Tag Archive | skills

Disconnected!

We’ve been another week without an internet connection. I’ve had to decamp to a friend’s house to use hers. For the other problem with rural living is poor mobile signal – not enough for me to go online on my phone at home.

Such are the disadvantages of living in remote places. But we’re used to it!

It has its upside. It means that without the seduction of social media, emails and messaging I focus more intently on new writing rather than allowing my time to be eaten away by responding to notifications. It’s easy for that to be an excuse for not getting the real work done. I admit I can be a bit dilatory at managing that!

The absence of the internet also reminds me to practice skills that are independent of it, to be more resourceful, to re-visit other activities, perhaps less sedentary, that do not depend on that connection. And it’s a good reminder that we need variety in our daily lives to bring a healthy balance and outlook, to help us maintain other skills and interests, practical and physical as well as social, to make us more rounded people.

Exactly the same for our children. They need this variety too; involvement in an assortment of skills as well as internet ones, most particularly the physical, practical and personal, to make them healthy, rounded, skills-rich adults.

I’ve enjoyed watching some of the ‘Back in time…’ programmes that have taken families back to life in earlier times, mostly before internet and telly. And some of the comments the youngsters on the programme have made suggest that they have enjoyed living without their phones, internet and telly at times because it has made them focus on each other. Conversation has become a pastime for example, or communicating over board games. Another remarked they’ve become closer as a family.

Now, I acknowledge that I was as grateful as anyone to distract a restless child with some screen based pursuits.

But I’m now aware that this has become such an overused activity that children are lacking in many of the skills they would have naturally gained from connected family time. Some cannot converse adequately, use language effectively, interact with peers appropriately and are starved of the nurture family closeness brings because of long isolate hours entertained by screens, disconnected from real people. Even communal meal times have been overturned by TV dinners.

I enjoy a TV dinner, but not all the time.

What I need, and what children need even more as their on going development is more important, is a rich diversity of experiences. They need opportunities to try a range of different activities, explore potential interests, chances to develop a variety of skills, physical, practical and personal for their well being, resourcefulness and healthy maturity.

A balance of life’s activities in other words. Not a life that’s dependent on one.

Nothing like a week with disconnection to make me check whether my time usage was balanced.

If this extreme weather continues I suspect I might be in for another one!

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The tricky job of parenting kids who game

Did you see the Horizon programme on gaming last week; ‘Are video games really that bad?

I think the dilemma of how much children should be gaming is a concern of every parent wherever children are educated.

If they’re home educated, they have more time for and access to gaming. If they’re at school all day, and just want to game in the evenings and nothing else, the parents still have the same worry about whether the work’s being done or never getting to see the kids!

The programme raised many interesting points, many on the positive aspects of gaming and how it could be influential to mental development for both the young and the rest of us!

But of course, research and statistics can be stacked to show anything you want them to show – I’m very aware of that and so should we all be.

However, after watching this programme and another one on Panorama; ‘Could a Robot Do My Job?’ which suggested that the most valuable preparation for the world of employability were skills; technological, creative thinking and caring skills, my feeling about parenting remains the same.

That education and our parenting, and how your kids turn out, is never the result of one influence.

Decisions about gaming and technology are never taken in isolation, there are far more intangibles that come into play. For example; parenting styles and how much interaction parents have, conversations about the games and discussions about how to respond to them, or what else is on offer at the time, the home environment, the child’s personality, all play a part. And these issues affect the way our children grow, how they develop, and how they respond to the things in their lives, either educational opportunities – or gaming.

The way in which children respond to gaming and the violence that they witness there has been of huge concern. And the programme asks whether this is likely to make children themselves more violent. But as the programme points out, it is not the violence in the game that affects kids in isolation, it’s often the frustration children feel – and this can be influenced by other factors besides gaming like how much they do it and how much they get out for active play, for example – which affects what they do as a result of gaming.

Parenting children who game is no different to parenting children who do anything; it’s about maintaining a balance between all activities and aspects of their lives, having conversations about life and what is healthy and what is not, constantly being involved and keeping communication open!

Why we need to develop creative intelligence in education

I had a surprise visit from friend and artist Bob and Roberta Smith the other day.

The artwork of Bob and Roberta Smith

We were connected in our childhoods but rarely get to meet these days living in different places.

It’s a shame because we have a common quest; our desire to get people to understand the importance of creativity in education.

People often respond to that idea with the question ‘What use is painting pictures in the world of employment?’ as if that were the only interpretation of creativity. It also misses the point; creativity isn’t restricted to painting and drawing, for goodness sake!

Creativity is primarily about thinkingcreative thinking. Intelligent creative thinking.

Intelligent creative thinking is what enables us to lead our lives on a day to day basis.

Intelligent creative thinking enables us to find solutions, solve problems, rise to challenges and develop as people.

We use intelligent creativity every day even in little ways like getting the dinner, what to wear, how to fix the hole, how to best parent the children, what colour to paint the bathroom, how to make a tenner last all week. And I haven’t even touched on creating artwork yet.

But on that subject, have you ever considered that every single man-made thing you own was created and designed by someone? Someone who had to apply creative intelligence.

From the sofa you sit on, the cup you drink from, to all the technology you use, not to mention the Web, it’s all been designed by someone applying creative intelligence.

And anyway, aside from the fact that everything we have has been made by a creative, our young people will have to employ their creative thinking skills in order to fit into a job market that has less jobs than the people applying for them. They will need to be creative in tackling employers, in making their mark in whatever form or industry.

Creative intelligence is required for that self development process that puts a young person in front of others.

All these skills; mental and practical, personal and social, are developed by all kinds of creative practices, whether creating artwork, fixing stuff, making decisions, gaming, designing, or feeding yourself on a tight budget.

Creative intelligence helps you think outside the norm, outside of prescriptive academic conditioning, to more useful transferable skills that take you further.

Neglect of creative experiences, subjects and practices, is neglect of a huge part of our children’s education and personal development. Those in charge of the education system should be ashamed to call what they offer ‘education’ without it.

Thank goodness for champions like this trying to put the balance right.

Read his letter to Nicky Morgan here.

Children are such natural scientists

Everything you observe is science...

Everything you observe is science…

Isn’t nature wonderful! It may still be cold outside, but that doesn’t stop the pigeon sidling up to his mate, or the blackbird singing over his territory. And blowing a gale it may be, but those valiant daffodils still manage to bloom.

Even in the concrete surround of a town or city you can find nature making a home in the most unlikeliest of places, like ants do between paving slabs or hardy buddleia that clings to walls and rooftops.

If you can just stop and observe a moment, you come across the most amazing things.

Kids are really good at this. Grown-ups can be especially bad, rushing on as we do with our day’s agenda.

As a parent, or home educator, it’s best to stop that and follow their example. Because these little observations are the beginnings of science, whether it’s plants or bricks, buses or bees.

Science is one of the subjects that many parents feel unable to help their children with. Yet, the daft thing is, science is so enmeshed into our daily life if you think about it. It’s just that school curriculum has disjointed it and made it unrecognisable.

And the other daft thing is that being in a school can remove children from the opportunity to develop the foundation of a scientific mind. For this foundation starts with simple observation. Observation of ourselves, the world and our interaction with it, followed by the question why, or how or what, is the evidence of their scientific mind developing – and they’re really good at those questions – have you noticed!

A third daft approach to science in schools is that it is made so academic, when in the real world it is very much a practical subject. A real hands-on, get-involved subject you can do in ways with children which immediately engages their interest. Observation and inquiry being one of the most effective ways to start.

By observing as you go, whatever you are doing, discussing what you see, you begin the study of science – the study and understanding of the world around them – both natural and man-made.

Children are fascinated little beings, already full of curiosity and the desire to experiment. It is the desire to experiment and find out that resulted in some of the most important scientific advancements so far.

Children are born scientists most of them, so by encouraging their observation, curiosity and discussion you are encouraging scientific thinking and understanding. And this lays the basis which can be formalised into more complicated academic study and research at a later date.

There are so many subjects on the curriculum which can be linked to the real world of our children through practical means, which makes science relevant and meaningful and develops their understanding. Then there are programmes and YouTube clips and fun scientific games online to extend it.

But the best way to start is to modify our own agendas, pay attention when our kids say ‘look’, or ask why, and begin to observe the real world and find out about it with them. This is the basis of their scientific skills.

Image rich education

seeking out pictures - a soothing stream and leaves

seeking out pictures – a soothing stream and leaves

Sometimes I just have to go seek out pictures! Writing can be very monochromatic as a medium, even when talking about the diversity of home education. I begin to hanker for other things to look at besides print.

So I totally get it when kids feel the same. Especially those who don’t readily take to reading but find it as enjoyable as I do a smear test! And there are some kids like that, especially those on the Dyslexic spectrum or those fidgety little people for whom sitting still is an anathema!

When education in schools first took off it was always related to words, especially the printed word. It had to be; it was a person’s only access to knowledge. And it was also part of that exclusive hierarchy where those who had access to reading – and therefore learning – were considered better than those who did not.

That’s no longer the case. Everyone has access to reading and knowledge. And skill in reading is not a direct indication of intelligence. There are all sorts of intelligences and I have known very intelligent children, with a lively, logical and analytical mental aptitude who find no joy in reading because their brains are wired in such a way to make reading as challenging as I’d find running marathons.

Home educating a Dyslexic child made me think about this a lot. And think about ways in which learning, in our media and image rich culture today, no longer needs to depend on print. Although print would inevitably be part of it – it could be a small part at the beginning, building as skill and maturity grew. And we found other ways to learn through practical, experiential, image rich, hands-on opportunities. And that was even before the wonders of YouTube, a fabulous font of knowledge and understanding available through film clips.

For far too long children’s learning has been manifested through the narrow medium (by today’s standards) of the written word. I almost see the old fashioned text and exercise book method (or Web research which is just as bad for a dyslexic if not worse as there’s more to trawl through) needing extinction. Typing with Word is definitely less laborious for children who find writing difficult, but we could still lessen written methods of learning in favour of more image rich ones now accessible. Just because it isn’t reading and writing doesn’t mean it’s not learning, despite the snobbery still attached to those methods!

For many children their learning is inhibited by print. Formats like YouTube open access to learning in ways we didn’t previously have. Many home educating families have told me that their children didn’t practise formal written methods of learning until they were much older yet still went on to write accomplished essays and do Uni work. So we can seek alternative ways to enhance our children’s understanding and knowledge which don’t rely on print.

Meanwhile, I’m off to seek out pictures, away from print, and a visit to the theatre to see my eldest in a production of The Snow Queen. If you’re in Brighton seek it out at The New Venture Theatre and enjoy a print free story with the kids which is bound to inspire! Stories don’t always have to be read – from Snow Queen to Shakespeare – which you can even get in Manga! (Search ‘dyslexia’ for other posts on the subject)

Chelsea playing Gerda in The Snow Queen