Tag Archive | parenting

Children are such natural scientists

Everything you observe is science...

Everything you observe is science…

Isn’t nature wonderful! It may still be cold outside, but that doesn’t stop the pigeon sidling up to his mate, or the blackbird singing over his territory. And blowing a gale it may be, but those valiant daffodils still manage to bloom.

Even in the concrete surround of a town or city you can find nature making a home in the most unlikeliest of places, like ants do between paving slabs or hardy buddleia that clings to walls and rooftops.

If you can just stop and observe a moment, you come across the most amazing things.

Kids are really good at this. Grown-ups can be especially bad, rushing on as we do with our day’s agenda.

As a parent, or home educator, it’s best to stop that and follow their example. Because these little observations are the beginnings of science, whether it’s plants or bricks, buses or bees.

Science is one of the subjects that many parents feel unable to help their children with. Yet, the daft thing is, science is so enmeshed into our daily life if you think about it. It’s just that school curriculum has disjointed it and made it unrecognisable.

And the other daft thing is that being in a school can remove children from the opportunity to develop the foundation of a scientific mind. For this foundation starts with simple observation. Observation of ourselves, the world and our interaction with it, followed by the question why, or how or what, is the evidence of their scientific mind developing – and they’re really good at those questions – have you noticed!

A third daft approach to science in schools is that it is made so academic, when in the real world it is very much a practical subject. A real hands-on, get-involved subject you can do in ways with children which immediately engages their interest. Observation and inquiry being one of the most effective ways to start.

By observing as you go, whatever you are doing, discussing what you see, you begin the study of science – the study and understanding of the world around them – both natural and man-made.

Children are fascinated little beings, already full of curiosity and the desire to experiment. It is the desire to experiment and find out that resulted in some of the most important scientific advancements so far.

Children are born scientists most of them, so by encouraging their observation, curiosity and discussion you are encouraging scientific thinking and understanding. And this lays the basis which can be formalised into more complicated academic study and research at a later date.

There are so many subjects on the curriculum which can be linked to the real world of our children through practical means, which makes science relevant and meaningful and develops their understanding. Then there are programmes and YouTube clips and fun scientific games online to extend it.

But the best way to start is to modify our own agendas, pay attention when our kids say ‘look’, or ask why, and begin to observe the real world and find out about it with them. This is the basis of their scientific skills.

Swinging along with the children

Half term brings a gaggle of buzzing children and families onto the streets, in the parks, the pool, the library and the shops. I love to see it. Love to see families swinging along together enjoying themselves. Those who are anyway.

There also seems to be a rash of parents who don’t seem to be enjoying it.

Although children and shopping don’t generally go together well, I still don’t like to hear the remark; ‘can’t wait for them to go back to school’. It’s like people don’t like to have their kids with them. These people make me wonder; why have children in the first place!

I suppose if your children are in school all day you might get out of the swing of doing things together. Not that this happened to us when ours were at school.

Then, when we were home educating, we had to get into the swing of doing the opposite. ; we had to practise not doing things together sometimes.

I was so into providing stimulating activities, of constant communication with the children, debating and hypothesising, coming up with ideas, I had to focus on doing the opposite and ignoring them at times.

Now, I would never normally advocate that parents ignore their children. I’m usually encouraging the opposite, especially when I see so many children who’ve been in school all the time trying to get the attention of a disinterested parent on their mobile phone chatting to someone else rather than the child at their side.

However, when you home school and are mostly together a lot you have to find ways of being separate, to have separate activities, to give the children time to direct and manage their own time rather than us always doing it for them. They need opportunities for their own pursuits, to make their own mistakes, to resolve their own problems, to interact, fall out and solve their own disputes, to work play and occupy themselves independently.

This is vital for developing independent maturity. And independence builds confidence.

Obviously we need to do this safely. And always in balance with other activities. But one mistake I made early on in our home educating life was to think I should always be in charge of providing stimulation, engaging and encouraging them to be busy, all the time.

Not only is this unrealistic – children need ‘down time’ as much as stimulation – but it also inhibits the development of other vital skills they will need to lead their own lives.

I see this in school children. Released from the control school has over their lives some are lost to know what to do without it. Many children also have their lives filled for them with out-of-school activities, play dates, workshops and courses organised by pushy and obsessive parents without consulting the children. So these children rarely have the chance to build the skills needed to organise themselves. To have a taste of leading their own life rather than being lead along a life someone else has mapped out for them.

As with everything, there needs to be balance and contrast in what we provide for our kids. Children need directed time and undirected time, they need engaged time and solo time, they need attentive parents and parents who’ll leave them be at times.

And this is true in all aspects of our parenting whether home educating or not.

De-institutionalising mumhood!

Untitled-12 changedI can bore myself silly doing all this writing about education. I imagine I bore others too quite often!

It’s just I’m so passionate about it; passionate about raising children which is really what education is all about, although you wouldn’t think that from schooling.

Schooling schools children into institutionalised ways. Education should be so mind evolving it de-institutionalises youngsters so they can think in intelligent, questioning, entrepreneurial and diverse ways which develop their mind and their person.

It was my passion for children that drove me to do a mums’ book (see the page) and I just wanted to remind any new mums visiting here that it’s there for support. It’s a book to remind mums that they don’t have to do mumhood in an institutionalised way, just like we don’t have to do education in an institutionalised way.

You wouldn’t think that mumhood is institutionalised – you do it by yourself don’t you?

Not necessarily, it can be as constricted as schooling, conventionalised by traditions, ‘professionals’, perfectionist images, what everyone else is doing and whatever’s trending on social media. All extremely powerful influences that can control what you do, if you’re not careful.

We can be so conditioned to fit into the way we’ve been schooled to be mums that we don’t even notice it’s happening sometimes. We just get gut feelings that this doesn’t feel right, yet think we can’t be right so ignore ourselves, until we start to feel a bit wretched that we can’t seem to meet others’ expectations, our parents’ expectations, social trends or those on forums.

To counteract this we need to listen to our own intuition even if in perspective of advice, remember we are individuals who need to operate to our own circumstances – different from everyone else’s – in consideration of our own characters and those of our children. No two instances of mums and kids will be the same.

We need to make independent and considered choices and be the parents we need and want to be. And I hate to mention it again, but that’s where education comes in.

Our own education develops as we learn to become parents.

But, even more importantly, our children’s education BEGINS TOO. (I explain that further in the last piece in ‘Mumhood’)

That’s why being a mum is one of the most important things you will ever do. You are laying the first foundations and future groundwork of your child’s education. The first few years of being involved with your children is where education starts.

And that’s why mums are so valuable and it’s so important they are happy, doing their mothering the way they need to, however diverse and unschooled it may appear to others.

Some of the educational approaches home educators use may appear diverse and unschooled and unconventional. Yet these approaches develop young people who go on to lead intelligent, responsible, productive, social, independent lives. So those approaches work.

It doesn’t matter if you want to do your mothering your own way, it’ll work too. What’s important is to develop healthy happy children. And it is healthy happy mums who are more likely to do that.

You might like to read the book to find out why!

Laying the foundations for education – Part 2

…continuing a two parter started in my last post about education, how you can influence your child’s learning from home and what you might be aiming for in the future…

Learning through play

Many parents underestimate the value of play, even though in our grown-up world we adults use play in order to learn about something.

For example we ‘play’ with our new mobile phones in order to get used to them and understand how they work. We ‘play’ with any new technology or gadget for the same reason. What we’re doing is learning through our real experiences of these things. And it is exactly the same for children.

Children like to ‘play’ at being grown-up. Especially games that involve role play like mums and dads, or hospitals, teachers and schools, shopping, going on ‘adventures’ (even if it’s just a den under the kitchen table or behind the sofa). It’s a kind of experimentation. And whilst they do it they are learning, practising skills, gaining experiences. This works particularly well if they can do an activity in a play way, alongside what you’re doing.

They can have their own tools and plants and ‘play’ at gardening. They can have their own bowls, cutlery, pans etc and wash up – or just stand there endlessly filling containers with water. This simple play activity teaches them a huge amount. For example they learn about capacity, about the properties of water, about the properties of the containers and how their size and shape governs their capacity in relation to other sizes and shapes. They learn about volume. They probably chat to themselves all the time developing language. They’ll be thinking and working out. They’ll be exploring, experimenting and building confidence. They’ll be developing hand eye coordination and the skills needed to manipulate tools.

They won’t know they’ll be doing any of that they’ll just be aware of getting their arms soaked. But these playtime experiences teach them much more than they’d learn from either being told or looking at it in a book. Experience provides the building blocks for more formal knowledge and academic skills later. And this is just one example.

Other activities that have the same educational impact which you can do at home with kids can be built round anything you do.

Here are some examples:

  • Cooking or preparing food (or ‘playing’ with pastry, mixing substances, using tools, cutting things up, warming or freezing etc.)
  • Cleaning or washing, in and out of the home.
  • Dealing with waste and rubbish.
  • Helping with other jobs outdoors, gardening – or den making whilst you do them!
  • Looking after the pets.
  • Using technology and the Net.
  • Managing a budget and money.
  • Looking at and enjoying books and magazines.
  • Dressing – dressing up especially in things they wouldn’t normally wear and using make up.
  • Playing games as a family.
  • Family outings and journeys.
  • Social occasions where there’s a mix of people and ages.
  • Anything creative that you do; making things, home decorating, rearranging a room, craft work and all creative activities like painting, collage – with anything at all, junk modelling, card making, drawing, colouring, cutting out, making scrapbooks, collecting and grouping, etc, – builds skills. Just let them have a go and make a mess and they learn loads simply from their minds and bodies being engaged.
  • Any constructional, experimental or inventive activities indoors and out.
  • Talking with you about anything and everything

Basically anything you do to live your lives and do your work your child can be involved in either through conversation and explanation, helping at their level or playing alongside. Involving your child with your activities teaches your child all about living a life.

And through these life experiences, where learning is something which is part of what they do day to day often without even realising it, they begin to see how learning is not something separate from life but something that is a natural part of it.

If learning is a natural part of it then they will be motivated to continue their learning throughout their life whatever form it takes, motivated to hopefully use education to develop and enhance their lives and give them greater access to the things they might want to do later on.

What are we aiming for – later on?

Many parents, when they think about what they might want their children to achieve in their education later on, tend to think about academic gain. They think about their children being good at the academic exercises that will get them good grades.

But other parents think more broadly and more holistically than that. They think about their child being happy and having confidence in themselves and academics fitting in around that. They think about their child having the skills to enjoy good relationships and social activities. They think about their child’s wellbeing; mental and physical, emotional and spiritual. They think about how their child’s personal strengths and interests can be developed; how they can get to know themselves well so they will be able to make informed and relevant lifestyle choices.

The ideal is perhaps to aim for a mix of both. And to maybe think through your priorities, keeping a holistic balance throughout.

Holistically, we need to be aiming for an outcome that is relevant to the whole child and within the perspective of the whole of their lives, not just the time they may be of school age, or the exams you want them to pass.

Sometimes it is best not to think too much about ‘later on’. Because you can never know what will happen. Far better to show your child the real relevant world on a daily basis.

Each day you spend with your child is a natural opportunity for you to help them develop and learn. And to make learning enjoyable.

Aiming for enjoyment in their day to day lives, for them to be stimulated and engaged in the activities they do at the time, is far better than having an agenda outside or ahead of the child. They soon suss it’s irrelevant to them right now and switch off. Switching off to things is the last thing we want them to do, because it switches them off to education too.

Sadly many school type activities switch children off to learning because they are often dull and the children cannot see the relevance of them. Adults might think they’re relevant to the child’s future, but are they really? How can we really predict a future which is so far away?

Taking care of the little times, making them good times, will make a good future. This is a much more natural way to build a future and the foundation for a natural and holistic education that will serve the child for life.

Together again and home educating the dog!

 

home educating the dog!

Aw! We’ve all been back together again and I didn’t get a picture.

Charley snapped this one of Chelsea educating the dog about what’s in Vogue – I wonder where she got the concept of that from – and we had a good laugh over it!

We’ve just had a few days all together and it’s been so lovely. Not something you can ever imagine when you’re immersed in raising little ones; that one day you’ll be all adults together, rather than adults and children. I’m not so sure who’s the more adult now, to be honest!

How different from when the four of us were growing up here all those years ago, which I described in the story ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. I say the four of us growing up because we parents did as much growing as they did.

Well, you do as a parent, don’t you? You do as a person really. You grow and change throughout your life – all experiences teach and change us. If we’re open enough to them, of course.

I’m having to be open enough to brace this new stage where my children give me as much inspiration and advice as I give them. For I’m still growing too even as I watch my two younger family members do the same.

We have to keep adapting as parents; we have to keep adapting as family, as the dynamics constantly shift like the silt on the marshland where I walk, carving out new channels as the tides of life come and go and alter our direction.

Nothing ever stays the same; an idea both comforting and nostalgic.

Whatever life throws at us – it won’t stay like that.

I watch these two amazing young people so full of energy and ideas and am inspired. I remember the little people they were and how we negotiated our way through tricky stages as we all have to do all the time with all relationships – negotiate the tricky stages, whether personal or circumstantial.

So this is just a little post to remind you of that.

Nothing stays the same – ever! And it’s worth making the most of each stage of family relationships, however tricky.

And enjoy yourselves, learn, be inspired and keep love up high on the agenda! Your family now will be a different one by tomorrow, by next year, in ten years.

And I hope, like mine, it just gets better and better.

Feel the wobbles and do it anyway!

Whichever home education forum/group you belong to there’s always one subject that comes up time and again: wobbles!

So if you’re having some wobbles right now about home educating your child take heart from the fact you are not alone!

The other thing you can take heart from is an idea I often remind people of; you would still be having wobbles or worries over your child’s education if they were in school! Every parent does. In fact parenting itself is enough to give you wobbles let alone having education in the equation!

So be reassured that wobbling is completely natural, would be happening whatever parenting or educating style you choose and is not happening just because you’re home educating. So no need to blame home education or think that you’re wrong to do it.

Home educating is a perfectly doable, successful and happy way of educating children that develops intelligent, sociable young people able to make a valid contribution to society and create a fulfilling future for themselves.

There’s living proof now as generations grow up.

The thing is; wobbling is understandable. It’s just you caring. People who care worry about stuff!

Worry is just you thinking and taking responsibility, making decisions and reviewing what you’re doing as a parent in a conscientious and intelligent way. So wobbles are part of what it is to be a good parent. It is part of what it is to be a good home educator too. So don’t beat yourself up, don’t doubt, or think it’s because you’ve made the wrong choice. You haven’t necessarily.

What you are doing is observing and re-evaluating your children’s circumstances, which is what you need to do throughout their lives. But just because something might need changing this doesn’t make a previous decision wrong.

It’s simply to do with the fact that children – and our personal circumstances – grow and change constantly. These changes can be challenging and can make us wobble and throws up a need to reassess at times. We need to keep learning ourselves as we keep on home educating – just as we do with parenting as our children grow older.

But wobbling still doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing; it’s more likely to be a crisis of confidence rather than a crisis of circumstance, so I suggest that you go with the wobble, talk with others, and do it anyway as a famous book suggests. (Except it’s called ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’).

I have done posts on the subject over the years I’ve been doing this blog, supporting parents who want to home educate, hoping to help through wobbling times. But it’s such a popular topic on forums and groups I thought it might help to collate some of them in one place. Hope the links below are useful and I haven’t repeated myself too much! Here goes:

Why not consider HE – worried – scared – read on…

Do you worry?

Answers to common concerns

When you’re starting out HEing

Where do you find the courage?

Imagine

Contrary to critics

 

Creative solutions for January!

January and good old gales and rain.

Am I the only one who feels it’s a bit of a challenge to get through it? Especially when there’s a need, after maybe too much indulgence, to spend less, eat less and sit on backside less as well as endure the weather. I want to be a dormouse and hibernate. My inspiration seems already to have curled up and gone to sleep.

Seeing old things in new ways

Seeing the light

My daughter and I swap notes on how to get through it. We’re people who struggle with motivation at this time of the year especially when SAD kicks in. And both being involved with creative work this can be quite daunting.

‘We need some creative solutions’ I say as we chat on Skype. I know from experience, of both myself and them as children home educating, that creating or achieving something promotes energy and enthusiasm….if we can just crank ourselves up enough to find the light!

We’re both believers in creating answers to life’s challenges, rather than buying answers, which it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing. But making your own solutions gives you such a buzz.

She wants some new clothes – she’s going to create some with what’s already in the cupboards. I need a new diary – I’m going to invent a way of putting one together with whatever comes to hand. My study needs a bit of a makeover too. Again, that’ll be achieved with re-thinking old spaces and pieces rather than spending. I’ll make my mind do the work rather than money.

It’s not always possible to create solutions in this way. But once you get your head round that way of thinking it’s amazing what you can come up with, how much you can achieve, what resources you can save, what pennies you can keep in your purse and what rewards you can reap in that personal sense of achievement.

We will not be beaten down by January!

How about you – have you any ideas to share? I need as many as I can get! :)