Tag Archive | learning

Open eyes to the school establishment

Looking forward to reading this

I try my hardest not to resort to school bashing. But I still get accused of it. Just because I won’t stay silent about all the things wrong with the school system.

And if that’s school bashing then I’m sorry for it. It’s just that parents need to have their eyes and minds opened beyond the conditioning the establishment perpetuates, especially the idea that school is right for all.

It isn’t.

Take testing for a start. Kids don’t really gain anything from being tested. They’re just being used as pawns in the game of one-upmanship played by politicians, institutions of education, between professionals and commercial enterprise. Test results are not what education is about. Few home schooled kids are tested throughout their learning lives yet still go onto to achieve qualifications when the time comes.

Take the idea that all kids have to achieve the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, or they’ll be failures. This is a form of emotional blackmail that is totally untrue. Kids doing things in this way is for adult convenience and has nothing to do with personal success or failure. Thousands of home educated kids learn in different time frames, their needs and competence at the time dictate when, what and how. And generally end up in the same place as school contemporaries.

Take a look at the curriculum. A school curriculum is not designed to be educatively enlightening. It’s designed to be measured. Thus increasingly neglecting essential subjects like the arts, the practical and sports. At the same time negating skills in these areas and a huge percentage of children who would be good at them.

Take the idea of going to school for the socialization. What a joke! Nowhere post school is the social model inside one replicated. The model where you’re clustered together in groups of same age, with people who are as social inept as you are, where friendships are enforced and where there is a hierarchy of respect rather than a mutually earned one. Thousands of home educated kids go onto Uni, interviews, work with a such high standard of social ability, conversation and initiative, it’s often what wins them the place.

Take the idea that school dynamics, bullying, crowds, unhealthy competition, and the shame of failure makes you stronger. Complete balderdash! Most kids are weakened by those experiences and often made desperate. Home educated kids who don’t have to endure such indignities – for that’s what they are – become strong, confident, competent and motivated people.

And finally, take the idea that the children need to be told what to learn, when to learn it, and how good at it they are, in order to become an educated person, which is an idea the school establishment imposes. Another load of tosh. Thousands of home schooled children take charge of their own education and are motivated to go on learning throughout their life which sets them up effectively for the diversity of the working culture this generation will be facing.

School is one way of doing things. A way sold to thousands by the establishment. But it’s also political. And politicians wants us to be obedient to the establishment for it makes their life easier.

But the establishment doesn’t have the monopoly on education.

Schools and teachers do the best they can with the job they’ve got. Schools and teachers work well for thousands of families. Many children achieve and are happy there. But that doesn’t mean all will or can. This isn’t about school bashing. It’s just about opening parents’ eyes to an alternative ideas.

Do what works for you. But don’t do it with your eyes shut!

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Thanks Nadia and family

I shared this uplifting video on my Facebook page but for those who don’t do Facebook I thought it was of value to share here

I love Nadia Sawalha. She sounds so down-to-earth for someone in the celeb-sphere. She still feels like an ‘ordinary’ parent, despite that, dealing with the ordinary issues we all face like her children’s unhappiness at school. I can relate to much of what she’s saying here about home education, her comments about testing, etc. And you should definitely check out her videos on bullying.

Of course, she isn’t ‘ordinary’ as the rest of us know it, she being a celebrity. She will have a life far removed from the rest of us, being constantly in the limelight. That will have it’s drawbacks as well as it’s benefits. But we shouldn’t take the view that it’s all right for her to home school, she can afford it – or whatever – and I couldn’t! Because, as she states in the film, true education is not about what you can afford or not. It’s about engagement with the children.

She happens to like being with her children, she says, clearly thinking about those you see who don’t seem to, as we all do too. Which is exactly what makes home education such a great success. Because the most important resource a youngster could have for their education is not wealth, it’s an interested, caring facilitating adult – who hopefully inspires too. who has time for conversation, answering questions, encouraging a fascination with the world and of learning itself.

Nadia chooses to use tutors as part of her home education provision. But she clearly states that not everyone does, it’s just their choice. and it certainly isn’t essential. Other parents make provision in other ways. For being tutored is not the only route to learning, or becoming an educated person.

Educative experiences are what educate – in whatever form.

I’m so grateful to Nadia and her family for sharing their experiences of home schooling. It is a such valid contribution to helping raise awareness of the choice and understanding of the fact that school is not for all. And it shouldn’t be necessary for kids to suffer for the sake of education.

Alternative approaches are there and work extremely well.

Thanks Nadia.

Seeing educating differently

“But how will the children learn anything if they’re not in school being taught?” is a question often asked by those new to the concept of home education.

The reason they ask is usually because, like most, they’ve been taught to think about learning in institutional ways – as the education system conditions us to do.

But when you step out of that institutional thinking, that conditioning, and acknowledge and understand the thousands of families raising and educating their kids without school, you begin to see something different.

You see children:

  • Learning for themselves. Yep – they can, and do, take charge of their learning, (if they’re not put off), right from being small when they’re interested in everything and are given the opportunity to develop those interests further, thus picking up the skills for learning as they go. To maturing into seeing how the world works, how they want to fit into it, and how education will enable them to do that, either through becoming qualified at something or polishing up skills needed for the workplace.
  • Acquiring learning skills, through a wide experience of learning, by being engaged with topics for their own sake and consequently motivated, by applying themselves in practical ways, getting out and seeing things, doing things, experiencing the real world and the people in it and learning from them as they go along.
  • Learning from the people around them, not necessarily teachers, through mutually respectful relationships rather than hierarchical ones. By making their own assessments about the people who can help them, where they can find these people, by discussion and questioning, by having time for conversations, by interacting with them in beneficial ways.
  • Developing mature social skills by being around a high proportion of people who have social skills themselves, rather than a bunch of kids their own age who still don’t. And by healthy, unforced, interaction with a wide range of children from tots to teens in a more natural setting across the ages like that found in the real world, unlike the unnatural clustering in schools.
  • Learning through a diverse range of approaches from the structured, course-led type of approach, through the practical, experiential, trial-and-error way, to a completely child-led, creative, personal investigative, autonomous approach that can be equally successful.
  • Becoming educated without ever being tested on it!

There are far more ways to approach education than the institutional way that has become the tradition through schooling. Schooling was a great idea at the outset. It’s not such a great way of doing things now that society, parenting and families are different and now that politics has trashed it by twisting it into something that’s got to be constantly measured.

Measured people aren’t always the best people, or the most intelligent either. So don’t be conditioned into thinking that measured schooling will be the best either. Think it out for yourself!

Is this all that matters to parents?

So schools are doing their best to get punters before the term starts again.

I’ve just seen this banner hanging outside a school on my travels.

I found it incredibly sickening.

Are exam results the only thing kids go to school for? Are they the only thing that is the measure of an education or an educational establishment? Are results the only things that parents care about so the only thing that will ‘sell’ the school to them?

Is this all there is to sell?

Where does it say what EXPERIENCE the young people are going to have there? Does that not matter at all? Would you not as a parent want to know about your child’s LIFE in school while they are learning?

Okay I’ll stop ranting now and instead put my brain to answering the question; what would I like to know about a school that would induce me to consider it?

Here’s the five things that I came up with to put on a banner:

  • the widest range of inspiring activities your child will ever experience with a high proportion of adults to help them
  • encouragement of individualism, independence in learning, and choice making, irrespective of age
  • development of respectful relationships between ALL, regardless of age, stage or hierarchy
  • equal importance placed on ALL subjects including the practical, physical and creative and the freedom to choose between them
  • NO testing or publication of any results, emphasis instead on personal development

If schools don’t want to be considered as factories, as some are accusing them of being, then they should stop measuring themselves on a factory style output. Education is about developing young PEOPLE. Not producing commodities. Or percentages!

Tell me; what would your five most important things be?

The earth is more important than maths and grammar

Bread in the making!

Pulling out of London on the train recently I love to look upon the back gardens. Behind the terraced streets these little green oases must offer some much needed sanctuary to the wildlife (never mind the humans)!

From the centre of the city, where the soaring icons, office towers and blocks of flats butt up against each other without a scrap of space between, we begin to pass these tiny, tatty back gardens where people are making such a champion effort to provide that sanctuary with what little space they have. And even those rammed in high-rise blocks boast boxes and planters and gardens on rooftops in gallant attempts to create a little natural space where nature can flourish among places covered in concrete. Sometimes it does it on its own and a buddleia protrudes from a wall and weeds grow on sidings. But many Londoners are giving it a helping hand, creating spaces to invite insects, birds and critters we’ll never see to drop in.

When I see these awesome attempts to give nature a welcome I am filled with awe and wonder. And immediately stop taking for granted the abundance of natural space and greenery I have round me where I live now. I grew up in a top storey flat in London so I know what it’s like to be concreted in. I know how precious these few natural oases are. We didn’t have one!

I’m also thinking about the children who live without them now. About the generations of children who never experience countryside. And how they will ever be able to understand the significance of nature and natural science.

From the tiniest miniscule organism, through all the plants and animals, to the largest oldest tree everything has importance in the ecology of the planet. Everything needs a place. And we depend upon it all for our food, for our air, for our survival and that of the planet. And I worry that those children with shuttered, sheltered existences will never have the opportunity to know anything different, will never truly understand that significance, being so far removed from it on their pavement journeys between home and school and their virtual lives of indoor entertainment.

Surely this knowledge and experience is far more essential to an education, will have far more impact on a future, than times tables and grammar? It is imperative. But as kids follow academic curriculum and obedience to indoor culture I wonder how nature will make its impact known.

So I urge all families to help your kids understand the ecology of the earth that is battened down beneath that concrete, understand that it is still what everyone needs for their survival wherever they live, whether they have contact with it or not. Cities and towns have places to go to get down to the earth, they have planters and gardens and parks, and even farms, where that understanding can begin. And failing that you can simply stand in the supermarket by the fruit and veg and ask the question; where does all this come from and what aspects of nature do we depend upon to get it here, from the bees that pollinate, to the insects and leaf matter which make the soil, the animals that fertilise it, to the workers who make it possible. That question will take you on a journey.

The earth may not be under your feet as it is now under mine, but it is just as essential to your life. And it’s essential to every child’s education that they understand that!

Home Education – Less something you Do, More something you Are

I met with my friend, former home educator, and now publisher, the other day for a catch up, to talk a little bit about books, the publishing business, and a lot more about our children – well adults now really as most of them either approach – or are – twenty somethings!

Always interested in the variety of home educating experiences there are out there I asked her if she’d share her own. 

She has four children. Her first started at school as she knew little about home education and like many of us at the outset, just thought it was school-at-home. By accident she stumbled across it again on the Net, the diversity of approaches, and realised immediately that this was what she wanted to do as by then her two schoolers weren’t thriving there at all. And she herself was becoming increasingly unhappy with the teaching to the test, the box ticking, and no chance for the kids to learn through a pace or style suited to them.

When she started, she told me, she had a wonderfully idyllic idea of all the fab activities they’d do, across all their ages. But all they seemed to want to do was watch telly, and then they’d get bored. She tried several ways to inspire them and discovered that what worked best was a more project-based approach, mostly starting from their own interests, into which she could incorporate basic skills as and when needed.

“I never forced them to do stuff they didn’t want to, or to do it in a particular way” she told me. “The projects evolved as we got into them, we researched and did related stuff like watching films, relevant visits, cooking, and met others for activities and social events. If their enthusiasm waned – we stopped.”

“As time went on and the children grew up I realised that home education is less something you do, and more something you are,” she told me. “It became less planned. Themes emerged, they learned naturally through their own interest and motivation, and they started to join all the random things they’d learned into a coherent form.”

“Although we were quite rural, we travelled to meet other home educating families, but were also lucky in having a lot of youngsters in the village, and clubs and classes they joined in with so social isolation was never an issue.”

I asked if it got harder with teens:

“The hardest thing was for me to let go! Especially my expectations. And to properly listen to them. My two girls were academically minded so they opted to go down the GCSE route, knowing where they wanted to go later on. One is now at Uni, the other about to start A levels at college. The boys rejected the idea of GCSEs, were more sports orientated, and that was harder for me to let go of. However, my eldest decided to advance his interest in sport through college, gained qualifications that way which showed he had a standard and has gone into work. My youngest boy is looking to go straight into work, deciding he is happy starting on the bottom rung and working his way up. His attitude towards learning is very much that it is a lifelong activity; he has interests in video production, media and science and knows that these areas of study are always available to him, should he want to follow them.

“As I come to the end of my home educating years now, I’m really happy how it all worked out and am proud of my motivated, engaged young people who’ve basically done it for themselves! Along the way they learned that they could have control of their learning, it didn’t have to be done in certain time frames, they can learn whatever they want, when they want. It’s more the case that they are educating me now. We help each other. We talk together about what we’re all doing now – I share my business stuff with them.”

“I started Bird’s Nest Books aware of the lack of books featuring home school characters, but it’s broadened now into looking at books featuring communities whose lives are often under represented. As well as the desire to support new and local authors. And my children have been so supportive in encouraging me – almost as if the home educating has come full circle!”

Thanks so much to Jane for sharing her story!

 

There’s no ‘right’ way to educate

Children learn best from experiences

Having home educated our children I’m often asked for advice.

I’m no expert – there are many who home educated longer than we did, but I thought I’d offer this post again in the hope you might find some useful tips.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be actively engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be developing. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re collated in one book; ‘A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’, so check it out when you need another lift. And the fun story about the home educating life; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ also has plenty of tips.