Tag Archive | learning approaches

Best moments of home education

What are your best moments home educating?

Don’t know about you but I always found that a tricky one to answer – that’s because there are so many. And during all our years of home educating these matured and changed with the children.

When we started, as well as being a teeny bit terrified at the enormity of the decision, there was a much stronger sense of liberation. Not liberation from school as much as the liberation to learn, the freedom to learn, without the obsessive restrictions regimented schooling imposes. It was quite a moment when I realised the potential that offered. We quite literally could learn any time – schedules not always necessary, anywhere – wherever we were, anything – whatever and whenever it came up. So some of our best moments were seeing the children blossom and develop as their curiosity (often quelled in school) expanded the subjects we studied. The possibilities are endless.

Following that was witnessing their health and happiness recover (school was detrimental to both). Why is happiness important? See this blog here – it’s vital!

One particular moment I’ll always remember. It was whilst we were out and about learning, the kids absolutely absorbed by the world around them, and as I watched them satiating their need to know with endless questions, inquiries and explorations I realised how absolutely ‘right’ this was. The moment. The home education. The approach to learning we’d adopted. It felt so good.

Anything, anywhere, any time can provoke learning.

Then there was the laughing moments. Yes – you can laugh and joke and mess around and still learn stuff! Not something encouraged in school. There’s a funny story here which shows what I mean. Education doesn’t always have to be serious!

Other best learning moments came when a concept, skill or understanding that had escaped them suddenly clicked. I wasn’t one for keeping to time frames or age frames or battling on with stuff that clearly was beyond them at the time. It was better that they came to stuff when they were ready; far better to leave it a bit. Then, quite often when we came back to it at a later date, it all fell into place. And their eyes lit up.

You miss those moments when they’re in school, especially when they’ve been made to feel a failure when they didn’t get it first time.

Then there were the social moments. Watching a group of home educated kids, who have no reason to compete or to bully, to ostracise or exclude, to do another down for there is no threat about who can do and who can’t, is an absolute delight. Age becomes unimportant. Kit is unimportant. Cleverness is unimportant. The whole ethos of the home educating groups we were involved with was one of support, care, looking after and helping one another without much segregation between parents and kids either, although this occurred naturally. No one ‘had’ to do, or to mix in any way they felt uncomfortable with and no one was forced. I describe a Christmas party in my ‘Home Education Notebook’ that really opened my eyes to what ‘social’ truly is. It is not what happens in school!

And the very best moments I think, were about us. Our togetherness. Our unity. Our bond. Our respect. The wonderful relationship which grew between us and the kids, us and the grown ups they are now.

What are your best moments? Do leave them below – they’ll make such lovely reading for anyone who might be looking at this and wondering whether they should home educate or not, or just a reminder to overcome a tricky day.

And besides I’d love to read about them!

What do we need of our schools?

There was a time I didn’t rate home education! Can you imagine?

And that’s simply because of ignorance!

Like many other parents, some who thought it was downright wrong, this was because; I had no experience of it; had been influenced by too many other people who also had no experience of it; had a rigid view of education indoctrinated by the prescriptive system I was familiar with.

But I changed. I learnt different. I overcame my ignorance, not because I met others successfully doing it and had direct and first hand experience of its success. The nucleus of change started long before that.

It began when working in the system.

I was changed by seeing too many children glazed over, failed and let down by schooling, by seeing the methods used to get those children to fit in, by seeing them ostracised when they couldn’t, and knowing in my heart as a teacher (well before Home educating) that schools just didn’t suit too many kids.

And it wasn’t about youngsters’ ability to learn or study or engage. It was as much about the environment of schools as anything and what that did to some kids.

Something needed to be different.

Think about parties. you’re either someone who enjoys crowds and socialising and parties or you’re not. That’s just the way you are.

Equally, some of us can learn with hubbub and noise and distraction all around. Some can’t – some prefer it quiet and still. I’m one of those. Children are also like that. Some enjoy and thrive in the buzz of a school environment. Some don’t. Some can’t bear it. Some to the point of becoming mentally and emotionally unwell.

That’s just the way they are. But some people are too ignorant to see that – or unwilling because they’d need to provide something different.

They’d need to see that children should not have to be exposed to the crazy crush and stress of school if it’s not the way they learn best. And acknowledge that we are failing them if we expect them to be able to learn in an environment that doesn’t suit – and we haven’t even touched on the sometimes debilitating approaches used to get kids to learn, the bizarre content of much of the curriculum, etc etc.

So is home educating the answer?

It can be the answer for some who are able to manage it.

But – it certainly isn’t the answer for all; many family circumstances would make it impossible anyway.

What we need instead is a different sort of school. And a different approach to learning and education.

What we need is to see education not as the mass grade-getting industry and political strategy it’s become, but as a treasured opportunity for kids to grow and develop. A return to this core value.

We need schools to be smaller intimate places, more of them, nearer homes, so they are less crowded and less threatening – and less generic.

We need fewer children to each teacher so there’s a better intimacy, so teachers can get to really know their pupils, and consequently create better interaction and respect.

We need to stop making education and learning about testing. Teachers who know kids and know how to teach don’t need it, the kids don’t need it, it gets in the way of learning. It’s in complete opposition to everything education should be.

We need to rid schools of an oppressive curriculum and approach to learning, most of which is based on outcomes designed to perpetuate the system rather than perpetuate the good of the youngsters themselves.

We need schools to be places of nurture and personal development, not places of measurement and competition. And before you argue that kids need to be exposed to that in order to stand it in the ‘real’ world, – they don’t. Kids who’ve been home educated and never been to school still manage to make their way in tough competitive working worlds when the time comes, when they choose to do so.

And that’s another point: choice. You choose your working world to some extent and the people you’re with. Children and young people in the system have no choices, or choices manipulated to suit the system. They have no choice about what or who they have to endure and this makes a difference to their success. Young people deserve more choice over their learning and their destiny. If we offered the right opportunities and facilities they would make the right choices – whatever ‘right’ is! To not offer that demonstrates an abhorrent lack of respect for them on our behalf.

This strange lock down time will make it blatantly clear that home schooling is not for all, course not. But schools as they are, are not for all either. And this is becoming very evident through parents reporting that during this time out of school their children have grown, are beginning to thrive and bloom and maintain good mental health and well being that they didn’t enjoy when on the schooling treadmill. Surely kids don’t have to suffer that for an education?

It’s about time we asked the questions too long in coming – what do we want of our schools? Is what we have out of date? Acknowledge that this prescriptive system is turning too many children into failures and even destroying the health and well being of some?

Parents should wake up to the fact we need changes – it’s in their hands – they are the consumers of it. We need humanity back in our schools and to make them more about people, not about politics. And vote for changes and practices that honour our children not disrespects them through such shameful and manipulative disregard.

Learn more about the home schooling life from my books. See the Books page for more

Fascinating approaches to home education

I had a long and thought provoking comment from Nav on my recent post ‘The Hypocrisy of Educational Discrimination’, about her home education – did you see it?

It was so interesting I invited her to expand the ideas she’d touched upon about their approaches in a post here. She describes being inspired by many other thinkers which she’s condensed in to five big ideas that influence their home education. I think you will be inspired too so do read on. Here’s her piece:

A Vernacular Home Education By Nav K

A science session outside with friends

I’m an English psychiatrist of Punjabi-Indian heritage, on an extended career break (possibly permanent one) and my husband is an English writer (with recentish Cypriot heritage mixed in). We live with our two primary school aged children in a rather small house, on a bit of land in rural Ireland (a move we made partly to make home education possible for us). My husband and I have always been drawn to the vernacular (I’m using that to mean designed or developed specific to the place) and to being part of nature, rather than separate from it. These ideas have guided our home education and made it a family and personal journey.

I’m the main educator in our home and I can’t tell you then that we follow a specific approach such as Unschooling, or specific school curricula, or Reggio Emilia or Charlotte Mason approaches – I think we are probably drawing on them all to different degrees in pursuit of the best education that we can access. I have some favourite educational thinkers (a bit of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky is very influential and contemporary thinkers Kieran Egan and Gillian Judson are wonderful guides) but I also try to read widely and influences come from many thinkers outside the discipline of education. As a result, we’ve developed some underlying big ideas / philosophies or principles for our family education, which keep evolving of course, as we learn more together. The overall aim is not just to get clever, but to develop wisdom.

5 Big Principles and their influence on our learning:

  1. Seeing the grand, beautiful whole

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”~ Albert Einstein. Recent research into the brain has shown that the right hemisphere tends to take in a whole, complicated ‘picture’ of the world and the left brain specialises in breaking this down into smaller pieces (I’ve simplified this incredibly here). The writer Iain McGilchrist argues that humans have let the left brain dominate too far. For example, the left part of our brain helps us develop computers and artificial intelligence but would not be able to “see” what could go wrong by hurtling down this path so entirely and so quickly. Did you know that many university biology courses now have little or no outside-the-classroom work, looking at plants in their natural setting? If you love nature and plants and want to study them at that level of education, you’ll probably end up in a lab looking at tiny, tiny details through a computer aided microscope and manipulating genes for 3 years. So at home we use technology such as the laptop and internet but in a careful, thought out way for our learning and much of what we do means going outside, visualising and manipulating with our bodies, using all our senses if possible. We’ll do maths through dance and art rather than a online maths app. When we aim to discuss any topic that involves breaking something into its parts to study them closely, I try very hard to bring the whole back together again with my children.

  1. Everything is connected

All the educational school ‘subjects’ could be described as different but true ways of seeing the world and as individuals we might find ourselves able to understand or enjoy some ways of seeing in preference to others. At home we often discuss how knowing something of all these major ways of seeing the world could complement each other, rather than just being separate entities and I try to help my children find connections, for example the maths in music, dance, and nature (or any of these to learn maths); how science tries to pinpoint things more precisely, but so does language. We spend a lot of time exploring metaphors and analogies for anything we study. Have you noticed how all the greatest thinkers on any aspect or area of expertise have used striking metaphors? (Einstein being an example above!).

  1. Serious practice leads to serious fun!

(I stole that quote from my children’s wonderful music school director and it has become a mantra at home when things are tough.) Persistence and tenacity, focusing on small specific goals in each practice session to gain mastery at something the children have chosen to pursue (like learning to play a piece of music or completing that story or poem) rather than giving up when it gets tricky, allows you not only to feel the pleasure of mastery but then get incredibly and ably creative with it. We talk about this a lot at home using examples of people whose work inspires us. For example, the artist Georgia O’Keeffe who is widely recognised as starting American Modernism mastered painting ‘life-like’ from observation before she went on to develop her own original amazing style, as did many other great painters.

  1. Learn from inspirational masters and experts

We rarely find ourselves using specific teaching materials aimed at primary school these days. We find someone who inspires us or is an expert, somehow. This is usually through reading their books or finding their work on the internet. For example, we love the Royal Institute Lectures for science and maths, available online. We sometimes manage to persuade experts leading classes for adults to let our older daughter attend (like a recent series of archaeology lectures about our part of Ireland). We grab skilled friends to teach us what they know whenever they visit. I support the children to learn anything science or maths related and my husband focuses on creative writing because of our own knowledge and experience in those areas.

  1. Play to learn

Play is necessary for health, learning and for having fun! We make a lot of time for unsupervised free play. From experience we have found huge benefits to adventurous physical play, particularly outside: there is lots of rough and tumble wrestling, tree climbing, exploring rivers, swimming in lakes and the sea (when we can make it happen); but also other quieter (…well sometimes quieter!) forms of play, like fantasy / role-play and constructional play. We try to encourage that it occurs outside, in all weather. If quantum physics entanglement theory is correct, then whatever we spend time looking at (and perhaps listening to, smelling, tasting and touching) could help us become a little bit of what we interact with. So if the children spend much of their time out together with other nature, they might truly be part of it, value and defend it, rather than covet and relate more to screens and machines.

There is a lot more to our personal and vernacular home-education than I can write here and there isn’t the scope to give each big principle or the thinkers behind them, the words or time they are due, but I hope I’ve made a fair attempt at describing some of them.

After lots of encouragement to do so, I am currently busy putting together a simple website to document and share these ideas in greater depth. I hope they will be useful to parents thinking about, embarking on or already on a home education journey. If you would like to know when it goes up on-line please send an email to home.edgeucated@gmail.com