Tag Archive | parenting

Why should home educating always be positive!

I was sharing some tweets with Kate @kateonthinice recently as she reported a positive home educating day on her blog. 

She’d fallen into a trap common with many home schooling families. The trap that makes you believe that just because you chose to home educate, every day should be positive. And actually there’s two traps, the second one being that if it isn’t you start to feel guilty about it!

I did it! I bet many home educators reading this have done it too – are doing it now perhaps? But now I know that this is absolutely crazy thinking.

Regularly check in with the things that make you feel good

Crazy in the first place to assume that you can make every day positive when in fact, you’re just human and some human days are totally crap, home educating or not! And crazy to overlook the glaringly obvious fact that, whatever you are doing, it is never always positive.

Life isn’t like that! Why would we assume home educating is one hundred percent positive all the time?

Get real!

Ironically, I’ve been reading lately about keeping happy. (I needed a booster after a recent bereavement). And there was quite an amazing idea in this book along with the usual notes about checking in with the small things, understanding your bad habits, getting exercise, etc.

The basic idea in conclusion was that generally we are born happy. We generally do not come into the world negative. But as we grow and experience difficulties and challenges which are inevitable if we want to do anything, we encounter things that makes us unhappy. What happens then is that we easily get into the habit of becoming tense about these things, then these habits become our default and before we know what’s happening we’re practising negativity all the time.

What we have to do to counteract this is to remember to put our default switch back to positive – remember the things that make us feel good and act on them. Remember that challenges sometimes get in the way of feeling positive but they can be overcome. And remember to return to our positive default when they have.

Nice idea!

In relation to home educating the same thing can happen. After a while we can easily become too serious. We can become bogged down with comparing our pathways to school ones (which is what we wanted to abandon remember). We can sometimes get too heavy with our youngsters. We can get over burdened on occasion with the magnitude of what we’re doing in stepping away from mainstream.

What helps on these occasions when you feel a bit negative and worry whether home educating was a positive decision after all, is to remember; 

  • life is never one hundred percent positive and schooling would equally be throwing up a whole bunch of negatives
  • to seek out others to talk to
  • to keep a balanced perspective on it all by remembering why you did it in the first place
  • to step back and see the bigger picture!

And stop feeling guilty if your days go askew for a while – totally understandable – parenting often goes askew whatever you’re up to. Don’t blame home education.

Life often goes askew. But guess what?

You can change it!

 

(Don’t forget; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ may help with some of those times too). Available  Eyrie Press. or Amazon. See the My Books page for more details.

Advertisements

Beyond home education

Okay, I’m going to do something I rarely do; put up a mugshot!

This is because when you start out home educating, or think about it as an option for the family, you rarely imagine that one day these littlies will be grown ups. What you normally think is OMG, what are we doing; how will it all turn out?

And this is to show you that it will all turn out okay – the kids will be fine and they’ll still love you!

Our home education took place in many venues and many forms. Charley left, Chelsea right.

If you’ve been reading this blog recently you’ll know I’ve just spent some time in Brighton watching Chelsea’s production in the Fringe – that’s what she’s doing now. She has her own production company which she runs with her partner producing shows (it’s Edinburgh Fringe next), as well as employment to keep the roof over her head and fund some of her enterprises.

Happily Charley could get time off work and come with us – it’s rare we can get all together at the same time. She’s an assistant manager with a big retail company now but also building an independent craft business at the same time.

They are hard working, intelligent, social and competent young women making independent lives for themselves and I’m immensely proud. But in those early days home educating I could never have predicted any of this. You just parent and guide and suggest and encourage and actually – with that support – they do it for themselves.

So, our two have chosen those routes, but other home educating families we knew have done other things, took degrees, are in various professions and self-employment. All busy. All independent. All social. All living their own succesful lives – but successful has a very personal and individual definition anyway. Just like with school kids – you can’t really predict how things will turn out. Both require an amount of faith and trust – school gives no guarantees of success or happiness.

So I thought I’d just put these pictures here as you may well have read about the girls when they were little in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and they feature in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’, to reassure you and encourage you to quit worrying and just get on with the very important business of enjoying your home educating time with your littlies because there will come a time when you only see them in snatches and only rarely get a pic! And it’s so lovely when you do, so just this once I’m sharing it with you!

Happy times with the girls in Brighton recently, Chelsea left, Charley right!

A plea to drivers – slow down for children

I’ve been out on my bike several times this week. This is to take care of my mental fitness as well as the physical. (There’s a good article about it here)

It works for the kids too as I describe in my ‘Home Education Notebook’, lifting moods and discharging niggles that build up like static if we spend too long inside. (See chapter 24 ‘The Outdoor Miracle’ and chapter 30 ‘Exercise for Education’s Sake’ where I talk about how it impacts on intelligence).

I have cycled round these narrow country lanes and enjoyed the feel of the wind on my scalp, since I was a youngster. So I have to admit to neglecting to get a helmet yet. Luckily, I no longer have to set an example to little kids; there’s none to see this bad practice. And thankfully, my daughter who cycles in the city, has the wisdom to wear one – glorious gold it is – unlike her mother!

But I need to update my habits. Because rural cycling is not like it used to be with the odd vehicle pottering slowly by. Cars come racing by on the narrow country lanes as fast as they do on the main roads. Faster in fact, as they use the back roads to avoid the speed limits on the major ones and consequently I’m sprayed with mud, stones and the wind rush of a car doing more than 50 miles per hour, pushing far too close in attempts to get by rather than wait for a wider stretch of road. When did people get so impatient? And when did people become so ignorant and disrespectful of other road users? Perhaps riding a bike for a week should be a standard part of the driving test.

It was just this type of behaviour that killed one of the children in the school where I was teaching at the time. This was the days before helmets were standard. The lorry raced past far too fast and far too close, without any regard at all for the fact cyclists wobbleespecially children – even without the wind rush. The child didn’t stand a chance and went under the rear wheels. A helmet wouldn’t have saved him. But a careful driver would. We all grieved for weeks. I can’t even begin to think how the parents felt.

We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool. But we can teach them to be wise, understand what using the road entails, be careful and of course wear a helmet.

And as drivers, we must always SLOW DOWN and give plenty of SPACE to cyclists, particularly CHILDREN. Remember that we are not the only road users and make sure that we are not one of the careless bastards who passed me today who put people at such risk.

 

A song for comfort

At this time of year I love to hear the blackbird song. He’s singing his rights to territory and of course serenading a potential mate. His song is the most delightful – up there with the more famous songsters the Nightingale and the Thrush.

I find these moments connected with nature immensely comforting and enriching – whichever I need at the time.

It was the Blackbird song that also prompted a short story from me which surprise surprise won a little competition at the time – not something I normally do. (Copied below)

And following a recent bereavement I was put in mind of how important it is to build these strategies to overcome tricky times in our lives and encourage our children to do the same. Life never runs smooth. There are smooth currents at times obviously, but also rapids, waterfalls and undercurrents to continue the analogy! And part of our duty as parents and educators of this next generation is to be honest about them and help the kids find ways to negotiate them too.

Some find music helps, some use gaming, some use art or social media. Some throw themselves into work. Or running or walking. Or writing – as I do at times. Love from others always brings solace. We are all different and all need different strategies that will help us do this; child or adult. I’m aware in my adult children how they have begun to develop their own. But more importantly how they do not take their spiritual and mental well being for granted but treat it seriously, acknowledge that it needs serious attention at times, and this is something we continue to talk about.

Looking after oneself, mentally and emotionally is as an important part of any education as the academic. We have to see that side of it is not neglected – not easy in schools I fear. In fact, many parents turn to home schooling for that very reason. But however your children are educated make sure some time is spent understanding and nurturing the spirits as well as any other part of the curriculum.

As for the story:

When I was little my mother would take me with her on her walk round the city’s evening streets. The reason she went was to listen to the Blackbird sing.

I felt a bit odd just standing there, unaware at the time that this was my first experience of the power of nature to feed our spirits. What I was aware of though was a special aura of peace upon her face as she stood upon the grey pavements and listened.

Growing up I began to learn a little more about this power. Freed from the taunts and terrors of schoolgirls that were my daily diet I’d spend hours walking the marshes where I could be alone in a completely natural environment. Here the traumas of adolescence were released into a feast of distance and solitude. When I was in a natural place, I could be myself, naturally. No need for artificial smiles, bravado, or attachment to gang behaviours you didn’t believe in. You could just stare at the horizon and be peaceful. You could simply be – although I wasn’t aware it had anything to do with the spirits just then.

But that practice has stayed with me always and now I know differently.

Now I know that in order for us to be well; body, mind and spirits, we need to check in with the natural universe from where the spirit comes. We need contact with ourselves and contact with the earth and the wider universe. Simple awareness will do, meditation, call it what you will, but it won’t be denied.

As long as I have that, a pain in the hip or a twinge in the joints can all be eased. It just takes a moment of appreciation in the way the sunshine can lick the fields into loveliness and I am well. A walk in the raging winds can whoosh deep rooted storms away from both the land and the soul. The song of the rising Lark can pick up my spirits from my boots and lift them high enough for me to see the light all around and beyond the oppressive troubles we attach ourselves to so deeply we become consumed. The lesson in my mother’s face taught me that early on.

When my mother died I felt crumpled and consumed with grief. I lay on the soggy bedcover not wanting to face the world. Yet something told me to get up and open the window and seek the solace I have always found in a breath of fresh breeze, the smell of soil or sea, the touch of nature’s palm. So I did.

And I do not believe that it was coincidence that, at the very moment I leaned from the bedroom window, the sweetest shrillest blackbird began to sing!

An ‘Easy Peasy’ approach to parenting!

I’ve recently been in touch Jo Carter, Home Educator and author of the book Easy Peasy Parenting. Knowing that parenting certainly isn’t easy I was fascinated to know more, so I invited her here to talk a little about her home education, and her parenting philosophies.

This is what she says:

Could we have imagined how it would feel to be a parent? Even if others tried to explain it to us we couldn’t really understand until we experienced it for ourselves.

I was going to be the best parent ever and my children and I were going to have a beautiful relationship. The reality was much different. Oh, there were good times but far too many unhappy times for my liking.

I home educate because I want my children to learn what they want, when they want. There is so much potentially to learn and I believe my children are best equipped to know what serves their needs best. I describe myself as a facilitator. I love that we don’t learn in order to pass arbitrary tests. I love that we spend lots of time together having fun and this has made us close as a family. I love that my children get to choose how to spend each day and with whom.

But as home educators we also have the added responsibility of providing the best education for our children. Of course this will mean different things to different people but if things don’t seem to be going to plan for our child then we can’t even blame the school for failing them. The buck stops with us.

The responsibility of being a home educating mum could mean that I might neglect my own needs in order to give my children what I believe to be the best start in life. In fact, this is what I used to do.

Feeling overwhelmed by this responsibility, I came across a philosophy that radically changed my life and the way I approach home education and parenting.

I heard the theory, ‘We are meant to be happy’ and it resonated with me. I learned that our feelings are created by our thoughts about a situation rather than the situation itself. Rather than demanding circumstances to be a certain way in order for me to be happy I learned to find happiness in the current situation by changing my thoughts. The irony was that as I learned to accept and find the joy in the moment, my circumstances began to morph.

My mantra became, ‘The best thing I can do for my children is be happy.’ This simple philosophy has been a game-changer for me.  When I am feeling negative emotion in the midst of a busy family day I recognise that my thoughts are unhelpful. (I categorize thoughts as helpful or unhelpful rather than true or untrue.) My first priority is to find better feeling thoughts before I carry on with the task at hand.

Of course this is often easier said than done. Maybe the beliefs I hold run too deep to deal with in a short amount of time. Maybe I can’t stop what I’m doing in order to do one of the processes I share in my book, ‘Easy Peasy Parenting’. In times like these, I remember that my feelings are a result of my thoughts, rather than being caused directly by a person or circumstance. This keeps the focus of attention away from them and hopefully results in damage limitation until I can process the event, and my thoughts about it, more fully.

The philosophy is ‘Easy Peasy’ as all I have to do is be happy and everything else will fall into place. Putting it into practice though is often hugely challenging as we are forced to explore and challenge our, often deeply held, beliefs in the search of better feeling thoughts. I have found (and still do at times) the process to be simple yet soul searching. I imagine the goal of feeling better as my anchor or beacon as I manage the mammoth task of raising and home educating my children.

I share all the strategies and techniques I use on a regular basis to create the joyful family life I always dreamed of, in my book, ‘Easy Peasy Parenting’. Available on Amazon in paperback or kindle version.

Thanks to Jo for her thought provoking piece. Do explore her book and website for further tips and support with your parenting.

 

Making kids feel significant

Don’t you feel small and insignificant sometimes!

Three weeks of no internet at home, despite endless phone calls with our provider full of unfulfilled promises, lies and still not reconnected, and that’s how I’m feeling.

Somewhere to blow cobwebs away – between downpours!

Our problem is that we are just one insignificant customer, at the end of an insignificant lane in the middle of nowhere, with antiquated cabling full of shotgun holes it’s not worth their while replacing, whilst they have big commercial corporations who make them big fat profits to attend to.

Always the case, I suppose.

It takes all my will power just to feel calm – I don’t always manage it. I turn to my usual antidote; getting outside, but that’s a weather challenge at the moment!

At least when I am online (at friends’ houses and when I have enough signal for mobile data) you, my dear readers, make me feel a little less invisible with your warm responses. So thanks for those – always much appreciated. It’s lovely to connect.

It’s amazing to think that when we first home educated we weren’t properly connected to the wonderful web at all. And our first investigations into it led us to a prostitute! (You can read the amusing story in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

But what an amazing resource it is for home schoolers now. How connected to everything home educating families can be. You can get instant access to knowledge, curriculum, answers to just about anything, resources – loads of which are free, teachers and tutors, and best of all instant connection to those doing the same as you, consequently instant support. Makes you wonder how we ever did anything without it. (Although I’m rediscovering that at the moment)!

It’s probably had the biggest impact on parents’ decision to take this approach to education and accounts for the enormous rise in families doing so. It also means that home education need not be the isolate experience that people worried it might be at the outset. Minority groups need not be marginalised any more.

Of course, wonderful though the internet is, it cannot provide the most important resource a child could have for their education; the time and attention of another human being.

You can view others online, obviously, you can even read facial expressions.

But someone in the room, by your side, holding your hand and physically encouraging a learner by their presence and attention is the absolute best. It tells the kids they are worth it, they are important, that they are significant enough for us to give our adult time to.

Unlike I’m feeling at the moment!

So however much learning and educating we do online, however global our classrooms progress to being, with thousands virtually learning in front of a screen at the same time, let it never be the case that children are denied that warm humane presence as part of their education.

It’s what shows them how to be humane, the understanding of which is surely part of being educated. And is what shows them that they are significant.

Happy Easter!

I always think of Easter as the gateway through which spring passes.  

I love it – more importantly for me because the equinox has passed and, although the weather still can throw up some challenges yet, at least we have more light than dark in a day. After long dark winter days that also darken my moods, it’s a blessing to have that.

It affects the children’s moods too, did you realise?

I relate a story in my ‘A Home Education Notebook’ when, having got pretty much to the end of my tether with the children (my mood’s fault as much as theirs) I bundled them up despite conditions and we went out for a walk. This wasn’t without protest – but I pressed on determinedly.

And I’m so glad I did. For everything changed. Their moods picked up, bickering was forgotten, spirits lifted, the grumpy tweenager even started singing! And when we got back with sniffy noses and blazing cheeks everyone was calmer, more peaceful, more tolerant! It was an antidote to doldrums I could always rely on.

Have you tried it?

There are many studies now that show the benefits of time outside everyday – most importantly for the children, both physically and mentally. And it’s so uplifting anyway.

There’s much to seek; buds bursting – look out for the sticky ones, birds carrying twigs for nests, bulbs blooming, primroses, lambs, the first butterfly/bee/ladybird. And the time when the sun actually feels warm on your face.

Turn yours up to it like sunflowers, cure your family gripes, run off all that chocolate; get yourselves outside.

Have a Happy Outdoor Easter!