Tag Archive | lifestyle

Every day with a child…

January can be a grim and gruelling month. A bit hard to get through I used to find during our home educating days, with the lack of light, post holiday blues, challenging weather making it difficult to get out with the kids, and moods also lacking in light! It’s hard to find any January brightness.

So in case it’s a bit like that for you right now now I thought I’d share this uplifting blog from a while back just to remind you what an amazing thing you’re doing, just being a parent, never mind a home schooling parent!

Here it is:

Every day with a child is an opportunity to enhance a future

Have you ever thought of it like that? Possibly not when continuous days with children can be a bit wearing, doing activities at their level a bit boring and their endless energy exhausting.

But if you think about it, every moment you spend with children influences a future. Their future. Your future. Society’s future. The Earth’s.

Why is that then?

Well – children are so readily influenced; so believing and naive and absorbent to learning. The experiences they have with you, however large or seemingly small, make an impact on them. They are like little computers gathering input from the things around them, from the things that happen and are said to them, and assimilating that with what has happened before. Small children don’t even have the filters that come with maturity to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. They just absorb it all. Take it fairly literally. Digest it. And what they perceive becomes part of them.

So whatever experience they have, whether it’s fun or loving, wise or trusting, harsh or unjust, exciting or dull or dismissive, it moulds their understanding and view of the world, their impact on others, their education and even their personalities to a degree.

All interactions with our worlds shape who we are and what we do with our future. And the biggest influence on that shape comes when we are young, through the people we’re with.

Like your child with you.

That’s the way in which being with children has the opportunity to shape the future; we’re shaping a future being.

No small responsibility then!

But it needn’t be daunting. For it is quite simple really. Simply being with children – and being simply good – does the trick.

Being positive and fair, encouraging and caring, showing them what an unbelievably exciting place the world can be, what a myriad of fulfilling possibilities there are, how incredible all aspects of the planet are, how being loving and caring of the planet and the people in it will bring love and care back to them, and how to deal with aspects of the opposite in a way that dissipates harm rather than expanding it. Just showing how a simple goodness makes life good – that’s enough to shape a good future – make it simple and sweet.

These are the ways in which we have the opportunity to enhance a future. Everyone’s future, for the way in which our children grow up will impact on everyone if you think about it broadly.

That’s what you’ll be doing as you parent and home educate. How amazing is that!

Have a great day.

A little January brightness to look forward to

A perfectly imperfect approach to your Home Education

Happy New Year, and a happy new start to your home education!

As a fresh approach to it, which we were always ready for when we got back down to it again, how about adopting the philosophy of Wabi Sabi?

What is that, I hear you ask?

Well, I’m not going to be able to give you a clear definitive answer, basically because there isn’t one. I’ve read it’s as difficult to define as love; we all have ideas about love but to express what it is in words is almost impossible. It’s more a matter of feel than of definitions.

And it’s the same with Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese approach to life which holds within it lessons about letting go of trying to make everything perfect, of letting go the idea that life can only be happy if we meet our expectations of perfectionism – many blasted at us through social media, and of accepting and appreciating things as they are in order to get the best from life. Acceptance of the fact that things don’t have to be perfect in order to be good.

If you’re anything like I was you’ll probably be worrying about making your home education perfect. You feel the responsibility of living up to this decision you’ve made to do it, of making it better than school, along with the inevitable comparisons and weight that subsequently brings. Worrying over the judgements made about you if you’re not getting on perfectly. Heavy weights indeed.

Having been through all this my advice to you would be to stop that immediately. All that will do is create tension and anxiety, stress and conflict none of which will be good. Certainly isn’t helpful in making a good learning environment.

Far better instead is to approach it with the wisdom this concept of imperfection brings. Understanding that imperfections are still experiences and all experiences teach us something; often show us the way forward, even when they’re the wrong ones!

And understand this about the educational process:

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect to be valid
  • Learning approaches don’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile
  • Each day doesn’t have to be perfect in order to usefully contribute to the overall development and progress of your youngster
  • Becoming educated is a diverse, sometimes messy, varied and experiential journey that has as many imperfections, as life does, and which never ends.
  • There is no perfect time frame, no perfect approach, no perfect outcome, no perfect strategy, no perfect answer.
  • But a perfectly imperfect education still works!

Many of your days at home will be less than perfect. Many days at school will be less than perfect. We wouldn’t actually expect them to be so, so why put that pressure on your home educating days?

And of course, children are not perfect either. Thank goodness for that, for all our diverse idiosyncrasies. Diversity is essential for our perpetuation. Accept your children as they are, where they are; they will change. Wabi Sabi embraces the concepts of impermanence, imperfection and incompleteness. As things are in all nature; as are we – children particularly!

So go gently with your days. Ditch any ideas about making them perfect.

Enjoy the good days. Accept and move on from the difficult ones. Take each day as it comes.

And allow imperfections to be naturally part of the rich pattern of home education.

Wishing you a happy new home educating year

(The book I read was ‘WABI SABI Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life’ by Beth Kempton)

You cannot photograph sensations

I’ve enjoyed Instagramming my regular walks – wanting to share a bit of the countryside with you all.

The danger of Instagram though, and other social media sites, is that you can be so busy photographing the moment, you’re not actually engaging with it. More than likely you’re engaging with the opportunity to show it off to others. In fact, holding your phone up almost creates a barrier – certainly a psychological one – between you and the sensation of mindfully enjoying.

I noticed this particularly on an autumn walk a month or so ago. I was so busy sharing the experience on my phone, and looking at the photos to see if they were good enough, I’d disengaged from the experience itself. Not just the sight of nature laid sweetly before my eyes, but all the other sensations of being there as well; a last bit of Lark song of the season, the smell of the damp foliage, the shine of the dew and the soft touch of the gentle breeze.

Instead of mindfully being there, I was missing it all. I put the phone away.

This is why I hardly took any photos at my daughter’s wedding. (See recent post here) There were several others snapping away, some who’d been particularly engaged to do so. There would be plenty of photographic memories, I could appropriate!

But you can’t photograph sensations. And it was the sensations of the day I wanted to bring away with me.

And it’s made me wonder, as I see so many photos of your delightful children and the activities they’re doing splashed across social media, whether some parents are so busy photographing their kids for posting on sites they’re actually missing out on the sensations of being there with them.

One day you won’t be! They’ll have flown.

A grainy one from the pre-digital days, when the odd personal photos were more treasured for being fewer, and we were consequently more engaged with the moment!

A single photo memory is nice to have, I agree. But I suspect our phones have pushed us beyond that, beyond even the sensation of wanting to share, towards an addiction of wanting approval, likes and endorsement. These gadgets and platforms are designed to be addictive.

Just a thought.

So this is a call for you to enjoy your kids while they’re there with you. Masses of pics are no substitute for living the moment, of being with them, engaged. The depth of those feelings cannot be reproduced in an other medium. Only that which you have experienced within.

Put your phone down and live your life as a parent for the experience at the time, not for the reproduction of it.

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.

What’s socially adjusted anyway?

Sometimes for escapism I watch Channel Five’s ‘New Lives In the Wild’. I can’t always do it; Ben Fogle’s ignorant remarks about home education grate on me so much I have to switch over.

This recent programme got me just the same. He’s revisiting some of the families featured on his programmes five years ago to see what they’re up to now. Tonight it was the turn of the Goddards, who were living on the Isle of Rum in Scotland, but now have returned to the mainland as their needs changed and the children, who are home educated, grew up.

You can see the programme here

Of course Ben wants to see how things have panned out for the family (me too) and in particular the youngsters. Because Ben is concerned, as he’s expressed before, about home education; in particular about how well home educators ‘adjust socially’ when they’ve had such an isolated existence.

Now isn’t this just typical of those who have limited experience of home educators, and actually limited understanding of how people actually become socially adjusted?

It’s almost like there’s a national disease of wanting everyone to be the same and fit in and be normal – whatever that is. And it rankles! As did his comments, after interviewing the young people, about them seeming to be ‘socially adjusted’ after all – as if that was some sort of surprise!

Odd, isn’t it, how it’s always the social bit people raise concerns about as if it was socially normal in school – it isn’t.

Now I know I’m biased and in support of all those wonderful parents who want to home educate. And in my experience the social side of doing so is NOT a problem. The kids are fine, socially, intellectually, communicatively.

But others don’t know this. Others just listen to ignorant assumptions. And very few people, Ben among them it appears, actually question what social means and how it’s arrived at.

Firstly it perhaps refers to skills; skills of communication, empathy, interpretation, connection, conversation, understanding of others and what’s appropriate, and skills of care as important as any. Anyone who cares is bound to have good social skills by the very nature of what care is. That begins with family and spreads from there. You don’t need to be with a massive bunch of others necessarily, although broad experiences are always good.

Secondly, the expectation is also that youngsters need to be able to cope in socially crowded situations and learning out of them may hamper that development. However, many home educators don’t learn in crowds and their socialisation is rarely under developed. They end up in college, Uni, work, mixing, just like other youngsters.

Not everyone is either a crowd seeker or a crowd pleaser, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not ‘socially adjusted’ in Ben’s terms.

Some people live in uncrowded places yet still integrate into social situations they’re presented with. Human empathy, intelligence and care, mostly learnt from family, teaches you how to do that, not crowds!

But what grated on me the most about Ben’s presentation of the programme was his arrogant assumption that he was entitled to judge whether the young people, after being fairly isolated, were ‘well adjusted’ socially or not. As so many others think they’re entitled to judge home schoolers – even though many of those judges seem fairly socially unskilled themselves!

It’s also ironic that very few ever consider whether schools make young people ‘well adjusted’ socially in the real world out of school. In my view, many are not!

And never is it ever argued that having less people around, being in less densely populated areas, might be a good thing because it might make us value people more and behave differently.

The incidence of Lockdown has brought home how irreplaceable are those real time, face to face, hug close, interactions with our special few, despite all the digital interactions we can now have with so many. It’s valuing each other that makes us socially adjusted, not being in a crowd.

And it’s fine not to like crowds. Doesn’t mean you’re not ‘socially adjusted’.

What’s socially adjusted anyway? Who is really qualified to judge? We all have social idiosyncrasies.

I so admire the Goddards for sharing their story in the programme and for their inspirational philosophies on life. Good luck to them. And good luck to all who decide on a lifestyle that doesn’t fit Ben’s idea of a norm!

Finally, good luck too, to all you home educators who don’t give a toss whether other pompous arses think you’re socially adjusting or not!

Driving Home for Christmas

I’ve got Chris Reas’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ blaring out, creating a bit of atmosphere whilst I try and wrap pressies. I say try, because it’s a case of smoothing out all the old paper I’m reusing and jiggling the salvaged bits together round the parcels. It’ll be either brown paper or newspaper next! Magazines can be quite colourful. Fabric also works.

I know I’m good at wrapping parcels because my cookery teacher told me back in the day when I was self-consciously sixteen and painfully at school.

“You’re making sausage rolls not wrapping parcels” she admonished snootily and very loudly – to degrade me in front of my mates. My face flamed. Now there’s a lesson in how not to teach for you! I still don’t know how to make sausage rolls – never do – don’t care much. But being canny with pressies – now that’s an art!

Moving on; I used to have this tune playing in my car when I was doing just that; driving home for Christmas. Now it’s my girls who are doing the ‘driving home’; yep driving, in their own vehicle. Who’d have thought it? Bet you never think that far ahead!

During those home educating days it was tricky at Christmas. You don’t have those hours when the kids are out of the house at school, like other parents do, to keep the Christmas secrets. We became quite resourceful and I described many of the funnier moments in my joyful memoir; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ along with one season when I had to grapple Santa’s trousers…but I’ll leave you to read the book to find out why! Happy Home ed times which have made our memories!

Now they’ve moved on, I have the opportunity every day to wrap pressies, secrete surprises, and easily keep Christmas secrets, no trouble. And they’re the ones driving home for Christmas this year.

As no doubt yours will be when this wonderful home edventure is done and they’re all grown up. Unimaginable I know, but happens to us all.

Like we did you’ll currently be busy making your own wonderful memories, filled with love, that will keep the adult kids forever driving home (Train or bus does just as well :))

Where does meat come in your children’s education!

I was already aware that eating meat is having a detrimental impact on the health of the planet.

But I was totally uneducated as to why or the scale of it until I saw this programme: ‘Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?’ on BBC1.

Read the review in inews

This amazing and disturbing programme has put me right and probably should be part of everyone’s education. Well worth a watch.

We know our eating habits have a huge impact on our individual health. But perhaps we’ve all been less aware how those habits impact on our planetary health and our CHILDREN’S FUTURE because of it.

Encouraging the youngsters to learn about and know themselves should be part of any education and understanding where their food comes from and how it affects them is part of this. This is the only way they – and you – can make informed choices about enjoying food and nutrition in ways that are SUSTAINABLE and of least threat to the planet, as all of our lifestyle habits need to be. So help them learn what this really means.

After all, it is the children who will be living on it when we are gone. So it is nothing less than our duty to establish habits and understanding as families now, that protect the planet from growing threats. There cannot surely be any part of education more important than how to sustain life; theirs, all others, and the planet on which they all depend.

We’re all making important changes, like reducing our use of plastic for example, but this is a change that receives less coverage and the programme helps us see other valuable changes we can make to help keep the planet going for our children.

4 simple things that make a difference…

Someone told me recently that although they’re not home educators, some of the posts they read here are still useful to help them understand and keep a healthy mind towards their children’s learning whilst they go through school.

He’s not the first to have said that! I’m really chuffed! Because education is education wherever it’s happening and whatever you’re doing, home educating or not.

So with those parents in mind, along with all the home schoolers who visit here, I was thinking again about the holidays (see my recent blog post ‘Is there ever a break from education’) and how parents worry that they should be doing stuff with the kids through term breaks, or the kids will regress.

Firstly, they won’t regress – as much as schools like to threaten that! And secondly, it’s true; we should be spending time engaged with the children whenever it is – term-time or not. We should equally be spending time not engaged with the children. This is all part of parenting – and as some fail to understand – education is very much dependent on parenting!

But we don’t need to stress over it. Most of what we do with our children will further their skills and knowledge in some way or another, from outings to cooking, from gaming to catching a bus, watching stuff together, chatting – it doesn’t have to be academic. Small things can make huge differences.

Taking that further, there are four very simple things to do in the holidays that can impact on your children’s development, but which might be overlooked as we are seduced by stuff that’s more glam or expensive.

They are:

  1. Read to them as much as possible, be a reading family; encourage reading by reading yourself – doesn’t matter what
  2. Talk with them and respond to their thoughts, questions, ideas
  3. Encourage their curiosity (which is their inbuilt desire to learn) by facilitating activities that involve; exploration, variety, investigation, experimentation and creativity in all its many forms
  4. Be active as much as possible, essential not just for body, but heart and brain health too!

These can cost nothing but your time, but by doing the above at some point every day you’ll be furthering their education in ways you may not understand but which make an important difference.

Here’s a simple reminder:

Feel free to share, print and post, copy or use this pictorial reminder however works for you!

Is there ever a break from home education?

Learning, whatever they’re doing

Whenever we approached the time of year associated with school holidays we always got asked in relation to being home educators; “Will you stop educating for the holidays?”

Which just goes to show how most people are still conditioned to think that education only ever happens within certain times and structures like timetables and terms.

Of course; it doesn’t!

We witnessed proof of that regularly throughout all the years our children were learning out of school. And the longer you home educate the more you’ll see that happen in your house too. How learning takes place all the time, through all activities, even sitting on the toilet we discovered one day when a little voice pipes up from behind the bathroom door;

“Mum, how does the wee get inside?” And we have a short biology lesson at night before bed.

These are the little ‘lessons’ the children remember the most. And despite seeming a terrible hotch-potch style of learning, the amazing computer that is the brain pieces the bits together into a coherent body of learning and knowledge that contributes to the children becoming educated. Consequently, holidays don’t mean the children stop learning – so you can cease to worry about that!

However, there is another aspect that you home educating parents might like to consider and a question that regularly arose in my exhausted mind early on – do we have to do ‘learning’ all the time? Is there ever a rest?

Well the answer is this; although children never switch off from learning – it’s just a natural part of how they live their inquisitive lives. (See the chapter ‘What about term times, learn times and holidays’ in ‘A Home Education Notebook’). But as parents you have to occasionally switch off from the incessant drive to make use of every learning opportunity (like the toilet incident). And you have to also switch off the feeling of guilt if you don’t!

If you step back from it occasionally nothing terrible will happen! Okay – you might have missed an educational opportunity, but this will not scar your child for life and there will be other opportunities. More importantly, if you don’t, you’re the one who will be scarred from not giving yourself a mental break and keeping it all in balance.

Balance develops healthy individuals; children and parents.

I thought this was worth a mention because like the saying; once a parent – always a parent, it is also the case that; once a home educator – always a home educator. In both cases you have to find a healthy and balanced way to proceed through it all.

Don’t ever fret that your children are not learning whilst you step back a bit. They actually need you to back off a bit as much as you need to. And never feel guilty. Just because you home educate, it does not mean that you have to utilise every second. Kids at school wouldn’t. Teachers wouldn’t either.

So you could use the term time holidays as an opportunity to step back, or you could just try and create a generally balanced family life and approach to learning and resting whatever you’re all doing and whenever you’re doing it, and disregard what the school lot are doing and the term times associated with them!

A reason to be old fashioned about cash!

It suddenly struck me the other day as I was paying for shopping with a contactless card that, with the increased use of contactless payments and credit cards, it is almost unusual for children to see real money being used in exchange for shopping, coffees, fares etc. So an understanding of money, amounts, and the useful maths skills that go with it doesn’t happen naturally as it did twenty years ago for example.

When kids see money practically changing hands – and can get their hands on it themselves – it reinforces the more academic maths they’ll be doing via the curriculum. But the way we use our money nowadays, so much of it online, denies the children opportunities of real contact and consequential learning about using it – and where it comes from!

Learning about money, for small kids, needs to be practical – so perhaps we should revert to using it the old fashioned way.  Let them count it, hold it, play with it and chat about coinage and their values. This could develop into counting in twos, fives, tens, twenties, etc, which in turn develops skills that are transferable to all numerical computation like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, for example.

So using cash can be a useful approach to show children how numbers and money work. If they can see it happening in front of them for real, get to handle and play with it physically, (using single pennies too as counters – while we still have them!) it helps reinforce their understanding and supports their wider mathematical learning.

So maybe:-

  • Keep a stock of coins for youngsters to play with and count and use for a play ‘shop’
  • Use cash instead of cards to pay for small things whilst they’re out with you so they can see the exchange
  • As they get older allow them their own pocket money, or allowance, and see what they can buy with it
  • Talk about how you earn money in exchange for the work you do and how you spend accordingly
  • Some find it helpful to provide the opportunity for youngsters to do ‘jobs’ in return for ‘earnings’
  • Talk to your older children about finance in a positive proactive way, what financial commitments you have and how you handle them.

A regular criticism of young people is that many of them finish their education with paper qualifications but without the important life skill of handling their finances, even though supposedly they can do the maths. So beyond teaching the smallest of our kids about coins and money value, it’s also important that older children go on to understand the wider implications of cash and credit, of living within your means, and how to avoid getting into debt. We can do this by openly discussing the way we use money, what we have to pay for and how we budget.

Using cash for transactions – whilst we still can – is a useful base for these skills. And to talk about money openly as a practical, rather than emotive, subject is a way to continue to reinforce them.

There’s some further interesting reading on money habits on the Money Advice Service website if you need it.