Tag Archive | qualification

Beware the biased propaganda!

It’s always helpful – uplifting – to get comments. Most come to me via Facebook, and I’m so grateful and moved to know this work is a help and is encouraging. That’s basically what I write for!

Not everybody likes it – obviously. But it’s also interesting to read other points people raise when they’re disagreeing with what’s written here. I appreciate anyone taking the time – they’ve clearly been moved to do so and other people’s feelings are important. I’m thankful to report I rarely get obnoxious comments which aren’t backed up by intelligent argument.

One such comment sticks with me though. It’s a while back now, written by someone entrenched in the education system who accused me of writing ‘biased propaganda’.

Once I got over the shock, I was totally bemused by the irony of it. For surely biased propaganda is exactly what the education system perpetuates?

All the way through a child’s time in school there’s an enormous bias: towards grades. These are less for the good of the child and more for the good of the system. Grades mean climbing league tables, which means more Points for schools, which means more funding…etc. And never was there such powerful propaganda surrounding the drilling of the children towards that outcome, than the emphasis on the myth that without these grades their lives will amount to nothing. Which is absolutely untrue.

We don't always have to stick to what we're told!

We don’t always have to remain on a prescribed route!

Good grades and qualification are certainly useful and a way of presenting proof of having reached certain standards which employers use as a benchmark. But they are not an entire education and not the only road to successful work or a fulfilled life. Anyway, ‘successful’ and ‘fulfilled’ need defining in individual terms. But schools fail to acknowledge all other routes than those which perpetuate their own desired outcomes.

And as big business takes over education, schools have another developing bias; towards perpetuating big corporate business! Consequently perpetuating the propaganda that this is the only definition of success or fulfillment. It might be for some, but not for all.

Then there’s also the mythical propaganda, which the system perpetuates, that leads people to believe that without schools, teachers, target led learning, and tests young people won’t learn anything. Also completely untrue. But the establishment bias is to keep everyone obedient to the establishment which they do by perpetuating these myths!

Home education is exploding these myths and dispelling this kind of propaganda. Out-of-the-system approaches encourage individuals to learn for learning’s sake and progress in ways that work for them however varied and diverse they may be, however broad and all-inclusive. It opens minds to a multitude of possibilities not available in the confines of the system.

Surely then, by it’s very nature, home educating is as far away from the narrowing of ‘bias’ as you can get? I admit there may be opportunities for bias, towards religion or academic cramming perhaps, when families choose to remain isolated. But these are very rare. Much more rare than the mass propaganda schooling perpetuates.

In most cases, home education gives youngsters the opportunity to free themselves from the narrow, biased, destructive competitive mentality created by schooling and develops in their education and their mind a creative, intelligent, innovative and open-ended attitude towards learning and life, equipping them with the skills they need to contribute to the working, social, achieving world, business included.

Surely the bias comes from the narrow minded people who fail to acknowledge that!

Ignorance is not academic

Following last post’s funny comment on qualification and intelligence here’s a story about a gateway!

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Attractive concrete block!

I call it gateway but there is no longer a gate – it’s been trashed again. It was completely destroyed. The wooden bars smashed through as if someone had rammed it with a vehicle, the cross pieces jagged and splintered and most of it lying on the floor. It must have taken a lot of effort to do it – it was no thin gate but a sturdy five-bar one, needing posts as thick as railway sleepers to hang it.

There was no reason for this that I could see, other than vandalism. It could hardly be the work of militant ramblers as there’s a completely adequate stile for us to cross so we can continue along the footpath. And it’s not a particularly well used footpath, just one the locals and dog walkers know that runs between the cultivated land and out onto the marshland pasture where the cows graze. Land that is owned by farmers trying to make a living, allowing access to others to enjoy it, yet having to foot the costs of this damage.

They’d put some wire across the opening after the destruction of the gate to keep the cattle in, but that’s been vandalised and cut too, so they’ve put a concrete block there now.

It’s probably vandalised by the same ignorant people who leave their beer bottles, take away packets and shitty bits of tissue after their evening’s activities.

I say ignorant because that’s what it is; it’s ignorance that makes people choose to behave like this. People who don’t have the intelligence to make other choices or see the bigger picture beyond their own selfish pursuits.

Many generally think that intelligence is to do with schooling and how many exam passes and grades and degrees you have. But that is only a small part of intelligence. Academic prowess is not a guarantee of intelligence, although often a sign of it. And ignorance is not measured by a lack of it but by a lack of something else; a lack of connectedness.

It is connectedness, the way you connect with all things other than you and consequently the way you choose to behave, that is a sure sign of intelligence beyond academic qualification.

The person who smashed this gate may have qualifications, forced on them by schooling no doubt. Yet still they act in ignorant ways. For what they don’t have is the intelligence to see the connection between their act and its consequences. They don’t have the intelligence to feel the emotional consequence their actions will be creating in others just because they have no connetedness to those others, only to their own indulgences.

True intelligence is relative surely. Human intelligence anyway, that part of our human brain that enables us to have empathy, acquire understanding, to feel, to think, to choose reactions other than those driven by base instinct. The intelligence to engage with others and see beyond our own egocentric little worlds.

This is the kind of intelligence that needs developing alongside the academic. The kind of intelligence that is being neglected by prescriptive schooling solely focused on grades, and parenting that neglects to give time to making human connections, humane connections.

Which do we value most? We can make choices.

Ignorance is never solely academic. It is about our humane intelligent ability to know and also to use what we know in our relations with others. That is as vital a part of our children’s education as anything academic.

An educational phallusy (yes – I meant to spell it like that!)

Charley and I were having a conversation last week just before my book event at Waterstones.

She’d wanted to come along and support me but I thought it maybe best not. For home educated young people tend to get viewed as exhibits really. They provide an opportunity for others to see whether they’ve grown two heads or turned out weird or not.

And they always get quizzed about exams; ‘How many GCSEs have you got?’

This question seems to be the panacea for measuring a successful education and intelligence unfortunately. For it isn’t at all accurate to assume results show that.

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

Discussions over dinner still seem to end up being about education!

She didn’t bother with GCSEs. But went ahead with other qualifications that interested her and onto Uni that way. So what’s intelligence anyway? Not something that can be measured by GCSEs alone, although they’re mostly used as such. And that’s the big sad confusion that many parents are under; being told that their child’s future is doomed without them. Qualifications have their uses obviously, but doomed without them? That’s just a fallacy.

We ended up having one of our inevitable conversations about education and what makes you an educated person which is very different to merely being a qualified person

‘It’s not only to do with what you have – as in qualifications,’ I said. ‘It’s about what you do and how you behave as a result of what you have’.

She was thoughtful for a moment.

Then she said; ‘Measuring people by how many GCSEs they’ve got is like measuring men by how big their penis is. It’s not what you’ve got that’s important, it’s what you do with it that matters’.

How we laughed!

What a wonderful analogy; just couldn’t resist sharing!

Recognising mainstream codswallop for what it is!

When I listen to parents stuck in the mainstream education system and hear how concerned they are about their young people I really feel for them.

For when I say ‘stuck’ it really is like that; the systems binds them with a glue that not only keeps their education mainstream but also clogs up their thinking. And they end up believing the propaganda about how doomed their kids will be how if they don’t achieve in the same way everyone else is achieving and at the same time.

When did we stop believing in individuals or possibilities and start believing cloning, I wonder? For isn’t this what we’re doing?

I think about all the home educating families in comparison who have managed to break out of this sticky approach and see education as it should be; the all round development of an individual that equips them with skills to learn – for life, not just between the ages of five and eighteen, in individual ways if needed.

The trouble is that by gluing people to beliefs about achieving GCSEs or A’ Levels by 16 or 18 for example, it’s led everyone to believe that if these results haven’t been achieved by these ages then there is something wrong with their kids and they’ll never have a life!

I want to shout very loudly that this is utter CODSWALLOP!

And even more codswallop comes in the form of making youngsters believe that they are failures without these results and they’ll never work or achieve other things.

If this is what you believe then you need to examine your thinking very carefully and unstick it!

The reality instead is this:

  1. Anyone can take GCSEs at any time of their life if they wish; courses, opportunities, tutors, facilities are there for youngsters to do this if you look.
  2. Equally, it is the same with A’ Levels, other qualifications, degrees, whatever.
  3. These can be achieved in a range of ways and within a range of time frames the only downside being there will probably be a fee.
  4. NO ONE need ever be doomed for doing it differently. Youngsters can add to their achievements any time they’re ready. Some people are not ready until they’re much older. This is their right and is absolutely fine.
  5. It is not necessarily better to have done it early – it just suits others if it happens like that! We all develop and mature at different times and that’s allowed.
  6. There is no law that says that anyone has to do any of this anyway. These are merely convenient hoops to pass through to get places – some of us don’t want to go those places or by those means!
  7. Having exam results is not always a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of whether you can pass exams or not. You can be just as intelligent and educated without them.
  8. There are all forms of intelligence and most of the useful ones, like emotional intelligence for example, are not examinable anyway. An educated person is not merely a qualified person, it is a person who can behave in an educated and responsible way. Many qualified people don’t!

So even if you don’t want to break out of mainstream schooling you can still break out of mainstream thinking and decide what’s right for you and your young people.

There are all sorts of ways to progress and all sorts of pathways to do so. Mainstream is easy if it’s working. Dire when it’s not. Don’t stay stuck in mainstream glue if it’s not working for you and yours!

Dealing with wobbles over home educating teens.

I popped over to Rachel’s home education blog (here) recently and felt such empathy for her wobbles!

Meet Rachel over on her blog

We all get them – I did too – even though when writing about home education I always try and herald the positive.

However, it’s not entirely accurate to consider wobbles a down side of home education, because wobbles are a down side of any educational route, school or otherwise. And if the kids were in school there’d be just as many concerns. Actually – there were – as ours went a while.

And wobbles are in fact a down side of parenting, for, whatever style you adopt, whatever sort of person you are, anxieties about the children are ever present. Wobbles are a natural part of family life and not exclusive to home education. The up side is; it’s because we care. We’re caring parents and caring parents worry.

However, we have to keep that in perspective and one of the techniques I used regularly and one that many parents are bad at is self-care. We have to look after ourselves to home educate (and parent) long term. (This post explains)

The other thing that sometimes worries us about home educating longer term is that you can feel as the children get older it gets more serious and that ‘time is running out’.

I’ve put that in inverted commas to identify the fact that it’s not true. Time is not running out. You can take as long as you like (or the kids like) with their education. They don’t have to be finished, polished, qualified by the time they’re 16. It’s not law. There are variations that work just as well. And the whole point of home education is that you do whatever suits the needs of your child.

Inevitably we compare our kids with those in schools. And that always gives us wobblitus! Best to forget what schools are doing and stick to your principles to educate to suit your child’s needs, rather than the system’s needs.

And as for serious; thinking back to when the children were little I imagine that you took quite a lightweight, inspirational, almost playful approach to their learning life. Well, just because the children are teens does not mean it has to be any different. Whatever you do as part of their education can still be done with a light touch.

Children’s education in schools, between the ages of 14 and 16 suddenly becomes a heavy slog of GCSEs with little other inspiration. If left up to the school, the more GCSEs they can pile on a youngster the better they tell us it is. It’s not! They do this not for the good of the child, but for the good of the stats of the school – I heard that from a head. Large numbers of GCSE qualifications has nothing to do with the personal educational development of a child, unless it’s their choice.

The educational development of children between the ages of 13-16 can feel like a plateau. This is what both myself and friends who were HEing at the time felt like. It is already a physiological difficult time for them; their neural pathways are changing which up-skittles their personalities, their thought processes, their sleep patterns, as well as their bodies. What a terrible time for them to be doing exams anyway. (Some useful info here)

It’s also a time they begin to challenge their dependency – sometimes in less than pleasant ways for us. We have much to tolerate. But understanding that they mostly can’t help it, and maintaining as much mutual respect as possible, will help.

So it’s a tricky time whether parenting or educating. The youngsters do literally lose their way a bit, unless they’re incredibly lucky to have found a course they’re passionate about.  Otherwise they can become extremely unmotivated sofa-sloths who want to do little other than game.

Parents I knew tried various strategies to push them on past this inertia, usually in the form of continued dialogue about what they might do, why they might do it, what they’d like to do, what’s good to do both personally and health wise. And what they might need educationally in order to progress. As well as suggesting stimulating activities other than gaming! Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

But I’d like to reassure you that all those gaming, sofa loving sloths have gone on to do something. Some did GCSEs at home, over a space of several years, some post 16. Some went to FE colleges when they discovered courses they might like or to do qualifications there. None I know did more than the statutory Uni entrance requirement of 5 or 6 yet, despite competing against others with ten or more, still were interviewed, awarded places, or jobs. They all found a way forward.

On the Home Education UK Facebook group (you have to ask to join this one) there is an inspirational document about autonomously home educated youngsters who are grown up and what they’re doing now which is reassuring reading.

It is very much a question of trust.

Kids want to get out into the adult world, with adult possessions and have a crack at gaining the adult income that goes with it. I’d guess that you’ve educated yours to the degree of intelligence that, with your guidance, will help them find ways to do that.

Educating teens is the same as parenting teens – education being very much influenced by parenting whether they’re in school or not. It requires tolerance, empathy, compromise, confidence (you had the confidence to HE, after all), and trust.

Trust in yourself as a parent.

Trust in them as intelligent young people who will go for what they need when they need it, whatever form it takes, despite the odd plateau.

So wobble not!

Look after yourself. Be patient. Personal development doesn’t happen to order. Education is life long. It’s never too late and we don’t have to do it like sheep! That’s what you home educated for in the first place, wasn’t it?

(You might like to look out for my new book especially to help both new and longer term home educators with the wobbly bits – coming later this year. Pop over to the publisher’s website and sign up for their newsletter, so you’ll get first news of when it’s available).

Meet the home educated Illustrator of ‘Who’s Not In School?’

It’s always fascinating to read how other home educators do it! And this one is particularly close to my heart because he’s the illustrator of my new picture book for children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’.

James Robinson’s delightful pictures have received much praise and I couldn’t have been happier with the way in which he interpreted my story. What is particularly incredible is that he achieved this work at eighteen years of age, yet maintains the standard and dedication of a much older professional.

So I asked him about his experience as a home learner and his art work. This is what he told me:

How long have you been Home Educated and how did it come about?

I have always been Home Educated. I am the fourth in our family and my older brother and sister came out of school when I was ever so young, the rest of us never went to school. 

What kind of things did you do whilst HEing and with whom?

We live in the country, so most of our days were spent working round the kitchen table in the morning and playing outside all the rest of the time, and meeting up with other families a couple of times a week. 

We spent a lot of time on History, Literature, making things and of course drawing.

I seem to remember my parents read aloud to us a lot in the evenings whilst we all drew.

What are your personal feelings about it – or school?

I have never been to school, but live on the site of one, my Father being a teacher,

I consider it a beautiful place and I think most of the students are happy, so I don’t  object to schools, but I think I would have done awfully badly at one. I am a dyslexic and reading and writing seem arduous and never ending, I like to spend time when planning my work. I suppose I am a perfectionist…never reaching perfection.  I think that at school you are always rushing. 

I do rather love the freedom one gets from being at home.

Tell me about the social side of your HE days?

I do not feel a lack of friends, I am somewhat of a recluse (artists often are) but I do go and see people and places. 

When I was little and all of us were at home there was always someone to play with, also we were friends with several other large, home educating families, where there was someone for everyone to play with. 

We would get together with a couple of other families to share lessons, during the week and once or twice a month we would have a big get together with lots of families.

The three oldest in our family have left home now, and there are just the three youngest left, so things are much quieter, we mainly meet just with half a dozen particular friends rather than whole families, these days.

What about qualifications – are they part of your HE?

I did do exams for Art, but opted out of taking any other exams to spend my days drawing instead. 

To take responsibility for one’s own edification and pursue the subjects of one’s interest is where education really begins.

When I made Art my main subject was when I started reading and studying literature and the like for pleasure.

Now I am studying for a degree in Painting with the Open College of the Arts, I also go up to London once a week (during term time)  to the Royal Drawing School for Life-Drawing Classes, (very helpful when illustrating ) and I have started a diploma in Traditional methods of Painting at the School of Traditional Arts.

Tell me about your art work, how it developed and maybe where you want to take it.

Telling stories with pictures is, for me, inherently satisfying. 

We have all always done a lot of drawing in our family, but I did not think of it as a career until I was about thirteen or fourteen, and then, when about sixteen, a friend asked me to draw some illustrations which I really loved.

Each day coming to my desk to draw was a pleasure, pitching my intellect against the problems laid before me in translating words into line, form, tone and colour; it is so interesting and such fun. I decided that it was something I really wanted to have a stab at job wise.

What was it like illustrating a book?

It was really enormous fun illustrating the ‘Harry’ book. I really enjoyed it. I loved being able to put in details of all the Home Educating homes I know, and lots of friends and family as the characters.

The ideas for some of the pictures came really quickly and the finished illustrations were done in three or four days. Others took several weeks to do and had to be drawn and redrawn until I was happy.

I tried to spend three whole days a week working for my degree and the rest of the time working on the book. It was difficult to stop working on the book once an idea had come and to make myself do the work for my course. Perhaps people who have been to school are better at working on several things at once. Home Educating has meant I have always had the freedom to finish my projects in my own time.

Any future plans?

At the moment my plans are to complete the distance learning degree, at the same time as working on several paid commissions which help to pay the fees as well as being really interesting and exciting.  I would very much like to become a fully fledged illustrator, so to speak, but who knows, things might turn out differently.

James Robinson

 

(You can meet James at the Stanmore Home Education group in London on Thursday this week where we’ll be coming along for a chat and to sign some of the books. Contact the group for details. There’ll hopefully be further opportunities later in the year. Visit the publisher’s website for updates)

Laying the foundations for education – Part 2

…continuing a two parter started in my last post about education, how you can influence your child’s learning from home and what you might be aiming for in the future…

Learning through play

Many parents underestimate the value of play, even though in our grown-up world we adults use play in order to learn about something.

For example we ‘play’ with our new mobile phones in order to get used to them and understand how they work. We ‘play’ with any new technology or gadget for the same reason. What we’re doing is learning through our real experiences of these things. And it is exactly the same for children.

Children like to ‘play’ at being grown-up. Especially games that involve role play like mums and dads, or hospitals, teachers and schools, shopping, going on ‘adventures’ (even if it’s just a den under the kitchen table or behind the sofa). It’s a kind of experimentation. And whilst they do it they are learning, practising skills, gaining experiences. This works particularly well if they can do an activity in a play way, alongside what you’re doing.

They can have their own tools and plants and ‘play’ at gardening. They can have their own bowls, cutlery, pans etc and wash up – or just stand there endlessly filling containers with water. This simple play activity teaches them a huge amount. For example they learn about capacity, about the properties of water, about the properties of the containers and how their size and shape governs their capacity in relation to other sizes and shapes. They learn about volume. They probably chat to themselves all the time developing language. They’ll be thinking and working out. They’ll be exploring, experimenting and building confidence. They’ll be developing hand eye coordination and the skills needed to manipulate tools.

They won’t know they’ll be doing any of that they’ll just be aware of getting their arms soaked. But these playtime experiences teach them much more than they’d learn from either being told or looking at it in a book. Experience provides the building blocks for more formal knowledge and academic skills later. And this is just one example.

Other activities that have the same educational impact which you can do at home with kids can be built round anything you do.

Here are some examples:

  • Cooking or preparing food (or ‘playing’ with pastry, mixing substances, using tools, cutting things up, warming or freezing etc.)
  • Cleaning or washing, in and out of the home.
  • Dealing with waste and rubbish.
  • Helping with other jobs outdoors, gardening – or den making whilst you do them!
  • Looking after the pets.
  • Using technology and the Net.
  • Managing a budget and money.
  • Looking at and enjoying books and magazines.
  • Dressing – dressing up especially in things they wouldn’t normally wear and using make up.
  • Playing games as a family.
  • Family outings and journeys.
  • Social occasions where there’s a mix of people and ages.
  • Anything creative that you do; making things, home decorating, rearranging a room, craft work and all creative activities like painting, collage – with anything at all, junk modelling, card making, drawing, colouring, cutting out, making scrapbooks, collecting and grouping, etc, – builds skills. Just let them have a go and make a mess and they learn loads simply from their minds and bodies being engaged.
  • Any constructional, experimental or inventive activities indoors and out.
  • Talking with you about anything and everything

Basically anything you do to live your lives and do your work your child can be involved in either through conversation and explanation, helping at their level or playing alongside. Involving your child with your activities teaches your child all about living a life.

And through these life experiences, where learning is something which is part of what they do day to day often without even realising it, they begin to see how learning is not something separate from life but something that is a natural part of it.

If learning is a natural part of it then they will be motivated to continue their learning throughout their life whatever form it takes, motivated to hopefully use education to develop and enhance their lives and give them greater access to the things they might want to do later on.

What are we aiming for – later on?

Many parents, when they think about what they might want their children to achieve in their education later on, tend to think about academic gain. They think about their children being good at the academic exercises that will get them good grades.

But other parents think more broadly and more holistically than that. They think about their child being happy and having confidence in themselves and academics fitting in around that. They think about their child having the skills to enjoy good relationships and social activities. They think about their child’s wellbeing; mental and physical, emotional and spiritual. They think about how their child’s personal strengths and interests can be developed; how they can get to know themselves well so they will be able to make informed and relevant lifestyle choices.

The ideal is perhaps to aim for a mix of both. And to maybe think through your priorities, keeping a holistic balance throughout.

Holistically, we need to be aiming for an outcome that is relevant to the whole child and within the perspective of the whole of their lives, not just the time they may be of school age, or the exams you want them to pass.

Sometimes it is best not to think too much about ‘later on’. Because you can never know what will happen. Far better to show your child the real relevant world on a daily basis.

Each day you spend with your child is a natural opportunity for you to help them develop and learn. And to make learning enjoyable.

Aiming for enjoyment in their day to day lives, for them to be stimulated and engaged in the activities they do at the time, is far better than having an agenda outside or ahead of the child. They soon suss it’s irrelevant to them right now and switch off. Switching off to things is the last thing we want them to do, because it switches them off to education too.

Sadly many school type activities switch children off to learning because they are often dull and the children cannot see the relevance of them. Adults might think they’re relevant to the child’s future, but are they really? How can we really predict a future which is so far away?

Taking care of the little times, making them good times, will make a good future. This is a much more natural way to build a future and the foundation for a natural and holistic education that will serve the child for life.