Tag Archive | parenting

Learning is not the result of teaching…

I had such a treat the other day; the opportunity to meet some fresh new home educators just starting out on their home education adventure.

They had two young children who’d only been at school a little since they’d started due to the pandemic. And it was this which had presented the parents with an opportunity to witness other approaches to learning. And see a change in their children’s health and wellbeing when out of school.

The biggest reason for them finally making the decision to take the children out of school now that they were attending again full time, they told me, was the deterioration in their children’s happiness and health again, both of which had dramatically improved in the months they’d been forced into doing school-at-home.

That was exactly what we witnessed in ours and a story that I hear so often from others.

It happens, I feel, because of something so many people fail to see or acknowledge: It’s not that children don’t like to learn – their curiosity and endless questions are proof that they do. It’s more because schools do not provide an environment in which all learners will thrive. That’s through no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is – although huge improvements could be made – but no one wants to acknowledge the needs of some children for something different.

Not every child’s personality is suited to the hubbub of school. And why should they be forced to endure it at the expense of their learning potential and wellbeing. These parents felt exactly the same about this and it’s what fuelled their decision.

Another interesting conversation I had with them stemmed from the fact that mum was a primary teacher. But she admitted she had an immense amount of un-learning to do herself, about the way children were taught, in relation to the way children learnt. And that these, in fact, are two very different things. She’d begun to see that now as she examined other approaches to educating, especially the more autonomous ones that she’d read about.

It put me in mind of an idea I came across very early on in our home educating days which was so helpful: That learning is not the result of teaching. It is the result of the activity of the learners.

During our early home educating days I thought a lot about what that actually means and kept the word ‘activity’ to the forefront of my approach to the children. It really helped.

Some valuable science going on here but sometimes the activities of my little learners seemed questionable. However, they all piece together to make a stimulating and successful education

This new home educating parent felt like I did about much of what went on in schools and what teachers were obliged to do to children under the guise of educating them. And how much of that was not only a waste of time, but also on occasion not doing the kids any good at all!

When you’re stuck in an institution you learn to do what the institution dictates. Schools are institutions which are at the mercy of decision makers and politicians who mostly have little knowledge of learning, education, children’s development and what is needed to become truly educated. Indeed what education truly is and what it’s for; in life beyond school and at a personal level. It’s not just about exams. (Read more on this in my educational philosophy by scrolling down the page ‘About Home Education) All politicians think about are the stats which tests and exams provide. But stats have nothing to do with the humanity of children and the way they learn and how to integrate into society.

These two little ones I met were happy, articulate, social, busy, engaged and had an actively developing intelligence.

This little family are clearly going to be okay as they find their way along the home educating road, making it up as they go along, as most of us do. Just like we do with parenting. And I’m confident it will all turn out okay as it does for most, despite the fact that it feels like a bit of a patchwork, DIY affair when you start out. It all works.

Of course, the big exams of the future question came up, even though these children were only at the primary stage. And I know it’s what a lot of parents worry about – politics has taught us to!

I told them that parents find their way with that at the time and not to look too far ahead. I always say that if you take care of the little learning moments, conversations, activities of your learners, and their well being each day, the future will take care of itself.

It was such a delight to be in the company of this little home educating family. And it made me feel again how I miss all those Home Ed times and the activities of my little learners!

After the Jubilee

Back to a ‘normal’ Monday then after all the jubilation!

Except it never has to be normal with home education. It’s what you make it. And there’s certainly been a lot of extraordinary fuss made over the weekend.

I’m not necessarily pro-royal, probably more of an agnostic when it comes to royalty and often cringe at the amount of money spent on events like these when there are so many people in such dire need.

But even I was seduced by the joy of so many smiling faces on the news after a pretty austere couple of years fraught with the anxieties and deprivations covid brought, not to mention war. It’s certainly been a spectacle, some of it a tad freaky like the projection of the queen’s smiling face on the carriage window! But all this expenditure – is it justified?

Who knows? That’s a good topic for discussion in your household and a golden opportunity – or should that be platinum opportunity – to do plenty of history and, pro-royal or not, examine the background leading up to the event and the unique concept of seventy years rule in relation to all the monarchs who have gone before.

Learning about history, or indeed learning about anything, is so much more effective, meaningful, likely to be retained, if it is relevant to a child’s life in the here and now. The jubilee is relevant now; the children have lived through a remarkable event unlikely to be repeated. And it presents an opportunity to look back and forward and examine the implications of it. How an understanding of history explains current events and shows us how to proceed without making the same mistakes, hopefully. As we’re trying to do with planetary concerns.

History in my childhood was as dull as ditch water. It was just a question of learning dusty unrelated dates and events and regurgitating them for exams, presented in such a way as to make me question what the heck was it all for. Just so I could be tested?

But today’s educational culture is so different. And even more wonderful with home educating in that you can move away from learning unrelated bites of knowledge learnt for testing and learn purposefully instead, for interest, for fascination, for relevance, for the enhancement of personal development and future life. The children have lived through a unique historical event. And all the discussions, questions, hypotheses, considerations, ideas, opinions, and conversations about what’s happening in the children’s lives now, jubilee or otherwise, promote skills that develop an educated mind. And an educated mind is far more important than test results, both personally, societally and culturally.

Whatever you thought about the jubilee I hope you enjoyed the general goodwill, smiles and celebratory atmosphere that seemed to flow over the long weekend. And you carry some of that jubilation forward into the forthcoming weeks, whatever you learn about and however you do it. For purposeful learning can be just as jubilant!

Happy Easter and a reminder to be outside

I think of Easter as a time to celebrate the marvels of the earth through this season of rebirth, regrowth and the nature’s burgeoning vitality. When days of longer light can make my own sap rise along with that of the trees and plants as I suddenly feel more energised!

What better time than this to commit to more time outside, experiencing and learning about our essential connection to the earth first hand. Learn along with the kids how all species are connected to the lives of others and imperative for the longevity of the planet, for our own health and well being and that of our children.

Article here suggests children need at least two hours a day outside.

And this one goes into more detail about the benefits to both physical, mental and spiritual health and its impact on our immune systems.

So what better time to take a serious look at increasing your outdoor time than Spring, when it is so pretty and inviting and downright dramatic with its April showers!

The perfect time to educate for increased understanding of the planet, how to live upon it with more respect and less impact. The more the children know, the more their respect will grow.

Go out to witness and experience:

  • Birds – with bits in their mouths, either for nest building or for baby feeding, or singing their Springtime songs, migrants that have recently arrived
  • Emerging insects – from creepy crawlies in the crevices to the first bee or butterfly you’ve seen this year
  • Rain – appreciating the fact that it is essential for survival. How often do you consider that? And consider also ways in which you can economise with your water usage – waste less of this essential resource. In fact, there’s lots of varying weather to experience during Spring
  • Young – the best time for seeing newborns, especially lambs. There may be a farm or a centre nearby you can visit, a river for ducklings, or listen out for baby bird cheeps in roofs, trees and hedges
  • Plants, shrubs and trees that are beginning to leaf up or bloom. If you have a garden get the kids involved in growing things, in pots if you don’t, in order to learn about the vital elements needed in order to grow; nourishment, light, water – which we need too! Along with health giving contact with soil!

You may live in a concrete environment, but that is all the more reason you need to teach the children about the earth that lies underneath and to find ways to get them back in contact with it. Otherwise how will they know it’s there, grows our food, supports our lives, and that it needs our attention? Use the occasion to celebrate this earth and the abundance of life bursting around us, on which all ultimately depend, however city central we live.

Have a Happy Easter and springtime!

Spring amid the concrete

Home School Wobbles?

Home educating is a glorious experience.

But it’s also no picnic – well – not all the time anyway. Although most if it for us did feel like a joyful romp away from the restriction of mainstream, with an expanding horizon of liberated learning all the way.

Even so, that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t lose the plot on occasion; have wobbles and tantrums (mine mostly) and doubts and bad days.

We did.

They passed!

Someone messaged me recently to tell me that whenever that happened to them they just picked up my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and could find comfort and reassurance. That’s good to know. For that’s exactly why it came to be written.

Because I knew exactly what those moments, or days, felt like and I wanted to offer something to help. In fact a reader of another of my books (Learning Without School), which came before the Notebook, said that she kept it on her bedside table for just those occasions. And that nearly became its title; the home education bedside book!

Having been right through home education, and those little children in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ living and working independently now, it’s as if it never happened. It certainly isn’t really relevant to their days any more. You ‘couldn’t tell’ if they went to school or not – as someone once offered as a response to being told they were home educated. We did laugh over that! But it might reassure you to know that although it feels like an enormously unorthodox and controversial step to you now, come the future it will all even out into mainstream life.

So don’t panic.

When you’re panicking and wobbling and losing the plot – which is downright natural anyway, we’re only human – consider some of the following:

  • you would be worrying just as much about your child in school
  • bad days are natural – whatever you’re doing
  • remember all the wonderful opportunities it gives you and why you did it in the first place
  • you might just be tired – back off and trust
  • not every single moment of every day needs to be filled with work and learning. It wouldn’t be in school. You achieve things quicker at home with individual attention, so your kids have more free time which is equally valuable to their development
  • being a thinking and intelligent person as you must be to do this in the first place, you will not spoil your child. None of my contemporaries who’ve also come out the ‘other side’ have spoiled theirs – I don’t know a home educator who has
  • love and happiness are as important to educational development as academics
  • being social doesn’t come from being in school
  • test results don’t equate to being an educated person
  • learning ‘difficulties’ often disappear outside of school
  • everything is always easier when you get outdoors – use that opportunity you have
  • consider what you think an educated person is and aim for that, as much as ‘results’!
Just one of the chapters from A Home Education Notebook

All of these topics and more are covered in my ‘Home Education Notebook’ so it might help you to have one handy to dip into on such occasions as these when, like us, you lose the plot.

But always remember that whenever the plot is lost – you can always find it, or renew it, or recharge it, and get going again!

Meanwhile, enjoy your home education. It won’t be there forever!

Oh – and a little head’s up; keep your eye on this space – there’s a new edition of ‘A Home Education Notebook’ coming soon with a completely new chapter which revisits many of the young people we home educated with to see what they are doing now! Always a subject everyone wants to know about!

Learning to read – whatever age!

How will the kids learn to read if they don’t go to school? This is a question often asked by potential home educators.

Bearing in mind the fact that there are kids who have gone to school and not learned to read, and adults out in the working world who also can’t read like Jay Blades, the presenter of the programme ‘The Repair Shop’, I’d like tell you that school is not the only route to learning to read. And sometimes even hampers it by the approaches and strategies they attach to it, particularly if you’re dyslexic, a condition which affects the way you process information like the written word.

I watched the programme by Jay Blades; ‘Learning to Read at 51’. It was brave and insightful. Yet he’s not the only one who has been blighted by school approaches to learning to read and the lack of empathy for an individual who needs a something a bit different. It was great that he brought that to the public eye.

The education system has over complicated the process of learning to read with their use of strategies and schemes and over intense focus on acquiring certain levels at certain ages and not allowing time for those who need longer. Even worse is the fact that children who learn differently and not at the expected generic rate are made out to be failures.

Added into this recipe for disaster is the way in which the literacy curriculum inhibits the associated use of language by the complicated dissection of it into named parts like ‘frontal adverbials’ and ‘split infinitives’, and invent academic exercises to practise use of them, as if this helps kids to use it more competently. It doesn’t really.

I’d like to tell you a little known fact: none of these approaches are in fact strictly necessary. Or will guarantee a child learns to read or communicate effectively through the written word, which is after all the point of it. But parents have been frightened into thinking that their children won’t learn to read, or be able to successfully use language throughout their adult life, without such approaches.

Totally untrue.

Children can – and do – learn to read without any of these formal approaches. There are enough home educated adults now who are living proof.

Although most home schooling parents do guide and facilitate their children towards reading, there are children who have learnt by themselves without any formal intervention at all apart from encouragement and exposure to reading and text. And there is plenty of opportunity to do this surrounded as we are by signs, packets, media, texting, gaming, all of which are valuable opportunities to experience reading. It’s not confined to books!

Another very important influence on them acquiring the skill is the sight of you reading. Children want to do what you do, want to access and enjoy books like you do, want to read your tablet, texts and messages, and love being read to – which has a direct effect upon their reading skills. It’s all part of their desire to read, important for motivation. If they’re motivated – and not put off by dull strategies that kill the joy of using language – they’ll read.

It doesn’t have to be attached to age either, despite what schools would say. Each child is different and will come to it at a different time and maybe in a different way. Even those with specific challenges like Dyslexia, like Jay, have been able to read in different time frames.

A marvellous book which illustrates how this happens, and how we should perhaps change our minds about the teaching of reading is ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ by Harriet Pattison, an educationalist and home educator herself. (Blog here about it). If anything is going to give you the courage to believe you could teach your child to read it’s this book – worth a read.

What’s most important is that parents should believe in their ability to facilitate their child’s progress with reading, and trust the fact that with encouragement and faith, they can make it happen.

After all, I have known adults who’ve been through the school system and come out unable to read. But I haven’t known a home educated child who hasn’t managed it in the end.

And maybe if Jay had been afforded more patient and sympathetic approaches during his education, he would have been able to read before the age of 51, as he clearly has the ability to overcome the challenges he faces.

However long it takes, and unless your reader has very severe or specific difficulties, home schooling gives you the time you need to develop a reader – you just need to provide the encouragement and patience!

Every day with a child…

January can be a grim and gruelling month. A bit hard to get through I used to find during our home educating days, with the lack of light, post holiday blues, challenging weather making it difficult to get out with the kids, and moods also lacking in light! It’s hard to find any January brightness.

So in case it’s a bit like that for you right now now I thought I’d share this uplifting blog from a while back just to remind you what an amazing thing you’re doing, just being a parent, never mind a home schooling parent!

Here it is:

Every day with a child is an opportunity to enhance a future

Have you ever thought of it like that? Possibly not when continuous days with children can be a bit wearing, doing activities at their level a bit boring and their endless energy exhausting.

But if you think about it, every moment you spend with children influences a future. Their future. Your future. Society’s future. The Earth’s.

Why is that then?

Well – children are so readily influenced; so believing and naive and absorbent to learning. The experiences they have with you, however large or seemingly small, make an impact on them. They are like little computers gathering input from the things around them, from the things that happen and are said to them, and assimilating that with what has happened before. Small children don’t even have the filters that come with maturity to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. They just absorb it all. Take it fairly literally. Digest it. And what they perceive becomes part of them.

So whatever experience they have, whether it’s fun or loving, wise or trusting, harsh or unjust, exciting or dull or dismissive, it moulds their understanding and view of the world, their impact on others, their education and even their personalities to a degree.

All interactions with our worlds shape who we are and what we do with our future. And the biggest influence on that shape comes when we are young, through the people we’re with.

Like your child with you.

That’s the way in which being with children has the opportunity to shape the future; we’re shaping a future being.

No small responsibility then!

But it needn’t be daunting. For it is quite simple really. Simply being with children – and being simply good – does the trick.

Being positive and fair, encouraging and caring, showing them what an unbelievably exciting place the world can be, what a myriad of fulfilling possibilities there are, how incredible all aspects of the planet are, how being loving and caring of the planet and the people in it will bring love and care back to them, and how to deal with aspects of the opposite in a way that dissipates harm rather than expanding it. Just showing how a simple goodness makes life good – that’s enough to shape a good future – make it simple and sweet.

These are the ways in which we have the opportunity to enhance a future. Everyone’s future, for the way in which our children grow up will impact on everyone if you think about it broadly.

That’s what you’ll be doing as you parent and home educate. How amazing is that!

Have a great day.

A little January brightness to look forward to

Merry Christmas!

What a year it’s been since last Christmas!

Don’t know about you but our Christmas last was a disastrous let down because we couldn’t see all our loved ones. But it really showed that Christmas is about loved ones most of all; all of the other trappings are secondary. It’s looking better this year. Fingers crossed! Hope it is for you too.

So here’s wishing you the Christmas you’ve been hoping for and special helpings of calm and contentment included.

Card by a textile artist friend and wreath by Charley!

And I especially wanted to thank all those who read my work and send me such supportive messages. Your contact and support has meant so much during this weird year! Thank you!

See you in the next….

Meanwhile have a happy holiday full of love and peace.

Christmas tales…

A little Christmassy extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – the heartfelt story of our family’s learning days at home, when the girls were roughly nine and twelve:

“…With it being our third year of kids at home full time around Christmas you’d think we’d have engineered a plan for secrets. We decided we’d try honesty and appeal to their mature natures now that they were eleven and eight.

“Your dad and I are just going upstairs for a while and it’s important you don’t disturb us. Have you got things to do?”

“What for?” There was a little twinkle in Chelsea’s eye as she asked which reminded me distinctly of mum.

“It’s a secret,” I said smiling.

“A Christmas secret?” asked Charley also grinning now and knowing exactly what we were up to.

“Maybe,” said their dad. He tried to be mysterious but the girls are too clever for him. “So you won’t disturb us, will you?”

“Maybe!” returned Chelsea copying him and Charley smirked.

We went upstairs and de-hid all their presents from our various drawers.

“Do you think they’ll disturb us?” said Charles, cutting paper on the slant and wrestling to find the end of the sticky tape.

“I don’t think so, but look, we’ll turn back the bedcovers then if they come up whilst we’re wrapping we’ll throw the duvet over everything.” You have to be inventive when you’re a Home Educator.

“Do you remember doing this when they were at school,” I said.

“Yea, life was easy then,” he said grinning and spitting sticky tape from between his teeth.

“What? You think tears and illness every day were easy?” We laughed. I wrapped. He stuck. If he was in charge of the wrapping all the presents would look like parcels of fish and chips.

“No, it was awful. I can’t believe we’ve done this as long as we have. It just seems so ordinary now. You should hear the others at work going on about homework and packed lunches and stuff. Not to mention Christmas concert practises. They’re complaining the kids aren’t getting on with their learning” He stuck my finger to the parcel.

I extricated it and reached for some ribbon.

“I can imagine. Do they say anything about ours then?”

“Only how they can see why we do it.” He put his massive thumb on the delicate bow I created, squishing it. I tied his thumb down.

“Not enough for them to have a go though!” I laughed. Then the stairs creaked. Charles leapt off the bed, smacked his head on the sloping ceiling but still managed to toss the duvet over the presents as I stuffed the paper under the bed. We sat there and listened. Sniggering was coming from the landing.

“Go away,” Charles called.

“We’re not coming in, we’re only going to our rooms.” The giggling got fainter. We exchanged looks. Charles sneaked a peek through a crack in the old planked door.

“What they doing?” I whispered.

“They’ve gone into their bedrooms but their doors are open.”

“Let’s carry on. I don’t think they’ll come in. They wouldn’t want to spoil their Christmas surprises. Besides, I think Chelsea’s becoming aware of other things that go on in bedrooms!”

Charles raised his eyebrows in glee. “In that case, perhaps we should make good use of it.”

“What? You think you could enjoy sex with giggling going on at the bedroom door and creaking floorboards?” We laughed like naughty kids but continued wrapping.

“What you laughing at?” came from right outside the door. We bundled the duvet back over everything once more.

“Never you mind. Go back downstairs,” I shouted. I crept over and peeped to see if there was any peeping coming from the other side the crack. None.

“Come on, let’s get it done before they come up again.” The rest were wrapped in haste and I fear my parcels looked like fish and chips too.

Charley looked shocked and uncomfortable. Her face was full of both thunder and distress and very red. Her eyes looked like they were going to fill up any minute. She turned her head away and would not look at Charles or me either.

Chelsea just folded her arms across her chest, adopted her most disdainful position and stated emphatically “If anyone asks; you are not my dad.”

Charles couldn’t help it. All the staff were told to dress up for the Christmas market for charity but the girls weren’t impressed. And Charley absolutely hated anyone dressed up in costume.  I got a bit of a shock myself seeing this large rotund red fellow with two cushions up his jacket and his face adorned with a mass of flowing white stuff. It’s very off-putting seeing someone who you are as familiar with as your own body parts taking on another persona. He was sweating so much the bits of his face you could see were authentically shining as Santa’s does in all the pictures. It did the trick. A good crowd had gathered at the store and money was being thrown continually in the charity bucket.

“God, I keep losing my trousers,” he said grabbing a handful of red bottom and hoisting it up. I couldn’t help laughing.

“I knew you’d laugh,” he said.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just your trousers.” I tried to help. But grappling with Santa’s trousers seemed even funnier. Obviously everyone else thought so too as two more pounds went in the bucket. It’s not every day people see Santa being groped.

“Do you have to behave like that?” demanded Chelsea, standing holding Charley’s hand a little bit distant whilst we tried to control our hysteria. She still wouldn’t look at him.

“Have a sweetie,” said Charles holding out the bucket to her.

“No!”

“It’s only a bit of fun,” I said.

“You look stupid.”

I didn’t care, I was in the Christmas spirit. I had a quick snog with Santa and left him to his collecting.

“We’ll go look round the Christmas Market. See you later.”

“Okay. See you later girls.” They ignored him and pulled me away. But Chelsea called back over her shoulder.

“Save us some sweeties, dad.”

We bought a few Christmas presents and then had to get some new wellies for Chelsea. Charley just got the hand-me-downs but she was still at the stage where anything of Chelsea’s was revered. Wellies had taken on a new persona of their own in the shops. They were more pictorial than the efforts we see in the Tate Modern and a hell of a price. I refused to be ripped off, plus the fact we had tight budgets. But Chelsea ogled the bright ones wistfully.

“I’m sorry darling, these will have to do. The others are just too expensive,” I said picking up the plain green ones, the cheapest we could find. I felt a bit wretched about this. In order to Home Educate, time isn’t the only thing we sacrifice and all I ever seem to say is ‘we can’t afford it’. But she’s so intuitive she must have picked up on it.

“It doesn’t matter mum. I’ll paint my own with the paints we got from the recycling centre.”

I was so grateful for her magnitude I cuddled her up. “What a brilliant idea! And I bet they’ll be better than any in the shops.”

“Yea, and no one else will have any the same,” she said looking at a girl wearing some we’d just seen in Woolworths.

“Can I paint mine too?” asked Charley.

“Sure. We’ll have a wellie painting session. We could even paint your dad’s,” I said winking at them. They really liked that idea.

When we went back later Charles looked his normal self again. He opened his arms to Charley and she leapt into them with clear relief. Chelsea lobbed her arms round his waist.

“Is that better now?” he asked carrying Charley to the car. She inspected him slightly doubtfully. Chelsea smiled happily up at him holding the free hand.

“You did look daft, dad,” she giggled.

“Did you remember the sweets?” asked Charley.

He put her down and produced a packet from his pocket. Finally Charley grinned at him too. It was definitely better now.

“Mum! You can’t go out like that,” Chelsea said as I tied tinsel on my shoes ready for a Christmas party.

“Why not? It’s Christmas isn’t it.” I looked at her in feigned indignation. She’d got that suffering look on again.

“Doh! What do you look like?” She was getting to be a right Tweenager.

“I think you look nice,” said Charley clasping my leg in a cuddle from the carpet where she was building a structure with our logs.

“Well at least put some lipstick on,” said Chelsea still trying to make something out of me. She rummaged in a make up bag so extensive it would be the envy of Julian Clary. “How about this?” She produced something nearly black.

“Black?” I shrieked. “It’s Christmas, not Halloween.”

“It’s not black, it’s plum.”

“I’ll have some,” said Charley hopefully. She was ignored. I sneaked a look in the bag of sticky powdery tubs and jars and pencils. It staggered me how she loved it so, I wasn’t into it at all. But I humoured her and found a jar of lovely sparkly glittery gluey stuff with sequin stars in.

“Ooo, this is nice.” I opened the pot and smeared some across my chest. It made grubby stains as if I hadn’t washed for a week. “Oh!” I looked in the mirror, disappointed.

“Oh, mum, not like that.” Chelsea took over and I had the sense our mother and daughter roles were reversing. She wiped it about and the smudges disappeared leaving a myriad of glistening sparkles. Then she added the sequins.

“Can I have some?” asked Charley again, thinking her sister had softened her attitude.

“No!” was the emphatic retort.

“Can I have some then?” asked Charles.

“NO!” they both shrieked together. And give us their parents-are-prats look.

We finished getting ready.

“So do we look alright now?” I asked.

“Yes.” They smile united. But I couldn’t help a last word.

“You know it’s not how you look, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“Yes, we know!”

They know too much, my kids.

Christmas continued sparkly all the way through.

The best thing about it was the painted wellies. They were works of art fit for exhibiting in The Tate themselves, with swirls and colours and rainbows. If I’d bought the coloured ones we never would have had such creativity. Being on a tight budget certainly makes you think creatively so maybe I shouldn’t worry after all. Charley painted gold stars on hers. But she painted straight over the mud so the stars had a brown tinge.

Charles and I used the ‘holiday’ from education to ignore the children and just live life. But it didn’t work. We didn’t want it to really. We were a family, we were a team. Life and education were as indistinguishable from one another as our family and love. I suspected it always would be.”

You cannot photograph sensations

I’ve enjoyed Instagramming my regular walks – wanting to share a bit of the countryside with you all.

The danger of Instagram though, and other social media sites, is that you can be so busy photographing the moment, you’re not actually engaging with it. More than likely you’re engaging with the opportunity to show it off to others. In fact, holding your phone up almost creates a barrier – certainly a psychological one – between you and the sensation of mindfully enjoying.

I noticed this particularly on an autumn walk a month or so ago. I was so busy sharing the experience on my phone, and looking at the photos to see if they were good enough, I’d disengaged from the experience itself. Not just the sight of nature laid sweetly before my eyes, but all the other sensations of being there as well; a last bit of Lark song of the season, the smell of the damp foliage, the shine of the dew and the soft touch of the gentle breeze.

Instead of mindfully being there, I was missing it all. I put the phone away.

This is why I hardly took any photos at my daughter’s wedding. (See recent post here) There were several others snapping away, some who’d been particularly engaged to do so. There would be plenty of photographic memories, I could appropriate!

But you can’t photograph sensations. And it was the sensations of the day I wanted to bring away with me.

And it’s made me wonder, as I see so many photos of your delightful children and the activities they’re doing splashed across social media, whether some parents are so busy photographing their kids for posting on sites they’re actually missing out on the sensations of being there with them.

One day you won’t be! They’ll have flown.

A grainy one from the pre-digital days, when the odd personal photos were more treasured for being fewer, and we were consequently more engaged with the moment!

A single photo memory is nice to have, I agree. But I suspect our phones have pushed us beyond that, beyond even the sensation of wanting to share, towards an addiction of wanting approval, likes and endorsement. These gadgets and platforms are designed to be addictive.

Just a thought.

So this is a call for you to enjoy your kids while they’re there with you. Masses of pics are no substitute for living the moment, of being with them, engaged. The depth of those feelings cannot be reproduced in an other medium. Only that which you have experienced within.

Put your phone down and live your life as a parent for the experience at the time, not for the reproduction of it.

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.