Tag Archive | learning

Still hungering to open minds!

I would like to think things had changed from when I first wrote this quite a few years ago. Judging by the accusations still thrown our way I sometimes wonder!

Out in the real world experiencing real things

As home educators you get accused of a lot of things:

–          You get accused of tying your children to your apron strings and being unable to let them go.

–          You get accused of narrowing their education to the confines of your home.

–          You get accused of wanting to molly coddle them instead of allowing them to acclimatize to the rough and tumble of the ‘real’ world.

–          You get accused of both wanting to academically cram your children and the opposite of totally neglecting their education.

–          You get accused of being weird and alternative.

–          And the worst thing of all; you get accused of being a parent who does not care about education since you don’t send your child to school.

What is so galling about these accusations is that firstly, in the case of most home educating families, the exact opposites are true. And secondly they are usually made by people who have no first hand experience of home education and who speak in complete ignorance! Often in fear.

Far from tying the kids to their apron strings most home educating parents are giving their children an opportunity to be out in the ‘real’ world. The real ‘real’ world that is, not the artificial world of school.

Far from narrowing their education, home education extends the child’s experiences far beyond the home and the world becomes their learning environment, gaining them an understanding of how the world works and how they fit into it beyond the classroom. Home educated children are exposed to a wide range of people and a wide range of social experiences over and above the limits and unnatural clustering of school ones.

As for academically cramming or neglecting their education; most home educating families strive to achieve a far better balance in their educational provision than that which a child would normally achieve within the restrictions of the national curriculum. A balance between first hand learning and study, a balance between passive learning and active engagement, a balance between physical activities, arts, sciences, field trips, experimentation, personal development, independent learning, investigation, creative innovation, intellectual stimulation and a social diversity which extends way beyond that which they would receive going to the same school with the same bunch of people, day after day, year after year.

Far from being molly coddled most home educating families give their child some say in the educational process, unlike their educationally spoon-fed contemporaries in school, thus building essential skills needed for independence.

And far from being weird and alternative we are actually very ordinary parents who want the same simple things every parent wants for their children; their health and happiness, continued development and achievement, and realisation of their individual potential.

And finally, far from being neglectful of their education, we are totally and one hundred percent committed to it. Why else would any parent take such a mammoth step?

Things have changed a bit – there are thousands more families accepting home schooling for the workable option it is.

But I still hunger to open closed minds. To invite people to do a little personal learning, step beyond their normal conditioned responses and seek to understand that there are many, many approaches to education that are as equally successful as the one they are used to through school. And to grow a little tolerance and compassion towards those people who would make different choices to their own.

Please pass it on!

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The hypocrisy of educational discrimination

I’m a fairly tolerant person. And – yep – even the kids agree after all those years of home education!

But discrimination is one thing I have no tolerance of. Particularly the discrimination in the education system.

Most people don’t spot it. But it’s there.

I don’t mean the usual kind of discrimination between things like ethnicity, or gender, or disability perhaps. The things that get talked about in the press regularly.

I mean the kind of discrimination that remains conveniently hidden but is practiced to make sure things like stats or league tables don’t get lowered by those children who don’t ‘perform’ to the system.

I’m talking about the discrimination towards those who learn differently. 

The hypocrisy of it is shocking.

There are heads, teachers, establishments and centres for learning, writing their policies that state they are inclusive, yet those same establishments discriminate against those who don’t fit into their preferred way of learning.

They group and label children through academic test results only, consequently creating an academic hierarchy some children will have no hope of climbing – because they need a different learning framework. They label these children as ‘failures’ or as having ‘learning difficulties’, or ‘slow learners’ which is discriminatory in itself.

However, as many home educating families are proving, give these kids a different learning approach and time frame and they can achieve the same later outcomes as many of their peers. So does that not prove that if we stopped discriminating against those children with different learning needs many would achieve more in school? And does that not count as discriminating against some whilst championing those who make the school look good?

I know that some schools will squeeze kids out of their establishment, often by subtle means of suggestion that the child would achieve more elsewhere for example. Whereas the reality is that they don’t want these children in their establishment lowering their statistics.

This is blatant discrimination in my book however it is accounted for. It has even been known for some schools to suggest home education as a way of getting ‘failing’ or often absent children off their register.

How is this not discrimination? Makes me sick to think of it going on. And it’s in total disrespect of those hard working schools and teachers who refuse to follow this practice.

A system of education has evolved that does NOT suit all kids and subtle practices have developed that discriminate against those who do not fit into it. How is that different from setting up an establishment for fair haired children, for example, and discriminating against those who are dark haired?

I may be tolerant for the most part. But I am not tolerant of this hidden discrimination against those bright, able, active, and diverse children who may be less academic than others but who have intelligences that exceed many of their academic contemporaries who cannot think outside the box.

Academics is a skill. Swimming is a skill. But we don’t discriminate against those who can’t swim.

Schools need to practice what they preach about less discrimination! And instead of blinding us with their policies of popular political correctness, make sure that a policy of no-discrimination applies throughout their learning provision.

The teacher who couldn’t read

A little while ago I read the most amazing story on the BBC news by John Corcoran. He was a teacher for 17 years who had hidden the fact that he couldn’t read.

The teacher John Corcoran who kept it secret that he couldn’t read or write. Read his moving story

A teacher who couldn’t read? How shocking is that?

Or is it? Is it more shocking that someone who was so devoted to trying to better himself, despite his inability to pick up this skill, should be so ashamed of it that he had to keep it secret.

But perhaps the real shocker is the fact that our so-called inclusive society so looks down on people who cannot read that they feel compelled to do so?

Read his amazing story here.

The subject of his story is something that often bugs me; that we make judgements about people’s intelligence and about them as people just because they are different from us and cannot develop the skills required for reading in the same way we might.

Reading is a skill – a multitude of skills combined together – just like driving, for example. The ability to drive is also a set of skills that some people never manage to acquire, despite persistently trying. Reading is the same; a set of skills that because of the differences in people, some are unable to develop the same way as others.

We are all different. What works for some doesn’t work for others. Do we acknowledge that? For some things we do. For reading we seem to forget it.

Some learners need very different approaches, need very different time frames, in order to get to grips with reading.

But this is not an indication of low intelligence or ignorance or a defect. It’s just how some people are.

The readers among us are not superior to the non-readers. Just as the drivers are not superior to the non-drivers.

We’re just different.

Let’s take away the snobbery, the pressure, and the judgement people like John and others like him have felt over the years and let’s support everyone in their differences, whatever they are.

Let’s live up to our claim of being an all-inclusive society and stop the shocking judgements that exist about those who do not read in the same way as others so that there’s no shame or secret surrounding it. And so that more can tell their story and get the proper support they need without feeling as bad as he did.

Can you take part in a former home schooler’s student survey?

I’ve recently been contacted by former US home schooler, Devon Rose Turner, now studying in the UK. She’s keen to research home education over here as part of her degree and asked if I’d get in touch with my readers to see if you would mind completing her survey. I thought the best thing would be for her to post here as it’s always fascinating to read what grown up HEors are getting on with.

So here’s her post:

Devon in a recent workshop with home educators

Home Education and Museums & Galleries: Building the Bridge 

It seemed only natural to research home education when it came time to do my dissertation for my MA in Museums and Galleries in Education at UCL IoE.

When I was a child, I was home educated by my mother alongside my two younger sisters in the United States. In our small Pennsylvania town, my mother was really a pioneer; choosing to home educate her children and paving the way for many more home educating families over the years. Visiting museums, galleries and heritage sites was routinely part of our curriculum and my mother sought out visits according to our growing interests.

Fast forward 20 years and I’ve found myself in London immersing myself in the vibrant arts and culture scene. I’m currently working with contemporary artists for my work placement at the V&A with the Residency Programme. I’m also a volunteer with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Schools and Family Learning department and a programme facilitator with ‘Learning Through Artefacts’; educational object handling sessions with home educating families within Greater London. These experiences have helped to form the museum educator I am today, and have also provided a great background for my current research.

For my dissertation, I’m interested in finding out more about the relationship between home educating families and museums and galleries. What types of educational museum programmes are available for home educating families? How do they market to individual families v. various schools? Knowing that there are often children of various ages present, how are the programmes structured? I intend to find out more about all facets of this relationship and use my findings to help museums improve their educational offer. Each year the number of home educated students has increased in England, and I aim to find out how educational teams at museums and galleries have responded to this expanding audience.

I have a survey that I am circulating within England for all currently home educating parents. If you fit the bill, or know someone who does, please consider helping me with my research! (Link below)

I’ve met some fantastic people through social media (particularly Twitter) who have helped me hone my research focus and provide me with lots of helpful background information about home education in England.

With the help of these contacts, I’ve arranged two case studies this summer, one in Birmingham at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, and the other at Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle upon Tyne. In Birmingham, I’ll be observing and interviewing individuals involved in a specialized home education programme and in Newcastle upon Tyne, I’ll be observing a home education takeover day and interviewing the administrator of an extensive excellence in the arts award for home educators.

I’m so excited to see some amazing museum programming in action and to meet lots of inspiring people along the way! And to see how my research can be of help to home educators with the development of a museum resource guide and programme list.

Here is the link to my survey, https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S5KR5N5

My Twitter handle is @DevRoseTurner if you’d like to connect further. Follow me for updates on my research!

Thanks to Devon for her interesting piece. Do click on the link and help her with her survey as I’m sure it will help provide more resources for home educating families in the future

Meanwhile, if there are other home educators who are moving on now and would like to tell their story, do contact me!

A funny way to find out about home education

It’s hard to describe what it means to me when people let me know how inspired they’ve been by my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘ (see the My Books page) And how it gave them the courage to abandon schooling and change how their child learns.

I feel both humbled with gratitude for the kind words and the fact that folks take the trouble to let me know (if you enjoy a book – how often do the authors get to know that?) And am elated and delighted that the book has succeeded in its aims to help families find the courage to make changes to something that wasn’t working for them.

I remember when we were in that situation. When our dull-faced children (who weren’t like that pre-school), became switched off, unmotivated and uninspired by the world around them as time in school went on. And how they developed an ingrained sadness – often illness – that also switched off their smiles as well as their desire to learn.

Thank goodness home education switched it all back on again.

When I began to meet other home educating families I heard similar stories about their child’s altered behaviour more dramatic than ours; stories of tantrums, aggression, frustration and anger leading to shouting and violent moods. All changed once removed from school.

For the short time our two remained in school I deliberated with the decision, weighed the pros and cons, looked at what little info was available at that time (hardly any), until the climax described in the book pushed my decision to go for it. We felt nothing but jubilation as a consequence. I wished I’d done it sooner.

For most people I know that home schooling appears to be an unimaginable step, so unimaginative are we at seeing other approaches to learning having any kind of success.

Such have we been conditioned!

So I wanted to tell our story of educating in a lively, enjoyable way in the hope that not only could parents begin to imagine how it actually does work, but also introduce different ideas about alternative learning approaches which can be just as successful, but which parents rarely come across. Who’d ever read a book on education, after all? I knew I needed to make this book on education – for that is what it is – more readable.

So when I read how the book has achieved those aims I set for it I am immensely moved.

I hope it continues to do so. And I hope I continue to hear about it!

And to all those who’ve already let me know; a Great Big THANK YOU!

An exclusive from my home ed notebook…

‘…No Prizes For Getting There First’

Have you ever been on the London Underground? 

No doubt those of you who live in London have and I used to when I lived there.

But even though I know what it’s like, even though I grew up there and therefore you’d think I was used to it, I am still amazed when I go back. Amazed by the rushing.

Everyone, whatever the time, is always rushing.

You go into the station and everyone’s rushing past you on the stairs to get to the platform, even though some of the trains run regularly so if they miss one there’ll be another coming along soon. And when you step off the train and leave the station everyone is still rushing. Rushing past you as they head in a rush to the ticket barrier as if it were some kind of race and there’s an invisible finishing line they’re all desperate to get to.

As everyone rushes past – and we’re not exactly dawdling yet we’re still being rushed past – and leaves us behind it does make us feel exactly like that; exactly as if we’re being left behind, despite the fact we usually meet them all again seconds later standing waiting on the platform.

But with everyone rushing past I start to get anxious. I start to feel like I ought to be rushing too, in case we’re missing out on something. What that something might be I have no idea but I definitely feel there must be something I’m missing otherwise why is everybody rushing? Why is everybody surging forward at a stressful pace? What’s the point in legging it down the tunnels only to stand waiting because the train’s not here yet, fiddling with phones that have no signal?

And do you know what?  It’s catching. It’s compulsive. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m rushing along too. It’s downright unnerving, as infectious as it’s stressful. And I really have to get a grip on what I’m doing if I don’t want to become contaminated by it. If I want to avoid dashing towards that non-existent finishing line as if I was part of that hypothetical race too. And I have to ask myself the question – do people know there is no race, no finishing line and no prizes for getting there first?

I expect the question you’re asking right now is what’s this all got to do with education? Well, the reason I’ve described this scenario is because I see exactly the same race happening in education.

Just like me in the underground, it’s easy to feel a certain amount of tension and anxiety if we are not all rushing along the same mainline route, towards the same result as everyone else. And not only that we also tend to feel very, very anxious if we’re not doing it at precisely the same time as all the other children, if we don’t get off the marks at the same age, reach those imaginary milestones at the same time, and cross that imaginary finishing line at the same stage of maturity.

Whenever I hear parents talk about their child’s education, they talk about it exactly as if it were a race and a rush. Certain stages must be gained by a certain time. And if that doesn’t happen, like me in the underground, the child will be ‘left behind’. In schools this feeling is very real. Heavily unpleasant.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. And actually – there is no ‘left behind’. You can achieve anything at any time you want to. And many have.

Education isn’t a race. You don’t have to achieve in certain time frames. You can actually never stop with education – you can take it as far as you want to, when you want to.

There is no point in rushing children along when they’re clearly not ready, developmentally, to achieve something. Nothing dire will happen to them if they don’t all do the same things at the same time or reach them in the same way.

Another important point to remember is that there is no finishing line and there are no prizes for getting there first, wherever ‘there’ may be. There is nothing to be missed out on and the feeling that there maybe is simply that; a feeling, not reality. Just like my feeling in the underground.

You have the choice to plan an education that suits your child’s readiness, which will be far more successful than one you’d pushed them through at an unsuitable pace to ‘keep up’. You don’t have to pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing. The race everyone else is in needn’t concern you. Your child’s own particular needs do.

Racing and rushing has nothing to do with education. In fact spending more time usually gains an education of far more quality and meaning than one that has been rushed through in attempts to meet other people’s deadlines that have no personal value to your child.

That is probably part of the reason that we chose to Home Educate. Because we didn’t want our children stressed by the thought that it was a race to get somewhere, or to have them feel stressed if they didn’t keep to a particular time.

Time is something we wanted to give them. Time to pay attention to quality and depth of experience rather than experience education as something which, as it rushes on, they must keep up with.

It’s best not to let the sight of others racing to this imaginary finishing line in a mad lemming-like way distract you from what you believe is right for your children. If rushing and racing isn’t right for you – don’t get caught up in it.

Just like the folks in the underground, mainstream education can seem a bit lemming-like. I watch families racing towards the eighteen year old bench mark worrying themselves sick about when they’ll have to toss themselves off the educational precipice. And I think to myself – do they know there’s another way? Do they know that education actually doesn’t have to be rushed, have a time-limit, or a precipice?

Home Education provides the opportunity to give children a different educational experience that is not a race. Keep focussed on the way you want to do it; on your children, not mainstream children or systemised education, and move along at a pace that suits your family where they can fully appreciate the quality and depth of it. Many home educated children I know have achieved what they wanted to achieve, whether qualifications, businesses or work, without sticking to the mainline route or the mainstream timing.

And they did this because they understood that whether in the underground, or in life, even without rushing you will all get where you want to go in the end.

Taken from ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ For more details see the My Books page.

 

A song for comfort

At this time of year I love to hear the blackbird song. He’s singing his rights to territory and of course serenading a potential mate. His song is the most delightful – up there with the more famous songsters the Nightingale and the Thrush.

I find these moments connected with nature immensely comforting and enriching – whichever I need at the time.

It was the Blackbird song that also prompted a short story from me which surprise surprise won a little competition at the time – not something I normally do. (Copied below)

And following a recent bereavement I was put in mind of how important it is to build these strategies to overcome tricky times in our lives and encourage our children to do the same. Life never runs smooth. There are smooth currents at times obviously, but also rapids, waterfalls and undercurrents to continue the analogy! And part of our duty as parents and educators of this next generation is to be honest about them and help the kids find ways to negotiate them too.

Some find music helps, some use gaming, some use art or social media. Some throw themselves into work. Or running or walking. Or writing – as I do at times. Love from others always brings solace. We are all different and all need different strategies that will help us do this; child or adult. I’m aware in my adult children how they have begun to develop their own. But more importantly how they do not take their spiritual and mental well being for granted but treat it seriously, acknowledge that it needs serious attention at times, and this is something we continue to talk about.

Looking after oneself, mentally and emotionally is as an important part of any education as the academic. We have to see that side of it is not neglected – not easy in schools I fear. In fact, many parents turn to home schooling for that very reason. But however your children are educated make sure some time is spent understanding and nurturing the spirits as well as any other part of the curriculum.

As for the story:

When I was little my mother would take me with her on her walk round the city’s evening streets. The reason she went was to listen to the Blackbird sing.

I felt a bit odd just standing there, unaware at the time that this was my first experience of the power of nature to feed our spirits. What I was aware of though was a special aura of peace upon her face as she stood upon the grey pavements and listened.

Growing up I began to learn a little more about this power. Freed from the taunts and terrors of schoolgirls that were my daily diet I’d spend hours walking the marshes where I could be alone in a completely natural environment. Here the traumas of adolescence were released into a feast of distance and solitude. When I was in a natural place, I could be myself, naturally. No need for artificial smiles, bravado, or attachment to gang behaviours you didn’t believe in. You could just stare at the horizon and be peaceful. You could simply be – although I wasn’t aware it had anything to do with the spirits just then.

But that practice has stayed with me always and now I know differently.

Now I know that in order for us to be well; body, mind and spirits, we need to check in with the natural universe from where the spirit comes. We need contact with ourselves and contact with the earth and the wider universe. Simple awareness will do, meditation, call it what you will, but it won’t be denied.

As long as I have that, a pain in the hip or a twinge in the joints can all be eased. It just takes a moment of appreciation in the way the sunshine can lick the fields into loveliness and I am well. A walk in the raging winds can whoosh deep rooted storms away from both the land and the soul. The song of the rising Lark can pick up my spirits from my boots and lift them high enough for me to see the light all around and beyond the oppressive troubles we attach ourselves to so deeply we become consumed. The lesson in my mother’s face taught me that early on.

When my mother died I felt crumpled and consumed with grief. I lay on the soggy bedcover not wanting to face the world. Yet something told me to get up and open the window and seek the solace I have always found in a breath of fresh breeze, the smell of soil or sea, the touch of nature’s palm. So I did.

And I do not believe that it was coincidence that, at the very moment I leaned from the bedroom window, the sweetest shrillest blackbird began to sing!