Tag Archive | parenting

What do you do in the holidays?

Since it’s that time of year again I thought I’d bring up the subject of holidays and term times, with this story from ‘A Home Education Notebook‘.

Even after Home Educating for a while I could still be influenced by them even though I knew that education didn’t have anything to do with term times at all.

They were usually brought to my attention by the children – and the fact that most other families are controlled by them.

“Mu-um?”

Even this one word could make me feel I was about to be manipulated, probably by something I may not like.

“Ye-es?” I’d reply suspiciously.

“Ruth’s breaking up from school today; it’s end of term.”

“Oh, is it?” I’d feign ignorance knowing full well what was coming.

“Can we break up too?” She’d give a big sheepish grin.

I’d give the usual answer. “Well, I wasn’t aware we had anything to break up from.”

Another grin. “But can we?”

I’d pause, keeping the suspense and the pretence going a little longer. Then; “Yea, go on then – let’s.”

And she’d bounce off to go and do the same things she would be doing anyway, ‘breaking up’ or not.

We’d sometimes go through this little ritual when the schools finished their terms and my children knew their school friends were available for play during the day.

It was partly that, but also because our children did spend some time in school earlier on in their lives and, although freed from it, they still wanted the sense of celebration and release their mates were feeling.

And why not? We all need a change and a celebration. A release from that constant feeling that we perhaps should be doing something more educational than just having fun. It took quite a while for us to get over that idiocy and realise that education just went on all the time, term times, learn times, fun times and holidays.

We educated our children in a mostly autonomous way, with them deciding very much what they worked on but we’d still motivate them to be busy doing something. We’d encourage them to try new things, make and invent, play actively, be engaged, to read, we’d go out, meet others, whatever.

But it was good for all of us, adults and children in the family, to have a break from all that motivation. To switch off the driving force for a while and stop looking for activities or projects that would stimulate, and searching the internet for active learning sites.

We could drift. Do things that merely took our fancy and I could stop looking for an educational slant.

So, on one ‘end-of-term’ occasion, I thought I’d observe what the kids did instead.

The eldest took a heap of books, magazines, sketch book and pens out into the garden, spread herself out on a rug and designed all day, researching her books for inspiration, studying other people’s work and incorporating and adapting their ideas into her own work.

The youngest decided to build a den out there. This required searching out suitable materials within her environment, putting them together and solving the problem of making the structure strong and upright in discussion with me or whoever else was available. Then she spent the rest of the day in creative play, making up stories, reading to her toys, imaginative ideas passing through her faster than hot biscuits passed through her mouth.

In other words the children, ‘on holiday’, covered these skills; reading, research, writing and use of language, drawing and hand eye coordination skills, problem solving, estimating, analysis, use of materials, investigation, construction, exploration, interpretation, discussion, development of imagination and ideas and creativity. All those skills that teachers had to force reluctant children to practice in schools, usually in a boringly academic and repetitive manner, because the children had been removed from the natural opportunity to practice them anyway.

My children had been busy with all this simply because their minds were freed up from the confines of ‘doing education’, a trap we sometimes find ourselves falling into how ever autonomous we try and be.

It was a good reminder that we don’t always have to be forcing everything in order to further a child’s education. And just because there are not set schedules, timetables, term times or regulated practice, it does not mean there will be no learning taking place.

So, just in case you’re wondering what to do in the holidays, just back off and see what happens. Encourage them to develop their own ideas to relieve the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome, and keep these five simple daily practices in mind:

  • Be physically active at some point everyday.
  • Get outside, in green spaces if you can but playgrounds and streets are just as good.
  • Observe the wonderful world around you – on your doorstep – by giving time to looking deeply and mindfully.
  • Plan, shop for, prepare and cook meals or bake together.
  • Encourage them in their own projects beyond the usual screen based ones!

All will develop important life skills without you even realising – trust me. And even better, they will enhance your well being too – an important skill for all.

What ever projects they want to work on they will always be learning

You’d never imagine…

I’ve just been to my daughter’s wedding! Can you imagine?

Yes – that little girl in the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ and ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ who made things and created things and had ideas beyond those I’d ever taught her.

Can you imagine your littlies getting to that point? Or doing any of the everyday life things that everyone ends up doing like working, driving, living and earning independently beyond home educating, having their own place, getting out into a world other than ours?

I couldn’t. Still can’t believe it really. It’s a scenario unimaginable to all parents whether the kids are in school or not.

However, it’s perhaps more concerning for parents who home educate, who are not following a well trodden and tested path, who inevitably worry whether not being in school will inhibit the building of skills the youngsters need as well as their education, like life skills, workplace skills, social skills particularly.

This is to reassure you that of course they do.

And there, at the only-a-covid-little restricted, DIY, jolly, happy wedding were a wonderful group of people whose background education didn’t come into it at all. Also hard to imagine when you’re so wrapped up in the details throughout those home ed years. People whose warm loving connections were far deeper than the relevance of home schooled or not home schooled. Irrelevant as it is in life anyway really.

Hard to imagine that all this home ed intensity you may be going through now will become so diluted as to not matter a jot.

And what was even better was that for the most part nobody looked at their phones. An even bigger delight. We were busy sharing the occasion face to face.

It seems sad that staring at these soulless gadgets has become a strategy for avoiding looking at and engaging with others which can be less comfortable, especially if they are strangers. Phones have become a technological dummy to suck on, to escape the challenge of social skills. Ironic isn’t it, that ‘socialisation’ – or lack of it – is thrown up as a down side of home educating, when no one ever mentions the damage to the development of social skills created by staring at a phone rather than engaging with the person next to you; the behaviour of so many. I would say phones are a bigger threat to building social skills than home educating!

It was a glorious day. A delight to enjoy the happiness after so many thwarted plans, to wallow in the warm loving connections with family and friends that had nothing to do with school or not. Even though I continued to be freaked out wondering how my two lovelies ever got to this point when I’m still remembering life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ as if it were yesterday.

How did they ever get to be so old, to be so grown up?

It’s a good job I’m not ageing at the same rate, I always say!

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

Education and Bullying

Something which often comes up in relation to schools and learning, is the subject of bullying – in more ways than you think! So I thought I’d post this exclusive exert from my ‘Home Education Notebook‘, Chapter 31:

I have a terrible admission to make – I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. I bullied my child into cleaning her teeth when she was little. I’m thoroughly ashamed. But at the time I just couldn’t think of another way to get her to do it and I knew the longer term consequences were important.

I’d tried reason. I’d explained, tried to make it a fun game, I left it for some time in the hope it would correct itself, her older sister cajoled as she cleaned hers. In the end I got cross on occasion and ‘made’ her – or bullied her is another way of looking at it.

She says now, in her twenties when I asked if she remembered, she felt it was a terrible intrusion into her person having me clean her teeth, but she forgives me, we even laughed about it. But although bullying is an intrusion and an abuse, sometimes like with this example, we feel it’s justified.

That is of course questionable, depending on our parenting philosophies. However, I think we all can end up ‘bullying’ our children at some point. We’d certainly grab and drag our kids back from running under a car. It’s a gut reaction on our part even if it is bullying. (I’ll return to that gut reaction in a bit).

Many of us will have been on the receiving end of bullying far more severe than this, both as children and adults, perhaps in the home, more often in school. Bullying in school is a common reason parents turn to home education.

Dr Paula Rothermel who conducted some extensive research into home education found over half of the parents she interviewed turned to home education because of school related problems, bullying being among them. And bullying by others in school is a common subject on home education forums where parents discuss their child’s school experiences.

Sometimes the children manage to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t. Often, what’s even harder to talk about is the subversive type of bullying that isn’t quite so visible inflicted on a child through abusive teaching in the form of sarcasm, humiliation, orders, or so-called banter. Young people are circumstantially powerless to deal with it.

It’s a very difficult, sensitive and emotive subject for children to cope with on their own anyway, wherever they are. It can make them feel utterly powerless. The effects last far beyond the actual events and inhibit self-esteem, confidence, the ability to function socially, even going out of the house. The consequences are so harmful they can influence many aspects of their normal lives and the decisions they make.

What’s even more insidious is cyber bullying which can still be influential when a bullied child is taken out of a school situation, or is home educated from the outset. Most home educated children participate in other out of school activities so it’s possible they’ll come up against bullying in some form at some point.

The Bullying UK website (www.bullying.co.uk) has plenty of tips and advice for parents about what you can do if you’re concerned and, although most of these are school related, there is also a section dealing with cyber bullying and what to do about it. Any minority group, particularly if they’re doing something different to the mainstream like home educated children, can be a target. So it’s worth taking a look; the site gives you signs to look out for and how to help.

If you’re new to home education, and you’ve turned to it because your child was bullied at school, you will probably want to focus on your child’s healing and well being for some considerable time, rather than any intense academic activity. Don’t worry if you’re approached by the LA requesting your educational intentions, you can remind them of what your child’s been through, that it will take some time for your child and your family to adjust and building your child’s confidence is your priority for the time being. On the excellent website www.edyourself.org it says that the law supports families in doing this. The Authority are certainly not allowed to bully you (the FAQs on this site show what they can and cannot do) and if you familiarise yourself with your rights on this issue you’ll be able to stay on your child’s side and do what’s best for them.

Another effect of having being bullied is to make the young person anxious and uncomfortable in social situations so it may take a while for them to overcome this. Although all the home educating groups I’ve been involved with were welcoming, inclusive and friendly, they will probably feel very daunting to a youngster who has been bullied. So it may be some time before they are confident in integrating – it takes a while for them to rebuild their trust. It’s not something that should be forced.

We met youngsters who had come from school who were very reserved and unable to mix, but in their own time were able to rebuild their confidence in others and went on to be happy, confident people. So if your child has been through bullying and you’re worried about them ever integrating again, be patient and have faith. In the right company I’m sure they will – it takes time.

Bullying from others is usually how our children experience it. But there is another common link between education and bullying that may not be so apparent. And that is through the way in which children are ‘made’ to learn.

We all have Dickensian images of teachers wielding canes and forcing children to learn. The canes or enforcement may have gone out of scenario but there is no doubt that other more subversive forms exist; we tread a very fine line between coercion and encouragement, authority and guidance, and our sometimes obsessive desire for our children to achieve.

Teachers have been known to adopt subtle bullying tactics at times, but I think our parental anxieties about our children’s achievement out of school also present a danger of us sometimes inadvertently moving towards a subversive form of bullying if we’re not careful – we may even think it’s justified like the teeth cleaning example above. However, we don’t want ‘making’ children learn become our gut reaction to educating.

So it’s worth us taking a critical look at our behaviours and our approaches to our child’s learning to make sure we’re not guilty of forcing our children to learn through coercion, bribery or threats, which are slightly bullying approaches even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, rather than giving them good reasons or explanations for what we ask.

When home educating we have the opportunity to spend the time doing this – something not available in a school setting. Teachers have to meet often unrealistic targets and with the constraints they’re under can sometimes resort to bullying behaviours to get the children to perform.

We have to see we’re not doing the same. Never would there be justification for bullying parenting – and much of our home educating depends on our parenting. What we can do instead is take a much more relaxed approach.

We can keep an open dialogue with our kids about their education, what we do and why, increasing their understanding of why be educated at all.

We can regularly discuss their activities and what benefit doing them is, from the point of increasing skills and understanding and therefore opportunities.

We can listen and observe what the children’s interests are and use these as starting points for learning, so the learning comes from them rather than being thrust on them. This also helps minimise resistance and possible conflict by keeping them engaged.

We can let go of forcing outcomes and trust in the process of our child becoming educated and arriving at the outcomes they will need as they mature.

In our home education groups we can raise awareness, talk about and establish a policy to protect everyone from bullying – both from parents and from other children, decide how it’s going to be tackled, and include older children in these debates perhaps.

By our own actions we can imbue an atmosphere of inspiration, communication and calm around our learning activities. And make learning a shared and pleasurable experience rather than something we force children to do.

We can encourage them to take charge of their own activities, which creates an independence with learning and the motivation for them to educate themselves for themselves, rather than it being something done to them by others, which is often how many children feel about education in the system.

These actions create a climate of respect around our children and their education. And it alleviates the danger of us resorting to bullying our children into learning – usually through our own tensions and anxieties – but for which there is no excuse.

And this approach also has the added advantage of creating good relationship and communication habits, which will help our children communicate with us should they ever be bullied by others.

Read more stories and tips in the book.

Published by Bird’s Nest Books and also available from Amazon

Give your Home Ed time to grow slowly

I think I’ve discovered the reason I could never really get into gardening in my earlier life!

You’d think I would be. I love nature and plants. I love to be outside and look for any excuse to be so. I walk whatever the weather.

But I can walk briskly, I can cover ground, accomplish distance quickly and then tangibly see how far I’ve come.

Can’t do that with gardening; it takes too long for the outcomes to bloom. I’m just too impatient!

With that admission you’d be surprised I was able to home educate. Many parents say they haven’t the patience for it.

I like to think I had lots of patience with the kids. They tell me I did. Discounting the occasional tantrum which I describe in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and I think bad days come up in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ too!

But to home educate wisely you have to practice patience. Because education, like plants and gardening, is a slow growing process. Not that you’d guess that with schooling.

The trouble with institutional education i.e. schooling, is that they try to turn it into a fast forced process – if a process at all. It’s very much based around quick and instant results. About ticking objectives, neglecting time for deeper understanding, and rushing onto the next bit. In fact, our whole culture is increasingly like that; a driven culture that wants instant results, with little time for deeper, mindful development.

However, that isn’t how education works.

Educating is about the gradual development of real people, not just output. And that’s a long term, slow grown affair involving the maturation of skills and personal attributes that become whole through all manner of diverse ingredients and experiences over a long period of time. How those integral skills all influence each other is not something that is readily apparent or successfully forced.

Like plants; forced plants are never as healthy. And you have to wait a long time for a garden to mature into something wonderful and lasting. Patience and time are required.

Education is the  same. It’s not something to be rushed, not if you want it to mature into something meaningful and sustainable and serviceable for life.

And, contrary to what the schooling system has us believe, you CAN give it time. The system promotes the idea that you have to accomplish certain objectives within certain time frames or you’ll fail. That’s balderdash!

You can take time with your home education. Step back regularly. Have patience. Stick with your own tailor made approaches however long they take. If they’re right for you, they’ll be successful – whenever!

Gardens, kids, education, need no rushing.

Maybe I’m a better gardener now because my patience quota isn’t being used up on home schooling any more – who knows. And maybe the small amount of growing and gardening that we did together taught the kids a good life lesson along with the science; that life isn’t about quick fixes and short term highs. Some elements of life require long term maturation to achieve their full potential!

Home educating is one of them.

Creating an environment in which kids can learn

Have you heard the saying; ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink’?

Simple when you think about the concept behind it, and absolutely true. Whatever you think something or someone else needs you cannot control outcomes!

And whenever I think about schooling and learning and education this saying comes straight to mind.

I used to think about it a lot when I actually worked in schools, before home education came into my life all those years ago. For it is absolutely true that you can lead a kid to school but you cannot make them learn. I saw the evidence!

And I thought about it loads when we were home educating because it is the same when educating out of school: You cannot force a child to learn (as I posted about last year here).

You cannot force a child to learn just facilitate the right environment for their innate desire to learn to flourish

What you can do is facilitate the right environment for them to do so. But that environment is less about the physical and more about the emotional one. That’s one of the big failings in many school environments, the emotional climate is too strained for some children to thrive well. And that matters, I think.

The physical environment is important obviously. Children need shelter, to be fed, and be warm and relatively comfortable. Some need quiet, others need hubbub, some company, some isolation, we’re all different. And various accessories naturally facilitate and support the learning process; access to internet, materials and equipment, books, paper etc.

But the emotional environment is as equally important as any of this, goes hand in hand with achievement and success. And it’s us who provide that by creating the right emotional space in which a child can thrive.

We do this simply by the way we are. By the way we behave, the way we support and encourage the children, by our own positive attitude to learning – for learning anything – and the value we place on personal development which is what education is, of course.

In this emotional space we provide the children are never undermined, patronised or bullied. They are respected and listened to and included in discussions and decisions about what happens to them. They feel safe and loved. They can express their views about their own learning – and feel that this learning is theirs, is for them, and is not something imposed upon them by others, which they have a duty to endure. If they feel that, their learning will not last life-long.

We should never betray them.

This all happens through the way we and others relate to them. It comes through our conversations; one of the best ways to show they’re respected is by the way we listen to them, as well as asking that they listen to others.

Conversations are such a valuable part of the learning process, as valuable as writing and studying, however since there’s not usually anything tangible to show after a conversation, parents often underrate them. But children glean so much from being able to converse, ask questions, delve deeper, be curious in an environment where they are not put down. Conversations also develop language, social and emotional skills, understanding and mental agility, and promote maturity. You may not have got anything down during a day learning at home, but through conversation and engaging with your child they will have learnt much more than you think!

You may not be able to tick sheets now, but you will see the proof when they are older and seem to know so much that you don’t remember teaching them

That’s the point – you didn’t! You lead them towards education and allowed them to drink of it for themselves. That’s the best you can do!

School is just no good for some kids

Since Lockdown put home schooling back in the spotlight I’ve heard of several parents thinking about making the change from school to home educating permanently. So I thought this would be a good time to re-share this post of old…

The leap to home schooling is always a big decision, but I often hear parents saying how uplifting it was to see their children returning to being the happy contented little people they were before they started school. One specifically reported that the many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

Yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected to on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

From the archives; our happy children back enjoying ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

It’s something I hear frequently and they are not the only parents to experience this. It happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, they have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and yet feel qualified to disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who now have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach its success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst; unwell.

Yet, I’ve never found a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important there’s a post here

I readily admit that school works for many. But not all, so should you wish to make the switch permanently to home education be bold and go for it. It’s a great decision and one which we and others like us never once regretted!

Missing out

There’s been much talk of ‘missing out’ with the children out of school during lockdown. And for most a sense of relief now that they’re back.

I cringed at the use of that terminology at the time because it’s extremely unhelpful and, after all, just a point of view!

Yes – the kids might have missed out on the school type of stuff, but we could change attitudes and look at what the children might have gained instead; new experiences for one – always educational.

Let’s face it, for the kids, school is as much about mates as anything. And we’ve all been missing our mates – still are in the way we’d normally be meeting, during these final days (hopefully) of covid restrictions. We’re missing those real life, in the same space, meetings like mad. Even if we can’t hug the person just to see them for real is wonderful. The kids want the same, course they do, that’s what they’ve really been missing out on.

The home educators are still missing out on that, until their larger groups can get together again. However, most of their educational activities at home have been going on just the same.

The irony is that many home educating parents, when they get together for all the educational, social and experiential activities that make up a part of a home school day, consider that it’s the school kids who are ‘missing out’ by being in school. Especially when the home school kids are enjoying things like field trips, museum visits, use of historical, geographical and environmental sites and resources first hand which facilitate their learning at a range of different venues, and which support the smaller amount of sit down, formal academic learning they do. Home educators’ view is that the school kids miss out on this wealth of learning inspiration when they’re stuck in an institution nine till three, day after day.

The school children also miss out on the opportunity to forge real life relationships, instead of school life relationships which aren’t always so healthy being structured and inhibited chronologically and institutionally by the limitations schools inevitable construct.

Whereas there are so many families home educating now it’s so easy, thanks to social networking, to be in touch. Home school kids have as vibrant a social life and interactive learning life as they choose. They don’t ‘miss out’ on that either.

It depends what you’re used to, life wise and learning wise.

We all have different lives, priorities and things that are important to us. Sometimes though we fail to see the reality, so immersed are we in institutional thinking. (Great book here called ‘Unsafe thinking’ by Jonah Sachs – full of ideas)

When we make one choice we obviously miss out on another. And we always have decisions to make about choices. There are misses and gains with any choice. The scare mongering in the media about school kids ‘missing out’ was all about academic measurement and failed to acknowledge the gains that could be had by a change in experience which is always educational and developmental. However since it can’t be tested these gains tend to be disregarded – but they will have happened.

Anyway, despite all that, I wish all the children and their families, who’ve have been pleased to get back to a school routine, health and happiness.

And I wish all home educating families the same, whether you’re well established or just starting out. And hope that the restrictions continue to lift so you can get back to your normal learning life.

You will have missed it!

Learning for Life – not for schools

So the school children have gone back to the classroom. But the home educators still can’t go out in the way they’re used to. That must be tough, as I know that home education is a misnomer – learning takes place out of it as much as in!

I guess it’s tough though for many school parents worrying about their children becoming infected with coronavirus, although the general overall vibe I’m sensing is one of relief!

School closures certainly turned a very different spotlight on home education, genuine home education that is, not school-at-home (blog here) which is what most have been doing and is completely different. I wonder if home educators will gain more respect and understanding of what they do after every parent has endured this time without the facility of school.

What is certain is that our culture of family life, of economy and working and how that operates with regard to parenting, is for the most part dependent on the school system being there to child mind, let alone educate. Whether that justifies what goes on in there is questionable!

The recent pandemic has raised many questions about education, economy, family life, culture – everything really. As parents are more involved in what their kids are learning many are coming face to face with the absurdity of some of the stuff on the curriculum. As this article in Prospect illustrates

School learning has become so far removed from learning about real life, living and surviving challenges like the pandemic – all important things we really need to know – it’s no wonder people are asking of their child’s work; ‘what’s the point of this?’

There must be better things to learn?

There certainly are, and maybe this is why so many parents now are turning to home education. Because most are beginning to see that home education is life education. Unlike school education. And true education is not the consumption of facts and tricks and strategies for the sole purpose of measurement and qualification, even though qualification may be part of it. True education needs to be about enabling people to live a life that is useful, fulfilling and non harming.

Education is after all about learning to understand life, how it works, how you work in it, how you find a place, make a place, make a social life, integrate, communicate, care, and do all this without harm to others or the environment.

Home educators seem to understand that to facilitate this requires a far more organic and life-led approach for most than the systematic drilling of useless grammar and mathematical processes that none of us will ever use again but is more likely to put us off the subjects if forced upon us too early.

This is what most enlightened parents have spotted about their children’s school-at-home stuff, that much of it is like that; beyond the kids, useless in a real world outside school, not even interesting!

A school world and school academics are not a true reflection of the world beyond it.

That’s why learning as a home schooler takes place as much out of the home as in it. And why most home educated youngsters graduate from it with a broad intelligence and range of skills, including those associated with socialisation, that equips them so well for real life.

They understand that learning is not just for schools! That it is a life-long tool and they can take it on themselves, any time, any age.

I’m wondering how many school youngsters understand that.

Your three best things

‘So, what’s your three best things today?’ my daughter asked me recently. I think I was being a moany pants at the time!

During these locked down times it’s easy to do. If you’re anything like me you’re beginning to run out of positivity.

So I took a look at the BBCs facility ‘HEADROOM’, have you discovered it yet? It’s well worth a visit, especially the essential everyday tips. And something you could do along with the children. It’s all education after all.

There are many helpful and interesting articles, watches, and inspiring reminders. I say reminders because often we already know what’s recommended to keep our mental well being on track, but sometimes we either forget, are too worn down to do them, or are just lethargic from the struggle and cannot face it. These gentle and encouraging prompts are a real help in pushing through the inertia of this long pandemic haul.

One of the recommendations is to acknowledge that we are facing a struggle, we are sick and fed up and anxious and tired, and that we are failing to maintain our well being at times. To admit, own up, share; because by doing that we can then move on to finding ways to help ourselves and consequently our children.

Sharing conversations with our children about how we’re coping – or not coping at times – and giving them the room to share theirs, will be a help to all. But then we must take the conversation forward towards ideas on what we can do about it. Like, for example, making a plan for things to do daily; the exercise, learning, walk, outdoor time, cooking, making, whatever. Like making space for each other and respecting we probably all need time apart. Like making on-line dates to connect with others. Focus on the things you can do, rather than those you cannot, at the moment.

These are all pro-active strategies that will not only help to maintain resilience at this time, but will also provide your children with tools to help them do the same for themselves one day when things get tough as they inevitably do at times through life, pandemic or not. Such a valuable part of their life’s education, don’t you think!

One of the simplest strategies I picked up when I looked at some of the videos was a reminder to keep with the positives. I know that’s wise and healthy. And I’m usually a positive person. But I, like many no doubt, had buried the practice under moans and missing of the things I couldn’t do, rather than thinking about those I could (as my daughter spotted).

one of my three best things

To help you continue to weather the current hardships the pandemic has thrust upon us, keep a mindset and attitude in the house that allows a quick moan if need be, but which is counteracted by what you’re going to do next. And at the end of the day a quick recount of your three best things of the day. I managed to find some after she got the discussion going, pulling us back to our usual up-beat mentality.

I like to think I helped her develop her positivity, even if I’d lost sight of mine for the moment!

You can do the same for yours.

Just do what you can

Home educating, through all the years we did it was an absolute joy and delight. It’s a while back now, children grown and flown, but it was a decision we’ve never regretted; just not doing it sooner!

We would be out and about most days on trips of one kind or another; visiting places of interest, getting exercise or a swim, library, museum or galleries, social get togethers. Such a variety of things we did along with staying at home studying, doing practical or academic activities. We depended on our trips out for balance and wellbeing and contrast and consequently being together 24/7 was never an issue.

So home education in Lockdown must be incredibly hard. I can’t imagine the strain of being shut in together without the meets and visits beyond the home. And as for doing school-at-home, when families are not either prepared or used to it, that must be tough.

However, despite our enjoyment of home educating, there were days when it was equally tough for us too. And the odd occasion I completely lost it!

One day sticks in my mind particularly (probably because of the shame). I’d reached the end of my patience with the mess, the noise, and the whole house being so strewn with the result of their busyness there wasn’t even a place for me to sit. And when I asked for a tidy up before they got anything else out to do I couldn’t stand the usual resistance.

It was just one of those final straw moments and I did something I’d never normally do; I shouted, I had a tantrum, I told them to go upstairs until they would, and I swept the entire contents of the heaped table off onto the floor with one sweep of my arm and a satisfying crash.

The kids looked at me in horror. Then quietly mounted the stairs, eldest sister’s arm round the youngest as if to protect her from this ogre.

I was not proud.

But even then, within the general joy of home educating, I was just coping in the best way I could.

We’re all human – sometimes the way we cope is not the best, but it’s just the way it is. It’s also another part of being human that we – and the children – have to learn to cope with, move on from.

What you parents with youngsters are coping with right now is monumental. It’s unprecedented. No one knows what is the best way to deal with learning in Lockdown. Not the politicians. Not the parenting gurus. Not the teachers or the educationalists who think you should be carrying on with this blasted grade chasing and box ticking that ministers have made of education. No one knows your situation within your house, with your family. Only you. So it’s only you who can figure out what’s your best way to deal with it.

But one thing that I came to understand during our early home education days that might help, was that my relationship with the children, our family relationship, was paramount. Any kind of formal education came second. And equally paramount is our wellbeing. I had neglected my wellbeing which drove me to that final breaking point.

If you can get through this time with a strong and happy bond with the children intact you will have done brilliantly!

The children will be able to return to their formal education at any time – they have a lifetime to do so. With strong supportive bonds they will be able to acquire what they need to get where they want to go at whatever point.

Trust.

Time frames aren’t that important. There are so many home educated kids who have progressed and achieved in completely different time frames to school time frames and gone on to have happy successful lives.

I’m happy to report that despite my occasional tantrums the strong and happy bonds with my young people still remain as they’ve graduated beyond home educating and into the working world. (You can read in the book below how the day was recovered with an apology – from me, a tidy up – from them, a discussion about the situation and a good giggle – as much about my behaviour as anything).

But I wanted to share this story with you in case you’re having a day when you’re struggling to do your best. Some days it won’t be the best. But that’s family life. The children learn from those too. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can!

Read this tale and others in my story of our home educating days