Tag Archive | learning

Does home education make them soft?

Another job – a bit of modelling!

I was talking to my eldest on the phone this morning.

This was at 7.30am as she walked back, cooling down after her run and before she starts working at home on her production company. And before she goes off to her other job that pays to keep the roof over her head whilst she builds her business! Her evenings are all about rehearsals.

I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

And there are those who believe that without facing the rigours of schooling the youngsters won’t be able to deal with the rigours of a working life. Are they joking?

This particular morning she was feeling somewhat overwhelmed – not surprising considering she mostly works from the minute she wakes to the minute she drops into bed, supper on her knee. She sets herself so many challenging targets. Yep – she has the kind of work ethic you rarely see – even without the rigours of schooling!

I do worry that she’s over doing it though. And try to offer words of wisdom about tackling things in a less intense way (having made my own mistakes in that department)!

She’d been telling me her concerns about the admin emails she’d been reading when she first woke.

“Emails aren’t the best way to start the day” I offered. “You need a more meditative awakening”.

“Hmmmm” came the reply. She wasn’t having it.

I tried again; “Remember what I said about working softer? It’s just as effective.”

Being a parent you just can’t help offering advice, can you! But that didn’t convince her either. So I went on…

“A few moments to calm yourself to confront the day, rather than leaping straight into it” I said.

It went quiet her end – did I hear an impatient sigh?

Then; “Yea, but mum…I just have to get shit done!” she said.

I laughed and copied the language. “Well, just try getting your shit done softer.” It got her giggling. And consequently created a bit of release perhaps.

But I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince her of the softer approach until she manages to prove it to herself – independently. She’s too much like her mum!

Very independent. Very driven. Very passionate about the things she wants to achieve. Very focussed. Knows how to set goals, overcome challenges, and keep going till she gets there.

All this without the rigours of school.

So to all those who say that you have to go to school to find out what the real world of work is like, I say RUBBISH!

School is nothing like the real world of work because it keeps you subservient. In the real world of work you have to be independent to succeed. You have to make choices, solve problems, think for yourself, know how to get stuff done – for yourself and not because someone’s telling you to.

Home education is great for giving kids the skills to get shit done – as Chelsea says!

And a tip for all you hard workers out there; working softer (not necessarily slower) is sometimes more effective – try it yourself and see.

 

(Chelsea’s next production ‘Shop Play’ is in Brighton next week. See here for details)

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What’s a good start to education?

A similar event in a Suffolk library

There was the sound of giggling and tiny tots voices coming from the children’s section. I was in the library returning books and couldn’t help having a peep to see what was going on.

The toddlers and parents were sat in a circle on the floor having such a happy time together doing rhymes and actions and songs etc. Lovely to see. Fab to see parents engaging and interacting with their kids (no phones anywhere). And full marks to the library for initiating it to help them achieve it.

It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone; engaging with tiny beings, pre-conversation, especially when you’ve only been used to adult chat. I remember wondering what to do with the littlies sometimes – not being a great chitterer myself it didn’t come naturally. So groups like this are great to help those of us who are less inspired in that department to get going.

Because it’s really important that we do. For the simple reason that all the chat, chant, song and engagement with the youngsters we have, at whatever age, is the foundation of education. 

This contact, connection, interaction in whatever form is the pre-cursor for essential skills on which education is built – communication being one, as well as listening, observing, responding, thinking, vocabulary development, the basic skills needed for learning to progress. All founded in those simple little sing-songs, chats with your child, constantly reading to them, engaging in whatever way. They are the building blocks from which the mastery of language, communication, mental agility and other skills for wider learning can grow. Just from the stimulation of these types of activities when they are young. Well – it should continue throughout childhood really.

Parents think that getting kids reading early or writing their name, recognising numbers etc will give them a good start to their education. It does.

But the reality is that it starts much, much earlier than that. A good start to education is you!

(For more, check out the last section; ‘How you influence your child’s education’, in my book ‘Mumhood. How to Handle it. Why it Matters’)

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

Home education – in case you didn’t know!

Wow! I can’t believe I started this blog in 2009 and I don’t think I’ve missed a week’s post in all that time. Mostly I’ve posted twice. What do I ramble on about?

Well, mostly about home education, although parenting comes into it too because that’s an essential part of it. And kids and books. And there are seasonal rambles out in the countryside which is where I’d rather be instead of under the laptop! I’ve published five more books since then and watched my teens grow into mature, working young people who amaze me with their drive and accomplishments.

Most of my writing has been to raise awareness, understanding and confidence in out-of-school education because it works – people need to know that. In many posts I’ve set out the facts so the endless myths about home schooling can be dispelled.

Here are some of them again in case you’re new to home educating or need some to pass on to others doubting your choice!

All sorts of approaches to learning!

  • Home educated children achieve good grades like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work like other young people. All of those I know have done so. Their academic, social, intellectual and personal skills, reputed to be in advance of their school peers, are what got them there.
  • Home educated children are not isolated. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities, with loyal friends. Some have far more life experience than those children in school. Most have mature social skills and confidence standing them in good stead for interviews etc.
  • Home education/home schooling both refer to educating out of school although most don’t like the term homeschooling as it suggests ‘school at home’ which it isn’t, there are other approaches to learning. And the word ‘home’ in the title is a misnomer anyway since much of the learning takes place outside of the home, with others, in the community visiting places like museums, galleries, libraries, sports halls, going on field trips and other activities, etc.
  • Many families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it.
  • Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
  • Home educating families are mostly as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
  • Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
  • In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse which is often cited as a reason to ‘monitor’ home educating families. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse when I worked in schools.

Do feel free to share these on!

A good reason to spill milk regularly!

I wanted to share a story I read this morning: 

When he was two a little lad was trying to take a bottle of milk out of the fridge when he dropped it and the entire contents went all over the kitchen. Instead of a cross reaction or judgement mum said; ‘What a wonderful mess you’ve made, I’ve never seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well the damage is already done so would you like to get down and play in it before we clean it up?’ Of course he did.

After a few minutes mum said; ‘Whenever we make a mess like this we have to eventually clean it up, so how would you like to do that? Sponge? Towel. Or mop? Which do you prefer?’

Once it was cleaned up she then said; ‘What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. So let’s go out into the back yard with a big bottle of water and see if you can discover a way of carrying it without dropping it’. And they did!

What a wonderful way to show that the circumstances we usually judge as disasters – and often attach shame to – can instead be used as opportunities. And if our kids can go through life with that attitude towards mistakes and failures then they are set up to continue towards achievement, whatever goes wrong along the way. In fact, we could all do with that attitude.

I read it in Jack Canfield’s book ‘The Success Principles’, another of those books I dip into to give me the proverbial kick-up-the…!

It’s something I need regularly when I’ve used up all my inspirational energy encouraging others through my writing and forget I need to recharge my own sometimes!

It just struck me as a wonderful way to parent. Wished I’d managed it more!

It’s such a great philosophy: to turn those little mishaps kids have, which sometimes leave us wallowing in frustration, into a positive opportunity to grow and learn – and have fun! The most important thing to learn being that it’s okay to get it wrong and make mistakes – kids and parents – because they are an essential part of the growing and learning process, and nothing that we need to feel bad about in any way. Even the most famous and succesful will have messed up at times.

So have a good day with the kids, have fun messing up, and see what you can create and learn out of proverbial spilt milk!

Home education – can you only live it to understand?

Learning about the elements of the world

Whenever another researcher rings me up to talk about home education I face the same dilemma; how to explain the complexity and diversity of this approach to education when their thinking is so conditioned by the concept of schooling they cannot identify with the fact that schooling and education are different things.

The caller was doing some initial research for a potential informative programme about homeschooling. That would be nice!

“A programme to dispel the misconceptions” he said. That would be nice too.

But when the questions came I realise how far removed he and I are in the way we think about education as opposed to schooling.

Education, to my mind, is the ongoing personal development of the individual, a building of skills and knowledge, as much personal as academic as one’s no use without the other, that will enable a person to understand the world, find their way to fit into it and contribute to it, alongside others, in meaningful ways. Ongoing – as in its progression continues throughout life.

Yet education to most people seems to be the grooming of children towards a finite qualification, by any means, the measurement of which being the only important outcome.

Where to begin to open the mind of researchers to education as something broader? How to describe an approach that has the interest of the individual at its heart, rather than the commercial and political perpetuation of the establishment? Where to begin to describe the natural and organic way in which most home educated youngsters learn through the unmeasured interactions and experiences they have? And how this often unstructured, unprescribed, unpredetermined, child-led, approach leads in many cases to conventional results in the end, usually decided by the youngsters and not enforced by adults.

Enthusiastically, I tackle some explanations. Then realise, when I stop suddenly fearing I was gabbing on too much, that he wasn’t really listening anyway because there’s an embarrassing gap of silence before he responds. I sense he was busy reading a screen instead.

He wasn’t interested in explanations – he was just filtering everything out whilst looking for the right answers to his prescribed questions, as no doubt his own education had told him to do.

Maddeningly, being too busy answering the questions pumped at me, I didn’t get the chance to talk about the best bits of home education; the sheer wonder of seeing your kids blossom and grow, of seeing their confidence and their knowledge and their skills develop beyond what you might have taught them, or your delight in their social competence which seems to exceed your own, or their general wisdom about the world which they’ve acquired without you. Neither did I get the chance to talk about the joy home education brings to the household – not sure school ever did that when ours were in it.

But I suppose the researcher wouldn’t be able to take that on board really. And I remember that this is telly we’re talking about. And few people want to make a programme without salacious nuggets of drama in them how ever informative they promise to be.

And, just as happened last time, they ring off with profuse thanks that really doesn’t mask the fact that they’ve no idea what I’m on about and I didn’t give them the right answers.

Like with most things, home education is something you have to live to understand. But the more we do talk about it, the more you record all your adventures and approaches and ideas like some of you do with your great blogs and posts, the more that will hopefully change.

Bringing on the tears

It’s not my intention to make people cry! But this seems to be what’s happening.

Many parents have told me that they read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and ended up in tears.

Not in a bad way I hasten to add. And not usually because of a tragic event that happens in the story.

They are instead mostly tears of relief and emotion to discover that someone has felt the way they do, tears of joy to find their own feelings about children and their learning are empathised with, tears on discovering they are not the only one!

Two little home edders volunteering as part of their education

Here’s a message I received recently:

“We have just started out on our home ed journey and we knew in our hearts that it was the right decision – but reading a Funny Kind of Education just hit home so much with us. I cried when I read the first couple of chapters because I finally had something to relate to – this is what we were going through. My two were being crushed by the system and I have been wholly disgusted that many children so young are experiencing so much stress, and their self-esteem taking a dramatic nose dive because they NEVER feel good enough, and never ever will at school. My son who is nearly ten practically got on his knees and begged me every night and morning not to send him into school – repeating over and over again I have had enough mummy no more please. Now only after two weeks of our journey his face and his sister’s light up with the thought of what we are going to be learning about on a new day. That sense of wonderment with the world is back big time already (it came back in the holidays but left pretty soon after the start of a term) – they are questioning everything and are coming up with all sorts of ideas of their own – and I don’t care that my kitchen is a tip or the dog keeps eating the science experiments or cooking ingredients that drip on to the floor -hahaha – they are happy little bunnies and we are just going with the flow. I know I will have my wobbles too I know and moments of needing to calm down when we are having ‘one of those days’ (dipping in and out of your Home Ed Notebook also) – but we are already starting to feel part of a lovely home ed local community online and in person”.

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to receive that wonderful message and I thought it worth sharing here for ongoing encouragement!

When I shared our story I hoped that people would find comfort and support from the fact that they are not the only parent to have a child who is not thriving in school. So I’m delighted to know it’s doing it’s job. And that the ‘Home education Notebook’ is also doing its job of supporting those wobbly moments.

I say so many times that schools work well for many families. But they don’t work for all. And that’s not the fault of the child.

If there is one over-riding message I’d like to get out there among the mainstream community it is that one.

Some children need something different. And it’s about time home education was respected for providing a doable and successful alternative for those children. About time it was not looked down upon as a second rate education just because it didn’t happen in a school. And about time people stopped being so scared of it!