Tag Archive | schools

Making my mouldy bits shiny!

 I’m off on a little holiday. And looking forward to refreshing and rubbing the mould off my stale bits!

It’s easy not to notice it growing. But when I get so bored that complacency and loss of love of the nice things sets in so bad that I realise I’ve even got used to life looking grey and fuzzy, I know I need to do something about it.

New experiences recharge and polish up those rusty complacent bits.

It’s the same for the kids. they seem to come alive in new places.

Far from switching off their brains, new experiences boost their development and education in ways we sometimes fail to appreciate. New experiences bring new opportunities for discussion and questions, consequently new language (even if still English), new imaginings, development of new neural pathways and growth of intelligence. It’s all good stuff.

So whenever you have the chance to get away and take the kids with you rest assured you’ll be developing their mental agility as you develop their horizons – yours along with them. And enjoying yourself meanwhile. Holidays are as educational (if not more) as studying at home.

Home educators have the chance to do that all the time, funds allowing. Anyway, cheap holidays (we used the relatives in different parts of the country mercilessly) are as valuable as exotic ones. It’s the newness that counts.

It’s such a shame that schooling inhibits so many families from doing the same, pretending it disrupts the child’s education. It doesn’t really. What it more accurately disrupts is ticks on sheets and stats on tables, but I’ve never considered that true education anyway.

True education takes place in true life – not necessarily school life. And it takes place any where at any time, as most home educators discover, whether on holiday or not.

So wherever you take yours, may it be a happy and restorative (if educative) one and make your mouldy bits shiny again! More whenI’m back.

Schooling reminds me of Sat Navs!

It was partly the girls’ comments for my last post on the significance of home educating and partly the sad journey back to the train station as they were leaving that made me think of Sat Nav’s.

And that’s when the similarities struck me.

Sat Nav’s are very useful. But the girls’ remarks about ‘obedience’ and ‘permission’ were still buzzing around in my head, like that automated voice that says; ‘turn around where possible’!

It made me think that although Sat Nav’s have a use, the downside of them is that they can both condition us in a tendency to be obedient and inhibit the growth of our independence, if we’re not on our guard.

Think about it: you soon become a slave to the Sat Nav if you don’t have either the skills to understand a map, or the knowledge that there are other routes and choices should you wish to make them.

The schooling system does the same; it can inhibit you from knowing that there are other routes and other choices in life ahead than those the system would have you obedient to! And the system wants everyone obedient. It much easier for them. Much easier for them to perpetuate their strange ideas about what kids need. Much easier for them to perpetuate their own glorification!

Much easier for them if you have to seek permission to think for yourself, as the girls observed in some people.

Permission.

It’s one of those words that always comes up in Life Coaching or inspirational workshops and techniques? When you’re supposed to give yourself permission to do the things you love, live the lifestyle you want and not be a slave to convention. How many of us are actually unquestioning slaves to convention, so much so that we never even realise? Never even realise that we don’t make many of the choices that we could because, firstly we don’t know they’re there and secondly, we unwittingly feel we haven’t the permission to make them?

Right from being small we are conditioned to be so. Schooling certainly conditions us to be obedient to a certain way of learning, obedient to a future they would set out for us. And before you know what’s happening we’ve lost the skills and the independence to learn any other way (and there are lots of other ways), or the skills to live a life with independent thought and independent choice.

Sat nav’s can be useful. Schools can be useful. Curriculum, courses, workshops, route planners, convention, can all be useful – at times, maybe even a lot of the time.

But we must always encourage our children to see the multitude of choices – some that might be less conventional, to keep a broad and open mind, give them the thinking and reasoning skills to use it through conversations, explorations, experiences, varied activities and exposure to a range of ideas.

And show them how obedience and route planning of any sort is only useful when it is an explored and valid CHOICE.

And when you know that you do have the choice to turn things around when possible, whatever those things may be?

Help, I’m scared of ruining my child!

It’s quite common to hear an anxious plea like this from a home educating parent.

It’s a widely felt concern and a familiar sensation to all who’ve home schooled, once you’re into the reality of home educating day to day. In particular, those days the kids seem to have spent much of the day gaming or doing what appears to be very little!

Firstly, in response to that, I’d like to reassure you that I know home educated youngsters who spent days gaming or doing nothing and they weren’t ruined. Their learning lives were just led differently; they got their act together when required and went on to lead productive happy working lives, some studied for exams and got good grades, others launched themselves into work via other routes and opportunities. We’re conned into the idea (by those who want to keep us obedient to the system) that the sytematic approach to learning offered in schools is the only way to a worthy life. It isn’t.

Whatever they’re doing will have a value strange though it may seem to you!

Secondly, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It may be doing little that you recognise (from that system) as education. But that doesn’t mean that it is nothing of value. Children learn, progress, develop skills, increase their knowledge from all sorts of incidental activities that might look like nothing. For example; gaming; they’re increasing many skills, mental and motor. Chatting with mates, exploring websites, playing and playing around, are all activities which contribute to their development in some way. Just because it isn’t recognisable (by the system’s terms) or measurable (again by the system’s standards) does NOT mean it’s worthless.  Conversations, especially with other adults, are not measurable by the system’s terms but are priceless in developing language, confidence, social skills, understanding, knowledge etc etc.

Thirdly, you are very unlikely to be ruining your child. How come? Look at the logic of it; if you’re a parent who’s reading this, who’s chosen to home educate probably as a result of a lot of long, hard thinking and research, then it’s fair to assume you’re a conscientious parent. And conscientious parents don’t ruin their kids. They learn, adapt, flex, review, research, and keep on learning. That’s what you’re doing.

Take a look at what ruins kids anyway. I assume that to be abuse or neglect, neither of which you’re likely to be doing.

Some days you will be ignoring them. It’s good for them. It develops independence, thinking skills, space to mature as they need to, make decisions, take charge – they never get the chance to take charge in schooling so they never find out how to take charge of life. But for the most part you will be engaging with them, even if just through conversation or idea sharing, showing, demonstrating, or prompting, all of which are valid. Mostly you’ll be encouraging, stimulating, facilitating experiences and opportunities, organising activities. But that won’t be all the time. They’ll soon take over organising themselves if you’ve demonstrated the skills needed to do that and nurtured space for them to do so.

I’ve said many times that kids spend hours and hours in school wasting time, switched off, passively receiving stuff they’re not interested in and which doesn’t inspire them. At home they learn things so quickly so they have hours to game, play, whatever, which stimulates them in valuable ways and increases their motivation. Every minute home schooling need not be (should not be) filled with ‘doing’ education. It certainly isn’t in school. They need stimulating – not coercing.

Finally, isn’t it ironic that rarely would anyone say that a child is being ruined by school! Why make such a blanket statement about home education? Reserve judgement. Do what you feel is right for your child.

Home educating does not ruin children. I don’t know of any ruined home schoolers. All of them are different. All of them have follwed different pathways, some conventional, some not so. But all are intelligent, vibrant, busy, switched on people who have built the necessary skills to move forward towards the life they want….and anyway….like us parents; they’re still not finished yet!

My latest book ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire’ (see the panel right) is there to help you deal with these kinds of concerns. Find it at Bird’s Nest Books or on Amazon.

Another teacher wants out…

so many now disillusioned with school

It’s not just parents of school children who are disillusioned with the education system and moving away from it. It’s the teachers too as we regularly read about.

And you have to wonder why that is.

I was talking to another young teacher recently who, despite her ‘outstanding’ teaching, was also looking to leave the classroom behind as she’d become so disillusioned with the job.

I asked her why she wanted out. And this is what she told me:

I’m leaving after five years, firstly because of workload. We work from 7:30-5pm Monday to Friday then at least one day spent working at the weekend, plus planning at home during the holidays.

Plans are incredibly in depth for every lesson and to resource and deliver them, with children’s work then assessed and tracked continuously, becomes overwhelming. That’s not to mention the ongoing threat of Ofsted, being observed by senior leaders, the continual change of plans for various visitors and then the complete lack of engagement by parents. Plus this year funding has been cut so drastically that many teachers are spending their own money trying to resource their lessons.

Secondly, there’s just so many lessons being taught everyday that children are being inundated with so much technical information there’s little time to consolidate or reflect. All this is tricky in a well behaved class but when some children in mainstream education have specialist or mental health needs, the teacher must use even more time to differentiate or manage that behaviour which means other children are being left out. The alternative leaves those children who need the most support being looked after by teaching assistants who have the least experience.

Finally and more importantly though, I’m leaving because I just feel that mainstream education, which focuses on attainment and targets and tests, is outdated and doesn’t prepare children for today’s world. I believe that education should be child-led; that it should be brought out of the classroom, yet without another overhaul of the system. I don’t see how that’s possible. So, I can’t stay working to the bone in a system I can’t get behind and I no longer believe in.

So sad that our children are going to lose another inspirational teacher, like so many already lost. (See this article here).

It says an awful lot about the system when, not only do parents feel they want to leave it behind and provide something different for their kids through home educating, but there are so many professionals abandoning it too!

Take back learning from the bureaucrats!

Education is important. I guess all parents would agree.

But how many of you, I wonder, have really thought what education is? How many are not thinking about education at all, but are thinking instead about schooling and qualification. About the systematic and mechanical process in schools that bureaucrats tell us education is.

The majority of people I suspect. But this is not true education and it’s having a disastrous effect on the children. It’s also making education, which should be a broadening, developmental, personal experience, into a tightly mechanised priming of kids for outcomes outside the personal – like school league tables for example.

We can never truly predict the outcome anyway, for kids are never finished – and isn’t education about the kids! And without the development of personable skills, test results and qualifications are useless. Useless to the learner. A bane to teachers. And are stunting our children’s wellbeing, as more and more are heaped upon them. 

Listen to some of Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube. Here’s one. He doesn’t want reform of the old model we already have – he wants something completely different – something more personal – as our kids need. As our world needs.

And it’s time we demanded things to be different, time to make the bureaucrats listen.

Parents could make different decisions about their child’s education.

Not every parent can home educate, but every parent can vote and make their feelings known about the things that concern them in the system.

You could demand that all this testing should stop, for a start, or boycott them. Like this brave head teacher who decided not to do the SATs. Knowing as she does that SATs have little benefit to a child long term, but can be damaging to their generic educational experience.

You could think about what kind of educational experience is important and what you want the outcome to be – in your child, not in terms of qualifications. But in terms of their talent. Speak out at schools. Speak with other parents.

You could tackle your local MP and raise your concerns. Go talk to them at one of their surgeries. Write to the education minister. Join a petition for change.

And you could take a look at your political party’s educational manifestos before you vote.

Stop being so desperate about qualification and ask what qualifies you for a happy life?

Parents have an extremely powerful collective voice. Make your concerns known and take your child’s education and wellbeing back from the bureaucrats.

For most of them don’t understand children’s – or families’ – needs at all.

Something to consider when we vote!

I’ve been looking back at some blogs written a while ago now – wondering if I’d changed my mind about schooling!

But when I spotted this I realised that, as more and more parents turn to home education seeking an alternative to what’s described here, I sadly feel just as cynical. It was written when I went back into school for a little while as I missed contact with kids. And also wanted to see the workings of a classroom again after all these years; maybe revise my rather cynical view. Did that happen?

Sadly not – this is what I see: –  we take immature little beings who are still developing a delight in their world and are keen to learn about it in explorative and experiential ways. We remove them from their self motivated investigations and tell them that way of learning is invalid. We stick them in a structured institution which disregards their desire to learn about the things that interest them and tell them what we adults want them to learn which we misguidedly think will make them cleverer. We enforce learning tasks upon them in such a way it takes away all the delight they had in learning thus destroying their motivation. We heap far too much over complicated, prescriptive and academic stuff on them far too soon, when they are far too underdeveloped to get anything from it. And we do this in the confines of such a rigid timetable that they don’t have time to formulate understanding, reinforce knowledge, or develop skills. Thus setting many of them up to fail.

Then, when they do fail, which in these circumstances many of them are bound to do, we tell them it’s their fault because they are stupid since they seem to have a difficulty with learning.

Cynic? Moi?

Now I know schooling works well for many, but for others not only does this too-much-too-soon scenario destroy our children’s potential for learning, it also destroys things that are much more precious and life damaging; their faith in education, their self belief and their aspirations. There is nothing to be gained except for a select few who can cope. But it’s at the expense of many.

Of course, the politicians gain. Forcing too-much-too-soon and winning a few academic points for the more able kids wins votes for the politicians. They can say they’re making children cleverer. But they’re not; as they sit in their elitist little empires making policies for people whose lives they know as little about as I do the queen’s, they’re switching many kids off to learning anything.

Meanwhile in schools teachers despair of not only having the finger of blame for academic failure pointed at them, but also at having to deliver an inappropriate curriculum and force inappropriate learning targets on the children in their class. And parents despair with worry as to why their child is not ‘achieving’.

So as I try and help some poor little eight year old understand a grammatical concept that’s so hard it used to be on a GCSE paper I wonder what is to be done. The only way I can see it changing is for both politicians and parents to put a stop to this enforced, dull, academic hothousing, and start demanding a more personal and developmental education for the sake of the individual and not for the sake of the politics.

Here’s a piece that sets you thinking about how that might be achieved; https://www.self-directed.org/tp/what-does-it-mean-to-be-educated/  by Blake Boles the author of ‘The Art of Self-Directed Learning’

And a little clip from it to watch – I’m not advocating summer camps – aren’t they just another institution? But this holds some valid ideas for education. And some things to think about when we vote!

Room to learn?

When school term starts again there’s always a flurry of new interest in home education. As well as the usual questions about exams or socialisation (read this) there’s another one that always gets asked:

“But where are the kids going to learn?”

The thought of learning without a classroom seems to make people anxious, as if without this ‘school’ room the children wouldn’t be able to learn at all.

It’s based, of course, on the familiar view we have of learning only ever taking place in a classroom in a school. But just because that’s the way it’s done in the system, it doesn’t mean to say that it is necessary, or the only place a child can learn, or that learning can’t happen effectively without it.

Like any studying we’ve ever done at home, any space can be adapted to fit a purpose, we just have to get creative with it. We can use whatever is available from the kitchen table, bed, living room floor, sofa.

Most home educating families live in a family house and use general family spaces for learning activities. Some start out with a routine that involves grouping round the kitchen table for example, but soon find that in reality, learning can take place anywhere.

For children learn best when they are stimulated, interested and comfortable. That could just as easily be on the floor or in the garden, as in a more formal setting with table/desk and chairs involved. Reading together on the sofa is as effective as upright at the table – probably more so because the child associates it with a pleasurable experience and pleasurable experiences are usually ones that they remember and want to repeat. E.g. maths is just as effective whether it’s on the sofa, on the floor, or chanting or doing quizzes in the back of a car.

In some ways, different settings and experiences can aid learning, stimulating memory. A more formal setting that’s repeated day after day can become boring and easily forgotten.

Many home educating families who have seen their children learning in a variety of settings would go so far as to say that the world is their classroom, finding that they learn as much when they’re out, wherever it is, as they do at home. Valuable learning can happen incidentally from an everyday outing, field trip or visit, stimulating conversation, inquiry and investigation. Even a trip to the park can provoke that. Travel or new stimulating experiences are more examples and offer subjects to research further.

But it’s also the case that formal learning can be conducted outside or in different settings as much as incidental learning can. Just because it’s more formal learning doesn’t mean it needs a more formal space. You can take study anywhere you’re prepared to do it – a library for example, or cafe. One of the essays with the highest marks I ever attained was put together sitting in a field where I was undisturbed and enjoying the quiet surroundings.

Dedicated learning spaces are not a guarantee that effective learning will result. So don’t always stick with formal learning spaces and routines. Get creative – the more stimulating they are the better. It is often the most unlikely situations that stimulate the most lasting results.

And do let me know if you’ve had some unusual and crazy ones – I’d love to know!