I’ve been having a clear out and have come across something funny in my old files from our home educating days.
It wasn’t this report (totally useless) that the County sent to us after their visit regarding our provision for Charley. It was the one I sent them in return!
But here’s theirs for a start:
Our part of Lincolnshire wasn’t too bad in terms of the home education monitoring officers that visited. Not like those which some families experienced. However, I hadn’t intended to tolerate any disrespect coming into our home – neither to me or the children. I also made it clear that I would, in turn, be sending them a report about how they behaved!
They thought I was joking.
But I actually went and did it, setting it out in a formal style like theirs, in the hope that the authority would learn something and behave accordingly and the ill mannered and irreverent visits that some families suffer would gradually be a thing of the past. And it was this report that I came across today – made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it! Here it is:
I would love to know what was said when they read it – probably not repeatable!
Now I’m thinking that if all home schooling parents did the same; sent their own report on how visiting officers behaved, we might go some way to eradicating the offensive and disrespectful way some are treated by the authorities that visit their homes. And help to assert that home educating is a valuable, workable and successful approach to children’s education and that most of us doing it are utterly committed. And are not to be messed with!
Feel free to copy or use my version/idea in any way you wish. And stick together with others to give you support and confidence in dealing with the LA if you need to.
I was already aware that eating meat is having a detrimental impact on the health of the planet.
But I was totally uneducated as to why or the scale of it until I saw this programme: ‘Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?’ on BBC1.
This amazing and disturbing programme has put me right and probably should be part of everyone’s education. Well worth a watch.
We know our eating habits have a huge impact on our individual health. But perhaps we’ve all been less aware how those habits impact on our planetary health and our CHILDREN’S FUTURE because of it.
Encouraging the youngsters to learn about and know themselves should be part of any education and understanding where their food comes from and how it affects them is part of this. This is the only way they – and you – can make informed choices about enjoying food and nutrition in ways that are SUSTAINABLE and of least threat to the planet, as all of our lifestyle habits need to be. So help them learn what this really means.
After all, it is the children who will be living on it when we are gone. So it is nothing less than our duty to establish habits and understanding as families now, that protect the planet from growing threats. There cannot surely be any part of education more important than how to sustain life; theirs, all others, and the planet on which they all depend.
We’re all making important changes, like reducing our use of plastic for example, but this is a change that receives less coverage and the programme helps us see other valuable changes we can make to help keep the planet going for our children.
I’m not in favour of manic gift buying or trashing the planet all because of Christmas. But a thoughtful gift or two never goes a miss and if you’ve a home educating parent on your list, or a parent just considering it, then my books might be an idea.
‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is a book that makes you laugh and feel normal that you decided to home educate – as one reviewer put it. A warm family story with Christmasses by the cottage fire, so a perfect easy read to give a friend. Available through Amazon where you’ll find many positive reviews.
‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ is full of reassurance as well as tips and ideas about home schooling and how it can work so well. A book to dip into for those doubtful times! An ‘insightful, reassuring, informative and uplifting book’ one kind reader says on Amazon so just the book for a friend who has the occasional wobbles as we all do. Also available from Eyrie Press.
And not forgetting the littlies, there’s a story here about kids like them; ‘Who’s Not At School?’ with antics and experiments to make them laugh!
If you pop over to the My Books page (see above) you’ll be able to read more about these and others.
I wished there had been books like these when we were starting out on our home educating journey – which is exactly why I wrote them!
I’ve been considered crazy at times! Crazy to home educate that is. And I still get people looking at me, when it comes up in conversation, as if I wasn’t quite in my right mind.
In response to that I’m
reminded of this little story I did a while back:
There he stands all smart
and sparkling in his new too-big uniform, looking too small for school but with
a sparkle of enthusiasm in his eye.
He’s excited; everyone’s
told him what an exciting place school is with lots of nice people and great
activities he’ll love doing. He’s very keen – everyone’s been so nice each time
A few lessons in and the sparkle goes out his eyes even faster than it goes off the uniform.
His first lesson is that
not everyone is so nice, not even some of the people who smiled before. They’re
too busy. Too concerned with having to do other things like keep control and
make kids do things they’re not really interested in doing.
His next lesson is that you
rarely get exciting things to do. In fact, you never learn about things you
want to learn about because you have to learn what the learning objective says.
He doesn’t get what a learning objective is but writes it down in his book like
he’s told to do.
And the third lesson he
learns is that, despite the fact his mum shouts and gets cross sometimes,
it’s nothing compared to being humiliated by the teacher. And
the worst thing of all is that at least he knew what mum was cross about. The
teacher just seems cross all the time and about things he doesn’t understand.
And he begins to learn that
he doesn’t actually like school that much but that doesn’t seem to matter.
Over the years he learns a
lot more about school but only a little about the world outside.
He learns that test results
and grades are more important than learning about the world outside. In fact,
they are so terribly important that if you don’t get the right ones, he’s been
told, you won’t have a life. They are so important it makes him and some of the
other kids ill trying to get what the teachers want them to get. They try so
hard but still some of them don’t manage it. Those kids are disregarded. Or
And the grade getting does
something to the teachers too. Where once there was a glimmer of something warm
in their eye, this is wiped out by tests and by the word Ofsted.
Ofsted makes the teachers
very impatient, very tense and very stressed. Except the day when someone sits
in the classroom and watches them. Then they behave differently. They’re not
impatient or humiliating that day.
As time goes on and the
sparkle is long erased something else becomes erased too; parts of his
He no longer has a
personality truly his own. He has a school persona, one that enables him
to fit in. Fitting in means not being who you want to be
but being the same as everyone else.
Not fitting in means braving an emotional and
physical pain far, far worse than falling off your bike or Gran dying. This
pain is intensified every day by the group you don’t fit into sticking knives
in the wound of who you are and twisting them. Telling the teachers makes it
worse because some kids have control over the teachers too.
Even human kindness is secondary to fitting in.
Fitting in is the only way to survive. Fitting in with the teachers. Fitting in with peer groups. Fitting in with what you’re supposed to learn however irrelevant it is to your normal life. And fitting into the big institution that is school which to him, now he’s studied Aldous Huxley is worryingly similar to ‘Brave New World’ where everything is manufactured, even people.
You have to fit in with
that. If you don’t, you won’t get an education.
But finally he realises
that even fitting in doesn’t guarantee an education because, on the whim of an
adult who sometimes abuses their position of power, you could easily fall out
of favour and fail to get the scores. He’s seen that happen to his friend. His
friend’s done for. He won’t have a life – he’s been told.
So he doesn’t think about
being an individual. In fact he doesn’t think at all. No one wants him to. They
just want him to do the work, fit in and get the grades, whatever the cost…
Crazy to home educate?
Well, everything is relative, and compared to the insanity described above – exaggerated though it might be in places, home education seems to me to be a relatively sane, natural and appropriate way to educate our kids.
And maybe we’re contributing to creating a brave new way of doing so!
It doesn’t matter who you are, how long you’ve been a parent or home educator, beginner or seasoned, whether you’ve been in teaching or not, this will no doubt be a question that lurks menacingly in the back of your subconscious like an unwelcome zombie!
I asked it too, not only when we started home educating but throughout.
Being a very pragmatic person I eventually evolved an answer, so I thought I’d share it here in case you need some reassurance.
But let’s start with something bizarre; bizarre, isn’t it, that parents generally don’t ask the same question – will I fail the children? – when sending the them to school! Perhaps we should.
Of course, with schooling, there are more guarantees – supposedly! Thousands go to school, it’s got to be okay hasn’t it? And for thousands it works. So that’s become an accepted guarantee.
But other thousands are questioning it now; questioning its outmoded approach, it’s lack of attention to the needs of contemporary young people, it’s damaging testing and regimentation of what is supposed to be a broadening and inspiring life experience (that’s education I’m talking about!) So school definitely isn’t as much a guarantee of a successful education as once supposed.
Anyway, how could it be? Kids grow and change constantly – there are in reality no guarantees with any of it. So don’t think that just because you home educate there’s more likelihood of failure than with school. There isn’t.
But the basic reasons you won’t fail your child if you home educate are because:
If you’re considering home education, or already embarked upon it, you’re probably a thinking, conscientious, engaged parent – you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent can easily make a success of home education by the very nature of being so and by parenting in the intelligently thoughtful way you no doubt do, so in this way you cannot fail.
The thinking, engaged and conscientious parent you are makes a success of it by remaining open, learning yourself, trial and error, facilitating what’s needed at the time, revising often and embracing new challenges. You don’t need to know it all – no one does!
A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent is able to build respectful and engaged relationships with their children and it is these relationships which facilitate the development of an educated young person, as much as any other resources you may provide.
A thinking, engaged and conscientious parent is one who is intuitive to their child’s needs and yet is also able to see those needs within the context of the wider world, how the children fit into it and contribute and take a responsible place within it.
The thinking, engaged and conscientious parent you are researches, connects with others, discusses and considers, remains flexible and develops an approach that works because when it doesn’t you change it and make new decisions, until it does succeed.
And finally, failure is only a human label, not necessarily a ‘thing’. Failure only exists when something doesn’t work as expected which we fail to learn from or move forward from in new ways. Failure is part of an educational journey from which we grow and develop and which points the way to success. Therefore, failure is only failure when you stay there! You can make every ‘failure’ a step towards success when you don’t give up on it.
So, if you encourage, stimulate, provide a variety of experiences, remain flexible and conscious of young people’s needs and lives, in relation to the needs of the wider world, learn and grow yourself (as parents we do that all the time anyway), and above all LOVE and RESPECT your kids as I’m sure you already do, YOU WILL NOT FAIL!
There is an accelerating drive to take more learning outside. Many schools are trying to practice this as much as they can, not always with the support of parents some of whom think that kids should have heads down at desks ‘getting on’ rather than mucking about outdoors, as they see it.
At the start of a home educating journey, when the only familiar approach to education is that heads-down indoors one, it’s difficult to imagine other ways. But home schooling gives you the perfect opportunity to get the learning out!
We found, very quickly, that the further you move away from the structured and oppressive approach to learning that schools adopt, the more you understand that the children learn just as much (more probably, because they’re enjoying it) outside of these restrictive structures. They learn by experiencing as much as by study.
But how do you get away from the studious, often workbook
and curriculum led, indoor, schooly type of learning that’s familiar?
By focusing on the experiencing first and letting the study be the follow up – if at all! And you can use facilities in your locality to do this, with a little imagination.
Experiences of science, literature, mathematics, history,
geography, all forms of the arts etc are around us all the time if we spot the
Take history, for example. A visit to your local church may start if off. Look at the dates on the gravestones, wonder (and later research) what life was like for those people, the age they died, the social history of the time, the type of headstone a clue to their wealth, ask questions, discuss and speculate with the kids. This often leads to some googling, documentaries, films, about the period, historical dramas as educational as a documentary if discussion is involved. Along with museums there will be other historical evidence in your neighbourhood among the architecture, industries, memorials, constructions like bridges, railways, tunnels etc all to be explored. So take your history out. Explore.
Science is another example. Science is around us everywhere, whether biological (gardens, parks, nature reserves, plant centres, woodlands, etc), chemical (from the make up of the food we eat to the fuels and substances we use etc.), the physics of the universe and atmosphere and climate science a major current issue that combines it all. Get out and explore the world from a scientific point of view – for real – even if you need the ideas in a curriculum related workbook to start you off!
Make use of what’s out there like: libraries not just for books but local resources, groups, clubs, activities and so on; galleries, art centres, exhibitions, buildings, riverbanks, estuaries, streams, ponds, lakes, local museums, theatres, community centres, sports halls, swimming pools, playgrounds, tourist information centres, all provide educational opportunities and physical activities, if you go out there with an investigative and questioning mind. Even the food shop brings learning opportunities; the weights, measures, costs, contents, countries of origin, transport and time, growing food, the labelling design and wording…the list goes on.
Basically your children learn all the time when out and about if you’re observant. So use imagination to take your learning out and have faith, they WILL be learning because they will be engaged.
Which cannot always be said for sitting passively at a table over a workbook!
It was when I was recently walking round a nature reserve with my youngest beside me balancing three big dead bugs on the palm of her hand.
The only difference between now and over ten years ago when we were home educating is that she’s 25 and we’re walking back to her car! It’s her in charge of the driving now – not me taxiing about (as described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’). And she’s still interested in things around her! She’s still fascinated by bugs, by finding out what they are; we didn’t put her off learning by home schooling!
I get the same sense when I’m watching my eldest perform as I’ve done every year since she was 4! (Also described in the book). Except that these days it’s her who’s devised, produced, and directed the shows along with her project team. She has such innovation, energy and creativity just like when she was little. I somehow doubt she would have retained that in school.
They both now live and work independently and I never thought about being at this point when I started this blog ten years ago after the publication of my first book.
Since then, 800+ blogs later, we still get up to the same antics we did when they were little, only now they go back to their own pads and I only get the gorgeous loving hugs intermittently! But our bonds are just as strong – yes – even after home educating – so have faith!
And since then, I haven’t become Jacqueline Wilson but, as well as those 800+ blogs (can hardly believe that) there’s been five more books (see the My Books page) to support home educators, or parents in general – since school using parents need support with their children’s learning too as I reckon the system has become even worse. (There’s a post coming for you soon).
And I’m asking myself on the anniversary of this blog, whether it’s been worthwhile? Whether I should continue?
Your lovely messages and comments have kept me doing so, along with the feeling that if even just one family struggling down the school route, or wanting to home educate, stumbles here and finds comfort then it is!
I guess it’s unlikely but if you’re one of my wonderful readers, who’ve also been here ten years, help me celebrate by letting me know, I’d love to hear from you. This is as much a celebration of you and my gratitude for people reading my stuff as it is of blasted blogging – as I’ve called it sometimes!
Thank you for being here. You make it worthwhile!
And we looked them up like we always did – Dor beetles we think. Huge excitement! Like there always was in discovery, as any education should bring.