Tag Archive | schooling

Seeing educating differently

“But how will the children learn anything if they’re not in school being taught?” is a question often asked by those new to the concept of home education.

The reason they ask is usually because, like most, they’ve been taught to think about learning in institutional ways – as the education system conditions us to do.

But when you step out of that institutional thinking, that conditioning, and acknowledge and understand the thousands of families raising and educating their kids without school, you begin to see something different.

You see children:

  • Learning for themselves. Yep – they can, and do, take charge of their learning, (if they’re not put off), right from being small when they’re interested in everything and are given the opportunity to develop those interests further, thus picking up the skills for learning as they go. To maturing into seeing how the world works, how they want to fit into it, and how education will enable them to do that, either through becoming qualified at something or polishing up skills needed for the workplace.
  • Acquiring learning skills, through a wide experience of learning, by being engaged with topics for their own sake and consequently motivated, by applying themselves in practical ways, getting out and seeing things, doing things, experiencing the real world and the people in it and learning from them as they go along.
  • Learning from the people around them, not necessarily teachers, through mutually respectful relationships rather than hierarchical ones. By making their own assessments about the people who can help them, where they can find these people, by discussion and questioning, by having time for conversations, by interacting with them in beneficial ways.
  • Developing mature social skills by being around a high proportion of people who have social skills themselves, rather than a bunch of kids their own age who still don’t. And by healthy, unforced, interaction with a wide range of children from tots to teens in a more natural setting across the ages like that found in the real world, unlike the unnatural clustering in schools.
  • Learning through a diverse range of approaches from the structured, course-led type of approach, through the practical, experiential, trial-and-error way, to a completely child-led, creative, personal investigative, autonomous approach that can be equally successful.
  • Becoming educated without ever being tested on it!

There are far more ways to approach education than the institutional way that has become the tradition through schooling. Schooling was a great idea at the outset. It’s not such a great way of doing things now that society, parenting and families are different and now that politics has trashed it by twisting it into something that’s got to be constantly measured.

Measured people aren’t always the best people, or the most intelligent either. So don’t be conditioned into thinking that measured schooling will be the best either. Think it out for yourself!

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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.

 

You’re not finished yet

If you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ you’ll remember me telling the story of a close friend and the terrible angst she experienced because of the neglect of her Dyslexic son in school. (Find it on the Books page)

Basically they’d written him off completely and he and a class of ‘disruptive’ others who no one cared about were told they were ‘unteachable’. Enough to make any one disruptive. As the lad said at the time; ‘what’s the point of even trying when they’ve already decided we’re not going to make the grade?’ He was willing to learn. But without support and understanding he was unable to in that climate.

She and I met for coffee the other day. Yep – we still do that together after all these years, still support each other

Trying to hide behind her glasses!

My dear friend trying to hide behind her glasses!

through the tough bits, and still swap notes about our ‘children’ now successfully out in the world despite our angst.

We were remembering the times back then when her worries were intense. Following the time described in the book  her young teen was farmed out of the school to do various other ‘activities’, none of which he wanted to do and none of which were really of any value. Except to keep him off the school stats, of course, as she sees it now. (She’s been with me too long!)

“The one thing that kept me going and kept my faith in him intact,” she said over cake – yep we still do that too, “was something you kept saying to me at the time when my doubts were uppermost.”

“What was that?” I was thinking back fast. I’ve made some terrible gaffes in the past.

“Well you were always adamant he was intelligent, even though dyslexia was hampering his results in school. But the best thing you kept saying was ‘he’s not finished yet’. It was so reassuring. And I think about that a lot now. Even in relation to myself and the things I still want to do’.

It’s a good one to keep by you for when you’re fretting over the kids or something you feel you’re not achieving. You can use it about schooling, home education or about your own personal development.

As an update, thanks to her continual support from home and working through stuff with him, her son went on to college where he received suitable help for his dyslexia, then Uni, graduated, has a good job. She kept her faith in him throughout and credits me with prompting her by say ‘what are his needs now?’ whenever she panicked about ‘the future’.

Her daughter whom she home schooled for a while (starting at the end of the book) has just completed her doctorate. That would not have been the case, she feels, if their education had been left in the hands of the system without parental help and belief.

So whether you home educate or your children are in school, if you’re wobbling over certain things not being achieved yet just remember; the kids are not finished yet. Stay on their side, keep believing and keep with their needs now.

And remember, you’re not finished yet either, whatever age you are!

How many GCSEs does it take to breed neglect?

I’m not only a home educating parent! I am other things as well.

And our kids are not just home school kids, they are other things too.

It’s just it can feel all consuming sometimes and become a single identity it’s hard to break. People love to keep others in labelled boxes!

Equally, school kids are not only their grades. Although you’d think that with the way some people are obsessed over them, as if it was the only thing their life was about.

Speaking to a young teen doing ten GCSEs at school at the moment it certainly felt like it for him. It’s become his whole life without room for anything else, each teacher expecting an undivided dedication to their subject when there are nine others also expecting the same.

Nightmare! Or mental illness in the making.

The people and the politics which push the system seem to believe that the harder they push the kids along this line the cleverer they’ll be. This is the propaganda parents are sold.

But the reality doesn’t work that way at all.

The approach which makes the kids ‘cleverer’ if that’s the term – generally intelligent is a better way to describe it –  is diversity. Diversity of skills, of thoughts, of experiences most particularly. The more varied those experiences, pursuits, activities, hobbies, pastimes, interests and learning, the broader and deeper their intelligence will be. And the greater their personable skills which are essential for life and work after school.

The more home educated young adults I see the more it’s obvious how broad minded, open to learning and intelligent they are, some without doing GCSEs at all. They are articulate, inclusive, empathetic, very social and willing. Forging an independent future with an entrepreneurial approach to getting where they want to go.

This is usually because of the range of experiences they’ve been exposed to during their time learning out of school. And this diversity of experience is sadly what the school GCSE treadmill neglects, thus neglecting the broadness of education that will stand kids in good stead for the future and, I feel, letting so many of them down, chaining them to a track that leaves little time for anything else.

GCSEs are useful. But only if you’ve got the other set of skills needed to know what to do with them and how to do it.

Ten GCSEs are not necessary. Many home schooled kids stick to the standard five and engage in a range of other activities that develop other necessary skills for life ahead. Like conversing with people for a start. Knowing what they want and what they want to go for.

So if you’ve got youngsters out of the system don’t buy into the propaganda that they need heads down at academic study all the time. Exclusive academia makes them dull – Unis and employers don’t want that.

Heads up and engaged with other things is what extends their intelligence and is just as educative.

By using the opportunity home educating gives you to broaden their experiences and activities you’ll also be broadening their brains and personalities, developing the other lifeskills they need to propel themselves towards a fulfilling and productive future that takes them beyond being a homeschool kid!

Their education is not just their GCSEs!

More on codswallop…

That post on educational codswallop certainly caused a stir! book cover - Copy (2)

I so very much appreciate people taking time to comment and leave their stories. Even those different to my own. And there were certainly some interesting and varied perspectives on this particular post, so thank you all again.

The more and varied the stories posted here, the more confidence it will perhaps give to people who may want to make choices different to those around them – no easy thing to do. So your comments will be helping others too.

Everything is so big and corporate now and education is becoming the same. It’s forgetting that children are not there for big business purposes, although I feel they’re being used as such. It’s forgetting that education is about the development of humanity, not obedient little clones – although I see how these might serve political agendas. It is forgetting that for the development of humanity we need alternative ideas from those we have already, we need creative ideas, thinkers who see beyond what is now mainstream, in order for the planet and its people to survive and thrive and regenerate.

Species who cannot do that cannot survive. Those that cannot adapt become extinct. And it is those people who can think outside what is already mainstream who generate the ideas required for adaptation and growth, development and change. Nothing progresses if it stays the same. We need alternative solutions to mainstream sometimes. We need creatives and alternative thinkers.

So the more stories about those doing things alternative to mainstream the better it is.

I used to balk at the use of the word ‘alternative’ when writing about home education. Because attitudes to home educators were very narrow, bunching all together under the label ‘alternatives’, like the Hippies, or seventies ‘Goodlifers’ were, without understanding, using another kind of mainstream us-and-them attitude towards anyone doing anything differently.

But there is no one category for home schoolers. It certainly isn’t ‘alternative’ in the way the word is commonly used; very few of us are that alternative you’d notice a difference between us and school-using parents. We are the same in wanting the best for our kids, for them to be happy in their development and education. We just choose to do it in a more DIY way than the commonly recognised one – and are brave enough to go for it even though it’s different.

So the more stories we put out there about the way it happens the better it will be for everyone and for the perpetuation of our species. For after all that’s what education is partly about isn’t it?

So feel free to comment – and share your differences. And thank you!

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!

Shot for wanting to be educated!

malala 001I’ve just read the book ‘I Am Malala’ about the girl in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for going to school.

That’s mostly all we know of her, as per the news coverage at the time. Read the book which details some of the political and religious climate that led to the event and you discover it’s far more complex than that.

It’s both disturbing and enlightening reading, unsettling and inspiring. And unimaginable in our comparably cosy world of educational freedoms in the UK.

Dedicated to the education and opportunities for schooling, both she and her father would find it hard to even contemplate why some of us would not want to take advantage of the opportunity to go to school, and home educate instead, as they were fighting for that right during the time leading up to the shooting. But the point is all about learning – rather than schooling – and who has control over it and how it is approached.

In the book I read about her father, who believes that ignorance has inhibited people from seeing education as a broadening of minds and development of ideas and consequently a way forward out of their troubles. And it has also allowed their politicians to fool people; I feel we perhaps think alike on that one!

For I suspect that in this country schooling may be doing the same, even if not to the same degree. Institutionalised schooling keeps people thinking how the establishment wants them to think and that’s becoming as much as a political tool, I feel, as the propaganda Malala describes in the book, where truth is distorted through the leaders’ interpretation of knowledge, stats, and who qualifies to access it.

As the process of schooling in the UK continues to squeeze creative and practical activities out of the curriculum, making it more and more focussed on rote academics for measurable purposes, then it also squeezes broader, independent and individual development, particularly thought development or a questioning mentality that encourages people to challenge. I’d guess politics wouldn’t want that.

In no way am I equating our system with the oppression Malala’s people suffered. But the opportunity to develop free thinking, questioning and independent individuals, able to think and learn for themselves, was high on our list of reasons to home educate. For I’m not convinced that schooling, as it is now and increasingly becoming, does that job terribly well.