Tag Archive | home schooling

Now my daughters are home educating me!

I got in a right stress making the little talk on You Tube. I’m not good in front of the camera. filmmaking 010

“You can take a break and swallow, mum” advises the photographer in the family, grinning from behind the lens. ‘I can always cut bits out’.

Her skills with the camera and technology far exceed mine. Pity she can’t do anything about my grimace, I thought, as I try and rid my mouth of the fur balls that seem to have filled it.

When I look at it later I cringe with embarrassment.

“We can all think we look rubbish on film at times,” reassures the performer in the family when I whinge at her down the telephone and recount our film making adventures. “Play with the setting and light, and make sure you have something on that helps skin tone and things like that.”

I was picking out all the things wrong with it when I realised something; they were using the same strategy on me that I’d used when they were here full time home educating. Namely; polish up your courage, do it don’t judge it, use all errors to learn from, and above all have another go.

Throughout our home educating days, mistakes, or not getting it right first time, were a valuable opportunity to grow, discover and point us in the right direction. Not the mountain of shame that’s often associated with them in a classroom.

Mistakes mean you’re having a go a something new that’s obviously a challenge. When you’re challenging yourself, you’re growing and learning. Examining your not-quite-right attempts in an analytical (not self-demeaning) way teaches you things about yourself and your skills that will be developmental.

But being overly critical or judgemental in a personal or negative way is of no value to the learning process at all. Getting it wrong is a positive opportunity to learn, which helps us grow and extend who we are.

It took a while for the girls to recover from the scars of schooling where getting it wrong was terrible, humiliating, and a cause for pain. Now they set themselves challenges and see them as an opportunity for growth. Getting it right or wrong in the early stages of growth is not personal. And not a crime.

They were both so beautifully encouraging when I was having a go at this. And morally supportive. Stayed on my side. Helped me push on through the tricky bits.

This is just what any learner needs, me included.

I changed some things round in the film. And did it anyway – as I’ve always told them to do. (Funny how we forget our own words). We none of us ever have to be perfect, I was always telling them that too. And yes; they fired that one straight back at me right away.

Thank you girls, for continuing to home educate me!

(If you missed it last week you can watch the film on Youtube here)

Applauding our children’s achievements

Are we there yet?

Look back to see how far you've come

Look back to see how far you’ve come

Is there a parent who hasn’t heard that on long journeys?

But it’s maybe something we’re also guilty of thinking as parents; about our children’s progress. And missing the ‘journey’ because of it. Wondering if they’ll ever ‘get it’ or ‘get there’, especially in regard to their education.

And therein lies the problem; ‘getting there’ can be a false concept, because life doesn’t always happen like that, or to order. There isn’t always a ‘there’ to aim for. And whilst you’re striving you can sometimes miss the little things that have been achieved.

It’s like hill walking; I could bet my boots that as soon as I reached the top of one summit there’d be another one waiting just beyond that was even higher, diluting the achievement of climbing the first one. Unless I looked back and acknowledged how far I’d come.

We can do that with our children sometimes, always pressing them for more. Missing what’s achieved and what is now.

Yet now is where life resides.

There may be many days when you feel there’s no progress. It certainly can feel like that when you’re home educating long term. You may feel that your days are boring and pointless, the children haven’t gained anything. That you have nothing to show – no progress.

Life can be like that whatever you’re doing, whether it’s raising babies, or doing a tedious job day after day to feed them and keep a roof over your head, life may feel stagnant.

But; progress isn’t always measurable in tangible terms. 

And each day IS a progression in itself, even the dull days.

If you have lived, that is progress. Because each day however mundane supports us in some way, however small and insignificant. Each day is a demonstration to the children about living a life, will have taught them something. Each day makes up a life, so each one has it’s value as such even if you can’t feel it at the time.

If you look back to years gone by, or when your children were little – good excuse to get the photos out – you’ll see a huge progression and many achievements.

Life is a long journey. Life with kids is a long journey. A journey of learning and experience. Each day is another footstep on our way. And we mustn’t devalue a step because of a false concept of not being ‘there’ yet. Or it not being as you first imagined.

And each day is worth, even if not applauding, simply blessing for what it is. We don’t have to be ‘there’ to acknowledge that. And the children don’t need to be ‘there yet’ for us to cherish their achievements so far.

They may not be glamorous or measurable, but they are still achievements. And can always be appreciated.

It’s alright for you but could I home educate?

“Have you ever thought about doing a talk about home education?” my friend asked.

I think I may have snorted derision! Not the kindest thing to do.

“Are you joking?” I responded. “It’s taken me all this while to emerge from my writing cupboard and publish stuff, there’s no way I’d manage an audience”.

How I ever spawned a performer as a daughter I’ll never know. It’s alright for her but…

“But you have so much to say” she persisted.

“Yea, but chatting one to one is different. I could gab on about home education forever when people are truly interested, and it’s different one to one, isn’t it? A talk is just not for me”

I retreated to the back of the cupboard again and we changed the subject.

But once the seed of an idea is thought there’s no un-thinking it is there! And even writers get bored of writing stuff all the time.

There’s so much to say and do to help raise awareness of this option of educating, I argued with my cupboard myself, so many who might just stumble here in desperate need of something different to school. Being quiet about it doesn’t help them!

Steven Hawkins says that it is often the quietest people who have the loudest minds. And sometimes my mind is so loud and random that the written word can be too slow for getting it all out. And maybe I could just give it a go and talk to an empty room.

It’s a start.

So I’ve had a go talking to an empty room! Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 21.43.47

It’s not perfect, I make some mistakes, but like with educating it doesn’t matter because I’m learning from them, like children do. And anyway, you don’t have to be perfect to successfully home educate.

And as part of this Monday series for those fairly new to home schooling the question I’m asking is;

Home Education: Can I really do it? (Watch it here)

If you watch it, you’ll see why you can.

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

There’s no single ‘right’ way to educate

Having home educated our children people often ask what advice I would give to those just starting out. So with the surge in interest I thought I’d repost some ideas for those who are new to it.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be practically engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be learning. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re going to be collated in one new book; ‘Tales From My Home Education Notebook’ – hopefully out in the Spring. If you sign up to the publishers newsletter here you’ll get first news of when it’s due.


Even Celebs are choosing to Home Educate!

Nadia and her lovely girls

Earlier in the week there were several papers covering the news about Nadia Sawalha revealing that she was another parent who home educated.

It was lovely to have some positive coverage among the ignorant dross that’s usually trotted out by people who’ve no experience of home schooling. (Like the other presenters on ‘Loose Women’ who discuss it here all of whom are under the usual misconceptions like; kids who haven’t been used to getting up in the morning won’t be able to go to work!)

But it will help to raise awareness of this option for families whose children are not thriving in school.

And there are all sorts of reasons for that; for not thriving. Most of which generally have nothing to do with learning and education, and much to do with the school climate, the prescriptive nature of enforced learning matter and means, the obsession with testing and measurement – not particularly helpful to the learner themselves, and the neglect of individual intelligence in favour of a generic cloning.

And another thing – many, many of us would not thrive or reach our potential in a school atmosphere with masses of others where we feel threatened and put down, where despite government promises needs are not met. They can’t be, simply because of the corporate business that a school is, with so many to cater for. And the vote hungry politics which makes it so.

What’s so deplorable about this is that parents are made to feel there’s something wrong with children who need a different kind of atmosphere from that horrid hubbub of school in which to learn. School is fine if it suits – horrendous if it doesn’t. These kids are not necessarily cowards, softies, introverts or ‘special’ as they’ve been called – they are discerning! And many of the home educated kids who I know, who were removed from school because they hated it for that very reason, have gone on to be productively working adults with better social skills than many school grads.

After watching the Loose Women clip, particularly the suggestion that kids without structure won’t get up in the morning, my youngest who was home educated from the age of 6 commented that it was always the school kids who were late for college or lectures at Uni where she was always punctual despite this ‘lack’ of schooling structure. As Nadia said; home educated children take their learning on board for themselves unlike than those who’ve had it imposed on them and have therefore no idea how to be independent.

What I find most interesting about the idea of celebrities choosing home education (Emma Thompson another one) when they could presumably afford a ‘really good’ private school, is that whatever a ‘really good’ school may be these parents find their children need something different from a school experience. And it is the schooling that most want to get away from. Usually so they can get on with the real business of learning in an uplifting, inspiring and life-enhancing way.

Which is fundamentally what education is about.

How can children learn at home?

This is another question that people ask when finding out about home education or starting for themselves. So as part of this series of Monday posts for newbies I thought I’d try and answer it.

Most people accept that children go to school to learn.

Think of all the things you've learned to do since school!

Think of all the things you’ve learned to do since leaving school!

And one of the ideas that people with no experience of home education find hard to grasp is that children who do not go to school also learn.

So how does that take place?

With schooling and teaching entrenched in our thinking as the mainstream way to learn we tend to forget all the other learning that goes on without it. Just think for a moment; firstly, of all the things your child learnt before they ever went to school – all without teachers or tests or curriculum or strategies.

And secondly, think all of the things that you’ve learned since you left school, like driving for example or cooking or using your latest gadget or new job skills.

You learnt them through:

  • First hand experience
  • Researching and finding out for yourself
  • Building understanding
  • Asking others and using others’ support when needed
  • Having a go and practising

This is the way children who are home educated learn too and you can facilitate your child’s learning in much the same way through those approaches.

You can provide stimuli and activities, guidance, encouragement and first hand experiences, sometimes even keeping out of it and allowing them to find things out and practice for themselves, other times finding others to experience it with if required.

This is how you will have enabled your child to walk, talk, dress themselves, use tools and technology, develop various physical and practical skills up till now. And this approach works just as well when you’re home educating – it’s almost an extension of your parenting and need be nothing more than that.

Some parents like to use an approach similar to a school day with structured periods of academic work and activities initiated by them as per a schedule.

Other parents like to use a more autonomous approach allowing the child to pursue activities of their own choice and interest, using opportunities to develop more specific skills and knowledge as they arise.

Some like to stick with a curriculum – which is merely a plan of activities – that takes a learner through a sequence of learning activities towards specific objectives, like the National curriculum does, which sets out what the government thinks all children should know.

Others feel this is too prescriptive and inhibits spontaneous learning opportunities that arise naturally throughout living on a day to day basis. And they also question for themselves what it is that children should know and why.

(There’s a section in my book ‘Learning Without School’ which explains autonomous and structured approaches to learning and how children learn in more detail).

We all probably feel that we want our children to know certain things, be able to do certain things, and be able to progress in life. But when you start home educating you can also question what the really important things are; not only educationally but personally too.

For example, is it imperative that kids know facts to be tested, or more important that they have the skills needed to find out facts?

Schooling is very much geared to learning stuff that can be tested and examined. And in the pursuit of those goals many of the more personal attributes a young person needs in today’s world (and work) are neglected. Things like confidence, self-esteem, common sense, initiative, decision making skills, adaptability, imagination (to solve problems and think outside the box) to be articulate and social – all of which come from a broad experience of the real world and people in the real world, not just the school world.

And these attributes are developed more through how you learn – through diversity and experiences, rather than what you learn.

A positive and uplifting experience with learning is what to aim for. Then young people will want to learn for themselves, an attribute that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life.

Even very young children learn for themselves, if you just watch. Sometimes we inhibit that by attaching all sorts of adult structures to the learning process – more often than not for our own comfort!

The question ‘how can children learn at home?’ tends to suggest that children do not want to learn and have to be made to go to school to do so. But actually the opposite is true; children love to learn – that’s why they investigate everything and ask endless questions when they’re little – it’s just schooling puts many off.

Children will learn at home. You just need to trust and make sure you approach your learning – your home educating life – in a way which will not put them off like school so often does!