Tag Archive | schools

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

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Home education – can you only live it to understand?

Learning about the elements of the world

Whenever another researcher rings me up to talk about home education I face the same dilemma; how to explain the complexity and diversity of this approach to education when their thinking is so conditioned by the concept of schooling they cannot identify with the fact that schooling and education are different things.

The caller was doing some initial research for a potential informative programme about homeschooling. That would be nice!

“A programme to dispel the misconceptions” he said. That would be nice too.

But when the questions came I realise how far removed he and I are in the way we think about education as opposed to schooling.

Education, to my mind, is the ongoing personal development of the individual, a building of skills and knowledge, as much personal as academic as one’s no use without the other, that will enable a person to understand the world, find their way to fit into it and contribute to it, alongside others, in meaningful ways. Ongoing – as in its progression continues throughout life.

Yet education to most people seems to be the grooming of children towards a finite qualification, by any means, the measurement of which being the only important outcome.

Where to begin to open the mind of researchers to education as something broader? How to describe an approach that has the interest of the individual at its heart, rather than the commercial and political perpetuation of the establishment? Where to begin to describe the natural and organic way in which most home educated youngsters learn through the unmeasured interactions and experiences they have? And how this often unstructured, unprescribed, unpredetermined, child-led, approach leads in many cases to conventional results in the end, usually decided by the youngsters and not enforced by adults.

Enthusiastically, I tackle some explanations. Then realise, when I stop suddenly fearing I was gabbing on too much, that he wasn’t really listening anyway because there’s an embarrassing gap of silence before he responds. I sense┬áhe was busy reading a screen instead.

He wasn’t interested in explanations – he was just filtering everything out whilst looking for the right answers to his prescribed questions, as no doubt his own education had told him to do.

Maddeningly, being too busy answering the questions pumped at me, I didn’t get the chance to talk about the best bits of home education; the sheer wonder of seeing your kids blossom and grow, of seeing their confidence and their knowledge and their skills develop beyond what you might have taught them, or your delight in their social competence which seems to exceed your own, or their general wisdom about the world which they’ve acquired without you. Neither did I get the chance to talk about the joy home education brings to the household – not sure school ever did that when ours were in it.

But I suppose the researcher wouldn’t be able to take that on board really. And I remember that this is telly we’re talking about. And few people want to make a programme without salacious nuggets of drama in them how ever informative they promise to be.

And, just as happened last time, they ring off with profuse thanks that really doesn’t mask the fact that they’ve no idea what I’m on about and I didn’t give them the right answers.

Like with most things, home education is something you have to live to understand. But the more we do talk about it, the more you record all your adventures and approaches and ideas like some of you do with your great blogs and posts, the more that will hopefully change.

Bringing on the tears

It’s not my intention to make people cry! But this seems to be what’s happening.

Many parents have told me that they read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ and ended up in tears.

Not in a bad way I hasten to add. And not usually because of a tragic event that happens in the story.

They are instead mostly tears of relief and emotion to discover that someone has felt the way they do, tears of joy to find their own feelings about children and their learning are empathised with, tears on discovering they are not the only one!

Two little home edders volunteering as part of their education

Here’s a message I received recently:

“We have just started out on our home ed journey and we knew in our hearts that it was the right decision – but reading a Funny Kind of Education just hit home so much with us. I cried when I read the first couple of chapters because I finally had something to relate to – this is what we were going through. My two were being crushed by the system and I have been wholly disgusted that many children so young are experiencing so much stress, and their self-esteem taking a dramatic nose dive because they NEVER feel good enough, and never ever will at school. My son who is nearly ten practically got on his knees and begged me every night and morning not to send him into school – repeating over and over again I have had enough mummy no more please. Now only after two weeks of our journey his face and his sister’s light up with the thought of what we are going to be learning about on a new day. That sense of wonderment with the world is back big time already (it came back in the holidays but left pretty soon after the start of a term) – they are questioning everything and are coming up with all sorts of ideas of their own – and I don’t care that my kitchen is a tip or the dog keeps eating the science experiments or cooking ingredients that drip on to the floor -hahaha – they are happy little bunnies and we are just going with the flow. I know I will have my wobbles too I know and moments of needing to calm down when we are having ‘one of those days’ (dipping in and out of your Home Ed Notebook also) – but we are already starting to feel part of a lovely home ed local community online and in person”.

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to receive that wonderful message and I thought it worth sharing here for ongoing encouragement!

When I shared our story I hoped that people would find comfort and support from the fact that they are not the only parent to have a child who is not thriving in school. So I’m delighted to know it’s doing it’s job. And that the ‘Home education Notebook’ is also doing its job of supporting those wobbly moments.

I say so many times that schools work well for many families. But they don’t work for all. And that’s not the fault of the child.

If there is one over-riding message I’d like to get out there among the mainstream community it is that one.

Some children need something different. And it’s about time home education was respected for providing a doable and successful alternative for those children. About time it was not looked down upon as a second rate education just because it didn’t happen in a school. And about time people stopped being so scared of it!

What are your objectives for your kids?

I came across some interesting writing about education recently, ironically on the TES site. Ironic because it’s from a head teacher and quite often their ideas don’t tally with ours as home educators! But he seems to have a more enlightened view of education generally and how, in many cases, schools are getting it so wrong.

Colin Harris writing in the TES

Author Colin Harris has posted quite a few articles that many of you may be interested to read, whether you home educate or not.

It’s good to hear concerns about the schooling system by one who works in it yet who remains big enough to recognise its failings. As we are all in the business of educating – a business which can embrace many different approaches, as most home schooling families do.

I was particularly drawn to his comments about having fun in education and that schools should ‘ring with laughter’. So true. Years ago – pre the ruination by the National Curriculum – I can remember my classroom ringing with laughter. And this house did when we were home educating.

The post that particularly caught my eye this time was this one about kids just being numbers in a giant machine. How often have I made that comment on this blog and about them being cloned – as he says! But he also talks about a set of outcomes for education that are not based in test results (amazing, coming from someone in the system!) Instead, competencies necessary for adulthood and I thought they were so relevant to home education I’d copy them here:

  1. Being able to think for oneself.
  2. Being able to use language appropriately.
  3. Being numerate.
  4. Being able to manage and control oneself.
  5. Being able to forge relationships with others.

Whilst we were home educating we had certain objectives in mind. These were nothing to do with qualifications (although they became part of them as the children reached that stage, through mutual decision-making about the path they wanted to follow as they grew), but were instead based around personal development. We wanted the kids to know who they were, what strengths and weaknesses they had, how to get the best from themselves, how to integrate their best into life, and to have confidence. With confidence they can go forward a get what they need for where they need to go. And confidence is built through achieving; failure being a necessary educative part of that achievement and how to overcome it. It’s built from having no shame attached to failure, from feeling worthy and of value, from good relationships with others based in respect, and from knowing your own mind (number one above).

These are the things we wanted to develop in our children. I think they’d probably agree they’re getting there, for they’d also probably agree that you are never finished, never finish learning and growing and changing and the chance to do that is life-long.

Whatever you work towards through your home educating or through school, consider carefully what you want in the broadest most personal sense, and beware the danger of cloned thinking!

Open eyes to the school establishment

Looking forward to reading this

I try my hardest not to resort to school bashing. But I still get accused of it. Just because I won’t stay silent about all the things wrong with the school system.

And if that’s school bashing then I’m sorry for it. It’s just that parents need to have their eyes and minds opened beyond the conditioning the establishment perpetuates, especially the idea that school is right for all.

It isn’t.

Take testing for a start. Kids don’t really gain anything from being tested. They’re just being used as pawns in the game of one-upmanship played by politicians, institutions of education, between professionals and commercial enterprise. Test results are not what education is about. Few home schooled kids are tested throughout their learning lives yet still go onto to achieve qualifications when the time comes.

Take the idea that all kids have to achieve the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, or they’ll be failures. This is a form of emotional blackmail that is totally untrue. Kids doing things in this way is for adult convenience and has nothing to do with personal success or failure. Thousands of home educated kids learn in different time frames, their needs and competence at the time dictate when, what and how. And generally end up in the same place as school contemporaries.

Take a look at the curriculum. A school curriculum is not designed to be educatively enlightening. It’s designed to be measured. Thus increasingly neglecting essential subjects like the arts, the practical and sports. At the same time negating skills in these areas and a huge percentage of children who would be good at them.

Take the idea of going to school for the socialization. What a joke! Nowhere post school is the social model inside one replicated. The model where you’re clustered together in groups of same age, with people who are as social inept as you are, where friendships are enforced and where there is a hierarchy of respect rather than a mutually earned one. Thousands of home educated kids go onto Uni, interviews, work with a such high standard of social ability, conversation and initiative, it’s often what wins them the place.

Take the idea that school dynamics, bullying, crowds, unhealthy competition, and the shame of failure makes you stronger. Complete balderdash! Most kids are weakened by those experiences and often made desperate. Home educated kids who don’t have to endure such indignities – for that’s what they are – become strong, confident, competent and motivated people.

And finally, take the idea that the children need to be told what to learn, when to learn it, and how good at it they are, in order to become an educated person, which is an idea the school establishment imposes. Another load of tosh. Thousands of home schooled children take charge of their own education and are motivated to go on learning throughout their life which sets them up effectively for the diversity of the working culture this generation will be facing.

School is one way of doing things. A way sold to thousands by the establishment. But it’s also political. And politicians wants us to be obedient to the establishment for it makes their life easier.

But the establishment doesn’t have the monopoly on education.

Schools and teachers do the best they can with the job they’ve got. Schools and teachers work well for thousands of families. Many children achieve and are happy there. But that doesn’t mean all will or can. This isn’t about school bashing. It’s just about opening parents’ eyes to an alternative ideas.

Do what works for you. But don’t do it with your eyes shut!

Thanks Nadia and family

I shared this uplifting video on my Facebook page but for those who don’t do Facebook I thought it was of value to share here

I love Nadia Sawalha. She sounds so down-to-earth for someone in the celeb-sphere. She still feels like an ‘ordinary’ parent, despite that, dealing with the ordinary issues we all face like her children’s unhappiness at school. I can relate to much of what she’s saying here about home education, her comments about testing, etc. And you should definitely check out her videos on bullying.

Of course, she isn’t ‘ordinary’ as the rest of us know it, she being a celebrity. She will have a life far removed from the rest of us, being constantly in the limelight. That will have it’s drawbacks as well as it’s benefits. But we shouldn’t take the view that it’s all right for her to home school, she can afford it – or whatever – and I couldn’t! Because, as she states in the film, true education is not about what you can afford or not. It’s about engagement with the children.

She happens to like being with her children, she says, clearly thinking about those you see who don’t seem to, as we all do too. Which is exactly what makes home education such a great success. Because the most important resource a youngster could have for their education is not wealth, it’s an interested, caring facilitating adult – who hopefully inspires too. who has time for conversation, answering questions, encouraging a fascination with the world and of learning itself.

Nadia chooses to use tutors as part of her home education provision. But she clearly states that not everyone does, it’s just their choice. and it certainly isn’t essential. Other parents make provision in other ways. For being tutored is not the only route to learning, or becoming an educated person.

Educative experiences are what educate – in whatever form.

I’m so grateful to Nadia and her family for sharing their experiences of home schooling. It is a such valid contribution to helping raise awareness of the choice and understanding of the fact that school is not for all. And it shouldn’t be necessary for kids to suffer for the sake of education.

Alternative approaches are there and work extremely well.

Thanks Nadia.

Why you should make this bank holiday an ACTIVE one!

I was in Hull recently at the ‘Freedom of Expression Centre’ at the Hull School of Art and Design looking at an exhibition by Bob and Roberta Smith.

His exhibition was about protest, but I love his work mostly because it champions creativity in education and why it’s needed. (See this blog here)

Picture from the Hull Daily Mail

Later, I sat in the city centre watching the children run in and out of the fountains which shoot up out of the paving. Such a pleasure to see their enjoyment, their delight in the water, to actually see kids ACTIVE, running about, moving, getting some exercise. Far too often you see children in the opposite mode!

We all acknowledge that exercise is important – for us all. It keeps our bodies fit, keeps our brains fit too, and ups our wellbeing.

But did you realise that it’s essential not just for now; because an active habit throughout life, starting in childhood, has an effect on our brains later on?

Whatever activity you and your kids do now, and throughout your life, will impact on your mental agility at the other end of your life too, could make the difference to your kids succumbing to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s?

You wouldn’t think older age had anything to do with kids, but not true. The current thinking is that the amount of activity they’ve engaged in throughout their life impacts on the likelihood of mental decline as they, too, hit those older years. Of course, this is as relevant to you as it is to them.

We’re urged to be investing in pension schemes right from being young. What we should also be urged to do is invest in an active lifestyle right from being young. Not invest in terms of money. But in terms of exercise and activity. It’s free, after all!

And another important reason why ALL SCHOOLS SHOULD BE ACTIVE SCHOOLS, to borrow from Bob and Roberta Smith’s piece about art schools! And further evidence of the short sightedness of the government for squeezing out active pursuits, as they squeeze out creativity.

But you can commit to an investment in your children in terms of action, right from this very minute: make your bank holiday an active one! And make sure your child’s education and daily habits are active ones too.