Tag Archive | parenting

Something other than writing!

One of my first on Instagram

One of my first on Instagram last Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing is so outdated!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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deformalising learning to read

It’s so exciting to find researchers who acknowledge that home educators’ approaches make a valuable contribution to ideas about education. Harriet Pattison is one such person.

She describes herself as an erstwhile home educator still puzzling over the meanings of education, childhood and learning.  She continues to fly the flag for the alternative as a lecturer in Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University.

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

But all the while she’s been researching the way in which home educated children learn to read and from those examples considers how all educators could do with rethinking, and perhaps deformalising, their approach to it.

She told me how her research for her new book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ came about:

Education is supposedly about opening up children’s minds.  I think those of us who home educate might say actually it is about opening up adult’s minds.   Certainly home educating made a great start on opening up mine.  It’s amazing watching children; just watching them – not watching them learn or watching them develop but just watching them live.  Therein for me has lain an on-going puzzle.  The living is crowded in with an adult agenda and what was just being becomes doing and doing becomes learning.  But learning is what the adult sees because that’s what we are looking for; what the child does is be.  The puzzle reached its crescendo over learning to read.  How can children just live their way into reading?

Stories about children who ‘just started to read’ always fascinated me.  I wasn’t prepared to find it going on in my own house though.  I wasn’t prepared for the different ways in which it manifested itself.  The more I saw and the more I thought about it, the less I seemed to understand what it was all about.  When I couldn’t get out of the dead end of my own thinking, I started asking everyone else.  All home educators it seems have a tale about reading and I was lucky enough to share some really mind-blowing ones; ones that really rattle the cage of educational convention and demand some heavy re-thinking.

311 families with 400 children contributed to the research, answered my questions and shared their  stories and insights.  What emerged was a kaleidoscope of experiences, shimmers of similarity that turned away from each other, reflected but unsettled each other.  Beautiful, certainly but also unknown and, maybe even for that dangerous.  This was a rough ground of real life; tangled and complicated and wild – not something over which a neat frame of ready to hand theory could be tidily laid.  The stories, the wilderness, the puzzles demand that reading be re-thought because, somehow, our children have lived their way into a new territory of meaning.

‘Re-thinking learning to read’ is my foray into that wilderness.  I take with me a back pack of questions from the old world – all the things we worry about, the educational cares but also a strong desire to take nothing for granted, to begin again,  to rethink.

I’m reading the book at the moment and shall do a longer post about it soon.

Harriet is also co-author of the book ‘How children Learn at Home’ with Alan Thomas which researched the way in which children who are home educated learn through their experiences outside school.

A word of thanks & to whet your appetite for Monday

Thank you so much to all those who supported my blog tour. It has meant so much. Thank you also to the wonderful host blogs; I’m so grateful to you for letting me gab on over on your blogs about education from all different angles! And to Bird’s Nest Books for organising it.

If you haven’t discovered these brilliant blogs yet click the links on my previous post. They’re worth a visit; it’s always inspiring to explore new ideas. Did you check any of them out – do let me know? Today (Thurs) is your last chance to win my latest book over at the Home Education Podcast. 

Meanwhile, another thought provoking book; ‘Rethinking Learning To Read’ has just come my way, which the author is going to talk about on Monday’s blog. Even its introduction got my educational juices going. It tells us how there is historical evidence to show that people learnt to read quite successfully through informal approaches long before schemes and schools came on the scene! (Just like many home educators do!)

Can’t wait to read the rest. Pop by Monday and listen to what the author has to say.

Catch me other places!

blog-tour-badge There’ll be a slight change with my next few posts.

My publisher at Bird’s Nest Books has arranged for me to do a blog tour, so I’ll be posting in other places for a while.

It’s a great opportunity for me to visit other blogging friends and blog from slightly different angles. And a great opportunity for you to check out other sites you may not have seen before.

It’ll start this later week on:

Thursday 2nd Feb with Becky’s blog www.family-budgeting.co.uk where there are some great money saving tips.

On Friday 3rd I’m over at www.downsideup.com where Hayley talks about her work to support parents and children with Down’s syndrome.

Saturday 4th finds me with Louise, a fellow author also home educating, who asks where ideas originate. www.louisewalterswriter.blogspot.co.uk

On Monday 6th it’s David’s turn at dadvworld.com who blogs from a dad’s point of view as well as home educating. He posed some thought-provoking questions!

And on Tuesday 7th I’ll be over with Keris who also writes about home education as well as children’s books at https://happyhomeed.com

Finally, on Wednesday 8th I’m with Holly at Naturalmumma.com talking a little about our journey through parenting and home education.

And just to finish off on Thursday 9th the home education podcast site will be chatting about my latest book at Ep.44 and have one to give away!

I hope you’ll get a chance to pop over and have a read and don’t forget to tell me, or leave a comment there and share the blog. It’s always so uplifting to hear from you and know the post has been of interest and is getting to those who need it. And don’t forget to visit Bird’s Nest Books too for any extensions to the schedule.

Building skills with the Big Garden Bird Watch

It might be a bit late to get a pack for the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend but it’s never too late to encourage the children to learn about the bird life around them.

Find out more about what to feed your birds at www.rspb.org.uk

Find out more about what to feed your birds at http://www.rspb.org.uk

You might feel you’re not that interested in birds and neither are the children. But there’s more point to it than that.

Doing activities like this encourages the development of the skills children need for science in general.

The snag with the curriculum of science most parents are familiar with through their own experience in school is that you can feel very much removed from it. But the basis of science is quite simple really; it’s based in understanding the world and the things within it. As Albert Einstein famously said; ‘the whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking’. It evolves from there!

And the best place to start is with the things that are relevant to children now, the things they see – birds for example. And bugs. And flowers and plants. And  wondering about things, like what they’re are made of, what materials are used, where they come from, and why – from homes to helicopters to trees. And from these small beginnings their study stretches into the bigger questions like what’s the earth made of, what space is, and bigger aspects of chemistry and physics.

Yet the skills needed to pursue science into more complex subject matter are based right back in activities that are seemingly small and insignificant. Like bird watching for example. For this encourages the children to practice the most fundamental skill of all scientific study – observation.

From there will come other valuable skills like; questioning, identification, hypothesising, language, (through conversations about what they see), analyzing, classification, extended study and understanding how everything relates to each other as well as to them.

So use any opportunity you can to get the kids interested in the world that’s near to them and it will build the skills and understanding needed for when the time comes to study those things that right now seem further removed! The Bird Watch offers such an opportunity.

For more ideas you might also like to explore:

https://www.buglife.org.uk/

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

http://www.froglife.org/

www.rigb.org

 

The parenting endurance test!

January can feel like an endurance test!

I find it hard to keep my spirits on the bright side when my daily walk, which I take for that very reason – keeping bright, becomes grueling rather than graceful at this time of the year.

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The best bit of a wet January morning; shiny droplets on the winter flowering cherry

Recording my pictures on Instagram helps me focus on the charms rather than the challenges, even if I have to seek them sometimes.

But that’s a good way to get through all challenges; remind yourself of the best bits among life’s barrage.

A parent asked me recently how I managed to get through the challenge of the years home educating with such ‘patience and grace’?

The short answer is; I didn’t all the time!

For, although it is mostly the best bits I write about to encourage and inspire – and it is an inspiring thing to do – it is certainly a challenge, verging on an endurance test sometimes. But isn’t all parenting like that – not just home educating?

The thing is; you know your kids are absolutely delightful beings. You know you completely love them to bits. You know home educating is totally the best thing you’ve ever done. And you know you don’t want it any other way.

BUT…..

There are times you are inevitably going to shout ‘FFS’!!!

I had those times too.

You would also have those times if the children were in school – believe me!

The longer answer to the above question was that I built strategies to help me through the grueling bits. We need that with both parenting and home education.

You’ll need to take deep breaths – often.

You’ll need to step back and let be – often.

You’ll need to stop worrying – that’s a decision as much as any.

You’ll need to trust that time will sort it.

Get outside – often.

You’ll need to look after yourself – as much as the children. Your mental and spiritual well being is included in that; build strategies to help refocus when needed (like me with the Instagram).

And you need to winkle out the best bits. There are always good bits.

Seasons change. January passes. Kids grow. Family life changes rapidly. All challenges change just as rapidly too.

All will be well.

(For more enduring comfort and reassurance try my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Or just for mum support; ‘Mumhood’. See the books page for details)

What’s wrong with solitary?

There was something sad about the solitary swan I saw on the field the other day. Knowing that they usually mate for life I was feeling for it. Had it lost it’s mate? Or had it not started courting yet – it looked to be a young one?

From the BBC Earth website - click on the pic

From the BBC Earth website – click on the pic

Whichever, it was as heart wrenching as seeing a solitary child standing in the playground. The one that no one’s playing with.

We have a kind of cultural feeling of wrongness surrounding the idea of solitary. Forgetting that some solitude in a child’s day is as important as social. But we rarely remember that, making assumptions that it’s lonely to be solitary and often forcing associations onto kids they just don’t want, instead of respecting their need for space.

I suppose the important point about solitude is whether it’s chosen or not. And whether that’s a positive choice.

We are all very different. We all have very different needs in that department. Some people need more personal space than others. Some like to be surrounded by crowds and people all the time. But some prefer less and there is nothing sad about making the choice to be solitary at times and we should respect that.

Obviously no one likes to think of their child as being unpopular. But choosing to schedule some time away from others in their manic day is as important as choosing some time for yourself away from the demands of others or always having to be on show.

I know adults who have such hang-ups, and fear sometimes, about being solitary for a while they go to strange lengths to avoid it. their biggest concern being what others might think of them; that if they’re spending time on their own others might think they’re sad or unpopular.

I spend huge amounts of time on my own. And I did as a child. I’m neither sad or unpopular. It’s just I’ve recognised it as an important part of my mental well being, to help me be the person I need to be, and to slough off the crash of mainstream life.

With constant connectivity, even our solitary spaces are invaded now, and our image is so public. But let’s avoid this becoming so invasive that we buy into this negative attitude to solitude and never give ourselves, or our children, time and space for individual reflection, in which to be imaginative, inventive, creative, and who we need to be. And avoid perpetuating the myth that being on our own is somehow wrong. It’s not. It’s healthy.

And perhaps I need to stop anthropomorphising and doing exactly that about the swan!