Tag Archive | respect

I swear…

I was asked to contribute to a BBC programme a while ago now. It was about how strict we are with our children.

I’m so glad I didn’t go – I don’t think I could have been strict enough with myself not to swear!

I hate the concept of strict. It suggests the position of a dictator. And since I feel parenting is about RESPECT, dictatorship has nothing to do with it and being strict or not is beside the point.

The fundamental point of parenting and the point of power – if anyone needs it – lies within the power of a respectful relationship which is a mutual thing. Not anything to do with how strict a person is. And although I could replace the concept of ‘strict’ with ‘consistent’, parenting also always needs to be flexible!

However, that aside, I think there was also another agenda to them asking me. I sense that there might have been an underlying suggestion that maybe home educators weren’t strict enough with the kids to make them go to school. Had that argument come up it certainly would have ignited some colourful language from me.

I know I’m supposed to be able to express myself better, me being a writer an all! But I swear that some people’s ignorance drives me to desperate measures. And we’ve all come across profound ignorance among people with no experience of home education who feel qualified to judge.

And I also find difficulty with the concept of ‘making’ children do anything, including going to school. If a child is having to be ‘made’ to go to school there needs to be some serious examination of why? Not only why don’t they want to go, and what’s wrong with the school/teaching/system (too long to go into that one here), but also why is it acceptable that children have their preferences ignored? Part of any respectful relationship requires understanding and tolerance of each other, tolerance of differences and preferences. There shouldn’t be one rule for adults on this and another for the kids because they’re smaller. RESPECT is respect – irrespective of age. When I see lack of it towards children because of their status it drives me…well…

I swear it drives me to distraction.

And sometimes I just swear for the fun of it!

 

How the education system dishonours our young people

Click the picture for a link to a discount copy

My latest book; ‘A Home Education Notebook’ is not just about home education! It has important messages for all educators – and parents – shows another side to educating.

Here’s one of them in this extract:

It is when we become parents that we perhaps truly realise an important purpose.

I would never have said that before I was a parent. But the further into parenting I got the further I understood the human purpose to procreate, to perpetuate the species and to educate.

It truly is an honour to have a child. And I am truly lucky to have had this honour bestowed upon me, to have experienced the magical event of bringing a tiny being into the world and to have the chance to raise it. And thereafter celebrating every birthday, commemorating that honour.

When I say honour I do not mean that we indulge every whim or fancy, or ply them with material gifts, buy their love and affection, answer every indulgent demand or craving. That is not honouring them.

When I say honour, I mean honour the very spirit of having them. Honour the responsibility of looking after this new custodian of our planet and our race. For that’s what our children are, valuable custodians, as we all are, although many fail to see that or act as if they were.

This new being is an important part of a whole; a whole planet, a whole race, as well as being an individual. And we honour this new being by helping him to learn to integrate into the world, to learn about that world and the humanity he is part of, the environment he is responsible for. How he can join others to perpetuate this honour for himself. How to recognise what gifts and strengths he can contribute to that responsibility, contributions he can make to the world and others.

This is what honouring the child is. Seeing him not only as your child, but also as a valuable part of a race and a planet. A human race – a humane race. And a human who can make a difference.

Everyone makes a difference.

That is why we need to honour all that is human about our child to help him learn how his humanness can in turn be passed onto others. Learn that he is not the egocentric little animal in a tiny egocentric little world of ‘me’ that he thought he was, but part of a much bigger human race that he can contribute to.

And education fits into this. And is often where it seems to go so dreadfully wrong.

Education must honour that human being too and be a means to facilitate the development of both that individual human being, what he can offer, and his position in relation to other human beings.

Education surely must therefore be about being human.

Looking at our education system it seems to be as detached as possible from being about humans. And at times removed even from being humane.

Our education system seems to me to be concerned with honouring the system, and obsessing about a set of outcomes that have little relevance to being human or enhancing humane qualities at all. This is clear in the way the system focuses more on ‘taking over’ a child and making them fit into it, than on developing an individual in ways that will help them discover their unique potential, individual attributes, gifts, skills, and personal strengths that could make a humane contribution. Attributes which are not of the academic kind are generally disregarded

In disregarding these individualities I believe it also disregards the spirit, leaving these lovely young people unfulfilled and believing that their personal strengths are irrelevant and don’t actually matter. To me this is the same as saying that the people themselves don’t matter. I sense this feeling in some of the children I see in schools.

But in some of the home educated children I know, I see the opposite.

These are children who’ve been listened to, conversed with, had their preferences, interests, strengths and individualities incorporated into the process of them becoming educated. They have been respected for what they bring to the process. This in turn makes them respect others, respect those who support them and facilitate opportunities. Others they are united with rather than distanced from.

Respect has been part of the way they’ve been honoured and educated. And I believe this is what encourages them to develop a positive attitude to themselves, to education, to what they could achieve, and to others. Some young people I see come away from schooling with a negative attitude because they have not been honoured in this way.

I believe children in school need something more akin to what the home educated kids get.

There is much to be learned from observing other home educating families, the way they facilitate their children’s learning and the way they respect what the individuals bring to it. How they integrate that learning into everyday life experiences and how they learn from those everyday life experiences. You only have to browse round the many home educators’ blogs to see this illustrated first hand.

These records can teach us much. It’s clear that being out of school educating around daily life teaches the children much about human interaction, what the real world’s like as opposed to a school world, what they need to live in it, as well as building the skills to study academic subjects.

I believe this is just the type of education all children need and thankfully many home educators are providing proof. Proof that something less prescriptive and more humane, which honours an individual rather than squashes an individual, works just as well as school – if not better for some.

In our progressed world, as we’ve progressed so far into replacing mankind with machines and technology, it is almost as if we’ve forgotten what mankind is.

In chasing prescriptive curricular outcomes there’s a danger of forgetting that we need to encourage the intelligence to be human, not simply the intelligence required to perform academic tricks. We need to develop human skills, not only academic and technological skills – they came after being human.

We need to know how to live fully alongside other human beings, not only alongside a computer or a system.

The education system is in danger of creating mere androids. Filled up with qualifications; empty of human souls. And in doing so dishonours our young people.

Home education is an example of how to redress the balance.

 

Thought for the New Year

As the old year ends and new one begins I want to say a couple of  things. 20161230_134020

First; I want to say a massive THANK YOU to all those who’ve supported my work during this last year. Without your lovely messages, reviews, encouragement and endorsement I wouldn’t have kept going. No writer can do so without readers.

We’re all like kids really – we all need a little bit of praise and support to spur us on. Thank you for yours. It’s been heartwarming and fuel for my work.

Secondly, as time to take the decs down draws near, I thought I’d leave you an idea to mull over as you launch into your new family year:

Parenting IS Educating. 

And:

Education (in school or out of it) depends on parenting.

Obviously, parenting is not the only influence on your child’s education. But your parenting supports it. Just by loving your children, loving what they do, being engaged in what they do, gently guiding what they do, demonstrating what’s best to do – and to be, you educate.

It may not be evident in tangible ways. But the effect is immeasurable.

Parenting is the most important job you’ll ever do. (See the page)

Finally, do all that you do with your children with respect – there’s no love without it.

Wishing you a loving new year.

You won’t ruin them on your own!

Chelsea’s working so hard at the moment. She’s initiated a new production for the Brighton Fringe

A bold and thought provoking production

this year and is working on it with friends. It’s an impressive undertaking and I so admire her, tinged with concern of course at how busy she is.

I look at our two young adults now and wonder how they got to be the wonderful people they are – it’s something you always worry about as a parent, particularly a home educating parent.

I know all our experiences shape us; from childhood, school, home education, family, work, whatever. And although we can control some of the experiences our youngsters have we’ll never control all of it however much we want to keep them sweet. And we certainly can’t control how they respond to those experiences – that response is inherent in them. We won’t be able to determine that entirely.

For it is never nurture (or nature) in isolation, as the debate leads us to believe, it is the interaction between the two that determines the people our kids become. It is the youngsters’ reaction to their experiences which determine how things turn out. So that is never entirely the parents’ fault. A lot is genetic.

That’s a comforting thought when you’re parenting, particularly if you’re a home schooling parent and worrying you may be ruining the children.

Be reassured; if you are ruining them – you won’t be ruining them on your own!

In fact, I’m sure you won’t be ruining them at all, it’s far more likely that by parenting with care and respect – and I guess you care and respect otherwise you probably wouldn’t be the type of parent visiting here and reading this – you will be developing those qualities in them. And this will in turn nurture caring and respectful responses to the world from them, thereby influencing a little how they respond and what they will become.

But mostly they do it for themselves, even if they make decisions based on our attitudes.

Chelsea is inherently who she is on her own. Maybe with snippets of attitudes she grew up with here in her early years, but mostly she’s chosen what she reckons are the best of what she’s seen for herself. That’s what they’ve been educated to do.

And seeing the choices she is making I can only be proud!

5 elements of parenting (and education) that are important

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ in a rare academic moment!

I often think back to our Home educating days when the children were younger and things seemed a little simpler.

Yea – I know it’s hard to believe it’s simple right now if you’ve got a complex life with younger ones. And maybe those former days weren’t simpler as I imagine – they were just different!

Anyway, instead of the parent/child relationships we had then we now have parent/adult relationships, with best friend thrown in too.

These adult relationships, with those little girls featured in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, are something I truly treasure. We love spending time together, we have a giggle together, they still share, and trust my support and – dare I say – wisdom! And I theirs; they teach me a lot too!

Recently someone sent me a lovely comment and expressed the hope that their own relationship with their little ones would turn into the adult ones we have now.

It made me wonder what it was that got us to this point, whether there were particular elements of parenting that aid the process.

I would say the answer lies in the elements of any relationships and is not necessarily to do with children; there’s not one rule for kids and another for grown-ups, as some seem to think. It’s just about being together and caring for one another in respectful ways.

So I came up with what I considered to be the five most important elements of our parenting, and home educating, in fact, of any relationship:

Respect – Children learn this by demonstration, by your respectful behaviour. They need to be shown the same respect as you expect from them, as you’d wish them to show to others, as you show to others. It’s derived from listening, responding, care, compromise, tolerance, talking, give and take and understanding on a mutual basis. Also from self-respect. And it has to be consistent.

Honesty – Children know when we are not honest. They learn their honesty from us. They need to be able to trust us. You have to be brave to be honest, find ways to explain even if it’s difficult. We are all human; make mistakes, get it wrong. We can admit it. Apologies work wonders. But you always have to be fair even when it’s hard. This will earn their respect too.

Communication – Always communicate, share, explain, inquire, request, listen. All relationships are based on communication whoever they’re between. Even the tiniest moments of communication can have enormous impacts. They also show you care for and respect them.

Space – It’s okay to have space from the children, as we would want space from any family members! It is not a reflection of how much we love our kids if we want to have some time away from them, just as it’s not a reflection of love for a partner if we want time apart! Space from each other helps each identify who they are.

Balance – I don’t think extremes in any aspect of life are healthy. Rules are sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Everything we do with our children – or with any relationship – should always be up for scrutiny, review and refreshment within the perspective of what we learn as we all grow together. We need to balance things like saying no with saying yes, being firm when it’s important with being able to compromise, being a playmate, being a protector. You balance many hats as a parent, the way you behave as you do so can make or break your relationship with your children and the adults they’ll become.

And of course everything here is based in LOVE. I took it for granted that element would be there anyway!

Can your kids trust what you say about school?

“You look like you’re in an institution, mum,” she giggled as she snapped this picture on the slant! 010

I wasn’t, we were just sitting next to a beach volleyball court when my daughter took this.

We’d walked along the front together and found a little cafe to have a drink before walking back. It seemed like summer and it was only last week. Now I sit and write this with woollies on and showers lashing the windows.

It was so lovely seeing her again. We manage it every couple of months as she miles away now where her work is, but share daily texts. I get twitchy when we’re not in contact for a few days.

It’s half term and the town is full of parents and kids in proper contact but many seeming not to enjoy it half as much as we do.

We spent almost ten years enjoying being together when we were home educating so you can imagine the distance is taking some getting used to!

People often ask how we managed. Saying how grateful they are that their kids are off their hands all day and what a trial these term breaks are. But the thing about home educating is that we had the opportunity to grow a different kind of being together than when the kids were in school.

I talked about this before in this September post. But what I forgot to mention is the idea of trust.

It must be so hard for kids to really trust their parents when they uphold that school is good, when to some kids it just seems like torture. It must be so hard for kids to trust that their parents know best when those same parents seem to spend an awful lot of time complaining about school. And it must be horrid if the kids get the idea that really mum and dad just want them off their hands.

How do you build a sense of trust, an essential part of respect, in that scenario?

We originally asked our kids to trust what we said about school being right for them. We maintained it was worth a try. We suggested there would be things about it they might really like and enjoy.

When that started to go wrong, when it became apparent that school clearly wasn’t right for them, that they weren’t enjoying it and they’d given it a fair trial but were still unhappy and unwell, we stopped selling it to them. We no longer asked them to trust things we didn’t even believe in ourselves any more. We talked about home educating, about them learning at home, and we watched them explode with delight.

And the delight continued, despite the challenges. But those challenges were overcome by the fact that our relationship was built on that position of trust – the kids trusted that we would not uphold false stories.

I don’t think that would have been the case if we’d left them in a scenario that no one trusted any more. They’d have known it was a lie.

We cannot lie to our kids. Agreed, there’s a few ‘stories’ we occasionally tell them; Father Christmas for one! But kids know the truth, despite what you’re telling them. They have to trust us, trust what we say, how we behave. Once that trust is in place the relationships follows.

And a good relationship with your kids is truly worth putting yourself out for as it pays a lifetime of dividends. As I enjoy now despite the distance!

What defines your parenting style?

Oooo-er! How do you answer that? Where do you start, whatever would you say?

I was spouting gobbledegook when I got asked it a little while ago.

It was a journalist looking for a quick one-line answer as they always do. And I cringed as I always do with journalists and wanted to waffle on – as I always do!

But maybe that’s because I hadn’t ever properly thought this through. It got me thinking –what would be my answer?

In the end I got beyond a one-liner; I got it refined down to one word.

RESPECT

You might have thought I’d say LOVE. But you can’t actually have love without respect. You don’t truly love someone without having respect for who they are. Love and respect are intricately linked. You can’t love someone you have no respect for because it becomes abusive or controlling. Loving is not controlling.

You might have also thought I’d say CARE.  But if you think about it, that’s what respect is really. Care for one another, care in the way you behave towards one another, care for each others’ feelings, in the perspective of your own too and how you interact with others. Care is demonstrated through respect, isn’t it?

Your respectful behaviour towards others demonstrates a kind of care for them. So BEHAVIOUR is another element of respect. And that’s the greatest way of teaching your children about respect too. The way you behave towards them sets them an example. You can’t behave one way and expect your child to do something different. You have to be respectful towards them if you want them to be respectful towards you and others.

And that also extends beyond people to your behaviour towards your home, your environment, the planet, your work, your lifestyle. Respect needs to inform everything you do as a parent. That’s how you raise respectful people. Your RESEPCTFUL, CARING BEHAVIOUR teaches others around you about respect.

Some people cite discipline as a form of respect. They think discipline means respect. In a way it’s part of it – but it’s usually the wrong sort of discipline they’re thinking about. Many parents (and teachers) think kids should have discipline as if it’s something you add on by forcing it into them (not respectful!). But the only form of discipline that works is one that’s initiated in the self and that’s SELF DISCIPLINE. Self discipline is learned from the example of self discipline our kids have demonstrated to them by you. From the example of SELF RESPECT you’re giving.

I looked up ‘respect’ in the dictionary just to check. The meaning relevant to parenting is: ‘due regard for the feelings, wishes and rights of others’.

I would say that is exactly what defines my parenting.

And respect is MUTUAL in this house. Always has been. Always will be.

And even though I’ve waffled on, that is the one word that truly defines my parenting style and through which we’ve always expressed our love for one another:

RESPECT!