Tag Archive | learning at home,

Learning for Life – not for schools

So the school children have gone back to the classroom. But the home educators still can’t go out in the way they’re used to. That must be tough, as I know that home education is a misnomer – learning takes place out of it as much as in!

I guess it’s tough though for many school parents worrying about their children becoming infected with coronavirus, although the general overall vibe I’m sensing is one of relief!

School closures certainly turned a very different spotlight on home education, genuine home education that is, not school-at-home (blog here) which is what most have been doing and is completely different. I wonder if home educators will gain more respect and understanding of what they do after every parent has endured this time without the facility of school.

What is certain is that our culture of family life, of economy and working and how that operates with regard to parenting, is for the most part dependent on the school system being there to child mind, let alone educate. Whether that justifies what goes on in there is questionable!

The recent pandemic has raised many questions about education, economy, family life, culture – everything really. As parents are more involved in what their kids are learning many are coming face to face with the absurdity of some of the stuff on the curriculum. As this article in Prospect illustrates

School learning has become so far removed from learning about real life, living and surviving challenges like the pandemic – all important things we really need to know – it’s no wonder people are asking of their child’s work; ‘what’s the point of this?’

There must be better things to learn?

There certainly are, and maybe this is why so many parents now are turning to home education. Because most are beginning to see that home education is life education. Unlike school education. And true education is not the consumption of facts and tricks and strategies for the sole purpose of measurement and qualification, even though qualification may be part of it. True education needs to be about enabling people to live a life that is useful, fulfilling and non harming.

Education is after all about learning to understand life, how it works, how you work in it, how you find a place, make a place, make a social life, integrate, communicate, care, and do all this without harm to others or the environment.

Home educators seem to understand that to facilitate this requires a far more organic and life-led approach for most than the systematic drilling of useless grammar and mathematical processes that none of us will ever use again but is more likely to put us off the subjects if forced upon us too early.

This is what most enlightened parents have spotted about their children’s school-at-home stuff, that much of it is like that; beyond the kids, useless in a real world outside school, not even interesting!

A school world and school academics are not a true reflection of the world beyond it.

That’s why learning as a home schooler takes place as much out of the home as in it. And why most home educated youngsters graduate from it with a broad intelligence and range of skills, including those associated with socialisation, that equips them so well for real life.

They understand that learning is not just for schools! That it is a life-long tool and they can take it on themselves, any time, any age.

I’m wondering how many school youngsters understand that.

A curriculum for kindness

It gets harder and harder, doesn’t it; coping with the restrictions in life during this Lockdown, without the simple community and social pleasures we’re used to, never mind the distancing from loved ones.

There’s a whole range of challenges right from those who’re suffering total isolation, to the irritations of being clustered continually with those you could do with some space from! All that’s hard enough to deal with never mind the worry and anxiety about becoming ill. Add onto that the children’s progress and it’s enough to tip anyone managing to keep sane over the edge.

I hate to see these awful sensationalist headlines about youngster’s lives being ruined because of this ‘gap’ in their education. It’s so unhelpful and is basically about using our currently delicate emotions to sell news, regardless of the truth of the situation. It’s totally immoral.

This time now is not necessarily a ‘gap’ in education, it’s just a change; potentially an opportunity.

It is, however, a ‘gap’ in the meaningless measurement and box ticking process that the system has made of learning. And media coverage, like suggestions of kids’ lives being ruined, contributes to this sensationalist ignorance about learning.

The children will be learning, even though it’s different. They’ll be learning different skills, educational and practical, developing personally – you cannot stop that process despite what academics you do or don’t do. They’ll also be learning how to learn for themselves perhaps. Learning about life and living with kindness and compassion, and appreciation for those in tougher places than themselves.

This makes them grow into good, caring people and responsible, productive citizens, as much as anything academic will. Ironically, that was one of the reasons behind the setting up of this schooling system all those decades ago; to create literate, productive citizens in the industrial sense of the word. And that’s what the government agenda is right now; citizens who’ll contribute to the economy – that’s their main focus.

Contributing to the economy is desirable, rather than being a burden on it, obviously.

But there is a more important aspect of education that also needs to be contributed to, but which the government doesn’t bother with as it can’t be measured;

the wealth of kindness, empathy and compassion that is necessary in order for us to live happily and without harm alongside each other and upon this planet.

This starts at home and it should be perpetuated through any educational approach.

We’re seeing prompts for kindness all over the place currently. As if we need reminders. Perhaps we do.

In this business of building an industrial and consumerist life, which is what the system educates for, we have side-lined the essential fact that in order to survive, both as a species and in harmonious wellbeing, we need kindness and compassion as well as academic learning.

Do we educate for that?

Would it not be better currently to set exercises in living together with kindness, rather than leaving it as a by product of maths, English and science? Surely that’s what’s needed right now? To help children learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, both those in the house and out of it. Learn how to consider everyone’s hardships not just their own. Help youngsters see beyond their own difficulties to a wider picture. Build resilience. Practise everything and anything to do with kindness. Do anything we can just to get through these hard times.

These would be better targets for the day: How can we make this day better? This hard time easier? How can we accommodate all the different temperaments and needs in this household? How can we turn today’s procedures into kindly ones, rather than gruelling ones?

We’ve got to get through these hard times. A curriculum for kindness will make them easier to bear.

And I reckon the general educational progress will be the better for it!

Learning Without School

I always thought that it would be the internet which would make the biggest change to home education. And education per se.

Little did I realise that it would be enforced by the set of such bizarre circumstances we find ourselves in now – forced into it because of the Pandemic and Lockdown rules! Everyone now forced into doing ‘school at home’, and I put that in inverted commas because it is very different to home educating as a thought out decision up front, (see this blog which explains a bit)

However, this enforcement has prompted many parents to take a more in depth look at home educating (or home schooling – see this blog for an explanation of terms) and begin to understand that children can and do learn without schooling, learn without the usual tests and ticks and structured classes, some of them learn without any kind of institutional influence at all. The accessibility to education the internet provides has given new parents the confidence to reconsider this option.

So if you’re one of the parents wanting to know more then you might find my very first book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ helpful to delve into as it is broken down into chapters that ask all the common questions about home education.

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. What is Home Education and why do people do it?

2. How do parents start home educating?

3. How do home educated children learn?

4. How do home educated children find friends and become socialised?

5. What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

6. What about tests, exams and qualifications?

7. What is life like for a home educating family?

8. What about children with learning difficulties or special needs?

9. Where do home educated families end up?

Of course it was written long before the pandemic. It was also written before the Internet became the massive learning facility that it is now. But, you know what? That aside, learning is still innately a human experience and it is partly that which we have to consider; things like family influence, personality, the myriad of ways to approach learning other than the academic and structured, parents’ feelings and ideas about education, children’s responses to school circumstances – very valid but hardly ever acknowledged as such, all of which are important. Education is not just about ticking boxes.

Despite the glories of the internet; the marvellous tool it is for research, facilitating education and eradicating the elitism that came with the exclusive possession of knowledge in the past, it will never be able to replace the humane qualities of support, inspiration and encouragement that another human being can bring to the process – that human not necessarily needing to be a teacher as home school families are proving.

The internet can’t do human! Only parents and teachers can add the flavour of that – and yes – parents can and do adequately facilitate their children’s learning alongside the internet.

As time goes on there are increasing numbers of young people out in the working world who were home educated, some of whom never went to school at all, who are educated and intelligent, leading happy, productive and successful lives, and no one would ever know whether they went to school or not! Thus making parents ask the question, as they are doing now with the advent of on-line learning and enforced school-at-home, what is all this school stuff really about anyway?

A question I suggest you keep on asking!

You’ll find more details on the book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ if you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page on this blog.

Educational blackmail

It’s all getting very intense. Covid, Lockdown, work, education. It’s such a jumble of worries for people.

Working at home, which may have had it’s attraction at one point, is pretty intense too as many are discovering, without it’s lighter distractions, interchange between colleagues, and even just the briefest ‘good morning’. Not to mention the change in environment the commute brought.

This is the same for children in education. Home educating, or doing ‘school-at-home’ if that’s what you’re doing, is also intense. Something home schooling families need to adapt to, some thinking that perhaps children should be ‘getting on’ every minute of the day.

I think many parents fall into this trap, assuming that children are busy ‘working’ at their education throughout the school day. But the reality is quite different. Probably a child in a classroom is only concentrating on making a concerted effort for a few minutes within an hour’s lesson session. The rest is filled with preps, teacher talk, chat and the other distractions of a classroom. And the end productivity is far less than parents might imagine. So, to take away the intensity, it’s best to be more realistic in what you hope to achieve whilst learning at home. There is plenty of time for other things.

This doesn’t mean that children are not gainfully employed. For all the other activities children are engaged in are just as valuable to their development as formal heads-down stuff, including play.

I remember that when we backed off a bit from the push to ‘educate’ over the summer months whilst the other children were off school and left the children to their own devices two things happened.

Firstly, things hardly changed. The kids were always busy, always wanting to do things, always asking questions, curious and learning. And secondly, when we got back to practising those skills we’d consider more formal and I expected a drop in their ability, there wasn’t one at all. In fact, they had developed in many ways. (See chapter 16 in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ where I tell the story of; What About Term Times, Learn Times and Holidays?)

There is much emotional hype about kids missing out on their education, both now with the Covid restrictions and also levelled at home educating families.

The real truth is that most are not missing out in terms of learning, they’re just doing it differently and this threat is no more than emotional blackmail on the part of educational politics.

You’re unlikely to be harming the children’s education long term by them either doing their learning at home for the time being, or by opting to home school. What you will be harming however is the political statistics which of course politicians don’t like and can disrupt school league tables!

Children learn all the time, from all the things they’re doing, even from the challenging circumstances we have now. All are opportunities for discussion, enquiry, conversation and questions. All of which increase learning skills.

But we don’t have to be intense about it. Neither do we have to be intense about doing school type work in these times that are so difficult and challenging.

An intense approach to work, a demand that the kids should be working non-stop from nine till three is unrealistic. Worse than that it is damaging. Damaging to their education as intensity is more likely to put them off learning, whereas learning is potentially such an exciting and inspirational thing. (I wonder how many teens in High school think that?) And even worse, damaging to your relationship with them.

Remember, politicians want kids performing as they prescribe because it keeps their political stats on track. But this has nothing to do with real learning and education at all.

And if you’re working at home too, go easy on yourself and dilute your own intensity with a bit of fun – play with the kids from time to time!

A new kind of educational history

I read a fascinating book recently called ‘The Button Box’ by Lynn Knight. It is a social and fashion history inspired by the buttons of the times and their relevance to how everyone lived, the women in particular. Through the buttons the book illustrates the position of women through the ages, from the rich to the powerless (as most were in past times), and their ever changing roles and rights.

What struck me most was how resourceful women have always been, how ingenious they were at making use of what resources they had and how creative and entrepreneurial they were when, let’s face it, mostly they were up against it!

I think that is a fundamental skill most women have, developed further I think through mothering, home educating, and in times of challenge. A bit like now!

Throughout the pandemic we’ve all faced hardships and deprivation of one kind or another; social and spiritual as much as the financial and physical. And educational, even though it’s been education in itself. We’ve had to dig deep into resourcefulness some of us never knew we had.

I always equate that kind of resourcefulness with home educators – it’s almost a natural part of what home educators do; make an education with an entrepreneurial spirit. And maybe those who’ve had home education thrust upon them through ‘school-at-home’ which is very different (see this blog), have discovered that they can be resourceful with education and learning too and branch out from what they thought it was. I hope so.

Most people have always (wrongly) thought that school is the only route to becoming educated. And it also requires having money. Or masses of tech. Or qualified teachers. Or expensive materials.

All these may contribute to a broadening of an educative experience, but are still no guarantee.

What we need most of all to develop educated people is to encourage them to have resourceful, inquiring minds. Minds that can adapt, embrace challenge and diversity, think past problems, who have resilience and staying power, as well as the ability to find out stuff, seek out new experience and learn for themselves by whatever means we have.

Prescriptive schooling rarely achieves this. But this is what home educators generally do most of the time!

Home education and the people doing it are nothing if not resourceful. Unlike school-at-home where many schools prescribed the learning, home educators take a different approach and engineer it themselves. They consider options, navigate resources, choose their objectives and the route to take them there within the boundaries of what they have to hand.

Few have exclusive lab equipment or high brow tech, but they find ways open to them.

But what they do have is the best resource any educator can give; the time, attention, engagement and encouragement of another human being.

We are raising and educating human beings remember – social human beings. Tech will never show us how to be human however much we use it, or use online teachers and online schools. Whilst useful, tech can never show how to be empathetic and responsible, respectful and kind, in the way that humans show. And you need those qualities as well as knowledge and exam passes to be a truly educated human being.

As the book says; whether you have posh buttons or cheap ones on your clothing, wealth or poverty, underneath we are still all human.

It’s also true that whether you are school users or home educators; education is about humanity and developing personally as well as academically. Education should develop a mind that is broad and open, all embracing, and resourceful, and able to go on learning beyond being told what to do through prescriptive schooling.

And it is the resourcefulness of home educators and the approaches they’re using, that succeeds in doing this and in making a new educational history which other families and educators, current and future, should learn from!

Together and Apart

It may be more challenging home educating during these times of corona crisis and all the anxiety that goes with it. But at least your kids are with you!

I know there’ll be times when you could do with more space when they’re with you 24/7 and managing that can be the more challenging part of home educating – and parenting for that matter. (There are some tips on that in this post here) Even more so since your options for getting out and about have become so limited.

But the other side of that is the fact you are all together and have more control over the youngsters exposure and contact with others.

Parents of older children and those off to Uni don’t!

When I think of the teenagers starting Uni this time, it must be fraught with worry, for kids and parents. It’s hard enough them moving out of the family home, without the added stress about how they’re mixing. I feel for you!

I still worry about mine, who’ve been living apart in the working world for many years now, and how they’re keeping safe.

It was many months this year before we got to see our eldest and once we managed to be all four of us together again it was insanely sweet. But there’s still that background niggle of ‘should we be doing this?’, and even expressions of love feel inhibited.

It’s all very hard for families, for friends, for us all. And we daren’t even think about Christmas!

But that’s possibly the best way to deal with the situation we’re in; not to think about things that far ahead. We cannot possibly have any certainty about it, best to stay with what we do have certainty about – this present moment!

It was inevitable when we were all together recently that the four of us talked about Christmas as it’s already coming into the politics of the situation. But only momentarily. We agreed that there are only hypotheses to be had, and these tend to induce worry and spoil the pleasure of being together at the time; the important thing.

And we had some lovely moments together when we managed not to think about the crisis, focus on the lovely things we could do, were doing; picnics, chats, walks, just being together. Even diving into a pub during a thunderstorm. The first time I’ve done that since last winter.

It seems the best way to cope with current times; to stay with the good moments you have, cope as well as you can with the troublesome ones and cherish having your children close whilst you can. It won’t always be the way of it.

I did some reckoning the other day and got a shock. It’s nigh on ten years now since both our youngsters were at home full time home educating. But they’re still educating themselves even if not at home because home educating showed them the possibility of self-educating however old they are and wherever they are. And that’s what they continue to do, particularly with the time they had during Lockdown, knowing that education doesn’t just mean academics, there are new skills to learn and things to research and try all the time.

So whatever you’re doing at home with your youngsters during these challenging times, appreciate that they are at home and safe. And understand that you’re not only home schooling them, but showing them a DIY approach to an educating way of life that will set them up for the future and help them cope with whatever is going on around them. Both now – and then.

And take it from me; you’ll miss being together one day!

Don’t be put off Home Educating; it’s not the same as school at home!

The school closures have completely changed family life. And made it very hard for many I imagine. Must be challenging trying to get the kids to do school work at home. Like permanent homework and I know how hard some parents find that!

As a former home educator you’d think I could offer some advice on how to tackle it. But I can’t really, apart from what’s in the last few blogs, and that’s because home educators rarely do school-at-home.

School-at-home; i.e. following a prescriptive set of tasks set by schools designed to do in a school environment, is wildly different to the learning life you get into when you home educate. Even the title home education, as opposed to home school, defines a difference. (Explained here)

Home Educating has a completely different ethos of learning, educating and raising a child. Basically it’s a DIY education, not one doing school work hand outs, which is what many are doing now and think of as home educating. And contrary to what people think about the kids being tied to apron strings it makes for a more self directed, independent and diversely thinking learner and adult and is something the whole family can get involved in which in no way represents the prescriptive teaching of a classroom.

However, if this period of doing without school has made you want to reconsider home educating – and you can do that whatever age your children are – then there are three of my books that take a deeper look at it.

Learning Without School Home Education’ answers all of the common questions about it; how to start, what it’s like, how kids learn, what about socialisation, what about tests and exams etc.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is an autobiographical story which illustrates the journey into and through the home educating life. It’s an easy, fun, family read, rather than an educational tome of a book no one wants to read, but still has lots of tips and thought provoking ideas that’ll set you thinking. This is the book that many have told me convinced them they wanted to home educate. Some lovely reviews on Amazon!

A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’ is a collection of pieces which again address all the common issues that home educating families face as they progress into it, with reassuring tips and stories from one who’s been there and how they dealt with it. A Home Ed bedside book it’s been called!

The ‘My Books’ page on this site gives more details and snippets from the books too. They’re all available on Amazon.

Meanwhile you might also find my little YouTube talk interesting.

So take a look and let me know what you think – and what you decide. If you message me in the comments below I always try and respond. I also have a Facebook page which I respond to when I get round to it!

Meanwhile, I hope you and the kids are doing okay and finding ways to survive! It’s just as tough for current home educators not going out as, also contrary to what people generally think, home education is more out of the home than in it!

So we’re all waiting for a lift in Lockdown!