Tag Archive | parenting

What influences our children’s learning?

I was playing with the idea of children’s learning the other day and drew myself a little picture. This is because the system has taught us to think in a very linear way about how learning happens and it helps to think about it a little differently – especially if you’re home educating.

When you’re home educating you can abandon misconceptions about learning happening in a very unwavering linear way, because it doesn’t.

I think the government wants us to see it like that because it suits the systematic teaching they want to provide. But learning IS NOT the result of teaching, like it’s some kind of App that teachers can stick on what they consider to be hAppless kids! It’s nothing like that whatsoever.

Learning is instead an intrinsic part of who you are, of the influences around you, and how you respond to them.

My picture describes it like this:

learning 001

All these factors influence the way children learn – and achieve. And interplay with each other and every day – every year – will change and be different in the way they influence learning, some stronger than others at varying times and the children constantly changing in the way they respond.

Learning is an extremely fluid process. How could it ever be linear?

Systematic schooling disregards so many of these influences, seeing educating as this one track conditioning rather than the blossoming of an individual, responding to the climate in which they’re developing.

But I think it’s more helpful to keep this picture in mind. Because then you can forget the idea of learning as a simple set of single-track scores and see it instead as the result of complex influences, some of which you can impact on, some of which you can’t, and all of which have to be taken into account and negotiated in order to develop a well educated person. Wherever there’s a problem; one of these influences will probably be the cause.

And this applies wherever they are educated!

Life’s not easy – but easy isn’t always best!

You can walk anywhere

You can walk anywhere – nothing fancy needed!

When my nose was buried in the grass I swear something went up it. I was doing a long sumptuous in-breath with a bit of yoga stretching.

Don’t think I’m some fanatical fitness freak or extreme yogic. I’m not – I’m not extreme anything really. I aim for balance. I just try to keep up with the little things that I know have helped me over the years, gentle stretching and moments to check in with the self being some of them.

It’s helped me deal with challenges and angst. It’s helped me deal with grief. It helps me bring myself down to earth (especially the nose in grass bit), and it’s helped me deal with the frustrations and anxieties of being a parent, a home educator and now a writer.

So I’ve learned that it’s worth pressing on with it, even if not the pressing face on floor bit which is not supposed to happen anyway. But at least I do it – occasionally. And keep on doing it – occasionally – but consistently occasionally, if you get my drift.

‘It’s all right for you, you’ve always done it’, people have said, always thinking things are harder for themselves than for anyone else. I also hear ‘it’s all right for you, you’re not overweight,’ as I indulge in a slice of cake. Or, ‘it’s all right for you, you’re fit,’ as we walk and talk and I’m not gasping for breath as much as they are. And most annoying; ‘it’s all right for you, you’re a calm person’.

Believe me, I’m not. Ask the family!

And it’s comments like these that really get up my nose. For it’s not all right for me. It’s bloody hard work to keep going with things that feel like too much bother sometimes. It’s as hard for me as for other people.

The only difference, maybe, is in attitude. Is in my belief that we build our own lives. And can take charge of some parts of it if not all. It’s up to us. No point in waiting for others to do something about things we want to be different.

And I practice that mentality. I act upon it.

We can all have some charge. We can all do some things to build lives towards keeping fit, keeping well (and weight’s included in that), and keeping sane.

And the only way to do that is to act. To start now. And keep at it – slog though it is sometimes. That’s what reaps the benefits, longer term. And life is long term remember!

To others I suppose, being fit enough to do some stretching and in my own garden must seem lucky. And luck does play a part. But the biggest part is building what you want for yourself.

If you want to be fit enough to walk without gasping; build your fitness – walk. That’s all I do; you don’t need anything fancy. If you want less weight; consume less food, fat and sugar – that’s what I have to do, very hard for someone with a sweet tooth. If you want to be calm and content to help you deal with these challenging times; build things into your life which create calm and content. And be persistent with them.

It’s SO worth it!

You only get one life. Does it not make sense to value and take charge of aspects of it that keep you feeling good? Especially as we have so much other stuff we cannot control doing the opposite!

It won’t always be easy – but easy is not always the best answer is it?

No reason not to start right now really! And what an inspiration you will be to those around you, most especially the children.

Another little word on worry…

People considering home schooling are often stopped by thinking it’s going to be too much of a worry! So I thought I’d repost some ideas here to try and put some of those to rest.

The worry that comes attached to parenting makes life pre-children look like a picnic. Add home schooling into the picture and it doubles.

However, if you think about it, there’s just as much worry attached to schooling isn’t there? There was for me.

The daft thing is; worry is pointless. It doesn’t help anything, it warps reasonable perspective, it wears you down and becomes counter-productive. So you might as well stop it.

The million dollar question is; how?

I’m a worrier and had to work hard at dealing with it so as not to spoil being a mum. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; perhaps they’ll work for you.

–          Look at your concern realistically. Usually worry is nothing more than us imagining the worst scenario. It’s not something that is actually happening. So try and switch your imagination off and focus on the reality now. Or…

–          Imagine instead the best scenario. Imagine how it looks when it’s positive – what you want to happen rather than thinking about the worst case. This is visualisation. It’s very powerful, but it’s ironic that we rarely imagine the best. Visualise what it looks like when everything is working perfectly, your children being angelic!

–          Worrying is nothing more than your thoughts – not events – just negative thinking. The best antidote to this I found was to stop thinking and start doing. Take action to change whatever is bothering you. Or if that’s not possible involve yourself in an activity that takes your mind off the worry and onto something else. This refreshes you, dilutes the worry, brings a new perspective.

–          Another point; worrying is about future events. You’re not there yet and you cannot predict what future is in store anyway – everything always changes. So stop living for the future, start making this moment the best it can be.

–          Obviously we want to do the best we can to secure our children’s future, whether that’s in the way we raise them or the way we educate them. But nothing can be secure really and sometimes we’re so busy doing that we forget that right now is what matters. Love matters. Happiness matters. Interest and fun matter. Putting those in place now is the best way to build a fulfilling, successful future – I don’t think fulfilment and success can happen without them.

–          There is no guarantee you can make for your child’s future except that. By doing that each day, but being aware of the way you are, by being relaxed, attentive, busy and FUN you can show your child how to build a life the same!

–          Worry also occurs when we’re focussing intensely on the smaller picture. Often a blinkered picture – an inaccurate one. Like your child not being able to achieve something that others can like sharing for example. It’s easy to get obsessed about it – this puts pressure on which makes it worse, creates an intensity which communicates itself to the child which prevents them from sharing because they know it’s something you’re worried about …etc…etc. To stop this take your mind’s eye out from the intensity of this small picture to the whole of your child’s life– I bet your child will be as considerate over sharing as anyone else by the time they’re twenty. So be patient – children are all different and are allowed to be. Look at the bigger picture.

–          Keep contact with others to help your perspective. Talk about your concerns – then stop and talk about something else – something positive! Don’t measure your child against your friend’s. If you must, measure instead against the millions and millions of children who started out with these noticeable differences then by adulthood have become insignificant.

–          Look after yourself! Worry is increased by tiredness, frustration, stress, unhappiness. Your needs as a parent are as important as the child’s. Happy parent equals happy child. Some of the things I did to help myself with this were; reading inspirational books, regular exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty, meeting with others,  avoided too much junk food (food affects your mind), attention to my mental/spiritual wellbeing.

–          If your child sees you doing this you’ll be teaching them how to look after themselves as they grow which is a far better lesson to be teaching them than how to worry!

I’ve suggested other ways of looking after yourself as a mum in my new book ‘Mumhood How to handle it Why it matters’. And there are ideas about dealing with worry if you’re a home educating parent in ‘Learning Without School’. But for a read to give you a giggle and a lift away from it all try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. All the details are on my book page.

cafe books 005

Talking rubbish again!

I’ve had to pop into town today. Errands to do, a bit of shopping to get, and a bag of clothes to drop off at the charity shop.

We donate stuff every time we have a clear out – I thought everyone did. Apparently not.

In fact I was totally shocked to find out how much people don’t do it on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme ‘War On Waste‘ which I watched on Monday night. That people put good clothes that could still be worn into their dustbins. And even more shocking, supermarkets, who profess not to, put good food in theirs.

I know we care for clothes. I know we are a consumer society. But I’m still shocked to discover just how little we care for the planet. How little responsibility some show towards the way they waste the planet’s resources. And how little care some show in passing that onto our children.

Environmental issues are part of any education wherever that is happening. And education is surely a forum through which we can teach the following generations about the planet they’ll inherit. Yet there are still so few adults attuned to the idea that what each of us does matters. 

It matters enormously that we all take responsibility for the amount we buy and the amount we throw away and our clothes are part of that.

Hugh’s says that British people throw away ten thousand garments every ten minutes. Is that not a criminal statistic when there are an abundance of charity shops and even clothing banks in many supermarket car parks? Is it lack of care or snobbery that prevents people from using them?

With a little bit of care NO clothing need be thrown in a bin. I’m feeling that NO clothing should ever be thrown in a bin when there are so many who could make good use of it. NO clothing should ever be thrown in a bin out of respect for the many resources used in creating it.

Food waste is another shocking issue and supermarkets are much to blame. However, we all play a part in this too because supermarkets are answering the needs of over fussy consumers who won’t eat a parsnip or an apple with a blemish on. This pathetic cosmetic standard we’ve driven up is creating tons of waste and putting tons of farmers out of business. Whilst we’re being picky about food we’re destroying the income of those who grow it for us. And we’re wasting resources of the already over stretched earth. Did you see this news?

Are we really so uncaring?

Learning about our planet and its diversity is an essential subject to study. But we as parents must also put into practice our own war on waste in our own households, demonstrating to our children that is the responsibility of us all. For if we don’t, the future we’re educating our children for, may take the form of a dying planet.

What kind of future do you want to leave for yours?

What to do with an uninspired Monday?

I wake up some Mondays and just don’t want to know. I’m sure everybody does at times.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

When it gets too much, go where they day takes you.

I remember that happened when we were home educating too, even though it was overall the most inspiring and liberating experience. Finding that you can actually break through conventional barriers and do something different usually is. But there are times however magical life can be that you just can’t hack it!

If you’re home schooling, not to worry; I looked at it this way: You can bet your boots that there are many teachers also waking up with that same feeling, so if you’re going to be less than inspirational for the kids today then you won’t be the only one – you can be sure of that.

You can also rely on the fact that even though you may not be having much stimulating input some days the children will still be learning. Because they learn without your input too – that’s the nature of their inquisitive minds.

And another point is that as a parent, you don’t always have to take the stage, be the leader, be in charge, come up with infinite ideas, or be the jester who jollies everyone along. The children also have to learn to do that for themselves.

So it’s just as important that sometimes you ‘sit in the audience’ as it were. And let the kids take the main stage. Let them be in charge, come up with ideas and control the day. And you go with their flow for the day.

This gives them an important opportunity to make decisions, not to expect to always be entertained, to problem solve for themselves, to even look after those whose needs are bigger than theirs at times. Important life skills.

I had days when my needs were bigger than theirs. When I had to fold into the nucleus of my self for a bit and not be the sole inspirational leader of others’ lives, but just look after my own and get my strength back up.

And you know what?

Those days always worked out just fine. The kids found things to do. We watched stuff. We may have even stayed in PJs all day and were they ruined as a result? Did they turn into lazy, jobless, no-hopers unable to get up in a morning as someone nastily suggested they would?

Course not! They are hard working adults who know what it is to work, who are always punctual and responsible – and sociable – and sometimes more conscientious than colleagues, who contribute to the working world as does anyone.

So don’t worry about those Mondays, or any days, when you really cannot give out. You’re not ruining your kids just because of the odd day. In fact you are teaching them something of what it is to be human – and humane!

Something I often wonder, after reading Nicky Morgan’s latest proposals (see my last), if they’ll get in school!

Un-learning? What’s that got to do with education?

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Learning can happen any time, anywhere, any place

Funny to have a title un-learning on a blog that’s generally about learning, self-development and home education.

But the reason is that’s exactly what you have to do in order to learn. You very often have to un-learn something else. Adjust something you thought was true. Update your information and ideas. Often your values and principles.

For example, I had to unlearn quite a lot of stuff I thought I knew in order to home educate. I had to unlearn the things I thought were true, like;

  • Learning only happens in school
  • Teaching and teachers are always necessary
  • Schools satisfactorily socialise children
  • Children need to be tested
  • Graded schemes, curriculum, daily structure, workbooks and lots of writing is essential
  • And if you’re not ‘doing’ education the children won’t learn anything

Instead I learnt that;

Learning can happen anywhere, at any time, any place. Teaching and teachers are not always necessary. The school climate does not reflect the social climate of our society and you cannot learn social skills from other youngsters who don’t have them. Testing does not help children become educated. Lots of academic exercises don’t guarantee learning outcomes. And the children can learn even when they’re not doing anything seemingly educational.

What you will learn as you home educate is that there are a multitude of approaches you can adopt to facilitate your children’s education and the more you see how they learn by being engaged and active and stimulated the more you will realise that there are lots of things you have to un-learn about education in order to progress.

Parenting is the same. As a parent I had a load of stuff fed to me about parenting. Some of it was true. Some of it definitely needed un-learning. And the most important thing I learned was to keep an open mind and remain flexible – which works far better than any hard and fast rules people tried to push on me.

And we think it’s just the kids doing the learning! We all learn all through our lives.

So perhaps the most significant thing both you and the children can learn is the idea that the more educated we become the more we realise there is to learn. And this is true whatever and forever!

Try not to fuss and fret over the kids too much!

We have projects the children made all round the house still!

We have projects the children made all round the house still!

The hour may have changed but my inner clock hasn’t. I’m awake early and the day looms long.

So I start writing before anyone can grab me for attention. And I’m talking grown ups here; they can be nearly as demanding as when there were little people in the house.

What I used to do at that time was fetch a cuppa and slip back into the pre-dawn silence, before the children woke, to try and weave a few words together before my lovelies frayed them from ever having a cohesive sense.

This was often thwarted. For they had body clocks that woke desperately early despite whatever tactics we employed to alter it. It was like they had personal inner alarms for 6.30 am which transposed into 5.30 am when the clocks went back and took ages to readjust. The only consolation was that they slept soundly through the night.

Funny, then, when they become teens, there were times they didn’t see the morning at all and struggled to be out of bed by lunchtime. Of course not being in school, this was allowable, although not in the eyes of disapproving relatives who thought they should ‘fit‘ into the ‘real‘ world, (the definitions of both highly debatable), or they never would later on.

Such rubbish! They still grew into functioning working adults, who have principles and commitments to working routines many others seem to lack.

What was all the fuss and fret about, I wonder? Apart from others needing to make us all the same!

Everything always changes and whatever happens now, with children or grown-ups, never stays the same, routines and body clocks included.

So this is just a little reminder to you that if you’ve got youngsters that are challenging the core of you, hang in there and try not to worry; they won’t stay the same either!