Tag Archive | kids

You can tell who’s been talking…

Babies must wonder what all this Christmas palaver is about. They stare at all the going’s on in amazement, too young to understand what we’re up to, however much we talk to them. Our behaviour and our hype must seem bizarre,even if entertaining. But I’m sure they absorb the excitement if not the explanations.

Babies – their wonderful world on BBC2

And we should be explaining – well – talking to them, however young and however they look back at us in bewilderment. For talking with them is essential for their development whatever age they are and whatever we’re chatting about.

There have been some great programmes on the BBC recently about babies’ development which I’ve been absorbed in. It talks about how the interactions babies have impacts on their development later on. And engaging through talk and attention was one part of their growth which was discussed; how those babies and toddlers who’ve been talked to, and with, have a greater vocabulary and dexterity with language at a later date. Even more importantly; they are the ones who achieve better educationally. So even if you think your baby isn’t responding you need to keep chatting away to them about what you’re doing and the things you see as you take them out and about.

I cringe when I see babies – any kids actually – being ignored as if they were an uncommunicative blob, or being pushed along in their pushchairs, backs to their parent, whilst said parent is engaged with their mobile. I know there’s a case for this on occasion – maybe. But I suspect it happens too often. It may be a boring talking to a baby, but it is a responsibility that comes with the parent package.

In fact it’s just as important to talk with any toddler – any youngster – and that parents continue to do so. To explain, answer questions, observe, whatever, for it all impacts on the development of their brain.

I have heard that some teachers are dealing with children starting school who are so unused to being talked to, and to whom the concept of conversation is so alien, they hardly talk at all. Their spoken vocabulary is so inhibited that staff have to spend the first part of the term focussing on that, let alone anything else like reading and writing. A shocking sign of someone neglecting their parental duty to engage with their kids. Teachers can always tell which kids have been talked to!

What some parents perhaps don’t realise is that talking to the little ones whatever age they are doesn’t just impact at the time, but equally importantly affects their development later in life too. The fact that they need talking to carries on throughout their childhood. And it’s not only important for language development or academic achievement. Conversing also creates the foundations of relationships and social skills essential for our health and happiness.

So whatever is going on in your house this Christmas, make sure you chat about it with the littlies. Of course if you’re home educating you get to chat to them all the time – no wonder homeschooled kids turn out to be so well developed! And if you’ve got a baby in the mix make sure you include them in it too. You are contributing to their education even at that early age.

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Who’s home-educating who?

The table was rarely visible! Cant’ believe this was 15 years ago!

Home educating was such an inspiring experience. Never regretted – sorely missed!

Now those little ones are grown ups they dash home for visits between work schedules and off they go again leaving the house to fall back into the ordered quiet I once wished for but don’t enjoy as much as I thought I would!

Isn’t it always the case that you fail to appreciate this stuff until it’s gone? Who’d have thought the chaos that home educating kids bring to the house would ever end and you’d miss the stuff-strewn style of home-decorating that’s an inevitable part of it. You think it’ll never change.

It does! So does your role as parent.

It’s funny, but it’s the offspring home educating me these days, as much as the other way round. I learn so much from them, as I like to think they learnt from me. We continue to learn from each other actually – that’s how it should be.

On her visit home recently my eldest was talking about the drama teaching she’s doing at the moment, not that ‘teaching’ is really a concept we ever adopted. It was more consensual learning and guidance that was a shared experience not a one-way ticket. We were talking about this and she expressed an approach we could all learn from.

She said that the only thing she really asks of her students is that they are kind. This creates a nicer environment and experience for everyone.

Her words really made me think. How many learning environments have we experienced that could have been so much better if that was the approach which governed it? How many teachers, facilitators and leaders could well do with adopting such an approach! And how much more progress would students make as a result?

And it would have even helped nurture along some of our less productive home educating days when my agenda had been overtaken by ‘teaching’, usually in a grump, instead of kindly facilitating my learners’ experience!

We’re only human. We all fall foul of human failings sometimes. But if there is nothing else that you can progress with during a tricky home educating day, you can always practice being kind and let the day take care of itself. I’m sure there’ll be a better outcome because of it.

Something I thought I’d share in case you want to try it out on a tough day!

Hugs for brains!

sdrThe minute I saw Charley I grabbed her in a massive hug. I tend to do that anyway. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done. And I don’t get so much opportunity these days, now we’re no longer home educating and they live independently.

I drool loving messages in her ears along with the kisses while she laughs and hugs back – she has the best hugs ever.

This time as I held her I said; “This is why you’re so intelligent, you know.”

She looked back at me laughing. “How come?”

“Well apparently, research now shows that the more you hug your babies the better their brains develop, so come here.” (Read the article here)

I grabbed her again as we joked at the idea of her being my baby when she’s about to celebrate her 25th birthday.

You’re never too old for hugs, brain development or not.

The beauty of home education is that you get an extra amount of time for hugs. For expressing your care and value and love for them. And respect of course.

They don’t always want it. Charley didn’t so much when she was tiny and very reserved. Anyway, she always wanted to be chasing about, too busy for huggy stuff. Nowadays she’s the most huggy person ever.

But I do think it is another one of those little things that going to school can affect; the time, opportunity and even inclination to express your love for one another especially through hugs and touch.

School creates tension in households with its rules and demands and stresses. Admittedly we all have those to negotiate in life, but so many of the school demands are unrealistic and unnecessary and placed on kids too young; the demand of the homework for one. Not to mention the tensions of school relationships which to me seem wholly unnatural, despite the ridiculous idea people have that kids have to go to school to ‘socialise’. School is the last place I’d want my kids to learn about socialising (post about that here) as relationships there are built on unhealthy tensions and are rarely anything like those relationships outside of school.

And I believe these tensions come home with them and affect the relationships within the family. There are bound to be tensions when the relationship many parents have with their kids after school boils down to arguments about getting their homework done, issues over uniform, or not behaving like so-and-so at school does!

Parents of school kids have a lot to counteract in maintaining their precious relationships with their kids at home.

Families who home school have the opportunity for hugs and holds whenever the need arises.

And it is all those hugs and holds which impact on the way your child develops emotionally and mentally and spiritually from then on. It is the natural part of the human existence that we all intrinsically need. And we should never skimp on it. Hugging time missed out on can never be replaced.

Better get on with it then!

 

 

 

5 Tips for new home educators

Experimentation, trial & error, play are all valid ways to learn

It’s that time of year when the numbers of home schoolers suddenly shoots up!

And it’s a rise made up of all sorts of parents; those who never intend to start their child at school, through those who’ve done it a while and don’t want to ‘go back’ after the summer, right to those with teenagers who really need something different now.

Making the decision is often the hard part. Then it’s exciting and inspiring to get launched into it. However you sometimes get a rebound where you think; ‘Heck! What now?’

So I thought I’d post five quick tips to bump you over that bit.

  1. Relax! Be confident in the fact home education works for thousands – it can work for you. But it takes a long time and is a long slow process – obvious but oft forgot! And it takes a long adjustment period if you’ve come at it from schooling. We forever read that a relaxed and mindful approach to life creates just as much success as a tense and driven one – now is the time to really practise that. Your child’s education will be better for it. So take some time to find the best way forward; time to research, time to connect with others, time for trial and error until you find a way that works for you. You have the time – because you won’t be wasting it on tedious school processes where the kids are learning nothing!
  2. Enjoy it. Learning IS enjoyable, although that’s difficult to tell in the system sometimes. A learning life is enjoyable. Don’t think that if you’re enjoying it then it’s not ‘proper’ learning! And happiness is important for learning and achieving anyway. Unhappy kids don’t reach their true potential. (There’s a post here about that)
  3. Connect with others. Take some time to find other home educators and visit groups, read or see what others are doing. Learn from them. There’s a huge range of approaches and groups and it may take time to find one that works for you. And for goodness sake don’t worry about the ‘socialisation’ issue – there isn’t one! (As I point out in this post)
  4. Diversify your learning approaches – and your thinking. Consider the difference between schooling and educating – there is one! Learning can happen at any time, any venue, in or out, in a multitude of different ways from the way it’s done in school. (Read this post) It does not have to take place inside, at a desk or table, in silence, sitting still, or through academic exercises. Children learn best when they are inspired through observation, experimentation, trial and error, going out, experiencing things practically as much as possible. So you’re going to have to diversify your thinking if you’re stuck thinking about classroom ways of learning only!
  5. Get out lots. Play lots. Talk lots. Whatever kids are doing they are learning – they just can’t help it. You can formalise it later, just enjoy it for now. Wherever kids are there are opportunities for learning. whether it’s spotting ants on the pavement, discussing the dinner, playing with others in the swimming pool, journeying, holidaying, meeting others. Play is essential for learning too. Use libraries, sports halls, museums, galleries, garden centres, shops, parks, playgrounds, nature reserves, sites of specific interest – natural – historic – scientific. Learning out and about stays with kids far better than sat inside.

This may also be a useful reminder for all of you who’ve been home educating a while now. If you’re anything like me you can get all up-tight about it and forget these simple ideas. So enjoy your home education too.

Whatever stage you’re at, may you have as much fun home educating as we did.

Learn for personal excellence – not for beating others

I’ve been reading the work of Alfie Kohn recently. In particular ‘The Myth of the Spoiled Child’. 

I applaud his ideas, especially those about education where he, like me, finds the obsession with competition, grading, testing and trophies for winning rather distasteful.

He says:

“When we set children against one another in contests—from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read—we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health.”

It illustrates something many people misunderstand; the difference between personal excellence for personal excellence’s sake, instead of for the sake of winning.

I’ve always abhorred the idea of competition in an educational climate. Competition is not about personal excellence or individual growth which education should be, it is about beating others. And in today’s school climate very much about league tables and the big commercial and political business education has become.

Some people are fine with that; it’s a competitive world, I hear people cry, and kids have to be taught how to cope. But Kohn has his own strong arguments against that position and why it’s of benefit to no one. Namely that driving our kids to learn and excel because ‘it’s a competitive world’ doesn’t have as much impact on their achievement or do a lot for their mental health as encouraging them to excellence because it is fulfilling. And also avoids making others feel bad – unlike competitive practices.

And isn’t that part of the idea of education? To learn how to live together and contribute with compassion?

He goes on in his book to talk about ways of parenting that revolve around ‘working-with’ the children rather than ‘doing-to’. That can also be applied to the way we educate and is probably the position that most home educators adopt within their approach!

And I love his idea, as the book draws to a close, of encouraging ‘reflective rebelliousness’ where young people are encouraged to question rather than practice mindless obedience, and we should as parents support their autonomy in a way that complements concerns for others.

Certainly sounds a bit like home educators to me! It’s well worth a read!

Could I really afford to homeschool?

One of the reasons people think they could not home educate is to do with money; they think they couldn’t afford to. There is obviously the consideration of parents working and earning and how to manage this around homeschooling. But home education doesn’t have to be expensive in itself; money doesn’t guarantee a good education!

I wrote about this in my ‘Home Education Notebook‘ (see the My Books page) so here’s the extract in case this is the way you’re thinking:

Some people think that the more money you have the better education you will be able to provide or access. Some people think the more money you throw at a child the cleverer they will be. Some people think the more costly the institution the better the education inside it will be.

But none of that is guaranteed.

You can of course buy a private institutional or taught education. You can buy into an area where the schools are considered top. You can buy courses and resources and tutors if that’s your thing. But none of these are guarantees of a quality education either.

This is because education is not really a commodity that can be bought like other items outside of a person like clothing for example. It’s not an App or an add-on or a piece of food.

Education is more a state of being. And that is very personal – not commercial. And open to anyone.

Developing an educated state of being is entirely personal, individual, and requires something that’s not stuck on the outside of a person. It requires something within to happen instead. It requires a human shift. Therefore, it is about people; all of whom are different, all of whom will respond to their educational opportunities differently, and all of whom will grow into a different person in reaction to learning opportunities.

For a person to become educated they have to engage with it themselves. They are the ones who have to make the shift. What happens on the periphery may make a little difference but it is the learner who has to make it happen within and that’s why it really cannot be bought.

There’s a saying that sums up what I’m getting at quite precisely, it goes; ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’.

I reminded myself of this several times during our home educating years. In fact it’s still relevant now when I want to try and control what the young people do and they’re having none of it – quite rightly. I can have all the ideas I want about what I think is best for them but unless they engage with those ideas they’ll have no effect at all. And they also have their own valid ideas!

Same with home education. I could lead the children towards all kinds of fascinating activities (in my view) but I couldn’t force them to engage.

I used to get intensely frustrated. Especially when I had all my planned activities dismissed as readily as I dismissed their choice in crap telly programmes. I used to spend enormous amounts of time and energy thinking up these engaging activities, then enormous amounts of time and energy in the frustration of them being disregarded, but it was my fault.

As they grew, they began to take over their education for themselves and it would have been a lot better if I’d butted out. But being a parent – okay a bit of an interfering parent – I still reckoned I had to have a lot of input. Some of the time it was welcome – most of the time it was more about me wanting control and doing my bit as an educator and as such was not welcome.

This, like trying to buy education, didn’t work. Because both with the buying and the control, neither guarantee that learning is going to take place. Whatever we try to buy or do – the learning still has to come from the learner.

It doesn’t matter how much you do, it doesn’t matter how much you buy or spend, or the energy you put into it, real education can only take place through the responses of your learner. You can’t buy that!

In a way, that’s quite a comforting thought; it does at least take some of the burden off your shoulders as a parent. Of course your burden maybe instead to facilitate those activities but even that isn’t always going to work. Sometimes the children are just not having any of it. Those days you just have to go with it knowing that things always change and others will be better. But in the end, you can lead a child towards being educated, but you cannot force them to partake of it. Canny provision of stimulating things around them often works as a strategy to engage or inspire them. But in the end it is up to them. And that’s no different whether it costs a little or a lot.

An educated person can come from a poor background or a rich background. Becoming educated starts with an attitude not an income. Being educated is a state of mind not a state of finance.

Poverty has been cited as being one of the causes of poor education. But the kind of poverty that really impacts is a poverty of thinking, more than a poverty of purse.

Obviously good nutrition and warm comfortable homes, opportunities to get out and about and see the world all contribute and money does play a part in those things. But you can still have an engaging education despite the challenge of not having those things – they are all influential in degrees anyway. And not guaranteed to have an impact. Money is not the only influential factor.

The poorest family can have the richest love and support of their children and the wealthiest attitude to learning and personal advancement. It’s that attitude that money has nothing to do with.

Money can’t make an education. A state of mind does. And an educative state of mind can evolve despite the state of the cash flow!

 

 

Shocking practice – for so-called education

Education is about people – I’ve always said that. If you think about it; how could it be about anything else?

Children excluded from the school picnic as reported on BBC news

It is about the development and evolution of our species – although we’re more normally concerned with our own particular individuals within it. But our individuals are part of the wider community, the human race, the planet and other species living on it. And how to live harmoniously in order to sustain it.

That’s what education is about – when you can see the bigger picture.

If anyone dropped in from outer space and observed it I doubt they’d know that – they’d just think it was about statistics and results and a huge political treadmill.

The bigger picture is of course made up of smaller parts; it’s children that most concern us when we think about education.

So when those individuals are treated in a less than harmonious way – like these children I read about recently as an example – it seems a complete contradiction of what education should be and proves the point about statistics – they’ve become more important than humanity.

This reported how a group of children who were unable to maintain a 100% attendance at school were excluded from a party.

I found this a shocking practice that creates a poisonous and divisive attitude to others and to education, clearly focussed on building school statistics not developing educated people. And I’m also shocked that the so-called educated people who make such policies are too uneducated to see it.

In order to develop educated people we have to demonstrate care for them, inspire them, nurture their skills and talents, enable them to extend and apply them to the wider world. This is what education is for isn’t it? It is about people going into the world, developing a relationships with it and the people in it, how this is sustained, so therefore its premise and its role must extend far beyond the small world of schools, institutions, their stats and results and the ensuing politics. And it starts with individuals.

Thankfully there are some in the profession are beginning to see this.

Geoff Barton writing in the TES agrees. He says that education is becoming so insular it is failing to relate to the bigger world out there and the people in it.

He says we must reclaim education as ours.

Well, that’s exactly what thousands of home educators are doing. Their inspirational approaches bypass the institutional treadmill education has become based on stats and attendance, records and results, yet the result of homeschooling is often the same; qualifications for some, higher education, employment, social adept individuals. Yet their approaches are nearly always centred around people – not stat-building.

Which just goes to show how unnecessary it all is. And how unnecessary it is to put kids through the cruel practice described above.

Shocking!