Tag Archive | parenting

Home Education inspiration and support on Kindle

 I’m excited to tell you that my newest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to Encourage and Inspire’ is now available in Kindle. I know some of you have been waiting rather than buying the hard copy. If you still wanted the hard copy it’s available from Bird’s Nest Books at a really good discount.

I’ve had some lovely messages about this book, especially what a comfort it’s been to parents on the long, sometimes challenging, road of home education. I’m delighted to hear that, as it’s just why I wanted to write it. I know how you sometimes long for a hand to hold on that journey and this was intended to be just that.

Home education works, there’s plenty of evidence now, but since it is usually so invisible it can be hard to trust in ones convictions. This book is full of reminders to help maintain that trust. Keep it beside you for wobbly times.

If you pop over to the publisher’s website you’ll also find a couple of my children’s books written especially so the little ones have someone to identify with instead of only reading about school kids! The character ‘Harry’ is a mischievous, inquisitive soul; his behaviour will give you much to talk about with your children! It also illustrates the day to day lives of home educating families.

And thanks for all the personal supportive messages about this work. Writer’s, like home educators, are often invisible too, so it’s nice to know the work’s appreciated.

Enjoy your home educating journey and may you be blessed with the joy we experienced.

Find the Kindle version on Amazon.

Parenting and home educating – the long, long haul

 Going out to work day after day takes some grit. Unless you’re lucky enough to love every single bit of your job and there’s few jobs like that.

Writing is the same. There are good bits and bad bits and in between those bits there is the long long haul of grit required to keep going and get a book done.

And guess what? Parenting can be like that too. A few years in and I began to realise that this was the longest I’d ever stuck at one job. Before that I’d get restless and switch, or climb, make a break. Can’t do that with parenting!

I totally adore and love being a parent. (Even though my children are in their twenties now). I consider it a privilege.

I totally adored and loved being a home educating parent. It was the best thing ever. But that too is a long long haul and like with all jobs there’s good and bad. And sometimes I felt I so needed a little bit of comfort and reassurance from a grown up on a bad day! A grown up who understood and didn’t raise their eyebrows in criticism of our choice, or a ‘what-did-you-expect’ kind of silence.

Those kind of times are exactly what prompted me to write ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’. To offer you a hand to hold on that long haul and a friendly voice from someone who gets it and knows that the bad bits need climbing too. Knows that bad bits don’t mean it’s going wrong. And to reassure you that this is the best thing you could be doing and to encourage you to keep faith in your convictions.

I know exactly what the long haul is like. Keep going – it will work out okay and if it isn’t you will change it till it does!

And if you haven’t got a copy to keep beside you for those wobbly bits now’s a good time to invest, because the publisher Bird’s Nest Books has a special offer on at the moment. Click here to find it.

Hope it brings you any encouragement you might need.

There’s no magic strategy to ‘teach’ your child to read

Bit of a shock/horror title I know. But further to my last week’s post on reading when I was talking about the book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ there was something else I wanted to tell you. Something most people don’t know.

Create a relaxed approach to enjoying books

We don’t know because we’re led to believe the opposite. We’re led to believe that there is a specific strategy for teaching reading that professionals know but parents don’t.

The real truth is – brace yourself – there isn’t!

There is no one single magic approach to reading that will guarantee that your child will read.

This is what Harriet Pattison shows in her book. And I was talking to another academic about this recently, a professional who is engaged in teacher training, and he confirmed that there is no strategy that training teachers are taught in order to get kids reading. They are in exactly the same position as parents!

Okay, so teachers learn a bit about the psychology of learning (soon forgotten) and about various schemes, and graded readers and devices like phonics or whatever the latest fad is. But nothing is fool proof, will work for all, because everyone is different and responds differently. But those differences don’t have to be difficulties – only if you’re in school.

There are a multitude of activities that parents can encourage that will help their child to read; games for example, reading aloud to them, shared reading and stories, providing material for their reading, allowing them to use computers and computer games and similar, texting included, encouraging any reading material comics included, providing a reading happy climate, reading themselves, reading signs when out etc.

What is more important and something that parents can do easily, is provide a reading rich environment and encourage – without pressure – a relaxed approach to enjoying books and print. When home educating, it doesn’t matter when a child reads fluently – there are all sorts of ways to learn (films for example). It’s only in school, where learning is print based, that anxieties mount and ‘difficulties’ are created. Out of school, there doesn’t have to be a difficulty.

It’s important to acknowledge and encourage your child’s own personal relationship with reading, which means you might have to keep out of it sometimes! Something teachers can’t do. Perhaps the only ‘difficulty’ is keeping our anxieties under control.

Children are inquisitive about what we do, about stuff online, about phones and words and stories. Your encouragement of that interest will be what eventually leads them towards reading.

And that is something that all parents can do. No magic strategy involved!

Undercurrents of love and play

My 23yo still playing I’m glad to say!

When the children were small there was nothing we liked better than a little expedition. Especially ones that took us to favourite haunts where the children could rush along the footpaths, clamber on logs, make dens, look for natural treasures like creepy crawlies, fungi, birds and snails, and slosh about in water as much as possible. Picnics were usually part of it too, even if we had to eat with our gloves on.

These days when my grown up daughter comes home for a visit, like she did recently, there’s nothing I like better than doing the same; than going back to those old haunts where she still balances on logs, sloshes about in her wellies and hopes for a picnic. And I join in for most of it!

Such magic moments to be treasured all the more as the opportunities for them become more rare, especially as their activities tend to be more sophisticated and urban these days. And mine at the computer!

However, the undercurrents of love and playfulness haven’t changed even if the venues do. Even if we become more sophisticated as we grow – supposedly – we must never be too grown up to play – very important. Especially in the light of reports over recent years  about the damage of children not playing outside any more. And reports that to play is good for our well-being.

So, I hope you’re making lots of opportunities for uninhibited play, for yourself and for the children, and creating magic moments with yours to revisit when they’re grown, as they inevitably do.

Remember; no one is ever too old or too sophisticated to play. Encourage it and demonstrate it all the time!

The teacher and the taught together…

I had a trip to Hull last week. It’s not somewhere that ever gets held up as a place to visit. More’s the pity as it has much to offer. Particularly so after winning the City of Culture 2017.

What I wanted to see most of all was the blade. An art installation using the gigantic blade of a wind turbine. Although we went to visit

Underneath the turbine blade

Underneath the turbine blade

working turbines with the kids when they were younger getting right up underneath them, it was nothing compared to standing next to this. It was totally awesome – as the kids would say. Even I was overawed by something so simple but so magnificent.

I also went to the Ferens gallery and that was a treat too.

But do you know what my biggest joy was? It was from seeing all the families with their children visiting these exhibits and enjoying them together. They were walking round, fairly quickly as you do with kids, but never the less chatting away and just looking and learning together.

I know many families would feel uncomfortable going to an art gallery. Some feel daunted or out of their league. Same with museums or other exhibitions sometimes. But it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and show the kids the things we’re not so comfortable with, as those we are. Think outside the box. Go places like archaeological digs, cemeteries, quarries, churches, mosques, stately houses, gardens, discover footpaths, as well as nature reserves or deep sea centres that are more organised. You never know what it’ll spark off. And you never know what learning or inspiration develops from it.

And right on cue to these thoughts I read a super Eastern saying in a book this morning that sums up so nicely the learning we do with our children out of school. Learning that arises incidentally from these trips, without being formally taught, and yet is equally valid. Here it is to take away with you:

The teacher and the taught together create the teaching

Get out there with your children and together create your own learning!

Something other than writing!

One of my first on Instagram

One of my first on Instagram last Autumn

I’ve loved doing Instagram so far. I joined last Autumn, partly to try something new, partly to encourage myself to look in new ways at old routes I walk almost daily, and most of all because it gave me the chance to focus on something other than writing!

I know I write to supposedly enjoy it but, like with any work, there’s much of it that’s quite tedious. Same with my daily walks. Although I love to be outside and love the benefits of doing them, they’ve been grueling at times over the last few months in the chill and sometimes I really don’t want to go!

Helping me over that is the sense of wondering what I’ll find for my Instagram picture today.

Looking in a focused way at things takes time and attention. But it’s a great thing to do, especially with the kids. They often do it anyway, but we risk chivying them along towards our next destination.

Instead we should stop and give them the time to examine their world. From this observation and examination comes a host of other skills; questioning, increased attention skills, conversation – so consequently language development, perhaps extended research when you look it up, and  an inquiring mind, which is the foundation of learning.

But whatever you do – don’t suggest they write about it! Not unless the children want to. I made the mistake of doing this thinking that just because I was interested in recording my discoveries in written form, didn’t mean they would be. (You can read more of my tantrums and mistakes in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘ see the Books page)

Not only that, writing things down for some children is the bane of their life.

Writing is so outdated! The handwriting part – I wonder if it’ll die a death?

With our technology there are so many other ways of recording and learning, why labour over writing when you’ve got that to hand? It’s the same question as to why labour over making bread when you can buy a sliced loaf?

Sometimes we do both the writing and the bread making for pleasure and that’s fine. And we probably want the children to have the basic skill of writing longhand, it’s still part of our educational tradition. But it doesn’t take hours and hours of laborious practice, and it doesn’t mean that everything has to be written down all the time – I made that mistake when we were home educating, putting the kids off doing anything because of their fear of having to write about it afterwards! Too much writing creates the danger of putting kids off learning altogether.

If you think about it, writing doesn’t necessarily have to be the basis of education, even if it plays a part in it. I knew many HE children, ours among them, who did very little formal writing at home when they were young but still polished up their skills when it became necessary.

Education is not simply to do with writing about stuff: it is the experience of learning, not the recording of it, that matters. And we don’t want to be forever spoiling a stimulating experience by writing it up like schools do.

I know, I know; that’s exactly what I’m doing here about Instagram, ironically! But just this once. The rest of the time I use it as a pleasing alternative.

So, have a think how many pleasing and alternative ways you can find to give your children experiences of learning that don’t involve writing about it?

(And if you follow me on Instagram you’ll be able to share in my daily walk)

Deformalising learning to read

It’s so exciting to find researchers who acknowledge that home educators’ approaches make a valuable contribution to ideas about education. Harriet Pattison is one such person.

She describes herself as an erstwhile home educator still puzzling over the meanings of education, childhood and learning.  She continues to fly the flag for the alternative as a lecturer in Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University.

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

But all the while she’s been researching the way in which home educated children learn to read and from those examples considers how all educators could do with rethinking, and perhaps deformalising, their approach to it.

She told me how her research for her new book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ came about:

Education is supposedly about opening up children’s minds.  I think those of us who home educate might say actually it is about opening up adult’s minds.   Certainly home educating made a great start on opening up mine.  It’s amazing watching children; just watching them – not watching them learn or watching them develop but just watching them live.  Therein for me has lain an on-going puzzle.  The living is crowded in with an adult agenda and what was just being becomes doing and doing becomes learning.  But learning is what the adult sees because that’s what we are looking for; what the child does is be.  The puzzle reached its crescendo over learning to read.  How can children just live their way into reading?

Stories about children who ‘just started to read’ always fascinated me.  I wasn’t prepared to find it going on in my own house though.  I wasn’t prepared for the different ways in which it manifested itself.  The more I saw and the more I thought about it, the less I seemed to understand what it was all about.  When I couldn’t get out of the dead end of my own thinking, I started asking everyone else.  All home educators it seems have a tale about reading and I was lucky enough to share some really mind-blowing ones; ones that really rattle the cage of educational convention and demand some heavy re-thinking.

311 families with 400 children contributed to the research, answered my questions and shared their  stories and insights.  What emerged was a kaleidoscope of experiences, shimmers of similarity that turned away from each other, reflected but unsettled each other.  Beautiful, certainly but also unknown and, maybe even for that dangerous.  This was a rough ground of real life; tangled and complicated and wild – not something over which a neat frame of ready to hand theory could be tidily laid.  The stories, the wilderness, the puzzles demand that reading be re-thought because, somehow, our children have lived their way into a new territory of meaning.

‘Re-thinking learning to read’ is my foray into that wilderness.  I take with me a back pack of questions from the old world – all the things we worry about, the educational cares but also a strong desire to take nothing for granted, to begin again,  to rethink.

I’m reading the book at the moment and shall do a longer post about it soon.

Harriet is also co-author of the book ‘How children Learn at Home’ with Alan Thomas which researched the way in which children who are home educated learn through their experiences outside school.