Tag Archive | parents

If home educating parents did this….

I’m so glad to see that parents of school children are taking some action against some of the abysmal practices forced upon their kids under the guise of educating them in schools.

I may be a home educator but I care deeply about the education of ALL children however they are learning.

Whenever researching news surrounding the system and listening to the parents who have kids in school, it’s dishearteningly negative and I’m sometimes really shocked by what I hear. No wonder home educating is constantly on the increase. No wonder that children’s mental health is suffering (although no one ever brings up the subject of school stress as part of the cause). And no wonder that teachers are leaving the profession disillusioned with what they’re told to do to kids to make them get the scores.

The latest protest is about the testing and I’m delighted to see a campaign against the shocking move to test reception children. See this article in the Guardian.

Testing is a complete waste of a learner’s time (whatever age), does nothing to enhance learning or the learner’s experience, is unreliable and invalid when it comes to both judging someone’s capabilities and predicting how capable they’ll be in the future, the results of which often act like an educational death sentence to those who don’t perform well on the day. See this post here.

I hope they instigate change – but it’s changes in mindset that is required as much as anything. See the More Than a Score campaign here.

The other shocking school news that’s hit the headlines recently has been the concern over the use of ‘isolation units’ in schools. According to a report from the BBC pupils can spend hours in these units, among them those with special needs, causing many of them upset and longer term damage to their wellbeing, let alone their education.

The terrible irony of this is; if home educating parents were found to be subjecting their kids to hours of isolation in the booths pictured the Local Authority would be in uproar, probably deciding we were unfit parents and have the kids taken into care. Yet this is a legal and increasing practice in many schools.

Would you use this approach in your home education?

I understand there are many difficulties for staff in schools with pupils who will not engage and disrupt the learning of the others as a consequence.

But it strikes me that a) if the learning taking place there was inspiring and b) if it answered the needs of the diversity of the kids in our society and c) and if it wasn’t so rigid and inhibited by testing regimes designed for the adults and the politics and the politicians’ popularity, not the learners, we would have no need of isolation rooms and we also probably wouldn’t have a flood of parents opting to home educate. I’ve said before; if there was an inspiring and engaging place for our kids to go and learn with empathetic and understanding adults who were free to teach with the creative approaches many of them could if they were only delivered from the imprisonment of stupid rules and regualtions, then why would people take the enormous and scary step of not sending the kids there, giving up their time and doing it themselves?

But that’s the irony of education politics! The ministers are too blinkered – or uncomfortable – to realise the truth. They’re hopefully going to have a lot more protests on their hands!

 

Advertisements

Thinking about Home Education instead of going back to school?

Whenever there’s a new school term starting there are a flurry of parents trying to decide about home educating instead.

If you’re one of those you’ll no doubt be wavering through nagging worries and doubts. Quite natural – all conscientious parents worry. It’s a condition of responsible parenting!

But look at it this way – you’d worry just as much if your children were in school. I know I did before we home educated. All home schoolers worry about the same old things:

  • Will the kids turn out okay?
  • Will they be able to make friends?
  • Will they achieve anything?
  • Will they be intelligent?
  • Will they still be speaking to me when they’re older?
  • Will we be able to enjoy a happy relationship?
  • Will they be able to fit into ‘mainstream’ life afterwards?
  • Will they be able to become independent?

I’d like to reassure you with the answer to those questions: YES!

Yes to all the above.

All the young people we knew who were home educated have grown into adults who have achieved, (many the same qualifications as their school contemporaries if that worries you), have all learned and developed their intelligence and knowledge (often exceeding that of their school contemporaries!), have good friend networks (and better social skills than many of them), have all integrated successfully into work, higher education, employment, the ‘real world’ for want of a better term. And have all continued a warm loving, respectful relationship with their parents.

So I hope you find that reassuring.

One way to manage inevitable worries is to focus on the NOW rather than the future. All worries are about the future and most of the educational approaches in schools are geared towards ‘the future’. The daft thing is no one can predict that, can predict how kids grow and change, learn and absorb, develop interests and intelligence. They change all the time in unpredictable ways. So trying to educate for some unforeseeable future is a waste of time.

What you can do is make the childrens’ educational experiences good ones at this moment in time. This way they’ll want to take over the learning for themselves, and will go on doing it until they see what they want and go for what they want. That’s what most home educated young people end up doing. Their education, which has been independent from an institution and decided upon through democratic discussions together, naturally leads them towards an independent life – not the opposite as some doubters would suggest.

So trust in yourself, trust the example of thousands of ‘graduated’ home schooled young people now successfully ‘out’ in society (they always were really – that’s how home education works), and be brave about deciding what’s right for your family.

Our two children are now in their twenties and out making their valid contribution to the working world and put me in mind of the things that were said about us which I wrote in ‘A Home Education Notebook’:

Hope that helps!

The longest job…tips for surviving!

Being a mum was the longest job I ever had. (Still is!)

It took me a few years to realise the implications of this, when a degree of restlessness was making me twitchy and at times less than happy.

This was absolutely nothing to do with my devotion to my role as a mum, nothing to do with the unconditional love I had for the children (still have), and absolutely nothing to do with the honour and value I attach to the role of being a parent and home educator.

It’s just that before, as an employee, when I got restless in a job I could look to change it, either apply for a new job, a new role, a new venue or some other rethink that refreshed my working life and renewed enthusiasm.

Can’t do that with being a mum! Once a parent always a parent. There’s no changing jobs. And it’s the same with home education – most are in it for the duration.

Of course, we don’t ever not want to be parents or home educators – I’m taking that as a given. But like with any job, it’s inevitable that at times you get bored. But that’s not the fault of parenting or home education, it’s just to do with the human psyche and our own personal needs requiring some attention.

It’s something I do harp on about regularly and I’m not apologising because it’s important; that we should pay attention to our own personal development and fulfilment as much as we are attending to the children’s. Mostly, though, we don’t, we let constraints of time, busyness, budget, practicalities, get in the way. There are so many reasons – or excuses!

So how to change that dissatisfaction that can build up with this long-term job? I found a few ways over the years:

  • Firstly, acknowledge that being happy and satisfied all the time is not achievable. That’s not the reality of life – again thanks to the human psyche. Once we accept that this is the case, we can pause a day or two, accept that this is the case today and nurture ourselves through with gentleness, instead of beating ourselves up about it as we sometimes do!
  • Happy and satisfied are also not finite objectives, but an ongoing changable process of development with ups and downs, moods, and mishaps and mistakes we have to learn how to deal with.
  • We can learn to deal with them by trial and error with things like distractions and contrasts; relaxing activities versus busy activities, creative activities, getting outdoors, using green spaces, sports, watching a good film, meeting others.
  • Then plan some time that is exclusively devoted to your own personal activities/work/pursuits that do not involve the children, where you develop a mutual respect between you of time to be left to your own business and they have to get on without you. (There’s a funny scenario where I start this described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘) This is not neglecting the kids, it’s teaching them the valuable skill of getting on independently.
  • Look at ways of changing your home education routines. Look at the bits that work. The bits that don’t work. Kids grow and change all the time and we sometimes don’t notice that everyone’s needs have altered since we started and so we need new approaches to accommodate them. You might need to back off more these days!
  • If you’re fighting with the kids all the time, change how you approach them and their learning. It also may be you’re simply just tired. Check out your reasons – rather than theirs!
  • Remember that circumstances always change with time. Difficulties pass. And if you can find ways to navigate the tricky restless times you will be passing on that valuable skill to your children too.
  • Don’t blame either yourself, your parenting, or home education. Blame is being reactive. Instead investigate pro-active ways to make changes and discuss it with the kids and others.
  • So make exclusive time where you get to go out without youngsters and talk about your dissatisfied bits and share ways of getting through them with other adults. Find out what others do to fulfil their needs and their time management that enables them to do so.

    Make something – even if it’s just an impression!

  • I once read that a day always feels better when you’ve made something. That’s so true – try it – whether a loaf or a cake, a photo or a painting, a difference – by changing a room round perhaps or different habit/routine, a discovery, or even footprints in the mud! Try it!,
  • Remember that the kids are learning all the time, whatever you do – or don’t do.
  • There is a whole chapter devoted to looking after yourself in ‘A home Education Notebook‘. It’s that important.

In our rapidly changing culture we rarely stick at anything for long. Parenting and home education is something that we have to stick at for years and years. However, there will many changes that occur throughout those years, some naturally, some through the course of time, some you can implement yourself. You just have to pay attention to the need for them. Restlessness and dissatisfaction is often a sign you haven’t!

If you’ve developed strategies others might find helpful please share in the comments below.

Parents are the foundation of education

When you become a mum the last thing that’s probably on your mind is education or school! It takes ages to settle into a new life as a parent which is why I wanted to offer help through my MUMHOOD book.

dav

But education is different from starting school if that’s what you think I mean and that’s not what I’m talking about here. Real education begins at home with the parents – usually mums. Whatever follows – home education or school – the foundation of it starts the minute the baby is born and the child’s achievement later in life is dependent on what you do as parents at home from birth.

Since so few parents realise how, I’ve copied an extract from my MUMHOOD book for you below because it’s so important and it’s something all parents have the chance to influence:-

…what many parents don’t understand is that, whatever age your children are, however small or big, their education and their achievement are wholly influenced by you. Their education i.e. their learning, starts a long, long time before school and you are the one who affects it. Both now and in the future.

But don’t worry, it’s not complicated. And it’s not academic learning I’m talking about, or is of the only importance.

Children need to learn something more important than academics. They need to learn about their world and how to fit into it. How to relate to it and to others. How to operate it and how to cope with it. As well as all the skills they need just to grow and get to grips with living on a daily basis.

Whatever age children are they’re learning all the time. And you will be teaching them without even noticing.

You’ll be teaching them skills like; using their utensils to eat their dinner. You’ll be encouraging their speech and teaching them the names of things. You’ll be teaching them how to put their clothes on, build with toys, put toys in the cupboard, or use the tablet.

Just take note throughout your day together and you’ll realise how much you are already teaching your children. It happens just by interacting together, showing them things, getting them to mimic sounds, encouraging them to walk, demonstrating things by example, talking about the things you see and answering their ‘why’ questions.

Through all this your children are learning. Through you – teachers aren’t required here – this kind of learning is equally valuable learning. It is the beginning of their understanding, the basis of all development and learning to come.

That’s how you influence your child’s education right from the start.

The things you do together at home, the attention you pay them, the conversations you have, are the groundwork for everything that follows. The way you engage with them, stimulate them, love them, all the things I’ve mentioned in the ‘Mother and Child’ chapter all influence the way in which your child learns and all the learning that will come after. The first three years of a child’s life are now recognised to be the kingpin for all that follows. And the learning they do from birth to four is the essential spring board for everything they do as they grow.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to establish the relationship with your child I discussed in the last section, why it’s important to be there with them much of the time, talking and listening, playing and interacting. Because everything you do with your child from the moment they’re born counts for something. All the experiences they have. The circumstances they’re in. The vibes they pick up. It all matters.

That’s a fundamental truth about children learning that parents sometimes overlook.

Some parents think that all learning takes place in schools between the ages of four and sixteen. It doesn’t. Some parents think teaching is required for learning to take place. It isn’t. It starts at home through your interaction. That’s why whatever you do with them matters.

But don’t think of it in educational or school terms or you’ll spoil it. Just make times to engage with them, to observe the world together, to discuss it, to encourage an interest in it and how everything works, and stimulate their curiosity.

Children are naturally curious about everything. Their curiosity is one of the most valuable starting points for them to learn about things. If we can keep their curiosity in the things around them alive, their desire to learn will stay alive, and it’s that desire to learn that educates them and which affects their education throughout their life.

Children who are curious are bound to want to find out, to know, to explore and discover. To learn. And even though you might think this is wearing sometimes, it’s extremely positive; it means your child is developing his knowledge, intelligence and his skills all the time. And he’s motivated to learn – the lack of which can be an enormous stumbling block to education in later life.

These natural opportunities stimulate learning of valuable skills all of which your child needs to develop educationally and, more important, personally. Skills and knowledge are the basis from which every child goes forward to find and live a fulfilled and productive life.

That’s why your attention to them in small everyday ways matters so much. Your attention educates.

And you need to pay the world attention too. Your interest, your interest in the world at large, in finding things out too, also has another impact. It demonstrates a positive attitude to learning. And that affects how well they learn. Both now and, importantly, later in life too.

Through the attitude you show towards learning things they will develop their own attitude towards learning things. That’s why it matters that you make your attitude to things around you one of interest and curiosity. Your attitude shows them that learning is worth it. Learning matters, that learning is exciting – even if it’s just learning how to stack beakers and watching the tower fall. It can show that learning is fascinating and has an impact – like learning how to manipulate scissors. That learning is such fun – looking at a book about dinosaurs together. That learning helps us grow – like playing a computer game and gaining skills that help us progress through the levels. That learning helps us – like learning how to do up buttons. That learning makes us feel fulfilled – like learning how to make muffins!

All these simple everyday things you show an interest in helps your child learn about his world and plays a vital role in the development of his personal education.

Learn about things together. Promote learning as worthwhile, whatever it is you’re learning about.

Some of the best ways to develop your child’s capacity to learn are the simplest. Here are a few:

Through conversations; talking together, back and forth, about whatever you’re doing is an opportunity to tell them so much. And more importantly it promotes language and communication skills, it makes them articulate, it develops vocabulary and thinking skills to name a few. Chat about what you’re doing or what you’re both going to do together and why. Explain why things are happening. Answer their why questions. Use your conversations for observation and questioning.

Making observations and posing questions; this can be easily included in your chatter. Observe what you see, point things out, bring your child’s attention to things. Like saying; ‘look at that tiny little ant.’ ‘I wonder what sort of flower that is?’ ‘Now what do we need to buy today?’ ‘What a huge lorry.’ This kind of chatter stimulates your child’s mind and that valuable curiosity about the world. Observe what people are doing and discuss why. Encourage them to ask their own questions.

Reading to them; not trying to teach them to read – just enjoying stories or non-fiction together in whatever format. Reading to them is the basis for them reading for themselves. Reading for themselves is founded in a love of stories, books and eBooks. Any time spent together enjoying books and stories in whatever format is valuable. Reading to them encourages interest in language, shows how it works, demonstrates the skills needed. It is one of the most valuable things you could be doing with your children – whatever age.

Play; it’s the foundation of a multitude of skills. Many parents don’t get how educative play is. But practical play is one of the most educative activities a child can be doing. Through play children learn about the things around them. For example they learn about the properties of things – hard, soft, liquid, solid, etc, they learn how to use things and gain hand-eye coordination skills – how scissors cut or paper folds, jugs fill and pour, things stack, etc, they gain practical skills – climbing, running, catching balls, etc. So many basic skills increase through play. Practical play is the best, play where they’re engaged using tools and materials, recycled junk, art and craft materials, pots and pans, constructional or collectable toys, toys that stimulate them to do things rather than just passively watch a screen or play a computer game. They don’t need complicated, expensive equipment – a den under the kitchen table made with an old sheet or a collection of old boxes stimulates their imagination just as much. Imagination promotes intelligent thinking. Thinking skills are essential to learning.

Through engaging them in the things you do; shopping, cooking, mending things, recycling, going places, whatever you’re doing is an opportunity to engage them, talk to them, explain, involve. It may sometimes need to be on their level, i.e. if you’re cooking give them some of their own ‘ingredients’ to play-cook with or wash plastic pots at the sink, or an old item to dismantle. But if they are involved in life they learn about life.

Physical activity is another educative activity that parents sometimes overlook. You both should be engaging in regular physical exercise anyway whether it’s walking to the shops or a play in the park and spending time outdoors. Apart from keeping fit physical activity also stimulates mental activity. Mental activity is what’s required for learning and education. Physical activity is good for your child in so many ways; it promotes self confidence, health – mental as well as physical, relaxation and sleep, makes them feel happier, helps with development – including that of the brain, increases general wellbeing.

So, in conclusion, just remember that everything you do with your child from the moment they are born, not only will build you a strong relationship, it will count towards their education too. And your child’s attitude towards their world as being something worth learning about will rub off on others. So through your attention you bestow enormous benefits not only on your child and your relationships but, via their interaction, on the wider world too.

As a mum, is there anything you could be doing more worthwhile than that!

(For more on the book; MUMHOOD How to handle it Why it matters, see the Books page or Amazon)

Hurtful and potentially damaging

I sit in a cafe where no one is talking. Everyone has their head down. Do they all hate each other? Are they depressed?

No – they’re staring at their phones.

Phones distract from real social interaction study shows; click the pic for the article

A child pipes up in a train carriage with a reasonable question for his mum about their journey. At first she ignores him and continues to stare blankly at her phone. So does everyone else in the carriage. He asks again, a little louder. So she yanks her earphones out her ears with a vicious glare and screams at him to leave her alone – she’s already told him – will he shut up – and various other hurtful remarks. Then she returns to watching her screen. He has no such entertainment and has to be content with nothing. And learn nothing about interaction but a lot about how it’s okay to ignore one another if you’ve got a phone in your hand. For that’s what most folks are doing.

We recognise additions to drugs and alcohol but we’re soon going to have to acknowledge addictions to technology which some people use compulsively. Not to mention to excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Like alcohol changes behaviour and severe alcoholism can ruin relationships I fear that compulsive checking of notifications and absorption in social media or gaming could be sending us the same way. We may have more facilities than ever with which to communicate but is this diminishing our skills to do so in warm humane ways, face to face? Diminishing interactions which communicate feelings and meanings more accurately than a digital emoji can. It’s certainly in danger of ruining our parenting and trashing the responsibility we have of teaching kids how to be social.

People would once have chit-chatted to strangers at the next table, on the next seat or in the bus queue. Now we’re all heads down creating isolation and distance. We’re learning how to ignore the person next to us in the room – familiar or stranger – by engaging with others miles away, or by gaming, which can overtake the desire to connect with anyone at all.

It’s easier not to. Our phones give us a chance to disengage and close ourselves in a digital bubble, avoiding the slight social difficulty of face to face, eye to eye.

The trouble is, apart from the fact that it is deskilling the youngsters – well and the oldsters too who are supposed to be setting an example – disengagement leads to desensitisation. Desensitisation makes it easier not to care. When you care less you can commit offenses and crimes against others more easily, you can bully more easily, you can disassociate the responsibility we all have to care for one another and maybe be polite to one another which makes a day go round more pleasantly than screaming.

I don’t know what preceded the incident on the train when mum sounded off loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. I acknowledge we’re all driven to less than acceptable behaviour with our kids on occasion, although she kept it up all journey. But I do know that kid did not deserve to be spoken to like that – no one does. Or be ignored for the rest of the hour’s journey without anything to do. He needed his own phone! Better still, he needed someone to talk to.

We all do. However updated we all are, and connected as we need to be to modern communications, it is nothing more than hurtful to be in the company of someone who clearly seems to prefer to communicate with someone else. It hurts us all; child or adult.

And it’s something we perhaps need to give serious thought to as we parent and prepare our kids for the wider world. Phones are absolutely brilliant. But we have to consider and take charge of them and their place in society, not have them in charge of us. Or replace the time given to the warm loving interactions we all inherently need.

Still hungering to open minds!

I would like to think things had changed from when I first wrote this quite a few years ago. Judging by the accusations still thrown our way I sometimes wonder!

Out in the real world experiencing real things

As home educators you get accused of a lot of things:

–          You get accused of tying your children to your apron strings and being unable to let them go.

–          You get accused of narrowing their education to the confines of your home.

–          You get accused of wanting to molly coddle them instead of allowing them to acclimatize to the rough and tumble of the ‘real’ world.

–          You get accused of both wanting to academically cram your children and the opposite of totally neglecting their education.

–          You get accused of being weird and alternative.

–          And the worst thing of all; you get accused of being a parent who does not care about education since you don’t send your child to school.

What is so galling about these accusations is that firstly, in the case of most home educating families, the exact opposites are true. And secondly they are usually made by people who have no first hand experience of home education and who speak in complete ignorance! Often in fear.

Far from tying the kids to their apron strings most home educating parents are giving their children an opportunity to be out in the ‘real’ world. The real ‘real’ world that is, not the artificial world of school.

Far from narrowing their education, home education extends the child’s experiences far beyond the home and the world becomes their learning environment, gaining them an understanding of how the world works and how they fit into it beyond the classroom. Home educated children are exposed to a wide range of people and a wide range of social experiences over and above the limits and unnatural clustering of school ones.

As for academically cramming or neglecting their education; most home educating families strive to achieve a far better balance in their educational provision than that which a child would normally achieve within the restrictions of the national curriculum. A balance between first hand learning and study, a balance between passive learning and active engagement, a balance between physical activities, arts, sciences, field trips, experimentation, personal development, independent learning, investigation, creative innovation, intellectual stimulation and a social diversity which extends way beyond that which they would receive going to the same school with the same bunch of people, day after day, year after year.

Far from being molly coddled most home educating families give their child some say in the educational process, unlike their educationally spoon-fed contemporaries in school, thus building essential skills needed for independence.

And far from being weird and alternative we are actually very ordinary parents who want the same simple things every parent wants for their children; their health and happiness, continued development and achievement, and realisation of their individual potential.

And finally, far from being neglectful of their education, we are totally and one hundred percent committed to it. Why else would any parent take such a mammoth step?

Things have changed a bit – there are thousands more families accepting home schooling for the workable option it is.

But I still hunger to open closed minds. To invite people to do a little personal learning, step beyond their normal conditioned responses and seek to understand that there are many, many approaches to education that are as equally successful as the one they are used to through school. And to grow a little tolerance and compassion towards those people who would make different choices to their own.

Please pass it on!

A plea to drivers – slow down for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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