Tag Archive | parenting

Home Educating – a few simple tips

Their ideas about how they want to learn are valid. This happened naturally on a history visit to a ruin!

Whether you’re new to home education or you’re doing it already it can seem overwhelming. But that might be because you’re making it more complicated than it has to be!

Children learning is quite a simple process – and very natural – they’re primed to investigate their world. But the schooling and education system we’re familiar with, and sometimes compare ourselves to (deadly), can interfere with that; it can put them off and dull their enthusiasm down. Home educators can avoid that by keeping it as natural and simple as possible and a mind on how you’re doing it.

So I thought I’d post a few tips that might help you keep it simple, keep it going, and keep it enjoyable – it will still succeed that way!

  1. Keep an open mind and don’t do comparisons! Learning through home educating is very different to learning in the system so the same bench marks don’t apply.
  2. Keep connected with others. Learn from them, try out ideas, be brave enough to adopt or abandon them, adapt ideas to suit your child and family.
  3. Do what works for you, changing often – and keep flexible – kids grow and change.
  4. It sometimes helps to find a routine in your household that works for you. But that will also need to be open to updates depending on the fit, as I said – kids change!
  5. Be bold enough to keep it informal and light – informal learning works far better than rigidity.
  6. Keep it in the here and now and don’t always be educating for a future (like grades for example). You don’t know what your youngsters will need for their future yet. You’ll do what’s right at the time when you get there.
  7. Don’t ‘do’ education all the time! In a school setting there’s is probably only about half an hour’s worthwhile learning time in a whole day, and a whole lot less teacher time. Your child achieves far more than that at home with you. But you have to back off and encourage them to be independent about their own activities too – and be independent about yours!
  8. If you’re getting strong resistance to your suggestions you’ll need to review and reconsider. I used to spend hours thinking up a wonderful activity (or so I thought) then they weren’t a least bit interested and I had to abandon it. Frustrating! But just because you think it up doesn’t mean it’s going to work for them. If there’s resistance you’re the one on the wrong track. It feels hard to let go sometimes but believe me it’s necessary. Start from what they’re interested in.
  9. So, allow and encourage your youngsters to discover and pursue their own interests. All activities educate in small ways. Listen to and engage with theirs.
  10. It’s not the case that the more money you spend the better education you’re providing. In fact, the more resourceful you are with ideas, activities, improvisation, the more inventive, entrepreneurial, creative and intelligent the youngsters become. Great life skills to have.
  11. Children love learning and discovering. And can do it very effectively for themselves. Trust them, and be careful not to ruin that by too much structure and control. Youngsters have their own ideas about what they want to learn, which are valid. Respect their ideas.
  12. Enjoy yourselves. It’s allowed. There’s no law against learning being a happy experience. The more the youngsters enjoy their education the more they’ll continue it lifelong – a skill that will be useful to them for ever after!

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Education involves the heart…

Why?

The short answer lies in the fact that without the heart to bring a balance to what the head knows we cannot live with care and compassion. And that’s important isn’t it? (See the links in last week’s blog post)

The longer answer has to do with what education is for. Education has traditionally been associated with academics only. With improving society through the learning of reading and writing and numbers and knowledge. That was back in the day, before everyone had access to learning. But since learning is accessible to us all now through new technologies, perhaps we need something different for our contemporary society and culture. What’s education for now? To help build societies that are inclusive, compassionate responsible and caring? That goes beyond reading and writing and scores and ticksheets.

We need human qualities as well as knowledge and academic skills. We need more personal skills. We need to know ourselves, what makes us happy, and most importantly how to live sustainably alongside each other and the planet. How to take responsibility. That requires a far bigger emphasis on care and compassion and understanding; heart skills as much as head skills, than is currently present in the education system.

There’s a longer version on why happiness is essential for education and why we should educate the heart as well as the head in this post here.

Meanwhile as your children are educated, however they are educated, listen to all your hearts as well as your heads. And be brave enough to educate the whole person, not just grade the head!

More important than Maths and English!

Why is it more important than Maths and English?

Because without you and your children taking care of the earth and understanding its needs as well as theirs and how to live sustainably, there won’t be a planet earth for them to learn maths and english on! Read more on this blog post here. This WILL affect your grand-family. It’s urgent!

Here’s an inspiring student who gets it: Greta Thunberg. She’s worth listening to: Her TED talk is here.

And there are other important side effects of taking care, discussed on this post here.

All worth thinking about and acting upon!

Please feel free to share the material here as widely as possible! The more who understand the better.

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!

Summer of change!

I don’t want you to be here over the summer reading long laborious sentences about education! I want you to be outdoors enjoying the world with your kids. That’s where I’m going to be too although, as you know, the ‘kids’ are adult now!

However, there’ll still be some support and inspiration here; it’s just going to be presented in more creative ways!

Like education could be.

Education doesn’t have to be formal and word heavy and academic all the time, even if parts of it are. It can be light, visual and thought provoking as much through images as words. For example, children learn as much by watching YouTube clips as formal exercises in a workbook.

Consequently, I’m practising what I’m preaching and working on some visuals to offer support that way instead of you having to wade through print, although print options may also be there to elucidate on certain themes. But I’d rather give you instant inspiration that may change the way you think about your children’s education.

So in reference to that, here’s one to start you thinking:

And if you want to read more on why happiness is important for education you’ll find it here.

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!

Try some ‘Unsafe Thinking’!

Before you panic that I’m encouraging you to take suicidal risks, I’m not. Although I believe some parents have been told they’re taking suicidal risks with their children’s future just through home educating them! But some ideas I want to tell you about this time come from a book I’ve been reading called ‘Unsafe Thinking’ by Jonah Sachs. (He talks here – about wandering where no one’s been before!)

This book is not about taking stupid risks, it just talks about thinking creatively, about being able to spot and bypass our preconceived ideas and learned obedience from systems that would like to keep us compliant. The education system springs to mind!

Stepping away from mainstream education has been for many the start of a kind of thinking that would have been considered ‘unsafe’! Having the initial idea and courage to break out of our safe habit of educating in schools, ingrained into most of us all our lives, we’ve challenged convention and are showing that learning can happen in all sorts of other ways not just the approach sold to us through schooling (and political manipulation). And proving actually that it’s not ‘unsafe’. It works extremely well for most families.

And it’s ideas like this – ideas beyond the accepted norms – that this book is about. It is a discussion about the rules and conventions that keep us stuck with something, despite the fact it may not be working. Like schooling. And the dire impact that has on creativity which is essential for developing new strains of thinking, necessary for leading happy lives, or ones that could save the planet, for example.

Reading it, I spotted these relevant ideas:

  • Pay attention to your intuition. Many parents have intuitive thoughts about their children’s needs which most often turn out to be right.
  • Free yourself from the expectations of others and the games they play to manipulate you. Stick to your own intentions and your own ‘rules’ – if you must have them. Creative thinking works best without rules.
  • Develop, practice and enjoy your own strengths and those of your children. It’s these talents that will take them forward so it’s best to make good use of them. There are worthy talents outside the academic.
  • Don’t waste expensive time and energy on practices that don’t work for you. Many find formal academics don’t suit their kids as an approach to learning, until much later when they return to that approach successfully.
  • Step boldly out of comfort zones and try new ideas. Watch out for ingrained expertise too – ‘experts’ once told us the earth was flat! ‘Another example; experts’ (or politicians) tell us kids need measuring through SATs or GCSEs, yet people still manage to lead successful, productive and happy lives bypassing them!
  • Become a learner again. Learning or not knowing makes you vulnerable, by being in that position we learn what our learners are going through and what they might need.
  • Beware your biases. We have ingrained biases – like the one that learning only happens through teaching – which once we break away from allows us to explore all sorts of other creative approaches.
  • Remember that you don’t always have to be compliant – it’s good to challenge and encourage your kids to challenge. I believe it is the compliant ones who are the most ‘unsafe’! There’s a great phrase in the book; ‘intelligent disobedience’ which is worth keeping in mind!

These are the kinds of ideas we can use to review our approach to home schooling to get the best out of it. After all, we’ve abandoned mainstream schooling – lets make sure we abandon all the habits and practices associated with it that didn’t work and drove us to home educate in the first place! We don’t always have to accept the mainstream ‘safe’ ideas – we have to examine them and do what works within the context of our families, the wider society and the planet.

It’s the youngsters who have the ability to do that, who will help the world progress.