Tag Archive | kids

Term end – sad or sweet?

School term ends, summer hols begin and so does the usual media coverage on the good, the bad, and what to do with the kids all day.

I know it’s a challenge for many parents, especially those who work out the house. But it’s sad if it reflects on the children, making them feel they’re perhaps a nuisance in grown up lives.

We were lucky enough to never have that problem – we were with the kids all day anyway, home educating. A choice we made that meant having to do without a lot of stuff that money can buy to give our kids something money can’t buy – our company.

Holiday time!

Holiday time!

And I say ‘lucky’ but I sometimes feel it’s a kind of luck many don’t want. The choice to be with their children is not one everyone relishes as much as we did.

We all have the right to have our choices respected. But maybe we should make them with deeper consideration of the consequences, even the choice to have children at all! We managed on very little, which meant we didn’t have expensive holidays, top-of-the-range brands and constantly up dated technology. We didn’t want to perpetuate that culture of consumerism as being desirable anyway. We thought about what was truly of value to us and made a choice.

Our culture is based around that consumerism and it’s bred an expectation of a right to have; have far more than we ever really need. And although I respect and empathise with those who have the real challenge of just maintaining a roof over their heads and paying the bills, there are equally as many who expect to maintain a standard of consumerism for the sake of their image, not because it’s a value that’s been deeply thought about and prioritised.

The rewards for us choosing to have less (and I mean real thrift here – no frills at all in our case) in order to have more time for the kids outweighed any amount of disposable income we may have had and was a sweet choice we never once regretted.

We realised that giving time and attention to our kids at that time in their life was of irreplaceable value.

And thinking out our values is something we all have a choice to do.


Find out what our home education life looked like in a fun and easy read with my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. A book for laughter and learning – the two should always go together!

The value of the Quiet Ones!

My treat for the weekend is to take a book outside and read. DSC06096

Doing it outside makes it less of a busman’s holiday for me. Since I’m concerned with words all day, it feels less workish to do it under birdsong, roses and the lullaby of the breeze, with the occasional annoying fly just keeping me from dozing off.

With some books I don’t doze off. ‘Quiet’ has been one of those.

It’s full title is ‘Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and it’s a fascinating observation of the valuable personality traits of Introverts. (TED talk here)

In fact, it’s a celebration of Introversion; of all it’s valuable attributes, and how it should never be seen as something wrong with us that needs to be corrected – as it is in many social climes, particularly with reference to children. The author Susan Cain talks about shyness (which I’ve blogged about before) and how it’s often tied up with Introversion yet is quite different.

We are all different, and we need that diversity for our species to survive, but it is often only the loudest that get revered, overlooking the quiet ones and the huge contributions they make to progress with their reflective and considered thinking and the fact they spend less time polishing their image and partying and more time in deep thought and invention. Whereas extroverts need a high stimulation environment, introverts feel most stimulated and do their best stuff in low key environments. The ‘key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that works best for us’ says Susan in her TED talk. Sadly most school environments fail to provide a low key environment for those who need it. no wonder so many kids fail to thrive there.

The last chapter contains some important ideas with regard to raising and educating our children with respect to the fact that many children need smaller social environs in which to learn and grow. And this is okay. We do not have to force them ‘to get out there’ as some parents believe, in order to socialise or succeed, but respect their preferences and grow their confidence within that respect.

I have always believed, back from when I worked in classrooms and through the contact I’ve had with a diverse range of home educating families, that many children fail in school simply because the climate of crowd and buzz does not suit them. But this does NOT mean they have a character defect, any more than someone with blue eyes has a character defect, it’s just our inability to accept differences between us and provide for the needs of those quieter children.

In our image conscious, Facebook crazy, media driven culture we have to sometimes stand against it to be who we need to be and respect our personalities for what they are, rather than try and be all the same. That goes for our kids too. Particularly important is to recognise that they are not us, are different from us, and should be respected for who they are, even if they are quiet, require alone-time, prefer smaller interactions and dislike crowds.

That’s perfectly okay. Quiet people are just as successful and don’t need to be made into anything else.

I know it’s my quiet reflective times, often with my books (often in the garden), that has made me who I am; able to work, parent, home educate, write, and develop two reflective home educated beings who as adults still have a vibrant social life, loving friends, and a successful life out in the fray without ever being forced!

The fine line between boring or crisis

We had a terrible crisis last winter. It could have been so much worse.

Appreciating a moment's equilibrium

Appreciating a moment’s equilibrium

It was a road incident that was a hair’s breadth away from being an awful fatality that we’d live with forever, due to the irresponsible behaviour of a drunk.

He staggered oblivious out into the main road in front of our car.

In the dark and driving rain, with black clothing and oncoming lights on a rural road that was not lit, there was no chance of spotting him beforehand. Although well within the speed limit we weren’t going slowly. Charley was driving. He glanced off the side of the car with a sickening thwack which made me think we’d killed someone. Thankfully not – he was hardly hurt, too drunk to even know what had happened, didn’t even go to hospital. We were scarred with the trauma of it for months – I can only just speak of it now without shaking.

Thankfully these incidences don’t happen often. When they do, the sameness of life I might have been bored with seconds before, becomes incredibly sweet.

When the shock and the anger at the perpetrator of it, who walked away unmoved, wore off I was left with the replay of the awful event that could have marred our young driver’s life for the rest of it should chance have swung the other way. It took us both a long time to settle back down to calm.

We all develop strategies over time to even out the pitch and toss of life. And to have strategies to hand is an enormously helpful skill to pass on to our youngsters. However we deal with things will be the way they deal with things. If we react with screams and drama it will not help. We have to be strong, pragmatic and move on forward with the practicalities as best we can. (Even if we crumple later).

And I also guess that these experiences are a reminder to take note, during those times of equilibrium, of what we value about life, even the boring bits, instead of always letting them slip insignificantly by.

Learning from The Shepherd’s Life!

I love finding comments on education in the most unlikely places. There was I having a bit of escapism with James Rebanks on his sheep farm in the lakes and up pops the subject again.

I wasn’t there in reality, just being bowled over by his fabulous book The Shepherd’s Life; the true and rugged story of his life on the farm, early and current. The writing wasn’t rugged though and his story not without surprises. DSC06069 (2)

I love books that don’t balk at saying it how it is, yet still captivate with a style that moves you to read on. His passion and knowledge of his subjects reignites my own, in particular the idea that there is an education that exists other than in classrooms. He talks about an education fit for purpose and respects that all lives are different, not just lived in cities, worked in banks and cultivated for industry. He talks about his dad whose encyclopaedic knowledge  of the landscape challenges conventional ideas of who is and isn’t intelligent. “Some of the smartest people I have ever known are semi-literate” he says.

Some pretty smart people I know don’t have those conventional educational labels either!

He describes his own schooling and how he felt that “the whole modern world wanted to rob me of the life I wanted to lead”.

When I read books like his it makes me think again very hard about what education is and what it’s for.

There are two ways of looking at that question. One from the point of view of society, politics and someone else deciding what’s ‘good’ for people. And another looking at it from the point of view of each of us, the fact that each of us is different – an individual, will lead different lives, and how these differences might be accommodated in a system which clubs everyone together for ease of administration and service.

Finding a balance between the two is the key. I’m not sure the system is doing that effectively right now. It has swung too far towards perpetuating a construction that clearly, for many individuals within it, is just not working well. Creating far too many individuals who feel disengaged, disregarded, disenchanted with learning of any sort, and in many ways dysfunctional as a result of being told they are failures because they don’t comply.

Sod complying with something that doesn’t work!

No one need fail at education – you have a lifelong chance at it. And we need education both for ourselves as individuals, so it’s satisfying enough to be purposeful and ongoing, and for our place within the wider planet that supports us and the society within it.

What is failing here is the system; destroying the natural passion for learning that children are born with by taking it away from them and dehumanising it.

We who are the adults, who profess to know best, should know better than that.

Learning without time frames

Those of you who know me will know that my lovelies moved on from education at home a while ago now.

But I’m still a home educator – as in; I’m still learning for myself at home even if they’ve moved on! Once you lead a learning life in that way you always do.

My new book to help support parents who also want to educate without school is coming out very soon and that’s been a steep learning curve for me. It is a book containing some of the writings that I did over those years to help alleviate parents’ inevitable wobbles. We couldn’t include all of it and I found this one among the archives that I thought would be worth a re-post as it’s not included but is an issue we all confront; learning to see education without time frames.

Our youngest is back here again for a while and I still find it difficult not to launch back into that Home Ed role that was predominant when they were little; ‘come see the moon, it’s fantastic’ or ‘want to come for a walk?’ Or, when I’m really irritating; ‘seems a shame to be stuck in front of that screen on such a beautiful day’…

My daughter would be rich if she were paid every time I slipped in a bit of advice. She’s very tolerant – she knows I’m on a learning curve too; learning to let go!

But these little regresses aside, the home educating I do now is not really for them, it’s for me. It’s self education and much of it still takes place in the home and it’s still ongoing.

Because that’s the way we’ve always seen education. Not as something that happens between the ages of five and eighteen. But as an ongoing, lifelong process. One that integrates into all aspects of life and work at any time. Throughout life. And is not confined to ‘doing’ education. But is just the way life is led – continually learning.

Learning can extend or develop you personally whatever stage you’re at, six or sixty, whatever you are doing or want to do, change, or develop, whether it’s dexterity with your latest device or cooking something new, drawing, driving or gaming, learning business, budget, or new job skills.

Education is not just for kids. We can all do it, parents included.

And the useful thing about this idea is; if you can view you child’s education like that, in that bigger context, it puts into perspective those little worries about whether they can read yet, write yet, understand long division or the periodic table. For just because they haven’t got it now, doesn’t mean they’ll never get it – you have an ongoing chance at learning, a lifetime’s chance, it doesn’t have to be confined by time or age.

You don’t need to do GCSEs at sixteen for example or a degree at twenty one. Or coding at four, or spreadsheets at fourteen, not unless you want to. You can take up anything anytime – there are ways.

And it’s so often the case that once you stop worrying, pressurising, and trying to make learning fit into certain time frames (often dictated by a system that doesn’t work that well anyway), learning becomes more natural and easy and gradually clicks into place.

Think of your child’s education as part of something much bigger than this age now, as part of a learning life that can be updated at any time.

Take the pressure off your children and focus instead on giving them a wide, diverse and enjoyable experience with learning and with life. This way they’ll feel able to continue with it whenever they need to, to get where they want to go. Whenever. Wherever. Which sets them up for life far better than anything else.

Both my daughters learn new skills constantly, in their twenties; I envisage that they always will.

And I’m learning the new skill of backing off and allowing them to!

A bit excited…


My new book – out by the end of the month

It’s a while now since our home educating days. Even longer since we started all those years ago and not without an amount of anxiety and trepidation. But that was soon overcome with the delight and joy in seeing the children flourish, learn and develop without school. (You can read the story in ‘A Funny Kind of Education).

They’re grown up now but it’s not as if education ever ends really, as our children knew. It goes on throughout life; they learn, research, adjust, experience, develop, all the time.

The best thing they learnt from home education was that learning doesn’t necessarily need to have nothing to do with school or school years, but is something they can continue for themselves as part of their personal growth, wherever they are, whatever time in life.

They still come to me for guidance and wisdom on occasion. But I find that often, with their contemporary experiences, they’re wiser than me and teach me things. Thus our learning journeys are reciprocal.

Over all the time we were home schooling I was writing about our experiences; how we learnt, insights into education, what we learnt about learning itself, and children’s general and personal development. But a lot of that writing was in a variety of other places and pre my blog and books, although it influences what appeared there. So I’ve been working recently on a book of pieces from that inspirational time, collating it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching but can keep it to hand.

This is a book of comfort and reassurance for all you inspirational parents already home educating (and those who want to) who might just need a little personal help through a wobbly day, with ideas about how we tackled various issues, like panicking, losing perspective, socialisation, dealing with others waving school style results under your noses, too much gaming, LA visits, keeping yourself sane and normal!

Because I know from doing it and being in turmoil myself at times that it’s the parents who need support as much as the children. In fact, I discovered that – and at the risk of a generalisation – if you take care of yourself the children’s education will follow and flourish.

And I’m excited to tell you that it is to be published very soon with Bird’s Nest Books. If you sign up to their newsletter you’ll get to know when. Or keep popping back here for updates.

And perhaps I could just say how much I’ve appreciated all the support shown for my books and my work throughout those years. Without your wonderful encouragement, writing would be an even lonelier place than it already is at times.

So heartfelt thanks – you’ll find more of those in the book’s preface – for I want you to know how much you’re appreciated.

Recognising mainstream codswallop for what it is!

When I listen to parents stuck in the mainstream education system and hear how concerned they are about their young people I really feel for them.

For when I say ‘stuck’ it really is like that; the systems binds them with a glue that not only keeps their education mainstream but also clogs up their thinking. And they end up believing the propaganda about how doomed their kids will be how if they don’t achieve in the same way everyone else is achieving and at the same time.

When did we stop believing in individuals or possibilities and start believing cloning, I wonder? For isn’t this what we’re doing?

I think about all the home educating families in comparison who have managed to break out of this sticky approach and see education as it should be; the all round development of an individual that equips them with skills to learn – for life, not just between the ages of five and eighteen, in individual ways if needed.

The trouble is that by gluing people to beliefs about achieving GCSEs or A’ Levels by 16 or 18 for example, it’s led everyone to believe that if these results haven’t been achieved by these ages then there is something wrong with their kids and they’ll never have a life!

I want to shout very loudly that this is utter CODSWALLOP!

And even more codswallop comes in the form of making youngsters believe that they are failures without these results and they’ll never work or achieve other things.

If this is what you believe then you need to examine your thinking very carefully and unstick it!

The reality instead is this:

  1. Anyone can take GCSEs at any time of their life if they wish; courses, opportunities, tutors, facilities are there for youngsters to do this if you look.
  2. Equally, it is the same with A’ Levels, other qualifications, degrees, whatever.
  3. These can be achieved in a range of ways and within a range of time frames the only downside being there will probably be a fee.
  4. NO ONE need ever be doomed for doing it differently. Youngsters can add to their achievements any time they’re ready. Some people are not ready until they’re much older. This is their right and is absolutely fine.
  5. It is not necessarily better to have done it early – it just suits others if it happens like that! We all develop and mature at different times and that’s allowed.
  6. There is no law that says that anyone has to do any of this anyway. These are merely convenient hoops to pass through to get places – some of us don’t want to go those places or by those means!
  7. Having exam results is not always a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of whether you can pass exams or not. You can be just as intelligent and educated without them.
  8. There are all forms of intelligence and most of the useful ones, like emotional intelligence for example, are not examinable anyway. An educated person is not merely a qualified person, it is a person who can behave in an educated and responsible way. Many qualified people don’t!

So even if you don’t want to break out of mainstream schooling you can still break out of mainstream thinking and decide what’s right for you and your young people.

There are all sorts of ways to progress and all sorts of pathways to do so. Mainstream is easy if it’s working. Dire when it’s not. Don’t stay stuck in mainstream glue if it’s not working for you and yours!