Tag Archive | lifestyle

How do people get so ignorant?

How could you litter this place?

I just had a super little holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. The best thing about it was being outside on the hills and hollows from dawn to dusk almost, the weather being absolutely perfect.

It was the perfect holiday for me because outside in a natural environment is where I really love to be and, as you’ll know if you’re connected to me on Instagram, I’ll take most weathers. But last week’s constant light and sunshine was an amazing bonus I couldn’t resist. So constant, in fact, I nearly had heatstroke.

The only thing that was less than perfect was the bag of rubbish!

There we were tramping up this hill, so far from anywhere that only the dedicated few would make the effort to go. So you’d think it would only be folks who really appreciate it who’d go there. Yet what does one of those folks do? Decide to leave their plastic bag of picnic rubbish; sandwich packets and plastic bottles, polluting that glorious environment, expecting someone else to pick up after them.

I ask you – what kind of mentality do they have?

We were in exquisitely beautiful countryside, we’re actually able to walk this land as a privilege not a right, we are as such extremely lucky, and that’s how people wish to repay that privilege? By expecting others to clean up after them as they take their personal recreation and enjoyment. This being land where people live and work and depend upon for their livelihood? Never mind the risk to other living things.

How do people get so ignorant? I fail to understand what kind of education they can have had.

As I walked back down the hill, I picked up the dangerous bag, carried it back and disposed of it.

It would have been easy not to.

But I’ve learnt from my daughter. Her integrity almost puts mine to shame. I would never throw litter down – but I don’t often pick it up after others either, as she does.

She and I were walking together through the park in town where someone else has flung their discarded litter about the place. There are bins provided – very near – but no, it’s too much effort to carry litter to a bin. So she picks it up and puts it in the bin in passing. Such a simple unselfish act, she takes upon herself. She does it whenever she walks through and sees the need.

We’re often accused of making our home schooled kids dependent – or depriving them of independence by keeping them at home. (Total balderdash as you can read from this recent post) Yet I see her independently taking responsibility not only for her own rubbish but for the rubbish of those ignorant gits who are dependent on others picking up after them.

Ironic isn’t it!

The hills and remote places were otherwise glorious. And do a great deal to heal the sometimes less glorious thoughts that creep in about the less glorious others we have to share them with.

I do hope you’ll never be one of them!

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Beyond home education

Okay, I’m going to do something I rarely do; put up a mugshot!

This is because when you start out home educating, or think about it as an option for the family, you rarely imagine that one day these littlies will be grown ups. What you normally think is OMG, what are we doing; how will it all turn out?

And this is to show you that it will all turn out okay – the kids will be fine and they’ll still love you!

Our home education took place in many venues and many forms. Charley left, Chelsea right.

If you’ve been reading this blog recently you’ll know I’ve just spent some time in Brighton watching Chelsea’s production in the Fringe – that’s what she’s doing now. She has her own production company which she runs with her partner producing shows (it’s Edinburgh Fringe next), as well as employment to keep the roof over her head and fund some of her enterprises.

Happily Charley could get time off work and come with us – it’s rare we can get all together at the same time. She’s an assistant manager with a big retail company now but also building an independent craft business at the same time.

They are hard working, intelligent, social and competent young women making independent lives for themselves and I’m immensely proud. But in those early days home educating I could never have predicted any of this. You just parent and guide and suggest and encourage and actually – with that support – they do it for themselves.

So, our two have chosen those routes, but other home educating families we knew have done other things, took degrees, are in various professions and self-employment. All busy. All independent. All social. All living their own succesful lives – but successful has a very personal and individual definition anyway. Just like with school kids – you can’t really predict how things will turn out. Both require an amount of faith and trust – school gives no guarantees of success or happiness.

So I thought I’d just put these pictures here as you may well have read about the girls when they were little in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and they feature in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’, to reassure you and encourage you to quit worrying and just get on with the very important business of enjoying your home educating time with your littlies because there will come a time when you only see them in snatches and only rarely get a pic! And it’s so lovely when you do, so just this once I’m sharing it with you!

Happy times with the girls in Brighton recently, Chelsea left, Charley right!

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.

 

Happy Easter!

I always think of Easter as the gateway through which spring passes.  

I love it – more importantly for me because the equinox has passed and, although the weather still can throw up some challenges yet, at least we have more light than dark in a day. After long dark winter days that also darken my moods, it’s a blessing to have that.

It affects the children’s moods too, did you realise?

I relate a story in my ‘A Home Education Notebook’ when, having got pretty much to the end of my tether with the children (my mood’s fault as much as theirs) I bundled them up despite conditions and we went out for a walk. This wasn’t without protest – but I pressed on determinedly.

And I’m so glad I did. For everything changed. Their moods picked up, bickering was forgotten, spirits lifted, the grumpy tweenager even started singing! And when we got back with sniffy noses and blazing cheeks everyone was calmer, more peaceful, more tolerant! It was an antidote to doldrums I could always rely on.

Have you tried it?

There are many studies now that show the benefits of time outside everyday – most importantly for the children, both physically and mentally. And it’s so uplifting anyway.

There’s much to seek; buds bursting – look out for the sticky ones, birds carrying twigs for nests, bulbs blooming, primroses, lambs, the first butterfly/bee/ladybird. And the time when the sun actually feels warm on your face.

Turn yours up to it like sunflowers, cure your family gripes, run off all that chocolate; get yourselves outside.

Have a Happy Outdoor Easter!

Disconnected!

We’ve been another week without an internet connection. I’ve had to decamp to a friend’s house to use hers. For the other problem with rural living is poor mobile signal – not enough for me to go online on my phone at home.

Such are the disadvantages of living in remote places. But we’re used to it!

It has its upside. It means that without the seduction of social media, emails and messaging I focus more intently on new writing rather than allowing my time to be eaten away by responding to notifications. It’s easy for that to be an excuse for not getting the real work done. I admit I can be a bit dilatory at managing that!

The absence of the internet also reminds me to practice skills that are independent of it, to be more resourceful, to re-visit other activities, perhaps less sedentary, that do not depend on that connection. And it’s a good reminder that we need variety in our daily lives to bring a healthy balance and outlook, to help us maintain other skills and interests, practical and physical as well as social, to make us more rounded people.

Exactly the same for our children. They need this variety too; involvement in an assortment of skills as well as internet ones, most particularly the physical, practical and personal, to make them healthy, rounded, skills-rich adults.

I’ve enjoyed watching some of the ‘Back in time…’ programmes that have taken families back to life in earlier times, mostly before internet and telly. And some of the comments the youngsters on the programme have made suggest that they have enjoyed living without their phones, internet and telly at times because it has made them focus on each other. Conversation has become a pastime for example, or communicating over board games. Another remarked they’ve become closer as a family.

Now, I acknowledge that I was as grateful as anyone to distract a restless child with some screen based pursuits.

But I’m now aware that this has become such an overused activity that children are lacking in many of the skills they would have naturally gained from connected family time. Some cannot converse adequately, use language effectively, interact with peers appropriately and are starved of the nurture family closeness brings because of long isolate hours entertained by screens, disconnected from real people. Even communal meal times have been overturned by TV dinners.

I enjoy a TV dinner, but not all the time.

What I need, and what children need even more as their on going development is more important, is a rich diversity of experiences. They need opportunities to try a range of different activities, explore potential interests, chances to develop a variety of skills, physical, practical and personal for their well being, resourcefulness and healthy maturity.

A balance of life’s activities in other words. Not a life that’s dependent on one.

Nothing like a week with disconnection to make me check whether my time usage was balanced.

If this extreme weather continues I suspect I might be in for another one!

Which world is real?

I’ve been enjoying reading about the family, farm and parenting life of Amanda Owen of ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ fame.

She tells the story of how she worked hard to become a sheep farmer, despite her city routes, and how she lives and works on the farm with her nine children.

Amanda Owen and growing family

She sounds like an amazing woman. And I love her descriptions of how her family works, her no-fuss approach to everything, to her parenting, to her children and the way they all live in a remote farmhouse miles from anywhere.

Although her children go to school, she has that down-to-earth approach to her children’s lives that many home educating families have. One that sees the true educative value in everyday, real life experiences, how the children are involved in their very tough life on the farm, and how much they learn from it.

This question of ‘real’ life is something that’s often thrown at home educators. Like we should send them to school because it’s a taste of ‘real’ life – which of course it isn’t! ‘Real’ life is nothing like school. But most people don’t see that.

Amanda has the the same accusation thrown at her with her children being so isolated on the farm.

“You can’t keep the children cooped up here, this isn’t the real world” she was once told!

Sound familiar – I think someone once said the same thing to us about home schooling.

I loved her response. She was understandably indignant because that was their real world, and that statement devalued it. Home educating was our real world and it was often devalued too. But some people can’t acknowledge a life that is different from theirs. Many people want everyone to be all the same, do the same, follow the same path. And get really twitchy at those who choose a different one.

Amanada says her children have a good work ethic – many home educators do too, because they’ve been working in an independent way for so long. She goes on to say that living where they do they understand that if they want something they have to put the work in. They become more self sufficient, consequently learn that nothing must faze you. It’s about building mental strength as well as physical strength and the willingness to have a go at anything.

A great philosophy she’s built through her farming life and one that will serve her kids well when they move on. A great philosophy I also witnessed many home educating families adopt.

She goes on to say that she gets a lot of people telling her what she should be doing with her children (sounds familiar)! But she believes they’re having a good childhood involved in the farm, it’s just different. And her only hope is that they’ll look back on their childhood as a happy one.

I think most home educators feel the same!

But as for which world’s real – that’s an ongoing philosophical debate that will never be answered.

The more important question is – which world works?

Home educating works for some. Life in alternative places work for others. City life works for many.

But whether people live in cities, or farm in remote places, or home educate, the children can see all sorts of other worlds now via the internet. They have opportunities to explore and learn about other worlds different from their own. And Amanda says, like most home educating parents say, that the children may well move away and choose their own different worlds one day and that’s fine. However, no single world is more ‘real’ (or valuable – which is the hidden meaning of the expression) than another.

And no one should be criticised for choosing a way of life that is different from mainstream.

I leave you with Amanda’s words from the end of her book; “We get such pleasure out of the children and take a pride in bringing them up in a free and natural way”. I think many of you will identify with that!

Restore your enthusiasm for home education

January is a bit of a bleak time for me. I think we all suffer the post Christmas, goodbye-sparkle, back-to-reality drop in spirits. Add on our seasonally affected doldrums and it’s a bit of a month to get through. 

Do you find the same?

I know the children used to when we were home educating. We were stuck inside a lot (not much fun sitting outdoors with books and projects this weather) and we soon got twitchy. Thank goodness for swimming pools, activity centres and sports halls where we could make dates with others for burning off that bulging energy after being indoors too much. (The energy not the only thing bulging after Christmas)!

It can be a bit of a hard month for enthusiasm. And however much you love your parenting, and love your choice to homeschool, even that enthusiasm can wane at times like these.

So, how to get it back?

Do any of these ideas help:

  • January is short lived. Time changes everything. Take each day at a time, create some self-nurturing practices and good things for each one. A great lesson for the kids to learn too – self care.
  • Re-acquaint yourself with your core reasons for home educating, your philosophies for parenting and learning and life. Why did you choose to do it? It’s still an inspirational choice.
  • But like with all aspects of life, it’s not inspirational all the time. that’s not because it’s ‘failing’, it’s just the way life is. We have to learn to negotiate these times. And keep faith.
  • Keep active. All of you. It’s a necessary and very effective part of self nurturing and mental and emotional wellbeing. Even if the initial inertia is tough, fight on through. Physical activity also gives a huge confidence boost – good for kids, good for you!
  • Relax about the ‘learning’. It’s going on all the time even if it isn’t formally constructive. All learning is valid. All experiences are valid. But stressed approaches can inhibit learning, as can forcing it, or making it a huge demand. There’s no time limit on learning. It happens in leaps and stand-stills. There will be times you’ll think you’re kids are going nowhere. That’s a misconception. they will be.
  • Be pro-active. find new things to do, places to go, websites to explore, people to connect with. They’re out there for you to engage with. Being proactive with life is another great example to set the kids!

You won’t enjoy your home education every single day – that’s probably not possible – as with life; it’s an unreal expectation. Just try some of the tips above and ease yourself back on track with the inspirational, uplifting way of life that it is!

Above all, just enjoy yourselves as much as you can for now – just because you can!