Tag Archive | home schooling

Does home educating ever fade into insignificance?

Thanks everyone for the comments and messages on my last post – most of them coming to me via Facebook and social media, rather than comments here. Whichever way – I always appreciate them.

family giggles!

Facebook groups have become such a fab way of instant support to many parents home educating and I think has increased parents’ confidence in having a go. It’s great for me too, to know that my posts are of help.

I know it seems such a monumental thing to home educate and leave a conventional system behind. But guess what? It does actually fade into insignificance one day. Well – almost.

This week those little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (now in their twenties) are here at home again for a rural holiday and a break from their busy urban working lives. We’ve been enjoying some of our old familiar outings – some that even date back to our Home Ed days! And we got talking – didn’t we always!

“Does home education have any relevance in your lives now?” I asked. We don’t talk about it now – it’s kind of paled into insignificance. But it was really interesting what they had to say.

“Not exactly on a day to day level” answered Charley. “And even when I’ve been applying for jobs it didn’t seem to come up much. Or the fact that I don’t have GCSEs. In fact, some of the bosses can’t have even have read the education bit on my application because they didn’t even know I hadn’t been to school!”

Then she went on to talk about applications she and her colleague are looking at now when staff apply for positions; “In fact, we often don’t look at that part of their CV even though they’re young candidates, we tend to go straight for the bit that talks about the experiences they’ve had relevant to the post. I notice with some of the staff I train that, although I know these employees are very young, they do seem to lack confidence and initiative as if they need permission all the time to do stuff – everything has to be directed so much.” She made that remark because she felt it was a noticeable difference between herself and some of the schooled children. She’d also heard in the past her contemporaries remark that they didn’t learn the useful stuff which she knew whilst they were in school, by which they meant some of the life skills and confidence that showed in her.

Chelsea also picked up on that remark about permission; “I think home education is very relevant day to day in that it taught us to be independent about stuff, in the way we think, especially problem solving, to be resourceful. And most of all I think it’s relevant because I’ve been taught to question and that’s something that seems lacking in some of the young people I come across. The people I teach at drama groups (and some of them are mature people) don’t seem to have these skills. What’s even more noticeable is that they seem to need permission for even having ideas, for being creative and straying from the norm a little. Everything has to be spelled out – as if they daren’t express themselves. Obviously many school kids do have those skills, but in some people I feel they’re less strongly embedded. It’s like they never question or think for themselves without permission. It’s second nature to me!” And she laughed.

“Why do you think it’s important to question then?” I asked.

“If you don’t question you just remain subservient and obedient to what everyone else wants you to do. And questioning is what makes the world progress; if we didn’t question we’d just stand still,” she said.

Good point!

I thought you might be interested to hear those remarks from these two grown up home schoolers.

Insignificance?

It seems, whether it is or not now, home education certainly gives them the ability to think for themselves. How I miss those independent minds – and discussions – now they’ve gone again!

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

Another teacher wants out…

so many now disillusioned with school

It’s not just parents of school children who are disillusioned with the education system and moving away from it. It’s the teachers too as we regularly read about.

And you have to wonder why that is.

I was talking to another young teacher recently who, despite her ‘outstanding’ teaching, was also looking to leave the classroom behind as she’d become so disillusioned with the job.

I asked her why she wanted out. And this is what she told me:

I’m leaving after five years, firstly because of workload. We work from 7:30-5pm Monday to Friday then at least one day spent working at the weekend, plus planning at home during the holidays.

Plans are incredibly in depth for every lesson and to resource and deliver them, with children’s work then assessed and tracked continuously, becomes overwhelming. That’s not to mention the ongoing threat of Ofsted, being observed by senior leaders, the continual change of plans for various visitors and then the complete lack of engagement by parents. Plus this year funding has been cut so drastically that many teachers are spending their own money trying to resource their lessons.

Secondly, there’s just so many lessons being taught everyday that children are being inundated with so much technical information there’s little time to consolidate or reflect. All this is tricky in a well behaved class but when some children in mainstream education have specialist or mental health needs, the teacher must use even more time to differentiate or manage that behaviour which means other children are being left out. The alternative leaves those children who need the most support being looked after by teaching assistants who have the least experience.

Finally and more importantly though, I’m leaving because I just feel that mainstream education, which focuses on attainment and targets and tests, is outdated and doesn’t prepare children for today’s world. I believe that education should be child-led; that it should be brought out of the classroom, yet without another overhaul of the system. I don’t see how that’s possible. So, I can’t stay working to the bone in a system I can’t get behind and I no longer believe in.

So sad that our children are going to lose another inspirational teacher, like so many already lost. (See this article here).

It says an awful lot about the system when, not only do parents feel they want to leave it behind and provide something different for their kids through home educating, but there are so many professionals abandoning it too!

Take back learning from the bureaucrats!

Education is important. I guess all parents would agree.

But how many of you, I wonder, have really thought what education is? How many are not thinking about education at all, but are thinking instead about schooling and qualification. About the systematic and mechanical process in schools that bureaucrats tell us education is.

The majority of people I suspect. But this is not true education and it’s having a disastrous effect on the children. It’s also making education, which should be a broadening, developmental, personal experience, into a tightly mechanised priming of kids for outcomes outside the personal – like school league tables for example.

We can never truly predict the outcome anyway, for kids are never finished – and isn’t education about the kids! And without the development of personable skills, test results and qualifications are useless. Useless to the learner. A bane to teachers. And are stunting our children’s wellbeing, as more and more are heaped upon them. 

Listen to some of Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube. Here’s one. He doesn’t want reform of the old model we already have – he wants something completely different – something more personal – as our kids need. As our world needs.

And it’s time we demanded things to be different, time to make the bureaucrats listen.

Parents could make different decisions about their child’s education.

Not every parent can home educate, but every parent can vote and make their feelings known about the things that concern them in the system.

You could demand that all this testing should stop, for a start, or boycott them. Like this brave head teacher who decided not to do the SATs. Knowing as she does that SATs have little benefit to a child long term, but can be damaging to their generic educational experience.

You could think about what kind of educational experience is important and what you want the outcome to be – in your child, not in terms of qualifications. But in terms of their talent. Speak out at schools. Speak with other parents.

You could tackle your local MP and raise your concerns. Go talk to them at one of their surgeries. Write to the education minister. Join a petition for change.

And you could take a look at your political party’s educational manifestos before you vote.

Stop being so desperate about qualification and ask what qualifies you for a happy life?

Parents have an extremely powerful collective voice. Make your concerns known and take your child’s education and wellbeing back from the bureaucrats.

For most of them don’t understand children’s – or families’ – needs at all.

Good luck to the home schooled kids!

It’s not just school kids taking exams at the moment!

 So what I want to say is this: Good luck to all the home educating families involved with exams too! What an achievement to have got this far – without school.

It’s an aspect of home education that many people don’t even think about even at this time of the year – that homeeducated kids will be doing exams too. Pretty ironic really, since ‘what about exams?’ is always one of the major questions parents and journalists ask when they’re researching home education.

Most home educated families study for GCSEs just the same as all the school kids do – yep there is life and learning outside a classroom! They use courses – usually associated with examining bodies, sample papers online, coursebooks, and the Net of course – they just don’t do it in a classroom. And they learn very much from their own study, parental help and encouragement, online facilities, and occasionally tutors (although that’s quite rare actually). They sit the exams in independent exam centres dotted around the country, the snag with that is the have to be independently paid for – extremely unfair – the home educating community is working on getting help for that.

And just as other kids do, most of the home educators go on to achieve good grades.

So I wanted to take a moment’s thought for them. So often home educating families are disregarded, or worse; the victims of bigoted, biased judgements usually by those who are ignorant of the experience, like this one which appeared in the media recently about a young home schooled graduate.

What we rarely see are the grades and the achievements. I reckon if a study were done of the percentage of homeschooled candidates who achieved good grades compared to the percentage of school candidates the former would be the higher!

Most home educating young people are motivated and achieving, they go on into work as easily as anyone else (not that it’s easy for any in today’s climate), often beating off competition.

So I wanted to wish all those families and young people whole hearted good luck with your exams! You deserve a mention too!

Important stuff about Home Ed

I was wondering the other day what would be the most important things I could say about home education. It’s so difficult to identify because there are so many. But here goes:

  • It confirms that it is possible to learn in a broader, less restricted, enjoyable and uplifting way than that which we’re familiar with in school, which can take account for individualities, preferences and diverse learning styles
  • The different and diverse approaches that home educating families adopt can turn learning failure into learning success, thus eradicating the concept of ‘learning difficulty’ and proving that the difficulty lies with the system not with the child
  • It develops a warm, communicative, articulate and a worldly useful set of social skills that are transferable to the real world and the workplace
  • It means that learning, and personal development – which after all is what learning is – becomes part of family life and not segregated from it as schooling tends to be
  • It liberates children’s education from being institutional and makes you realise that learning takes place any time – without time constraints, anywhere – without room/place constraints, anyhow – without method constraints, which keeps kids motivated and engaged
  • It allows children to be in charge of their learning destiny and therefore makes them independent learners and independent life livers who have intiative, intelligence and purpose
  • It can be a much more hands-on, practical, experiential process, not dependent on a narrow range of academic skills which not everyone has from the outset, although strong academic skills are often the outcome
  • It gives more time for conversation, inquiry, personal pursuits, and activities which develop character, personality and lifeskills, often cited as lacking by employers
  • It’s bloody good fun!

If you want to know how – my books will show you.

And please do add to my list…

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!