Tag Archive | home schooling

What influences our children’s learning?

I was playing with the idea of children’s learning the other day and drew myself a little picture. This is because the system has taught us to think in a very linear way about how learning happens and it helps to think about it a little differently – especially if you’re home educating.

When you’re home educating you can abandon misconceptions about learning happening in a very unwavering linear way, because it doesn’t.

I think the government wants us to see it like that because it suits the systematic teaching they want to provide. But learning IS NOT the result of teaching, like it’s some kind of App that teachers can stick on what they consider to be hAppless kids! It’s nothing like that whatsoever.

Learning is instead an intrinsic part of who you are, of the influences around you, and how you respond to them.

My picture describes it like this:

learning 001

All these factors influence the way children learn – and achieve. And interplay with each other and every day – every year – will change and be different in the way they influence learning, some stronger than others at varying times and the children constantly changing in the way they respond.

Learning is an extremely fluid process. How could it ever be linear?

Systematic schooling disregards so many of these influences, seeing educating as this one track conditioning rather than the blossoming of an individual, responding to the climate in which they’re developing.

But I think it’s more helpful to keep this picture in mind. Because then you can forget the idea of learning as a simple set of single-track scores and see it instead as the result of complex influences, some of which you can impact on, some of which you can’t, and all of which have to be taken into account and negotiated in order to develop a well educated person. Wherever there’s a problem; one of these influences will probably be the cause.

And this applies wherever they are educated!

Another little word on worry…

People considering home schooling are often stopped by thinking it’s going to be too much of a worry! So I thought I’d repost some ideas here to try and put some of those to rest.

The worry that comes attached to parenting makes life pre-children look like a picnic. Add home schooling into the picture and it doubles.

However, if you think about it, there’s just as much worry attached to schooling isn’t there? There was for me.

The daft thing is; worry is pointless. It doesn’t help anything, it warps reasonable perspective, it wears you down and becomes counter-productive. So you might as well stop it.

The million dollar question is; how?

I’m a worrier and had to work hard at dealing with it so as not to spoil being a mum. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; perhaps they’ll work for you.

–          Look at your concern realistically. Usually worry is nothing more than us imagining the worst scenario. It’s not something that is actually happening. So try and switch your imagination off and focus on the reality now. Or…

–          Imagine instead the best scenario. Imagine how it looks when it’s positive – what you want to happen rather than thinking about the worst case. This is visualisation. It’s very powerful, but it’s ironic that we rarely imagine the best. Visualise what it looks like when everything is working perfectly, your children being angelic!

–          Worrying is nothing more than your thoughts – not events – just negative thinking. The best antidote to this I found was to stop thinking and start doing. Take action to change whatever is bothering you. Or if that’s not possible involve yourself in an activity that takes your mind off the worry and onto something else. This refreshes you, dilutes the worry, brings a new perspective.

–          Another point; worrying is about future events. You’re not there yet and you cannot predict what future is in store anyway – everything always changes. So stop living for the future, start making this moment the best it can be.

–          Obviously we want to do the best we can to secure our children’s future, whether that’s in the way we raise them or the way we educate them. But nothing can be secure really and sometimes we’re so busy doing that we forget that right now is what matters. Love matters. Happiness matters. Interest and fun matter. Putting those in place now is the best way to build a fulfilling, successful future – I don’t think fulfilment and success can happen without them.

–          There is no guarantee you can make for your child’s future except that. By doing that each day, but being aware of the way you are, by being relaxed, attentive, busy and FUN you can show your child how to build a life the same!

–          Worry also occurs when we’re focussing intensely on the smaller picture. Often a blinkered picture – an inaccurate one. Like your child not being able to achieve something that others can like sharing for example. It’s easy to get obsessed about it – this puts pressure on which makes it worse, creates an intensity which communicates itself to the child which prevents them from sharing because they know it’s something you’re worried about …etc…etc. To stop this take your mind’s eye out from the intensity of this small picture to the whole of your child’s life– I bet your child will be as considerate over sharing as anyone else by the time they’re twenty. So be patient – children are all different and are allowed to be. Look at the bigger picture.

–          Keep contact with others to help your perspective. Talk about your concerns – then stop and talk about something else – something positive! Don’t measure your child against your friend’s. If you must, measure instead against the millions and millions of children who started out with these noticeable differences then by adulthood have become insignificant.

–          Look after yourself! Worry is increased by tiredness, frustration, stress, unhappiness. Your needs as a parent are as important as the child’s. Happy parent equals happy child. Some of the things I did to help myself with this were; reading inspirational books, regular exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty, meeting with others,  avoided too much junk food (food affects your mind), attention to my mental/spiritual wellbeing.

–          If your child sees you doing this you’ll be teaching them how to look after themselves as they grow which is a far better lesson to be teaching them than how to worry!

I’ve suggested other ways of looking after yourself as a mum in my new book ‘Mumhood How to handle it Why it matters’. And there are ideas about dealing with worry if you’re a home educating parent in ‘Learning Without School’. But for a read to give you a giggle and a lift away from it all try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. All the details are on my book page.

cafe books 005

What to do with an uninspired Monday?

I wake up some Mondays and just don’t want to know. I’m sure everybody does at times.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

I remember that happened when we were home educating too, even though it was overall the most inspiring and liberating experience. Finding that you can actually break through conventional barriers and do something different usually is. But there are times however magical life can be that you just can’t hack it!

If you’re home schooling, not to worry; I looked at it this way: You can bet your boots that there are many teachers also waking up with that same feeling, so if you’re going to be less than inspirational for the kids today then you won’t be the only one – you can be sure of that.

You can also rely on the fact that even though you may not be having much stimulating input some days the children will still be learning. Because they learn without your input too – that’s the nature of their inquisitive minds.

And another point is that as a parent, you don’t always have to take the stage, be the leader, be in charge, come up with infinite ideas, or be the jester who jollies everyone along. The children also have to learn to do that for themselves.

So it’s just as important that sometimes you ‘sit in the audience’ as it were. And let the kids take the main stage. Let them be in charge, come up with ideas and control the day. And you go with their flow for the day.

This gives them an important opportunity to make decisions, not to expect to always be entertained, to problem solve for themselves, to even look after those whose needs are bigger than theirs at times. Important life skills.

I had days when my needs were bigger than theirs. When I had to fold into the nucleus of my self for a bit and not be the sole inspirational leader of others’ lives, but just look after my own and get my strength back up.

And you know what?

Those days always worked out just fine. The kids found things to do. We watched stuff. We may have even stayed in PJs all day and were they ruined as a result? Did they turn into lazy, jobless, no-hopers unable to get up in a morning as someone nastily suggested they would?

Course not! They are hard working adults who know what it is to work, who are always punctual and responsible – and sociable – and sometimes more conscientious than colleagues, who contribute to the working world as does anyone.

So don’t worry about those Mondays, or any days, when you really cannot give out. You’re not ruining your kids just because of the odd day. In fact you are teaching them something of what it is to be human – and humane!

Something I often wonder, after reading Nicky Morgan’s latest proposals (see my last), if they’ll get in school!

Un-learning? What’s that got to do with education?

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Funny to have a title un-learning on a blog that’s generally about learning, self-development and home education.

But the reason is that’s exactly what you have to do in order to learn. You very often have to un-learn something else. Adjust something you thought was true. Update your information and ideas. Often your values and principles.

For example, I had to unlearn quite a lot of stuff I thought I knew in order to home educate. I had to unlearn the things I thought were true, like;

  • Learning only happens in school
  • Teaching and teachers are always necessary
  • Schools satisfactorily socialise children
  • Children need to be tested
  • Graded schemes, curriculum, daily structure, workbooks and lots of writing is essential
  • And if you’re not ‘doing’ education the children won’t learn anything

Instead I learnt that;

Learning can happen anywhere, at any time, any place. Teaching and teachers are not always necessary. The school climate does not reflect the social climate of our society and you cannot learn social skills from other youngsters who don’t have them. Testing does not help children become educated. Lots of academic exercises don’t guarantee learning outcomes. And the children can learn even when they’re not doing anything seemingly educational.

What you will learn as you home educate is that there are a multitude of approaches you can adopt to facilitate your children’s education and the more you see how they learn by being engaged and active and stimulated the more you will realise that there are lots of things you have to un-learn about education in order to progress.

Parenting is the same. As a parent I had a load of stuff fed to me about parenting. Some of it was true. Some of it definitely needed un-learning. And the most important thing I learned was to keep an open mind and remain flexible – which works far better than any hard and fast rules people tried to push on me.

And we think it’s just the kids doing the learning! We all learn all through our lives.

So perhaps the most significant thing both you and the children can learn is the idea that the more educated we become the more we realise there is to learn. And this is true whatever and forever!

5 elements of parenting (and education) that are important

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ in a rare academic moment!

I often think back to our Home educating days when the children were younger and things seemed a little simpler.

Yea – I know it’s hard to believe it’s simple right now if you’ve got a complex life with younger ones. And maybe those former days weren’t simpler as I imagine – they were just different!

Anyway, instead of the parent/child relationships we had then we now have parent/adult relationships, with best friend thrown in too.

These adult relationships, with those little girls featured in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, are something I truly treasure. We love spending time together, we have a giggle together, they still share, and trust my support and – dare I say – wisdom! And I theirs; they teach me a lot too!

Recently someone sent me a lovely comment and expressed the hope that their own relationship with their little ones would turn into the adult ones we have now.

It made me wonder what it was that got us to this point, whether there were particular elements of parenting that aid the process.

I would say the answer lies in the elements of any relationships and is not necessarily to do with children; there’s not one rule for kids and another for grown-ups, as some seem to think. It’s just about being together and caring for one another in respectful ways.

So I came up with what I considered to be the five most important elements of our parenting, and home educating, in fact, of any relationship:

Respect – Children learn this by demonstration, by your respectful behaviour. They need to be shown the same respect as you expect from them, as you’d wish them to show to others, as you show to others. It’s derived from listening, responding, care, compromise, tolerance, talking, give and take and understanding on a mutual basis. Also from self-respect. And it has to be consistent.

Honesty – Children know when we are not honest. They learn their honesty from us. They need to be able to trust us. You have to be brave to be honest, find ways to explain even if it’s difficult. We are all human; make mistakes, get it wrong. We can admit it. Apologies work wonders. But you always have to be fair even when it’s hard. This will earn their respect too.

Communication – Always communicate, share, explain, inquire, request, listen. All relationships are based on communication whoever they’re between. Even the tiniest moments of communication can have enormous impacts. They also show you care for and respect them.

Space – It’s okay to have space from the children, as we would want space from any family members! It is not a reflection of how much we love our kids if we want to have some time away from them, just as it’s not a reflection of love for a partner if we want time apart! Space from each other helps each identify who they are.

Balance – I don’t think extremes in any aspect of life are healthy. Rules are sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Everything we do with our children – or with any relationship – should always be up for scrutiny, review and refreshment within the perspective of what we learn as we all grow together. We need to balance things like saying no with saying yes, being firm when it’s important with being able to compromise, being a playmate, being a protector. You balance many hats as a parent, the way you behave as you do so can make or break your relationship with your children and the adults they’ll become.

And of course everything here is based in LOVE. I took it for granted that element would be there anyway!

Self education – the only sort that matters

girls roses how to be wild 001 I’m still a home educator – even without the children still at home! Although the youngest is back here again for a while and I still do the Home Ed role; ‘come see the moon, it’s fantastic’ or ‘want to come for a walk?’ Or, when I’m really irritating; ‘seems a shame to be stuck in front of that screen on such a beautiful day’…

My daughter would be rich if she were paid every time I slipped in a bit of advice. She’s very tolerant – she knows I’m on a learning curve too; learning to let go!

But these little regresses aside, the home educating I do now is not really for them, it’s for me. It’s self education and much of it still takes place in the home and it’s still ongoing.

Because that’s the way we’ve always seen education. Not as something that happens between the ages of five and eighteen. But as an ongoing, lifelong process. One that integrates into all aspects of life and work at any time. Throughout life. And is not confined to ‘doing’ education. But is just the way life is led – continually learning.

Learning can extend or develop you personally whatever stage you’re at, six or sixty, whatever you are doing or want to do, change, or develop, whether it’s dexterity with your latest device or cooking something new, drawing, driving or gaming, learning business or new job skills.

Education is not just for kids. We can all do it, parents included.

And, if you can view you child’s education like that, in that bigger context, it puts into perspective those little worries about whether they can read yet, write yet, understand long division or the periodic table. For just because they haven’t got it now, doesn’t mean they’ll never get it – you have an ongoing chance at learning, a lifetime’s chance, it doesn’t have to be confined by time or age.

You don’t need to do GCSEs at sixteen for example or a degree at twenty one. Or coding at four, or spreadsheets at fourteen, not unless you want to. You can take up anything anytime – there are ways.

And it’s so often the case that once you stop worrying, pressurising and trying to make learning fit into certain time frames (often dictated by a system that doesn’t work that well anyway), learning becomes more natural and easy and gradually clicks into place.

Think of your child’s education as part of something much bigger than this age now, as part of a learning life that can be updated at any time. Take the pressure off your children and focus instead on giving them a wide, diverse and enjoyable experience with learning. This way they’ll feel able to continue with it whenever they need to, to get where they want to go. Whenever. Which sets them up for life far better than anything else.

Both my daughters learn new skills constantly, in their twenties; I envisage that they always will.

And I’m learning the new skill of backing off and allowing them to!

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!