Tag Archive | schools

All for a pound!

When I decided to stop teaching in schools (way back in the dark ages) I planned ahead how I was going to manage without income and a mortgage to pay. Of course, that’s a lot easier as a single person without family.

But I got a job waitressing on weekend evenings and gave riding lessons in the day. I worked every day in order to save.

I remember thinking as I served suppers in a posh restaurant that, even with the stress of getting hot meals out on time, even with customers who treated waitresses like dirt, it was amazing to earn money doing a job that seemed so easy compared to the same hours in a classroom!

There was an occasional embarrassing moment like when I served the parents of the kids who were in my class. But dad just laughed it off saying ‘Blimey – I didn’t realise teachers were so badly paid’.

‘Well, now you know,’ I said plonking his plate down and scurrying off.

How we have any teachers at all putting themselves through they crap they endure for the pittance they’re paid is what amazes me now. According to the news, they increasingly leave.

But I miss the teaching and the children. So am hoping to involve myself in some tutoring soon, maybe helping those who struggle through a system which neglects their learning differences, or those who don’t fit into schools’ narrow little targets.

However, it’s also because writers, like teachers, are so poorly paid. You wouldn’t think so because it’s only ever the high-earning writers that you get to hear about like Dan Brown or Stephen King for example, who earn thousands. For lesser writers like me, every book I sell makes me less than a pound. And with the pirating of e-books, I don’t get paid at all.

Back to the bookshop!

Obviously books get passed around. And I’m very happy that they do. But when you next stand in a book shop and think you’ll get the book in ‘other ways’ perhaps you’d spare a thought that if you’re not paying for it, the writer won’t get paid for their hours of hard work either! And it is hard work. Hard as teaching – I should know – I’ve done both full time.

Hence I find myself back working in the book shop for Christmas, mostly so I can treat the girls, turn the heating up (I’m writing this with mitts on!) and maybe have something a little sumptuous for us all too.

I admit it also does me good in other ways; it can be very reclusive writing all the time. And although I revel in your delightful appreciative messages (thank you – do keep them coming, it keeps me going), real human connection is also needed and I get to see what people are reading and chat about books.

So, if you didn’t know that ordinary writers like me were so poorly paid, now you do!

And now you also know why we are so grateful when you buy our books rather than getting them in ‘other ways’.

THANK YOU!

Surely not grammar schools again?

I’ve got a heavy heart this morning. This is because of the recent news about the government’s desire to take us back into the darker ages of divisive education again, via the grammar school system.

Pupils at Altrincham grammar school for boys.

Can Grammars ever be inclusive? Click on the pic for article.

If ever there was anything so segregating then this is it. I cannot see how it is of any benefit to learners. Only of benefit to those who would be elite – feeding the adult snobbery surrounding education that I’d hoped we were moving away from.

Read the articles here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37311023

For children to learn and succeed they need to be comfortable, encouraged and inspired. That should be happening in all schools. All schools should offer the opportunity for children to flourish whatever background they come from, whatever home, street, cultural climate. Anyone at any time should be able to facilitate the learning they need in order to achieve the ‘social mobility’ they desire, whatever school they are in, whatever part of the country.

Some children are academically able. Some are not – they have other skills and attributes. But are no less intelligent. This is harping back to the days where we didn’t acknowledge these differences and will widen the divide between the academically elite and those whose strengths lie in other skills. I see this as no better than clustering all those with skateboarding skills together in elite schools, just because they have skateboarding skills, and disregarding all those with other skills – it’s as narrowing as that. Put like that you can see how stupid it is. Academic skills are just one set of skills and not the only ones necessary for leading a successful and happy life. We need a range of skills – particularly practical skills – and all skills should be equally appreciated.

All schools should be equal. That should be a given. Area, wealth and circumstance are already vastly unequal – we all know that. Surely, surely, all institutions of education should be places where that’s not relevant, where children will all be treated to the same opportunities for growth.

I see the elitist politicians, living in their elitist enclaves, untouched by the challenges the majority of the rest of us face and I recoil in the face of their ignorance and oblivion and their decisions based in their elitism.

This is just another blatant example of that.

Sad, sad times!

Important message!

No one wants to read long blogs right now. I’m not that keen on writing them whilst everyone’s holidaying. So have created another way of leaving you with an important message:

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Feel free to pass it on!

The value of the Quiet Ones!

My treat for the weekend is to take a book outside and read. DSC06096

Doing it outside makes it less of a busman’s holiday for me. Since I’m concerned with words all day, it feels less workish to do it under birdsong, roses and the lullaby of the breeze, with the occasional annoying fly just keeping me from dozing off.

With some books I don’t doze off. ‘Quiet’ has been one of those.

It’s full title is ‘Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and it’s a fascinating observation of the valuable personality traits of Introverts. (TED talk here)

In fact, it’s a celebration of Introversion; of all it’s valuable attributes, and how it should never be seen as something wrong with us that needs to be corrected – as it is in many social climes, particularly with reference to children. The author Susan Cain talks about shyness (which I’ve blogged about before) and how it’s often tied up with Introversion yet is quite different.

We are all different, and we need that diversity for our species to survive, but it is often only the loudest that get revered, overlooking the quiet ones and the huge contributions they make to progress with their reflective and considered thinking and the fact they spend less time polishing their image and partying and more time in deep thought and invention. Whereas extroverts need a high stimulation environment, introverts feel most stimulated and do their best stuff in low key environments. The ‘key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that works best for us’ says Susan in her TED talk. Sadly most school environments fail to provide a low key environment for those who need it. no wonder so many kids fail to thrive there.

The last chapter contains some important ideas with regard to raising and educating our children with respect to the fact that many children need smaller social environs in which to learn and grow. And this is okay. We do not have to force them ‘to get out there’ as some parents believe, in order to socialise or succeed, but respect their preferences and grow their confidence within that respect.

I have always believed, back from when I worked in classrooms and through the contact I’ve had with a diverse range of home educating families, that many children fail in school simply because the climate of crowd and buzz does not suit them. But this does NOT mean they have a character defect, any more than someone with blue eyes has a character defect, it’s just our inability to accept differences between us and provide for the needs of those quieter children.

In our image conscious, Facebook crazy, media driven culture we have to sometimes stand against it to be who we need to be and respect our personalities for what they are, rather than try and be all the same. That goes for our kids too. Particularly important is to recognise that they are not us, are different from us, and should be respected for who they are, even if they are quiet, require alone-time, prefer smaller interactions and dislike crowds.

That’s perfectly okay. Quiet people are just as successful and don’t need to be made into anything else.

I know it’s my quiet reflective times, often with my books (often in the garden), that has made me who I am; able to work, parent, home educate, write, and develop two reflective home educated beings who as adults still have a vibrant social life, loving friends, and a successful life out in the fray without ever being forced!

Home schooling in the spotlight?

A warm thank you to all those who came to our event at Waterstones last night to celebrate the new home education book. Lovely to have your support and to meet Home Educating friends from a while back. 20160705_191958

I know some home educators feel reluctant to put home schooling in the spotlight like this. They don’t want too much attention, especially from the Local Authorities and consequently the government, who might interfere with this successful and alternative approach to what’s on offer in schools.

Some of the contacts from authorities who visit home educating families has in the past ranged from less than helpful to downright ignorant and insulting at times. Their remit seemingly to bring us all in line. And the call for registration of all home educating families, and consequently monitoring, is a constant threat we want to avoid as long as possible. (See this post). So, many like home schooling to remain fairly hidden and to get on with it in the own quiet way uninterrupted.

But the trouble with that is; if it’s hidden, those who need it can’t access it. And I like to think optimistically that the authorities’ attitude is changing.

I spoke to a couple of people last night who’d had helpful and supportive visits from their LA. The LAs are becoming more enlightened and aware of what their role is, thanks to the work many home educating parents do to maintain a dialogue with them. And they’re more aware of the successes of home educating families as the numbers increase.

And although I understand that some like to home educate on the quiet, I look at the work I do to raise awareness from the point of view that many parents are so grateful to discover this as an option, to find the support they need, so they can choose an alternative for a child who is failing to thrive in school. Some are worse than that; school makes some of the kids ill and family life an utter misery. I get messages of gratitude quite frequently from people who were desperate and thankful to find my blog and books. And it’s only by home education becoming more widely understood that these families can choose something different for their kids, some who were almost suicidal.

So, perhaps we have to be brave – even braver than we already are in home educating. As the home educating community grows, perhaps we have to risk being noticed, club together to resist intervention when the time comes, confident in the knowledge that the growing number of home schooled children graduating successfully into the wider world, are living proof of how well it works – even though it’s not school! Education is our joined goal – educating by approaches that work for the child rather than the government, whether that’s in school or out of it.

And this is really what my work to raise awareness is for. To increase understanding of this workable and successful option. And show parents that children do not have to suffer for an education.

And in turn, I greatly appreciate those who support me in doing so. Thank you!

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!

Don’t worry about the SATs!

 I’m feeling for parents of school children at the moment. The complete hash up over the SATs lately must be really freaking them out.

I know most home educators don’t have much to do with tests, SATs and League Tables etc, but I remember when the girls were in school for that short time how anxiety about what was happening there was all consuming. Especially when it didn’t seem to be happening right. I gave daily thanks we’d made the decision to home school – a decision we didn’t regret for one single second – and get away from those invalid processes.

When we are young green parents though, wanting to trust that the big establishment which the schooling system has become is getting it right for our kids, it’s devastating to know that there’s a possibility – let alone proof – that it’s not!

So this is my attempt to offer you a little bit of reassurance.

Whether using school or home educating parents needn’t worry about SATs.

Not doing them is not going to impair your child’s education for life – as propaganda leads us to believe.

Most home educated children are educated to a good standard without ever knowing what SATs are, let alone being subjected to the stress of them.

SATs are just a way the government’s devised of setting a standard bench mark on children’s attainment in schools (which doesn’t work anyway). They are supposedly a way of monitoring teachers and schools and consequently making the politicians look as if they are doing something useful. They are of no use to a learner’s education whatsoever.

Many will argue that they are; desperate as people are to stick to institutional thinking. And argue that, as a result of them, provision will be improved.

But that rarely happens. And tests rarely reflect true ability anyway. What’s standard, for example? And just what are we testing – all questions that I’ve asked in other articles.

There have been some alarming reports in the press recently about what these tests are doing to our children’s mental well being. It’s probably also having the same effect on the parents and teachers! So I think there’s a case for boycotting the whole darn SATs system, let alone a one-off boycott like recently.

But if you’re one of the parents who is worried that your child’s education is going to be damaged by yet another drastic mess up of papers I shouldn’t be. It won’t. Your child’s education is the result of a whole plethora of influences and experiences over a long period of time, not the odd result.

And if you’re new to home educating I shouldn’t let the time wasting procedure of standard testing mess up the opportunity of a delightful learning day of discovery and experience – as education should be!