Tag Archive | learning

Good luck to the home schooled kids!

It’s not just school kids taking exams at the moment!

 So what I want to say is this: Good luck to all the home educating families involved with exams too! What an achievement to have got this far – without school.

It’s an aspect of home education that many people don’t even think about even at this time of the year – that homeeducated kids will be doing exams too. Pretty ironic really, since ‘what about exams?’ is always one of the major questions parents and journalists ask when they’re researching home education.

Most home educated families study for GCSEs just the same as all the school kids do – yep there is life and learning outside a classroom! They use courses – usually associated with examining bodies, sample papers online, coursebooks, and the Net of course – they just don’t do it in a classroom. And they learn very much from their own study, parental help and encouragement, online facilities, and occasionally tutors (although that’s quite rare actually). They sit the exams in independent exam centres dotted around the country, the snag with that is the have to be independently paid for – extremely unfair – the home educating community is working on getting help for that.

And just as other kids do, most of the home educators go on to achieve good grades.

So I wanted to take a moment’s thought for them. So often home educating families are disregarded, or worse; the victims of bigoted, biased judgements usually by those who are ignorant of the experience, like this one which appeared in the media recently about a young home schooled graduate.

What we rarely see are the grades and the achievements. I reckon if a study were done of the percentage of homeschooled candidates who achieved good grades compared to the percentage of school candidates the former would be the higher!

Most home educating young people are motivated and achieving, they go on into work as easily as anyone else (not that it’s easy for any in today’s climate), often beating off competition.

So I wanted to wish all those families and young people whole hearted good luck with your exams! You deserve a mention too!

Important stuff about Home Ed

I was wondering the other day what would be the most important things I could say about home education. It’s so difficult to identify because there are so many. But here goes:

  • It confirms that it is possible to learn in a broader, less restricted, enjoyable and uplifting way than that which we’re familiar with in school, which can take account for individualities, preferences and diverse learning styles
  • The different and diverse approaches that home educating families adopt can turn learning failure into learning success, thus eradicating the concept of ‘learning difficulty’ and proving that the difficulty lies with the system not with the child
  • It develops a warm, communicative, articulate and a worldly useful set of social skills that are transferable to the real world and the workplace
  • It means that learning, and personal development – which after all is what learning is – becomes part of family life and not segregated from it as schooling tends to be
  • It liberates children’s education from being institutional and makes you realise that learning takes place any time – without time constraints, anywhere – without room/place constraints, anyhow – without method constraints, which keeps kids motivated and engaged
  • It allows children to be in charge of their learning destiny and therefore makes them independent learners and independent life livers who have intiative, intelligence and purpose
  • It can be a much more hands-on, practical, experiential process, not dependent on a narrow range of academic skills which not everyone has from the outset, although strong academic skills are often the outcome
  • It gives more time for conversation, inquiry, personal pursuits, and activities which develop character, personality and lifeskills, often cited as lacking by employers
  • It’s bloody good fun!

If you want to know how – my books will show you.

And please do add to my list…

Something to consider when we vote!

I’ve been looking back at some blogs written a while ago now – wondering if I’d changed my mind about schooling!

But when I spotted this I realised that, as more and more parents turn to home education seeking an alternative to what’s described here, I sadly feel just as cynical. It was written when I went back into school for a little while as I missed contact with kids. And also wanted to see the workings of a classroom again after all these years; maybe revise my rather cynical view. Did that happen?

Sadly not – this is what I see: –  we take immature little beings who are still developing a delight in their world and are keen to learn about it in explorative and experiential ways. We remove them from their self motivated investigations and tell them that way of learning is invalid. We stick them in a structured institution which disregards their desire to learn about the things that interest them and tell them what we adults want them to learn which we misguidedly think will make them cleverer. We enforce learning tasks upon them in such a way it takes away all the delight they had in learning thus destroying their motivation. We heap far too much over complicated, prescriptive and academic stuff on them far too soon, when they are far too underdeveloped to get anything from it. And we do this in the confines of such a rigid timetable that they don’t have time to formulate understanding, reinforce knowledge, or develop skills. Thus setting many of them up to fail.

Then, when they do fail, which in these circumstances many of them are bound to do, we tell them it’s their fault because they are stupid since they seem to have a difficulty with learning.

Cynic? Moi?

Now I know schooling works well for many, but for others not only does this too-much-too-soon scenario destroy our children’s potential for learning, it also destroys things that are much more precious and life damaging; their faith in education, their self belief and their aspirations. There is nothing to be gained except for a select few who can cope. But it’s at the expense of many.

Of course, the politicians gain. Forcing too-much-too-soon and winning a few academic points for the more able kids wins votes for the politicians. They can say they’re making children cleverer. But they’re not; as they sit in their elitist little empires making policies for people whose lives they know as little about as I do the queen’s, they’re switching many kids off to learning anything.

Meanwhile in schools teachers despair of not only having the finger of blame for academic failure pointed at them, but also at having to deliver an inappropriate curriculum and force inappropriate learning targets on the children in their class. And parents despair with worry as to why their child is not ‘achieving’.

So as I try and help some poor little eight year old understand a grammatical concept that’s so hard it used to be on a GCSE paper I wonder what is to be done. The only way I can see it changing is for both politicians and parents to put a stop to this enforced, dull, academic hothousing, and start demanding a more personal and developmental education for the sake of the individual and not for the sake of the politics.

Here’s a piece that sets you thinking about how that might be achieved; https://www.self-directed.org/tp/what-does-it-mean-to-be-educated/  by Blake Boles the author of ‘The Art of Self-Directed Learning’

And a little clip from it to watch – I’m not advocating summer camps – aren’t they just another institution? But this holds some valid ideas for education. And some things to think about when we vote!

How home educating helped our autistic son

A little while ago Gina commented on a post on my blog.

I was so moved by her remarks that I thought her story needed a post of its own. Her comment related to a post about Daniel Radcliffe (read it here), who was also told he was stupid, which prompted her to write this about her autistic son:

Gina’s two happy boys!

I have an 11 yo whom we removed from school in the first term of year one. He was six and had picked up the idea he was stupid and didn’t try hard enough. 

They had stopped teaching him anything but social skills so he would be prepared for the local special school and he was allowed to play and do what he wanted all day.

They gave up on him because he was ticking none of the horrendous Ofsted boxes. I am sure they wanted to do it differently with him but there was no time for all (or any) of his needs to be met.

They told us to concentrate on his life skills so he could aim for living in a group home, that was the best we could hope for. They really didn’t like us much and I think us constantly trying to support our child in a system that essentially had no room for him did not improve their willingness to try.

Within weeks of taking him out of school as a child who could not recognise his letters he read a chapter book, by eight he had read an entire adult spider encyclopaedia. Most importantly he was happy and had stopped crying. He has recently learned how to join in with games and speak to his friends. Two days ago he played with a strange child in a playground with other friends. This is a huge milestone and totally unexpected.

He becomes kinder, braver and happier all the time away from school. Like Daniel Radcliffe said my son was also labelled and would have been discarded had it not been for home schooling. He loves learning and life now.

When Gina related to me a little of their family background it contained several other appalling instances of the treatment of their children in school, details of which I won’t go into here except to say they’re sadly very familiar; bullying, disregard of child’s special needs, blatant lying on the part of the school, which all culminated in them making that choice to home educate.

She went on to tell me:

We haven’t looked back, they are just over five years out of school and thriving. The stomach issues he had at school cleared up when they stopped going. They are in groups, making friends and just happy, life is good now.  They remember school and don’t want to go back and feel really sorry for school children who get stuck in doors all day every day!  They still have issues related to autism but we can deal with that as a family at home.  There is time and space for that. 

As a family we are a bit nerdy! We love Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons, we make loads of things and we love science experiments – especially with explosions or fire.  They seem a lot less worldly than school children we know and are able to play longer and use their imaginations so much more.  They’re just growing at a slower and more gentle pace which suits their needs better. They live the stories they read and movies they see through their games.  We make sure to build boredom time into the day so they have to go and find something to do, even if they need help.  We also make sure there are at least a couple of hours for just playing.  They have chores, we cook and clean together and we play together. 

We are looking at maybe doing Forest School with them once a week.  They do sports, trips, play dates, crafting, drama and Parkour with their friends; friendships they have been building for a very long time now.

We are really close and I think that is one of the very lovely side effects of home education. 

Many, many thanks Gina for sharing this with us. Wishing you continued happiness.

How the education system dishonours our young people

Click the picture for a link to a discount copy

My latest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is not just about home education! It has important messages for all educators – and parents – shows another side to educating.

Here’s one of them in this extract:

It is when we become parents that we perhaps truly realise an important purpose.

I would never have said that before I was a parent. But the further into parenting I got the further I understood the human purpose to procreate, to perpetuate the species and to educate.

It truly is an honour to have a child. And I am truly lucky to have had this honour bestowed upon me, to have experienced the magical event of bringing a tiny being into the world and to have the chance to raise it. And thereafter celebrating every birthday, commemorating that honour.

When I say honour I do not mean that we indulge every whim or fancy, or ply them with material gifts, buy their love and affection, answer every indulgent demand or craving. That is not honouring them.

When I say honour, I mean honour the very spirit of having them. Honour the responsibility of looking after this new custodian of our planet and our race. For that’s what our children are, valuable custodians, as we all are, although many fail to see that or act as if they were.

This new being is an important part of a whole; a whole planet, a whole race, as well as being an individual. And we honour this new being by helping him to learn to integrate into the world, to learn about that world and the humanity he is part of, the environment he is responsible for. How he can join others to perpetuate this honour for himself. How to recognise what gifts and strengths he can contribute to that responsibility, contributions he can make to the world and others.

This is what honouring the child is. Seeing him not only as your child, but also as a valuable part of a race and a planet. A human race – a humane race. And a human who can make a difference.

Everyone makes a difference.

That is why we need to honour all that is human about our child to help him learn how his humanness can in turn be passed onto others. Learn that he is not the egocentric little animal in a tiny egocentric little world of ‘me’ that he thought he was, but part of a much bigger human race that he can contribute to.

And education fits into this. And is often where it seems to go so dreadfully wrong.

Education must honour that human being too and be a means to facilitate the development of both that individual human being, what he can offer, and his position in relation to other human beings.

Education surely must therefore be about being human.

Looking at our education system it seems to be as detached as possible from being about humans. And at times removed even from being humane.

Our education system seems to me to be concerned with honouring the system, and obsessing about a set of outcomes that have little relevance to being human or enhancing humane qualities at all. This is clear in the way the system focuses more on ‘taking over’ a child and making them fit into it, than on developing an individual in ways that will help them discover their unique potential, individual attributes, gifts, skills, and personal strengths that could make a humane contribution. Attributes which are not of the academic kind are generally disregarded

In disregarding these individualities I believe it also disregards the spirit, leaving these lovely young people unfulfilled and believing that their personal strengths are irrelevant and don’t actually matter. To me this is the same as saying that the people themselves don’t matter. I sense this feeling in some of the children I see in schools.

But in some of the home educated children I know, I see the opposite.

These are children who’ve been listened to, conversed with, had their preferences, interests, strengths and individualities incorporated into the process of them becoming educated. They have been respected for what they bring to the process. This in turn makes them respect others, respect those who support them and facilitate opportunities. Others they are united with rather than distanced from.

Respect has been part of the way they’ve been honoured and educated. And I believe this is what encourages them to develop a positive attitude to themselves, to education, to what they could achieve, and to others. Some young people I see come away from schooling with a negative attitude because they have not been honoured in this way.

I believe children in school need something more akin to what the home educated kids get.

There is much to be learned from observing other home educating families, the way they facilitate their children’s learning and the way they respect what the individuals bring to it. How they integrate that learning into everyday life experiences and how they learn from those everyday life experiences. You only have to browse round the many home educators’ blogs to see this illustrated first hand.

These records can teach us much. It’s clear that being out of school educating around daily life teaches the children much about human interaction, what the real world’s like as opposed to a school world, what they need to live in it, as well as building the skills to study academic subjects.

I believe this is just the type of education all children need and thankfully many home educators are providing proof. Proof that something less prescriptive and more humane, which honours an individual rather than squashes an individual, works just as well as school – if not better for some.

In our progressed world, as we’ve progressed so far into replacing mankind with machines and technology, it is almost as if we’ve forgotten what mankind is.

In chasing prescriptive curricular outcomes there’s a danger of forgetting that we need to encourage the intelligence to be human, not simply the intelligence required to perform academic tricks. We need to develop human skills, not only academic and technological skills – they came after being human.

We need to know how to live fully alongside other human beings, not only alongside a computer or a system.

The education system is in danger of creating mere androids. Filled up with qualifications; empty of human souls. And in doing so dishonours our young people.

Home education is an example of how to redress the balance.

 

Room to learn?

When school term starts again there’s always a flurry of new interest in home education. As well as the usual questions about exams or socialisation (read this) there’s another one that always gets asked:

“But where are the kids going to learn?”

The thought of learning without a classroom seems to make people anxious, as if without this ‘school’ room the children wouldn’t be able to learn at all.

It’s based, of course, on the familiar view we have of learning only ever taking place in a classroom in a school. But just because that’s the way it’s done in the system, it doesn’t mean to say that it is necessary, or the only place a child can learn, or that learning can’t happen effectively without it.

Like any studying we’ve ever done at home, any space can be adapted to fit a purpose, we just have to get creative with it. We can use whatever is available from the kitchen table, bed, living room floor, sofa.

Most home educating families live in a family house and use general family spaces for learning activities. Some start out with a routine that involves grouping round the kitchen table for example, but soon find that in reality, learning can take place anywhere.

For children learn best when they are stimulated, interested and comfortable. That could just as easily be on the floor or in the garden, as in a more formal setting with table/desk and chairs involved. Reading together on the sofa is as effective as upright at the table – probably more so because the child associates it with a pleasurable experience and pleasurable experiences are usually ones that they remember and want to repeat. E.g. maths is just as effective whether it’s on the sofa, on the floor, or chanting or doing quizzes in the back of a car.

In some ways, different settings and experiences can aid learning, stimulating memory. A more formal setting that’s repeated day after day can become boring and easily forgotten.

Many home educating families who have seen their children learning in a variety of settings would go so far as to say that the world is their classroom, finding that they learn as much when they’re out, wherever it is, as they do at home. Valuable learning can happen incidentally from an everyday outing, field trip or visit, stimulating conversation, inquiry and investigation. Even a trip to the park can provoke that. Travel or new stimulating experiences are more examples and offer subjects to research further.

But it’s also the case that formal learning can be conducted outside or in different settings as much as incidental learning can. Just because it’s more formal learning doesn’t mean it needs a more formal space. You can take study anywhere you’re prepared to do it – a library for example, or cafe. One of the essays with the highest marks I ever attained was put together sitting in a field where I was undisturbed and enjoying the quiet surroundings.

Dedicated learning spaces are not a guarantee that effective learning will result. So don’t always stick with formal learning spaces and routines. Get creative – the more stimulating they are the better. It is often the most unlikely situations that stimulate the most lasting results.

And do let me know if you’ve had some unusual and crazy ones – I’d love to know!

Wish we could get the heart back into learning

I miss having children around. I miss being able to show them things and take them places and those quiet little cuddles at any time.

The former village school – now a nursery

It was wonderful watching their amazement as they learn and enjoy the world and grow. In fact, I’ve even missed them so much I’ve thought of returning to teaching.

Then I come to my senses when I remember.

I remember all the reasons why I left. Like my unhappiness at having to force kids to do stuff that didn’t seem appropriate or relevant or worth anything. Like having to drive and pressurise and push until they got the required points. Like having to teach stuff in certain ways when I could clearly see it wasn’t what the child needed. Having to implement stupid policies devised by  some idiot who knew little about the needs of kids. And worst of all, watching their keen little faces glaze over with apathy as another boring objective is confronted; practices that just made kids feel bad and switch off. And worse still, giving them the blame for their failure instead of acknowledging that the fault lay with the approach not the kids.

And that was years ago – it’s ten times worse than that now.

I used to think I was just a cynic. But current remarks from parents and colleagues and recently one new young teacher who was so unhappy because what she felt she was required to do to kids wasn’t really ethical, let alone valuable, make me think I have a cause to be so. And some of the articles on the Secret Teacher site support that cynicism. They make for grim reading.

I used to teach in a small village school, where we all knew all the kids, where everyone functioned for the good of everyone else, where the climate in a school was one of care and nurture directed at the children And their happiness and enjoyment was important.

I don’t sense that about schools any more. I only have to walk in one and something in me shrivels. But thankfully I feel it among the home educating community.

The home educating community seem to base their educational provision on something that all educational provision should be based on: a love of learning. They at least are putting the heart back into learning.

Kids come into the world already programmed to learn – it’s as natural as survival and part of it. But schools change learning into something else – into point scoring, usually for the good of the school.

Keep a child’s love of learning intact and education follows naturally. It’s so sad that the educational system has completely lost sight of the pleasure of learning as they turn it into big political business.

So I’m sure glad to know so many wonderful parents who are brave enough to follow their hearts to learning, rather than the politics!