Tag Archive | parenting

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!

Infecting your kids with learning

I think I might have caught it from the children. Or from home educating maybe.

They would spot and stop and examine everything they saw, wherever we went, from the tiniest bug to the biggest truck. It took ages to get anywhere.

I tried not to be impatient. Because these investigations of theirs were just a natural extension of their education.

We’d talk, speculate, look up, question and hypothesise – or in more general terms just gab on about it. These discussions always took us somewhere. From dissecting owl pellets and ruminating on the prey we found contained in them, which told us what wildlife was around us all the time even if we didn’t see it and the wider ecological cycle…to gawping at the biggest truck we’d ever seen, where it came from and how it got across the sea, what it carried and imports and exports…

Observation and conversation are two excellent learning facilities you can put to such great use when you home educate.

Funny thing is, I still tend to do it now. I spotted a monster fungi on a tree the other day whilst out woldswalk 15 001walking. The dog was more impatient than the kids used to be whilst I tried to get a snap without falling in the ditch full of nettles.

Then, with both girls home this weekend, we’re all doing it on our walks, and they’re reporting back and pointing things out just the same…it’s so infectious and opens your eyes to all the amazing things around us.

If you can infect your children with a delight in all there is to observe and discuss and question and find out about, in maybe just a simple walk to the shops, you will be igniting in them a desire to become educated.

In town today I heard Swifts screaming round the chimneys, saw the fire engine race round a corner, and a pigeon egg on the pavement. So I’m still doing it even though my two have grown up and gone again. But a habit of observation still brings little treasures into a dull day. There’s just so much to see and wonder and learn about.

The world provides an education in itself.

So infect your little one as you walk hand in hand, create a habit of observation and see what treasures you can find. And if you fancy telling me I’d love to hear.

 

Precious moments

20150604_144804When they’re little, it’s important to spend as much time with them as you can. This is the groundwork for their development and education.

When they’re older those times all together become increasingly rare. And very precious.

Which is why this is substituting for a blog post. I’m spending a bit of time with these two and making the most of precious moments! :)

Introducing Natty…

flowers DSUbook 004You must be sick of hearing me harp on about my new book ‘Who’s Not In School?’ so I’m going to talk about someone else’s.

‘I Love You Natty’ is a book written and produced by the family from DownsSideUp an award winning blog, raising awareness of Down’s Syndrome and bringing comfort and reassurance to many.

I’m sure their book will do the same. It’s written through the voice of Mia, Natty’s big sister, and shows something of what it’s like in a family with a Down’s Syndrome child. Not only is it a really moving text, the illustrations and book itself is utterly exquisite and I’m dead jealous!

Hayley, Natty and Mia’s mum, has done such a mammoth amount of work to increase understanding of Down’s and bring comfort to parents who may be experiencing it for the first time and feeling daunted. She’s provided many with a reassuring hand to hold and this book provides another one, especially for a sibling, helping to make those experiencing the condition less alone.

Hayley and I first met when she included a home education approach in addressing Natty’s learning needs.

Children with particular needs are often left floundering in the school system and some parents find that home schooling gives the opportunity to tailor educational approaches to their individual.

There are so many ways learning can be approached; home educating means parents are able to provide stimulating experiences, practical activities, and follow a different schedule in order to best provide for their individual child. This can mean that potential failure in a classroom setting can be turned into educational success.

I’m wishing Mia and Natty and all the family all the very best with their delightful book.

Find them at www.downsideup.com And you can order copies of their book on Amazon.

Calling all parents!

Illustration by James Robinson

I’ve come back inside from the great outdoors to think about work, excited by the prospect of my picture book being released this week.

I reckon there’ll not be a parent out there who hasn’t known an inquisitive little spark like this one, endlessly wanting to investigate and not understanding why parents just don’t seem to appreciate it!

I always found it such a comfort to know mine wasn’t the only one. I’m calling all parents to please tell me you’ve got, or had, one the same – it would be a relief to hear!

Hope you enjoy the story, the illustrations are definitely awesome and I reckon it’s okay for me to say that since I didn’t do them!

Look out for it after 27th May. And do let me know if you like it.

The joy and the terror!

I thought galloping about on a massive uncontrollable horse was the most terrifying thing I’d ever do. spring15 016

Then I had children!

Becoming a parent is full of both joy and terror, when you become terrified of your sudden vulnerability through your children, especially as they begin to experience the challenges and dangers of the world beyond the safety of your nest.

But these days, as well as concern for my grown up girls, I face a new kind of terror on the cusp of releasing a new book.

Probably most people don’t realise this about writers; that the reason they write is because they love the world. They want to illustrate it, champion it, contribute to it, give support or entertainment, send out a message. My book; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ was an attempt to do all those things.

The fear comes at the prospect of that attempt to offer some love being rejected, ridiculed, spurned, or not reaching its mark.

It’s a fear that writers face as real as leaving your child to school for the first time or the start of home educating. Although I have to admit that my fear of the former was by far the greatest; home educating seemed less scary than leaving our children in a system that for some is totally wrong.

As a writer, just like raising and educating children, you have no control of the outcome of all this, or what happens. You have to hand over to the world and wait the world’s response, either warmth or rejection of your babies or your baby book! Waiting on that response is terrifying.

So I’m a little reassured to read a couple of reviews by lovely supporters prior to its forthcoming release on 27th. You can read them here and here. But the best recommendation of all is their child wanting to read it over and over again.

I’m indebted to those children and families for putting my mind at rest. Gives me further courage.

Courage enough perhaps to leave my nest and maybe chat to some of you at forthcoming events we’re hoping to hold to celebrate it. The first is likely to be in the Peterborough area but there will be others. Date to be announced soon so sign up to this or the publisher’s website to hear when.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll understand the fears of writers a little better and will be kind to them. Just like children and parents and home educators they too need a bit of encouragement to overcome their fears!

Born Naughty?

“Mum, there’s a programme on Channel 4 tonight you might like, I just saw a trailer,” says Charley as she comes through to where I’m working.

I look up from the keyboard and peer at her suspiciously. “Oh, yea? What’s that then?” She knows I’m not into watching telly much, especially fly-on-the-wall type programmes that turn people’s misery into dramatic telly just because it’s cheap to make!

“It’s apparently about children being naughty – whether it’s learned or genetic. Thought you’d be interested as I know how much you hate that word.” She grinned at me round the door frame. She’s heard me ranting over parenting programmes many a time, and use very bad language!

I’ve always hated the concept of ‘naughty’. It goes right back to when I worked in schools back in the dark ages when parents instructed me to not worry about ‘givin ‘im a belt round the ear, cos he’ll need it, he’s so naughty’. A parent actually said that to me on one occasion.

I couldn’t really understand it, for I never had reason to label that child, or any other, as ‘naughty’. I always took the approach; kids have reasons for what they do. I appreciate that small kids aren’t open to reason sometimes and parents could do with some guidance themselves. You get thrown in the deep end with parenting – how could we know how to deal with the more complex challenges it throws our way?

The programme, ‘Born Naughty’ was quite empathetic. But when it opened with a question; ‘Do these children need diagnosis or discipline?’ I quailed at the prospect of these kids like many others just being given pills to calm them down. And I certainly quivered at the images of frustrated, screaming and anxious kids and desperate parents in dire conflict with one another. I never had to deal with anything quite so upsetting or extreme.

But watching the parents my heart went out to them. Parents always get the blame when a child is a screaming whirlwind of tantrum, don’t they? But funny how you never seem to get the credit for when they’re beautiful little people who do all the right things!

We certainly saw some screaming whirlwinds on the programme and the parents said how sick they were of everyone pointing the finger at them when they’d tried their best to manage. But child behaviour is never, ever just the fault of parenting. It’s far more complex than that.

Everyone’s behaviour, our own included, is affected by a multitude of things; our genetic make up, personality and character, our environment and family life, even the food we eat and the opportunity for exercise and recreation to help us burn off stress, feel calm and relax. It is never just the parents’ fault in isolation.

The programme dealt very sensitively with all this and made several recommendations to help parents deal with the challenges they faced with the children’s behaviour. Interestingly it was observed how contact with animals helped one girl, which I talked about in my last blog post.

But the answers lay in a collection of influences that we as parents could not possibly know about if we hadn’t already experienced them. And when you’re parents of young children, you haven’t! It’s as simple as that.

There’s no loss of face in asking for help, asking those who’ve spent hours observing and working with different child behaviours who might have more of an insight that we do with our limited experience.

I’m not in favour of children being labelled, filled with drugs, or forcibly restrained. I never trust the so-called experts unquestioningly.

But sometimes you have to seek help and guidance in order to save the child from themselves. Youngsters cannot understand that their behaviour is what connects them to others which is one of the elements in life that make us most happy. It’s also what can destroy those connections, which benefits no one.

When children are immature they cannot control their impulses as we can. They cannot understand the awful feelings they have or how to manage them. They’re not interested in reasons.

So it’s up to us to try and understand these reasons behind their behaviour – it was extreme anxiety in one of the examples – and guide them towards overcoming it with patience and consistency, so that they can go on to enjoy connected and happy lives.

There is no such thing as ‘naughtiness’ – only reasons. That’s not an excuse. It’s a demand for greater understanding.

And to increase my understanding, I might watch the next one. For a fly-on-the-wall parenting programme, it wasn’t too bad!