Tag Archive | school-at-home

Learning for Life – not for schools

So the school children have gone back to the classroom. But the home educators still can’t go out in the way they’re used to. That must be tough, as I know that home education is a misnomer – learning takes place out of it as much as in!

I guess it’s tough though for many school parents worrying about their children becoming infected with coronavirus, although the general overall vibe I’m sensing is one of relief!

School closures certainly turned a very different spotlight on home education, genuine home education that is, not school-at-home (blog here) which is what most have been doing and is completely different. I wonder if home educators will gain more respect and understanding of what they do after every parent has endured this time without the facility of school.

What is certain is that our culture of family life, of economy and working and how that operates with regard to parenting, is for the most part dependent on the school system being there to child mind, let alone educate. Whether that justifies what goes on in there is questionable!

The recent pandemic has raised many questions about education, economy, family life, culture – everything really. As parents are more involved in what their kids are learning many are coming face to face with the absurdity of some of the stuff on the curriculum. As this article in Prospect illustrates

School learning has become so far removed from learning about real life, living and surviving challenges like the pandemic – all important things we really need to know – it’s no wonder people are asking of their child’s work; ‘what’s the point of this?’

There must be better things to learn?

There certainly are, and maybe this is why so many parents now are turning to home education. Because most are beginning to see that home education is life education. Unlike school education. And true education is not the consumption of facts and tricks and strategies for the sole purpose of measurement and qualification, even though qualification may be part of it. True education needs to be about enabling people to live a life that is useful, fulfilling and non harming.

Education is after all about learning to understand life, how it works, how you work in it, how you find a place, make a place, make a social life, integrate, communicate, care, and do all this without harm to others or the environment.

Home educators seem to understand that to facilitate this requires a far more organic and life-led approach for most than the systematic drilling of useless grammar and mathematical processes that none of us will ever use again but is more likely to put us off the subjects if forced upon us too early.

This is what most enlightened parents have spotted about their children’s school-at-home stuff, that much of it is like that; beyond the kids, useless in a real world outside school, not even interesting!

A school world and school academics are not a true reflection of the world beyond it.

That’s why learning as a home schooler takes place as much out of the home as in it. And why most home educated youngsters graduate from it with a broad intelligence and range of skills, including those associated with socialisation, that equips them so well for real life.

They understand that learning is not just for schools! That it is a life-long tool and they can take it on themselves, any time, any age.

I’m wondering how many school youngsters understand that.

Just do what you can

Home educating, through all the years we did it was an absolute joy and delight. It’s a while back now, children grown and flown, but it was a decision we’ve never regretted; just not doing it sooner!

We would be out and about most days on trips of one kind or another; visiting places of interest, getting exercise or a swim, library, museum or galleries, social get togethers. Such a variety of things we did along with staying at home studying, doing practical or academic activities. We depended on our trips out for balance and wellbeing and contrast and consequently being together 24/7 was never an issue.

So home education in Lockdown must be incredibly hard. I can’t imagine the strain of being shut in together without the meets and visits beyond the home. And as for doing school-at-home, when families are not either prepared or used to it, that must be tough.

However, despite our enjoyment of home educating, there were days when it was equally tough for us too. And the odd occasion I completely lost it!

One day sticks in my mind particularly (probably because of the shame). I’d reached the end of my patience with the mess, the noise, and the whole house being so strewn with the result of their busyness there wasn’t even a place for me to sit. And when I asked for a tidy up before they got anything else out to do I couldn’t stand the usual resistance.

It was just one of those final straw moments and I did something I’d never normally do; I shouted, I had a tantrum, I told them to go upstairs until they would, and I swept the entire contents of the heaped table off onto the floor with one sweep of my arm and a satisfying crash.

The kids looked at me in horror. Then quietly mounted the stairs, eldest sister’s arm round the youngest as if to protect her from this ogre.

I was not proud.

But even then, within the general joy of home educating, I was just coping in the best way I could.

We’re all human – sometimes the way we cope is not the best, but it’s just the way it is. It’s also another part of being human that we – and the children – have to learn to cope with, move on from.

What you parents with youngsters are coping with right now is monumental. It’s unprecedented. No one knows what is the best way to deal with learning in Lockdown. Not the politicians. Not the parenting gurus. Not the teachers or the educationalists who think you should be carrying on with this blasted grade chasing and box ticking that ministers have made of education. No one knows your situation within your house, with your family. Only you. So it’s only you who can figure out what’s your best way to deal with it.

But one thing that I came to understand during our early home education days that might help, was that my relationship with the children, our family relationship, was paramount. Any kind of formal education came second. And equally paramount is our wellbeing. I had neglected my wellbeing which drove me to that final breaking point.

If you can get through this time with a strong and happy bond with the children intact you will have done brilliantly!

The children will be able to return to their formal education at any time – they have a lifetime to do so. With strong supportive bonds they will be able to acquire what they need to get where they want to go at whatever point.

Trust.

Time frames aren’t that important. There are so many home educated kids who have progressed and achieved in completely different time frames to school time frames and gone on to have happy successful lives.

I’m happy to report that despite my occasional tantrums the strong and happy bonds with my young people still remain as they’ve graduated beyond home educating and into the working world. (You can read in the book below how the day was recovered with an apology – from me, a tidy up – from them, a discussion about the situation and a good giggle – as much about my behaviour as anything).

But I wanted to share this story with you in case you’re having a day when you’re struggling to do your best. Some days it won’t be the best. But that’s family life. The children learn from those too. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can!

Read this tale and others in my story of our home educating days

Lockdown Home Schooling!

I may be a home educator at heart, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for all those parents of school kids who suddenly find themselves home schooling without having made that choice for themselves.

That’s extremely tough. Especially so if you have to keep working from home, doing the same hours you did before. It must be impossible to focus adequately on both.

Home educating families who’ve chosen to do so, have mostly made that choice after researched decisions and planning and re-jigging their lifestyle to fit. Not to mention a willing and inspired heart! I guess this won’t be the case for many parents in Lockdown right now. Not only that the facilities out of the house, which home educators would depend on, are no longer available. That’s tough for all of us, socially as well as educationally.

It helps, I think, to be aware of these stresses and challenges we’re all of us facing right now. And to be kind and gentle with your days, with your expectations, and especially aware of practising strategies to remain mindful of your mental and spiritual well-being too.

Last year when Lockdown first confronted us I posted some ideas to try and help those parents who are home schooling now. As I explained it might be time to examine your own ideas and attitude to schooling and learning and come to a different understanding in order to help yourself through, as some parents have rigid ideas and expectations that may not be serving them well during this difficult time.

Here are some examples:

Understand the concept of time differently. In a school day much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home keep that in mind and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.

Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.

So use this time to encourage experience of other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills. More motivational than workbooks as well! (See the poster below – it’s true!)

You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trusts and organisations, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities. Not forgetting the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc, historical films and documentaries.

To maintain freshness, pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company (when possible), screen based or written and the practical. Contrast helps motivation too.

Encourage separate times. Discuss and plan for each to have some personal time and space in the house without others interruptions and promote this as a valuable and important recharge time. (You might have to suggest things to do with it at first) Talk about respecting each others’ space and needs to help you keep sane.

Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to take charge of this independently.

You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s, as well as overall well being. Google will provide a range of ideas.

Finally remember that this time will change, try not to worry that the kids are missing out – they’re just experiencing something different which can be just as educational, search some of the blogs I posted last March April for further inspiration and keep in mind what the poster says.

Good luck!

Mind your attitude

I’m aware there is some conflict!

Hardly surprising in these tricky times.

It’s really odd to suddenly have ‘home schooling’ thrust into the limelight when there’s times home educators have been made to feel like anti-establishment, boat rocking, nuisances who ought to get real! As if school is ‘real’? And as if that’s what we do it for.

We don’t. We do it for the good of our kids. Why would anyone put themselves through the enormity of the challenge of home educating if it wasn’t from the deep desire to do that?

Now, of course, everyone’s having to ‘home school’.

Or are they?

Most experienced home educators wouldn’t even use the term ‘home schooling’ (there’s a post about the differences here) or equate it in any way with what’s going on now. What’s going on now is basically school-at-home and biding time until the mass child minding centres open again and start testing and scoring and grading and pitching kids against one another through the mass political institution that is known as education.

But enough of that; I don’t want to rant and it’s not the point here.

The point is that we’re all in it together. Because we all have the same parental desire and are headed in the same direction: To have intelligent, well developed and happy kids who are able to move forward in caring and productive ways and get where they want to go, whether through employment or work of their own.

And we should respect that there are many approaches to doing this successfully, whatever you want to call it and wherever it takes place.

I knew families whose children never went to school. Ever.

I knew families who started with school then switched to home educating.

I knew families who had some children in school and some home educating.

I knew others who had all their children in school.

Others still who started home educating then switched to school at secondary. And vice versa.

I knew some who generally used school but home educated for a term/year/however long it was needed for the good of the child’s development, returning them to school at a later date.

And here’s the thing: All these approaches worked.

There are many different approaches to learning and any can work as long as they are managed carefully and respectfully.

And the point at the moment is not what you call it, is not home educating or doing school-at-home whilst there’s an abnormal interruption in the service most parents are used to. The point is everyone is struggling with a strange situation, whatever approach they started out with. And it will best be weathered if we support one another and refrain from making any judgements about what each is doing. We’re not politicians after all. 😀

All the parents who are having to deal with the children being at home instead of school could maybe grow a little more respect for home educators. All the experienced home educators, although conscious of school-at-home being very different from what they do, may be able to increase awareness of home educating that has previously been misunderstood.

And everyone can focus on the important thing; keeping the needs of the children at the heart of everything they do.

There need be no conflict between schools, home schooling, school-at-home, or home education – or parenting for that matter.

We are all different. We are all trying to survive these unprecedented times in the best way we can. But one thing we can do is care for each other, try and see other points of view, and be supportive rather than in conflict.

Warfare about our approaches and responses to the education of the children during this time is as unhelpful as the stupid and ignorant warfare between politicians when they’re campaigning.

It’s also the opposite of an open and inclusive attitude we want to foster within education – within society – within life.

So it’s not only what you’re doing with the kids that’s the point. The attitude you’re doing it with matters just as much.

Be easy. Reserve judgement. Open your mind. Learn.

This time is short and will quickly change and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. And hopefully some better attitudes will result!