Tag Archive | kids

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

Your child is different from you!

I was born and grew up in the city of London. Right in the centre as far away from rural as you can get.

But all of our childhood holidays were spent in the countryside, so I was aware of these two contrasting worlds. And it didn’t take

A glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on

much growing up for me to recognise from a hunger within which of these two environments was right for my soul. I soon understood that my spirits wilted when surrounded by concrete, buildings, noise and crowds without a glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on. Yet the surroundings of greenery, fields and solitary quiet gave my spirits wings and a sense of relief I still require to thrive.

Even though I live in the countryside now and these things are common place I still experience the sudden sense of imprisonment, when shut inside too long or under laptop. Hence why I can often be found scribbling in the shelter of a hedge bottom with my bum in damp grass, or on my daily walk (as you see from Instagram). I’m just letting my spirits heal from the onslaught of contemporary life.

Of course not everyone feels this. Or feels it this way round. Ironically my eldest is the complete opposite.

We made many, many excursions into cities whilst we were home educating here in the country. And as her teen years kicked in I began to realise that, unlike me, it was the city that made her spirits come alive.

I can clearly remember the time when I suddenly spotted, with shock and empathy, that familiar look on her face one day that described that same feeling I’d had when I was stuck somewhere that did nothing for my spirits.

In contrast to me, she needed the city for hers. And that’s where she’s lived since Uni.

That is not to say she doesn’t relish her trips home and the rural things we do like picnics and walks and encounters with wildlife and flowers. And when I’m visiting her we often find park walks to do from the city.

But we both know and accept what we each are, what each needs to thrive, and that those needs are completely different from the other.

It is SO important, I think, to know and accept that our children are NOT us. And allow them to be different. Allow them to be separate.

Allowing our children to be who they need to be, without judgement, and loving them for who they are without conditions, is a fundamental ingredient to being the parent we should be, a parent that all kids need. And inevitably one of the hardest parts!

But we get over it.

The most wonderful result, though, is that from that respect and loving acceptance the relationship can grow stronger despite the independence.

Independence means allowing our children to be who they need to be and loving them just the same – allowing their independence from us, and consequently practising our own independence from trying to keep them like us.

In fact, this is true of all relationships.

So love your children the way they are and in such a way which affords them the opportunity to discover who they need to be, whatever age they are, wherever that is. And make sure you’re not hanging onto keeping them like you.

Something to consider when we vote!

I’ve been looking back at some blogs written a while ago now – wondering if I’d changed my mind about schooling!

But when I spotted this I realised that, as more and more parents turn to home education seeking an alternative to what’s described here, I sadly feel just as cynical. It was written when I went back into school for a little while as I missed contact with kids. And also wanted to see the workings of a classroom again after all these years; maybe revise my rather cynical view. Did that happen?

Sadly not – this is what I see: –  we take immature little beings who are still developing a delight in their world and are keen to learn about it in explorative and experiential ways. We remove them from their self motivated investigations and tell them that way of learning is invalid. We stick them in a structured institution which disregards their desire to learn about the things that interest them and tell them what we adults want them to learn which we misguidedly think will make them cleverer. We enforce learning tasks upon them in such a way it takes away all the delight they had in learning thus destroying their motivation. We heap far too much over complicated, prescriptive and academic stuff on them far too soon, when they are far too underdeveloped to get anything from it. And we do this in the confines of such a rigid timetable that they don’t have time to formulate understanding, reinforce knowledge, or develop skills. Thus setting many of them up to fail.

Then, when they do fail, which in these circumstances many of them are bound to do, we tell them it’s their fault because they are stupid since they seem to have a difficulty with learning.

Cynic? Moi?

Now I know schooling works well for many, but for others not only does this too-much-too-soon scenario destroy our children’s potential for learning, it also destroys things that are much more precious and life damaging; their faith in education, their self belief and their aspirations. There is nothing to be gained except for a select few who can cope. But it’s at the expense of many.

Of course, the politicians gain. Forcing too-much-too-soon and winning a few academic points for the more able kids wins votes for the politicians. They can say they’re making children cleverer. But they’re not; as they sit in their elitist little empires making policies for people whose lives they know as little about as I do the queen’s, they’re switching many kids off to learning anything.

Meanwhile in schools teachers despair of not only having the finger of blame for academic failure pointed at them, but also at having to deliver an inappropriate curriculum and force inappropriate learning targets on the children in their class. And parents despair with worry as to why their child is not ‘achieving’.

So as I try and help some poor little eight year old understand a grammatical concept that’s so hard it used to be on a GCSE paper I wonder what is to be done. The only way I can see it changing is for both politicians and parents to put a stop to this enforced, dull, academic hothousing, and start demanding a more personal and developmental education for the sake of the individual and not for the sake of the politics.

Here’s a piece that sets you thinking about how that might be achieved; https://www.self-directed.org/tp/what-does-it-mean-to-be-educated/  by Blake Boles the author of ‘The Art of Self-Directed Learning’

And a little clip from it to watch – I’m not advocating summer camps – aren’t they just another institution? But this holds some valid ideas for education. And some things to think about when we vote!

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!

 

The best way to parent

If you want them to be interested in caring for the world get them out and show them what to care for

I didn’t think I’d ever make such a statement – or a suggestion. I didn’t think I’d ever be so arrogant as to assume I knew what the best way to parent was!

I’m not saying I do it’s just that I read a rather nice statement the other day that put me in mind of it. It said that the best way we can serve others is by being an example and an inspiration. And it came to me that this is exactly true of parenting.

The best parent that you can be comes not from parenting rules or trends. It comes more importantly from being  the best person you can be.

Through being the best person you can be you demonstrate to your children what a best person looks like – what they can to aim for. So maybe the best way to parent is through being an example of the kind of person you’d like your children to become.

Children learn far, far, far more through example than through anything else.

Thus; if you want to raise kind, considerate people you show them what kind, considerate is.

You inspire them to work, learn, relate to others by the way you work, learn, relate to others.

You encourage them to take care of the world and the things in it by the way you take care of those things.

You teach them how to love and respect by the way you love and respect.

You also show them how to discern, decide and gracefully detach when need be by the way in which you do that.

If you want to raise kids who contribute to the way the world works then you’ll do that through your own contribution (parenting being one of the most important contributions you can make).

If you want to raise children who have standards and morals and principles you need to decide for yourself what standards, principles and morals are important to you and live by them – consistently.

And if you want to raise people who know how to relax, take care of their mind body and spirit, then the way you do that will be the most influential demonstration they could have.

This perhaps is not only the best way to parent, but also the simplest way to parent. Be who you want them to become, then allow them the integrity to follow.

You inspire by your consistent example – and it won’t just be your kids, it will be other parents too.

Don’t you think that’s an awesome thought?

A way to renew this Easter

One of the beautiful things about life with young children – as well as the children themselves, of course – is their awe and delight in

Take a moment with the kids to appreciate the little things like droplets on a feather

the simplest of little things. A ladybird on the pavement. A tree for climbing. A hole in the undergrowth just right for crawling into. A wall for walking along. The feel of mud through fingers. The splashy noise of puddles.

It’s such a magic time and parents get the joy of sharing these things – if you take the time, that is.

Are you missing it?

A way of not missing it is to slow down and look at the little things as if they were new to you too. Indulge in the delight of really looking – like kids do. Of looking through the lens of their eyes, seeing things as if for the first time. What better way to spend the weekend?

Easter is traditionally a time of regrowth and rebirth. Maybe you could do your own bit of rebirthing and learn from your kids – learn from the little people who are usually learning from you. We’re never too grown up to change. Learn how to see with a different view – their view – their delight.

So how about, whatever the weather, leaving the phones and tablets behind, getting out in a green space somewhere, and observing the world with renewed eyes, attitude and time frame?

Take time to replenish yourself by going at their pace, change your momentum and the way you race by all the tiny wonders around without really seeing, without really feeling the awe. Slow down. Look closely. Absorb yourself. It’s quite a meditative practice – just what we need sometimes!

And renewing yourself will help you be the best parent you can be – one that’s never to busy to enjoy the little things with the kids. They’ll remember you for that!

Happy Easter!

Using nature to talk about mortality with kids

I wonder how the little Guillemot is? 

I think it was a guillemot anyway. It was standing forlornly at the edge of the water so still I thought it was an upstanding stone when I first caught sight of it in the distance. But as I walked nearer I realised it was a little bird. It was bedraggled and saturated and appeared to be shivering.

I guessed it had probably got exhausted and waterlogged. But had managed to come ashore with the tide.

What to do?

Leave it to recover in calm and solitude, or take it somewhere? The stress of being captured can often create further injury or cause them to die of shock anyway.

It was always a dilemma when we found exhausted or injured wild things. They rarely survived as a result of our attentions but the children always wanted to take them home and cosset and cuddle them back to health as we did them! None of which does wild things any good usually but it’s very hard to explain that to a child.

Nestlings were the worst. The children were adamant that they could save them with human ministrations, not understanding that most of them wouldn’t make it – human comforts are rarely what they need.

Living in the country animal fatalities were regularly witnessed. Another corpse in the tideline or a remnant of a fox’s meal, as well as farming, were opportunities for study and discussion and also conversations about the natural course of life.

These events, and the passing of pets, are a good opportunity to talk to kids about these difficult issues – although not difficult really if you make them a natural part of examining life.

More difficult when they’re not talked about and come as a terrible shock.

Mortality is usually conveniently hidden away like a taboo. But it is far better that it is confronted honestly, that children understand about the cycle of life, that we are sad and bereft for some time after losing someone or something, and that this passes, new aspects of life flood in and make us feel better and we survive and move forward.

Children are very matter-of-fact. They deal far better with honest answers than with cover ups. They see through those. They can only trust us if they know we’re honest. That way they’ll believe us when we say that we can recover from grief and loss, rather than thinking this is just another grown up lie.

The loss of pets or things in the wild and natural world provide good opportunities for us to talk about both the living and the passing of life, not in a morbid way. But in a matter-of-fact way with the children. And we shouldn’t shy away from it.

Had little children been with me when I saw the guillemot they would no doubt have wanted to do something about it. But I thought it best to leave it to find itself somewhere quiet to recover as it looked reasonable robust. After I’d had a good look at it – a rare treat to be so close.

But it popped into my mind occasionally throughout the day as I wondered about its fate.