Tag Archive | parenting

Put yourself in a learner’s shoes

Being back in the position of a learner again would do all teachers good. Because you forget what it’s like and forget to look at learning from the position of a learner.

I’ve been reflecting on this. Because I find I’m a complete beginner in my new role in the bookshop, which I talked about before. Trying to work complicated tills is as alien to me as flying a spaceship and I realise what a horrible feeling it is when you can’t do it!

Kids are in this position all the time. And I bet they don’t like it either. But we don’t often give consideration to that. Even worse; we get annoyed when they don’t ‘get’ it, as if they’re doing it deliberately – I’ve certainly experienced that both first hand and observed, in schools and out.

I’ve observed that people who are trying to teach can be more concerned with their own agenda – that is, making someone learn – than with the learner’s needs and the manner in which they’re best able to learn it.

I believe the distinguishing feature of a good teacher lies with the focus (- subject matter aside). A good teacher is not focused on what they want to teach. A good teacher is focused on what or how the learner needs to learn. And if the way we’re teaching  isn’t working for the learner we need to look at changing ourselves, rather than trying to blame the learner, as so often happens.

Parents who are home educating have the opportunity to keep that focus balanced in favour of the learner, unlike teachers in schools who have to teach to the demands of a school’s agenda. Which, let’s face it, has nothing to do with most of our learners’ needs!

Being a complete beginner at something, or not knowing how to do it at all (me on the tills!) is a wretched position to be in. But many teachers and parents forget that as we sit smug in our elevated position of knowing and showing.

So we should take ourselves back to our own learning days and remember what it felt like (like getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time). And have some compassion for a learner’s position, rather than impatience. Impatience prevents the learner from learning well. Learning needs to be a positive experience for them to truly flourish.

Thankfully my teachers in the shop have enormous patience with me. The same patience I like to think I had with the learners in schools and my own two home educators here.

But maybe patience isn’t the point. As I said above, the point is the learners needs, sometimes what’s needed in a home ed household is to take advantage of the great flexibility you have with learning, try various approaches or just leave it for another day when the learner is more receptive or mature.

For unlike in the bookshop, there’s no queue of people waiting to see whether your learner can do it or not, or restrictions on when they need to do it. And that was one of the reasons you opted to home educate wasn’t it?

So, put yourself back in the position of a beginner and remember to educate to your learner’s needs and not to some other agenda!

‘Unruly’ and what to do about it.

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There’s times for running and times for not!

Been for a haircut. And the inevitable ‘chat’ with the hairdresser, which I freely admit I’m not very good at. But she cut the girls’ hair when we were home educating, without judgement on what we were doing, and always asks after them.

She’s a lovely young woman who has some fairly powerful views, many of them on parenting, even though she’s not a parent herself. She sees some fairly ‘unruly’ children in the hairdressers whose parents drag them in, dump them in the chair, then leave the responsibility of them to her whilst they pop to the shops!

Even without being a parent she’s aware that this is not ideal parenting. And she’s also aware that many parents should be far more engaged with their kids than they are, then maybe they wouldn’t be ‘unruly’.

The inverted comments illustrate the fact that I’m not sure what else to call them. We know what I mean; not doing as they’re asked or knowing the point of what grown-ups ask, exploring things when it’s not appropriate, inability to understand what’s appropriate behaviour in the circumstances, none of which is a crime but needs guidance.

We all see this all of the time. I saw a child running up and down in a cafe the other day where stressed waitresses were busily carrying out plates of hot food and having to dodge round her. Parents didn’t say a thing – couldn’t even see the problem and thought their child was just expressing important needs, clearly oblivious to whether this was appropriate or not – and to the fact others’ have needs too.

Children’s understanding of what’s appropriate or not evolves in the first instance from interaction with their parents in a variety of situations, where they’ve been talked to, guided, shown, had explained, engaged with. Interaction teaches kids what appropriate behaviour is.

I know some parents feel that a child should be allowed to express themselves in any way they want without that being inhibited. That we should never suppress them in any way.

But I look at it this way, we want our children to grow up to be liked. But we all need an understanding of the fact we are not the only ones in this world, that others need consideration too, that we have to grow and develop within those considerations even whilst being as true to ourselves as possible. We are social animals and social animals operate within boundaries of respect – for others, for self. Suppression is not the point. Guidance and explanation is. If they’re asked not to play with the stuff on the hairdresser’s trolley there will be reasons!

Neglecting to teach them the understanding of this simple truth is neglecting the parental duty of guidance and personal education.

Parenting is difficult. It tests us all the time. The children test us, test boundaries and want to break rules – course they do, they’re inquisitive little beings. Mine certainly did – and that brings us challenges. But the simple antidote to some of those challenges, like how to stop them rummaging in the hairdresser’s trolley of intriguing bits and pieces, is to build a good relationship with the child at every opportunity, one that is based on respectful interaction, dialogue and guidance as to what to do when – and when not! Dialogue and conversation is an effective learning tool. And the time we devote to nurturing that is an important part of our parenting.

It’s part of education too. And even this young woman, without any children of her own, could see that as the role of a parent more clearly than the parents themselves!

Will harmony and peace be well and truly Trumped?

A picture for peace and harmony

A picture for peace and harmony

It takes much tolerance to live together. Anyone who is living with others knows that. Family life is a bit like negotiating sea changes; sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes it’s choppy.

All parents know this. Couples know this. Families know this. In fact, my single friends know this too, as they listen to my dilemmas and family challenges and count their single blessings.

But I know my own blessings come family shaped. And when my two delightful family shapes are home again, as they recently have been, my blessings are rich despite the inevitable choppy bits.

These take some negotiating. There’s times I’m trying to calm rippled feelings and no doubt times I’m causing them! Mostly though, they are just ripples of laughter that permeate the house.

This is what family life – in fact all life with others – is about; storms, ripples and rainbows as we accommodate living together, whether that’s on a family scale, a friend and colleague scale, or population scale. In order for us all to live together we have to tolerate each others differences, learn to give and take, build understanding of and empathy for those with different ideas from our own, educate ourselves to be compassionate, curious, considerate and kind. Above all practice respect for one another.

So I rather fear for peoples when we have someone in charge of a major populace who lacks most of those characteristics, instead who openly practices racism, sexism, bigotry and a disrespectful style of communicating with others he fails to understand.

Is that the family climate Trump grew up in? And is it the kind of global togetherness he endorses?

I have to not concern myself too much with it; it’s too depressing a thought.

What I can concern myself with instead is the practices which I believe perpetuate love, respect and togetherness, as we all can. Right from our family doorsteps, throughout all our relationships, both online and in the flesh, so that these actions spread out from us and make our world a more loving and inclusive place.

I believe that always starts at home. With our relationships at home. It certainly should be part of our parenting and education.

Learning to love and live well together is the most important part of our human existence. You can look up any knowledge on Google – you can only learn about love and peace through experience. It should be the most important part of family development, education and politics – but I don’t bear to think about that right now.

I’ll just continue to go on loving and respecting my precious family shapes so they can in turn pass that on around.

Helping to increase understanding…

I’ve had another request from a researcher, this time from Optomen Television Productions.

They’re looking to do a programme on alternative learning approaches, especially unschooling and autonomous home educating and parenting.

I always waver about this, like others do – the more we’re ‘out there’ the more likely we are to draw unwelcome attention to ourselves from power mad politicians! But the other side of it is the more we’re ‘out there’ the more opportunity there is to further understanding of other educational approaches, help those suffering in schools to find out about a workable alternative, and maybe even change what goes on in them perhaps.

Matilda and the Ramsay bunch - one of their programmes

Matilda and the Ramsay bunch – one of their programmes

This request seemed sensitive to heralding home educators’ alternative approaches, rather than criticising them, so I’m sharing the researchers request here in the hope that some of you might like to get involved.

Here’s her message;

Calling all Unschoolers, Radical Unschoolers and Worldschoolers!

Optomen, one of the UK’s leading independent television production companies, are looking for families who are unschooling, radically unschooling or worldschooling their children to take part in a warm and celebratory documentary series. We want to talk to families who are giving their children freedom over their lives and education, those who are nurturing a love for learning outside of mainstream school, those who are travelling or living off-grid with their kids and those who have an active partnership with their children rather than the traditional authoritarian method of parenting.

If you would be happy to chat about your experiences, and interested in finding out more, please email stefanie.jones@optomen.com

 

Little girls no more

20161107_145832 I’m spending the next few days with these lovelies; the little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ although they’re not so little any more.

I asked if I could have a picture of them for the blog whilst we were together, as they live and work independently now and readers often ask how they ‘turned out’ having read the story.

I’m sure ‘turned out’ meant educationally, but as you can see, they look quite okay too, as well as being intelligent, competent, functioning and independent. Some folks ask in a way that suggests they’re expecting to see something different to ‘okay’, since they didn’t go to school – two heads or something equally weird!

But no; here they are, all grown up and gorgeous; what more can I say? Except that no doubt yours will be the same one day.

Hard to imagine but inevitable. Enjoy your days with them while you have them, whilst I pop off and enjoy mine!

Are you neglecting part of your child’s education?

We love our kids. We lavish care and attention on them, buy them treats, take them places, see to their education and welfare. That’s our responsibility as parents.

So if we’re taking that responsibility seriously, why then is obesity becoming an epidemic?

I know that’s a sensitive and contentious question. No one wants to point the blame at anyone. Parents have enough of that.

But I look at it this way; we would consider it total neglect if we did not educate our kids in the skills of reading and maths for example. Yet we don’t see it as neglect when we fail to educate them in the skills of maintaining a healthy weight, and teach them through our own demonstration.

I’m raising this issue after watching this shocking report on Inside Out East about Type 2 Diabetes and how, in many cases, it leads to surgery which could have been preventable. It’s here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07zcmx3/inside-out-east-24102016

It’s a subject that has had much coverage around the news to raise awareness of this growing problem. (Read more here)

I also live in one of the poorer areas like those in the programme where there are almost more people who are obese than otherwise, and I can see the size of the problem, if you’ll forgive the pun.

When you are surrounded by people who are all similar to you, you begin to see this as the norm; it becomes a cultural norm, you begin to think it doesn’t matter as everyone seems to be overweight – it must be okay. And it’s all too easy to over indulge when fast food, buns, cakes, chips and chocolate leap out and tempt you at every turn. I should know; I have a dangerously sweet tooth that’s very difficult to manage!

But it does matter and when it comes to causing harm to our kids no one can take the responsibility other than ourselves as parents and mentors. I agree that companies cash in on our weaknesses. But they can only do that if we comply; the ultimate responsibility lies with us.

According to the report people are having amputations that could have been prevented by taking some of that responsibility. Is that what we’re leading our kids towards too?

What’s it worth to develop a lifestyle that avoids such dire consequences?

Kids do what we do. Whilst they’re kids we have an opportunity to lay down some fundamental habits that set them up for life. You cannot control them forever. But you can give them a good start – you have, in this case, to practice what you preach. Be what you want them to become – that’s the most influential way. Words don’t work as well as actions.

The habits you cultivate in your family now are the ones that will impact on your children the most, whilst they are children. After that it’s up to them.

But habits of lifestyle and habits of learning are equally important subjects of an education. And are surely all part of the duty we share to facilitate a future for our kids that is happy, healthy and wise.

A hug from me

20161012_175742 Sometimes I stand on the step so I can be taller than my daughter.

This is not for egotistical purposes, honest!

It’s just so I can put my arms around her shoulders in an all enveloping hug. And she can put her arms around my middle like she did when she was a child.

Doesn’t matter how old they are or how tall they grow, or even how loving the arms of boyfriends, they still know there’s nothing like a mum-hug to help ease the stresses of adulthood.

And how lucky I am to be looked to still to provide it.

No one is ever too old for a reassuring hug. But sometimes we get too busy to prioritise them.

No one is ever too tall or too grown up. And it doesn’t matter what gender – boys need them just as much and everyone needs to be tactile. Technology can’t do tactile, that’s one thing at least we still need to be human to provide! Lets not be on our technology so much we forget to be tactile. Life could easily become totally virtual.

Even grown up friends and I swap mum-hugs when that’s what’s needed and there are empty arms needing to be filled. We have the need both to receive and give hugs. Nothing shares an empathy or love like a hug does. Nothing soothes as much or feels as good.

My youngest popped back for one earlier. I see how many I can get in before she goes again. And I did stand on the step!

Someone said recently that my books feel like a hug. When life is challenging and they dip into them, that’s what it feels like they tell me. I think that’s one of the most endearing compliments I’ve ever received; I feel truly honoured. Couldn’t wish for anything better when that’s what I’d hoped they’d feel like, along with the odd tip of course, but perhaps that’s not as useful as a hug sometimes!

So if you’re in need today consider this another one. I’m just sorry not to be giving it in person!