Tag Archive | home schooling

Learning is not the result of teaching…

I had such a treat the other day; the opportunity to meet some fresh new home educators just starting out on their home education adventure.

They had two young children who’d only been at school a little since they’d started due to the pandemic. And it was this which had presented the parents with an opportunity to witness other approaches to learning. And see a change in their children’s health and wellbeing when out of school.

The biggest reason for them finally making the decision to take the children out of school now that they were attending again full time, they told me, was the deterioration in their children’s happiness and health again, both of which had dramatically improved in the months they’d been forced into doing school-at-home.

That was exactly what we witnessed in ours and a story that I hear so often from others.

It happens, I feel, because of something so many people fail to see or acknowledge: It’s not that children don’t like to learn – their curiosity and endless questions are proof that they do. It’s more because schools do not provide an environment in which all learners will thrive. That’s through no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is – although huge improvements could be made – but no one wants to acknowledge the needs of some children for something different.

Not every child’s personality is suited to the hubbub of school. And why should they be forced to endure it at the expense of their learning potential and wellbeing. These parents felt exactly the same about this and it’s what fuelled their decision.

Another interesting conversation I had with them stemmed from the fact that mum was a primary teacher. But she admitted she had an immense amount of un-learning to do herself, about the way children were taught, in relation to the way children learnt. And that these, in fact, are two very different things. She’d begun to see that now as she examined other approaches to educating, especially the more autonomous ones that she’d read about.

It put me in mind of an idea I came across very early on in our home educating days which was so helpful: That learning is not the result of teaching. It is the result of the activity of the learners.

During our early home educating days I thought a lot about what that actually means and kept the word ‘activity’ to the forefront of my approach to the children. It really helped.

Some valuable science going on here but sometimes the activities of my little learners seemed questionable. However, they all piece together to make a stimulating and successful education

This new home educating parent felt like I did about much of what went on in schools and what teachers were obliged to do to children under the guise of educating them. And how much of that was not only a waste of time, but also on occasion not doing the kids any good at all!

When you’re stuck in an institution you learn to do what the institution dictates. Schools are institutions which are at the mercy of decision makers and politicians who mostly have little knowledge of learning, education, children’s development and what is needed to become truly educated. Indeed what education truly is and what it’s for; in life beyond school and at a personal level. It’s not just about exams. (Read more on this in my educational philosophy by scrolling down the page ‘About Home Education) All politicians think about are the stats which tests and exams provide. But stats have nothing to do with the humanity of children and the way they learn and how to integrate into society.

These two little ones I met were happy, articulate, social, busy, engaged and had an actively developing intelligence.

This little family are clearly going to be okay as they find their way along the home educating road, making it up as they go along, as most of us do. Just like we do with parenting. And I’m confident it will all turn out okay as it does for most, despite the fact that it feels like a bit of a patchwork, DIY affair when you start out. It all works.

Of course, the big exams of the future question came up, even though these children were only at the primary stage. And I know it’s what a lot of parents worry about – politics has taught us to!

I told them that parents find their way with that at the time and not to look too far ahead. I always say that if you take care of the little learning moments, conversations, activities of your learners, and their well being each day, the future will take care of itself.

It was such a delight to be in the company of this little home educating family. And it made me feel again how I miss all those Home Ed times and the activities of my little learners!

After the Jubilee

Back to a ‘normal’ Monday then after all the jubilation!

Except it never has to be normal with home education. It’s what you make it. And there’s certainly been a lot of extraordinary fuss made over the weekend.

I’m not necessarily pro-royal, probably more of an agnostic when it comes to royalty and often cringe at the amount of money spent on events like these when there are so many people in such dire need.

But even I was seduced by the joy of so many smiling faces on the news after a pretty austere couple of years fraught with the anxieties and deprivations covid brought, not to mention war. It’s certainly been a spectacle, some of it a tad freaky like the projection of the queen’s smiling face on the carriage window! But all this expenditure – is it justified?

Who knows? That’s a good topic for discussion in your household and a golden opportunity – or should that be platinum opportunity – to do plenty of history and, pro-royal or not, examine the background leading up to the event and the unique concept of seventy years rule in relation to all the monarchs who have gone before.

Learning about history, or indeed learning about anything, is so much more effective, meaningful, likely to be retained, if it is relevant to a child’s life in the here and now. The jubilee is relevant now; the children have lived through a remarkable event unlikely to be repeated. And it presents an opportunity to look back and forward and examine the implications of it. How an understanding of history explains current events and shows us how to proceed without making the same mistakes, hopefully. As we’re trying to do with planetary concerns.

History in my childhood was as dull as ditch water. It was just a question of learning dusty unrelated dates and events and regurgitating them for exams, presented in such a way as to make me question what the heck was it all for. Just so I could be tested?

But today’s educational culture is so different. And even more wonderful with home educating in that you can move away from learning unrelated bites of knowledge learnt for testing and learn purposefully instead, for interest, for fascination, for relevance, for the enhancement of personal development and future life. The children have lived through a unique historical event. And all the discussions, questions, hypotheses, considerations, ideas, opinions, and conversations about what’s happening in the children’s lives now, jubilee or otherwise, promote skills that develop an educated mind. And an educated mind is far more important than test results, both personally, societally and culturally.

Whatever you thought about the jubilee I hope you enjoyed the general goodwill, smiles and celebratory atmosphere that seemed to flow over the long weekend. And you carry some of that jubilation forward into the forthcoming weeks, whatever you learn about and however you do it. For purposeful learning can be just as jubilant!

A little bit sad…

It is absolutely wonderful that we have the opportunity to educate our kids independently. I thrilled at the chance to do so, to home educate, to de-systemise the educational experience of my children. And go on to support others who are doing the same through my writings.

I think of home education as I think of independent shops in comparison to supermarkets. Supermarkets and chain shops feel all the same whichever one you go into. They don’t cater for differing needs! Indie shops and home education can, and cater for a minority in doing so!

I also think of bookshops and publishing similarly.

You go into any Waterstones, whichever town they’re in, and you can expect all the same books, pretty much displayed in all the same way – as they’re paid to be. Most people don’t realise that in this way these book ‘supermarkets’ even control what you read by ignoring the more minority titles and staying with the big commercial ones. But go into the independent bookshops, like Heffers in Cambridge for example, or Foyles in London, plus all the smaller less well known ones, and you’ll see what I mean as you come across all kinds of books you never knew existed.

I understand that many smaller towns wouldn’t even have bookshops if it wasn’t for chains like Waterstones. And that businesses have to make money, so the bookshop chains have to stock what sells the most. But the downside is that we don’t get to see minority books, like home education books, on shelves very often.

And it’s also the reason why so many smaller independent publishers and bookshops eventually close down. They cannot compete with the mass market through the niche books they may want to publish.

Books about home schooling are niche. And I have been totally lucky to have had an Indie publisher to publish three of my books, in fact, I was there at its conception with ‘Who’s Not In School?’ I will be eternally grateful to the team at Eyrie Press who enabled me to get my books out to the people who needed them. Because of them, there’s been access to the support readers have told me they find so valuable during their home educating journey.

But sadly, as with so many other Indie businesses like them, they can no longer keep going and are having to close. This may mean that ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and the ‘Harry’ Stories for children which feature a home schooled child may no longer be available.

Through your messages I know that many home educating families have found these books a comfort, support and entertaining too. And it seems such a shame that the world of business and living is set up to always put the squeeze on the little people and it’s often the minority communities, like home schoolers, which suffer.

As a new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ has just been published I’m looking at alternative ways of keeping it available for those who need it.

But just for now, this is an opportunity to say a great big THANK YOU to the team at Eyrie Press, and CONGRATULATIONS on all they have achieved. There are probably many more people than they’ll ever know who have found support because of them. And a great big THANK YOU to you too for the support you have shown in buying the books, which has kept us both going in different ways.

If you still want any of their books – and they have a much wider catalogue than just mine which is really worth an in depth look – then some are still available. Or you might even like to message them personally if you’ve found the books a help – I’m sure it’d bring cheer at such a difficult time for them. So if you have a moment in your hectic home educating days get onto their website or social media and tell them.

Meanwhile, I’ll let you know what’s happening next with my books when I can.

Happy Easter and a reminder to be outside

I think of Easter as a time to celebrate the marvels of the earth through this season of rebirth, regrowth and the nature’s burgeoning vitality. When days of longer light can make my own sap rise along with that of the trees and plants as I suddenly feel more energised!

What better time than this to commit to more time outside, experiencing and learning about our essential connection to the earth first hand. Learn along with the kids how all species are connected to the lives of others and imperative for the longevity of the planet, for our own health and well being and that of our children.

Article here suggests children need at least two hours a day outside.

And this one goes into more detail about the benefits to both physical, mental and spiritual health and its impact on our immune systems.

So what better time to take a serious look at increasing your outdoor time than Spring, when it is so pretty and inviting and downright dramatic with its April showers!

The perfect time to educate for increased understanding of the planet, how to live upon it with more respect and less impact. The more the children know, the more their respect will grow.

Go out to witness and experience:

  • Birds – with bits in their mouths, either for nest building or for baby feeding, or singing their Springtime songs, migrants that have recently arrived
  • Emerging insects – from creepy crawlies in the crevices to the first bee or butterfly you’ve seen this year
  • Rain – appreciating the fact that it is essential for survival. How often do you consider that? And consider also ways in which you can economise with your water usage – waste less of this essential resource. In fact, there’s lots of varying weather to experience during Spring
  • Young – the best time for seeing newborns, especially lambs. There may be a farm or a centre nearby you can visit, a river for ducklings, or listen out for baby bird cheeps in roofs, trees and hedges
  • Plants, shrubs and trees that are beginning to leaf up or bloom. If you have a garden get the kids involved in growing things, in pots if you don’t, in order to learn about the vital elements needed in order to grow; nourishment, light, water – which we need too! Along with health giving contact with soil!

You may live in a concrete environment, but that is all the more reason you need to teach the children about the earth that lies underneath and to find ways to get them back in contact with it. Otherwise how will they know it’s there, grows our food, supports our lives, and that it needs our attention? Use the occasion to celebrate this earth and the abundance of life bursting around us, on which all ultimately depend, however city central we live.

Have a Happy Easter and springtime!

Spring amid the concrete

Can you help with research into Home Education?

I’ve been contacted by the founder of ‘Suitable Education’; a site that offers information and support to others along the diverse and eclectic journey through home education. They are currently running a survey to collate material about home educators and their experience with local authorities, and gather evidence of varying approaches and practices.

They have asked if I might spread the word about their research.

This is what they say:

Are you a home educator living in England who is known to the local authority? Your help is needed. 

Dr Harriet Pattison, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Liverpool Hope University and author of Rethinking Learning to Read and myself, home educator and founder of Suitable Education, are carrying out research into home educators’ experiences with local authorities. 

Home educators are a hugely varied group. Our reasons for choosing home education are varied, some of us are passionate about it, others forced into it, what home education looks like can be very different, we have very different styles, our lives and circumstances are different. And just as varied are our experiences of dealing with local authorities. Some people find it helpful to be reassured that they are doing well, others find the experience intrusive and difficult. Our research seeks to unpick these different factors and therefore to understand and amplify home educators’ voices. It is important that we have evidence of local authority practices and approaches which cause issues, those that are helpful and also to evidence what home educators are experiencing. 

Please help by doing the questionnaire below, sharing this on your local group, asking friends to complete

https://suitable-education.uk/survey-on-home-educator-experience-with-local-authorities/

I hope you can find a few minutes to do the questionnaire and share this post as widely as possible.

The more that is known and understood about home education the better it will be. I look upon it as home educating the wider public, most particularly those in authority and especially those with bigoted blinkers on! 🙂

Home School Wobbles?

Home educating is a glorious experience.

But it’s also no picnic – well – not all the time anyway. Although most if it for us did feel like a joyful romp away from the restriction of mainstream, with an expanding horizon of liberated learning all the way.

Even so, that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t lose the plot on occasion; have wobbles and tantrums (mine mostly) and doubts and bad days.

We did.

They passed!

Someone messaged me recently to tell me that whenever that happened to them they just picked up my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and could find comfort and reassurance. That’s good to know. For that’s exactly why it came to be written.

Because I knew exactly what those moments, or days, felt like and I wanted to offer something to help. In fact a reader of another of my books (Learning Without School), which came before the Notebook, said that she kept it on her bedside table for just those occasions. And that nearly became its title; the home education bedside book!

Having been right through home education, and those little children in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ living and working independently now, it’s as if it never happened. It certainly isn’t really relevant to their days any more. You ‘couldn’t tell’ if they went to school or not – as someone once offered as a response to being told they were home educated. We did laugh over that! But it might reassure you to know that although it feels like an enormously unorthodox and controversial step to you now, come the future it will all even out into mainstream life.

So don’t panic.

When you’re panicking and wobbling and losing the plot – which is downright natural anyway, we’re only human – consider some of the following:

  • you would be worrying just as much about your child in school
  • bad days are natural – whatever you’re doing
  • remember all the wonderful opportunities it gives you and why you did it in the first place
  • you might just be tired – back off and trust
  • not every single moment of every day needs to be filled with work and learning. It wouldn’t be in school. You achieve things quicker at home with individual attention, so your kids have more free time which is equally valuable to their development
  • being a thinking and intelligent person as you must be to do this in the first place, you will not spoil your child. None of my contemporaries who’ve also come out the ‘other side’ have spoiled theirs – I don’t know a home educator who has
  • love and happiness are as important to educational development as academics
  • being social doesn’t come from being in school
  • test results don’t equate to being an educated person
  • learning ‘difficulties’ often disappear outside of school
  • everything is always easier when you get outdoors – use that opportunity you have
  • consider what you think an educated person is and aim for that, as much as ‘results’!
Just one of the chapters from A Home Education Notebook

All of these topics and more are covered in my ‘Home Education Notebook’ so it might help you to have one handy to dip into on such occasions as these when, like us, you lose the plot.

But always remember that whenever the plot is lost – you can always find it, or renew it, or recharge it, and get going again!

Meanwhile, enjoy your home education. It won’t be there forever!

Oh – and a little head’s up; keep your eye on this space – there’s a new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ coming soon with a completely new chapter which revisits many of the young people we home educated with to see what they are doing now! Always a subject everyone wants to know about!

Learning to read – whatever age!

How will the kids learn to read if they don’t go to school? This is a question often asked by potential home educators.

Bearing in mind the fact that there are kids who have gone to school and not learned to read, and adults out in the working world who also can’t read like Jay Blades, the presenter of the programme ‘The Repair Shop’, I’d like tell you that school is not the only route to learning to read. And sometimes even hampers it by the approaches and strategies they attach to it, particularly if you’re dyslexic, a condition which affects the way you process information like the written word.

I watched the programme by Jay Blades; ‘Learning to Read at 51’. It was brave and insightful. Yet he’s not the only one who has been blighted by school approaches to learning to read and the lack of empathy for an individual who needs a something a bit different. It was great that he brought that to the public eye.

The education system has over complicated the process of learning to read with their use of strategies and schemes and over intense focus on acquiring certain levels at certain ages and not allowing time for those who need longer. Even worse is the fact that children who learn differently and not at the expected generic rate are made out to be failures.

Added into this recipe for disaster is the way in which the literacy curriculum inhibits the associated use of language by the complicated dissection of it into named parts like ‘frontal adverbials’ and ‘split infinitives’, and invent academic exercises to practise use of them, as if this helps kids to use it more competently. It doesn’t really.

I’d like to tell you a little known fact: none of these approaches are in fact strictly necessary. Or will guarantee a child learns to read or communicate effectively through the written word, which is after all the point of it. But parents have been frightened into thinking that their children won’t learn to read, or be able to successfully use language throughout their adult life, without such approaches.

Totally untrue.

Children can – and do – learn to read without any of these formal approaches. There are enough home educated adults now who are living proof.

Although most home schooling parents do guide and facilitate their children towards reading, there are children who have learnt by themselves without any formal intervention at all apart from encouragement and exposure to reading and text. And there is plenty of opportunity to do this surrounded as we are by signs, packets, media, texting, gaming, all of which are valuable opportunities to experience reading. It’s not confined to books!

Another very important influence on them acquiring the skill is the sight of you reading. Children want to do what you do, want to access and enjoy books like you do, want to read your tablet, texts and messages, and love being read to – which has a direct effect upon their reading skills. It’s all part of their desire to read, important for motivation. If they’re motivated – and not put off by dull strategies that kill the joy of using language – they’ll read.

It doesn’t have to be attached to age either, despite what schools would say. Each child is different and will come to it at a different time and maybe in a different way. Even those with specific challenges like Dyslexia, like Jay, have been able to read in different time frames.

A marvellous book which illustrates how this happens, and how we should perhaps change our minds about the teaching of reading is ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ by Harriet Pattison, an educationalist and home educator herself. (Blog here about it). If anything is going to give you the courage to believe you could teach your child to read it’s this book – worth a read.

What’s most important is that parents should believe in their ability to facilitate their child’s progress with reading, and trust the fact that with encouragement and faith, they can make it happen.

After all, I have known adults who’ve been through the school system and come out unable to read. But I haven’t known a home educated child who hasn’t managed it in the end.

And maybe if Jay had been afforded more patient and sympathetic approaches during his education, he would have been able to read before the age of 51, as he clearly has the ability to overcome the challenges he faces.

However long it takes, and unless your reader has very severe or specific difficulties, home schooling gives you the time you need to develop a reader – you just need to provide the encouragement and patience!

Every day with a child…

January can be a grim and gruelling month. A bit hard to get through I used to find during our home educating days, with the lack of light, post holiday blues, challenging weather making it difficult to get out with the kids, and moods also lacking in light! It’s hard to find any January brightness.

So in case it’s a bit like that for you right now now I thought I’d share this uplifting blog from a while back just to remind you what an amazing thing you’re doing, just being a parent, never mind a home schooling parent!

Here it is:

Every day with a child is an opportunity to enhance a future

Have you ever thought of it like that? Possibly not when continuous days with children can be a bit wearing, doing activities at their level a bit boring and their endless energy exhausting.

But if you think about it, every moment you spend with children influences a future. Their future. Your future. Society’s future. The Earth’s.

Why is that then?

Well – children are so readily influenced; so believing and naive and absorbent to learning. The experiences they have with you, however large or seemingly small, make an impact on them. They are like little computers gathering input from the things around them, from the things that happen and are said to them, and assimilating that with what has happened before. Small children don’t even have the filters that come with maturity to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. They just absorb it all. Take it fairly literally. Digest it. And what they perceive becomes part of them.

So whatever experience they have, whether it’s fun or loving, wise or trusting, harsh or unjust, exciting or dull or dismissive, it moulds their understanding and view of the world, their impact on others, their education and even their personalities to a degree.

All interactions with our worlds shape who we are and what we do with our future. And the biggest influence on that shape comes when we are young, through the people we’re with.

Like your child with you.

That’s the way in which being with children has the opportunity to shape the future; we’re shaping a future being.

No small responsibility then!

But it needn’t be daunting. For it is quite simple really. Simply being with children – and being simply good – does the trick.

Being positive and fair, encouraging and caring, showing them what an unbelievably exciting place the world can be, what a myriad of fulfilling possibilities there are, how incredible all aspects of the planet are, how being loving and caring of the planet and the people in it will bring love and care back to them, and how to deal with aspects of the opposite in a way that dissipates harm rather than expanding it. Just showing how a simple goodness makes life good – that’s enough to shape a good future – make it simple and sweet.

These are the ways in which we have the opportunity to enhance a future. Everyone’s future, for the way in which our children grow up will impact on everyone if you think about it broadly.

That’s what you’ll be doing as you parent and home educate. How amazing is that!

Have a great day.

A little January brightness to look forward to

A perfectly imperfect approach to your Home Education

Happy New Year, and a happy new start to your home education!

As a fresh approach to it, which we were always ready for when we got back down to it again, how about adopting the philosophy of Wabi Sabi?

What is that, I hear you ask?

Well, I’m not going to be able to give you a clear definitive answer, basically because there isn’t one. I’ve read it’s as difficult to define as love; we all have ideas about love but to express what it is in words is almost impossible. It’s more a matter of feel than of definitions.

And it’s the same with Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese approach to life which holds within it lessons about letting go of trying to make everything perfect, of letting go the idea that life can only be happy if we meet our expectations of perfectionism – many blasted at us through social media, and of accepting and appreciating things as they are in order to get the best from life. Acceptance of the fact that things don’t have to be perfect in order to be good.

If you’re anything like I was you’ll probably be worrying about making your home education perfect. You feel the responsibility of living up to this decision you’ve made to do it, of making it better than school, along with the inevitable comparisons and weight that subsequently brings. Worrying over the judgements made about you if you’re not getting on perfectly. Heavy weights indeed.

Having been through all this my advice to you would be to stop that immediately. All that will do is create tension and anxiety, stress and conflict none of which will be good. Certainly isn’t helpful in making a good learning environment.

Far better instead is to approach it with the wisdom this concept of imperfection brings. Understanding that imperfections are still experiences and all experiences teach us something; often show us the way forward, even when they’re the wrong ones!

And understand this about the educational process:

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect to be valid
  • Learning approaches don’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile
  • Each day doesn’t have to be perfect in order to usefully contribute to the overall development and progress of your youngster
  • Becoming educated is a diverse, sometimes messy, varied and experiential journey that has as many imperfections, as life does, and which never ends.
  • There is no perfect time frame, no perfect approach, no perfect outcome, no perfect strategy, no perfect answer.
  • But a perfectly imperfect education still works!

Many of your days at home will be less than perfect. Many days at school will be less than perfect. We wouldn’t actually expect them to be so, so why put that pressure on your home educating days?

And of course, children are not perfect either. Thank goodness for that, for all our diverse idiosyncrasies. Diversity is essential for our perpetuation. Accept your children as they are, where they are; they will change. Wabi Sabi embraces the concepts of impermanence, imperfection and incompleteness. As things are in all nature; as are we – children particularly!

So go gently with your days. Ditch any ideas about making them perfect.

Enjoy the good days. Accept and move on from the difficult ones. Take each day as it comes.

And allow imperfections to be naturally part of the rich pattern of home education.

Wishing you a happy new home educating year

(The book I read was ‘WABI SABI Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life’ by Beth Kempton)

Merry Christmas!

What a year it’s been since last Christmas!

Don’t know about you but our Christmas last was a disastrous let down because we couldn’t see all our loved ones. But it really showed that Christmas is about loved ones most of all; all of the other trappings are secondary. It’s looking better this year. Fingers crossed! Hope it is for you too.

So here’s wishing you the Christmas you’ve been hoping for and special helpings of calm and contentment included.

Card by a textile artist friend and wreath by Charley!

And I especially wanted to thank all those who read my work and send me such supportive messages. Your contact and support has meant so much during this weird year! Thank you!

See you in the next….

Meanwhile have a happy holiday full of love and peace.