Tag Archive | home schooling

Tolerance for those who do it differently

I’m hatching a follow up to my newest book ‘Who’s Not In School?’books 001

We’ve had some lovely reviews. But I’m also trying to take on board the not so lovely ones and make adjustments, give people what they want.

Some want an image of Home Ed respectability and felt Little Harry will give home schoolers a bad reputation. Others complained it was an image of a structured family and left others out. It’s difficult knowing who to please!

It’s also difficult to capture a good story with just a few words to play with. Far easier to indulge a writer’s passion for lots and lots of them!

Some of the children’s stories I’ve read in the past have been fantastic. Some not so good.

The best, I think, are stories that leave you wondering and talking with the children, like ‘Horrid Henry’ (by Francesca Simon) – what a child! Or ‘Pippi Longstocking’ (Astrid Lindgren), who lives outside all our preconceptions. Or books with a message like ‘Wonder’ (P J Palacio) which raises our awareness of our response to children with facial disfigurement.

I suppose my message with Harry was that whoever they are and whatever they are doing children have reasons for what they do. Admittedly some of these doings need moderating as they mature and increase their understanding of why certain actions might not be desirable, if they want to become happy and involved members of society that is. But we need to show patience and understanding in our guidance until they get there.

And especially tolerance of all the different types of people there are in the world. And of those who want to do it differently.

Home educating families are among those who want to do things a bit differently.

But everyone is different really; all children are different whether in school or out, all parents are different. All writers are different too and produce a different kind of work.

Tolerance and understanding are the keys to us all living gracefully together whoever we are and whatever we purport.

Meet the home educated Illustrator of ‘Who’s Not In School?’

It’s always fascinating to read how other home educators do it! And this one is particularly close to my heart because he’s the illustrator of my new picture book for children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’.

James Robinson’s delightful pictures have received much praise and I couldn’t have been happier with the way in which he interpreted my story. What is particularly incredible is that he achieved this work at eighteen years of age, yet maintains the standard and dedication of a much older professional.

So I asked him about his experience as a home learner and his art work. This is what he told me:

How long have you been Home Educated and how did it come about?

I have always been Home Educated. I am the fourth in our family and my older brother and sister came out of school when I was ever so young, the rest of us never went to school. 

What kind of things did you do whilst HEing and with whom?

We live in the country, so most of our days were spent working round the kitchen table in the morning and playing outside all the rest of the time, and meeting up with other families a couple of times a week. 

We spent a lot of time on History, Literature, making things and of course drawing.

I seem to remember my parents read aloud to us a lot in the evenings whilst we all drew.

What are your personal feelings about it – or school?

I have never been to school, but live on the site of one, my Father being a teacher,

I consider it a beautiful place and I think most of the students are happy, so I don’t  object to schools, but I think I would have done awfully badly at one. I am a dyslexic and reading and writing seem arduous and never ending, I like to spend time when planning my work. I suppose I am a perfectionist…never reaching perfection.  I think that at school you are always rushing. 

I do rather love the freedom one gets from being at home.

Tell me about the social side of your HE days?

I do not feel a lack of friends, I am somewhat of a recluse (artists often are) but I do go and see people and places. 

When I was little and all of us were at home there was always someone to play with, also we were friends with several other large, home educating families, where there was someone for everyone to play with. 

We would get together with a couple of other families to share lessons, during the week and once or twice a month we would have a big get together with lots of families.

The three oldest in our family have left home now, and there are just the three youngest left, so things are much quieter, we mainly meet just with half a dozen particular friends rather than whole families, these days.

What about qualifications – are they part of your HE?

I did do exams for Art, but opted out of taking any other exams to spend my days drawing instead. 

To take responsibility for one’s own edification and pursue the subjects of one’s interest is where education really begins.

When I made Art my main subject was when I started reading and studying literature and the like for pleasure.

Now I am studying for a degree in Painting with the Open College of the Arts, I also go up to London once a week (during term time)  to the Royal Drawing School for Life-Drawing Classes, (very helpful when illustrating ) and I have started a diploma in Traditional methods of Painting at the School of Traditional Arts.

Tell me about your art work, how it developed and maybe where you want to take it.

Telling stories with pictures is, for me, inherently satisfying. 

We have all always done a lot of drawing in our family, but I did not think of it as a career until I was about thirteen or fourteen, and then, when about sixteen, a friend asked me to draw some illustrations which I really loved.

Each day coming to my desk to draw was a pleasure, pitching my intellect against the problems laid before me in translating words into line, form, tone and colour; it is so interesting and such fun. I decided that it was something I really wanted to have a stab at job wise.

What was it like illustrating a book?

It was really enormous fun illustrating the ‘Harry’ book. I really enjoyed it. I loved being able to put in details of all the Home Educating homes I know, and lots of friends and family as the characters.

The ideas for some of the pictures came really quickly and the finished illustrations were done in three or four days. Others took several weeks to do and had to be drawn and redrawn until I was happy.

I tried to spend three whole days a week working for my degree and the rest of the time working on the book. It was difficult to stop working on the book once an idea had come and to make myself do the work for my course. Perhaps people who have been to school are better at working on several things at once. Home Educating has meant I have always had the freedom to finish my projects in my own time.

Any future plans?

At the moment my plans are to complete the distance learning degree, at the same time as working on several paid commissions which help to pay the fees as well as being really interesting and exciting.  I would very much like to become a fully fledged illustrator, so to speak, but who knows, things might turn out differently.

James Robinson

 

(You can meet James at the Stanmore Home Education group in London on Thursday this week where we’ll be coming along for a chat and to sign some of the books. Contact the group for details. There’ll hopefully be further opportunities later in the year. Visit the publisher’s website for updates)

What’s your tagline – and do you want it?

I’ve just been to one of those groups where you start the meeting by going round, giving your name and saying a little bit about yourself. Most people seem to welcome the chance to pop themselves into a category or adopt a label of some kind.

I on the other hand hate it. I avoid it as much as I can; the anonymity is so refreshing and I loathe being pigeonholed.

We get so possessive about labels, taglines and categories, as if we don’t know who we are without them. I’ve been going to this philosophy group a while now and can see some still revel in opportunity to tag ‘who they are’ as if the label made them so.

I’ve run out of imaginative ways to not say who I am and have got to the point of just saying ‘I’m Ross’, after which there’s a long and awkward silence! But I refuse to be allocated to a category even if it makes others feel better being able to tidy me up into one.

Categories are something that can really trip parents up. Make you feel you have to be following certain trends irrespective of whether it suits or not. This is particularly true if you’re home educating.

Are you a home educator or an unschooler, structured or autonomous?

Who cares?

Does it matter? Not really.

Parenting, education, is far better if it’s flexible. (And those are two categories that are inseparable from one another anyway).

Flexibility means you don’t have to stick with a pre-set agenda or category, and are adaptable and open to change. If you have to stick with your label it can become restrictive. It can prevent you being open to flexibility, then there’s a danger you’re not open to learning new ways that might suit your child better.

For instance, you may have a hankering for a completely autonomous approach in your household, yet have a child who thrives better with some structure and the security of being told what to do. Some are born leaders, some aren’t. Some need leading out. And instructions can make some feel secure.

Conversely you might want to adopt a school style day in your Home Ed routine because you’re familiar with it and it helps you think what to do, but have a child so passionate about their interests it creates conflicts between you. That’s the last thing you want if you want to home educate successfully.

And anyway, you could do both on different occasions for different subjects. And whatever you do your child changes as he grows – you have to remain open to that.

So the thing is; there’s a whole plethora of ways to raise and educate and you can use elements of all approaches.

But what matters most is not the category you’re in, but that what you do suits your child, your household, your circumstances and you as well. This of course takes compromise. But compromise is good for a child to see. Leading successful lives requires getting on with others and that always takes compromise.

Labels, tags, categories and camps can lack compromise and are usually nothing to do with the child’s needs, are instead about our adult needs. But it’s the child who’s important here, surely!

Do what works for you and your children, I say, irrespective of categories or labels. Explore the range of possibilities and, like me at the group, enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to live up to a tagline!

Stop trying and start learning!

Sometimes I have to go away from the study and the laptop in order to do the real work. Sitting ‘doing it’ doesn’t always deliver the right results. So sometimes I take phone and notebook and  go try in other places like here in the garden: 20150621_141508-1

Or out on a walk: 20150621_120109

Or staring out over rooves from cafe windows: 001

In winter it can be more challenging but there’s usually something to inspire: honesty 001

These situations often produce far sharper work than that I can drudge up in front of the screen. Something I’d been grubbing away at trying to produce can be scribbled down in seconds despite the discomfort of flapping pages, wet grass seeping through bottom, or clatter.

That’s the same with education, you know.

Instead of staying in and trying to ‘do’ education, the children learn much better in a different setting or environment. You can take them out anywhere and they’ll learn something. Whether it’s a place like a museum, gallery, nature reserve, or somewhere seemingly less instructional like the park, city centre, the bus, the shops, there’s always something to stimulate and interest. And the more stimulated the children are by their surroundings and the experience of learning – like choosing books or getting hands on in a museum – the more the learning will be absorbed and retained.

So like me, children learn just as well if you stop trying to ‘do’ education and just give them experiences which provoke their minds and bodies to action. Learning being the result of the activity of the learner as the famous educationalist John Holt said.

I often have to go out looking for activity in order to work. It’s the same for the kids!

The home education community constantly grows

Just had a great trip to meet a group of home educating parents in London. 20150630_155729

Although it might have been better if it wasn’t a heatwave in which to swap my usual breezy rurality for the big city. But it was worth the melting to meet more inspirational parents making different choices for their children’s education.

I met people just thinking about Home Ed and people who’d been doing it for years whose children had graduated into other life. I met parents with pre-schoolers and those with teens. Parents with children who’d never been to school and others who’d done both. There’s such a diversity of people who choose not to home educate for a diversity of reasons.

And it just seems that whatever age and whatever needs home education is catering for it all and this wonderful vibrant community is constantly growing. Both teachers and parents are reacting to the prescriptive systematic compression of our children that schooling is becoming and deciding there has to be a more pleasurable and inspiring way to learn and achieve.

There is!

Missing Home Ed – so it’s great to meet you!

I do miss those home educating days with little ones. When there were children here full of curiosity and inquisitiveness about their world – like Little Harry in ‘Who’s Not In School’. It’s often misinterpreted for booklaunchnaughtiness when it becomes inappropriate! He’s the kind of child you take your eyes off for a second and his curiosity gets the better of him and he’s doing something he shouldn’t. I had one of those.

I also miss the company of other inspiring home educating parents and the excuse to have a good chinwag about our kids in general – oh – and education of course. My friends have heard it so much from me now I see their eyes glaze over.

So I have enjoyed meeting some of you at recent book events the publisher arranged.

These events are always a challenge for me. I prefer to hide away in natural places (where I write this now) rather than be public. But I’ve been so uplifted by the warm responses we’ve had so far I’m up for some more. So if you want us to visit your group do get in touch here.

I love meeting inspirational people and as home educators you’re definitely inspirational – it’s an inspirational thing to be doing. I never tire of hearing your stories and if we can pass something onto the next set of parents wanting to home educate, then it’s a double advantage.

So if you fancy coming along to any of the events I hope we get to chat.

Or come and let me know what you think of the new book – if it’s kind of course! As I used to say to the children; if it’s not kind or it’s not helpful, don’t say it! I think some of the people who go on forums could do with adhering to that rule! ;)

Otherwise your feedback is what keeps me writing – and emerging from my hiding place. Hope to see more of you soon.

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!