Tag Archive | parents

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.

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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.

 

The Home Education Bill – a brilliant response

Rachel and her two lovely boys

Last week I read an absolutely brilliant post about the proposed Home Education Bill on the blog; Mini Man’s Home Ed Adventures. Since the author, Rachel Evans, writes far better than I could on the subject, I immediately contacted her to ask if it would be okay to copy it here to help spread the word a little further and was very happy to receive a ‘yes’!

So here it is. I know it’s long but it’s well worth setting aside some time to have a read as it explains everything so well:

Many of you will be unaware that a private members Bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords, proposed by Lord Soley (Labour Lord), regarding home education. I have read and reread the entire transcript of the second reading of the Bill a number of times. Before I even start addressing the points made as regards the Bill, I have to say I have been utterly appalled and aghast by the attitudes of all but one of the Lords who responded. The exception, Lord Lucas, showed great understanding of the situation and called for an evidence based Bill rather than an opinion based Bill.  Between the rest of the Lords, for me, they have displayed a frightening lack of understanding of education, home education, SEN, child welfare and the realities of life for ordinary people. In fact, Lord Soley himself actually acknowledged that he had “not had a great deal of involvement in education and do not claim to have that much knowledge of it”. I am perturbed that these unelected Peers are proposing, influencing and making laws/decisions that affect all of our lives, whilst displaying a total disconnection and distrust of real people. They have shown, in this case, that these proposals are based on their own opinions and views of life and not any evidence at all. In fact, and most worryingly, they appear to not actually be interested in the evidence or reality. They are displaying a shocking level of ignorance and arrogance in the power and stance of the State . This is something that I had not really appreciated until really looking into this, and something I feel we should all be concerned about.

So firstly, a quick foray into the legal definition of education and where educational responsibility lies. The legal responsibility for the education of a child lies wholly and squarely with the parents of the child, both in UK law and within European Convention of Human Rights. The Education Act 1996 states “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” Schools must provide a “broad and balanced” education because it is providing education to thousands of children. The education parents provide is regarded as suitable providing it;

“… equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s option in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.”

Schooled education is set up in a way that makes mass education easier to administer. Teachers do not have the time, staff or resources to find the optimal learning pace, style and preference for each child. Neither do teachers have any real flexibility to provide education individually tailored to the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of every child. National Curriculum dictates content, methods and standards irrelevant of actual age, developmental stage, ability, aptitude or SEN of a child – it is a one standard fits all system, where anyone or anything outside this is classed as substandard/failing. In contrast, home educators can provide educational content and methods perfectly balanced to their child’s age, development stage, preferences, learning styles, pace and SEN.

So in essence, what does the Bill entail? It would mean as a home educator you would be compelled, by law, to register all home educated children, you would be compelled to give access to your home to Government officials, at least annually, to determine whether your child is being abused, radicalised, whether they are being home educated against their will and to monitor educational standards (these standards have not been specified but I assume they would be National Curriculum levels). You could be compelled to allow your child to be interviewed by a Government official, in which you as a parent, you would not allowed to be present. The Bill, as it stands, means you would also be compelled to allow a Government official to assess the physical and emotional development of your child, at least annually (although during the second reading Lord Soley did concede that this was “unrealistic”). If alarm bells are not ringing for you already, let me explain why you should be very concerned over these draconian measures that are being proposed in the “best interests of the child”.

Compulsory registration

In UK law, as I have said earlier, parents hold ultimate legal responsibility for their child’s education. The default position is home education, if you do not wish to fulfil this responsibility personally, you opt into the school system by enrolling your child for a school place, then OFSTED oversee the quality of this on behalf of parents. Local Authorities have a responsibility to provide school places for those that wish it,  to identify children missing in education when on school roll and for identifying those children in home education who do not appear to be receiving an education. I can’t think of any other aspect in life where you have to register with the Government, when you rightfully and legally choose not to opt into something.

Compulsory access to your home

Some Local Authorities already cite that access to your home is compulsory. This is currently illegal under English law, it contravenes the UN Convention of Children’s Rights (which although never adopted into English Law was ratified) and human rights. Even the police and social workers need a reason and justification to enter a home. The Bill, as it stands, would nullify the these laws and rights for one subset of the population – which is discrimination and also illegal. This Bill would compel home educators to allow access to their home by the Government annually, so that they can speculatively look for evidence of law breaking. All this, because a family has taken the rightful and legal decision not to opt into the state school system. Are you worried yet? If not, you should be. Looking at another human right, the right to the presumption to innocence until proved guilty. This Bill runs very close to riding a coach and horses through the presumption to innocence.  Almost putting home educators in the position of having to prove they are not wrong doing. The Bill also contravenes the parental presumption to competence which is accorded all parents in England. The role of the State is as a 3rd parent, where it is proved the parents have failed.  If you are still not worried, then just consider how you would feel being compelled to allow Government officials into your home for them to speculatively look for evidence of wrong doing. And for those of the “nothing to hide” persuasion, there are plenty of blogs, articles and resources explaining why this is a dangerous position for everyone.

Interviewing of home educated children without their parents

Even the police need a reason to interview a child, and whilst this can be done without a parent present, they have to be very careful not to influence or intimidate the child. Yet this Bill wants all home educated children to be interviewed annually, without parents present, to see if a wrong doing may have occurred, presumably they hope to achieve this without influencing or intimidating the child. Given the disproportionately high percentage of SEN children in the home education population, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum, the very thought of an authority stranger demanding to speak to them in itself would be extremely traumatic. Baroness Deech, was particularly concerned that a home educated child, that was not subject to annual inspection, would be “muffled and unable to say whether they would like to be elsewhere”.  By the reverse logic I wonder if they are going to abide by their own standard and allow home educators to interview all schooled children, without their parents or teachers, to ascertain whether they wish to continue in school or be home educated instead. I don’t know, but I’m guessing not, which implies State muffling of a child’s voice is acceptable.

Radicalisation

Lord Soley suggests people are using the home education laws to deregister their children to radicalise them. A freedom of information request on all Local Authorities showed that not a single case of home educated children being involved in extremist activity has been recorded. Even if the Bill was enacted, compulsory annual inspection would hardly reveal this. Radicalised school children who have school contact for 1170 hours (6 hours x 5 days x 39 weeks a year) a year go undetected. There is no evidence that home educated children are more likely to be radicalised than their school peers.

Illegal and unregistered schools

Lord Soley claims he needs this Bill to prevent children being deregistered to be put into illegal and/or unregistered schools. I think the clue is in the name here – OFSTED has the remit and power to identify, inspect and close illegal and unregistered schools. They do not need this Bill to do this, they simply need to use their existing powers.

Abuse

Lord Soley claims that home educated children are deregistered so that abuse can be covered up, and that the Bill would prevent this. To the best of my knowledge, there has only been one case of child neglect that has been linked in any way to home education, and this was Dylan Seabridge in Wales. However, as Lord Lucas pointed out at the second reading of the Bill, concerns about Dylan were raised a year before he died and the authorities did not see fit to act – a failure of the State not of home education. Creating a compulsion to register all home educated children with the Local Authority would not prevent abuse. Those intent on abusing their children would presumably be unlikely to present themselves for registration, and hence not be available for inspection.

On the subject of abuse. One of the most prevalent reasons for deregistering a child from school is due to bullying, which is rife in schools. I have heard so many stories of concerned parents being told their child was “too sensitive”, “needs to grow a thicker skin”, “has to learn to deal with it as part of life”.  And sadly, bullying is not the preserve of children either, I personally know of children removed to home educate due to bullying at the hands of teachers, some of these children now suffer PTSD as a result.

I would suggest that tackling abuse and bullying in schools would reduce the numbers in home education in the first place over which he is so concerned.

“Disappearing” children

Lord Soley expressed concern about children “disappearing” once deregistered from school. Any child deregistered from a school has to be reported to the Local Authority by law by the school, so they are already “known” to the authorities, they have not “disappeared”. Children who have never been opted into the system are still known to authorities – they were registered at birth. Children are still registered with the NHS, doctors, dentists, opticians, libraries, child benefit etc. Home educated children are within their families, friends, community, home education community, at events etc. If a person really wanted to “hide” a child then this Bill would not prevent that, these people would be unlikely to come forward to declare their home education status with the Local Authority.

Off Rolling

Baroness Morris of Yardley was one of a number of Peers rightly concerned about “off – rolling” of students. This is where pressure is brought to bear on parents by schools to remove their child into home education, under the guise of being best for the child and largely against the wishes of the parents who feel forced into this. This can be due to the school feeling unable to meet SEN needs, the child about to be permanently excluded and/or the possibility of the child’s assessment results being detrimental to the school performance. This is a concern shared by many in the home education community. As soon as a child is removed from school roll the school must inform the Local Authority by law. Therefore, the current system captures this information already and therefore the Local Authority has the opportunity to intervene. The proposed Bill would make no difference to this at all.

Concerns of most home educators providing “substandard education”.

Many Peers raised concerns about educational standards within home educating families. Lord Addington said children were disappearing “into very substandard education”. He did not provide any evidence of this or what he felt the standard should be, one presumes the National Curriculum.

Whilst National Curriculum appears to be held as the holy grail of “standards”, I would like to ask the question of who sets the National Curriculum. Given the legal definitions and responsibilities outlined in my opening paragraphs, one would assume that parents, communities, teachers, children, business and workplace communities would be key contributors, as well as child development experts. However, given all the recent curriculum changes pushed through by successive Educational Ministers, against the advice of teachers, head teachers, parents and children, it would suggest that politicians are the drivers. There has been much debate and many articles written about suitability of National Curriculum, in particular its impact on childhood mental health. The Government’s own appointed adviser on childhood mental health found herself out of a job when she pointed the finger at the education system. There has also been much discussion on whether an education system designed in and on the principles of the industrial revolution is fit for purpose in today’s environment. Sir Ken Robinson explains this perfectly in his RSA Animated Lecture on Changing the Educational Paradigms.

Many home educators feel that the National Curriculum and school environment do not provide good quality education for their children, particularly if they have a child who is gifted and/or has SEN. They want a “curriculum” based on other things they consider important e.g. self motivation, curiosity, ability to self direct, evaluate, challenge, follow passions, ask questions, specialise. They see education in a more holistic way than simply cramming knowledge, being tested on it, forgetting it and then moving onto the next test. They see education as learning HOW to learn not WHAT to learn. Once a child knows how to learn, they can learn anything, at any time and anywhere. Many home educators feel that true learning does not happen to a Government dictated timetable, formula and process, at set dates, in set subjects and batched up with children of identical ages. Just because home education is not measurable does not mean it is substandard. And indeed what should the standards be? On the continent formal schooling often doesn’t start until 7 years, so a child unable to read at 7 years is the norm. In England, a 7year old child with no reading would be classed as “failing”. Given increasing evidence that we are pushing children with too much too young and that this is a significant factor in childhood mental health decline, then really it is National Curriculum that should come under scrutiny not home education. On a slightly flippant note when it comes to standards and appropriate education, I am finding it hard pressed to find parents, teachers, students and business leaders who feel that vital life knowledge for an 11 yr old consists of the intricate workings of subjective conjunctions and fronted adverbials. In fact, I suggest anyone agreeing that it benefits school childrens’ written English, should take a few moments to listen to Michael Rosen (Children’s Laureate June 2007- June 2009) on the subject.

Many home educated children take different qualifications, different paths to their careers rather than the school system of GCSEs, ALevels etc. But for those that wish to take this route it can be difficult and expensive. If Lord Soley really wished to help, then maybe pressuring the Government to make it easier to access these exams externally would be prudent. Once you deregister your child from the school system, you take on the full cost yourself, including the cost of entering your child into examinations. There are few exam centres, which are often hours away that take external candidates and often the cost runs to several hundred pounds per subject.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

On a more positive note, there was some acknowledgement by the Peers that a number of children were home educated due to unmet SEN needs by the state school system. From my experience a great number of children in home education are there due to unmet SEN. This is a systematic failure of the State to provide a comprehensive SEN strategy and resources. A significant number of these failed children are autistic children who are too academic for special school but too autistic for mainstream school. Schools do not have the training, expertise, experience or resources for these very complex children. But this is a separate discussion. However, Lord Soley suggests help should be made available to families of SEN children. What this consists of and who was going to pay for it he didn’t outline. As a battle weary SEN parent, who is well aware of the reality of Local Authority “help”, I remain sceptical until I see it. School budgets are being cut, Teaching Assistants removed, SEN support dropped, EHCPs routinely rejected or providing very weak support, Local Authorities telling parents that they forfeit NHS Occupational Therapy, NHS Speech and Language therapy when you home educate (this is a lie by the way), Local Authorities refusing to give parents EHCP Personal Budgets and blocking access to help and provision at every turn (I have personal experience of this), NHS budgets cut, NHS service access thresholds so high very few can access them, practically non-existent CAMHS service provision in many parts of the country … I could go on and on. Given this backdrop, I somehow doubt the Local Authorities are suddenly going to be able to fund the “help” alluded to by Lord Soley.

There were a multitude of corkers by various Peers regarding home educating parents, including but not limited to “there are inadequate and disorganised parents who simply cannot get their children ready in time to go to school” this by Baroness Richardson of Calow.   Another of my favourites is by Baroness Garden of Frognal who expresses concerns that home educated families may not be able teach children to be “part of the community”. Home educated children are learning IN their community. They are developing personal and social skills that cannot be learned in schools when merely surrounded only by identically aged peers and authority figure adults. In fact, home educators worry about what passes for socialisation in schools. A perfect example, a local man here runs parkour groups for home educated children and schooled children. He informed a close home educating friend that in home educated groups he can mix all the age ranges (5-15 years) as they are all very supportive and encouraging of each other. In groups of school children, he has to split by year group because the older children belittle and mock the younger, less able ones. I could carry on giving evidence of patronising, ill informed and ignorant comments by some Peers but I will stop there as you likely get the drift.

The real questions …

Lord Soley acknowledges that the numbers of home educated children has risen dramatically over recent years. I don’t think anyone is going to deny that. This surely is a perfect time to ask the question WHY. Why do so many people feel so strongly as to remove their child from state education, lose an income, radically change their lives, take back educational responsibility and take on the financial burdens of home educating their children? Why are teachers leaving the system? Why is the Government struggling to recruit teachers and then retain them? Why are parents voicing concerns over relentless testing? Why is there rising childhood mental health issues? Why are SEN parents removing their children in droves? Why do teachers choose to leave their profession to home educate their own children rather than put them into the system? Why are businesses struggling to recruit staff with the right skills? Why ARE an increasing number of parents choosing to home educate?

Rather than address these issues, Lord Soley has focused on registration and assessment of home education on the basis of standards of education, radicalisation and child abuse. There is no evidence that these are even issues. He is advocating sweeping away the human rights of one subset of the population based on his own ill informed fears and suspicions. As Lord Lucas points out that if we [government] “lived up to our obligations to these parents and children under existing legislation, I do not think we would have a fraction of the worry and problem we have”. He went on to say “A lot of powers are not used because of lack of money or lack of quality of staff”. There are examples where Local Authorities work proactively with the home education community and within the law to great effect. This proves that when exercised well, the existing powers are fit for purpose. There really is no need for this discriminatory and costly Bill, which will not actually address the issues it proclaims it aims to solve.

Thank you very much to Rachel for such a thought provoking piece.

Anyone who wants to get involved further there’s a Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/stophl11/ 

 

Education is a parenting issue!

It’s always struck me as odd that one of the judgements people make of home educators is that they don’t care about their kids’ education and that’s why they don’t send them to school!

Instead, the real truth that the rest of us know, is that homeschool parents care so much they don’t feel they can risk leaving it to the system. They take on full responsibility for their kids’ learning themselves – which leads me to post again this article from way back. Because actually;

every child’s education is every parents responsibility

Did you know that? Or did you think it was all down to schools?

It isn’t, but it is mostly only home schoolers who know this.

The law says; “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. (Notice the ‘otherwise’ bit – that gives parents the legal right not to send their children to school by the way. See the Ed Yourself website; http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php)

However, the majority of parents opt to hand the education of their children over to schools as they are encouraged to do, believing that to be best. It is sometimes (only sometimes). But that still doesn’t mean all responsibility lies with the school.

For the fact is that, however children are educated, the outcome is very much dependent on the parents; on parental support, parental encouragement, parental outlook, parental involvement, and love has a good deal to do with it too. Children achieve so much when they are loved and respected.

But I suspect many parents of school children tend not to involve themselves with their children’s education because they think a) they can’t – they’re not clever enough, or b) it’s not their concern – it’s the school’s.

Neither of these reasons is valid really. Because despite you thinking you may not know stuff or it’s the school’s job to educate, it is parental involvement that has the biggest impact on what children achieve, most importantly parental attitude.

One of the things that influences children’s learning is the value that is placed on it.  They learn which things should be valued and which not bothered with from their parents. In fact at the start of their life they learn all their values and attitudes from their parents.

Children of parents who do not display a positive attitude towards education will find it hard to have a positive attitude themselves. Children who are not encouraged will be less motivated. Children whose parents are not interested in the things they do at school will have no interest in doing them. Children whose parents cop out of it by saying they’re not clever enough (when often the reason is they can’t be bothered to learn themselves) will make their kids think they needn’t be clever either.

You don’t have to be clever at maths or necessarily understand the science your kids are doing you just have to show an interest. You just have to be positive about it. Take positive approaches to overcoming challenges (finding out yourself maybe) and make your child feel that you are on their side and you’re in it together – as a team. And it’s worth doing well.

Through your attitude to them they will begin to see education as valuable – which it is.

Although you may need to really sort out what you think education is – or should be – what it’s for and in what way it’s valuable, as this is also part of your responsibility as a parent.

There is no excuse not to think about it, or just abdicate all responsibility to schools.

Because education is also a parenting issue. And as parents, whatever educational path you’ve chosen for your child, you definitely need to remain involved.

What’s a good start to education?

A similar event in a Suffolk library

There was the sound of giggling and tiny tots voices coming from the children’s section. I was in the library returning books and couldn’t help having a peep to see what was going on.

The toddlers and parents were sat in a circle on the floor having such a happy time together doing rhymes and actions and songs etc. Lovely to see. Fab to see parents engaging and interacting with their kids (no phones anywhere). And full marks to the library for initiating it to help them achieve it.

It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone; engaging with tiny beings, pre-conversation, especially when you’ve only been used to adult chat. I remember wondering what to do with the littlies sometimes – not being a great chitterer myself it didn’t come naturally. So groups like this are great to help those of us who are less inspired in that department to get going.

Because it’s really important that we do. For the simple reason that all the chat, chant, song and engagement with the youngsters we have, at whatever age, is the foundation of education. 

This contact, connection, interaction in whatever form is the pre-cursor for essential skills on which education is built – communication being one, as well as listening, observing, responding, thinking, vocabulary development, the basic skills needed for learning to progress. All founded in those simple little sing-songs, chats with your child, constantly reading to them, engaging in whatever way. They are the building blocks from which the mastery of language, communication, mental agility and other skills for wider learning can grow. Just from the stimulation of these types of activities when they are young. Well – it should continue throughout childhood really.

Parents think that getting kids reading early or writing their name, recognising numbers etc will give them a good start to their education. It does.

But the reality is that it starts much, much earlier than that. A good start to education is you!

(For more, check out the last section; ‘How you influence your child’s education’, in my book ‘Mumhood. How to Handle it. Why it Matters’)

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!