Tag Archive | learning at home

Clear out those Home Ed worries

I came across some of my old home education diaries and files the other day whilst having a clear out.

Goodness, didn’t I worry about everything and anything! And there’s nothing like a diary for an offload of all the concerns and glums that hound us day to day. I think I need to burn them because they’re not a true reflection of the pleasure and inspiration home educating gave us.

I kept worries mostly hidden in my public writings because I wanted to encourage and support and that might have given a rosy impression. But underneath I worried just as much as anyone.

Now I’m through it I thought I’d share some of them because I bet they’re familiar, and you’ll be able to see how they resolved.

I suppose the biggest over riding worry is; ‘am I doing the right thing?’

Ironic we rarely ask that question when we send the kids off to school!

The only thing you can do to combat this concern is trust your guts at the time. Review regularly. And rest assured that thousands of families and young people who have grown up and moved on from their home educating days are contributing to the growing body of proof that it is the right thing for many. And it does work.

After that I worried about whether the children would learn anything. But it didn’t take me long to notice them soaking up knowledge, skills and abilities much faster than when they’d been in the classroom where learning had been so restricted and inhibited. The internet has almost every learning resource you could possibly need, both for you and for them, along with group support. The kids can access this learning for themselves, and do so, without teachers or anyone giving them permission. Of course they’ll learn – just try and stop them!

I also worried about mixing and friends. But as soon as we began to forge relationships with the home school community I realised how unhealthy, restricted and unnatural were the relationships forged within a classroom. I also remembered how many times the kids came home from school upset by others – children and staff! As we were out and about experiencing normal social interaction, and as pre-home ed they continued with the same groups and clubs they’d always done, their friendships were just as broad as they’d ever been. In fact, they were more secure, built as they were on healthy respect and common interest, not age or desperation. The kids grew in confidence and social competence and seemed more socially advanced than many of their school peers; a comment often heard about home ed kids.

I’d forgotten this but it seems I also worried about their day to day progress. However, as I watched them learning all the time I saw that learning doesn’t progress in that steady upward gradient the professionals like to monitor, but in fits and starts, surges and plateaus, and that’s okay. They still end up in the same place as their contemporaries by the time they’re grown! And of course I worried about whether they’d be able to formalise this patchwork learning into standard courses or qualifications if they needed to at a later date. But they did so easily, finding that their ability to study without direction far exceeded the other students they met at college and Uni, to the point of them wondering why others went there since they didn’t seem to want to learn!

And embedded among all this was the nagging concern as to whether we’d still be friends at the end of it all and whether they’d still be speaking to me for subjecting them to such an unorthodox way of educating. And of course they are. (Odd that I didn’t ask if they’d hate me for sending them to school!) We are best friends and have as strong and as loving a relationship as we ever did.

So my advice to you is to put worrying on hold, enjoy your time with your young people for they won’t be with you forever, enjoy your learning experiences. And most of all; stay with the moment you’re in and make it the best it can be at the time. (And quit worrying about that too; it won’t be the best all the time – it isn’t in school either!)

Then all those enjoyed moments will piece together to make a happy home ed life whose influence will extend far beyond this time now.

Tips for tough homeschool times

Here we go again; another Lockdown and worries about where this is all going to end.

It can make for tough times, especially if you’re home educating and worrying about the children’s learning.

Just remember you survived the last Lockdown and the children will be learning all the time from whatever you’re doing. I’m sure they still will despite more Lockdown restrictions.

And if you’re worrying whether they’d be better off in school you should also remember that there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life. So don’t worry about that as well as everything else!

Just carry on without guarantees. Put in whatever’s needed to give home education your best shot.

The best tips I can offer for that are:

  • Listen to your intuition. If a home educating activity or style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
  • Do whatever’s needed to help you all cope whether that’s education wise or personal; actually, it’s all education anyway. And remember there’s no rush, take your time. This won’t last forever.
  • Look to the Now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. Lockdown will change – just do what you can, much will have to be be virtual at this time.
  • Keep in virtual contact, learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently. Kids learn from everything!
  • Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school!). Use it to build a workable and happy Lockdown learning experience. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave. Create space from each other within the boundaries of your home so you can keep relationships sweet. Be inventive about room use.
  • Keep talking things through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge, have ideas. Lots of conversations are extremely educative.
  • Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. It should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember! And it doesn’t happen overnight – be patient. times are tough.

You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience, however you’re managing it at the moment. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s tough for everyone. Let go the bad days – they’d have them at school where absolutely nothing would have been learnt. Some homeschool days will be like that too! Quit worrying!

There’s lots more tips and reassurance in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the concerns people have when they home educate – whether in Lockdown or not. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in, along with a little laughter which is what we all need right now. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the FAQs. See the My Books page for more details.

Why I loved home educating so much

We loved every minute of our home educating years. Well – to clarify – it wasn’t roses all the time but then parenting isn’t roses all the time is it? And although it was a decision hard to make since the children had started school, it wasn’t a decision that we ever regretted, even for one single moment. And we don’t have any complaints from the now-adults we practised on either!

So what was it I loved so much?

Firstly, the children got their love of learning back, their wonder and curiosity about everything, destroyed in school whilst they had to learn and practice other stuff that was of no interest or relevance. I mean, what use is knowledge of frontal adverbials to a nine year old when there’s a treasure trove of real world stuff under their noses they want to know about?

Secondly, along with their passion to learn, their health was restored too which had dwindled into constant and miserable infections. Although their infectious laughter had been wiped out, along with their joyous mental health. Home educating reinstated both.

Learn any place – a treasure trove of real world stuff!

I loved the freedom to learn in ways that suited us best whether that was going out or study, playing or doing practical stuff, visiting museums, castles and historical sites, galleries and exhibitions, nature reserves, parks and playgrounds and beaches, or the library. Or meeting others for exercise and get togethers, sports or workshops. The realisation that you can take your learning any place, anyhow, at anytime. Learn into the evenings if early mornings weren’t suited (as they’re not to teenagers).

I loved the freedom they had to pursue and develop their own skills, talents and interests, the flexibility of curriculum or timetables (when we used them), subject matter and approach. Instead of sticking to a rigid set of objectives deemed important by someone else but not important to the learner at all. The freedom to keep it balanced.

I loved the diversity and opportunity to match life and learning to our needs, rather than the needs of an institution, or a test. Learning and living became one and the same thing for that’s what education is all about anyway, isn’t it? Learning to live life in a happy, productive and successful way – not learning to be tested. Home educating gave us the opportunity to make truly independent decisions about what was happy and productive and successful. Which is ironic really since home educators are often accused of keeping their children dependent on their parents. The truth is, the opposite seems to happen; being independent learners makes them independent in many aspects of life and very competent decision makers – they’ve had the practice. Whereas most school children are so ‘schooled’ and have such little choice, they are the ones that become dependent; on an institution making a decision for them.

I loved the social side of it; the opportunity for the kids to make friends in real social groups, not enforced groups with limits on age and what brands you owned, the high proportion of adults to kids to set respectful social examples, the way we could chat confidently with all sorts of people in differing situations.

I loved home educating. It was the best thing this family ever did. It worked for our circumstances, for our personalities and I felt incredibly lucky that we were able to do it, for I know it certainly won’t work for all. But for us, it released the children’s learning from the strait-jacket of a political system and returned it to the holistic development of a balanced individual with an intelligence broader than that required to just pass exams.

And most of all I loved the fact that the children discovered the real truth about education; that it was not something inflicted upon them by others sometimes in dull and degrading ways. But a living and ongoing opportunity for investigation of the real world, for growth and personal development, that was fully theirs – not a school’s – that they had charge of and was a way of living that would enhance their life.

Life long!

See ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ for the rest of this article about having a wobble and loving it anyway! Published by Eyrie Press and also available on Amazon.

School-at-home, home schooling, home education – what’s in a label?

Whilst schools have been closed and everyone’s children learning at home during lockdown the term ‘home schooling’ has been commonly used to describe all children’s learning out of school.

But those who were ‘home schooling’ before ‘school-at-home’ came into being know that it is not the same thing. And most experienced home educating families prefer the title ‘home educating’ anyway.

But why are we getting up tight about labels?

The main reasons school-at-home, and home schooling or home education which parents were already doing, are different is that school-at-home parents have been thrust into it without choice, but generally with some guidance and practical lessons from schools.

With home schooling or home education, which families were already practising prior to lockdown, parents take full responsibility for their children’s education and deregister themselves from any school and consequently any support from them.

Many experienced home educating families prefer not to use the term home schooling because of the connotations of the words ‘schooling’ and ‘educating’.

Their use of the term ‘home education’ is based on the definition of education in its broadest sense as in bringing out, or developing of potential, rather than the drilling of facts and skills into the young as it has become through schooling. There is a very interesting article ‘What Is Education’ on the Infed.org site which gives a definition of education as ‘the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning’ which is how many home educating families interpret it and which you can’t help but feel is lacking in many school approaches.

Most definitions of schooling mean educating in school, which is why most experienced home educators like to shy away from using the term ‘schooling’. It suggests a training or drilling of children that can disregard their needs and learning preferences and is often the reason parents step away from mainstream school. Schooling tends to have the agenda of the school at its heart, rather than the needs of the individual.

Home educators generally see the education of their children as a much broader more balanced undertaking and use approaches in line with that, which put the interests, preferences and needs of the child at its heart.

So the difference in the terms is important to them.

However, ‘home education’ it’s more of a mouthful! And ‘home schooling’ has become the most popular term, especially in the media, used to refer to those families whose children do not go to school but do their learning independently of them. But it is not to be confused with school-at-home which no doubt will end.

As parents progress with home schooling, taking advantage of the choices and flexibility it offers, and see how children learn and become educated almost by themselves through the many diverse and varied approaches available, they begin to appreciate these subtle differences.

There are other labels and philosophies attached to home educating, like De-schooling and Un-schooling and World-schooling, which parents also use.

De-schooling usually refers to the time and process of recovery needed for those children who’ve been in school and switch to home educating. It takes a while for children and parents to adjust to learning in different ways, to release any damaging effects of school and get used to new routines, approaches and choices open to them.

Un-schooling is similar, except that it doesn’t necessarily refer to recovery from school, more an approach to learning and educating that doesn’t rely on familiar habits and traditions we associate with a school style approach to learning many of us have ingrained within us. As the saying goes; we can take the child (and ourselves) out of school but it’s more difficult to take the schooling out of us! (Excellent book on the subject which I blogged about recently here).

World-schooling generally refers to parents who facilitate their children’s learning out in the real world, often through travelling, away from the school world, or those who have alternative lifestyles different from the mainstream. They see the world outside of school as a way of making their educational provision.

But labels aside, what’s more important than what it’s called, is what parents do as home educators/home schoolers. That they are guided by the needs of their child within the context of them taking their place in the world, by finding approaches that work for their circumstances and that all are happy with it.

Many understand all the above as the same thing anyway – and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter to the kids what we call it. It’s what we do that counts. And there’s a huge diversity and flexibility in what you can do to make home educating a success!

Are you discombobulated about your children’s learning?

If you’re struggling with your children’s education right now, being mindful in the way you think about it might make you feel a little easier.

Whether you’re doing school-at-home or home educating many of the same issues arise in ‘doing the work’, creating pressures in family life that make everyone feel discombobulated!

I love that word. Discombobulated describes very succinctly what we’re all feeling during this corona crisis. It’s defined as confused and disconcerted. Fits the bill, doesn’t it?

And I imagine many parents are discombobulated about their children’s education right now, both those doing school-set tasks at home and those who were already home educating for whom the lockdown is just as inhibiting.

Some of our feelings are caused by the pressure that we put upon ourselves when we’re not mindful of the way we think about it.

For example; think about the school day. Parents tend to think about kids in school doing useful stuff from 9 am til 3 pm but it doesn’t exactly work like that. During those hours there is a lot of moving about, messing about, distractions, disruptions, wandering attention and general procrastination and time wasting. I averaged it once in a classroom; the children actually only get about 7 minutes an hour of constructive time! So if you’re pressurising your child to do 9 til 3 non stop ‘work’ because that’s what you think they do in school I should stop. Whether you’re home educating or doing school-at-home your child will work more quickly through stuff and will have a lot more time for other valuable pursuits which contribute to their educational advancement in ways you’d never imagine!

Another example, thinking about the basics; the maths, english and science done in schools is designed to be done in schools and in such a way it can be measured. This can make it dull and the children switch off from seeing them as interesting subjects. However maths, english and science come up in everyday life at home all the time in much more relevant ways. For example, budgeting (maths) is a constant consideration (and essential life skill). Messaging, searching online, reading anything, comics, any form of writing like lists for example (not forgetting drawing and colouring are excellent for practising skills involved in writing) all increase the use and understanding of vocabulary and language as do discussions and chats – all useful literacy practice. And we are involved in science all the time in everything we do if you just notice – and use it as a starting point for investigation. We have bodies – biology. We use stuff and live in stuff which all originated at some point from the earth (materials, properties, sources etc). Not only do we have a virus crisis (what’s a virus?) we have a planetary crisis – the planet being one of the most important subjects for scientific research. Do you see what I mean? Scientific questioning and discussion develops a scientific mind as much as anything you might do in a workbook – and it’s real. Making maths english and science relevant to the youngsters’ lives through real stuff is as valuable as the maths, english and science you do on the curriculum. Be innovative about how you tackle it; relating it to life makes it more interesting and doable.

And finally be mindful of the idea that everything you do has the potential to be educative; your family interaction, discussions, contact by tech, cooking, organising, getting your exercise, playing, looking after yourself, managing life together, clapping the NHS. All builds skills, mental, physical, life skills – all has a worth.

This is a time of trauma for everyone. No one needs added pressure brought by needless worry about ‘school work’ or dull academic exercises.

We are all discombobulated! Many of our comfort blankets are gone and we’re all having to work life out in new ways for the time being. Fretting about academics will not help. And is not necessary for I bet that when the kids are in their twenties you’ll never even notice the school days they missed or this time of home schooling – however you’re doing it!

Family harmony, security, nurture and getting through as happily as you can are more important than academics right now. Far better the children remember a happy time of family learning together than the pressure of being forced to do stuff that’s less than relevant in this discombobulated time. Not forgetting that even discombobulated, and how you tackle it, can be educational!

So I suggest you take the pressure of yourselves – and the kids – and rethink it!

Why you shouldn’t worry about ‘getting behind’

It’s threatened by schools constantly. A kind of subversive blackmail to keep parents in check. Keep them sending their kids to school so they can be kept on the conveyor belt of test scores, thus keeping schools high up the dreadful league table competition that the business of education has become.

Did you realise that’s what the education system is mainly about?

The irony is: this is NOT a complete education.

And the tragedy is that this propaganda – this threat of ‘getting behind’ – has made parents desperately afraid; has created at FOMO of education, if you like!

However, true education has no ‘in front’ or ‘behind’. It’s the competitive and political system which has created it. A system which has become less about what’s good for the child and more about what’s good for the politics.

It doesn’t happen so much when home educating because most home educators treat education as something different from the prescriptive hot-house process based around child control and mass teaching. They generally see education as a personal process that a) is for the whole development of an individual not just the academic and b) doesn’t have to measured or scored or graded in order to be successful. And they’re proving this approach works.

But that aside, in these unprecedented times, when everyone’s in the same boat, it’s therefore true that no one is really missing out or getting behind.

What’s more important to focus on is addressing the trauma that everyone’s going through, particularly the children, with the unsettling disturbance of what they knew to be life, and having the concept of mortality brought much closer.

In fact, we’re all suffering a major emotional trauma that has disrupted work, family, life as we know it. And this is what we need to be nurturing ourselves and our children through, not worrying about getting educationally ‘behind.

Even more importantly; this time now is an education in itself.

It doesn’t look like the grade getting, measured process that most parents equate with education, but it is building many personal skills which are an essential element of it and without which grades are of no use at all.

I do understand that this is hard for many parents unfamiliar with this way of thinking to grasp. But maybe now’s the time.

The value of education, and what use it is beyond school, is not only based in grades. It’s also based in the learner’s ability to apply themselves to living and earning and working with others. To do this they need a whole range of non-academic skills; relationships skills, conversational skills, empathy, self-motivation, social skills, confidence, budgeting skills, respect, creative skills – not just for creative activities but to think creatively enough to solve challenges life throws at you, this current crisis being a great example. We’re all having to think creatively, beyond what we normally do, in order to get through it.

This time at home away from the normal institutions, is an opportunity for your children to develop those other aspects of themselves, through their personal pursuits at home and the way you respond to this crisis and live together as a family, that they never get the chance to develop in the treadmill of school. Everything they do out of school is as valuable to their development personally and educationally as that which they do academically.

So don’t worry about ‘getting behind’. Rethink this propaganda – which is what this concept is to keep parents and kids doing what the government wants – and take the opportunity to rethink what are your priorities for the education of your children and how those might be best facilitated. And trust that time will even it all out anyway.

And take care of yourselves whilst you do. Your children are learning from you!

(Scroll down the ‘About Home Education’ page to read about a philosophy of education)