Tag Archive | kids

The parenting endurance test!

January can feel like an endurance test!

I find it hard to keep my spirits on the bright side when my daily walk, which I take for that very reason – keeping bright, becomes grueling rather than graceful at this time of the year.

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The best bit of a wet January morning; shiny droplets on the winter flowering cherry

Recording my pictures on Instagram helps me focus on the charms rather than the challenges, even if I have to seek them sometimes.

But that’s a good way to get through all challenges; remind yourself of the best bits among life’s barrage.

A parent asked me recently how I managed to get through the challenge of the years home educating with such ‘patience and grace’?

The short answer is; I didn’t all the time!

For, although it is mostly the best bits I write about to encourage and inspire – and it is an inspiring thing to do – it is certainly a challenge, verging on an endurance test sometimes. But isn’t all parenting like that – not just home educating?

The thing is; you know your kids are absolutely delightful beings. You know you completely love them to bits. You know home educating is totally the best thing you’ve ever done. And you know you don’t want it any other way.

BUT…..

There are times you are inevitably going to shout ‘FFS’!!!

I had those times too.

You would also have those times if the children were in school – believe me!

The longer answer to the above question was that I built strategies to help me through the grueling bits. We need that with both parenting and home education.

You’ll need to take deep breaths – often.

You’ll need to step back and let be – often.

You’ll need to stop worrying – that’s a decision as much as any.

You’ll need to trust that time will sort it.

Get outside – often.

You’ll need to look after yourself – as much as the children. Your mental and spiritual well being is included in that; build strategies to help refocus when needed (like me with the Instagram).

And you need to winkle out the best bits. There are always good bits.

Seasons change. January passes. Kids grow. Family life changes rapidly. All challenges change just as rapidly too.

All will be well.

(For more enduring comfort and reassurance try my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Or just for mum support; ‘Mumhood’. See the books page for details)

What’s wrong with solitary?

There was something sad about the solitary swan I saw on the field the other day. Knowing that they usually mate for life I was feeling for it. Had it lost it’s mate? Or had it not started courting yet – it looked to be a young one?

From the BBC Earth website - click on the pic

From the BBC Earth website – click on the pic

Whichever, it was as heart wrenching as seeing a solitary child standing in the playground. The one that no one’s playing with.

We have a kind of cultural feeling of wrongness surrounding the idea of solitary. Forgetting that some solitude in a child’s day is as important as social. But we rarely remember that, making assumptions that it’s lonely to be solitary and often forcing associations onto kids they just don’t want, instead of respecting their need for space.

I suppose the important point about solitude is whether it’s chosen or not. And whether that’s a positive choice.

We are all very different. We all have very different needs in that department. Some people need more personal space than others. Some like to be surrounded by crowds and people all the time. But some prefer less and there is nothing sad about making the choice to be solitary at times and we should respect that.

Obviously no one likes to think of their child as being unpopular. But choosing to schedule some time away from others in their manic day is as important as choosing some time for yourself away from the demands of others or always having to be on show.

I know adults who have such hang-ups, and fear sometimes, about being solitary for a while they go to strange lengths to avoid it. their biggest concern being what others might think of them; that if they’re spending time on their own others might think they’re sad or unpopular.

I spend huge amounts of time on my own. And I did as a child. I’m neither sad or unpopular. It’s just I’ve recognised it as an important part of my mental well being, to help me be the person I need to be, and to slough off the crash of mainstream life.

With constant connectivity, even our solitary spaces are invaded now, and our image is so public. But let’s avoid this becoming so invasive that we buy into this negative attitude to solitude and never give ourselves, or our children, time and space for individual reflection, in which to be imaginative, inventive, creative, and who we need to be. And avoid perpetuating the myth that being on our own is somehow wrong. It’s not. It’s healthy.

And perhaps I need to stop anthropomorphising and doing exactly that about the swan!

What’s it really like to home educate?

In case there’s a few parents out there wondering what it would be like to home educate instead of restarting school after half term, here’s a post from when ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ was published which will tell you!

It’s collected some super reviews on Amazon since then so if you’re one of the wonderful parents who left one a massive THANK YOU! If you haven’t and you’d like to I’d be eternally grateful, as I am to all my readers.

For those who haven’t read it yet, it’s basically the story of an ordinary family.

Make a good present for someone!

Make a good present for someone!

Yes – ordinary. Not extreme, or alternative, academic or religious because we’re not necessarily any of those things. We just felt that we could no longer watch our kids becoming unhappy, unwell, and switched off to the learning they’d always been so keen on before they went to school. So we decided to withdraw them from the system and do something else; home educate. And we built an extraordinary happiness doing it.

It wasn’t all roses – course not! No family life is. But it wasn’t as hard as you might think either. What it was – or turned out to be – was a continued joy and something we never regretted for one single instant.

If the idea of home schooling freaks you out this will help you realise it doesn’t need to. Because, if you think about it, you will have already been home educating your child. You just weren’t aware of it. But you will have been teaching your child no amount of stuff pre-school; how to walk and talk, use tools and the toilet! Get dressed and use technology. All sorts of things.

It’s just that this little family returned to that full time, educating through every day life, through all the little dramas all families go through, from indecision, bereavement and moving house, to what to cook for tea and how to think about the future. It all has the potential for learning – even going to the loo!

So, if you’ve ever wondered what a home school family life was like, this will give you a peep. A peep at the learning and laughter and love all rolled into one, that home educating turned out to be.

Read an exert or two on the MY BOOKS page.

And for more tips and insight into the home educating life see my newest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’

Are you neglecting part of your child’s education?

We love our kids. We lavish care and attention on them, buy them treats, take them places, see to their education and welfare. That’s our responsibility as parents.

So if we’re taking that responsibility seriously, why then is obesity becoming an epidemic?

I know that’s a sensitive and contentious question. No one wants to point the blame at anyone. Parents have enough of that.

But I look at it this way; we would consider it total neglect if we did not educate our kids in the skills of reading and maths for example. Yet we don’t see it as neglect when we fail to educate them in the skills of maintaining a healthy weight, and teach them through our own demonstration.

I’m raising this issue after watching this shocking report on Inside Out East about Type 2 Diabetes and how, in many cases, it leads to surgery which could have been preventable. It’s here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07zcmx3/inside-out-east-24102016

It’s a subject that has had much coverage around the news to raise awareness of this growing problem. (Read more here)

I also live in one of the poorer areas like those in the programme where there are almost more people who are obese than otherwise, and I can see the size of the problem, if you’ll forgive the pun.

When you are surrounded by people who are all similar to you, you begin to see this as the norm; it becomes a cultural norm, you begin to think it doesn’t matter as everyone seems to be overweight – it must be okay. And it’s all too easy to over indulge when fast food, buns, cakes, chips and chocolate leap out and tempt you at every turn. I should know; I have a dangerously sweet tooth that’s very difficult to manage!

But it does matter and when it comes to causing harm to our kids no one can take the responsibility other than ourselves as parents and mentors. I agree that companies cash in on our weaknesses. But they can only do that if we comply; the ultimate responsibility lies with us.

According to the report people are having amputations that could have been prevented by taking some of that responsibility. Is that what we’re leading our kids towards too?

What’s it worth to develop a lifestyle that avoids such dire consequences?

Kids do what we do. Whilst they’re kids we have an opportunity to lay down some fundamental habits that set them up for life. You cannot control them forever. But you can give them a good start – you have, in this case, to practice what you preach. Be what you want them to become – that’s the most influential way. Words don’t work as well as actions.

The habits you cultivate in your family now are the ones that will impact on your children the most, whilst they are children. After that it’s up to them.

But habits of lifestyle and habits of learning are equally important subjects of an education. And are surely all part of the duty we share to facilitate a future for our kids that is happy, healthy and wise.

Fab time!

I had a delightful time meeting parents at the Home Education Fair in London.
Thank you so much to all who came up to me to tell me how helpful the books have been. I’m overwhelmed by your kind compliments. 20161002_120726

Quite amazing to see the increase in interest in home education. Although when I hear accounts of some schools’ practices and approaches that shouldn’t be surprising. And not surprising to hear that parents want to encourage their children to learn in a different way from the hot housing and political wangling that the system has made of education.

It seems there are all sorts of reason parents turn to home education; some as a result of problems in school, some decide before the kids even get to school because they’re so disenchanted by the system. And it crosses all ages of children now from toddlers to teens. Some kids never go to school at all, some go for parts of it, some end up out of it at a later stage. It also crosses all the social, cultural, financial, educational climes as well. And it’s wonderful to see parents making a stand against the political manipulation of children as pawns to raise popularity with voters.

I always thought I was a cynic thinking this way about the education system. But as I’ve seen the joy of learning taken away from children, teachers and schools, I feel it even more strongly now.

Home educating (or home schooling as it’s sometimes referred too – see this post) puts the joy back into learning and education, as it should be. It also puts charge back in the hands of the parents which actually the law says is required of them.

Someone said to me recently; ‘Home education is a huge commitment on the part of the parent, isn’t it?’

I find this remark quite astonishing really. Having children is already a commitment isn’t it?

How committed are we? Educating children in whatever form is also already a commitment. It’s just there are increasing numbers of parents that are unwilling to hand that over to a governmental system that’s failing to front up to their commitment to children instead of their own political agenda!

I met some fab parents and some fab young people thriving and achieving through home education in a way I doubt they would through schooling.

Well done you all. Lovely to meet you!

Let’s meet at the Home Education Fair

I’m excited to be going to the Home Education Fair in London this year.

It’s on Sunday 2nd of October from 11am till 3pm, and offers an opportunity to meet home educating parents, get some information, listen to talks and even have tea and cake!

The full details are on their website here: https://sites.google.com/site/homeeducationfair/

If you’re in London and want to learn more about home education and meet some of the lovely people doing it, do come along. And come over and say hello to me on my book stall too! It’d be lovely to meet you.

London 2016 poster

Picture from edyourself.org

When your Home Ed child wants to try school

Some children thrive well in school. Schools are a valuable and necessary route for many families.

You may be surprised to hear me say that given that I’m all for home education and work to raise awareness of it and support parents wanting to home school their children.

But I’m not one of those home educators who’s dead against school whatever. It’s the systematic, conveyor-belt style of schooling offered to us as education, which attempts to make kids all the same and expects them all to perform all the same, that I’m against. And I personally abhor some of the methods used by generalised school approaches (like recent backwards move to grammar selection) to reach targets that seem nothing other than political. But that’s just a personal opinion.

The idea of schools as a place to go and learn in inspirational ways with inspirational guidance from enthusiastic others, alongside friends, is a good one. It’s just that this idea doesn’t manifest itself as reality in many cases, thanks to an obsession with measurement, testing, politics, ignorance and disregard for individual learning preferences.

Watching our children wilting in happiness, health, and motivation to learn anything at all when they’d been such inquisitive little beings before school, was what drove our decision to change.

But it was only ever our intention to home educate as long as they enjoyed it. And as they grew older there was always the choice for them to go back and learn as their friends did. Mostly they decided not to, but there was one point where we were thrown by our youngest’s announcement that she fancied trying it, even though she was the one who’d wilted most of all. You can read what happened in the book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’.

Like many home educating parents in this position we saw it as a failure on our part to fulfill her needs.

That was daft; it’s unlikely we could fill all their needs – just as schools cannot – there is no one experience that answers as education. And her curiosity about school (and that’s all it was) showed her intelligent and inquisitive mind which we had nurtured and developed as part of the educational process. And curiosity and a willingness to try things out is a good thing – even if it is school they want to try. We should rather be congratulating ourselves than bemoaning it.

If your child is going through a stage like this you have to keep an open mind of your own – hard though it may seem. And congratulate yourself on your intelligent child and their ability for curiosity and decision-making. The decision may well be reversed again – as ours did, as did other Home Ed children we knew who wanted to try school too. Many families use school for one and homeschool other children effectively But it’s important to respect their ideas, keep on talking about it with them, learn what you can about what they’re thinking, discuss their options, and hang in there!

For being rigidly against school can be as institutionalising an attitude as the one which school users sometimes display towards home educators when they’re having a go, isn’t it? The rather bigoted one we sometimes come across among those members of the public who don’t really understand home schooling or how successful it is.

All decision making as parents is hard. We need to share concerns, find support, and make sure we have a cross section of opinions, to guide us as parents. And meanwhile be brave enough, and open enough, to go with the flow of our children and respect that they will come to grow and know their own minds through experience. Whether that involves school or not.

And though thick and thin we must always stay on their side.

(Do dip into my books for more support and information)