Tag Archive | parents

Open eyes to the school establishment

Looking forward to reading this

I try my hardest not to resort to school bashing. But I still get accused of it. Just because I won’t stay silent about all the things wrong with the school system.

And if that’s school bashing then I’m sorry for it. It’s just that parents need to have their eyes and minds opened beyond the conditioning the establishment perpetuates, especially the idea that school is right for all.

It isn’t.

Take testing for a start. Kids don’t really gain anything from being tested. They’re just being used as pawns in the game of one-upmanship played by politicians, institutions of education, between professionals and commercial enterprise. Test results are not what education is about. Few home schooled kids are tested throughout their learning lives yet still go onto to achieve qualifications when the time comes.

Take the idea that all kids have to achieve the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, or they’ll be failures. This is a form of emotional blackmail that is totally untrue. Kids doing things in this way is for adult convenience and has nothing to do with personal success or failure. Thousands of home educated kids learn in different time frames, their needs and competence at the time dictate when, what and how. And generally end up in the same place as school contemporaries.

Take a look at the curriculum. A school curriculum is not designed to be educatively enlightening. It’s designed to be measured. Thus increasingly neglecting essential subjects like the arts, the practical and sports. At the same time negating skills in these areas and a huge percentage of children who would be good at them.

Take the idea of going to school for the socialization. What a joke! Nowhere post school is the social model inside one replicated. The model where you’re clustered together in groups of same age, with people who are as social inept as you are, where friendships are enforced and where there is a hierarchy of respect rather than a mutually earned one. Thousands of home educated kids go onto Uni, interviews, work with a such high standard of social ability, conversation and initiative, it’s often what wins them the place.

Take the idea that school dynamics, bullying, crowds, unhealthy competition, and the shame of failure makes you stronger. Complete balderdash! Most kids are weakened by those experiences and often made desperate. Home educated kids who don’t have to endure such indignities – for that’s what they are – become strong, confident, competent and motivated people.

And finally, take the idea that the children need to be told what to learn, when to learn it, and how good at it they are, in order to become an educated person, which is an idea the school establishment imposes. Another load of tosh. Thousands of home schooled children take charge of their own education and are motivated to go on learning throughout their life which sets them up effectively for the diversity of the working culture this generation will be facing.

School is one way of doing things. A way sold to thousands by the establishment. But it’s also political. And politicians wants us to be obedient to the establishment for it makes their life easier.

But the establishment doesn’t have the monopoly on education.

Schools and teachers do the best they can with the job they’ve got. Schools and teachers work well for thousands of families. Many children achieve and are happy there. But that doesn’t mean all will or can. This isn’t about school bashing. It’s just about opening parents’ eyes to an alternative ideas.

Do what works for you. But don’t do it with your eyes shut!

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Is this all that matters to parents?

So schools are doing their best to get punters before the term starts again.

I’ve just seen this banner hanging outside a school on my travels.

I found it incredibly sickening.

Are exam results the only thing kids go to school for? Are they the only thing that is the measure of an education or an educational establishment? Are results the only things that parents care about so the only thing that will ‘sell’ the school to them?

Is this all there is to sell?

Where does it say what EXPERIENCE the young people are going to have there? Does that not matter at all? Would you not as a parent want to know about your child’s LIFE in school while they are learning?

Okay I’ll stop ranting now and instead put my brain to answering the question; what would I like to know about a school that would induce me to consider it?

Here’s the five things that I came up with to put on a banner:

  • the widest range of inspiring activities your child will ever experience with a high proportion of adults to help them
  • encouragement of individualism, independence in learning, and choice making, irrespective of age
  • development of respectful relationships between ALL, regardless of age, stage or hierarchy
  • equal importance placed on ALL subjects including the practical, physical and creative and the freedom to choose between them
  • NO testing or publication of any results, emphasis instead on personal development

If schools don’t want to be considered as factories, as some are accusing them of being, then they should stop measuring themselves on a factory style output. Education is about developing young PEOPLE. Not producing commodities. Or percentages!

Tell me; what would your five most important things be?

Your child is different from you!

I was born and grew up in the city of London. Right in the centre as far away from rural as you can get.

But all of our childhood holidays were spent in the countryside, so I was aware of these two contrasting worlds. And it didn’t take

A glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on

much growing up for me to recognise from a hunger within which of these two environments was right for my soul. I soon understood that my spirits wilted when surrounded by concrete, buildings, noise and crowds without a glimpse of rural space to rest my eyes on. Yet the surroundings of greenery, fields and solitary quiet gave my spirits wings and a sense of relief I still require to thrive.

Even though I live in the countryside now and these things are common place I still experience the sudden sense of imprisonment, when shut inside too long or under laptop. Hence why I can often be found scribbling in the shelter of a hedge bottom with my bum in damp grass, or on my daily walk (as you see from Instagram). I’m just letting my spirits heal from the onslaught of contemporary life.

Of course not everyone feels this. Or feels it this way round. Ironically my eldest is the complete opposite.

We made many, many excursions into cities whilst we were home educating here in the country. And as her teen years kicked in I began to realise that, unlike me, it was the city that made her spirits come alive.

I can clearly remember the time when I suddenly spotted, with shock and empathy, that familiar look on her face one day that described that same feeling I’d had when I was stuck somewhere that did nothing for my spirits.

In contrast to me, she needed the city for hers. And that’s where she’s lived since Uni.

That is not to say she doesn’t relish her trips home and the rural things we do like picnics and walks and encounters with wildlife and flowers. And when I’m visiting her we often find park walks to do from the city.

But we both know and accept what we each are, what each needs to thrive, and that those needs are completely different from the other.

It is SO important, I think, to know and accept that our children are NOT us. And allow them to be different. Allow them to be separate.

Allowing our children to be who they need to be, without judgement, and loving them for who they are without conditions, is a fundamental ingredient to being the parent we should be, a parent that all kids need. And inevitably one of the hardest parts!

But we get over it.

The most wonderful result, though, is that from that respect and loving acceptance the relationship can grow stronger despite the independence.

Independence means allowing our children to be who they need to be and loving them just the same – allowing their independence from us, and consequently practising our own independence from trying to keep them like us.

In fact, this is true of all relationships.

So love your children the way they are and in such a way which affords them the opportunity to discover who they need to be, whatever age they are, wherever that is. And make sure you’re not hanging onto keeping them like you.

Treat a bad day like passing wind!

Waiting for the climate to change!

Being the best parent you can be (see last post) is exhausting. You’re bound to get a bad day. A day when you probably wish you weren’t a parent at all and had another job!

We all get them whatever job we’re doing. Whether it’s parenting, home educating, employment out the home, self employment, what ever path you’re forging you’re bound to get a day that’s totally crap. It’s a life thing – not a job thing.

It’s odd though; when you’re an employee you tend to blame the job. When you’re a parent, particularly a home schooling parent, you tend to blame yourself. And that makes a crap day a whole lot crappier!

So this is a post just to say: DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.

We all love our kids to bits and love being with them – of course we do. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t be the kind of person bothering to read this if you didn’t) But that’s not going to mean that we won’t get down about life occasionally. It’s just what happens, whatever we do, and is as natural a part of the human condition as passing wind! And – yes – everyone passes wind even those who pretend otherwise. Equally, everyone will suffer a bad day even if they pretend they’re perfect.

But that doesn’t make us bad parents or bad home educators. It’s just the way it is sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up over it. The best way to help yourselves is to ACCEPT it. It’s just life. And nurture yourself through this bit just as you would nurture a friend.

If you viewed your parenting, or home educating role, like you’d view employment, you’d accept there’s bound to be bad days when you’re giving less than you’d like. If you were employed you might even throw a sickie!

Can’t do that as a parent – but you can go easy on yourself for a day till it passes. Also remember there are teachers, nursery workers, assistants, helpers, who will be working through a bad day without giving their best either. It’s just normal having a bad day from time to time. Doesn’t make you a bad person, just because you can’t give your best today.

Make a cuppa. Sit it out. Accept it gracefully. Wait for the climate of your day to change. You’re just human. Deal with it with the compassion and gentleness that makes you humane.

This will show your children the skills to deal with bad days whenever they get them too, and help them understand bad days are part of life and not to worry – the climate always changes – bad wind always passes! So even on a bad day you’ll be teaching them something through your parenting! Take comfort from that. And if you’re suffering one right now, may your climate soon change!

The best way to parent

If you want them to be interested in caring for the world get them out and show them what to care for

I didn’t think I’d ever make such a statement – or a suggestion. I didn’t think I’d ever be so arrogant as to assume I knew what the best way to parent was!

I’m not saying I do it’s just that I read a rather nice statement the other day that put me in mind of it. It said that the best way we can serve others is by being an example and an inspiration. And it came to me that this is exactly true of parenting.

The best parent that you can be comes not from parenting rules or trends. It comes more importantly from being  the best person you can be.

Through being the best person you can be you demonstrate to your children what a best person looks like – what they can to aim for. So maybe the best way to parent is through being an example of the kind of person you’d like your children to become.

Children learn far, far, far more through example than through anything else.

Thus; if you want to raise kind, considerate people you show them what kind, considerate is.

You inspire them to work, learn, relate to others by the way you work, learn, relate to others.

You encourage them to take care of the world and the things in it by the way you take care of those things.

You teach them how to love and respect by the way you love and respect.

You also show them how to discern, decide and gracefully detach when need be by the way in which you do that.

If you want to raise kids who contribute to the way the world works then you’ll do that through your own contribution (parenting being one of the most important contributions you can make).

If you want to raise children who have standards and morals and principles you need to decide for yourself what standards, principles and morals are important to you and live by them – consistently.

And if you want to raise people who know how to relax, take care of their mind body and spirit, then the way you do that will be the most influential demonstration they could have.

This perhaps is not only the best way to parent, but also the simplest way to parent. Be who you want them to become, then allow them the integrity to follow.

You inspire by your consistent example – and it won’t just be your kids, it will be other parents too.

Don’t you think that’s an awesome thought?

A way to renew this Easter

One of the beautiful things about life with young children – as well as the children themselves, of course – is their awe and delight in

Take a moment with the kids to appreciate the little things like droplets on a feather

the simplest of little things. A ladybird on the pavement. A tree for climbing. A hole in the undergrowth just right for crawling into. A wall for walking along. The feel of mud through fingers. The splashy noise of puddles.

It’s such a magic time and parents get the joy of sharing these things – if you take the time, that is.

Are you missing it?

A way of not missing it is to slow down and look at the little things as if they were new to you too. Indulge in the delight of really looking – like kids do. Of looking through the lens of their eyes, seeing things as if for the first time. What better way to spend the weekend?

Easter is traditionally a time of regrowth and rebirth. Maybe you could do your own bit of rebirthing and learn from your kids – learn from the little people who are usually learning from you. We’re never too grown up to change. Learn how to see with a different view – their view – their delight.

So how about, whatever the weather, leaving the phones and tablets behind, getting out in a green space somewhere, and observing the world with renewed eyes, attitude and time frame?

Take time to replenish yourself by going at their pace, change your momentum and the way you race by all the tiny wonders around without really seeing, without really feeling the awe. Slow down. Look closely. Absorb yourself. It’s quite a meditative practice – just what we need sometimes!

And renewing yourself will help you be the best parent you can be – one that’s never to busy to enjoy the little things with the kids. They’ll remember you for that!

Happy Easter!

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.