happen whatever age you are.

A creative mind is the best tool to have for that. It helps develop resourcefulness and resilience – ever more needed in current climes! It’s likely to be creative minds who save the planet, find the Coronavirus cure. Minds who can think in diverse ways, rather than be squeezed into conventional boxes.

So have a think about what it says on the poster, about developing an ongoing and personal education through interests and activities. And don’t let traditional education condition you or your family out of your creativity.

Not forgetting that home education gives you the ultimate opportunity to do so!

You cannot force a child to learn…

I’m working on sharing ideas with pictures right now – I know it gets boring wading through print all the time!

Here’s my latest thought:

It’s something that most people never think about, as they threaten dire consequences to force kids to learn with sayings like; you’ll never have a life if you don’t do exams, or; you’ll fail in life if you don’t do your school work, or; if you don’t learn this now you’ll never have another chance. All complete balderdash – I’ve seen the opposite happen!

And anyway threats like this don’t work because, although children may be giving the impression of taking it in, it’s absolutely true that:

All you can do is provide the right environment, nourishment and encouragement; physical, mental and spiritual, give their roots and limbs room and time to expand and grow and connect, and let go….

So what are you going to do with the kids today?

I may be a home educator at heart but I really feel for the children who are missing school and contact with their friends. It’ll be a hard adjustment for them, for all the family.

Of course, it is also the same for the home educated kids who are also now isolated. Because despite what most parents generally think, home educating involves being out as much as in; seeing friends, going places, using resources in the community, etc. In fact they probably do that more than school kids who are stuck in one venue all the time.

Everyone will be adjusting. We’re all stuck at home – well – if you’re taking your responsibility seriously.

So maybe now’s the time to rethink the value of home based things.

Obviously we have wonderful digital connections to fall back on. But life shouldn’t be all about staring at your phone. Instead it’s a good time to connect with those in the house, find things you can enjoy together, use your resourcefulness to make your home come alive by the things you do in it. Become ingenuous with whatever’s to hand. It’ll bring a homely flavour to your house which may have become jaded. It’ll restrengthen connections (although it may take a while).

As for ‘education’; as I said before everything is educational as it stimulates and increases skills, mental and physical. You may not be aware of the educational value of cooking for example but it involves maths (weighing, measuring, calculation, understanding temperatures, computation and understanding scales, calibration, estimation, time etc.) language (reading, interpreting recipes, following instructions, language, abbreviations, vocabulary etc) science (changing states of substances like cake becoming solid, heat conduction, food stuffs and materials which can withstand it, etc) As well as all the conversations. All these skills can be transferred to academic learning later on, will be better remembered as they’ve been experienced, and more importantly they’re useful for life!

So don’t think domestic things are separate from educational things. It’s all valuable. So get doing, using ideas online if you’re stuck.

Got any gadgets for the kids to dismantle? They love it and learn a lot!

Here are some things you might do or encourage the kids to:

Cook or bake something.

Discuss something – especially topics you wouldn’t normally.

Create something – be creative with whatever stuff you have to hand. (A blog on its value here)

Read something.

Make something you haven’t made before.

Try and mend something.

Write something.

Debate something.

Draw something.

Construct something.

Film or record something.

Rearrange something.

Research something.

Re-purpose something.

Explore something. (Probably online at this point!)

Get moving (physically in the house if not out)

Grow something.

Do something you haven’t done before.

Doing a variety of these things will be purposeful and developmental in ways you’ll not even be aware of. So get busy, enjoy your home time, and forget trying to ‘educate’ for the time being. The kids will be learning all the time!

When in school…

Not everyone can home educate! Of course not; not everyone is the same or lives the same circumstances. Obvious!

And some families who do home educate, have children in school as well, running both approaches alongside each other.

Having an awareness of home education though, does bring a different perspective to learning in school, as many of my school using friends commented. They said that some of the ideas I talked about, and the way we saw education, helped them embrace a different attitude which in turn supported their child’s education through school.

So I thought I’d post some of those perspectives here for those who have school in their lives, although they equally apply to homeschooling parents:

1) Take on the idea that schooling and education are different things. And decide what you’re schooling for so you can keep a healthy balance between personal skills, grades and scores. (This post might help)

2) Focus on their learning experience, not results, decide on the important bits. Keep engaged. But don’t take over. Create space (emotional as well as physical) to do the tasks they need to.

3) One of the best ways to support learning development is by reading to them!

4) As well as by listening. Let them air their concerns, news and ideas, without judgement or dismissal. Then they’re more likely to talk to you. Sometimes listening will ease concerns, other times you may need to discuss them and get involved.

5) If you’ve chosen school, then you’re probably bound by school rules like homework, uniform, tests, etc. But if you feel these are too intrusive you need to say. Many parents are against homework and SATs etc., so get together and get these things changed – it’s the parents that have the power in the end as a collective.

6) Understand the importance of playtime, outdoor time, exercise. These activities support learning, not detract from it, and are a vital part of a child’s day/life.

7) Create family times that are sacrosanct. Engaged family times and shared conversations are a way of supporting your child that is irreplaceable.

8) Social interaction and friendships in schools are tricky! Negotiate a sensitive pathway through the ups and downs by listening, discussing why people do what they do, by trying to remain non-judgemental, but at the same time setting out what you value in relationships and whether you want friends who don’t uphold these values. That goes for adult behaviour too! Make respect for all absolutely paramount regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, learning differences, whatever.

9) A friend said a simple idea she found most helpful was remembering: the children are not finished yet! Give them time. Stay on their side. Keep faith. Allow them to develop at their own rate and don’t compare them with others all the time. Magic happens at all different stages of young people’s development. Believe in your youngsters.

10) Finally, always be encouraging.

Whichever way you approach your children’s learning do please share your thoughts below – all perspectives are useful to hear!

Your questions about home education answered

It is true what’s written in the poster! Although many parents don’t realise, or begin to comprehend how this would work, conditioned as we are to believe that formal, school-style approaches to education are the only ones worth doing.

They’re not!

The more you home educate the more it becomes apparent that diverse, incidental and informal activities, like play, investigation and experimenting for example, educate as much as formal academic exercises do.

To help understand how this happens there’s a whole chapter devoted to it in my book;  ‘Learning Without School Home Education’.

The contents of this book are based around the general questions parents ask all the time about home education:

What is home education and why do people do it?

How do parents start home educating?

How do home educated children learn?

How do they find friends and become socialised?

What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

What about tests, exams and qualifications?

What is life like for a home educating family?

What about children with ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’?

Where do home educated families end up?

The chapters answer all the above questions in detail and the answers may well surprise you. And, as one teacher reported, may inspire many ideas about education in general that you’ve never thought of before!

So don’t let the schooling style of learning monopolise your thinking about education. Don’t let the system make you believe that testing, classrooms, teachers, curriculum are required or your child won’t learn. That’s untrue. Or make you believe that school is needed for socialisation – it’s not. (Read this about weird social behaviour and baked beans!)

Schooling is one way of doing it – a very unsuccessful way for many – which is why thousands of families are choosing home education as an alternative and making a grand job of it!

New to Home Education? It’s worth a look…

Please feel free to share the post as much as you like!

You might be surprised to hear a former home educator say that home schooling isn’t suited to everyone. But, of course, that’s the truth because of the simple fact that every family is different, every child has different needs and everyone lives with different characters and in different circumstances. So it’s obvious really!

It’s also the truth that school does not suit every child and that IS NORMAL!

We should not de-normalise those who don’t flourish in a school setting. Firstly, it’s discriminative. Secondly, there’s nothing ‘wrong‘ with those who don’t – it’s criminal to suggest there is. Thirdly, some of us quite rightly need alternatives. Finally – and obviously – we are NOT all the same!

So for those of you who want to consider an alternative education – and home education is as valid and successful as school education – I’ve collated some posts especially for you:

The real truth about home education dispels the common myths

Thinking about home education instead of going to school looks at common doubts.

The ‘About Home Education’ page above briefly answers the usual questions, has a link to my talk about whether you could home educate or not, and further down has a wider educational philosophy which may help you formulate ideas.

The post 5 tips for new home educators may help get you going!

Among my books you’ll find my guide to Home Education; ‘Learning Without School’, the story of how we approached it; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is an easy read, and lots of tips in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. All details on the My Books page above.

Meanwhile link up with me on my Facebook page or Twitter (or Instagram just for fun!) I’m happy to answer questions there or in the comments below.

There is a vast and on-growing community of parents who want something different from schooling. No one home educates alone and most find it an inspiring and liberating experience that they never once regret!