Tag Archive | home schooling

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.

Just a bit excited…

Who’s Not At School? Illustrations by James Robinson

I’m just a smidgen excited! Okay – maybe that’s a bit of an understatement, but I’m not big on dramatic announcements.

It’s just that a new project is about to come to fruition next month.

I’ve long wanted to write something for children. For something I loved best of all when mine were small was having them curled in that perfect space between lap and arms sharing a picture book together. It is the most delightful experience to hug a child on your knee and absorb a story together. And that’s where readers are made as I said in a recent post.

The best kind of stories of all are those you can identify with, those that make you suddenly think; this is just like us!

That rarely happens when you’re a home educating family, just like with other minority groups. Nearly all stories feature children going to school as if home education didn’t exist, wasn’t real, or the families weren’t living real and proper lives that were as important as any other family lives.

Time for that to change and hopefully ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is helping. This was a story so mums and dads would have something fun to read that was perhaps a little bit like them, as well as raise awareness.

But the children need one too. So a publisher, illustrator and I have got together to produce one….maybe more than one, who knows!

And I’m excited to tell you it will be available in May. So come those times when your child wants you to read them a story there’ll be one out there which has an inquisitive, curious and adventurous little home educator just like them! But I think many a family will recognise themselves in there however they are educated, most of all I hope it’ll raise a smile and plenty to talk about.

I got my daughter to read it as some of her antics were what inspired it. She twigged…and it made her giggle. She’s grown up now but that doesn’t stop her perching on my lap – also with a giggle!

If you pop over to the publisher; Bird’s Nest Books you can find out more and sign up for the newsletter to get the publication date first hand.

And I’ll try and keep you posted through the excitement!

Children are made readers…

First morning back at my desk and I’m having a bad attack of post holiday blues!

I’ve had such a lovely time away with my eldest. But such a painful time when it comes to parting again. Such is the nature of being a parent of grown offspring. It’s made up of greetings and partings and gaps in between. How parents managed before mobiles and Skype when they were so completely cut off from each other I’ve no idea!

Although I tried hard not to think about the work I do here; the writing and blogging etc, I did sneak into a book shop for a good browse and stroke of all the lovely books. The aesthetic of them will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of ebooks. They’re part of a writer’s world. That and the coffee shop and a chance to sit among books and eat cake; two delights in one!

And over one stand of books in the children’s department I noticed a little sign which said:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  Couldn’t resist posting it here to remind all parents that time spent with a child on their lap looking at a book does so much more than you think; it teaches them about reading.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a simple thing. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time.

If we all did it enough – instead of assuming we needn’t bother as children will be taught to read by schools or schemes – children would read naturally and organically with a little encouragement and help. Their delight and curiosity about reading ignites the motivation to want to do it – why would they not read then? It’s parents who start that off.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools – a thought worth keeping in mind.

Still speaking…!

Will the children still be speaking to me when they’re older?

I used to wonder this sometimes – you do so worry when you’re a a parent!

And when irrational fear really got hold I could imagine even worse scenarios: what if they grow to hate me? What if they think I’m absolutely mad for taking them out of school? What if they never forgive me for what I’ve done to them?

I guess these questions sneak through many a parent’s mind, most particularly home educating parents. Please tell me it’s not just me!

So I thought I’d tell you not to worry because they do – they are still speaking. In fact both of the girls at different times have told me I’m among their best friends. And considering they do have great friends – yep; people still have friends even though they don’t go to school! – I rate that as a great honour.

We’re still the family team we ever were, described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. Amazingly those two little girls in there are now grown up, confident, competent and, of course beautiful, young women.

I’ve been talking to some other grown up home educated young people recently and one mentioned the family unity she felt through home educating, where you all pulled together rather than apart, like some of her friends seem to. In fact, I don’t know any home educating family who have ended up like my worse scenarios, so no need to worry!

Our team still loves spending time together. We still have a good giggle. We talk about everything and anything. We share much. Of course we’re still speaking!

And I’m going away tomorrow to share a few days with my eldest so it will go quiet on here for a while. She and I will be busy gabbing and catching up and the only interruptions allowed will probably be caused by cake! :)

What happens after home education?

I know this is a question on many parents’ minds and I’ve recently been talking to some young people now graduated from home educating for an article about it for Education Outside School magazine. (Look out for the next issue) But one young lady; Beth Levicki, wrote so much so well I thought parents would be interested in reading it separately.

She is now 19, having been home educated since September 2001, trying primary and secondary school for short periods. She began taking GCSEs at home when she was 14 and, by the time she was 18, had passed 6 GCSEs. She currently attends College studying A-levels and hopes to go to university in a couple of years.

This is what she wrote:

…I did year one at primary school and became home educated in September that year. I returned to primary to try mainstream education once more, but soon left to become home educated again. I didn’t return to primary school but decided that I wanted to give secondary school a try. I started secondary school at the age of eleven but found it wasn’t for me and left to be home educated again seven weeks later. I remained home educated for about eight more years, until last year when I decided I wanted to do A-levels at college, and have been attending college since September of last year.

While home educated, I did six GCSEs including English Language, English Literature, Maths, History, Biology and Psychology.

My first GCSE was Biology which I did with a distance learning course with mum’s guidance. The tutor would send me tasks, worksheets and practice papers to complete, and I would send them back so she could mark them and give feedback.

The other GCSEs I did with more of a DIY approach that mum helped with. We would buy the textbooks for the subjects and download the syllabuses, go through them, complete practice papers and tasks in the books and learn all of the information needed for the exam.

When it came down to doing the work, I really enjoyed the subjects and learning about them, but I didn’t enjoy the way in which I was supposed to learn them because it just came down to ticking the correct boxes to pass an exam, which I found very frustrating. But I realised that in order to open some doors in the future I had to just push through.

I worked best in the evenings so it was easier and more comfortable for me to sleep late, and work later on in the day, than forcing myself to get up in the morning when I definitely didn’t feel motivated. I also attended a drama group and a scout group so I had to find time to study around these activities.

I found the atmosphere in secondary school very patronising. It seemed none of the students actually wanted to be there and rebellious students made lessons very difficult. Some of the subjects I didn’t like but I was still forced to learn them which impacted my enjoyment negatively at school. There was also a lot of pressure to get questions right and do well which was very stressful at such a young age.

However, in home education, everything was a lot more relaxed. I was able to study subjects I wanted to learn, at my own pace. I believe that home education was the best choice for me during my childhood and teenage years because it was the most enjoyable and comfortable way for me to learn.

College, on the other hand, is more laid back than secondary school ever was. It’s very autonomous and requires self-motivation but, because I was able to choose the subjects that I wanted to do, self-motivation isn’t a big problem. Students are treated like adults and most of them want to be there and do the work to go to university or get good jobs. Instead of calling teachers ‘miss’ or ‘sir’, the tutors are called by their first name, making the environment friendly and comfortable which helps.

Overall, I suppose I’ve always wanted to be treated as an adult. I got that treatment at home and college but never had it in secondary school which is probably why I never enjoyed it.

I’m not a huge fan of working in big groups, especially in primary and secondary school where other students were rebellious, distracting and complaining a lot of the time. That atmosphere really stressed me.

Independently, however, it was much more relaxed. There was no pressure to be right all the time or to be as good as other students.

In college, even though I’m working with other people, the lessons are more like conversations. Ideas are bounced around and questions are asked about the subjects and there’s a lot of learning from each other rather than just the knowledge being spoon-fed by the teacher.

I’ve always been a bit of a not-very-confident introvert, so have had doubts about making friends that I could be myself around in the past and thought it was going to be much the same when I started mainstream education again. But I knew that I had to come out of my shell, so I pushed myself to talk to people and I now have a wonderful group of friends whom I feel comfortable (and share a lot in common) with. I’ve also been very open to the fact that I was home educated which doesn’t bother them in the slightest.

So, I suppose being home educated doesn’t change who you are or what you’re interested in. You just need to find the people who share similar interests and get to know them like anyone would.

…A big thank you to Beth for sharing that with us!