Tag Archive | parenting

Home Educating – surviving the frosty bits!

We face many challenges in life. Winter is clearly one of them that’s foremost in our minds right now! But, also like winter, most of them are seasonal and pass over.

And home educating can be just the same.

The frost will eventually melt off the snowdrops. Frosty times at home can be melted too!

It presented us with challenges – of course it did. They passed over. We reviewed, made changes, adapted to suit the nature of the challenge and pressed on.

If you think about your own home educating life, it’s never going to remain the same although we are sometimes caught out by expecting it to.

It doesn’t remain the same for the glaringly obvious reason that the kids never remain the same either. Like plants growing through a season, they have their seasons too. So will your home education. So does all family life.

I think, as adults and parents, we’re a bit sticky! We like to stick with what we know. We get into a habit, a way of thinking, a way of responding, a way of expecting, and forget that we need to make adjustments to these changes too.

And that’s to do with family life, life in general, not just to do with home schooling.

You’ll have times when family life flows smoothly and everyone is happy. You’ll have times when family life is as frosty as winter and everyone hates one another!

Quite normal!

This is no one’s fault. This is just how it is. And in order to weather it you have to do the same as you do for winter; examine what you might have to do in order to rectify it.

For example – you feel cold, you look at why, you put another jumper on!

If family connections turn cold, you have to look at why. Has someone grown and changed? Is someone hurting? Have your children outgrown your habits? Do you need to change your responses to accommodate that? Do they need something different?

Whether it’s toddlers or ten year olds, tweenagers or older teens, their seasons and our responses to them have to continually adapt. That’s life – so make sure you don’t blame home education, as some peple tend to do.

If it’s a bit frosty right now don’t seek to blame, seek to understand what might be the cause. Be honest. Don’t give up on it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re no good for the kids. You will be fine – but you might need to change something in order to keep up with them.

It might simply be that one of the things you need to do is relax and allow your kids to grow – I missed that solution a number of times!

But be reassured that, like with seasons, nothing lasts forever. Moods don’t last forever. Phases don’t last forever. You’ve weathered them before you can do it again!

This is a skill that will support you throughout your life and well worth the practice.

Meanwhile, let’s wish for spring to come soon, in whatever sense!

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There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.

What about science if I homeschool?

On one of my walks at the end of last year, when dusk was being blown in horizontally with the gales and snow I found a buzzard – in trouble.

At first I thought it was a piece of sacking blown from the farmland onto the barbed wire fence. But the dog was scenting it from a safe distance, making me suspicious and I went to investigate.

Can’t imagine how it happened but it was ensnared by the fleshy part of the wing onto the barbs and had tangled itself round and round until all it could do was hang. Or so I thought, when I tried to help it went for me with its fierce beak and talons.

I feared I was going to make it worse so called a birding friend for help and we rescued it between us by cutting chunks out the wire and letting the vet see if it could be removed from the flesh.

“It’ll have to be put down, I reckon” said my friend. I thought it was likely too. I watched them go with heavy heart. But couldn’t help thinking that the girls would have loved to have seen it.

“Did you get a picture?” my youngest asked. That had not been my priority at the time and I was keeping my eye on those flesh ripping talons.

Having wildlife on their doorstep, our involvement with the natural world and consequently wildlife, was an organic part of our home educating days. And a great way to introduce the sciences into their learning days.

Science can be a subject potential home schoolers feel they’d never be able to tackle. Yet it surrounds us every day whether you live in the countryside or not. There are critters to identify (my youngest now sees more deer in the town than she saw here), natural spaces to visit, plant life to experiment with even if you only have a plant pot on a windowsill. And the most fascinating aspect of science is often their own bodies – a great starting point. You can do experiments in your own kitchen (Google kitchen science) and go online for all kinds of inspiration, clips, resources, (look at this one from the science museum) There are also a number of generous bloggers and groups who share resources and ideas.

So don’t be put off home educating because you think you couldn’t do the science.

One of the most important aspects of science is encouraging a scientific mind and kids already have that in that they question everything and are always asking ‘why’. Parents just need to extend those valuable scientific skills to others like finding out (research), encourage their observation, hypothesising, classification (naming things) analysis, etc. So easy now with the internet. And let them look at and investigate everything however repellent to you it may be! It’s all science in a way.

If I hadn’t investigated the piece of sacking that buzzard would still be hanging lifeless on the fence. But miraculously its wing only had a flesh wound and it made a full recovery in a rescue centre.

The day before new year they brought it back and set it free. My heart soared with it when I watched it go.

Off he goes

Fresh new year – fresh ways of seeing

Happy New Year!

I love a new start. New opportunities to learn, new things to do, new ways of being.

But I’ve been thinking about the last – inevitably! And how I’ve enjoyed doing Instagram over the past year; recording my daily being with the natural world. It’s a great change from always working with words under the laptop! And it had other benefits as well which I didn’t spot at first.

The beauty of frosted nettles – when seen with fresh eyes

For a start, it’s made me find something more positive in the sometimes challenging winter days when I tend to keep my chin on my chest and my spirits in my boots. It’s made me look up, lift up, which generally raises the spirits as well as the eyes.

Secondly, it’s made me really look. As I take my daily walk it’s quite hard to be inspired by what you think is the same old…same old… Except it’s not the same old…not if you really put those observational skills to good use. I can nearly always see something different. But the trick is not only to look, but to see with fresh eyes.

And mind.

It’s made me change my mind on many things.

Sometimes we can’t see with fresh eyes because we’re looking with old mind sets.

This could happen when the kids were growing up, when we were home educating. I could get stuck in parenting routines, and former assumptions that had become out of date.

It’s so easy to forget the simple fact that kids grow and change constantly and we need to as well.

To allow them to be different we need to refresh our view of them just as constantly. We need to see our kids with fresh eyes and minds. When things got tricky in the household it was very often the result of me looking at the children – and consequently behaving towards them – in ways that were out-of-date and which failed to allow them to grow into fresh ways of being.

As well as encouraging our youngsters to practise their own observational skills, we should remember to practise our own! And not keep them stuck by reacting to them through the lens of what they were, and not what they are becoming!

Fresh eyes and fresh minds allow children – and parents – to be who they need to be! And is a great way to start the new year.

May you have a happy one to come.

Don’t Bah Humbug me!

 I may switch to making instead of blogging so much – just for Christmas!

I don’t need the excuse of little people in the house to get the glitter glue and art materials out! It’s something that I do for myself anyway. Practical, creative pursuits are my antidote to screen tired eyes and the medium of words!

I don’t know how ecologically sound it is still to be sending christmas cards. But I like making them so much and try to reuse materials already to hand or saved for the purpose, so they have a second life. I also use what nature provides and inspires. I picked and pressed some ivy leaves earlier in the year, from the mass that’s overtaken the barn roof. I felt sure it wouldn’t miss a few.

The cards that come into the house will also be reused. The ones I kept from last year make good tags. The backs used for scrap card and scribbled notes. The wrapping paper is always carefully untaped and used again. Some pieces last several Christmases and a friend and I have a decorated paper carrier we pass between us – it’s become a bit of a funny tradition!

Some people would think this is miserly. I look upon it as respect for what the planet provides.

And as well as benefiting a purse already stretched at christmas, a third advantage is that it gives your brain a good exercising inventing ways in which you can use what’s around, creating ways to reuse what comes to you, and making things. Creating is as good a mental exercise as doing maths.

And it’s enormously valuable for the kids to see you do this, to see you creating christmas as much as buying it. For inventive, creative, conservational, budgeting, and problem solving skills are the best gifts to be passing onto your children and down the generations. Along with respect for the earth and remembrance of its natural place in the season. These skills are gifts that set them up for real living as much as academic ones!

So to anyone who says this is miserly, I would say Bah humbug!

 

Education is a parenting issue!

It’s always struck me as odd that one of the judgements people make of home educators is that they don’t care about their kids’ education and that’s why they don’t send them to school!

Instead, the real truth that the rest of us know, is that homeschool parents care so much they don’t feel they can risk leaving it to the system. They take on full responsibility for their kids’ learning themselves – which leads me to post again this article from way back. Because actually;

every child’s education is every parents responsibility

Did you know that? Or did you think it was all down to schools?

It isn’t, but it is mostly only home schoolers who know this.

The law says; “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. (Notice the ‘otherwise’ bit – that gives parents the legal right not to send their children to school by the way. See the Ed Yourself website; http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php)

However, the majority of parents opt to hand the education of their children over to schools as they are encouraged to do, believing that to be best. It is sometimes (only sometimes). But that still doesn’t mean all responsibility lies with the school.

For the fact is that, however children are educated, the outcome is very much dependent on the parents; on parental support, parental encouragement, parental outlook, parental involvement, and love has a good deal to do with it too. Children achieve so much when they are loved and respected.

But I suspect many parents of school children tend not to involve themselves with their children’s education because they think a) they can’t – they’re not clever enough, or b) it’s not their concern – it’s the school’s.

Neither of these reasons is valid really. Because despite you thinking you may not know stuff or it’s the school’s job to educate, it is parental involvement that has the biggest impact on what children achieve, most importantly parental attitude.

One of the things that influences children’s learning is the value that is placed on it.  They learn which things should be valued and which not bothered with from their parents. In fact at the start of their life they learn all their values and attitudes from their parents.

Children of parents who do not display a positive attitude towards education will find it hard to have a positive attitude themselves. Children who are not encouraged will be less motivated. Children whose parents are not interested in the things they do at school will have no interest in doing them. Children whose parents cop out of it by saying they’re not clever enough (when often the reason is they can’t be bothered to learn themselves) will make their kids think they needn’t be clever either.

You don’t have to be clever at maths or necessarily understand the science your kids are doing you just have to show an interest. You just have to be positive about it. Take positive approaches to overcoming challenges (finding out yourself maybe) and make your child feel that you are on their side and you’re in it together – as a team. And it’s worth doing well.

Through your attitude to them they will begin to see education as valuable – which it is.

Although you may need to really sort out what you think education is – or should be – what it’s for and in what way it’s valuable, as this is also part of your responsibility as a parent.

There is no excuse not to think about it, or just abdicate all responsibility to schools.

Because education is also a parenting issue. And as parents, whatever educational path you’ve chosen for your child, you definitely need to remain involved.

My pre-Christmas plea

Is it not all too over-the-top?

I love Christmas.

It means the family are together again.

There’ll be love, warmth, cameraderie, jokes, fun, probably a few irritations and a little bit of power struggling in the kitchen no doubt! Soon resolved as the tensions of being together again after living independent lives slip away and bonds refresh and regroup.

But I also can’t help cringing every year at the prospect of the burden the earth has to bear as a consequence of our festivities.

When I start a bit of shopping – and compared to most it is only a bit, I get immensely anxious at the quantities of packaging, plastic, lights and useless tat I see in vulgar quantities for people to buy, and the equally vulgar attitudes with which people disregard the consequence of doing so.

I don’t want to be a humbug here. I also like to wrap, decorate and buy. But each year the consumerism seems more over-the-top than the year before and I have a very real sense of the earth groaning under the strain of it.

So this is a plea. Can you think about that and practise moderation as you buy trimmings and wrappings and disposables?

Please, please, please create Christmas traditions in your family that incorporate habits which consider the earth as much as the people on it.

Make love of the earth an important part of your Christmas preperations!