Tag Archive | home education

Home Education inspiration and support on Kindle

 I’m excited to tell you that my newest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to Encourage and Inspire’ is now available in Kindle. I know some of you have been waiting rather than buying the hard copy. If you still wanted the hard copy it’s available from Bird’s Nest Books at a really good discount.

I’ve had some lovely messages about this book, especially what a comfort it’s been to parents on the long, sometimes challenging, road of home education. I’m delighted to hear that, as it’s just why I wanted to write it. I know how you sometimes long for a hand to hold on that journey and this was intended to be just that.

Home education works, there’s plenty of evidence now, but since it is usually so invisible it can be hard to trust in ones convictions. This book is full of reminders to help maintain that trust. Keep it beside you for wobbly times.

If you pop over to the publisher’s website you’ll also find a couple of my children’s books written especially so the little ones have someone to identify with instead of only reading about school kids! The character ‘Harry’ is a mischievous, inquisitive soul; his behaviour will give you much to talk about with your children! It also illustrates the day to day lives of home educating families.

And thanks for all the personal supportive messages about this work. Writer’s, like home educators, are often invisible too, so it’s nice to know the work’s appreciated.

Enjoy your home educating journey and may you be blessed with the joy we experienced.

Find the Kindle version on Amazon.

Wish we could get the heart back into learning

I miss having children around. I miss being able to show them things and take them places and those quiet little cuddles at any time.

The former village school – now a nursery

It was wonderful watching their amazement as they learn and enjoy the world and grow. In fact, I’ve even missed them so much I’ve thought of returning to teaching.

Then I come to my senses when I remember.

I remember all the reasons why I left. Like my unhappiness at having to force kids to do stuff that didn’t seem appropriate or relevant or worth anything. Like having to drive and pressurise and push until they got the required points. Like having to teach stuff in certain ways when I could clearly see it wasn’t what the child needed. Having to implement stupid policies devised by  some idiot who knew little about the needs of kids. And worst of all, watching their keen little faces glaze over with apathy as another boring objective is confronted; practices that just made kids feel bad and switch off. And worse still, giving them the blame for their failure instead of acknowledging that the fault lay with the approach not the kids.

And that was years ago – it’s ten times worse than that now.

I used to think I was just a cynic. But current remarks from parents and colleagues and recently one new young teacher who was so unhappy because what she felt she was required to do to kids wasn’t really ethical, let alone valuable, make me think I have a cause to be so. And some of the articles on the Secret Teacher site support that cynicism. They make for grim reading.

I used to teach in a small village school, where we all knew all the kids, where everyone functioned for the good of everyone else, where the climate in a school was one of care and nurture directed at the children And their happiness and enjoyment was important.

I don’t sense that about schools any more. I only have to walk in one and something in me shrivels. But thankfully I feel it among the home educating community.

The home educating community seem to base their educational provision on something that all educational provision should be based on: a love of learning. They at least are putting the heart back into learning.

Kids come into the world already programmed to learn – it’s as natural as survival and part of it. But schools change learning into something else – into point scoring, usually for the good of the school.

Keep a child’s love of learning intact and education follows naturally. It’s so sad that the educational system has completely lost sight of the pleasure of learning as they turn it into big political business.

So I’m sure glad to know so many wonderful parents who are brave enough to follow their hearts to learning, rather than the politics!

What do you do with family skeptics?

You’ll know who this lady is if you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

One form the achives of our most cherished supporter

One from the archives of our most cherished supporter

She featured large in the story and the children’s lives. And accompanied us on our educational rambles and expeditions; the regular purveyor of hot chocolate and biscuits as I recount in our story, teamed with twinkle and mischief!

She was the girl’s only grandparent, my mum, and our most ardent supporter, inspiration and comfort. What love and support she brought to our home school days. We were truly blessed.

I’m very aware though, especially as I get asked about the issue, that not everyone gets this support from family when they decide to home educate. And that must be the hardest thing ever.

We did experience skepticism from some family members but it was muted with their respect for us (okay – they thought we were weird and risking it, but they kept those opinions mostly to themselves). But it was nothing to the hostility some families experience and it’s difficult to know how to deal with it. You have to be strong to ride it out.

This is where the home education community, both physical and online, are a lifeline. For basically you’ll need them to be your ‘family’ for the time being. We can’t choose the relatives, but we can choose to create another kind of ‘family’ support and my experience of most other home educating families was that they’d be happy to offer that.

Some other things you can do to keep strong are:

  • Keep your priorities and principles based firmly in what YOU think is best for your family and don’t be persuaded by the scaremongering of others
  • Consequently, do what you do for your child’s sake and not to please others
  • Do some research and arm yourself with informative arguments. If it doesn’t work, ask people to reserve judgement – as you don’t judge them for their life choices
  • However, you don’t have to defend, explain or justify your choices. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing and smile knowingly!
  • There’s no right or wrong way (not counting abuse here) to parent or to educate. Everyone is different and responds differently so you can only do what you feel is right for your circumstances. There are lots of individuals in schools who silently suffer their circumstances
  • Family members may want you to stay with mainstream simply because they are ignorant or afraid of other approaches. That’s not a good enough reason to stay with a system that’s failing your child. Don’t let them push their fears onto you
  • Establish a good group of firm supporters you can turn to when you need it
  • Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re up against with family and how much you welcome their support
  • Witnessing you standing up for what you believe is right is a great example for your child. It will help them stand up to unsupportive family members in their future, if they ever have the unfortunate need to
  • Home education WORKS. There is much proof of that now. Doubters really have no argument!

My mum was surprised-cum-shocked when we told her what we were doing. But she could see the possibilities, could see the kids so unhappy in school, and was willing to wait for the proof. We were the first in our family to do such a radical thing and clearly some didn’t approve at the outset. But as the children flourished their doubts turned to admiration – the wait paid off.

If you’re experiencing family opposition, hang in there, stay strong and here’s wishing you’ll experience admiration eventually. But also remember that some will never give their approval – but that’s their problem, don’t make it yours!

And if you have a way of dealing with family doubters do leave your experiences in a comment here so we can help each other.

Parenting and home educating – the long, long haul

 Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

Writing is the same. There are good bits and bad bits and in between those bits there is the long long haul of grit required to keep going and get a book done.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or climb, make a break. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are in their twenties now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence.

Those kind of times are exactly what prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need climbing too. Knows that bad bits don’t mean it’s going wrong. And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to encourage you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. Keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does!

And if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because the publisher Bird’s Nest Books has a special offer on at the moment. Click here to find it.

Hope it brings you any encouragement you might need.

There’s no magic strategy to ‘teach’ your child to read

Bit of a shock/horror title I know. But further to my last week’s post on reading when I was talking about the book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ there was something else I wanted to tell you. Something most people don’t know.

Create a relaxed approach to enjoying books

We don’t know because we’re led to believe the opposite. We’re led to believe that there is a specific strategy for teaching reading that professionals know but parents don’t.

The real truth is – brace yourself – there isn’t!

There is no one single magic approach to reading that will guarantee that your child will read.

This is what Harriet Pattison shows in her book. And I was talking to another academic about this recently, a professional who is engaged in teacher training, and he confirmed that there is no strategy that training teachers are taught in order to get kids reading. They are in exactly the same position as parents!

Okay, so teachers learn a bit about the psychology of learning (soon forgotten) and about various schemes, and graded readers and devices like phonics or whatever the latest fad is. But nothing is fool proof, will work for all, because everyone is different and responds differently. But those differences don’t have to be difficulties – only if you’re in school.

There are a multitude of activities that parents can encourage that will help their child to read; games for example, reading aloud to them, shared reading and stories, providing material for their reading, allowing them to use computers and computer games and similar, texting included, encouraging any reading material comics included, providing a reading happy climate, reading themselves, reading signs when out etc.

What is more important and something that parents can do easily, is provide a reading rich environment and encourage – without pressure – a relaxed approach to enjoying books and print. When home educating, it doesn’t matter when a child reads fluently – there are all sorts of ways to learn (films for example). It’s only in school, where learning is print based, that anxieties mount and ‘difficulties’ are created. Out of school, there doesn’t have to be a difficulty.

It’s important to acknowledge and encourage your child’s own personal relationship with reading, which means you might have to keep out of it sometimes! Something teachers can’t do. Perhaps the only ‘difficulty’ is keeping our anxieties under control.

Children are inquisitive about what we do, about stuff online, about phones and words and stories. Your encouragement of that interest will be what eventually leads them towards reading.

And that is something that all parents can do. No magic strategy involved!

Beware the biased propaganda!

It’s always helpful – uplifting – to get comments. Most come to me via Facebook, and I’m so grateful and moved to know this work is a help and is encouraging. That’s basically what I write for!

Not everybody likes it – obviously. But it’s also interesting to read other points people raise when they’re disagreeing with what’s written here. I appreciate anyone taking the time – they’ve clearly been moved to do so and other people’s feelings are important. I’m thankful to report I rarely get obnoxious comments which aren’t backed up by intelligent argument.

One such comment sticks with me though. It’s a while back now, written by someone entrenched in the education system who accused me of writing ‘biased propaganda’.

Once I got over the shock, I was totally bemused by the irony of it. For surely biased propaganda is exactly what the education system perpetuates?

All the way through a child’s time in school there’s an enormous bias: towards grades. These are less for the good of the child and more for the good of the system. Grades mean climbing league tables, which means more Points for schools, which means more funding…etc. And never was there such powerful propaganda surrounding the drilling of the children towards that outcome, than the emphasis on the myth that without these grades their lives will amount to nothing. Which is absolutely untrue.

We don't always have to stick to what we're told!

We don’t always have to remain on a prescribed route!

Good grades and qualification are certainly useful and a way of presenting proof of having reached certain standards which employers use as a benchmark. But they are not an entire education and not the only road to successful work or a fulfilled life. Anyway, ‘successful’ and ‘fulfilled’ need defining in individual terms. But schools fail to acknowledge all other routes than those which perpetuate their own desired outcomes.

And as big business takes over education, schools have another developing bias; towards perpetuating big corporate business! Consequently perpetuating the propaganda that this is the only definition of success or fulfillment. It might be for some, but not for all.

Then there’s also the mythical propaganda, which the system perpetuates, that leads people to believe that without schools, teachers, target led learning, and tests young people won’t learn anything. Also completely untrue. But the establishment bias is to keep everyone obedient to the establishment which they do by perpetuating these myths!

Home education is exploding these myths and dispelling this kind of propaganda. Out-of-the-system approaches encourage individuals to learn for learning’s sake and progress in ways that work for them however varied and diverse they may be, however broad and all-inclusive. It opens minds to a multitude of possibilities not available in the confines of the system.

Surely then, by it’s very nature, home educating is as far away from the narrowing of ‘bias’ as you can get? I admit there may be opportunities for bias, towards religion or academic cramming perhaps, when families choose to remain isolated. But these are very rare. Much more rare than the mass propaganda schooling perpetuates.

In most cases, home education gives youngsters the opportunity to free themselves from the narrow, biased, destructive competitive mentality created by schooling and develops in their education and their mind a creative, intelligent, innovative and open-ended attitude towards learning and life, equipping them with the skills they need to contribute to the working, social, achieving world, business included.

Surely the bias comes from the narrow minded people who fail to acknowledge that!

The teacher and the taught together…

I had a trip to Hull last week. It’s not somewhere that ever gets held up as a place to visit. More’s the pity as it has much to offer. Particularly so after winning the City of Culture 2017.

What I wanted to see most of all was the blade. An art installation using the gigantic blade of a wind turbine. Although we went to visit

Underneath the turbine blade

Underneath the turbine blade

working turbines with the kids when they were younger getting right up underneath them, it was nothing compared to standing next to this. It was totally awesome – as the kids would say. Even I was overawed by something so simple but so magnificent.

I also went to the Ferens gallery and that was a treat too.

But do you know what my biggest joy was? It was from seeing all the families with their children visiting these exhibits and enjoying them together. They were walking round, fairly quickly as you do with kids, but never the less chatting away and just looking and learning together.

I know many families would feel uncomfortable going to an art gallery. Some feel daunted or out of their league. Same with museums or other exhibitions sometimes. But it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and show the kids the things we’re not so comfortable with, as those we are. Think outside the box. Go places like archaeological digs, cemeteries, quarries, churches, mosques, stately houses, gardens, discover footpaths, as well as nature reserves or deep sea centres that are more organised. You never know what it’ll spark off. And you never know what learning or inspiration develops from it.

And right on cue to these thoughts I read a super Eastern saying in a book this morning that sums up so nicely the learning we do with our children out of school. Learning that arises incidentally from these trips, without being formally taught, and yet is equally valid. Here it is to take away with you:

The teacher and the taught together create the teaching

Get out there with your children and together create your own learning!