Tag Archive | schooling

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.

What influences our children’s learning?

I was playing with the idea of children’s learning the other day and drew myself a little picture. This is because the system has taught us to think in a very linear way about how learning happens and it helps to think about it a little differently – especially if you’re home educating.

When you’re home educating you can abandon misconceptions about learning happening in a very unwavering linear way, because it doesn’t.

I think the government wants us to see it like that because it suits the systematic teaching they want to provide. But learning IS NOT the result of teaching, like it’s some kind of App that teachers can stick on what they consider to be hAppless kids! It’s nothing like that whatsoever.

Learning is instead an intrinsic part of who you are, of the influences around you, and how you respond to them.

My picture describes it like this:

learning 001

All these factors influence the way children learn – and achieve. And interplay with each other and every day – every year – will change and be different in the way they influence learning, some stronger than others at varying times and the children constantly changing in the way they respond.

Learning is an extremely fluid process. How could it ever be linear?

Systematic schooling disregards so many of these influences, seeing educating as this one track conditioning rather than the blossoming of an individual, responding to the climate in which they’re developing.

But I think it’s more helpful to keep this picture in mind. Because then you can forget the idea of learning as a simple set of single-track scores and see it instead as the result of complex influences, some of which you can impact on, some of which you can’t, and all of which have to be taken into account and negotiated in order to develop a well educated person. Wherever there’s a problem; one of these influences will probably be the cause.

And this applies wherever they are educated!

Are we schooling kids out of education?

It’s the time of year when many are facing the return to school – and many are not! Many are rejoicing in not returning to school and continuing with their home education…

…I couldn’t resist reblogging this story from a while back as it explains why so many choose to do so;

There was a bright little pre-schooler running through the town the other day. She was on an adventure away from mum. She stopped suddenly, turned round and realised there was an awful lot of people who weren’t mum. Her face dropped.

Mum, watching, called out to her and she went running back happily. Despite that slight panic at mum being momentarily out of sight, she didn’t hesitate to go off and explore again. After all, there’s such an intriguing amount to learn – about everything, why would she not?

Twelve years later and learning doesn’t look so appealing. In fact most of her inclination to learn has been switched off, like for many young people.

What happened?

My theory is that schooling happens.

What happens is that we corral our wonderfully idiosyncratic and diverse children into institutions which enforce comparison and competition in their most destructive forms, judge them by a narrow set of outcomes only a particular few can excel at, lead them to believe that anything else they might be good at is unimportant, stress them witless by unnecessary testing, and expect them to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and personally within that unfortunate climate.

It has always seemed a bit ludicrous to me.

This schooling of our children is putting them off education and learning. And neglecting the education of their whole being, of their diverse potential, individual talents, and original personalities, all of which are essential to the longevity of our world.

We are chiselling youngsters down to one set of talents, one way of thinking and performing, measurable by a narrow set of definitions, invented by politicians who are ignorant of education, out to impress those parents interested only in social stature or getting the kids off their hands.

Harsh words maybe, but how many politicians know about the world outside their elite existence – let alone what’s useful for survival in it? And I’ve come across many parents who only want scores and grades for their own adult pride, or their kids minded; there are relatively few who’ve actually thought it through and reached an understanding about what’s good for their individual developmentally.

Child-minding aside, the fallacy that most believe is that kids need teachers, tests and schools to learn, develop and progress towards a fulfilling and productive life.

But in reality they don’t, as many successfully home educating families are proving.

What they need instead is to be happy, confident, interested, curious and motivated like the little girl running through the precinct. With those traits kids move themselves forward into work and life successfully, but there’s only a relative few who come out of schooling with those personal attributes intact.

And you have to define success.

Some would define a successful education from a consumerist point of view as the getting of lots of ‘good’ grades.

I wouldn’t. In fact, it’s hard to define education at all because any definition would suggest it is finite and it isn’t, it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end.

My definition of a successful education would be so interlinked with what I consider a successful life to be which has nothing to do with getting anything, grades or otherwise.

It is more to do with a practice of living that is happy and mindful and content for the most part, full of warm loving relationships, fulfilled through purposeful work, independent and responsible and that continues to build and grow and improve as we learn and educate ourselves. It’s something with encouragement young people could do for themselves – if they haven’t been put off.

Education, like life, should not be something our children have to endure till it ends so they can get on with real life, as many feel it is.

It should be an integrated part of their real lives from day one, ongoing and always accessible. It should inspire. It should be something youngsters are gagging to involve themselves in not playing truant from. And something that serves our needs as humans to develop creatively, personally and emotionally as well as intellectually. And finally, something that we should be brave enough to accept is not actually measurable as such, yet is still wonderfully successful.

Roll on the day….