Tag Archive | schools

The return of the happy children

It’s so delightful to hear of yet another happy home educating success story.

A new parent made the leap to home schooling recently and reported that her child had returned to being the happy contented little person that they were before they started school. The many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

And yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected  with on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

I hear that remark frequently – as I commented at the time; they are not the only parents to experience this. And it happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

Our happy children came back! Enjoying their ‘Funny Kind of Education’!

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, who have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and who disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach it’s success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst, unwell.

However, I haven’t spoken to a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important, there’s a post here! 🙂

Be happy with your home education. It’s a great decision!

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There’s nothing wrong with our children

I feel so sorry when I hear parents desperately worrying over their children not being able to achieve certain things at certain times. So I thought I’d post this chapter from my ‘Home Education Notebook’ in the hope it may bring comfort and reassurance if you’re one of them:

I want to reassure you all of something: there’s nothing wrong with your children.

I say this because there are folks who would make out that there is. They make out that there must be something wrong if a child who doesn’t thrive in school, for example, or doesn’t read easily, or can’t run as fast as others, or who is shy.

It’s just that people like to make out that others who are not the same as them must have something wrong with them. But the real truth is that; everyone is different.

It took a while for this to really sink in with me – particularly the implications.

Take gardening as an example.  I just never took to it, even worse my plants seemed to die when everyone else’s flourished. There must be something wrong with me surely, for this to happen.

I did try. My mother was a great gardener. Her roses yielded abundant blooms, her cuttings thrived, her shrubs grew enormous.

Mine didn’t.

All mine did was whither. I planted plants she bought me and they died. I even managed to kill houseplants. I’m sure all I ever did was look at them and they shrivelled.

This soon led me to believe there definitely must be something wrong with me.

I’d watch my mother in raptures round the garden centre and I’d look at my watch and think; how much longer? I’d listen to my friends going on about their plants and their gardens and I’d feel there must be a gaping hole in my emotional development because I just couldn’t feel what they did. I used to visit my friend who had a creeping fig right over her living room ceiling yet all my attempts at growing one had failed. I was useless.

It took a while for this to change.

Firstly, I do actually like gardening now. It’s something I’ve grown into – pardon the pun. Now that I have a little more time I enjoy it more. Now, also, that I have had time to mature my skills and accept that a slower turnover of success is just as fulfilling as a quick fix.

So I began to feel a little better, a little less like I’d got this major inability.

I also learnt two important things; however hard I might have tried at the time I just wasn’t ready for the delights of gardening. I just couldn’t apply myself enough to hone the necessary skills and patience. And I don’t think that whatever I did, at that time, I could have made any difference.

But, secondly, there was nothing wrong with me because of that. It wasn’t an inability, a learning difficulty, or anything else you want to call it. It was just the way it was and I shouldn’t sweat it.

So what about the skills that are pressed on kids in the form of their education? Isn’t it the same thing?

The way I see it, many, many skills are pressed on kids as a means to educate them. Knowledge is forced into them. Subjects are heaped upon them. Achievements are expected from them. None of which children particularly choose. Few of which they particularly like. Even fewer bearing any relation to the children’s lives at all.

And then schools make out there’s something wrong with those kids who don’t achieve.

Yet I can’t see the difference between this and the gardening really. It seems the same problem to me. It seems we expect children to acquire the skills we think they need, regardless of whether they think they need them, and then suggest there’s something wrong with them when they don’t succeed. Isn’t that a bit bizarre?

A love of gardening was something I matured into. I acquired the skills to do it when I became ready. There was nothing wrong with me before I was ready, or before I had those skills.

Many of the things we ask children to do as a way of educating them they are simply not ready for, or able to do, or interested in. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with our children. That’s just the way children are.

I find it quite extraordinary that we set a curriculum of subjects that are as important to children as rheumatism and then expect them to enjoy studying them.

We set them tasks to do that are as appealing to them as cleaning out toilets is to me and expect them to do them willingly.

We expect them to practice skills that are as irrelevant to them at that stage in their lives as training to be an astronaut is to me as a parent.

And then, when they don’t succeed (surprise, surprise!) we call them failures. We make out there’s something wrong with them. Extraordinary!

It takes a long time to mature into things. Like wine and good cheese, Shakespeare and advanced maths. And some of us never do. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong in that. There are other nutritious things besides wine and cheese to enjoy, other subjects to get to grips with. We have to be at a certain stage to see the benefits of certain tasks (like cleaning the toilets – or writing perhaps). And some may never reach enjoyment of them. (Definitely me with the toilets). But there’s nothing wrong in that either. Some skills will never, ever be for us, however hard we push and practice. It’s just the way we are – it’s called individualism. There’ll be other skills we’re good at.

Just because your child can’t write, or can’t read, can’t do maths, doesn’t take to sitting down doing any kind of school work, or didn’t thrive or achieve in school, does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. We must make sure we avoid thinking about our children in that way.

Allow the individual to be the way they are

What we must do is allow each individual to be the way they are without thinking there’s something wrong with them if they’re not the same as other children.

Some kids mature into reading late. Some kids mature into writing late. Some take ages to understand the intricacies of maths. Some take ages to understand the value of perhaps doing things they can’t see any immediate relevance to. Some kids never get it at all. Some kids have very special other skills that are harder for us to appreciate and value. It doesn’t make them wrong for being like that. Some dyslexic children have very special skills that those of us who are not dyslexic will never have but it doesn’t make anyone wrong.

One skill is not more valuable than the other – even though advocates of the National Curriculum would have us believe otherwise. It’s hard in our current educational climate to keep faith. To value all the diverse things our children can do rather than only notice what they can’t. It is hard to truly believe in our wonderfully individual children and the special talents they have, particularly when those talents don’t match those required to succeed in schools.

But if we want our children to grow with confidence – and confidence is the very best tool they can have – if we want our children to succeed in life, we must never begin to act as if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t achieve the same as others. They will achieve other things that are equally as valuable to them. We must support them for who they are and what they can do.

I hear stories of children having to see an educational psychologist because they’re not achieving at school. That to me is the same thing as dragging me to see an educational psychologist just because I couldn’t achieve at gardening.

I didn’t need to see an educational psychologist; I needed to do something different.

I appreciate there are rare and specific problems, but generally children don’t need to see an educational psychologist either; they need to do something different. They need a different kind of education. That’s all. There’s nothing else wrong.

I know adults who can’t drive and have never managed to learn. I don’t tell them they need to see an educational psychologist because of it.

Everyone is different. Each child has different learning strengths. We need to change our attitude not the children. It’s only when we try and make everyone the same that problems arise.

No, there is nothing wrong with our children. Nothing wrong, if they don’t fit in school. Nothing wrong if they don’t like academic stuff. Nothing wrong if they take a long time maturing into certain skills. And we must guard against being talked into believing that there is.

Read the book for more stories to comfort and support. See the My Books page.

The testing propaganda…

All through our years of home educating we never once tested the kids.

That’s not to say they didn’t encounter tests along their route. There was the odd swimming certificate! And various dance and drama exams. And the tests they set themselves in the course of their learning lives.

And did this non-tested life leave them totally useless as learners? Did this mean they didn’t progress – just because we didn’t test that they were? Did this make them unable to function in the mainstream world, or at college or Uni? Was it the case that because they weren’t tested and measured throughout their learning lives that they were ‘behind’ the standard expected of them when they entered further and higher education? And were unable to sit tests when the time came?

OF COURSE NOT!

That is just propaganda told to us by those who want to measure (usually the government – for their own political agenda and schools for climbing up league tables).

The real truth is that:

  • Testing is NOT required for kids to become educated.
  • Testing is a waste of kids’ time – they could be enjoying new experiences and learning new stuff not regurgitating the old.
  • Testing RARELY aids the learner or the learning – it’s for the sake of the adults.
  • Testing is an INACCURATE assessment of a child’s ability and knowledge anyway.

So I’m really pleased to read reports recently that many are rebelling against proposed tests for the very young in schools. Heads, teachers and according to this article even the suppliers of the test, suggesting it is verging on immoral.

Read this one in the Guardian; https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/16/tests-reception-children-immoral-england-play

‘Proposed tests verging on the immoral’ click on the picture and read the article

Most home educating learners go through their lives without doing tests. Yet, like ours did, they go on to be competent, skilled, motivated adults who graduate into work or Uni or mainstream life with the skills, intelligence and attitude needed to help them progress and get where they want to go. They are proof that testing is not really needed for educational achievement or progress through life.

Kids in school are tested, grouped, graded and I would say degraded by a practice that is for the benefit of a political agenda and one-up-man-ship not for the benefit of the individual. It harms a child’s progress rather than enhances it, as politicians would argue is its purpose. It is solely for adult back-slapping, or degradation. The poor kids are used as pawns in the establishment’s game.

And the more that parents, heads, teachers and other professionals rebel against it the better for children everywhere.

Education is a parenting issue!

It’s always struck me as odd that one of the judgements people make of home educators is that they don’t care about their kids’ education and that’s why they don’t send them to school!

Instead, the real truth that the rest of us know, is that homeschool parents care so much they don’t feel they can risk leaving it to the system. They take on full responsibility for their kids’ learning themselves – which leads me to post again this article from way back. Because actually;

every child’s education is every parents responsibility

Did you know that? Or did you think it was all down to schools?

It isn’t, but it is mostly only home schoolers who know this.

The law says; “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. (Notice the ‘otherwise’ bit – that gives parents the legal right not to send their children to school by the way. See the Ed Yourself website; http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php)

However, the majority of parents opt to hand the education of their children over to schools as they are encouraged to do, believing that to be best. It is sometimes (only sometimes). But that still doesn’t mean all responsibility lies with the school.

For the fact is that, however children are educated, the outcome is very much dependent on the parents; on parental support, parental encouragement, parental outlook, parental involvement, and love has a good deal to do with it too. Children achieve so much when they are loved and respected.

But I suspect many parents of school children tend not to involve themselves with their children’s education because they think a) they can’t – they’re not clever enough, or b) it’s not their concern – it’s the school’s.

Neither of these reasons is valid really. Because despite you thinking you may not know stuff or it’s the school’s job to educate, it is parental involvement that has the biggest impact on what children achieve, most importantly parental attitude.

One of the things that influences children’s learning is the value that is placed on it.  They learn which things should be valued and which not bothered with from their parents. In fact at the start of their life they learn all their values and attitudes from their parents.

Children of parents who do not display a positive attitude towards education will find it hard to have a positive attitude themselves. Children who are not encouraged will be less motivated. Children whose parents are not interested in the things they do at school will have no interest in doing them. Children whose parents cop out of it by saying they’re not clever enough (when often the reason is they can’t be bothered to learn themselves) will make their kids think they needn’t be clever either.

You don’t have to be clever at maths or necessarily understand the science your kids are doing you just have to show an interest. You just have to be positive about it. Take positive approaches to overcoming challenges (finding out yourself maybe) and make your child feel that you are on their side and you’re in it together – as a team. And it’s worth doing well.

Through your attitude to them they will begin to see education as valuable – which it is.

Although you may need to really sort out what you think education is – or should be – what it’s for and in what way it’s valuable, as this is also part of your responsibility as a parent.

There is no excuse not to think about it, or just abdicate all responsibility to schools.

Because education is also a parenting issue. And as parents, whatever educational path you’ve chosen for your child, you definitely need to remain involved.

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!

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 he 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!