Tag Archive | home education

Why birthdays?

The lovely Charley

It’s my youngest’s birthday later this week – youngest adult that is – all grown up now!

We’ll be getting together at some point to celebrate…years later from those birthdays I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ when we started home educating and everyone found it suddenly necessary to give the kids ‘educational’ presents instead of toys!

People fail to see that toys (and playing) are ‘educational’ anyway – whatever that is, and many toys sold as educational simply aren’t!

Anyway, it’s not about the presents, is it?

So what are birthdays about then?

I always said that a birthday is not just a celebration of the day they were born (bit of a trauma in the back of the car with this one – as I describe briefly in the book). But more a celebration of the person, of them being here on this earth, and of the wonderful contribution they make, to our lives, to society, to being here.

And that’s what needs to be kept at the forefront of birthdays – the reason we are here – the contribution people make on a wider level. I guess many small children wouldn’t yet be aware of that concept. But as they grow, knowing they can make a contribution makes them feel valuable. When people feel valuable they feel loved and respected and consequently return that; they act differently, they act with responsibility and respect, they up their game. Those who are cared for, care more.

I always wanted my kids to feel valued. To feel that they make a difference too.

And that’s the best thing to celebrate birthdays for. The fact that these little people are here. The difference they have made. The difference they have to potentially make to so many as they grow and become the people they need to be.

Birthdays are so much more than presents. Birthdays are the day to celebrate a being, being here! And an opportunity to really appreciate that there are. I’m so looking forward to celebrating the presence of ours!

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How writing is like homeschooling

I’ve just realised that writing books is a bit like home educating.

What next I wonder?

Why?

Well:

  • the initial prospect is terrifying and you think you can’t do it
  • you’re daunted by the fact it’s going to be one helluva long haul
  • there’s not much tangible proof you’re going in the right direction
  • there are no concrete ‘results’ until years have gone by
  • and just because you chose to do it doesn’t make it easy.

And there was me thinking life would be easier after my little home edders had graduated!

But the thing is; you get over these things by just ploughing on through.

Whether on the brink of home educating or on the brink of writing a book I have some advice:

  • don’t look at the long haul for now – keep focussed on doing each day
  • keep reminding yourself what you’re doing it for
  • keep faith with those ideals and keep going anyway, unless something dire isn’t working, then make adjustments and press on
  • don’t base your judgement on mainstream expectations, focus on how your kids’ (or your books’) progress
  • ignore all those who think you should do ‘mainstream’. If they haven’t experienced your route first hand what do they know about it?

And whether you’re home educating (which is also parenting and all the same things apply), or writing a book, remember that you are fundamentally doing it for love! And choice. You can make change at any time. And it’s an amazing thing that you do which takes grit, determination, stamina and courage… in case you needed reminding!

 

Does home education make them soft?

Another job – a bit of modelling!

I was talking to my eldest on the phone this morning.

This was at 7.30am as she walked back, cooling down after her run and before she starts working at home on her production company. And before she goes off to her other job that pays to keep the roof over her head whilst she builds her business! Her evenings are all about rehearsals.

I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

And there are those who believe that without facing the rigours of schooling the youngsters won’t be able to deal with the rigours of a working life. Are they joking?

This particular morning she was feeling somewhat overwhelmed – not surprising considering she mostly works from the minute she wakes to the minute she drops into bed, supper on her knee. She sets herself so many challenging targets. Yep – she has the kind of work ethic you rarely see – even without the rigours of schooling!

I do worry that she’s over doing it though. And try to offer words of wisdom about tackling things in a less intense way (having made my own mistakes in that department)!

She’d been telling me her concerns about the admin emails she’d been reading when she first woke.

“Emails aren’t the best way to start the day” I offered. “You need a more meditative awakening”.

“Hmmmm” came the reply. She wasn’t having it.

I tried again; “Remember what I said about working softer? It’s just as effective.”

Being a parent you just can’t help offering advice, can you! But that didn’t convince her either. So I went on…

“A few moments to calm yourself to confront the day, rather than leaping straight into it” I said.

It went quiet her end – did I hear an impatient sigh?

Then; “Yea, but mum…I just have to get shit done!” she said.

I laughed and copied the language. “Well, just try getting your shit done softer.” It got her giggling. And consequently created a bit of release perhaps.

But I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince her of the softer approach until she manages to prove it to herself – independently. She’s too much like her mum!

Very independent. Very driven. Very passionate about the things she wants to achieve. Very focussed. Knows how to set goals, overcome challenges, and keep going till she gets there.

All this without the rigours of school.

So to all those who say that you have to go to school to find out what the real world of work is like, I say RUBBISH!

School is nothing like the real world of work because it keeps you subservient. In the real world of work you have to be independent to succeed. You have to make choices, solve problems, think for yourself, know how to get stuff done – for yourself and not because someone’s telling you to.

Home education is great for giving kids the skills to get shit done – as Chelsea says!

And a tip for all you hard workers out there; working softer (not necessarily slower) is sometimes more effective – try it yourself and see.

 

(Chelsea’s next production ‘Shop Play’ is in Brighton next week. See here for details)

What’s a good start to education?

A similar event in a Suffolk library

There was the sound of giggling and tiny tots voices coming from the children’s section. I was in the library returning books and couldn’t help having a peep to see what was going on.

The toddlers and parents were sat in a circle on the floor having such a happy time together doing rhymes and actions and songs etc. Lovely to see. Fab to see parents engaging and interacting with their kids (no phones anywhere). And full marks to the library for initiating it to help them achieve it.

It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone; engaging with tiny beings, pre-conversation, especially when you’ve only been used to adult chat. I remember wondering what to do with the littlies sometimes – not being a great chitterer myself it didn’t come naturally. So groups like this are great to help those of us who are less inspired in that department to get going.

Because it’s really important that we do. For the simple reason that all the chat, chant, song and engagement with the youngsters we have, at whatever age, is the foundation of education. 

This contact, connection, interaction in whatever form is the pre-cursor for essential skills on which education is built – communication being one, as well as listening, observing, responding, thinking, vocabulary development, the basic skills needed for learning to progress. All founded in those simple little sing-songs, chats with your child, constantly reading to them, engaging in whatever way. They are the building blocks from which the mastery of language, communication, mental agility and other skills for wider learning can grow. Just from the stimulation of these types of activities when they are young. Well – it should continue throughout childhood really.

Parents think that getting kids reading early or writing their name, recognising numbers etc will give them a good start to their education. It does.

But the reality is that it starts much, much earlier than that. A good start to education is you!

(For more, check out the last section; ‘How you influence your child’s education’, in my book ‘Mumhood. How to Handle it. Why it Matters’)

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

Home education – in case you didn’t know!

Wow! I can’t believe I started this blog in 2009 and I don’t think I’ve missed a week’s post in all that time. Mostly I’ve posted twice. What do I ramble on about?

Well, mostly about home education, although parenting comes into it too because that’s an essential part of it. And kids and books. And there are seasonal rambles out in the countryside which is where I’d rather be instead of under the laptop! I’ve published five more books since then and watched my teens grow into mature, working young people who amaze me with their drive and accomplishments.

Most of my writing has been to raise awareness, understanding and confidence in out-of-school education because it works – people need to know that. In many posts I’ve set out the facts so the endless myths about home schooling can be dispelled.

Here are some of them again in case you’re new to home educating or need some to pass on to others doubting your choice!

All sorts of approaches to learning!

  • Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other young people. All of those I know have done so. Their academic, social, intellectual and personal skills, reputed to be in advance of their school peers, are what got them there.
  • Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities, with loyal friends. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills and confidence standing them in good stead for interviews etc.
  • Home education/home schooling both refer to educating out of school although most don’t like the term homeschooling as it suggests ‘school at home’ which it isn’t, there are other approaches to learning. And the word ‘home’ in the title is a misnomer anyway since much of the learning takes place outside of the home, with others, in the community visiting places like museums, galleries, libraries, sports halls, going on field trips and other activities, etc.
  • Many families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
  • Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
  • Home educating families are mostly as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
  • Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
  • In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse which is often cited as a reason to ‘monitor’ home educating families. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

Do feel free to share these on!

Education along the yellow brick road!

I was looking back in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and reflecting. I hear so many parents wavering on the brink and was thinking about starting out.

“Learning can be full of fun…”

When you start home educating it seems an enormously big deal. You wobble and waver about all those decisions. You wonder where it’s all going to end up. And you also wonder if you’ll all stay sane until the end – actually you cannot even imagine the end. If you’re anything like I was that scenario is just beyond any imagining at all!

But I was revisiting my thoughts at the beginning of the book to see whether the things I talked about actually came to fruition.

Here’s one particularly poignant piece that I found on page 17 when I’d dashed out along the country lanes at dusk for some exercise soon after we’d started this joyful life with the kids out of school:

I cycled along smiling like someone with a guilty secret. Around us was this beautiful world and I just wanted to show every little bit of it to the girls. I wanted to show them that learning about it is beautiful too. That learning can be full of fun and full of love and not the dull, dreary days shut inside that they’d come to expect through schooling. I will take them places; museums, galleries, nature reserves, cities, exhibitions, zoos. We will enjoy real life relationships across a wide spectrum of society, not those unnaturally cloistered within the confines of age groups.

They will be respected.

My legs turned the pedals as my mind turned the ideas. Our first week of Home Educating was through and it’s been like living along the Yellow Brick Road. Education has become a golden opportunity in our lives now as it truly should be, instead of the awful drudgery it had become.

I must have pedalled five miles without noticing. That’s how I want their learning to be.

And did it turn out like that?

I think I can honestly say it did!

To find out how we got there – you’ll have to read the book for yourself. I hope it’s a story of family love and learning you’ll enjoy. There are some lovely reviews on Amazon.

And if you need something to calm those wobbles see ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’.

Meanwhile, I wish the same road for you!