Tag Archive | lifeskills

Where do manners fit into modern parenting?

I’ve been wading through Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’.

I think I’m a bit of a literary philistine really; these long classics don’t do a lot for me. The great long convoluting paragraphs nearly had me tossing it across the room with boredom. Good job it’s summer for it may only be the fact of enjoying some long weekend reads in the garden that kept me at it.

But Oh the frustrations at the reserves and inhibiting manners. Sometimes I wanted to slap Fanny Price for being so correct and ‘proper’!

However, I may be a rebel occasionally (not really), but I do see a point to some moderation of behaviour. Not for the sake of polite convention, in an old fashioned sense. But for the sake of consideration of others.

I think this is a point that some parents don’t get about manners. Manners are not about unquestioning convention or suppressing the kids. They are about consideration.

It’s not about old fashioned habits that don’t really matter like not putting your elbows on the table. And nothing to do with the frustrating conventions I’ve just read about that were so restrictive.

Manners are just little considerations for others. Like perhaps not speaking with your mouth full so you avoid spitting food at others! And you don’t speak when others are speaking generally (unlike the example of folks shouting at each other on Jeremy Kyle), because you’re giving others the consideration of listening to them first.

The point is that you understand and respect the circumstances you’re in.

For example; there were some little ones tearing up and down and round and round in an outdoor cafe the other day, in a space not made for tearing round despite being outside. It was full of other people, unsteady elderly and staff carrying full trays of crockery and hot food. The parents obviously thought this was okay, despite the fact that it was disruptive, inappropriate to the circumstances – there was a massive park space all around for running in – and lacked consideration and respect for others.

And that’s where manners come in – that’s what they are: Consideration and respect for others.

But manners have bad press in some circles. Some believe they are oppression and inhibit a child’s self expression.

We all want to express ourselves. However, we all want to be liked too. Acting out of respect and consideration for others has to be in balance with our desire for self expression.

It’s not like we’re imposing the kind of restrictive behaviour of Jane Austen’s time! We’re just making simple, considerate, useful rules (for want of a better word) for living – and loving – together.

If we want the privilege of enjoying company, good friends and relationships, then we need to act in ways that not only expresses respect for them, but earns respect from them too. Manners are lifeskills; little considerations and empathy for others that help us to achieve that. They’re a two way dialogue of living together.

You might think it’s important not to restrict any kind of self expression like running round in cafes or picking your nose in public. But don’t expect your kids to be liked or admired for it. They need some guidelines on what’s appropriate, so they can observe how others behave and see how they fit into it. Or how will they learn?

A little guidance and explanations of what manners do for us, until they make their own choices, is all that’s needed without resorting to anything as authoritarian as the Austen era.

We all choose our rules, obviously. But that’s always going to be within the climate of wanting to enjoy a warm respectful community, surely.

What you give out you get back.

We enjoy a much more liberal period than I’ve been reading about thank goodness. But consideration for others will always play some part in our living together however modern we are.

Home educating just feels so normal!

May using her map

I was recently contacted by Anja, the author and creator of these super little story maps for children: http://taletrails.co.uk/what-are-tale-trails

We were in touch because she and her husband were researching home education and had recently read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. She told me that once they read it they both made the same comment at the same time: ‘it feels so normal’!

I was delighted – as I’d wanted to show home education as a natural way of raising and educating children. Good to hear it’s doing its job.

Following their research, they’ve decided to home educate their daughter May, who’ll be four in July, rather than starting school. So I took the opportunity to ask her about their decision. And about her work creating the Tale Trails.

Anja told me that it was after May started at nursery and never really settled there that they began thinking about it in earnest.

School has been a bit of a stressful topic for the last year and so we started to research other options.

I have always been aware of home education but being an ex-teacher had never considered it. I initially watched YouTube videos that other home educating families had posted online and came across Ross’s. (Click here)

I asked Anja what kind of reactions they’ve had from family and friends about their decision to home educate and how they might approach it.

We have recently told close friends and family that we will be home educating for May’s reception year and that we will take each year as it comes after that. Everyone we have told is supportive and understanding so far. 

I think day to day life will be similar for the first year. We may start introducing some basics if the opportunity arises. May loves baking so weights and measurement always seem to pop up. She already helps me with the maps and children’s stories that I create for Tale Trails so I am sure she will continue to enjoy that! 

Myself and my husband both work part time so balancing family life and work is already well practiced, although it can be tricky at times. Berni is a mountain leader and I write story walks. May often comes out with me to help create maps and stories for Tale Trails and we often go with dad in our campervan and park up beneath the mountain he is guiding on! 

We are planning on moving to an area where other folks are home educating but we will certainly be taking each day as it comes and hope to enjoy living in the moment as much as possible”.

That sounds like a perfect way to approach home educating – with that kind of flexibility and connection with real life and learning which basically happens all the time. It’s clear from the activities May already does with her parents that’s she’s already learning many skills. It’s not necessary to make the sudden dramatic change in style of educating, as occurs when children begin formal school. Education happens continually and organically through an engaged approach to parenting and family life!

The Grumbletrog

Take a look at some of the Tale Trails and see if there’s one for your area. They’re a perfect resource for home educating days out in the field, the children will love the stories and be intrigued by the adventure through the map reading!

I asked Anja what inspired her to do them. She said; “I actually got the idea one day when I was walking with my husband in the Lake district and felt disillusioned with work. He said to me ‘what is it you actually enjoy doing?’ and I said ‘I love exploring new places and creating stories about them’ and he said ‘well just do that then!’ and that was it! I am doing one for Walney island in Cumbria at the moment and wherever folks ask me to do one if it’s a suitable environment. I mainly just do commissions now and I love seeing who contacts me!”

Many thanks to Anja for sharing their story.

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂

 

Treat a bad day like passing wind!

Waiting for the climate to change!

Being the best parent you can be (see last post) is exhausting. You’re bound to get a bad day. A day when you probably wish you weren’t a parent at all and had another job!

We all get them whatever job we’re doing. Whether it’s parenting, home educating, employment out the home, self employment, what ever path you’re forging you’re bound to get a day that’s totally crap. It’s a life thing – not a job thing.

It’s odd though; when you’re an employee you tend to blame the job. When you’re a parent, particularly a home schooling parent, you tend to blame yourself. And that makes a crap day a whole lot crappier!

So this is a post just to say: DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.

We all love our kids to bits and love being with them – of course we do. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t be the kind of person bothering to read this if you didn’t) But that’s not going to mean that we won’t get down about life occasionally. It’s just what happens, whatever we do, and is as natural a part of the human condition as passing wind! And – yes – everyone passes wind even those who pretend otherwise. Equally, everyone will suffer a bad day even if they pretend they’re perfect.

But that doesn’t make us bad parents or bad home educators. It’s just the way it is sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up over it. The best way to help yourselves is to ACCEPT it. It’s just life. And nurture yourself through this bit just as you would nurture a friend.

If you viewed your parenting, or home educating role, like you’d view employment, you’d accept there’s bound to be bad days when you’re giving less than you’d like. If you were employed you might even throw a sickie!

Can’t do that as a parent – but you can go easy on yourself for a day till it passes. Also remember there are teachers, nursery workers, assistants, helpers, who will be working through a bad day without giving their best either. It’s just normal having a bad day from time to time. Doesn’t make you a bad person, just because you can’t give your best today.

Make a cuppa. Sit it out. Accept it gracefully. Wait for the climate of your day to change. You’re just human. Deal with it with the compassion and gentleness that makes you humane.

This will show your children the skills to deal with bad days whenever they get them too, and help them understand bad days are part of life and not to worry – the climate always changes – bad wind always passes! So even on a bad day you’ll be teaching them something through your parenting! Take comfort from that. And if you’re suffering one right now, may your climate soon change!

Something other than writing!

One of my first on Instagram

One of my first on Instagram last Autumn

I’ve loved doing Instagram so far. I joined last Autumn, partly to try something new, partly to encourage myself to look in new ways at old routes I walk almost daily, and most of all because it gave me the chance to focus on something other than writing!

I know I write to supposedly enjoy it but, like with any work, there’s much of it that’s quite tedious. Same with my daily walks. Although I love to be outside and love the benefits of doing them, they’ve been grueling at times over the last few months in the chill and sometimes I really don’t want to go!

Helping me over that is the sense of wondering what I’ll find for my Instagram picture today.

Looking in a focused way at things takes time and attention. But it’s a great thing to do, especially with the kids. They often do it anyway, but we risk chivying them along towards our next destination.

Instead we should stop and give them the time to examine their world. From this observation and examination comes a host of other skills; questioning, increased attention skills, conversation – so consequently language development, perhaps extended research when you look it up, and  an inquiring mind, which is the foundation of learning.

But whatever you do – don’t suggest they write about it! Not unless the children want to. I made the mistake of doing this thinking that just because I was interested in recording my discoveries in written form, didn’t mean they would be. (You can read more of my tantrums and mistakes in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘ see the Books page)

Not only that, writing things down for some children is the bane of their life.

Writing is so outdated! The handwriting part – I wonder if it’ll die a death?

With our technology there are so many other ways of recording and learning, why labour over writing when you’ve got that to hand? It’s the same question as to why labour over making bread when you can buy a sliced loaf?

Sometimes we do both the writing and the bread making for pleasure and that’s fine. And we probably want the children to have the basic skill of writing longhand, it’s still part of our educational tradition. But it doesn’t take hours and hours of laborious practice, and it doesn’t mean that everything has to be written down all the time – I made that mistake when we were home educating, putting the kids off doing anything because of their fear of having to write about it afterwards! Too much writing creates the danger of putting kids off learning altogether.

If you think about it, writing doesn’t necessarily have to be the basis of education, even if it plays a part in it. I knew many HE children, ours among them, who did very little formal writing at home when they were young but still polished up their skills when it became necessary.

Education is not simply to do with writing about stuff: it is the experience of learning, not the recording of it, that matters. And we don’t want to be forever spoiling a stimulating experience by writing it up like schools do.

I know, I know; that’s exactly what I’m doing here about Instagram, ironically! But just this once. The rest of the time I use it as a pleasing alternative.

So, have a think how many pleasing and alternative ways you can find to give your children experiences of learning that don’t involve writing about it?

(And if you follow me on Instagram you’ll be able to share in my daily walk)

Times to leave the kids alone

Back in the dark ages of teaching I had a class of 41 at one stage! As you can imagine it was difficult to see that every child got their needs met.

20170120_115136

It may have been a very old fashioned set-up but there was time for one to one teaching – just like home ed!

I switched from there to a small village school with only three classes and about sixty kids in the entire school. I had 14 in my class and it was an absolute delight. I could properly teach instead of manage crowds. Every child read to me just about every day and I got to know each of them individually which gave me a better chance of meeting their particular needs. Sadly, such days are just a distant bliss. The system has changed so much that real teaching on this scale is impossible. We misguidedly think big is better – it isn’t, always.

There was a down side to these tiny classes however; it could be a bit intense – the poor kids couldn’t get away with anything! A little natter. A little mischief. A little bit of relief when Hawk-eye wasn’t watching them.

I realised that this wasn’t always healthy. They needed a bit of time to swap notes, share concerns with their desk mate, just let off steam and skive a bit which is human after all. So I decided sometimes I had to turn a blind eye and just concentrate on the important misdemeanors. Not that there were many of those because we’d built a relationships of respect and trust in each other. You can do that with small numbers; build relationships.

It also taught me a valuable lesson for home educating.

Home educating one-to-one can be very intense. It would be easy for it to become overbearing. You have to learn to not watch the kids all the time. And certainly not ‘EDUCATE’ all the time.

This is beneficial for all sorts of reasons, as well as to save you from insanity and education overkill. If your kids are constantly directed and monitored and dare-I-say controlled they never learn to be independent. To think for themselves. To decide for themselves. To imagine and invent and create their own activities and consequently their own education. To be in charge. This is a set of skills lacking in young people when they get to Uni; they don’t know how to take charge, of themselves even, let alone their workload.

I know some home educating parents worry that if they’re not directing, instructing or ‘educating’ their kids all the time they will be considered neglectful.

This is rubbish. It may be the mentality of those who don’t understand the true nature of home education or self-directed learning, which is on the increase (think online courses), but it doesn’t have to be your mentality.

Leaving the kids alone is an essential part of their self development. Learning things together doesn’t take much time really. There will be plenty of time for their own activities – which they have to think up, even if they need some starters as to where to look or some stuff strewing around to tempt them. Each of you in the home ed household needs to learn to respect others’ space and time and to leave each other alone to achieve it, to develop in their own individual ways. They’re bound to be learning all the time through doing so.

So, for education’s sake, for self-development’s sake, make sure there are times you leave the kids alone!