Tag Archive | home schooling

How many GCSEs does it take to breed neglect?

I’m not only a home educating parent! I am other things as well.

And our kids are not just home school kids, they are other things too.

It’s just it can feel all consuming sometimes and become a single identity it’s hard to break. People love to keep others in labelled boxes!

Equally, school kids are not only their grades. Although you’d think that with the way some people are obsessed over them, as if it was the only thing their life was about.

Speaking to a young teen doing ten GCSEs at school at the moment it certainly felt like it for him. It’s become his whole life without room for anything else, each teacher expecting an undivided dedication to their subject when there are nine others also expecting the same.

Nightmare! Or mental illness in the making.

The people and the politics which push the system seem to believe that the harder they push the kids along this line the cleverer they’ll be. This is the propaganda parents are sold.

But the reality doesn’t work that way at all.

The approach which makes the kids ‘cleverer’ if that’s the term – generally intelligent is a better way to describe it –  is diversity. Diversity of skills, of thoughts, of experiences most particularly. The more varied those experiences, pursuits, activities, hobbies, pastimes, interests and learning, the broader and deeper their intelligence will be. And the greater their personable skills which are essential for life and work after school.

The more home educated young adults I see the more it’s obvious how broad minded, open to learning and intelligent they are, some without doing GCSEs at all. They are articulate, inclusive, empathetic, very social and willing. Forging an independent future with an entrepreneurial approach to getting where they want to go.

This is usually because of the range of experiences they’ve been exposed to during their time learning out of school. And this diversity of experience is sadly what the school GCSE treadmill neglects, thus neglecting the broadness of education that will stand kids in good stead for the future and, I feel, letting so many of them down, chaining them to a track that leaves little time for anything else.

GCSEs are useful. But only if you’ve got the other set of skills needed to know what to do with them and how to do it.

Ten GCSEs are not necessary. Many home schooled kids stick to the standard five and engage in a range of other activities that develop other necessary skills for life ahead. Like conversing with people for a start. Knowing what they want and what they want to go for.

So if you’ve got youngsters out of the system don’t buy into the propaganda that they need heads down at academic study all the time. Exclusive academia makes them dull – Unis and employers don’t want that.

Heads up and engaged with other things is what extends their intelligence and is just as educative.

By using the opportunity home educating gives you to broaden their experiences and activities you’ll also be broadening their brains and personalities, developing the other lifeskills they need to propel themselves towards a fulfilling and productive future that takes them beyond being a homeschool kid!

Their education is not just their GCSEs!

Five tips for worriers!

I was a bit overwhelmed really, said she understating it!

Overwhelmed by all the kind people at the Home Education Fair in London recently who came up and told me how they’d enjoyed the books, found them helpful.

One lovely parent said how my latest book (A Home Education Notebook) was like a hand to hold and she gave me a hug. Created a big lump in my throat that did. And is certainly succour to my writer’s soul; reward for the days spent here alone writing it. Another said that whenever worries became too all-consuming, she dipped into it and read something that helped them settle again.

Delighted to hear that.

Coping with worry is a question that always comes up at these dos. As if home educating is more worrysome than being in school. We didn’t find it so!

And it’s also reassuring to look at it this way; worry isn’t exclusive to home education.

Potential worry lurks in all aspects of parenting – in all aspects of life really. It’s not because of home education, and home education isn’t going to be the only thing you’ll worry about as a parent. So if the thought that home education is going to make you worry more is stopping you from doing it, you might as well do it anyway, as you’d worry just as much about your kids in school! It’s part and parcel of the education scene.

Actually – scrub that last remark – for it doesn’t have to be. And finding ways to overcome worry and not let it get the better of us is a valuable skill to have for life, to pass onto your kids, and a healthy mental attitude to cultivate.

Each of us has different responses to worrying scenarios and stresses depending on our natural personalities. But whoever we are the most effective way to deal with worry is to understand something important about it; worry is simply the way we are thinking about stuff. Worry is just thinking or imagining things ahead in a negative unproductive way. Worry is not the real event. Stop the roller-coaster thinking and you stop the worry.

Easier said than done – I know! How do you stop thinking?

You get a grip on yourself and try out some of these tactics:

  1. Replace negative imaginings with positive ones. For example, if you must imagine up front imagine the best possible scenario and how you’d like things to work out perfectly and what that looks like.
  2. Keep your focus in the present. You can’t predict what will happen – you don’t know how your kids are going to grow anyway. Focus on creating a good day now. Take care of the present and the future takes care of itself, I found!
  3. Distract yourself with joy; with music, magazines, films, books, Instagram, whatever engages your mind. Although beware – social media and constantly flicking through stuff can become more frenetic than calming sometimes. Spot what calms you and turn to it when you need to.
  4. Take some time every day to devote to mental time and space – plan some unwind moments. Even a simple
    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    I took several deep breaths by the peaceful river after the buzz of the HomeEd Fair!

    second alone to focus on something calming, (for example; tea in hand, staring out window, breathing deep three times), works wonders.

  5. Get tough with yourself so that you can pass on these important lessons to your children. Worry is just a mental habit you’ve practiced, so practice something else and you can change it. Catch yourself doing it, engage one of your tactics, change your habit. Free yourself and your kids from this destructive trait.

Overcoming worry and stress is a life enhancing skill that’s important whether we home educate or not. Home schooling doesn’t necessarily add to worry – sometimes it even takes it away.

Let me know what works for you. And if you’ve got any tips then please do leave them here.

And check out ‘A Home Education Notebook’ for further support – and possibly even a ‘hand to hold’!

Advice from the daughter!

I’ve just returned from another trip to see my eldest in the city – a very different lifestyle from the one she started out with here. 20161004_121611

The wrench of parting doesn’t seem to get any easier dammit! I realise this after looking back through my posts to earlier visits with her. But we still have just as much fun. And we’re still always learning. Although as I said in my blog post at the time…

It’s me being educated as I discover new grown bits of this vibrant adult. Not only is she working to keep a roof over her head, she is keeping her more creative passions alive with her performing, teaching others, running a business, and developing her own productions thus creating opportunities for others.

And some people accused us of creating ‘jobless, no-hopers’ by home educating our children.

Some people are just unbearably narrow minded.

“So, I want to ask you a question,” I said as we sat over coffee in a brimming cafe full of others sheltering from the chill. Not the kind of hubbub I’m generally used to in my reclusive, rural, writerly days.

“Other parents just starting home educating want encouragement. What advice would you give to parents and children?”

She burst out laughing over the thought of herself giving advice – she didn’t feel that grown up! But then launched into one of those passionate, pro-active, inspirational outbursts I admire so much.

“I would say – encourage experience in any subject they might be interested in or show passion for whether you know about it or not and don’t just stick to the constraints of the National Curriculum. There are thousands of other subjects which are ignored. Don’t discredit subjects that are not academic subjects … do you want to produce a clone or someone who has had a wide experience of different subjects which could be applied to a spectrum of different careers? And to the kids I would say – don’t just follow the crowd, follow your own interests whether they’re deemed to be ‘normal’ or not.”

Laughter bubbles up again and I catch it too! We both know what an independent spirit she is and how she wants to inspire others to be the same. So much for home educating keeping kids cloistered!

I thought about this on the long way back. Before I go to bed after one o’clock by this time I let her know I’m back safe and we swap loving texts. Among the love there’s more advice to swap;

‘Every day life is about learning is it not!” she writes.

She is so right. I am learning. She loves learning. And I’m convinced that she discovered that from home education!


Fab time!

I had a delightful time meeting parents at the Home Education Fair in London.
Thank you so much to all who came up to me to tell me how helpful the books have been. I’m overwhelmed by your kind compliments. 20161002_120726

Quite amazing to see the increase in interest in home education. Although when I hear accounts of some schools’ practices and approaches that shouldn’t be surprising. And not surprising to hear that parents want to encourage their children to learn in a different way from the hot housing and political wangling that the system has made of education.

It seems there are all sorts of reason parents turn to home education; some as a result of problems in school, some decide before the kids even get to school because they’re so disenchanted by the system. And it crosses all ages of children now from toddlers to teens. Some kids never go to school at all, some go for parts of it, some end up out of it at a later stage. It also crosses all the social, cultural, financial, educational climes as well. And it’s wonderful to see parents making a stand against the political manipulation of children as pawns to raise popularity with voters.

I always thought I was a cynic thinking this way about the education system. But as I’ve seen the joy of learning taken away from children, teachers and schools, I feel it even more strongly now.

Home educating (or home schooling as it’s sometimes referred too – see this post) puts the joy back into learning and education, as it should be. It also puts charge back in the hands of the parents which actually the law says is required of them.

Someone said to me recently; ‘Home education is a huge commitment on the part of the parent, isn’t it?’

I find this remark quite astonishing really. Having children is already a commitment isn’t it?

How committed are we? Educating children in whatever form is also already a commitment. It’s just there are increasing numbers of parents that are unwilling to hand that over to a governmental system that’s failing to front up to their commitment to children instead of their own political agenda!

I met some fab parents and some fab young people thriving and achieving through home education in a way I doubt they would through schooling.

Well done you all. Lovely to meet you!

Public gaffes and private writes!

Just made a complete fool of myself!

My daughter and I often have a phone date in the morning. I ‘walk’ her to work with a chat. It’s not every day but our close connection is something I treasure. Doubly so after you worry at the early stages of parenting and home educating whether they’ll still speak to you when they’re grown ups.

Anyway when the phone rang at the pre-scheduled time, I picked it up and sang a really musical “Hellooooeee” down the line.

Silent pause.

Then; ‘Is that Ross Mountney? This is Katie from Channel Five’ asked a complete stranger. It was a researcher looking for information about home ed and people to contribute to their programme. I felt such an idiot.

You’d think I’d learnt my lesson as this has happened before. Pestered by continual sales calls I could feel irritation mounting every time the phone rang. So when another call came and a strange voice asked ‘Is that Ross Mountney?’ I answered with ‘It depends what you’re selling’.

“I’m not selling anything,’ came a very formal reply. ‘This is your mother’s solicitor’. Cringe!

Why is it I always seem to mess up when I need to look a little bit more intelligent and like I know what I’m about?

Anyway, these gaffes aside Channel Five want to make a programme about home education and wondered if I’d contribute. A serious programme offering information instead of derision and myths would be great, wouldn’t it! I said I might, if this was the case. They’re going to get back in touch – it remains to be seen whether my singing has put them off.

It also remains to be seen if my courage holds out. I find all this public stuff excruciating really. This is after all why I write; I choose the medium that offers the most invisibility (not something publishers want to hear, I know). And it’s enough for me to emerge from my cave and meet others like at the Home Education Fair this Sunday.

Click on the picture for details of The Home Education Fair

Don’t get me wrong; I truly love meeting people and welcome the opportunity to chat to others. That’s what my work is all about; offering encouragement and support. But I also need encouragement to get out of my reclusive habit.

So if you come along on Sunday and think you’re too scared to come up and say hello to me, take courage too; you won’t be as scared as me. We’ll muddle along through together and I’ll try and answer your questions intelligently and as if I know what I’m about!🙂

Hope to see you there.

Home education has brought me closer to my teen!

Back in January a parent got in touch with me about her fourteen year old, the effect that school was having on her, and their desire to home educate. After swapping advice and encouragement at the time, I hadn’t heard from her until recently when she sent me an update.

It’s so inspiring to read how others have progressed that I asked her permission to post it here in the hope of inspiring you all too.

This is what mum Jacqui said in January:

I deregistered my 14 year old daughter Katie who is in year 9 at the end of last term. Katie simply wasn’t coping well with the upcoming exam pressure and found the way things are taught these days was unstimulating and she was constantly comparing her work with her peers and feeling downhearted.
She had begun to have panic attacks and we came to a joint decision that home ed would be better for her.
I replied to the LA when they asked for a form to be filled in and a visit. I declined to fill in the form as it didn’t seem applicable to where we are at the moment and I asked for a six month settling in period and told them I would use this time to follow Katie’s interests and get out and about.
The only problem is I have a constant nagging voice(my own), telling me we need to get going with something more structured, although I think this may turn Katie off. I guess I fear that when the LA do get back in touch I will have little or nothing to show to them.
We are hoping that Katie can do level 1 photography and GCSE maths and English at a local college in September, at the moment she is ok with this.
I have read both your books; A Funny Kind of Education and Learning Without School and would very much value your thoughts on a possible way forward.

(I responded to this letting her know her rights with regard to the LA and what they’re not allowed to do, and suggested that she allowed Katie to follow her interests and try and ignore her nagging voice!)

And here is her update this month:

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

The delightful Katie and mum Jacqui

I was just looking back to when we began home educating Katie and read through my original comment on your Blog page and your kind, encouraging response.
I just thought I would send you a quick update on how things have progressed for us. We began with quite a structured approach as Katie said she was used to working to a timetable and felt better knowing what to expect each day. Well this didn’t last for very long and over time we have found ourselves much more Autonomous and it’s been lovely to see Katie’s creative juices start to flow again.
During the year we have visited the beach, Eureka, local historic halls, The Beatles experience in Liverpool, Nature reserves, paddled in rivers, parks, attended a Classical concert, the cinema and lots more. We have also consumed huge amounts of cake, hot chocolate and milkshake in too many coffee shops to mention!
Katie has taken a real liking to baking, photography and playing the Ukulele and Keyboard (all self taught).
Another positive to Home ed is how much closer we have become, and I truly believe that because of the extra time we’ve spent together we have a greater respect for each other and our separate interests, we have of course had our fair share of disagreements too (mostly because of my anxiety over having to be ‘doing something productive’ to collect as evidence for the LA).
One of the funniest moments was when I saw an ad for a local minibus company offering ‘local days out’ I rang and booked us on a trip to Whalley Abbey, only had to pay half price for Katie and they said on the phone they offered a door to door service, all seemed too good to be true. Well the day arrived and we were kindly ushered onto the bus, to find there wasn’t a passenger under the age of seventy and I’ve never seen so many zimmer frames in one place in my life. Katie’s face was a picture and she hasn’t let me off the hook yet!
If you remember I was rather concerned about the upcoming visit from the LA. I gathered together lots of photographs, my diary and a small amount of Katie’s work, we chatted for a while and I explained that Katie isn’t a fan of writing anything down unless she can see a point to it, which he seemed to understand. Anyway in the end he said “Well I think I’ve seen quite enough and taken up enough of your time.” He seemed quite satisfied and is happy to leave us be for another twelve months.
Katie has begun a photography course one day a week at a local college and so far so good. Many thanks again for your earlier advice. I have added you to our FB page ‘Lost in Education’ Congratulations also on your new book ‘A home education notebook’,  I had it on reserve on Amazon and it sits by my bed ready for me to dip into at anytime.

Grateful thanks to Jacqui and Katie for sharing their story with us.

Let’s meet at the Home Education Fair

I’m excited to be going to the Home Education Fair in London this year.

It’s on Sunday 2nd of October from 11am till 3pm, and offers an opportunity to meet home educating parents, get some information, listen to talks and even have tea and cake!

The full details are on their website here: https://sites.google.com/site/homeeducationfair/

If you’re in London and want to learn more about home education and meet some of the lovely people doing it, do come along. And come over and say hello to me on my book stall too! It’d be lovely to meet you.

London 2016 poster

Picture from edyourself.org