Tag Archive | lockdown

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!

Your three best things

‘So, what’s your three best things today?’ my daughter asked me recently. I think I was being a moany pants at the time!

During these locked down times it’s easy to do. If you’re anything like me you’re beginning to run out of positivity.

So I took a look at the BBCs facility ‘HEADROOM’, have you discovered it yet? It’s well worth a visit, especially the essential everyday tips. And something you could do along with the children. It’s all education after all.

There are many helpful and interesting articles, watches, and inspiring reminders. I say reminders because often we already know what’s recommended to keep our mental well being on track, but sometimes we either forget, are too worn down to do them, or are just lethargic from the struggle and cannot face it. These gentle and encouraging prompts are a real help in pushing through the inertia of this long pandemic haul.

One of the recommendations is to acknowledge that we are facing a struggle, we are sick and fed up and anxious and tired, and that we are failing to maintain our well being at times. To admit, own up, share; because by doing that we can then move on to finding ways to help ourselves and consequently our children.

Sharing conversations with our children about how we’re coping – or not coping at times – and giving them the room to share theirs, will be a help to all. But then we must take the conversation forward towards ideas on what we can do about it. Like, for example, making a plan for things to do daily; the exercise, learning, walk, outdoor time, cooking, making, whatever. Like making space for each other and respecting we probably all need time apart. Like making on-line dates to connect with others. Focus on the things you can do, rather than those you cannot, at the moment.

These are all pro-active strategies that will not only help to maintain resilience at this time, but will also provide your children with tools to help them do the same for themselves one day when things get tough as they inevitably do at times through life, pandemic or not. Such a valuable part of their life’s education, don’t you think!

One of the simplest strategies I picked up when I looked at some of the videos was a reminder to keep with the positives. I know that’s wise and healthy. And I’m usually a positive person. But I, like many no doubt, had buried the practice under moans and missing of the things I couldn’t do, rather than thinking about those I could (as my daughter spotted).

one of my three best things

To help you continue to weather the current hardships the pandemic has thrust upon us, keep a mindset and attitude in the house that allows a quick moan if need be, but which is counteracted by what you’re going to do next. And at the end of the day a quick recount of your three best things of the day. I managed to find some after she got the discussion going, pulling us back to our usual up-beat mentality.

I like to think I helped her develop her positivity, even if I’d lost sight of mine for the moment!

You can do the same for yours.

Just do what you can

Home educating, through all the years we did it was an absolute joy and delight. It’s a while back now, children grown and flown, but it was a decision we’ve never regretted; just not doing it sooner!

We would be out and about most days on trips of one kind or another; visiting places of interest, getting exercise or a swim, library, museum or galleries, social get togethers. Such a variety of things we did along with staying at home studying, doing practical or academic activities. We depended on our trips out for balance and wellbeing and contrast and consequently being together 24/7 was never an issue.

So home education in Lockdown must be incredibly hard. I can’t imagine the strain of being shut in together without the meets and visits beyond the home. And as for doing school-at-home, when families are not either prepared or used to it, that must be tough.

However, despite our enjoyment of home educating, there were days when it was equally tough for us too. And the odd occasion I completely lost it!

One day sticks in my mind particularly (probably because of the shame). I’d reached the end of my patience with the mess, the noise, and the whole house being so strewn with the result of their busyness there wasn’t even a place for me to sit. And when I asked for a tidy up before they got anything else out to do I couldn’t stand the usual resistance.

It was just one of those final straw moments and I did something I’d never normally do; I shouted, I had a tantrum, I told them to go upstairs until they would, and I swept the entire contents of the heaped table off onto the floor with one sweep of my arm and a satisfying crash.

The kids looked at me in horror. Then quietly mounted the stairs, eldest sister’s arm round the youngest as if to protect her from this ogre.

I was not proud.

But even then, within the general joy of home educating, I was just coping in the best way I could.

We’re all human – sometimes the way we cope is not the best, but it’s just the way it is. It’s also another part of being human that we – and the children – have to learn to cope with, move on from.

What you parents with youngsters are coping with right now is monumental. It’s unprecedented. No one knows what is the best way to deal with learning in Lockdown. Not the politicians. Not the parenting gurus. Not the teachers or the educationalists who think you should be carrying on with this blasted grade chasing and box ticking that ministers have made of education. No one knows your situation within your house, with your family. Only you. So it’s only you who can figure out what’s your best way to deal with it.

But one thing that I came to understand during our early home education days that might help, was that my relationship with the children, our family relationship, was paramount. Any kind of formal education came second. And equally paramount is our wellbeing. I had neglected my wellbeing which drove me to that final breaking point.

If you can get through this time with a strong and happy bond with the children intact you will have done brilliantly!

The children will be able to return to their formal education at any time – they have a lifetime to do so. With strong supportive bonds they will be able to acquire what they need to get where they want to go at whatever point.

Trust.

Time frames aren’t that important. There are so many home educated kids who have progressed and achieved in completely different time frames to school time frames and gone on to have happy successful lives.

I’m happy to report that despite my occasional tantrums the strong and happy bonds with my young people still remain as they’ve graduated beyond home educating and into the working world. (You can read in the book below how the day was recovered with an apology – from me, a tidy up – from them, a discussion about the situation and a good giggle – as much about my behaviour as anything).

But I wanted to share this story with you in case you’re having a day when you’re struggling to do your best. Some days it won’t be the best. But that’s family life. The children learn from those too. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can!

Read this tale and others in my story of our home educating days

No Lockdown on Love

The Pandemic feels heavier than ever doesn’t it? Or is it just me?

I’m finding this winter Lockdown much harder to weather than I did last summer when the climate was kinder and there were more light hours to help lighten the spirits. I used the outdoors and nature as a strategy to help me through, especially when seeing friends and family was so limited. Whilst my love of nature burgeoned, loving those close to us felt like doing wrong somehow.

I know there’s no lockdown on love but it certainly feels like it when you can’t grab your loved ones and hold them in a big embrace, that’s if you’re lucky enough to see them!

Lockdown is certainly inhibiting our expression of love as well as access to many of the things that bring us joy. Not only the hugging and holding, but the meeting, community company, social pleasures, get togethers; all those things that dilute the intensity of everyday concerns.

No wonder we’re all suffering. Adults and children alike, however much we try and keep the cheer going. But keep it going we must in order to help the kids through such difficult times. Our responses, ideas, strategies for dealing with it will be a toolkit you’re passing on that they’ll always be able to draw on.

So what strategies have you developed? How can we keep going?

I think it’s important to keep contact with community as much as possible, making digital dates do for now.

It’s important to get out of the house daily, take advantage of what little natural light we have during winter – even cloudy light is beneficial. Walk out!

It’s important to find contact with nature in whatever way you can because nature can be so healing. Do this through walks, gardens, parks, planting your own seeds in hope for times beyond the now. Visit the same bit of nature every week and watch it change, even if only the front gardens you pass on your walks. Watch for bulbs coming, buds changing, colours returning on the trees and shrubs. It’ll help us remember different times will come.

Don’t forget the Big Garden Bird Watch

Don’t forget the Big Garden Bird Watch coming up, take part, and check out the other activities on nature sites for even digital nature can help.

Eat well. Cook. Move. Look after yourself.

Whatever you herald as important the kids will too. The strength you show in dealing with these personal hardships will become their strength. And it will improve yours too, as helping others always does.

Parenting is already hard. Parenting through a pandemic makes it much worse.

But we have to remember that actually; there really is NO LOCKDOWN ON LOVE. Love for family. Appreciation of the things we do have. Being grateful. We must find other ways to express those things if we can’t hug etc. And a strength and determination to see this through and come out the other side.

It will happen. We just have to keep on loving till it does.

A wider educational perspective beyond school propaganda

I’m really feeling for parents.

Whatever your youngsters are doing; school-at-home, home educating, further or higher education, or working, it’s worrying. For all of us. Everyone is suffering from anxiety over the unprecedented crisis the pandemic has caused.

So I kind of feel it’s unhelpful to suggest that one group, whether that’s the tiddlies or the teens, are suffering more than anyone else. It’s hard for all in different ways, adults included. Each group has their challenges. Everyone needs compassion right now whatever stage we’re at in parenting or education, work or family.

However, I do have particular compassion towards those parents who have dutifully invested in an education system via schooling, now taken away, that had become increasingly flawed. And that was before the pandemic and school closures even started. For those flaws are showing up now more than ever, the rigidity of it most of all.

Parents have been driven to believe that schooling is the best for their youngsters’ education. Urged to believe that a rigid structured approach to learning, with targets, tests and continual measurement is the only way to educate. In fact they’ve been hoodwinked into believing that, without it, their children will be failures with no hope of a successful future. Sold the idea that without endless grades their young people will never be employable.

Parents have been sold these ideas through powerful educational politics and emotional propaganda that keeps parents subservient to a system that suits the government. This is not because it’s best for the learners. But because a subservient population is easier to manage.

And currently parents are bombarded with statements about how this time without school will have a dire effect on their youngsters’ long term future, especially if they don’t do what the school wants.

None of this is helpful. And not actually true anyway.

Let’s face it; this crisis is going to have an effect on everyone’s future, not just the school kids. Whether it will be dire or not depends on how we respond to it. It will be different certainly, but different doesn’t necessarily mean dire.

However, I can understand parents’ anxiety about it.

Maybe what would help is to take a step back from this emotional bombardment from schools and see it from another perspective.

Firstly, success does not necessarily depend on grades. There are both employees and entrepreneurs out there who are proof of that, Richard Branson among them.

Secondly, education is not only about schooling, curricula, how many worksheets or work books you’ve filled, about targets, academic exercises, test passes, graded subject matter and the rest of the school strategies used to so-called educate. It is about developing a broad, cultured, inquiring mind that is curious and keen to develop the skills to learn. It requires far more personal skills than the academic – skills which are equally dependent on being learnt out of school, like motivation, communication, intuition, responsibility, independence, for example. (How can school kids develop independence when they’re constantly coerced into shutting up and doing as they’re told?)

And, thirdly, if you take a wider perspective, success is not confined to what happens between the ages of six and eighteen. Not confined to qualifications. It is a life-long, ongoing process that can be constantly developed and updated – independently of an institution – as much as in it. At any time.

Fourthly, youngsters are not necessarily going to be scarred for life by this disruption to their traditional, systematic schooling any more than any of us are. In fact, you could argue the opposite view, that they may benefit from it, as I hear on social media that some are.

We are all having to diversify, be inventive, manage our well being (particularly tricky with being so confined), whatever group we’re in, to get through this. But they’re good skills to practise!

So it may be wiser to adopt strategies to calm the worrying about how to prop up a system that is outdated, consumerist, blinkered and damagingly conservative anyway, ignore these horrible emotive threats from schools, keep in touch with other parents so that you can question and rebel against the abominable practise of fines against those parents not keeping in line. They can’t fine you all. And besides, how did threats and fines and bullying ever become an acceptable approach to education?

Be bold. Do what your intuition tells you is best for you and your family. Question why schools ask of you what they do. And develop a wider perspective on this out-of-school time, the most difficult of which, for the time being, is looking after your mental well-being.

Learn to look at education differently. Look up how experienced home educators have done it so successfully over many years, resulting in intelligent, productive, qualified and successfully working young people, who mostly ignored school practises and did it their way. Look at their approaches and philosophies (Read mine by scrolling down the ‘About Home Education’ page on this site) and develop a different perspective. Take charge of your children’s education for now. Your child doesn’t need to be fodder for school stats.

Try to encourage your youngsters to be busy with a wide range of activities which interest them, which they may never had time for before. Variety develops intelligence and skills far more than a narrow curriculum does. Hang in there until better times are here.

I very much doubt that in twenty years time anyone is going to look back and say I’m a total failure because I missed a year of schooling. Because by that time they won’t be total failures anyway, they will have adapted, updated, found other ways forward, made a different success. Your child’s success isn’t determined by their school years alone. Have faith. Success is a long term thing often based in an ability to diversify and be resourceful, just as we are doing now.

Better times to come!

Then, maybe, as Spring approaches and parents question and demand changes, not only will you see bulbs blooming, but also the burgeoning of a better education system than the restrictive, inhibiting, coercive, political one we have now, a new one that is not just there to serve the politics, but that actually serves our learners well.

Lockdown Home Schooling!

I may be a home educator at heart, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for all those parents of school kids who suddenly find themselves home schooling without having made that choice for themselves.

That’s extremely tough. Especially so if you have to keep working from home, doing the same hours you did before. It must be impossible to focus adequately on both.

Home educating families who’ve chosen to do so, have mostly made that choice after researched decisions and planning and re-jigging their lifestyle to fit. Not to mention a willing and inspired heart! I guess this won’t be the case for many parents in Lockdown right now. Not only that the facilities out of the house, which home educators would depend on, are no longer available. That’s tough for all of us, socially as well as educationally.

It helps, I think, to be aware of these stresses and challenges we’re all of us facing right now. And to be kind and gentle with your days, with your expectations, and especially aware of practising strategies to remain mindful of your mental and spiritual well-being too.

Last year when Lockdown first confronted us I posted some ideas to try and help those parents who are home schooling now. As I explained it might be time to examine your own ideas and attitude to schooling and learning and come to a different understanding in order to help yourself through, as some parents have rigid ideas and expectations that may not be serving them well during this difficult time.

Here are some examples:

Understand the concept of time differently. In a school day much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home keep that in mind and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.

Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.

So use this time to encourage experience of other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills. More motivational than workbooks as well! (See the poster below – it’s true!)

You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trusts and organisations, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities. Not forgetting the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc, historical films and documentaries.

To maintain freshness, pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company (when possible), screen based or written and the practical. Contrast helps motivation too.

Encourage separate times. Discuss and plan for each to have some personal time and space in the house without others interruptions and promote this as a valuable and important recharge time. (You might have to suggest things to do with it at first) Talk about respecting each others’ space and needs to help you keep sane.

Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to take charge of this independently.

You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s, as well as overall well being. Google will provide a range of ideas.

Finally remember that this time will change, try not to worry that the kids are missing out – they’re just experiencing something different which can be just as educational, search some of the blogs I posted last March April for further inspiration and keep in mind what the poster says.

Good luck!

Comforting thought: Everything always changes

Sometimes, looking after your children and their education is absolutely all consuming. I remember it!

Add the worry of the pandemic into the mix and it’s overwhelming. And overwhelm can mask a fact that can be really comforting at times like this: Everything always changes.

This time of challenge will change. Your children will change. Your circumstances will change. Your house will not always be full to claustrophobic as it may feel now. Hang onto that!

My house has long since emptied. Not only of the youngsters but of the clutter that inevitably accompanies home educating. And I still miss it!

The kitchen table, which was buried to unusable under bits, books, works of art, works of unidentifiable inventions and suspect experiments, is now bare. Even some of the glue, paint and ink patches are wearing off although the indentations from various craftwork will no doubt always remain.

Along with that are the empty beds, empty toy cupboards, empty bits and bobs drawers and empty shelves that not only housed books, boxes of pens, paper, tools, but also the other varied junk that you acquire for experiments, creations, investigations and constructions.

All gone. If any clutter remains I have to take the blame. But that busy homeschool time for us has passed. As yours will. We can never really imagine what lies ahead. Uncertainty is more common than the opposite with kids, even more so now with the pandemic.

And I have a double whammy at the moment as we also prepare to move on from this house. What timing?!

If you read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ you’ll know the story of our move into this funny old place. I inherited it along with dubious critters in the roof and quirks of character that could make life very challenging. But the kids didn’t see all that, they just loved it. It was where their grandma lived. And although its dream location offered distant moonlight on the sea, unimaginable helpings of sky and sunsets and endless space across it’s adjacent marshes perfect for mud slides, it also meant we spent much time on the road accessing the facilities the kids needed for a broader educational experience.

This old house nestled in it’s trees from across the fields on one of my wet walks!

I’d never have thought I’d leave, but then, nothing is certain, remember. It’s been a monumental decision, and I’ve no idea where we’ll end up, but time and needs always change, as I said.

It may not be as monumental as moving house but things will change for you too. These circumstances we’re in right now, that are so difficult and overwhelming, will become different.

Just because you can’t imagine it, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

And although it’s hard to look forward right now, if we can deal with the times we’re in and excavate the good bits, be grateful for any good fortune that comes our way, things WILL change. Some organically, some you’ll engineer. But be reassured, they will.

Hang in there while they do.

Tips for tough homeschool times

Here we go again; another Lockdown and worries about where this is all going to end.

It can make for tough times, especially if you’re home educating and worrying about the children’s learning.

Just remember you survived the last Lockdown and the children will be learning all the time from whatever you’re doing. I’m sure they still will despite more Lockdown restrictions.

And if you’re worrying whether they’d be better off in school you should also remember that there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life. So don’t worry about that as well as everything else!

Just carry on without guarantees. Put in whatever’s needed to give home education your best shot.

The best tips I can offer for that are:

  • Listen to your intuition. If a home educating activity or style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
  • Do whatever’s needed to help you all cope whether that’s education wise or personal; actually, it’s all education anyway. And remember there’s no rush, take your time. This won’t last forever.
  • Look to the Now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. Lockdown will change – just do what you can, much will have to be be virtual at this time.
  • Keep in virtual contact, learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently. Kids learn from everything!
  • Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school!). Use it to build a workable and happy Lockdown learning experience. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave. Create space from each other within the boundaries of your home so you can keep relationships sweet. Be inventive about room use.
  • Keep talking things through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge, have ideas. Lots of conversations are extremely educative.
  • Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. It should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember! And it doesn’t happen overnight – be patient. times are tough.

You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience, however you’re managing it at the moment. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s tough for everyone. Let go the bad days – they’d have them at school where absolutely nothing would have been learnt. Some homeschool days will be like that too! Quit worrying!

There’s lots more tips and reassurance in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the concerns people have when they home educate – whether in Lockdown or not. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in, along with a little laughter which is what we all need right now. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the FAQs. See the My Books page for more details.

What do we need of our schools?

There was a time I didn’t rate home education! Can you imagine?

And that’s simply because of ignorance!

Like many other parents, some who thought it was downright wrong, this was because; I had no experience of it; had been influenced by too many other people who also had no experience of it; had a rigid view of education indoctrinated by the prescriptive system I was familiar with.

But I changed. I learnt different. I overcame my ignorance, not because I met others successfully doing it and had direct and first hand experience of its success. The nucleus of change started long before that.

It began when working in the system.

I was changed by seeing too many children glazed over, failed and let down by schooling, by seeing the methods used to get those children to fit in, by seeing them ostracised when they couldn’t, and knowing in my heart as a teacher (well before Home educating) that schools just didn’t suit too many kids.

And it wasn’t about youngsters’ ability to learn or study or engage. It was as much about the environment of schools as anything and what that did to some kids.

Something needed to be different.

Think about parties. you’re either someone who enjoys crowds and socialising and parties or you’re not. That’s just the way you are.

Equally, some of us can learn with hubbub and noise and distraction all around. Some can’t – some prefer it quiet and still. I’m one of those. Children are also like that. Some enjoy and thrive in the buzz of a school environment. Some don’t. Some can’t bear it. Some to the point of becoming mentally and emotionally unwell.

That’s just the way they are. But some people are too ignorant to see that – or unwilling because they’d need to provide something different.

They’d need to see that children should not have to be exposed to the crazy crush and stress of school if it’s not the way they learn best. And acknowledge that we are failing them if we expect them to be able to learn in an environment that doesn’t suit – and we haven’t even touched on the sometimes debilitating approaches used to get kids to learn, the bizarre content of much of the curriculum, etc etc.

So is home educating the answer?

It can be the answer for some who are able to manage it.

But – it certainly isn’t the answer for all; many family circumstances would make it impossible anyway.

What we need instead is a different sort of school. And a different approach to learning and education.

What we need is to see education not as the mass grade-getting industry and political strategy it’s become, but as a treasured opportunity for kids to grow and develop. A return to this core value.

We need schools to be smaller intimate places, more of them, nearer homes, so they are less crowded and less threatening – and less generic.

We need fewer children to each teacher so there’s a better intimacy, so teachers can get to really know their pupils, and consequently create better interaction and respect.

We need to stop making education and learning about testing. Teachers who know kids and know how to teach don’t need it, the kids don’t need it, it gets in the way of learning. It’s in complete opposition to everything education should be.

We need to rid schools of an oppressive curriculum and approach to learning, most of which is based on outcomes designed to perpetuate the system rather than perpetuate the good of the youngsters themselves.

We need schools to be places of nurture and personal development, not places of measurement and competition. And before you argue that kids need to be exposed to that in order to stand it in the ‘real’ world, – they don’t. Kids who’ve been home educated and never been to school still manage to make their way in tough competitive working worlds when the time comes, when they choose to do so.

And that’s another point: choice. You choose your working world to some extent and the people you’re with. Children and young people in the system have no choices, or choices manipulated to suit the system. They have no choice about what or who they have to endure and this makes a difference to their success. Young people deserve more choice over their learning and their destiny. If we offered the right opportunities and facilities they would make the right choices – whatever ‘right’ is! To not offer that demonstrates an abhorrent lack of respect for them on our behalf.

This strange lock down time will make it blatantly clear that home schooling is not for all, course not. But schools as they are, are not for all either. And this is becoming very evident through parents reporting that during this time out of school their children have grown, are beginning to thrive and bloom and maintain good mental health and well being that they didn’t enjoy when on the schooling treadmill. Surely kids don’t have to suffer that for an education?

It’s about time we asked the questions too long in coming – what do we want of our schools? Is what we have out of date? Acknowledge that this prescriptive system is turning too many children into failures and even destroying the health and well being of some?

Parents should wake up to the fact we need changes – it’s in their hands – they are the consumers of it. We need humanity back in our schools and to make them more about people, not about politics. And vote for changes and practices that honour our children not disrespects them through such shameful and manipulative disregard.

Learn more about the home schooling life from my books. See the Books page for more

To comfort and inspire

This time last year was so different! Who’d have predicted what we’re going through now!

I was looking back at some of last May’s posts and came across these points about home education that may offer some comfort to any existing home educators having a wobble right now, and inspiration to those who might be considering continuing with it after schools reopen again:

  • Home educated children can go on to achieve good grades just like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work or businesses like other young people. Their academic, social and personal skills are reputed to be in front of those of their school peers. Education is a long term process with no guarantees – none with school either – but there are thousands of home schooled youngsters who’ve already proved the above to be true.
  • Home educated children are not isolated or invisible as has been suggested. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities. Some have far more life experience than those children who just have school experience. Most have mature social skills, often exceeding some of the adults you meet!
  • Thousands of 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. And most of these children become as competent, intelligent and educated as their peers in school.
  • 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 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.
  • Home educators may not do mainstream school, but they do all other aspects of mainstream life – sports, clubs, extra-curricular lessons and activities etc – interact in mainstream community and ‘fit in’ just the same.
  • Home educated children go on to achieve the same successful outcomes, if not better, than children in schools.
  • 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 or neglect, which has been cited as a risk home educated children are under. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse and neglect when I worked in schools.

Lots more in my home education notebook – from which this is taken – also to comfort and inspire!