Tag Archive | home schooling

Look and Learn!

Did anyone here ever get to see the magazine for children; ‘Look and Learn’ or are you all too young?

I remember my brothers having it and being absorbed by the pictures, images being an expensive medium you didn’t get to see much back in the day before the Web and image rich media like Instagram and Pinterest.

I got a memory jog when copies of it came up on EBay. They look really retro now. But it was fab to have something so illustrated when books where so expensive.

And it’s also struck me what a fabulous title and approach to learning it was; looking and learning.

Looking, as in observation, is an integral part of becoming educated. Not that schools have that much time for this activity. But parents and home educators do.

We’re actually quite bad at observation, I think. It’s not something that we do much. Looking at things intently has had a poor reputation, not to mention stigmas attached like Nerds who do plane spotting or Twitching!

This needs changing, for observation is the foundation of science; of learning and education. The magazine got it right when they called it ‘Look and Learn’.

Encouraging children to look – really look at the world around them – initiates all kinds of responses and learning opportunities. Whether you’re looking at things near hand in detail, looking to the wider world, looking at others and how they behave, or observing anything that you see, it creates opportunities to talk, question, wonder, maybe find out, research, and it stimulates motivation to take things further.

You could base a whole education on observation. By observing the world and how it works and finding out about it as a result, how it links to other things and what you need to do as a result is a sure foundation to becoming educated.

Look and Learn is a brilliant tag and reminder of such a simple approach to learning you can use at any time, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

So I reckon that it makes sense to give plenty of time for looking and observation. Learning is bound to be the result!

If you haven’t homeschooled, you’re not qualified to judge

As much to learn out of school as in it

As much to learn out of school as in it

I don’t understand some folk’s aggressive judgemental attitudes towards those families choosing to home educate. There can be some real personal mud-slinging on some of the forums about it occasionally.

What’s particularly offensive is that they’re often made by those who have no experience of it.

One of the most blanket statements I often hear is ‘It shouldn’t be allowed’.

I’d like to ask; why not?

Is it because mere parents couldn’t possibly get education right for their children?  Schooling doesn’t get it right for many either, does it?

Or because children can become isolated? But aren’t many isolated in school? Isolated by bullying, by cliques and gangs, by being different, by having different learning needs.

Or maybe people think it shouldn’t be allowed because parents aren’t teachers. Yet it’s sometimes the teaching in schools that’s causing children to fail – not because teachers are poor at what they do, but because their hands are tied by a system that identifies an elite few for success and makes failures of the rest.

Or maybe people think that children miss out if they’re not in school. Yet you could equally say that all those children imprisoned in school are missing out on a wealth of opportunities to learn that are outside it.

It’s even been suggested that some families home educate because they can’t be bothered to send their child to school. However, you could look at that the other way round too and suggest that school users do so because they can’t be bothered to take responsibility for their child’s education themselves or seriously look at whether it’s working for their individual. But home educators don’t usually make those kinds of judgements!

And there’s even been the accusation that home educators aren’t bothered with education. The reality is the exact opposite; home educating families are so bothered with education they daren’t leave it to the schools.

Home schooling families go on in their own quiet way, exercising their right to take full responsibility for their children’s educational needs, usually without accusing those who want to make school choices. And some might not be perfect. But when did school get it perfectly right for every child?

Home schooling is a huge undertaking and families should be applauded for their brave attempts to do something to fulfil their child’s needs, rather than be judged on possible failings.

Most of us have experience of school, so most of us get to know what it’s about and can make informed decisions about it.

But most of the population have not experienced home education. So if that’s the case, I don’t really think these people are qualified to judge.

And if you’re one of those who think it shouldn’t be allowed here are four clips that might change your mind:

New book news!

I had an exciting meeting with the publisher this week.

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

More adventures from Little Harry and family soon. Illustration by James Robinson

We’ve got two more books in the pipeline; the first is the continuing adventures of Little Harry and the home educating family you met in ‘Who’s Not In School’, written especially for children. And the other is a collation of my posts and articles about home schooling from all the years we were home educating our two children, written especially for the parents!

I’ve written so much about it over the years, some even pre-date this blog. And the Home Education posts which are here are scattered among general parenting stuff and my forays outdoors. So if you’re looking for home educating tips and encouragement, rather than you having to trawl through all of that, I’m collecting it in one book.

For I understand that need for a bit of comfort sometimes as you tread this unconventional path as I felt it too. Or some fresh viewpoints, reassurance, or just the feeling that someone understands, so now you’ll know where to turn. There’ll be new material in there too, especially written for the book.

Hopefully this will be out in time for Christmas (dare I say that word?).

Harry’s adventures may take a little longer, though, as you can imagine that those beautiful pictures take the illustrator a while.

But I’ll keep you posted here. If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be able to get updates on the progress and news of when it’s available. You can also sign up for the publisher’s newsletter to get updates on their site too.

Meanwhile; perhaps I could just say how much I appreciate the support shown for my work so far. Home educators are not the only ones who need encouragement – writers do too! Your kind words are always uplifting, either here or on Amazon. And all ‘Likes’ on my Facebook Author page, most gratefully received.

Thank you!

And in return I hope you find support in the forthcoming work.

Forget forever busy – learn from nature!

One of our fledglings that'll be flying thousands of miles!

One of our fledglings that’ll be flying thousands of miles!

It won’t seem right without the swallows in the sky. They’re gathering to make their epic Autumn journey.

I see them swooping about the sky as if with pure enjoyment. If you live in a city it’s more likely to be the House Martins and Swifts you see flitting around, flexing their muscles for their long migration.

Nothing marks the turning of the seasons more than the summer visitors going – people and birds! And the harvest gratefully done, the fields a little quieter for a bit, fallow and golden, the garden dropping down to seed head slumber.

I won’t be tidying the dead stuff away. I leave it for all the little creatures and insects to overwinter in a duvet of fallen leaves. They can sleep in peace and shelter.

I’ve written about this fallow time before. How these seemingly fallow times can be so developmental and we shouldn’t worry about children having fallow times too. These are as instrumental to their progress as productive times. Just because there’s nothing tangible to show for it doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in their minds. Intellect needs fallow on occasions; it’s a valuable to growth as stimulation is.

It’s the same for the parents actually. Parents, especially mums, mostly operate at high energy levels, whether running round after toddlers or finding new ways to negotiate teenhood, it’s all exhausting. Even twenty somethings can exhaust you with concerns, says she with experience!

And writing, or any creative pursuit, certainly exhausts you. You certainly need fallow times in order to recuperate some of the energy expended on a project to bring it to harvest.

So I wanted to say that whatever work you do, not to worry about fallow. It’s hard to sit and rest and cogitate in a culture that upholds forever busy. But forever busy is not the best way I’ve found, not for kids, nor parents, or for writers or workers.

All of us worry sometimes about the kids never doing anything, about us needing to constantly motivate them, about never being able to write anything again. And the guilt in doing nothing is paramount! The over emphasised work ethic that surrounds us heaps guilt on thicker than mayo on coleslaw.

But it’s best to push all that aside and enjoy a few fallow Autumn moments. For have you noticed, whilst nature’s settling into the season with a sigh, she has no guilt about lying dormant at all!

Neither should we. It’s what charges us all for future success.

Nature I find is often the best teacher. We can learn valuable lessons from her.

I admit it; I’m ‘one of those’!


Other books from the LitFest

“Are you a home educator, then?” asked a portly lady who’d picked up my latest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ and was flicking through it at a recent Literary Event. She sat down at the display table rather regally as if establishing her right to rest.

My feet were killing me and could do with a rest too. I’d been on them chatting to people all day. But I wasn’t going to hog the chair.

“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. But not without a sneaking suspicion that she was making more of an accusation than asking a question!

I was right.

“Yes, you look like one of those,” she replied.

And before I could think of a suitable response she went on; “I’ve just retired from forty years teaching in the classroom and I think it’s wrong parents keeping their children away from school. I mean, all the opportunities and people they meet in there, they miss out on all that.”

Try not to bristle before opening your mouth, Ross, I’m thinking. I managed to respond ever so gently.

“Or you could look at it the other way round. You could say that there are thousands of experiences and people outside the school in the real world that home educated children are getting the chance to engage with, which all those kids stuck in school day after day are missing out on.” I smiled the most intelligent smile I could muster.

She looked away not quite so sure of her righteous opinion now! “Hmmm, yes…Oh I think it’s time for the workshop to start,” and she heaved herself up and waddled off.

Teaching for forty years? How many children does that make who have been through her unchanging view of the world? Forty years of it and she still omitted to see how it doesn’t work for all and it’s not just the kids’ fault.  Sometimes I feel defeated by people’s closed attitude.

Later, a chap with three young children came to talk to me. He was one of those, a home educating dad with a happy open attitude to learning who talked to me a little of their approach, how there were so many other families they knew home schooling, and so many groups, they could go to something every day if they wished. He was enthused and energised by their inspired learning life and keen to tell me about it. And open to everything. A pleasure to talk to, restoring my faith.

Here was someone who was as keen to learn himself, and embrace new ideas, as the other lady was determined not to!

What a contrast. I know who I would consider to be the most educated!

Help get books to those who need them

It’s only now, writing and publishing, that I’ve twigged how the powers of commercialism control what we read.

I should have guessed really; commercialism controls most of what we do. But it always comes as a surprise to know to what degree.

Big publishers only publish what will earn them big money. And mainstream bookshops usually only stock books that do the same. They are businesses after all.

And you probably think that writers earn thousands as it’s usually only the writers that do, like Dan Brown or J K Rowling, who get the coverage.

The truth is that most writers will be earning less than the minimum wage. And many will be covering subjects dealing with issues that are not mainstream and therefore not going to earn big money, so will not have big marketing machines behind them. Which means that it is harder to get titles out to the minorities who need it.

So you can see how those minorities often don’t get the books they need to support them.

With the chance to publish independently now, and the whole publishing process made more accessible, micro publishers like Bird’s Nest Books have a better chance of surviving and supporting writers like me who write about marginalised subjects.

But we still rely on your invaluable help.

Mainstream book companies are the ones that get all the attention – they can afford to pay for it. Publishers pay huge sums for shelf space and for stocking their books in the first place. This involves fees that small publishers cannot afford. So this boils down to the fact that what you get to see on shelves in bookshops, and consequently what you get to read, is controlled by them – if the book’s not got the potential for big bucks, it won’t even get published in the first place! That’s a fact.

For example, celebrities can write absolute crap yet it will appear in your face because big money got it there. If you’ve got a burning issue to write about but there’s no big money to be made – you won’t get it published and people won’t get to read it.

Many writers like me have a message or support they want to share that has nothing to do with big money. Consequently it is hard to get it out there.

This is where your help means so much.

Come and meet me, the illustrator and publisher of 'Who's Not in School' at the Wisbeck LitFest on Saturday

Come and meet me, the illustrator, and publisher of ‘Who’s Not in School’ at the Wisbech LitFest on Saturday

I am indebted to all the people who have bought my books, shared them around, mentioned them online and networked them about, passed on my messages, promoted my work, donated to libraries, written reviews, and mentioned them on forums, blogs and Facebook. Your work doing that has meant that many who wouldn’t know this work’s there to help them get to hear about it. Thank you.

Both the publisher and I depend on the word of mouth and networking power of you our wonderful supportive readers.

And your support might one day sow a seed of hope in the hearts of a family whose children’s are suffering in school, yet who didn’t know alternatives existed.

It also shows that minority communities can survive and thrive even without a big commercial machine, on the kindness of strangers.

More than just helping me, your support goes so much further. And I am humbly indebted to you for it.

Are we schooling kids out of education?

It’s the time of year when many are facing the return to school – and many are not! Many are rejoicing in not returning to school and continuing with their home education…

…I couldn’t resist reblogging this story from a while back as it explains why so many choose to do so;

There was a bright little pre-schooler running through the town the other day. She was on an adventure away from mum. She stopped suddenly, turned round and realised there was an awful lot of people who weren’t mum. Her face dropped.

Mum, watching, called out to her and she went running back happily. Despite that slight panic at mum being momentarily out of sight, she didn’t hesitate to go off and explore again. After all, there’s such an intriguing amount to learn – about everything, why would she not?

Twelve years later and learning doesn’t look so appealing. In fact most of her inclination to learn has been switched off, like for many young people.

What happened?

My theory is that schooling happens.

What happens is that we corral our wonderfully idiosyncratic and diverse children into institutions which enforce comparison and competition in their most destructive forms, judge them by a narrow set of outcomes only a particular few can excel at, lead them to believe that anything else they might be good at is unimportant, stress them witless by unnecessary testing, and expect them to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and personally within that unfortunate climate.

It has always seemed a bit ludicrous to me.

This schooling of our children is putting them off education and learning. And neglecting the education of their whole being, of their diverse potential, individual talents, and original personalities, all of which are essential to the longevity of our world.

We are chiselling youngsters down to one set of talents, one way of thinking and performing, measurable by a narrow set of definitions, invented by politicians who are ignorant of education, out to impress those parents interested only in social stature or getting the kids off their hands.

Harsh words maybe, but how many politicians know about the world outside their elite existence – let alone what’s useful for survival in it? And I’ve come across many parents who only want scores and grades for their own adult pride, or their kids minded; there are relatively few who’ve actually thought it through and reached an understanding about what’s good for their individual developmentally.

Child-minding aside, the fallacy that most believe is that kids need teachers, tests and schools to learn, develop and progress towards a fulfilling and productive life.

But in reality they don’t, as many successfully home educating families are proving.

What they need instead is to be happy, confident, interested, curious and motivated like the little girl running through the precinct. With those traits kids move themselves forward into work and life successfully, but there’s only a relative few who come out of schooling with those personal attributes intact.

And you have to define success.

Some would define a successful education from a consumerist point of view as the getting of lots of ‘good’ grades.

I wouldn’t. In fact, it’s hard to define education at all because any definition would suggest it is finite and it isn’t, it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end.

My definition of a successful education would be so interlinked with what I consider a successful life to be which has nothing to do with getting anything, grades or otherwise.

It is more to do with a practice of living that is happy and mindful and content for the most part, full of warm loving relationships, fulfilled through purposeful work, independent and responsible and that continues to build and grow and improve as we learn and educate ourselves. It’s something with encouragement young people could do for themselves – if they haven’t been put off.

Education, like life, should not be something our children have to endure till it ends so they can get on with real life, as many feel it is.

It should be an integrated part of their real lives from day one, ongoing and always accessible. It should inspire. It should be something youngsters are gagging to involve themselves in not playing truant from. And something that serves our needs as humans to develop creatively, personally and emotionally as well as intellectually. And finally, something that we should be brave enough to accept is not actually measurable as such, yet is still wonderfully successful.

Roll on the day….