Tag Archive | pandemic

Ken Robinson’s new normal for education

Have you seen this brilliant and thought provoking video by Ken Robinson? (see below)

I have long been a fan of his ideas and I thought this one was definitely worth a special mention.

He talks about the way in which the Pandemic has shifted our concept of learning as everyone has had to do without schools and to confront learning – and life – without them.

Our way of life has certainly been disrupted by not having school in it, although some would argue that has been a good thing! Ken suggests that this blip Coronavirus has caused, has given us the chance to look at things a bit differently and decide what new normal we want with regard to learning and education.

First though, he takes us back to the development of industrialisation and how this demanded an emphasis on yield and output, which in turn hampered diversity, both environmentally and in lifestyle. This also gave rise to the development of monocultures which supported mass production. And this is where he draws the parallel with education.

The education system we have now focusses its attention on mass output, in the same way industrialisation does. It concerns itself only with test data, scores, grades and other pointless and unsustainable outcomes. As mass production is ruining the culture of the environment and the planet, mass education has ruined the culture of diversity among our young people. Yet it is diversity which will produce thinkers and movers, creative ideas and the broad intelligence needed for our species and planetary survival.

It’s a fascinating parallel.

Ken goes on to say that in order to have a successful learning system, it cannot disregard the things we need to flourish like diversity of culture and community. We need to recognise individuality, strengths and diversity among our children by creating a mixed culture of these things within schools, to replace the monoculture of the output-obsessed environment there. One that values science, arts, technology and individual talents. Which heralds collaboration, compassion, community, and depth – rather than output.

Perhaps it’s the Pandemic which has really shown us how essential these are for our well being, with isolation being the hardest thing to bear. Yet sometimes schools create a similar isolation and exclusivity when they are based upon glorifying result getting.

Joining together for collected projects creates a better community than having the exclusivity of high scores and beating the competition as sole goals.

Ken suggests that the most successful examples of learning without schools recently seems to be where parents have not felt the need to replicate school at home and he discusses the difference between learning, education and schooling, something parents may have come to understand better whilst their children’s learning has taken place at home.

The problem, he believes, is that many have come to recognise and accept school as something similar to the standardisation of factory life, as if that’s okay. But is this what we want to return to, for it hasn’t served our kids, our culture, or our planet, very well?

This is an opportunity Ken says, now we’ve started to question school and been shown another way of learning, to reinvent school, revitalise education, and reignite the creative potential of real communities, instead of going back to the way schooling was before.

He believes there is a comparison between what we need to do for the environment and what we need to do for education. Both require urgent change because our children are actually the grass roots of both, and real change comes from the ground up – the power lies with the people – both environmentally and educationally. With you who are involved in it.

Ken finishes by saying that human beings have always had boundless creative capacity, unlike the other creatures on the planet, which allows us to think about and change the world around us. This needs to be cultivated, not corrupted, and used to create a new kind of normal that is sustainable both environmentally and educationally. They are part of each other.

Hurrah for Ken for saying so. And grateful thanks to him for inspiring this blog. His ideas will be sorely missed. Watch below. Or here.

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.

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.

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.

A reassuring gift for home schoolers

December has crept in and I guess I’m going to have to face up to it; Christmas is coming!

It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just with pandemic restrictions we haven’t dared look forward or hope that our loved ones will get home to spend it with us. And that for me is what is so special about the season. It’s a season of love and togetherness, but the coronavirus could restrict that this year.

I also like giving gifts. I don’t enter into the manic and obscene crap buying and bin-bound accessories for Christmas that companies tell us we must have or we won’t do Christmas proper! I hate all that and cringe for the burden the earth has to bear for our indulgences. But I do like to give a meaningful present that someone wants, needs, or can enjoy, as a token of our loving and appreciation, two purposes of the festivities that can easily become obliterated by consumerism, throwaway tat and the misguided belief that more stuff is better.

It isn’t. Love and appreciation are the priorities, surely.

Anyway, if you do want to give a meaningful gift to a fellow parent, especially one who is dissatisfied with schooling, how about a story of a family doing it differently.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is a warm, funny, family story, with Christmasses and summers and all sorts of adventures in between. It’s easy to read, yet with plenty of thought provoking ideas about learning. A great fireside read – actually where some of it was written! And a good insight into a real home educating life. Do let me know if you read and enjoyed it!

And for those already home educating you could give them a bit of reassurance. That’s what readers tell me they get from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. On days when they’re having a massive wobble, they can pick it up and feel calmed.

There are some super reviews on Amazon for both, where you can buy them. If you want more of a ‘How To…’ which answers all the common questions about home educating choose ‘Learning Without School’. You’ll find more details on the My Books page on this site, including two books for those home educated littlies who like to read about someone like them who doesn’t go to school.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your Christmas preparations, despite the obvious restrictions, keeping in mind the needs of the earth as well as your own, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for being together.

As important as the home educating bit – a little reminder!

Home educating was a joyful and inspirational period in our family life.

Most of the time.

There were times when it was downright gruelling and bloody and I struggled to stand another day of it!

But that wasn’t because I didn’t like it, regretted our decision, couldn’t handle it, or wished the kids were in school. Especially not that.

It was because of a simple but overlooked fact: I wasn’t looking after myself adequately!

I wonder how many of you reading this have been guilty of the same?

It’s hard enough home educating. It’s been made much, much harder by the circumstances the pandemic has thrust upon us. It’s stressful, makes us anxious, inhibits our activities and will make even the joyful things seem like hard work sometimes. So there is even more need for you to be:

Looking after yourself as well as the kids!

This makes sense because not doing so is counter-productive. It doesn’t do anyone any favours. And it’s not best for the child either.

Look at it this way, a parent who is stressed, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, is less likely to be able to deal with the challenge of parenting and home schooling than one who’s rested, relaxed and happy. So it’s in the child’s interests too, to pay attention to our needs.

It’s also in the child’s interests for another reason. A parent who is sacrificing their own needs is giving the signal to their child that parents don’t matter. Parents matter enormously – that’s what children need to know – everyone needs to know it.

Children also need to learn how to look after themselves. Your demonstration of how a person does this, through the way you do it, is going to teach them this.

Another thing; neglecting yourself constantly just gives them licence to disregards others’ needs to fulfil their own. And although very young children do that, as they grow they need to learn differently. We all need to relate to others.

You will want to be the best parent you can be. The best way to do that is to look to your own wellbeing too. For all your sakes.

You want your kids to have respect. Respect for others and certainly respect for themselves. They learn that from the respect that you have for yourself – so what demonstration of that are they getting through the way you look after yourself?

So, now I’ve given you some reasons to, how can you look after yourself?

Take time for the things you love to do
  • Prioritise time to do so.
  • Get out by yourself as well as with them.
  • Borrow time or do time swaps with others.
  • Remember to work on things that inspire you, at your level, not just the children.
  • Keep contact with friends and others for some adult chats.
  • Feed and exercise yourself well for your sake, not just for theirs’ (essential lesson for the kids in there).
  • Do things you love, just for you, not always tagging it onto something they love!
  • Rest and relax at times, letting them know that it’s a way of fulfilling your needs too.

Whatever form your ‘looking after yourself’ takes it’s as invaluable a lesson as anything academic, so don’t neglect it. And I reckon it’s doubly important during these challenging times we’re going through right now.

(A previous post about time away from the children and why it’s necessary)

Together and Apart

It may be more challenging home educating during these times of corona crisis and all the anxiety that goes with it. But at least your kids are with you!

I know there’ll be times when you could do with more space when they’re with you 24/7 and managing that can be the more challenging part of home educating – and parenting for that matter. (There are some tips on that in this post here) Even more so since your options for getting out and about have become so limited.

But the other side of that is the fact you are all together and have more control over the youngsters exposure and contact with others.

Parents of older children and those off to Uni don’t!

When I think of the teenagers starting Uni this time, it must be fraught with worry, for kids and parents. It’s hard enough them moving out of the family home, without the added stress about how they’re mixing. I feel for you!

I still worry about mine, who’ve been living apart in the working world for many years now, and how they’re keeping safe.

It was many months this year before we got to see our eldest and once we managed to be all four of us together again it was insanely sweet. But there’s still that background niggle of ‘should we be doing this?’, and even expressions of love feel inhibited.

It’s all very hard for families, for friends, for us all. And we daren’t even think about Christmas!

But that’s possibly the best way to deal with the situation we’re in; not to think about things that far ahead. We cannot possibly have any certainty about it, best to stay with what we do have certainty about – this present moment!

It was inevitable when we were all together recently that the four of us talked about Christmas as it’s already coming into the politics of the situation. But only momentarily. We agreed that there are only hypotheses to be had, and these tend to induce worry and spoil the pleasure of being together at the time; the important thing.

And we had some lovely moments together when we managed not to think about the crisis, focus on the lovely things we could do, were doing; picnics, chats, walks, just being together. Even diving into a pub during a thunderstorm. The first time I’ve done that since last winter.

It seems the best way to cope with current times; to stay with the good moments you have, cope as well as you can with the troublesome ones and cherish having your children close whilst you can. It won’t always be the way of it.

I did some reckoning the other day and got a shock. It’s nigh on ten years now since both our youngsters were at home full time home educating. But they’re still educating themselves even if not at home because home educating showed them the possibility of self-educating however old they are and wherever they are. And that’s what they continue to do, particularly with the time they had during Lockdown, knowing that education doesn’t just mean academics, there are new skills to learn and things to research and try all the time.

So whatever you’re doing at home with your youngsters during these challenging times, appreciate that they are at home and safe. And understand that you’re not only home schooling them, but showing them a DIY approach to an educating way of life that will set them up for the future and help them cope with whatever is going on around them. Both now – and then.

And take it from me; you’ll miss being together one day!