Tag Archive | home schooling

Introducing Natty…

flowers DSUbook 004You must be sick of hearing me harp on about my new book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ so I’m going to talk about someone else’s.

‘I Love You Natty’ is a book written and produced by the family from DownsSideUp an award winning blog, raising awareness of Down’s Syndrome and bringing comfort and reassurance to many.

I’m sure their book will do the same. It’s written through the voice of Mia, Natty’s big sister, and shows something of what it’s like in a family with a Down’s Syndrome child. Not only is it a really moving text, the illustrations and book itself is utterly exquisite and I’m dead jealous!

Hayley, Natty and Mia’s mum, has done such a mammoth amount of work to increase understanding of Down’s and bring comfort to parents who may be experiencing it for the first time and feeling daunted. She’s provided many with a reassuring hand to hold and this book provides another one, especially for a sibling, helping to make those experiencing the condition less alone.

Hayley and I first met when she included a home education approach in addressing Natty’s learning needs.

Children with particular needs are often left floundering in the school system and some parents find that home schooling gives the opportunity to tailor educational approaches to their individual.

There are so many ways learning can be approached; home educating means parents are able to provide stimulating experiences, practical activities, and follow a different schedule in order to best provide for their individual child. This can mean that potential failure in a classroom setting can be turned into educational success.

I’m wishing Mia and Natty and all the family all the very best with their delightful book.

Find them at www.downsideup.com And you can order copies of their book on Amazon.

Calling all parents!

Illustration by James Robinson

I’ve come back inside from the great outdoors to think about work, excited by the prospect of my picture book being released this week.

I reckon there’ll not be a parent out there who hasn’t known an inquisitive little spark like this one, endlessly wanting to investigate and not understanding why parents just don’t seem to appreciate it!

I always found it such a comfort to know mine wasn’t the only one. I’m calling all parents to please tell me you’ve got, or had, one the same – it would be a relief to hear!

Hope you enjoy the story, the illustrations are definitely awesome and I reckon it’s okay for me to say that since I didn’t do them!

Look out for it after 27th May. And do let me know if you like it.

Climbing out the wellies

I’m doing quite well at the not-spending I was talking about in an earlier post.

Click on the picture for tickets…or just turn up at The Purple Playhouse Fri/Sat at 7.30!

I’ve not bought several things I’ve looked at and thought; ‘that’s nice, want it, need it’, only to rethink; ‘actually, I don’t!’ Then went off and got pleasure from  other nice things always available like wild flowers, sunshine on my face, a passing butterfly, friends and loved ones.

This has helped keep a nice bit by for my trip.

I’m climbing out my wellies and going city side to visit my eldest and see her production; Decade 20, in the Brighton Fringe.

When I go away money leeches out of my purse faster than water leaks into my wellies. But it’s so nice to be able to treat the girls to coffee, cake, food, frivolities they wouldn’t normally afford – it’s the best spending of all.

Is this when we get to be proper grown-ups – when we get more delight in spending on our offspring than on ourselves? Perhaps! Seems I have no hesitation in treating them to new shoes whilst I walk about with holes in my boots.

Might have to purchase some new clothes, (new to me, anyway – they could be from a charity shop), just so I don’t feel quite so decrepit visiting in the same old rags I’ve hung onto for years. On the other hand I could just get the sewing machine out and revamp them, as I taught them to do.

Both girls have that same skill of creative recycling we used through their home educating days when budget was tight but inventiveness was rich. (There’s a funny story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ where they paint their wellies – and their dad’s – when I couldn’t afford coloured ones)!

But when education is in your own hands you tend to get inventive. This independent way of educating requires creative thinking which spills over into all aspects of life, developing intelligence, useful skills and resourcefulness. And there’s nothing better than resourcefulness for overcoming all the challenges you face in life.

So, being resourceful, maybe I’ll just look for something to patch my wellies instead when I get back and the purse is alarmingly empty!

Who’s Not In School?

My new book on sale 27th May

Have you ever wondered what a home educating week is like?

Every wondered what a home schooling family is like and what they get up to?

Or, if you’re a home educating family, have you longed for a book that you can share with your little ones that actually has a home educated child as the star?

Later this month there’ll be one to fulfil those briefs!

‘Who’s Not at School’ is a picture book about Little Harry and his family and what they get up to in an ordinary week, from an ordinary swim to some not quite so ordinary experimentation!

Because, actually, that’s what it gets to be like when you’ve home educated for a while – ordinary! And there are so many thousands now, so many who are making such a brilliant job of educating their kids outside of mainstream school, that it’s beginning to seem an ordinary choice to be making. Especially in the light of current political events.

What’s politics got to do with it?

Exactly!

Politics should have nothing to do with our children’s learning, but I have the feeling that the education of our kids is more about political popularity and vote winning than it is about what’s good for a child. And no doubt after the next election there will be even more disruption as another wave of changes hits the system and leaves children and teachers floundering and pressured in their wake.

Home schooling gives parents the opportunity to educate their kids for education’s sake, not for politics’ sake.

You can keep politics out of it and get on with the proper job of learning. Which is probably why so many now choose to do it.

So, who’s not in school? Far more children than you probably realise!

Pop over to the publisher’s site where you can pre-order: http://birdsnestbooks.co.uk/

(And there’s also a home educating story for the grown-ups via my book; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. It’ll change the way you view education forever!)

Education is for living – not just for politics!

Is this all that education is about?

Education! I’ve been going on about it a long time, even if not the education other people think of.

When I talk about it I mean education for life, not schooling, that’s something different. And I’m still being educated now. We all are, even if we’re not aware of it.

I suppose my awareness started way back when I was in school. I wasn’t very old when thought; ‘this is crap! This is so not for me’! But I didn’t believe myself back then; after all, what do kids know?

Moving into teaching I began to see it wasn’t good for a some others either, pupils nor staff. And I also began to see that schooling was not for true education, it was just for schools. For the big industrialisation process that schooling has become.

We went on to home educate partly because we didn’t want to force our children to fit that industrialisation process. We wanted their education to be for living their lives, not for perpetuating school lives and school businesses. We saw education as the personal developmental process of an individual – not an industry. Or an establishment.

Admittedly, we wanted our youngsters to grow and develop towards living and working as part of a community. But that’s about community more than industrial cloning which the government has pushed schooling towards. Communities are about people and education is about people too.

Education is about learning how to live together, how to communicate and contribute, how to further both our individual understanding and world understanding too.

And there are many young people now who have grown their education in individual ways through home educating – or self education as it more accurately is – towards that outcome. Although outcome is the wrong word because education doesn’t really have an outcome, as in an end, it is ongoing and has continuing new, updated outcomes throughout life. This is what we need to understand about education. It doesn’t have limits.

Education is not only about schools.

Education is not only about the short space of time youngsters are in institutions, or about institutionalisation.

Education is not just a political tool which MPs are wielding at the moment to gain our votes.

Education is for life not just for politics. And that might be a good thought to keep in mind when you try and weave your way through the confusion of policies and promises politicians are bandying about in order to tempt our vote.

Education is for life, not just for votes!

What kind of education – and life – would you really like for your child?

Do children need forcing over shyness?

Charley and I had a jaunt out together the other day. She’s a lovely young adult now and we share grown up things together like art centres, charity treasure seeking or walks. And I always enjoy the opportunity to chat – and listen. How did she become so intelligent and astute? Sometimes I feel I’ve been overtaken!

Quite randomly we got to talking about shyness, particularly in children. She was painfully shy; pulling hat down over eyes rather than engaging with people. Hated crowds, hated people noisy places, and generally had a serious frowning face as a baby. It was a good job our first child was beaming as I might have thought it was me making her miserable.

Her Gran could get her giggling though and when she did crack out a smile the sun shone. But she was never one for leaving my legs and joining in.

Yet she recently managed a very difficult conversation with a boss. How did she get from being the shy little girl, shy big girl as well, to someone who could deal with situations like college, Uni, colleagues and bosses? As a home educating family, whose children don’t experience the affray of school, you’re often accused of failing to push them out into the big wide world. ‘They have to get used to it’ you’re told. Is this true?

It’s a dilemma for parents: How much do we push interaction and how much do we leave it to develop naturally?

Not being a parent who was comfortable with any kind of enforcement, and being shy myself, I felt very strongly I shouldn’t push. That in the right environment, with the right encouragement and a consistent demonstration, with exposure that a child feels comfortable with, you don’t need to push interaction it will develop naturally through developing confidence. And confidence comes from support and experience.

This is what Charley says about it; ‘I hated it when people approached me when I was little. I felt sick and like I wanted to cry. I was so grateful to have you as a shield if I needed it and I can look back and see now that you let it be alright if I didn’t want to talk to people. If you’d pushed me out before I was ready I would have thought you were ganging up on me as well, as that’s what it felt like. Instead I had the choice to interact or not and very young children need that protection’.

I knew that sick feeling well, so I was determined that she shouldn’t suffer the same. We are all different and all have different characteristics.

However, I knew that Charley did need to become confident in dealing with people. And I thought about certain strategies to pass on as she grew to help her over those difficult situations. I remember telling her that sometimes all you have to do is look people in the eye, say hello, then look away and they’re satisfied with that and leave you alone. I made sure that I approached people with confidence so she could copy my example (I was bluffing but she didn’t know that!) and told her about ice-breakers, where you talk about something that’s common between you – even the weather. And smiling always helps! Little tips like these she could put into practice and gain experience from using.

As we were chatting about this Charley went on to say; ‘As I got older I realised that being shy, and not being physically able to speak to people, wasn’t going to be help me progress and get where I wanted. So I had to get over it so I took courage and went for it as my confidence grew. I also wanted people to think I was approachable. Looking at people and smiling changes their responses to me and helps them relax’.

And now you wouldn’t know she was shy and she seems very good at putting people at their ease. Better than her mother probably! She certainly does when she’s photographing them – there’s no worse subject than me, but she managed it for my blog.

Yet this was a child who was not taken to toddler group, contrary to the advice of health visitors who think it’s a way of ‘socialising’ them. (That’s rubbish and you can read why in my book ‘Mumhood’). She was not sent to school. She was not forced into group situations before she was ready. She was not forced to party, mix, engage, unless she chose to, just came along as we did it, but whether she interacted was up to her.

And I wanted to write this here in support of all those painfully shy children who are forced to ‘get over it’. And all those parents who worry or who think they should be forcing their children to mix – you shouldn’t. Or that home education is going to compound the problem. It doesn’t.

You don’t have to push them out there – they want to get out there for themselves when the time is right. And they will do – Charley is proof.

What’s normal about The Emperor’s New Clothes?

We’re quite normal really. Although judging by some folks’ reaction to home educators you’d think we were aliens.

But then I suppose this is the common reaction to anyone doing things differently; suspicion, fear and walk away quickly pretending it’s not happening. Most people are afraid of different. Most like to stay within the recognisable confines of what everyone else is doing. Follow the crowd – even when the crowd might be wrong. Most don’t want to confront change.

In schools, change is foisted on staff and pupils whether they like it or not. And most of the change in educational politics recently hasn’t done the staff or pupils any good. You only have to read stories like this, or this, or this, to know that to be true. But parents till go on accepting the propaganda they are told about education, just so they can stay within the ranks of what appears to be normal.

The daft thing is that home educating parents are as ‘normal’ as any other. They want the same recognisably normal things for their children as anyone; for them to be happy and healthy, for them to work hard, achieve and reach their potential, to be educated and intelligent and to go on to find work and pay.

The only difference is that home educating families take a different route to get there. Yet despite that they all still achieve those same ‘normal’ outcomes. The grown up home schooled youngsters now graduating are proving it. They are ending up at exactly the same point as school-users; with good grades, in higher education or work, with good friends and social connections, leading ‘normal’ happy lives where it’s not even noticeable where they were educated.

The only difference was that they didn’t have to endure the bizarre educational policies foisted on them by idiots who have little professional understanding of the subject and are only interested in votes.

In fact, another home educating parent and I were talking about ‘normal’ the other day. She’d come to the same conclusion as me (and I suspect most other home schooling parents), that the longer you are away from the system and educating successfully in other ways, the more you come to realise how totally bizarre the school system actually is when you examine it.

Frankly, it is schooling which is abnormal. Not home education.

It puts me in mind of the story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

You can get anyone to believe anything is normal, like the Emperor’s clothes, if you convince them to do so however bizarre it might be.

And it requires you to look at something with new eyes – or maybe through the eyes of a child – in order to change to a new norm.