Tag Archive | learning

A Home Education Notebook is now back on Kindle

It’s taken a while but finally I’ve sorted it; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is available again on Kindle after a short absence.

The reason for the delay was because my focus got stolen by moving house, which is all consuming as anyone who’s ever done it knows.

Moving house means establishing new routines (like where the nearest food is), getting to know new people (builders, plumbers, tech gurus and fixers) and of course new friends and communities.

Meeting new people, who always ask about your life so far, means more explanations of home educating and I receive a variety of responses, mostly in the form of a barrage of questions; do you do lessons, do they have teachers at home, do you have a timetable, what about friends, tests, curriculum, GCSEs etc?

Whilst the Lockdowns made the concept of ‘Home Schooling’ more familiar, the more seasoned home educators among us knew it was nothing like home educating, it was just doing school stuff within the four walls of home. Completely different. (Expanded in a post here)

However I still find it difficult to explain those differences even now, how education is not necessarily about lessons, or tests, or teaching, or exams. To explain how children learn without lessons, or teachers, or tests and timetables, they can actually learn for themselves (Shock! Horror!) That learning can actually happen in an organic, holistic, autonomous, interest-led way from the things children are naturally curious about, by being out, observing, engaging in, analysing and involving themselves in finding out about the world and building the skills needed to do so, even without age-related structures usually imposed upon education. Along with all that how home educated children also have friends, develop social skills, and mix happily in company (see this post about socialisation).

The stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ written as it happened, demonstrate that the best. Along with ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. The articles themselves are an illustration of how the everyday experiences we had encouraged and developed children’s knowledge, skills and understanding of learning quite naturally. And how – even more surprising to some – this happens because children want to learn.

Children don’t necessarily want to be schooled. But they mostly want to learn, if they’re allowed to in their own way, in their own time, through subjects that matter to them in their worlds. The success of this has been shown time and time again by all the home educated youngsters who’ve grown up and out into the world, making their own decisions, incorporating any structure and traditional approaches and outcomes as and when (and if) needed to get them there. And so proving that home education really does work and adequately prepares young people for the ‘real’ world. The real world being the one outside that bizarre world of school!

This new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ concludes with a chapter about all those home educated young people we grew up with and what they’re doing now post-twenty, who are proof indeed!

So if you’ve been waiting for the Kindle version of this new edition, it’s back again. It’s the book readers have told me that reassures and inspires them the most. Hope you enjoy it.

Kindle edition available now
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Only the curious can learn

Christmas and birthdays were tricky in our house. The children were always there so keeping secrets was a challenge. Especially since they were so incredibly curious and had eyes that didn’t miss a thing.

“What’s in that bag?”

I’d scurry upstairs furtively with some secret shopping and call out, “nothing.”

“What’s the postman brought?”

I’d stuff the parcel under my desk quickly and respond. “Nothing. Only some bills.”

“What’s in that box?”

Sometimes there was no getting away with it and I’d just have to say; “Your present, but you mustn’t look.”

I knew this would have the same effect as requesting a thousand word essay on the law of gravity and get the same result; the opposite.

So I’d search for a hiding place that would be big enough to conceal it and that they wouldn’t think of looking. I’d settle on their dad’s drawers, they wouldn’t dare look in there for fear of coming across his boxers.

That’s just the trouble with bright children, isn’t it? They’re more curious than the proverbial cat. But it’s our fault really; we’ve encouraged it because that’s exactly what we want; curious and questioning children.

Have you ever thought what curiosity is? It’s basically children wanting to know things. And wanting to know things also interprets as wanting to learn things. Children want to learn about the world around them – your secrets included. But curiosity, when it’s not focussed on your secrets, is as valuable an asset to motivation, to education, as you can get and wants encouraging.

Curious and questioning children cannot help becoming educated. It doesn’t even have to be curiosity about the subject in hand. Or about any specific subject come to that. Because having a generally curious attitude to life is the same as having a general eagerness to learn. Curiosity has the effect of inspiring children to learn for learning’s sake, without even realising it. And it makes the children not only interested in learning but also come to understand, again without realising, that learning itself is interesting. And this attitude is a precursor to becoming educated.

Children are born naturally curious. They’re born reaching, grasping, tasting. Put any infant in any room and they’re into cupboards, opening drawers, fiddling with switches and particularly fascinated with the contents of the dustbin. They are desperate to do these things because they are curious and want to find out.

In other words; they want to learn about their world.

They plague their parents with questions, get themselves bruised, grazed, and into trouble for their curiosity. In fact they are pure, unashamed, curiosity-led learning machines. Even as they get older. Unless of course they get their curiosity killed.

Unfortunately that happens a lot.

It’s easy to do. Most adults are driven to distraction by their child’s curiosity and most particularly by their questions. And the children more often than not get told off for it.

‘Don’t touch’. ‘Put that down’. ‘Leave that alone’. ‘Mind your own business’. We’ve all used those statements at some point I would guess.

But most particularly, I feel, children tend to get their curiosity killed when they go to school. Unfortunately the approach in most schools, the way in which they implement the National Curriculum, and the inevitable peer pressure, leaves no room for curiosity. In school it is not cool to ask questions, or to want to know more, or to be interested, or keen. And teachers don’t have time to answer thirty questions a lesson – and that’s only one per child – of course they don’t.

No one does curiosity. There’s no time. It’s more likely to get you ridiculed or snubbed. And there’s nothing worse than humiliation for killing curiosity dead.

This is one of the sad things about the way the schools educate children. The teachers don’t have any time to make use of one of the best opportunities available for learning; answering and encouraging the questions. Through your child’s curiosity and their questions you have the perfect opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding, encourage conversation and thus language development, provoke thinking skills and mental development.

I looked at our insatiably curious toddlers hell-bent on learning about everything, then I looked at some of the uncurious switched off adolescents that I saw and I’d think; what happened to your curiosity and interest in the world?

It probably got snubbed somewhere down the line. It probably got well and truly switched off. How sad is that?

For just think; wouldn’t it have been a loss if Isaac Newton had his curiosity snubbed before he wondered about the apple falling down? Wouldn’t it have been a loss if Darwin had stopped being curious about the origin of species?

I’m not advocating that we run ourselves ragged dropping everything to answer all our children’s questions there and then, pandering to their every curious whim. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. Children have to fit into society and live with others and understand that adults are not simply question-answering machines. And they have to understand when to be safe instead of curious, and when it’s not appropriate to ask questions – especially loudly, as one of my children did one day as we sat on a park bench next to a complete stranger.

“Is that man wearing underpants, mummy?” I’ve never seen anyone cross his legs so quickly. He walked off adjusting his fly.

All I’m saying is that if we could be a little careful with our child’s curiosity we will perpetuate their desire to learn rather than destroy it. Even though there’s a time for answering questions and a time not to do so, curiosity is still desirable. Curiosity needs nurturing. If we can be frugal with, ‘don’t’, and ‘leave that alone’ and ‘for goodness sake stop asking me stuff all the time’ (yep – that was me one day), we can avoid the danger that they stop being curious about their world.

It helps to remember that those endless questions and irritating behaviours like eating earwigs (one of mine) and posting things in the CD player (the other one) are really them just learning about their world.

Curiosity means they’re motivated to learn and is one of the most invaluable assets our children can have for their education. A curious attitude has a knock-on effect upon all their learning. It develops an educated mind. And is something to be encouraged as much as possible. A curious mind cannot help but learn.

This story first appeared in my Home Education Notebook, where you’ll find plenty more to help you along your home education journey.

Share your story?

I’m a bit rubbish at communicating on Facebook these days. It seems to be less frequented or valuable than it was, full of adverts, and now there are many other forums we can use to connect.

Fb wasn’t a thing when we started home educating – I bet you can hardly imagine that. But it soon became an invaluable tool for parents to connect through, share ideas and resources, arrange meet-ups and reassure one another, making home education feel more doable than some people first thought.

It was the chance to so easily connect with that support which made home educating a less scary and isolating prospect than it potentially could be. Stepping away from the mainstream path millions of others were heading along can be daunting. Thanks to social media no one needs feel cut off, unsupported, or without anyone to turn to now.

And actually it’s been very supportive for me too, to receive your lovely messages and comments and see how my work and words get around and find their way to those who need it. And I feel so blessed when folks have taken the trouble to connect with me and let me know how my books have helped. If you’re one of those and I didn’t reply personally please know that your comments and messages have meant so much.

Meanwhile I recently had such a nice comment from a Fb friend, along with a potted version of her story, I asked her permission to post it here because I know many of you won’t see it on there and it’s most uplifting to read.

Here’s what she said;

It was your books that finally gave me the confidence to believe what I really already knew in my heart- that our youngest would be better off out of school. His older brothers were in a specialist residential school for very able boys with Asperger syndrome but he didn’t quite qualify for diagnosis, so mainstream-or not- was the only option.

After we took our son out of school in yr 5, I remember walking past the back to school signs and rows of uniform hanging up in the shops and just grinning because I knew I’d never need to buy any of it, ever again! The relief of knowing he wouldn’t be going back into that hellish place where he learned nothing except to feel that he was stupid and weird and generally rubbish, was immense and I just wanted to celebrate. It was definitely the best decision we made for him. He went to college for A levels because he chose to, a year ‘late’ and is now taking a gap year to work and save money before doing his degree. I’m certain that school would not have put him on this path. He’d have left as soon as possible, hating the idea of learning anything because he was ‘too stupid’. His confidence still isn’t great but at least he has ‘proof’ from his results that he is capable of learning anything if he chooses to and sufficient life experience to see the benefit of hard work to get where he wants to be. He also has friends!”

I think it’s these shared stories that make for the best support for parents starting out because they’re straight from the horse’s mouth. We can have faith in them as they are the reality of home education and consequently they are the ones that give people the confidence to go for it themselves. I know when we started out, hearing the stories from those further along were the most valuable, inspiring and reassuring. Although without the internet then we rarely heard them. Very different now!

So if you have a story to tell, or would like to share yours, maybe you’d like to get in touch and I can post it here and we can go on supporting each other in this wonderful alternative to school.

Thirteen years of writing this home education blog later…

And thank you once again to all of you who’ve been in touch over the many years I’ve been writing this blog. It is truly appreciated and I’m always so delighted to hear how my books have helped. Bless you!

Processed education can be as unhealthy as processed food

An exclusive exert from ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Some days I got so tired I wondered how I was ever going to get the dinner. And it was those days that packaged and processed food I normally abhor looked really appealing.

One particular day springs to mind where my youngest made mint creams which took a bit of supervision, mostly in the form of keeping her fingers out of it especially when they’d been other places. And the eldest made fudge and just needed an occasional question answering but then went onto maths which she was struggling with and needed explanations. This was much more demanding than anticipated as I couldn’t remember how to do half of it and had to look it up. Then the youngest was on a website trying to research something it wouldn’t and getting more and more frustrated. And I just seemed to seesaw between the two of them like this all morning. By afternoon I decided we needed to get out for a swim before I was torn in two, but that finished me off. So I admit to resorting to the easy option of opening a packet for dinner.

At least I thought it was the easy option.

Sometimes I think the packaging designers must sit in their studios laughing as they think up the most complicated arrangements of plastic and cardboard just to annoy tired parents at the end of a demanding day.

We rarely ate packaged or processed food. I like my meals to have ingredients as near to their natural state as possible – that’s where taste and nutrition comes from.

But when I’m beyond scrubbing potatoes or cooking anything inventive we resort to it at times, even though I never relish it. For processed and packaged food tastes like … well, it doesn’t taste of much at all. It is limp, lifeless, tasteless – apart from salt, suspiciously full of unknowns and mostly totally uninspiring.

And it was that day I thought; this is just like education really. Education has become so processed and tightly packaged it is almost unrecognisable as education.

Just like how hard it is to recognise nutritious ingredients in processed food, education has become so over processed it too is losing some of the value of the original ingredients. It has become as unpalatable as eating forced and cling-filmed strawberries in the middle of winter. There is no taste. There is nothing to arouse the senses and the effect doesn’t last.

Isn’t that like systemised schooling?

I used to think my mother was a bit of a nutcase insisting on buying dirty carrots. Now I know why she did it. Carrots with the soil still on them keep without rotting for ages. Those washed and plastic-packaged ones from the supermarket just turn gooey and stink like mad.

Packaged and processed education doesn’t last forever either. And I reckon it turns the children gooey.

I read of an experiment someone once did on a class of school children. They were told they were going to be tested on a certain subject at the end of the week and given information to learn for it. The children sat the test and the expected number did well. A few days later the same children did the same test without warning and hardly any of them scored well. The learning they had processed for the test didn’t last – just like the carrots.

Education like food needs to be as near as possible to its natural experience in order for it to be lasting, inspiring, arouse the senses and be worth having. Experiences are the basis for all learning, for meaningful learning. Learning packaged into tightly restrictive curriculum or second hand learning in workbooks, removed from the original experience, loses its appeal just as much as food. Learning and education need unwrapping.

It is natural for children to learn. During their everyday lives at home pre-school children learn loads of things. They acquire skills. They pick up knowledge. They do this naturally, experientially. Just as we all do all of the time.

All experiences teach us something. Our interests and pursuits broaden our minds. So do books, Internet, telly, ordinary every day interaction with people and things. And also our work, our outings, anniversaries, celebrations, social gatherings. Learning is natural. And learning from first hand experiences in this way is meaningful, rich, stimulating, and retained. Children learn naturally from this all the time.

Then they are removed from that natural learning environment just before they’re five and shut away from it in schools. We’re told that the only valuable learning is that which comes from teachers, packaged into a National Curriculum and contained in expected outcomes and objectives.

So children are processed through this type of learning and adults are conditioned to devalue learning outside of that. And what happens? Children begin to lose their ability to learn anything that isn’t neatly wrapped for them. And I see an awful lot of teenagers who have about as much enthusiasm in doing anything as I have in eating those out-of-season packaged strawberries.

In both the strawberries and the teenagers the zest has gone.

With food I have options. Mostly I buy food in its natural state. I am deeply suspicious of processed pies, potato alphabets, pasta shapes in suspect sauce and the infamous turkey Twizzlers! But sometimes at the end of a hard Home Educating day I’m as pleased as anyone else to open a pizza. When I can get it open that is.

But I do have the choice and you will probably know which is better for me. I suspect you might also be thinking that I would be a better parent for giving my child a natural potato that’s been baked than a processed pizza.

Yet it’s funny how people don’t seem to have the same view of education.

Everyone seems to think that a packaged and processed education is better for children than a natural one.

I got more criticism for allowing my children a natural education than I did putting them through an unnatural educational process. Yet if I continually gave them processed food instead of natural food I wouldn’t be considered a good parent at all.

Odd that!

Years ago, children didn’t have much opportunity to learn. They didn’t have opportunity to learn skills or access information like they do now. And many children didn’t live in homes where education was valued more highly than earning a crust of bread. Children were needed to mind siblings, pick potatoes, crawl along factory floors in between dangerous machinery and sweep chimneys.

Well I don’t know whether folks have noticed but that’s changed. Most of our kids today live in an environment where education is available, where there is access to information, where skills can be learnt. Naturally.

They are surrounded by people using skills and accessing information. And quite naturally they will learn from that.

But we as a society have been led to believe, as education has become more packaged and processed over the years, that this processed type of education is the only valuable one.

Our attitude to processed food is changing, thank goodness. We’re beginning to value unprocessed meals. We’re even beginning to see how processed food can make us ill.

I’d like to see our attitude to processed education changing too. For not only is some of it meaningless, unfulfilling and un-lasting, it too can make our children ill.

Like with unprocessed meals that I actually peel and prepare, I tried to give my children an unprocessed experiential education as near to its natural state as possible. If we were learning about plants – we had plants to hand that we dissected. If we were learning about history – we did it in a historical setting like museum or castle. Get the idea?

This way, just like fresh picked, in-season, unprocessed strawberries, the flavour of the educational experience we gave them was meaningful and stimulated all their senses in a way that is still lasting.

You can read more supportive stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’. And the new edition has a new added epilogue which tells the stories of the children we home educated alongside now that they’re grown up!

The health benefits of Home Education

“Her eczema has all cleared up. She’s been plagued by it for years but there’s no longer any sign of it now that she’s not going to school” he said.

This dad had stopped me in the lane he was so excited to tell me. He’d leaned out of the truck window to flag me down.

“And both the children have been so happy – and busy,” he went on. “They’re like different children. We can hardly believe it!”

I can!

I have heard the tale so often. About children who’ve had minor conditions and illnesses and health challenges, even behavioural issues, which remarkably disappeared once the children had been out of school for a while. It’s a tale often told among the home educating community.

It was the same for us. Our eldest, who suffered endless infections to the point of needing anti-biotics during her few years at school, hardly seemed to get any during our yeas of home educating. Despite the fact that our children were still in almost daily contact with mainstream groups through regular mainstream activities, clubs and classes that other children attended and as such exposed to all the usual germs.

Our home educating contemporaries remarked upon the same thing happening with their children. One child who was regularly hospitalised and missing school, to the point where the parent was being suspected of being the cause, ceased to have her condition once she came out of school to be home educated.

One of the most marked differences which parents reported was in their children’s behaviour. Tantrums, anger, migraines, bed-wetting, melt-downs over little things, disruption, withdrawal, lack of motivation, dwindling mental health, – all manner of issues – seemed to settle once the children no longer had the stress of being in school in their lives.

There is an argument that children will have to suffer stress later in life so they should get used to it in school. But it’s a poor argument for the simple reason that later life is nothing like school. Nowhere are the circumstances of school replicated, where you have absolutely no choice or autonomy in managing the stressful situations we find ourselves in. Unlike youngsters in a school scenario where they’re just expected to shut up and suck it up, regardless of whether it’s disrespectful or even harmful or not. Later in life we have a voice – and a choice, even though those choices may be extremely challenging or limited. And I think it is the voice-less helplessness that children feel in school, which gets to them, never mind the noise, crowds, threat and hubbub which many find overwhelming.

When schooling affects children’s wellbeing it affects their potential and their learning opportunities. Happiness is as important to their education as health is – the two are intertwined. (Read this article here on why happiness is important for education).

School should come with a health warning. Or better still it should be organised so it isn’t a health hazard at all! Because facts need to be faced – some children are just Not Fine in School or this organisation wouldn’t exist.

And we should not be treating this as if it doesn’t matter, as many parents and politicians would treat it. As the politics says; every child has the right to an education. It follows then that every child should have the opportunity of good health, as the two are intertwined, and if the government are providing institutions which cause the opposite by their pressured policies and structures, both on kids and teachers, then the politicians are denying the children that right. No question.

If you’re a home educator, let us know if your child’s health was affected by school and if home educating changed it.

Meanwhile, the dad above continued to regale me of their happy home educating adventures so far and I was delighted to listen. Another set of kids who no longer have to suffer for their education.

Why home ‘schooling’ doesn’t fit!

I get really taffled up with words sometimes. Being a writer I know the power – or confusion – they cause.

The word home-schooling is one such term.

I’m loathe to use the term and much prefer to go with home-education as it far better describes what I think most home educators are about. As I’ve blogged about before, here.

But does it really matter?

It seems it certainly does. A friend and fellow home educator has recently pointed out to me why we should avoid using the term home-schooling for deeper political reasons that we should perhaps be aware of.

She is one of the members from the initiative of ‘National Community Learning Hubs‘ who have come

together to provide a holistic, nurturing, self determined approach to learning, within environments that enable everyone to thrive and achieve in a way that suits them best. And she related to me a discussion within their groups about the use of the term home-schooling and how it may affect our right to home educate in the future. She’s kindly given me permission to copy part of the discussion here:

HOME EDUCATION is the correct term in the UK, the reasons why some of us long term Home Edders battled to ensure that it was the term used by the DfE are many, but to give a few: Schooling is a very different thing to education. Mothers and Fathers or educators are the ones who educate the learners. ‘Home schooling’ implies a school at home. LAs increasingly try to force school at home and that will destroy the ability to home educate. ‘Home schooling’ can be a block to moving from a school mindset. ‘Home schooling’ is picked up by the media and used to compare home education (currently) to school children educated at home. In so doing, home educators are being pushed toward being lumped in with them. The public body narrative and that of those who want to regulate us has been INTENTIONALLY used over the last several years to move the idea of home education in the mind of the public closer to school, how better than to wholesale change to ‘homeschool’ wherever and whenever they can. The media follows and circulates that narrative. Why would this be used? Easy, because by changing the narrative in subtle steps, public bodies make it easier to persuade MPs to vote to regulate and the public to cheer them on. If members of the home educating ‘community’ follow suit and use the term, we assist the narrative to grow and we support the subtle version of the huge attack on home education freedoms. Why do it? To bring it home more personally: ONE word changes lives. In September last I took some time contacting education psychologists to ask their experience of home education. Every one of them claimed to have plenty of such experience, but none was aware that home education was not EOTAS (education provided by the LA, often in the home) and that was where their experience lay. Each one of those experts had no expertise in home education, yet any one of them could have ended up in a court room as an expert in home education. Lives damaged by a word. Do you want your child to be judged against school standards? If not, remember home EDUCATION.

This has certainly made me think and question and I’m grateful to have those points brought to my attention. I actually feel quite shocked at my own ignorance about the effect these terms have.

Personally, I have never been comfortable with the term (or the concept) of schooling – it certainly doesn’t fit with my idea of true education. However I was aware that home-schooling was a familiar term that could also help people find support, so have used it quite liberally in balance with home-education.

Perhaps I need to rethink, since it has such a political impact.

I know that not everyone sees it in political terms or wants to be involved in the politics of it. But there are many who are fighting politically to maintain your right to home educate and we should support them by being aware of that and by the terminology we use.

What’s your view?

Help for the Home Educating long haul

When I meet home educators, it’s often those who are new to it and starting out. To them it seems very scary and daunting and feel they need lots of support. I’m very happy to give it.

But I’m also aware, having done it, that there is another challenging side to home education; sticking with it for the long haul. That needs supporting too. So I thought I’d repost this article for those of you doing just that.

Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or change something, make a break into something else. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are adults now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad bits. It takes a lot of grit to keep at it. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or worse; a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence and an expression to match. Even expressions can be critical!

It was these kind of times exactly which prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need negotiating too. Knows that bad bits are not an indication that it’s going wrong. Knows that you need to look after yourself too (whole chapter to cover that in the book). And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to help you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. But keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does! You’ll be doing a grand job. I salute you!

After a home educating long haul you end up with lovely intelligent educated adults like we did!

So if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because there’s new edition. And, even better, in this new edition is a special epilogue that tells you how successfully it all worked out for those we home educated alongside. The best kind of reassurance of all.

It’s been unavailable a little while but it’s back now on Amazon if you’d like a copy. It’s been called a home educating bible and comforting bedside book, so I hope it feels like that for you and brings you the encouragement you might need both for today and for the long haul.

The Beastly Bill

I’ve written to my MP. I don’t usually like to get involved with politics but the proposals in the School’s Bill are so horrendous I guess any voice will help. So I thought I’d post it here in case anyone wanted to use, share, lift bits or quote from it. Feel free to do so. The further it goes the better.

Also, at the bottom, I’ve put a couple of links to articles much more erudite than mine you might find useful. Plus the link to the petition in case you haven’t signed yet.

Meanwhile, this is the bulk of what I’ve said:

I am deeply concerned by the proposed School’s Bill, because of its many flaws, and would be most grateful if you’d take a moment to give your attention to the points below.

It’s obviously going to impact on all families with children in school, or otherwise, consequently a huge percentage of the population. But it appears to be based more on blinkered and biased assumptions rather than well researched facts, by people who have little understanding of education, learning, or children’s needs, which is not what I would expect from governmental proposals. And more worryingly, if implemented, could cause irreparable damage to thousands of children and consequently the education of our society.

I’m particularly worried about those children whose needs, through no fault of their own or their parents’, are unmet in school.

The proposals in this Bill are based on the misconception that all children can thrive in school, without regard for neurodiversity and the fact that all children are different, and some not at all suited to a school environment. For these children the choice of parents to educate through other approaches, has been a life saver – literally – for some who are suicidal. Through varied approaches, often via home educating, these children have had their failures and their ill health turned round into successes and well-being. Fact.

But the snag is that most people – including many MPs and decision makers – are ignorant, or blinkered, about this and about other approaches to learning and educating than those familiar through schooling. And reluctant to acknowledge their successes. As a result the Bill proposes to measure the performance of those children educated out of school, by the very same structures that failed them in the first place. And consequently make judgements about the parents. Just like Sats tests fail to give accurate indications of true progress and achievement, (ask any teacher), using school standardisation to measure alternative approaches will fail to realise the longer term benefits of home education and other methods of learning. Then, is in danger of criminalising parents with children not in school.

Some children are NOT fine in school, do NOT thrive in school, achieve and progress perfectly well OUT of school, as many graduating home educators are now proving. It is shocking that this basic truth is being ignored and unacknowledged. Parents who turn to alternative approaches to learning are not doing so to threaten the status quo; but to meet children’s basic needs where the system failed to do so. And are doing so successfully. Fact.

To restrict parent’s choice in the education of their children, to homogenize children’s abilities as identical, measure all approaches by the same (failing) bench marks, or fine parents whose children cannot attend school for personal reasons (usually their mental health) is nothing short of discrimination. And NOT of benefit to the children themselves.

What’s even more alarming is the danger that most of the staff who will be making decisions about the education of children out of school have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of school refusal, school phobia, mental ill-health caused by school, home education, or the very successful approaches to learning that home educating parents use. Surely this is no more acceptable than a doctor’s ability to manage their own child’s health being judged by any man on the street? It just wouldn’t be considered appropriate.

To fine and threaten parents, most of whom want to do the best by their children, is in no way helpful or supportive of those families who are already suffering because of their children’s issues and unmet needs in school. As a member of the home educating community myself, I have always felt that the term Elective Home Education is a complete misnomer. In fact home education probably wouldn’t exist if parents were confident and happy with what schools provide, that their children would thrive there, and that it would meet their needs. For most home educators it is not really ‘elective’; they had no choice, not if they wanted their child to thrive and achieve. Have you ever considered that? And have you ever considered why there are so many teachers among the home educating community now? It’s not because they think they know how to educate. It’s because they have seen what goes on in schools and know that it is unsuitable for so many kids because of inappropriate structures imposed there.

The rights and wishes of children, which is supposed to be the point of the Schools Bill, are in no way evident in it. This is more about the wishes of the government wanting to control what parents do, irrespective of the individual needs of children. And it will create more damage, more special needs, more mental health issues, more misery, and in the end a far less educated society than is already the result of a school system which is broken.

We need alternative methods to mainstream schooling. We need alternative opportunities for those neurodiverse children who cannot thrive in a uniform system. We need to acknowledge and embrace the pioneering methods both families and professionals are evolving that are enabling children with different needs to succeed where they didn’t in school.

No one would dispute that all children should be well cared for and given a suitable education. But this Bill is in no way going to implement that, especially if people continue to think, wrongly, that this can only result through governmental intervention.

It is a common scientific fact that our species will only survive, our planet will only survive, through the opportunity to diversify. It follows then that we should allow and encourage educational diversity in order to enhance our species’ evolution. And support those who need to diversify away from the stultifying systematic processing of the young, which schooling is in danger of becoming, towards approaches where they can succeed. This bill is a threat to that happening.

Finally, I’d like you to consider this; what if your child was being bullied or unhappy at school, was not achieving to their potential, had emotionally based school avoidance issues, or if the school was not meeting their needs, or the child was failing to thrive? What would you do if you then faced fines and criminal charges when you tried to opt out of state education – the cause of their problem – to pursue alternative approaches to their education, in an attempt to do the best for them? Which is what most parents want. As I imagine you do.

I’m asking that this has your attention. That you extend your own education by learning the truth about alternative approaches and successes, home educating included. By acknowledging the obvious fact that schools cannot possibly meet all needs and parents require support in attending to that, rather than criminalising. Please represent my concerns at every stage of the Bill’s development by raising the issues I’ve discussed here and listen to the voices of the thousands who are opposed to it for all the varied and valid reasons.

Thousands of children educate out of school successfully, that is a fact. There are thousands of young adults who have been alternatively educated, without governmental interference, now working and contributing to society in productive ways. Fact. To ignore or fail to acknowledge that, as the Bill appears to do, is morally wrong, disrespectful, discriminative and consequently, surely, in breach of the rights of the young.

See also:

https://www.connectandrespect.co.uk/post/the-dangers-of-the-schools-bill

Powerwood.org.uk the Proposed schools Bill article by Joanna Merrett

And sign here;

https://www.change.org/p/updated-attendance-guidance-encourages-prosecution-and-fines-of-families-facing-barriers-to-attendance-undiagnosed-children-with-send-are-particularly-at-risk-please-don-t-criminalise-our-families

Learning is not the result of teaching…

I had such a treat the other day; the opportunity to meet some fresh new home educators just starting out on their home education adventure.

They had two young children who’d only been at school a little since they’d started due to the pandemic. And it was this which had presented the parents with an opportunity to witness other approaches to learning. And see a change in their children’s health and wellbeing when out of school.

The biggest reason for them finally making the decision to take the children out of school now that they were attending again full time, they told me, was the deterioration in their children’s happiness and health again, both of which had dramatically improved in the months they’d been forced into doing school-at-home.

That was exactly what we witnessed in ours and a story that I hear so often from others.

It happens, I feel, because of something so many people fail to see or acknowledge: It’s not that children don’t like to learn – their curiosity and endless questions are proof that they do. It’s more because schools do not provide an environment in which all learners will thrive. That’s through no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is – although huge improvements could be made – but no one wants to acknowledge the needs of some children for something different.

Not every child’s personality is suited to the hubbub of school. And why should they be forced to endure it at the expense of their learning potential and wellbeing. These parents felt exactly the same about this and it’s what fuelled their decision.

Another interesting conversation I had with them stemmed from the fact that mum was a primary teacher. But she admitted she had an immense amount of un-learning to do herself, about the way children were taught, in relation to the way children learnt. And that these, in fact, are two very different things. She’d begun to see that now as she examined other approaches to educating, especially the more autonomous ones that she’d read about.

It put me in mind of an idea I came across very early on in our home educating days which was so helpful: That learning is not the result of teaching. It is the result of the activity of the learners.

During our early home educating days I thought a lot about what that actually means and kept the word ‘activity’ to the forefront of my approach to the children. It really helped.

Some valuable science going on here but sometimes the activities of my little learners seemed questionable. However, they all piece together to make a stimulating and successful education

This new home educating parent felt like I did about much of what went on in schools and what teachers were obliged to do to children under the guise of educating them. And how much of that was not only a waste of time, but also on occasion not doing the kids any good at all!

When you’re stuck in an institution you learn to do what the institution dictates. Schools are institutions which are at the mercy of decision makers and politicians who mostly have little knowledge of learning, education, children’s development and what is needed to become truly educated. Indeed what education truly is and what it’s for; in life beyond school and at a personal level. It’s not just about exams. (Read more on this in my educational philosophy by scrolling down the page ‘About Home Education) All politicians think about are the stats which tests and exams provide. But stats have nothing to do with the humanity of children and the way they learn and how to integrate into society.

These two little ones I met were happy, articulate, social, busy, engaged and had an actively developing intelligence.

This little family are clearly going to be okay as they find their way along the home educating road, making it up as they go along, as most of us do. Just like we do with parenting. And I’m confident it will all turn out okay as it does for most, despite the fact that it feels like a bit of a patchwork, DIY affair when you start out. It all works.

Of course, the big exams of the future question came up, even though these children were only at the primary stage. And I know it’s what a lot of parents worry about – politics has taught us to!

I told them that parents find their way with that at the time and not to look too far ahead. I always say that if you take care of the little learning moments, conversations, activities of your learners, and their well being each day, the future will take care of itself.

It was such a delight to be in the company of this little home educating family. And it made me feel again how I miss all those Home Ed times and the activities of my little learners!

After the Jubilee

Back to a ‘normal’ Monday then after all the jubilation!

Except it never has to be normal with home education. It’s what you make it. And there’s certainly been a lot of extraordinary fuss made over the weekend.

I’m not necessarily pro-royal, probably more of an agnostic when it comes to royalty and often cringe at the amount of money spent on events like these when there are so many people in such dire need.

But even I was seduced by the joy of so many smiling faces on the news after a pretty austere couple of years fraught with the anxieties and deprivations covid brought, not to mention war. It’s certainly been a spectacle, some of it a tad freaky like the projection of the queen’s smiling face on the carriage window! But all this expenditure – is it justified?

Who knows? That’s a good topic for discussion in your household and a golden opportunity – or should that be platinum opportunity – to do plenty of history and, pro-royal or not, examine the background leading up to the event and the unique concept of seventy years rule in relation to all the monarchs who have gone before.

Learning about history, or indeed learning about anything, is so much more effective, meaningful, likely to be retained, if it is relevant to a child’s life in the here and now. The jubilee is relevant now; the children have lived through a remarkable event unlikely to be repeated. And it presents an opportunity to look back and forward and examine the implications of it. How an understanding of history explains current events and shows us how to proceed without making the same mistakes, hopefully. As we’re trying to do with planetary concerns.

History in my childhood was as dull as ditch water. It was just a question of learning dusty unrelated dates and events and regurgitating them for exams, presented in such a way as to make me question what the heck was it all for. Just so I could be tested?

But today’s educational culture is so different. And even more wonderful with home educating in that you can move away from learning unrelated bites of knowledge learnt for testing and learn purposefully instead, for interest, for fascination, for relevance, for the enhancement of personal development and future life. The children have lived through a unique historical event. And all the discussions, questions, hypotheses, considerations, ideas, opinions, and conversations about what’s happening in the children’s lives now, jubilee or otherwise, promote skills that develop an educated mind. And an educated mind is far more important than test results, both personally, societally and culturally.

Whatever you thought about the jubilee I hope you enjoyed the general goodwill, smiles and celebratory atmosphere that seemed to flow over the long weekend. And you carry some of that jubilation forward into the forthcoming weeks, whatever you learn about and however you do it. For purposeful learning can be just as jubilant!