Tag Archive | homeschooling

Radical Home Education

There’s a splendid new book on home education by home educator Susan Walklate to add to your library! I read it at the end of last year, shortly after it was published, and am hoping to post an interview with the author here soon. Meanwhile, let me tell you a little about it.

Titled ‘Radical Home Education – discover home education through the true accounts of five families’, it’s the personal stories of a group of home educating families, including words from the young people, now grown.

It is compelling reading; I was fascinated by the stories of the home school lives and how they progressed. Most particularly because most blogs and forums tend to feature families who are currently home educating rather than those who have been through it and are ‘coming out the other side’ for want of a better phrase. So it’s always reassuring and uplifting to read about the lives of older children who were home educated and what they move on to. This book illustrates just that and how it happens.

The second part of it looks more closely at details like; how to work it out at home or out and about, places to go and use, the diversity of activities it’s possible to get involved in, how academic pursuits are integrated into it all and how the incidental is just as valid as the planned. It moves on through various approaches and includes the subject of exams, finally looking at interesting learning styles and tools.

I know the idea of ‘radical’ home education seems a daunting to prospect to some families, particularly those new to home schooling, but don’t be put off by that. This is an inspiring read which, although short, will be very reassuring to those families who are still on their home educating journey, whatever approach you’re taking.

Driving Home for Christmas

I’ve got Chris Reas’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ blaring out, creating a bit of atmosphere whilst I try and wrap pressies. I say try, because it’s a case of smoothing out all the old paper I’m reusing and jiggling the salvaged bits together round the parcels. It’ll be either brown paper or newspaper next! Magazines can be quite colourful. Fabric also works.

I know I’m good at wrapping parcels because my cookery teacher told me back in the day when I was self-consciously sixteen and painfully at school.

“You’re making sausage rolls not wrapping parcels” she admonished snootily and very loudly – to degrade me in front of my mates. My face flamed. Now there’s a lesson in how not to teach for you! I still don’t know how to make sausage rolls – never do – don’t care much. But being canny with pressies – now that’s an art!

Moving on; I used to have this tune playing in my car when I was doing just that; driving home for Christmas. Now it’s my girls who are doing the ‘driving home’; yep driving, in their own vehicle. Who’d have thought it? Bet you never think that far ahead!

During those home educating days it was tricky at Christmas. You don’t have those hours when the kids are out of the house at school, like other parents do, to keep the Christmas secrets. We became quite resourceful and I described many of the funnier moments in my joyful memoir; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ along with one season when I had to grapple Santa’s trousers…but I’ll leave you to read the book to find out why! Happy Home ed times which have made our memories!

Now they’ve moved on, I have the opportunity every day to wrap pressies, secrete surprises, and easily keep Christmas secrets, no trouble. And they’re the ones driving home for Christmas this year.

As no doubt yours will be when this wonderful home edventure is done and they’re all grown up. Unimaginable I know, but happens to us all.

Like we did you’ll currently be busy making your own wonderful memories, filled with love, that will keep the adult kids forever driving home (Train or bus does just as well :))

Do you forgive yourself as you do the kids?

Pic doesn’t do the ‘glow’ justice – well – it was raining!

I walked round a nature reserve a few weeks ago and the trees were positively glowing and illuminated with their autumn yellows, oranges and auburns.

I was glowing too. Sadly not with Autumn but with anger! Anger at a stupid mistake I’d made in my schedule, wasting time and petrol (and consequently pollution) as a result.

Seething doesn’t describe it! And all the noble words I spout off to others about letting go of angst came back to mock, along with berating myself for being such an idiot. So, as well as an idiot, am also a hypocrit!

Finally, back absorbed in work again, I gained some balance and relief, forgiving myself my mistake – as I would others. Finally!

How many times as parents, I wonder, have we been forgiving and comforting to the children for their mistakes, yet carry on berating ourselves for our own?

Go on – be honest – do you offer the same comfort and forgiveness to yourself as you do them? Have you ever thought about it?

Maybe you could. Maybe it would help sometimes.

And maybe we could practice the same forgiveness and approach to dealing with the mistakes we inevitably make as parents – especially home educating parents – all the time, by owning it, by sorry if it involves them, by learning how to do it differently next time, and thereby demonstrating to the kids a valuable life lesson; not only about forgiveness. But also, just as important; that parents are equally worth the same consideration and respect that we show to them. A lesson on how to forgive oneself – how to make mistakes and move on, a useful part of learning about life!

Just an observation.

And talking of learning, I’ve now put in place a strategy for hopefully not doing the same thing again!

Do Home School kids ever manage ‘real’ work?

My youngest is on holiday from work and pays a visit. As a working girl now, she doesn’t get many of these.

She’s also ‘on-call’ to beeps on her phone as work messages come in all the time we’re together, on outings, even during a leisurely breakfast.

Me and she out having fun!

I raise my eyebrows.

We have a natural habit of respect in this house; of paying attention to the person you’re with, rather than the person on social media. She notices my quizical grin.

“It’s work!” she says indignantly, knowing what I’m thinking. “And it’s part of what being a good manager is. I want to look after my staff and help the business run smoothly.”

“But even while you’re on holiday? Surely even managers need time off,” I said.

But what I’m also thinking is; how on earth did she get to be so hardworking and conscientious about it?

There were times home educating – plenty of times, in fact, especially in her teens – when she couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes most of the day. There were times when it was hell trying to get her to do anything that resembled ‘work’ of any sort. There was a time when she didn’t read – right into her teen years. There were times when she spent more energy procrastinating than accomplishing a task in hand. There were plenty of times when people made comments like; ‘If she’s not in school being made to do things, how will she ever know what real work is?’ Or; ‘If she doesn’t get up in the morning how will she learn how to get up for work?’ Or ‘She’s never going to be able to hold down a job if she doesn’t have a routine of work’. Or ‘How’s she going to cope with a proper working life?’

Etc. Etc.

But I just kept faith. I knew my daughter. I knew she had an active mind and was building skills, even if not in a recognisable routine way; building life skills, not school skills. And I held onto the strong belief that it is NOT necessary to give youngsters ‘practice’ at a schoolish kind of ‘work’ in order to practice for a working life, because school life is totally unlike a real working life, for all sorts of reasons (choice being among them), although most people don’t own up to that. But the youngsters know!

Young people are not stupid. They know what they see for real and what others are doing. Young people work out what they need and why they need it, and with some adult support they’ll build the skills they need and want because they naturally want to get into the real world of earning and working at fulfilling work. With a little guidance they’ll find out how to do so.

My youngest, in her twenties, lives independently now. She goes to work – far earlier than her scheduled hours – like her home schooled contemporaries. She is a conscientious, skilled, competent and empathetic manager, after only a few working years, who works so hard, even during her holiday, that I’m now telling her to slow down rather than get up and get on!

Who’d have thought it?

And what’s particularly satisfying is that those ignorant and insulting commentators all turned out to be completely WRONG!

So what did we do? We had faith (as well as the encouragement and – ok – maybe a bit of nagging which didn’t work). And we stuck to our belief in the fact that young people do not need coercing into work, they’ll do it when they see the reality. And we kept faith in the abilities of our young people.

Hope this little story gives you the courage to do the same.

Qualifications don’t automatically make you educated.

Or put it this way;

I don’t call someone educated if they behave in an irresponsible, pollutive, offensive, inconsiderate, uncaring, selfish, discriminative, bigoted or racist manner, however qualified or titled they may be.

Do you?

I know to most people education just means qualification – the more you have the better educated you are. That’s what the system conditions us to believe.

But it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that is the test of a truly educated person.

An educated person is far more than their grades. And we must guard against a dated and deteriorating system making us judge our youngsters by what scores they get.

This can be done by lessening the importance attached to grades and increasing the importance placed on other skills in life. Make sure our youngsters know they are more than a score and that we’re proud of what they do, (inside and out of the system – whatever you’re doing). Particularly what they do independently of formal education, things like making films, gaming, martial arts, volunteering, sports, campaigning, whatever interests them. These activities grow life skills that develop an educated connected person far more than qualifications do.

And we should be aware that the government has developed this system of incessant testing and qualification because it suits the government. Not because it’s good for young people’s development. Governments use this constant measurement for their own political gain, consequently the youngsters become voting fodder to feed that system. Parents and young people should kick back against it.

And also guard against the systemic propaganda that threatens there’s no decent life without decent grades. That’s false. The truth is, as many successful people without them prove, home educators among them, how you behave brings you a decent life because it makes you decent people who can connect in a humane way with other decent people – who don’t give a s*** what qualifications you hold. And it’s relationships with other people which brings us happiness, not tramping on them to get to the top.

Our youngsters need to be decent people with compassion, inclusion, care and broad mindedness, among other personal skills, in order to be truly educated, even if a sprinkling of qualifications become part of that.

But there are far too many bigoted, small minded, unimaginative and discriminative people who’d like to think they’re educated simply because they hold a bunch of qualifications.

They’re not!

Read more of what I mean in this post about my educational philosophy here.

And make up your own mind about what makes a person educated and resist automatic and conditioned thinking on the subject. Be more proud of who your youngsters are, how they behave and what they contribute, rather than what grades they’ve got!

And do all young people a favour; pass the thinking on! And share the poster wherever you like.

An inspiring take on learning

Most of us have been deeply schooled! And that’s not just through being at school. We are schooled by our parents, by communities, culture, social media. Schooled to think, feel, act in certain ways and it’s very hard not to stick to these default biases (see this post), even when they don’t work terribly well. Consequently we obediently accept the school model of learning.

And for some, even those who are familiar with home education, it can be hard to get our heads round the idea that children can learn and become educated adults without this schoolish approach, or fully understand the concept of unschooling. This is an approach to parenting and raising youngsters in a way that allows them to engage with purposeful educational activities without being ‘schooled’ at all.

Unschooled’, is a book about that very concept.

The author, Kerry McDonald presents fresh and inspiring ideas about the way we see education and learning, how if we look beyond our traditional schooled biases and trust the learner, we can let go of the idea that they have to be schooled in order to learn and embrace the concept that learning is something that children naturally do. Like many of us, she questions how the one-size-fits-all style of schooling could possibly accommodate the diversity of the human experience, or work for all. And how, through looking at the way childhood and ‘schoolhood’ has changed, she has been led towards embracing an unschooling approach to learning and how this succeeds.

It is an inspiring and thought provoking book which will make you look at how the freedoms of past childhoods have been eroded and how this has impacted on children’s health, development, imagination and creativity – and learning abilities. And how schooling and adult-controlled learning environments have destroyed children’s natural and effective capacity for learning, creating learning and health issues in our teens – the group she believes is most let down by conventional schooling.

There are many first-hand examples of learning in the book, across subjects like literacy and numeracy, which are fascinating; eye-opening accounts of why and how unschooling works and why school-at-home doesn’t! And plenty of research and samples of other ‘non-school’ models and learning centres to be inspired by.

It also talks about how children are treated in coercive ways in our attempt ‘to educate’ them, which has always sat uneasily with me. Coercive practices destroy independence. The author shows how we build independent adults through self-directed education, in fact, we don’t need to educate young people at all – in the schooled sense of the word, they are completely able with our support to do that for themselves. If you’ve ever doubted that this is possible, this book may change your mind!

Although based in America, we can take much from it to apply to home education in the UK. It’s easy to read and each chapter is followed by a helpful summary of tips. If ever you’ve wanted to fully engage in child-directed learning, but never had the courage to go for it, this book will help you do it.

It’s an inspiring take on learning and education with thought provoking ideas on how we can rebuild a learning world for the future which abandons the out-of-date schooling system we have now.

Well worth a read!

When in school…

Not everyone can home educate! Of course not; not everyone is the same or lives the same circumstances. Obvious!

And some families who do home educate, have children in school as well, running both approaches alongside each other.

Having an awareness of home education though, does bring a different perspective to learning in school, as many of my school using friends commented. They said that some of the ideas I talked about, and the way we saw education, helped them embrace a different attitude which in turn supported their child’s education through school.

So I thought I’d post some of those perspectives here for those who have school in their lives, although they equally apply to homeschooling parents:

1) Take on the idea that schooling and education are different things. And decide what you’re schooling for so you can keep a healthy balance between personal skills, grades and scores. (This post might help)

2) Focus on their learning experience, not results, decide on the important bits. Keep engaged. But don’t take over. Create space (emotional as well as physical) to do the tasks they need to.

3) One of the best ways to support learning development is by reading to them!

4) As well as by listening. Let them air their concerns, news and ideas, without judgement or dismissal. Then they’re more likely to talk to you. Sometimes listening will ease concerns, other times you may need to discuss them and get involved.

5) If you’ve chosen school, then you’re probably bound by school rules like homework, uniform, tests, etc. But if you feel these are too intrusive you need to say. Many parents are against homework and SATs etc., so get together and get these things changed – it’s the parents that have the power in the end as a collective.

6) Understand the importance of playtime, outdoor time, exercise. These activities support learning, not detract from it, and are a vital part of a child’s day/life.

7) Create family times that are sacrosanct. Engaged family times and shared conversations are a way of supporting your child that is irreplaceable.

8) Social interaction and friendships in schools are tricky! Negotiate a sensitive pathway through the ups and downs by listening, discussing why people do what they do, by trying to remain non-judgemental, but at the same time setting out what you value in relationships and whether you want friends who don’t uphold these values. That goes for adult behaviour too! Make respect for all absolutely paramount regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, learning differences, whatever.

9) A friend said a simple idea she found most helpful was remembering: the children are not finished yet! Give them time. Stay on their side. Keep faith. Allow them to develop at their own rate and don’t compare them with others all the time. Magic happens at all different stages of young people’s development. Believe in your youngsters.

10) Finally, always be encouraging.

Whichever way you approach your children’s learning do please share your thoughts below – all perspectives are useful to hear!