Tag Archive | inspiration

Home Educate for the present

You can’t help but have noticed the massive trend for mindfulness at the moment.

You rarely go into a bookshop without seeing a mindful colouring book or a manual of mindful prompts and practices. Many companies are pushing it at the consumer – the capitalism of which rather belying the point!

I always think of home educating parents as mindful people. You kind of have to be in order to do it.

I know some of you may recoil from the concept of mindfulness as a load of psychobabble that has no relation to the serious business of education.

But I don’t think I’ve ever met a home schooling parent who isn’t mindful in that they are making conscious choices about the way their children are educated. They are mindful of the fact that a learning life does not have to be endured for some future reward, it is important that the kids are happy and fulfilled now. And it’s that which leads towards a happy and successful relationship with life thereafter. That is the way parents are mindful. It means being conscious of what you’re doing.

Of course, there are all sorts of interpretations of being mindful – awareness being the one I’m using here. I don’t think you could home educate without being very aware of what you’re doing, both day-to-day and with regard to the future.

But therein lies a danger of conflict.

Because mindfulness is an approach that is based very much in the now. Yet our educational agenda can sometimes become obsessed with the future.

It certainly is in schools. It seems like every activity undertaken has an agenda that is focussed towards forthcoming results. Test results. Exam results. Qualification of it, in some form or another. The quality of the present learning experience is prostituted for that.

It is natural as we parent to wonder about the future for our kids. Obviously we want the best for them. We wouldn’t be human if our considerations didn’t stray beyond the present as we raise them and guide them towards living good lives.

However, it’s important as we educate to balance that with what’s happening now, what their needs are now, making now an inspiring experience.

In fact I’d go so far as to say it needs to be imbalanced – for the now is far more important. Simply because what’s happening now will determine the future and if you take care to make the present a good experience of learning, then the children will want to go on with it and that’s an attitude that sets them up for life. If you take care of the now the future will take care of itself.

Educate because learning is a great thing to be doing, at this present moment.

By adopting a mindful/awareness practice yourself you will inspire the children to have mindful practices of their own which promotes a healthy and conscious way of living; with themselves, with others, and with the planet. It escalates out in beneficial ripples all around.

Being mindful is good for parents. Good for home education. Good for kids. Good for everyone.

Worth taking a moment to be mindful of it!

There’s more generic reading about mindfulness here if you’d like to explore some more.

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Home education: ‘a rich and wonderful endeavour’

I recently asked a fellow home educator about their learning life and had this wonderful account sent to me. It’s quite long but  incredibly uplifting, so when you have a moment grab a cuppa and have a read. I think you’ll come away inspired:

As the children and I settled on the train, a fellow passenger asks, ’Not in school today?’ On explaining that we home educate and we were on our way to the home education drama group, the typical queries began. ‘Are you a teacher? Do you follow the national curriculum? What about socialisation? But WHY do you do it…?

These questions can happen several times a week. I want to sit them down over a cuppa and explain our home education philosophy. But it is hard to explain this full-living (fulfilling) life in the time we have.

At its core, it is about a respectful and consensual education, one that fully supports their human rights. The children know they have a voice. They learn to trust themselves and are able to make decisions accordingly, giving them control over their bodies and thoughts. They decide when they need to eat, drink, rest, sleep, move and exercise, recover from illness and use the toilet. They are given the freedom to decide if they need quiet time in this busy world. We want our children to learn that human rights, respect, consent and empathy are important, and what better way to understand that than by living it, and talking about it?

The ‘socialisation’ issue is the one we are most questioned about.  But who dictated what socialisation looks like, and that it should look like it does in school? Do they need to be with the same kids every day, in a system where playtimes and free time can be short and they’re often told; ‘sit down and shut up, you are not here to socialise!’ At this point I will say, it is not usually the fault of the teachers, but of the system that makes this the reality. And I am glad it is not our reality anymore. My children find plenty of time to socialise. Their social life has never been as rich since they began home educating.

There are plenty of groups they attend regularly; drama, Lego club, swim class, museum groups, board games club at the library, the science museum, the archaeology club at the local university, and archaeological digs. There are casual meet ups in parks, playgrounds, and homes. My children were socialising when they sat under sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, working in their own sketch books and talking to the museum curator. They’re socialising when getting tips for a new project from a cousin who is a wonderful silk artist and during more planned experiences such as getting to help operate the traffic control signals in the city centre, or learning how to paint with light and build shadow puppets in workshops, they answer questions put forth by the archaeology club, which is a mix of home educated and school children.

At times we find there is too much socialising and cut back for a time, spending more time in home and garden. And even then, they are still ‘socialising’ by talking to the postman, the milkman, the neighbours, the shopkeepers, family and friends. There is also the benefit of strong family and sibling relationships, and I am sure our home educated children would not play together as much if they attended school. They don’t accept that boys and girls don’t play with each other, and more specifically, brothers and sisters, as they are sometimes told by others at playgrounds. My children have a brilliant relationship with their siblings and family. And another point to consider, some people need less socialising in their lives, so why should people who don’t know my children get to decide what their ‘socialisation’ should look like?

In the book’ Hold On To Your Kids’ by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, it says that ‘Peer orientation has become the norm, but is neither natural nor healthy. It is better to learn from those who have already learned than from those who are still learning.’ This book points out that socialising with people of all ages throughout the day is more indicative of the lives our children will experience as adults.

Then there’s the idea that children need to experience bullying in order to learn how to deal with it. But the idea that children need to experience this in school is more to do with making us feel better that it is happening, because often the adults are powerless to deal with it at the root. I do know this as a fact since my husband and I have six older children who are at varying stages of teen and adulthood and we have over 30 years experience parenting, over 25 years with the schooling experience. Sadly, our family has had to deal with this in schools.

However, our home educated children certainly do come across bullying as they are in the community every single day, but they have more freedom to remedy it. They may confront the situation directly or simply walk away, but they can also ask for advice or help, just as adults can access legal means to stop both mental and physical bullying because it is harmful to be subjected to it. If it isn’t good for the adults who have more experience, knowledge and power to confront the situation, it certainly isn’t good for our children, especially as their growing minds and bodies are at their most vulnerable. Scientific evidence shows how unhealthy this sort of stress is, and the real damage it can do physically and mentally. They don’t need to be immersed in an environment where bullying can be a part of every single day in order to know how to deal with it.

How do they learn? It starts by having a culture of learning in our home. As parents, we are facilitators who guide our children on their learning journey. They learn how to learn – how to question, seek, research, and develop critical thinking skills, and how to communicate through reading, writing, conversations, film making, or any other form. It can be formal, but it doesn’t have to be, it can be through deep conversation over making dinner or taking a walk, through parents, children, teens and young adults, sharing knowledge and skills in areas of expertise that we all have.  No one knows everything, not even schools. If we don’t know it, we are certainly capable of learning it, or know how to look further through books, the internet, or through experts in groups, classes, businesses, or museums.  If we want, we can outsource like a school does. There is almost always a club or group for whatever we need.  And if we don’t follow the national curriculum, that is not an issue or a ‘failure’ in our education. Curriculums are specific to schools, for comparing schools, but they certainly don’t give everything kids need. We work at developing the skills our children need and desire, ones that are relevant to them, ones that are important for them as they grow. If children learn through their passions and interests, using skills and knowledge, this learning cannot be forgotten. That is authentic learning. Through following their interests, reading, writing and maths develop, because nothing is learned in isolation.

Our children are learning real skills in the real world, from coding, making animations, doing creative writing, film making, nature observations and recording seasonal changes, local flora and fauna in their journals, creating with textiles and crafting, to making their own homemade yogurts and sourdough breads (and the science behind it), to soups and meals. We have economy, science, reading, maths, art, life skills and nutrition right there! They know how the home runs and can contribute to it. And they have direct experience of what skills their father uses running his business. This is real life learning, it’s active and hands-on, and definitely not as sedentary as a typical school day.

Climbing the hill to see the sun rise

Our school experience was brief play at break and lunch time, and P.E. once or twice a week. And sometimes that was lost as a class punishment which meant less physical activity and fresh air. We probably spend on average around 5 hours a day exploring and playing outdoors (a little less in winter). This is different day to day, it might mean outdoor play in the garden, or walks, bug and bird watching, gardening, or getting up early and walking up the hills to watch the sunrise. We don’t often get snow, so when it happens, whole days are spent playing, sledding, walking, examining snow and ice, only coming in for meals and warming up. We spend hours exploring rock pools, shells, seaweed, pebbles, sea glass, and even the occasional fossil. Science first hand is alive and exciting! To learn through nature and play as biologically designed is amazing, and to do it as a family is even better. The outdoors also gives you space to be on your own when you want. Many creative ideas are born and put into action outside. The children recently built their’ time machine’ which needed the full space of the garden to be played out. You could hear them talking about the preparations needed if they were to land in the Tudor times or in the time of dinosaurs, and the various dangers they had to confront. You know the learning is rich when this happens. In the children’s tree fort/potion kitchen/veggie patch (also known as the mud patch), they find their own quiet space, observe nature’s creatures, climb trees, set up a tent, or even dig for treasure. And they can get as dirty and noisy as they like! It is the happiest and healthiest of lifestyles.

One question I was recently asked was, ‘Is there ever time for negativity to fit into this beautiful space they live in?’

I loved this question, and I took it a step further: Is there a place for all those bumps in the road that challenge us and help us to grow? Yes, there is! But it doesn’t need to crush the joy out of them. Struggles over personal projects and goals, developing a growth mindset, and failure, are all part of the learning process. But it does not mean they are ridiculed, humiliated, or kept in at playtime to redo it. We are open to the idea of failure as a stepping stone to further learning. As Einstein said, ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new’. I remember watching a teacher from Finland say, ‘…education is anything that makes the brain work.’ Simple words, but powerful, we don’t need to overcomplicate it.

One of my children has dyslexia and dyscalculia and works very hard to overcome the challenges. As she is developing skills she needs in the world, she is also developing her own unique engineering and artistic skills that are her personal strengths. She couldn’t nourish these strengths while in the school system because everything was about ‘fixing’ her weaknesses, there was no focus on her strengths. By time she got home, she was tired from the extraordinary amount of energy used to overcome her challenges. Even weekends were too short to truly grow her gifts, and self-confidence was most definitively chipped away. Since beginning home educating we have met an experienced educator who says this same child demonstrates a true entrepreneurial spirit of exploration, risk and creativity, and she is excited to see where the learning takes her.

Home educating is such a wonderful endeavour and rich part of our lives. We are experts when it comes to our children’s learning; we know what they need, and how they learn best.

So, why do we home educate?

It’s for the personalised education, and wherever the adventure might take us!

 

(If anyone else would like to talk about their home educating days here, do let me know in the comments below and I’ll get back to you. If we can spread our positive stories around it might help counterbalance some of the negative we receive!)

Boldly into January

I have to admit I find post-christmas hard. I guess most people do. It’s the lengthy dark hours, the cold, the end of christmas holidays and sparkle that does it. Not to mention work and routine to be confronted.

But a fresh year’s start can also be a time for hope, for review, for new beginnings. Time for looking beyond these first difficult bits. To take stock and consider changes.

Everything always grows and changes – people too!

It was a good time to review family life and our home education I found. Investigate what’s working, acknowledge what’s not! Winkle out all those rancid ideas I might be clinging onto that had become out of date.

It’s often forgotten that no pattern, strategy or plan will work forever. The snag with kids is you find something that works, think you’ve cracked it, then everything changes again. Of course it does; they’re changing all the time. We have to renew along with them. And the education we facilitate has to change too.

In fact, that’s another aspect of education often overlooked; learning stuff is all about change really. About embracing change. Change of ideas, of mind, of knowledge. You have to change in order to learn something; you have to be prepared to slough off old ideas in order to accept new ones. Some people find that really hard. Thankfully the kids are more readily able to do that to accommodate the things they need to learn, adults perhaps less so. But we all need to embrace new ways of working, new skills and new understanding. And a new year is a great time to do so.

We all learn, grow, change constantly if you think about it – the kids, the mums and dads, the grandparents, the ambience in the home. It’s all in a constant state of flux. And that’s how it should be. We don’t need to cling onto old stuff, old routines, old habits, that no longer serve us well. We need to allow change. We need to notice it’s necessary! I often didn’t and created conflict in the house for that simple reason. So learn by my mistakes!

And as you venture boldly into January with your family, embrace the change of the year, acknowledge the children’s need to grow and change as they learn, and don’t be afraid of bold new thoughts!

There are all sorts of ways to live a family life. And all sorts of ways for kids to learn. We just have to remain open to things and prepared to go with the flow and flux and bold enough to implement what we believe in.

A present for a home school family

I hate to mention Christmas but it is getting that time of year and if you need a gift for a home educating parent one of my books might be an idea.

Home educating is an inspiring and uplifting choice of lifestyle and learning. But not without its challenges especially if you’re doing it longer term. ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire‘ is to support parents through the wobbles that all families face at times, with tips on how to manage them. A book that has driven even those who never write reviews to do so on Amazon – I’m most grateful for the wonderful words there. There’s many a homeschool family would appreciate having one by their side. See the My Books page for a fuller description.

And for those who are curious about the homeschool life or who just want a warm funny family read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is the one.

One reviewer describes it as “…a home education reassuring hug”. It’s easy to read and full of ideas about learning and new ways of seeing it, told in humorous ways. It may even change your mind about education for ever! Again, there’s more on the My Books page.

And if you’ve read one and enjoyed it do leave me a comment here, or review. Always so warmly appreciated. 🙂

What you up to?

I know I moan when the town centre is full of families throughout the term breaks, wandering around listlessly with their kids wondering how to occupy them.

There’s something desolate about empty playgrounds!

But, contrary person that I am, I also find the opposite disconcerting, when the schools are back in session and the place is empty and deserted. It seems abnormal somehow.

As abnormal as we were sometimes made to feel having our kids out and about when they ‘should be in school’ – as folks would say! Have you ever felt that?

So it’s always with a surge of delight when I observe a little group of parents and kids of school age still in the park on one of those pseudo summer afternoons Autumn does so well.

They must be Home Educators surely? I want to butt in and ask. But I wuss out in the end in case it seems a bit weird. Society is such now that parents get highly suspicious of someone standing there staring at their kids!

But know this; it gives me immense feelings of joy to come across these little groups of families out and about enjoying themselves as I hope you’re doing. And in fact it would be lovely to meet some of you, find out what you’re all up to these days, update my experience of Home Ed which I have to admit is less than current now that ours have grown and flown. That was, after all, what educating them was all about but doesn’t stop me missing it!

So if any of you belong to groups who’d like to chat with a post-home educator then get in touch. I’ll come and visit if you’re not too far away (I’m East Midlands). I’m happy to answer questions in return for asking some of my own!

Leave me a comment or contact if you’re interested and I’ll get back to you.

Meanwhile thoroughly enjoy taking your home educating out and about, smug in the fact your kids shouldn’t necessarily be in school! All outings are educational, social and an opportunity for experiencing the world.

And remember that not everyone watching you enjoying yourselves will turn out to be suspect!

Why should home educating always be positive!

I was sharing some tweets with Kate @kateonthinice recently as she reported a positive home educating day on her blog. 

She’d fallen into a trap common with many home schooling families. The trap that makes you believe that just because you chose to home educate, every day should be positive. And actually there’s two traps, the second one being that if it isn’t you start to feel guilty about it!

I did it! I bet many home educators reading this have done it too – are doing it now perhaps? But now I know that this is absolutely crazy thinking.

Regularly check in with the things that make you feel good

Crazy in the first place to assume that you can make every day positive when in fact, you’re just human and some human days are totally crap, home educating or not! And crazy to overlook the glaringly obvious fact that, whatever you are doing, it is never always positive.

Life isn’t like that! Why would we assume home educating is one hundred percent positive all the time?

Get real!

Ironically, I’ve been reading lately about keeping happy. (I needed a booster after a recent bereavement). And there was quite an amazing idea in this book along with the usual notes about checking in with the small things, understanding your bad habits, getting exercise, etc.

The basic idea in conclusion was that generally we are born happy. We generally do not come into the world negative. But as we grow and experience difficulties and challenges which are inevitable if we want to do anything, we encounter things that makes us unhappy. What happens then is that we easily get into the habit of becoming tense about these things, then these habits become our default and before we know what’s happening we’re practising negativity all the time.

What we have to do to counteract this is to remember to put our default switch back to positive – remember the things that make us feel good and act on them. Remember that challenges sometimes get in the way of feeling positive but they can be overcome. And remember to return to our positive default when they have.

Nice idea!

In relation to home educating the same thing can happen. After a while we can easily become too serious. We can become bogged down with comparing our pathways to school ones (which is what we wanted to abandon remember). We can sometimes get too heavy with our youngsters. We can get over burdened on occasion with the magnitude of what we’re doing in stepping away from mainstream.

What helps on these occasions when you feel a bit negative and worry whether home educating was a positive decision after all, is to remember; 

  • life is never one hundred percent positive and schooling would equally be throwing up a whole bunch of negatives
  • to seek out others to talk to
  • to keep a balanced perspective on it all by remembering why you did it in the first place
  • to step back and see the bigger picture!

And stop feeling guilty if your days go askew for a while – totally understandable – parenting often goes askew whatever you’re up to. Don’t blame home education.

Life often goes askew. But guess what?

You can change it!

 

(Don’t forget; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ may help with some of those times too). Available  Eyrie Press. or Amazon. See the My Books page for more details.

Beyond home education

Okay, I’m going to do something I rarely do; put up a mugshot!

This is because when you start out home educating, or think about it as an option for the family, you rarely imagine that one day these littlies will be grown ups. What you normally think is OMG, what are we doing; how will it all turn out?

And this is to show you that it will all turn out okay – the kids will be fine and they’ll still love you!

Our home education took place in many venues and many forms. Charley left, Chelsea right.

If you’ve been reading this blog recently you’ll know I’ve just spent some time in Brighton watching Chelsea’s production in the Fringe – that’s what she’s doing now. She has her own production company which she runs with her partner producing shows (it’s Edinburgh Fringe next), as well as employment to keep the roof over her head and fund some of her enterprises.

Happily Charley could get time off work and come with us – it’s rare we can get all together at the same time. She’s an assistant manager with a big retail company now but also building an independent craft business at the same time.

They are hard working, intelligent, social and competent young women making independent lives for themselves and I’m immensely proud. But in those early days home educating I could never have predicted any of this. You just parent and guide and suggest and encourage and actually – with that support – they do it for themselves.

So, our two have chosen those routes, but other home educating families we knew have done other things, took degrees, are in various professions and self-employment. All busy. All independent. All social. All living their own succesful lives – but successful has a very personal and individual definition anyway. Just like with school kids – you can’t really predict how things will turn out. Both require an amount of faith and trust – school gives no guarantees of success or happiness.

So I thought I’d just put these pictures here as you may well have read about the girls when they were little in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and they feature in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’, to reassure you and encourage you to quit worrying and just get on with the very important business of enjoying your home educating time with your littlies because there will come a time when you only see them in snatches and only rarely get a pic! And it’s so lovely when you do, so just this once I’m sharing it with you!

Happy times with the girls in Brighton recently, Chelsea left, Charley right!