Tag Archive | home education

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.

The decision to Home School

Decisions! Decisions! Parenting throws so many at you. Home education (a term much preferred to home school – here’s why) throws a load more!

But don’t worry; it’s all going to come right in the end. And if it’s not right, whatever you’re doing, you can change it. That’s the beauty of Home Ed; you can do what works for you. But just for now be reassured that this decision to Home Ed or not, is the hardest one you’ll ever have to make. The rest follows naturally.

It was about this time of year, this time of term – even though it wasn’t the start or logical time wise, that we finally made our decision all those years ago. I remember it clearly. The idea had been gestating for ages. Having worked in schools I was already dubious about what went on there; some of the practices were highly suspect and downright unhealthy at times. Then, after our children had been there a little while and I watched their health, happiness, personality and zest for life, and even more alarming their enthusiasm to learn, falter and fade, I felt we had to do something different.

Surely, I thought, there has to be another way, a better way.

There is. Thousands are proof of it, having done it and come out the other end with intelligent, educated, sociable, employable young people. Thousands are still proving it in the doing. Thousands now know that you can become educated without school.

And I think thousands would also agree that, like us, it’s a decision that was never regretted. The only thing that I personally regretted was not doing it sooner.

There are, of course, many considerations. But there’s a whole chapter to help with this in my book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’. It’s also part of the story of our home educating days told in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘.

I also ask the question ‘can I really homeschool?’ in this little talk here

There’s a blog here about your worries concerning the decision to home educate that might help.

There’s also a blog with tips for those new to home education here.

Once you start researching and Googling you’ll find all sorts of forums for advice and support and help with your decision….Be brave, home educating is not as scary as you think!

So if you’re teetering on the edge of making that decision I hope some of this helps. In the end, like with any monumental change in lifestyle, you have to jump right in and see how it fits. And you might find, as we did, that it’s the best decision you ever made.

Cycles of life

It’s time yet again to say another sad goodbye to a dear pet. These emotional partings seem to come around so quickly and you’re never really prepared even though you know their time is drawing near. It doesn’t seem two minutes since I was writing about a little furry hollow on a cushion, empty of cat, and here we are again with our faithful dog, years later, who came to us as a puppy at the time that blog was written. Read it here.

Charley snuggled up to her when she first came to us 15 years ago

The only difference really is that the children are grown and you’re telling adults rather than little ones about this ending of life that’s so hard to impart.

It isn’t any easier because they’re older. In fact the younger the children are the more accepting they are of the event, not yet perhaps understanding the consequence of grief if they’ve never experienced it before.

“Why did the cat die?” their young cousin asked on one such occasion. We adults looked at each other not knowing the answer.

“It was her time,” was the only answer I could think of in the moment. But it was an answer that was completely accepted.

Children are very stoic. Especially if they haven’t experienced the sentimentality and drama that some parents attach to the event of a passing. Sadness is inevitable. But my feeling has always been that we must face up to it, allow our sadness, be true and honest about death, and rather than wallow in histrionics give the children the tools they need to deal with their emotions surrounding it. They do that by our example.

I know its difficult to hold yourself together sometimes. I wrote about this in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when the children’s only grandparent passed away. You can only do the best you can.

Being home educated there is no distraction of school to ease a moment here and there when you’re grieving but, as ever, it’s an opportunity for learning! We had some searing conversations, searingly honest and scientific, that reassured the children that this is what happens and that we do all endure it and recover from loss in time. It’s so important I think to be carefully honest and not use generalisations like ‘they’ve gone to sleep’, for example which might terrify a child into not sleeping themselves. Answer their questions and give them the information they can process according to their age and understanding. (There are some ideas to help here on the Young Minds website).

Meanwhile my grown youngsters are of an age now where they can show empathy for me and the sad hole in the house they’re no longer in, as well as receive it themselves and I find many of my sayings from the past years when we’ve been dealing with loss, coming full circle and being quoted back to me!

One of them is that the horrible gap that is left by the passing of something or someone loved will eventually be filled up again.

Seasons always come and go, such is the season of sadness.

Comforting thoughts.

Decry the tidy – it’s not educational!

He’s one of the Marmite people. Someone who either provokes love or derision! Whichever, it’s usually a strong emotion towards the presenter, author and naturalist, Chris Packham. I’m not sure which it is from me except that I do have immense admiration for someone who’s stuck at his cause despite the difficulties and challenges he’s encountered.

I’ve been sitting outside reading his book ‘Back to Nature’, co-authored by conservationist and environmental activist Megan McCubbin. And it’s brilliant. It talks about how our need for nature was exacerbated by the Covid crisis and Lockdowns, bringing people back in touch with the natural world which too many have neglected for too long. But this very readable book is also a stark examination of the harm we do nature, much of it clandestine and political, dotted with facts and figures many of which I wouldn’t have believed possible, and exposes the many flaws in our conservation practices which most of us are ignorant of.

But we can make changes for the better in our own small, day-to-day ways. And one of these is to do with being tidy!

When you’re a home educator you need to learn to live with untidy!

An untidy house, with materials and resources, projects and creations strewn about, is far more likely to stimulate children’s brains into action than a bare a tidy one. And action, of whatever sort, gets the kids’ brains learning and developing, is good for their bodies, minds, spirits and education. (Read more on this in Chapter 25 of ‘A Home Education Notebook’) Basically, where there’s stuff about and things going on, there is stimulation and busyness and skills being learned as youngsters cannot resist the temptation to touch, handle, investigate, explore and use, all pre-cursors to learning. Untidy has enormous developmental potential and value. Far more than show-case, manicured rooms. They are as boring as Chris says manicured lawns are!

For it’s untidy in nature that Chris says we also need. We need little untidy patches, however big or small and wherever they are, to give nature hidey holes, and foot holds, and feeding stations in our concrete and commercial worlds. We need to encourage our kids to grow things, even if it’s a pot outside the door with weeds in. (Weeds are nature too). We need to observe and celebrate those bits of green growing out of cracks in pavements and walls. We need to get away from the idea of tidy gardens and environments and make any little space, garden or otherwise that we’re lucky enough to have, wildlife friendly rather than manicured. Leave leaves, stalks and stems, let old sticks and logs lie, and neglect little corners and scruffy places for these will all give some wild critter a home. And never spray your dandelions!

What this will also provide are opportunities for you and the family to explore and investigate what happens and who lives there, and ensure that your child’s educational understanding is of the fact that every little creature, plus all the invisible ones that will be part of their food chain, matters in the balance of all things, matters for the food we eat, for the homes we have, for the sustenance provided by the planet that we all depend upon.

In the bigger picture of nature and education untidy doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you can in these small ways make a contribution to the natural world. Understanding it is an essential element of any curriculum, of any educational process. It’s not just the big things that big conservation pioneers do that matters. The small things that you and the children do – and do without – matter just as much.

Love or hate Chris Packham his book is an examination of the world you’re potentially leaving your children and how you as a family can make it better for them. You might like to give it a read!

Considering home schooling instead of back to school?

With the return to school looming on the horizon I thought it would be a good time to repost this blog which asks;

What do you really know about home education?

The reason I ask is because there are still so many stories surrounding it. Including less than accurate stuff in the media often based around untrue myths. Add on to that the debacle of school-at-home style of home schooling that was forced onto parents during the pandemic and the concept of real home education has become quite blurred.

So I thought I’d put a few ideas here in case you were considering this approach to your child’s education in preference to school.

Firstly, did you know that there are thousands and thousands of families now successfully and happily home educating?

And did you know that most home schooled children go on to make a success of their education, career, life in the same way school children do, despite not having been in school for all those years?

Did you know that home educating doesn’t have to cost the earth and parents on very low incomes, including single parents, still manage to do it? Throwing money at a child does not make them educated!

Did you know that home educating children make friends, have friends, build excellent social skills, have a vibrant social life and socialise just as others do?

Did you know that there is a huge wealth of learning resources, lessons, curriculum, courses, printouts, both free and otherwise, available on line? You can literally find out anything.

Did you know that families never home educate in isolation (unless they choose to) and that there are broad networks of others to connect to that share resources, concerns, to learn from and find support via social media and other organisations which also lead to physical meet-ups and groups to get together with? Many of whom will probably be getting together for their annual ‘not back to school’ picnic right now!

Did you know that as much home schooling takes place outside the home as in it and your community is full of resources to facilitate it? You’re not at home day after day, on your own, not knowing what or how to learn.

Did you know that contrary to what many parents may worry about, being with the children all the time tends to improve their family relationships?

Did you know that parents are free to choose whatever approach to education suits their child’s needs? This could involve following a curriculum – or not, following age specific targets and objectives – or not, adopting either a structured or completely autonomous approach, or proceeding with complete flexibility according to your individual’s interests and the way they work best. And that parents find that home educating gives them the opportunity to successfully overcome any difficulties children encountered with learning in a school setting.

Did you know that it is completely legal, in fact it is the legal responsibility of the parents to see that their children are receiving an education suitable to their needs (see the law here), it’s just that most parents hand that over to schools? (I wonder how many schools get away with breaking the law in failing to provide that for some children?)

Did you know that most home educating families never use testing in their approach, yet home schooled children successfully go on to achieve a good educational standard, go on to further and higher education, including exams, or work without having done a test at all, and cope competently within those more formal settings? Testing does not make an education.

And finally consider this; home educating families are not weird or different or unable to participate in mainstream life, just because they don’t do mainstream school. They are just the same as any other family wanting to do the best for their children and that best may take a myriad of different forms yet all the home educated youngsters I’ve known have progressed into the working world just the same as their school contemporaries and once there you wouldn’t know they hadn’t been to school.

So if you want to know more, take a look at my books, Google some of the home educating blogs and groups (Facebook’s a good place to start) and connect with others to find out how it happens. And you can read our own story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which will give you an idea of a home educating life and hopefully make you warm and giggly!

A reminder of THE most important subject

A short pictorial thought this time to remind you, whilst you can get out and about during the holidays, what’s THE most important of all subjects for your child to learn about. You’ll see why when you read the original post here.

Do let me know your thoughts!

What do you do in the holidays?

Since it’s that time of year again I thought I’d bring up the subject of holidays and term times, with this story from ‘A Home Education Notebook‘.

Even after Home Educating for a while I could still be influenced by them even though I knew that education didn’t have anything to do with term times at all.

They were usually brought to my attention by the children – and the fact that most other families are controlled by them.

“Mu-um?”

Even this one word could make me feel I was about to be manipulated, probably by something I may not like.

“Ye-es?” I’d reply suspiciously.

“Ruth’s breaking up from school today; it’s end of term.”

“Oh, is it?” I’d feign ignorance knowing full well what was coming.

“Can we break up too?” She’d give a big sheepish grin.

I’d give the usual answer. “Well, I wasn’t aware we had anything to break up from.”

Another grin. “But can we?”

I’d pause, keeping the suspense and the pretence going a little longer. Then; “Yea, go on then – let’s.”

And she’d bounce off to go and do the same things she would be doing anyway, ‘breaking up’ or not.

We’d sometimes go through this little ritual when the schools finished their terms and my children knew their school friends were available for play during the day.

It was partly that, but also because our children did spend some time in school earlier on in their lives and, although freed from it, they still wanted the sense of celebration and release their mates were feeling.

And why not? We all need a change and a celebration. A release from that constant feeling that we perhaps should be doing something more educational than just having fun. It took quite a while for us to get over that idiocy and realise that education just went on all the time, term times, learn times, fun times and holidays.

We educated our children in a mostly autonomous way, with them deciding very much what they worked on but we’d still motivate them to be busy doing something. We’d encourage them to try new things, make and invent, play actively, be engaged, to read, we’d go out, meet others, whatever.

But it was good for all of us, adults and children in the family, to have a break from all that motivation. To switch off the driving force for a while and stop looking for activities or projects that would stimulate, and searching the internet for active learning sites.

We could drift. Do things that merely took our fancy and I could stop looking for an educational slant.

So, on one ‘end-of-term’ occasion, I thought I’d observe what the kids did instead.

The eldest took a heap of books, magazines, sketch book and pens out into the garden, spread herself out on a rug and designed all day, researching her books for inspiration, studying other people’s work and incorporating and adapting their ideas into her own work.

The youngest decided to build a den out there. This required searching out suitable materials within her environment, putting them together and solving the problem of making the structure strong and upright in discussion with me or whoever else was available. Then she spent the rest of the day in creative play, making up stories, reading to her toys, imaginative ideas passing through her faster than hot biscuits passed through her mouth.

In other words the children, ‘on holiday’, covered these skills; reading, research, writing and use of language, drawing and hand eye coordination skills, problem solving, estimating, analysis, use of materials, investigation, construction, exploration, interpretation, discussion, development of imagination and ideas and creativity. All those skills that teachers had to force reluctant children to practice in schools, usually in a boringly academic and repetitive manner, because the children had been removed from the natural opportunity to practice them anyway.

My children had been busy with all this simply because their minds were freed up from the confines of ‘doing education’, a trap we sometimes find ourselves falling into how ever autonomous we try and be.

It was a good reminder that we don’t always have to be forcing everything in order to further a child’s education. And just because there are not set schedules, timetables, term times or regulated practice, it does not mean there will be no learning taking place.

So, just in case you’re wondering what to do in the holidays, just back off and see what happens. Encourage them to develop their own ideas to relieve the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome, and keep these five simple daily practices in mind:

  • Be physically active at some point everyday.
  • Get outside, in green spaces if you can but playgrounds and streets are just as good.
  • Observe the wonderful world around you – on your doorstep – by giving time to looking deeply and mindfully.
  • Plan, shop for, prepare and cook meals or bake together.
  • Encourage them in their own projects beyond the usual screen based ones!

All will develop important life skills without you even realising – trust me. And even better, they will enhance your well being too – an important skill for all.

What ever projects they want to work on they will always be learning

You’d never imagine…

I’ve just been to my daughter’s wedding! Can you imagine?

Yes – that little girl in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ who made things and created things and had ideas beyond those I’d ever taught her.

Can you imagine your littlies getting to that point? Or doing any of the everyday life things that everyone ends up doing like working, driving, living and earning independently beyond home educating, having their own place, getting out into a world other than ours?

I couldn’t. Still can’t believe it really. It’s a scenario unimaginable to all parents whether the kids are in school or not.

However, it’s perhaps more concerning for parents who home educate, who are not following a well trodden and tested path, who inevitably worry whether not being in school will inhibit the building of skills the youngsters need as well as their education, like life skills, workplace skills, social skills particularly.

This is to reassure you that of course they do.

And there, at the only-a-covid-little restricted, DIY, jolly, happy wedding were a wonderful group of people whose background education didn’t come into it at all. Also hard to imagine when you’re so wrapped up in the details throughout those home ed years. People whose warm loving connections were far deeper than the relevance of home schooled or not home schooled. Irrelevant as it is in life anyway really.

Hard to imagine that all this home ed intensity you may be going through now will become so diluted as to not matter a jot.

And what was even better was that for the most part nobody looked at their phones. An even bigger delight. We were busy sharing the occasion face to face.

It seems sad that staring at these soulless gadgets has become a strategy for avoiding looking at and engaging with others which can be less comfortable, especially if they are strangers. Phones have become a technological dummy to suck on, to escape the challenge of social skills. Ironic isn’t it, that ‘socialisation’ – or lack of it – is thrown up as a down side of home educating, when no one ever mentions the damage to the development of social skills created by staring at a phone rather than engaging with the person next to you; the behaviour of so many. I would say phones are a bigger threat to building social skills than home educating!

It was a glorious day. A delight to enjoy the happiness after so many thwarted plans, to wallow in the warm loving connections with family and friends that had nothing to do with school or not. Even though I continued to be freaked out wondering how my two lovelies ever got to this point when I’m still remembering life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ as if it were yesterday.

How did they ever get to be so old, to be so grown up?

It’s a good job I’m not ageing at the same rate, I always say!

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

A little bit of a Twinkl

There are some amazing online resources for home educators these days! Well – for anybody really; anybody who wants to learn anything, at any time.

How cool is that! And something we didn’t have when we were first starting home education way back, when access to others was through phone calls only via Education Otherwise‘s members book, or the very slow and painful (and sometimes not at all) process of ‘dial up’! (For those of you too young to remember ‘dial up’, read the history here)

I remember when we first had that exciting new facility out here, right at the end of a very long lane in the middle of nowhere and we waited in excited anticipation for our first web page to load only to discover we had inadvertently dialled up a prostitute, (You can read the amusing story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’) Then my overriding concern was not download speed but getting off the internet as fast as possible.

Now, almost a generation later, we have this incredible learning resource that provides immense support to those who want to home school; both support morally as well as educationally and knowledge wise. There is so much to investigate.

Along with specific learning resources, like ‘Twinkl’ for example, there are amazing sites linked to museums, programmes, films, educational games, video clips for learning how to do just about anything, along with limitless knowledge and ideas for the kids to explore.

I’m not in the habit of promoting any specific resource – I can hardly give them a test run now can I? But I know that Twinkl is a renowned resource used by schools as well as many home educators, which I consider a great endorsement. So when someone from the home education team there got in touch to ask for a chat and potentially a podcast about our home educating days, I thought it might be of help to people. For I also know that Twinkle has a huge and supportive home school community, and it’s community and the moral support it provides which is of enormous value to parents who are home educating.

Apart from panicking about making a horrible cock up I actually thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Alastair Lawson from the Home Ed team at Twinkle. And I think the farther the spread of ideas about alternatives to a school approach to education, the more children will be saved from wretched outcomes that sometimes result from a learning approach that doesn’t suit them. So I’ve asked him if it’s okay to share it here in case you weren’t able to access it through the Twinkle Facebook page.

Here it is, hope you enjoy it: https://rss.com/podcasts/twinklhomeeducators/220753/

And for extra support look up their Home Ed Facebook community, it’s growing and growing and being connected to others helps keep you balanced through those tricky moments!

Education and Bullying

Something which often comes up in relation to schools and learning, is the subject of bullying – in more ways than you think! So I thought I’d post this exclusive exert from my ‘Home Education Notebook‘, Chapter 31:

I have a terrible admission to make – I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. I bullied my child into cleaning her teeth when she was little. I’m thoroughly ashamed. But at the time I just couldn’t think of another way to get her to do it and I knew the longer term consequences were important.

I’d tried reason. I’d explained, tried to make it a fun game, I left it for some time in the hope it would correct itself, her older sister cajoled as she cleaned hers. In the end I got cross on occasion and ‘made’ her – or bullied her is another way of looking at it.

She says now, in her twenties when I asked if she remembered, she felt it was a terrible intrusion into her person having me clean her teeth, but she forgives me, we even laughed about it. But although bullying is an intrusion and an abuse, sometimes like with this example, we feel it’s justified.

That is of course questionable, depending on our parenting philosophies. However, I think we all can end up ‘bullying’ our children at some point. We’d certainly grab and drag our kids back from running under a car. It’s a gut reaction on our part even if it is bullying. (I’ll return to that gut reaction in a bit).

Many of us will have been on the receiving end of bullying far more severe than this, both as children and adults, perhaps in the home, more often in school. Bullying in school is a common reason parents turn to home education.

Dr Paula Rothermel who conducted some extensive research into home education found over half of the parents she interviewed turned to home education because of school related problems, bullying being among them. And bullying by others in school is a common subject on home education forums where parents discuss their child’s school experiences.

Sometimes the children manage to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t. Often, what’s even harder to talk about is the subversive type of bullying that isn’t quite so visible inflicted on a child through abusive teaching in the form of sarcasm, humiliation, orders, or so-called banter. Young people are circumstantially powerless to deal with it.

It’s a very difficult, sensitive and emotive subject for children to cope with on their own anyway, wherever they are. It can make them feel utterly powerless. The effects last far beyond the actual events and inhibit self-esteem, confidence, the ability to function socially, even going out of the house. The consequences are so harmful they can influence many aspects of their normal lives and the decisions they make.

What’s even more insidious is cyber bullying which can still be influential when a bullied child is taken out of a school situation, or is home educated from the outset. Most home educated children participate in other out of school activities so it’s possible they’ll come up against bullying in some form at some point.

The Bullying UK website (www.bullying.co.uk) has plenty of tips and advice for parents about what you can do if you’re concerned and, although most of these are school related, there is also a section dealing with cyber bullying and what to do about it. Any minority group, particularly if they’re doing something different to the mainstream like home educated children, can be a target. So it’s worth taking a look; the site gives you signs to look out for and how to help.

If you’re new to home education, and you’ve turned to it because your child was bullied at school, you will probably want to focus on your child’s healing and well being for some considerable time, rather than any intense academic activity. Don’t worry if you’re approached by the LA requesting your educational intentions, you can remind them of what your child’s been through, that it will take some time for your child and your family to adjust and building your child’s confidence is your priority for the time being. On the excellent website www.edyourself.org it says that the law supports families in doing this. The Authority are certainly not allowed to bully you (the FAQs on this site show what they can and cannot do) and if you familiarise yourself with your rights on this issue you’ll be able to stay on your child’s side and do what’s best for them.

Another effect of having being bullied is to make the young person anxious and uncomfortable in social situations so it may take a while for them to overcome this. Although all the home educating groups I’ve been involved with were welcoming, inclusive and friendly, they will probably feel very daunting to a youngster who has been bullied. So it may be some time before they are confident in integrating – it takes a while for them to rebuild their trust. It’s not something that should be forced.

We met youngsters who had come from school who were very reserved and unable to mix, but in their own time were able to rebuild their confidence in others and went on to be happy, confident people. So if your child has been through bullying and you’re worried about them ever integrating again, be patient and have faith. In the right company I’m sure they will – it takes time.

Bullying from others is usually how our children experience it. But there is another common link between education and bullying that may not be so apparent. And that is through the way in which children are ‘made’ to learn.

We all have Dickensian images of teachers wielding canes and forcing children to learn. The canes or enforcement may have gone out of scenario but there is no doubt that other more subversive forms exist; we tread a very fine line between coercion and encouragement, authority and guidance, and our sometimes obsessive desire for our children to achieve.

Teachers have been known to adopt subtle bullying tactics at times, but I think our parental anxieties about our children’s achievement out of school also present a danger of us sometimes inadvertently moving towards a subversive form of bullying if we’re not careful – we may even think it’s justified like the teeth cleaning example above. However, we don’t want ‘making’ children learn become our gut reaction to educating.

So it’s worth us taking a critical look at our behaviours and our approaches to our child’s learning to make sure we’re not guilty of forcing our children to learn through coercion, bribery or threats, which are slightly bullying approaches even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, rather than giving them good reasons or explanations for what we ask.

When home educating we have the opportunity to spend the time doing this – something not available in a school setting. Teachers have to meet often unrealistic targets and with the constraints they’re under can sometimes resort to bullying behaviours to get the children to perform.

We have to see we’re not doing the same. Never would there be justification for bullying parenting – and much of our home educating depends on our parenting. What we can do instead is take a much more relaxed approach.

We can keep an open dialogue with our kids about their education, what we do and why, increasing their understanding of why be educated at all.

We can regularly discuss their activities and what benefit doing them is, from the point of increasing skills and understanding and therefore opportunities.

We can listen and observe what the children’s interests are and use these as starting points for learning, so the learning comes from them rather than being thrust on them. This also helps minimise resistance and possible conflict by keeping them engaged.

We can let go of forcing outcomes and trust in the process of our child becoming educated and arriving at the outcomes they will need as they mature.

In our home education groups we can raise awareness, talk about and establish a policy to protect everyone from bullying – both from parents and from other children, decide how it’s going to be tackled, and include older children in these debates perhaps.

By our own actions we can imbue an atmosphere of inspiration, communication and calm around our learning activities. And make learning a shared and pleasurable experience rather than something we force children to do.

We can encourage them to take charge of their own activities, which creates an independence with learning and the motivation for them to educate themselves for themselves, rather than it being something done to them by others, which is often how many children feel about education in the system.

These actions create a climate of respect around our children and their education. And it alleviates the danger of us resorting to bullying our children into learning – usually through our own tensions and anxieties – but for which there is no excuse.

And this approach also has the added advantage of creating good relationship and communication habits, which will help our children communicate with us should they ever be bullied by others.

Read more stories and tips in the book.

Published by Bird’s Nest Books and also available from Amazon