Tag Archive | kids

If you haven’t homeschooled, you’re not qualified to judge

As much to learn out of school as in it

As much to learn out of school as in it

I don’t understand some folk’s aggressive judgemental attitudes towards those families choosing to home educate. There can be some real personal mud-slinging on some of the forums about it occasionally.

What’s particularly offensive is that they’re often made by those who have no experience of it.

One of the most blanket statements I often hear is ‘It shouldn’t be allowed’.

I’d like to ask; why not?

Is it because mere parents couldn’t possibly get education right for their children?  Schooling doesn’t get it right for many either, does it?

Or because children can become isolated? But aren’t many isolated in school? Isolated by bullying, by cliques and gangs, by being different, by having different learning needs.

Or maybe people think it shouldn’t be allowed because parents aren’t teachers. Yet it’s sometimes the teaching in schools that’s causing children to fail – not because teachers are poor at what they do, but because their hands are tied by a system that identifies an elite few for success and makes failures of the rest.

Or maybe people think that children miss out if they’re not in school. Yet you could equally say that all those children imprisoned in school are missing out on a wealth of opportunities to learn that are outside it.

It’s even been suggested that some families home educate because they can’t be bothered to send their child to school. However, you could look at that the other way round too and suggest that school users do so because they can’t be bothered to take responsibility for their child’s education themselves or seriously look at whether it’s working for their individual. But home educators don’t usually make those kinds of judgements!

And there’s even been the accusation that home educators aren’t bothered with education. The reality is the exact opposite; home educating families are so bothered with education they daren’t leave it to the schools.

Home schooling families go on in their own quiet way, exercising their right to take full responsibility for their children’s educational needs, usually without accusing those who want to make school choices. And some might not be perfect. But when did school get it perfectly right for every child?

Home schooling is a huge undertaking and families should be applauded for their brave attempts to do something to fulfil their child’s needs, rather than be judged on possible failings.

Most of us have experience of school, so most of us get to know what it’s about and can make informed decisions about it.

But most of the population have not experienced home education. So if that’s the case, I don’t really think these people are qualified to judge.

And if you’re one of those who think it shouldn’t be allowed here are four clips that might change your mind:

The tricky job of parenting kids who game

Did you see the Horizon programme on gaming last week; ‘Are video games really that bad?

I think the dilemma of how much children should be gaming is a concern of every parent wherever children are educated.

If they’re home educated, they have more time for and access to gaming. If they’re at school all day, and just want to game in the evenings and nothing else, the parents still have the same worry about whether the work’s being done or never getting to see the kids!

The programme raised many interesting points, many on the positive aspects of gaming and how it could be influential to mental development for both the young and the rest of us!

But of course, research and statistics can be stacked to show anything you want them to show – I’m very aware of that and so should we all be.

However, after watching this programme and another one on Panorama; ‘Could a Robot Do My Job?’ which suggested that the most valuable preparation for the world of employability were skills; technological, creative thinking and caring skills, my feeling about parenting remains the same.

That education and our parenting, and how your kids turn out, is never the result of one influence.

Decisions about gaming and technology are never taken in isolation, there are far more intangibles that come into play. For example; parenting styles and how much interaction parents have, conversations about the games and discussions about how to respond to them, or what else is on offer at the time, the home environment, the child’s personality, all play a part. And these issues affect the way our children grow, how they develop, and how they respond to the things in their lives, either educational opportunities – or gaming.

The way in which children respond to gaming and the violence that they witness there has been of huge concern. And the programme asks whether this is likely to make children themselves more violent. But as the programme points out, it is not the violence in the game that affects kids in isolation, it’s often the frustration children feel – and this can be influenced by other factors besides gaming like how much they do it and how much they get out for active play, for example – which affects what they do as a result of gaming.

Parenting children who game is no different to parenting children who do anything; it’s about maintaining a balance between all activities and aspects of their lives, having conversations about life and what is healthy and what is not, constantly being involved and keeping communication open!

Searching out wild spaces for the good of the children

My friend has a wild weedy bit with overgrown trees, ivy and stumps at the bottom of her small narrow town garden. This only leaves a bit by the house in which she can have beloved flowers and plants and bit of lawn to lie upon.

A wild playground

A wild playground

This was originally left for the four boys she raised there to build dens, go hide in a jungle, hunt for creepy-crawlies, or collect snails or acorns, bits of bark or other such treasures down among the roots.

Now the boys have been replaced by four grown up young men who no longer live there and she could reclaim some of that jungle for her garden again. But both her and they still want it left, for they all feel it wouldn’t be the same without that bit of wildness to hide in. Something in their souls tell them they still need it.

She did good!

According to George Monbiot‘s book ‘Feral. Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding’, all children need this bit of wildness in which to play. And it is something that is denied most of today’s children. They are denied the innate need to explore in unstructured places in unstructured ways, as we used to. The woods, streams, logs, uncultivated fields many of us played in, provided imaginative kids with the chance to build physical skills, a connection to nature, and confidence as they improvised dens, climbing ‘frames’, had contact with mud and mini-beasts. It has now all either replicated in plastic or in controlled tarmacked and manicured environments.

It’s not the same. And it doesn’t have the same impact on our children either. Apparently the lack of freedom to play in wild places, now mostly claimed in the name of housing, agriculture, farming or misguided attempts at conservation (according to Monbiot), has been linked with the increase in disorders in children like hyperactivity or inability to concentrate. Playing among trees and plants helps settle children down where playing on concrete or indoors has the opposite effect.

It’s actually the same for me. The same for most people, I suspect, if they just recognised it.

Monbiot acknowledges the need for housing and for food and farming and battles rage constantly over the political issues which balance these against the preservation of wild spaces.

But whilst these battles and political agendas continue, the children are increasingly denied health giving opportunities to be really wild.

So us parents are going to have to work harder not only to get the children outside away from insidious indoor comforts, but also to find the wild spaces where they can return to something like their roots.

Sugar Rush

Heck – I’m shocked! I thought I ate healthily but now realise I’m consuming far too much sugar. 

It was watching Jamie Oliver’s programme Sugar Rush that shocked me into looking at my planned consumption for today.

I’d perhaps start with muesli and granola which I know contains some sugar but I was unaware of how much, especially in relation to the amount recommended we should have – no more than four teaspoons per day. It would be easy with some cereals to eat more than that in one meal! I need to re-plan.

If not salad, I might have a small sandwich or Peanut Butter on toast for lunch. Apparently, both that and the bread contain sugar. And I’d planned a vegetable curry for tonight to which I may add a little jar of Korma sauce but discovered that this too is loaded with sugar. And there was me thinking it was okay to have a Kit-Kat this afternoon because I hadn’t had any sugar today.

Think again!

I thought we ate fairly healthily in this house. But the programme has raised my awareness of the dangers of hidden sugars that we unwittingly eat, and that’s without having sugary fizzy drinks which are the worst offenders. However some ‘fruit juices’ and flavoured ‘water’ can be equally harmful if you consume a lot.

But the worst news of all is what hidden sugars are doing to the children.

We think as parents we’re doing our best by our kids encouraging a reasonable diet. But Jamie shows how these ‘hidden’ sugars are sneaking into what we thought would be healthy. And how they are damaging enough on our kids’ teeth and weight, even without giving them any added sugary treats in the form of sweets. So we need to be even more vigilant than we are.

But what is absolutely criminal is to be consciously giving them such a sugar full diet of junk food, sweets, cola and other soda drinks to the extent of what was illustrated in the programme.

Apparently one of the biggest demands for surgery on children is not the removal of tumours, organs or other consequences of terrible diseases, it is the preventable procedure required to pull out rotten teeth. How shocking is that?

And apparently there are more lower limbs removed from (mostly preventable) obesity people in later years, who have developed Type Two Diabetes from a sugar high diet, than there are from soldiers injured in combat and war.

It is a terrifying prospect. Jamie was shocked by what he found. I’m shocked.

You should watch the programme (on All4). It needs discussing with the family. And the family’s eating habits examining, plus an investigation into how much hidden sugar in processed, ready-made food you’re all eating; it’s part of their education. And the sugary drinks need keeping to a minimum and maybe some serious changes making.

Otherwise one of our family members could become one of those startling statistics.

It’s going to be quite a trial to keep my eye on what I’m eating during the day. But I am determined, for I want it to be the case that I choose when to have sugar and am not consuming it in total ignorance.

We all need to do the same both for ourselves and for our kids.

After watching Jamie’s report, how could we not?

Are we schooling kids out of education?

It’s the time of year when many are facing the return to school – and many are not! Many are rejoicing in not returning to school and continuing with their home education…

…I couldn’t resist reblogging this story from a while back as it explains why so many choose to do so;

There was a bright little pre-schooler running through the town the other day. She was on an adventure away from mum. She stopped suddenly, turned round and realised there was an awful lot of people who weren’t mum. Her face dropped.

Mum, watching, called out to her and she went running back happily. Despite that slight panic at mum being momentarily out of sight, she didn’t hesitate to go off and explore again. After all, there’s such an intriguing amount to learn – about everything, why would she not?

Twelve years later and learning doesn’t look so appealing. In fact most of her inclination to learn has been switched off, like for many young people.

What happened?

My theory is that schooling happens.

What happens is that we corral our wonderfully idiosyncratic and diverse children into institutions which enforce comparison and competition in their most destructive forms, judge them by a narrow set of outcomes only a particular few can excel at, lead them to believe that anything else they might be good at is unimportant, stress them witless by unnecessary testing, and expect them to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and personally within that unfortunate climate.

It has always seemed a bit ludicrous to me.

This schooling of our children is putting them off education and learning. And neglecting the education of their whole being, of their diverse potential, individual talents, and original personalities, all of which are essential to the longevity of our world.

We are chiselling youngsters down to one set of talents, one way of thinking and performing, measurable by a narrow set of definitions, invented by politicians who are ignorant of education, out to impress those parents interested only in social stature or getting the kids off their hands.

Harsh words maybe, but how many politicians know about the world outside their elite existence – let alone what’s useful for survival in it? And I’ve come across many parents who only want scores and grades for their own adult pride, or their kids minded; there are relatively few who’ve actually thought it through and reached an understanding about what’s good for their individual developmentally.

Child-minding aside, the fallacy that most believe is that kids need teachers, tests and schools to learn, develop and progress towards a fulfilling and productive life.

But in reality they don’t, as many successfully home educating families are proving.

What they need instead is to be happy, confident, interested, curious and motivated like the little girl running through the precinct. With those traits kids move themselves forward into work and life successfully, but there’s only a relative few who come out of schooling with those personal attributes intact.

And you have to define success.

Some would define a successful education from a consumerist point of view as the getting of lots of ‘good’ grades.

I wouldn’t. In fact, it’s hard to define education at all because any definition would suggest it is finite and it isn’t, it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end.

My definition of a successful education would be so interlinked with what I consider a successful life to be which has nothing to do with getting anything, grades or otherwise.

It is more to do with a practice of living that is happy and mindful and content for the most part, full of warm loving relationships, fulfilled through purposeful work, independent and responsible and that continues to build and grow and improve as we learn and educate ourselves. It’s something with encouragement young people could do for themselves – if they haven’t been put off.

Education, like life, should not be something our children have to endure till it ends so they can get on with real life, as many feel it is.

It should be an integrated part of their real lives from day one, ongoing and always accessible. It should inspire. It should be something youngsters are gagging to involve themselves in not playing truant from. And something that serves our needs as humans to develop creatively, personally and emotionally as well as intellectually. And finally, something that we should be brave enough to accept is not actually measurable as such, yet is still wonderfully successful.

Roll on the day….

Mood miracle!

I know it's not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

I know it’s not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

It’s amazing how one little moment can become a mood miracle!

Last week was a bit of a wretched one. They can get like that sometimes, can’t they!

I’ve done book events for the new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ and much travelling recently, working in between, and was a bit exhausted with it despite meeting lots of lovely complimentary and sweet people.

So I strode out under the sky early this weekend; for even cloudy is supposed to help the spirits. The tide was seeping over the marshland in that calm and comforting way it does, lifting birds and gently filling creeks. I watched it a while.

Then coming back to the garden I saw that our Buddleia was bedecked with more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in one place. So rather than going in and getting involved back indoors, probably back at laptop, I took a cuppa and sat there and watched them. Not something I’ve ever done – or thought of doing – before.

There were so many I started to count and in just a few minutes counted ten different species. And there were more than one of each species so you can see how many there were in all.  I was totally absorbed.

And then I noticed something else had happened; something honeyed had happened to my spirits.

The doldrums of the week had vanished. Banished by mindful attention to the butterflies and that natural life outside the laptop.

I must remember, must remember, must remember, to take a few mindful moments outside each day and then maybe the week wouldn’t get so far down as wretched. I used it all the time as an antidote to children’s indoor moods. I’ve got to remember that I need it just as much!

And if you’re interested in butterfly watching you and the kids can get involved with the butterfly count this August – another great reason to be outside.

What’s your tagline – and do you want it?

I’ve just been to one of those groups where you start the meeting by going round, giving your name and saying a little bit about yourself. Most people seem to welcome the chance to pop themselves into a category or adopt a label of some kind.

I on the other hand hate it. I avoid it as much as I can; the anonymity is so refreshing and I loathe being pigeonholed.

We get so possessive about labels, taglines and categories, as if we don’t know who we are without them. I’ve been going to this philosophy group a while now and can see some still revel in opportunity to tag ‘who they are’ as if the label made them so.

I’ve run out of imaginative ways to not say who I am and have got to the point of just saying ‘I’m Ross’, after which there’s a long and awkward silence! But I refuse to be allocated to a category even if it makes others feel better being able to tidy me up into one.

Categories are something that can really trip parents up. Make you feel you have to be following certain trends irrespective of whether it suits or not. This is particularly true if you’re home educating.

Are you a home educator or an unschooler, structured or autonomous?

Who cares?

Does it matter? Not really.

Parenting, education, is far better if it’s flexible. (And those are two categories that are inseparable from one another anyway).

Flexibility means you don’t have to stick with a pre-set agenda or category, and are adaptable and open to change. If you have to stick with your label it can become restrictive. It can prevent you being open to flexibility, then there’s a danger you’re not open to learning new ways that might suit your child better.

For instance, you may have a hankering for a completely autonomous approach in your household, yet have a child who thrives better with some structure and the security of being told what to do. Some are born leaders, some aren’t. Some need leading out. And instructions can make some feel secure.

Conversely you might want to adopt a school style day in your Home Ed routine because you’re familiar with it and it helps you think what to do, but have a child so passionate about their interests it creates conflicts between you. That’s the last thing you want if you want to home educate successfully.

And anyway, you could do both on different occasions for different subjects. And whatever you do your child changes as he grows – you have to remain open to that.

So the thing is; there’s a whole plethora of ways to raise and educate and you can use elements of all approaches.

But what matters most is not the category you’re in, but that what you do suits your child, your household, your circumstances and you as well. This of course takes compromise. But compromise is good for a child to see. Leading successful lives requires getting on with others and that always takes compromise.

Labels, tags, categories and camps can lack compromise and are usually nothing to do with the child’s needs, are instead about our adult needs. But it’s the child who’s important here, surely!

Do what works for you and your children, I say, irrespective of categories or labels. Explore the range of possibilities and, like me at the group, enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to live up to a tagline!