Tag Archive | inspiration

A Home Education Notebook is now back on Kindle

It’s taken a while but finally I’ve sorted it; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is available again on Kindle after a short absence.

The reason for the delay was because my focus got stolen by moving house, which is all consuming as anyone who’s ever done it knows.

Moving house means establishing new routines (like where the nearest food is), getting to know new people (builders, plumbers, tech gurus and fixers) and of course new friends and communities.

Meeting new people, who always ask about your life so far, means more explanations of home educating and I receive a variety of responses, mostly in the form of a barrage of questions; do you do lessons, do they have teachers at home, do you have a timetable, what about friends, tests, curriculum, GCSEs etc?

Whilst the Lockdowns made the concept of ‘Home Schooling’ more familiar, the more seasoned home educators among us knew it was nothing like home educating, it was just doing school stuff within the four walls of home. Completely different. (Expanded in a post here)

However I still find it difficult to explain those differences even now, how education is not necessarily about lessons, or tests, or teaching, or exams. To explain how children learn without lessons, or teachers, or tests and timetables, they can actually learn for themselves (Shock! Horror!) That learning can actually happen in an organic, holistic, autonomous, interest-led way from the things children are naturally curious about, by being out, observing, engaging in, analysing and involving themselves in finding out about the world and building the skills needed to do so, even without age-related structures usually imposed upon education. Along with all that how home educated children also have friends, develop social skills, and mix happily in company (see this post about socialisation).

The stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ written as it happened, demonstrate that the best. Along with ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. The articles themselves are an illustration of how the everyday experiences we had encouraged and developed children’s knowledge, skills and understanding of learning quite naturally. And how – even more surprising to some – this happens because children want to learn.

Children don’t necessarily want to be schooled. But they mostly want to learn, if they’re allowed to in their own way, in their own time, through subjects that matter to them in their worlds. The success of this has been shown time and time again by all the home educated youngsters who’ve grown up and out into the world, making their own decisions, incorporating any structure and traditional approaches and outcomes as and when (and if) needed to get them there. And so proving that home education really does work and adequately prepares young people for the ‘real’ world. The real world being the one outside that bizarre world of school!

This new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ concludes with a chapter about all those home educated young people we grew up with and what they’re doing now post-twenty, who are proof indeed!

So if you’ve been waiting for the Kindle version of this new edition, it’s back again. It’s the book readers have told me that reassures and inspires them the most. Hope you enjoy it.

Kindle edition available now
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Share your story?

I’m a bit rubbish at communicating on Facebook these days. It seems to be less frequented or valuable than it was, full of adverts, and now there are many other forums we can use to connect.

Fb wasn’t a thing when we started home educating – I bet you can hardly imagine that. But it soon became an invaluable tool for parents to connect through, share ideas and resources, arrange meet-ups and reassure one another, making home education feel more doable than some people first thought.

It was the chance to so easily connect with that support which made home educating a less scary and isolating prospect than it potentially could be. Stepping away from the mainstream path millions of others were heading along can be daunting. Thanks to social media no one needs feel cut off, unsupported, or without anyone to turn to now.

And actually it’s been very supportive for me too, to receive your lovely messages and comments and see how my work and words get around and find their way to those who need it. And I feel so blessed when folks have taken the trouble to connect with me and let me know how my books have helped. If you’re one of those and I didn’t reply personally please know that your comments and messages have meant so much.

Meanwhile I recently had such a nice comment from a Fb friend, along with a potted version of her story, I asked her permission to post it here because I know many of you won’t see it on there and it’s most uplifting to read.

Here’s what she said;

It was your books that finally gave me the confidence to believe what I really already knew in my heart- that our youngest would be better off out of school. His older brothers were in a specialist residential school for very able boys with Asperger syndrome but he didn’t quite qualify for diagnosis, so mainstream-or not- was the only option.

After we took our son out of school in yr 5, I remember walking past the back to school signs and rows of uniform hanging up in the shops and just grinning because I knew I’d never need to buy any of it, ever again! The relief of knowing he wouldn’t be going back into that hellish place where he learned nothing except to feel that he was stupid and weird and generally rubbish, was immense and I just wanted to celebrate. It was definitely the best decision we made for him. He went to college for A levels because he chose to, a year ‘late’ and is now taking a gap year to work and save money before doing his degree. I’m certain that school would not have put him on this path. He’d have left as soon as possible, hating the idea of learning anything because he was ‘too stupid’. His confidence still isn’t great but at least he has ‘proof’ from his results that he is capable of learning anything if he chooses to and sufficient life experience to see the benefit of hard work to get where he wants to be. He also has friends!”

I think it’s these shared stories that make for the best support for parents starting out because they’re straight from the horse’s mouth. We can have faith in them as they are the reality of home education and consequently they are the ones that give people the confidence to go for it themselves. I know when we started out, hearing the stories from those further along were the most valuable, inspiring and reassuring. Although without the internet then we rarely heard them. Very different now!

So if you have a story to tell, or would like to share yours, maybe you’d like to get in touch and I can post it here and we can go on supporting each other in this wonderful alternative to school.

Thirteen years of writing this home education blog later…

And thank you once again to all of you who’ve been in touch over the many years I’ve been writing this blog. It is truly appreciated and I’m always so delighted to hear how my books have helped. Bless you!

Processed education can be as unhealthy as processed food

An exclusive exert from ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Some days I got so tired I wondered how I was ever going to get the dinner. And it was those days that packaged and processed food I normally abhor looked really appealing.

One particular day springs to mind where my youngest made mint creams which took a bit of supervision, mostly in the form of keeping her fingers out of it especially when they’d been other places. And the eldest made fudge and just needed an occasional question answering but then went onto maths which she was struggling with and needed explanations. This was much more demanding than anticipated as I couldn’t remember how to do half of it and had to look it up. Then the youngest was on a website trying to research something it wouldn’t and getting more and more frustrated. And I just seemed to seesaw between the two of them like this all morning. By afternoon I decided we needed to get out for a swim before I was torn in two, but that finished me off. So I admit to resorting to the easy option of opening a packet for dinner.

At least I thought it was the easy option.

Sometimes I think the packaging designers must sit in their studios laughing as they think up the most complicated arrangements of plastic and cardboard just to annoy tired parents at the end of a demanding day.

We rarely ate packaged or processed food. I like my meals to have ingredients as near to their natural state as possible – that’s where taste and nutrition comes from.

But when I’m beyond scrubbing potatoes or cooking anything inventive we resort to it at times, even though I never relish it. For processed and packaged food tastes like … well, it doesn’t taste of much at all. It is limp, lifeless, tasteless – apart from salt, suspiciously full of unknowns and mostly totally uninspiring.

And it was that day I thought; this is just like education really. Education has become so processed and tightly packaged it is almost unrecognisable as education.

Just like how hard it is to recognise nutritious ingredients in processed food, education has become so over processed it too is losing some of the value of the original ingredients. It has become as unpalatable as eating forced and cling-filmed strawberries in the middle of winter. There is no taste. There is nothing to arouse the senses and the effect doesn’t last.

Isn’t that like systemised schooling?

I used to think my mother was a bit of a nutcase insisting on buying dirty carrots. Now I know why she did it. Carrots with the soil still on them keep without rotting for ages. Those washed and plastic-packaged ones from the supermarket just turn gooey and stink like mad.

Packaged and processed education doesn’t last forever either. And I reckon it turns the children gooey.

I read of an experiment someone once did on a class of school children. They were told they were going to be tested on a certain subject at the end of the week and given information to learn for it. The children sat the test and the expected number did well. A few days later the same children did the same test without warning and hardly any of them scored well. The learning they had processed for the test didn’t last – just like the carrots.

Education like food needs to be as near as possible to its natural experience in order for it to be lasting, inspiring, arouse the senses and be worth having. Experiences are the basis for all learning, for meaningful learning. Learning packaged into tightly restrictive curriculum or second hand learning in workbooks, removed from the original experience, loses its appeal just as much as food. Learning and education need unwrapping.

It is natural for children to learn. During their everyday lives at home pre-school children learn loads of things. They acquire skills. They pick up knowledge. They do this naturally, experientially. Just as we all do all of the time.

All experiences teach us something. Our interests and pursuits broaden our minds. So do books, Internet, telly, ordinary every day interaction with people and things. And also our work, our outings, anniversaries, celebrations, social gatherings. Learning is natural. And learning from first hand experiences in this way is meaningful, rich, stimulating, and retained. Children learn naturally from this all the time.

Then they are removed from that natural learning environment just before they’re five and shut away from it in schools. We’re told that the only valuable learning is that which comes from teachers, packaged into a National Curriculum and contained in expected outcomes and objectives.

So children are processed through this type of learning and adults are conditioned to devalue learning outside of that. And what happens? Children begin to lose their ability to learn anything that isn’t neatly wrapped for them. And I see an awful lot of teenagers who have about as much enthusiasm in doing anything as I have in eating those out-of-season packaged strawberries.

In both the strawberries and the teenagers the zest has gone.

With food I have options. Mostly I buy food in its natural state. I am deeply suspicious of processed pies, potato alphabets, pasta shapes in suspect sauce and the infamous turkey Twizzlers! But sometimes at the end of a hard Home Educating day I’m as pleased as anyone else to open a pizza. When I can get it open that is.

But I do have the choice and you will probably know which is better for me. I suspect you might also be thinking that I would be a better parent for giving my child a natural potato that’s been baked than a processed pizza.

Yet it’s funny how people don’t seem to have the same view of education.

Everyone seems to think that a packaged and processed education is better for children than a natural one.

I got more criticism for allowing my children a natural education than I did putting them through an unnatural educational process. Yet if I continually gave them processed food instead of natural food I wouldn’t be considered a good parent at all.

Odd that!

Years ago, children didn’t have much opportunity to learn. They didn’t have opportunity to learn skills or access information like they do now. And many children didn’t live in homes where education was valued more highly than earning a crust of bread. Children were needed to mind siblings, pick potatoes, crawl along factory floors in between dangerous machinery and sweep chimneys.

Well I don’t know whether folks have noticed but that’s changed. Most of our kids today live in an environment where education is available, where there is access to information, where skills can be learnt. Naturally.

They are surrounded by people using skills and accessing information. And quite naturally they will learn from that.

But we as a society have been led to believe, as education has become more packaged and processed over the years, that this processed type of education is the only valuable one.

Our attitude to processed food is changing, thank goodness. We’re beginning to value unprocessed meals. We’re even beginning to see how processed food can make us ill.

I’d like to see our attitude to processed education changing too. For not only is some of it meaningless, unfulfilling and un-lasting, it too can make our children ill.

Like with unprocessed meals that I actually peel and prepare, I tried to give my children an unprocessed experiential education as near to its natural state as possible. If we were learning about plants – we had plants to hand that we dissected. If we were learning about history – we did it in a historical setting like museum or castle. Get the idea?

This way, just like fresh picked, in-season, unprocessed strawberries, the flavour of the educational experience we gave them was meaningful and stimulated all their senses in a way that is still lasting.

You can read more supportive stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. And the new edition has a new added epilogue which tells the stories of the children we home educated alongside now that they’re grown up!

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!

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)

Happy January!

I was looking on the positive side with the title! Don’t know about you but I’m glad to get rid of last year! Goodness knows what this one will hold but all we can do is keep faith for a better one and get back to life.

January is always tricky, but this year we have the coronavirus mixed into the back-to-reality, drop in spirits often accompanying it. And with limited opportunities for getting out and using facilities like libraries, sports centres and swimming pools which are a Home Ed saviour from indoor-itus it could be a bit hard. Plus the fact that however much you love your parenting, and love your choice to home educate, even that enthusiasm can wane at times like these.

So I thought I’d re-post these ideas to see if any of them help:

  • January is short lived. Time changes everything. Take each day at a time, create some self-nurturing practices and good things for each one. A great lesson for the kids to learn too; self care.
  • Re-acquaint yourself with your core reasons for home educating, your philosophies for parenting and learning and life. Why did you choose to do it? It’s still an inspirational choice.
  • But like with all aspects of life, it’s not inspirational all the time. that’s not because it’s ‘failing’, it’s just the way life is. We have to learn to negotiate these times. And keep faith.
  • Keep active. All of you. It’s a necessary and very effective part of self nurturing and mental and emotional wellbeing. Even if the initial inertia is tough, fight on through. Physical activity also gives a huge confidence boost – good for kids, good for you. There are as many ways of being active in the house as out – you need a balance of both.
  • Make things – it’s supposed to be very therapeutic and builds vital skills physical and mental. Lots of great sites for crafts, creations, models and other ideas so do a quick search. (One here). For myself, I found Emma Mitchell’s book such a comfort. Remember, grown ups’ needs are important too. Happy grown-ups, happy kids.
  • Get out of the house regularly in whatever way is possible.
  • Relax about the ‘learning’. It’s going on all the time even if it isn’t formal. All learning is valid. All experiences are valid. Curling up on January days and watching historical films or listening to podcasts is valid. But stressed approaches can inhibit learning, as can forcing it, or making it a huge demand. There’s no time limit on learning. It happens in leaps and stand-stills. There will be times you’ll think your kids are going nowhere. That’s a misconception, they will be.
  • Be pro-active. find new things to do, places to go, streets to explore, websites to explore, people to connect with, even if it has to be digitally for now They’re out there for you to engage with. Being proactive with life is another great example to set the kids.
Be proactive – find things about January to delight

You won’t enjoy your home education every single day – that’s probably not possible – as with life; it’s an unreal expectation. Doubly so during these inhibiting times. Just try some of the tips above and ease yourself back on track with the inspirational, uplifting way of life that it is.

Above all, just enjoy yourselves as much as you can for now – just because you can.

Happy January!

Try some ‘Unsafe Thinking’!

Before you panic that I’m encouraging you to take suicidal risks, I’m not. Although I believe some parents have been told they’re taking suicidal risks with their children’s future just through home educating them! But some ideas I want to tell you about this time come from a book I’ve been reading called ‘Unsafe Thinking’ by Jonah Sachs. (He talks here – about wandering where no one’s been before!)

This book is not about taking stupid risks, it just talks about thinking creatively, about being able to spot and bypass our preconceived ideas and learned obedience from systems that would like to keep us compliant. The education system springs to mind!

Stepping away from mainstream education has been for many the start of a kind of thinking that would have been considered ‘unsafe’! Having the initial idea and courage to break out of our safe habit of educating in schools, ingrained into most of us all our lives, we’ve challenged convention and are showing that learning can happen in all sorts of other ways not just the approach sold to us through schooling (and political manipulation). And proving actually that it’s not ‘unsafe’. It works extremely well for most families.

And it’s ideas like this – ideas beyond the accepted norms – that this book is about. It is a discussion about the rules and conventions that keep us stuck with something, despite the fact it may not be working. Like schooling. And the dire impact that has on creativity which is essential for developing new strains of thinking, necessary for leading happy lives, or ones that could save the planet, for example.

Reading it, I spotted these relevant ideas:

  • Pay attention to your intuition. Many parents have intuitive thoughts about their children’s needs which most often turn out to be right.
  • Free yourself from the expectations of others and the games they play to manipulate you. Stick to your own intentions and your own ‘rules’ – if you must have them. Creative thinking works best without rules.
  • Develop, practice and enjoy your own strengths and those of your children. It’s these talents that will take them forward so it’s best to make good use of them. There are worthy talents outside the academic.
  • Don’t waste expensive time and energy on practices that don’t work for you. Many find formal academics don’t suit their kids as an approach to learning, until much later when they return to that approach successfully.
  • Step boldly out of comfort zones and try new ideas. Watch out for ingrained expertise too – ‘experts’ once told us the earth was flat! ‘Another example; experts’ (or politicians) tell us kids need measuring through SATs or GCSEs, yet people still manage to lead successful, productive and happy lives bypassing them!
  • Become a learner again. Learning or not knowing makes you vulnerable, by being in that position we learn what our learners are going through and what they might need.
  • Beware your biases. We have ingrained biases – like the one that learning only happens through teaching – which once we break away from allows us to explore all sorts of other creative approaches.
  • Remember that you don’t always have to be compliant – it’s good to challenge and encourage your kids to challenge. I believe it is the compliant ones who are the most ‘unsafe’! There’s a great phrase in the book; ‘intelligent disobedience’ which is worth keeping in mind!

These are the kinds of ideas we can use to review our approach to home schooling to get the best out of it. After all, we’ve abandoned mainstream schooling – lets make sure we abandon all the habits and practices associated with it that didn’t work and drove us to home educate in the first place! We don’t always have to accept the mainstream ‘safe’ ideas – we have to examine them and do what works within the context of our families, the wider society and the planet.

It’s the youngsters who have the ability to do that, who will help the world progress.

Don’t let curriculum suffocate creativity

There’s an exhibition about the work of Quentin Blake touring the country at the moment and I was lucky enough to see it.

If you’re not sure who he is just think about your Roald Dahl books, as most of us are familiar with his work through his illustration of them – the BFG or Matilda being among them. Quentin Blake also produces his own books in collaboration with John Yeoman.

I suspect most parents who’ve read a Roald Dahl book to their kids will be familiar with Blake’s beautiful scribbly drawings, the characters and their expressive faces clearly displaying the emotion and telling parts of the story the writer cannot with simple words! He is extremely clever.

The beauty of his drawings when you consider them as art works, particularly as an example to our children, is that they’re not exact representations of what people actually look like. They’re better than that – and showing so much more as such.

And why that’s important is this: people get so hung up about drawing and trying to make something actually look like the object being drawn – rather than making their own personal representation of it, their own art work. And this inhibits so many creatives, puts a stop to many people being creative when they’re feel their work is no good. When they’re judged.

Our daughter was seven when she was told that by a teacher in school; that she’d drawn something badly, (?!! at 7 for goodness sake!!!) and it took her a long time to recover from that and begin once more to practise her creativity in its many forms, as part of her home education. (The tale is told in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

No art work is wrong or bad! Any art work or creative endeavour in whatever form is incredibly personal, and incredibly individual. That’s the whole point of it and why it’s so special – no one else could do it the same as you. ‘Wrong’ doesn’t come into it!

Although skills can be learnt through studying technique or understanding materials and marks, the raw creativity and imagination needed to produce drawings and artwork of any kind is unique to an individual and should never be made to ‘fit’ or ‘look like’ anything else necessarily. Original expression is inherent in each of us and needs to be nurtured as such not inhibited by comments such as my daughter received. And that’s a great flaw in curriculum in relation to creativity; if we’re not careful curriculum can be the death of it. Curriculum diktat ruins originality. It can stop you being creative and thinking outside the norm with your education too!

Children and young people need encouragement to create. Especially when these days they’re more practised at holding a console than a pencil. But essentially creativity is the foundation of many valuable skills that can be transferred across education, and enhances brain development far more broadly than learning times tables for example.

Anyone can learn times tables – they already exist. But creative endeavours are unique to each individual, who knows what will be created, and they play an essential part in the perpetuation of our species and our planet. Read this to see why. We need creative skills like we need air! It’s an irreplaceable part of the educational process.

So drawing, painting, modelling, telling stories, drawing stories like Quentin Blake, scribbling, doodling, all develop part of our children’s intelligence in a way nothing else can. Along with being creative in how you curate education!

I suggested our daughter spent some time ‘drawing badly’ to get over those remarks!

And I suggest you encourage your kids to draw in whatever style suits them, like Quentin Blake draws in his own distinctive style.

You never know, you might have another Blake in the making!

Home education – not just for the rich and elite

You may have seen the headline in The Times the other week about the musician Paul Weller choosing to home educate his twins, which I shared to my Facebook page.

Home education is not just for the likes of him!

Although it’s wonderful to see more people joining the community, and home education hitting the headlines again, it does nothing for promoting the fact that home schooling as it’s also known – uncomfortable term- is an option to all parents not just the rich and the elite which some may think.

Home educators come from all groups of our very diverse society; rich and poor, all different backgrounds and cultures, both the academic and the non-academic, qualified teachers and non-teachers, those who are religious and those who are not, those who prefer to ‘buy in’ tutoring and pay others for ‘teaching’ and those who do it themselves, and all across the broad range of ethnic communities which now make up our country.

Income is a real concern for many parents who would like to home educate. Not because of the cost of ‘education’ exactly, but more because of the loss of an income whilst one parent stays at home with the children. Job sharing between parents is an option, if you’re two of course, but single parents also tackle the challenge and manage as best they can. You can home educate on a very low budget because it’s not the amount of money you throw at education that makes it worth anything, it’s the interactions and experiences that the learners have that really matter. And even more importantly the support and encouragement, love and happiness that are equally part of a successful life and understanding that living is educative in itself!

I’ve always maintained that you cannot ‘buy’ an education, you can only nurture it and that nurture comes from the people involved. See this post here, about affording to homeschool

And the costs are more about how you choose to live your life, how consumerist you are, your values and priorities and discovering together what really matters to you.

We made all kinds of sacrifices and did without many, many of those things that insidious advertising can make us believe we cannot or are less of a parent in doing so. However, when you really begin to unpick, when you really begin to investigate your buying habits and your budget, you might realise you can be far more economical than you thought and the things that you need the most in life, (after food and shelter of course) like love and togetherness, you don’t have to economise on at all.

An engaged and thoughtful parent is the best resource a home educated child can have. You don’t have to be rich to provide it!