Tag Archive | kids

Learning is not the result of teaching…

I had such a treat the other day; the opportunity to meet some fresh new home educators just starting out on their home education adventure.

They had two young children who’d only been at school a little since they’d started due to the pandemic. And it was this which had presented the parents with an opportunity to witness other approaches to learning. And see a change in their children’s health and wellbeing when out of school.

The biggest reason for them finally making the decision to take the children out of school now that they were attending again full time, they told me, was the deterioration in their children’s happiness and health again, both of which had dramatically improved in the months they’d been forced into doing school-at-home.

That was exactly what we witnessed in ours and a story that I hear so often from others.

It happens, I feel, because of something so many people fail to see or acknowledge: It’s not that children don’t like to learn – their curiosity and endless questions are proof that they do. It’s more because schools do not provide an environment in which all learners will thrive. That’s through no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is – although huge improvements could be made – but no one wants to acknowledge the needs of some children for something different.

Not every child’s personality is suited to the hubbub of school. And why should they be forced to endure it at the expense of their learning potential and wellbeing. These parents felt exactly the same about this and it’s what fuelled their decision.

Another interesting conversation I had with them stemmed from the fact that mum was a primary teacher. But she admitted she had an immense amount of un-learning to do herself, about the way children were taught, in relation to the way children learnt. And that these, in fact, are two very different things. She’d begun to see that now as she examined other approaches to educating, especially the more autonomous ones that she’d read about.

It put me in mind of an idea I came across very early on in our home educating days which was so helpful: That learning is not the result of teaching. It is the result of the activity of the learners.

During our early home educating days I thought a lot about what that actually means and kept the word ‘activity’ to the forefront of my approach to the children. It really helped.

Some valuable science going on here but sometimes the activities of my little learners seemed questionable. However, they all piece together to make a stimulating and successful education

This new home educating parent felt like I did about much of what went on in schools and what teachers were obliged to do to children under the guise of educating them. And how much of that was not only a waste of time, but also on occasion not doing the kids any good at all!

When you’re stuck in an institution you learn to do what the institution dictates. Schools are institutions which are at the mercy of decision makers and politicians who mostly have little knowledge of learning, education, children’s development and what is needed to become truly educated. Indeed what education truly is and what it’s for; in life beyond school and at a personal level. It’s not just about exams. (Read more on this in my educational philosophy by scrolling down the page ‘About Home Education) All politicians think about are the stats which tests and exams provide. But stats have nothing to do with the humanity of children and the way they learn and how to integrate into society.

These two little ones I met were happy, articulate, social, busy, engaged and had an actively developing intelligence.

This little family are clearly going to be okay as they find their way along the home educating road, making it up as they go along, as most of us do. Just like we do with parenting. And I’m confident it will all turn out okay as it does for most, despite the fact that it feels like a bit of a patchwork, DIY affair when you start out. It all works.

Of course, the big exams of the future question came up, even though these children were only at the primary stage. And I know it’s what a lot of parents worry about – politics has taught us to!

I told them that parents find their way with that at the time and not to look too far ahead. I always say that if you take care of the little learning moments, conversations, activities of your learners, and their well being each day, the future will take care of itself.

It was such a delight to be in the company of this little home educating family. And it made me feel again how I miss all those Home Ed times and the activities of my little learners!

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!

Christmas tales…

A little Christmassy extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – the heartfelt story of our family’s learning days at home, when the girls were roughly nine and twelve:

“…With it being our third year of kids at home full time around Christmas you’d think we’d have engineered a plan for secrets. We decided we’d try honesty and appeal to their mature natures now that they were eleven and eight.

“Your dad and I are just going upstairs for a while and it’s important you don’t disturb us. Have you got things to do?”

“What for?” There was a little twinkle in Chelsea’s eye as she asked which reminded me distinctly of mum.

“It’s a secret,” I said smiling.

“A Christmas secret?” asked Charley also grinning now and knowing exactly what we were up to.

“Maybe,” said their dad. He tried to be mysterious but the girls are too clever for him. “So you won’t disturb us, will you?”

“Maybe!” returned Chelsea copying him and Charley smirked.

We went upstairs and de-hid all their presents from our various drawers.

“Do you think they’ll disturb us?” said Charles, cutting paper on the slant and wrestling to find the end of the sticky tape.

“I don’t think so, but look, we’ll turn back the bedcovers then if they come up whilst we’re wrapping we’ll throw the duvet over everything.” You have to be inventive when you’re a Home Educator.

“Do you remember doing this when they were at school,” I said.

“Yea, life was easy then,” he said grinning and spitting sticky tape from between his teeth.

“What? You think tears and illness every day were easy?” We laughed. I wrapped. He stuck. If he was in charge of the wrapping all the presents would look like parcels of fish and chips.

“No, it was awful. I can’t believe we’ve done this as long as we have. It just seems so ordinary now. You should hear the others at work going on about homework and packed lunches and stuff. Not to mention Christmas concert practises. They’re complaining the kids aren’t getting on with their learning” He stuck my finger to the parcel.

I extricated it and reached for some ribbon.

“I can imagine. Do they say anything about ours then?”

“Only how they can see why we do it.” He put his massive thumb on the delicate bow I created, squishing it. I tied his thumb down.

“Not enough for them to have a go though!” I laughed. Then the stairs creaked. Charles leapt off the bed, smacked his head on the sloping ceiling but still managed to toss the duvet over the presents as I stuffed the paper under the bed. We sat there and listened. Sniggering was coming from the landing.

“Go away,” Charles called.

“We’re not coming in, we’re only going to our rooms.” The giggling got fainter. We exchanged looks. Charles sneaked a peek through a crack in the old planked door.

“What they doing?” I whispered.

“They’ve gone into their bedrooms but their doors are open.”

“Let’s carry on. I don’t think they’ll come in. They wouldn’t want to spoil their Christmas surprises. Besides, I think Chelsea’s becoming aware of other things that go on in bedrooms!”

Charles raised his eyebrows in glee. “In that case, perhaps we should make good use of it.”

“What? You think you could enjoy sex with giggling going on at the bedroom door and creaking floorboards?” We laughed like naughty kids but continued wrapping.

“What you laughing at?” came from right outside the door. We bundled the duvet back over everything once more.

“Never you mind. Go back downstairs,” I shouted. I crept over and peeped to see if there was any peeping coming from the other side the crack. None.

“Come on, let’s get it done before they come up again.” The rest were wrapped in haste and I fear my parcels looked like fish and chips too.

Charley looked shocked and uncomfortable. Her face was full of both thunder and distress and very red. Her eyes looked like they were going to fill up any minute. She turned her head away and would not look at Charles or me either.

Chelsea just folded her arms across her chest, adopted her most disdainful position and stated emphatically “If anyone asks; you are not my dad.”

Charles couldn’t help it. All the staff were told to dress up for the Christmas market for charity but the girls weren’t impressed. And Charley absolutely hated anyone dressed up in costume.  I got a bit of a shock myself seeing this large rotund red fellow with two cushions up his jacket and his face adorned with a mass of flowing white stuff. It’s very off-putting seeing someone who you are as familiar with as your own body parts taking on another persona. He was sweating so much the bits of his face you could see were authentically shining as Santa’s does in all the pictures. It did the trick. A good crowd had gathered at the store and money was being thrown continually in the charity bucket.

“God, I keep losing my trousers,” he said grabbing a handful of red bottom and hoisting it up. I couldn’t help laughing.

“I knew you’d laugh,” he said.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just your trousers.” I tried to help. But grappling with Santa’s trousers seemed even funnier. Obviously everyone else thought so too as two more pounds went in the bucket. It’s not every day people see Santa being groped.

“Do you have to behave like that?” demanded Chelsea, standing holding Charley’s hand a little bit distant whilst we tried to control our hysteria. She still wouldn’t look at him.

“Have a sweetie,” said Charles holding out the bucket to her.

“No!”

“It’s only a bit of fun,” I said.

“You look stupid.”

I didn’t care, I was in the Christmas spirit. I had a quick snog with Santa and left him to his collecting.

“We’ll go look round the Christmas Market. See you later.”

“Okay. See you later girls.” They ignored him and pulled me away. But Chelsea called back over her shoulder.

“Save us some sweeties, dad.”

We bought a few Christmas presents and then had to get some new wellies for Chelsea. Charley just got the hand-me-downs but she was still at the stage where anything of Chelsea’s was revered. Wellies had taken on a new persona of their own in the shops. They were more pictorial than the efforts we see in the Tate Modern and a hell of a price. I refused to be ripped off, plus the fact we had tight budgets. But Chelsea ogled the bright ones wistfully.

“I’m sorry darling, these will have to do. The others are just too expensive,” I said picking up the plain green ones, the cheapest we could find. I felt a bit wretched about this. In order to Home Educate, time isn’t the only thing we sacrifice and all I ever seem to say is ‘we can’t afford it’. But she’s so intuitive she must have picked up on it.

“It doesn’t matter mum. I’ll paint my own with the paints we got from the recycling centre.”

I was so grateful for her magnitude I cuddled her up. “What a brilliant idea! And I bet they’ll be better than any in the shops.”

“Yea, and no one else will have any the same,” she said looking at a girl wearing some we’d just seen in Woolworths.

“Can I paint mine too?” asked Charley.

“Sure. We’ll have a wellie painting session. We could even paint your dad’s,” I said winking at them. They really liked that idea.

When we went back later Charles looked his normal self again. He opened his arms to Charley and she leapt into them with clear relief. Chelsea lobbed her arms round his waist.

“Is that better now?” he asked carrying Charley to the car. She inspected him slightly doubtfully. Chelsea smiled happily up at him holding the free hand.

“You did look daft, dad,” she giggled.

“Did you remember the sweets?” asked Charley.

He put her down and produced a packet from his pocket. Finally Charley grinned at him too. It was definitely better now.

“Mum! You can’t go out like that,” Chelsea said as I tied tinsel on my shoes ready for a Christmas party.

“Why not? It’s Christmas isn’t it.” I looked at her in feigned indignation. She’d got that suffering look on again.

“Doh! What do you look like?” She was getting to be a right Tweenager.

“I think you look nice,” said Charley clasping my leg in a cuddle from the carpet where she was building a structure with our logs.

“Well at least put some lipstick on,” said Chelsea still trying to make something out of me. She rummaged in a make up bag so extensive it would be the envy of Julian Clary. “How about this?” She produced something nearly black.

“Black?” I shrieked. “It’s Christmas, not Halloween.”

“It’s not black, it’s plum.”

“I’ll have some,” said Charley hopefully. She was ignored. I sneaked a look in the bag of sticky powdery tubs and jars and pencils. It staggered me how she loved it so, I wasn’t into it at all. But I humoured her and found a jar of lovely sparkly glittery gluey stuff with sequin stars in.

“Ooo, this is nice.” I opened the pot and smeared some across my chest. It made grubby stains as if I hadn’t washed for a week. “Oh!” I looked in the mirror, disappointed.

“Oh, mum, not like that.” Chelsea took over and I had the sense our mother and daughter roles were reversing. She wiped it about and the smudges disappeared leaving a myriad of glistening sparkles. Then she added the sequins.

“Can I have some?” asked Charley again, thinking her sister had softened her attitude.

“No!” was the emphatic retort.

“Can I have some then?” asked Charles.

“NO!” they both shrieked together. And give us their parents-are-prats look.

We finished getting ready.

“So do we look alright now?” I asked.

“Yes.” They smile united. But I couldn’t help a last word.

“You know it’s not how you look, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“Yes, we know!”

They know too much, my kids.

Christmas continued sparkly all the way through.

The best thing about it was the painted wellies. They were works of art fit for exhibiting in The Tate themselves, with swirls and colours and rainbows. If I’d bought the coloured ones we never would have had such creativity. Being on a tight budget certainly makes you think creatively so maybe I shouldn’t worry after all. Charley painted gold stars on hers. But she painted straight over the mud so the stars had a brown tinge.

Charles and I used the ‘holiday’ from education to ignore the children and just live life. But it didn’t work. We didn’t want it to really. We were a family, we were a team. Life and education were as indistinguishable from one another as our family and love. I suspected it always would be.”

You cannot photograph sensations

I’ve enjoyed Instagramming my regular walks – wanting to share a bit of the countryside with you all.

The danger of Instagram though, and other social media sites, is that you can be so busy photographing the moment, you’re not actually engaging with it. More than likely you’re engaging with the opportunity to show it off to others. In fact, holding your phone up almost creates a barrier – certainly a psychological one – between you and the sensation of mindfully enjoying.

I noticed this particularly on an autumn walk a month or so ago. I was so busy sharing the experience on my phone, and looking at the photos to see if they were good enough, I’d disengaged from the experience itself. Not just the sight of nature laid sweetly before my eyes, but all the other sensations of being there as well; a last bit of Lark song of the season, the smell of the damp foliage, the shine of the dew and the soft touch of the gentle breeze.

Instead of mindfully being there, I was missing it all. I put the phone away.

This is why I hardly took any photos at my daughter’s wedding. (See recent post here) There were several others snapping away, some who’d been particularly engaged to do so. There would be plenty of photographic memories, I could appropriate!

But you can’t photograph sensations. And it was the sensations of the day I wanted to bring away with me.

And it’s made me wonder, as I see so many photos of your delightful children and the activities they’re doing splashed across social media, whether some parents are so busy photographing their kids for posting on sites they’re actually missing out on the sensations of being there with them.

One day you won’t be! They’ll have flown.

A grainy one from the pre-digital days, when the odd personal photos were more treasured for being fewer, and we were consequently more engaged with the moment!

A single photo memory is nice to have, I agree. But I suspect our phones have pushed us beyond that, beyond even the sensation of wanting to share, towards an addiction of wanting approval, likes and endorsement. These gadgets and platforms are designed to be addictive.

Just a thought.

So this is a call for you to enjoy your kids while they’re there with you. Masses of pics are no substitute for living the moment, of being with them, engaged. The depth of those feelings cannot be reproduced in an other medium. Only that which you have experienced within.

Put your phone down and live your life as a parent for the experience at the time, not for the reproduction of it.

Decry the tidy – it’s not educational!

He’s one of the Marmite people. Someone who either provokes love or derision! Whichever, it’s usually a strong emotion towards the presenter, author and naturalist, Chris Packham. I’m not sure which it is from me except that I do have immense admiration for someone who’s stuck at his cause despite the difficulties and challenges he’s encountered.

I’ve been sitting outside reading his book ‘Back to Nature’, co-authored by conservationist and environmental activist Megan McCubbin. And it’s brilliant. It talks about how our need for nature was exacerbated by the Covid crisis and Lockdowns, bringing people back in touch with the natural world which too many have neglected for too long. But this very readable book is also a stark examination of the harm we do nature, much of it clandestine and political, dotted with facts and figures many of which I wouldn’t have believed possible, and exposes the many flaws in our conservation practices which most of us are ignorant of.

But we can make changes for the better in our own small, day-to-day ways. And one of these is to do with being tidy!

When you’re a home educator you need to learn to live with untidy!

An untidy house, with materials and resources, projects and creations strewn about, is far more likely to stimulate children’s brains into action than a bare a tidy one. And action, of whatever sort, gets the kids’ brains learning and developing, is good for their bodies, minds, spirits and education. (Read more on this in Chapter 25 of ‘A Home Education Notebook’) Basically, where there’s stuff about and things going on, there is stimulation and busyness and skills being learned as youngsters cannot resist the temptation to touch, handle, investigate, explore and use, all pre-cursors to learning. Untidy has enormous developmental potential and value. Far more than show-case, manicured rooms. They are as boring as Chris says manicured lawns are!

For it’s untidy in nature that Chris says we also need. We need little untidy patches, however big or small and wherever they are, to give nature hidey holes, and foot holds, and feeding stations in our concrete and commercial worlds. We need to encourage our kids to grow things, even if it’s a pot outside the door with weeds in. (Weeds are nature too). We need to observe and celebrate those bits of green growing out of cracks in pavements and walls. We need to get away from the idea of tidy gardens and environments and make any little space, garden or otherwise that we’re lucky enough to have, wildlife friendly rather than manicured. Leave leaves, stalks and stems, let old sticks and logs lie, and neglect little corners and scruffy places for these will all give some wild critter a home. And never spray your dandelions!

What this will also provide are opportunities for you and the family to explore and investigate what happens and who lives there, and ensure that your child’s educational understanding is of the fact that every little creature, plus all the invisible ones that will be part of their food chain, matters in the balance of all things, matters for the food we eat, for the homes we have, for the sustenance provided by the planet that we all depend upon.

In the bigger picture of nature and education untidy doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you can in these small ways make a contribution to the natural world. Understanding it is an essential element of any curriculum, of any educational process. It’s not just the big things that big conservation pioneers do that matters. The small things that you and the children do – and do without – matter just as much.

Love or hate Chris Packham his book is an examination of the world you’re potentially leaving your children and how you as a family can make it better for them. You might like to give it a read!

Considering home schooling instead of back to school?

With the return to school looming on the horizon I thought it would be a good time to repost this blog which asks;

What do you really know about home education?

The reason I ask is because there are still so many stories surrounding it. Including less than accurate stuff in the media often based around untrue myths. Add on to that the debacle of school-at-home style of home schooling that was forced onto parents during the pandemic and the concept of real home education has become quite blurred.

So I thought I’d put a few ideas here in case you were considering this approach to your child’s education in preference to school.

Firstly, did you know that there are thousands and thousands of families now successfully and happily home educating?

And did you know that most home schooled children go on to make a success of their education, career, life in the same way school children do, despite not having been in school for all those years?

Did you know that home educating doesn’t have to cost the earth and parents on very low incomes, including single parents, still manage to do it? Throwing money at a child does not make them educated!

Did you know that home educating children make friends, have friends, build excellent social skills, have a vibrant social life and socialise just as others do?

Did you know that there is a huge wealth of learning resources, lessons, curriculum, courses, printouts, both free and otherwise, available on line? You can literally find out anything.

Did you know that families never home educate in isolation (unless they choose to) and that there are broad networks of others to connect to that share resources, concerns, to learn from and find support via social media and other organisations which also lead to physical meet-ups and groups to get together with? Many of whom will probably be getting together for their annual ‘not back to school’ picnic right now!

Did you know that as much home schooling takes place outside the home as in it and your community is full of resources to facilitate it? You’re not at home day after day, on your own, not knowing what or how to learn.

Did you know that contrary to what many parents may worry about, being with the children all the time tends to improve their family relationships?

Did you know that parents are free to choose whatever approach to education suits their child’s needs? This could involve following a curriculum – or not, following age specific targets and objectives – or not, adopting either a structured or completely autonomous approach, or proceeding with complete flexibility according to your individual’s interests and the way they work best. And that parents find that home educating gives them the opportunity to successfully overcome any difficulties children encountered with learning in a school setting.

Did you know that it is completely legal, in fact it is the legal responsibility of the parents to see that their children are receiving an education suitable to their needs (see the law here), it’s just that most parents hand that over to schools? (I wonder how many schools get away with breaking the law in failing to provide that for some children?)

Did you know that most home educating families never use testing in their approach, yet home schooled children successfully go on to achieve a good educational standard, go on to further and higher education, including exams, or work without having done a test at all, and cope competently within those more formal settings? Testing does not make an education.

And finally consider this; home educating families are not weird or different or unable to participate in mainstream life, just because they don’t do mainstream school. They are just the same as any other family wanting to do the best for their children and that best may take a myriad of different forms yet all the home educated youngsters I’ve known have progressed into the working world just the same as their school contemporaries and once there you wouldn’t know they hadn’t been to school.

So if you want to know more, take a look at my books, Google some of the home educating blogs and groups (Facebook’s a good place to start) and connect with others to find out how it happens. And you can read our own story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which will give you an idea of a home educating life and hopefully make you warm and giggly!

Lockdown Home Schooling!

I may be a home educator at heart, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for all those parents of school kids who suddenly find themselves home schooling without having made that choice for themselves.

That’s extremely tough. Especially so if you have to keep working from home, doing the same hours you did before. It must be impossible to focus adequately on both.

Home educating families who’ve chosen to do so, have mostly made that choice after researched decisions and planning and re-jigging their lifestyle to fit. Not to mention a willing and inspired heart! I guess this won’t be the case for many parents in Lockdown right now. Not only that the facilities out of the house, which home educators would depend on, are no longer available. That’s tough for all of us, socially as well as educationally.

It helps, I think, to be aware of these stresses and challenges we’re all of us facing right now. And to be kind and gentle with your days, with your expectations, and especially aware of practising strategies to remain mindful of your mental and spiritual well-being too.

Last year when Lockdown first confronted us I posted some ideas to try and help those parents who are home schooling now. As I explained it might be time to examine your own ideas and attitude to schooling and learning and come to a different understanding in order to help yourself through, as some parents have rigid ideas and expectations that may not be serving them well during this difficult time.

Here are some examples:

Understand the concept of time differently. In a school day much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home keep that in mind and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.

Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.

So use this time to encourage experience of other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills. More motivational than workbooks as well! (See the poster below – it’s true!)

You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trusts and organisations, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities. Not forgetting the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc, historical films and documentaries.

To maintain freshness, pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company (when possible), screen based or written and the practical. Contrast helps motivation too.

Encourage separate times. Discuss and plan for each to have some personal time and space in the house without others interruptions and promote this as a valuable and important recharge time. (You might have to suggest things to do with it at first) Talk about respecting each others’ space and needs to help you keep sane.

Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to take charge of this independently.

You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s, as well as overall well being. Google will provide a range of ideas.

Finally remember that this time will change, try not to worry that the kids are missing out – they’re just experiencing something different which can be just as educational, search some of the blogs I posted last March April for further inspiration and keep in mind what the poster says.

Good luck!

Lockdown: a good time to question

Well I wasn’t going to put my own mugshot on here, my daughter’s much more photogenic!

My daughter’s given me a haircut.

Is she a hairdresser? No! Does she have any idea about what she’s doing? No! Has she had any training about shaping a short cut?

Nope!

But stuck in during Lockdown and unable to go to the hairdressers I decided to risk it or end up looking like a shaggy dog.

It’s turned out brilliantly. Choppy admittedly but that’s just how I like it. Which has made me question why the heck I’m bothering traipsing to the hairdressers once a month.

Lockdown is inevitably making us confront and question many parts of our life. And I suspect there are others who are now questioning those things they suddenly find they can do for themselves, children’s learning being one of them.

A huge majority of parents have been thrust into the scary position of having their children learn at home, when they wouldn’t choose to. But I guess in some cases, where it’s working quite well, it’s prompting questions about what goes on in schools.

Now I’m not questioning the incredible skills of good hairdressers or brilliant teachers. Neither am I suggesting they’re the same thing! And of course this is only a temporary situation.

What I am suggesting is that lockdown is raising questions about schooling and learning that have long needed to be asked. Questions like; what are schools actually providing – educationally, holistically, health wise, or in terms of child care perhaps? Do kids actually need teachers in order to learn? Or do they need a more nurturing environment in order to reach potential? Can a DIY style home education work just as well as that which schools provide?

The answer to the final question is a definite yes; thousands of home educating families have already proved it. And there is a generation of home schooled youngsters now out in the world working, earning, contributing, and no one would ever know they’d not been to school – as one colleague commented to my eldest.

So there is plenty of proof that home educating is a very successful approach to learning if a child isn’t thriving in school as ours weren’t, as many don’t.

Some just exist, or endure, but is that enough?

A lot of parents say that they’d like to home educate but are worried about the risk. My answer to that would be that we take risks with everything we do, home educating or sending kids to school – certainly with impromptu haircuts and even those at the hairdressers actually!

But whatever we do with our children we can engage in a continual process of review, reassessment, research and analysis of what’s not working and find an approach that does and adapt. Which is more than I can say when I take the risk with a haircut – can hardly stick it back on again if it goes wrong!

We are not going to remain unchanged by this time of lockdown. And perhaps one of the good things that will come of it will be that we review our ideas, values and priorities about many things. The approach to learning and educating our children among them.

This time of school-at-home is not the same as home educating, where you develop a completely different approach to learning than the prescriptive ones schools have to adopt. But if your child has thrived, and you have survived during your time without school in your family life, you might want to reconsider your priorities about schooling and take a more in depth look at the alternative that thousands find fulfilling and successful.

There is plenty of support now to help you!

Are you discombobulated about your children’s learning?

If you’re struggling with your children’s education right now, being mindful in the way you think about it might make you feel a little easier.

Whether you’re doing school-at-home or home educating many of the same issues arise in ‘doing the work’, creating pressures in family life that make everyone feel discombobulated!

I love that word. Discombobulated describes very succinctly what we’re all feeling during this corona crisis. It’s defined as confused and disconcerted. Fits the bill, doesn’t it?

And I imagine many parents are discombobulated about their children’s education right now, both those doing school-set tasks at home and those who were already home educating for whom the lockdown is just as inhibiting.

Some of our feelings are caused by the pressure that we put upon ourselves when we’re not mindful of the way we think about it.

For example; think about the school day. Parents tend to think about kids in school doing useful stuff from 9 am til 3 pm but it doesn’t exactly work like that. During those hours there is a lot of moving about, messing about, distractions, disruptions, wandering attention and general procrastination and time wasting. I averaged it once in a classroom; the children actually only get about 7 minutes an hour of constructive time! So if you’re pressurising your child to do 9 til 3 non stop ‘work’ because that’s what you think they do in school I should stop. Whether you’re home educating or doing school-at-home your child will work more quickly through stuff and will have a lot more time for other valuable pursuits which contribute to their educational advancement in ways you’d never imagine!

Another example, thinking about the basics; the maths, english and science done in schools is designed to be done in schools and in such a way it can be measured. This can make it dull and the children switch off from seeing them as interesting subjects. However maths, english and science come up in everyday life at home all the time in much more relevant ways. For example, budgeting (maths) is a constant consideration (and essential life skill). Messaging, searching online, reading anything, comics, any form of writing like lists for example (not forgetting drawing and colouring are excellent for practising skills involved in writing) all increase the use and understanding of vocabulary and language as do discussions and chats – all useful literacy practice. And we are involved in science all the time in everything we do if you just notice – and use it as a starting point for investigation. We have bodies – biology. We use stuff and live in stuff which all originated at some point from the earth (materials, properties, sources etc). Not only do we have a virus crisis (what’s a virus?) we have a planetary crisis – the planet being one of the most important subjects for scientific research. Do you see what I mean? Scientific questioning and discussion develops a scientific mind as much as anything you might do in a workbook – and it’s real. Making maths english and science relevant to the youngsters’ lives through real stuff is as valuable as the maths, english and science you do on the curriculum. Be innovative about how you tackle it; relating it to life makes it more interesting and doable.

And finally be mindful of the idea that everything you do has the potential to be educative; your family interaction, discussions, contact by tech, cooking, organising, getting your exercise, playing, looking after yourself, managing life together, clapping the NHS. All builds skills, mental, physical, life skills – all has a worth.

This is a time of trauma for everyone. No one needs added pressure brought by needless worry about ‘school work’ or dull academic exercises.

We are all discombobulated! Many of our comfort blankets are gone and we’re all having to work life out in new ways for the time being. Fretting about academics will not help. And is not necessary for I bet that when the kids are in their twenties you’ll never even notice the school days they missed or this time of home schooling – however you’re doing it!

Family harmony, security, nurture and getting through as happily as you can are more important than academics right now. Far better the children remember a happy time of family learning together than the pressure of being forced to do stuff that’s less than relevant in this discombobulated time. Not forgetting that even discombobulated, and how you tackle it, can be educational!

So I suggest you take the pressure of yourselves – and the kids – and rethink it!

How do homeschool kids learn?

Following on from last week’s post I thought it might be helpful to talk about this.

It’s such a huge question. How does anyone learn? How do you learn now you’re a parent?

Discounting any specific academic courses you may be undertaking I think you’ll agree your learning otherwise, (say about your new technology, or looking up how to fix, cook, parent), has little resemblance to the way schools do it – you probably do most of it online and by asking around too. Yet it will be just as effective.

School learning structures are the way they are because the learning there has to be measured – not because they’re the best way to do it!

However, learning doesn’t have to be measured in order to be successful. And for most home educators it isn’t measured – it’s just experienced. Families just encourage, prompt, provide resources and engage with what their learner wants to learn, along with essential skills to do so, and find ways to facilitate it, practically, physically, mentally and most importantly interestingly!

They do it through a multitude of ways; online, out and about, through meetings and sharing learning with others, in the local community, museums, galleries, sports and play centres, libraries, workshops, visits to various sites, nature reserves and places of interest, all so the learning experience is as first hand as possible, along with practice of academic skills and study at times.

But it’s very hard to get your head round those unfamiliar approaches that home educating families take to their learning. So I’ve written a whole chapter about it in my guide to home education; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ which may help you get to grips with it. (For more details scroll down the ‘My Books’ page above) If you haven’t got a copy and prefer not to buy, you can request that your library do so, then others will be able to access it too.

The chapter looks at both a traditional view and a broader view of how children learn, what they need in order to do so, how they learn without teaching from everyday experiences including play, and then goes on to look at different approaches families use in more detail, the pros and cons, along with some suggestions on how to choose an approach that’s right for you. The chapter also talks about motivation and about children having charge of their own learning which may be a really radical idea for some, but is still doable and effective.

From the book; Learning Without School Home Education

Learning and educating are such a personal experience – although schools tend to generalise it – every learner is different and everyone’s circumstances are different. But despite these diverse and idiosyncratic approaches which families take to their home education the young people all seem to end up in the same place; intelligent, articulate, socially skilled, and mostly with a portfolio of qualifications in line with their school contemporaries.

Don’t be daunted by an unfamiliar approach to learning that’s so different from the traditional. Traditions always need challenging to see if they’re still worth hanging onto, although I guess you know that already or you wouldn’t be challenging the tradition of schooling! By opening your mind about how children learn you will be able to give your youngsters a much more pro-active and enjoyable experience of learning that will set them up for life.