Decisions! Decisions! Parenting throws so many at you. Home education (a term much preferred to home school – here’s why) throws a load more!
But don’t worry; it’s all going to come right in the end. And if it’s not right, whatever you’re doing, you can change it. That’s the beauty of Home Ed; you can do what works for you. But just for now be reassured that this decision to Home Ed or not, is the hardest one you’ll ever have to make. The rest follows naturally.
It was about this time of year, this time of term – even though it wasn’t the start or logical time wise, that we finally made our decision all those years ago. I remember it clearly. The idea had been gestating for ages. Having worked in schools I was already dubious about what went on there; some of the practices were highly suspect and downright unhealthy at times. Then, after our children had been there a little while and I watched their health, happiness, personality and zest for life, and even more alarming their enthusiasm to learn, falter and fade, I felt we had to do something different.
Surely, I thought, there has to be another way, a better way.
There is. Thousands are proof of it, having done it and come out the other end with intelligent, educated, sociable, employable young people. Thousands are still proving it in the doing. Thousands now know that you can become educated without school.
And I think thousands would also agree that, like us, it’s a decision that was never regretted. The only thing that I personally regretted was not doing it sooner.
Once you start researching and Googling you’ll find all sorts of forums for advice and support and help with your decision….Be brave, home educating is not as scary as you think!
So if you’re teetering on the edge of making that decision I hope some of this helps. In the end, like with any monumental change in lifestyle, you have to jump right in and see how it fits. And you might find, as we did, that it’s the best decision you ever made.
Well, I think it’s generally good news on the easing of Lockdown. I was terrified the politicians would go crazy for popularity, open everything up too quickly and we’d be back to square one with rising infections in a month!
It’s still hard to imagine that normality of meeting friends without standing back from them, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses, going to pubs and cafes, libraries, museums and other such venues for inspiration and stimulation.
I don’t miss shopping – it’s not what I’d normally choose to do as a pastime, but there is one aside to that; I miss bookshops. I’ve never had the cash to randomly buy books, but I love to look at them and after much deliberation would invest on occasion.
The kids used to love going into bookshops too. And could spend hours in libraries, staggering out with the maximum they could borrow in one go.
The aesthetic of books will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of digital versions and all you can access online.
I remember being in one bookshop a few years ago when I came across a sign in the children’s department, with the most exquisite sentiment. It read:
Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
What a thought!
I know it was a promotional statement but it is in part true. All those hours reading to your child has enormous benefits towards them building reading skills for themselves, they see/hear you reading, they hear intonation and expression, pauses and clauses, meaning and understanding of the fact these symbols on a page turn into stories. They begin to recognise word shapes and want to decipher them for themselves.
We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time. Such a simple thing, which has such complex benefits.
It’s easy to be feel daunted by the hype and mystery surrounding learning to read, for parents to believe they’re not capable of helping their child to learn to read. That children need reading schemes and flash cards and complicated phonic strategies culminating in tests common in schools, or their children won’t learn to read properly.
Parents are totally able to ignite their children’s delight and curiosity about reading and it’s simple enough to encourage it to continue, building the necessary skills along the way. You don’t need teaching skills necessarily. You just need to give the time and attention to enjoying books and print and signs, in fact anything reading related, together.
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:
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.
December has crept in and I guess I’m going to have to face up to it; Christmas is coming!
It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just with pandemic restrictions we haven’t dared look forward or hope that our loved ones will get home to spend it with us. And that for me is what is so special about the season. It’s a season of love and togetherness, but the coronavirus could restrict that this year.
I also like giving gifts. I don’t enter into the manic and obscene crap buying and bin-bound accessories for Christmas that companies tell us we must have or we won’t do Christmas proper! I hate all that and cringe for the burden the earth has to bear for our indulgences. But I do like to give a meaningful present that someone wants, needs, or can enjoy, as a token of our loving and appreciation, two purposes of the festivities that can easily become obliterated by consumerism, throwaway tat and the misguided belief that more stuff is better.
It isn’t. Love and appreciation are the priorities, surely.
Anyway, if you do want to give a meaningful gift to a fellow parent, especially one who is dissatisfied with schooling, how about a story of a family doing it differently.
‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is a warm, funny, family story, with Christmasses and summers and all sorts of adventures in between. It’s easy to read, yet with plenty of thought provoking ideas about learning. A great fireside read – actually where some of it was written! And a good insight into a real home educating life. Do let me know if you read and enjoyed it!
And for those already home educating you could give them a bit of reassurance. That’s what readers tell me they get from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. On days when they’re having a massive wobble, they can pick it up and feel calmed.
There are some super reviews on Amazon for both, where you can buy them. If you want more of a ‘How To…’ which answers all the common questions about home educating choose ‘Learning Without School’. You’ll find more details on the My Books page on this site, including two books for those home educated littlies who like to read about someone like them who doesn’t go to school.
Whatever you choose, enjoy your Christmas preparations, despite the obvious restrictions, keeping in mind the needs of the earth as well as your own, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for being together.
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.
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 thinkcreatively 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)
I’m sure now that many parents whose children went to school will be panicking about their education.
Guess what? Home educators panic too! Of course they do!
But there are several simple things to know about children’s learning that have helped them get a grip on that anxiety which might help everyone else too.
I always tell home educating families and those new to it a simple fact about learning: children learn as much out of school as they do in it!
They don’t necessarily need schools in order to learn. And an education is not built solely on learning facts and taking tests, measuring progress and ticking off stages on a tick sheet, or those other things associated with schooling; it doesn’t have to be formal to be effective! Everything kids do is educationally useful, builds skills, mental as well as physical. A lot of what schools do is just for schools, not for education!
An education is built upon a developing brain (and body), which takes a lot of time. It’s built on a rounded development of a number of skills learnt through living a life that are transferable to education. Life educates as much as school does (more so probably). And a small interruption in schooling as we have now is not going to be noticed in ten years time!
So get on with every day life and enjoy the experience of sharing it with your child through discussions and debates and hypothesising and explorations online, through these incredible times that offer much to cogitate on (not scaremongering though).
Another fact to understand is that a developing and educationally growing brain is a busy brain, so keep busy, remembering that it’s not that important what that busyness is.
Look at it like keeping a body fit. Physical activity is needed to keep a body fit but it doesn’t really matter what that physical activity is, in fact, the more variety the better, from walking to dancing, from leaping about in front of an exercise video to climbing trees, kicking a ball round an empty playground to skipping in the back yard. Same with the brain. Whatever the children are engaged in their brain will be exercising and developing their mental skills whether that’s gaming, exploring YouTube, reading, artworks of any kind (be diverse), learning how to cook pancakes, playing monopoly, constructing something, solving a problem, writing a story, drawing a story (comics are big business!) All these activities develop the brain, in other words educate, as much as times tables or workbooks or whatever academic exercise you associate with being at school. They all add to the pool of skills which can be transferred to more formal education practices at a later date.
Schools do not have the monopoly on learning and education. As thousands of home educating young people are proving. Kids learn anyway. All experiences educate, most of which you can facilitate, although I acknowledge that you are going to have to be more resourceful in finding them home based as we all are at present. Even these weird circumstances present a good opportunity for learning – looking back through history at other times when people had lives completely disrupted, like through times of war for example.
So I would suggest you stop panicking about academic things, which your children will have foisted back on them soon enough (even though it may seem ages to you) and just enjoy your children because these times are educative in themselves. Get busy with the kids whilst you have the opportunity too; make, bake, play, talk, find new films and documentaries to watch and chat about those, create new recipes from whatever you have in the cupboard, change rooms round, make dens, do all sorts of home based stuff because it will all contribute to your child’s education, developing skills and furthering their knowledge.
Be close, be loving and reassuring and trust that your child’s education will not be harmed, because it won’t be when you look at the bigger picture – something I encourage home educating families to do. In fact the opposite might happen, it might be enhanced from having this different out-of-school experience requiring independent thinking and problem solving; two great skills for life.
So don’t panic. Enjoy it instead. Keep busy. Be resourceful, during these odd times, which is a brilliant thing to teach your kids after all!
Following on from last week’s post I thought it might be helpful to talk about this.
It’s such a huge question. How does anyone learn? How do you learn now you’re a parent?
Discounting any specific academic courses you may be undertaking I think you’ll agree your learning otherwise, (say about your new technology, or looking up how to fix, cook, parent), has little resemblance to the way schools do it – you probably do most of it online and by asking around too. Yet it will be just as effective.
School learning structures are the way they are because the learning there has to be measured – not because they’re the best way to do it!
However, learning doesn’t have to be measured in order to be successful. And for most home educators it isn’t measured – it’s just experienced. Families just encourage, prompt, provide resources and engage with what their learner wants to learn, along with essential skills to do so, and find ways to facilitate it, practically, physically, mentally and most importantly interestingly!
They do it through a multitude of ways; online, out and about, through meetings and sharing learning with others, in the local community, museums, galleries, sports and play centres, libraries, workshops, visits to various sites, nature reserves and places of interest, all so the learning experience is as first hand as possible, along with practice of academic skills and study at times.
But it’s very hard to get your head round those unfamiliar approaches that home educating families take to their learning. So I’ve written a whole chapter about it in my guide to home education; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ which may help you get to grips with it. (For more details scroll down the ‘My Books’ page above) If you haven’t got a copy and prefer not to buy, you can request that your library do so, then others will be able to access it too.
The chapter looks at both a traditional view and a broader view of how children learn, what they need in order to do so, how they learn without teaching from everyday experiences including play, and then goes on to look at different approaches families use in more detail, the pros and cons, along with some suggestions on how to choose an approach that’s right for you. The chapter also talks about motivation and about children having charge of their own learning which may be a really radical idea for some, but is still doable and effective.
Learning and educating are such a personal experience – although schools tend to generalise it – every learner is different and everyone’s circumstances are different. But despite these diverse and idiosyncratic approaches which families take to their home education the young people all seem to end up in the same place; intelligent, articulate, socially skilled, and mostly with a portfolio of qualifications in line with their school contemporaries.
Don’t be daunted by an unfamiliar approach to learning that’s so different from the traditional. Traditions always need challenging to see if they’re still worth hanging onto, although I guess you know that already or you wouldn’t be challenging the tradition of schooling! By opening your mind about how children learn you will be able to give your youngsters a much more pro-active and enjoyable experience of learning that will set them up for life.
It is true what’s written in the poster! Although many parents don’t realise, or begin to comprehend how this would work, conditioned as we are to believe that formal, school-style approaches to education are the only ones worth doing.
The more you home educate the more it becomes apparent that diverse, incidental and informal activities, like play, investigation and experimenting for example, educate as much as formal academic exercises do.
The contents of this book are based around the general
questions parents ask all the time about home education:
What is home education and why do people do it?
How do parents start home educating?
How do home educated children learn?
How do they find friends and become socialised?
What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?
What about tests, exams and qualifications?
What is life like for a home educating family?
What about children with ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special
Where do home educated families end up?
The chapters answer all the above questions in detail and the answers may well surprise you. And, as one teacher reported, may inspire many ideas about education in general that you’ve never thought of before!
So don’t let the schooling style of learning monopolise your thinking about education. Don’t let the system make you believe that testing, classrooms, teachers, curriculum are required or your child won’t learn. That’s untrue. Or make you believe that school is needed for socialisation – it’s not. (Read this about weird social behaviour and baked beans!)
Schooling is one way of doing it – a very unsuccessful way for many – which is why thousands of families are choosing home education as an alternative and making a grand job of it!
I can’t tell you how grateful I was last week to recieve another warmhearted message about my book ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’:
“A Funny Kind Of Education is amazing!!! I’m speeding though it with pure delight, laughing and enjoying every moment. Your book speaks to me, explaining everything I think and feel about learning and education and schooling – the humour and love explode from the pages!!!”
You’ve really no idea how rewarding it is to receive that – unless of course you’re also one of the people who’ve sat for hours scribbling in isolation, wondering if it’s worth the bother!
So I am immensely grateful when readers take the time to let me know they’ve been moved by my books and how helpful they’ve been. This review was particularly rewarding because it saw the book as a family book – as much as a home education one – and that’s what I like to think it’s mostly about. And that it was readable; so many books about education – and this is about education – bore you rigid. I know that feeling; I’ve read a few, and even though am passionate about the subject, it’s rare to read one that’s engaging.
Although the other books I’ve done to support home educating families; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘Learning Without School’ (see the Books page for more details) contain more general information and tips, this seems the most popular and certainly was my favourite to write.
If you’ve read and enjoyed it, (or any of them) and have a moment to leave a review of it on Amazon or around your networks I’d be most grateful. Not just because I’ve got a big head and like to feel reassured I haven’t been wasting my time! But more importantly because it helps spread awareness of this approach to educating and supports others who may be struggling in the system looking for an alternative. And if you’re a new mum, you might find my ‘Mumhood’ one helpful too!
But whether you review or not, this is still a VERY BIG THANK YOU for having supported what I do by reading my books.