Tag Archive | parents

Playing to the system – or not!

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m often on about the need for education to develop creative skills (read this blog and you’ll see why it’s important)

20170112_093050And it’s come back to mind again as I’m reading Grayson Perry’s book ‘Playing to the Gallery’. He is of course talking about art – but what he asks about art is exactly true of education; how do we tell if something’s good or not? Is it in financial terms – it’s potential to earn or have monitory value? Do we judge by mass popular opinion, or whether it works for us or not? Does tradition have a part to play in our assessment? Or do we judge by aesthetic qualities – whether we like it – which is of course tied up in all these things?

It struck me that those questions about artwork, equally apply to education.

When you home educate, out of the system of expected outcomes and assessment, you really have to consider answers to those questions. But whether you home educate or not – you should still be asking them.

Consider the financial aspect for a start. Business politics are now having a huge influence on schools and consequently education. Funding was always an issue. But in blinding us with budgets a valuable fact is being masked. The fact that you don’t have to throw money at learning to make it good – it’s the quality of the people involved that’s important and the time they have to inspire individuals. Home educators on very tight budgets are providing an alternative learning experience which leads to intelligent, social and qualified young people.

Our popular acceptance of schooling as the only means to education serves the political economy by looking after kids whilst both parents work – this is what many parents want. Whether it is an education that serves the children well is another matter!

Mass popular opinion also governs what goes on in schools, but being popular isn’t a sign that it is good, as Grayson says of art. We have been conditioned to think that the education children receive in school is going to be a good one because that’s the popular opinion and that’s the only one most of us know. But the politics of it has influenced the quality through demanding constant measurement and measurement has been interpreted as constant testing, which is neglecting true education in the broader sense.

There is also the matter of whether the kids like it or not. Do they have to like it? Certainly do – that’s if you want them to reach their potential, rather than just be child-minded. Deterioration in a child’s achievement, because of their unhappiness in school, has driven many a family to home educate where they can provide a better learning climate, where the child is comfortable and enjoys their learning, that doesn’t cost enormous amounts and can take any form you want it to take to make it good.

So how do we judge whether our home education is good or not?

To answer that you have to ask what education is for.

We had many a discussion about this over all our days of home educating and discovered that the answer lies more in the broader view.

The broader reason we all educate, both schools and home schoolers, is not necessarily for qualification as most traditionalists see it. But so that the children can take their place, independently, in the society in which we live. So they can contribute to it in their own way, be a productive, pleasant and caring member of the human race who is considerate and thoughtful and ever learning and developing their wider understanding of themselves, others and the wider world.

They may use qualifications to do that. They may not. But the archaic, dull and pressurised testing criteria schools use certainly does not have to play a part in it.

The approach you use  as a home educator will be determined by your circumstances, your own beliefs, your child and their needs and the interactions you make. But be assured that the system’s way is just one way to educate and one that’s not doing many children a lot of good. There’s a myriad of ways to learn – some you might not consider learning at all, like having a conversation for example, but which are equally valuable. You don’t have to play by the system’s rules just because of mass popularity and you get more Likes on Facebook!

As Grayson says of art; we’ve all come to it influenced by the system which got us there in the first place. Same with education; we’ve all come to accept the education system because it leads us to do so.

Doesn’t mean we have to play to it, though, to achieve educational success for our children.

Kids don’t particularly needs schools to learn!

For some, it’s scary to think about their children learning without schools or ‘proper’ teachers. Especially if that’s all you’re used to.

Getting your head round that idea is a problem for most home educating families when they start out.

They learn just as well on the floor, lying down, wriggling about, having a chat...

They learn just as well on the floor, lying down, wriggling about, having a chat…

Because parents mostly believe that in order to learn kids need the following:

  • qualified teachers
  • to be taught
  • to be in classrooms, sitting still mostly
  • to be told what to do, when to do it and how
  • to follow a curriculum
  • to learn in incremental stages
  • to be tested regularly
  • to learn through academics

But those who’ve been home educating a while are discovering that other ways of learning work just as well without any of this stuff in place. Successful home educated graduates are proof.

For example they’re finding out that, contrary to the points above:

  • Qualified teachers can help children learn – granted. But equally there are plenty of other adults, parents being among them, who can also help children learn by being engaged with them, by answering their questions and encouraging more, by being interested, facilitating experiences and spending the time. Time that teachers don’t have.
  • Anyway, children also learn without teaching, through the incidental activities they do, through conversations, explorations and investigations.
  • Learning can take place anywhere. At any time, doing anything, however wriggly and unstill they are, without ever entering a classroom actually – given the right climate. And many are proving it now.
  • And they don’t always require to be told what to do, when to do it and how, if at all!
  • So therefore a curriculum isn’t always necessary. It’s just a useful tool which you can use or lose, depending on how you want to use it rather than have it use you!
  • Some learning is built on understanding that’s gone before. some learning happens in a kind of non-structured patchwork that’s being proven to be equally successful. It depends which approach suits the child and family’s needs best. Stage- or grade-led learning is not the only approach that works. Or a guarantee of successful education.
  • Testing IS NOT necessary. I repeat; testing is not necessary. It doesn’t advance the learner. It’s just another tool you can use or lose depending on your preference. (There’s a previous post which explains here)
  • And there are all sorts of non-academic ways to learn; conversation, watching films or YouTube clips, experiential, practical and firsthand, trips, trial and error, field study. The more the learning experience ignites all the senses the firmer it will be established!

It takes a while to trust in this process. You have to open your mind, your eyes, and watch and learn how your children really are learning without any of the conventional requirements you might have thought were needed.

But trust this; there are thousands of home educated young people now proving this to be true!

(If you want to know more there’s a long chapter on learning approaches in my book Learning Without School Home Education‘)

The parenting endurance test!

January can feel like an endurance test!

I find it hard to keep my spirits on the bright side when my daily walk, which I take for that very reason – keeping bright, becomes grueling rather than graceful at this time of the year.

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The best bit of a wet January morning; shiny droplets on the winter flowering cherry

Recording my pictures on Instagram helps me focus on the charms rather than the challenges, even if I have to seek them sometimes.

But that’s a good way to get through all challenges; remind yourself of the best bits among life’s barrage.

A parent asked me recently how I managed to get through the challenge of the years home educating with such ‘patience and grace’?

The short answer is; I didn’t all the time!

For, although it is mostly the best bits I write about to encourage and inspire – and it is an inspiring thing to do – it is certainly a challenge, verging on an endurance test sometimes. But isn’t all parenting like that – not just home educating?

The thing is; you know your kids are absolutely delightful beings. You know you completely love them to bits. You know home educating is totally the best thing you’ve ever done. And you know you don’t want it any other way.

BUT…..

There are times you are inevitably going to shout ‘FFS’!!!

I had those times too.

You would also have those times if the children were in school – believe me!

The longer answer to the above question was that I built strategies to help me through the grueling bits. We need that with both parenting and home education.

You’ll need to take deep breaths – often.

You’ll need to step back and let be – often.

You’ll need to stop worrying – that’s a decision as much as any.

You’ll need to trust that time will sort it.

Get outside – often.

You’ll need to look after yourself – as much as the children. Your mental and spiritual well being is included in that; build strategies to help refocus when needed (like me with the Instagram).

And you need to winkle out the best bits. There are always good bits.

Seasons change. January passes. Kids grow. Family life changes rapidly. All challenges change just as rapidly too.

All will be well.

(For more enduring comfort and reassurance try my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Or just for mum support; ‘Mumhood’. See the books page for details)

Facing up to end of hols…

I had a lovely Christmas. The young people were home again and we were able to relax and enjoy the fire, the food and a regular foray outdoors.

Then they go again, spirits drop, January comes and there’s nothing to be done except get back to work

I sometimes find that very hard; doesn’t everyone after Christmas?

You’d think it was easier working at home. It isn’t! There’s no one to give you encouragement, to share with, or even give you a cheery ‘good morning’. You face it alone. I can soon plummet into the ‘what’s-the-point’ syndrome.

Yesterday though I was rescued by a lovely reader sending me this wonderful message about my latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook’;

My husband bought this for me for Christmas. We commenced home education of our 8 year old and 5 year old on 14-12-16, so two weeks ago. 
I’ve read the first chapter and intro and I feel like it was written by me and for me. 
I will continue to read but its magical, truly magical. 
My da has leafed through it. Supportive but not entirely convinced by home ed and rather nervous of it, the bits he has read have lit a flame and already expanded his awareness. I suspect I will be filling my shelves with your books.”

She’s made all this writing worth it again, as do all the other kind people who send me messages and tell me how the book has helped. I’m SO grateful – without you I would stop.

So, returning the favour, if you need a boost to get you going again here’s a little extract from the book that might encourage;

This book is to remind you that you’ve chosen this path because you thought that was best for your child – and you DO know your child best.

It’s also to remind you that HOME EDUCATION WORKS. You chose this route because you thought it would be better – and it is in many circumstances.

It’s been going on long enough now for there to be home educated adults out in the ‘real’ world working, living productive happy lives, contributing to society, who have ‘normal’ social lives and plenty of friends. And as someone once said to my daughter; “you couldn’t tell” they’d never been to school. We weren’t sure how to take that at the time, but we had a good laugh over it.

There’ll be quite a few things you need to laugh over. It’s often the best response…

I know how lonely it can feel sometimes stepping away from the mainstream, even with the wonder that is social networking which wasn’t around when we first started. I know personally how you can doubt, worry, wobble, cry, lose the plot and feel you’re losing yourself sometimes even though you love home educating, love your kids and on the whole love what you’re doing.

I’ve been in that situation too but there is one absolute truth I can tell you for certain; it was bloody WORTH IT! I have no regrets, not one single one.

It is an amazing thing you do in home educating your children, you are incredibly courageous in making the choice to step away from convention; it is truly an inspirational uplifting experience for the whole family.

When you lose touch with that, as is inevitable at times when you’re tired and troubled, this will hopefully help you feel like that again…

AHEN-THUMBNAIL-200

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

 

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.

Fab time!

I had a delightful time meeting parents at the Home Education Fair in London.
Thank you so much to all who came up to me to tell me how helpful the books have been. I’m overwhelmed by your kind compliments. 20161002_120726

Quite amazing to see the increase in interest in home education. Although when I hear accounts of some schools’ practices and approaches that shouldn’t be surprising. And not surprising to hear that parents want to encourage their children to learn in a different way from the hot housing and political wangling that the system has made of education.

It seems there are all sorts of reason parents turn to home education; some as a result of problems in school, some decide before the kids even get to school because they’re so disenchanted by the system. And it crosses all ages of children now from toddlers to teens. Some kids never go to school at all, some go for parts of it, some end up out of it at a later stage. It also crosses all the social, cultural, financial, educational climes as well. And it’s wonderful to see parents making a stand against the political manipulation of children as pawns to raise popularity with voters.

I always thought I was a cynic thinking this way about the education system. But as I’ve seen the joy of learning taken away from children, teachers and schools, I feel it even more strongly now.

Home educating (or home schooling as it’s sometimes referred too – see this post) puts the joy back into learning and education, as it should be. It also puts charge back in the hands of the parents which actually the law says is required of them.

Someone said to me recently; ‘Home education is a huge commitment on the part of the parent, isn’t it?’

I find this remark quite astonishing really. Having children is already a commitment isn’t it?

How committed are we? Educating children in whatever form is also already a commitment. It’s just there are increasing numbers of parents that are unwilling to hand that over to a governmental system that’s failing to front up to their commitment to children instead of their own political agenda!

I met some fab parents and some fab young people thriving and achieving through home education in a way I doubt they would through schooling.

Well done you all. Lovely to meet you!