Tag Archive | home education

The return of the happy children

It’s so delightful to hear of yet another happy home educating success story.

A new parent made the leap to home schooling recently and reported that her child had returned to being the happy contented little person that they were before they started school. 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.

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

I hear that remark frequently – as I commented at the time; they are not the only parents to experience this. And 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)

Our happy children came back! Enjoying their ‘Funny Kind of Education’!

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, who have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and who 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 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 it’s success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst, unwell.

However, I haven’t spoken to 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! 🙂

Be happy with your home education. It’s a great decision!

Advertisements

Home Educating – surviving the frosty bits!

We face many challenges in life. Winter is clearly one of them that’s foremost in our minds right now! But, also like winter, most of them are seasonal and pass over.

And home educating can be just the same.

The frost will eventually melt off the snowdrops. Frosty times at home can be melted too!

It presented us with challenges – of course it did. They passed over. We reviewed, made changes, adapted to suit the nature of the challenge and pressed on.

If you think about your own home educating life, it’s never going to remain the same although we are sometimes caught out by expecting it to.

It doesn’t remain the same for the glaringly obvious reason that the kids never remain the same either. Like plants growing through a season, they have their seasons too. So will your home education. So does all family life.

I think, as adults and parents, we’re a bit sticky! We like to stick with what we know. We get into a habit, a way of thinking, a way of responding, a way of expecting, and forget that we need to make adjustments to these changes too.

And that’s to do with family life, life in general, not just to do with home schooling.

You’ll have times when family life flows smoothly and everyone is happy. You’ll have times when family life is as frosty as winter and everyone hates one another!

Quite normal!

This is no one’s fault. This is just how it is. And in order to weather it you have to do the same as you do for winter; examine what you might have to do in order to rectify it.

For example – you feel cold, you look at why, you put another jumper on!

If family connections turn cold, you have to look at why. Has someone grown and changed? Is someone hurting? Have your children outgrown your habits? Do you need to change your responses to accommodate that? Do they need something different?

Whether it’s toddlers or ten year olds, tweenagers or older teens, their seasons and our responses to them have to continually adapt. That’s life – so make sure you don’t blame home education, as some peple tend to do.

If it’s a bit frosty right now don’t seek to blame, seek to understand what might be the cause. Be honest. Don’t give up on it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re no good for the kids. You will be fine – but you might need to change something in order to keep up with them.

It might simply be that one of the things you need to do is relax and allow your kids to grow – I missed that solution a number of times!

But be reassured that, like with seasons, nothing lasts forever. Moods don’t last forever. Phases don’t last forever. You’ve weathered them before you can do it again!

This is a skill that will support you throughout your life and well worth the practice.

Meanwhile, let’s wish for spring to come soon, in whatever sense!

There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.

How to make HomeEd work without guarantees!

I’m so uplifted by the messages I receive from readers telling me how helpful they find the stuff I write for the home education community. I’m thrilled to know that!

As well as those appreciative posts I also receive appeals for help and advice, mostly from parents wanting to home school but not quite having the courage without a guarantee it’ll all be all right.

A little bit of reassurance, plus the knowledge that many are now graduating from home education as competent, intelligent adults, is usually all they need. And it is only reassurance I can offer. For there really are no guarantees. No guarantees it will work for you.

But look at it this way; there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life.

So what we have to do is be brave enough without guarantees. And put in what’s needed to give home education your best shot at making it work for you.

The best tips I can offer for that are:

  • Forget guarantees and listen to your intuition. If home educating or a style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
  • Make up your mind (as you learn) about what education is, more broadly speaking, what it’s for, what you want of it – or rather – what you want your children to get from it. That influences the way you all approach it.
  • Look to the now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. This is natural and normal and requires you to remain open minded.
  • Learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently.
  • Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school). Use it to build a workable and happy learning experience. Happy kids learn best. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave.
  • Keep talking it through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge – if you can back off!
  • Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. it should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember!

You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience. And make it a happy one. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s not like that. But I assume you’re fairly certain that it will be a more enjoyable one then they’ll receive elsewhere!

 

There’s lots more tips and support in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the questions people ask when they home educate – both at the start and longer term. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the usual queries. See the My Books page for more details.

The testing propaganda…

All through our years of home educating we never once tested the kids.

That’s not to say they didn’t encounter tests along their route. There was the odd swimming certificate! And various dance and drama exams. And the tests they set themselves in the course of their learning lives.

And did this non-tested life leave them totally useless as learners? Did this mean they didn’t progress – just because we didn’t test that they were? Did this make them unable to function in the mainstream world, or at college or Uni? Was it the case that because they weren’t tested and measured throughout their learning lives that they were ‘behind’ the standard expected of them when they entered further and higher education? And were unable to sit tests when the time came?

OF COURSE NOT!

That is just propaganda told to us by those who want to measure (usually the government – for their own political agenda and schools for climbing up league tables).

The real truth is that:

  • Testing is NOT required for kids to become educated.
  • Testing is a waste of kids’ time – they could be enjoying new experiences and learning new stuff not regurgitating the old.
  • Testing RARELY aids the learner or the learning – it’s for the sake of the adults.
  • Testing is an INACCURATE assessment of a child’s ability and knowledge anyway.

So I’m really pleased to read reports recently that many are rebelling against proposed tests for the very young in schools. Heads, teachers and according to this article even the suppliers of the test, suggesting it is verging on immoral.

Read this one in the Guardian; https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/16/tests-reception-children-immoral-england-play

‘Proposed tests verging on the immoral’ click on the picture and read the article

Most home educating learners go through their lives without doing tests. Yet, like ours did, they go on to be competent, skilled, motivated adults who graduate into work or Uni or mainstream life with the skills, intelligence and attitude needed to help them progress and get where they want to go. They are proof that testing is not really needed for educational achievement or progress through life.

Kids in school are tested, grouped, graded and I would say degraded by a practice that is for the benefit of a political agenda and one-up-man-ship not for the benefit of the individual. It harms a child’s progress rather than enhances it, as politicians would argue is its purpose. It is solely for adult back-slapping, or degradation. The poor kids are used as pawns in the establishment’s game.

And the more that parents, heads, teachers and other professionals rebel against it the better for children everywhere.

What about science if I homeschool?

On one of my walks at the end of last year, when dusk was being blown in horizontally with the gales and snow I found a buzzard – in trouble.

At first I thought it was a piece of sacking blown from the farmland onto the barbed wire fence. But the dog was scenting it from a safe distance, making me suspicious and I went to investigate.

Can’t imagine how it happened but it was ensnared by the fleshy part of the wing onto the barbs and had tangled itself round and round until all it could do was hang. Or so I thought, when I tried to help it went for me with its fierce beak and talons.

I feared I was going to make it worse so called a birding friend for help and we rescued it between us by cutting chunks out the wire and letting the vet see if it could be removed from the flesh.

“It’ll have to be put down, I reckon” said my friend. I thought it was likely too. I watched them go with heavy heart. But couldn’t help thinking that the girls would have loved to have seen it.

“Did you get a picture?” my youngest asked. That had not been my priority at the time and I was keeping my eye on those flesh ripping talons.

Having wildlife on their doorstep, our involvement with the natural world and consequently wildlife, was an organic part of our home educating days. And a great way to introduce the sciences into their learning days.

Science can be a subject potential home schoolers feel they’d never be able to tackle. Yet it surrounds us every day whether you live in the countryside or not. There are critters to identify (my youngest now sees more deer in the town than she saw here), natural spaces to visit, plant life to experiment with even if you only have a plant pot on a windowsill. And the most fascinating aspect of science is often their own bodies – a great starting point. You can do experiments in your own kitchen (Google kitchen science) and go online for all kinds of inspiration, clips, resources, (look at this one from the science museum) There are also a number of generous bloggers and groups who share resources and ideas.

So don’t be put off home educating because you think you couldn’t do the science.

One of the most important aspects of science is encouraging a scientific mind and kids already have that in that they question everything and are always asking ‘why’. Parents just need to extend those valuable scientific skills to others like finding out (research), encourage their observation, hypothesising, classification (naming things) analysis, etc. So easy now with the internet. And let them look at and investigate everything however repellent to you it may be! It’s all science in a way.

If I hadn’t investigated the piece of sacking that buzzard would still be hanging lifeless on the fence. But miraculously its wing only had a flesh wound and it made a full recovery in a rescue centre.

The day before new year they brought it back and set it free. My heart soared with it when I watched it go.

Off he goes

Restore your enthusiasm for home education

January is a bit of a bleak time for me. I think we all suffer the post Christmas, goodbye-sparkle, back-to-reality drop in spirits. Add on our seasonally affected doldrums and it’s a bit of a month to get through. 

Do you find the same?

I know the children used to when we were home educating. We were stuck inside a lot (not much fun sitting outdoors with books and projects this weather) and we soon got twitchy. Thank goodness for swimming pools, activity centres and sports halls where we could make dates with others for burning off that bulging energy after being indoors too much. (The energy not the only thing bulging after Christmas)!

It can be a bit of a hard month for enthusiasm. And however much you love your parenting, and love your choice to homeschool, even that enthusiasm can wane at times like these.

So, how to get it back?

Do any of these ideas help:

  • January is short lived. Time changes everything. Take each day at a time, create some self-nurturing practices and good things for each one. A great lesson for the kids to learn too – self care.
  • Re-acquaint yourself with your core reasons for home educating, your philosophies for parenting and learning and life. Why did you choose to do it? It’s still an inspirational choice.
  • But like with all aspects of life, it’s not inspirational all the time. that’s not because it’s ‘failing’, it’s just the way life is. We have to learn to negotiate these times. And keep faith.
  • Keep active. All of you. It’s a necessary and very effective part of self nurturing and mental and emotional wellbeing. Even if the initial inertia is tough, fight on through. Physical activity also gives a huge confidence boost – good for kids, good for you!
  • Relax about the ‘learning’. It’s going on all the time even if it isn’t formally constructive. All learning is valid. All experiences are valid. But stressed approaches can inhibit learning, as can forcing it, or making it a huge demand. There’s no time limit on learning. It happens in leaps and stand-stills. There will be times you’ll think you’re kids are going nowhere. That’s a misconception. they will be.
  • Be pro-active. find new things to do, places to go, websites to explore, people to connect with. They’re out there for you to engage with. Being proactive with life is another great example to set the kids!

You won’t enjoy your home education every single day – that’s probably not possible – as with life; it’s an unreal expectation. Just try some of the tips above and ease yourself back on track with the inspirational, uplifting way of life that it is!

Above all, just enjoy yourselves as much as you can for now – just because you can!