Tag Archive | kids

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!

Navigating friends and Foes!

Friendships are fragile things. Kids inevitably make them and break them, whether they’re in school or home

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

educated. And whatever age they are. We adults do too, don’t we?

I read a little paragraph the other day in a random book which had nothing to do with parenting or home education but said that by keeping children clubbed together we are blocking them from learning what it is to be grown up.

I thought about all the children clubbed together in classrooms when I read that. Especially in comparison with those who are home educating in the wider world, with a high proportion of adults from whom to learn what it is to be adult and how to behave towards others with respect and compassion.

Ironic then, that people ask how home schooled kids will learn social skills! And continue to think that schools and classrooms do this. When in fact they don’t reflect the social world at all really.

Wherever your child is and whatever groups they belong to the hardest thing for a parent is to watch a child be hurt by friends. We torture ourselves with the thought of them on the receiving end of unkindness, being left out, or hostility.

It’s something we have to talk them through and help them deal with by encouraging honesty, diplomacy and compassion. Our own example will teach them most of all – you can’t tell them one thing and then behave differently yourself.

Looking back over our children’s lives, and the times they’ve had to deal with some of the ways so-called friends behave, I was thinking about how we helped them navigate these difficult times. Thought I’d post them here in case any are of use to you. Here they are:

  •  Staying on their side – always – even through inevitable mistakes
  • Always making relationships something you talk openly about
  • Helping them see we are all different and there will be things we don’t like about each other and that’s okay; sometimes we can tolerate them or compromise, sometimes it’s not worth it
  • Making time to listen
  • Encouraging empathy towards how others might be feeling and why this might affect their behaviour
  • Explaining that some friendships may need abandoning
  • Helping them move away from accusation, recrimination and blame, which never helps you to move on
  • Making sure our own relationships with our kids are based in honesty and respect, loyalty and trust, as this is the example of good ones they’ll hopefully have with others.

Friendships are magnificent, important, and where our security lies as much as anything. But it is inevitable that there will be times when they go sour. This is nothing to do with schools or home educating or parenting, it is just to do with human nature. We found that keeping an open dialogue with our children was the best way to support them and help them through.

It still is!

Don’t stick with what it says on the box – or in the school!

There were some interesting comments from Ben Fogle in the press recently as he drew an analogy between the development of Lego and the development of the education system, both of whom he feels had become increasingly prescriptive.

He says that once upon a time you bought boxes of random Lego bricks and created models yourself, now children are frustrated over prescriptive kits that require you to stick to instructions. And this sounds very like schooling which has become so prescriptive kids have little opportunity to build the skills, or learn the subjects, that interest them but have to stick with within restrictive boundaries dictated by others.

Thank goodness for the choice of home education where we can step beyond those prescriptions about learning and approach it another way.

But we also have a choice with the Lego don’t we? And isn’t the issue really about training minds to exercise choice and not stick always with what it says on the box? To be brave and imaginative enough to try other approaches – either with Lego or learning? Lessons or life?

This is indeed what home educators do all the time. And the knock on effect of this creates something else; for once you’ve broken out of the idea that everyone has to go to school in order to learn anything, I believe we develop the skills to see possibilities in breaking out of other frameworks of thinking that can hold us imprisoned if we don’t examine them.

No one has to be imprisoned by Lego kits! Child or adult (apparently there’s a huge Lego cult among adults now too – I watched a fascinating programme about it). And the more we encourage the children to look for possibilities beyond the preconceived or prescribed the more this develops their intelligence, creative thinking and mental aptitude. So equally no one has to be imprisoned by other aspects of life either.

So whatever activities we buy for the kids or encourage them to do, we can also encourage them to consider other possibilities.

We can do that with Lego and we can do that with life; we can encourage vision beyond what we think are boundaries but may not be so at all. Both require innovative thinking. And innovative thinking is as useful a skill for living as being able to follow instructions!

Bank holidays are always better outside

I just had a short trip to Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire recently. Nice to be in the hills after the flatland walks I usually take. My poor legs were totally shocked when I took them for a clamber. It was snowing and sunny at the same time but it didn’t stop me – I love a good clamber! And it’s just so good to be outside.

As you walk round there are lots of little prompts for activities for you to do with the kids – such a great idea as I know it’s hard to think up activities all the time. And this is what prompted me to prompt you to get outdoors with your youngsters this bank holiday whatever the weather. Because whatever mood they’re in it will be improved outside – even if you’re all a bit reluctant.

You also don’t have to be in a specific reserve to enjoy many of the activities that were suggested; you’d be able to engineer some of them on your doorstep. Things like:

  • building a den
  • rolling down a hill
  • climbing a tree
  • searching for creepy-crawlies
  • making an insect home
  • looking for treasure from feathers to stones to owl pellets to bits of pot

And you also don’t have to be rural to find paces to enjoy them either; a park will do, or riverside, – most cities have a river going through. Or a wood or a bit of wasteland. And you can find all sorts or wildlife in a churchyard or cemetery!

Just be spontaneous, get outside and go to whatever places are local to you and get some space, some weather, some learning about the environment and some physical activity. And if you can do it on foot you beat the bank holiday traffic too!

You’ll come back feeling better – trust me!

Have some fun on May 3rd won’t you!

Testing – not something home educators do much! 

Yeah – that’s right – most go through the whole of their child’s education at home without doing any school style tests. Yet those children still go on to pass exams at a later date and most of them end up where there school peers get to; qualified, intelligent, competent, some at Uni, some in work.

So it does beg the question what really is the point of all those tests in schools? They’re not for the benefit of the children that’s for sure. (I’ve often blogged about it)

The obsession with testing and measuring the children’s education throughout their school life is often a reason parents give for choosing to home educate instead. But it seems that home schooling parents are not the only ones who are sick of this regime. Parents of school kids and teachers too are all adding their support to a campaign to boycott the tests to be taken on 3rd May.

Maybe we should join in?

For I guess the group Let Our Kids Be Kids would probably welcome your support too.

Since we are all in support of a real living education I thought I’d mention it. And although many in the home education community have no time for schooling I do believe we share some of their values; to challenge government policy, deplore high stakes testing which gives schools no choice other than to teach to the test, to see a curriculum full of joy and wonder… not overwhelmingly focussed on grammar and spelling which makes lessons dry and limits curiosity, and allow children to be children again – playing, being outdoors, painting, singing, dancing, learning through fun.

Sounds fairly akin to home educating values don’t you think?

I think that’s what we all want for our kids, isn’t it? So maybe you could support their campaign, sign it, and hopefully lighten the days of some of the kids in schools who are not lucky enough to be enjoying the opportunity of home educating as our children do.

The ignorance of some of the educated!

The fight or flight response kicks in automatically now. Palms sweat, breathing goes gaspy, limbs shaky. I brace myself for an onslaught.

This is what happens every time I listen to another piece about home education on the news. For it’s often laced with an attack.

LBC radio featured a piece about it the other night with callers chirping in. (Sorry – can’t find a recording!) As well as a few positives there was a right barrage from an angry teacher (surprisingly it’s often teachers who feel the need to attack) who obviously felt threatened. But it wasn’t from directly offensive remarks the like of which we get, she was threatened by us mere parents assuming they can do what teachers do, without all their training, and educate our own kids. She was incensed at the thought!

It’s odd that teachers should feel threatened by homeschoolers – why would that be? And it also displays the depth of the misconception they are under.

For parents don’t assume they can do what teachers have to do because they’re not teaching in the way teachers have to teach and they’re not doing it to a system which requires them to teach it. They are educating completely differently from what teachers understand as teaching.

And ironically it is those professionals’ narrow minded view of teaching and learning that prevents many from understanding the true nature of education in the broader sense, as opposed to simply institutionalised schooling.

The other thing we were wrongly accused of in this particular discussion – and another common one – was of preventing our children from mixing and inhibiting the children’s chance to gain qualifications. Our kids have as much opportunity as they choose to go where they want to go, be with who they want to be with and get what they need to do it – how is that inhibiting? It’s school which inhibits those choices surely – for they should be choices.

With all the work so many of us do to raise awareness and understanding of home education you’d think people were becoming a bit more enlightened. So I find it totally ironic that whenever home educating parents are accused of being ignorant of educating – usually by someone in the teaching profession – those professionals making accusations do so from a position of their own obvious ignorance of home education – without direct experience usually. Is that not a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black as the saying goes?

When these ignorant people are being so insulting, they should perhaps remember they are also insulting all the EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL, HARD-WORKING home educated ADULTS who are now already grown up, already out in the WORKPLACE, who never went to school.

So despite panic attacks I keep on saying how it is when I can, as many other brave parents do, in the hope of lessening this ignorance about a positive and successful approach to children’s education.

And on a more positive note I’d like to bring your attention to a more enlightened piece here in the papers asking why so many parents feel the need to give up on school and home educate.

Marta Drew and her children home educating featured in The Guardian

The question could also be asked – why are so many teachers turning to it too? For they are. Is it because they’ve seen what happens to kids’ in the conveyor belt system? Is it because they don’t want their individuals on that conveyor belt either?

I wonder?

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.