Tag Archive | home schooling

Essential tips for being together

‘It’s not going to be easy’. That’s one of my partner’s favourite sayings. Doesn’t matter what we want to achieve, he trots it out; unhelpfully!

At this present time, I have to admit, that very saying has slipped into my mind. We are all facing challenges we never could have predicted. The least of which is being cloistered together most of the time, without the work, school, outings which are more the norm for family life and which affords necessary space from each other.

Irritations can escalate, tolerance lower.

We’ll have to learn to live round one another in harmony and respect if the family unit’s going to survive. Something it was very necessary to do whilst we were home educating, even though getting out and about was very much part of our routine.

There is much to be learnt from home educators’ way of living and learning. Not so much about education because this short period of parents doing school at home is not like home educating where you grow into learning together gradually and have time to work a completely different approach to it. Rather, we can learn a lot about how to develop a relationship that’s respectful and harmonious enough to work together.

Managing the continued close contact that we’re dealing with at the moment, and which might go on for a while yet, takes some working out and working at. It’s not going to be easy, says she!

Of course, home educating families don’t manage it all the time. There is just as much conflict and discord as in any home. There certainly was in ours, some of which I describe in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. I think I had a complete meltdown at times. But we got over it – I was supposed to be the adult I reckoned; I had to find ways to mend, rebuild, and help us all learn.

You’ll find lots of giggles about our home educating days in here, along with the mishaps

Learning about relationships and living together is an essential skill to be passing on to the kids, one that’ll be useful for the whole of their lives.

Some of the ways we nurtured this were:

  • By finding ways to be apart, discussing the fact we all needed it regularly and that is okay; everyone needs it for their sanity, it’s not to do with love
  • By discussing how this might be achieved especially in small living spaces
  • By being ingenious with spaces to be apart, using the rooms/spaces we had, corners, hallway, outside, wherever
  • By making it okay to say; ‘I need some head space right now, so am going to switch off for a bit’ and everyone understanding that this means not to intrude, even verbally, if they’re in the same room
  • By building reciprocal respect and empathy for everyone’s need for these times, whoever it might be, child or adult
  • By getting creative with den making. A den is a perfect private space for kids, even if it’s just a blanket over a clothes horse or corner of the bathroom. They’ll occupy it for hours, especially if you keep creating new ones, giving you some space too
  • By having a regular time scheduled into your day which becomes a habit, when you ask for your lone time to be respected as you respect others’ needs for time to themselves too
  • By not being afraid to use the word ‘sorry’ when it goes wrong, thus showing the youngsters how to do the same, and that no one is perfect.

Building respectful relationships is an essential part of learning to live together, and education. But it does take consistent practise, ongoing respect, reviewing regularly especially what’s not working, and maybe a bit of teeth gritting!

I don’t know how long we’ll be shut up together. But I do know that it’ll be far better if we find ways to be so with harmony and respect.

Don’t panic about your child’s education

I’m sure now that many parents whose children went to school will be panicking about their education.

Guess what? Home educators panic too! Of course they do!

But there are several simple things to know about children’s learning that have helped them get a grip on that anxiety which might help everyone else too.

See this post; https://rossmountney.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/your-questions-about-home-education-answered/

I always tell home educating families and those new to it a simple fact about learning: children learn as much out of school as they do in it!

They don’t necessarily need schools in order to learn. And an education is not built solely on learning facts and taking tests, measuring progress and ticking off stages on a tick sheet, or those other things associated with schooling; it doesn’t have to be formal to be effective! Everything kids do is educationally useful, builds skills, mental as well as physical. A lot of what schools do is just for schools, not for education!

An education is built upon a developing brain (and body), which takes a lot of time. It’s built on a rounded development of a number of skills learnt through living a life that are transferable to education. Life educates as much as school does (more so probably). And a small interruption in schooling as we have now is not going to be noticed in ten years time!

So get on with every day life and enjoy the experience of sharing it with your child through discussions and debates and hypothesising and explorations online, through these incredible times that offer much to cogitate on (not scaremongering though).

Another fact to understand is that a developing and educationally growing brain is a busy brain, so keep busy, remembering that it’s not that important what that busyness is.

Look at it like keeping a body fit. Physical activity is needed to keep a body fit but it doesn’t really matter what that physical activity is, in fact, the more variety the better, from walking to dancing, from leaping about in front of an exercise video to climbing trees, kicking a ball round an empty playground to skipping in the back yard. Same with the brain. Whatever the children are engaged in their brain will be exercising and developing their mental skills whether that’s gaming, exploring YouTube, reading, artworks of any kind (be diverse), learning how to cook pancakes, playing monopoly, constructing something, solving a problem, writing a story, drawing a story (comics are big business!) All these activities develop the brain, in other words educate, as much as times tables or workbooks or whatever academic exercise you associate with being at school. They all add to the pool of skills which can be transferred to more formal education practices at a later date.

Schools do not have the monopoly on learning and education. As thousands of home educating young people are proving. Kids learn anyway. All experiences educate, most of which you can facilitate, although I acknowledge that you are going to have to be more resourceful in finding them home based as we all are at present. Even these weird circumstances present a good opportunity for learning – looking back through history at other times when people had lives completely disrupted, like through times of war for example.

So I would suggest you stop panicking about academic things, which your children will have foisted back on them soon enough (even though it may seem ages to you) and just enjoy your children because these times are educative in themselves. Get busy with the kids whilst you have the opportunity too; make, bake, play, talk, find new films and documentaries to watch and chat about those, create new recipes from whatever you have in the cupboard, change rooms round, make dens, do all sorts of home based stuff because it will all contribute to your child’s education, developing skills and furthering their knowledge.

Be close, be loving and reassuring and trust that your child’s education will not be harmed, because it won’t be when you look at the bigger picture – something I encourage home educating families to do. In fact the opposite might happen, it might be enhanced from having this different out-of-school experience requiring independent thinking and problem solving; two great skills for life.

So don’t panic. Enjoy it instead. Keep busy. Be resourceful, during these odd times, which is a brilliant thing to teach your kids after all!

There’s another blog about coping with worries over here

And a whole chapter devoted to how children learn without school in my book of the same name, available through Amazon or JKP publishers.

Tips for parents doing school at home

“So how do we do school at home?” I’ve been asked since the Corona virus has closed the schools and home educators are being turned to for advice. That’s a change! It’s more often we’re turned away from as a bunch of weirdos as has happened in the past.

What most parents are not aware of, since they probably have little understanding or even awareness of home education up until this point, is that most home educating families don’t do ‘school at home’. Home educating is a completely different approach that I won’t go into now but you’ll get the gist of if you search this site (particularly if you look at the About Home Education Page and scroll down to the philosophy there).

So rather than a long winded explanation here’s a few tips to implement right now:

Personal explorations are just as educative
  • understand the concept of time differently. In a school day works much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home allow for that to happen and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.
  • Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.
  • Use this time to engage them with other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills.
  • You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trust, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities.
  • There’s also the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc. But there are many intriguing sites not directly associated with education that are equally valuable to explore as well as watching historical documentaries.
  • Home educating families generally bring balance to their days by making sure they pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company, screen based or written and the practical, which helps keep interest fresh and alive.
  • Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to problem solve!
  • You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s as well as overall well being. Google will provide some ideas.

But I would say most of all don’t do ‘school at home’ just enjoy your kids whilst you have the time… it’s all educative! More on that next time!

Weather for the brain!

What a tough challenge of weather! Storms Ciara and Dennis have made it grim to be out and this coming from someone who generally walks all weathers. It’s even been too much for me sometimes, let alone rather unsafe. But I get damn twitchy in body and mind shut inside for too long.

Just like the kids do.

I remember those twitchy little bodies on home educating days when it somehow happened that we didn’t get out under the sky – even if sky between buildings and not the usual green space we preferred. It made such a difference to moods when we got out, despite challenging weather. And made a huge difference to the atmosphere in the house when we got back. It was like a miracle. (There’s a little story about it in my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’ called The Outdoor Miracle which shows how this happened, even to the teenager!)

whatever the weather…

As modern day life and the constant prod of technology place ever more demands upon us, and create ever more stress, the need to get kids outside especially in green spaces is often in the media. And ever more urgent. How they need this for their health; physical and mental. How we all need it for our health, physical and mental; parents too.

We need to pay it attention. It’s crucial we set the example, even when it’s tough.

Research into our brain health and development constantly updates our understanding of our brains and the need for physical activity to promote brain and body health and well-being. They are all connected. And just like a healthy muscle needs the action of blood rushing round it to keep it fit, so too do our brains. And active body has a direct impact on the way the brain functions.

There’s an interesting article here which talks about that impact along with some ideas about getting them moving. Thought provoking, but like with everything on the net; be discerning! It isn’t all about raising smart kids as in the title, it’s about raising happy, well balanced kids and time outdoors, moving about, contributes to that. And is all part of their education.

So whatever the weather (as long as it’s safe) get outside for an active blast. Most kids find rain, winds, storms quite exhilarating if we promote them as such. And you’ll be ever so relieved you did when you get back. You too will experience the outdoor miracle!

Meanwhile I hope you haven’t suffered too much, my thoughts are with those of you who have!

Education: competition or cooperation?

I cringe as another competition programme comes on the telly. As if we haven’t got enough with ‘Bake Off‘ and ‘Sewing Bee‘ and ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’.

It’s not that I don’t like these programmes and I know they’re terribly popular. It’s just that we can’t seem to have something entertaining and enlightening without it being a competition.

And one of the worst things of all about them is that pregnant, sensationalist pause before the winner is announced, as if the judges enjoy the power they’re holding everyone ransome to. As if that is a good example of a way of behaving, which we’re demonstrating to all the young watchers, when it isn’t!

I know it’s just telly – (is that a good enough excuse?) – but I think it’s bad for us, individually and as a society.

But I think it’s especially bad the way this competitive culture invades education too, when we promote education as competitive and as the only way of being good at something or doing well.

Education is surely about the development of each individual and the only way competition serves us well in the educational field is to use it to compete with oneself in order to better oneself, regardless of beating others.

However, the really truly destructive thing about it is that competition is the opposite of cooperation. And it’s cooperation that makes the best societies; cooperation we should be educating for.

To develop cooperative societies we need education to build knowledge and understanding, which will more importantly build the skills of empathy in the children; the ability to understand another’s point of view and have some empathy towards what others are feeling and going through. This is the best way of using education to improve the world, rather than seeing education as something to be top at. Whenever competition is involved there are always losers. There don’t have to be losers in education.

That’s why I love home education so much. It is truly a way of educating for the betterment of the self, there is no top or bottom, winners or losers involved – or there doesn’t have to be. And it offers the chance for a happier education.

Why is this important? Because it benefits everyone. There’s a post about it here and how that happens.

Meanwhile I’ve been reading a beautiful book called ‘The Little Book of Lykke’ by Meik Wiking of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ fame. It has a lovely story of an age old game and turning it into a chance to learn about empathy, rather than doing others down.

It’s musical chairs; I’m sure you’re familiar with it, there being one too many children for the amount of chairs so someone is going to lose out when the music stops and they have to find a seat. The game described in the book has one less chair than the amount of children but instead of being ‘out’ two children have to fit on one chair. During the second round another chair is taken away, so two pairs of children have to sit on a chair together which requires cooperation. As the chairs get less, more and more kids have to pile on less and less chairs which requires more and more cooperation and is far more fun than getting people ‘out’! And it teaches kids how to look out for others, a far better lesson than just thinking of oneself.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if education was more like that game of musical chairs, was more about helping each other along, than being the top at the expense of others?

When I come to think of it, I reckon that’s how most home educating families operate. Or is that cooperate!

How do homeschool kids learn?

Following on from last week’s post I thought it might be helpful to talk about this.

It’s such a huge question. How does anyone learn? How do you learn now you’re a parent?

Discounting any specific academic courses you may be undertaking I think you’ll agree your learning otherwise, (say about your new technology, or looking up how to fix, cook, parent), has little resemblance to the way schools do it – you probably do most of it online and by asking around too. Yet it will be just as effective.

School learning structures are the way they are because the learning there has to be measured – not because they’re the best way to do it!

However, learning doesn’t have to be measured in order to be successful. And for most home educators it isn’t measured – it’s just experienced. Families just encourage, prompt, provide resources and engage with what their learner wants to learn, along with essential skills to do so, and find ways to facilitate it, practically, physically, mentally and most importantly interestingly!

They do it through a multitude of ways; online, out and about, through meetings and sharing learning with others, in the local community, museums, galleries, sports and play centres, libraries, workshops, visits to various sites, nature reserves and places of interest, all so the learning experience is as first hand as possible, along with practice of academic skills and study at times.

But it’s very hard to get your head round those unfamiliar approaches that home educating families take to their learning. So I’ve written a whole chapter about it in my guide to home education; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ which may help you get to grips with it. (For more details scroll down the ‘My Books’ page above) If you haven’t got a copy and prefer not to buy, you can request that your library do so, then others will be able to access it too.

The chapter looks at both a traditional view and a broader view of how children learn, what they need in order to do so, how they learn without teaching from everyday experiences including play, and then goes on to look at different approaches families use in more detail, the pros and cons, along with some suggestions on how to choose an approach that’s right for you. The chapter also talks about motivation and about children having charge of their own learning which may be a really radical idea for some, but is still doable and effective.

From the book; Learning Without School Home Education

Learning and educating are such a personal experience – although schools tend to generalise it – every learner is different and everyone’s circumstances are different. But despite these diverse and idiosyncratic approaches which families take to their home education the young people all seem to end up in the same place; intelligent, articulate, socially skilled, and mostly with a portfolio of qualifications in line with their school contemporaries.

Don’t be daunted by an unfamiliar approach to learning that’s so different from the traditional. Traditions always need challenging to see if they’re still worth hanging onto, although I guess you know that already or you wouldn’t be challenging the tradition of schooling! By opening your mind about how children learn you will be able to give your youngsters a much more pro-active and enjoyable experience of learning that will set them up for life.

‘School at home’

When we were home educating I often got asked the question, by people unfamiliar with home schooling and the variety of approaches to learning; ‘Do you sit the children down at the table at nine in the morning until three in the afternoon?’

It doesn’t always look like learning but all sorts of approaches work!

That is the only vision some have about the way education and learning works, so it was a common one.

The trouble with this, if you’re asked it regularly, is it makes you think that perhaps you should be!

Doing ‘school at home’ or an impression of it, is something that many home educating parents can become anxious about. The system leads us to think that children have to be coerced to learn, that they’ll only learn if sitting still at a desk, that they have to learn certain things at certain times in order to succeed, that they have to be in a ‘classroom’ environment or similar, that they need teachers to learn, that there is no other way of learning except this schoolised way.

In reality none of this is true. And in most schools that’s not the reality either but some people are stuck with that age-old vision of classroom learning.

Neither is it the reality of home educating, as many experienced parents will tell you.

Children do not need to be coerced – they’re actually fascinated to learn – if they haven’t been put off as schooling sometimes does. They don’t have to be sitting, still, indoors, or be taught, learning can happen naturally without any of these structures, with encouragement and support from an engaged adult, and sometimes even without that.

So don’t fret about doing ‘school at home’. Instead place your focus on your children and how they learn best, what you feel they should achieve both in skills and knowledge, and then think about the multitude of ways there are to accomplish that – the more pro active the better.

For example, take reading. Schools tend to practice a very structured approach to reading, using a graded scheme of books, that children are meant to stick to. But this isn’t the only way to learn to read. Children can learn to read just as effectively through incidental reading, through being read to and enjoying books, through picking up on the reading that others are doing, by deciphering the reading all around them, through all sorts of materials; comics, posters, online, gaming, etc, even by attempting much more difficult texts than we’d probably recommend. This incidental and unstructured approach can be just as effective as a schemed approach which risks taking away the children’s enjoyment of books. The most important aspect of learning to read is to keep the children’s love of books alive along with their desire to interpret them.

Using workbooks is another example. Workbooks can be a useful tool to help you keep to a certain pathway of subject matter and skills practice. They can also be extremely dull in that they are second hand, academic practice rather than a first hand stimulating experience. For example it’s much more exciting for a child to be cutting up the pizza, cake, sharing stuff out, as first-hand fraction practice before they get to the computation of it in a workbook. Far more exciting to be experiencing science than filling in sentences about it. Finding interesting ways to tackle subjects and skills practice keeps the learner engaged – keeps the learning going. And is far more effective in that it’s more likely to be retained.

Using a curriculum is another aspect of ‘school at home’ that some parents worry about. Whether they should be following one or not.

Any curriculum is simple a tool, a tool to support learners in reaching certain subject objectives and it is simply that. It is not a guarantee of an education. It can be useful; it’s a useful way of covering subject matter, particularly if you want to stick to that which is covered in schools and use the National Curriculum. But it is not essential. It’s not an education in itself. You cannot follow a curriculum right through and then proclaim the child is educated. For if you think about it, that’s what schools do and there are far too many children come out of school with an uneducated mind. And lacking personal skills. But then you have to think about what an educated mind is! (An interesting view on that here)

Education is far more than a course, although a course helps you reach certain objectives and can be useful as such. But it’s important to think out for yourself what education is, (some thoughts here) and what schooling does, and most important of all what you want for your child and what approach will mean that they reach those objectives – many of which may be personal as much as academic, like confidence for instance. Keeping them engaged with learning by providing varied, stimulating experiences is probably more likely to do so than doing ‘school at home’.

There’s a detailed chapter on how home educated children learn in my book ‘Learning Without School’ (See the My Books page for more) But one of the best ways to find confidence and develop your own approaches is to be in contact with the home educating community, either online or through meet ups, listen to the experiences around you and do what works for you, ‘school at home’ or not!