Tag Archive | home ed

Mind your attitude

I’m aware there is some conflict!

Hardly surprising in these tricky times.

It’s really odd to suddenly have ‘home schooling’ thrust into the limelight when there’s times home educators have been made to feel like anti-establishment, boat rocking, nuisances who ought to get real! As if school is ‘real’? And as if that’s what we do it for.

We don’t. We do it for the good of our kids. Why would anyone put themselves through the enormity of the challenge of home educating if it wasn’t from the deep desire to do that?

Now, of course, everyone’s having to ‘home school’.

Or are they?

Most experienced home educators wouldn’t even use the term ‘home schooling’ (there’s a post about the differences here) or equate it in any way with what’s going on now. What’s going on now is basically school-at-home and biding time until the mass child minding centres open again and start testing and scoring and grading and pitching kids against one another through the mass political institution that is known as education.

But enough of that; I don’t want to rant and it’s not the point here.

The point is that we’re all in it together. Because we all have the same parental desire and are headed in the same direction: To have intelligent, well developed and happy kids who are able to move forward in caring and productive ways and get where they want to go, whether through employment or work of their own.

And we should respect that there are many approaches to doing this successfully, whatever you want to call it and wherever it takes place.

I knew families whose children never went to school. Ever.

I knew families who started with school then switched to home educating.

I knew families who had some children in school and some home educating.

I knew others who had all their children in school.

Others still who started home educating then switched to school at secondary. And vice versa.

I knew some who generally used school but home educated for a term/year/however long it was needed for the good of the child’s development, returning them to school at a later date.

And here’s the thing: All these approaches worked.

There are many different approaches to learning and any can work as long as they are managed carefully and respectfully.

And the point at the moment is not what you call it, is not home educating or doing school-at-home whilst there’s an abnormal interruption in the service most parents are used to. The point is everyone is struggling with a strange situation, whatever approach they started out with. And it will best be weathered if we support one another and refrain from making any judgements about what each is doing. We’re not politicians after all. 😀

All the parents who are having to deal with the children being at home instead of school could maybe grow a little more respect for home educators. All the experienced home educators, although conscious of school-at-home being very different from what they do, may be able to increase awareness of home educating that has previously been misunderstood.

And everyone can focus on the important thing; keeping the needs of the children at the heart of everything they do.

There need be no conflict between schools, home schooling, school-at-home, or home education – or parenting for that matter.

We are all different. We are all trying to survive these unprecedented times in the best way we can. But one thing we can do is care for each other, try and see other points of view, and be supportive rather than in conflict.

Warfare about our approaches and responses to the education of the children during this time is as unhelpful as the stupid and ignorant warfare between politicians when they’re campaigning.

It’s also the opposite of an open and inclusive attitude we want to foster within education – within society – within life.

So it’s not only what you’re doing with the kids that’s the point. The attitude you’re doing it with matters just as much.

Be easy. Reserve judgement. Open your mind. Learn.

This time is short and will quickly change and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. And hopefully some better attitudes will result!

Another kind of educational mainstream

It’s been enormously heart warming to recently receive a flurry of compliments about my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’, after it became a best seller in its section on Amazon. I am so uplifted and moved most particularly to know, through your kind comments, that the book is achieving what I intended in reassuring and supporting home educating parents everywhere.

A peep into the Home Ed Notebook

I always felt that while we parents are busy encouraging, facilitating and supporting the education of our children, we need exactly the same support to keep going with it. Moral support more than anything; to step off that mainline track, to stick to our convictions that school isn’t necessarily the best for our child, to withstand the doubts, fears and often unpleasant negativity coming from others, often even family, and hold true to our course.

No mean feat! That’s why I want to support you all – it’s truly an amazing and courageous thing you do.

But I also want to broadcast the fact that HOME EDUCATING WORKS.

As home education or home schooling becomes more well known (there’s an article about the difference here), and perhaps more understood as more and more home educating families are becoming visible, I sense that a new kind of profile and respect for it is growing. And maybe one day we’ll have a new kind of mainstream. Or is that wishful thinking? The Internet is certainly changing the face of education.

But whether that’s wishful thinking or not, there is now no denying that home educating works because of all the young people who are proving it. Young people are now graduating from their home school years, making their independent contribution to the wider mainstream world in a multitude of ways despite not being educated in a school. We have that generational proof now.

This blog and my books have been my contribution to changing that profile of it, along with supporting all those coming new to home educating. Around it you’ll find posts that deal with all the common concerns, like the socialisation issue for example, the family doubters, common worries etc. But I appreciate it’s time consuming to trawl through here which is why I placed them all in the notebook, making them easier to find.

And this post is not only to say a grateful thanks to all who’ve supported me, some over many years, and who’ve sent such lovely compliments and bought the book. But also to reiterate again: HOME EDUCATION WORKS. It’s doable, it DOES develop intelligent, social, educated, conscientious, hardworking and employable adults, and most of all is an enjoyable approach to those years that are often less so in school and the education of young people. Their broad, inclusive, independently thinking minds are making a wonderful contribution to society as they find their way in the adult world, providing the living proof.

So be reassured! And don’t let others’ fears and negativity dissuade you of that proof.

(The book is published by Bird’s Nest Books and available directly from them or from Amazon)

What happens after home education?

Author and home educator Susan Walklate and her son Simon

When Susan Walklate first came across home education she thought it was “an odd thing to do” believing that school was a natural course of events.

But when her son became introverted and stressed at school, and discovering that his needs were not going to be met, it became the right thing to do for them. Fast forward twenty odd years and she decided to write a book about their pathway, along with four other families doing the same, so people had a better understanding of this successful alternative to school and more importantly what followed.

I posted a blog about her book ‘Radical home Education’ a little while ago. Now I’ve asked Susan to talk about it personally and this is what she told me:

Tell us a little about you and your son.

My school experience was okay and I was reasonably successful. I went to teacher training college, then worked in chemistry laboratories. When I was 23 I decided to work with horses. This evolved over time to running a livery yard and riding school; I then bought my own land and set up Gable End Farm which developed into various businesses. Simon is my only child and was brought up with animals, at home and at the stables.

What drove you to home educate?

From being a happy baby and contented toddler, Simon became quiet and increasingly introverted after starting school. It wasn’t immediately obvious, as it happens over time and the changes are not noticeable on a daily basis. When he was 6 a friend commented on how clingy he had become. The school system was failing him as he wasn’t learning to read and write as quickly as they thought he should. He was on the special needs register, but the SENCO suggested that it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it, but that he couldn’t see the point; which ultimately proved to be the truth. By the time he was 8/9 he was stressy at home and quiet at school. He was being picked on by the class teacher and bullied by the other children. He had shut down and just got on with it as he didn’t think he had a choice. I spent about one year proactively trying to work with the school. Just before his 10th birthday we watched a programme on Channel 4 about home education. The next day Simon came to me and said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore. From the TV programme he had realised that he did have a choice. He never went to school again.

What kind of responses did you have from those around you?

While Simon was still at school I asked numerous people/friends about their school experience and, if it was bad, would they have preferred not to go to school, be home educated. The overwhelming answer was that children should go to school regardless. I think I might have home educated sooner if I’d had a more positive response. Once we decided to home educate and I told my parents, they were very supportive and offered help. Simon’s other grandparents thought that Simon would only end up on the dole. Simon’s father was concerned that Simon would not get any qualifications if he didn’t go to school. My response was that Simon would not get any qualifications if he did go to school.

How did you approach your education at home?

I knew that if I had sat Simon at a table with a piece of paper and a pencil he might have well been at school, as that was his stress. We took each day as it came and did child-led activities. I followed a child-centred autonomous learning process, which basically means that if he showed an interest in something we pursued it, if he didn’t we didn’t. I bought box games from charity shops that involved words and strategy. He helped with the animals and we discussed lots of things that involved language, arithmetic and lots of other things. We joined up with other home educating families for activities like swimming, ice skating, etc. Each family brought their interests to the group. The main activity that took over a lot of Simon’s time was the Robotics team that entered the First Lego League International competitions. He was part of this team for 3 years, from about 14 to 16. Simon did no formal work toward any qualifications while being home educated. He went to college at 16 and did all of his formal qualifications in the following 3 years. English and maths Skills for Life (GCSE equivalent); GCSE photography; A level fashion design and textiles; BTech in software development and web design (2 A Level equivalent); business studies course. Our home education life worked well for us. Each day was different. I think my self employed life enabled us to embrace the unstructured form of it.

What is your son is doing now?

Simon has helped with the animals all his life. He now takes a part share in the responsibility of running the farm. He has set up his own business as a freelance gardener and plans to expand it into employing others. He also aims to set up a portfolio of property.

What drove you to write the book?

I wrote ‘Radical Home Education’ because home education has a bad image and attracts bad press. Both Simon and I find it frustrating that no-one is telling the stories about the now-grown-up, successful home educated people. It was not something I had planned to do until we watched the Channel 4 programme in early 2019, which was very negative. I decided it was time to tell the true stories of home education through to successful adulthood, with four other families. My aim is to give encouragement and support to other would-be home educators.

What are you up to post-home educating?

My life has always been about taking each day as it comes and living the way I want to, which is how home education fitted into our lives and my life has just continued on.

Simon has always said that he would home educate his own children when he has some.

Since writing the book I have become more thoughtful about HE and I am considering being more proactive to promote HE.

What are your thoughts on the current education system?

It is broken, too prescriptive, too rigid. It does not allow for the differences in learning styles and development. I am increasingly concerned by the number of people asking for help and advice re school. I feel overwhelmed by the number of children being failed by the system; being bullied; demonstrating stress and depression; developing ADHD, etc. Parents appear to be very concerned about how their child will learn; be taught the ‘appropriate’ work; take exams; where can they find tutors; afford it. This I find sad, as society has been indoctrinated into believing that formal education is the only route to a successful education and a successful life. I do not know the answer, but I feel that the increase in knife crime, suicide, truancy, depression is in part due to the pressure our education system and society puts on children and families to succeed.

What would you say to other families wanting to home educate?

Do it! It is the best thing that we did. (Simon said don’t send them to school!)

I have a close relationship and understanding with my son. I believe that I, as his mother, am responsible for him and his well-being. I grew up with a good relationship with my parents and feel that it is important to support ones children as much as possible. I hope that I am his role model. I believe the best learning is through example.