Tag Archive | parenting

Applauding our children’s achievements

Are we there yet?

Look back to see how far you've come

Look back to see how far you’ve come

Is there a parent who hasn’t heard that on long journeys?

But it’s maybe something we’re also guilty of thinking as parents; about our children’s progress. And missing the ‘journey’ because of it. Wondering if they’ll ever ‘get it’ or ‘get there’, especially in regard to their education.

And therein lies the problem; ‘getting there’ can be a false concept, because life doesn’t always happen like that, or to order. There isn’t always a ‘there’ to aim for. And whilst you’re striving you can sometimes miss the little things that have been achieved.

It’s like hill walking; I could bet my boots that as soon as I reached the top of one summit there’d be another one waiting just beyond that was even higher, diluting the achievement of climbing the first one. Unless I looked back and acknowledged how far I’d come.

We can do that with our children sometimes, always pressing them for more. Missing what’s achieved and what is now.

Yet now is where life resides.

There may be many days when you feel there’s no progress. It certainly can feel like that when you’re home educating long term. You may feel that your days are boring and pointless, the children haven’t gained anything. That you have nothing to show – no progress.

Life can be like that whatever you’re doing, whether it’s raising babies, or doing a tedious job day after day to feed them and keep a roof over your head, life may feel stagnant.

But; progress isn’t always measurable in tangible terms. 

And each day IS a progression in itself, even the dull days.

If you have lived, that is progress. Because each day however mundane supports us in some way, however small and insignificant. Each day is a demonstration to the children about living a life, will have taught them something. Each day makes up a life, so each one has it’s value as such even if you can’t feel it at the time.

If you look back to years gone by, or when your children were little – good excuse to get the photos out – you’ll see a huge progression and many achievements.

Life is a long journey. Life with kids is a long journey. A journey of learning and experience. Each day is another footstep on our way. And we mustn’t devalue a step because of a false concept of not being ‘there’ yet. Or it not being as you first imagined.

And each day is worth, even if not applauding, simply blessing for what it is. We don’t have to be ‘there’ to acknowledge that. And the children don’t need to be ‘there yet’ for us to cherish their achievements so far.

They may not be glamorous or measurable, but they are still achievements. And can always be appreciated.

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

How can children learn at home?

This is another question that people ask when finding out about home education or starting for themselves. So as part of this series of Monday posts for newbies I thought I’d try and answer it.

Most people accept that children go to school to learn.

Think of all the things you've learned to do since school!

Think of all the things you’ve learned to do since leaving school!

And one of the ideas that people with no experience of home education find hard to grasp is that children who do not go to school also learn.

So how does that take place?

With schooling and teaching entrenched in our thinking as the mainstream way to learn we tend to forget all the other learning that goes on without it. Just think for a moment; firstly, of all the things your child learnt before they ever went to school – all without teachers or tests or curriculum or strategies.

And secondly, think all of the things that you’ve learned since you left school, like driving for example or cooking or using your latest gadget or new job skills.

You learnt them through:

  • First hand experience
  • Researching and finding out for yourself
  • Building understanding
  • Asking others and using others’ support when needed
  • Having a go and practising

This is the way children who are home educated learn too and you can facilitate your child’s learning in much the same way through those approaches.

You can provide stimuli and activities, guidance, encouragement and first hand experiences, sometimes even keeping out of it and allowing them to find things out and practice for themselves, other times finding others to experience it with if required.

This is how you will have enabled your child to walk, talk, dress themselves, use tools and technology, develop various physical and practical skills up till now. And this approach works just as well when you’re home educating – it’s almost an extension of your parenting and need be nothing more than that.

Some parents like to use an approach similar to a school day with structured periods of academic work and activities initiated by them as per a schedule.

Other parents like to use a more autonomous approach allowing the child to pursue activities of their own choice and interest, using opportunities to develop more specific skills and knowledge as they arise.

Some like to stick with a curriculum – which is merely a plan of activities – that takes a learner through a sequence of learning activities towards specific objectives, like the National curriculum does, which sets out what the government thinks all children should know.

Others feel this is too prescriptive and inhibits spontaneous learning opportunities that arise naturally throughout living on a day to day basis. And they also question for themselves what it is that children should know and why.

(There’s a section in my book ‘Learning Without School’ which explains autonomous and structured approaches to learning and how children learn in more detail).

We all probably feel that we want our children to know certain things, be able to do certain things, and be able to progress in life. But when you start home educating you can also question what the really important things are; not only educationally but personally too.

For example, is it imperative that kids know facts to be tested, or more important that they have the skills needed to find out facts?

Schooling is very much geared to learning stuff that can be tested and examined. And in the pursuit of those goals many of the more personal attributes a young person needs in today’s world (and work) are neglected. Things like confidence, self-esteem, common sense, initiative, decision making skills, adaptability, imagination (to solve problems and think outside the box) to be articulate and social – all of which come from a broad experience of the real world and people in the real world, not just the school world.

And these attributes are developed more through how you learn – through diversity and experiences, rather than what you learn.

A positive and uplifting experience with learning is what to aim for. Then young people will want to learn for themselves, an attribute that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life.

Even very young children learn for themselves, if you just watch. Sometimes we inhibit that by attaching all sorts of adult structures to the learning process – more often than not for our own comfort!

The question ‘how can children learn at home?’ tends to suggest that children do not want to learn and have to be made to go to school to do so. But actually the opposite is true; children love to learn – that’s why they investigate everything and ask endless questions when they’re little – it’s just schooling puts many off.

Children will learn at home. You just need to trust and make sure you approach your learning – your home educating life – in a way which will not put them off like school so often does!

Oooops – gender stereotyping alert!

20151231_120846Nothing like getting out on a decent day and sawing up the branches I’ve acquired on my walks through the trees.

It engages me with something basic that modern life removes me from. I like foraging for free fuel and sawing it up for the open fire. Wood being less pollutive than coal or the oil of the central heating.

The physicality of it, the accomplishment of it out in the elements, the contact with the outside, replenishes the wellbeing in ways other perhaps more sophisticated or sedentary pursuits do not.

I admit, I only do the small bits. Charles gets the chainsaw out for the big chunks (could be more pollutive, I know). But he likes his machines and the sounds of satisfying revving, where I like the silence.

I think it might be a man thing. Or is that just a gender stereotypical thing to say?

It put me in mind of our philosophy group’s last discussion which was a bit of a surprise. The chair posed a question as a warm up which was about gender: ‘say something positive about the opposite sex’ he posed!

Dumb silence ensued. Just a bit significant I thought!

Then, one by one, the males piped up and said nice things, but the females seemed at a bit of a loss. Which I also thought was significant. I couldn’t tell whether this was because they couldn’t actually think of anything or they thought the question a bit inane.

Finally, one woman said; ‘Well, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say here but one thing I’ve noticed is that they’re good at sawing wood’.

A giggle passed round the group. This was the last thing anyone was expecting. Yet I thought it summarised it quite nicely. We appreciate the physicality of men, providing a nice strong comforting arm.

Yet equally a female offers a strong comforting arm, don’t they?

This came back to me as I was sawing. That, and how difficult it is not to gender stereotype as I’ve done here, and more particularly as parents.

These days the traditional male and female roles (as we saw them) overlap, both the physical and the comforting, the providing and the caring. And I believe we all need elements of all in our lives whatever gender we are. We need to be self observational and mindful in order to fulfil our own basic needs and those of others, and physical, emotional, cerebral, strong, sensitive, whatever’s required – whatever gender.

And make sure the kids get a demonstration of that; the choice of playing any role that suits.

And how ironic that I should be thinking all this when this news item reports a call for more female role models across the curriculum. Curriculum, politics, manual or academic, both women and men need to be there to balance the skills, strengths and sensitivities each can bring.

It’s SO important that no one is denied opportunities because of gender stereotyping or traditional roles, and we as parents don’t inadvertently impose either on our boys or girls; just value each for who they are.

Out for some inspiration!

I’m so busy continually harping on about getting your children out and about and how valuable it is for their health, well being and education, I forget to do it for myself sometimes! Hypocrite or what?

My route through the trees when January's too wicked for me to be out on the marsh!

My route through the trees when January’s too wicked for me to be out on the marsh!

I usually have my constitutional walk – the one I used to pressgang the children into when they were here. But even that gets a bit samey.

I find mould growing on my inspiration and it’s likely to be showing in my work if I’m not careful.

Writing is a cloistering business and can make me as stale as all those mince pies that are still in the pantry I’m trying not to finish up. My current dilemma is whether it’s worse they end up as waste or waist? The birds usually solve this problem for me!

So I’ve decided I need to get out among all you inspirational parents and home educators and see what you’re up to.

So many people have told me that this work and my books have inspired them. Well you parents inspire me too. I love your comments and feedback and it was a delight meeting you in the summer last year when we were promoting my book for home educated children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’

It would be so lovely to meet more of you and if you’ve any concerns maybe I can be of help or reassurance. It’s a long haul home educating but just like anything parenting, you’ll work it out – we did – and we probably knew no more than you do!

So if you have a home educating/parent group in the Midlands, or East side of the country that might be interested in me popping in for a chat do get in touch. And I’m occasionally down South visiting my eldest in Brighton and could pop in if dates coincide.

I’m hoping to have some new books out this year, but let’s not wait for that to happen – publishing takes ages – let’s get together for a natter beforehand.

You’ll find contact details via my ‘Who Am I?’ page. Or just leave me a comment; I try and respond to all.

Meanwhile enjoy your home education for, like ours, you’ll find that one day it will have come to an end!

Education is for life- not just for schools!

Times tables to be tested – teachers made accountable – another dreadful strategy for schools.

Christmas packed away it’s back to school for many this week. For thousands though it isn’t, as they continue with their home education, continue with their life education, which is after all what education is for.

And it is for reasons like this article displays that they do it; because of incompetent decisions to improve educational standards that do not work. All that improves is educational stress and there’s plenty of that already!

Education is for life, not just for schools, isn’t it?

It’s easy to forget what education is for, especially when you’re immersed in the system where the inherent purpose is grade getting – by any means. Although grades may be valuable in expanding choices and chances, they are not the only purpose of it.

The purpose of education is personal development. And to equip people to lead productive and fulfilling lives that encourage independence, responsibility and a contribution to society as an active member. I wonder how many school children know that’s what education is for?

When you’re home educating, it’s good to keep reminding yourself of that overall purpose. Keep it as a priority. Remembering that personal growth is developed through personal experiences, personal connections and practical activities as many physical as academic. And exposure to everyday lives, observation of how people live and pay for their everyday lives and building the skills needed to do it for yourself one day, finding out what you’re good at on the way.

Times tables are only one very small part of that – possibly!

It’s hard to get that kind of everyday exposure in the system, driven as it is by politics more than personal.

If you’re one of the many parents becoming disillusioned with what your child’s going to confront when they go back to school you might like to reconsider home education. there’s plenty on this site to start you off among my blogs and books.

And if you’re one of those inspirational parents who’ve now decided to give the system the push may this be a little reminder to stay with your priorities and educate for the personal good of your child rather than the political.

Nicky Morgan’s focus suddenly on times tables is just about the political more than the personal. It has nothing to do with what will educational benefit a child. It’s about popularity and winning votes.

Home educators can educate for the good of a child’s life, rather than for politics, which is sadly the fate of many in schools!

A time for Peace surely!

The sun was out and the sky winter blue. Time to get out and chase away blues of another kind!

I walked round the edges of the ploughed earth where a flock of Fieldfares rested, turned through the tunnel of treessnow geese 003 and just saw the back end of a deer disappearing. Then out onto the open marshland where a flock of wild geese grazing there took to the wing with a gush of wind and gabbling. As they went quiet again, snippets of Larksong serenaded me as I walked back under the blue.

And seeing this tranquillity laid out before me I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible things that are happening in the world and feel incredibly lucky for these moments of peace around me.

Even if the blues were making me suffer I know it is nothing compared to the suffering of thousands of others right now. Despite what we have to confront sometimes, most of us are incredibly lucky.

So I am also incredibly grateful to be back here in front of the computer again,  in a country that is at peace, and find it bewildering to think of the mindless slaughter that is being inflicted elsewhere.

If there was one sole purpose of education that overrides all others it must surely be for children to learn how to live with others with tolerance, understanding and compassion, and be educated for the perpetuation of peace.

May peace be with you this season.